Human Rights Violations Past And Present

I’m sure that many people don’t have a good understanding of the human rights issues involved in the mental health treatment world. I feel that one of those people is James Dailey who writes in a UVA Daily Cavalier article, Evolving standards.

Today’s mental health crisis is similar to that of yesteryear. The idea of human rights has evolved to the extent that physically chaining, beating or unlawfully incarcerating the mentally ill is considered inhumane. Even though these physical punishments have largely been phased out, those suffering from mental illness in this country still suffer considerably. Today, a social stigma punishes the mentally ill in the same way caretakers physically abused them in the past.

Incidents such as those involving the physical chaining Mr. Dailey mentions still take place in many foreign, and usually under developed, countries. This is not a similar human rights crisis; this is the same human rights crisis. Beating or unlawful incarcerating is considered inhumane regardless of whether the persons being assaulted or falsely imprisoned have received any psychiatric label or not.

But even if treatment options become more affordable, many people may be reluctant to obtain treatment for mental illness because of the surrounding social stigma. Many parents deny their children the opportunity to see a therapist or psychiatrist because they fear their children will be deemed abnormal. According to a Family & Youth Roundtable study, 79 percent of families avoid mental health treatment for their children because of the associated social stigma. Adults and teens deny themselves treatment for the same reason: for fear of being judged by a society that considers mental illness a kind of psychological weakness rather than a “real” ailment.

When Mr. Dailey can give me any conclusive evidence that what is commonly referred to as “mental illness” is not due to some “kind of psychological weakness”, then I will pay closer attention to what he says. I don’t have the idea that anybody is doing any research to determine whether “mental illness” labels have anything to do with “psychological weakness” or not. I believe that a lot of research is being done by drug companies who want to sell drugs. When these drug companies have doctors who say “mental illness” is just like a physical disease, and not a matter of “psychological weakness”, the sale of pharmaceutical products goes up.

The fact that many individuals cannot afford treatment, when compounded by the intense stigma associated with the treatment, creates terrible consequences. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 90 percent of those who commit suicide suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. As suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old individuals, this is unacceptable. Forcing people into a state of isolation and hopelessness to the point of suicide when treatment options exist is utterly deplorable. This situation is no different than denying a cancer patient life-saving treatment. An although the overwhelming majority of those suffering from mental illness are not inclined to violence, a few are, such as Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Jared Loughner in Arizona several weeks ago. Perhaps these shootings could have been prevented had there not been such an intense stigma linked to treatment.

Emphasis added.

Although I have seen people in mental institutions incarcerated against their will and wishes, and forcibly drugged, I have never seen anybody forced into a state of isolation and hopelessness. I have encountered many people who had a subjective sense of feeling that they had been “forced into a state of isolation and hopelessness”, but objectively the situation was far different. You get out of this hoopla a lot of people talking about some right to receive mental health treatment without respecting one iota a person’s right to refuse such treatment. The question that is not being asked here is whether such treatment as is received does any good when it comes to relieving this “state of isolation and hopelessness”. Much mental health treatment today is known for its failure to return the demented person to a state consistent with what is considered “healthy”.

The problem here is that if by “stigma” he means prejudice and discrimination, I certainly don’t think entering treatment programs seems to be removing that prejudice and discrimination. If anything, the treatment seems to exasperate the abuse. I take issue with the name calling when Mr. Dailey calls the V-Tech shooter and the Arizona shooter “mentally ill”. I certainly don’t think either of these two suspects would be able to get off on an insanity defense. You are giving people labeled “mentally ill” a very bad name by linking them to these two very calculating mass murderers. That is a highly prejudicial thing to do. People should not be diagnosed by mass media any more than they should be tried and convicted by mass media. A part of the problem with our mental health system is that, unlike in the criminal justice system, where a person is innocent until proven guilty, a person is “sick” by pronouncement of a single “expert” in some cases, and usually never gets to a place where he or she is “diagnosed sane”. This trial by expert would apply to the “sane” diagnosis as well. This is to say that there are serious due process issues that have never been effectively dealt with in the civil commitment process.

