Saturday, July 23, 2016

#12. Little Red Riding Hood Meets Predatory Psychiatry

This is Day 12 of our 30-day blog on the Declaration of Principles adopted by the 10th Annual Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression held in Toronto, May 14-18, 1982.  (More info here.)  Today we are talking about Principle 12.

Principle 12 reads in full as follows:

We oppose the psychiatric system because it feeds on the poor and powerless, the elderly , women, children, sexual minorities, people of colour and ethnic groups.

Basic Rationale

You know the story well.  Little Red Riding Hood is on her way to Grandmas.  She's innocent, vulnerable, carrying a basket of goodies and skipping along. She really could be any of us trying to find our way out of the woods.

Maybe she's poor, maybe she's trans, maybe her skin or race stand out.  Maybe she was born female in a man's world.  Maybe she skips a little too bouncy, paints her basket too bright or her goodies smell different than the pine on the path.  There are a zillion possible ways that she could stand out.  But we know for sure, from the perspective of her dominant surroundings, she just doesn't fit in.

You can feel in your gut what easy prey she is.  This is not her forest, these are not her People, she is unprotected, this not where she belongs.

In ages past, we used to worry about wolves, big cats, bears.  But essentially the predators of humankind are human beings.  We feed not on flesh but on vulnerabilities.  Entire industries stalk us, hungry for needs to entrap with their wares. Always they are helping you, even while researching how to ensnare.

Fortunately, most of these industries operate in the free market,  They therefore at least have to convince you to buy.

Psychiatry works a little differently.  It largely markets indirectly.  It convinces insurers, governments and the public at large that certain of us need what they sell.  Then it goes looking for ways to scoop us up - or convince others to - and impose the pre-made deals.

You can probably guess the horror awaiting at Grandmas.  Red had a hard, scary trip that pushed all her buttons.  Maybe she dropped the basket, wet her pants, ran the last several miles.  She couldn't wait to escape the woods.  She couldn't wait for the refuge, safety, protection, the big warm welcome, the full-bodied embrace, the pot on the stove or Grandma's home cooking.

Like most of us, she probably knew early on that something wasn't right. Appearances can be misleading.  But eventually we figure things out.  The wolf might be wearing the right clothes, saying the right words, making the right faces. But this isn't how being with Grandma actually feels.  

The same is true with the Wolf of psychiatry.  Yes, a great show may be made of looking the right part, saying the right things.  Best interests, care, individualized, person-centered, consumer-driven... needs-based ...  But the reality is that Grandma got eaten, and we're in line to be next.

That's what happens when you set up your system to reward predation. What passes for care depends mostly on how hungry the wolf is and what serves it most to feed on next.  You also make it safer for wolves and encourage their breeding.  You end up with more and more wolves eyeing the possibilities for expanding the pack, thereby requiring more and more meals.  They also get bigger, fatter, ever more bold, ever more confident as they learn to hunt with increasing stealth and deception.

Before long, it turns out the predator has managed deeper penetration than anyone would have guessed. These days, the wolves of psychiatry and its influence seems to be everywhere.  At work, in our homes, families, neighborhoods, schools, organizations, communities, governments, prisons. They've made every kind of person and human problem, literally, their business. You can't sit down for a meal or turn on the TV without hearing about the 'problem' people they feed on and why, as a country, we need to send them more food.  Red's family and grandmother's cottage were just the trial run.

Questions for Reflection

We are building this work together.  Your lived experience is needed and valued.  It is essential to building our shared knowledge and expertise as a movement.  Please comment on any or all of these questions or in any way that speaks to you personally.

1. Have you ever felt used by the psychiatric/ mental health system?   
2. What would you like others of conscience to know about your experience?
3. In your experience, what factors are driving this?  What makes it possible for psychiatry to use - rather than help - those it is paid to serve? 
4.. Think of a time when someone providing a service actually put your needs on a par with your own.  How was that different and what made it possible?
5. If we were able to shift our system of care to being less like the wolf and more like grandmas house, how do you think that would affect outcomes?
6.  If we wanted to make a sincere effort to create a more power-balanced service system, what would need to happen?  

August 12, 2016:  Conference on Principle 12

We will talk about Principle 12, including your responses, on August 12 from 9-11  PM EST.  The conference will convene on

To join:

By Phone: (1)267-521-0167

By Internet:

We welcome your participation.  Simply press #1 on your phone to speak with the show hosts.

More details are available at

Post-Conference Reception

Those wishing to continue the discussion after the conference – or to talk informally with others who participated – may join us for the Post-Conference reception.  The reception will start immediately after the conference (11 PM EST) and continue til the wee hours or for as long as there is interest.

To join: 

By phone: (1)331-205-7196 (dial *67 for added privacy)

By internet:

International: Local access numbers available at

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