Reasons Not to Believe in Lithium

I Don’t Believe in God, But I Believe in Lithium’ is the title of Jamie Lowe’s moving account of her manic depression in the New York Times. The piece reminds us how devastating and frightening this condition can be, so it is understandable that the author put her faith in the miracle cure psychiatrists have been recommending since the 1950s: lithium. The main problem is that there is no study in which people who have been started on lithium have been compared with people who haven’t. Every randomised trial of lithium versus placebo starts with people who are already on drug treatment of one sort or another, often lithium itself. Now there is good evidence, accepted by leading proponents of lithium that withdrawing from lithium can precipitate a relapse of manic depression, especially a manic episode.
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Lessons from Soteria-Alaska

Yes, Soteria-Alaska is closing. And its sister organization, CHOICES, Inc., has lost its way. As the person who conceived of both of these and got them going, I have some thoughts that might be worthwhile about what went wrong; what should or might have been done differently; and most importantly, what lessons might have been learned.
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It’s as Bad as You Think: The Gap Between the Rich and the Poor is an Unbridgeable Chasm

Many of us in the U.K. are mad – mad with anger at the injustice and cynicism of a political system that is turning the gap between rich and poor into an unbridgeable chasm. Mad with anger because the most vulnerable in society are now paying the price for a political ideology – neoliberalism – with their lives. We are mad and angry because they are blamed for failings that are not of their making, but which originate in the system under which we live. ‘Psychological’ assessments, online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and other forms of ‘therapy’ are being used to force unemployed people with common mental health problems back to work. Mental health professionals responsible for IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) have been relocated to help ‘assess’ and ‘treat’ claimants.
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Mistakes Were Made (by all of us)

After reading Psychiatry Under the Influence I turned to Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). by the cognitive psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson to get a better understanding of cognitive dissonance and how it has influenced my own thinking and behavior. It offers a cautionary tale for all of us.
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Can Madness Save the World?

Over the years of my explorations into psychosis and human evolution a very interesting irony became increasingly apparent. It is well-known that people who fall into those deeply transformative and chaotic states typically referred to as “psychosis” often feel, at different points throughout their journeys, that they have received a special calling to save the world, or at least the human race. Indeed, this experience played a particularly prominent role in my own extreme states, as well as within those of at least two of my own family members. From a pathological perspective, this is often referred to as a kind of “delusion of grandeur,” though in my own research and writing, I have come to feel that the term “heroic (or messianic) striving” is generally more accurate and helpful.
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Children, Youth and Mental Health in British Columbia: A Presentation to the Legislature

“From years of personal and professional experience, I must tell you my biggest fear is that we’re massively misunderstanding the emotional and mental suffering of children and teens. We’ve taken their feelings, thoughts and suffering and transformed them into symptoms, diagnoses, reductive theories and then prescribing them an array of psychiatric drugs with dire short- and long-term consequences. We’re drugging their emotions, their thinking and their quest for meaning into disabling silence.”
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Are DSM Psychiatric Disorders “Heritable”?

A key psychiatric genetic concept is heritability. The concept was originally developed as a tool to help predict the results of selective breeding programs of farm animals,1 but has been extended in the past few decades as an indicator of the strength or magnitude of genetic influences on various psychiatric disorders and behavioral characteristics. Numerical heritability estimates have been a mainstay of the field of behavioral genetics, but here I would like to focus on problems with the heritability concept in psychiatry, while keeping in mind that most of the points made here and by previous critics apply to the use of heritability estimates in all areas of human behavior.
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CBT: Part of the Solution, Part of the Problem, an Illusion, or All of the Above?

Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT has been pretty heavily criticized by a number of Mad in America (MIA) bloggers and commenters in the past few years. In a way that isn’t surprising, because most MIA bloggers are looking for radical change, and CBT often appears to be part of the establishment, especially within the therapy world. But while I’m all for criticizing what’s wrong with CBT, especially with bad CBT, I think there’s also a danger in getting so caught up in pointing out real or imagined flaws that we fail to notice where CBT can be part of the solution, helping us move toward more humanistic and effective methods of helping.
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A Witness to Fraud

To feel as if I was doing something to stop the expansion of state-sponsored organized psychiatric industries, I attended the United States House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Hearings on HR 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015 and HR 2690, the Including Families in Mental Health Recovery Act of 2015.
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When the Tail Wags the Dog, Eventually the Dog Bites

International events related to emotional health issues continue to shock the world, and call into question the value of the mental health industry. Recently, many people around the globe have felt devastated by the suicide of Robin Williams and shocked by the downing of the plane by Andreas Lubitz. Numerous incidents of violence have been shown to involve the mental health industry with some link to mental disorders or psychiatric medication. The important issue to understand is what do these connections mean.
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The Mind and Body Connection: The Correlation between Stress and Inflammation

The research examining the ways in which depressive/anxious behaviors correlate with markers of inflammation has been conducted outside of psychiatry, although a few psychiatrists have contributed. The causal role that inflammation plays in producing depression and anxiety has many implications. Many reports of depression preceding dementia, heart disease, strokes, cancer have been published in samples of persons who were not taking antidepressants. The common factor in all of these conditions is inflammatory processes.
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Men on Hooks: The Origin of Modern Psychiatric Diagnostic Systems

How did modern systems of psychiatric diagnosis come into being? I will tell you, because it came to me in a dream. There were these men, hanging from hooks, looking down into a pit of unwashed humanity. Above them was a golden globe, containing the ideal person, someone mentally healthy, sane, and normal in every way. The men on hooks, having only vaguely examined the ideal man floating above, looked down on all that lay beneath. They scowled. They laughed. They were appalled.
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The First “Working To Recovery” Camp: June, 2015

