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End all bullying, including mental health system bullying

I am writing this for all those who have grown up with abuse and bullying, and then spent years being “treated” by the mental health system, but treated in a way that itself came across as bullying, and then committed suicide as a result.

Mental health workers are in a tricky spot, in that the people who come to them may be suicidal, and so coercion at some points (to prevent suicide) may be necessary.  But too often in our system, coercion becomes the rule rather than the exception.  This means that people who have emotional problems because of trauma and abuse and bullying end up experiencing the mental health system as just another bully, as one more bit of proof there is no safety or love available in this world.  Then when such people do commit suicide anyway, it is blamed on their “mental illness.”

Mental health bullying takes many forms.  It starts much like schoolyard bullying – with name calling.  A person finds they are now a “schizophrenic” or a “borderline”  Any ability to establish one’s own identity is taken away, “we know your problem is due to your genes and your biochemical imbalance.”  Any understandable reaction to past trauma or abuse is defined as personal defect or illness, not as a sign that something wrong had been done to the person.  The person is misinformed in a way designed to make them do what the system wants.  If the person does not comply, they are first threatened with force, and then if they don’t comply, brute force is applied, in the form of restraints, seclusion, and chemicals that penetrate to the deepest level of a person’s being.  If the person fights back at all, that is taken as a justification for increasing the intensity of the bullying.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  The mental health system could be based on respect for people, which starts with respect for a person’s own sense of what is healing and what is not.  Then people who have been bullied in life, and who have problems as a result, might find that bullying ends, and healing begins, when they get to the mental health system.  That’s the way it should be.

I also had a brother who committed suicide.  Before he did it, he never even explained to anyone why he was unhappy, but I think I know why.  He was a victim of bullying and abuse as a child, and then as a young adult, he saw an older and a younger brother who did enter the mental health system and who were treated poorly by it.  So he didn’t exactly have an impression that there was somewhere safe to turn for help.

Mental health bullying affects more than just the people who are direct recipients of it.

Let’s speak up for the end of bullying!

Lady Gaga did the performance below especially for one very young victim of anti-gay bullying, but I think it says something for all those who despair after bullying of a whole variety of kinds.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=aER4KfBvpwA

20 comments… add one
  • Trauma can be much subtler than what you describe. Linking schizophrenia to overt schoolyard behavior or overt family actions is way too simplistic. It seems obvious to a lot of people who believe that it’s bullying because it makes sense to a linear way of thinking. Schizophrenia is not necessarily so “obvious.” Also, this black and white cause and effect thinking kind of negates the spiritual and evolutionary aspects of this so-called “illness.” Take away the bullying and chances are you will still have schizophrenia. It’s not going to go away.

    • Hi Rossa,

      I surely didn’t mean to imply that everyone diagnosed with “psychosis” or “schizophrenia” was clearly bullied or abused. I did mean to point out though that many have been overtly bullied and abused as children, and then their understandable reactions to it got framed as just “mental illness” by a system that often would rather label and drug people than try to understand them. That’s what I want to stop.

      In cases where people didn’t experience those kind of traumas, I think there is still a story to how they got into trouble, that is worth trying to understand. And of course, they still should be free of bullying by the system.

      I don’t agree with the idea that you seem to be proposing, that seeing trauma as contributing to causing “psychosis” means ruling out looking at the spiritual and evolutionary aspects of psychosis. I think lots of people are launched into altered states of consciousness by their own efforts to heal from trauma, but then can easily be frightened by the process that ensues and end up even more traumatized than before. Of course, that’s a real nutshell version of the process. I wrote a little more at
      http://recoveryfromschizophrenia.org/2011/01/trauma-psychosis-and-spirituality-whats-the-connection/ Of course, other people are launched into altered states they get lost in for reasons other than trauma, it’s complex.

    • Rossa, I think it depends on how you define bullying, abuse and trauma. Most people believe that unless it’s beating up or raping your kids 3 times a day it isn’t abuse, and unless it’s sending someone at least 50 text messages and emails a day, calling them names and threatening them, it isn’t bullying. Fact is, abuse and bullying can’t be measured like that, in a quantitative way. Trauma is whatever a person experiences as traumatic, be it ever so subtle, and the only way to “measure” it is by looking at the reaction. The more extreme the reaction, the more traumatic the experience. No matter how trivial it might seem to others. Key here is safety, or ontological security, as Laing has it. The younger, and thus the more dependent on their caregivers (parents), children are, the less it takes to make them feel unsafe. Once a child feels unsafe it takes nearly nothing to traumatize him.

