Tuesday, 4 December 2007

"Mental illness" - a myth

Here's the second of my posts on LAP's and the Sindnet-users' demand for more beds at psychiatric wards, which I wrote since my thoughts about psychiatry in general and its illness-concept in particular didn't seem to have been understood by some people. The two last paragraphs refer to a proposal to convert private wards into wards with several beds in order to establish more beds in general.

"Mental illness" is a myth, Thomas Szasz says. - And at this occasion I'd like to stress that I am NOT a scientologist, since I can hear some people mumble something along those lines, already, while I allow myself to quote Thomas Szasz. Whom I, by the way, am a great admirer of. - He's often misinterpreted (on purpose?), alleged to say that there were no such thing as psychological suffering. The point with his statement is that a metaphorical entity, such as the mind, can't be or fall ill in the same way the body can. The term "illness", mentioned in context with a metaphorical entity like the mind, thus functions as a metaphor itself, just as a "broken heart" is a metaphor and not a real, physical heart injury.

However, what psychiatry does is to equal the mind, the soul, to the brain. In the eyes of psychiatry the mind IS the brain. Why psychiatry almost exclusively concentrates on trying to find a defect, an injury in the brains of people who suffer from an injury to their soul. This is the same as to try to locate the break in the heart of someone who has a "broken heart". Psychiatry has been looking for more than a hundred years by now and hasn't found a scrap. But instead of expanding the search field, instead of taking others than the purely physical possibilities into account for closer investigation, psychiatry persistently adheres to the theory that the only possible cause of a broken heart would have to be a physically broken heart. - I once heard a neurosurgeon tell that he'd looked into uncountable brains during his career but he'd never seen a thought yet.

It is not without reason that psychiatry adheres so persistently - and actually unscientifically; true science never excludes any possibility unless real evidence is found - to its hypotheses about brain diseases. An expansion of the research that acknowledges the metaphorical nature of the mind, would automatically mean an admission of failure to psychiatry in favour of psychology, philosophy and sociology. One has to be aware of that psychiatrists by definition and training are medical doctors, experts in human physics, not humanists, whose speciality are human existential conditions, interpersonal relations or sociological conditions. Their psychiatric training is of no use in the humanistic field. Just as a training as an auto mechanic would be of no use in this field. In order to continuously be able to participate on a scientific level, psychiatrists would need to start completely from scratch and get themselves an education. A humanistic education, like Thomas Szasz has got it in addition to his training as a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists would have to face that their scientific, medical interest matches badly respectively not at all with a possible interest for the human psyche. "Possible" because with most psychiatrists I have a hard time tracing such an interest at all, except if the psyche, the mind, is equalled to the brain, or, and this is the crucial point, if the interest is all about how to control the human mind.

Personally, I, just as Thomas Szasz and many other humanists, count among those people who do not distinguish between "mental illness" and an existential crisis as psychiatry does. To me, the first is psychiatry's and society's discriminating term for the latter. And at the same time a view of existential crises being brain diseases, provides the only, in a democracy morally acceptable raison d'etre to psychiatry. Even though, seen in a medical context, it doesn't even quite hold, since brain diseases are the speciality of neurology, not psychiatry.

The moment "mental illness" were regarded an existential crisis, a reaction to one's life story instead of an imbalance in brain chemistry, psychiatry would appear as what I in accordance with the Swiss therapist Marc Rufer think it really is: a force of law and order. And as such its maintenance would no longer be acceptable in a democracy. Psychiatry, as the force of law and order it is, is a phenomenon that belongs in totalitarian systems. Since only totalitarian systems control their citizens' thoughts and emotions as psychiatry controls its clients' thoughts and emotions - with the help of drugs, ect and indoctrination. In a democracy the single individual's thoughts and emotions are free, disregarded their nature, the individual is free to believe, think and experience whatsoever and however he wants, both in relation to himself and his surroundings. Real democracy would never devalue an individual's self-image or scheme of things as "delusion", it would never devalue an individual's experience of himself and his surroundings as "hallucination", as meaningless "symptom" of a disease.

