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.