Recovery - Just Another 'Mental Health'  System Buzzword?

To be honest, the concept of 'recovery' is being turned into just another buzzword from the 'mental health' industry. In reality, the only 'recovery' the system appears to promote or perceive as possible is within the context of the existing medical model, through aggressive lifelong tinkering with peoples' brain chemistry or genetic makeup, and with diagnosed people still expected to occupy the same narrow, oppressive social niche as has been the case all along.

True 'recovery' requires breaking free from what is an oppressive system of dominance and being able to find genuine community, love and support among peers. It has nothing to do with hospitalization, 'medication' compliance or passive acceptance of the misbegotten notion that one is 'sick.'

By espousing the model it does, the psychiatric establishment is in fact promoting enslavement, not recovery. It seems that only the names change with time, rather than the underlying philosophy and intent.

Within an ideal society there would be nothing to 'recover' from, because people would find acceptance and love simply for being who they are, rather than what broader society expects them to be.  One does not need to 'recover' when they are not being consistently vilified and mistreated simply for not fitting into the painfully narrow moulds which have been constructed for them.

There's no proof that any pathological abnormality is at work in people who carry a psychiatric label - and as far as I'm concerned there never will be proof. Psychiatric 'diagnoses' are (and always will be) a collection of subjective personal value judgments which cannot be medically substantiated. Any other physician who draws diagnostic conclusions on the basis of a verbal interview alone would be considered dangerously irresponsible - yet this oversimplistic approach is the mainstay of psychiatric practice. What is truly alarming about this is how few people bother to question it.

Psychiatry is also the only medical specialty which is legally empowered to routinely deprive innocent people of their liberty, and even to intervene medically (if you can call it that) over peoples' clearly stated objections. Most U.S. states (thirty-eight at last count) and at least three Canadian provinces can  even legally force diagnosed people to comply with psychiatric 'treatment' (usually meaning a regimen of powerful drugs, or sometimes even more catastrophic interventions such as electroconvulsive 'therapy') if they wish to remain in their own homes.

What these lawmakers (and doctors) fail to understand is the main reason people go off the 'meds' is not because of 'lack of insight into their illness' but due to the fact the drugs sicken and incapacitate them. The whole 'lack of insight' chain of reasoning is a fascistic viewpoint intended to discredit and pathologize any person who would dare stand up for the fact that they actually have far more insight into their own situation than any outsider possibly could.

Every woman, man and child walking the earth carries the capacity for madness in them. The only variables are what environmental or social factors will trigger it, or how it manifests itself. It has nothing to do with pathology ('abnormal' or otherwise) and anyone who believes themselves immune is speaking from arrogance.

Aside from this vulnerability to painful life crises which we all have as part of our makeup, people who show an unusually high degree of passion for any aspect of life, or who possess any kind of extraordinary creative talent or intellectual ability (especially if it includes the courage to think and speak 'outside the box' of socially accepted ideas) have frequently been deemed as mad. 

The issue here lies in the profound terror many people appear to have of anything that openly challenges our society's apparent infatuation with creative mediocrity, and which defies a social milieu based upon emotional repression. It thus becomes far simpler to define visionaries as madmen than to work at expanding one's own horizons of perception and expression.

Arbitrarily defining certain human phenomena as 'mental illness' is entirely about how society views human behaviors, feelings, beliefs and lifestyle choices. Western society in particular fails to examine the entire range of possibilities; instead focusing exclusively on what is narrowly defined in terms of 'normal' and 'abnormal.' Our society also fails to view such phenomena in their proper context, instead portraying them as happening in a social vacuum.

This common viewpoint is nothing but victim-blaming and gives policymakers far more wiggle-room than they should be entitled to. It consistently and willfully ignores the reality of oppression, violence and glaring social inequities faced by so many of the earth's human inhabitants. It is even worse for its attempt to masquerade as compassion. Psychiatry is in fact merely one more enforcement mechanism of what is becoming an increasingly restrictive social milieu.

Graeme Bacque

July 12, 2002