Resilience, Community, and Post-Clinical Practices.
Background: Psychiatry established itself as the predominant discourse surrounding ‘mental illnesses’ since Robert Spitzer’s revised DSM-III published in 1980; however, there have been many productive and effective approaches to ‘generalized anxiety,’ ‘bi-polar disorder,’ and ‘schizophrenia’ developed by consumers/survivors/ex-patients and others. We aim to question the consortium discourses of psychiatry, psychology, and psychoanalysis by reinterpreting and understanding ‘symptoms,’ i.e. hearing voices and ‘delusions,’ as subjective and human experiences that should not be stigmatized. That is not to say we wish to exclude the aforementioned discourses’ perspectives, but rather to broaden the discursive discussion which has systematically ignored patients’ critical input for years.
Methods: Through the meta-modeling of Felix Gauttari and Jean Oury’s schizoanalysis and peer-oriented open dialogue, our collaborative workshops and peer movements have improved consumers/survivors/ex-patients’ quality of life, social relations, and founded inclusive communities. Developed in the private clinic, La Borde, schizoanalysis was used by its staff from 1955 to 2011 as the preferred mode of interaction with patients diagnosed with ‘psychosis,’ ‘schizophrenia,’ and other ‘mental illnesses.’ This method dismantles the archetypal structures of diagnoses and delves into the polyvalent and intra/inter- connected composition of subjectivity; schizoanalysis builds dynamic meta-models of the unconscious to better understand the subjective mechanisms and phenomena of those labeled ‘mentally ill.’ Schizoanalysis takes into account the effects of social, racial, and capitalistic interactions/oppressions upon an individual’s psyche.
Discussion: We situate ourselves in a post-binary discursive space, in that we sidestep the ‘us and them’ structures of identity politics—we understand that class, gender, racial, and ageist conditions intersect a myriad of ‘mental illnesses.’ By collaborating, we have synthesized practices and theories and host workshops at the University of Toronto that focus on the human experience of people with ‘psychosis,’ and other clinical ‘diagnoses,’ to help them find the empowerment and emancipation to lead lives worth living. Our collaborative approach reinterprets voices and visions as human experiences that are, in fact, common and that can help patients understand themselves better. By avoiding clinical and diagnostic language we participate in ‘sense- making’ so as to describe human perceptions in more liberating, non-stigmatized ways. These innovative approaches have helped clinicians and social workers to understand their clients better, consumers/survivors/ex-patients build resilience and connect with communities, and family members reconnect and provide proper care for their loved ones. Fundamentally, our theory and praxis focus on the upholding of the basic dignity and human rights for individuals diagnosed with ‘mental illnesses,’ particularly focusing on consent, freedom of choice, and autonomy. Further applying our research and praxis-via MadPride Toronto and its publication Mad Times, we formed intra/inter- personal relations within and through grassroots peer movements that enable new potentialities of intersectional politics, transversal social relations, and innovative aesthetic paradigms. By negating the social stigma of diagnosis, the panoptic gaze of the clinic, and the traditional, patriarchal authority of the doctor, people with lived experiences continually create free and safe spaces in which they can engage in open dialogue, build community, and live without discrimination.