Fighting For Change: An Epiphany From Inside the “Movement”

I am a person labeled with “severe and persistent mental illness,” and so I have been trying to break the cycle of oppression that comes with a label like that. At the same time, I am trying to find ways to heal and to accept things about myself that are different from others, while also seeking to raise up my brothers and sisters in this desolate and dark place. This morning, I had an epiphany upon awakening. While it’s hard to put into words, it feel’s vital, and I want to try and get it down.
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Not So Rare But Rarely Diagnosed: From Demonic Possession to Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis

Throughout the ages, convulsions, contortions of the body and face, including the tongue, super-human strength, catatonic periods, long periods of wakefulness or sleep, insensitivity to pain, speaking in tongues, and a predilection for self-injurious behaviours have all been offered as physical evidence of possession. The modern day interpretation, however, comes with a plot twist befitting a media spectacle. There is growing consensus in the medical community that many prior accounts of “demonic possession” may have represented original accounts of what is now broadly known as autoimmune encephalitis.
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A Diluted Murphy Bill Clears the House and Goes to the Senate

Organized psychiatry, committed irrevocably and wholeheartedly to drug pushing and to their corrupt and corrupting relationship with pharma, simply will not countenance the fact that their primary product is fundamentally flawed and destructive. So they hire a PR company; they fund and lobby politicians; they parrot slogans; and they encourage one another to ever-increasing heights of self-congratulation. But they will not commission a definitive study to clarify and assess the scale of this problem once and for all. And the reason for this inaction is because they know that it would be bad for business. It would “cause a lot of people to stop taking their medications.”
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Who and What Killed Prince and Michael Jackson? Will the Role of Benzos Ever Be Revealed?

It is the deadly cocktail of benzodiazepines and opiates that is most responsible for the rising rate of opiate overdose deaths… and benzos may actually be THE decisive deadly component in the lethal drug combination. Yes, fentanyl and propofol can be dangerous drugs, but to focus the main attention in this crisis on these rarely used drugs is deliberately misleading…This minimizes the critical role of benzos and rather conveniently lets certain institutions and their leaders off the hook as the main suspects in such a vast number of cases that should be labeled as crimes of negligent homicide.
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What Does Your Illness Mean?

Nine months after the birth of my first daughter, I felt off. Flatness, forgetfulness, cold, and tired. If I hadn’t discovered my formal diagnosis of an autoimmune thyroid condition, I could easily have been offered an antidepressant. Instead, I delved into the complex physiology of the immune system and its relationship to seemingly unrelated areas like the gut and brain. I learned pathways and the role of nutrients in their optimization. I changed my lifestyle, and my life changed as a result.
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Researching the Link Between SSRIs and Violence

In 2010, my 25-year old son was prescribed Prozac for depression. After a psychiatrist doubled his dose, my son became acutely psychotic and had to be admitted to the hospital. Over the next twelve months, during which time he was treated with antidepressants and neuroleptics, my son had five further psychotic experiences. I thought it might be that my son was having difficulty metabolising the drugs.
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Pushing for an Informed Consent Benzo Bill in Texas

Dr. Raymond Armstrong and I are currently working together to push Texas lawmakers to adopt restrictions on the prescription of benzodiazepines and sleep drugs. We feel fortunate to be able to draw from the experience of the benzo movement in Massachusetts, and we are grateful for the information that long time advocates like Geraldine Burns have provided us.
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Life Lessons and Trauma Informed Care

My first real introduction to the world of madness and “mental illness” was when I was 21 years old and I left home to start my mental health nurse training. Reflecting on my own experiences has led me to consider how the trauma of participating in the psychiatric system can affect the way we care for others.
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Life in the Era of Push-button Psychiatry

Most of us know ourselves so much better than our doctors do. We’re smart and we know what’s wrong. We don’t need some dude in an office to tell us. If you are totally convinced that the chemical route will cure you, why not go out and buy drugs directly? Why bother with the appointment, doctor, diagnosis, prescription, insurance, approval, and pharmacy method when it’s so costly, time-consuming, and you so often end up on the wrong drugs, or even incarcerated in a hospital? Do we really need psychiatrists when a vending machine will do?
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Mourning? – Yes; Forgiveness? – No. Healing from Trauma

Mourning is the biological process that allows us to relinquish and deactivate the brain mappings that result from trauma. By facing the pain, we can truly put it behind us, where it no longer rules us. In so doing, one writes a new play that is infused with authenticity and love.
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Inner Fire: Healing and Recovery Without Meds

For five years, I and others worked to create a residential healing community in Brookline, Vermont, where people could recover from debilitating and traumatic life experiences, which often lead to addiction and mental health challenges, without the use of psychotropic medications. We welcomed our first six seekers to a yearlong, therapeutic and farm-based, day program last September, and we now can report on what we have learned during this time.
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Escaping the Grip of Forensic Psychiatry

Six years ago a new neighbor moved into the house across the street. Paul Ellis was his name and we gradually moved from a nodding acquaintance to long conversations about philosophy and then to walking our dogs together. Then one autumn evening Paul told me that he had spent seven years in a forensic psychiatric hospital for killing his father in a substance-induced psychosis.
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I am Insane