      We have these ideas of what may be called trauma, and what not. But these ideas are a product of our culture and Zeitgeist, and do not necessarily reflect people’s inner experience. I know someone who was hospitalized several times for longer periods during early childhood, in the late 1950s. Back then no one thought much about what being separated from their primary caregivers, and only surrounded by people who hurt them, more or less, can do to young children: Trauma? What trauma? Today we know how damaging this can be. Not least because many of those who’ve been in such situations grew up to develop a wide range of psychological problems, so-called “schizophrenia” included, as a reaction to their experience with being helplessly exposed to what, since they couldn’t understand what was happening, felt to them as a death threat, and “abandoned” by those who should have been there to protect, or at least comfort, them, which makes for a total loss of ontological security.

      • Oh, and I don’t feel that Ron makes a quantitative difference in his post, like: this may be called trauma, that may not, or that he is advocating for a black-and-white view.

        • Hi Marian, you are right, I don’t believe in a narrow definition of what might cause mental and emotional trauma anymore than I believe in a narrow definition of what might cause physical trauma. It all depends on the details of exactly how the person interacts with what they encounter.

          With that said, I think it is also important to consider how some people may be thrown into the wilderness our society calls “psychosis” due to trauma, while others may be drawn into it for other reasons. If we think of madness as a kind of openness to heaven and to hell, (or heavenly or hellish experiences) then we can see how some who might be seeking out the heavenly experiences might open up in ways that then leave them vulnerable to hellish experiences, despite not really having a life experience prior to that which was more filled with trauma of any sort than does the average person.

          Of course, once they have been first overwhelmed by the hellish experiences, and then by being thrown into a usually incompetent mental health system, they may very soon have plenty of trauma to deal with.

          • Ron, I agree to a certain extent. But I also find it interesting to ask why some people actively seek out “deeper” experiences. Usually people seek out these experiences because they are looking for answers to something they do not understand, and you might say that not understanding something that is or was is what makes this something traumatic.

  • Ron,

    I think the term “bullying” is not strong enough.
    The term “de-humanizing” is more accurate.

    On a radio show a couple of years back, I remember hearing Dr. Peter Breggin refer to the long-term use of psychiatric drugs as “murder” of the soul…

    I think that a psychiatric label alone (especially the term ‘schizophrenic’) is enough to shut down a human soul.

    There’s no pretty way to discuss these issues.
    They are what they are.

    Keep in mind, psychiatry was involved in eugenics… It has yet to come-clean, to make amends in its effort to rid the world of the “mentally ill”…
    It continues to label, to drug, to kill…. without amends. –

    http://breggin.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=288

    Speaking of the profession (not each and every psychiatrist, although the vast majority)… It is an evil profession.

    Always has been.
    And likely always will be.

    It is what it is.

    Duane Sherry

    • Hi Duane,

      I just have to say that I know a fair number of psychiatrists, and while I have strong disagreements with most of them, they don’t come across to me as “evil.” They are sometimes narrow minded, and too full of themselves, and too intent on protecting themselves from any kind of intellectual challenge or threat to their status, but it is still possible to sense their human heart. This doesn’t mean I accept their flawed and harmful practices, but it means I try to understand them as people.

      I really don’t want this site to be about bashing psychiatrists. I don’t think that will reach the psychiatrists, or those who are wondering what to believe, or those who are aware that the system has flaws and want to find a better way. I believe we need a more nuanced approach, one that recognizes the humanity in psychiatrists just as we would like them to do better at recognizing the humanity in the people they treat.

  • Ron,

    I can appreciate what you’re saying.
    I only hope that you can appreciate what it is I’m saying as well.

    There are some psychiatrists who are lost.
    But very few.

    Most have known for quite some time that the “chemical imbalance” theory is bogus. And that the drugs cause more harm than good, and yet they are morally unable to stop doing what it is they do.

    And because they keep doing what they do… Namely, harming people under the professional guise of “helping”, there is very little wiggle-room left for their justification.

    They do harm.
    They know they do harm.
    They keep doing harm, with no intent to stop doing harm.

    Do the math.

    It is what it is.

    And all the political correctness in the world is not going to change what’s taking place.

    If the comment comes on too strong, delete it.
    Really.
    I’m a big boy.

    Duane

    • Hi Duane, I’d really rather that we encourage everyone posting on this site to think through what they post, rather than expect me to delete comments that “got too far” in some way! So far on this blog I haven’t deleted any comments other than those which appear to be spam, and I hope to keep it that way.

      I think you are vastly overestimating how “obvious” the harmfulness of psychiatric practice is, and so overestimating the “evil intent” of the psychiatrists.

      Take your notion that psychiatrists must know that their drugs are doing more harm than good. This comes out of studies which are “naturalistic” which means they aren’t controlled scientific studies, because you can’t really do such studies on the long term which is where the harm shows up. There are lots of possible explanations for the outcome of particular long term naturalistic studies other than the idea that the drugs are causing harm. It’s only when you put all the studies together, that a pattern emerges that seems pretty convincing, at least to many of us. But I’m sure most psychiatrists haven’t even seen those studies all put together, or they are so focused on the short term and controlled studies that they didn’t see their importance.

