Bigotry against mental patients is nothing new. For thousands of years, people in the western world who have been slapped with a mental illness label, have been treated as having lost our humanity and become second- and third-class citizens. But the way that works in the twenty-first century in the western world contains some surprises that even veteran mental patients might not expect. This blog post briefly touches on a few of those surprising ways.
First, the people most bigoted against mental patients, and bigoted to pretty much the same level as white supremacists are against blacks, are psychiatrists. For eight years psychiatrists receive training to disregard anything a mental patient says and just pick her words apart for symptoms. As a result of that training, psychiatrists become literally incapable of hearing what a person slapped with a mental health label says. It’s not just that psychiatrists don’t listen to their patients; it’s that they are not able to hear us because that ability has been destroyed by eight years of training. So there is no malice on the part of a psychiatrist who appears to ignore a patient’s complaints of severe side-effects to medication she’s taking; the psychiatrist is just trained to presuppose that all such complaints must be delusionary and therefore not valid.
Another interesting phenomenon is the existence of trigger phrases. Those phrases are typically overused cliches that have been leached of all meaning and are therefore meaningless. When used, they cause a person’s mind to shut down and go into a fantasy-land of deaf prejudice. One such phrase is that a patient “doesn’t trust doctors.” It’s like a Christian saying someone is “angry with God:” an empty formula used purely to discredit someone. Saying that a mental patient “doesn’t trust doctors” automatically causes the patient to be dismissed as being in the middle of a psychotic episode and therefore totally not credible. Another such phrase is actually a word: “conspiracy.” Whenever anyone says the word “conspiracy” with any reference at all to a mental patient, it renders everyone in the room braindead, and even a high-functioning, highly intelligent and highly articulate mental patient might as well be speaking a foreign language no one understands.
the third and most significant way that bigotry against mental patients works around here today is the fascinating dynamic of conflict. When a mental patient says something that someone else disagrees with or doesn’t like, the other person just has to mention the mental health label in order automatically to have everyone believe everything they say, and no one believe anything the mental patient says. I’ve had LGBT activists use that technique when they’ve disagreed with me–people who suffer discrimination themselves, deliberately causing another minority to suffer discrimination. That is how automatic that behavior is. And very often it consists of the other person, who really just disagrees with something the mental patient says, becoming genuinely concerned and saying: “Have you been taking your medication?” This genuine concern is a way for the person to hide from themselves that they are, in fact, being bigoted. It’s the rule in progressive communities such as my city of Toronto, because, here, overt hate speech is much frowned upon and might even be against the law, so people engage in covert hate speech against mental patients in socially acceptable ways.
There are many other forms of bigotry against mental patients in today’s supposedly progressive western world, but those are the ones that come to mind immediately. I hope that you’ve enjoyed, and gotten benefit from, reading about them here.