My Time at Bellevue

I’ve never been so proud of such a display of civil disobedience. These heretofore robots, pumped with power sedatives, still possessed human emotions and had, overnight, found a voice to express their discontent. The riots would continue for several more nights and the ward became a chaotic jungle.
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The Presidential Primary & Forced Outpatient Psych Drugs

This month the candidates for President compete in our State of Oregon, so this is a very good time to ask the following question: “How do you stand on the controversy of forced outpatient mental health drugs?” This is my 40th year working as an advocate for people labeled “disabled,” and I know that the topic of involuntary psychiatry can be a little complicated for people. After all, if one of our beloved family members becomes irrationally self-destructive, we can become desperate for help. However, this is such an important topic that we need to go deeper than just a bumper-sticker answer.
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The Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative

Psychiatry assumes that individuals who meet its vague criteria for anorexia nervosa have a disease, and the “disease-causing problem” resides in the genome. If we wish to understand what motivates individuals who systematically under-nourish themselves, however, we need to do two things: Abandon the empty, disempowering psychiatric labels, and recognize that it is through the uniqueness of each individual that we come to understand his or her perspective, and second, we need to sit down with the individual in a spirit of trust and collaboration, and listen to his or her concerns.
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Why Evidence-based Practices Might not Actually Help People

Mental Health First Aid is designated as an evidence-based practice, but what does that really mean? All it means is that the program has gotten enough grant money to get some research that proves it meets its designated outcome criteria. This does not mean the real-life outcomes for the people involved, or for society, are desirable or helpful.
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Mental Health First Aid: Your Friendly Neighborhood Mental Illness Maker

I did it. I finally did it. I went and took a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) class. I had already conjured it up in my mind to be big, bad and terrible based on what I understood to be its basic premise, the affiliated website, and all I’ve ever heard about it from anyone else. However, the truth is that many of those anyones also hadn’t taken it, and so… what if it was better than we all thought? What if we were full of assumptions and were just plain wrong? What does an actual day in the life of Mental Health First Aid look like?
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Unhelpful Utterances: 6 Comments We Should No Longer Hear From Mental Health Professionals

Professionals are paid to share their wisdom with those who are, typically, less informed. But, when dealing with mental health professionals in the psychiatric arena, it is wise to retain a degree of skepticism about the words spoken by the doctors and nurses commissioned to help reduce human misery and suffering.
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Female Peer Specialists Paid Less than Males, Study Finds

In a recent national study by The College for Behavioral Health Leadership, female peer specialists made an average of $2 less than their male counterparts at $14.70 per hour compared to $16.76, respectively. For those of us who don’t live in New York, the gender pay gap is something that affects our lives whether or not we realize it.
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How Biological Psychiatry Can Harm: A Mother’s View

A complex set of cultural forces that have come together in a way that amounts to prejudice against children. A range of professionals who care for children, including psychiatrists, pediatricians, occupational therapists, educators, and many others, must join together with parents to overcome this prejudice. We must recognize the value and necessity of protecting time and space to listen to these youngest voices.
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A “Hot-Potato” Topic and a “Rational” Book

Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws is an excellent book that explores the criminalization and decriminalization of suicide. It analyzes laws by which “mental health” professionals and organizations are held accountable or “liable.” It exposes horrific contradictions in how laws are applied, particularly problematizing the assumption that people who kill themselves are suffering from a “mental illness.” There is much in this book that makes me want to stand up and cheer.
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The MD and the Imaginary Eating Disorder

He could have asked me if there was a specific event that had precipitated my suicide attempt. He could have asked if I had a history of trauma. He could have simply asked, “What happened?” “What are you feeling?” or “So what’s going on?” Nope. He chose to open our meeting with an accusatory remark about a make-believe eating disorder. He determined that was the best course of action when meeting this particular suicidal patient.
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The Psychiatry Sandcastle Continues to Crumble

Psychiatry would long since have gone the way of phrenology and mesmerism but for the financial support it receives from the pharmaceutical industry. But the truth has a way of trickling out. Here are five recent stories that buck the psychiatry-friendly stance that has characterized the mainstream media for at least the past 50 years.
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My Response to the FDA’s ECT Rule Change

I lived through forced ECT from 2005-2006 at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. My experience with ECT was the impetus for me to become involved in the antipsychiatry and Mad Pride movements, although I am not entirely opposed to voluntary mental health treatment. The following is the comment I submitted to the FDA on its proposal to down-classify the ECT shock device.
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Science-Based Service User Input, PLEASE?

