Diagnose Not Lest Ye Be Diagnosed

There are few people more in need of mental health treatment today than mental health professionals, unless perhaps we think about treating the relatives of people with “mental illness” labels. Yes, the very people who lock people up should be locked up on account of their proclivity to lock people up. We should give it a “disease” label and treatment. Fair is only fair as foul is awfully foul. It’s just plain un-American.

My reason for going there? I’m seeing all these well intentioned people interested in doing something about “mental health issues”, and that something amounts to, in effect, throwing a flammable liquid on the fire in an effort to put it out. We have an epidemic of “mental illness” labeling in this country, and the method we’ve come up with for dealing with it is by doing everything within our powers to increase the amount of labeling going on.

Our schools, deathly afraid of producing psycho-killers, are training teachers to screen their classes for any indication of “mental illness”.  Isolating and treating the labeled student is supposed to be a violence prevention measure. If the kid is just a little weird and not violent in the slightest. It doesn’t matter. The weird student must bear a psychiatric label, and be scrutinized for his or her potential to do harm, however speculative.

It was rumored when I was a kid that we’d driven a teacher to distraction, or insane, for lack of a better term. No more. Now schools have got the conduct problem licked as conduct is no longer a grade on a report card. Bad conduct, misbehaving, is now, according to our pediatric psychiatrists, a bona fide “mental health disorder”. Given this circumstance, class clown is no longer bound for the circus, but rather for the loony bin. That’s right, clowning is a certifiable “disease”.

I had this friend with the “borderline” label who was going on to me about how important it is to take “mental disorders” seriously. I fell automatically into disagreement with this person. I think taking “mental disorder” seriously is the most direct way to developing a more “serious mental disorder” that I can imagine. Maintaining a sense of humor is the best medicine for this sort of thing. Whatever sort of “disorder” you might have developed, as long as you take it lightly, it can’t be serious.

Of course, if you don’t take your “mental disorder” seriously you are in danger of being nabbed for conduct disorder. Everybody has a “mental disorder”, even if the “mental disorder” a person has hasn’t been invented yet. Some of us just haven’t been caught. Were your “mental disorder” actually an order, that wouldn’t be so bad, unless, of course, it involved orders from the planet Xylon. Disorders from Xylon, that’s okay.

My point? Well, judging from the news, everyday of the week, we are locking up the wrong people. The people least responsible for greenhouse warming, mass extinction, corporate imperialism, poverty and international conflict are often the people who we have selected to endure our psychiatric institutions as patient-prisoners.  I’d like to point out that this is more an instance of ruining the world rather than it is  of saving it. Have we made a mistake? Yes, I think so, and many mistakes at that.


The Coming Plague

I have a friend who spends much of his time traveling in Asia. He is a psychiatric survivor, and he says he prefers Asia to the USA precisely because people are not going on and on about “mental health”, “mental health treatment”, and “mental disorders” all the time there.

In the USA, on the other hand, it is thought right and proper to air “mental health” laundry. It is thought by some, not yours truly, that bringing “mental illness” out of the shadows so-to-speak is a way of attacking the “stigma” associated with psychiatric labels.  The problem with this way of thinking is that it doesn’t acknowledge that the “stigma” comes with the label, in fact, you could say they are identical.

I’m sick of hearing about “mental health” myself. I’m sick of hearing about “mental health treatment”, and I’m sick of hearing about “mental disorders”. In some quarters of the nation this medico-literary emphasis is truly obsessive, and what comes of obsessing? Well, often it is excess.

There is a demand for “mental illness” because without  “mental illness” “mental health” wouldn’t have a market. Perhaps, for the sake of clarity, I need to rephrase the last sentence. A rich supply of “mental illness” fuels the market for “mental health treatment” which in turn creates a further demand for “mental illness”, a demand all too easily met.

The “mental illness” rates have been soaring for years. The World Health Organization tells us “mental illness” is set to distance physical illness as the number one cause of disability in the world. This means the number one reason for “disability payments” by the government, supplied by labor of  tax payers, in the future is going to be “mental illness”.

