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Investing In Mental Health Rather Than In “Mental Illness”

Reading about what we call “mental illness” from conventional sources is very boring, and no wonder, it’s all the same old tired clichés repeated over and over again. You can talk about one size not fitting all until you‘re blue in the face, but when it comes down to it, we’ve got one size, and we’re trying to make it fit everybody. This size is the prevailing theory and the baggage it, not troubled lives themselves, represents. If you can throw the textbook out the window, then a lot of those troubles, not lives, are going to go with it.

A lot of things have changed in mental health services in the last thirty years or so. Things have gotten much worse. Thirty years ago non-recovery wasn’t the forgone conclusion that it is today. Thirty years ago treatment teams weren’t hounding people deemed in need of intensive care everywhere they went trying to make sure they stayed on their harmful psychiatric drugs. Thirty years ago nobody was ordered into forced treatment outside of a state hospital. Thirty years ago people in mental health treatment were only dying 10 to 15 years younger on average than the rest of the society, now they’re dying at an age 25 years younger. Thirty years ago doctors were less likely to give people powerful drugs for purposes that had not been approved by the FDA. Thirty years ago fewer people labeled “mentally ill” doubled as career mental health workers.

The disability field is a mixed bag, truly. Now I have issues with people labeled “mentally ill” who become “stake holders” in their area’s mental health system. I’m not a “stake holder”. I was involuntarily committed on numerous occasions, I want absolutely no part in a system based upon the deprivation of personal freedoms. Many of the people in the community mental health system got there through the state hospital psychiatric imprisonment system. I’m not one to invest in the deprivation of personal liberties, especially where I am the person being deprived of liberty. I am not an advocate for the kind of dependence that comes of crippling and life disrupting mistreatment. I’d like to see resilience and self-reliance become more of the rule in the mental health care world than they are today.

Becoming a turn-coat and traitor was never my chief aim in life. I’d rather cling to my loyalties. One of those loyalties is to the psychiatrically oppressed and mistreated. I don’t want to have a stake in oppression and mistreatment. I had rather have a stake in the liberation of people from psychiatric oppression and mistreatment. This is where our psychiatric survivor movement began, and it’s where I remain. I’m an advocate for working outside of the system; I’m not an advocate of, and for, working within the system.

I’m not against sitting at the table. I know a university hospital emergency room that sees 2500 people a year for psychiatric issues. Many of these people end up on the psych unit of this university hospital. Some of those people in turn end up being sent to the state hospital for imprisonment mistreatment. If this locality had a crisis respite center, a number of the people presently being sent to the state hospital wouldn’t have to go there because we’d have an operational and preventative alternative to that hospital. There are only a few of these crisis respite centers in the entire country right now. They save reputations, they save lives, and they save money. We should have them everywhere.