About a year ago, my partner Ron Coleman said to me “let’s have a recovery camp.” I said “what’s one of those?” and he said “I’m not sure, but let’s invent it.” And so, from June 7th to 12th 2015, we created a community of recovery for a week. The next step is to create communities of recovery around the world — not just as temporary camps, but long-lasting oases within our communities.
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Decision-Making and Moral Injury

Oppression and abuse have effects on a person’s sense of self and experience of agency, or lack thereof; on one’s ability to know one’s self in the world as actor, and not only acted-upon. Some (and maybe all) aspects of oppression and abuse specifically entail moral injury and violation of moral integrity. This is particularly interesting to explore because it links psychological trauma as a result of oppression and abuse with an aspect of decision-making difficulty that some of us experience as psychiatrically-labeled people. There is something to be gained by reclaiming ownership of the truths of our own lives, and ownership over making decisions about where to take the discussion: in philosophy, psychology, law, politics, art or anywhere else.
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What Do Dreams Mean? Dreams Provide a Window Into Our Character

Dreams have fascinated people from the beginning of time. People believe dreams foretell the future; that they have psychological meanings; that we commune with spirits and the dead; that they are visitations from ancestors; that dreams make prophesies and are filled with omens and auguries. It’s always important to keep in mind that dreams, and our lives, are a human story. Our psychiatric treatments must always appreciate our stories. We do not need destructive pharmaceuticals. We need to appreciate the full scope of the human story.
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What You Believe Makes a Difference

I read somewhere recently that when Millenials are feeling upset, agitated, down, confused, hopeless, exhausted, or out-of-sorts they wonder if they are just going through a hard time, just struggling with concerns about themselves and their lives, or if they are suffering from a mental illness. No wonder. Since they have been able to comprehend language they have been bombarded by what I call the Biopsychiatric Belief System (BBS).
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Regarding Representative Tim Murphy’s Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act

Representative Murphy has released the second version of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646). Few can argue that the mental health system and the current approach towards helping individuals and families in crisis are abysmal. H.R. 2646 is an effort to create increased service provisions and to enhance interventions that many professionals, family members and service users alike believe to be effective. When people are desperate and suffering they do not wish to be told “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do.” And so, it is understandable and even laudable that so many support the proposals laid out in H.R. 2646. But the bill is based on distorted and faulty logic that misrepresents the research and evidence base. This is highly disconcerting. And so a collective of mental health professionals, mental health advocates, and persons with lived experience came together to produce the following documents in response to H.R. 2646.
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Electroshock Survivors Taught Me Eight Lessons in International Protests

Last month almost 30 grassroot protests of electroshock were held in nine countries around the world. I had the great honor of organizing the protest here in Eugene, Oregon, USA, even though I am a survivor of psychiatric drugs and not electroshock. Electroshock is the psychiatric procedure in which electricity is run through people’s brains. Here are eight lessons that this historic event taught me.
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Upon the U.K. Launch of Psychiatry and the Business of Madness: A Reflection

This is a study of psychiatry. It is a study of an area officially a branch of medicine and overwhelmingly seen as legitimate, benign, progressive, and effective. But what if society had it wrong? What if this were not legitimate medicine? Dare we imagine a world where helping is not professionalized, where caring is not commodified. Where, in the spirit of community, we go about the business of life together?
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Bullying+Lying = Fear+Complying

Psychiatrist are the link between two entities; the pharmaceutical companies that engage in bullying and misinformation, and the consumers who respond with fear and compliance. The goal of this world-wide enterprise is to expand the superhighway that connects research for new drugs to clinical trials, and then to production and distribution.
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To the Heart of the Matter:  Stigma, Labeling, and the Delicate Search for the Common Good

In March of this year, Leah Harris published a wonderfully thought-provoking article entitled Why We Must Strike the Terms High-Functioning and Low-Functioning from Our Vocabulary.  It clearly describes both the limitations and potential pitfalls associated with labeling, and how this can lead to long-term negative outcomes. Since this article was published, I have found myself coming back to fundamental questions which still loom about the topic of labeling and stigma.
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The Medical Model Discovers Heroin Addiction

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of heroin addiction and a sharp rise in opiate over-dose death. Contrary to addicts being introduced to opiate addiction through street heroin, 75% of new addicts became addicted through prescription opiates. While SAMSHA does suggest that Opiate Treatment Programs screen for other drugs, SAMSHA is unclear about what should happen if the urine tests positive.
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The Time to Curb Forced Drugging is Now: In Your State, and Nationally

Is the time ripe for MadinAmerica readers to organize legislative action to curb the use of drugs as chemical restraints?  Recent developments in Congress, in the state of Washington, and in California suggest that the answer is yes.
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Towards a Healthcare Magna Carta, Part One

The area of politics that counts most for most of us is healthcare. Big Healthcare is now the biggest business in the United States and in the Western World. We desperately need a new compact between we the people and those who govern our healthcare – or at least a new compact between the doctors who make money for pharma by putting pills in our mouths and the pharmas of this world. Instead, we are told that to question the judgments of the scientific literature is to engage in an irrational War on Science itself.
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How Should We Understand the Link Between ADHD and Early Death?

Alarming headlines, based on a recent study, declare that diagnosis with ADHD doubles the risk of early death. Psychiatrist Stephen Faraone, commenting on the original study published in the Lancet, concludes that: “for clinicians early diagnosis and treatment should become the rule rather than the exception.” This conclusion represents a false assumption that the deaths occurred in cases that were not treated.
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