Silence is a deadly weapon when it is properly used

DO you have any idea how hard it is to make a complaint against a consultant psychiatrist, if you feel you have been mistreated?

Do you have any idea how hard it is to get the media to listen to tell your story? Remember you are trying to complain about the status quo of the medical profession. My friends in the legal profession tell that the hardest case and the most expensive to build is the case against a doctor.

Try to imagine how much more difficult that is when you are labelled with a diagnosis of “mental illness”.

Try to imagine how much more difficult if your family agree with that incorrect diagnosis, simply because you choose to live your adult life in a different way that offends them as a family.

Mad Pride Ireland quite by accident started to be a destination for the stories of the voiceless, we spoke with honesty of the abusive legal power that the Mental Health Act 2001 puts into the hands of psychiatry and compliant staff who are trained in our universities to cure emotional pain by force. People started to ring to tell of the abuse that was heaped on them based on nothing more than a judgment of their behaviour.

People started to tell Mad Pride they felt the pills they were being given were so much a part of that changing behaviour. People began to tell us that if you go to a hospital for help, but refuse the pills, they will not take you in.

As I write this, I have a beautiful, talented, creative, frantic 29-year-old woman who is trying to be admitted into a psychiatric unit in the Cork University Hospital ringing me. She is, she says, suicidal from taking the prescribed medications.

She wants to stop, but they will not let her into hospital, unless she agrees to take more pills. She has nowhere else to go; there is nothing else for her, unless she takes the pills she feels are harming her.

I know this young woman so well that if she is suffering from anything it is chronic loneliness, but I have no option but to advise her to go into that hospital and agree to be over-drugged again into a zombie — she has been drugged since she was a child.

That is the reality that faces so many families with young adult children. We have vested so much power into the hands of consultant psychiatry that it has clouded some of their judgement and other psychiatrists are remaining silent to protect the institution of the profession to the cruel detriment of the patient.

Can you imagine having been incorrectly labelled a “schizophrenic” and trying to address that mistake in modern Ireland?

There is no scientific test that “mental illness” exists as a diagnosis, so how the hell can a victim be tested to disprove the original diagnosis. Can you imagine how difficult it is to walk into a legal office and state, “I am not a schizophrenic”. I have found a new life through counselling and people who listen to me, I have stopped taking my medications for four years now, I am working and involved in the community away from my siblings and living a full life. Can you imagine the strength of character it must take in the current climate of segregation and stigma of the mad community? There is not, to my knowledge, one voluntary organisation that will listen and help. Mad Pride Ireland has listened.

We have a good working relationship with the statutory bodies, but they are hamstrung by the very bureaucracy they work for. So Mad Pride turned to the media. The caution within the media, the fear of libel laws, the fear of consequence is something to experience.

The very act of trying to raise the question of abuse further isolates you within the powerful status quo. So those who work within that system who also contact Mad Pride Ireland to tell us of abuse they witness are afraid to speak. This has got to sound so familiar to those who were victims of institutional child abuse.

Mad Pride has and will continue to listen to those who claim they have been abused by the Mental Health Act of Ireland 2001. So many are abused by the “goodwill” of families. So many are abused by staff. So many are abused by doctors.

There is now growing evidence that people are killing themselves as a consequence of the adverse side effects of legally prescribed drugs. Evidence that prescribed drugs cause sudden acts of violence. We legally allow staff to force citizens to take these drugs by forced injection in isolation cells after forced ECT.

There are simply too many courageous people speaking up now to doubt the fact that abuse exists. We have given absolute power to a handful of people and we know for a fact absolute power corrupts absolutely.

People in today’s Ireland are suffering loneliness and isolation. Financial strain stalks the land, stress is on the prowl, these are emotional problems; part of the human condition, a pill will not fix them, community love will. The fact is, for some, the pill as the only solution will make all this human distress worse.

The simple question is how are we, the community, going to stop this horrific abuse?

* John McCarthy is a human rights activist, author, poet and columnist.

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