Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Remember the JetBlue guy?

Ex-JetBlue flight attendant pleads guilty under plea deal

Steven Slater pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted criminal mischief, a felony, and fourth-degree attempted criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. Under terms of the plea deal, he must enter a year long mental health program. During the program, he must take assigned medications and not get arrested. If he does not comply, he could receive between one and three years in jail.

He is yet another example of the myth of mental illness. He's not mentally ill. His actions went well beyond the norm and, in this case, are a threat to the State. Psychiatry is a handmaiden of the State, as the last sentence in the following paragraph about Thomas Szasz explains.

"Mental illness" is an expression, a metaphor that describes an offending, disturbing, shocking, or vexing conduct, action, or pattern of behavior, such as schizophrenia, as an "illness" or "disease". Szasz wrote: "If you talk to God, you are praying; If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia. If the dead talk to you, you are a spiritualist; If you talk to the dead, you are a schizophrenic."[8] While people behave and think in ways that are very disturbing, and that may resemble a disease process (pain, deterioration, response to various interventions), this does not mean they actually have a disease. To Szasz, disease can only mean something people "have," while behavior is what people "do". Diseases are "malfunctions of the human body, of the heart, the liver, the kidney, the brain" while "no behavior or misbehavior is a disease or can be a disease. That's not what diseases are" Szasz cites drapetomania* as an example behavior which many in society did not approve of, being labeled and widely cited as a 'disease' and likewise with women who did not bow to men's will as having "hysteria"[9] Psychiatry actively obscures the difference between (mis)behavior and disease, in its quest to help or harm parties to conflicts. By calling certain people "diseased", psychiatry attempts to deny them responsibility as moral agents, in order to better control them.

The above quote is taken from Wiki.

*Drapetomania is a clinical term coined in the 19th century. "Though a serious mental illness, drapetomania, wrote Dr. Cartwright, was happily quite treatable: ''The cause, in the most of cases, that induces the negro to run away from service, is as much a disease of the mind as any other species of mental alienation, and much more curable. With the advantages of proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented.'' (From the New York Times: Bigotry as Mental Illness Or Just Another Norm)


  1. Rossa,

    A person is responsible for their own behavior. On that I agree.

    I'm grateful for Dr. Szasz, and much of what he had to say about conventional psychiatry - the scam, the pseudoscience.

    The problem I have with some of what he has to say, is that I find it condescending.

    There are those who "blame the brain" - the extremist who think nobody is responsible for their own behavior.

    Then, we have the "blame the parent" group - all of their problems come from their upbringing...

    I can appreciate the challenge to overcome trauma, and have a lot of empathy for a person who has undergone abuse... I'm talking more, I suppose on people who constantly talk about their own family dysfunction, and never get around to taking responsibility for their own lives.

    The third group that becomes hard for me to embrace are those who discredit anything going on in the body that might explain some of the symptoms...

    This is where I think Dr. Szasz gets it wrong, to a large extent.... A person who is experiencing severe depression, anxiety attacks, or disassociation may not be experiencing a "disease", but it would be hard to argue that something isn't going on!...

    And that "something" can be unresolved trauma, or it can be related to a thyroid problem, blood sugar problem, hormonal imbalance...

    So many people are quick to dismiss "chemical imbalance", I think because it conjures up biopsychiatry... But the body/brain can become imbalanced temporarily, and a person can need help getting it back in balance...

    This is where I hope we can go some day...
    Away from the "blame the brain" approach, beyond the "blame the parent" approach, and toward focusing on where a person is right now, today... and how to find more wellness, more peace, more happiness, more productivity.

    Here are some good wellness links, if anyone is interested in finding solutions -


  2. Rossa,

    In fairness, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), the group founded by Dr. Szasz does a lot to encourage and support integrative medicine for "mental illness."

    Sometimes, it's strange to read what Dr. Szasz has written, and/or watch his videos, and then see the work of organizations that are funded by CCHR, and/or given awards, etc.

    Maybe you know more about this than I do...

