Research on volunteering has long found that those who help others have better physical health and psychological adjustment. And it’s not just that healthy individuals seek out ways to help others more; it is that in helping others that we reap the benefits of better well-being, too. Not only do we feel better but, for youth especially, there is a decrease in risk-taking behaviors, and more prosocial actions, especially with those outside of their family. But why is this the case? Full Article →
Racially motivated invective and abuse are directed against people purely and simply on the basis of their skin color. Anti-psychiatry invective and abuse, however, are based on the activities of psychiatrists. For the past several decades, psychiatrists have been telling their clients, and the general public, and journalists, that virtually all significant problems of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. They have stated clearly and unambiguously that these putative imbalances constitute “real illnesses, just like diabetes,” and that the imbalances are corrected by psychiatric drugs. So when we mental illness “deniers” point out that the various problems of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving listed in the DSM are not real illnesses, we are actually using the term illness in the same sense as is entailed in psychiatry’s scandalously deceptive assertion. Full Article →
Last year I visited the United States on a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to explore ‘alternative routes to mental health recovery’ and to visit a range of peer-led, alternatives to the medical model, with the aim of using the knowledge gained to help develop alternatives in the UK. Looking back, all the organisations and services I visited came about because groups of people in the US decided they wanted something different to conventional mental health services, and then decided to work to make that dream a reality. Full Article →
More than a year on from the release of DSM-5, a Medscape survey found that just under half of clinicians had switched to using the new manual. Most non-users cited practical reasons, typically explaining that the health care system where they work has not yet changed over to the DSM-5. Many, however, said that they had concerns about the reliability of the DSM, which at least partially accounted for their non-use. Throughout the controversies that surrounded the development and launch of the DSM-5 reliability has been a contested issue: the APA has insisted that the DSM-5 is very reliable, others have expressed doubts. Here I reconsider the issues: What is reliability? Does it matter? What did the DSM-5 field trials show? Full Article →
Where I live we are approaching an important day in our nation’s history on Thursday 18 September 2014, when a referendum will be held and the question asked: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”. Whatever the outcome it is an exciting time to be Scottish and to consider what being independent means. I think it has great relevance to the work I do as a mental health writer, activist and campaigner, a psychiatric survivor and unpaid carer of family members who have mental disorder diagnoses/labels, through 3 generations or more. Tied in as my family are or have been to the psychiatric system do we have independence or the right to be independent? Full Article →
As Michael Fontaine’s recent piece illustrates, history has a great deal to teach us about the nature of this complex thing called madness and how we, as a society, might respond to it better. It is not only fascinating to know that modern debates about the nature of ‘mental illness’ are reflected in ancient teachings, we can learn much from seeing the issues aired in a radically different social and historical context. Full Article →
When the American psychiatrist Thomas Szasz killed himself a year and a half ago at the age of 92, I thought there would be a global outpouring in psychiatric circles of sympathy or scorn. Instead, his death was largely met with silence, a silence as deafening as the one that attended the second half of his long, prolific, and polemical career. Szasz’ name didn’t show up at all in the APA program last year, and this presentation of mine is apparently the only one to mention him this year. This silent treatment has, ironically enough, and surely against his will, forced him to fulfill the ancient Epicurean ambition to live and die unnoticed. Full Article →
The IT GETS BETTER collection (on Beyond Meds) is intended to help those who are currently dealing with the iatrogenic (medically caused) injury from psych meds. The intention is folks who are still suffering really badly might know that we can heal. The series will continue weekly for some time. Full Article →
Note: This post originally appeared on August 18, 2014 on dxsummit.org. On August 5 and 6, 2014, a group of roughly twenty persons met in Washington, DC for the First Summit on Diagnostic Alternatives. The gathering consisted mostly of psychologists, but social work, … Full Article →
The FDA’s black box warnings on antidepressants, which incidentally were long overdue, had a negative impact on pharma-psychiatry’s image, and on their business, but had no negative impact on client welfare. Nevertheless, psychiatry continues to resist the reality that their sacred drugs do in fact cause harm, and that the FDA warnings were needed. For psychiatry, business and professional status routinely trump client welfare. Full Article →
The idea that our more distressing emotions can best be understood as symptoms of physical illnesses is a pervasive, seductive but harmful myth. It means that our present approach to helping vulnerable people in acute emotional distress is severely hampered by old-fashioned, inhumane and fundamentally unscientific ideas about the nature and origins of mental health problems. We need wholesale and radical change in how we understand mental health problems and in how we design and commission mental health services. Full Article →
