The Language Wars

The language wars are old and have a long history. Take psychiatry, for instance, where “sickness” starts with an insult applied to a human being. The human being thus insulted becomes a patient, and at the same time, is rendered “less” of a human being. Once this insult has been applied, in some cases, the application can lead, in a straightway and thorough-going fashion, directly to the ruination of the patient.  There is, in a concrete sense, no protection from ruination given psychiatric intervention. Psychiatric theory, being negative in general, supports ruination.

A few years back arose what were termed mental patient liberation groups. These mental patient liberation groups were part of a growing movement. It was a mental patients liberation movement that came to be called the psychiatric survivor movement. Eventually, something went haywire. These people who had been justifiably suspicious of the government decided to make a peace pact with the government. They let that government take the reins of their movement. The result goes by many names, but most pointedly, or disappointingly, perhaps, the c/s/x or consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement.

Psychiatry is notorious for its failure to integrate people–damned, divided and conquered by psychiatry–back into society at large. Psychiatry has an expression for its failures. That expression encompasses a set of people psychiatry dubs people, using the currently most political correct expression, with “chronic serious mental illness”. Looked at from another perspective, psychiatry’s failures are actually the secret of its success. People who fail to recover from the mishaps encountered in life keep psychiatrists in business. Once upon a time, psychiatry was a profession made up solely of the superintendents of lunatic asylums in this country. No more. Now there are 48,000 psychiatrists in the USA alone, and they claim that number is way too few to serve the numbers of people who would utilize their services, or disservices, depending on your perspective.

If psychiatrists, and other mental health workers, could be termed the ‘functionaries’ in this field, the patients, or “consumers” as some of them now prefer to be called, could be termed the ‘dysfunctionaries’. Their role in life is primarily to give the mental health worker a purpose through their own lack of a purpose. So-called “chronic mental illness” is defined by psychiatry, with all of its medical pretensions, as ‘dysfunction’. Alright. Now ‘dysfunction’ is a matter of degree, just as jobs can be part time or full time, and so you have a situation developing where ‘dysfunctionaries’ are moonlighting as ‘functionaries’. Because nobody else will hire them, the mental health system has taken the lead in hiring mental patients.

Sometime while you are slogging through a quagmire of gray areas, do you ever feel nostalgic about more basic black and white issues? I mean to say by this that there is a point at which complexity reaches a ridiculous level because the forgotten virtue of simplicity was always more black and white. We are experiencing an epidemic of so-called “mental illness” today and, ironically, mental patients have started working with professionals to escalate this epidemic to even more incredible proportions. I would suggest that if this situation is ever going to change, another role needs to be found for them beyond that of tending to ‘dysfunctionaries’. Just think, taxpayer money is going for the ‘functionaries’ who tend to the ‘dysfunctionaries’, and more and more, both categories are tending towards the synonymously interchangeable. What a savings we would have if we could find a more fruitful position for some of these people, both professional and patient.

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Mental patient forswears hospitalization for punishment in prison

If anybody thinks the horrors of forced psychiatric treatment over blown, Las Vegas Channel 13 ABC News has a story about a man who prefers prison. In fact, so chagrined at his treatment was he that he confessed to murder. I imagine if this man had had a little more patience, he would have been released back into society, eventually, no questions  asked.

The heading to the story reads, Man confesses to murder to get out of psychiatric hospital.

On July 9, a detective with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department received a phone call from [Henry] Perez.

Calls to police stations are fairly common.

Perez told the detective that he wanted to confess to a murder that had occurred several years ago on Calcaterra Circle.

Phone confessions of murder, not so much.

Perez also told the detective that he wanted to confess to the murder because jail was better than being in a mental facility.

There, you’ve heard it straight from the horses mouth. If he has any reason for lying, it isn’t because life is a breeze in the mental hospital.

Perez was being held at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital. This is the same Rawson-Neal Hospital that received a lot of bad press recently for dumping, via bus ticket, discharged patients in the neighboring state of California. Rawson-Neal actually lost its accreditation over patient dumping incidents.

The under story here is that in the psychiatric hospital, where forensic cases are concerned, that is, where somebody pleaded Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, the lengths of stay are usually longer than if the prisoner went into a jail, or than if a patient were admitted by the commitment hearing. Cruel and unusual punishment has not become the issue it should be where that cruel and unusual punishment is interpreted ‘treatment for diseases of the mind’.

Apparently, somebody has their civil and human rights work cut out for them.

Psychiatrists’ Say The Darnedest Things – 6/17/13

If I were going to include a periodic quote from the media on my blog, and I might eventually do so, the following might be a good place to start.

As part of a HuffPost Book Club discussion on the book that took place last year, Matthew Erlich, MD, a psychiatrist-researcher at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in the Division of Mental Health Services, told us that Caulfield would probably have been committed to a secure unit as a manic depressive at the time of the book.

