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Reisverslag Positive lessons
17 juli 2012
Today, 17 july 2012, was another nice day at school, slightly more interactive than yesterday.
We started with a session called “Litigation surgery”, in which we discussed our own cases we were working on, which we submitted before the course started. I had written about my own case (extreme forced treatments and lack of access to justice). We were divided into 3 groups (I was in group 3). But the morning session was used to only discuss the cases of the first two groups. The cases from group 3 will be discussed next week. So group 3 joined either group 1 or 2. Each case was presented to us, and we were supposed to pretend it was a meeting in a lawyer office, in which we analysed the new incoming cases, to see what would be good to do with it. It was really very interesting to hear what everyone was working on, and to hear about the context of legislation and practices in various countries. Also the multidisciplinary feedback on the cases was very inspiring, crosslinking various strategic approaches. That was really educative.
I also learned a lot of judicial terms and about various national court-systems. But most inspiring was the crosslinking of strategic approaches in the advocacy work, such as the use of media and the public opinion, or the difference between constitutional court-cases which can immediately change a law, and the European Court on Human Rights which cannot order remedies but just point at violations. It was very good to consider the options for each case from so many different angles.
And the cases also reflect the fields of work and interests of the students, so we could get to know each other a bit more as well. It was really a very good session, which lasted all morning.
During lunchtime I had a sandwich in the park again, and I met a Hungarian gardener who was clearly interested in my appearance, and luckily a man who was walking with 2 dogs translated for us. So we were enabled to have a nice chat about music and the Sziget festival (which I’m going to miss, because the summerschool ends a week before Sziget starts). I asked which Hungarian music band was the best, and he said Ossian :)
In the afternoon we had a session on “Interviewing skills” which meant we were going to do a role playing game in sets of 2. One was the advocate, and the other was “Alma”, a woman who had a long history of forced treatments. I worked together with Keith from the USA, who was the advocate and came to visit me (“Alma”) inside a psychiatric facility. He was supposed to ask questions to find out about my situation. It was a nice exercise, on which we reflected centrally to find out more about the do’s and don’ts in interviewing.
Then we continued with a session on Stigma in Legal Proceedings. This was more of a lecture, brought to us by Eva Szeli, Hungarian-American lawyer and psychologist. She talked about definitions, labels and stigma. The language used to describe persons with mental disabilities used to comprise a lot of derogatory words. But the words are not the actual problem (they shift over time). It is mainly the attitude of people that results in labelling and segregation.
Eva explained that the UN CRPD doesn’t give a definition of “disability”, but rather is explaining the evolving concept of disability, which in this way eventually is non-exclusive to anyone.
She talked about the Rosehan Study (on being sane in insane places, in 1973) where 8 pseudopatients were admitted in psychiatry for undercover research. The pseudo patients had contacted the mental health care services, and stated that their life was empty and hollow, and they heard voices in their head, which said “…empty, hollow and thud…”. Those were the symptoms they expressed by saying it, and further they just were themselves. 7 of them were diagnosed with schizophrenia, and some were diagnosed with “bizarre note-taking” (as a symptom of a disorder) while in fact they were just doing their research job: taking notes on the situation they were in. No caregiver would look into the notes, or ask about the contents. This study challenged the concepts of sanity and insanity.
Eva also explained that psychiatry is not science like a medical science. For example, when you have a broken bone, an X-ray will give proof of that. But in psychiatric diagnosis, there is no proof, but every few years, top-psychiatrists from all over the world gather to define the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which they do by voting which criteria will be used to define certain illnesses. There have been many theories, which are withdrawn again and replaced, changed and so on. You don’t find medical professionals voting on broken bones, argueing whether it is outdated or irrelevant, but in psychiatric diagnosis we see trends, because of the (subjective) voting on disorders.
Psychiatry is therefore no science, and there is still no evidence for so called “mental disorders or mental illness” (despite many efforts of trying to prove it). We might as well conclude this is the wrong direction of addressing mental problems.
Eva also addressed the problem of depersonalization by psychiatry, meaning that patients often “don’t count as a person”. In criminal law, there is a principle: "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" (Blackstone-principle). But in psychiatry this isn’t applied. When psychiatrists have to decide whether to detain or release a person, they tend to choose for detainment, in order to “protect the community”, and to protect their so-called “professional liability” (because when something happens they will get the blame). The fact that in mental health care detention is more likable than release illustrates that the patient isn’t recognized and valued as a person, which is a very severe human rights violation.
Eva then introduced the word “Sanism”, which is next to sexism and racism another wrongful “-ism”, which means overfocussing on (in)sanity. There are many prejudices on psychiatric labels, such as dangerousness, which causes fear. Many lawyers and judges are biased and tend to leave the mental health care field “to the mental health professionals”, and believe that certain things may be okay for the users, which are not okay for others (such as forced treatments). This is obviously wrong.
We had some more discussion on stigma, and as a final remark I told something from my personal perspective: When I was young, I used to be afraid that “things would be too much for my mum to handle”, because she was sometimes psychosocially vulnerable. Until one day I realized that I wasn’t giving my mum the chance to be a mother for me, because I created distance (that distance must have been terrible to her). When I realized that, I felt really bad about my own overprotectiveness towards her, diminishing her biggest joy in life... I’m now aware that stigma is everywhere, even in good intentions...
Eva acknowledged this.
Then the second school day came to an end, and half of the group did a tour of outdoor pubs. I left while we were at the second pub, because I still had some work to do, like reading and reporting, and emailing, and last but not least: sleeping, because I tend to have not much time for that.
Generally I like Budapest and the summerschool, but I know tomorrow we will talk about mental health and detention, which may be a tough discussion, I don’t know. I will find out tomorrow. Now I need to read some more, and then get some rest, to be able to stand strong tomorrow.
It has been a positive day today.
Foto's bij verslag (1)
18 juli 2012 07:20 | Door: je moeder
goed bezig!!! Ga zo door en vergeet niet te genieten van die prachtige stad!
Kus van Rik, want hij logeert hier nu.