This is why neurology doesn't like to get mixed up with psychiatry, doesn't show much interest in the so called "mental illnesses", which, as mentioned, would come under neurology's field if there were any reason to believe they really were brain diseases. Psychiatry is a speciality that deals with finding ways to manipulate people's thoughts, emotions and actions for the purpose of gaining greatest possible control and power over them. We saw this more clearly than ever before or after in Nazi-Germany. There are other examples, although not as clear and well-known, such as the CIA's mind control programs, and psychiatry's role in general in openly totalitarian systems throughout history. In fact, it is this control task which delimits psychiatry from neurology on the one hand and the humanistic sciences on the other, and thus legitimates the speciality.

Least clearly this, psychiatry's real, totalitarian interest and task, appears if you can make people in crisis, voluntarily - although..., term and understand themselves as ill, and make them want psychiatry's help, make them want psychiatry to interfere and take over control, so that you, in this way, easily and effectively can cover up your totalitarian ideology and sell it as being a democratic service, part of the health system of a state whose political system goes under the name "democracy". It is quite a feat to get a victim of assault to want the assaults to happen himself. The Nazis in Germany weren't yet that advanced that they would have succeeded in this. They still only concentrated on justifying the discrimination of certain communities, sections of the population, towards the rest of society. Today we're about to have reached the point where this discrimination also is wanted by the discriminated. Not only concerning psychiatry.

That even the most "ill" people, those who are most severely hit by crisis, can be helped without the interference of pychiatry, by using non-psychiatric methods alone, and with far better outcomes than psychiatry's, among others, Laing has proven at Kingsley Hall. That both his and other's (Loren Mosher, John Weir Perry, Edward Podvoll, Bertram P. Karon etc.) ideas and results still today, almost half a century later, are almost completely ignored, tells me something about the society we're living in, and about the political system we're living under, which Ghandi named "nominal democracy" - democracy on paper (and only on paper).

The term and concept of "mental illness" serves, as mentioned, primarily the purpose of discriminating the individual who is named "mentally ill". An individual with a brain disease can't be taken seriously. Neither this individual can be allowed to be responsible for himself which results in paternalism and patronizing. That such an attitude actually is a (sad) reality in today's Denmark, the media's coverage of "the mentally ill" shows time and time again. Often it isn't even considered the least to speak with a member of this community himself when it comes to matters concerning "the mentally ill".

Furthermore, the term and concept serves to clear society of any responsibility in context with an individual's unhappiness in life, in society. Because, obviously, if the unhappiness is due to genes and brain chemistry, society can do nothing about it, and hasn't the slightest responsibility for the problems' emergence.

Last but not least it serves to clear the individual in crisis himself: "If I believe that it is my genes and neurotransmitters that's something wrong with", if I believe I suffer from a genetically caused, chronic and incurable brain disease, "I can do just as little about it as I can do about having brown and not blue eyes", Jakob Litschig (ex-psychiatrist, therapist and psychosis-experienced) says. I only can follow psychiatry's orders concerning medication, and thus leave responsibility for myself to psychiatry.

It can be a huge relief for some people to, via psychiatry's illness concept, be deprived responsibility for their thoughts, emotions and actions. All in all though, such a self-conception only contributes to paternalism and patronizing, and increases helplessness to a considerable amount. Quite often with the result that full recovery as a possibility is excluded beforehand, and therefor neither is achieved. A self fulfilling prophecy, so to speak. And in addition, when taking psychiatry's role as a force of law and order into consideration, the desired result.

Concerning Michalla's remark about private wards, my opinion is that everybody has the right to a such. Especially people who are psychotic need privacy. As far as I am concerned, it would have meant additional pills, if I 'd been asked to share a room with as much as one other person since I couldn't do without the possibility to withdraw when psychotic. Now, psychiatry regards this withdrawal as being a "symptom" which needs to be combated. However, my own experience was that the possibility for withdrawal and undisturbed self-reflection was crucial to my recovery. And I am not alone in this.

Some people might object that more private wards are far too expensive. Yes, if they are located at a psychiatric facility. The single rooms Soteria and projects alike of course provide, are much cheaper than a private ward at a hospital, just as the whole Soteria-model is much cheaper than psychiatry, without being as ineffective as the crisis center Michalla talks about in her comment on my previous post. As mentioned above in context with Kingsley Hall, Soteria and the like are proven to be far more effective than psychiatry. Although not at a "mind control level"... Soteria doesn't control, Soteria liberates.

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