Right away we’ve got a problem. For all the efforts psychiatry has made to claim psychiatric problems somatic, this supposition remains devoid of solid proof.  Psychiatry has been notoriously unsuccessful, not as a business, but as a branch of medical science. The proof is in the pudding, and in this instance, the pudding is more and more rather than less and less “mental illness”.

In those instances where it is claimed a person has a “mental illness”, recovery, or a cure, if you will, is seen as out of the question. Of course, this is a relative statement. So called minor “mental disorders” lending themselves to effective treatment much more readily than major “mental disorders”. It work’s the other way, too. It is not unheard of for minor “disorders” to develop into major “disorders”, and then, well, we’ve once again hit the snag of poor prognoses.

I would say that this obsession is not a very healthy one. Were we to talk less about “mental health”, I feel certain that we as a nation would be less beset with what are sometimes referred to as “mental health issues”.  Were we to diagnose less of it, well, there you go. Already a cure is at hand. Problems demand solutions. When “mental health issues” are communication and situational problems, no amount of “medical treatment” nonsense is going to solve them.

“Mental Illness” The Industry

It’s an awkward position to be in. If you say one thing you offend one set of people, and if you say another thing you offend another set. Things are definitely not as simple as they were 20 years ago, and yet, at the same time, they are more simple.

Were I ambitious I’d be kissing the asses that would get me somewhere, but I’m not interested in advancing myself in the disability field. It is a field that I think, in itself, reflects much of the corruption in psychiatry, and psychiatry is corrupt through and through.

You’ve got people putting in as many hours, if not more, in the disability field than you do outside of the disability field, and when somebody puts in that kind of time and effort, that person isn’t disabled, literally.

The problem concerns what often tends to be the result of putting in all those hours. If it is more people calling themselves “disabled”, is that really a progressive and positive outcome? If it is a rapidly expanding “mental illness” industry, who needs it?

When we talk about mental health, usually we are talking about mental health treatment, and the people being treated are those labeled “mentally ill”. This makes mental health all about mental health treatment, and not about the absence of “mental illness”.

There are, for example, multiple strategies for prevention on the horizon, but only some of these strategies are actually preventative, some are causative. The thing folks like to downplay is the fact that before the psychiatrist enters the picture disease is conjecture.

Even when a diagnosis has been made, you’ve got psychiatrists calling diagnosis an art. Why is it an art? Simple. It’s not science. We haven’t got any bacteria, we haven’t got any viruses, we haven’t even got any lesions of the brain, but we have got diagnostic labels.

A symptom in psychiatry is an unwanted behavior. Check off enough unwanted behaviors from a list, and you can call the patterns of behavior you are looking at in a person a “Mental disorder”. Psychiatrists do so everyday of the week.

Diagnoses are fluid and subject to change. Normalcy, non-deviance, or mental health, is outside of the doctors domain of expertise and, therefore, outside of the doctors office. Doctors have labels, not cures. Medications manage, they don’t alleviate symptoms. entirely, and it is quite probable that they exasperate symptoms, that is, unwanted behaviors.

The mental health community is not synonymous with the community as a whole. It is this artificial barrier, this insular cushion, this parenthetic netherworld, this nouveau ghetto, borne of coercion, intolerance, prejudice and dependency, that is my locus of concern. I would like to see it shrink rather than expand.

I feel that this turning ill health into a growth industry is criminal and, as such, it should be prosecuted, not encouraged. Problem. The care and management of ‘lunatics’ began as a growth industry, and so it remains to this day. I suggest that perhaps a change in priorities would make much more sense.

Selling Mental Hellth

The issue is mental illness, and it’s an abstraction rather than a reality. Physical diseases are real. Mental diseases are in the head, just like leprechauns and dragons. The idea presented by the mental health movement is that we need to take it out of the shadows, that is, talk about it, as if talking about it were more healing than silence. Actually, this talking is a matter of positioning that tin cup for a government handout. When it comes to any funds drummed up in this fashion,  maybe we should call it dragon protection money.

The mental health movement is all about mental illness. As this is the case, I think it would be better to change the spelling of mental health from mental health to mental hellth. You can’t talk about mental illness, in excess, without selling it. The Center for Disease Control has already got it, mental illness, spreading to epidemic proportions. Why? People want money so they can treat mental illness. Treating mental illness is what we call mental hellth.

