CALL ME ANTIPSYCHIATRY ACTIVIST – NOT “CONSUMER”
Editor’s note: The author here expresses his opinion, based on his life experiences. We will be glad to consider for publication comments on this piece and other opinion pieces in the future.
Please don’t insult me by labeling me a “mental health consumer.” My experiences as an involuntary psychiatric patient in the United States and psychologist at the old Queen St. Mental Health Centre radicalized me. In 1972 when I resigned from “Queen Street” (now Center for Addiction and Mental Health), I stopped calling myself a psychologist, and started calling myself an antipsychiatry activist. I’ve been speaking out and acting out against the psychiatric system and for human rights since 1974 when I joined the psychiatric survivor liberation movement – currently known as Support Coalition International.
Institutional psychiatrists at McLean Hospital (a private psychiatric hospital near Boston) once labeled me “schizophrenic,” but I’ve always rejected that label and “mental illness.” They’re myths and lies, pseudo-medical labels that fraudulently pathologize dissident conduct and spiritual or mystical experiences as “mental disorders.” I also flatly reject the 400 other unscientific and stigmatizing labels and lies in psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Like the Malleus Maleficarum, an official manual used during The Inquisition to identify and burn heretics and witches, the DSM is psychiatry’s manual of moral judgements and character assassinations masquerading as medical diagnoses. The DSM labels are used to target, forcibly treat, lock up, and get rid of people who appear crazy, mad or different from most of us. Once psychiatrists label you “mentally ill,” “psychotic” or “schizophrenic” (today’s heretics and witches), you’re targeted for forced drugging, electroshock, hi-risk experiments, incarceration, homelessness – sometimes death.
The labels “mental health consumer” and “consumer/survivor” are misleading and insulting to many of us who’ve suffered psychiatric abuse, the terror and injustice of involuntary committal, and other violations of our human rights. A “mental health consumer” is a person who accepts psychiatry’s medical model including pseudo-medical diagnostic labels such as “schizophrenia,” “bipolar mood disorder,” “attention deficit disorder,” as well as “medication,” and “mental health reforms.” “Consumer” also means real choices in the marketplace, but ironically there are virtually none in the psychiatric system – especially if you’re poor or homeless. The label “mental health consumer” makes no sense, we should stop using it along with “mental illness” and other psychobabble, and start using plain language if we want to be understood.
I proudly call myself both a psychiatric survivor and antipsychiatry activist. Like millions of other citizens, I survived psychiatric abuses such as involuntary committal (preventive detention), agonizing and traumatic treatment (50+ insulin subcoma shock treatments), and the libelous label “schizophrenic.” With many brother and sister activists, I also have been fighting against the psychiatric system and for human rights for 28 years. Human rights like freedom, freedom of expression and opinion, the right to refuse any medical-psychiatric treatment, the right to be treated with dignity and respect are always worth fighting for, even dying for.
There are thousands of us antipsychiatry activists in Canada, the US and Europe. Our struggles are fundamentally human rights struggles for ourselves and our brothers and sisters around the world who’ve been psychiatrized, seriously harmed, and sometimes killed by psychiatry’s so-called safe, effective, and lifesaving drugs, electroshock and physical restraints.
Our struggles are against all forced psychiatric procedures including involuntary committal, community treatment orders or involuntary outpatient committal, drugging (“medication” without informed consent), electroshock, psychosurgery, and physical restraints. At the same time, we struggle for self-empowerment, to create and sustain self-help, non-medical alternatives including affordable, supportive and safe housing, support groups, drop-ins, and crisis centers run by us – not mental health professionals.
July 14 is Mad Pride Day (Bastille Day in France) in many countries including Canada and the United States. Help us celebrate our survival, our creativity, our many achievements including legal and human rights victories, our mad culture, our resistance, our courage, our empowerment, our mad pride.