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Arbeit macht frei, or “Work will set you free”

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People often get confused when reading the title of this blog, “Mental Health Affairs,” but even more so, people see the tagline “The Final Solution” and get stuck. Sirens, red flags, and even bells go off.

I suspect this because the blog targets a vulnerable population. Readers have also read the site’s flagrantly fascist “Nazi” rhetoric.  There is nothing flagrant about how I go about things in the blog. The blog is purposeful and deliberate.

The most potent aspect of language is its ability to transform meaning. Take notice of how I make full use of the inherent instability and ‘play’ of language. The transformative metaphors are examples of this ‘play.

All these metaphors allow for new meaning. The result is a fundamentally changed understanding of history and politics, perhaps the humanities.

The gate to Auschwitz bears a now-widely familiar inscription: Arbeit Macht Frei, or “Work will set you free.”

The only way for people with severe mental illness to work towards recovery is to work constantly. I have experienced this first hand as a person in recovery living with a severe mental health disorder. I also experienced this as a clinician who has experience treating people with significant mental health disorders. 

Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister, talks about the enormity of the task ahead to win the war against the allies, called for Total War.

Mental Health Affairs now shifts from reclaiming to re-appropriating. Total recovery is the complete mobilization of your resources to maximize the potential for your gains in healing. To truly make gains when your bodies are pitted against death or risk of serious illness, there can pose no obstacle in your path to recovery. 

Mobilize all your resources to achieve your goals. Total health and healing, natural recovery means taking all the unknowns and revealing them as markers and meter sticks to measure our gains and decrease the risk of relapse.

The fascist lingo here at Mental Health Affairs shows that change talk is quite axiomatic and straightforward at its root. When people are complicit with inhuman care systems go without retribution, there can be no recourse.

About the Author

J. Peters

Max Guttman is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice in New York City. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist, and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a ‘2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10’ award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association.

Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes about his lived experiences with schizophrenia.

‘I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery,’ Guttman says. ‘After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my ‘break,’ I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others.’

‘In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity, and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and Recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients.’

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