One Gutsy Woman

The childhood and psychiatric abuse altered my neurological, hormonal and other bodily functions and it was difficult to say which abuse left what mark. The doctors used medication to fix the changes and the taking of prescription pills became a habit. I took pills to calm me, pills to sleep, and pills to make me happy. A few months after stopping all medications, I was a bundle of nerves and I opened the cupboard for a pill. Living on autopilot as I had been doing for so long had to stop. I switched gears from absentmindedly resorting to pills, to purposefully calming myself without using drugs by breathing the way the psychologist had taught me.
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Make Alternatives Happen Now!

For those who want alternatives, a non-profit foundation was formed 4 years ago by a large group of people that were inspired by Bob Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic, and wanted to find ways to channel that inspiration into concrete action. The group included long-time activists, providers and researchers who were frustrated; they believed in people’s ability to work through extreme states without coercion, and without forced medications. They wanted to encourage unbiased research and provide opportunities to invest in model programs with integrity. The Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care is the only philanthropic foundation in the US that focuses on mental health. It is where philanthropists can contribute to the mission of changing mental health care; by listening to people with lived experience, and fostering and promulgating models that promote true recovery.
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On Becoming Critical

In order for you to understand where I am coming from, you probably need to know a bit about how I got here. Throughout my psychiatric training I had always, in the back of mind, this question: What is the difference between my suffering and those of my patients? How come they get all this treatment and I got none? Why do they have a ‘brain disease’ (there was a time when I tentatively believed in this sort of thing), whilst I, who was at times symptomatically severe enough to warrant medication, have no brain disease? The answer seems plain to me now. I had suffered exactly in the same way as many of the people I see every day do, but I had been lucky enough to avoid labeling and drugging.
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Child Development and The Challenges to Parenthood: An Experiment in Time Travel

We often need a new lens to look through in order to grasp a better way to understand, conceptualize and accept the real reasons behind the sometimes annoying and frustrating behaviors associated with child development. As many of you who read my blog know, I have grown tired of the increased trend of early diagnosis of children. I’m all for early interventions to help kids overcome learning deficits and developmental delays, but why — beyond education compliance policy and getting insurance companies to pay for the bill — do we have to label them with a learning disability or permanent mental disorder?
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Healing the Body/Mind with the Willingness to Feel

Many of us spend a lifetime avoiding our emotional pain, and it does become more and more toxic as long as we keep it buried. It will literally make us ill, physically and mentally, as Bessel Van talks about in the book, The Body Keeps Score. The little quip, “What you resist, persists” has proven very true in my life. The only way out of that trap is to stop avoiding and learn in whatever way makes sense to us as individuals to feel once again and to embrace and absorb and therefore transform the pain of our lives. This is how I am healing.
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The Dopamine Hypothesis of Schizophrenia – Version III

The Division of Clinical Psychology of the British Psychological Society published a paper titled Understanding Psychosis and SchizophreniaThe central theme of the paper is that the condition known as psychosis is better understood as a response to adverse life events rather than as a symptom of neurological pathology. The paper was wide-ranging and insightful and, predictably, drew support from most of us on this side of the issue and criticism from psychiatry.  Section 12 of the paper is headed “Medication” and under the subheading “Key Points” you’ll find this quote: “[Antipsychotic] drugs appear to have a general rather than a specific effect: there is little evidence that they are correcting an underlying biochemical abnormality.”
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From Surviving to Thriving: Unleashing Creativity

There were days that I’d wake up and all I could do was cry for no particular reason, just another miserable day of withdrawal. However, the idea of taking photos would get me out of the house. Especially on those days, the absolutely only thing that would get me to move at all was the idea of taking photos. One particular day, I was just crying, crying, crying, and as soon as I got to a beautiful spot that I loved, I stopped crying, took photos, and felt at peace. I even found that the days I felt the worst were the days I took the best photos.
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Who is Delusional?
The Answer Is: We All Are