I have been here at Western State Hospital for almost five years. While I’ve been told that I’ve met all the criteria for a conditional release, the hospital won’t grant me this because I can’t prove that I won’t be dangerous in the future. Can anyone prove this? Even convicts don’t have to prove they’re ‘safe’ before they are freed.
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Sadness: The Problem and The Solution

There is an ever-narrowing bandwidth of behavior that supports the dominant narrative in our culture today. We all need to act a certain way to protect the foundational beliefs of our time – that “science” has it all figured out, that rules keep us safe, and that it’s us vs. them (insert germs, terrorists, pests, and other “enemies”). But what are the consequences of this? What is this sadness and where does it go if we bandage our consciousness with business, medication, substances, or general avoidance of our real human experience?
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Off Psychiatric Drugs After Fourteen Years

I have hopes for the field of psychiatry. I hope the field will redeem itself, and redeem its practitioners, because they do have clinical skill and the opportunity to learn more and grow. Many of them, I believe, were just taught bad science, influenced and infiltrated by Big Pharma.
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#Diversity? — What “Solidarity” Really Looks Like

What would it look like if national peer-run mental health organizations and other national leaders came out with statements in support of other movements’ struggle for freedom from oppression? What would it look like if we were truly unified in solidarity? We would have community-based centers providing intentional support, open 24 hours a day, instead of crowded jail cells holding people in pain. It wouldn’t be easy, but we have to do it.
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More on the Power of Diversity: The “Hidden Recovered”

If we look at stigma as arising from the fear of things perceived as unfamiliar and judged abnormal, then we must think of challenging stigma by making the characteristics associated with stigma more familiar and thus less fearful. For me, central to stigma is discrimination and exclusion. The antidote: working with someone as a colleague, knowing such a person as a neighbor and friend.
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Centering Lived Experience

Lately, after a number of discussions, we have been changing our practices around the issue of labels. No longer do we give a diagnosis at presentations. We place the young person’s story, as told to us, front and center. People listening rarely ask, “What is their diagnosis?” now that lived experiences are central. We are providing a sense of their struggles. We are trying.
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Why Mental Health Organizations Should Endorse the Movement for Black Lives

The psychiatric survivor movement, which then became the consumer movement and recovery movement and now the peer movement, was born in a time of civil rights and Black organizing in the US. It was Black people in the civil rights movement who inspired all of us to make social change real, and psychiatric patients and progressive professionals took up that inspiration. In a very real way, Black protest made psychiatric protest possible, which then led to the modern consumer/peer/recovery movement.
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Dear Boston Globe, Part III: We Came. We Protested. You Still Didn’t Listen.

On Monday, August 1, over 140 people arrived on the Globe’s door step asking for change. They came as a part of a Vigil entitled, ‘The People’s Spotlight.’ The event was in direct response to your ‘Spotlight on Mental Health’ series (still, painfully) called ‘The Desperate and the Dead’ (in case you didn’t catch the play on titles yourself). The demands were relatively simple.
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It’s Time for a Revolution Within the Revolution: Coming Out of the Closet on Racism

If we are to demand justice for our brothers and sisters in hospitals, jails and community-based programs, then we must demand justice for women, Blacks and other POC who are being discriminated against. We cannot continue to be silent while 50% of us are regulated to the back, and not allowed space at the table. Our fellow community members are wounded by the silence. We expect and are now demanding to be treated better.
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Did I Choose the Wrong Profession? 

The sickening realization that had been creeping up out of my gut–the one that I kept trying to hide from my brain and my heart–could be repressed no longer. We are all familiar with the arguments that companies spend billions of dollars to bring a drug to market, that it takes at least a decade of research, and that thousands of entities never even make it to human testing. All of these points are used to justify skyrocketing drug costs in the name of altruistic endeavors such as “Working for a Healthier World” or “Where Patients Come First.” (These are actual company slogans.) What I’ve seen and participated in during my time in the industry is that patients really don’t come first.
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What Do the DSM, Elvis Presley, and Dionysus Have in Common?

To a classicist, the psychotic illnesses detailed in the pages of the DSM look like nothing but the main characters of the classical tragedies of ancient Greece, only born anew under medicalized names. And since the ancient tragedians do their utmost to make us sympathize with these characters, reading a tragedy or two—such as Euripides’ Bacchae—might go a long way toward helping us understand—truly understand, on existential grounds—when and why an individual elects to engage in odd behaviors.
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The Struggle, and the Challenge: Young Adults in Crisis and the Use of Medication

I face the daily challenge at my urban center in Hartford, Connecticut of working with young adults (18-25) coming out of the juvenile system into adult outpatient care. Most of these youngsters come to us on multiple medications of all classes. Almost all have stories of trauma, abuse and neglect going back some generations. Almost all carry psychiatric labels of bipolar or schizoaffective or personality or behavioral disorders. Very few of them have ever been told of the long-term effects of the medications they have been prescribed.
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Six Lessons on Open Dialogue From the Collaborative Pathway Experiment

The Collaborative Pathway is a replication and adaptation of Open Dialogue at Advocates, Inc., a human services agency in Framingham, Massachusetts where I serve as Medical Director. Last week, our team published an article in the Best Practices column of the journal Psychiatric Services, describing the program and our results from the first cohort of young people and families experiencing a psychotic crisis. This is the first published adaptation of Open Dialogue in the U.S. and represents the culmination of several years of planning, training, and direct service.
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