freakoutcrazy

Blog des AK Psychiatriekritik der NFJ Berlin

Kategorie: Theorie

Yes, the Tide is Turning Against Psychiatry

The suggestion embedded in this article’s title seems counter-intuitive. How could the tide be turning on psychiatry when the institution has never been so strong? And indeed indicators of its growing strength and tenacity are all around us. The exporting of its model to the global south via the World Bank, the emergence of outpatient committal, the explosion of funding for psychiatric research (see Burstow, 2015). Correspondingly, daily are there calls for most aggressive “detection” and “treatment”  (e.g., Jeffrey Lieberman, 2015). And the mainstream press has never been more closed to truly foundational critiques. That acknowledged, let me suggest that such intensification is common when an old system is in the early days of crumbling.

Of course, intensification itself is hardly an indicator that a reversal is at hand. So how would we know? Examples of possible indicators are: Ever growing critiques from inside and outside the profession, growing discomfort with “anomalies” (in essence, the indicators of a paradigm shift spelt out by Kuhn, 1962). Established moral authorities making unprecedented negative pronouncements about the current state of affairs. The surfacing of more and more tales of corruption and fraud. The rising up of those subjected to it. Each of these signs and more we are experiencing now with psychiatry — hardly conclusive individually, but taken together, convincing portents of a societal shift.

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Crisis is (un)Learning

The mission statement for the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community’s (RLC) peer respite (Afiya) is:

“To provide a safe space in which each person can find the balance and support needed to turn what is so often referred to as ‘crisis’ into a learning and growth opportunity.”

Although I sometimes question our choice to use the word ‘safe’ (given how impossible an absolute version of ‘safe’ is to achieve and how saddled with distasteful meaning such a term can be within the mental health system), I’m not sure that statement could otherwise be any more straight forward and meaningful. Yet, so often, It’s unclear what meaning people are truly making of it.

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Dear Man: Sexism, Misogyny, & Our ‘Movement’

Thousands push the limits (their own and the system’s) on a daily basis to fight the oppression of individuals labeled with psychiatric diagnoses, and to change the way the world understands various kinds of distress. Some of us call the body of people engaged in this work a ‘movement’. I am one such person who is often referring to a ‘civil rights’ or ‘human rights’ movement within this context, although I recognize the problems with referencing a singular ‘movement’, as well.

But, if we are to accept this body as a movement, we must also be willing to take a real look at its flaws, downfalls, shortcomings and anything else that may run counter to our expressed goals.

One of the ways that this movement falls short is related to its treatment of women and the recognition that sexism is a very real and present issue herein.

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The rise of Mad Studies

At the end of term last spring, Jijian Voronka stood before 120 people at Ryerson University and clicked the play button for a short video made by a former student in her History of Madness course. Ms. Voronka watched the audience of mainly Ryerson staff and faculty as the student’s over-sized words scrolled across a video screen: “I only got four hours of sleep again” and “I’m not depressed.” The student had made the film about herself and titled it “A little slice-of-life video about madness and why a girl isn’t looking for the light at the end of the tunnel,” tracking herself on camera as she spiralled into exhaustion. When Ms. Voronka clicked the stop button at the end of the video, no one said a word.

Ms. Voronka, a sessional instructor in Ryerson’s school of disability studies and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, had faced challenging audiences during events like this one; she was hoping this audience wouldn’t “pathologize” the student. The talk, offered with two colleagues, was called “Making Mad Studies,” and it was part of a series on diversity at Ryerson.

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More on the Chemical Imbalance Theory

On October 23, 2015, Jeffrey Lacasse, PhD, and Jonathon Leo, PhD, published an interesting article on Florida State University’s DigiNole Commons.  The title is Antidepressants and the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Depression: A Reflection and Update on the Discourse.  Dr. Lacasse is assistant professor in the College of Social Work at Florida State University; Dr. Leo is Chair of Anatomy and Professor of Neuroanatomy at Lincoln Memorial University.  The article was originally published in the Behavior Therapist in the October 2015 issue, pages 206-213.

The article provides a concise overview of the chemical imbalance theory from its inception, through its vigorous promotion by pharma-psychiatry, to its present reduced, but not quite dead, state.

Here are some quotes from the article, interspersed with my comments:

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