avia: (captive swan)
[personal profile] avia
(This post is public.)

Just a thought that's been going through my head.

In order to defend otherkin/therians or show how things are difficult for us, people often talk about being afraid to talk to a therapist about their otherkin-related experiences or problems, because they're afraid they will "be called crazy and be locked up", or "the people in white coats will come and give them a big injection".

I understand why people say this, because being a neurodiversity minority or being seen as one is very scary, and because they are trying to encourage people to feel sympathy for them. And that's not a bad thing! It is often a question of survival, when you are a minority group, to encourage people to feel sympathy for you. And though otherkin are not at risk of being attacked on the streets (usually, though I have heard of it happening), it can still be a question of survival, if it makes a difference between being constantly mocked, humiliated and harassed away from your social spaces to the point that you feel suicidal, and having a few people in the world who understand.

But, I think this also can cause problems. Because it supports a false idea of psychological treatment and what psychologists/doctors do, that doesn't actually exist. And that idea is damaging to otherkin (and other neurodivergent people) in many ways.

It's damaging because, if otherkin say that they are scared of being locked up and injected, then it supports a belief in the general population that "people get locked up and injected for being crazy". In fact, it's very hard to get "locked up" in America for mental health reasons, particularly for longer than 72 hours, and even then you are usually only put in a hospital if you are showing that you are dangerous to your self or other people. (There's a book called 72 Hour Hold that is a really good exploration of this, if you're interested. It's fiction, but it is strongly based on real marginalized American communities.) The idea of people who live in an "asylum" is just not true today in America, though it exists in other countries.

This also adds to the popular (false) belief that the mental health system is actually effective at making "crazy" people be "not crazy". We have an idea in our heads that if someone is "crazy", which can mean something as small as "having strange beliefs" or "not fitting in with society", then there are mental health services that will treat these people with powerful chemicals that stop them being "crazy" and make them think like "normal" people, and if they can't do that then they lock them up.

This leads to an idea that there are no real people with mental illness in our society, and no real "strange" people, because they are all locked up. And, if they're not, they should "go and get help", so they either will be locked up, or they will be given medications until they stop being "crazy".

This is not how mental illness works, and it's not how having strange beliefs works. Even if someone has a mental illness that negatively affects their life, and that they want to treat, you can't just go and "get help" and be fixed. For some things and for some people, treatment doesn't exist, and for other things, it's a long process of finding the doses that work for you and help to control, but not completely remove, your symptoms. And, with things like otherkin which are completely based on theories about your self, and don't actually involve any delusions, you definitely can't be "treated" for it. Normal is a social idea that is different in every time and place, and so there is no medication that will magically make you "normal", because it isn't a real state that exists.

Psychologists know this, and they won't lock up otherkin. Otherkin are more in danger of being laughed at, told they are not serious, and treated negatively/abusively by a therapist than they are of being locked up.

It's important to spread this truth, because otherwise we add to the impression in people's minds that otherkin and people with mental illnesses

a) are the same thing
b) can be magically cured by psychologists, or else they are locked up
c) don't really live among us in society, because of b), so we don't need to accommodate for them, or talk to them as if they are listening.

(Edit: This comment shares a different perspective that I didn't know, and is worth reading.)

Date: 2013-05-02 12:30 pm (UTC)
serpentine: (Default)
From: [personal profile] serpentine
As I read this, I realized how badly the treatment of mental illness is portrayed in fiction and to be honest, I think that's where a large amount of our misconceptions come from. People being put away is emphasized for dramatic effect and sometimes they are never shown actually getting help. Which is a pretty sad state of affairs.

We learn a lot from stories, so if we start writing stories where it's portrayed better, where getting mental health help is not just portrayed as something that is only done in emergencies, but as part of regular care, we could change some of these preconceptions. This isn't the only way of helping this, but since I like to write and may think a bit like a writer, it's something I can do and keep in the back of my mind as I write.

(Unfortunately, I don't have any otherkin like characters that exist in settings where there are also psychologists yet. All of my not-humans seem to live in fairy-tale inspired worlds so far.)

Date: 2013-05-02 01:33 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] inkedfeathers
Thank you for specifying "America," because there are countries where the health care system has hardly progressed at all and is still in the habit of locking people up and making them undergo unnecessary electroshock therapy.

Date: 2013-05-02 03:33 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I previously identified as otherkin (it's more an issue of labels/community right now) and am extraordinarily mentally ill. I've been locked up so many times that I can't honestly remember the number anymore. I was almost placed in a residential home on multiple occasions.

And I've almost always been honest with therapists and psychiatrists about how I identify and feel. The vast majority have been of the opinion that if I don't want help with something and it's not causing a problem, then there's no reason to treat it, whether or not they think it's mental illness.