    Duane Sherry

  3. Hi, Duane - I respect what Dr. Szasz brings to the table regarding what mental illness is and isn't. That being said, I wouldn't want to be a patient of his, for exactly the type of characteristic you bring up. Without even knowing him personally, he comes across as condescending and chilly. (I have also heard that Dr. Szasz was not a practicing psychiatrist. To me, he is more of a mental health philosopher/thinker. I also respect what Peter Breggin has to say, but he also falls into the same category as Szasz and comes across as quite an extremist. So, again, I wouldn't seek him out as my psychiatrist. These people are better read than experienced, I guess. They have something very important to say and we wouldn't be where we are without them. I agree with your first message - it would be nice to get away from blaming this and blaming that. It's probably too soon, as we have been subjected for too long to the "don't blame the environment blame the bad brain" argument and there is always push back by the victims of this particular thinking that tends to take things to the other extreme.

  4. Rossa,

    It seems to me that what Dr. Szasz and Dr. Breggin are both saying is that we have yet to prove there is a "chemical imbalance,"... understandable.

    We have also yet to prove there isn't one... I'm not talking about the failed dopamine theories of conventional biopsychiatry... where we arbitrarily flood the brain with a nueroleptic (or cocktail of drugs) to stop that nasty dopamine production (can't have too much of that stuff, according to those wanna-be "docs").....

    Some sanity is missing here. Plain and simple. I think Dr. Mary Ann Block gets it right for her patients... Explainiing how chemicals in the brain are constantly changing, and how the body can become unbalanced, and re-balanced as well.

    It would be hard to argue for instance (at least it would seem) that a trauma could not (would not) change the brain chemistry - for a short while, and/or long while if left unresolved... And it would seem that a physical condition related to blood sugar, hormones, thyroid, etc could change the nuerotransmission in the brain as well.

    The problem is so much of this cannot be measured... Although, there have been some amazing studies on neurofeeback and nutrients... Ironically, much more scientific than biopsychiatry...

    Hell, anything is more scientific than biopsychiatry!

    Duane Sherry

  5. I don't disagree with what you are saying, Duane. Trauma also produces changes in brain chemistry. Resolve the traumatic underpinning and the brain chemistry tends to clear itself up (Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt). From my own experience with Chris, we engaged a holistic psychiatrist who was very against the drugs, and who put Chris on all kinds of different vitamin supplements. It was looking really good, he got off the drugs, and then BOOM, back he slipped into psychosis. Perhaps if the reason for the psychosis in the first place was a reaction to a prescription drug or a dietary need, then I could see that the supplements would greatly benefit him and no more psychosis. Since that wasn't the case with Chris, I had to dig harder for an explanation, and I realized that his psychosis was anger at us and his inability to resolve the problem any other way. I don't think the holistic psychiatrist "got" this. She seemed to be very much of the opinion that if you clear up the underlying biochemistry, the psychosis will go away. And it didn't. We had failed to effectively address the reason for the anger. The psychiatrist came up with all kinds of physical reasons for the psychosis (candidiasis is one that comes to mind), and we sweated over the daily intake of vitamins, which made his results better from a muscle testing perspective, but we hadn't addressed what was going on in his head. (Well, we had been trying to through various interventions, and were getting good results, but it takes a long time.) Some people are lucky. Their psychosis really will evaporate with vitamin interventions, but I feel the picture in most cases is much more complex. It is really frustrating that you just have to take someone's word for it when it comes to mental health.

  6. I think it's always a good idea to check one's diet for stuff that may make things worse. Many people experience reactions to caffeine, sugars, gluten, etc., that then get interpreted as symptoms of their "mental illness", they're not told that what they eat can influence how they feel (psych staff often may not give dietary advice, even if they know about these things, as it isn't "evidence based medicine"), and what worse is, they serve exactly the junk food that has a potential to intensify "symptoms" at many psych wards. I'm skeptic towards massive use of vitamins and minerals though. It may help some, and it's probably worth a try, as there are very few if any side effects. But I wouldn't count on it as the solution. I've heard of too many people like your son, Rossa, for whom it brought some relief, but simply didn't work out in the long run. Also, if a vitamin/mineral deficit was the problem for most people, approaches like Soteria or Open Dialog wouldn't have (had) the outcomes they do (did) have. Last but not least, I personally would have a problem with having to take I don't know how many supplements a day. That problem would certainly be minor than the one I'd have with having to pop psych drugs on a daily basis, but still...

