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The Role of the Exotic and Collusion with Nationalism by Sonia Soans

During a casual conversation with a few friends about an acquaintance of ours a friend casually said ‘it is all very nice that she learns the English language but she must not forget her culture’. The words hit hard as one of the two black women in the room we were struck by the power those words had over us. The inequality and indifference expressed by those words felt as if we had stepped back into an era where women of colour were still subservient to white women, looking after them but never equal.

There are several issues I have with those words…

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Women, Addiction and Nation by Sonia Soans

After acquiring a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology a few years ago I couldn’t wait to put my knowledge to good use. Amongst all the mainstream clinical education I was also introduced to the anti psychiatry movement tough briefly. The thrill of working in a clinical environment was short lived. The nature of psychiatry and its dehumanising effect is something we never talk about much less teach. Treatment received by the patients depended upon their class and gender.

Women addicts, like their male counterparts, face stigma except in their case they have to contend with ideas of sexual promiscuity. Often during therapy sessions prejudiced opinions of women addicts were expressed despite evidence to the contrary. What would have been seen as neutral or normal behaviour outside the rehab was turned into symptoms of addiction and ‘addictive personality’. The power of Psychology is so immense that once a diagnosis has been made every aspect of an individuals life is turned into a symptom. Read more

ECT Is Murder: The Historical and Political Roots of ECT and its Hold on Public Imagination By Sonia Soans

Electro Convulsive Therapy is one of those psychiatric treatments that has a strong hold on public imagination. One Flew over a Cuckoos Nest is iconic in its use of ECT as a treatment. The image of a patient being tied by and given electric shocks is hard to shake, brutality and force are ideas associated with this treatment. Inextricably tied to the profession of psychiatry it is born out of experiments with electricity and in abattoirs.

The image of the ‘mad person’ being subdued is powerful, it signals punishment for deviance. It plays on our fear of physical retribution. It is present in films, we have all seen a film where an agitated person was brought in kicking and screaming and given electric shocks only to be subdued. Read more

Podcast: Interview With Sonia Soans of Asylum Collective

This is an interview with Sonia Soans, part of the Asylum magazine collective which is a platform for democratic psychiatry.  Having experience in clinical psychology and teaching in India, she has focused her study on gendered representations of addiction. Having recently finished her PhD in Manchester, she regularly contributes to critical psychiatry as she helps bring together the new editions of Asylum magazine. Read more