My partner’s webshow explores something very close to my heart and that is the issues of psychiatry. His show, Propagator, is a political satire set in world where one company (Propagator Media Corporation) controls all the mass media. Canada is actually close to something like this with Bell Media owning telephone, internet, many television stations, satellite and “cable” for television and newspapers. But, back to my main point. Below is an ad from the Propagator world for an over-the-counter medication called Peace. Have a look!
When I watch the Peace ad I start thinking about how many of us are being told that what we’re feeling is wrong. Whether that be directly from a psychiatrist or indirectly through media and our peers, we end up constantly questioning if we are feeling the right thing, at the right time and in the right amount. Of course if you are not happy and would like to be happier than you are now then you are well within your right to go about finding happiness for yourself.
When we or others believe that we are not emotionally getting it right then the drugs come in. As many of you know it is very easy to get psychiatric drugs. They might as well be over-the-counter like the Peace ad says. Psychiatric drugs are becoming less about health and more about money. On the other hand, some, like Dr. David Healy suggests (in his book Let Them Eat Prozac) that having over-the-counter psychiatric drugs might increase consumer awareness of the effects of these drugs because we have been given more control over our bodies by leaving the decision with us instead of a doctor.
The Peace ad also touches on something else I have found interesting in my research on these drugs. The bottle says “made with real placebo”. Research on psychiatric drugs consists of using a placebo in order to establish a baseline reaction. The research that gets published, aside from being manipulated (for more see Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker) does not include long term outcomes. Researchers rarely perform long term studies because of the cost which leaves us with little evidence of the long term physical and emotional consequences of these drugs. So, what doctors, policy makers and we end up seeing is the Prozac was more effective than the placebo 6 months after beginning the drug and not that one year later many trial participants are not doing well. What Robert Whitaker found was that in the long run these drugs became less effective and the placebo is often actually as effective as the drug at helping or hindering progress in a person. This would be saying that our minds have the ability to heal and destroy us. It is not always about the drug.
On a side note, I think it is amazing that we can use satire and comedy to bring to light serious issues but also laugh at how stupid and silly this life can be.
I’m interested to know what you all think about the Peace ad and your thoughts of the issues I discussed.
Mad Matters: A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies
Edited by: Brenda A. LeFrançois, Robert Menzies, and Geoffrey Reaume
Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc.
Review by: Kristen, Pride in a Madness
Mad Matters sits on my shelf alongside Anatomy of an Epidemic (Robert Whitaker, 2010), Talking Back to Psychiatry (Linda J. Morrison, 2009), Psychiatric Power and History of Madness (Foucault, 2008 and 2009) and Behind the Rhetoric (Jennifer Poole, 2011); books that have influenced my life as a Mad person and professional. This reader is now an important part of my activism. As psychiatry has its “bible”, the DSM, I would say that I now have mine. Mad Matters is beginning to fill a gap within education (in and outside of institutions) and mainstream discourse, showing the complexity of identities, exposing a side of psychiatry and society many prefer to ignore and by providing language to describe the experience: sanism. My only hope is that it has opened the doors for more to come and for Mad studies, scholars and people to be taken seriously.
Mad Matters is filled with diverse and key topics such as housing, media, mental health literacy, law, Indigenous ways of knowing and the oppressions of psychiatry (just to name a few). Names of contributors jump out at me like Irit Shimrat, David Reville, Don Weitz, Bonnie Burstow and Lanny Beckman, long time activists within the psychiatric survivor, antipsychiatry, ex-patient/inmate and Mad movements. Good people who eat, sleep and breathe the cause are inside these pages. The amount of lived experience in Mad Matters is nothing short of beautiful.
On a personal note, I have often said to friends, family and colleagues that I find it unacceptable and ridiculous that the western world has made great strides in bring critical of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism etc. but sanism is still alive and well and at times outright denied to exist. I would like our system and our society to get to the point where, for example, my decision to not take psychiatric drugs is seen as a valid choice and not as wrong, a sign that I am not “truly in pain”, or as non-compliance and a symptom of “disorder”. I have received criticism for my Mad and antipsychiatry stance. They are identities I am still developing in a society that prefers I just think of myself as “sick”. I have engaged in a lot of self reflection while reading Mad Matters and this reader was a reminder that I am, as the ever famous anti-stigma campaign slogan states, “not alone”.
