Tonight at 10pm eastern time on Primetime ABC will air a show on “mad pride”. According to the two part article that was written to lead up this show, we have some idea of what is going to be on the show. Below I am including a response I wrote to the two articles that are already written. I hope people add to it and send it around as they feel fit and use it to start and continue dialogues in their communities.
By Lee, FC
I am writing a response to the ABC news article as an organizer with the “mad movement” organization, the Freedom Center.
First off, I want to express gratitude to journalist Ia Robinson for giving our organizations and movements national spotlight and for working with us, talking to us, and listening to us on these complex issues. I think the messages of many mad movement members were appropriately and accurately portrayed in these articles and it’s exciting to see that. Simultaneously, I also think it’s important to take a closer, skeptical look at some of the messages that come out in these articles.
POINT A: “Be proud of your trendy disease! (Is that really what we’re trying to say?)
The article implies actor Joe Pantoliano is a representative of the “mad movement”. While he may appropriately be addressing issues of discrimination that many people struggle with many other elements of his message seem to contradict a lot of what the “mad movement” stands for. The “mad movement” is not encouraging people to be proud of their trendy disease, but rather to understand and be proud of the different complexities that could play into one identifying or being identified as “mad.”
Pharmaceutical company advertising has known for years that advertising the disease is as important as advertising the drugs themselves. There was even an article written in the NY Times called “Did Anti-depressants Depress Japan?” by Kathyrn Schulz that helps document the complex cause and effect relationship between psychiatric drugs and psychiatric diagnoses.
Pantoliano saying he wants to make the “discussion of mental illness cool and sexy and trendy” is serving as a cultural advertisement for psychiatric diagnoses and psychiatric drugs. The effect of Pantoliano’s doing things such as forming an organization which is is “based on accepting, encouraging people to admit their disease” and to “seek treatments” is (it seems from his website and other quotes) about accepting DSM diagnoses and psychiatric drugs.
I personally do not know whether Pantoliano is naively doing this or whether he’s being influenced by the pharmaceutical companies (such as drug-company funded NAMI who ran a similarly messaged “stop the stigma” campaign). Yet I do know that whether the message is naive or corrupt, it is relevant that his message is very different than the message of many of us involved in the “mad movement”
At the Freedom Center, a lot of our philosophies are about informed consent. We understand that there is no evidence that “mental illnesses” exist as the brain disease entities that Pantoliano keeps referring to in the article and on his website. There are no urine tests, genetic tests, blood tests, or brain scans that can causatively prove whether one has or does not have “depression” or “schizophrenia.” Telling someone to accept the reason they have been feeling down because they have a brain disorder is a bit like telling someone to accept that the reason they have a chronic cough is because their grandmother smoked cigarettes. Maybe some explanation will help them feel like there’s an explanation in the short-term but if that explanation is inaccurate, it may not be a helpful long-term solution.
There is simply not evidence that “mental illnesses” are chemical brain imbalances or genetic disease as people like Pantoliano, and organizations like the APA, and NAMI state or imply. (Entire books have been written on these subjects such as Blaming the Brain by Phd Elliot Valenstein or Blaming Our Genes by Ty Colbert).
There is an active dialogue within the “mad” movement, including groups such as the Icarus Project and Freedom Center about what “mad pride” means to each of us. Some feel that the expression risks romanticizing suffering and some of us feel it risks missing the social and political roots of what is viewed as madness. Yet others of us feel that the expressive is inclusive of people regardless of whether they have a psychiatric diagnoses and acknowledges the potential for extreme, potentially terrifying, or potentially magical states in any of us.
While this debate continues on there are increasingly fewer of us who believe “mad pride” translates to being proud of what your doctor and the pharmaceutical company tells you about who you are. So while Pantoliano’s stories of discrimination and insurance problems rings true for many of us his immense identification with the DSM rings true for increasingly fewer of us.
POINT B: Without forced psychiatric interventions and psychiatric drugs, we’ll have more “violent crazy” people.
While the story of Bruce Amy and the story of Seung-hoi Cho are tragic ones, the media portrayal of these stories implies that perhaps what is needed is more force and more psychiatric drugs. This means the media is missing the ways in which using force can inherently be violent. This also meas that the media is missing the fact that there is far more reason to believe that violence and shootings (as well as a number of other school shootings) is in part *because* of psychiatric interventions rather than despite of it. The issues of psychiatric drug potentially contributing to violence and suicide has been well documented.
I recommend this video piece (a collaboration of corporate media reports on the topic of psychiatric drugs and violence/suicide)
Also, I highly recommend listening to medical journalist and author Robert Whitaker discussing a “Sane Medication Policy.”
Here’s a link to the Network’s paper dispelling the myth of the link between mental illness Dx and violence.
Here’s an article in Science Daily about the recently released results of a large, longitudinal study (Elbogen and Johnson, 2009) that more or less replicate the findings of the 1999 MacArthur Risk Assessment Study. Elbogen and Johnson concluded that people diagnosed with “mental illnesses” are no more likely than the general population to behave violently, except when co-occurring “substance abuse or dependence” (not clearly defined in the abstract) is also a factor.
The FDA even had to issue a black-box warning because of the potentially violent (suicidality) effects of SSRIs. While the issue of violence is complicated and of course many people act violently without the use of psychiatric drugs it seems there may be more to the story than Amy Bruce is acknowledging. What role did withdrawal play in his case? What role do psychiatric drugs often play in the violence of many people?