Fluorescent lights. Plastic cups with pointed bottoms dangle from the water machine. A Top 40 hit blasts, the kind that could never be background music. It demands your full attention, consumes all senses, and shuffles all thought. There’s a flat-screen TV on the wall, but thankfully it’s off. Magazines stacked between me and other patients. Psychology Today. Frankie. LivingNow. Better Homes and Gardens. Tightly woven grey carpet. Neon flyers that read “On relationships,” “Let’s talk about drinking,” “Anger management,” and “Building emotional resistance.” A hand sanitizer pump next to the scented tissues. The soft sound of fingers on a keyboard underneath the still-blaring tune. All of it contributing to a heavy static in the air.
What if widespread dwindling mental health has less to do with what’s going on inside individuals and more to do with what’s going on outside? And instead of varying levels of sickness, we’re witnessing varying levels of sensitivity/reaction? Is the intention to heal individuals a lost cause (albeit critical) if we do not acknowledge larger issues concerning the way we live/consume/develop as a whole?
Is studying philosophy a sham? Is studying ethics morally permissible? Is the ability to study philosophy or act in and of itself problematic and/or intrinsically valuable? Is it limiting or expanding to read philosophies of those who were able to record theirs? Could it be purely for pleasure?
Why is nonconsensual, compulsory treatment widely accepted in mental healthcare? Why are many in the medical and bioethics community so certain that the “insane” are undoubtedly unfit to choose for themselves? Who is to say? Who is to decide what is the most whole/beautiful/meaningful/ “right” existence of another?
* Thinking specifically about nonconsensual electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in schizophrenic patients, some who deny their diagnosis and treatment. See the case PBU & NJE v Mental Health Tribunal from 2018 in Victoria. Essentially, the patients won and were freed from forced treatment. For those on the side of patient advocacy and autonomy, this was good news. However, this ruling upset some psychiatrists and bioethicists.
Objective is a fiction that there is some neutral ground, some political no man’s land you can hang out in… Even what you deem worthy to report and whom you quote is a political decision. We tend to treat people on the fringe as ideologues and those in the center as neutral, as though the decision not to own a car is political and the decision to own one is not, as though to support a war is neutral and to oppose it is not. There is no apolitical, no sidelines, no neutral ground; we’re all engaged.”
Psychedelic researchers, advocates, and skeptics alike met on February 13th, 2019 in Melbourne for the Mind Medicine Australia launch. Fresh from San Francisco and eager to meet people in this city also interested in psychedelic medicine, I bought an early-bird ticket.
February 13th, 2019, 5:30 PM. At this point in life getting ready to go out involves more time bopping around with acid under my tongue than looking in the mirror. Microdosing quells my zapping nerves and oftentimes overactive mind, especially before larger gatherings.
So I took a small dose before biking to the University of Melbourne for the Mind Medicine launch. The bats weren’t out yet, but they would be soon, and the air was a perfect 23°C. I locked my bike, tried to tame my helmet hair, and entered the Sidney Myer Asia Centre. Immediately greeted, thick lashes ushered me to the left. More smiling eyes appeared around the corner, showing the way upstairs. I entered the full, bustling theater.
There were only a few seats left. Everyone was finding their space, finding their friends. I sat down in the back and observed the crowd. No matter if it’s in Melbourne, London, Berlin, or San Francisco, the general attitude and sense of psychedelic conferences remains the same: compassionate, curious, positive, and present. There’s this shared understanding, communicated with kind and sometimes cheeky glances that say: “We’ve seen a glimpse of the possible. That’s why we’re all here.” It’s usually a clash of characters, buttoned-up scientists, artists. The kind of people you might bond with at a music festival and never see again are there, anticipating a lineup of lectures.
Sound cultish? It really shouldn’t. People from all edges of the earth have been interested in psychedelic medicine and its potential for millennia. Many aboriginal people wonder what took us so long to make the connection. This goes beyond a Reddit thread.
“Hi neighbor,” the man next to me introduced himself. He was wearing a sheen suit and said he wanted a job.