Tuesday, 12 February 2013

keeping the circus on the road

I've been thinking about how the mental health world and its symbiotic twin the psychiatric system are like a travelling circus.  With roustabouts to keep the show on the road, the wild animals under control and the whip in the hand of the ringmaster.  The greatest show on earth and we've all got ringside seats.

Some of us even got to take part in the performance although not by choice.  We found ourselves in cages among the straw, being kept in line and getting fed the food of obedience.  Others weren't so wild and were like the performing dogs, jumping and twirling, from barrel to barrel.  Happy to get the applause and the honours.

The trapeze artists did the fancy stuff and looked the part, high up and away from the crowd.  Tightrope walkers managing to keep their balance while appearing never to look down.  But the risk for these fancy footwork folk was always about falling from their high places and landing on their heads.

The best of all are the clowns, like jesters of old, commanding the attention of every eye while remaining incognito.  They can engage with the audience, make fun of them and get away with it.  Wearing masks of garish colour, hiding lives of complexity and myriad moods.  Getting away with madness.

Animal rights activists managed to change the shape of circuses and I'm hoping that human rights activists can do the same with the psychiatric system and mental health practices.  It's not much fun if you're in the cage or always living behind a mask.  The magic pills and potions only work in fairy tales.  Real life requires sophisticated solutions.


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