Saturday, March 30, 2013

Psychiatry and the Easter faith

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Mourners visiting a tomb were asked this question one morning, long ago.

I ask it today of anyone who might study the mind or presume to heal mentally caused ills within a framework alienated from religion or in non-religious fields.

Lately we favor the proposition that bad behavior and unpleasant feelings are sicknesses or diseases of the brain. We believe doctors who specialize in behavior (but tellingly, not doctors who actually specialize in the brain) can solve social problems by medical means. We even tend to believe that scientific medicine is the best and most vital route to happiness in general.

We are apparently so far gone as to accept on faith that an individual exists only as chemical reactions in synapses, only as a brain, grey matter, mud. We look in the mirror and see only a machine, which we expect to entirely predict and control without reference to any concept of soul.

We spend millions to research drugs to heal our souls, and find only drugs that fail to heal earlier drugs. We excuse our worst behaviors by lamenting the wrong drugs and the missing drugs. We don't tell the truth, we don't live the truth, and we don't know the truth.

This is psychiatry. We look for the individual, the living, in places of the dead.

He is not here. He is risen.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Passover and NGRI

A report in today's paper by Chicago Tribune reporter Amanda Marrazzo illustrates our moral confusion, and a lesson from the Passover Haggadah may offer a touchstone, about criminal responsibility and mental illness.

Ruth R. Wisse recalls in today's Wall Street Journal how her father had emphasized the message, "And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt -- not by the hands of an angel, and not by the hands of a seraph, and not by the hands of a messenger, but the Holy One, blessed be he, himself, in his own glory and in his own person."

Likewise, when we face the toughest tasks in life we should not merely, automatically defer to agents and presumed experts. When society and the state consider what to do with those people who are most difficult, it must not try to create "scientific" machines which need no supervision.

Use of psychiatric "diagnosis" and evaluation in forensic circumstances is really just the attempt to employ experts and messengers, if not angels. We try to create a bureaucracy to confront such mental extremity as will make any one of us tell some fellow human being (whether or not aloud), "I don't like you, I don't understand you, and I don't know what to do with you."

Mothers killing their children, random, inexplicable violence and school shootings are our Egypt. There will be no exodus, we will win no freedom, by the hands of psychiatry. Doctors do not know the causes of insanity. The promised land is not in our brains or our DNA.

The pretense of forensic mental health is that responsibility, culpability, human emotion and reaction, thought and behavior can be explained and controlled by medically examining and manipulating people. We have established state institutions and clinical services employing thousands of professionals under this pretense. Presently the media are calling for more establishment, more clinicians, more laws requiring that more people be controlled and "treated" -- all for more (much more) money.

And it doesn't work. It's slavery.

Amanda Morrazzo has been a freelance reporter for a long time. Why would she make the clear error of  saying a hearing will determine how long a defendant will be in custody after being found not guilty by reason of insanity? The hearing referred to will set a Thiem date -- the date when the insane defendant must be released regardless of any "treatment" success or failure. This custody is not for punishment: theoretically it only serves justice by helping the defendant while protecting society.

It's a lie of course. Forensic psych patients are tortured and dehumanized and taught to cleverly deceive society and themselves. They are more dangerous when they are released with their "diagnoses" and their lifetime prescriptions. The drugs are barely tolerable for limited, utterly unpredictable amounts of time, and the time bombs tick in our Egypt. People know instinctively when they are punished by others too weak to not pretend they are helping.

We want improved "mental health" but the term itself has become the forlorn hope for an angel or a seraph or a messenger. It is not by such that we will be brought out.

We may redeem ourselves in our own glory and our own persons, only when we can do this most difficult task ourselves. Sooner or later we must each talk to our own crazy people face to face and learn to change minds without force.