The Social Consequences of a Diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum

It’s time to change how we think about and relate to people whose makeup is or appears to be different from the norm. Currently, the dominant way in research, practice and the general public is to think of what’s different—let’s say a biological or neurological difference—as the source of disability and difficulty, and to relate to and treat (in various ways) that biological or neurological difference. But there’s another way to go, and more and more researchers and practitioners are taking it.
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Allen Frances Seeks the “Middle Way”

On January 15, 2016, Allen Frances published an article on the Huffington Post titled  Psychiatric Medicines Are Not All Good or All Bad. The article denounces both the “medication fanatics” who prescribe psychiatric drugs when they are not needed, and the “die-hard anti-medication crusaders who try to persuade everyone, including those who really need meds, that they are globally unhelpful and globally harmful.” Dr. Frances advocates a middle ground in which people who need psychiatric drugs get them, and people who don’t, don’t.  On the face of it, this would seem a fairly non-contentious matter, but Dr. Frances’s path to this conclusion is fraught with problems which in my view warrant discussion.
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Help Professionalize (Ex) / patient Advocacy

Poetry for Personal Power has been working a long time on social entrepreneurship. We are trying to create modular, scalable, repeatable ways of making system change. We figured out about four years ago how to do effective, expandable mental health …
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And Now for Something Completely the Same:  The Latest, Greatest Breakthrough in Understanding the Biogenetic Cause of Schizophrenia

Another scientific study that ostensibly identifies a biological cause of schizophrenia has appeared and is being widely reported. So, we finally have the elusive breakthrough to understanding the biological basis of schizophrenia. Or do we? A close look at the source of all this hyperbolic language raises serious questions about such enthusiasm.
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A New York Times Debate: Is the ADHD Diagnosis Helpful or Harmful?

I urge parents, doctors, educators and everyone concerned with the well-being of children to take a look at the debate on ADHD presented in the Times. The series of articles makes it clear that the hard line separating ADHD-like behavior from normal childhood reactions to environmental stress or normal developmental phases is beginning to soften. The number of ADHD diagnoses in the United Sates has exploded by 300 percent since 1983.
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The Hearing Voices App

I have been part of a project team, based at the University of Chester, developing the Hearing Voices App, which is aimed at health and social care professionals to enhance their understanding of the experience of hearing voices. The App may also be of interest and help to people who hear voices and their family members, friends and colleagues.
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Why Screening Everyone for Depression is a Terrible Idea

Too many people have come to view themselves as defective and powerless to change their life situations, when this may not be the case. Conversely, individual treatment with drugs or psychotherapy may cause individuals to reframe their problems in terms of neurochemistry or thinking styles – internalizing a belief that they are the problem, when their problems exist in a wider sociopolitical milieu.
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Support CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Commitment and Forced Treatment

Mad In America bloggers, and everyone who is interested, you are cordially invited to participate in a Campaign to Support the CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Commitment and Forced Treatment. The requested action is to write a blog post or contribute artwork, relevant to the purpose of the campaign, i.e. discussing and supporting the absolute prohibition that is promulgated under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  Posts should be ready for March 29, 2016, the opening day of the 15th session of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
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Me, Allen Frances, and Climbing Out of a Pigeonhole

Four weeks ago, after I wrote a blog about a study that concluded there was no good evidence that antipsychotics improved long-term outcomes for people diagnosed with schizophrenia, I was cc’d on an email that had been sent to a number of “thought leaders” about what I had written. At least as I read the email, it put me into the usual pigeonhole for critics of psychiatric drugs: I apparently was globally “against” medications, and I had displayed a type of simplistic “categorical” thinking. All of this led to my having an email exchange with Allen Frances, and his laying out, in his opinion, the considerable “collateral damage” my writings had done.
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Stupid Blind Hope

“Stupid Blind Hope” By Jennifer Maria Padron Author, Mad In America   The snow outside the Johns Hopkins Building is three feet tall It covered my blue and orange tennis shoes and wet them from inside out like I do …
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Suicidal Tendencies, Part I: I’m Suicidal Because I’m Mentally Ill Because I’m Suicidal

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard “Research has found that about 90% of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness.” Here’s what I believe it means in far too many instances: It’s an ‘out.’ It’s an easy answer that absolves us all of blame. If someone has a ‘sickness in the brain,’ then it doesn’t have to be our fault or even necessarily our concern. We can ignore homelessness, racism, transphobia, poverty, homophobia, misogyny, joblessness, lack of good healthcare, the impact of war and violence, and so many other societal ills with impunity because the reason that person killed themselves is because they were ‘mentally ill.’
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At the Intersection Between Black Pride and Mad Pride

The Grand Jury indictment on January 21st of a Georgia policeman for the felony murder of Anthony Hill brought national attention to the intersection of Black Pride and Mad Pride. Hill, who was black and a veteran, was murdered in March 2015 while in an extreme state or “mental health crisis.” He was naked and clearly unarmed when shot by a white policeman. The indictment brings attention to the failure of mental health care system in America.
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Madness and the Family: What Helps, and What Makes Things Worse?

Families are often very important for people encountering severe mental and emotional difficulties. But how can family members really know what is helpful, and what is likely to make things worse for the person having problems? Similarly, for those who want to help families, how can they know what will really be helpful for those families, and what will make things worse?
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Are “Psychiatric Disorders” Brain Diseases?

