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The Three Babbles of Mind Brain Research

Back in 1973, the late Dr. Thomas S. Szasz published a slim volume of aphorisms and sayings under the title The Second Sin. The title of this book referred a parable found in the Old Testament. This parable dealt with the sin of clear and decisive language, back at a time when only one language ruled the world, for which God punished man through the tower of Babel with a confusion of languages. This confusion of languages, according to Dr. Szasz, has become a means the authorities use to deceive and manipulate a gullible public. Among the authorities, of which Dr. Szasz was acutely concerned, were the mental health authorities.

I’d say that the use of babble has evolved much since the publication of The Second Sin. A metaphoric second tower of Babel, you could say, is expanding skyward. Recently I’ve come to identify three primary forms of babble used by the psychiatric profession’s hacks to achieve it’s ends, and to facilitate social control. These three languages, three jargons, three pig-Latins, if you will, are psycho-babble,  bio-babble, and the newest arrival on the block, neuro-babble. Given these three specialist technological languages, I think it can be safe to say that nonsense has a great future in the realm of psychiatry.

Perhaps you’ve heard about psychobabble, a popular book was published under that title a few decades back. Wikipedia defines psychobabble “as “(a portmanteau of” “psychology” or “psychoanalysis” and “babblle”) is a form of speech or writing that uses psychological jargon, buzzwords, and esoteric language to create an impression of truth or plausibility. The term implies that the speaker or writer lacks the experience and understanding necessary for the proper use of psychological terms. Additionally, it may imply that the content of speech deviates markedly from common sense and good judgement.”

Psycho-babble has it’s antithetical complement in bio-babble, or nonsense, in lieu of credible convincing evidence,  asserting the primary role of biology in the development of psychiatric disorders. The bio-psychiatrists seem to think that if we continually make the same assertions, over and over again, regarding the primacy of biology over other factors involved in the development of psychiatric disorders, that this effort will give those assertions the ring of authenticity. Science and logic, on the other hand, insist that we must dig a little deeper, and be a little more fastidious in our investigations.. Bio-psychiatry has been supremely effective in having this bias taint much of it’s research attempts with shoddy methodology.

More recently, we have seen the arrival of neuro-babble. Neuro-babble is a sort of hybridized bio-babble with a blur of epiphenomenon thrown into the mix. As the dawn of the second decade of the brain fades into artificial sunlight, neuro is here to stay. Neuro is the new fad, trendy prefix, and buzzword.  Everything is neuro these days. I tried to count the number of neuro-words I’d encountered not long ago, but as would be expected, I lost count eventually. Neuro-babble would resolve the Cartesian mind body duality by declaring mind body. Neuro-scientists, mostly neuro-psychiatrists, are intent on making the “substance” of mind, the substance of body, or brain. Getting that thought under a microscope lens though has proven more elusive than I care to elaborate on.

Psychiatrists and Psychiatric Survivors Meet In The APA’s Radical Caucus

The Radical Caucus

On May 6, 2012, the day after a historic protest at the annual convention of the APA in Philadelphia, following speeches by Robert Whitaker, Jim Gottstein, and Keris Myrick at the Church of St Luke and the Epiphany, about six psychiatric survivors present at this same mini-conference headed out to participate in the Radical Caucus of the American Psychiatric Association at the Courtyard by the Marriot Downtown.

Two psychiatrists that I know about have posted about this Radical Caucus event, or rather non-event, already. I would like to clear up a little of the confusion that may have been sowed by their interpretations of the occasion.

I was more dismayed than surprised by the announcement in the flyer of this event. I was put off right away by the qualifying part reading, “Although biomedical research is important…” That statement concedes more to the eugenic policies of medical model psychiatry than I think necessary. It was also a good indication of how radical these psychiatrists, despite the rhetoric, were not.

Psychiatrist Bradley Lewis did an Op-Ed piece on the caucus for the Mad In America website entitled Reflections on the 2012 Radical Caucus Meeting.

