Abolition Is Not Reform, Abolition is Emancipation

There are those who like to call the mental health system “broken”. There are usually two reasons for doing so. One is that a person would like to see more money pumped into the mental health system. The other is that they are encountering people they don’t want to encounter, and they feel that if the system worked, the sight of these people would not be disturbing them so.

I don’t call the mental health system “broken”. The mental health system is actually a “mental illness” system and, if anything, it “works” altogether too well. We’ve got a saying, “Children should be seen and not heard.” This saying leads up to a further, but unexpressed, saying, “Adult children should neither be seen nor heard.” What do we do with our adult children? There’s the loony bin. You figure it out.

If “mental illness”, as the late Thomas Szasz claimed, is a metaphor. “Mental health” is a metaphor as well. Bodies get physical diseases. Minds just get fuzzy, half-baked ideas, and illogical thoughts. The pursuit of folly though is not a disease any more than the pursuit of wisdom is a cure. We are free to chose either pursuit, or neither, as we wish. Of course, despite the fact that no disease has been found to explain aberrant behaviors, that doesn’t prevent people from speculating about “disease” as a cause.

If you’re going to call the mental health system “broken”, the first question one has to ask is what is the purpose of the mental health system. For example, is the mental health system there to “heal sick” people, to “fix broken brains”? If so, it has always done an absolutely lousy job not “healing” and not “fixing” them. I submit that the real purpose of the mental health system is to keep people with psychiatric labels out of other people’s hair. This, the system, considering the shots it has taken due to scandals arising from institutionalization, does sufficiently enough.

What is a mental hospital? Is it a place for “healing sick” people, or is it a place for punishing people who behave “badly”? While the nurses station found on most psych wards suggests the former, the locked doors found in nearly all of them says it is the latter. All you have to do is to consult the dictionary to get the idea that something is awry here. A mental hospital is a peculiar hospital, to say the least, but it is a particular prison. The distinction between the two depends upon whether you think it does a better job “healing the sick”, or punishing the misbehaving.

I echo Dr. Szasz in calling for the abolition of forced mental health treatment. The system, as meat grinder, as a destroyer of men and women, isn’t broken in the slightest. It does it’s job of breaking spirits, of swallowing up bodies, and of spitting out bones exquisitely well. I think, if they really and truly cared about their clients, more mental health professionals would be taking the same position. This destroying of people, by going straight at their potentials, and watching them fizzle, is a thing that should not be tolerated. Difference should be expected and encouraged, not suppressed.

This accent on perceiving a “broken” system is a call for reform, and this reform usually means one of two things. Either people think it is too hard to get people treatment, or people think the treatment they receive too harsh. I am against reform as reform is always piece-meal, and there’s no end to it. Reform always, and of necessity, leads to further reform. I support the abolition of forced mental health treatment. Prejudice and discrimination, so-called “stigma”, comes of force. End forced mental health treatment, and you will also be ending so many things that are wrong with the mental health system today. There is no reason, no good reason anyway, in my opinion, for persevering in the present farce of pretending otherwise.