Do Not Feed The Monster

The difference between a mental patient and a mental health consumer is identical to the difference between a garbage person and a sanitation engineer, that is, it is a matter of words, of jargon. I say this because we have had what we call the psychiatric survivor, in former times also referred to as the mental patients’ liberation, movement. This movement has been instrumental in working to free people from the oppressive constraints of psychiatric intervention and the patient role.

Much confusion has been stirred up, of more recent date, due to the merging of that movement with what has come to be called the consumer movement, a movement that could be said to be lead by, or colluding with, the federal government. The consumer movement is not so much about liberating a person from the role of patient as it is about accommodating him or her in that role.

In part, the consumer movement has been a more or less successful attempt to subvert or co-opt the psychiatric survivor movement. It is something that can’t be completely successful, for if it was, you’d no longer have psychiatric survivors, you’d just have people stuck in the mental patient role. Funny thing, huh, when some people try to suggest that the mental patient role is an inescapable lifelong or chronic matter of “pathology”?

Colluding with the federal government is a matter of begging money from the feds, gained through taxation, to continue in the mental patient, alternately called mental health consumer, role. To further elaborate, the rallying cry of the consumer is more apt to be the right to treatment while the rallying cry of the survivor is more apt to be the right to refuse treatment.

This is a matter of accent. To further elaborate, psychiatric survivors are people who see themselves as more harmed by the mental health system  than “helped” while mental health consumers are more likely to see themselves as “helped” by the mental health system. It doesn’t end there though, there is overlap, there are survivors who feel they need “help” or “support”, and there are consumers who feel they have been harmed and oppressed by the system as well as “helped”.

I bring this up because there  are a number of rallies and marches “for mental health and dignity” in the planning stages right now. The idea behind these events is to accent mental health as a positive thing and, additionally, to focus attention on “stigma”. I imagine that the ulterior motive of these rallies and marches is a matter of rattling that tin cup before the federal government and the working public, and crying, “Nickels for your pity.”

This “positive slant” also involves ignoring the twin proverbial elephants of forced and harmful treatments in the room. Joseph Rogers and Daniel Fisher have expressed interest in getting the word out about these events. It’s–the smiley masks, this ignorance and deception–a lie that I really can’t endorse. Needless to say, I have no interest in attending such events. I would encourage others, unless they want to launch a disruption, or to conduct a counter march and rally, to do the same.