This year’s American Psychiatric Association (APA) convention was a charged affair owing to a number of factors, including the intense DSM V controversy, the recent high profile critiques of the profession (such as those by Robert Whitaker and Marcia Angell), the presence of documentary filmmakers shooting an expose on the APA’s role in an iatrogenic death from antipsychotics, and the new energy, participation, and strategies that Occupy Wall Street protesters brought to meetings. Out of all this, one of the most fascinating moments in the conference was when “APA Radical Caucus” invited psychiatric activists from Mindfreedom and the Icarus Project to their annual caucus meeting.

Correction: We weren’t invited, specifically, nor were we crashing the caucus. The first sentence on the flyer announcing the event reads: “The Radical Caucus of Members of the APA invites everyone to a meeting to discuss how to make psychiatry and the APA more relevant to the people of this country.”

Emphasis added.

Everyone didn’t show up, but we did show up.

Part of the reason that the AACP members of the Radical Caucus were defensive is that they think they have been trying to live up to recovery concerns. There are two main problems with being too self-congratulatory here. The first is the way that recovery has been taken up is largely controlled by psychiatrists rather than consumers themselves. It is the psychiatrists, powerful budget administrators, and increasingly big pharma marketers who are having disproportionate influence on how consumers can participate and picking which consumers are appropriate. That means many activists are increasingly wary about the way that “recovery” is being adopted. Second, and more to the point of this meeting, the psychiatric activists at this meeting were not talking about recovery. They were talking about coercion and forced treatment.

We were also talking about, and I don’t know how it could have escaped Dr. Lewis’s attention, the harm that comes of treatment, forced or otherwise. This harm is harm of which psychiatrists are the direct source. Some of us, all of us were not pursuing this line of questioning, felt that many of the psychiatrists attending the caucus were guilty of doing serious harm to many of the patients they saw in practice.

The other entry was posted by British psychiatrist Duncan Double on his Critical Psychiatry blog, and bears the heading, Occupy APA.

A particular issue currently is the DSM-5 revision. As I have mentioned previously, I have signed up for the campaign to abolish psychiatric diagnostic systems like DSM. I think it would help psychiatry to be without a diagnostic system for a while. It managed without one until 1948. The American psychiatric system has become very dependent on DSM for billing purposes, but I’m sure the insurance companies could develop an alternative system unrelated to DSM. After all, in the UK, clusters have been created for the introduction of payment by results without requiring an ICD diagnosis.

On this score, at least, we would be in agreement. This need to ‘abolish psychiatric diagnostic systems’ was, in some measure, what the protests of the day before had been all about. One has to wonder though a little about his saying “for a while”. Does this indicate some subconscious reluctance on his and his associates part to carry through on the aims of their campaign?

I think the caucus itself just showed how far removed we are from any real and meaningful dialogue with most psychiatrists on these issues. I’m not saying this dialogue won’t arrive, I’m just saying it’s a long way off as of yet.

I wasn’t particularly impressed by most of the psychiatrists in attendance although one, who also leaves a comment under Bradley Lewis’s Op-Ed piece, Pittsburg psychiatrist Wesley Sowers, stands out for having had the decency to hold a conversation with a few of us psychiatric survivors following this meeting.

The discussion was slated to continue afterwards at the Alma de Cuba. The Alma de Cuba struck me as more the kind of a restaurant a psychiatrist would chose over a psychiatric survivor because they can afford it. One psychiatric survivor called it, “gourmet”. This psychiatric survivor called it, “pricey”. It seemed the psychiatric survivors and psychiatrists were seated at separate tables for the most part, and so the ensuing discussion must have been rather limited.

There will be other APA Conventions, other protests, and other caucus meetings in the years to come. Perhaps at some point in the future we will really be able to work together on aims we hold in common. Alas, if so, that point is still far far away.

Missing From The Radical Caucus: Clancy McKenzie

All of the psychiatrists who took part in the Radical Caucus were there to attend the convention of the American Psychiatric Association. All of the psychiatric survivors, whether with MindFreedom, or the Icarus Project, or completely independent, were there as part of a protest directed against this same American Psychiatric Association, over the upcoming release of its label bible, the DSM-5, that took place on the previous day.