Being "locked up" is only for people who admit themselves voluntarily or are a danger to themselves or others with very, very few exceptions. Now, you should know that once you admit yourself voluntarily, it can be very difficult to get out if the doctor thinks you need to be there.

And as for sticking you with needles? Unless you're threatening yourself or others, you can always decline medication. The only times I have ever been injected against my will was when I was getting violent, and that wasn't to cure me of anything I had. It was to calm me down enough to safely be in solitary.

You do not lose your patient's rights when you are in a psychiatric institution. You do not lose your legal rights. You cannot be treated against your will except in very, very specific situations, and if you are, there are paper trails and sue-happy lawyers that would love to help you.

Then there's the last kind of thing I'd like to talk about: residential homes. This is basically the reality of what happens to people who are too mentally ill to exist in society. It's not being locked up. It's a lot like a retirement community with assistance, like meds management, appointments, and whatnot. There's no reason to "lock someone up" if they haven't committed a crime and aren't an immediate danger to themselves or others. There simply aren't enough resources in order to do this.

As for meds... I've been medicated since I was 8. I'm 24 now. I've had some luck in the past, but am still trying to find a cocktail that will keep me out of the hospital. Not make me "better." Make me no longer an immediate danger to myself.

And well, if you are, in some fucked up situation, unable to refuse treatment, self-identity cannot be medicated away. This has been proven, time and time again with any other dysmorphic "disorder." Meds can help someone cope, but they cannot fix the underlying cause.

Date: 2013-05-02 11:05 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Actually, there are states where the mental health law is such that they cannot legally release you to a homeless shelter if you're homeless (or become homeless while put in the ER/on a psych ward on a temporary hold, such as someone getting kicked out from their living situation while in the hospital) and then they have to legally keep you there until some sort of living situation is found for you, such as a group home or a psychiatric nursing home. It doesn't mean that the person who's in the hospital long-term deserves or needs to be there, it means that housing for disabled people sucks and laws that supposedly protect people are actually hurting them, because it's been my experience and that of others that it would have been safer to be on the street than be in the hospital and get abused by staff and other patients (which happens more than is reported).

There are also people who are being inappropriately medicated and overmedicated for reporting things about their "weird" beliefs to their doctors/therapists; I was one of them, and I've known others.

So while we don't have the snakepits of the 50s, it's wildly inaccurate to say "nobody ever gets abused by the system anymore in America". It really depends on where you live, and your socioeconomic background (poor people are treated badly by the system, generally). Autistic people are still often victimized by the psychiatric system for being obviously different; see blogs by people like Amanda Baggs and other autistic rights activists. Just because these cases are a minority doesn't mean they don't exist. And a lot of people who do experience abuse, misdiagnosis, inappropriate medication, etc, actually don't talk about their experiences because they've been shamed due to the stigma of mental health in this society, or they're not believed because of this "that never happens anymore" attitude, and so on.

I definitely do share your concern about people feeling the need to act super-normal and "sane" to justify being otherkin, because that is problematic, but just saying that nobody ever gets abused by psychiatry and everyone is treated wonderfully is... really not the most helpful thing, either.

Date: 2013-06-01 09:11 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I wrote about this misunderstanding about how common it would be become "locked up" on wordpress years ago:
http://vargteriantrop.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/teriantropi-och-psykiatrin/
It is in Swedish, and is about the situation in Sweden though. But here, you will only be held against your will if you are a danger to others (i.e. violent) or to yourself (suicidal). There is the risk of them misunderstanding you, thinking therianthropy is something else than it is, perhaps not taking it seriously. But no psychologist/psychiatrist I've spoken to have wanted to "lock me in" or treat my therianthropy in any way. Some have been positive about it, others have thought it was a neutral thing and irrelevant to therapy.

I am sad to see how many don't dare to speak about their therianthropy because of this widespread idea that "crazy people like me will get locked up". That is why it is important to tell them that it will probably not happen.

/ Susitar

Date: 2013-05-22 02:31 pm (UTC)
equivamp: (Default)
From: [personal profile] equivamp
When I initially began to associate with the therian community1 I noticed a trend: the same people who described dyusmorphia/dysphoria about their species were the same ones who were afraid they would be committed and/or dissected should their parents find out and react poorly (these also were generally the younger therians who would be what I believe is/was sometimes called "newly awakened"). I always thought it was a bit silly; no scientist is going to think you're physically another species, and even if they'd wanted a brain scan they are not going to literally kill you for identifying as/believing you were reincarnated from/etc. a wolf. Moreover, if your feelings of this are causing you distress, it could be useful talking to an MHP about. They're no more likely to dissuade you from these beliefs than of, say, Christian beliefs unless they are causing harm or are symptoms of a harmful mental illness/injury.

1: Specifically the therian community, not otherkin; when I initially began to associate with the otherkin community it was to troll vampires and is where I got my name. Since the otherkin and therian communities are astonishing in their differences I cannot say if this is the same.

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