‘Drop the Disorder’ Book Review

I have grappled with the angle to take with writing a review of Drop the Disorder. Should it be from my perspective as Family Psychotherapist working in our NHS Crisis teams and struggling to have my no labeling stance heard or respected by my colleagues clinging to their DSM bibles of pharmaceutical damage?

Or perhaps it could come from my experience within education of working with families for thirty years, and witnessing younger and younger children meet the lowering thresholds for diagnosis and medications?

Of course my personal positioning and lived experiences invariably form my perspective. However, I have decided to approach this review, not only from my professional experiences, but also from my heart. This stance mirrors and respects how every chapter of this book is written from the hearts of psychologists, psychotherapists, experts and survivors through their lived experiences. Which all amalgamate into one essential, moral and passionate voice: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” (Network, 1976).

Hence perhaps a passionate book can be reviewed, unapologetically with equal passion? As I too am… Mad as hell and cannot take it anymore!

Challenges the paradigm of the medical model

For the record I am not anti psychiatry or anti medications or any other ludicrous ‘anti’ that gets bandied at myself or many of the contributors within the chapters. No – they, and I are merely refusing to collude with or validate unscientific diagnosis. We are all understandably concerned by iatrogenic damage, and are calling on all of us to do something.

Chapter by chapter, “Drop the Disorder!’ challenges the paradigm of the medical model and the medicalisation, damaging consequences and social construction of distress. Who decides what is normal, why do we judge (and reduce) people who are so often going through an authentic, understandable and emotional struggle with trauma?

The DSM-5 and the ICD10 seem to be manuals that pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in. These alleged ‘scientific’ parameters that have been indoctrinated into us as facts, are causing a pandemic of harm and should be in conflict with any and all mental health professionals. Offering drugs without fully informed consent (Medications prior to communication) is surely the antithesis of “First do no harm” and are contributing to a society (of mental health bullies, an “us” and “them”) that is devoid of humanitarian equality or respect. I wish I were exaggerating and all this was hysterical nonsense. However, I work on the wards where our most vulnerable frequently report to have been injected against their will on depot, when they haven’t been “compliant” with medications to reach what is termed a “therapeutic dose”. I remain confused as to how a therapeutic dose can be substantiated or how detailed informed consent can be obtained in many cases without advocacy. Hence voices are silenced and eyes haunted.

Let's consider social, economic, political and cultural experience

A client cannot be classified in isolation of their systemic positioning. Our current medical model supports individualism, and turns a blind eye to social, economic, political, and cultural experiences of any given person within their communities. This corrupt situation exonerates injustices, and is employed to excuse our lack of collective humanitarian and moral responsibilities. Diagnosing, labelling and medicating distress in order to make it controllable and palatable is untenable.

Individualism is celebrated throughout our culture, and the propaganda of medical terminology is seamlessly embedded in society. Frequently people throw medical pathologising words into everyday communications. An example being my new hairdresser this week who described the irregularity of my curly hair as “schizophrenic!” Even my hair has a disorder, although I would, to be fair, concede that it can be defiant.

Indulge me with a quick rant/observation. Last week I happened to be at my local Apple store on the day the new I-phone was launched. I was baffled at the excitement and fever, and sat in vague amusement watching battle commence between the pre-order group, verses the turn up on the day and queue (for hours) group. My sardonic stance was further enhanced by the large screen presentation on how to use the new camera features to take better “selfies”. I watched concerned and aware of the “me me”, “selfie”, “I” culture we all live in. I was linking it in my head to our model of diagnosing and pathologising the individual, rather than considering the situation and context.

A brave piece of work

Jo Watson has managed an important re-frame of our (technological) positioning, or as a Buddhist might say, she has turned “poison into medicine” via social media platforms that have attracted an army of contributors and allies for this national campaign calling for change. A moral essential change to understand distress from a “What has happened to you?” perspective, rather than our biochemical model of “What’s wrong with you?”

“Drop the Disorder!” is a brave piece of work, as speaking out is never easy and will often be met with challenges from those too scared or too blind to embrace change or acknowledge mistakes. However, this book cannot be ignored, as its contributors cannot be dismissed as lightweights. In fact, it should be essential core reading for all health care professionals or anyone with an interest in our alleged “Mental Health Crisis”. Which is really a pharmaceutical “Mental Wealth Crisis” and is corruption by any other name. The “Harmecutical” king has no clothes on!

There are too numerous respected and brave contributors to mention them all by name. However there are doctors, professors, an ex DSM-IV task force psychologist, playwrights, poets, therapists, survivors, film-makers, educators, philosophers, counsellors and psychotherapists. (Clinical leads, many who have been part of the health system for decades.) But they all have one thing in common; our biomedical world has forced the moral and ethical practitioners to become activists and name the abuse of power they witness. These are people who planned to offer comfort to our vulnerable – not to be coerced into diagnosing or disputing painful memories to label them as mental illness.

A book for anyone and everyone

“Drop the Disorder!” is not a book only for academics. It is a book for anyone and everyone. My review is from the heart, and as a poet myself; my favourite chapter is from Clare Shaw. She unexpectedly steers the reader into an evocative moving, heart-wrenching poem that had me riveted as the narrative unfolded. Her true account is so rich as she brilliantly (uses language to) illustrates the immense power of language. She reminds us all that the childhood rhyme was a lie. Sticks and stones may break our bones and words can frequently hurt us.

Crisis by Amanda Bueno de Mesquita

I work within the crisis team,
where the clients have no name.
As their label is diagnostic,
hence their heads are hung in shame.
The workforce taps their notes up,
Feeding diagnostic lies the ink of truth.
And doctors look right through me,
when I ask them for some proof.
I work within the crisis team,
who visit clients bearing meds.
Who have no homes or loved ones,
but have voices in their heads.
Who usually make such sense to me,
when I stop by just to listen.
And suddenly their saddened eyes,
Look up to me and glisten.
Through the haze of medication,
That Harmecuticals create.
I pray my interventions,
Are not too little or too late.
As I gently tell those on my watch,
it makes sense to feel such pain.
As life has often been so cruel,
and there is no measure of sane.
I work within the crisis team,
not to earn my living,
But to question all the methods,
and these stale ways of giving.
To try to make a difference,
in this world that’s full of pain.
With meds as understanding.
And where no one seems to gain.