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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Stigma and Antipsychiatry

Stigma toward mental illness embodies the belief that mentally ill people caused their illness. It associates mental illness with shame, infamy, and disgrace. How much stigma toward mental illness exists? It’s difficult to measure. Organizations expected to advocate for the mentally ill population, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) (StigmaFree | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness,, appear to overemphasize stigma as a problem. They portray it as a massive problem and urgently promote campaigns to eradicate it.

Toward the beginning of my career, I grew to believe that stigma was the greatest barrier to accessing sound mental health treatment. I didn’t realize then that I allowed myself to be influenced by the many campaigns against stigma that were advertised. Is stigma less problematic than what the media and certain organizations make it out to be? Is the extent of the stigma that they claim a myth? Although stigma associated with mental illness exists, it is apparently not the greatest barrier to accessing treatment.

The Recovery Learning Communities (RLC) are groups, largely dominated by peer specialists, throughout Massachusetts that endorse the belief that signs of psychosis are normal. Besides running frivolous reiki groups, they regularly lead groups for their members titled “Hearing Voices.” They advertise that “Hearing Voices groups do not pathologize the experience of hearing voices or experiencing other altered/extreme states. Instead, they ask “What does the experience mean to you?”" (“Western Mass RLC | Healing and Recovery Through Peer Support.” Calendar, Western Mass Recovery Learning Community, 8 Nov. 2017, To pathologize a human experience means to view it as abnormal or dysfunctional. Hearing voices that are not there is certainly not normal. Science proves this. If impressionable people aged in their early twenties experience auditory hallucinations that involve commands to kill themselves or others for the first time and attend these groups, the chances that they will seek out appropriate treatment are reduced when they learn that nothing abnormal is going on. For months in a row in 2017, Western Mass Recovery Learning Community has advertised their seminars, titled Coming Off Psych Drugs, that have taught and encouraged people to stop taking their prescribed psychiatric medication (Davidow, Sera. “Western Mass RLC | Healing and Recovery Through Peer Support.” Coming Off Psych Drugs, Western Mass Recovery Learning Community,

When they do not deny the existence of mental illness, RLC minimizes it. Minimizing mental illness is not far off from believing that it doesn’t exist. If prospective followers of the anti-psychiatry camp are not persuaded to believe that no mental illness exists, they might be influenced to minimize mental illness, which contributes to stigma.

The government allows the belief that mental illness does not exist to infiltrate them. Massachusetts’ Department of Mental Health funds RLC (United States. Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Department of Mental Health. Search Results. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2017. NAMI's Massachusetts chapter promotes RLC (“PEER SUPPORT RESOURCES.” Peer Support Resources | NAMI Massachusetts, National Alliance on Mental Illness,