Within the mental health profession, clinicians and researchers who value a system of categorical illnesses and individual defects too often proclaim that the major feature delineating “real psychosis” from other “disorders” is the presence of delusions. Two recent articles in the New York Times exemplified for me how skewed this assertion is. It also led to a greater awareness, more specifically, of how problematic it is to view so-called delusions as meaningless indicators of disease . . . for we all experience delusion. How one experiences the self, the world, and relationships (usually based on our relationships with our caregivers) determines the level with which one must cling to seemingly irrational ideas in order to maintain a sense of order and meaning in the world. Let me explain . . .
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Los Creativamente Inadaptados –
The Alternatives to Psychiatry Movement in Chile/Argentina 2015

There are more and more of us who are determined to build an international movement that doesn’t forget its history, and that reweaves solidarity and community back into a model of mental and emotional and spiritual health. The system we live under is organized to keep a small number of people in control of the rest of us. Those who don’t fit into the model are drugged and silenced. We — the Mad Ones, the ones who have no choice but to feel the suffering of this planet and the people on it — we have a responsibility to create a new world that can hold our visions and brilliance. We have a responsibility to know our own histories of oppression and resistance. We carry with us the memories of the dead, the tortured, the exiled, and the ones whose flames can never be extinguished.
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Psychotherapy Is the Real Deal: 
It is the Effective Treatment

It is encouraging that more and more people – psychiatrists, patients, and researchers – are opposing drug treatments for depression, anxiety, and ADHD. But this is only half the battle. To oppose the level that psychiatry, my field, has sunk to comes with the obligation to right the ship. Obviously we need to recover from practices that violate the fundamental principle of “Do No Harm.” But over and above that, we have to constructively treat and heal the ‘pains’ of our patients.
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Bring Back the Asylum?

This week a commentary, written by members of the University of Pennsylvania Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy and titled “Improving Long-term Psychiatric Care: Bring Back the Asylum” was published in JAMA Online. The authors recommend a return to asylum care, albeit not as a replacement for but as an addition to improved community services and only for those who have “severe and treatment-resistant psychotic disorders, who are too unstable or unsafe for community based treatment.” The authors seem to accept the notion of transinstitutionalization (TI) which suggests that people who in another generation would have lived in state hospitals are now incarcerated in jails and prisons. While I do not agree, I do find there is a need for a safe place for people to stay while they work through their crisis.
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Shamans and Psychiatrists:
A Comparison

The Scottish Anthropologist Ioan Lewis, wrote the book Ecstatic Religion in 1971, in which he suggested a ‘shaman is not less than a psychiatrist, he is more.’   He claimed psychiatry was just one of the functions of the shaman, and he invited comparison between shamans and psychiatrists.  Some diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia appeared rather similar to the desired conditions of shamans in an altered state of consciousness.  Other terms used (and misused) for therapeutic practitioners included: native or traditional healer, medicine man, witch doctor, soul doctor, sorcerer, magician, spirit medium, exorcist, curer, diviner and diagnostician.
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I Am “Pro-Healing”

Yoga helped me explore and reconnect with the body I’d abandoned and abused for years. My pain and sadness had me living exclusively in my mind, my body nothing more than a battleground for my inner wars. Through yoga and meditation, I slowly began to love myself again, learning to treat myself with care and respect. I felt a greater sense of self-awareness, and a sense of connection to something greater. This was a drastic contrast to the days when I felt as if god had forgotten about me, or like I was a mistake not meant for this world.
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Sunshine Act for Scotland Petition Goes Before Parliament a 3rd Time

Dr Peter J Gordon, consultant psychiatrist, first lodged a petition on the Scottish Parliament website, PE01493: A Sunshine Act for Scotland, 29 September 2013: “Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to introduce a Sunshine Act for Scotland, creating a searchable record of all payments (including payments in kind) to NHS Scotland healthcare workers from Industry and Commerce.”
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Persecution: Dangerous Liaisons

From 1951, a system designed for heroin and cocaine addicts – prescription-only status – was applied to all new drugs. Why? These were after all the first truly effective drugs in medicine. But the ability to do good came with a likelihood of doing harm. There was a trade-off to be made between risks and benefits. The new complex trade-offs could not be put on to the label of a drug or even captured in a forty page package insert. They needed to be individual to each person.
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Finding Rat Park

