SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER

Leah Harris is a mother, storyteller, survivor, and advocate. She has written widely to promote human rights, dignity, healing, and self-determination, and has spoken at advocacy/activist gatherings and conferences including NARPA, Alternatives, and the National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR). She has been a guest on Madness Radio and is also Madness Radio’s Technical Director. Her writing has appeared in publications including Off Our Backs: a Women’s Newsjournal, Adbusters.org, CounterPunch, Street Spirit, and theicarusproject.net. Her spoken word album, “Take Refuge,” chronicles her journey from suicidal patient to human rights activist. She is Director of Communications and Development at the National Empowerment Center and lives in the Washington, DC area.

Leah Harris.com

by

March 3, 2015

As I have various discussions about mental health and disability on the internet, I am disturbed at how many people continue to use the terms “high functioning” and “low functioning” when referring to people with psychiatric or other disabilities. I have heard people refer to their family members as “low functioning.” I have seen these terms used by advocates to bully and discredit other advocates who critique calls for increased levels of involuntary treatment as “high functioning” individuals who don’t know what they’re talking about.
Full Article

Categorized in: Blogs, Featured Blogs, Popular, Recovery/Empowerment, Rethinking Psychiatry/Medical Model, Uncategorized

by

August 13, 2014

Like millions, I am sitting with the fact that one of the funniest people to grace the planet has died by his own hand. Robin Williams’ death has hit people of my generation, Generation X, especially hard. After all, his face flashed often across our childhood screens. Mork and Mindy episodes were a source of solace for me as a little girl, as I bounced around between foster homes and family members’ homes, while my single mother cycled in and out of the state mental hospital, fighting to survive. I could laugh and say “nanu, nanu – shazbot” and “KO” and do the silly hand sign and forget for just a little while about living a life I didn’t ask for.
Full Article

Categorized in: Adult, Antidepressants, Blogs, Depression, Disorders, Featured Blogs, Psychiatric Drugs, Suicide, Uncategorized

by

June 16, 2014

As a trauma survivor growing up in various adolescent mental health systems, I never learned any useful self-care tools or practices. I was taught that my current coping skills (self-injury, suicidal behavior, illicit drug use) were unacceptable, but not given any ideas as to what to replace them with. No one seemed to want to know much about the early childhood traumas that were driving these behaviors. Instead, I collected an assortment of diagnoses. I was told that I would be forever dependent on mediated relationships with professionals, and an ever-changing combination of pills. The message was that my troubles were chemical in nature and largely beyond my control.
Full Article

Categorized in: Blogs, Community, Depression, Disorders, Featured Blogs, Industry, Mind/Body, Non-drug Approaches, Recovery/Empowerment, Rethinking Psychiatry/Medical Model, Schizophrenia and Psychosis, Substance Abuse/Addiction, Suicide

by

June 6, 2014

My mother was once a bright, creative, beautiful young woman, a promising artist and a poet, who was captivated by the hippie movement. She was a creative bohemian artist, defying the conventions of our middle-class Jewish Midwestern family, which had carried a tradition of holding emotions inside and acting stoic. One day, soon after my grandparents’ divorce, she left. She hitched a ride to California, and from that point on, was never the same. The police picked her up on a park bench in Arizona, and she was committed for the first time at age 18. She rotated in and out of mental hospitals, the streets, and jail until her death.
Full Article

Categorized in: Antipsychotics, Bipolar, Blogs, Coercion, Disorders, Featured Blogs, Hearing Voices, Medication Tapering/Withdrawal, Metabolic Syndrome, Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome, Obesity/Metabolic Syndrome, Psychiatric Drugs, Recovery/Empowerment, Rethinking Psychiatry/Medical Model, Schizophrenia and Psychosis, Schizophrenia and Psychosis, Suicide

by

May 5, 2014

My name is Leah Harris and I’m a survivor. I am a survivor of psychiatric abuse and trauma. My parents died largely as a result of terrible psychiatric practice. Psychiatric practice that took them when they were young adults and struggling with experiences they didn’t understand. Experiences that were labeled as schizophrenia. Bipolar disorder. My parents were turned from people into permanent patients. They suffered the indignities of forced treatment. Seclusion and restraint. Forced electroshock. Involuntary outpatient commitment. And a shocking amount of disabling heavy-duty psychiatric drugs. And they died young, from a combination of the toxic effects of overmedication, and broken spirits.
Full Article

