By Hannah – The Brain Disease Theory of Mental Illness is a Human Rights Issue

Look twice at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Awareness Week.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) runs awareness campaigns just like this every year, with financial support from Big Pharma.  The educational message of both is that depression, schizophrenica, and bipolar are treatable medical conditions — brain diseases –and getting “help” is a good thing.
The public seems to believe, almost unanimously, thanks to “awareness” campaigns like these, that “mental illnesses” are brain diseases.

The Brain Disease Theory Ruins Lives

Laura Delano: Damaged by Diagnosis of a Brain Disease

Laura Delano: Damaged by Diagnosis of a Brain Disease

Listen to this speech by Laura Delano, a 29-year-old psychiatric survivor from the USA (posted here with her permission) about how the brain disease theory damaged her life.  It was delivered at a protest rally outside the American Psychiatric Association in 2012.

In her recovery memoir,  A Journey Back to Self, Laura writes:

“During my thirteen years in the mental health system, I believed that I was broken and incapable of being fixed., that I needed psychiatry to create a life that came anywhere close to ‘normal.’ — that my emotional suffering was due to something wrong with my brain, not the fact that I was a young girl trying to make sense of herself in a culture based so much on performance, achievement, and perfection.

The emptiness I felt inside, beneath the masks I wore, and the parts I played to keep up with everything I saw around me, was because I was severely ‘borderline’. I kept waiting and waiting for the day to come when my psychiatrist and my medications would give me a life worth living, and that day never came. Instead, my life became lonelier, emptier, and more numb than it had ever been before, and living it grew increasingly more challenging. Desperate for relief, I spent more and more hours in psychiatric treatment and left many months with an additional prescription in hand.”

— Laura Delano, from Journey Back to Self

I think Laura speaks for a great many people, that she speaks truth, and I hope that one day society will see the psychiatric survivor movement for what it is: a civil rights movement.

Evidence of a Brain Disease is Crumbling

Cracks are appearing everywhere in the scientific evidence behind the brain disease theory.  It is not supported by any evidence, Joanna Moncrieff, MD. says in her book The Myth of the Chemical Cure.  Dr. Moncrieff  is Senior Clinical Lecturer, Mental Health Sciences Unit, Faculty of Brain Sciences, University College London

 Studies by the World Health Organization show that long-term recovery rates are much higher in the developing world than in countries that rely of medication. People who get off the medications have rates of functional impairment (unemployment and permanent disability) lower than in countries that medicate less than we do, according to a study by Martin Harrow of the University of Illinois Chicago.
The “mentally ill” who appear as stories in the mainstream media are never really doing well.  They are constantly troubled even with the best “treatment”.  They don’t work or do anything much with their lives, to the point where their families call them a burden.
Recently, I saw an article where a family admitted they were relieved that their “schizophrenic” relative died.

The Brain Disease Theory De-Humanizes People

We have a system that medicalizes and dehumanizes people, that consigns people to periods of captivity and violent, forced druggings, where a human being gets labeled for life, and society believes they’ll never recover from their distress.
Somehow we believe that inflicting violence and dehumanizing conditions on someone — forced injections, solitary confinement, hospitalizations with no counseling, or any chance to express or release their feelings, where emotional outcries are countered by threats or more druggings — is the way to “help” them.
And when people fall apart again, some months or years after this treatment, they are just thrown in and mistreated again.

Alternatives to Hospitals

Many hospitals are cold, cold places, where staff’s mission is to keep things quiet and under control, where they believe so much in the brain disease model that all they do is warehouse and drug people until they’re not a bother anymore, and then release them, only to have the cycle repeat itself over and over again.
These are human rights abuses, not treatment. And seeking this kind of “help” does not help someone.

We don’t need more money in the system. We need more empathetic counseling and less drugging, fewer nurses, fewer doctors.

Instead, we need sanctuaries that encourage expression and are based on love, not the current punitive system that pretends to be therapeutic. We need more understanding of human beings and common human problems. We need wisdom. We need soul doctoring.

We don’t need to learn that some people are genetically inferior and doomed to be deviant. That attitude should have gone away with eugenics, but it hasn’t. And it’s disgusting. Promoting it is the antithesis of reducing “stigma”. As long as you say that a certain group of people are biologically broken, there is going to be stigma.

Editor’s note:  When NAMI embraced the chemical imbalance theory in the 1970’s, the idea was to eliminate stigma, to make “mental illness” a disease that can happen to anyone, not the fault of the victim or the family.  They called it ” a disease like any other,” like any disease of any vital organ.

If you tell someone they’re not responsible for their own emotions, that their emotions are “symptoms” of a brain disease, you’re saying they don’t have the capacity to be a fully equal human being. It’s like making them into permanent children. They can make certain decisions, but if they make the wrong ones, they aren’t responsible for them because they are “sick” with a brain disease

Few people ever suspected that the “mentally ill” are oppressed, preferring instead to believe the official line about the brain disease.

Don’t make any mistake. The brain disease theory is a political issue. And I hope one of these days even so-called “progressives” understand that.

How has the brain disease theory helped or hurt you?


Blaming the Brain: The Truth about Drugs and Mental Health by Elliot Valenstein
Pseudoscience in Biological Psychiatry: Blaming the Body by Alvin Pam and Colin A. Ross
The Myth of the Chemical Cure: A Critique of Psychiatric Drug Treatment by Joanna Moncrieff
Elliot S. Valenstein, PhD is Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan and former Chairman of the Biopsychology Program.
Alvin Pam PhD practices psychology, clinical psychology and psychotherapy in Bronx, New York.
Dr. Colin Ross (MD) is an internationally renowned clinician, researcher, author and lecturer in the field of dissociation and trauma-related disorders.


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