Archive for the ‘Semiological guerrilla warfare’ Category

She shouts for a reckoning with entire mouth and unspoilt heart. My friend Poodle (“Ursula”) from Christchurch NZ declares her joy, in love with these times. (rule for radicals: that’s why she’s a teacher and you’re not)

so thats me in the corner-thats me over there–was a hard arse interview 2 do-my dyslexia gets in the way some-times-just bear with it and it will show its beauty

Living With the Scars of Abuse

Source: Press, The Christchurch, New Zealand
Posted on: Wednesday, 1 October 2008, 15:00 CDT

New Zealand’s mental health system has a dark history, with hundreds of former patients alleging abuse in state hospitals. Kim Thomas tells the story of one woman who suffered abuse and explores what former patients are doing to try and take back their lives.

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Ursula spent her 22nd birthday huddling near naked in the corner of a bare room at Christchurch’s Sunnyside Hospital.

She was incarcerated at the now defunct mental-health hospital for slicing her arms from wrist to armpit with razors.

During her year-long stay at Sunnyside, Ursula (not her real name) was abused and humiliated.

For at least two months she was housed in an isolation room where she was stripped, sometimes by male nurses, and dressed in a thick woollen smock as punishment for her rowdy behaviour.

Her underpants and bra were taken from her and she was forced to use a pot as her toilet, in a room visible to staff and other patients.

More than 20 years later the scars of Ursula’s Sunnyside experience are still as visible as the razor marks lacing her arms. She is not alone.

Scores of former Sunnyside patients have disclosed abuse during their stay at the Gothic-style institution.

Nationwide, about 300 former patients claim abuse in mental hospitals during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Many were sent to psychiatric institutions because of behavioural difficulties but then treated as if they had serious psychiatric illnesses. Some were as young as eight.

Allegations include physical and sexual abuse, long periods of solitary confinement and the use of electro-convulsive (electric shock) therapy (ECT) as punishment.

In 2004, Attorney-General Margaret Wilson announced the establishment of a confidential forum where former patients, their families and hospital staff could tell their stories.

It recently announced a new forum, called the Listening and Assistance Service, for people who allege abuse or neglect during their time in state care in the health, child welfare or residential special education sector before 1992.

Justice and compensation is also being pursued in the law courts.

Wellington lawyer Sonia Cooper represents about 200 of 300 former psychiatric patients, including Ursula, seeking compensation for abuse.

They filed their first claims for compensation in 2004 but the matter remains unresolved. Cooper says she tried to negotiate with the Government out of court but failed.

In the latest chapter of this long running legal process, the Court of Appeal recently passed a judgment saying the Government had to prove that the actions former patients say was abuse was actually treatment, Cooper says.

“We want an acknowledgement that this abuse happened and an apology. If the Crown had been willing to deal with this out of the courts we wouldn’t be pursuing legal action,” Cooper says.

The Government has already made one large settlement to former psychiatric patients; in 2001, 183 former patients of Lake Alice’s adolescent unit received an apology and a share of $10.7 million compensation for claims including receiving ECT and injections as punishment, sexual abuse, ECT on the genitals in several cases, and one of being locked in a cage with a deranged adult.

About 240 civil cases are still pending.

A Crown Law office spokeswoman says it is reading the very complicated Crown Law judgement to decide what steps to take next.

Ursula says she would be dead had she stayed longer in Sunnyside. She sought legal counsel and had herself checked out of the hospital.

Ursula has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. She says 20 years ago the disorder was poorly understood.

As a result, treatment for her self-harm and erratic behaviour involved being put into an isolation cell as punishment. Good behaviour was rewarded with treats such as winning her underwear back.

For a sexual abuse victim such as Ursula, being stripped was the ultimate in humiliation.

“I saw it as an extension of the brutality I had already had forced on me.”

She says she cannot believe the way people such as herself were treated in an environment that was supposed to be therapeutic.

Sunnyside was demolished last year. But even after its demise it holds a significant and sinister place in Christchurch’s collective conscience.

Christchurch theatre director Tony McCaffrey has recently secured Creative New Zealand funding to develop a play based on the goings on in the former mental-health hospital, which he hopes to open the stage curtains on next year.

As part of his research McCaffrey visited the ruins of the old hospital and pored over patient log books and photographs.

He also interviewed former nurses, superintendents and patients.

“I believe it’s important to acknowledge the huge role Sunnyside played in Christchurch’s history and craft a memorial to that,” McCaffrey says.