Alright, first premise of mental hellth:  Mental illness is real illness. We’ve got an abstraction here, sure, and it’s a real abstraction. The mental hellth movement wants this abstraction to have a physical presence, and so they are calling it physical. In fact, they wouldn’t have it be an abstraction at all, they’d have it be a medical condition. This leads directly to The Thousand Diseases project, or the DSM; in other words, the labeling of ordinary behaviors as diseased because it puts bread and butter on the plates of mental hellth professionals.

Second premise of mental hellth: People possessed by mental diseases are not able nor capable of mature actions. They are beyond, so-to-speak, the practice of self-control. These people possessed of the mental illness bug have thus been rendered, by this bug, incapable of making mature decisions and, therefore, their position as free moral agents is considered forfeit. Other people, or the state, must make their decisions for them. This forfeiture means essentially that such people are not to be covered by the bill of rights to the US constitution.

If  wisdom were health then this sort of misperception would transform folly into illness. There is no need to correct fools when if you can hospitalize/imprison them, is there? The big issue is whether this implied wisdom doesn’t actually represent the compounding of folly with further folly. The problem we’ve got here is that wise people can be sick, just like the mentally hellthy, and foolish people can be healthy, just like the mentally sick.

Selling mental hellth is not, make no mistake about it, selling health. Selling mental hellth is selling mental illness. As most mental hellth treatment involves harming the patient, it is often thought, falsely, that there is a relationship between mental illness and physical disease. There isn’t. The relationship is between mental hellth treatment and physical injury because that is what mental hellth treatment actually is, physical injury.

Of course, there is no way mental hellth could sell injury as a curative agent without a sleight of hand, without deception. This deception involves implying that the injury was actually caused by the impugned disease, and not by it’s treatment. Mental hellth is big business. The more “sickness” perceived, the more injury inflicted,, the more severe the perception of the typical cases, the more job security, and the more the industry is a growth industry.

Injury as a growth industry presents us with a pretty perplexing conundrum. Generally messes are things we’d want cleaned up rather than exacerbated. This is not true where injury is thought to produce mental hellth. The mental hellth the injury produces is coupled and confused with mental illness. Getting people out of the treatment program , out of the system, is not the major concern of mental hellth professionals. Providing for families and lifestyles at the expense of mental patients, that is the major concern of mental hellth professionals.

Violence Begetting Violence

Let there be no mistake about it, the violence bone is not connected to the “mental illness” bone. When we beef up our mental health police force, our mental health system, although the stated aim has something to do with quelling violence, the real aim is to make it look like we’re doing something about violence. This gesture is only cosmetic because any fool should know that 1. “illness” is not the source of violence, and 2. what is commonly referred to as “mental illness” is not literally “illness”.

Discontent is not “illness” officially until the guy with the medical degree gets around to calling it so, and this still doesn’t make it so. Rebellion and disobedience are now official diseases, but that doesn’t make them real diseases either. The big three, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depressive disorder are, when it comes to medical practice, actually three nonsense terms. Deviate from the straight and narrow, and you will be classified as diseased. Believe in the jargon, and you’ve found your religion. Science itself is a little more  skeptical and open minded.

Mental health treatment is actually about social control. The interests of the individual must be suppressed in favor of the interests of the state, according to the state anyway. Politicians, and the robber barons who own them, must always practice vigilance when it comes to preserving their precious status quo. Misfits, non-conformists, and eccentrics are not to be tolerated as they represent a threat to the way things are, and the way things have been. Authenticity itself, exposing a world beyond the uniform, also must be expelled from the life of the community. “Acting out” is only “acting out” where inauthentic “acting in” is the rule.

Pre-schizophrenic disorder (attenuated psychosis risk syndrome), as it is listed in the DSM-5 section 2, is now an official disorder to be covered by insurance. Anyone not schizophrenic already could be suffering from it. Catching the “disease” early is our new answer to massive acts of gun violence in our nation. Understated problem: If you’re doing a sweep for pre-schizophrenics a heck of a lot of potentially violent people are going to slip through your net. Catching people earlier is likely to result in 2 things. 1. You will increase the number of prisoners you’ve got. 2. The violence perpetuated by people who slip through the cracks so to speak in your prison walls will increase.