As a former resident of Charlottesville, and a person very familiar with the University of Virginia, I’m not at all surprised that Mr. Dailey should think in such a fashion. There is not much sympathy for, nor human rights consciousness, as regards people labeled by the mental health/illness system at UVA. Richard Bonnie, a UVA Law Professor, founded the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy near the University Corner. This institute is mostly about linking people labeled “mentally ill” with criminal behavior. This same Richard Bonnie served as the appointed chairman of the VA Supreme Court’s Commission on Mental Health Reform. This commission was instrumental is making the laws in Virginia more restrictive than they had been in the recent past. A few counties in northern Virginia that allowed a few more civil liberties, and legal resources, for people in the mental health/illness system had to be brought back into line with the rest of the state. This, sadly to say, and as you should be able to see, represents a reverse rather than an advance for people enduring the mental health/illness system in that state.

Regarding Mr. Dailey’s comfortable belief in progress, and his glance back to conditions at the State Lunatic Asylum in Milledgeville Georgia in the 1840s. He should look more closely at more recent events. I think whatever abuses took place at Milledgeville in 1847 have to pale in comparison to those killings of people deemed “unfit to live” in NAZI Germany that were inspired by eugenic sterilizations taking place in institutions throughout the USA. I’d like him to note that the reason for these killings and sterilizations was laid on genes back then, too, and not on any “psychological weakness”.

21 Responses

  1. Well said. Well said. Thank you!

  2. When are these egg-heads going to stop calling psychiatry “treatment”?

    It’s not “treatment”.

    Placing a psychiatric label on someone, locking them up against their will, and/or drugging or shocking their brains into oblivion is not “treatment”.

    This ain’t rocket science !

    Duane Sherry, M.S.

    P.S.: Friends don’t let friends join NAMI.

    • I’m with you on this, Duane. When are people going to stop lying to themselves and others about these matters. ECT damages brains. Psychiatric drugs damage brains and bodies. Harming people’s health is not therpeutic. True medical science doesn’t imprison people, and call that imprisonment “treatment”.

      In my book the best antidote for a bad time is a good time. It is simply not more and more bad times. Compounding horror on horror is one thing; trying to tell people those horrors are actually blessings, that’s another.

  3. Hmm… over 90% of suicides have a diagnosable mental illness.

    Is this just assumed? How do you diagnose a corpse with a mental illness? Or… do they already have a diagnosis? In which case they already have experience with the shrinks and found it wanting. Or they could diagnose on the basis of hearsay and because they can… hang on, that’s what they do anyway.

    Presumably he would like the number of suicides to be less than it is. If it’s currently 50,000 pa and say 10% are committed by rational people it can be said that 45,000 suicides are committed by people who are not rational. So he thinks that 45,000 is too many.

    OK, what figure would he settle for? 35,000? 25,000? 15,000? If he says he’d settle for 15,000, then why that figure? Because it’s less than 45,000? For all he knows 45,000 is juuuust right.

    But let’s say we force the figure down to 15,000 by drugging and humiliating people we are currently not drugging and humiliating.

    How many people would we have to drug and humiliate to “save” 30,000 lives? Maybe a million, maybe two or three. Would a hundred people be willing to submit to a diagnosis and drugs to save the life of one stranger?

    Aside from the fact that the drugs are shit, no-one wants to take them… and they’re dangerous… this guy’s an idiot.

    It’s like people who want to reduce the road toll. What do they want to reduce it to? Some idiots want to reduce the road toll to zero. They think that people shouldn’t be killed or injured in a flaming car wreck.

    • Statistitis, Rod. Anyone who fails at suicide is going to have a psychiatric label applied to them. When “danger to oneself and others” means “danger to oneself”, part of the criteria for locking people up as “insane” has been met. Some people are of fickle mind, and make many attempts before succeeding.

      When unhappiness is construed as a “sickness”, of course, that makes unhappy people “sick”. People who are content with life and themselves don’t commit suicide as a rule. “Treat” somebodies unhappiness and, of course, your “treatment” may not do any good, especially when you’re “treating” a state of mind rather than bad circumstances (misfortune, calamity, etc.). Out of this person labeled for their unhappiness you get another statistic. On top of which, if 1/4 of the people in a certain country visit a psychiatrists office because they have a bad day now and then, or because of troubles with the spouse, voila, up there in the 90 % category.

