Envisioning the wane of the intermediary

The media is not always the best place to go to learn about the mental health system. People who come out in the press as “mentally ill” are often cherry picked by mental health staff in order to make their profession look good. This, in effect, is the mental health system equivalent of what in slavery used to happen when the house slave was ordered to tell white folk about the joys of servitude, and did so. The very explanations you get in the press are indicative of the extent to which people are oppressed by the psychiatric system and mental health law.

I have long used the saying, “Nothing about us without us!”, when talking to people about our issues. Although I’ve been mostly ignored, and certainly that ignorance is no with us, I will continue to use this saying. If my words go in one ear, and out the other ear, that doesn’t cancel any of the experiences I have endured at the hands of the mental health establishment. I will continue to use those words up until and beyond the point when they are taken at face value. The suppression of free speech, and the silencing of dissent, are not with us either. When those words matter, my individual voice will matter, too, and with it the voice of everybody who has known the mental health system from the inside as prisoner or patient.

People on the receiving end of mental health treatment are often lumped together with what are referred to as “America’s most vulnerable citizens” by the media. They are also sometimes referred to as “voiceless”. In many cases other people, lawyers, politicians, even relatives, and suchlike designated mouthpieces, assume to be doing the talking for these people who are assumed to be unable to speak for themselves. Few people in the mental health system have had their tongues removed, or are mute. If you were to ask anyone of them a question, it’s highly likely that he or she would come up with an answer for you. Now if you can answer any question put to you, you probably don’t need another person to assume he or she would know better than you what you would say.

The next question is, why the intermediaries? Why this buffer zone? What are people afraid of? Is the public afraid that this or that patient is not going to regurgitate the official treatment line? I think sometimes such is the case. Is it the truth people are afraid of? Again, I think sometimes such is the case. People who are disoriented can speak for themselves. People who have been, but are no longer, disoriented can speak. People who were never disoriented in the first place can speak. The fact is though they can’t always speak through the walls people use to exclude them. They can’t speak through the defenses people have set up to defend themselves from their deepest fears. One of those deepest fears, apparently, is that these people when disoriented have any resemblance to themselves.

The distinction between mental health and “mental illness”, or at least serious “mental illness”, mental health seeming to be neutral, in the DSM is determined by one’s ability to function in society. Yes, function as in work, although it can also refer to play. The thing is that there are many people working inside of the mental health system itself who have had treatment for this “dysfunction” or that. They are working, and some of them are drawing in hefty salaries, and thus the seriousness of their “mental illnesses” could be said to be in remission at the very least. I’d like to see even more former patients working fulltime both inside and outside of the mental health system. In this way, we would know progress is being achieved.

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6 Responses

  1. regarding “I’d like to see even more former patients working fulltime both inside and outside of the mental health system. ”
    Are you delusional? Only those that believe in psychiatry can work inside psychiatry.
    Outside the “mental health system” is washing the dishes at a restaurant.

    • LOL. Unfortunately working with those who believe in psychiatry is more likely to get you a job washing dishes than not. They’ve got no good grip on the problems they’ve created. People are expected to take the edu route if they want to advance upwardly in these oh so downwardly mobile times.

      I’m one who thinks things can and should change as far as the system is concerned. We don’t have a great need for Peer Support Specialists to provide the same sort of parasitism that conventional mental health staff provide. If pressure were applied to the system, that pressure might be able to achieve wonders eventually. This would involve working in the community at large rather than fostering the kind of insular ideas of mental health treatment that are so current.

      Am I a dreamer, or delusional as you put it? Perhaps. I think there are answers, for example, Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Psychiatry. We’re dealing with the result of great power and wealth disparities, and when we attack those disparities, we attack the root of the problem. People are not in the mental health system because they’re innately bad people, no, they’re in the mental health system because they’ve stumbled onto the failure track. Change tracks, and you change everything. People in the system are where they are for the same reason that people facing mortage foreclosures are where they are. We’ve got better things to do with our lives than be screwed by the system. Duh! Now let’s reveal that truth to the people who just don’t get it yet, like those people in the mental health system, staff mostly, who continue to practice the tried and false old archaic dysfunctional way of doing things.

