Were they even listening?

  • Today I participated in Occupy APA, a fabulous small-to-midsize protest that addressed the issue of the upcoming DSM-5 and the dangers of coercive psychiatry. 

    The psychiatrists calmly filed in and out of the convention center. They were wearing nice shoes. For the most part, they did not make eye contact. “So, what do you think about all this?” I asked of one APA members. 

    “Oh, they come to all of the conferences…” 

    His tone was casually dismissive. 

    Did he not understand that there is a reason that people protest the APA? 

    We were all very impassioned and we spoke clearly and we spoke well as we stated the things that we understand to be true: that forced treatment causes harm, that the DSM is a mechanism of coercive profiteering, and that psychiatric medications present dangerous and lasting side effects. We spoke about Labels and how they had diminished us as people. We offered up our stories and our voices and, given the smug expressions of the psychiatrists, the APA was not impressed. 

    Did they not realize that, among us, there are Harvard graduates and doctoral fellows and documented geniuses? There are highschool drop-outs and the formerly homeless. There are people who’ve lived through the American prison system. We are all kind-hearted and wise in our ways. We’re amazing! We survived what was done to us under the guise of treatment – electric shock, forced injections, involuntary commitments, shame and stigma and families destroyed. We came to fight because we are outraged that such things are done to people. 

    Did they think that we were just whining? 

    A fellow protestor said that, as she was chanting, “People over profits!” an aging psychiatrist, a woman, walked past her, turned and gave her the finger that ubiquitously means: “You are nothing.” 

    Another psychiatrist is reported to have said, “I’m sorry you are so ignorant.” I wonder if he said “I’m sorry you are so angry.” – if he was simply misheard? 

    Could they really think that we are ignorant? 
    That we don’t know what we’re talking about?

    We are survivors. We are the experts on the effects of their treatments, because we lived through them. We know the outcomes. 

    Did they think we were strange? 
    Did they think we were losers? 
    Did they laugh at us in the halls outside of the conference rooms? 

    They should be ashamed of themselves. I think a couple psychiatrists may have been. There were a few who walked by and cast their eyes downward in a way that suggests a self in conflict. I hope that they don’t sleep well tonight and I hope that they will think about why it may have been hard to look at us and what that says about the industry they work in. 

    I saw a copy of the American Psychiatric Association’s trade magazine today. Obscuring part of the front cover was an advertisement for fluoxetine, Prozac. Inside were token features tucked between glossy, insert-style advertisements for psychiatric medications, for things such as “Symptoms of Schizophrenia.”

    The woman in the advertisement looked hopeless and ragged. Her skin was aging and pocked at the chin. Her hair was a little bit wild. She had green eyes and somewhat messy make-up. She looked frightened and her hands were placed palm-out, as if pressing against something…glass or the page itself. She appeared to be tired and sad and scared.

    It is only in thinking about that advertisement that I am beginning to feel some the weeping rage that I thought might overtake me during the course of the day. 

    Are psychiatrists fooled or complicit? I’d say they are both. Deeply, they are fooled and complicit. 

    When I was on my way into Pennsylvania I went past the AstraZeneca headquarters. I heard today that Glaxo, etc. is right around the corner. Directly or indirectly, I know that they paid for the convention center and possibly even the hotel rooms. They paid for the publication of that magazine, too, by paying for advertising. 

    There were other drugs advertised, too, for routine human things such as sleeping, laughing, and crying. 

    Isn’t part of responsible care and responsible business LISTENING to consumers, to those whom you earned/earn/will earn your profits from? Isn’t part of responsible care and business to DO NO HARM? 

    What about the Hippocratic Oath? Did tears come to their eyes when they spoke those words solemnly upon accepting the PRIVILEGES of their new role in our lives, as one who is TRUSTED to provide care? 

    Did they even hear themselves when they spoke those words? 

    Were they even listening?

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