Still Weaponizing Mental Illness After All These Years

Angela Kaufman
5 min readNov 12, 2021

Most of my focus was on the conference call with my neighbors, a state agency, and nonprofit organization, as we went back and forth over the uphill battle to save our low income community. But some small part of my attention was in memory. Once upon a time, many years and health crises ago, I would have been on the other side of the proverbial table.

I left a career as an LCSW in my mid thirties to accommodate a TBI acquired after being hit by a car as a pedestrian. Before then, I worked in primarily mental health and substance abuse recovery settings. Time and again I observed landlords, case workers, and employees of the criminal justice system look to me to give credibility to a statement made by a client.

Even when clients were twice my age or more. The tendency to discredit people with mental health diagnoses is not new. In fact, the political motivation to marginalize and discredit those with differing abilities runs parallel to the motivation to disenfranchise the poor, people who are not cis men, as well as people who challenge white supremacy, hetero-normativity and capitalism.

And once you are “othered” in the system, through any of these channels, you spend the rest of your life struggling to be taken seriously. Thus, for centuries, weaponizing mental health and mental illness has been instrumental to upholding patriarchy, white supremacy and classism.

Now, back to the conference call…

Perhaps the advocates and professionals had good intentions. And perhaps they had health or other issues of their own. But none of that matters. In these moments, an invisible line is drawn. Helper-helpee. Advocate-client. Service provider-underserved. Even with the best of intentions, the nonprofit industrial complex perpetuates a cycle of treating others not with autonomy, but with charity.

Needless to say, the interventions failed, illustrating once again that no one will fight for justice and liberation as hard as those directly impacted by oppression and injustice.

Our affordable mobile home community, Saratoga Lakeview Mobile Home Park, is now under threat by our new landlord and developer Mike Giovanone, owner of Boat N RV Storage. He has indicated that he is considering his…

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Angela Kaufman

Angela Kaufman is the author of Queen Up! Reclaim Your Crown When Life Knocks You Down. Her new novel Quiet Man, is available now through Trash Panda Press.