MHO Intertwined with Other Liberation Groups

—Janet Foner

“Mental health” oppression (MHO) is intertwined in every oppression. It holds oppressions in place by preventing people in oppressor roles from discharging and by targeting people in oppressed roles for discharging. Because one’s oppressor patterns are “the way things are,” they are difficult to notice. Emotional distance, which characterizes oppressor material, becomes the expectation of “how to behave,” the standard against which oppressed groups are judged “crazy.”

The oppressive society does not require oppressed groups to maintain order in the society. Therefore, they are allowed to discharge more than oppressor groups. This ability to discharge is what often gets some of their members targeted by MHO.

MHO requires conformity. People of the Global Majority (PGM) and of other non-dominant cultures must hide their cultures and adopt the dominant one, or risk being considered “not okay.” People of mixed backgrounds—cultural, religious, class—often become “unacceptable” to members of one of their heritages. This especially affects people with a PGM identity and a white identity.

MHO views people in non-dominant religions as weird, and those extensively preoccupied with religions as “crazy.”

MHO makes oppression more “palatable” by using psychiatrists to medicalize social problems, for example, the MHS’ use of psychiatric drugs with young people of color, to supposedly cure “violence.”

Everyone acquires irrational sexual attitudes and behaviors (which can all be discharged). MHO, intertwining with sexism and men’s oppression, causes most people to worry that their sexuality is not “normal.” MHS mistreatment of LGBQT people scares everyone. MHO labels those acting outside the narrow “normality” for their gender. It makes inmates in “mental hospitals” feel asexual or “deviant.”


People of the Global Majority

As detailed in the Draft Policy on “Mental Health” Liberation, racism is a key part of the status quo and “normality” (invalidating many great cultures). PGM must hold in feelings to avoid being seen as “crazy.” Patterns of looking emotionless have been handed down as survival measures. The MHS treats African-Heritage people, in particular, the most harshly.

Young People and Young Adults

MHO is pervasive because it gets laid in for everyone when we are young. Young people’s oppression, intertwined with MHO, progressively cuts off discharge as well as running, playing, and being excited. Schools label those who attempt to continue discharging as “emotionally disturbed,” as having “attention deficit disorder,” or the like. Psychiatric drug corporations target this group as an important market, vulnerable because they lack legal rights, and because MHO and parents’ oppression can make parents feel children “need to be fixed.” Some babies are even being drugged for crying too much!

This enforcement of conformity on everyone is part of why it is difficult to be ourselves and fully reclaiming the discharge process. This is a key issue in the RC Communities.


Usually allowed to discharge more than men, women may be seen as “weak,” “emotional,” “hysterical,” “less mentally capable,” or “unstable.” Women are first oppressed by sexism, then blamed for it. Within the MHS, sexism runs everything—men’s patterns are generally seen as “mentally healthy” and the norm used to judge women’s “mental health” and enforce social control of women. Women are the majority of MHS “patients” and receive most of the electroshock and psychiatric drugs.

People Raised Poor and Working Class

A large proportion of “mental patients” are working class or raised poor. The MHS often sees the outward signs of their internalized oppression as “mental illness,” judged against middle-class “normality.” The MHS often treats them worse than those of other classes. They lack financial resource to get out of the MHS once involved.


Jews are judged more or less “normal” according to how much or little anti-Jewish oppression has forced them to assimilate. Their cultural value of making the world right often gets them seen as “trouble-makers.” When anti-Jewish oppression is relatively hidden, Gentile society often does not acknowledge its existence, so Jews may doubt their perceptions of it, or be called “paranoid” for drawing attention to it.


A history of violence has kept Catholics terrorized, on guard, and afraid of heresy, sin, and dissent. Fear of damnation leads them to conform to what they are told to believe. In the oppressed role, Catholic beliefs are regarded as “crazy” or “superstitious.”

