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Radical Mental Health and the Occupy Movement

The (un)Occupy movement weaves together diverse communities who are refusing to go on disproportionately carrying the burdens of an unjust economic and political structure; burdens that land especially in bodies and communities that are poor, of color, queer, trans, disabled, homeless, incarcerated, and/or mad.

Dominated by a medical approach to madness, mainstream psych frames psychic differences as “mental illnesses;” pouring them into diagnostic categories and treatment regimes that can individualize and pathologize the unique (sometimes distressing, sometimes delightful) ways that our psyches speak about the worlds with which we interact. In doing so, mainstream psych has the ability to devalue and silence these diverse dialogues, many of which are commenting in their own right on structural injustices. As such, it can effectively police those psyches that divert too dramatically from, and/or reflect too loudly on, an unjust status quo. In addition, mainstream psych supports the agendas of powerful multinational drug companies that profit from turning madness into sickness.

Mainstream psych then, is both product and tool of imperialism, capitalism, neoliberalism, and securitization – those very systems that converge in the (raced, classed, and gendered) monster-structure (un)Occupy is working to make visible, intolerable, and not the way things have to be.

It follows that the (un)Occupy movement speaks deeply with radical psych. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly,) madness is increasingly being framed as a security threat to the sustainability of (un)Occupy. It is conflated with incidences of disturbance and aggression; approached as something that must be screened out, or eliminated. (While conveniently representing the movement as unstable and incompetent to “the outside,” and diluting a critical gaze toward the ever-present, state-sanctioned, threat of police violence.)

Radical psych offers alternatives. Approaching through a lens of diversity, protest, and community, we see madness as an embodied excess that contains seeds of expertise and revolution. One that offers learning and growth to the movement. To this end, across different (un)Occupy sites, radical psych folk have been offering social and emotional support to all protestors (in all their diverse forms) through written materials, trainings, 1:1 in-person connections, peer-support groups, and overall community-building. We are working hard to create a space within (un)Occupy for diverse psychic connections, particularly as the voices of the mad disproportionately represent people who are already marginalized and/or policed by society. We do not want (un)Occupy to reproduce these power struggles, for we all deeply desire, require revolution.

In solidarity,

Rachel L.



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