Radical Psychology
2006, Volume Five


The Survivor’s Voice: Editorial Foreword


The current approach within mainstream psychology to understand, and therefore to ‘treat’, mental distress is through a reliance on the medical model. In many respects, psychology can be seen as the handmaiden of psychiatry in the field of mental health with its deference to psychiatric discourse, including its widespread use of the DSM and its touting of psycho-tropic medications.  Moreover, the dominance of the medical model serves to silence disparate voices and bar alternate discourses in mental health.  For these reasons, this special issue of Radical Psychology has opened a space for the ‘survivor’s voice’ to be heard and discussed by activists, psychologists, people with experience using the mental health system as well as interested others inside and outside of the academy.  It is our hope that this space will allow the survivors voice to emerge from amongst the cacophony of medical terminology and will thus empower those whose voices are rarely heard inside the academy and are too often ignored inside the clinic.  We the editors feel that emphasizing survivor’s understandings is a form of consciousness raising and that consciousness raising is an important step in the pursuit of social justice and civil rights for psychiatric survivors.

The article “An Ethical Approach to Involuntary Psychiatric Assessment and Treatment in Australia” by ‘Joel Michas’provides an analysis of his personal experiences whilst outlining recommendations with respect to the process of involuntary admission to inpatient wards, the involvement of family and the prescribing of neuroleptic medication.  The articles by Brenda A. LeFrancois, entitled ‘‘They will find us and infect our bodies’: The Views of Adolescent Inpatients Taking Psychiatric Medication’, and by Rachel Liebert and Nicola Gavey, entitled ‘‘They Took My Depression and Then Medicated Me into Madness’: Co-Constructed Narratives of SSRI-Induced Suicidality’ detail the experiences of psychotropic medication use. The article by Linda J. Morrison, entitled ‘A Matter of Definition: Acknowledging Consumer/Survivor Experiences through Narrative’, provides an account of the ‘heroic survivor narrative’ and grassroots advocates' narratives in relation to the experiences of activism within the mental health system.  Christopher Canning argues that psychiatric survivor testimonials should be seen as emotionally charged, politicized challenges to medicalized, scientistic knowledge in his article ‘Psychiatric Survivor Testimonial and Embodiment’.  In an article entitled “ ‘Who Fancies to Have a Revolution Here?’ The Opal Revisited (1851 - 1860)” Lauren J. Tenney combines participatory action research with historical inquiry by encouraging contemporary mental health activists to read the words of their nineteenth century predecessors.

Some readers may find some of the articles provocative and challenging not only to the status quo but also to their own constructions of the mental health system whereas other readers may find some articles to not be as radical as anticipated by the call for papers.  It is hoped that reactions to the articles will open a greater space for dialogue with the view to allowing for an evolution of thought within the circle of radical psychology.  For these reasons, letters to the editors regarding the articles in this issue are encouraged and will be published in a later issue of the journal.


Brenda A. LeFrançois and Dan Aalbers


Acknowledgements:

We would also like to express our thanks to Andrew Phelps for serving as an anonymous reviewer for some of the articles appearing in this special issue.

We would also like to thank Dennis Fox for serving as our webmaster -- his skill and patience is greatly appreciated.


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