“Why can’t we all just get along?” –Rodney King
I admit it – I didn’t even know there were significant numbers of people who disagree with the concept of mental illness until I encountered the sentiments here on Facebook. I knew about Scientology, but I wasn’t aware of a more global movement against psychiatry. Someone who’s become a friend of mine here has written a book on the topic: “Mental Illness – Fact or Fiction?” (While she knows I don’t agree with all of her views, as a fellow author and buddy of hers, I’d like to encourage you to order a copy of her book! My own check is on its way.)
Anyway, I was fascinated by the premise, and did a great deal of reading online about it – material from the Anti-Psychiatry Coalition, Stop Shrinks, writings by Thomas Szasz, and more. While some of what I read did resonate, other arguments simply didn’t ring true to me. So I started posing questions on discussion threads. Quickly what started out as questioning turned to debate and then dissolved into battle.
While a handful of individuals can’t represent an entire movement, I must admit that being called a “sheeple,” among other names, did not give me a positive impression of this point of view. In my frustration I followed up with my own rant. (I’ve also blogged numerous times on the efficacy of antidepressants; stigma; and involuntary treatment.)
But I still had questions, so I posted a note listing 3 of them. A few weeks later I noted a thread on my feed that read, in part, “Repeat after me & then repeat 10 times plus a day: I am not mentally ill, I am not mentally ill, I never was, I never will, I am not sick, I do not have a disease.”
I find this view disturbing – because several people I care deeply about have refused treatment and wound up putting themselves and others in danger. So I responded with my concerns. Again, tempers flared on both sides. This time, I got this response (I have re-typed):
“You weren’t strong enough to deal with your issues so you turned to a pill – geez. You (people) rarely use your brain. … I think people don’t get better because they choose not to. I think if people want to get better, they will, period. … How many Americans have to pay for your ass to take medications because you need your next quick fix? How much money are you costing the American government by influencing people to get worse? How many kids to do you tell to go on medications and (they) end up shooting their classmates? … You are ignorant.”
I wound up ending the conversation because I was becoming uncivil. But then I got a delightful private message from another individual who subscribes to this view. In part, she wrote:
“Alizah, I'm sorry to hear that you were called names and insulted … I would far rather that people who are trying to create recovery for themselves have the ability to share what was helpful for them. In this manner, we can learn from each other as opposed to being pitted against one another. . I would like to see more respect for finding our own answers in accordance with who we are, the options we had at our disposal, the choices we had to make. Whichever path an individual ends up on, it's not easy.”
She signed it with the wish, “Namaste,” which means “The god in me honors the god in you.”
Those of us who agree with the “medical model,” and those who do not, have a lot in common. On both sides, most of us simply want people to be well and happy. On both sides, there are charlatans looking to cash in on peoples’ distress. And on both sides, peoples’ own life experiences will dictate their view. We’ll never agree, and we don’t have to. But wouldn’t it be awesome if we could lay down our weapons and honor the god (good) in each other?