  2. My thoughts entirely. Former patients with any sense would run a mile over broken glass before joining that club. The ones who do get involved tend to be those who seek to gain a position of authority in order to safely project their own unresolved issues onto others; like most supposedly healthy individuals working in the field already do.

    I am pondering the problem because we do not want the situation to continue, nor do we want to see “washing dishes at a restaurant” as the only kind of viable work for someone who has been through the mental health system.

    As with most things, I think education is key. I think grants and concessions for those termed “mentally ill” would be a good start. These could be awarded on the condition that the recipients give back to the community of mental health patients. Bearing in mind our concerns about the system itself, it would be good to look at ways of achieving this through different means. Through journalism, for instance, but journalism that is taking up your “nothing about us without us” approach, MFV. Community health, community art, research, news programming, documentary making, film making, PR, music, the law, accounting; sport, and so on; I think that individuals who become educated in any field will have something to offer the wider community of mental health patients.

    Another thing I believe to be important is the opening up of those in a position of celebrity. This has gone a long way already to bringing mental health issues into the open but it is often approached in a sensationalist manner. More responsible journalism is required; to be legally enforced if necessary.

    One issue with celebrities, of course, is that they are not generally treated in the appalling way the average person is treated. Nonetheless, it is all grist for the mill.

    I think it is essential to look at the positive elements of being different as well. Concert pianists, surgeons, inventors, athletes – where would all those who pursue excellence be without a dose of obsession?

    • In my view what we’ve been talking about here is what has been referred to as the mental health ghetto. It isn’t a matter of feelings, a lot of people are stuck in this mental health ghetto. This leaves a lot of former patients stuck with the kind of jobs any respectable illegal emigrant would turn down. Peer run programs are open to receiving federal grants. Those things go on. The danger exists of a certain amount of elitism developing here and there, but then that is always a danger. Self-serving can be good for the individual, but it’s hell on collective interests. Corruption than doesn’t recognise itself as corruption happens. The mental health ghetto doesn’t pertain to celebrity patient/consumers. Patty Duke Aston, Carrie Fisher, Patrick Kennedy, and the list goes on and on. You ever noticed how limited the number of celebrities is in the world. This is because of corporate control of the media. Corporate media is the real problem here, Hearst heirs, Rupert Murdock, Universal Studios and suchlike ilk. Contrast television with the internet, and you will find that television is a wasteland. Television is a wasteland because of corporate media control. This is another reason for, as David Oaks, director of MindFreedom International, puts it, becoming our own media. This mental health ghetto is one of the biggest challenges we will have to face in the future. Is there to be no exit? Without a return of upward mobility I guess not. One thing you can say about people stuck in this ghetto, if they are successful they aren’t successfull in the kind of financial terms that go over on Wall Street, and maybe on Capitol Hill as well. We need to change this paradigm that sees the financial hog trough as everything, basically because it’s unjust.

  3. Yup.

    That’s why collective interest has to be written in.

    The Internet is a great opportunity for achieving self-defining media but we must keep a sharp eye on legislation.

    The paradigm is already on the move – and what will we end up with? Communism. Ha ha!

    • Well, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, I hear anarchism is gaining ground again. Personally I’m not crazy about any of these isms myself as they all sound so idealogically doctrinaire and seem so heavily theoretical.

      I’d really like to see community assume much more of an importance than it does today. This notion of global community is a bit of a contradiction in terms. I think a lot of this talk has to do with corporatocracy giving it’s corporatalk. You can listen and become a corporatocrat, or you can plug up your ears, and opt for the new. I’m for bringing the revolution home where it belongs. This would allow us to go from seeing an Egyptian moment on TV to having a hometown moment in one’s hometown.

      News is what’s happening to your neighbor, and so why isn’t he or she on TV? If your neighbor needs housing, all the more reason for your neighbor to be seen, and not swept under the rug…for the sake of the rich in their gated enclaves, of course.

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