What are warm lines? All warm lines are phone lines that can be called by anyone at any time who wants to talk about what is going on for them. Most warm lines are “peer run,” meaning the phones are answered and managed by people who have been through difficult times themselves and may still be experiencing challenging emotions and other types of suffering. Warm line operators, unlike therapists or some other hotline counselors, often share their own experiences to relate with, connect and comfort callers. Full Article →
It’s not just in spiritual circles but also in psychiatric and mental health circles that fear and anxiety are too often medicated away instead of worked with. It’s not easy to work with it and a lot of professionals don’t know how to hold such space for such courageous facing of the dark parts of psyche and so many people don’t learn that it’s actually possible. For those of us who’ve come off psych drugs and faced severe psychiatric drug withdrawal syndrome it becomes a necessary and often heinously difficult initiation . . . Learning to embrace my experience and surrender to it was the way through for me. Full Article →
Like millions, I am sitting with the fact that one of the funniest people to grace the planet has died by his own hand. Robin Williams’ death has hit people of my generation, Generation X, especially hard. After all, his face flashed often across our childhood screens. Mork and Mindy episodes were a source of solace for me as a little girl, as I bounced around between foster homes and family members’ homes, while my single mother cycled in and out of the state mental hospital, fighting to survive. I could laugh and say “nanu, nanu – shazbot” and “KO” and do the silly hand sign and forget for just a little while about living a life I didn’t ask for. Full Article →
There’s an interesting article in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. It’s called The Efficacy of Antidepressants on Overall Well-Being and Self-Reported Depression Symptom Severity in Youth: A Meta-Analysis. The authors concluded: “Though limited by a small number of trials, our analyses suggest that antidepressants offer little to no benefit in improving overall well-being among depressed children and adolescents.” In the Discussion section of the paper, they stated, “We found no evidence that antidepressants offer any sort of clinically meaningful benefit for youth on self-report measures of depression, quality of life, global mental health, or parent reports of autonomy.” Full Article →
What can we say about the DSM that hasn’t already been said? Quite a lot, actually. The manual (full title: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), produced by the American Psychiatric Association, is incredibly powerful. It shapes research agendas, clinical practices, social care, economic decision-making and individual experiences internationally. As Rachel Cooper notes in her excellent new book, Diagnosing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, changes to it impact ‘the lives of as many people as changes in the policies of most countries’ (p. 2). The DSM needs to be talked about. Full Article →
There has, at one time or another, been talk among psychiatric survivors, mental health consumers, and former mental patients about operating an Underground Railroad for people oppressed by psychiatry. As a part of this need, of more recent date, and related to it, this talk has evolved around the idea of creating safe places, dubbed Landing Zones, for people facing involuntary outpatient commitment orders. Involuntary outpatient commitment, often misleadingly referred to as assisted outpatient treatment, almost invariably means forced drugging.
As some psychiatric facilities are being downsized, and others are being shut down, involuntary outpatient commitment orders have become the government’s new way for dealing with non-compliant mental patients. These commitment orders usually involve sentencing the person suspected of “mental illness” to a drug taking regimen. Sometimes this drug taking regimen involves bi-weekly injections with a long acting neuroleptic drug. These injections tend to be more potent, and more harmful, than the pills one might find in a daily regimen. Should a person under court order refuse to take psychiatric drugs, civil commitment proceedings are likely to be initiated.
Psychiatric drugs, from benzodiazapines to neuroleptics, are known to have many adverse effects. It is our feeling that nobody should be forced to take these powerful and potentially harmful drugs against his or her wishes. Neuroleptic, misleadingly referred to as antipsychotic, drugs are known to cause a neurological movement disorder, Tardive Dyskinesia, and a metabolic syndrome associated with many physical ill health conditions. Studies have shown that people in mental health treatment are dying 25 to 30 years earlier on average than the rest of the population due in large part to the drugs they have been prescribed. Relocating people threatened with forced drugging can preserve physical health, and it can save lives.
45 states now have involuntary outpatient commitment laws. 5 states are currently free of such laws. The number of states with involuntary outpatient commitment laws only goes up. The number of states without such laws only seems to go down. Among the 5 states without involuntary commitment laws, there are sustained efforts afoot to enact such laws. The situation in two of the most populous states in the union helps illustrate the seriousness of the problem. In New York state Kendra’s Law has been extended, and there is pressure to make it permanent. In California Laura’s Law has passed in both Los Angeles county and San Francisco, and other localities are likely to follow their lead. Obviously, the situation has grown so dire that it demands popular resistance.
MindFreedom International is a global human rights organization consisting mainly of psychiatric survivors, their relatives, friends, and allies. The idea of establishing such Landing Zones has been rolling around for awhile in the thoughts and actions of MindFreedom International members. As far back as 2006, there was an article on the MFI website about the launch of a Landing Zone Project, and MFI was instrumental in getting a story into the Wall Street Journal featuring the plight of one Gabriel Hadd. Gabriel Hadd, a young musician, fleeing forced drugging in Michigan, successfully attained drug-free refuge in Colorado for a time before returning home to Michigan.