We had among the planners of this protest, and marching alongside the demonstrators, a psychiatrist. This psychiatrist even had some of his patients taking part in the protest with him. His name is Dr. Clancy McKenzie. There is a world of a difference between a psychiatrist like Clancy who was willing and able to march with the demonstrators and those psychiatrists who found it convenient or opportune to attend the APA convention. It is unfortunate that he wasn’t around to attend this Radical Caucus the next day. If my hat goes off to anybody, then it goes off to Clancy McKenzie. He did something real, and that something real wasn’t kowtowing to the APA, publishers of the DSM.

The ADHD Party Line

Some people have a hard time detecting crap. What kind of a dumb ass reading this “mental illness” drug company propaganda can take any of it seriously? Apparently there are a great many people who do get sucked into this lip sync mode. One distant and foreign brain to determine everything you do, think, or say can be pretty disturbing to people trained in independent thought, and thinking for oneself.

According to this blog post at PsychCentral, Breaking the Silence of ADHD Stigma, a “stigma” is attached to the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder label. This post starts out by stating that speaking up about this purported “stigma” attached to the ADHD label will help to alleviate it; the “stigma”, that is, not the postulated “disease”. I imagine they are expecting all the speakers to be saying the same thing. It goes onto explain about this “stigma”…

It’s also decreasing thanks to well-designed studies, said Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D, a psychotherapist and author of several books on ADHD, including Adult ADD: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed. “Research is showing more and more that ADHD is a true biological [and] genetic disorder,” she said.

Well, perhaps what we need are more well-designed studies showing that pigs can fly, or that up is down. The truth of the matter is that researchers are now talking epigenetic rather than merely of genetics. Epigenetic deals with the interaction of environment and genes. Hmmm, so EVERYTHING isn’t so biological after all.

According to the post, ADHD is neither a personality trait nor a weakness in character. ADHD is not a result of poor parenting. The authors seem to claim that to suggest that the ADHD “sufferer” has any sort of self-control whatsoever is to be “stigmatizing”.

If you want to see confusion at work, contrast their ADHD is not an excuse for drug taking ploy with the definition of disease mongering.

Adults with ADHD are misperceived as “drug-seeking,” seeking the diagnosis in order to supposedly get their hands on stimulants. As [psychotherapist Terry] Matlen corrected, many adults with ADHD actually forget to take their medication.

People labeled with ADHD aren’t, according to these professionals, lazy or less than ambitious, no, they have defective brains, and to suggest anything else is to attach a “stigma” to them.

We’re not talking about college students cramming for exams. We’re talking about children who behave in ways that disturb their elders, mostly parents and teachers.

Main Entry: disease-mongering
Part of Speech: n
Definition: efforts by a pharmaceutical company to create or exaggerate a malady for the purpose of increasing sales of a medication

This is your mental health professional. This is your mental health professional with a bottle of pills. This is the drug company that is pulling the strings on your mental health professional.

When these over zealous mental health professionals stop seeing the ADHD label, and start seeing the flesh and blood human being, maybe we will be beginning to see some progress. You can’t get much more prejudiced than some of these people are who see “stigma” everywhere they turn. I don’t think an inalterable brain defect is an improvement over a changeable situation. I feel the idea is used to sell drugs.

I think I can recognise the idealogy of idealogues when I see it, and these proponents of the ADHD label are idealogues in the same sense that members of the party in one party totalitarian regimes are idealogues. These people think talking about the issue a good thing so long as they are the only ones doing the talking. As soon as somebody comes along with something different to say, its time to call in the head of your censorship office. You know the excuse that is going to being given for censorship already, don’t you? What you have to say is “stigmatizing”, and therefore, you have to be silenced.

It’s Getting To Be A Mad Mad Gene Hunt

The wierdness the mad gene hunt has taken on becomes apparent with a heading like the following one in Science Alert, Schizophrenia variants present in all. We’re all mad, in other words, but now we’re looking for DNA patterns that would link the mad ones with the ones who haven’t been caught yet.

