Ray Unzicker in Mouth Magazine:
Think about this: you grew up in a family, in a closed system. That system lived by its own particular set of rules. There’s a culture that is absolutely specific to that system. Its rules are very different from what exists out in the “real world.”
What’s going to happen to you when you turn 18 or 19 and you leave home? You’re going to go into culture shock. Which is what I did. Which is what drove me crazy. I thought I was nuts because the world didn’t operate the way my family did.
People go crazy for all kinds of good reasons.
Flawedplan here, setting the tone. I am not anti-psychiatry, I am anti-coercion. I’m against force, deception, big pharmaco and the ties between them. I am against the passification, self-stigma and whipped-dogged demeanor of people who have been shamed into submission beyond the ability to form a single, intransigent opinion.
Most of all I am against the ghettoization of mental illness as a legitimate field of inquiry, especially by the political left, whose much deserved and spectacular beatings are sure to come.
The following anthem was written in 1984 by Rae Unzicker, a long-term advocate against the use of force and coercion of any kind.
She saw coercion as the single framing issue in our struggle with psychiatry.
She was right. It’s okay to say she was right. To hold the fighters close to our hearts and learn from their example.
Rae, appointed by President Clinton in 1994, served on the National Council on Disability (the first person with a psychiatric label to do so) until her death of cancer in 2001.
Within her distinguished legacy is the groundbreaking NCD report From Privileges to Rights: Psychiatric Survivors Speak for Themselves.
Here’s her famous poem, and an excerpt from the Mouthmag interview.
To be a mental patient is to be stigmatized, ostracized, socialized, patronized, psychiatrized.
To be a mental patient is to have everyone controlling your life but you. You’re watched by your shrink, your social worker, your friends, your family. And then you’re diagnosed as paranoid.
To be a mental patient is to live with the constant threat and possibility of being locked up at any time, for almost any reason.
To be a mental patient is to live on $82 a month in food stamps, which won’t let you buy Kleenex to dry your tears. And to watch your shrink come back to his office from lunch, driving a Mercedes Benz.
To be a mental patient is to take drugs that dull your mind, deaden your senses, make you jitter and drool and then you take more drugs to lessen the “side effects.”
To be a mental patient is to apply for jobs and lie about the last few months or years, because you’ve been in the hospital, and then you don’t get the job anyway because you’re a mental patient. To be a mental patient is not to matter.
To be a mental patient is never to be taken seriously.
To be a mental patient is to be a resident of a ghetto, surrounded by other mental patients who are as scared and hungry and bored and broke as you are.
To be a mental patient is to watch TV and see how violent and dangerous and dumb and incompetent and crazy you are.
To be a mental patient is to be a statistic.
To be a mental patient is to wear a label, and that label never goes away, a label that says little about what you are and even less about who you are.
To be a mental patient is to never to say what you mean, but to sound like you mean what you say.
To be a mental patient is to tell your psychiatrist he’s helping you, even if he is not.
To be a mental patient is to act glad when you’re sad and calm when you’re mad, and to always be “appropriate.”
To be a mental patient is to participate in stupid groups that call themselves therapy. Music isn’t music, its therapy; volleyball isn’t sport, it’s therapy; sewing is therapy; washing dishes is therapy. Even the air you breathe is therapy and that’s called “the milieu.”
To be a mental patient is not to die, even if you want to — and not cry, and not hurt, and not be scared, and not be angry, and not be vulnerable, and not to laugh too loud — because, if you do, you only prove that you are a mental patient even if you are not.
And so you become a no-thing, in a no-world, and you are not.
Rae on dangerous lunatics, liability, and psychiatrists as “thought police”–
This standard of “danger to self or others” is not about protecting people or stopping people from hurting themselves or others, it’s about medical liability. If a psychiatrist doesn’t do something to intervene, and that patient does something, the psychiatrist is going to get his ass sued. Therefore, he is going to protect himself. And the way to protect himself, or herself, is to lock people up against their will. As Thomas Szasz says, “Mental illness is telling your fantasy to the wrong person.”
…Statistics do not bear out the mythology of danger. People who have been labeled are less likely, across the board, to commit crimes than your average Joe Schmo on the street. That statistic has increased slightly in the last twenty years. Many more people are labeled today. And we live in a much more violent society.
People who have been labeled have been brutalized -which tends to make them angry. And they are much more poverty stricken than the general populace, which tends to make them desperate.
Even people in a manic state are not known for being dangerous. Pains in the ass, yeah. They spend a lot of money getting on the phone and calling everybody in the world.
But dangerous? Not in my experience. Except perhaps to credit card issuers.
…The Jeffrey Dahmers of the world, the Charles Mansons of the world are not insane. They are giving craziness a bad name. What they are is evil. Evil is alien to our deeply-held belief that we live in a wonderful, happy world of television sitcoms.
Because we cannot accept evil, because we all like to have a pretty world, we have to find a reason for horrible things that happen. We displace the evil and say, “They must be crazy.”
The truth is that most people I have encountered who are labeled mentally ill are the opposite of dangerous. They are passive, they are compliant, they have given up. They will allow anything to be done to them. They live on the outskirts of hope.
What’s dangerous are psychiatrists and all the other people who purport to help people, but are really only forcing them to be compliant–to take their medication, go to their day programs, go to phony jobs, live in segregated housing. In order to get the basics of life a place to live, for example -they have to give up so much of their real lives.
People die of psychiatric interventions all the time. People die in mental hospitals not of overdoses but of regular doses of drugs prescribed for them.
…What are we doing? Drugging people who are going through pain in their lives–that’s crazy. It masks the problem and takes the responsibility away from the person to reclaim power over his or her own life. Which is really what it’s all about for all of us.
The only psychiatric rehab is life. Meaning LIFE, not sitting in an apartment, alone, taking your drugs, smoking all day and drooling because of the side effects of medication.
Point taken. Next step: know your enemies.