Technically this presents us with the ongoing dilemma we started with before we started trying to do something about our problem. Technically everybody in the nation is a pre-schizophrenic. If 1 in 4 people get shuttled into a head doctors office in the course of a year, that makes 1 in 4 people “sick”. Keep dreaming. Just because somebody has been caught by the mental health system, or even if somebody has sought “help” so to speak, this doesn’t automatically mean that that person is violent.

3 in 4 people in this country are not “mentally ill” in any given year because 3 in 4 people have not tried to engage in multiple acts of murder. Should he or she kill numerous people,  every armchair shrink in the nation will have this or that person pegged “coo-coo”.  The media, as it has of late, will be having a field day with the amateur, and professional, diagnoses being made. The obvious problem is that we are trying to call violence the result of “sickness”, and averse circumstance “disease”. Neither interpretation is particularly honest.

Dishonesty is the problem, and that hotbed of pure deception, the mental health movement, is the cause. Trading one bad circumstance for another doesn’t accomplish a great deal in the way of producing positive circumstances. Negative circumstances are more likely to provoke violence than positive ones.  Attributing negative circumstances to people with defective genetic material is simply avoiding the facts of the matter. We are all in this world together, even those of us the rest of us would try to shuttle off into the proverbial community closet. Someday, like maybe today, those  “statistics” are going to come back to haunt us.

Mental Health Treatment Is Not Violence Prevention

According to an article in Politico, Sandy Hook spurs states’ mental health push, some states have acted following President Barrack Obama’s call for renewed national focus on mental health.

At least 37 states have increased spending on mental health in the year since Adam Lanza shot dead 20 children, six school employees and his mother in Newtown, Conn. It’s not just about money, either. States are experimenting with new — and sometimes controversial — ways to raise awareness about psychological distress, to make treatment more accessible for children and adults and to keep firearms away from those struggling with mental illness.

Let’s see.

a. Raise awareness about psychological distress…Is that like advertising “mental illness” and its “treatment”?

b. Make treatment more accessible for children and adults…Are we selling mental health services here, and Expanding Those Services (i.e. increasing the numbers of people labeled “mentally ill” and, thereby, as it is put, “served”) of which it is comprised?

c. Keep firearms away from those struggling with mental illness…We have three entities that we have to contend with here.

                    i. people

                    ii. firearms

                    iii. “mental illness”

Although without a known physical presence, theory has it that the third entity, “mental illness”, exists, and that it leads, in turn, when in combination with people and firearms to massive acts of violence against humanity. Problem is, what do we mean by this term, “mental illness”, and when fully one forth of the residents of the United States are thought to have it, does it really have any valid meaning whatsoever?

Schools are screening students, teachers and school employees are being educated on recognizing the signs of “mental illness”, and seminars are being held. I just have a conceptual problem with turning schools into mental health police departments busting more people, and here when we say people we’re talking CHILDREN, for alleged “mental illness”, on the presumption that doing so has anything to do with the rate of violence in this nation.

The most contentious measures are laws passed in more than a dozen states that require some reporting of mental health status as part of background checks for firearms purchases.

Among these ‘contentious measures’ aimed at violating the second amendments rights of citizens who have experienced the mental health system, names have been added to a national criminal database of people deprived of those rights, additionally violating privacy rights and, in New York state, mental health workers are encouraged to report people in therapy in the mental health system, thought potentially dangerous, to the police. Meanwhile, if one scans the news, police officers are shooting unarmed civilians, often thought “mentally ill”, every day of the week, for behaviors perceived as threatening. Were these police officers demented? Not an issue. The person dispatched has to be the one deranged.

“If someone, anyone who interacted with Adam Lanza could have said, ‘There’s something very wrong here’ and gotten him the help he needed …” [Andrewe] Sperling [NAMI’s director of legislative affairs] said.

The presumption here is that Adam Lanza would have thought he needed some kind of help getting on with his affairs rather than that these particular members of society feel they need some kind of help keeping people like Adam Lanza from doing serious harm to large numbers of the American public. I would say that somebody is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, that is, practicing deception. Why deception? People intuitively know better than to expect beefing up the mental health system, on however small a scale, to have a real effective on violence.