While previous studies have pinpointed several genes along with rare chromosomal deletions and duplications associated with the disease, these account for less than three per cent of risk of schizophrenia.

I remember reading about a chromosomal deletion that was found in 1 % of the schizophrenic population. Ironically the population labeled schizophrenic comprises about 1 % of the entire population. 1 out of 4 people with this chromosomal deletion were found to develop schizophrenia…

This coincidence is no smoking gun, surely.

But the new method found that about a quarter of schizophrenia is captured by many variants that are common in the general population.

These mad gene patterns occur in a lot of people who aren’t mad, too. Imagine that.

According to QBI’s [University of Queensland’s Queensland Brain Institute], Associate Professor Naomi Wray, who led the international study, this suggests that we all carry genetic risk variants for schizophrenia, but that the disease only emerges when the burden of variants, in combination with environmental factors, reaches a certain tipping point.

Great going, Naomi! You get Lunatic Fringe’s Mad Scientist Of The Hour Award!

Genetic risk variants, in combination with environmental factors? Oh, and do environmental factors alone explain the other 75 % of the mad population? As we are dealing with biological psychiatry, I imagine the correct answer given would have to be no. The claim being we just haven’t found all the other genetic risk variants we are looking for.

I’ve read where researchers thought “mental illness” was 70 % biologically determined. Alright. We’re onto 1 in 4 cases, but we’ve still got a long long ways to go before we’ve get the other 45 % figured out.

What test did they use to come up with this 70 % figure? Well, it has to be over 50 % as they’re biological psychiatry proponents. It has to be under 100 % because there are a lot of blurred lines in the field. Just think about the number of people initially with ADHD, depression, and other disorder labels that were later tagged bipolar. In theory, supposedly based on evidense, the bipolar gene is connected to the schizophrenia gene, and so on. I imagine maybe somebody held that a 7 being his or her lucky number would look good with a zero following it.

Anyway someday we will have all these mad genes that everybody has figured out. You think?

Racial Bias In Psychiatry

A report in the Booster Shots blog for The LA Times deals with the subject of racial bias in psychiatric diagnosis. This story bears the heading, Race and mental illness: Do African Americans suffer more schizophrenia or is it bias?

Black Americans are far more likely than their white countrymen to be labeled schizophrenic, one of psychiatry’s most serious and intractable diagnoses. But a new study suggests that psychiatric bias, compounded by the squishiness of diagnostic standards in psychiatry, may account for some of that difference.

If it’s not bias, then it would have to be heredity, but if it were heredity then you wouldn’t expect the rates for Black Americans to differ any more than those for Americans of other races. There is, as studies have shown, more human genetic diversity in Africa than on any other continent.

The new study found that in a group of 610 patients seeking treatment at six regional psychiatric clinics scattered across the nation, African American patients were diagnosed with schizophrenia more than two and a half times as often as were white patients. That was the case even when the diagnosing psychiatrists based their conclusions entirely on reports of a subject’s symptoms and his or her responses to a structured interview, with any hints of the subject’s race stripped away.

So if you’re black, and you’re seeking mental health treatment in the USA, you’re 2 and ½ times as likely to receive a schizophrenia diagnosis as whitey, according to this study. This can’t be encouraging news for black people who are thinking about consulting a mental health professional.

Even when African American patients showed significant signs of a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder, it was the severity of their psychotic symptoms that jumped off the page to the color-blinded psychiatrists. For white patients, even psychiatrists blinded to race were more likely to balance signs of psychosis with signs of a mood disorder.

On the lack of charisma and recoverability scale schizophrenia is usually stationed at the bottom of the “mental disorder” heap. This sort of study, for this very reason, calls into question the validity of many “bipolar disorder” diagnoses as well. If, as some have speculated, schizophrenia is a label often reserved for the family scapegoat, one can see how the implications of a study along these lines may extend well beyond the relatively facile matter of skin color.

