Recently I was at the World Congress of Psychiatry in Berlin to talk about my involvement in a film about a psychiatrist with bipolar called ‘The Wounded Healer’
I give Dr Ahmed Hankir a hard time in the film, and I gave the psychiatrists at the congress a hard time too. The level of denial exhibited by a lot of the psychiatrists there is breathtaking. When the issue of power imbalance was raised, one doctor said it was no difference to the power imbalance when you take your car to the garage and the mechanic knows more than you.
A mechanic can’t force an injection, lock you up, electrocute your brain, and then ask you to trust them. Stigma was talked about as carrying a mark that excludes you, and my ‘service user’ identity badge meant I could not access the part of the congress that had stalls promoting psychiatric drugs. Doctors came out of that section with gifts. Don’t you think I deserve a bloody gift for the devastation psychiatric drugs has wrought of my body and mind. It puts paid to the idea that I am a ‘service user’ as I have no choice about the ‘service’ or the right to ask the companies that make billions from people’s mental distress anything about the meds I have been on.
At the psychiatrist congress in Berlin, the idea that mental distress is within the individual and not a response to things that have happened to people was also very strong. One even said to me “You can’t help people until they are ready to let go of stuff.”
I said to her “A lot of people would love to let go of being oppressed or discriminated against, or raped or hated. But it doesn’t happen that way, for some reason.” She looked at me as if I was sectionable. I looked at her as if she was a wanker.
The art I created in response is called ‘The Pathologised Self’