Mad Matters is a critical piece that I feel has been missing from the mental health dialogue and Mad studies is part of solution to changing these sanist perspectives, practices and values.
Purchase Mad Matters
I am burnt out. I feel like crying, cutting, screaming, sleeping, and walking into traffic. I need to do something about this so I am going to be taking a break from blogging, Facebook and Twitter until Friday. Before I do this I need to share something that I have been thinking about this past week or 2.
I would like to reintroduce myself and hope that many of you will still support me and see value in what I have to offer.
Since beginning this blog over a year ago I have come to realize that I am not being entirely true to myself. I am still saying what I feel is expected of me because I do not want to upset anyone. I have experienced a live of invalidation and I did not want experience that here. But, I need to break this cycle of fear and first validate myself.
My name is Kristen.
I am a Mad woman.
Mad is my identity and my politics.
I know that my intense sadness, self hatred and rage are apart of being human.
I know that I live in a world that does not appreciate emotional and mental differences.
I know that I am not sick but that I experience great pain caused by the experiences, violence and discrimination I have lived through.
I know that not allowing myself to be labelled as “sick” does not make my pain any less important or tolerable.
I know that being labelled “sick” only made me sicker and my true healing began when I abandoned the medical approach to my mind.
I know that I sometimes fall back into the mindset of being sick because that is what I have been told since I was a 13 and I will continue to be told by others what I am. I need to stop listening to them.
I know that psychiatry is too powerful and needs to be changed because I do think there can be a place for it, just not how it is currently.
I know that I will use mental health services when I need to but always on my terms.
I know that regardless of how I view my own mental well-being that discrimination, stigma, and violence are unacceptable events to occur towards those in the mental health, Mad, psychiatric survivor, antipsychiatry, consumer and ex-patient/inmate communities. I will speak out against human rights violations and support people in the ways they need to be supported.
I know that I have a lot of positive things to share with others if they are only willing to listen and open their minds.
I know there is a lot of be afraid of but that if we can stay together it doesn’t need to be so scary.
I know that I am just one voice but that I am important.
I know that I do not have all the answers but that I am onto something.
I know that many of you will judge me but as many of you know, the longer I ignore myself and keep it inside the worse I will feel. I am still like you.
I am reading a chapter in Mad Matters called, “Pitching Mad: News Media and the Psychiatric Survivor Perspective” by Rob Wipond (page 254-263 but not all of it is in the Google Books link). He’s talking about how News Media, regardless of evidence, reports mental health/illness in a certain way and it is usually in the way that makes it look bad or continues (ie: violent criminals) with dominant beliefs (mental illness is a disease).
The section that I did further research on is called, “The Beliefs About the Science of Mental Illness”. Wipond says that how psychiatrists have played up mental illness as being the same as a physical illness and psychiatric drugs as being equal to that of insulin for a diabetic leads news producers to think that forcefully drugging or shocking someone is not a civil rights issue. It is not a civil rights issue because many believe in biological psychiatry and drugs and shocks are “treatment” which is where news producers get their ideas.
If we continue with the idea of biological psychiatry Wipond goes on to point out how the evidence for such a thing is unclear and assertions that there is a biological basis for mental illness is “boldly out of sync with actual levels of scientific understanding” (Mad Matters, pg. 258).
Stay with me here. I have a feeling some of you are probably mad at me but I would never make a claim without providing further evidence.
The part that made me stop was the following: “…the American Psychiatric Association’s Research Agenda for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders admits, to date, “not one laboratory marker has been found to be specific in identifying any of the DSM-defined syndromes” and “lack of treatment specificity is the rule rather than the exception.” So in laymen’s terms, we cannot scientifically identify any mental illness, and our treatment strategies are guess work.” (Mad Matters, pg. 258)
I went and found the APA’s research agenda, it’s published on Google Books, and I thought I’d at least try and get more of a context. Here is the full paragraph which includes the above two quotations.
“In the more than 30 years since the introduction of the Feighner criteria by Robins and Guze, which eventually led to the DSM III, the goal of validating these syndromes and discovering common etiologies has remained elusive. Despite many proposed candidates, not one laboratory marker has been found to be specific in identifying any of the DSM-defined syndromes. Epidemiologic and clinical studies have shown extremely high rates of comorbidities among the disorders, undermining the hypothesis that the syndromes represent distinct etiologies. Furthermore, epidemiologic studies have shown a high degree of short-term diagnostic instability for many disorders. With regard to treatment, lack of treatment specificity is the rule rather then the exception.” (A Research Agenda for the DSM V, pg. xviii)
This research agenda was published in 2002 and two of the editors (who write the introduction where the above was found) can be found on the DSM V website. David J. Kupfur is the Task Force Chair and Darrel A. Regier is the Task Force Vice Chair.
