Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Gulag

Dinah is away this week so Roy and I are filling in. Here's a quick blog post (more to come). I stumbled over the Center for History and New Media web site this morning and found a video tour of an old Soviet gulag. In addition to the video, there's an accompanying audio tour (in Russian, with an English text translation). The camp is better than most, from what I gathered from the description, because it eventually housed formerly high-ranking prisoners. The thing that struck me most was this comment by the tour guide, about transfers out of the gulag to other facilities:

"If one could leave a camp or a jail, a mental institution meant a life sentence, because the effect of mind-altering drugs could not be reversed."
I wonder how many tourists have gone away from that tour thinking that psychiatrists are equivalent to political persecutors. I've seen this attitude about psychiatric medications reflected in some legal opinions here in the United States as well, thankfully in cases a couple decades old, but present nonetheless---the idea that psychiatric medications are "mind-altering" rather than "mind-correcting."

Of course, there are people who have been hurt by psychiatric medications or who feel that they have been permanently damaged by them and I'm not dismissing or ignoring those experiences. I was just struck by the international nature of the stigma about meds.