      I’d say that a lot of people kill themselves because they feel stuck. They’ve got a stupid 9-5, if they’ve even got a stupid 9-5, and their lives don’t make a whole lot of sense to them. I mean you hate what you’re doing, and you see no way out. Well, there’s always a way out that doesn’t have to involve killing oneself. You’d think murder would be more popular than suicide due to the self-preservation instinct, but it isn’t. So much for instinct. I think people should pursue their dreams. The wonder of it all, as absurd as many of the activities that people engage in are, is that more of them don’t commit suicide. When your life is a horror story, I’d consider skipping over to another novel, and author. There may not be any “happily every after”s out there, but there are certainly some pleasant, if not entertaining, interludes.

      • On the subject of statistics, especially those pertaining to suicide….

        E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. has written that “untreated bipolar disorder” results in a 10 percent suicide rate….. This statisitic has been repeated by academics, researchers, and mental health professionals for years.

        If “bipolar disorder” effects 2.percent of the population (some would claim it’s lower, some higher), we have approximately 6 million people in the U.S. with a “bipolar” diagnosis…. Psychiatry continues to express concern about the “undiagnosed” or “untreated” portion of that group… Let’s assume that there are a million such folks…

        We have approximately 30,000 suicides per year… If each and every suicide were falsely blamed on “untreated bipolar disorder” it would amount to a small fraction of one percent. NOT 10 pertcent !!!

        And that’s if every suicide were falsely blamed on “untreated bipolar disorder” or, heaven-forbid “non-compliance”!

        What a joke.
        People who believe in the “statistics” of groups like the Treatment Advocacy Center don’t do math !!!

        IMO, suicide is a result of hopeleness, which is fueled by groups who insist a person has a “lifelong, incureable illness” that needs “treatment” by mind-altering, brain-damaging, body-injurying, spirit-numbing DRUGS (they are drugs, and not “medicines”!

        Duane Sherry, M.S.

  4. Around these parts a significant amount of support for coercive psychiatry comes from middle class Catholics. Devout Catholics believe that suicide is a sin. But they believe that the sin will be forgiven if the person is first blessed with a psychiatric diagnosis.

    • In this country so many people are duped by the media puppets of Big Pharma and its front groups (NAMI, NIMH, etc.) that support for coercive psychiatry seems to cross almost all cultural and class boundaries. There are good people out there who get it, yes, but this is despite the glossy advertising print out, the media bullying frenzy, the two faced anti-stigma business, the out and out corruption, and the paid vacations. An epidemic of psychiatric disability exists, and this epidemic probably wouldn’t exist if it didn’t have a whole lot of support.

      People are homeless in this country, and people don’t have jobs. What’s the government’s solution? Tax breaks for businesses and the rich. The theory runs that if you give the rich money, the rich, wanting to be even filthier rich, will make jobs with it. Unfortunately this theory hasn’t been panning out too well recently. I personally think it would make more sense to use government money to create jobs for people who need work. The same principal applies to housing people without houses.

  5. Rod,

    I happen to be Roman Catholic.
    I certainly don’t believe in the “blessing” of a psychiatric diagnosis.


    • Yo Duane, here’s the catechism.


      2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

      2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

      2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

      Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

      2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

      2283 suggests that there may be reason to fear that those who suicide may be denied eternal salvation. In other words it’s a threat.

      The second paragraph of 2282 suggests that the bereaved may have reason to be comforted as to the ongoing fate of their dead loved one if it’s believed that they were gravely psychologically disturbed.

      It’s all garbage of course and the catholic church along with any other church engaged in worship of a deity is a pile of stinking shit.

      • Let’s respect people’s religious choices here, please. I can’t blame the Catholic church for supporting coercive treatment practices any more than I can blame White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The Catholic taboo on suicide is a matter I’m not touching. They used to burn women and men as heretics and witches, too. I don’t think barring suicides from heaven is quite of the same order, but then I’m an atheist.

        If it weren’t for churches, all sorts of disasters would be even worse than they are. All sorts of people give to their churches who wouldn’t ordinarily give under any circumstances. There are a lot of good things to be said for churches of all denominations.

        When it comes to the substance of religion the situation is somewhat different. Much wrong is perpetuated by churches, too. An example of this wrong is the intolerance exhibited by a church in wanting to burn the Quran recently. Their moral teachings, suicide is an example, encourage people to break their taboos. The word of God I will tackle at another time. Let those who want to listen, listen, but beware, if you are public about the matter, and you take the Bible literally, it can get you incarcerated.

      • Rod,

        I believe that faith, hope, and love are the essence of the teaching of the Christ.