This snippet was snipped from, Holden Caulfield Diagnosis: Psychiatrist Discusses Salinger’s Classic Character (VIDEO), Huff Post Books.

The main protagonist of the Catcher in the Rye, a great coming of age and prep-school novel, that many of us experienced first hand while growing up, has been reduced to a species of nervous disorder. Thank heaven Holden saw no reason to check himself into a psychiatric facility, huh? On the other hand, this scenario suggests alternate plot lines. What if J. D. Salinger had come up with a different twist? Holden could have been snatched up by the psychiatric authorities, and the mental patients’ liberation movement–it’s all anti-psychiatry to true believers–might have welcomed another fictional hero into their midst beyond the misbegotten, doomed, and mischievous Randle Patrick McMurphy from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Did I say, “might have“? Without rereading the novel, here’s what the wikipedia Catcher in the Rye page says.

Holden makes the decision that he will head out west and live as a deaf-mute. When he mentions these plans to his little sister Monday morning, she wants to go with him. Holden declines her offer, which upsets Phoebe, so Holden decides not to leave after all. He tries to cheer her up by taking her to the Central Park Zoo, and as he watches her ride the zoo’s carousel, he is filled with happiness and joy at the sight of Phoebe riding in the rain. At the conclusion of the novel, Holden decides not to mention much about the present day, finding it inconsequential. He alludes to “getting sick” and living in a mental hospital, and mentions that he’ll be attending another school in September; he relates that he has been asked whether he will apply himself properly to his studies this time around and wonders whether such a question has any meaning before the fact. Holden says that he doesn’t want to tell anything more, because surprisingly he has found himself missing two of his former classmates, Stradlater and Ackley, and even Maurice, the pimp who punched him. He warns the reader that telling others about their own experiences will lead them to miss the people who shared them.

Emboldened emphasis added.

Did you get that? Holden Caulfield was a mental patient. The mental hospital experience was his experience. Perhaps he’s still with our movement at this present moment. If it’s not too ‘schizoid’ a thing to say, I think I saw him in 2012 at the protest outside the APA convention in Philly I attended.

Hoarding, That Honest Industry

If you’re a pack-rat, it’s time to fumigate for psychiatrists. On the tail of two hit reality television shows (just in case you were wondering where “mental disease” came from), “hoarding disorder” has entered the DSM-5.

Hoarding disorder is a growing phenomenon, now recognized by the American Psychiatric Association’s newest edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Difficult to treat and hard to manage, the disorder is believed to affect between 2 and 5 percent of the population, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Community Health Nursing.

The heading of the Courier-Post Online says it all, Hoarding has spawned TV shows, recognition as a mental disorder.

Cleanliness fetishists beware. It is not too late for non-conformists, free-thinkers, and other bohemian sorts to edit a book of disorders of their own invention. (Where are humorists when you need them?)

If you’ve got a treasure trove of personal knickknacks, be wary. There are now companies developed to help intrusive relatives and envious neighbors rob you of your fortune.

Inspired by a close family member’s hoarding, Ronald Ford Jr. of Camden launched his clean-out company, Hoarders Express, about a year and a half ago. His business handles one or two homes a week. Typically, he is called in by a relative, though only a homeowner is allowed to sign the contract giving his employees permission to haul away their possessions.

Cleanliness freaks, law and order types, meddling neighbors, misbegotten relatives, city council members, they’re all in this wide-ranging conspiracy together.

Cluttering can prevent a home’s inhabitants from getting out in case of a fire, [firefighter Bryce] Priggemeier explained, and makes it harder for firefighters to do their job. The threat of fire is a primary concern for code enforcement officials.

How’s that for a lame excuse to harass a relative or a neighbor?

If recyclers are helping to save the environments, hoarders have the jump on recyclers by saving the article that would be recycled. No junk, no need to recycle.

I say to you so called hoarders are the first wave in a new perspective on life. We shouldn’t be chastising people for their collections of non-collectibles. We shouldn’t be entreating them to get rid of their treasures. Instead we should be helping them to use their gifts more wisely. We should be training them to turn their treasures into art.

There is what we refer to as junk art, found art, outsider art and primitive art. Transform your hovel into a palace with your treasured trash, and you’ve eluded all the mental health cops in the world. Pat yourself on the back, and attach an exorbitant price-tag to it. With a little bit of talent or learning, you don’t have to get rid of it after all. You’ve gotten away with it.

Antipsychiatry and Forced Mental Health Treatment?

I recently read, for the first time, the long out of print Psychiatry and Antipsychiatry authored by David G. Cooper. The question I had, in dipping into this slender volume, it’s only 148 pages long, was could there be any credence to Thomas Szasz’s accusations that some of the leading proponents of so called antipsychiatry were actually, if not favoring forced mental health treatment, soft on forced treatment?

The book bears a copyright for the year 1967, the same year co-hort R. D. Laing came out with The Politics of Experience. Between the two books, Laing’s is the stronger work, and to bear this point out, it is still in print. I had read Laing’s book years and years ago, and I had little desire to return there. However I was curious about this other book which had introduced the world to a strange new word, antipsychiatry.