    What I've heard of Szasz (and Breggin) is that they don't seem to have much understanding for the fact that people taking responsibility for themselves isn't necessarily achieved by kicking their a.., by asking them to pull themselves up by their boot straps. As far as I know, Breggin for instance isn't prepared to help anyone, unless they pay him, full charge, no mercy. People who go through more severe crises, are rarely able to hold a job. Not to mention a well-paid one that would allow them to see a therapist like Breggin on a regular basis for an extended period of time.

  7. Rossa and Marian,

    I appreciate what both of you have to say.

    I look forward to the day when we at least stop doing more harm than good... That would be a good place for our mental health system (worldwide) to begin!

    Marian, I also look forward to the day when more people can hold a job... because, I'm convinced there is no better "therapy" for those who can...

    I'm not at all implying that everyone can work... I don't think that for a minute...

    But I do look forwrad to the day when people are not so brutalized by psychiatric drugs and "treatment" that they are able to go to work, and build good lives.

    We really need to trash the current system...

    It's not broken, it's shattered!
    I doesn't need to be repaired, it needs to be replaced!

    Consumer-driven, peer-run, unlocked units to help people in trauma... That would be a start, and then we could go from there!

    My best,

  8. My ideal scenario if landing for the first time at the emergency entrance of the hospital is this one. Someone like Al Siebert meets us and walks us through it like he did. The treatment is empathy and agreement that we are not crazy. "Medications" is limited to niacin therapy. I, too, look forward to the day when more people work than don't. Work is such a big component of self-esteem.

  9. Duane and Rossa, one thing are the drugs, whose disabling side effects more often than not prevent people from becoming self-supporting and independent from the system -- the mh system as well as the social one. Another thing is that, drugs or no drugs, most people need a "time out" while going through crisis. Only a very few manage to go to work, and deliver a decent, acceptable job, on a daily basis, with the turmoil of crisis at its peak going on inside. I for one was able to do my work, looking after horses, mostly on my own. I wouldn't have been able to sit in an office and concentrate on paperwork, or at the supermarket's checkout, or anything along those lines.

    The problem is that our society doesn't leave much room for people to take the "time out" they need from the rat race. If you can't keep up with it, you're sick, you are the problem, and before you know of it, you're drugged. And even if that means you end up on disability, at least it shuts you up. No one has to deal with the fact that the need for a "time out" is a natural one that our society should offer room for. Those are the politics of (neo-)liberalism. And both Szasz and Breggin are liberalists... "Everyone is the architect of his own fortune", and misfortune. Social injustice doesn't exist. Blame the individual. This is where I disagree with Szasz and Breggin.

  10. Marian - You have excellent insight and recognize the need to take time out, but I am curious as to how you paid the bills during your crisis. The crisis can last for years, as you point out. Some people are incapable of functioning for years, and others, and I think you are one of them, could. But someone has to pay the rent.

  11. Marian,

    I'm glad you were able to find a job you could do, something you enjoy.

    I think if the mental health system helped people remove themselves from toxic environments (where there is abuse/neglect), and overcome trauma in a calm and peaceful way, there would be a lot less time to "blame the individual."

    In fact, we might come to understand that most individuals who are experiencing extreme states, and other tough symptoms are doing the best they can...

    Giving them hope that there are people who have been through the same, and now are doing well... Helping them realize they can do the same...

    Giving them the time they need to get there... Helping them find a niche in life that gives a sense of self-worth, and pays the bills as well... That's where we need to go.

    If the mental health system put a tenth of the energy into this approach as we waste in the "blame" category, we might be able to get the job done.

    In other words, maybe we could stop "blaming" the invididual, long enough to show them we still believe in them... We have faith in them.


