Psyche Down Under
Newsletter of the Schizophrenia Drug-free Crisis Centre [Australia]
Issue 2, December 2001
Schizophrenia, Human Rights & Cultural Healing
The following (shared with Tim's permission) is typical of the letters I regularly receive from folk who have been labelled by biopsychiatrists (whom Medicare funds) as 'mentally ill':
As a consequence of my deeply personal empathy with schizophrenic experiences, in the same way that sufferers are commonly mistrusted and culturally marginalised, so my work is often responded to with suspicion or scorn in arenas where academic snobbery, clinical detachment, biologic dogma, the scapegoating of sufferers as 'mentally ill', the lack of respect for 'spiritual crises', coercive 'treatment' and the prescribing of brain-disabling psychiatric drugs are the norm.
As Director of Australia's Schizophrenia Drug-free Crisis Centre, I was therefore immensely heartened by the recent (2001) Australian publication of Dr Richard Gosden's groundbreaking book, Punishing the Patient: How Psychiatrists Misunderstand & Mistreat Schizophrenia and hastened to congratulate both Richard for writing it and Melbourne's Scribe publisher, Henry Rosenbloom, for having the moral courage to publish it. Since then, I have received many letters and phone calls from sufferers and relatives who have been inspired and helped by this important work, which sheds a bright light on their valid fears and concerns over the escalating menace of biopsychiatric control; in particular, over the human rights abuse inflicted through forced 'treatment' and the well-documented dangers of the toxic drugs that are euphemistically called 'medications'. The disturbing biopsychiatric trend to create more and more 'mental illnesses' as a means of curbing deviance from accepted cultural norms and patriarchal bias, has likewise been eloquently denounced in other noteworthy books.
While Australians gazed with horror at the terrorist attacks on the US of 11 September, 2001, a reign of 'polite terrorism', sanctioned under the respectable guise of 'psychiatric care', continued in our own backyard. Tragically, it is common for any culture to remain blind to its own 'dark side', as was the case with many German citizens' incredulous response to tales overheard about the atrocities committed by the Nazis. I have met with the same kind of disbelief when I have told fellow Australians about what I have personally witnessed, namely, usually quiet, gentle, spiritual and highly intelligent people being accused of being 'mentally ill', forced onto 'community treatment orders', routinely injected against their will with toxic drugs, or involuntarily strapped into hospital beds. I deal with such traumatised, often desperate and suicidal people, or their distraught relatives, almost every day and each unique, yet strangely familiar tale of entrapment in a living nightmare, renews my conviction that psychiatric fascism must be ousted from our midst, if we are ever to lay claim to being a civilized, just and humane nation.
The parallels between Nazism, Soviet human right abuses and coercive psychiatry - particularly in regard to schizophrenia as a 'witch-hunted' spiritual phenomenon - are not as far-fetched as might at first seem. In all cases, a powerful, intimidating elite preaching a pseudo-religious dogma, exercice control through fear and demanded mass conformity, over the powerless, despised, 'diseased', de-humanised adherents of a rival, genuinely spiritual attitude to life. Captive Jews were tormented, murdered and experimented on by Nazi psychiatrists, some of whom later fled to the US and set up practice there after World War II. (See the book Mass Murderers in White Coats, by Lenny Lapon)
Disturbingly, the Australian Government appears to have swept under the carpet major efforts to expose and denounce Australian psychiatric human rights abuse, notably the Chelmsford Royal Commission and the Government-commissioned Burdekin Report. The latter ostensibly distinguished between people who were genuinely 'mentally ill' and those who were 'alleged' to be. As Gosden remarks:
'Regardless of what the inquiry's original interpretation of 'alleged' mental illness might have been, it was certainly appropriate for an inquiry into human rights and mental illness to investigate complaints from any person who had suffered the discomfort and humiliation of a psychiatric diagnosis, and possibly incarceration and forced treatment, on the basis of a mere allegation. But despite the nomination of this category in its terms of reference, the inquiry completely ignored these people.' (p. 26).
Genuine 'mental health reform', then, requires that we address two equally important concerns: the discrediting of biopsychiatry as 'medicine', including a denunciation of the human rights abuse it sanctions, and the need to phase in safe, healing, non-coercive, workable and re-empowering alternatives to hospitals and psychiatric drugs. Bearing in mind that there is no medical proof that any (so-called) 'mental illness' is caused by biologic factors in the first place, I can certainly confirm Gosden's central thesis that those diagnosed as 'schizophrenic' fall into two, roughly equal camps: those who are social misfits and those who, like Tim, are going through a psychospiritual crisis.
