Just when we thought we’d seen it all in the last year, the University of Toronto officially created an anti-psychiatry scholarship.
The scholarship is named after and administered by Bonnie Burstow, an anti-psychiatry activist, to help students pursue a career in this field.
Prior to stumbling across a Huffington Post article about the controversy of this fund, I had no idea there was an entire movement that dedicating to protesting mental health care.
After spending time scouring the web for information on the movement, a part of me wishes I hadn’t come to find this all out.
The term “anti-psychiatry” was coined in the 1960’s and has been heavily connected with the Church of Scientology.
Activists work to exploit the negative aspects of mental health care systems, like the mistreatment of patients inside of mental facilities and the dangerous side effects of certain medications.
It’s hard to disagree with the fact that there are issues with the way we diagnose and treat mental illnesses; what is hard to agree with is their strong core belief that mental illness does not exist at all.
Just by visiting antipsychiatry.org, I clicked on one of their first links- “Does mental illness exist?” - and was sent to a page citing a 1974 book that calls the idea of mental illness “nonsensical.”
One Facebook page that aligns themselves with the movement will not use the phrase mental illness without putting the latter part in quotation marks.
They refer to anyone mentally ill as “claiming to have” the illness or disorder; one comment reads, “‘Mental illness’ is just like ‘I have a broken heart’.
The heart is not broken you just feel sad. The mind is not the brain and you can only feel ill, you cannot be ill.”
Reading the beliefs of this coalition is enough to make any educated person’s head spin.
The administer behind this scholarship in Toronto has even said that she believes “there is not a single proof of a chemical imbalance of a single so-called mental illness.”
This scholarship spreads this information like wildfire; any student researching college financial aid will read that the anti-psychiatry movement is legitimate because there is a scholarship for it.
Despite the fact that this group’s beliefs are not based on a shred of scientific evidence, even being completely at odds with proven facts, it is still an actual field of study.
How does an entire community of millions of mentally ill people react to this? As someone who has struggled with mental illness, I felt helpless when I realized there could be tens of thousands of people in the world that believe what I experience is not real and are convincing others to believe the same.
In order to fight this movement that claims that psychiatrists and therapists are evil perpetrators of violence, it’s important to speak out about our mental health struggles as well as the help we have received for them.
We need to continue donating our time, money, and attention to organizations such as To Write Love On Her Arms, The Buddy Project, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
It’s more important now than ever to continue educating people on the physiological aspects of mental disorders, proving these diseases are just as much mental as they are physical.
We need to stand together and break the stigma of mental health so we can stop letting people like Bonnie Burstow fill in the gaps of what mental health looks like and how it should be cared for.