Ignore History At Thy Peril

How do you dialogue with psychiatry when psychiatry doesn’t dialogue with you? You don’t. This leaves psychiatrists rehashing things the psychiatric survivor, mental patients’ liberation, movement dealt with many years ago…as if we had not done so. We, in this case, means people who have endured or survived psychiatric treatment, or perhaps mistreatment is the more apt way of putting it.

This psychiatrist, H. Steve Moffic, M.D., makes an effort to come up with a name for discrimination against people who have had psychiatric labels attached to them. The story in Psychiatric Times bears the heading, Psychism: Defining Discrimination of Psychiatry.

I don’t think by today that there can be any question that there is significant discrimination and prejudice directed against those who are deemed to have some sort of significant mental problem. Many times, that has resulted in trying to keep such people out of mainstream society, whether that be hospitalization, not being able to live in certain neighborhoods, and not being hired for work.

Brilliant deduction, Sherlock! We ex-patients have been saying the same thing for years and years on top of years. When did you first reach this astounding conclusion, sir?

From here he adopts the personal pronoun “we”. An editorial we would presume to speak for everybody. As for this “we”, the “we” he would be speaking for is the “we” of people he treats, we, using the editorial we, will call this “we” the benevolent dictatorial “we” instead. Tonto adds, “He speak like him ownum turf, Ke-mo sah-bee.”

Now we may be seeing more and more of that in our field as the antipsychiatry movement of Scientologists seems to be expanding to former patients and their families who felt they were hurt by psychiatry. While some anger and criticism is surely warranted, the vitriol and call for the end of psychiatrists seems to border on hate speech, as described in the recent Psychiatric Times blog of Ronald Pies, MD.

Families that have lost loved ones to psychiatry might feel they have reasons for identifying with the Church of Scientology. Likewise they might feel they have reasons for not identifying with the Church of Biological Psychiatry. This is not an issue for me. The Church of Scientology is no more open and transparent than is the Church of Biological Psychiatry.

Mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors marched on the APA convention in Philadelphia this May. We had to be adamant. We had some psychiatrist come outside who thought we had something to do with Scientology. We didn’t have anything to do with Scientology, and we didn’t want anybody to think we did. Cult, church, or organization–legimate or illegimate–we were in no way connected with Scientology, nor it’s front group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. Apparently these guys only read themselves.

Blacks have racism, woman have sexism, Jews have anti-semitism, etc. Why not come up with an “ism” for people who have done time in the mental health system?

Perhaps the lack of such an “ism” indicates a discrimination and prejudice even more intense or ingrained, so much so that there is not even a term to rally around. Such a term could be psychism. This is a term that is so unused that we can easily adopt it as our own. In theosophy, I found it used on rare occasions to refer to spiritual awakening. Spiritual awakening is indeed what we need, isn’t it?

Where has this man been for the last few decades? Language has long been a major concern for people in the psychiatric survivor, mental health consumer, and ex-patient Mad Pride movement. We’ve even started to sit down with the likes of him. People in this movement have come up with the terms mentalism and sanism to describe prejudice and discrimination directed against them for this very reason. These terms are part and parcel of that discrimination of psychiatry we term psychiatric oppression.

We don’t need a psychiatrist to link our struggle to the struggles of African Americans, women, gays, senior citizens, children, disabled people, homeless people and other often disenfranchised and marginalized peoples. We’ve been a part of those same struggles for many years. If this man took any real interest in the history of the people he treated as a group, he would know these things. Apparently it’s a history lesson he desparately needs.