When you’re in the nuthouse and your mother dies, you don’t get a break.
I attended a staffing this morning by teleconference, for a client named David. His mother recently passed away, and the “clinical” conversation today centered in part around whether he was grieving correctly. The treatment team seemed to think that so far, he is. But they are going to keep an eye on him.
I tried to ask questions about how they can tell whether he’s grieving correctly. My questions were not welcome, and I actually became a little angry, because I think any such judgment is subjective, arrogant to an insulting and dehumanizing extreme, and frankly, BULLSHIT.
I use the word BULLSHIT advisedly here, in the same sense that the esteemed and powerful psychiatrist and author of DSM-IV, Dr. Allen Frances, M.D., used it when he said psychiatric “diagnosis is bullshit”. I didn’t use the word during the staffing.
I was assured that a “clinical” judgment of whether somebody is grieving correctly after his mother dies is not subjective, and it’s certainly not judging the person who grieves. Judging is of course a hot-button word. I probably could have used BULLSHIT and gotten away with that, but when I accuse mental health professionals of judging patients, they are deeply insulted because their whole field is supposed to be a matter of medical science, never morality. Of course everyone grieves differently for different losses at different times. But the morality of allowing them to do so, of granting them some fundamental respect, is completely lost on these “clinicians”.
Nevertheless, the statement about David had been too clear for me to ignore: “He seems to be grieving normally but we’ll keep monitoring him in case it becomes excessive, or a clinical issue.” That couldn’t mean anything other than, there is a difference between appropriate and excessive grieving, and the expert clinicians who would be doing the monitoring of David’s grieving for the loss of his mother have expert ways of telling the difference, or technical criteria, or tests.
So I just wanted to know what these “clinical” ways of telling the difference between correct and incorrect grieving actually were. They didn’t like that at all!
Well... one type of criteria the team mentioned that I can understand is, if a person can’t sleep and isn’t eating, maybe they are grieving incorrectly. But “can’t sleep” means what? One night? Two? Five in the first week after the loss? More than half of nights two months later? Nobody knows, including David’s treatment team, because as they all admitted, everyone grieves differently for different losses at different times. This was his mother....
“Isn’t eating” might be a clear sign if the person actually loses, say, ten or fifteen pounds below a healthy weight. But what a healthy weight even is for different people at different times is arguable; and strangely, David’s treatment team didn’t bother to suggest any objective statistic like that. They simply insisted that their technical expertise, their arrogant “clinical judgment” was obviously the correct measure and the appropriate evaluation.
This evaluation or monitoring of David’s grieving certainly is subjective judging. I suspect the real yardstick, and the real motive, is what drugs do they want to give this patient? As it happens, David’s psychiatrist is very partial to SSRI “antidepressants” so the death of this patient’s mother will probably be a good excuse to prescribe them.
I wonder whether these clinicians take drugs to grieve correctly, when people they love die.
But then again, they are “mental health professionals” — not mental patients like David. They are trusted to choose what’s in their own best interests.
Mental patients are not trusted to know anything, especially about themselves. They are a lower order of humanity, and need “clinical” evaluation by their betters, whom they must trust. Slaves once had to trust their owners, too.
The experts even own your grieving! They judge it to be correct, or drugable. Just like the masters once owned your family, and judged whether to sell your spouse or your child down the river.
Elgin Mental Health Center is not a hospital, it’s a slave plantation. I’m for abolition.