Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry
Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry
When (ex-) users and survivors of psychiatry take their lives into their hands in order to advance their recovery-assuming they were once labeled "ill"-should this be classified as non-compliance and "playing doctor" or as autonomous behavior? (Recovery is a relatively new concept within the psychosocial arena and which is used by those critical of psychiatry as well as by psychiatry itself. "Recovery" can mean, among others things, re-discovery, healing, improvement, salvation or the regaining of independence. A positive connotation of hope is common to all uses of this term, but it has many different implications. For some, recovery means recovering from a mental illness, a reduction of symptoms or a cure. Others use it to signify an abatement of unwanted effects of psychiatric drugs after their discontinuation, or the regaining of freedom after leaving the mental health system, or "being rescued from the swamp of psychiatry.")
Doctors generally do not want patients to treat their cancers, stomach ulcers or infections on their own, nor do they want them hoarding an assortment of herbs and concoctions in their pantries to drive out their everyday madness and its particular variants. In spite of this, (ex-) users and survivors of psychiatry-alongside practicing professionals, who report about reasonable and effective help for people in emotional distress-are seizing the opportunity in the following chapters to report that they have indeed resorted to such "household remedies," partly out of despair in psychiatry and its often unsuccessful or harmful methods, and partly out of cautiousness, curiosity or self-initiative. Similar self-healing mechanisms were well known long before the so-called psychopharmacological revolution, even among psychiatrists.
Many rather simple and reasonable methods have been discovered and rediscovered over and over again by (ex-) users and survivors of psychiatry, especially when their efforts are supported by an attitude that supports such experimentation in the psychosocial field. Psychiatrists are particularly keen on finding successful therapies, and are therefore prone to latch on to something that is yet unproven. When patients are encouraged to search for personal healing, they will take this up with considerable zeal. Unfortunately, many suffer needlessly for years, until they come to a realization similar to the one described by Bert Gölden of Germany after he discontinued the psychiatric drugs:
"Today, now that I no longer take any psychiatric drugs, my existence is once again overshadowed by anxiety. In other words, I sacrificed 21 valuable years of my life hoping pointlessly for an improvement or a cure. I find myself at the beginning once again and have to find a new form of treatment...Recognize your suffering and become your own therapist-help yourself, because no one else will" (Gölden, 2013).
We hope that the specific and concrete alternatives described in the following chapters can be adopted much earlier by people who are confronted, perhaps for the first time, with psychological crises and their social consequences. Endless experiments with a wide range of psychiatric drugs and repeated psychiatric hospitalizations, for the most part result in nothing other than a lifelong career as a mental patient, with all of its unwanted psychological and physical "side effects." In such situations, an early discussion of individual strategies with and without professional help would be rather welcome, which might include the offerings of organized self-help as well as models of professional support. An intellectual and practical engagement with Soteria, Windhorse, or crisis centers, with Runaway Houses like the Villa Stöckle 1 , with advance directives, supportive and possibly insight-oriented psychotherapy, as well as with general alternative views and approaches, could be especially useful