It is a wonder how psychiatry can be classed as a medical profession at all – let alone such a massively prominent and powerful one in today’s self analysis-obsessed society.
There is no doubt that the study of the mind is fascinating and can be very helpful. But when such study is used for exclusionary purposes the discipline becomes malevolent.
There was a time when being gay was considered by psychiatry to be an “illness” and when behavioural modification techniques failed to cure the “malady” the patients were labelled as “not wanting to change” and “personality disorder”. Similarly suffragettes were referred to as clinically insane and “hysterical” women. Some so called “scientists” once claimed that black peoples brains were smaller than white people’s brains! Such opinions are so clearly ludicrous and malignant that virtually no intelligent person would even give such absurdity a second thought.
Vital here is to examine what structure psychiatry served at the points in history when such statements were being made. Could it not be that psychiatry is simply mirroring the society of the time? It suited society during the slave era to label and belittle black people, it suited an unenlightened society to assert that gays were “sick”, and of course the suffragette movement challenged a status quo – a patriarchal discourse – so it was highly convenient for such radical women to be discredited (and the hope was –silenced) by the “mad” label.
Thus, psychiatry has a history of being a tool of society and also the state, and has a history of being used for exclusionary purposes and as a silencer to wipe “less desirable” elements of society off the radar.
It is my strong conviction that the term “personality disorder” has for some time been used to silence and erase the adult victims of severe childhood abuse. Perhaps this is quite a bold and shocking statement…. What possible motivation could there be – what element in society would it be that psychiatry was mirroring exactly?
The NCPCC currently promote their funding campaigns using the Green FULL STOP logo. For many victims of abuse there is no FULL STOP – the damage can be life long. The NCPCC refuses to ally itself with any adult survivor movements, one argument for this being that the being associated with “mentally ill” adults would turn the public away from donating (the crying kids in the adverts attract more public sympathy and cash). Media responses to child abuses are thus dubious and the media (like psychiatry) hold a mirror to society more often than challenging it. There is the cult of “Misery lit” books regaling horrendous stories of abuse and at the end the victim triumphs. The reader demands a “happy ending” and publishers rarely publish books where the ending is anything less than “triumphing over adversity”. The bleak reality of long term damage rarely sells! The perpetual search for a true “triumph over adversity” creates a societal stigma to those victims who had sustained permanent damage and who can’t “just get over it”. Furthermore, if triumphing over adversity is really always possible (and as easy as the some media would have us believe) where is the incentive for change? Where is the motivation for society to actually face up to its own sickness? A sickness where family members and others turn a blind eye to abuse or would rather not face up to the uncomfortable truth – that child abuse is an issue that affects us all morally – that we have a collective responsibility – not only to recognise and believe it exists but actually do something about it.
Adult survivors of child abuse – especially the more damaged ones – serve as an ugly and distasteful reminder to society about some truths it seems not yet ready to deal with. It seems society cannot be forced to deal with what it is not ready for. History has taught us how unwanted elements in society are removed from radar : Pyschiatry.