“Since I started this project almost everyone I talk to has some connection to the place, whether they knew someone who worked there or stayed there. Everyone has a story.”

McCaffrey says Sunnyside housed people from all walks of life and the way they were treated is an insight into the community’s psyche over the past century.

Sunnyside’s history also provides a window into the dark history of Christchurch because of some of the inhumane acts that happened there.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said abuse that occurred in institutions is a crying shame.

She says many staff from those times still feel ill at the things that went on.

However, they were often only doing what they were told or what was best practice at the time, Clements says. In time, people will probably look back at certain practices which occur in the mental health sector now, such as electric shock therapy, and condemn them as cruel or unnecessary.

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“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness — and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.” Arundhati Roy

I’m deeply perplexed by this video making the rounds. Target: Women is an amusing poke at the marketing campaigns that attempt to manipulate modern women to ingest yogurt, yes, I said yogurt.

You know what else out there deserves our similarly sarcastic cultural criticism with or without alliteration? Crickets, you say. Yup. I’ve established cordial relations with the big feminist bloggers by stepping lightly in their comment threads, but I am enervated by the taboo on smacking down the PhRMA agenda as it pertains to women. If I had the wit and the skilz of the crew at Shakesville, Feministe or Pandagon I would do more than marvel at the opportunities missed, talent gone to waste, all the beautiful heads in the sand because it’s one thing to ridicule the merchandizinig of yogurt that makes women poop but to mock the marketing of female madness? Over the line, sparky!

Yogurt is very safe, antipsychotics are not. Truly not. And that’s the point. Maybe we just need a little inspiration.

(Rolling stone insert, originally uploaded at Soulful Sepulcher.)

Still think this is not a feminist issue?

The Academy:

One explanation offered is that physicians are influenced by gender stereotyping in pharmaceutical drug advertisements. It is argued that if drug ads display disproportionately more women than men, or if they portray women only as helpless, depressed, and incompetent, cultural stereotypes are reinforced, so that physicians may be likely to diagnose and treat women differently from men in sex biased ways.

The Pitch:

Abilify is the medicine that brings you to your senses.Purchase Abilify from understanding international online pharmacies and licensed US pharmacies at savings of up to 85% off of retail and cheap prices with no prior prescription needed. Using our complete online form you can Purchase Abilify through our online foreign pharmacy. Let us fill your prescription with our lower cost online prescription drugs and receive high quality medications.

These are not anti-depressants. They’re heavy-hitter atypical neuroleptics designed to treat psychosis; the manufacturers are merely expanding their market in an unrelenting campaign against insecure, anxious nailbiting women with garden variety moodswings and subclinical neuroses.

That’s the allure, isn’t it.

Hold on Hanna, see here. This is a typical atypical patient insert (typically unread), that your doctor won’t have time to go over with you:

“ABILIFY (aripiprazole) is indicated for the treatment of


Tell your healthcare professional right away if you have any conditions or side effects, including the following:

  • An increased risk of stroke and ministroke
  • Very high fever, rigid muscles, shaking, confusion, sweating, or increased heart rate and blood pressure. These may be signs of a condition called neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS), a rare but serious side effect which could be fatal
  • Abnormal or uncontrollable movements. These may be signs of a serious condition called tardive dyskinesia (TD), which may be permanent
  • Diabetes, Increases in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), in some cases serious and associated with coma or death
  • Lightheadedness or faintness caused by a sudden change in heart rate and blood pressure when rising quickly .
  • Elderly patients who are treated with atypical antipsychotic medicines includingABILIFY, are at an increased risk of death when compared to patients who are treated with a placebo (sugar pill).

Medicines like ABILIFY (antipsychotics) can affect your judgment, thinking, or motor skills. You should not drive or operate hazardous machinery.

Since medicines like ABILIFY (antipsychotics) can impact your body’s ability to reduce body temperature, you should avoid overheating and dehydration.

Medicines like ABILIFY (antipsychotics) have been associated with swallowing problems (dysphagia). If you had or have swallowing problems, you should tell your healthcare professional.

If you have suicidal thoughts, you should tell your healthcare professional right away.”

Dangerous, disabling, permanent and beckoning. Inescapable really and we’re riffing on yogurt.

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Does anyone think that was a decent shot of journalism? Then damn your eyes. Oh I can imagine an earlier me who would come away from that complete piece of shit grateful for the exposure and yay for recognition! But that column pissed off a lot of people in a number of ways I can relate to, beginning with its placement. I ask you, does this social stigma make my butt look too big? Because Gabrielle Glaser’s ‘Mad Pride’ Fights a Stigma is in the Fashion & Style Section, it must be tres chic, don’tchaknow, the fight against prejudice and discrimination, just one more set of kooks aboard the pop cult bandwagon with their self-important, trendy and disposable cause. Sigh.