Mental Health Recovery And Civil Rights

If people can and do recover from serious “mental illnesses”, why would “stigma” be much of an issue? “Stigma” is mostly an issue with people who believe that complete recovery is rare to non-existent. Countering “stigma” is a matter for people who believe people in mental health treatment need some kind of special consideration, specifically because they are thought to be incapable of fully recovering their mental and emotional constitutional stability.

The notion of “stigma” involves a belief that people in mental health treatment are tainted, that they are broken, that they are damaged goods, that they are, as the word translates literally, marked for disgrace. In point of fact, there doesn’t tend to be any sort of skin rash that separates a person labeled “mentally ill” from the rest of humanity. This idea that one is engaged in an effort to erase “stigma” tends to have an effect opposite to the intention. What I am saying here is that this focus on “stigma” is usually a way of separating the ‘disturbed’ from society at large rather than of seeing him or her as a human being like all other human beings, and thus a member of that society.

The real issue for people who have experienced the mental health system, and particularly for people who have endured forced treatment, is a matter of prejudice and discrimination. Institutionalization disrupts the life process in almost all of its dimensions. People who are institutionalized lose precious time, jobs, friends, and property. They are not compensated one nickle for the time, jobs, friends, and property that institutionalization takes away from them. In fact, they are expected to pay for the disruption of institutionalization, often forced and entirely unwanted, that causes this loss. This in itself is indicative of the prejudice directed against this segment of the population. We may call this prejudice “stigma”, but it is not “stigma” , it is prejudice.

Discrimination, and this lack of compensation, are in fact among the reasons many people within the mental health system are seen as unrecoverable. The mental health system fosters dependence, and this dependence is, in large measure, seen as pathological on the recipient’s part. The problem is situational. People within the system have this ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ feeling. What were we saying about disgrace? People in treatment are still segregated from the community at large within what has been termed the mental health ghetto. This mental health ghetto, much like the inner city ghetto, much like the Warsaw ghetto, is where we’ve made life harder for the inhabitants than it is for everybody else.

People, especially unfortunate people, need chances. They don’t just need second chances. They need third, fourth, and fifth chances as well. In any land of opportunity there should be an abundance of chances, that is, there should be more rather than fewer of these chances. Chance is opportunity. Good fortunes are what unfortunate people lack. The “sickness”, if there is any, bears a social element. If the “sickness” is a matter of locking people out from the realm of fortune, then cure would be a matter of repossessing that key. It is this key to situational change, that is, to community re-integration, that is the real prognosticator, and this key as of yet still tends to be kept in stingy, or prejudicial, hands.

The erasing “stigma” notion comes from the idea that all you will need to do to get a better world is to change the hearts and minds of people. Pragmatists and realists know better. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” If the situation for people impacted by the mental health system has changed at all, it has changed because laws have changed. These changes have occurred because we are engaged in our own civil rights struggle, and this civil rights struggle is still far from over.

The genome of the studious fruit

An article in LiveScience, Family’s Mental Disorders May Shape Your Interests, would indicate that the autistic gene is connected to the science and technicality gene while the bipolar disorder gene is connected to the humanities and social sciences gene. I suspect that you will need much more than voluntary survey results to prove any such connection between career choice and physiology.

The research, a survey of 1,077 incoming Princeton University freshmen in the class of 2014, posits a genetic influence on personal interests. For example, students who planned to major in the humanities or social sciences were twice as likely as other students to report a family member with a mood disorder or substance abuse. Wannabe science and technology majors, on the other hand, were three times as likely as other freshmen to say they had a sibling on the autism spectrum.

I have a big problem with this kind of thing, namely the assuming that there is a genetic influence on personal interests because it is assumed that there is a genetic influence in the development of what are referred to as serious “mental illnesses”. Where’s the HARD evidence supporting your THEORY? Somebody is indulging in a great deal of whimsical speculation here. Merely stating such proves absolutely nothing.

This is not to say that everyone who enjoys computer programming fits on the autism spectrum, or to insinuate that having a bipolar parent destines a person for an English major. But Wang is not the only researcher to find links between heritable disorders and family interests. In November 2011, for example, researchers reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry that people with bipolar disorder, as well as their healthy immediate family members, were more likely to hold “creative” jobs in the arts or sciences than people without a family history of the disorder. Parents and siblings of people with schizophrenia showed the same tendencies.