      When we are sure we are right, and when certain people have points of view and practices that are very different from and opposed to ours, there are two simplistic explanations of that we can make. One is that they are sick, the other is that they are evil. The psychiatrists assume that people with really different views are sick, and you assume the psychiatrists are evil.

      A third choice is to consider that they may be confused and flawed in their thinking, in the same way that we are times are confused and flawed in our thinking. Then there is room to actually treat the other like a human being and talk about the differences, trying to sort them out. That’s what I prefer to attempt.

  • Ron,

    Let’s just keep doing what we’ve been doing.

    We can continue to call Governor’s offices each time one of our brothers and sisters is threatened with incarceration, forced drugging and/or ECT.

    We can keep asking “pretty-please” to the doctors who order these “treatments”….

    We can pretend they aren’t doing anything evil…
    They are just “misunderstood.”

    Sure.
    I have an idea, let’s all hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’.

    I’m in.
    Or, not!

    Duane

    P.S.: It’s your blog. I appreciate your letting me say my piece.

    • Hi Duane,

      I appreciate your frustration with trying to change things. But I’m not sure how you think calling psychiatrists “evil” or claiming they “want to harm people” is going to speed things up. I actually think it will make you less effective at change, partly because people who know psychiatrists may sense that the psychiatrists are really trying to help, and so they will just see you as shrill and out of touch with reality.

      If instead you said for example that you believe that a psychiatrist may want to help but is actually proposing something likely to be harmful, and then point to evidence that backs up your claim, you might at least have a chance of someone listening.

  • RE:”might at least have a chance of someone listening.”
    Evil definition:
    “To be truly evil, someone must have sought to do harm by planning to commit some morally wrong action with no prompting from others (whether this person successfully executes his or her plan is beside the point). The evil person must have tried to carry out this plan with the hope of “causing considerable harm to others,” Bringsjord says. Finally, “and most importantly,” he adds, if this evil person were willing to analyze his or her reasons for wanting to commit this morally wrong action, these reasons would either prove to be incoherent, or they would reveal that the evil person knew he or she was doing something wrong and regarded the harm caused as a good thing…”

    1 ECT brain damage as a solution to mental illness.

    2 treatment that is more deadly than the disease.
    addiction that is not addiction, because the doctors define what “addiction” is.
    Like a Pusher pushes Crack cocaine , psychiatrists push legal drugs. the victim-patients cant escape. The drugs cause disease and a 25 year average earlier death, they cause brain disfunction so the patient can not complain,
    can not figure out what is wrong. You are ill and need medication. “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.”
    Telling someone they are ill with the power of a doctor, makes people ill.

    3 psychiatrists demand insight in the patients mind ,yet rob them of it with neurolyptics.

    If the patient thinks themselves a God, they are sick, if the psychiatrist think themselves a God ( like Jesus healing the sick), that is correct. “only WE can help the mentally ill with medicines”

    4 Unlawful imprisonment A.K.A. Precrime, psychiatrist see the future and prevent it from happening.preventing the mentally ill from performing actions.

    I found the following on the internet…
    “Why is it when a Christian does something bad, it’s his own business, his own mistake, but when a Jew does something bad, it represents all Jews?”

    Take out the word “Jew” and replace it with anything you want. “Cop” “Muslim” “Homosexual” “Mentally ill person” – you name it. It fits.

    • “ when a Psychiatrist does something evil, does it represents all Psychiatrists?”

      • Mark, you wrote “The drugs cause disease and a 25 year average earlier death…”

        If statements like this were really a clear conclusion from the research, then your conclusion that psychiatrists in general are evil seem more credible. However, even though many people critical of psychiatry like to say such things, they don’t hold up. There are really lots of reasons why people in the public mental health system in the US were found to be dying 25 years earlier than average. Some of these included suicide, smoking, sedentary lifestyles, poor medical care. Antipsychotic drugs and associated metabolic problems are only part of the cause for the death rates.

        Psychiatrists would argue that without antipsychotics to control the psychosis, one might see even worse death rates. Indeed, they claim to have found evidence for this, see http://www.pharmacist.com/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Pharmacy_News&template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=21328 The study they refer to is I think highly flawed and unreliable, but I believe reflects the fact this is a highly complex topic and is not quite so easily summed up into good and evil as you may want to think.

        • A person is brainwashed to believe they are sick by a doctor, and society, and most believe it.
          Then their mind , their ability to think and reason, is messed with with legal drugs or “antipsychotics”.
          And then you blame the patient for their shorter life. Sweet.