First she pokes a stick at some prominent crazies in the blogosphere – Liz Spikol, Scatter at The Icarus Project, Mindfreedom’s David Oaks- then puts it all in perspective by quoting reigning tower of babel Fuller Torrey, as if he was just some random psychiatrist chiming in with all we need to know about Mad Pride (nudge nudge, wink wink). Bloody Christ on a catshit cupcake, if this quack has any place in a story about MAD PRIDE he should be correctly rendered as its ideological opponent, his views presented as subordinate to those of the subjects, rather than, you know, the authority on their movement.

Sara, commenting at furious seasons puts it well:

I think the article has all sorts of insidious undercurrents myself. Like I don’t think the author is really glorifying Liz or even Saks — in fact I think she’s almost denigrating them, especially Liz. I mean she sure is harping on the way Liz likes to revel in some of the more off putting aspects of her treatment — incontinence from ECT and drooling from meds — please — is this being respectful to Liz — are these the things that we remember about Liz when we read her blog? Ach — no. I wonder if Liz is angry about this. I think I would be. And David Oaks — well to me she’s kind of making fun of how he is controlling his purported madness as if it’s naive. She quotes Torrey because he’s of the school that thinks “mad pride” is bloody dangerous and maybe Gabrielle Glaser does too.

The psychologist John Grohol at Psych Central:

She also apparently believes that mental disorders can only be treated by drugs (which is mentioned a few times in the article; psychotherapy is mentioned zero times) …Really now? Having regular exercise, a good diet, and engaging in self-help support groups is “outside the mainstream thinking of psychiatrists” when it comes to maintaining good mental health and wellness? How does she know that? Did she survey them?

Of course not — this is the writer’s opinion creeping into the writing, and getting it 100% wrong. Most mental health professionals recognize the importance of maintaining a good diet, exercising, and self-help support groups in helping a person in their recovery efforts. None of these ideas are outside of the mainstream thinking

But I can think of no greater crime in a cultural study than ignoring its historical context. Mad Pride was founded by the tragic-comic powerhouse campaigner Pete Shaughnessy, who was linked to the English punk rock/DIY scene, the roots of which can be seen in the confessional poetry made famous by Sexton, Bukowski and Lowell. Mad Pride was about passion, policy and performance. There is history here. The writer should know it.

Let us pause to make an argument for history, for knowing where we are, how we got here, and how to move forward. I swear we could reduce the infighting by half if we’d do this kind of homework. It’s that lack of context driving the comments I’ve seen by some stakeholders who say they don’t “get” Mad Pride, that it’s bizarre to glorify what can be truly destructive and debilitating severe and persistent blahblahblah, which leads to the counter retort that hey man, mad pride makes me feel good about myself, yes, I know, but Mad Pride isn’t as much about how we’re feeling as what we’re doing, out there.

I realize the glib and stylish do invoke the term as a way to be groovy and I have nothing to offer them but a pox on their houses. How does “Glad To Be Mad” even begin to make sense? If I admonish a toothless schizophrenic living in a dumpster to take pride in her mad self what would that make me if not clueless and cruel? And yet, that is what some people are taking away from this discussion; that Mad Pride is a misguided attempt in building self-esteem. That it encourages navel-gazing in people who think too much. I believe Mad Pride was originally more ambitious than simple therapeutics, broader than the internal and solitary landscape. I think the focus was taken pointedly off the internal and made external, from the self to the group, uniting the twin and rival disciplines of psychology and sociology, which is revolutionary in itself, by pioneers who recognized that doing mental illness takes both disciplines.

So, Mad Pride as a frame. Who needs a frame? Wiki says “A frame defines the packaging of an element of rhetoric in such a way as to encourage certain interpretations and to discourage others. When done by political or social organizations, it is likely to advance their causes or views.” The point of framing is preparation for action, the groundwork in getting an agenda on the table. Vaughan shows how in his Mindhacks review:

Mad Pride is often rather clumsily related to ‘antipsychiatry’ but they are are often at the forefront of campaigns when essential services are threatened.

In London, the campaign against the shutting of the Maudsley Hospital psychiatric emergency clinic was spearheaded by several ‘mad pride’ organisations – who had a mischievous and witty banner at one demo saying “We must be mad! We want the emergency clinic kept open!”.

