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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Integrated Play Groups Help Autistic Children Develop Social Skills

"Integrated Play Groups which focus on collaborative rather than adult-directed play, are successful in teaching children with autism the skills needed to engage in symbolic play and to interact with their typically developing peers," according to a press release about research published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. More →

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Resiliency Training May Have Moderate Positive Effects on Mental Health & Well-being

Programs that train adults in "resiliency" may be having "a small to moderate effect at improving resilience and other mental health outcomes," according to a meta-analysis of 25 small trials published in PLOS One. More →

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Back in the Dark House Again: The Recurrent Nature of Clinical Depression

Eighteen years ago, in the fall of 1996, I plunged into a major depression that almost killed me. Over the next eighteen years I took what I had learned in my healing and put together a mental health recovery program which I taught through my books, support groups and long distance telephone coaching. In the process, I counseled many people who were in the same desperate straights that I had been in. I shared with them what I had learned through my ordeal—that if you set the intention to heal, reach out for support, and use a combination of mutually supportive therapies to treat your symptoms, you will make it through this. And in the cases where people used these strategies and hung there, they eventually were able, like myself, to emerge from the hell of depression.
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Mad In America Film Festival In The News

Boston.com has published an article about the Mad In America Film Festival, running through this weekend in Medford, Massachusetts. "Making people rethink psychiatry — the medical science of the mind — is the aim of this weekend’s Mad in America International Film Festival, a four-day, 40-film deep dive into the past, present, and future of how mental illness is diagnosed and treated," reports Boston.com. "The festival... is out to move the conversations and thought surrounding mental illness to a different place." More →

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Rap Embraces Schizophrenia and Owns It

Vanderbilt University psychiatrist Jonathan Metzl, author of The Protest Psychosis, has published a brief history of "schizophrenia" in relation to African American culture in the journal Transition. The article opens and closes with quotes from modern rap lyrics, showing the ways in which black artists often embrace and even boast about their own schizophrenia, and Metzl explores some of the historical roots of such uses of the term within anti-establishment black culture. More →

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Normality: Unattainable Ideal and Euphemism for Boring

Our culture promotes "fitting in" through "normality" as an ultimate ideal that all "disordered" people should strive to attain, and yet at the same time we often downgrade normality as the epitome of the predictable and boring, writes Tania Glyde in The Lancet Psychiatry. What sorts of confusions and struggles does this inherent conflict create for patients and therapists alike? More →

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The Alternatives Conference Helps Our Movement Grow

With less than three weeks to go before the start of Alternatives 2014, I feel inspired to write about why the Alternatives conference is important to the c/s/x movement for social justice and why we at the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse feel honored to organize this year’s conference.
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Don’t Reframe a Housing Crisis as a Mental Health Crisis

"It is unacceptable for this municipality to create a housing crisis and then reframe it as a mental health crisis," writes the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) in The Mainlander, in a response to a government and police plan to boost funding to police and Assertive Community Treatment mental health teams in Vancouver, British Columbia. VANDU also accuses government of using "sensationalized images of violence" to sway the public and describes the term "mental illness" as an overly simplistic generalization. More →

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Thinking of Schizophrenia as Normal Can Be Helpful

Daniel Helman had a psychotic episode at age 20, but has been off all psychiatric medications since 2006 and is now 44. In Schizophrenia Bulletin, he describes how he always refused to resign himself to the notion that he would never recover, the practical strategies that have helped him, and how important it has always been to recognize that the "symptoms" of schizophrenia can also be seen as normal and even life-affirming in different contexts. More →

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Lancet: Let’s Stop Fighting, Assume the Best about Psychiatrists’ Intentions

If there is one downside to the field of mental health, declares an editorial in The Lancet Psychiatry, "it is the failure of pleasant, intelligent, and thoughtful individuals to find any common ground in debate, and the subsequent descent of such discussions into bitter, and frequently personal, acrimony." The editorial cites a comment thread in The Conversation that included Michael O'Donovan, a co-author of the recent high-profile schizophrenia-gene study, the University of Liverpool's David Pilgrim, and MIA Foreign Correspondent Joanna Moncrieff. More →

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“Forgivingness” Strongly Correlated with Mental Health

The more forgiving people are, the fewer symptoms of mental disorders they experience, according to a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology. The researchers suggested that teaching forgiveness may be a valuable mental health early intervention strategy. More →

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