ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Dehumanizing People with Mental Illness

Jack Bragen
Saturday May 02, 2020 - 03:23:00 PM

Note: in this piece, I am using the term, "designated group." That is because any grouping or lumping together of human beings is artificial. You could put people in a category of those with large nose size or of having type II diabetes. Yet, these are criteria that allow people to be put in a group, and it is based on the thinking of one or more persons. I hope that helps the following make more sense.

Historically and today, preliminary to pseudo-scientific abuse is to paint a designated group as subhuman. If we are speaking of people with disabilities, this perception may include depicting people as cute--e.g., "It was only a hamster."

Painting someone as sick or subhuman are tools used by an abuser to gain collaboration with peers in organized and systematic abuse of an intended victim, and in some instances it is sanctioned by governments, or at the very least, by organizations.

When people are put into categories, e.g., psychiatric "clients," they are considered objects of study and not human beings. This is a way of hiding behind the cloak of supposed science to subjugate and harm a designated group. 

When the U.S. perpetrated slavery, Americans of African ancestry were bogusly considered property and not people. Following slavery, the U.S. Military Public Health experimented on the Tuskegee Airmen (a division of fighter and bomber pilots who fought in WWII, who were/are black--some may still be living) by giving them syphilis and not treating them, in order to study the progression of the disease. This is an infamous example of committing an atrocity in the name of science. It wasn't science, it was a war crime, and it was done by and to Americans. 

Human beings who behave in a disorganized manner, if not incarcerated, are often funneled into the mental health treatment system. Once firmly established in that system, it seems that there is no exit route. While I am not denying that treatment is essential for psychiatric illness, the treatment system is set up to keep us down. 

Abuse, as it continues today, also consists of tying patients to a restraint table, overmedicating by force, and subtler actions, such as brainwashing. In the not so distant past, the abuses were worse. 

Information about us is disseminated, while we are told that our information is confidential. This is a complete misrepresentation. As soon as we sign a release of information, information can be shared about us. These releases are standard practice, are often presented to us when we are not prepared to think about what we're signing, and the implication is that we must sign, and that signing is mandatory. 

Sadistic people sometimes find it satisfying to read books and to study works concerning atrocities that have been perpetrated on human beings in history. It may never occur to some browsing individuals that their fascination is not purely that they are seeking knowledge, it is sickness. 

E. Fuller Torrey, unpopular among mental health consumers, has said something with which I fully agree. (This is not an exact quote): There has not been enough brain research, and we do not yet have medications available that are any better than what we had more than twenty years ago, when Clozaril was discovered. 

The current medications treat symptoms well enough so that we have a semblance of normal thinking. Yet, the medications, dubbed "atypical antipsychotics" then recently renamed "second-generation antipsychotics" do a tremendous job of shutting us down, both physically and mentally. 

Studies on better medications can be done with subjects who are aware of being in a study, who are aware of the risks, and who have agreed to participate. But there is not much motive among mental health professionals to have better medications, because the current meds do a good enough job of keeping patients subdued. People designated sick are bread and butter to those whose profession is in mental health. 

To summarize all the above, pseudoscience, and the warped perception of intended subjects as not being human, is used to justify maltreatment of mentally ill people, and many other human beings in selected groups. 


Jack Bragen is author of "Understanding People with Schizophrenia," and other books. He lives in Martinez.