For the sake of pragmatism I endorse the actions taken in the name of Mad Pride, but that’s where I draw my own line. I juggle too many social identities (feminist, existentialist, liberal, punk) to over-identify with any of them, but I can think of nothing I want to define me less than the state of mental illness. And frankly, that’s where the message falls apart, when it’s patterned on the discourse of the civil rights movement. It’s one thing to make common cause with similar social justice groups (and the case can be made that we win the Oppression Olympics™ handsdown), but the identity politics in mental illness veers toward nonsense. In civil rights terms, Identity is not just about what I am, but what you’re not and can never be. You don’t understand what it is to be black/female/queer/outside the dominant white male patriarchy. I am the authority on what it means to be so situated, and it’s your boot on my neck that makes me your moral superior.

Except madness is not fixed and immutable, not even in the same person, much less categorically, as in some people have it and some others don’t. All humans have what it takes, anyone who denies their spark of madness this second remains eligible, if you have a mind you can lose your mind, there’s nothing to it really. We’re not exceptional. The language of diversity doesn’t fit. Crazies are not cast out of society because we are different from the rest, but because we are so similar.

Setting ourselves apart from a belief that we are the chosen few who are “mentally interesting” feeds a false dichotomy and endorses the fiction that we’re Other when crazy is more likely roiling under the surface of everyone you meet.

Setting ourselves apart as the world’s ruling victim class entails a preening sanctimony impossible to stomach.

But setting ourselves apart from an intent to get shit done makes practical sense, and for me that’s where it stops.

Inclusion by most out-groups is a demand for society to include them. I think our paradigm calls for the mad to include society. Mad Pride has this sensibility. Good god this post is over 1600 words and I am still muddling through what was said much better by the aching Anne Sexton:

For John, Who Begs Me Not to Enquire Further

Not that it was beautiful,
but that, in the end, there was
a certain sense of order there;
something worth learning
in that narrow diary of my mind,
in the commonplaces of the asylum
where the cracked mirror
or my own selfish death
outstared me.
And if I tried
to give you something else,
something outside of myself,
you would not know
that the worst of anyone
can be, finally,
an accident of hope.
I tapped my own head;
it was a glass, an inverted bowl.
It is a small thing
to rage in your own bowl.
At first it was private.
Then it was more than myself;
it was you, or your house
or your kitchen.
And if you turn away
because there is no lesson here
I will hold my awkward bowl,
with all its cracked stars shining
like a complicated lie,
and fasten a new skin around it
as if I were dressing an orange
or a strange sun.
Not that it was beautiful,
but that I found some order there.
There ought to be something special
for someone
in this kind of hope.
This is something I would never find
in a lovelier place, my dear,
although your fear is anyone's fear,
like an invisible veil between us all...
and sometimes in private,
my kitchen, your kitchen,
my face, your face.

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An action alert from Dr. John Breeding about the fifth annual Roky Erickson Psychedelic Ice Cream Social Celebrating Electroshock Survivors.

As someone who has been out of the closet in love with Robyn Hitchcock for half my life, it blew my mind to see his stand-up appearance midway through the video; now all his songs and my devotion make so much more sense. Michelle Shocked appears, as does REM’s Peter Buck, JT Van Zandt, and Roky his own self closes out with the 13th Floor Elevators classic You’re Gonna Miss Me. Visitor Robyn once called Austin the city of groovers, one look at this crowd will tell you why we live here.

You can vote everyday, by following these simple steps, or be non-linear and play around the site til you figure it out, but if you can take a minute to vote, throw us some love.

Background, in excerpts, by the honorable and rocking Dr. John Breeding:

In the last two years, our Coalition for the Abolition of Electroshock in Texas was very active, carrying on an initiative in Austin to challenge the use of electroshock at our area’s most prolific shock hospital, Seton Shoal Creek. As described on our website, we carried on with them quite a bit, including direct interaction with the hospital board and medical director, a series of protest rallies at the hospital, a resolution from the Texas legislature, and a hearing on electroshock with the Austin City Council.

In March 2007, we had a magnificent, unprecedented event–a concert featuring a number of terrific musicians and artists, a number of whom were also shock survivors now joining forces to call for a stop to this horrific procedure.

Now our own fantastic videographer, Mary Luker, known professionally as Mary Marvel, has created a short (20 minutes) documentary of our event. It is terrific, and we intend to use it to promote our effort to abolish electroshock, and to create safe haven for artists, who all too often suffer this horrific assault.

