Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Shutting up and listening #3: De-voiced


My last two shut-up-and-listen posts have discussed epistemic injustice and the practices of hearing as they relate especially to women and to people in the Global South. Maybe no group* right now, though, is more victimized by epistemic injustice than those labeled “mentally ill.” Even people who – mistakenly, as the evidence unequivocally shows – believe that psychiatric labels aren’t stigmatizing in some vague unspecified way would find it difficult to sustain the claim that these labels aren’t legally and politically disempowering. Possibly no one at present is more harmed by testimonial injustice. People so labeled are subject to involuntary confinement and forced interventions in violation of their human rights. They’re politically discredited, often losing confidence in themselves as information-givers. Their experiences are discounted and depoliticized, and even their refusal to accept a false label is treated as a symptom of their alleged pathology. They are very effectively de-voiced.

But these people have been fighting to make their voices heard for a long time. Recently, the Hearing Voices Network in England launched a debate on the DSM-5 and psychiatric diagnosis:
The recent furore surrounding publication of the new DSM has provided a much-needed opportunity to discuss and debate crucial issues about how we make sense of, and respond to, experiences of madness and distress. Many psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals have expressed their dismay about the dominance and inadequacy of a biomedical model of mental illness.
They “share these concerns, welcome these debates and support colleagues that are willing to take a stand,” but argue that too often missing from these debates are the people who’ve been labeled with a psychiatric “diagnosis”:
We believe that people with lived experience of diagnosis must be at the heart of any discussions about alternatives to the current system. People who use services are the true experts on how those services could be developed and delivered; they are the ones that know exactly what they need, what works well and what improvements need to be made. This statement outlines the main issues, as we see them, and invites people on the receiving end of a diagnosis to have a voice in this debate.
Their position statement argues that these diagnoses and the model itself are scientifically unsound and harmful, and offers some broad suggestions for alternative approaches. If ever there was a productive moment to shut up and listen to people getting the short end of the epistemic injustice stick, this is it.

*(of humans, at least)

1 comment:

  1. money isn't realMay 25, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    Hi, SC, The trouble with getting people with diagnoses heard is that it will upset the powerful.

    Here's the testimony of an artist, Jean Cozens, who was subjected to a Community Treatment Order. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBJBMXw7-fw

    She was robbed of her creativity by her treatments until it became too much for her.

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