I believe I read something about the same research, and while people labeled with bipolar disorder were said to sometimes have creative careers the same was not found to be true of people labeled with schizophrenia. I suppose a big part of the problem must be in finding the right trainer patient enough to work with a raving lunatic.

Not that long ago most people on earth were hunter gatherers. I suppose that must have been because they had hunter gatherer genes. When we get a time-machine we can go back, and conduct a survey.

I’m not at all surprised that creative people would be related to dysfunctionaries. The off-cause for functionaries is the on-cause for dysfunctionaries. Does this mean that uncreative people don’t have creative genes? I still think we’re making quite a leap here from ‘practice makes perfect’ to let your genes do the waltzing. I think there could still be a number of reasons why careers could come in families besides genetic make up. Also, you’ve only scratched the surface of the matter if you’ve even done that. You’d have to look at the career spread over many generations to draw any real type of conclusion. At some point or other you come back to hunters and gatherers, but somebody, of course, had to bang the drums, and somebody, of course, had to cast the spells. Somebody had to craft the bows and chip the arrowheads, too. Genes, huh?

Some surveys, like some careers, are mostly a waste of time and money.

Racism Disguised As Science

As if things weren’t absurd enough as is, immigration to the USA from Mexico puts one at risk for conduct disorder according to an article in MedPage Today. The article in question bears the headline, Move from Mexico to U.S. Tied to Conduct Disorder.

I’d call this sort of discriminatory psychiatric labeling racial profiling, but the researchers don‘t seem to give it a second thought.

The good news is, well, Mexicans tend to be non-aggressive types rather than aggressive types according to this study.

The relationship between immigration status and conduct disorder was stronger for nonaggressive symptoms — such as running away from home and frequent lying — than for aggressive symptoms — such as fighting and cruelty to animals, the researchers reported in the December issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

These researchers have gotten the idea that it’s mostly genetic with a little bit of environmental influence thrown in there for good measure.

No wonder Mexicans are being stopped at the border!

Rates of conduct disorder symptoms overall ranged from 0.1% for forced sex to 12.8% for truancy. Three or more symptoms occurred in 11.5% of the participants; 2% met criteria for conduct disorder.

“Not alarmingly defective genes, huh? All the same, a cause for concern”, says the inner cop I consulted.

The rate of conduct disorder increased significantly as the connection to the U.S. strengthened — 0.9% for nonmigrant families, 1.6% for Mexicans in migrant families, 6.9% for offspring raised in the U.S. by Mexican-born parents, and 11.5% for offspring raised in the U.S. by U.S.-born parents of Mexican descent (P<0.001).

Apparently Mexican Americans are much more at risk than mere Mexicans. How convenient for the border patrols trying to prevent a tidal wave of illegals from turning the USA into outer Juarez.

Shrink researchers are really on the ball in this matter. They are busy looking for the conduct disorder gene that turns so many migrants into banditos as well as for the environmental factors that makes the USA toxic to certain Mexicans.

Ummm, next question. When are these shrink researchers going to look into the genes of Arabs? They’re out to bomb us to kingdom come, right, so there must be a lot going on there, too, don’t you think?

A Fighter For The Better Use Of Language

One of the voices most vehement in his opposition to the use of the word “stigma”, when it comes to dealing with people who have experienced the mental health system first hand, is that of Harold A. Maio. It was, therefore, refreshing to see his words in print featured in an opinion piece on the United Kingdom’s Guardian, headed aptly, We no longer talk about ‘the’ Jews. So why do we talk about ‘the’ mentally ill?

Presently popular worldwide is “the” mentally ill, a replica of “the” Jews. It is seldom recognised. In 2008 all nine US supreme court justices agreed “the” mentally ill existed. I shuddered; the US went silent. The entire country went dark and did not notice. An alley expression had reached the height of the US supreme court and journalism fell silent, neither seeing it, nor wanting to. Not just in the US, but worldwide. It is one of the prejudices I track worldwide on the net. I respond to each example.