Just what do we mean by Landing Zones? As long as there has been no mandate at the national level, involuntary outpatient commitment orders stop at the state border. If the person under such a court order were to surreptitiously relocate to another state, and refused to take psychiatric drugs, there is not much that anybody at present can do to prevent him or her from doing so. A Landing Zone is a location with the resources in place in terms of services, advocacy, support, and assistance to accommodate a person fleeing forced outpatient drugging orders in another state.
On the evening of July 25, during the MindFreedom Creative Revolution Conference held at Wisdom House in Litchfield Connecticut, July 24 – July 27, we conducted a focus group on the subject of the creation of Landing Zones. As a result of this historic session, we are happy to announce the launch of the MindFreedom Landing Zone Committee. This Landing Zone Committee will be scheduling regular teleconferences to brain-storm, network, and organize around the issue of forming Landing Zones. If you, and the same goes for anyone you know, would like to get on the committee, and participate in this effort, you can do so by contacting me, Frank Blankenship, either by email or by telephone.
African Americans enduring slavery during the 1800s used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom. Today many people find themselves in a similar situation. Chemical shackles are being used to institute a different type of slavery, the slavery that comes of a pill or a needle. It is high time for people to come to the aid of their fellow citizens threatened with psychiatric abuse. Today we are forging a new Underground Railroad of our own to help people escape from psychiatric oppression unto liberty. By participating in the creation of Landing Zones, you, too, can play a vital role in resisting the creeping encroachment of mindless tyranny, for absolutely everybody is at risk, and in upholding the independence of free and proud people.
On July 28, I published a post called Simon Says: Happiness Won’t Cure Mental Illness. The article was essentially a critique of a post written by British psychiatrist Simon Wessely, that essentially said that all psychiatric treatment alleviates suffering and makes people happier. The falsity and self-serving aspect of this contention is glaringly obvious, and I drew attention to this. My essential point is this: psychiatric drugs; illegal street drugs; alcohol and nicotine, all have in common that they confer a temporary good feeling. That’s why people use them. But they also have in common that they are toxic substances, and if taken in sufficient quantity over a long enough period, they will inevitably cause organic damage. Full Article →
What I find most compelling about the message of RECORD is its reclamation of pain, for the album makes clear that Dylan’s is not the story of a journey to happiness and bliss and total peace of mind, but rather, one back to the truth of what it means to be human— pain, anguish, and all. It is an embracing of suffering, not a leaving behind of it, and this, too, has been my journey. This, I believe, is what psychiatric liberation is all about. Full Article →
From time to time, I find myself feeling the urge to articulate my views and delineate them from people with whom I may be identified. Rightly or wrongly, I feel that way with this website. Although the goal is to have wide ranging goals there is nevertheless a distinct perspective represented here. I feel the urge to articulate where I part ways with some of the views expressed here. I do this in the spirit of discourse. I am not certain I am correct. I may someday change my mind. I am just expressing my perspective. Full Article →
In the world of emergency medicine time is a critical resource. But Ryan McGarry, ER physician and stage IV lymphoma survivor, understands at the bone that idle minutes mean something very different to a patient. He recalls “waiting on news if the therapy is working . . . is there more disease that we didn’t know about, is it getting bigger . . . the clock was torture, watching that dial go around is torture.” McGarry horridly remembers what it’s like to wait on a simple, overdue dose of anti-nausea medication. He reflects, “You’re clearly at an advantage as a physician or provider at any level if you’ve been a patient. It’s just an unbeatable perspective.” Full Article →
When I as a European follow American politics I can’t help being amazed by the – I believe a polite expression would be – colorful personalities in the Tea Party and how they manage to continue to be a powerful part of American politics despite making claims that as I see them reported are easily debunked. American politics does not affect me directly but when I compare psychiatry as a part of the medical science to the Tea Party there are some striking similarities. Full Article →
How do we distinguish between ordinary feeling down, on the one hand, and depression-the-illness on the other. Psychiatry’s answer is that depression-the-illness causes ” . . . clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” This phrase occurs as a criterion feature in almost all psychiatric “diagnoses,” and is embodied in the DSM definition of a mental disorder, but is unsatisfactory from a number of aspects. Firstly, the term “clinically” has no meaning, other than a thinly-veiled attempt to lend a medical flavor to the phrase. Secondly, the term “significant” is not defined, and inevitably rests on the subjective opinion of a psychiatrist, who, in many cases, has a vested interesting in “finding” a “diagnosis.” Full Article →