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Mad Pride

Posted May 19 2010 12:08am

I ended up writing an essay in response to this blog post. I'm re-posting it here on my own blog.
Mad Pride Movement Meets in Toronto

The sensationalistic approach to covering the “Mad Pride” movement seems to be claiming that they are against psychiatric drugs. They are not; they are against forcing drugs on someone who has made the decision to reject them. Apparently, many people who have joined this movement have been badly hurt because they were overmedicated, misdiagnosed, and often outright abused by psychiatric professionals “for their own good”. Many members of this movement are in fact taking psychiatric medication, and feel that it is beneficial for them.

The way I see it, there’s very little you can do to a person that’s worse than denying them the right to manage their own treatment, to the extent they can understand the choices; or to deny them the ability to understand said choices (for example, deliberately not telling people what medications they are taking, or deliberately not telling them their diagnosis or what it means). This is because, when you disempower someone to that extent, you are taking their life out of their own hands; you are turning them into someone who cannot make their own decisions–forcibly making them dependent. And while this may make them an easier person to handle, it will forever deny them the ability to live a truly independent life–unless they break free and start making their own choices. That is what Mad Pride is trying to tell the professionals: We want to make our own decisions. We want to manage our own treatment. This is my life; I am my own person.

I am not involved in the Mad Pride movement; but I am rather active in the neurodiversity movement, which is rather similar in that its goals are often totally misstated by people who want to be sensationalistic. Neurodiversity started with autism (and has since been adopted by groups representing all sorts of diverse neurotypes); the basic concept is that “normalization” should never be the goal of treatment. That is: If you have autism, the goal isn’t to turn into a typical person; it’s to learn things and develop your skills and to become a happy, healthy individual.

But the media have often twisted this goal into the claim that the neurodiversity movement opposes treatment! This is patently ridiculous; the vast majority of us have voluntarily had therapy or assistance of some sort or another, and many of us can’t live without it. But the myth still persists… People seem to think that “treatment”, by definition, is supposed to turn you normal. It isn’t–not if it’s done right, and with respect. Successful autism treatment should result in a capable, happy, functional autistic adult. I’ve seen too many neurotic, constantly-vigilant people straining to maintain a facade of normalcy to think that an autistic person can be happy while pretending to be someone with a completely different brain.

Back to Mad Pride. Here’s the thing: There wouldn’t be a problem if psychology actually treated mentally ill people like capable adults, rather than proceeding on the assumption that they know nothing and cannot make useful decisions. When doctors act that way, they are self-fulfilling prophecies. When someone is treated that way their whole life, they may not even be cognitively able to make their own decisions at first, having been so conditioned to believe they are incompetent. It’s no wonder that people who’ve been convinced of their own incompetence will have a difficult time making their own decisions. Unfortunately, doctors seem to take this as proof that their decisions should be made for them; and the cycle continues...

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