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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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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Key Unmet Needs Associated with Behavior Problems in Dementia Patients

In a study of 89 residents who had both dementia and behavior problems in six Maryland nursing homes, a team associated with Innovative Aging Research found most of the patients had important, unmet needs. More →

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Youth With Social Anxieties Can Benefit from Social Service

Many youth who get into legal troubles have histories of having social anxieties, and seem to derive benefit from becoming engaged in simple, service-oriented social activities, according to a study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. More →

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Re-telling Our Stories: Liberation or Re-oppression?

The Wall Street Journal reports on two recent studies that found that people who "narrate" their own lives to put a positive spin on them feel better overall. But a paper in Intersectionalities explores how re-narrating one's own sense of personal identity may either help free one from oppression or become a mere expression of one's oppression. More →

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The Sunrise Center: A Place For Adults To Recover From Psychiatric Drugs

Many people now using psychiatric drugs have been convinced or forced to use them while being treated in the mental health system. A good number of people are eager to stop using these drugs, but are often discouraged by others from doing so. Many psychiatric survivors believe that they can never stop using these drugs because they were told they would need to use them the rest of their lives. We hope the Sunrise Center will become a catalyst for a movement of people creating places for people who want to stop using psychiatric drugs.
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Fighting for the RLCs Continued: Where’s the Evidence?

The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (along with the five other RLCs across the state of Massachusetts) remains in jeopardy of a 50% slash to our budget that would go into effect July 1, 2015 should it come to pass. As noted in my previous post (Peer Supports Under Siege), the proposed reduction was introduced by Governor Charlie Baker in early March. However, there are many hoops to jump through and so we’ll remain in budget limbo for some time to come while the House and Senate draw up their own recommendations and then everyone comes together to make a final call.
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Upon Leaving Soteria-Alaska

Soteria-Alaska, a program modeled after the highly effective Soteria developed in the 1970s by the late Loren Mosher, M.D., opened its doors in 2009. It is also impossible to convey the actual simplicity which in fact is the crowning jewel of the Soteria approach. A conservative review of the effectiveness of the Soteria approach revealed that it is at least as effective as traditional hospital-based treatment — without the use of antipsychotic medication as the primary treatment. Considering that people treated in the conventional way die on average 25 years younger than the general population, this is a substantial finding.
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A Tale of Two Cousins

Last fall, I was invited by Psychiatric Times to write an article from a mother’s perspective about what is needed to “fix a broken health system.” As part of my essay, I told the story of my son Jake, who was robbed of all hope by the mental health system and died a homeless man. I also told the story of his cousin Kimmy, who escaped from the mental health system and is now doing well. Psychiatric Times declined to publish my essay.
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My Journey to Freedom, A Three-Part Story

I have written this story, a story of Exodus to Freedom, a thousand times. I retell it to myself late at night while I lie on my air mattress. In the mornings I may recall these amazing events while running along the beach straight into the sunrise. I walk my dog and tell the story again, hoping passers-by don’t think I’m talking to myself, lest I be called “loco.” But that has never happened. The one aim I had when coming to Uruguay has come true: Not one person here considers me crazy.

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Robert Whitaker Missed the Mark on Drugs and Disability: A Call for a Focus on Structural Violence

Robert Whitaker extended one of his core arguments from Anatomy of an Epidemic in a blog post last week. His argument revolves around the claim that psychiatric drugs are the principal cause of increasing psychiatric disability, as measured by U.S. social security disability claims. But does this really explain the rise in recipients of these SSI & SSDI benefits?
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First-ever Peer-supported Open Dialogue Conference

On March 11, 2015, the NHS Foundation and three other Trusts are hosting a free conference to "take stock" after one year of Peer-supported Open Dialogue. More →

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“The 6 Blessings of Mental Illness”

"I could not have written those six words 30 years ago, when panic episodes, anxiety disorders and Tourette's syndrome clouded my view," writes author Jonathan Friesen in a Huffington Post blog. "But now I see that though the fog was exceptionally dark, good things were developing, good things inside of me." More →

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“When the mental health system failed me, online communities became my coping mechanisms”

In The Guardian, Hannah Giorgis describes the troubles she had convincing her mental health professionals that systemic racism against black people in Britain did actually exist. "The conversation made me feel crazy in a way my depression itself never had," she writes. More →

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“The Post-Irene Mental Health System of Care”

In the Charlotte News, MIA Blogger Sandra Steingard discusses some of the community-based approaches to psychiatric care that have emerged in Vermont after Hurricane Irene forced the main hospital to close. More →

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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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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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Organization Provides Yogic Liaison for People with Bipolar and Depression

A non-profit based in Toronto, Canada is providing training and liaison work with yoga studios to support people diagnosed with bipolar or depression in learning yoga and meditation, reports CTV News. The group, called Blu Matter, is also working with University of Toronto researchers in a randomized controlled trial surrounding the effectiveness of the project. More →

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Summer Jobs Cut Youth Violence By Nearly Half Over Long-term

Giving youth from high-violence schools minimum-wage summer jobs reduced their acts of violence by nearly half, and the effects lasted over the long term, according to a randomized controlled study published in Science. Adding cognitive behavioral therapy to the program made the effects neither better nor worse. More →

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Psychiatric Admissions Drop Permanently After Earthquake

Contrary to popular beliefs about the impacts of disasters on mental health, psychiatric admissions fell immediately and significantly after the 2011 "devastating" series of earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, according to a study in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. In addition, the New Zealand-based researchers found that the reduction in use of mental health services has continued since that time. More →

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The Hidden Costs of Paying Physicians More to Diagnose Dementia

A plan from the British government to pay doctors for every diagnosis of dementia that they make is an act of "folly," writes physician David Zigmond in the British Medical Journal Blogs. In the main journal, physician Margaret McCartney discusses the close links between the UK Alzheimer's Society and the pharmaceutical industry. More →

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Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia? What About Black People?

In many respects it is difficult to fault the report Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, recently published by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP)[i]; indeed, as recent posts on Mad in America have observed, there is much to admire in it. Whilst not overtly attacking biomedical interpretations of psychosis, it rightly draws attention to the limitations and problems of this model, and points instead to the importance of contexts of adversity, oppression and abuse in understanding psychosis. But the report makes only scant, fleeting references to the role of cultural differences and the complex relationships that are apparent between such differences and individual experiences of psychosis.
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Training Parents in Creative Approaches to Daily Life Helps Toddlers With Autism

A randomized controlled trial has demonstrated for the first time that toddlers with autism can improve their life and social skills significantly with intensive, creative interventions performed by parents rather than by clinicians, according to research published in Pediatrics. More →

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