  12. Rossa, yes, someone has to pay the rent, or you end up homeless. That's my point. I think, we as a society have an obligation to offer people who react to society in a way that renders them unproductive for a period of time, be it shorter or longer, the opportunity to take that time out they need under circumstances which make it possible for them to remain fully equal members of society. As it is now, we marginalize these people not only by labeling them, locking them up, and drugging them into a state where they hardly can function, but also socially by discharging them into the street, because no one paid the rent while they were locked up. And this doesn't only happen in the US. It also happens in European countries with more extended social security systems. Also these systems have loopholes, and people fall through them regularly. Enormous amounts of money are spent on a kind of care that doesn't work, actually makes things worse, and that people often don't even want, while there's not a dime (or a 50-øre coin ;) ) to meet people's most essential needs for a place to stay and for decent food. Not to mention the need for someone to really support them, to be with them, while they're going through crisis. Which, in this situation, too is an essential need. So, basically, everything is done, both by the psychiatric and the social system, to marginalize and victimize people, and the only option you have left, once you're marginalized and victimized, is to find someone who'd help you, although all you here and now could give in return was a (stolen) apple for a therapy session. Now, ask Peter Breggin if he'd be willing to help you for a (stolen) apple per session. I know therapists who would. Breggin isn't among them. That's the problem I have with him. -- While ideally of course, no one would have to steal as much as an apple to get the help and support they need, and the Peter Breggins of this world would still get paid for their work.

  13. Thanks, Marian. Chris told me that he had visited a friend recently who used to be in the program with him. Chris was saddened to see that his phone was being disconnnected where he was living because he couldn't pay for it. He has no visible means of support and appears to be living in some sort of social housing. His mother lives in the city, too. I think your Breggin comment is very astute.

  14. I'm Andrew, and I'm a 'parnoid schizophrenic' supposedly. I'm a huge fan of Thomas Szasz's writngs, having read the vast majority of his works, and to me he's just a humanist who lost his illusions about the human race very early on in his life and became extremely teed off, making him into a bit of righteous misanthrope, burdened with the knowledge of the hypocrisy, mendacity, intolerance and selfishness that are the essential constituents of the thought and feeling of the generality of the people who act in the human comedy.

    I think there is a kind of moral beauty in his anger, and anger I think is a perfectly healthy response to living in a world prepossessed in favour of the ruthless and the strong, a truth so unpalatable that few have the courage to acknowledge it.

    As the filmmaker Jean Renoir once said, 'everyone has his reasons', and if Mr Szasz comes across as quite cold and curmudgeonly, I'm sure it is easily attributable to organised psychiatry's despicable scapegoating campaign, inter alia. He is like the character Dr Stockmann in Ibsen's superb play 'The Enemy of the people'; he aligned himself against society because he realised the moral imperative of doing so regarding its treatments of the deviant Other.

    Also, as a person who has been a victim of 'Therapeutic Rape' and 'Medicalised Terrorism', who has been forced to take drugs that I know from direct experience are capable of inflicting tortures on man that make death seem merciful (also I do not subscribe to the notion that the Nazi's extermination of mental patients, which they euphemised as 'mercy killings' in a pathetic attempt to make murderers seem respectable, represented the quintessence of psychiatric evil, on the contrary, I find it far more merciful to kill someone quickly than to kill them slowly and torturously with drugs that cause akathisia and cervical dystonia), I find Szasz's anger empowering, and I think it incumbent upon people who don't base their criticisms on experience that they learn from that anger, because we get knowhere sanitising the critical discourse, nowhere wasting honeyed words on psychiatric inquisitors and exploiters of vulnerabilty, nowhere showing courtesy for such a despicably self-serving profession that continues to this very day to sacrifice more and more vulnerables to their de facto paradigm of control, torture and extermination, just so it can avoid admittance of its blunders and crimes and so that these people can protect their self-concept as healers and benefactors of the people whose lives they have destroyed.

  15. In the third paragraph I mean't to add that he like Stockmann probably resents the vilification that in times of mendacity's and corruption's triumph redounds to the act of telling the truth.

  16. Andrew - I appreciate your eloquence. Feel free to add your insights to my blog.


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