As for the 'misfit' camp, recently a newly released patient who had come to me for a re-evaluation , told me that just before he had left Adelaide's Glenside Hospital lock-up ward, a fellow inmate had asked him to smuggle a razorblade back in to him, so that he could kill himself to escape the 'treating' psychiatrists. The released man had been arrested by police for standing in front of a bus and flagging it down between stops. He had been taken to Glenside, where a psychiatrist had promptly pronounced him 'schizophrenic' and had him committed and forcefully drugged. The 'diagnosis', in other words, was clearly being used as a means to punish, or control this non-violent man's mildly anti-social behaviour.
In contrast to this 'social control masquerading as medicine', my 'vision for cultural healing' is that there is an urgent need to realign our understanding of 'medicine' with the imaginal, soul-centred and visionary richness with which it was once inseparable. The 'divine madness' (Plato) that is nowadays considered to be 'schizophrenic', or 'mentally ill' has traditionally been the province of respected priest-healers, shamans, visionary writers, saints, poets, artists, dramatists and others imbued with that naturally authoritive, vitally mythopoeic, often ecstatic consciousness which is the fecund antithesis of the barren clinical jargon, rhetoric, 'illusion of expertise' and 'brain chemistry' dogma that today pass as 'psychiatry'.
All in all, I would redefine 'medicine' as 'that which heals', not merely by relieving, or band-aiding symptoms, but by re-connecting the individual and culture to the unitary ground of being which, from a wholistic scientific perspective, underpins all existence. My hope is that through the re-visioning of medicine as the art and science of wholistically healing body and soul, the therapists of the future will no longer be those who cling to an 'illusion of expertise' based on biologic dogma, textbook learning, academic respectability and a disturbing need to control. Instead, they will - as an outcome of a deep cultural healing that will reconnect us all to the neglected life of soul - once again be respected healers, servants of soul, visionaries, guides, prophets, shamans and other priestly mediators to the 'collective unconscious', people who with compassion, deep knowledge, wisdom, courage, imagination and navigational skill can help midwife, or resolve the personal and transformational crises, spiritual awakenings, trauma, sadness, pain, or self-rebirthing emergencies that are so insultingly and reductively labelled as 'mental illness'.
This major shift in our cultural psyche will require each of us to embark upon some serious soul-searching, re-education and cultural criticism in an effort to unveil the non-medical agendas through which schizophrenia sufferers - and others labelled as 'mentally ill' - become the convenient scapegoats of unacknowledged, or unrecognized cultural 'soul loss'. I hope that we shall each find the moral courage, openness to truth and compassion needed to celebrate and re-embrace the 'divine madness' which lurks in all of our hearts and which can bring new life, freedom, tolerance, imaginal richness, sanity, respect for nature and genuine 're-vision' to our spiritually bankrupt, 'consumerist' culture.
Safe & soulful journeys to all!
(Dr) Maureen B. Roberts
Text c. 2001. Extracted from work-in-progress, Divine Madness: Schizophrenia, Cultural Healing & Psychiatry's Loss of Soul.
News & Reviews
Some good news is that Dr Richard Gosden, at my invitation, has expressed interest in flying down to Adelaide in August 2002 to take part in a pioneering forum at which eminent US psychiatrist, Dr Loren Mosher (see included details) will be the primary guest speaker. Dr Mosher has courageously resigned from the American Psychiatric Association, which in his resignation letter he beratingly nicknamed the 'American Pharmaceutical Association'.
When I invited Dr Mosher to come to SA, he welcomed the opportunity, since he will at that time be on his way back from New Zealand, where he will be editing an exciting new book (on the psychosocial aspects of schizophrenia) by another colleague concerned about 'biopsychiatric control', Dr John Read of the University of Auckland. Visit the Temenos Foundation page to register for this not-to-be -missed 2-day forum.
Even more good news is that Dr Read and Dr Mosher have offered to join the 'soul-centred' Advisory Board of a brand new Australian venture, Temenos Foundation, which will incorporate the Schizophrenia Crisis Centre and which will offer drug-free 'residential crisis care' for sufferers of schizophrenia and severly traumatised victims of abuse, as well as training for those who wish to work in the context of this new, working vision for genuine 'mental health reform'. (Copies of the Temenos Vision Statement are available on request).