A “diagnosis of schizophrenia” is based on two or more of five criteria. Each of these behaviors (or lack of behaviors) can be passed on from generation to generation through normal social learning, without any assumption of a genetically-mediated pathology. Genes transmit biological structure. Structure has an impact on behavior, obviously, but there are always multiple intervening factors.
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Schizophrenia and Genetics: A Closer Look at the Evidence

“The substantial hereditary component in schizophrenia,” a pair of researchers wrote in 1993, “is surely one of the two or three best-established facts in psychiatry.” But is it really? For mainstream psychiatry and psychiatric genetics, schizophrenia is “a severe mental disorder with a lifetime risk of about 1%, characterized by hallucinations, delusions and cognitive deficits, with heritability estimated at up to 80%,” or a “highly heritable neuropsychiatric disorder of complex genetic etiology.” Many commentators have challenged these claims, and some have challenged the concept of schizophrenia itself.
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Middle School Invasion: When the Pharmaceutical Companies Come to Town

On January 7, 2016 my newly 13-year-old son (he helped me fashion the title for this blog!) brought home two permission slips from the middle school where he is currently (hopefully) making his way through the 7th grade. One of the slips was for a class trip to the Bronx Zoo. Okay, fine. However, the other asked me to give my okay for him to participate in a “Signs of Suicide” (SOS) curriculum and the perhaps-too-honestly-named ‘Brief Screening for Adolescent Depression’ (BSAD) that accompanies it. (Does no one else see the perverse humor in a depression screener that seems to actually be encouraging those screened to “be sad”?)
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Delay of Diagnosis: The Placebo Effect of Behavioral Diagnosis

This means that what ADHD proponents present as validation of a diagnosis of a real and treatable disorder is in fact a placebo effect caused by an ostensibly scientific label, which exists in synergy with an efficient, legal drug. The ADHD label produces this placebo effect because its diagnosis is based on behavior that in reality could be observed by anyone. What is observed sounds “scientific”; it is easily understandable and highly obvious. When the diagnosis is turned into an action plan, we forget that there is nothing scientific about it and that its evaluation is purely subjective and clinical; that it creates a great many false positives, and that a drug prescribed in half of the cases indeed does have serious side effects.
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If a Tree Falls in the Forest

While I found the recent study, “Weighing the Evidence for Harm from Long-Term Treatment with Antipsychotic Medications,” to be a valuable contribution to our understand of the role of long-term use of neuroleptic drugs, I continue to struggle with some of the implications for clinical work.
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False Arguments, Part 3: Why Do People Hear Voices? (And Why Do We Need to Know?)

The question ‘why do people hear voices?’ tends to rise up after we’ve offered challenges to medicalized perspectives. Most often, this question does not come from people who hear voices themselves, but from people in provider roles, and – with the greatest frequency – from parents. As a parent myself, I understand the desperation to make things ‘okay’ for one’s child. I can empathize deeply with the sense of fight and the search for answers. But what if it’s the wrong question entirely? What if focusing in on ‘why’ actually pulls us further and further away from the ‘helping’ that we most aim to find?
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Becoming a Hearing Voices Facilitator

For three days in December, I was fortunate enough to attend the Hearing Voices Facilitator Training held in Portland, OR. This training expanded my understanding of the voice hearing experience and equipped me with a number of tools to use in facilitating hearing voices support groups. Grounded in a feeling of community, the training was dynamic, emotionally therapeutic, and educational all at the same time – a crystal clear example of how support groups themselves might manifest in the lives of their members.
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A New Year’s Letter to Our Readers: The Past, Present, and Future of MIA

The beginning of a New Year is always an occasion for looking back at past accomplishments (and failures), and to look ahead too, at what the New Year may bring. And as 2016 opens, it’s clear that MIA has reached a crossroads moment. We can look back and see many accomplishments, and we can look ahead and see many exciting opportunities. But we also have to confront a challenge: we need to figure out how to sustain our operations.
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Psychiatry and Crime

I have made the point many times that the DSM definition of a mental disorder can be accurately paraphrased as: any significant problem of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving. It is important to note that the APA’s definition of a mental disorder/illness is entirely arbitrary, in that there is no objective reality to which it must conform. A mental disorder is what the APA says it is, and there is no way to argue that a particular problem is not a mental disorder, because there is no reality against which this kind of labeling can be checked.
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To the Heart of the Matter, Part II: Perceptions of Public and Personal Stigma

Public perception of mental health stigma does not entirely reflect a reality that exists. Many of you reading this that have experienced truly negative reactions from others (due to mental health concerns and/or treatment) may be angered or offended by this proposition. However, no one (especially myself) is saying that stigma is not a serious concern that doesn’t need to be addressed. It is. Although in some ways I do feel that people can seek out treatment with less apprehension today than decades ago, there is no doubt that many still experience negative reactions (intentionally or unintentionally) from what others perceive in them.
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Why Some Children with Depressed Parents Show Resilience

Children of parents who suffer from depression have a severely heightened risk of mental health problems, but new research points to several factors that seem to strengthen young peoples’ resilience and predict good mental health.

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My Desperate Yet Demoralizing Plight to Get My Son a Diagnosis for Christmas

In October of 2013, I wrote a blog on the Foundation for Excellence website (‘The Story of My Perfectly Wonderful Children and the Change WE Need to Make in the World to Save Them’) shortly after finding out that my son’s guidance counselor suggested he (then 10) consider ‘distraction meds’ to aid in his school performance. If I could sit every member of this school system down right now and ask them all my most burning questions, they would be: Do you want to be a tool of the system? The one who knows all the rules and holds all the lines? That says ‘no, we can’t do that’, just because that’s the way it is? Or do you want to be a guide through all that mess?
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