It’s enough to make your head spin, these two posts I read one after the other with my morning swear words.
Liberal bastion Thorn in my side Huffington is screaming for forced drugging and involuntary commitment (Britney, et alia) —
It’s outrageous that she was released from the hospital …all the experts say she needed to have been held for a minimum of 30 days!
while the wingnutty Washington Post says flat out that the medical model has got to go.
Here’s the problem: The WaPo piece says nothing about forced commitment and the HuffPo piece says nothing about the medical model; but I can say with assurance that these 2 posts are general critiques of the other, that in mental illness discourse we shake out on partisan lines and this has got to get more explicit or it’s just circular wankery and talking past each other.
There is a disconnect underlying most of what passes for learned opinion regarding mental illness in the blogosphere. The disconnect is on writers who don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t done their homework. Pundits should be conversant with the various models of mental illness and the body of scholarship that underpins each, at the very least they should recognize when they are promoting the medical model, and what that means, because when you don’t understand something you can make it mean anything. Is that too much to ask? So of course when a knowledgeable commenter like the following comes along and offers a recognizable critique he is shot down for being a pedant, complicator, and delusional ex-patient with an ax to grind:
No other medical condition is the basis for incarceration. Those of us with mental illness are denied rights that everyone else enjoys. Thanks to people like you who have no concern for our rights and have no understanding of our illness, we are singled out, stigmatized, imprisoned, ridiculed and ostracized.
…Were it not for you and those who are likeminded singling us out in the ways just described, we might be more accepting of ‘help.’
That comment in the Huff post is an implicit smackdown of the medical model. The same model explicitly identified and shitcanned over at the Washington Post today:
Larry Davidson, a Yale researcher on recovery from severe mental illness, has examined the data and found that this model is flawed, at least in the field of mental health. “In the medical model, you take a person with a mental illness, you provide treatment in the hopes of reducing symptoms, and then they’re supposed to approximate some notion of normality,” he told me. “Our research shows the opposite. You take a person with a mental illness, you then reduce the discrimination and stigma against them, increase their social roles and participation, which provides them a reason to get better in the first place, and then you provide treatment and support. The issue is not so much making them normal but helping them get their lives back.”
These are fighting words. They sound so benign that it’s easy to overlook that fact, that when we hear someone talk about social support, engagement, participation and community roles they are not speaking in a vacuum, and they are not talking about a subordinate adjunct to the medical approach, but invoking an alternative, social model of distress and recovery, which has all but been silenced by the dominant paradigm whose signifiers are doctor, hospital, medication, stabilization, biology, genetic, heredity, bloodlines, as in tainted, etc. These are the dogwhistles that point to a belief system known as the medical or biological model of mental illness. So it’s about language, and learning the words that the bad people use.
Is this necessary? Why not just say, gosh, with so many conflicting and complex models to choose from, why not have the consumer do the homework and direct their own personal care and treatment, whether medical or alternative or an eclectic mix of both, or decline all of it and que sera. But to make this assertion is itself a partisan stand, because any alternative to the medical model will, by definition deviate from the medical model, and that’s the mortal sin. It’s not the particular treatment choice under fire, but choice, period. And so every alternative falls under the single rubric of “filthy hippy healthcare” coined by medical model monster E. Fuller Torrey, who wants you to believe irresponsible advocates would force bipolars off their evil meds, when what we actually demand is that bipolars be empowered to make fully-informed decisions ourselves, without penalty, and with the understanding and expectation that we will make mistakes and change our minds just like everybody does, with the same right to learn the hard way, while do-gooders suck it up and wrench their garments in dread, too bad, so sad.
I’m pretty sure the WaPo author would agree with me; his piece indicates we share the same politics, the HuffPo author not so much, because oddly enough we don’t. Once again it looks like I dared to take the true blue liberal stand on a mental health matter at a liberal blog. Or thought I had. I don’t even know anymore.
As long as I’m free to complain and orient myself like this I’m happy that people are talking more openly about mental illness in the blogosphere. I can’t say why anyone would deny their own bias, but I know one way to shut down the opposition is to pretend there is no opposition, and some people do operate in total bad faith like that, but maybe others just don’t understand enough about the terrain they’re on, and deserve to be given benefit of the doubt while they navigate the learning curve, yes, with feet held firmly to the fire, on notice that teh willful stoopid will not be tolerated without one minute of surcease, seriously, it’s embarrassing. An opening salvo? Yes, I’d be delighted:
Mental illness is a political issue.
Will political liberals kindly step up and take THE goddamn LIBERAL POSITION?