The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

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[Control Units] [Mental Health] [ULK Issue 43]
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Who's Defining Mental Illness?

Psychological diagnoses made in bourgeois society seek not only to isolate and treat mental illness on an individual basis, but also says the illness neither affects, nor is affected by, others.

Taking isolation in prisons into account (where research shows that being locked up in itself can cause mental illness) one begins to see the so-called facts in bourgeois reasoning behind individual diagnoses as fallacious. Individual diagnosis benefits the bourgeoisie by separating the individual from h environment, forcing the illness to be considered through the biological lens where it is said to be internally developed. This method negates a persyn's social and cultural influences, economic plight, outside forces acting upon h social milieu, as well as individual interpretation of all the above.

Inside isolation pods in U.$. prisons we are subject to sensory deprivation, restricted movement, lighted cells 24 hours a day, the constant clanging of metal doors, bullying by guards, unhealthy food, as well as sporadic screaming and banging by those even more deeply affected by imperialism's woes. This constant barrage of negative stimuli over a period of time is agitating, if nothing else. Agitation leads to the need for an outlet for the release of pent up tension. That tension leads to anger and resentment. This anger can have far-reaching, long-term effects. This awareness is underlined by my own persynal experience of having a quick temper, blurred reasoning after being agitated, and less thought-out reaction to anger with little to no thought of consequences.

The bourgeois system is backwards because it is idealistic (diagnosing as biological and as not affected by environment) and metaphysical (mental illness affecting only the individual and unchanging). Both these are world outlooks that imply things are what they are and will always be what they are. These outlooks are supported by the bourgeoisie because they compel apathy (indifference to the rule of the bourgeois because there seems to be little we can do to change things) and acceptance of the "order of things" by the masses who come to accept the conditions as inherent and the dominance of bourgeois leadership as unchanging. Basically the bourgeois classes push this line of reasoning because it allows them to hold on to power.

While the bourgeois classes perpetuate imperialism and deny responsibility for world conditions (including the systematic incarceration of oppressed nations) they also label all who refuse to subscribe to their world view as sick, radical, deviant, disillusioned and, of course, mentally ill.

In Under Lock & Key 15 after asking the question "who is mentally ill?" MIM(Prisons) quotes MCB52 that those who are diagnosed with mental health problems are mostly "pissed off people rationally resisting the hegemonic culture one way or another."

The method of diagnosis will change once the people begin defining and deciding our own conditions. Fed up with the conditions we find ourselves and the world in, fed up with being agitated, let's begin to agitate back. And let's build independent institutions that operate outside the diagnosistic structure of the bourgeoisie, where the people decide who is mentally ill based on their contributions to the further development of the people's interest, not because we refuse to take part in a system that oppresses us and others.

Revolution starts in the gulags.
All power to the people.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade on the problem of individual diagnosis for mental illness in bourgeois society. This standard especially benefits Amerikkka because it justifies drugging up oppressed nationals full of psychotropics in the name of psychology, while leaving the structure of prisons and solitary confinement intact. We have heard reports from many comrades in prison that the so-called therapists want to prescribe them strong psychotropic drugs (or even force them to take these drugs), which they refuse because it will have a negative impact on their ability to engage in politics. Yet these comrades' requests for a resful night's sleep, or adequate nutrition, are ignored. Individual diagnosis permits individual (mis)treatment.

The most progressive of psychologists in the bourgeois countries do see a connection between the individual and society. But the vast majority of those are reformists who do not see the link of the individual's mental illness to the capitalist economic system itself. These academics can be our allies, such as those in the struggle to abolish long-term solitary confinement. But their reformist leaning is inherently limiting.

There is use for mental health practitioners and counselors to work with revolutionaries in our present social context in order to help us resolve the mental illnesses we pick up just from living in an imperialist society. The goal of this mental health work should be to make us better revolutionaries, and not just so we can feel more comfortable going along with the status quo.

Of the few mental health practitioners that do see the bigger connections between capitalism and mental illness, most present-day radical counselors are found in the anarchist movements. A challenge with anarchism is it often seeks persynal "liberation" from capitalism today without a long-term plan of how to achieve liberation on a worldwide scale and for the most oppressed peoples in the world. We are not opposed to anti-imperialists of all stripes achieving a higher level of mental health. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that mental illness can be a persynal motivating factor for many people into revolutionary politics ("i am depressed because this world is so fucked up and makes no sense"), and a resolution of persynal mental illness combined with the frustration many feel by the dead-end strategy of First World anarchism is a perfect formula to push people to age out of political struggle for good.

Professional psychological standards in the United $tates push for "objectivity" of the therapist, which is actually just institutionalized Liberalism. In Communist China, mental health workers were educated in political economy and would use Mao Zedong Thought to help people understand how their depression, suicidal tendencies, or even schizophrenia fit into an international and material context. Rather than being limited to defining somone's "personality" or persynal chemical defect, mental health was seen on a mass scale as a product of society. Anecdotal evidence from our prisoner comrades and outside recruits has shown that mental health challenges can often be resolved on an individual level by taking up revolutionary politics and studying to understand all the nonsense of capitalism.

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