Adventures at the APA

On May 18, I had the pleasure and privilege of chairing a workshop at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in Toronto. The topic: Rethinking the Long-Term Use of Antipsychotics in Schizophrenia: For Everyone, No one or Some?
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Announcing Mad in America’s New Resource Section on Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal

I know from firsthand experience how hard it can be to read a simple sentence about withdrawal when on or coming off psychiatric drugs, let alone to feel clear-headed enough to track down information on the internet, sift through it all, decide what’s trustworthy and reliable and what should be ignored, and make a safe and responsible plan. The purpose of our psychiatric drug withdrawal section is to make it easier, clearer, and more accessible for those in our community to get informed about coming off psychiatric drugs.
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Questions About Jeffrey Lieberman’s “Notorious Past and Bright Future of Psychiatry”

I just attended my first American Psychiatric Association (APA) meeting even though it has been going for 168 years. I was invited to join a symposium on vitamin-mineral combinations as primary treatment of psychiatric symptoms. There was one talk I decided to attend, not because I was particularly interested in the topic, but because it would give me an opportunity to ask Jeffrey Lieberman a question.
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Book Review: Psychiatry in Context: Experience, Meaning & Communities, by Phil Thomas

Psychiatry in Context follows on from Phil Thomas’s previous ground-breaking analysis Postpsychiatry (Bracken & Thomas, 2005), and is set to become just as influential and indispensable to anyone concerned with the politics, practice, and philosophy of mental health. In some respects this is almost ironic, because a book like Psychiatry in Context would ideally be unnecessary.
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ECT: Safe and Effective for Agitation and Aggression in Cases of Dementia?

It is often not appreciated by the individuals receiving electrically induced convulsions that any gains they receive from the procedure will almost certainly be short-lived, and that the “treatment” will need to be repeated more or less indefinitely at intervals of about a month. Case studies can be helpful and informative, but they tell us little or nothing on the general questions of safety and efficacy.
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Reviving the Spirit of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest!

Today, Saturday, 16 May 2015, a protest was held in Eugene against human rights violations caused by the use of electroshock, a psychiatric procedure involving the running of electricity through the brain. The protest today was one of about two dozen held in about eight countries.
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Psychiatry Reconsidered … Once Again

It would be a shame if Andrew Scull’s Madness in Civilization did no more than draw well deserved applause for his authorship and historical expertise, and a prominent place in the bibliography of madness. My own copy of Madness in Civilization arrived last week, and it is great; comprehensive, brilliantly written, lots of colourful and many disturbing illustrations. Madness’ continuing story, “From the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine” is told as never before, but there seems to be something missing…
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The American Indian Youth Suicide Epidemic: Mental Health Professionals as Superheroes

My previous pieces for Mad In America caught friendly eyes at Indian Country Today Media (ICTM), and they’ve recruited me to write a forthcoming multipart series on oppression in mental health in Indian Country. I’m very grateful for this opportunity, especially to you, dear reader, and all the folks at Mad In America. I’ll be linking ICTM readers to my blog site here and will hope it causes them to investigate the MIA website more deeply. Before I back away for a while, however, let me offer a few words about the current epidemic of youth suicide at Pine Ridge Reservation, and a recent story for the New York Times
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Listening to the Voiceless Citizens

Just this morning CNN reported that 3 men were arrested over plans to travel from N.Y. to join ISIS and one of them posted online about his plans to assassinate the President. Cyberspace and social media are the platforms from which terrorists speak, express their ideas and exert powerful influences over some individuals in this and other countries. The voices of terrorists are clearly compelling and appealing. Their voices are being responded to in dangerous ways.
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What Kind of Forced Treatment Would You Prefer?

The new Danish psychiatric law which has been under development for a while has just been passed by the government and is due to be implemented on 1st June 2015. However the road to this new law, ostentatiously to improve the rights of the patients, has had an interesting history. Denmark was on its way to achieving the dubious title of European champion in the number of people subjected to physical restraints according to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
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Thank You Notes: #ForTheKids

This short blog is inspired by the always entertaining and witty Thank You Notes ritual Jimmy Fallon does on the Tonight Show every week. It’s intended to be funny, but of course not as funny as Jimmy Fallon; he’s the best. People say I am funny, and have a great face for radio, but come on… how funny can you be when you talk about mental health and drugging kids?
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Free Your Mind! These Online Documentaries About Festivals Give Me Hope

For too long we have considered mental well-being to be about the five, ten, fifteen, or twenty percent of us that gets a psychiatric label each year. But really, if you look around at out world for a moment, you can easily see that to be alive, to be human, to exist, one must have support and healing. Festivals like this one give a glimpse of what the world can be like and I recommend this experience for envisioning a future mental health system or any futuristic vision of change.
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What Would CRPD-Compliant Mental Health Legislation Look Like?

Let’s be clear – I prefer to have no mental health legislation at all. The history and legacy of mental health legislation is anti-human rights, discriminatory, segregative, othering of people whose experiences of distress and states of consciousness are disapproved of by those who are able to fit more easily into social norms. Often too, “mental health legislation” is synonymous with “mental health acts” that are concerned with regulating involuntary commitment and compulsory treatment. It is with this in mind that I promoted the goal of “repealing mental health laws” and started the Campaign to Repeal Mental Health Laws.
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Is My Therapist Good or Not?

