'Mental Health Overhaul' = Big Brother will be walking large in Ontario

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Once again the Province of Ontario is contemplating a revamp of how it delivers mental health 'services'.

The claim being made by the government is that the existing resources 'lack co-ordination' - essentially meaning they haven't yet successfully managed the task of  surveilling and intervening in the lives of psychiatrized persons on a 24/7/365 basis from cradle to grave.

The current system (even without 'increased co-ordination') is a miasma of unscientific, repressive undertakings against vulnerable populations that should horrify anyone who cares about freedom and democracy. But it's sad to say such concepts go out the window when talking about folks who bear one of the DSM's pejorative designations.

As psychiatry's focus has gradually shifted from within the asylum walls to the outside world where most people live, love, work and play, our neighborhoods, community meeting places, social agencies and even our very living spaces are seeing a slow metamorphosis into a giant open-air psychiatric prison.

Within this environment literally all citizens are becoming inmates experiencing varying degrees of privilege or restriction in accordance with their level of compliance with unwritten social mores which while they have no basis in law, nonetheless wield enormous power over our daily lives.

With the continuation of this shift the very idea of 'community' has become corrupted. It used to be that 'communities' were a voluntary association of human beings who chose to work together, live with and offer support to one another within a framework and spirit based on co-operation among equals.

Now 'community' has become the misleading buzzword for the disparate, open-concept jail that has been steadily ensnaring us, with virtually all concept of co-operation, trust and mutual benefit having been extinguished.

The 'mental health' system has played a leading part in this with its pathologizing of human behavior, beliefs and perceptions of the world, its fostering of pervasive bigotry towards those of us who see the world with different eyes (or who have been too outspoken or loud about the pain it has inflicted upon ouselves and others) and the smokescreen of false medical compassion it uses to justify its excesses.

Any 'mental health overhaul' in Ontario (or anywhere else) carries the potential to knit this nightmarish but relatively disorganized infrastructure into a seamless web of control from which there will be literally no escape. When viewed in the context of existing social values and factoring in the sophistication of the technology being used for control purposes, this outcome appears inevitable if not met with a firm challenge.

It could become a structure within which anyone with a label could realistically  expect to face lifelong surveillance and regular, unexpected, unwanted interventions.  It can also be anticipated that the system will be perpetually looking for new human fodder upon which to justify and sustain itself.

The various components of this have already been forming or evolving over the years with varying speed according to who wields power at the time. Thanks in particular to former  Ontario premier Mike Harris introducing community treatment orders and ACT teams to this province in the late 1990's and early in 2000, Ontario's 'mental health' infrastructure has become an ever-more  pervasive force against anyone who bears a label, with even the relative safety of our own homes (for those fortunate enough to have one) now having been stolen from us.

Then there's the scary boondoggle known as 'community crisis teams' which pair a police officer with a 'mental health' professional (usually a nurse) on patrol. Introduced as a pilot project during the late 1990's in Toronto's east downtown before quietly being deployed city-wide, these teams are literally the Thought Police. Despite the stated purpose for introducing these teams, they have accomplished nothing in terms of reducing the number of fatal encounters between psychiatric survivors and law enforcement. 

The police have long been an integral component of the broader 'mental health' system and now potentially serve as one of the primary means through which people will come into contact with it.

With cop culture being predicated upon legalized use of deadly force, coupled with the existing prejudice and fear against people who bear a label (this being especially strong among police officers)  is it any wonder that encounters between police and pychiatrized persons so often turn fatal? 

Even when this doesn't happen the result is almost invariably an innocent person being taken in shackles to a place of confinement where they will be stripped of all autonomy and dignity. Why is it that persons guilty of no offense under the law are being subject to interventions of a nature that are usually reserved for the punishment of criminals?

This makes it clear that the 'mental health' system is in truth a system of punishment. 

Such an assault on the freedoms of those who have committed no crime ought to automatically raise a red flag and horrify anyone who still believes in democracy – yet it is incredible how frequently even people who think of themselves as 'progressive' will either turn away from the abuses or themselves resort to the false medical litany which is used to justify them.

Such folks have either been taken in by psychiatry's con job or are simply unable to admit to (much less face) their own biases toward those perceived as 'mad, crazy', 'seriously mentally ill' (or insert whatever other term best suits the occasion).

The estimated numbers of those who could be expected to experience 'mental illness' in their lifetimes has grown steadily over the years, from one in 100 to one in five, while at the same time the DSM has expanded in dimension until it literally equals the physical mass of a large Ottoman.

Does 'improved research or knowledge' have anything to do with all of this? Noooooooooooo... decisions on the contents of the DSM are political in nature, as their inclusion has always been subject to a vote by a committee of the American Psychiatric Association. This process seems to be framed in accordance with current (and ever-changing) social and political values. New 'diagnoses' have consistently appeared (and old ones sometimes disappeared or been modified) as the socio-policical winds have shifted.

Psychiatric labeling has always played a major part in suppressing dissent and we are seeing an increase in this role nowadays. But while people screamed in outrage when this took place in dictatorships like the former Soviet Union, the same 'justifications' as those once employed by the Kremlin go seemingly unnoticed when they occur in 'democratic' countries.

As a tool of social control psychiatry knows no borders – so why is it these practices are decried when used by authoritarian regimes yet accepted and even encouraged in 'democratic' nations?  Why is it that practices or doctrine that prompted world outrage when used in Russia are seeing increasingly broad acceptance in Canada?

The answer would appear to reside in the success of the sugar-coating applied rather than in the practices themselves, as these differ little across geological or political boundaries.

When viewed within the context of  an authoritarian regime the true nature of psychiatric doctrine and its application becomes plain to see – yet the identical ideology and function goes seemingly unnoticed when the false veneer of 'democracy' is applied.

We need to stand up and speak out, NOW – before this noose has the chance to tighten inexorably around our lives. We need to vigorously challenge the status quo and the falsehoods underlying it as well as taking a zero-tolerance approach to the prejudices which are used to justify it, including when they are expressed by our own peers.

The underlying profit motive fueling aspects of the system needs to be exposed and confronted, and psychiatry's medical model revealed for the fraud it is. The state (and especially law enforcement) needs to be removed from the equation altogether when it comes to dealing face to face with people experiencing crises in their lives.

We need to be creating the kind of supports for ourselves that are capable of making a real difference in peoples' lives, not just by chemically masking the visible manifestations of their pain or removing from public view (and participation) those whose perception of the world differs from the mainstream.

And perhaps most of all, we need to be working in our own communities to systematically dismantle the inequalities and abuses which so often lie at the root of what gets called 'mental illness'.

Ultimately, this system (like any other in society) exists because a sufficient number of people have consented to its existence. The time has come to withdraw that consent – once and for all!