2001 was a year of varied and networking-oriented activities. Recently, I spoke to Year 12 students at Unley High School about 'schizophrenia and drug-free care', ran a workshop at Whyalla Rural Hospital for social workers interested in the same, and presented an information stall at the (RAH/drug company sponsored) Norwood Youth Mental Health Forum. Most of my work, however, concerns private consultations, responding to crisis phone calls (international and national), answering letters and e-mails, trying to finish a book on schizophrenia (which takes over where Richard's left off), Internet liaising, attending Guardianship Board appeal hearings (against forced psychiatric drugging, or detention) and endless amounts of photocopying, phone calls, faxing and posting - which is why I would welcome your help.
Can You Help?
Annual membership fees make a welcome contribution to the work of the Schizophrenia Crisis Centre and help cover expenses such as postage, phone calls, printing, photocopying, promotion, Internet work, PO box hire, purchasing of books and travel expenses. However, we as yet have a small membership and membership fees do not yet cover these costs, which therefore come (mostly) out of my (and research/admin. assistant) Julie Klau's pocket. We shall soon be submitting requests for funding from Community Benefit Scheme, since neither the SA Government, Medicare nor Medical Benefit Schemes offer any financial reimbursment. Meanwhile, please consider offering your help and support in the following suggested ways:
Photocopying, posting & distributing information and article
Producing & distributing this Newsletter
Inviting others to become members
Advertizing and running a home-based, or community centre-based support and study group
Helping raise funds (contacting potential sponsors, e.g. 'natural therapies' companies, door-to-door or street collecting, stalls, garage sales, fundraising concerts, personal donations, etc.)
List of Published Papers & Articles
Available on Request
Cost: 10c per A4 page, plus return Australian postage (usually 45c). Some of these articles are also available online.
On the Dangers of Drug-based Psychiatry:
"Psychiatry's Lack of Insight: Four Double-Binds that Place Patients in a Living Nightmare" (3 pg.) by Al Siebert, PhD [Clinical Psychologist]
"What is Wrong with Psychiatry?" (6 pg.) by Al Siebert, PhD
"How Non-Diagnostic Listening Led to a Rapid 'Recovery' from Paranoid Schizophrenia" by Al Siebert, PhD
"Testimonial Letters from Relatives & Sufferers" (4 pg.)
"Schizophrenia: The Shaman Sickness"
(2 pg. excellent summary) by Sam Malone [former sufferer]
"Australia's Invisible Religion: A Parable about Schizophrenia, Divine Madness & Psychiatry's Loss of Soul" (3 pg.) by Dr Maureen B. Roberts, PhD
"Schizophrenia: Your Questions Answered" (6 pg.) by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD
"Divine Madness: Shamanic Initiation & Schizophrenia" by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD (3 pg.)
"Retrieving Lost Soul: Shamanism, Jungian Therapy & Schizophrenia" by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD (3 pg.)
"Spiritual Emergence or Psychosis?" (8 pg.) by Selene Vega
"Schizo-Vision Quiz" (2 pg. fun quiz) by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD
"Why Cultural Healing Must Replace the 'Mental Illness' Fiction" (10 pg.) by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD
"When the Dream Becomes Real: Interview with Dr John Weir Perry" by Michael O'Callahan (4 pg.)
On Soul-centred & Psychoshamanic
"Depression: Your Questions Answered" (4 pg.) by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD
"Shamanic & Jungian Dreamwork" (3 pg.) by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD
"The Mythic Wound: Soul, Archetypal Therapy & Shamanism" (3 pg.) by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD
"(WW)Web Therapy: Shamanic Healing in Psyberspace" (6 pg.) by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD
"The Mandalic Self: Wholeness & Divinely Centred Consciousness" by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD (3 pg.)
"Awakening the Healing Centre of the Self" (2 pg.) by Maureen B. Roberts, PhD
"Psyche Down Under" (8 pg. newsletter)
Here are some other suggestions about how you might like to help . . .
Offering friendship & practical help to sufferers of schizophrenia
Liaising with Schools, Community Health Centre & Hospitals (to organize talks, etc.)
Collecting Personal Testimonies
Liaising by phone, e-mail & letters with Media, Politicians and Lawyers
Please feel free to print & distribute
this Newsletter as long as the content is not edited and no financial gain is involved.
updated 14 june 03
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