In the administration’s latest push to limit the Second Amendment rights of its citizens, the term “mental health” is being bantered about and used as common ground between anti-gun activists and staunch defenders of gun rights.
Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican and NRA backer, objected to President Obama’s proposals but agreed the “focus should be on mental health.” Others, while proclaiming support for the Second Amendment, propose “a meaningful conversation about mental health,” or that we should “identify people who are mentally ill.” After all, how could anyone support guns in the hands of the mentally ill?
Wait … not so fast. The problem is one of definition: Who is mentally ill?
The use of psychiatry against dissidents in the Soviet Union was one of the major human rights scandals of the 1970s and 1980s. Overt tyrants don’t need to employ psychiatry as a weapon, but establishing a dictatorship that pretends to be a republic requires a stealthy way of silencing opponents. As the Soviets discovered, not everyone is afraid to speak out, and when dissidents are perceived by the public as speaking truth, they must somehow be discredited.
What better way than to be labeled mentally ill? That accomplishes two things: First, the mentally ill person can be silenced and secreted away into a mental institution. And secondly – this is especially important for prominent people who may have left behind their written statement – it discredits the person’s beliefs. If the dissident is determined by “great medical men of learning” to be “mentally ill,” then people will be less likely to take his words seriously.
Nuclear Physicist Andrei Sakharov was sent into interior exile in Gorky for his “peace of mind” after being diagnosed by psychiatrists at the Leningrad Institute as a “talented but sick man.” His sickness came to light when he published a tract in the U.S., recommending build-up of the nuclear arsenal.
Soviet psychiatry in the Brezhnev era and beyond was predicated on the concept of “heterodoxy.” If you didn’t believe the official dogma, you must have been ill. Under the politburo, this meant not believing in Marxism, or having some form of God-centered religious belief.
In 1974, neurophysiologist and political activist, Vladimir Bukovsky and the incarcerated psychiatrist Semyon Gluzman wrote “A Manual on Psychiatry for Dissenters,” in which they provided potential future victims of political psychiatry with instructions on how to behave during inquest in order to avoid being diagnosed as mentally sick.
Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, political opponents, human rights activists and psychiatrists who did not believe in punitive psychiatry were incarcerated in mental institutions. Gluzman himself spent seven years in the Gulag, and 3 years in Siberian exile for refusing to diagnose a mental illness in a human rights activist.
One of the factors that allowed psychiatry to become so entwined with the totalitarian authority, according to Yuri Savenko, the president of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia, was the total nationalization of the psychiatric profession. In other words, the psychiatrists all worked for and were paid by the government. They no longer were employed by their patients.
Thomas Szasz in his 1984 book “The Therapeutic State,” says the collaboration between government and psychiatry results in a system in which disapproved thoughts, emotions and actions are repressed (“cured”) through pseudomedical interventions. Thus illegal drug use, smoking, overeating, gambling, shoplifting, sexual promiscuity, pederasty, rambunctiousness, shyness, anxiety, unhappiness, racial bigotry, unconventional religious beliefs and suicide are all considered diseases or symptoms of diseases – things that happen to people against their will. This attitude, Szasz concludes, can lead to unwanted treatment being forced on someone – just for his beliefs.
So back to the NRA. I see this one coming. This is a one-two sucker punch let loose in the name of civil society and treatment of poor mentally ill people. The government lets us Second Amendment people keep guns, but only if we are not mentally ill – and it is the government which will define “mentally ill.”
Recently, the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, in returning Vets has been mentioned in the context of gun permits. Of course the government makes a great show of concern for our returning injured vets, making sure that mental health facilities are expanded to insure timely care. And of course, unless the vet has a solid diagnosis of PTSD or some other mental diagnosis, he or she will not be eligible for care. But once given the diagnosis, the veteran is at risk of losing constitutionally guaranteed rights under the rubric of making gun ownership conditional on “mental health.”
Brandon Raub, USMC veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, made quite colorful anti-war and anti-administration remarks in a Facebook page. He was subsequently drug away in handcuffs by local authorities purportedly at the request of mental health workers.
Col. Thierry Dupuis, county police chief, acted under the state’s emergency custody statute which allows a magistrate to order civil detention and psych evaluation of anyone considered potentially dangerous – i.e., he was hauled off and jailed for a “pre-crime.” He hadn’t hurt anyone. He hadn’t done anything overt except express his beliefs on paper. And anyone with a three-inch kitchen knife is “potentially dangerous.”
You out there worried about Agenda 21? Crazy!
Have fervent Christian beliefs that leads you to wear long dresses? Crazy!
Homeschooler? Obvious agoraphobic.
Dr. Charles Sell, DDS, was confined in federal prison for five years and nearly subjected to forced anti-psychotic drugging. He was deemed “paranoid” and thus incompetent to stand trial. After serving many years, he was sprung finally after an arduous legal battle was waged in his defense. Initially charged with defrauding Medicaid, at the end he was found to have “defrauded” the Medicaid system only about $35. His paranoid delusion? That the government was “out to get him.”
Psychiatry is a dangerous weapon in the hands of the state. We cannot cede to the government authority to define mental health, nor allow mental health “experts” to decide our fitness to exercise our constitutional rights. And we must be vigilant as more people disappear into the mental health system.