Saturday, July 23, 2016

#13. Creating a Stigmatized Class of Society

This is Day 13 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 13.

Principle 13 reads in full as follows:

We oppose the psychiatric system because it creates a stigmatized class of society which is easily oppressed and controlled.

Basic Rationale

Psychiatry would have us believing that there are two kinds of Americans.  One kind of American is 'normal' - rational, hard-working, well-intentioned, respectable, well-informed.  They make meaningful contributions, weigh costs and benefits, learn from experience and make socially responsible decisions.

Those who live in this 'normal' America are seen to deserve their freedom and be able to handle it. They have a right explore options, think for themselves, accept or reject expert advice. Their decisions in matters of reason, conscience and personal preference are respected all around.

Pretty much everyone wants to live in this America.   It is a model for mutually respectful human relations that inspires and begets more of the same.

In the other America, the rules are totally different.  Citizens are herded into this other America based on a perceived need for psychiatric involvement.  We are seen as incapable of surviving safely in a free society or as lacking the capacity for socially responsible decision-making.  Once there, normal legal protections are thrown out the window.  Authorities decide what is best for us. Rights and freedoms are stripped away based on institutional opinion.  Compliance is expected. Normal appeals to reason and human decency do not apply. Resistance, disagreement, honest statements of discontent are met with the show of force. We are locked up, drugged, secluded, restrained, electro-shocked, operated on against our will.

Decisions - even minor ones like what to eat, when to go to bed, what to watch on TV, what to wear, whether we can write an email, see our kids or give a friend a hug - are made by those 'in charge.' The fate of our lives - where we live, who we live with, whether we can parent, work or communicate with the outside world -  is decided not based on personal attributes, interest or effort, but by other people's opinions of our merit and worth, rendered behind closed doors, about us without us.

Almost no one wants to live in this other America.  For many of us, it the anti-thesis of America.  It is a nightmare, a hell on earth. It brings out the worst in human beings and perpetuates the very negative outcomes that psychiatry is supposed to fix. The natural human desire to escape such controlling surveillance is what inspired the American dream of freedom in the first place.

The most ironic part:

Psychiatry has actually created this.  But for psychiatry, its labels, the way it treats labeled people, the effects of being labeled as observed by the average eye, this stigmatized America wouldn't exist.

So the next time you're sitting around hearing everyone gripe about how bad stigma (discrimination) is and how hard it is to fix it, here's a prescription that'll fix what ails you:

End psychiatry, end labels, end stigma.  

That simple.

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 experienced stigma or discrimination as a result of psychiatric diagnosis or treatment?   
2. What would you like others of conscience to know about your experience?
3. If we were sincere in our efforts to eliminate discrimination, what would you suggest?
4. Imagine a future, where there are no psychiatric labels.  How do we get there?

August 13, 2016:  Conference on Principle 13 

We will talk about Principle 13, including your responses, on August 13 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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please share your thoughts: