Toxicity in Mental Health

DISCLAIMER: The Venn diagrams in this refer to voice hearers but the term ‘voice hearer’ here can be applied to people struggling with mental health issues in general. However this was written by a member of RitB who is a voice hearer. The preamble will make the context clear.

This morning Rita Bins was wondering to herself why she heard so many benefit bashing voices. Was this a projection of the current welfare-hostile ideological zeitgeist, as part of the neoliberal war on the welfare state? Was it a projection of how she felt the terrain of voice hearing activism stood? Or was it her background experience of telepathy, her stance as a mental health activist making her a target for other right-wing voice-hearers, struggling with their cognitive dissonance having internalised an insidious, and pernicious political subjectivity? Who knew? But she needed to work it through? What tools could she use this time? Aha! Venn diagrams!

The first Venn diagram was as so:


Let’s work through the overlaps. First if we look at the overlap between voice hearers and the recovery model, the most benign here. The term recovery model here refers to a particular ‘brand’ of neoliberal, individualistic, technique-driven, outcome measure focused from of ‘recovery’ (as opposed to the more polyvocal term that refers to a more diverse discourse). This group RiTB has no personal animosity to, although a part of our praxis is towards educating the limits of this model in denial of class, economic and structural aspects (the social model of mental health) that critical psychiatry does a better job of recognising.

The second group, benefit bashers overlap with voice hearers on probability are going to be of two possible groups. The first are going to be bio-medical voice hearers (hence no overlap with the medical model) who are of the (according to measures of the efficacy of medication) small group of voice hearers for whom medication works well but who either wilfully or through ignorance, cast aspersions on those who struggle to recover and for whom the medication does not work, but who have also, for whatever reason, internalised the benefit bashing propaganda against their own peers. The other subgroup of this overlap are those still on benefits whose support comes from right wingers (the equivalent of the POC whose racists peers say ‘you’re alright mate, it’s these other lot who are the problem) so to protect their social position attack other people on benefits.

The third overlap is those who support the Recovery Model but who benefit bash, presumably with no lived experience themselves, so on probability mental health professionals. Who have service users and survivors in their charge, but have internalised the anti-benefit media hate-campaigns so much that they are willing to override their own professional knowledge of their clients’ personal circumstances and take a hostile position on their clients’ actual lives and rights. Or they have internalised the individualist aspects of Recovery Model propaganda and blame their clients for not trying ‘hard enough’, no matter how ill their clients may be, treating them as malingerers because of the failure of the techniques of the Recovery Model that they have invested their careers in.

But the most odious and pernicious is the triple overlap, peers willing to sell out their compatriots, internalising their own ‘successful’ recovery as ‘hard work’ and a ‘meritocracy’ in denial of the differences between mental health lived experience, the structural disadvantages the unrecovered struggle with, and the personal advantages the ‘recovered’ have benefited from, that are now ‘all their own work’. The ideology of ‘choice’ over the ‘reality principle’ and its relation austerity that affects and blights so many of the unrecovereds’ lives. These truly are the people Recovery In the Bin are most critical of.

One last Venn diagram though, just in case you were unaware, as there is no excuse, no exception. Venn Diagrams don’t just show ‘overlaps’, some show ‘subsets’.

RITB AL2 (2)

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A critical theorist and activist collective.