Everything Is Just Dandy!

Campaign for Psychiatric Abolition – ‘There is no abolition without anti-psychiatry’

The Anarchist Library

2022 03 23
http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/campaign-for-psychiatric-abolition-there-is-no-abolition-without-anti-psychiatry?v=1648035862

Author: Campaign for Psychiatric Abolition
Title: ‘There is no abolition without anti-psychiatry’
Subtitle: The Fight for Psychiatric Abolition
Date: 2022
Notes: Initially published in DOPE 17 by Dog Section Press dogsection.org/press/dope17
Source: Text provided by Campaign for Psychiatric Abolition, published in DOPE.

We are the Campaign for Psychiatric Abolition (CPA), a collective of psychiatric survivors who are fighting against the violence of policing, prisons and psychiatry. We want to demonstrate that our collective struggles against imperialism, racism, capitalism, cisheteropatriarchy and the climate catastrophe are also a struggle against psychiatry. We came together to form CPA after seeing how sometimes hostile radical spaces can be towards anti-psychiatry and mad liberation — it often feels like some of those who understand the need for police and prison abolition still see psychiatry, the institution that locked up and tortured so many of us, as benevolent and caring — a liberal myth that has insidiously made its way into places that should be safe for victims of state violence.

It is clear from the history that psychiatry is there to control, not care for, us. The birth of psychiatry cannot be separated from eugenics and colonialism — psychiatry was the soil from which eugenics was allowed to grow. It was created as a tool to justify the violent plundering and torture of colonised people around the world. By psychiatry diagnosing some people as inferior, deranged, deviant and delusional, western oppressors were able to legitimise their abuse of the people they colonised. Enslaved people escaping their bondage were labelled as having ‘drapetomania’, a supposed mental illness, because white society refused to accept the idea that Black people could revolt against their oppression. In the current day, psychiatry is also wielded against Muslim communities, working in tandem with PREVENT to heighten surveillance and policing efforts, labelling mentally ill Muslims as an automatic terrorism risk.

The long history of queerphobia at the hands of psychiatry is also well-documented, with conversion therapy and electro-shock therapy their ‘cure’ of homosexuality, deemed a mental illness up until 1973, whilst our transness continues to be medicalised and pathologized. Women too were and are to this day brandished as hysterical and locked in asylums, often as a result of their natural trauma responses to patriarchal violence. We also know too well, as seen with Nazi Germany, Mussolini and the US sterilization of Puerto Rican, Black and Indigenous women, that psychiatry has been a tool of the far-right — any institution so easily incorporated into fascism should have its legitimacy questioned.

Very little has changed — psychiatry continues to be wielded against oppressed communities, the lunatic asylums of the 1800s still standing (for now) with the haunting echoes of past patients drowned out only by the desperate screams of current ones. We are all screaming for the same thing: abolition. Psychiatry may have learned to portray a more respectable veneer, but the lunatic asylum, electroshock therapy and tranquilisation lay just below the surface.

We formed CPA to fight back against this violence and death that permeates the lives of every psych survivor. Our organising encompasses a wide variety of community work – one aspect of this is the workshops we give about psychiatric abolition across britain to both the public, comrades and radical organisations, because we see education about mad liberation, crisis care and peer support as essential life and organising skills. This is not about ‘awareness’, but about survival. It is about knowing how to be there for our comrades and loved ones without calling the cops or the docs.

Our work also includes serving our communities in material ways, such as delivering care packages to our incarcerated friends in psych wards and providing them with the support and resources they need, whilst working collectively for their freedom. We also work to tackle the root causes of mental distress, like poverty, oppression and homelessness, by carrying out mutual aid and providing a safe space for psych survivors to voice our experiences without feeling dismissed. We believe in the importance of direct action and taking the fight of psychiatric abolition to the streets, and to support this belief, we carry out actions, alongside other psych survivors, to target all these places of abuse and torture.


We also want to take every opportunity to draw attention to the interlinking struggles and experiences of psych ward patients, prisoners and people incarcerated in detention centres – all dehumanised because we are deemed ‘mad’, ‘bad’, ‘illegal’ or all three. We are all transported in the same high security vans to be locked away from our communities, with torturously limited contact with the outside world. Our possessions and glimpses of humanity – clothes, photos, shoelaces, phone calls, visitations – are taken from us, every last crumb of food and drop of water controlled. In some places they even use straitjackets and bed restraints, and throw patients into freezing or burning baths and showers.

They control every minute detail of our lives and capture, even down to the colour of the walls, which are painted with ‘calm’ colours in an attempt to ‘lure our minds’ – they have thought of absolutely everything to make our existence as torturous as possible. The windows and doors are locked and if we show too many signs of distress, we can be locked in solitary confinement for days at a time. They surveill us with cameras in every corner with staff watching us 24 hours a day, ready to physically or chemically restrain us at any point against our consent. As we are all legally declared insane or ‘criminal’, any appeal we file to court won’t be taken seriously, and once we get out, if we ever do, we only find more barriers with housing, work and reintegrating into the society we were torn from for so long.