So, to put it more simply: the APA, after 30 years, still has no way to scientifically prove that mental illness exists, that many of these “disorders” can occur together which messes with what they scientifically think is going on, these “disorders” come and go and they don’t know why and treatment is guesswork.
So the APA admits that science is not showing mental illness (they are of course not giving up hope which is fine) but then why do psychiatrists keep telling their patients, their families, the media, policy makers and the whole world that there is!?
I know many will talk of brain scans and other such tests but we had that information prior to 2002 and professional psychiatrists involved with the APA and the DSM 5 still say this is not solid. The DSM 5 is actually the most hotly debated edition with many mental health workers abandoning it.
Just sit and think about it. It doesn’t need to be scary.
Rob Wipond’s website: http://robwipond.com/
Twice now, when reading Mad Matters, I’ve wondered if without those who came before me and fought for change would I have been able to avoid the hospital? It’s the same as I owe my many of my freedoms to the women who protested and demanded for women to be allowed to vote, work, have reproductive choices, live free from discrimination and be seen a person, not different from men.
This thought especially hit me while reading Chapter 2: Women in 19th-Century Asylums. Reading sentences such as,
” The population was led to believe that recovery could only happen once this individual was placed in a controlled environment, meaning of course, a psychiatric institution.” -pg. 36
“‘No insane man recovers at home’, wrote Dr. Waddell, Superintendent of the New Brunswick asylum from 1849-1875.” -pg. 36
“…women were especially likely to be committed, as insanity and hysteria were thought to be characteristics of feminine lives.” – pg. 36
Some of you who are going to read this post may have spent some time at a hospital. I never have aside from two emergency room visits (the first when my parents discovered I was self harming and the second when I attempted suicide by overdosing). I have never been admitted.
Have I thought about admitting myself? Have others thought about having me admitted? Yes, but I never was, not even after my suicide attempt.
Too many it may seem like a no-brainer that if you have a diagnosed mental health issue that you will probably at one point stay at a hospital (even if it’s only over night). That is not the case for all of us. No group is better or worse then the other. I have the utmost respect for my peers who have been hospitalized. They have knowledge and experience that is very valuable and I support them in their journey. Although, for myself, I can say that I am extremely glad I have never been admitted to a hospital for psychiatric reasons.
The more I learned about the hospital experience (whether through memoirs, textbooks, people in the mental health community or close friends) the more I am convinced that I am better off today because I did not have that experience. When I was a teen, I believe that to be in a place that confirmed my “craziness” would have made me feel more shame, hopelessness and instill in me that recovery was not possible.
If I were to be admitted now I would probably be that person in the ward that disrupts everything, goes into rages and gets thrown into seclusion. Again, being in a place that confirms my “craziness” would just serve to hinder any progress I could have made. I have horrible visions of receiving treatment against my will because I’m deemed incompetent and irrational when what I really need to for someone to listen and understand what the hospital would represent to me and how that causes anger and fear.
Saying again that I have never been hospitalized I recognize that I am only speculating but I have read and heard enough to know that in some cases I am not far from the truth. Some may just not see what happens in these hospitals as abuses because of how we have defined a mentally ill person and their treatment. It’s very easy to ignore a person’s request for no medication when doctors have decided the person is unable to make rational decisions. I find it all very terrifying.
I am glad that hospitals are there for those who need it but I am more glad that it is not always a first step in treatment and that not everyone is put there in the end. Voluntary admittance is always preferred in my opinion. Hospitals should be a treatment option, not something to forcibly use against someone.
Where it stands right now, Michael and anyone who cares about me are under strict instructions to never call the police or take me to a hospital. That is not a part of my recovery/management plan. I believe that understanding, compassion, acceptance and activism will be what keeps me in the place I want to be in. That is what has helped me get to where I am today.
