Turning Mental Health Inside Out

The Earth is being burned and poisoned. If this country's police and prisons don't kill you, it's decayed and cruel medical and social infrastructure just might. What is an appropriate response to the extreme unprecedented adversity and stress of the times? // 

And what about those who are a wreck? It is usually said that they are experiencing a "mental health crisis," which can be met with some manner of treatment, capture, or disappearance.

Of Unsound Mind 

is a resource library and writing hub for reframing conversations around mental health, and imagining non-carceral futures beyond controlling, containing, and calming madness and distress in a tumultuous world.

What must we do about distress?

What even is a "mental health crisis?"

Bethlem_Hospital,_London;_incurables_bei

Towards a mad abolitionism

The judge and the forensic psychiatrist get lunch together before they commit the next schizophrenic. The police officer and the social worker are on a first-name basis; both know which chemical tranquilizer acts fastest. The inmate at the security hospital is unsure whether she's in prison or the hospital. The same psychologist that assures the delinquent/mentally ill student he's the innocent victim of traumatic and unfair systems fears his outbursts and dials 911 when he screams at school.  

The United States is facing a reckoning, not only with its mechanisms of policing and imprisonment, but also with its wider history of violence—the foundational core of the national and economic project in settler-colonial genocide, in anti-Blackness and slavery, and in relentless imperial expansion. 

The criminal is already mad. The forces which identify and categorize these two types, watch them, and detain, manage, control, or eliminate them are often the same, and, when they aren't (i.e. when they are bifurcated into special fields like "municipal police" and "forensic psychiatrist"), they operate within the same horizon of knowledge and practice.

Policing and mental health care aren't antagonistic practices, but mutually constitutive. There is no moment where one operates without the other. A "non-policing psychiatry" wouldn't resemble any psychiatry that has existed to this day. It would have to be rethought from the ground up.  A "non-psychiatric criminal law" would be missing a legal category that makes it work, namely, insanity.

The stories we have been told about the history of psychiatry are false and simplistic to the degree of dishonesty. Binaries of care vs. punishment or benevolence vs. retribution conceal the ways in which the logics of incarceration and security are embedded on both sides. When these binaries are opposed to one another in order to legitimate one at the expense of the other, their shared underlying logic spreads ever farther, and without real detriment to either. 

Of Unsound Mind seeks to demonstrate that psychiatric knowledge and practice is, and always has been, a constitutive element of policing, incarceration, and surveillance (and vice-versa). The abolitionist project of imagining and building worlds without prisons and police must therefore include reframing not just how we think about crime, but also madness and disability.

 Historical Information and Critique

In the resource library, one can find collected independent research and writing on current and historical laws pertaining to mental health along with short analyses and links to resources. Especially now, as the national discourse around policing seems to be leaning towards a wide embrace of psychiatry and social work, it is vital we look to history and to critical voices in the fields to avoid making the mistakes of the past.

Material and Social Support

Distress can be disruptive, but so can hospitalization and commitment. It disrupts one's social life and sense of community to be suddenly removed and held in a secure facility; drugs can change one's behavior or manner of speaking; one can lose a job, miss a payment on their rent or car, and even get released with a hefty bill to pay. Click below to find ideas for alternatives to the typical reaction for both distress and the response it. 

Writing and Art

The field of psychiatry is not at all neutral, determined as it is by race, gender, and the development of capitalism. Special weight must be given to the words and accounts from those affected by mental health concepts and policies, e.g. the mad, mentally ill, or psychosocially disabled. Click below to find a gallery of the art works by mad people used throughout this site, as well as a blog featuring writing on these themes.

Get in Touch