14 June 2010

mental illness systems

I work as a human rights advocate with and for people with psychiatric disabilities. I got started doing this after watching a friend get bounced back and forth between agencies and medications by workers (from line staff to psychiatrists and administrators) who had scant regard for human suffering. That was 27 years ago.
I can't say that much has changed.

Sure, the use of mechanical restraints has been reduced somewhat.
But it was the unnecessary deaths of poor souls held in them for unconscionable lengths of time - resulting in a highly publicized political outrage - that brought that change about, not any great change in public consciousness or caring. Human indifference about the sufferings of "...the mentally ill..." continues to remain a constant.

It is also sobering to witness how those who hold the purse-strings have adopted the words of the mantra first chanted by 1970s era ex-patient activists - that people with prolonged suffering can "recover". Yet the actions of the administrators have not evolved into either effective caring or coping options for those supposed to be the beneficiaries of clinical largesse. MH System administrators (and clinicians) still work hard to hinder their clients' from recovering.

Mind you, I'm not writing about CIA funded psych crimes like MK-Ultra or even the "extraordinary rendition" abuses conducted during the heyday of the Bush/Cheney era Iraq adventure. I'm thinking more of the little tortures, that eat away at one's soul, yet are encouraged and promulgated by folks making life-altering decisions about others yet who completely lack vision or understanding about the impacts of what they do. These little tortures are instead everything from lecturing people about obesity while prescribing drugs that cause rapid weight gain (such as Seroquel). Or denying people fresh air, or pushing clients into low paying careers (it is still the food - filth - filing and tending to flowers that are offered as "job possibilities") instead of trying to discern what people's talents are.

Finally (for now, at least) there is still no safe haven for people in crisis to go to. People still have to wait to when they are no longer able to make thoughtful self-admissions (ofttimes when many are actually willing to seek help) when at the most acute levels of psychic pain, to get into mental health facilities. They have to suffer indignities like social isolation, attempts at self-injury, or even arrest - before admitted in emergency to be shot up with drugs that numb one from reacting to adverse symptoms, but do little to make those symptoms go away.

I have no solution for correcting these societally tolerated wrongs, but I'm still not giving up. My friend still suffers from poorly designed treatment options - conceived mostly by people with no first-hand knowledge or experience what it is like to be on the receiving end; the very least I can do is make sure he isn't also horribly abused.

LINKS TO FOLLOW: Organizations and people who promote social justice and fairness in metal health: Mind Freedom, Ecopsychology Community, Freedom Center,

1 comment:

  1. Mental illness is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. it's there but no one wants to see it.

    There but for tyhe grace of whatever household deity the sheep hold dear do they go. Like death mental illness terrifies the sheep, sweep it under the rug, give it grayhound bus therapy