Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Segregation of Psychotics and Schizophrenics in Relation to Recovery

[on Mad in America 24 March 2013]

Speaking as someone whose whole family has been affected by psychoses and the subsequent psychiatric treatment I am fed up with the separation and segregation that continually is and has been our lot.  The schizophrenia labels and dead-end cul-de-sac of severe and enduring mental illness (SEMI) that requires resilience and strength to overcome.  The stigma and discrimination foisted upon us by a psychiatric opinion, non-medical, subjective, yet taken as gospel and written in the notes.  Tying us to a lifetime of psychiatric drugs and social control unless we can get out from under the regime and recover.

The two-tier recovery model hijacked by governments that offers hope to the many except those of us with schizo disorders who have mental illness and for whom there is no escape from oppression and tyranny or psychiatric care and treatment.  The hearing voices movement (HVM) has countered this culture of labeling and persecution, reframing the voice hearing and giving power to the voice hearer to be in control.  But in Scotland where I live the HVM isn't co-ordinated, doesn't have power and neither do people with psychoses who individually have to fight against system control and lay hold of the right to recover.

Having psychoses means no access to psychological therapies in mental distress and in Fife, Scotland, where I live, the prognosis is poor, the SEMI label is given, the pressure is on, to conform, take the drugs and keep quiet.  It's what others do, have done, and live with the consequences.  Choose bipolar if you can, the label of choice, it's become famous through celebrity endorsement, despite the disorder tagged on at the end.  It's a growing trend to be seen with bipolar, fashionable and acceptable, for everyone has mood swings, don't you know?  That's life.

But resist the schizophrenic label at all cost, do what you can to challenge this millstone round your neck.  It will affect your family and descendants, as in "family history of ...", and come back to haunt you in the psychiatric notes, at eye clinic appointments and, whenever you have to visit the GP, it will be a reminder to him or her of your madness and lifelong mental illness.  Forever singled out at the stroke of a pen you will be watched for any signs of losing it or of being a danger to society.  Unless you can take back the power, leave the label behind and forget about it.

I've always thought of psychiatry as a belief system, a religion that requires obedience to a set of rules and regulations.  And this has helped in my continual non-compliance, unbelief and complete recovery from psychoses, hospitalisation and psychiatric drugging.  It was obvious to me in 1970, on seeing my mother in a locked psychiatric ward in distress, that psychiatry wasn't doing the job right, regarding working with women and people in mental anguish.  I met with psychiatrists then, listened to what they said, they were all men, and made up my own mind about the situation.  I've been the same ever since and it's helped me personally going through the psychiatric system and helping many family members do the same.

I remember in 1982 or so, aged 30, doing a talk at a Christian event, following my first psychosis and hospitalisation in 1978, telling my story of psychiatric system engagement, avoiding ECT and making a complete recovery.  A woman came up to me after and said how she'd had many courses of shock treatment, was on psychiatric drugs and still used services.  She seemed OK about it.  My story was alien to her and she had many questions.  Also in the Lanarkshire village where I lived there were two other women I knew who'd had postnatal mental ill health although no hospitalisation.  Years later they were still on psychiatric 'medication' and experienced depression and anxiety.  My story was different to theirs.  I was young at the time and didn't understand why.  For me it was obvious not to accept what psychiatry said and to take charge of my own mental health and recover.

Now it's 2013 and nothing much seems to be have changed in Scotland, in relation to the psychiatric treatment of psychoses, except that it's even harder to resist the cocktail of psychiatric drugs, the prognosis of lifelong mental illness and to have a chance of making a complete recovery.  I managed it in 2002/4 but it was much tougher than in earlier episodes because of the "family history of ..." that dogs my family's psychiatric/medical notes and labels us as having recurring mental illness and being in remission rather than recovery.  It's very irritating having to fight against a belief system that is non-medical, in my opinion, and is more about social control.

Scotland's new mental health strategy, to which we all had an opportunity to consider and respond to in the prior consultation, still mentions the divide between schizophrenia and 'common' mental health problems in the opening paragraph of its Key Change Area 2: Rethinking how we Respond to Common Mental Health Problems:

"Common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety can be both severe and enduring, but the response they will generally require is different from that for illnesses such as schizophrenia."


After 40 years of unbelief and resistance to the psychiatric system's determination to separate my family from recovery focused mental health services because of psychoses and schizophrenic labels I am equally determined to challenge this segregation from the survivor perspective.  It is unfair to discriminate against people who are labelled with psychoses or hear voices or have spiritual experiences or are in mental distress.  Rather we should try to make sense of the psychosis and find alternative ways of working with people in mental distress or having out of body experiences.  It's not about altering brain chemicals or shocking the brain or doing brain surgery.  Leave our brains alone.  It's a mind and body thing, holistic and spiritual.  You're looking in the wrong place.  So stop fiddling, stop segregating, start working with us all towards recovery and wellbeing.

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