Even projects and people that have the best intentions of listening still block people out. Basically, coalitions are based on mainstream funding sources and mainstream moderators, and that tend to override the ability to hear challenges to the status quo. If the funding source and the project management is mainstream, the project will draft back to the status quo no matter how well people intend to follow good service user input processes.
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Dear Self-proclaimed Progressives, Liberals and Humanitarians: You’ve Really Messed This One Up

When it comes to psychiatric diagnosis, I can be almost certain that anyone outside of my immediate field of work just won’t ‘get it,’ no matter where they stand on anything else. And not only won’t they get it; they will often actively be one of the unwitting oppressive masses, either through their inaction or worse.
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MIA Continuing Education Moves into its Next Phase

The roll-out for Mad in America Continuing Education courses is moving into its next phase —improved presentation of courses and a more aggressive marketing of what we believe are unique CME and CEU resources for professionals and advocates alike. If I needed any reminder of why our continuing education project is so necessary, all I need to do is continue to read through my Psychiatric Times email.
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Limits to Medicine: Re-visiting Ivan Illich

We have come to believe that technology can eradicate all human suffering and provide unblemished and everlasting happiness. We have paid for this irrational expectation with our autonomy, our dignity and our ability to endure.
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My Journey of Recovery

I was never anti-recovery. I will admit, however, that when the recovery movement first came to my attention in the 1990s, I was not drawn in. In recent years, this is another area in which I have needed to re-examine my assumptions.
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Beneath the Fog

The medication left me emotionally numb, making it impossible to connect with people or sense the aliveness of the world around me. But after two years on antidepressants, I found something that gave me jolt of feeling strong enough to wake me up for a moment. I then spent the next seven years giving myself daily doses of horror to induce an emotional reaction.
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Finding Clarity Through Clutter

For the last three years, I have been working with people, labeled “hoarders,” who have become overwhelmed by their possessions in their homes. This has been some of the most interesting, challenging and thought-provoking work I have ever done. It is also an area that, I think, highlights all of the issues that challenge us in helping people who feel overwhelmed, for whatever reason.
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ACES Connection – Or Disease Mongering, Round 2?

This blog post is in response to the most recent blog post in MIA saying, “We need to spread the gospel on ACE scores.” Well, a bunch of ACES connection people are doing that already and it may not be so awesome after all.  Or at least we need to shape our own conversation on this. Here’s my story and here’s the science I see as relevant. Please feel free to join the national ACES forum and tell them what YOU think.
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Victim Blaming: Childhood Trauma, Mental Illness & Diagnostic Distractions?

Why, despite the fact that the vast majority of people diagnosed with a mental illness have suffered from some form of childhood trauma, is it still so difficult to talk about? Why, despite the enormous amount of research about the impact of trauma on the brain and subsequent effect on behaviour, does there seem to be such an extraordinary refusal for the implication of this research to change attitudes towards those who are mentally ill? Why, when our program and others like it have shown people can heal from the effects of trauma, are so many people left with the self-blame and the feeling they will never get better that my colleague writes about below?
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Dismissing the Patriarchal Prescriptions

I realized something after a recent occurrence that made me aware of how close any of us are to psychiatric lockup. What I realized is that I can protect myself now; I have tools that I didn’t have at age 18. And that protecting myself doesn’t mean obeying the patriarchal prescriptions for how to behave.
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Our Day in Mental Health Court

For weeks I had been trying to get released from the psychiatric ward of a private hospital in NYC, and none of my arguments, compliance, or attempted air of normality had made an impression on the barely-visible ward psychiatrist who had 2pc’d me. I had, I was told, made a very serious suicide attempt and this was a predictor of future attempts. They would let me know when they thought I was sufficiently remorseful and stabilized to be released.
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Update: Massachusetts Benzodiazepine Bill Hearing

The hearing for Bill H4062: Informed Consent for Benzodiazepines and Non-benzodiazepine Hypnotics took place on Monday – in the middle of an April snowstorm! The discussion clarified some important points in the legislation and gave survivors an opportunity to tell their stories. I was so proud to be there and witness the courage, camaraderie, resilience, advocacy, and vulnerability of fellow survivors. This legislation is our chance to be heard. As one survivor said, through tears, to the committee, “Do not let my suffering be in vain. I beg you to pass this bill.”
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Study 329: Response to Keller & Colleagues

The best protection against bias is rigorous adherence to predetermined protocols and making data freely available. We, like everyone, are subject to the unwitting influence of our bias. The question is whether the Keller et al publication of 2001 manifests unconscious bias or deliberate misrepresentation.
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