        I’d prefer not wish to engage in a battle over the subject of catechism, because I do not consider myself a theologian (hardly).

        In my opinion, it would do well to practice some solidarity, as it pertains to standing up to the force of psychiatry.

        “We must all hang together, or we will most certainly all hang separately.” –
        Benjamin Franklin

        Duane Sherry, M.S.

  6. re”stigma linked to treatment”
    In the past psychiatric hospitals were know as snake-pits, places of horror.
    Today they are trying to remove the stigma.

    The stigma should be there, as once diagnosed mentally ill, mentally ill forever.
    People should fear losing their freedom to forced drugging into “goodness” or “wellness” with magical chemicals.

    “Under “assisted” outpatient commitment, people committed involuntarily can live outside the psychiatric hospital, sometimes under strict conditions including reporting to mandatory psychiatric appointments, taking psychiatric drugs in the presence of a nursing team, and proving medication blood levels. Forty-two states presently allow for outpatient commitment”

    • At some hospitals you’ve got your brainwashing “treatment” mall these days, but with cuts in the states mental health budgets those might be on the outs as well. It’s still a snake pit, they’re just trying to teach some inmates to be better snakes.

      I prefer to use the words prejudice and discrimination over “stigma” for what should be obvious reasons. The “anti-stigma” campaign was created by the psychiatric industry and the drug companies. The thinking runs like this, if these people can’t be recovered to fully functionality, then the best we can do is change people’s attitudes towards them. I think that often the reason people don’t fully recover from what is characterized as “serious mental illness” is because of the bullshit they get from the psychiatric industry and the drug companies behind it.

      Yes, about the outpatient commitment orders, but…if the person has no ties to the place where they are being “treated”, as long as there is no federal mandate, all a person has to do is hop a bus to another state. Should a person have ties to their place that make doing so impossible, that is unfortunate. Watch out. We have to be constantly vigilant. The people supporting and promoting coercive “treatment” practices are going to be doing all they can to strengthen and expand the laws that exist.

      • RE “all a person has to do is hop a bus to another state.”
        I am not strong enough person to be homeless, so this solution (moving to nowhere) would not work.
        If a person is “sane” they should be able to speak to an examining psychiatrist, but I do hate and fear psychiatry , so this strong emotion could ruin my “impartial” interview-for-freedom with an official judge of sanity-science.

    • I had much rather be homeless than take health destroying and brain damaging psychiatric drugs. I’m aware that everybody doesn’t feel this way about such chemicals, but it is an option.

      As for speaking to any “examining” psychiatrist, I’ve had enough problems with reacting emotionally in mental health hearings. Basically you’ve got a kangaroo court where the mental health system and the court system come together. People in this system seldom get adequate counsel of attorney. I think this makes for a situation where the person might be advised against speaking to any “examining” psychiatrist. If the person in question could keep from having his head “examined”, all the better.

  7. I wish that this discussion could take place in a more “public” forum. The general public has been thoroughly brainwashed with the regard to mental illness and the purpose of Psychiatry. I would love to see this blog posted on We can discuss this in perpetuity amongst ourselves, but, everyone needs to hear this.

    • FRBD generally has at least one thread on the subject. A fair amount of traffic and fairly smart posters. Even so, most follow the party line.

    • Language has been a big issue within the psychiatric survivor movement in the past, and it will continue to be a big issue in the future. Should we use the language of the oppressor, or should we reappropriate language to serve our own purposes? Of course, we should use our own words to describe our own experiences. I think the uneasy alliance between mental health “consumers” and psychiatric survivors is a bit more tenuous than some people might imagine it to be. We can take back language, we can talk back to psychiatry, we have been doing so for years. Using words other than those used by the oppressor, as the oppressor uses language (lies in many cases) to oppress people, is always a good thing. All you have to do is tell the truth. When we do so we use the language of liberation. We could call this language a recovery, too, because a life needs a tongue, and now we’ve retrieved that tongue from the so called “advocates” who would speak for those they would have be unable to speak for themselves. When we can speak for ourselves, and in growing numbers, this makes a difference. One no longer has to play the victim role when other roles are available to one for the playing. It can make all the difference in the world.

  8. Whoops… that’s FRDB.

  9. Someday, I’ll tell the horror I went through in withdrawing from Klonopin!

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