Thursday, July 28, 2016

#18. Psychiatric Jargon is a Sham, a Gimmick, the Ultimate Shell Game

This is Day 18 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 18.

Principle 18 reads in full as follows:

We oppose the psychiatric system because they substitute jargon for plain English and are fundamentally stigmatizing, demeaning, unscientific, mystifying, and superstitious. 


Plan English vs. Psychiatric Jargon

Psychiatric inmate.................... Mental patient
Psychiatric Institution........... Mental hospital/mental health center
Psychiatric system. .............. Mental health system
Psychiatric procedure............... Treatment/therapy
Personal or social difficulties in living..... Mental Illness
Socially undesirable characteristic or trait................................ Symptom
Drugs........... Medication
Drugging...................... Chemotherapy
Electroshock................. Electroconvulsive therapy
Anger................... Hostility
Enthusiasm....... Mania
Joy.....................  Euphoria
Fear  …..   Paranoia
Sadness/unhappiness... Depression
Vision/spiritual experience. ............... Hallucination
Non-conformity ........................ Schizophrenia
Unpopular belief. ......................... Delusion

Basic Rationale

Today's commentary was provided by an anonymous donor.  Thank you!

This is a society that seeks to label everything. When we call something a name, we make an association. For example, if I type purple, you automatically know what the word means. Sometimes labeling things helps us understand and make sense of the world around us. But there are also times when giving something a name and defining it to never challenge it again can be destructive. I write the words mentally ill and we all have an individual conception of what that is whether we are right or wrong or somewhere in between. The term “mental illness” is one that is diffuse and has little meaning. It clumps all the diagnostic terms of the DSM into a nice neat group. But, life is seldom that easy and we have been duped into the idea that we are “helping” someone by acting this way.

Psychiatry, in labeling people with mumbo jumbo terms that have no basis in science, is engaging in bullying. The amazing thing that I see is that they have a whole society coming alongside of them to engage in the same power play. We are so accustomed to calling someone “bi-polar” or an “addict” that we don't even take the time to understand what we are saying much less challenging what it means and what we are doing to the person we are placing a notch below us socially. This is often done with some kind of reasoning that ends with “mental health services help people”. But are they helping or marginalizing? Are they assisting or engaging in subtle abuse? If psychiatry were viewed as a bully (which they are by engaging in derogatory means of describing people and asserting their power in doing so) as our school children are the outrage would spark a flurry of at least lip service regarding a problem. Amazingly enough though, our whole society has no hesitation to label someone with a psychiatric term and see nothing wrong with it.

But, there is something wrong with this. There is something wrong with the lack of anyone talking about the power struggle between the service providers and those they deem “in need of treatment”. Psychiatry is a product not a discipline of medicine and “mental health” is what they promote without so much as being questioned to describe what the product is. And even though they can show little quantifiable success or substantiate their practices with scientific proof of any kind, they are trusted without question. And thousands are funneled into this system, stripped of basic human rights, and are silenced because they are “crazy”. Such is the power that words can have. This is the power that psychiatry has been given to destroy lives in a subtle socially acceptable way. And, the really frightening part is to understand that those selling mental health for profit have found their way into true medicine, court systems, social services, group homes, schools, supportive employment programs, homelessness, the military, politics... it's hard to think of a place they haven't claimed. We have promoted their name calling, their codes of “disease speak” to a level that is simply staggering. This would not be as terrifying if psychiatry were actually able to do what they say they will and “help” people. But, this group has little interest in doing any such things and one simply needs to read a paper, volunteer at a school or walk down a city street to understand this isn't happening. I wonder how much longer it will be before average people begin to understand this and demand more. For now it seems people are happy handing out labels that don't fit and are wrong, humiliating and demeaning so those who are in power can hand out a pill that the drug companies have told them works to help. This is a gimmick. A sham. The ultimate form of the shell game and no one seems to be willing to call it what it is. 

If history is an indicator then it seems this problem will not change until there is such a large number who are injured by the practices of social control and moral policing that psychiatry engages in actually turn the tide. The real challenge here is to start in your own daily life to stop going for the quick fix for your own guilt and see people differently. Stop using words like “anxiety” and “depression” to describe yourself. Quit using the terms AD/HD to describe children and “dementia” to describe the forgetfulness of the elderly. Stop placing everyone, including yourself, in a box of someone else's making. Quit buying the product and quit trying to sell it. In the end that's all psychiatry really is. A quick answer that makes us all feel good for “helping” when in fact nothing has changed for the person we put a name to. In order to truly help we have to change us and how we act and stop casting our shadows on those who are vulnerable.

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 experienced psychiatric labeling? 
2. What would you like others of conscience to know about this experience?  
3. How do you define your experience on your own terms??
4. Compare your own understandings with that of psychiatry - which do you find more useful and why?  
5. What if any needs does labeling serve for you? What other, more respectful ways could we address them?
6. If we really valued human differences and/ or the inner wisdom of our experience, what would happen to derogatory labeling? 
7.  How would we need to think about each other differently to get beyond derogatory labeling - psychiatric or otherwise?  

August 18, 2016:  Conference on Principle 18 

We will talk about Principle 18, including your responses, on August 18 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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