Why Occupy Should Pay Attention to the PharmaPsychiatric Complex

On May 5, 2012, people who care about human rights will gather in Philadelphia for an event called Occupy the American Psychiatric Association (Occupy the APA). Their goal is to protest the approval of the latest version of psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5, which will label as pathological many of our human experiences and emotions.

What does this have to do with the Occupy movement?

The Occupy movement seeks to help people regain control of their lives, which have been undermined by corporate domination. In the framework of conditions that make corporate abuse possible, the Pharma-Psychiatric Complex plays a key role.

As a participant in Occupy Sacramento said, “Why is this important to the 99%? The inordinate influence of Big Pharma in orchestrating decades of campaigns to expand force and coercion in mental health care is a high-profile example of how corporations continue to undermine democracy, human rights and dignity in their pursuit of ever-increasing profits.”

Throughout history, ideas about what is “normal” human behavior have shaped our cultures and economies. Those who fail to meet the criteria for “normal” have routinely been maligned and relegated to the outer edges of society.

Since the mid-20th century, there has been a growing trend to medicalize and pathologize a range of human experience. The psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries are at the helm of this effort, and their interest in perpetuating myths about mental illness and its treatment is almost entirely economic. As reported by Fortune magazine, in one recent year 12 pharmaceutical companies made $63,972,000,000 in profits. That’s almost 64 billion dollars!

By funding biased research, extensive legislative lobbying campaigns, and slick marketing, the Pharma-Psychiatric Complex has effectively established a society of illness in which people increasingly find themselves and their loved ones, even their children, coerced into treatment by institutions that profit from sustained illness and rely on medications as “treatment.” If medications are not effective, or if a person does not want to take medications, more restrictive and invasive measures may taken, often against the will of the person being treated.

The strain and inflation of national healthcare costs increase with the cost of medication, exorbitant hospital bills, Intensive Outpatient centers and long-term dependent care facilities. There are far more humane and effective ways to treat those experiencing challenges, yet profit-driven interests create legislative roadblocks to establishing systems of care that place human services and healing above the interest of the pharmaceutical profit margin.

Not only does the Pharma-Psychiatric Complex profit, but a unique form of social control is achieved within a culture that brutally stigmatizes that which is different.

The culture of “normal” extensively supports a wide range of corporate interests, such as competitive workplace culture and the hottest new over-priced shoes. Increasingly, if one fails to adhere to the norms set by corporate culture, or if they experience distressing reactions to the sheer insanity of our modern lives and times, they are told that they are ill.  Typically, no alternatives to prescribed medical treatment are offered.

The criteria for mental illness is detailed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and, with the 5th Edition about to be approved by the American Psychiatric Association, many people who thought that they were just “having a hard time” may now be told that they have a serious mental disorder and will need to be medicated.

Most people know that corporations routinely place profit over human rights, and Big Pharma is no exception. In fact, in many ways, Big Pharma is a leader among corporate abusers.

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