          • Mark, I’m not sure that Ron blames the patient (and I hope, he doesn’t!). To me it seems more like he holds the entire system, not just the drugs, responsible. One thing are the drugs, and they certainly contribute to people’s shorter life expectancy. No one who’s seen the physical condition people who take these drugs often are in, can doubt that. On the other hand, it’s like Ron says, there are lots of other factors. The system doesn’t offer any help, and so people end up homeless overly exposed to crimes and disease (real disease I mean), for instance. Also, both trauma, homelessness, etc., mean stress, and enough stress alone, for a long enough period of time, can shorten someone’s life span. Then there’s, as Ron says, suicide. But also suicide can be attributed to the system failing people in crisis. A lot of people take their own lives because they’re retraumatized by the system, because they can’t live with the “side” effects of the drugs, and/or because they’re told they have a chronic illness they’ll never recover from (cf. that suicide is over-represented in young people, newly labelled with “psychosis”/”schizophrenia”). So there are actually other factors than the drugs involved. Still, that doesn’t mean that the system has no responsibility. I bet, if the Finnish study had looked at the life expectancy of Open Dialogue clients, compared to that of mainstream psychiatry’s “patients”, the researchers had come to a somewhat different conclusion. But their control group probably consisted of people who didn’t get any help at all, a group of “revolving door patients” who tossed out their drugs each time they got out of the hospital again.

            As for evil — if putting one’s own agenda over other people’s lives is evil, then yes, then these people are evil. On the other hand, there’s always a reason why people act in the way they do. And if they act in a way that hurts others, it’s usually because they’re acting out their own trauma. I have to agree with Ron here, it’s dangerous, and it’s doing to them the very same they’re doing to us, if we label them “evil”. Also, you provide them with even more ammunition against us if you attack them and call them names: “Look how angry they are! They’re really dangerous, and need to be locked up and drugged!” You can’t beat them, if you don’t understand the human beings they, too, are. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, as the saying goes.

            • Marian ,Thank you for moderating, but I still have to disagree.

              “Look how angry they are” is a Dunning–Kruger_effect.

              Lunatic Fringe blog wrote about a guy Albert Haines, 52 who was held for twenty four 24 years, yet had-has committed no actual crime to justify the 24 years in prison. Dr Romero-Urcelay said. “He believes that we are persecuting him”. Another famous example was Rodney Yoder .

              Anger is the sane reaction to being falsely imprisoned.

              re:”You can’t beat them”
              yes that is correct. Just like the wall street protesters. All they will get is wet, cold and hungry from protesting in the street.

              It all starts from calling a prison, a hospital, calling drugs medicines, calling feelings of anger and upset as psychosis. It starts from lies.

            • Hi Marian,

              While I wouldn’t want to frame it as “blaming” I would say that many people diagnosed with mental disorders do lots of things that shorten their own lives, and not just by suicide – there’s also the abuse of alcohol and illegal substances, tobacco, inactivity, various failures in self care, the list could go on.

              I don’t think that noticing this exonerates the mental health system from the role it plays, not just by failing to help effectively, but often by providing “help” that may actually makes things worse. The drugs given for example cause a wide variety of health problems, and some may increase the urge to smoke, and of course they contribute to inactivity. And the hopelessness inducing misinformation often provided by the mental health system makes its own contribution to lack of self care and to suicide. It’s often very hard to sort out who is responsible for what to which degree.

              The Finnish study, as I briefly stated above, is very flawed. As I recall, it looks mainly at who was on drugs at the time of death and so a person might have been drugged for years, but died in a period off drugs, and even if the death was directly caused by drug induced metabolic changes, the study would not have recorded that. I’m not saying the study was deliberately biased, just that they tried to look at a big population and I think they pulled the data that was easily available. I cited the study just to show that it can be tricky to determine what is really happening, and that we should consider the possibility that many of those who defend the current system may do so because they really believe it is helping, not because they are all corrupt or “evil.”

              I agree with you Marian that it would be great to look at how different the death rate may be in an area that uses a progressive treatment not emphasizing drugs.

              • Ron, I’d even take this one step further — and I know that it sounds provocative to a lot of people, but it’s my own experience, what I’ve observed in others, and what I’ve heard others tell — and point out the tendency most traumatized people (for several reasons, one of them being the attempt to find a solution, a way out, another one is described by Sharon J. LeFevre in her book “Killing Me Softly” as the attempt to retrieve a state of feeling safe and secure through, paradoxically, seeking out the pain they, initially, came to believe they had to go through in order to have their primary care givers love them, and thus secure their survival) have to repeat the trauma, i.e. to engage in self-harming behavior, in the broadest sense of the term, including things like alcohol/substance abuse, smoking, and manoeuvring themselves into all kinds of dangerous situations.

                Anyway, even if people “deliberately” engage in self-harming activities, it doesn’t mean that the system, society on a whole, has no responsibility. People carry on and on with these activities because they don’t get real help.

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