This is Day 14 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. I took up Sarah’s offer to write this blog series together, as a People, and so am going to share my thoughts on Principle 14.
Principle 14 reads in full as follows:
“We oppose the psychiatric system because its growing influence in education, the prisons, the military, government, industry and medicine threatens to turn society into a psychiatric state made up of two classes: those who impose treatment and those who have or are likely to have it imposed on them.”
The other day I was standing in line at the Walmart knock-off small towns must endure and I was shamelessly eavesdropping on this fascinating conversation a couple of the clerks were engaged in.
“I have a humdinger of a headache. I need to take a pill.”
“Oh, me too, plus I am depressed. I just cant get over Mom dying last year. I got an appointment with my doctor tomorrow.”
“Oh, honey, he’ll fix you right up. They know all about these things now.”
Fascinating for the content? Of course not; I am sure you have heard similar conversations a thousand times. No, it just struck me that way out here, on the eastern grasslands of frontier Colorado, in the minds of two women whose ancestors survived in this area through the wretched dustbowl years, who more than likely will be milking a cow, riding a horse, or collecting eggs before the day was out; out here, where cultural values are often decades behind the ball, where most folks do not own a computer, where in general, anything rolling out of “The City” is met with deep distrust and disdain, these two women have swallowed the lie of psychiatry hook, line and sinker. These are people who, if they cut their fingers off while harvesting corn, finish the harvest before they head over to the ER; they are bootstrap-pullers, suck it up buttercup types, endlessly climbing back on the horse that threw them. To me, that exchange between those two signaled the beginning of the end, the real end, the end where we might just get dragged off in the middle of the night & locked up somewhere because of some apple-cheeked grad student’s social assessment of us thirty years ago or something, grrr. Consider to yourself how odd it really is, where we are sad because our Mother has died, so sad, for so long, and somehow that deep sorrow necessitates a trip to your primary care physician. It means a belief that sorrow is a disease, that it is a matter for the doctor to resolve, and of course that means pills, but it also means that this is a matter for professionals to address. Lady #2 handed Ms. Sorrowful over to the pros and had no thought of offering comfort herself. Psychiatry’s grip on the dominant culture has untold effects, snatching the warm arms of community empathy from your shivering self, delivering you into a system fraught with nebulous standards and no real oversight, experimenting in lethal manners on frail souls industry-wide since its inception, strapping you down on a stainless steel table when really what you need is a warm lap and a sense of purpose.
To my mind, it is the nebulous nature of psychiatry that has allowed every entity named in Principle 14 - the education system, corrections, the military, government, industry and general medicine - to twist and reform assessment, diagnoses, ‘treatment’ and recovery markers to suit their own purposes. Show me one teacher that doesn't have an eagle eye out for ADHD, and see how drugging the loud kids allows for gigantic class sizes. The corrections industry literally writes its own diagnostic criteria and uses it to separate, sort and manage inmates, and of course, drug them to the gills. The military labels women who dare to report service rape delusional. Industry extrapolates fiscal losses they have shouldered due to worker depression. And of course, general medicine irresponsibly prescribes the vast bulk of psychiatric drugs. Which brings us to government. I don't know…. maybe I have been watching too many documentaries recently, but it seems to me the mechanisms of the industry of psychiatry fit neatly into a system that wishes to manage difficult people in whatever manner it can. Between including every imaginable human emotion in the completely fraudulent DSM, loosened civil commitment criteria, calls for reinstitutionalization in the name of public safety, and the popularization of increasingly dangerous “treatments”, it really IS true that anyone with crosshairs on them can be found to be “mentally ill” and mandated into ‘treatment’. I would even argue that if you include family members as ‘others who impose treatment’ that we HAVE achieved the Psychiatric State- it isn't a stretch. We most certainly are a different class of people, and those who are not us, even when they LOVE us, dang near always have a gleam of suspicion in the back of their eye, a quiet lookout for odd behavior, an almost mechanical, subconscious watch for subtle signs you may be tipping over… true in 1982 as well, but then, the thought of dangerousness was not automatically linked to any and all assessments.
I have my complicated theories about why this fear-driven culture seem to growing at an exponential rate, making words like, “Psychiatric State” seem plausible and reasonable, but the point is it has. I wondered for years what it would take to wake up the masses to the destructive, defective and deceptive nature of psychiatry, what type of seminal event, what horror or outrage would serve as a call to action or for reform. But, so many awful things have happened, even just right here in Colorado; people dying at the hands of laughing, cruel caretakers, perishing of preventable diseases while incarcerated, hundreds of people enduring serious physical and sexual abuse for decades, none of it matters, makes hardly a ripple on the fabric of society here in Colorado. I fear things will get much worse before they get any better; it is both frightening and heartbreaking. So, what to do? Stay informed, support each other, hunker down in your own community and create pockets of human warmth and kindness, knit your neighborhood together, that’s my plan.
I am really grateful for this opportunity and SO appreciative of all the others who are contributing to this important project!