I am open to anything you may have to say on the topic
At 3 am I got the email saying Call Me Crazy: Stories from the Mad Movement by Irit Shimrat arrived at the library closest to and was ready for me to pick it up! As soon as I knew the library was open I went to get it! It is a Canadian book published in the 90′s.
The moment I read the first paragraph I was hooked. These are my people! I actually know (although not personally) one of the contributing authors, David Reville, who works at Ryerson University School of Disability Studies and teaches their Mad courses!
I would love to share with you some quotes from the book so far that have just rocked my world, strengthened my view of myself and reminded me why I do my work and that I’m not alone. These are people who have been diagnosed, hospitalized, drugged, shocked and much more but they have still said, “No, there is nothing wrong with me, this system is broken.”
How I relate to this book is that I identify as a Mad person. I do not think that I am sick but that I have a range of human experiences that have caused me great pain and joy. I am extremely critical of psychiatry and also do not believe that psychiatry and drugs hold all the answers to our problems and that we can find great strength in each other and being supported in being who we are. I believe in being free from discrimination based on how my mind works which includes being labelled as “sick”. I will never ask you to agree with me but I will ask that you respect how I am approaching my life. It is mine after all. I will always respect the rights of others to identify themselves and pursue treatment. I only ask that you do it because you want too and because you have been properly informed. It is your life after all.
WARNING: Be prepared for some VERY radical ideas!
First paragraph: “Call Me Crazy is about people who have done an unusual thing: we stopped being mental patients. That’s not supposed to happen, since mental illness is supposed to be an incurable biological disease. Certainly you’re not supposed to reject the idea that you’re sick, stop taking your medications, refuse to ever see a psychiatrist again, join with others in questioning psychiatry and get a life as a result. That would mean they were wrong about you. That might mean they’re wrong about a lot of people.” (pg. 1)
“Once you’re diagnosed, they’ve really got you. Laugh too much, cry too much, talk too much, don’t talk enough-or, god forbid, get angry-and the people around you think you’re getting “sick” again. And how likely are you to be believed about anything? Some people get beaten and raped in hospital, sometimes by staff. But they can’t complain about it, they may well be told they were hallucinating.
As a mental patient, you don’t just lose your credibility with other people; you’re taught not to believe in or trust yourself. You’re taught to doubt your own perceptions: they may be signs of your illness. It’s especially bad if you don’t think you’re sick. That means you have no “insight”-the psychiatric term for agreeing with your doctor about what’s wrong with you and what should be done about it. If you fail to appreciate the nature of your illness, you will be deemed incompetent to make treatment decisions.” (pg. 9)
“I believe that there’s no such thing as mental illness. But there’s something wrong with some people.What’s wrong with them is that they experience great amounts of pain and suffering. They may or may not be weird. If they’re not weird, they’re called “neurotic.” If they’re weird, they’re called “psychotic.” They’re called crazy: that’s what “psychotic” means.” (pg. 56)
“Sociologist Erving Goffman, in his book Stigma, talks about the fact that we have, as a society, expectations of how people are going to behave. We don’t, for example, expect someone to walk into a fancy restaurant and start taking their clothes off. When people violate the norms of societal behaviour, we’re taken aback. And one way of dealing with it is by pathologizing that behaviour. Instead of saying, “Here’s someone who’s done something I didn’t expect,” we say, “Here’s someone who must be sick because he’s done something I didn’t expect.” (pg. 74)
“If even one apple fell up, wouldn’t we have to at least begin to question the laws of physics?”
- Dr. Daniel Dormand, Psychiatrist and author of Dante’s Cure
Mad in America posted an article that shared a trailer for a new documentary by Western Massachusetts Recovering Learning Community called Beyond the Medical Model.
“The film’s message is one of freedom. It is one of the right to tell your own story and choose your own path (including the medical model), or to meander about across many paths as works for you. In order to create equal access to all the paths, we do need to recognize the oppressive ways that the medical model has been and continues to be applied and the legal, financial and other system structures that have become dependent upon it. We need to cut it down to size, so to speak, but we needn’t erase it all together.” -Susan Davidow
Technically I already have a disorder named after me! We all know that each disorder is experienced differently by each person and that is important to keep in mind when we think of diagnosing and treatment.
Aside from probably being horribly offended if a psychiatric disorder was name after me, I do wonder what that disorder would look like? I think it would be a mix of unipolar, borderline, and narcissism. It would be a mess!
The treatment would be “sucking it up and keep going.”