If you follow stories in the media where the word “stigma” comes up in reference to people who have known mental health treatment, you will often find Harold Maio has written a sharply critical letter to the editor. It would certainly be helpful if more people took the time to chastise editors and journalists for their shortcomings in this fashion, and for this shortcoming in particular.

I trace one other prejudice on the net: “stigma”. It is closely related to the first. Once one has diminished a group to a “the”, one then claims for them a “stigma”, a “they”, a difference, eventually a deficiency. Establishing an “us” is one of the primary tools of prejudice, resulting in a “them”.

I’ve never liked the word “stigma” used in such instances either seeing it as a highly prejudicial word. As it means “a mark of disgrace” you start with a perceptual problem, you’ve identified the members of this set of individuals as set apart somehow from the rest of the population. In such instances, it becomes easier to ignore the common humanity that unites people, and it becomes harder to come to the conclusion that we are them, too, and they are us.

When I objected to the use of this word during a teleconference of psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers I was happy to find that most of those at the event were in agreement with my objection. They had a different reason for objecting though, and their reason was that it was a term they felt had been co-opted by people who didn’t share their aims and objectives. This word that might once have been their word at one time, was no longer seen as their word. It had become then, for these people who had been through the mental health system, a word that was used by a “them” against the “us” they represented.

The outcome of forced mental health treatment is usually not a very good one. The damage that is done to one is financial and social as well as possibly emotional. This socio-economic double whammy illustrates that the problem is systemic. While ex-slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule before the end of the American civil war, a promise the government renigged on, mental health patients are promised next to nothing on discharge from an institution.

Ignorance of the disruption that involuntary treatment entails is itself an example of prejudice in my view. Let us return to the example of propertyless ex-slaves, one thing they could count on was poverty. The predicament most recently discharged mental patients find themselves facing is similar. Add to this precarious state, just as with black people in this country, you have a group of people facing a great deal of prejudice. This prejudice contributes to making efforts to reenter the fold, so to speak, and move upward such a challenging, often self-defeating, undertaking.

I haven’t read it suggested that there is a “stigma” attached to mental health. People labeled “mentally ill” have recovered from the label. This word “stigma” is often used to refer to the way people treat people for whom recovery is thought to be beyond reach. This presumption, in itself, is an example of prejudice. There is a great deal of fatalism at work in this perspective. It is my feeling that when a person has received a psychiatric label, improvement should be the expectation. Resignation is, all too often, the tact encouraged by professionals who have failed their clientelle, and by a system that is too often based on managing symptoms rather than recovering stability.

Boycott Normal Campaign Launched

Enough with the bad news, now for some good news!

On Monday, October the 10th, 2011, International Psychiatric Oppression Day, alternatively known as World Mental Illness Awareness Day and World Mental Health Day, the human rights organization MindFreedom International launched a Boycott Normal Campaign by staging a street theater protest outside of the Eugene Oregon Chamber of Commerce.

This campaign presents a great opportunity for psychiatric survivors, mental health consumers, ex-patients, and other mad entities to show that there is something more to their movement than social withdrawal and a lack of motivation.

At the demonstration the chant that went out was ‘Boycott Normal Occupy Normal!’ linking it to all the demonstrations against the corporate power elite taking place all around the world right now. The question being put to the Chamber of Commerce by this theatrical presence was, “What could be crazier than normal?” Men in business suits are destroying the natural environment and wrecking the economic welfare of citizens in the name of normal, and that isn’t crazy?

The story of this launch, which includes a 16 plus minute YouTube video, is front page on the MindFreedom International website.

Let’s hope that psychiatric survivors, mental health consumers, and ex-patients in other parts of world will take up this cause, and plan other events of the sort in their own locales. We need to show the world that this isn’t just some sort of anomaly relative to the rest of the world. Our normal is no less crazy than you’re normal! If truth be told, the Chamber of Commerce of Eugene Oregon is only a minor player in the ensuing disasters that the corrupt puppets of corporate interests are so intent upon pursuing.