or, Racializing Mental Health…

This is from a recent dustup at Feministe, where i realized only after posting that my “conversation partner” is a diehard republican, and extremely priviledge blind. Anyhow…because it seems like something i ought to blog anyways, an expanded version of my response there.

The thread starts with Piny’s take on shock aversion therapy, and the use of pain to get people to, wait for it….stop harming themselves. It’s pretty well in the realm of medical torture from where i stand. I know there are tough cases, seen them myself. But if it were me, I’d rather die first. And I don’t mean that in a melodramatic sense. I’d rather not live than have an existance defined by the repeated application of voltage to my skin. Being a tortured, broken, shell of a human is not my idea of a good time. And i doubt it is for any of the poor souls who are being “treated” this way.

Darleen pounces on Piny’s statements, and declares the question of race “silly.”

Uh? What? What?

Having spent time in the hospital when i was a kid…i can tell you exactly what kinds of children are most likely to be classified as having “severe behavioral problems.” Which kids are percieved to be dangerous or out of control….and the magic word: untreatable.

And it ain’t little Johnny Go Whitely from the burbs. Mental illness, like everything else in this society, is racialized and classed by the lack of resources, cultural stress, and economic conditions imposed by persons of priviledge.

I stayed a couple days on a volentary admit, and refused medicine when I wanted to.

My friends were looking at being sent to long term facilities, had been made wards of the state, and had nobody to back them up if they felt like the side effects of their medicine were too much to handle. Most of them weren’t sicker than I…or they wouldn’t have been if they had access to the care and resources i had.

I know race matters in this stuff because everytime I went to the hospital, children of color were overrepresented in the ward population, and especially in terms of the “hard cases.” Who was being restrained, who was being forced to take medication, who had floor privildges, who got out, and who stayed trapped.

All of these things had race and class very, very close at hand. I’d be gone for weeks or months, and when i came back…you know who were the only people i already recognized?

Race is never a silly question in American life, and it sure as hell isn’t when it comes to health care.