Mental health treatment outcomes in this country are, in many cases, dismally bad. Putting more money into ineffective programs are not going to improve those bad outcomes. Although stress is put on the importance of early detection, when it comes to treatment results, once a “mental illness” label has been applied those results are going to worse than they would have been where the person, child or adult, was never labeled in the first place.

A few comments on the recent commitment to dialogue on mental health as a violence prevention measure.

1. I think America does have a problem.

2. I think there are many questions as to whether the national solution won’t actually make matters worse

We need a more tolerant loving country. We need to raise children to grow up to be good people. Blaming the problem on people with “mental illness” is a red herring. People in the mental health system are simply not more inherently violent than people outside of that system and, if anything, studies show them to be less violent. They do face a lot of discrimination and prejudice though. Witness this matter of them, as a block, being blamed for massive acts of violence in this country. This is ignoring the fact that they are us. We’ve got an arrogant gun toting populace, and to get back to the habitable nation we once knew, we are going to have to expend more of the love we lavish on guns, and other material possessions, on people, and people beyond the confines of one’s own immediate nuclear family, however threatened we may feel we may be by this beyond.

“Mental illness”, the belief

Among the major tenets of the Church of Biological Psychiatry is the belief, for there is no evidence supporting the claim, that what is commonly referred to as “mental illness” is an actual disease. Disbelief, to the converts to this faith, amounts to heresy, and they refer to this heresy as “stigma”. The idea is that if you belong to this church, you must believe in “mental illness”, and not to do so is to mistreat people thought to be diseased.

A couple of decades ago, a revisionist and protestant sect of dissident evangelists split from the Church of Biological Psychiatry.  This protestant church initially arose around the cathartic and redemptive power of mental health recovery. People infected with the “mental illness” bug were thought, by this church, to be capable of recovering their mental competence and, in many cases, completely so.

More recently, the Church of Mental Health Recovery has evolved into the Church of That Recovery That Is Not Recovery.  So many members of this church with the bug, were not losing that bug, and so it became incumbent upon parishioners to start in a new direction. I guess they’d grown attached to it. The feeling is that if the Church of That Recovery That Is Not Recovery continues to evolve in the direction in which it is going, it will eventually be entirely reabsorbed back into body of the mother church, the Church of Biological Psychiatry.

The “mental illness” lifestyle, ironically enough, is equivalent to the mental health lifestyle, that is, it is a lifetime of perpetual treatment for the affliction a person is presumed to have. Accompanying the initial curse of diagnosis (I do hereby pronounce thee “mentally ill”, and beyond hope of remedy or consequence), comes the attendant chronicity.  This chronicity, or lifelong path, is a matter of realizing the negative prognosis, or curse-fulfilling prophesy, issued by psychiatrists, the churches priestly caste of sorcerers.

The news is not all bad. Given advances made by the Church of That Recovery That Is Not Recovery, converts are learning to better enjoy their afflictions. Within the limitations of their debilities, the stricken are learning to carve the modicum of a decent existence out for themselves, however beset by hardship and suffering. The key to this silver lining, so to speak, is to be found in total compliance with mental health treatment plans.

If it weren’t for the great therapist who dwells in the sky, the creator of the drug research and development department, the “mentally ill” person, left to his or her own devices, would be lost. He or she would be just one more homeless refugee scrounging dumpsters for a bite to eat, mumbling to him or herself, and irritating business owners. He or she could even be squatting in the city jail for a spell. No more, he or she now can be diverted from that fate to a fate equally inane courtesy of Joe Tax Payer.

Believing in “mental illness”is not the same as believing in mental health. Believing in mental health is not the same as disbelieving in “mental illness”.  We could arrange this sentence in all its possible permutations regarding belief and disbelief, and it still boils down to pretty much the same thing. Maintaining a healthy skepticism, while keeping one’s feet squarely on solid ground,  creates a stabilizing effect. In a world where Big Foot, Nessy, ghosts and flying saucers still manage to captivate the popular imagination, it’s best to keep a wary eye out for wooden nickels and, one might add, false gods.