Join us in protesting the American Psychiatric Association on May 6 in New York City. We’ll be meeting outside the Javits Center from 12:00-4:00pm where the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association will be taking place.
For details on my feelings about the protest, you can watch my two previous videos:
– What I Wish You Knew About Mental Health
– Why I’m Protesting the American Psychiatric Association
An Open Invitation to #NeverAgain
I know that you don’t know me, but I am reaching out about something that is really important to me, and I think may be very important to you to.
I know from watching your speeches and from reading your writing in the Guardian, that your demands include changes to gun control laws, and also, to increased mental health services for young people.
I agree with you that more needs to be done in the world of mental health. The simple solution is to demand that our legislators increase funding for mental health services. I’m sad to share with you, they’ve been doing that for years, and it’s not working. In the last 30 years, funding has steadily risen from 30 billion in 1986 to 200 billion today, and we actually have far more people on SSDI and SSI for mental health related issues.
The easy demand to make to our leaders is, “You need to do MORE.” I don’t think our mental health crises is one of a lack of funding, there’s lots of money being spent, the issue is: where is this funding going?
This funding goes to services which are making things worse.
Yes, we should absolutely support young people who are going through emotional distress. Unfortunately, our methods of screening and treating children… which is our best practice… actually results in dishing out diagnoses in large numbers, followed by an entrée of psychiatric medications. Simply increasing will result in more screening and more drugs.
Teen Screen program was a failure. Started in 1999 after Columbine to screen middle school and high school students. Funded by the good-intentioned pharmaceutical companies. Ended in 2012 – resulted in screening and forced drugging or children. Of course we should help children. But what does the screening and treatment look like. Young children forced on ADD medication, stimulants, coerced into taking anti-depressants that cause anxiety, and cause more problems.
These drugs, are making things worse, not better. Increased funding alone, will make the problem worse. We need to change what mental health looks like. This doesn’t come from increased funding, this comes from a drastic departure from the current methodologies and practices.
Specifically, the current practices include force, coercion, and lying.
Force Coercion and Lying
Now my experience, and the experience of many who are protesting in New York City, are of a nasty system which involves serious force… literally, without committing any crimes, you can be held down, tied up, shot up with drugs, and locked away until you comply with their demands… even without being charged with a crime. These are serious offenses of human rights, and for that, we are angry and demanding of change.
But I’ve also got experience working with a lot of young people who have experienced their own versions of this. Yes, young people end up in these psychiatric hospitals too. But it’s not just these extreme cases that are concerning it… it’s the more mild ones that happen at an ever-increasing rate.
Kids are told there’s something wrong with them. That they’ve got a disorder, like ADHD, bipolar, anxiety, etc… and the treatment… is medication. And these medications make their problems worse. And rather than think the medications are causing the problem, they think, ‘oh, you must have multiple disorders, we’ll give you more medication.”
Force Coercion and Lying
In Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, he details the levels of psychiatric medications being forced on kids, specifically for ADHD, and the resulting increase in future psychiatric problems coming from it like anxiety, depression, etc.
Yet I have seen kids who were diagnosed with these things, who leave the traditional school system and go to non-coercive learning environments, and they thrive. Their cure was just a better community.
I don’t know how many of you see this stuff, I don’t know what classes you take, I get the impression you do well and you’re high achievers. But that certainly doesn’t speak for all of you.
Because you’re at the top, you may not realize just how competitive and coercive the system is toward young people. How it pits you all against one another. And it may feel good to be at the top, but it’s a system that guarantees there are winners and losers. And if you all meet their achievement, they just raise the bar higher, pushing kids to limits they’re not designed for. And really, making them do things they do not want to do… and when they say they don’t want to do it, they’re labelled with, not a diagnosis, but branding like lazy, unmotivated, ‘bad kids’, ‘troublemakers.’ This system is breeding compliance.
Look at how crazy administrators went all around when kids wanted to walk out for a day. They were only leaving the building for 17 minutes. Imagine how they’d react if you walked out with a list of demands, and said you weren’t coming back until they were met. Rather than listening to your demands, which you’d probably just be demanding normal things that anyone might want, they’d put you down.
Like you, I went to public high school. I remember growing up hearing stories of how our campus was once an open campus, where kids could come and go freely. I heard there was a car accident and a few students were killed, and so then, nobody could leave campus anymore. By the time I attended, it was post-Columbine. The doors were locked, we couldn’t even go outside. There were security cameras and security guards. While I attended, we added an armed school resource officer. Since I’ve left, security has increased even more, it’s getting worse and worse… to the point, the only thing left to do is to arm the teachers.
The Control in School
Even now… in thinking about coming to the protest in New York, you may wonder, “I can’t, I’ve got school.” What does it say, that they won’t let you go make a difference in the world? That you’re forced.
The controls persist: Why can’t I chew gum? Why can’t I wear a hat? Why can’t I quietly listen to music through my headphones in the back of the room? Why can’t I put my head down? Why do I have to do this? Why are your forcing me?
And all along, you’re teachers measure you, judge you, sort you by ability, tell you what your self-worth is, and pit you all against each other in a giant competition that lasts throughout your youth. To condition you to continue competing through your adult life.
To think that being raised in that system is NOT causing people emotional distress… is ridiculous. And if it’s not working for you, there must be something wrong with YOU, and we’re going to treat you. By the way, our treatment is a medication that will likely make your life a living hell.
Dismissing, Hiding, and Sterilizing
God forbid someone express their emotional response to all this control.
We hide from society: don’t show emotion, then we can’t handle emotions when it explodes. Hide what it means to be human when it is inconvenient to us, we push our homeless people out of cities, put elderly in nursing homes, lock up prisoners, force our children in coercive and controlling schools, murder animals in slaughterhouse, and hide from public viewing all our natural human behaviors like shitting/pissing, sex, farting, burping, as well as experiences like crying, yelling, being afraid, feeling anxious, or even love.
No surprise that we also hide spirituality and religion.
Don’t know how to handle it – we’ve sterilized our society in the name of keeping things clean and safe. But really, we’ve just moved our problems somewhere else out of sight. Clean kitchen but now we have polluted waters from the detergents we used. And now, we drink that water and the poison is inside us – deep inside.
So I agree with you – we have severe mental health issues. And I think a big part of that, are these controlling and coercive systems, which psychiatry plays a big role in. I also am working on efforts to fix the school system, which is a conversation we can have another time. Right now, the APA is planning their annual meeting in New York City for May 6, and I’m going to be there, and I invite you to join us.
When you say #NeverAgain – I’m with you.
I’ve devoted most of my recent life to helping people escape from forced and coercive situations. I created the Peer Unschooling Network – a digital community to help teens escape school. I’ve done stand-up comedy to try and expose some of the realities of our psychiatric system. I have volunteered with MindFreedom International – a nonprofit that fights for human rights in the mental health system. I am a vegan, against animals being forced into a meaningless life of force. I’m against forcing elderly people into care they don’t want. And against our inhumane prison system as well.
And one thing all these places – schools, psychiatric hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes all have in common – is that psychiatry is being used against people with force, coercion, and lies.