26 February 2012

Thoughts to a young man writing about the mental illness industry

I've been active with human rights advocacy for about three decades, the focus issues of important to people with psychiatric diagnoses and physical disabilities.

Two different yet overlying "camps" of people, as it were.

It is clear that at some point we friended one another on FB; looking at what you have been writing - and of the breadth of issues touched upon, I am glad we did.

Currently I work as an advocate "within" one part of the huge dysfunctional system that is mental health services in the USA. I harbor no illusions about "fixing" that system from within, yet also recognize that without dedicated folks working in it, then those without voice who are in it, are at even greater risk for being further victimized by abusers - be they power-hungry shrinks or family members distraught that they cannot control their unruly kinfolk.

Advocating within a system - as I see it - basically follows two different (though overlapping) paths:

1- Advocacy: that is, speaking up for the improvement of living conditions; making incremental changes in how everything from treatment team planning is conducted (including making sure the client/patient/inmate's voice is not only heard but heeded); to speaking out for the reduction and eventual elimination of seclusion and restraints (including chemical restraints) as well as being a watchful eye and ear close-up-and-personal of the staff; and providing empathy, compassion and offering options to those most in need - i.e. the folks caught up in the system as clients (whether inpatient or out).

2- Abuse and Grievance investigations: Here, working inside the system is necessary, for the investigator has to have access to records (both patient as well as employee performance), policies, incident reports and given the authority to hand down decisions and rulings (don't use this term w/the treatment folks or employee unions - they'll have a bird !) well, findings and recommendations, then. on how to implement corrective measures to ensure abuse is discontinued, employees disciplined (or fired, depending on the seriousness of the findings) and to watchdog the time line for corrective measures to be put into action.

And another thread: "Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity" and "competency" issues: I'm impressed! Few people in the psyche survivor "movement" (as it were) ever seem to touch upon these matters. BOTH are crucial and warrant a much closer review of how these concepts impinge on civil liberties as well as feed into the media and pro-forced treatment zealots intentional deceptions about "The Mentally Ill" (picture that last quote as bold faced, italicized and underlined). The "not competent" legal status is - and always has been - a clear violation of a person's right to a speedy trial. The NGRI issue is a HUGE whale of injustice against people who have committed crimes while in states of extreme distress. NGRI "acquitees" - across the nation - spend 2 to 3 times longer incarcerated (often in "hospitals") than they would have for their crimes if they plead guilty. NGRI is also a convenient vehicle (as you have noted) for folks who - quite in touch with their motives and purposes - attempt to use the NGRI designation to not be held accountable for their actions - often heinous and inhumane - crimes

I could go on, which would be unfair; since I am writing you unsolicited with my opinions.

So I shall tarry no longer, and step down from the soapbox.

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