LGBQT People

Until recently, the identity of LGBQT was defined as a “mental illness” in the MHS. Currently, the transgender identity is still defined as a “mental illness.” Some LGBQT people, because they challenge the rigidity of gender roles, are considered “crazy.” Their mistreatment in the “mental health” system may lead them to commit to suicide, take on chemical addictions, and try to be “fixed” with drugs or surgery.

Disabled People and “Retarded” People

MHO assumes that people with body parts that do not function “normally” have something wrong with their minds. Since it assumes they cannot work, they are “not okay.” In the past, they have been routinely institutionalized; some still are. People with head injuries and people labeled “retarded” are often lumped together with people labeled “mentally ill” as if there were no differences. (“Retarded” people are often separated out on the basis of brain damage, which they may or may not have.) MHO targets these two groups in similar ways.


Artists’ abilities to express perspectives outside of conformity is suspect as not “normal.” Dedicating one’s time to a “frivolous activity” unlikely to make money becomes the excuse for the oppression that isolates artists from the society, and labels them “crazy.”


The myth is that elders become “senile,” but in fact their distresses accumulate from years of no discharge. Drugging and misdiagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease are common in nursing homes and other institutions for elders.

Wide-World Change and Environmental Activists

Activists risk being considered “crazy,” or being disbelieved, because to support the status quo, for example, war, oppression, and environmental degradation, is “normal.”


Middle Class

As managers of the working class for the owning class, middle-class people are expected to “fit in” more than are those of the other two classes. Being acceptable to mainstream society, and not showing feelings, so that one does not appear working-class, becomes important. These effects intensify for middle-class people who are white, Protestant, or of European heritage—groups stereotypically seen as “normal.”

Owning Class

For owning-class people, the above effects are harsher. The constant denial of feelings and experiences can cause owning-class young people to feel “crazy.” Having money to hide one’s difficulties means that this group is less likely to be hospitalized in “mental hospitals.”


Because men’s oppression brutally cuts them off from discharge and feelings, men often act out their distresses. Men’s training to be violent leaves them terrified of “losing it” and, for example, killing someone. These phenomena create the confusion that men’s nature and “psychology” are inherently violent and oppressive and lead to hopelessness about men’s ability to heal. When men have shown feelings, possibly dropped out of financial success mode, and entered the MHS, they may feel more ashamed than women “mental patients.” The role of “mental patient” is way outside men’s expected role.


In order to be considered “normal,” adults are expected to stop playing, stop being excited, and so on. Adults are expected to set the example for children of how to be “civilized” and “well-behaved.”


Parents are expected to keep their children in line, including inhibiting discharge, under an ever-more-restrictive behavioral code, which trains children to agree to their own oppression and all oppression and remain “manageable.” When parents run into difficulties, because of lack of information and support, they or their child may be defined as the problem. Parents may feel, or be told, that psychiatric drugs are the only answer. Currently, many face losing custody if they don’t drug their children. Poor parents may be required to allow their children to have labels such as “attention deficit disorder” in order to receive government aid. Parents who become “mental patients” may lose custody, whether or not they are competent parents.

Teachers and Professors

Teachers must require students to “behave.” They are deemed “unprofessional” if they show feelings. They often must steer parents to “mental health” professionals, resulting in labeling and drugging of children. Sometimes they must make sure children take prescribed drugs.

Professors’ and students’ not “performing” is less acceptable than ever, which has led to widespread, long-term use of psychiatric drugs in the universities. Professors are sometimes stereotyped as “eccentric.”

Heterosexual People         

In order to appear “normal,” heterosexual people are expected to live as exclusive couples, preferably married, with nearly all needs met by their partner. People are liable to blame themselves if this arrangement doesn’t work and may seek to “fix” themselves or their partners through therapy or psychiatric drugs. Similarly, single heterosexual people may be preoccupied with being “fixed” so that they can get a partner.

White First Worlders (USers in particular)

Because of the intertwining of racism and MHO, people in the First World, especially the United States, believe that the world is mostly white and that PGM are the “strange” minority. This skews their worldview, has them confusing “normality” with reality.



Last modified: 2018-11-15 23:35:54+00