Under the guise of mental health, “the person is denied basic human rights, punished and cheated cruelly and stripped of free will, which is fundamental to human existence itself.”
MindFreedom – November 12, 2014
The validation of my sanity may well be dependent on labeling the other insane. As society has evolved, so have the definitions of sanity and in turn, madness. While at one time, even political disobedience was a good enough reason for someone to be sent to an asylum, today, we revere the rebel and praise volition as a worthy attribute. The definition of madness is thus, dependent on what the ‘sane’ of the era seek to prove. Conveniently, you and I label the 18th century treatments of Phrenology, Rotational therapy, Trepanation and bloodletting as absurd, barbaric and cruel. But one must understand that at the time, these methodologies were in keeping with the definition of madness. These methods found their fallibility in due time and today we can render them ineffectual. Similarly, what is to say, our ‘civilized’ sane method of the asylum, our methodology of diagnosis and admittance, hospitals and the pills and morphine that seldom cures, just renders the patient invisible, will not be meted out the same ineffectuality by the generations to come? Let us now explore our sane cures and take a look into the sanity of the psychiatric institutions that abuse and punish the patients feigning cure:
The United States Supreme Court recognizes that psychiatry, although a science is also an opinion. To misdiagnose a mental patient and mistakenly brand them as insane is a malpractice and a crime. But, over the years many a case of deafness has been misdiagnosed as mental retardation, behavioral changes because of allergies, toxicity and brain tumors have been misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia. The person is rendered completely helpless because the psychiatrist is put on a pedestal and a failure to take a second opinion has led to the destruction of many lives.
2. Labeled for life
Even if we were to believe in the opinion of the expert psychiatrist and his tools such as the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the institution is uncaring enough to subject individuals to a label, they fully recognize can be incorrect. When someone faces adverse conditions and undergoes behavioral changes, the psychiatrist bound by only his ‘scientific’, ‘objective’ approach simply labels him / her without a thought to the ostracization and suffering that label entails. The mental illness label affects every part of the patient’s life, be it their personal relationships, their professional lives or their health. An hour long psychiatric interview can determine the entire life of another. No one should be allowed such power. One mistake on the part of the ‘expert’ can ruin someone’s life. When you are labeled mad or insane, your thoughts, your speech and every action are plagued by that label. You are rendered ineffectual to society and helpless within and without.
3. Disregard of Consent
Unfortunately, many people do not realize that the right of informed consent applies to psychiatric patients, just as they would to any other medical patient. They have legal rights to be properly notified, at the right time, about the dangers of the treatment they are about to receive. But since they are labeled as insane, the institutions take it upon themselves to meet out any kind of treatment, they want to. Even if the patient complains, even if the treatment is not working for the patient, since every spoken word of the patient is treated as babble, the institution has its way with them.
4. Over – drugging
Seldom do psychiatric drugs aim to cure the patient; mostly they are aimed at making them invisible. Quieting them down, making them into functional individuals for the sake of society’s normalcy. Every depiction if a psychiatric institution has ghost like creatures dragging their feet down endless corridors. It’s true, mostly the patients are kept on a high dose of medications so that they can be controlled. Daily living difficulties, disorientation, side effects such as abnormal weight gain, impaired coordination, anxiety and the onset long term illnesses are a result of such over-drugging.
5. Violent Restraints
There have been an alarmingly large number of reports of cases where patients were harshly and violently restrained, often leading to serious injury, sometimes even death. Restraint procedures for psychiatric patients qualify as assault, and should be listed as criminal, though unfortunately, the law does not state this. The CCHR (Citizens Commission on Human Rights) has reported upto 150 restraint deaths that occur without accountability every year in the US. These grisly fatalities have been known to be caused by barbaric practices such as harsh beatings, bloodletting, chest compression, traumatic asphyxia and other psychiatric brutality that is part of the routine make up of a psychiatric institution.
6. Punishments & Isolation
In most psychiatric institutions, the patients are treated as mere children who need to be punished with childish measures such as standing with the hands in the air, solitary confinement etc. While we all understand a need for structure, basic respect cannot be compromised on. Because complains and resistance to such treatment is never fully acknowledged and it is easy to curb someone who is labeled mad, such practices continue
7. Abusive Therapies
In the name of therapy, the mentally ill have had to undergo torture, physical and emotional abuse since time immemorial. Today, in our civilized psychiatrist institutions, some practices such as the use of electric shock therapies and hydrotherapy (the use of ice cold towels or high pressure jets to calm the patient) still exist. The mentally ill have enough trouble orienting themselves to their everyday, psychiatric institutions only make it worse, all the while feigning cure. Even in the so called sophisticated clinical setting, often patients are verbally abused and treated in a condescending manner because by virtue of being the subject matter expert on ‘normalcy’ and ‘sanity’, the psychiatrist simply can.
8. Sane Cruelty
The custodians of mental health aren’t supposed to turn perfectly humane and many measures are taken in-keeping a requirement for structure and protecting the sanity of the staff but a nature of cruelty towards the mentally ill has been seen time and again. Because the patients are mostly incapacitated in the institutions, drugged out of their senses, some staff members tend to use this inability to their advantage. Cases of rape, sexual molestation, rage beatings are not uncommon. Where within the patient already suffers from the pain, anguish and turmoil of being subjected to psychiatric treatment, the staff takes out its own frustration or uses the helplessness of the patients to their own advantage. There is truly nothing worse.
Since the mentally disabled are not a functional part of society, the quality of their care is barely a concern to institutions that house them. There are 450 million mentally ill people in the world (Source: WHO Mental Health Survey, 2010) and barely enough caretakers and institutions. People with no training are also employed just because they are willing. But this supremely compromises on the care that the patient gets. There is a general attitude of ineptitude amongst mental health workers. Of course, there are many qualified and adept psychiatrists and support staff, but the everyday care quality is not a concern for them.
10. Inducing fear & force
In 1818, Dr. Benjamin Rush, renowned father of American psychiatry, and the first President of the APA (American Psychiatric Association) had been known to advocate the following “Terror acts powerfully upon the body through the medium of the mind. It should be employed in the cure of madness. Fear accompanied with pain and the sense of shame has cured many a disease.” Fear is a powerful motivator in enforcing conformity, obedience and submission to authority. But it is not a cure. To induce fear in the mentally ill, and force them into actions and behaviour, is the cruelest of acts simply because of their inability to fight back. To induce such emotion, measures such as solitary confinement, public humiliation, violent restraints and threats are used. This is a clear violation of basic human rights.
A person who is undergoing trauma every living day internally should ideally be taken care of, comforted and supported, and helped through as much as possible. Family members and people close to the patients admit them to psychiatric institutions seeking such utopia. Instead, the person is denied basic human rights, punished and cheated cruelly and stripped of free will, which is fundamental to human existence itself.