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on psychiatric criminals: the impact of the psychiatric vision

Posted Feb 24 2013 9:29pm

This blog, particularly lately, has been  how the psychiatric vision often obscures the way the mental health system makes sense of the needs of those with mental health issues.  Several posts, in one way or another, make a simple point.  For too  many people the mental health system is as injurious, as difficult, as confusing, and often dehumanizing as any of the mental health issues they face.  For some people I think it has probably seemed like much to-do about nothing.  But the way we make sense of things is of ultimate importance.  Ideas have consequences.  And the article above is proof of how so important that really is.

New York City is using recent tragedies as an excuse to become “proactive” on mental health.  They are arresting people who have not reported for court ordered treatment as ordered, handcuffing them, and taking them to a hospital to “get help.”  They are a new criminal:  psychiatric criminals.  They have committed no crime in the ordinary sense of the word.  Nor have they been accused of it.  They are not directly connected with any of the subway tragedies.  No one is saying they have intended, thought of, or are at risk of pushing someone off a subway.  In fact they may be as horrified about the tragedies as anyone else.   One friend explained it to me this way:  “If you convince yourself you are doing things for people’s own good rather they want you to or not and find they continue to be ungrateful it is such a short step to punishing them in ways unimaginable.”  Constitutional rights need a new asterisk.  *dependent upon diagnosis.

The people who scare me the most are those who are trying to create a new common sense.  Since this country has been born those with mental health issues have always been the victim of “common sense.”  There has been season after season of some atrocity always in the name of science and “for their best interests.”  It is not an easy or pretty history.

There is a story about the pastor in Nazi Germany who commented that he did not speak out when they came for the communists, the gypsies, or the jews.  He thought they didnt really have to do with him.  When they came for him there was no one left to speak out  for him.  I am not afraid that this action by New York is the end of the world.  My fear is that it is the beginning of another world.

It’s wrong.  That simple.  Wrong.  If it is this simple to treat people as less than people why would you ever believe it would be any less simple to treat you as less than a human being.  If one group of people are disposable are not ultimately we all?

The way we see determines how we see and ultimately it is in our vision we create the world in which we live.  Speak.  For others.  For yourself.  Speak.  Please.


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