In support of our cause, Mary Marvel has submitted her documentary to an internet contest called Famecast. In order to have the greatest impact, we want to win this contest. In order to win, we need you to get on board and enjoy a ride, bringing music and a big message –END OF SHOCK– to the world.

1. Register on FAMECAST as a Voter or Fanatic. Click where it says ” The Audience Votes”
2. Click here to view our documentary
3. Click the “Video” tab to the right of the movie
4. Click the “Vote for me in the Open Round” link
5. Click the “Vote” button at the top right hand corner of the video

Steps 2 will take you to see our video. Steps 1, 3, 4, and 5 are necessary to vote.

P/S: Here is my favorite album by Robyn Hitchcock, this my favorite Soft Boys release, and this could be the most moving ode ever to hero worship.

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So the public’s been invited to get off its sorry ass and send personal recommendations to the moon in the sky regarding the national strategic mental health plan, which will “serve as a guide to the Institute for advancing mental health science over the next 3-5 years.”

The friendly solicitation of public comment strikes me as a cynical ploy, as if they have no idea what consumers want, as if we have no blogs, youtubes, pundits, journals or any sort of critical presence spreading like wildfire across the Internets, unless that’s the Tom Waits I’m listening to while toiling over my own heartfelt NIMH tidings all day:

What did that old blonde
Gal say?
That is the part…
You throw away

Will you lose the flowers
Hold on to the vase
Will you wipe all those teardrops
Away from your face
I can’t help thinking
As I close the door
I have done all of this
Many times before

Mindfreedom has a copy of the 26 page draft and reports the following predictable horseshit:

* 98 – number of times NIMH draft uses the words “drug, medication, biological, illness, disease, genetics”
* 38 – number of times NIMH draft uses word “brain”
* 16 – number of times NIMH draft uses word “recovery”
* 2 – number of times NIMH draft refers to the “mind”
* 0 [zero] – number of times NIMH draft uses any of the words “counseling, consumers, survivors, peer, mutual support, empowerment, rights, self-determination, employment, jobs, housing, psychosocial, wholistic, holistic, psychotherapy.”

We have til December 21st to email them at: strategicplanning2@mail.nih.gov

Why bother? asks Mindfreedom, and nearly kills my motivation by reasoning that at least NIMH won’t be able to deny that we gave them our input. So I thought about that, the going around in circles of it, yes they’re going to ignore us, but we’re gonna do it anyway just so we can tell them they ignored us, and this time, yes, this time they’ll um, oh, right.

Fuck the Man, what they do with my input I could care less, this is about me, between the
and the
throwing awayin’
the sayin’
what matters most.

Or, as Jim Hightower put it “Even a little dog can piss on a big building.”

(Henry Arthur Miller tombstone quote.)

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Awww, isn’t it cute? Psychiatrists have found a new word, and are all abuzz with the possibilities. What’s all this about mutuality? Let’s have a look:

Collaborating with patients, John R. Elpers, MD, professor emeritus of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UCLA, and Gary Sachs, MD, director of the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston:

“We’ve learned from our [patients] they do best when we let them take charge of themselves,” Dr. Elpers says. “Medications are helpful but only helpful when the client understands how to take them. We need to teach patients how to manage symptoms, give them the freedom to adjust them. In this way the physician becomes a consultant for the patient.” (my bold).

And many physicians are moving beyond “compliance” to “concordance” or “aiming for agreement,” Dr. Sachs says. “We are mapping out together, asking patients, ‘How do we get here?’ The key is to formulate a menu of choices for the patient and then negotiate.”

But sometimes there’s a disconnect, and what physicians are saying isn’t what patients are hearing.

One has to ask if what patients are saying is quite what physicians are hearing, but one is not necessarily convinced patients say much of anything substantive in these transactions to begin with, beyond the general shucking and yessah, I will, whatever you say sir. And then do what we do with our pills and both doc and pt. know it’s a sham and to participate knowingly in a sham is insane. Nice set-up beyotches.

It’s like this: What is is. Except when I go to the psychiatrist’s office, where I leave the reality based world behind and act out teh charade, but only when entering the domain I must enter because my reality-testing has been found lacking. A disconnect you say? Pshaw!

No more nonsense about compliance and non-compliance. This is straight from the horse’s ass mouth. Concordance: arrow meet quiver.

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and said that’s been done to death, give us something a bit more topical:

My results from self assessment:

Your score is 30.

If your score falls between 15-30 take a moment to check in with yourself. Determine if you are answering as truthfully as possible. It’s okay to need help. And thankfully help is available.

Now go play! For Godssakes we need to play too ya know.

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