I frequently get asked by people on the internet whether or not I think their therapist is good. For a variety of reasons, I usually do not feel comfortable answering them directly. However, I do feel comfortable writing about the subject here, as a sort of amalgamated response. As such, here are some questions I might ask such people, and here is how I might respond to their answers.
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The Once and Future Abilify: Depot Injections for Everyone?

This column is partly a report on the marketing of Abilify, the atypical antipsychotic that has become America’s best-selling drug.   It’s also an appeal for advice and feedback from the RxISK and Mad in America communities, and a call for some brainstorming about strategy.  The plans laid out by drugmakers Otsuka and Lundbeck for Abilify’s future, and the cooperation they’re getting from leading universities, are alarming enough to me that reporting on them seems inadequate.  We need action, although I’m not sure exactly what kind.
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Psychiatry: Smoke and Mirrors

In many MIA posts and outside sources I hear the voices of people who perceive psychiatry as an omnipotent force in society. They are perceived as so intimidating and powerful that they have inspired the “anti-psychiatry movement” (which I subscribe to).  It is true that many people who suffer from emotional pain do follow their psychiatrist’s recommendations and trust their diagnostic skills and prescriptions for treatment. It is also true that these skills rely a great deal upon the smoke and mirrors of Magic.
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Physician, Heal Thyself (Luke 4:23)

Big Pharma has done their job so well that they no longer need to bribe doctors with cash to get them to tout the party line. Their neurobiological belief system — that complex mental states can be meaningfully reduced to neurological structures and biochemical processes — is now so well entrenched in our culture it is becoming more and more difficult to find folks who doubt it, especially in medical schools and in departments of psychiatry.
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It’s a Circus Under This ‘Big Tent’

Just once, I’d like to share my story at a conference (any conference) and have it truly be heard. I’d like to share how much I was hurt by psychiatric diagnosis and a ‘mental illness’ perspective, and how I regard my experience as being largely rooted in trauma, and have people not revert immediately back to referring to everyone as ‘mentally ill.’ Just once. It hasn’t happened yet.
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What is Love? An Ode to Motherhood on Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day this blog will not address the pressing issues of psychiatry today. Suffice it to say that the harm done by the twin traumas of deprivation and abuse generate all the psychiatric struggles we are all subject to. This is the other side of the story – in appreciation for what I have learned about love from my wife.
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Thoughts on “Antipsychiatry”

I have been called many things by many people over the last six years of my advocacy, and “Antipsychiatry” is, actually, one of the nicer ones. Yet, as much as I agree for the most part, I still I do not resonate with this term. While I completely identify with Antipsychiatry activists because of the abuse I have experienced and that of all the Survivors I know, I have felt pressured within “the movement” to take stands I don’t agree with, and express opinions I do not hold. This makes no sense to me except to the extent that trauma often leads people to behave in the same ways as they themselves were abused.
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Psychiatry Through the Lens of Institutional Corruption

When you write a book, you usually do so in response to a prompt of some type, and in the process of researching and writing the book, you will come to see your subject in a new way. Psychiatry Under the Influence, a book I co-wrote with Lisa Cosgrove, provided that learning experience, and this is what I now know, with a much greater certainty than before: Our citizenry must develop a clear and cogent response to a medical specialty that, over the past 35 years, has displayed an “institutional corruption” that has done great injury to our society. In fact, I think this is one of the great political challenges of our times.
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Psych Meds Put 49 Million Americans at Risk for Cancer

With 1 in 5 Americans taking a psychiatric medication, most of whom, long term, we should probably start to learn a bit more about them. In fact, it would have been in the service of true informed consent to have investigated long-term risks before the deluge of these meds seized our population over the past thirty years.
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My Story and My Fight Against Antidepressants, Part II

Healing mental health issues through correct supplements as well as nutrition is, I believe, the final factor for me in my journey. This is possibly what was missing in my first attempt at coming off, and why my brain and body couldn’t handle the extreme anxiety I felt in December 2013. I am ensuring that as I prepare to taper off the Lexapro in 2015, my brain and body are being supported in every way possible.
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Voiceless in America

Inside of the clamorous jails, in the single beds of locked in-patient psychiatric units, and in the noisy streets and quiet homes across this country there are people who have no voice. They have been rendered mute by terrible conditions; physical and emotional abuse, incarceration with dangerous criminals, numbing medication and threats of long term hospitalization. Whether their inability to communicate their fears, their desperation, and their frustration comes from an early history of abuse that traumatizes them into silence or is imposed by an environment that punishes expression of feelings, the results are the same. They are voiceless at a critical time in their lives.
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Book Review:  Tales From The Madhouse, by Gary Sidley

Earlier this year the British publisher PCCS Books published Tales From The Madhouse: An insider critique of psychiatric services, by Gary Sidley. Gary’s criticisms of psychiatry are cogent and convincing. But in addition he has drawn on his extensive experience working in the system to describe in close detail psychiatry’s devastating effects in the lives and hopes of real people. Through Gary’s sensitively written anecdotes, psychiatry’s “treatments” are exposed as the disempowering, hope-destroying tactics that they are.
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