Categorized in: Adult, Antidepressants, Antipsychotics, Anxiety, Benzodiazepines, Bipolar, Blogs, Coercion, Community, Depression, Disorders, DSM, ECT, Featured Blogs, Hearing Voices, Industry, Medication Tapering/Withdrawal, Mood Stabilizers, Personality Disorders, Popular, Psychiatric Drugs, Recovery/Empowerment, Rethinking Psychiatry/Medical Model, Schizophrenia and Psychosis, Stimulants, Substance Abuse/Addiction, Trauma/Distress, Uncategorized, Violence | Tagged as: , ,

by

April 21, 2014

While I have lived just a few miles away from the Capitol for the last fifteen years, I have been unsure about getting involved in legislative advocacy. I’ve been intimidated by the complexity of the legislative process, and more inclined to leave it up to others who I perceive as having more experience than me. And honestly, I haven’t felt very hopeful about effecting change. My cynicism had turned to “learned helplessness.” And then along came a mental health bill so destructive, so regressive, that I had to step out of my uncomfortable comfort zone.
Full Article

Categorized in: Blogs, Coercion, Community, Community Updates, Featured Blogs, Popular, Rethinking Psychiatry/Medical Model, Suicide, Violence | Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , ,

by

April 7, 2014

Representative Tim Murphy is a psychologist who proposes unsatisfactory solutions to our most pressing social problems. In a “shockingly regressive” piece of legislation known as the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013” (H.R. 3717), he proposes to expand the highly controversial practice of Involuntary Outpatient Committment (IOC) for persons with serious mental illnesses. But that approach is not the answer, as documented in a fact sheet authored by the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery:
Full Article

Categorized in: Blogs, Community, Featured Blogs, Recovery/Empowerment, Research, Suicide, Trauma/Distress, Violence | Tagged as: , , , , , , ,

by

April 3, 2014

As I walked alone up the stairs to the Rayburn House Office Building this morning to attend the hearing of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on H.R. 3717 – the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act – I thought about how I wasn’t truly alone. In spirit with me were all the people who had experienced scary, coercive, and dehumanizing interventions in the name of help. In spirit with me was every mental health provider who went into the field hoping to really make a difference in their communities, but became cynical and discouraged in the face of so many broken systems and broken spirits.
Full Article

Categorized in: Blogs, Coercion, Community, Featured Blogs, Hearing Voices, Recovery/Empowerment, Schizophrenia and Psychosis, Suicide, Trauma/Distress, Violence

by

March 31, 2014

Dear Senator Deeds:

Hello from another fellow Virginian. First, I want to extend my deepest condolences for the horrific tragedy that befell your family last year, and for the loss of your precious son Gus. I think I know, at least in part, how agonizing it is when our loved ones cannot access helpful supports, and how it feels to watch in horror as they spiral downward into darkness and despair. We all agree that our mental health systems are broken. Those of us who have been down the hellish road of struggling with our mental health and have found recovery have developed a new vision that will take us forwards, not backwards. Please give us the opportunity to share that new vision with you.
Full Article

Categorized in: Blogs, Coercion, Community, Featured Blogs, Recovery/Empowerment, Schizophrenia and Psychosis, Suicide, Trauma/Distress | Tagged as: , , , ,

by

March 17, 2014

The first time I tried to kill myself, I was 14. I won’t go into the indignity of being involuntarily locked up, time after time, until I satisfactorily convinced the staff that I wouldn’t harm myself or attempt suicide again. (I was lying.) The system taught me to lie, to hide my suicidal feelings in order to escape yet another round of dehumanizing lock-ups and “treatments.”
Full Article

Categorized in: Blogs, Coercion, Community, Depression, Psychiatric Drugs, Recovery/Empowerment, Rethinking Psychiatry/Medical Model, Suicide, Trauma/Distress | Tagged as: , , , , , , ,

by

November 22, 2013

eCPR is a public health education program designed to teach people to assist others through emotional crisis through three steps: C = connecting, P = emPowering, and R = revitalizing. eCPR recognizes that the experiences of trauma, emotional crisis, and emotional distress are universal; they can happen to anyone, at anytime, anywhere.
Full Article

Categorized in: Blogs, Community, Featured Blogs, Non-drug Approaches, Recovery/Empowerment, Trauma/Distress

by

October 7, 2013

It has been twenty years since my last suicide attempt. I was barely eighteen years old, and had already spent the last four years, my entire adolescence, really, in and out of the mental health system. On that day, twenty years ago, I left the hospital with nothing but a prescription for yet another drug in my hand, sent back to the decrepit group home where I began my adult life.
Full Article

Categorized in: Blogs, Childhood Adversity/Trauma, Community, Rethinking Psychiatry/Medical Model, Suicide | Tagged as:

by

July 22, 2012

On Wednesday, July 18, the Heritage Foundation sponsored a forum entitled “How to Bring Sanity to our Mental Health System.” It featured Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, who was promoting his new book The Insanity Offense: How America’s Failure to Treat …
Full Article

Categorized in: Antipsychotics, Blogs, Coercion, Featured Blogs, Psychiatric Drugs