Los Creativamente Inadaptados –
The Alternatives to Psychiatry Movement in Chile/Argentina 2015

Where I live, back in the United States, it’s so common to use the language of “mental illness” to talk about people’s individual problems. We take it as a given, as some kind of scientific truth. that if we are depressed, it is because we have a chemical imbalance in our brain. We assume that someone who is “schizophrenic” is so because of some genetic flaw. There is something wrong with our neurotransmitters, our personal biology, something that can be cured with a pill. But this is culture, not science. And it’s a culture that has a political origin. You can’t get a more stark example of how neoliberal politics and psychiatry work than in the country of Chile.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.”
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.)
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.”
Full Article

Categorized In:

MIA Continuing Education: Help Us Get The Word Out

With great regularity, I receive emails from people—“patients,” family members, and mental health workers—who are frustrated by this fact: the psychiatrists they meet, and the larger psychiatric community, are simply not aware of research that questions the merits of psychiatric medications. Many providers, for instance, do not know of Martin Harrow’s long-term study of schizophrenia outcomes. We at Mad in America started Mad in America Continuing Education to produce online courses that will fill in this knowledge gap. And now that we have our first courses up, we need your help.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.
Full Article

Categorized In:

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.”
Full Article

Categorized In:

War on Civilization: What Would Happen if Patients Radicalize?

In Paris today we have a lot of people mouthing words that come easily: “Je Suis Charlie.” For anyone who wants to be Charlie, who wants to get to know what modern politics is all about, by feeling it in your marrow, try reporting an adverse event on treatment to your doctor. Outside your doctor’s surgery/clinic/ consultation room you can believe you are operating in a democracy. Inside the room you may be treated with courtesy and apparent friendliness but you are being treated in an arrangement set in place to police addicts. This is not a domain in which ideals of Liberty, Equality or Fraternity are welcome.
Full Article

Categorized In:

A Call to Arms: The Future of Psychiatry is at Stake

Psychiatry is fast approaching a death spiral which we as a society may not be able to recover from. In many residencies, psychotherapy is not even being taught. Many psychotherapists of all professions – psychiatric, psychologists, and social workers have been intimidated by specious neuro-biochemical theories, while others have simply given up. And now, there aren’t many remaining good therapists in practice anymore.
Full Article

Categorized In:

How Come the Word “Antipsychiatry” is so Challenging?

So here we go again; another meeting with another young person who describes how he is in an acute crisis – you may call it – and is diagnosed and prescribed neuroleptics. He is told by the doctor that he suffers from a life-long illness and he will from now on be dependent on his “medication.” As long as people are met this way I see no alternative than showing that there are alternatives. If that means being “antipsychiatry,” then I am more than happy to define myself and our work in that way.
Full Article

Categorized In:

Antidepressant-Induced Mania

It is generally recognized in antipsychiatry circles that antidepressant drugs induce manic or hypomanic episodes in some of the individuals who take them. Psychiatry’s usual response to this is to assert that the individual must have had an underlying latent bipolar disorder that has “emerged” in response to the improvement in mood. The problem with such a notion is that it is fundamentally unverifiable.
Full Article

Categorized In:

How Quantitative Mental Health Turns Oppression Into “Depression”

What are the philosophical underpinnings for what constitutes evidence and how have quantitative approaches so effectively trumped qualitative approaches in applied psychiatry, psychology, and the like? Furthermore, is it possible that quantitative ways of studying human experience may actually promote constricted, myopic views that hurt or oppress human beings? And how does this contribute to a global biopharmaceutical research enterprise reframing the understandable reactions to oppression as being the deficiencies and impairments of its victims?
Full Article

Categorized In:

The Presumption of Incompetence: Why Traditional ADHD Treatments Fail 

The two most popular interventions for ADHD are drugs and stringent control. Those who believe in the traditional biological determinist view assert that others must provide the control that people diagnosed with ADHD lack. In this treatment protocol, diagnosed individuals are remanded into treatment that mimics institutional care (i.e., others control their access to resources and their behavior is restrained with drugs). While both of these impositions can yield some short-term benefits, they can also produce unwanted side effects much like what happens when there is incarceration
Full Article

Categorized In:

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal

Atul Gawande is a physician author whose work has been published in The New Yorker, among other places. In his most recent book, Being Mortal, he explores the complexity of end of life care. In this blog I discuss why I found this book relevant to Mad In America.
Full Article

Categorized In:

Just Me: A Series of Reflections on Trauma, Motherhood, and Psychiatry

It took coming off psychotropic drugs completely for me to become awake. I had the doctor I was seeing wean me off, though she didn’t want to (instead she suggested I take different drugs.) But here I am almost two years later and I am feeling all of my emotions and managing them well. I knew best what I needed, and I trusted myself. Life has shown me that I can endure many trials and tribulations without giving up, and I trust myself today to reach out for help if I need it.
Full Article

Categorized In: