The strangest thing about being a mental health patient is that the mental health services act as if fitting into our society in a productive capacity is natural and normal, and that anyone who cannot do this for whatever reason must be abnormal.
The attitude that fitting into our system is natural and normal is the fundamental conceit of the mental health system.
The truth is that the human animal has evolved to fit an ecological niche that is almost nothing like the lives we actually live today, which are as artificial as Disneyland.
Humans have evolved to suit a reasonably specific set of social conditions. In the biological past, it was rare to live in a group of people larger than about 150. This was because the nomadic lifestyle that was the norm back then could not support larger groups, primarily because of the absence of agriculture.
In these groups of 150 or so, there was very little in the way of social order. In this chaos, however, there was a degree of freedom that humans have adapted to. There was never an authority that made some behaviours against the “law”, as there was no agricultural surplus and therefore no way of maintaining an enforcer class.
As a consequence, humans were able to live in accordance with the natural curiosity that has provided our species with a decisive survival edge.
This is not an argument for anarcho-primitivism and is not intended to romanticise the past. The point is simply to describe the distance between the degree of freedom that we have evolved to consider natural and the degree of freedom currently afforded to us in modern society.
Perhaps the most unnatural thing about our society is the nuclear family. When there were tribes of 150, young children had almost infinite access to social reinforcement – it was possible to play with cousins of a similar age, and to talk to people much older than one’s parents, at almost any time one wanted.
In modern society, the early social development of a child is restricted to what they can get from the nuclear family unit. So instead of playing with cousins they watch television or go on the tablet, and instead of listening to stories from their elders they watch more television.
This means that almost everyone in our society grows up with a grossly unnatural deficit of both quality and quantity of social contact.
Because social contact is necessary to release oxytocin, and because oxytocin is necessary for proper brain development, the inevitable consequence of the nuclear family model is an increase in social retardation, reflected in our skyrocketing autism rates.
Neither is it at all natural to be forced to wake up early in the morning from the age of four so that one can go to school.
The natural sleep-wake cycle of a child is similar to that of a cat – one sleeps when one is tired, and is awake otherwise. In a state of nature, a child will nap frequently throughout the day.
This is not permitted under the mass education model. Under our model of schooling, even five year-olds have to stay awake all day uninterrupted, which is extremely unnatural. Should this cause them sleep deprivation they just have to suffer it.
Perhaps the worst is that it isn’t natural to not be able to discuss these things. If you go to see a psychiatrist in our mental health care system it is not possible to discuss whether these problems have been caused to you by our culture.
The attitude, which cannot be questioned or discussed, is that our culture is perfect; any problems you have fitting into it are yours and yours alone.
If sleep deprivation makes a child misbehave they just have to go on sedatives. If it causes an inability to concentrate they just have to go on Ritalin. Should it be so bad that they start to hallucinate they just have to go on anti-psychotics.
This conceit alone makes for terrible treatment outcomes for patients. Because the mental healthcare system may not acknowledge the real cause of the suffering of its patients, neither can it actually treat that suffering. The best it can do is to treat the symptoms by dishing out mountains of highly profitable pharmaceuticals.