I had gotten the idea from what I was reading that this idea of antipsychiatry was still relatively rudimentary, and I was surprised to get out of the book, rather than simply a diatribe against psychiatry, more psychiatry. David Cooper simply contrasts what we call biological psychiatry with his own psycho-dynamic brand of psychiatry, dubbed antipsychiatry. The arguments used, if more fully developed, are still around today.

What goes to the point of the question I was posing is the fact that David Cooper’s experiment, Villa 21, took place on an inpatient ward in Shenley psychiatric Hospital. This means that the people, males in the case of Villa 21, were not allowed to come and go as they pleased. They were literally prisoners. Cooper in fact dismissively refers in his book to a 1959 law under which they were held. You can only do so much on a locked ward at an inpatient facility, even if you are a psychiatrist wishing to implement changes.

The term Cooper used for what conventional psychiatry did was “quasi-medical”. This is a big difference between his view and my own. Psychiatry is simply not medicine, as far as I am concerned, despite the educational training of its practitioners and the pretence.  I’ve got another term for what this sort of conventional psychiatry is all about, and that term is quasi-legal. You’ve got a law for locking up innocent people, who have broken no law, on medical pretences. Generally the law exists to protect people from just such a consequence, making mental health law very murky territory indeed.

Much of his critique is subtle. The state is left off the hook, mostly, while he goes after one small unit for the implementation of the state’s will, the family. He begins his book by making violence a central issue, but this violence boils down to an invalidation on the part of parents and siblings of a family member. The state, the school, and the communities role in this depersonalization and invalidation is downplayed. He, as a therapist, is working to resolve issues that come up within this relatively circumscribed context.

I have always thought that R. D. Laing’s experiment at Kingsley Hall would have been much preferable to what I experienced. Such is the kind of an option that I wish I had had when I was imprisoned and forcibly drugged in a psychiatric hospital that I didn’t have. R. D. Laing had earlier worked in a psychiatric ward run by the military to loosen restrictions there. The problem with developing alternatives to conventional psychiatry, a problem that Dr. Szasz, restricting himself to private practice, didn’t have, is that doing so is going to mean a relationship to conventional psychiatry, and perhaps, as such, compromising with principle.

When this compromise is allowed to swerve into hypocrisy, we’ve got a problem. There has been some suggestion that the stance of R. D. Laing in the 80’s was not quite so adamant as the stance of the Laing of the 60s and 70s had been. As Thomas Szasz put it in his Reply to [Tristram] Englehardt in Szasz Under Fire, Edited by Jeffrey A. Schaler:

Even the “antipsychiatrist” Ronald Laing recoiled from denying the reality of mental illness, rejected my opposition to psychiatric coercions, and reasserted his loyalty to psychiatry as medicine.

Of course, it should be said to his credit that this same Ronald Laing may have had reasons for being deceptive as he was fighting a losing battle to save his license to practice towards the end of his life.

I think the case against is probably overstated in Antipsychiatry: Quackery Squared, a book authored by Szasz, that I have no desire to read. All the same, I’d like to see more psychiatrists take a position, as Dr. Szasz did, unreservedly in support of the abolition of forced mental health treatment. Many of the psychiatrists associated with what was termed the antipsychiatry movement didn’t take such a strong and unwavering stand, and for that I would fault them. If their credibility has suffered as a result, it should come as a surprise to no one.

Future Psychiatry

Make way for the DSM-6 1/2 & 3/4. Some Oxford University mad shrink, a certain Kathleen Taylor, she calls herself a neurologist, thinks that religious fundamentalism and cult group membership could become a disease in the future.

Don’t look now, but religious fundamentalists and those whose ideological beliefs border on the extreme and may be potentially harmful to society could soon be called crazy—in a medical sense.

Remind me to stay way clear of the border of extreme.

Taylor also warned against taking “fundamentalism” to mean radical Islamism.

The story/review, Is religious fundamentalism a mental illness?, is to be found at GMA News Online, ‘the go-to site for Philipinos’.

I’m encouraged by all this potential broadening of commitment criteria in a way.  Just imagine, in the future maybe we could lock up members of the Church of Biological Psychiatry. As is, they do an inordinate amount of injury while everybody just looks the other way.

Kathleen Taylor has written a book, “The Brain Supremacy”, on the dangers of brain technology, but, oh, I don’t know…

“What we perceive from our perspective as our legitimate self-defensive reaction to the psychosis of the enemy, is from the perspective of the same enemy our equally malignant psychotic self-obsession,” it [Digital Journal] added.

Here it comes, here it comes…World War III!

This just goes to show now that, beyond intoxicating substances, behaviors have been found to be addictive, the bag is open, and anything can crawl in. Should psychiatry be your career choice, I hope we can find a cure before it’s too late, and the bombs start falling all around us.