Guest Feature: Nathan Fishman

The NAMPWD Team is excited to  feature Nathan Fishman on our blog. He is a board member of the Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey, an advocate, community organizer and activist.  More of his posts can be found on his personal blog, here

New York Times Promotes Forced Complacency

       I read the July 30th New York Times article by Pam Belluck entitled “Program Compelling Outpatient Treatment for Mental Illness Is Working, Study Says,” and I have a lot of issues with it. Mainly, it is promoting a program that is a complete opposite direction from what so much of the literature in our field points towards. The problem with the mental health field is we rarely see the values that we learn in school translated into practice. Values like choice, autonomy, human and civil rights. This article dismisses the importance of those and the detriment to mental health that comes from being denied these things. The problem with the mental health field is that professionals assume the false right to determine what mental health is and also they concentrate disproportionately on what mental health is not. While self-mutilation, crime, and public nudity, etc., are generally not in people’s best interests (sometimes more because of social consequences than inherent damage), who can name one healthy outcome of conforming to this cut-throat, forced-indebtedness, mass-incarceration, police brutality, sexist, homophobic, trans-phobic, ableist, ageist, Eurocentric, chemically addicted, economic tyranny, overworked and underpaid, etc., etc. society? The values that the mental health system attempts to forcibly impose on people are for some just not acceptable or achievable, and nor should they be.
      I don’t deny that people with the types of experiences described in the article need help, but I unequivocally dispute that the mental health system demonstrates an interest or a capacity for providing the appropriate help. I suggest that they focus on 1) addressing the environmental factors on an individual and systemic basis that are causing these “difficult patients” distress; 2) facilitating access to supportive housing which has been shown for years now to deliver superior health and cost efficiency outcomes for people with the most severe needs; and 3) promoting non-medical treatment and options to help people who do choose to stop taking meds. I think the article itself could have been much better if it included much more of the growing perspective that critiques institutionalization and forced treatment, to balance out how the info is being presented. An organization I love whose mission includes uniting people affected by the mental health system is called Mind Freedom International. They posted the same article on their facebook page, and I appreciate at least one critical comment that I found contributed under their post: Here is the link to the NYT article:
Generalist Social Work Practice: An Empowering Approach, by Miley, O’Melia, and DuBois
The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients, by Irvin D. Yalom, M.D.
Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD:
Sandra L. Bloom, MD:
Corporation for Supportive Housing:

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