Countless times in therapy, I’ve told myself that once I am finally able to fully explain what happened, once I’ve finally cried myself to emptiness, once there’s nothing left to give, my problems would go away. This past year, I realized that wasn’t the case. To be truly whole, I can no longer avoid what I’ve long tried to ignore – that I, human, am a social being. By the very nature of whatever evolutionary tick caused my ancestors to group together as they scampered across African plains with “Eat me, I’m prey” stamped across to their puny butts, I am wired to attach. Darwinism at its best.
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Dreams of a Quick Fix, Gone Awry

The version of psychiatry that many professionals, politicians and laypeople would like to be true is that mental illnesses are specific brain disorders with specific drug treatments, to which they are very responsive if identified early. In reality, the way we categorise mental illnesses is arbitrary, and the diagnostic criteria are over inclusive. Whilst psychiatric drugs can be helpful, the dream of a quick fix by targeted drugs has become a nightmare where we often do more harm than good in the way we use drugs, e.g. against depression, schizophrenia and ADHD.
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In Memoriam: Leonard Roy Frank

  Editors’ Note:  We at Mad in America have all known and loved Leonard. He truly represents the best of why we are engaged in these issues.  His kindness, gentility, and wisdom have touched us all. We are proud, as a …
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Can’t Breathe

As a person who has been psychiatrized, but hasn’t faced long-term institutionalization, I have to accept that I can’t know that level of loss of power and vulnerability. (But I can tell you even short stays are enough to begin to understand.) And to be a person of color with psychiatric labels interfacing with the police? It’s like the perfect storm. (A type of ‘perfection’ that occurs more often than most, given that people of color are more likely to be diagnosed in the first place.)
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The Worst Case Scenario for Global Warming — “Normalgeddon” — is Bad for Our Mental Wellness

For four decades I have been an activist challenging the mental health industry. More and more I feel that the climate crisis should be one of the highest priorities for social change led by people who have personally experienced psychiatric abuse, and our allies. I affectionately call us The Mad Movement. It seems that almost every speaker against global warming ends their message the same way, that we can stop this catastrophe if society has the “will.” I believe that participants in The Mad Movement have an important insight into real sickness in society. As a psychiatric survivor, I have seen too much labeling of creative maladjustment as ill. We need to shake off our world’s complacency and numbness, also known as “normality.”
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Finding the Gifts Within Madness

When people are seeing the world really different than we do, it’s often reassuring to think that there must be something wrong with them – because if they are completely wrong, or ill, then we don’t have to rethink our own sense of reality, we can instead be confident about that own understandings encompass all that we need to know. But it can be disorienting and damaging to others to have their experiences defined as “completely wrong” or “ill.” And we ourselves become more ignorant when we are too sure that there is no value in other ways of looking or experiencing.
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Human Experiences in Academic Boxes

What are Extreme Experiences? Other terms for them are Spiritual Crisis or Spiritual Emergency. With the appropriate support many find the experiences profoundly transformative. However, observers or relatives may have different beliefs about extreme experiences: perhaps that a person is having a psychological breakdown or mental health problems, or is psychotic or experiencing schizophrenia.
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Psychiatrists Providing Psychotherapy?

On December 29, Nassir Ghaemi, MD, a psychiatrist and a professor at Tufts Medical Center, published on Medscape an article titled Psychiatry Prospects for 2015: Out With the Old, In With the New? In it, he writes that with the changes in health care “Clinicians can stop pretending that relationship and social problems have to be shoved into a biological-sounding DSM category (such as major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder) and treated with the only thing insurance companies would reimburse long-term: drugs.” So there it is, starkly stated: Clinicians, by which he clearly means psychiatrists, have been pretending.
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The Eight Lessons of Suicide

Losing a loved one to suicide hurts like hell: there’s an obvious truth if there ever was one. But there are other truths, some hard, some hopeful. If you’ve suffered such a loss yourself, you know too much of these truths already.
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The Substance of Substance Use: Talking About Marijuana, Alcohol, and Other Drugs

When I was locked in a psychiatric hospital, I wasn’t able to have much of a conversation with my parents about what was going on. Phone calls were tense and filled with silence, and as I stood at the ward payphone I was so confused and frozen in fear that each call just confirmed to them how lost I was. Every day as a patient centered around the various prescriptions I was on, and like so many people suffering in a psychosis, helping me became a wait to “find the right combination of medications.”
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