I Don’t Believe in Mental Illness, Do You?

Michael Cornwall, PhD
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In November 2000, I anxiously stood before the gathered four hundred and fifty mental health professionals, administrators, peers and academicians and said, “Hi, I’m Michael Cornwall and I don’t believe in mental illness!”

I was the first plenary panel speaker at a big conference held in San Francisco. I didn’t believe in mental illness then or when I was in my own madness 46 years ago, or for the past 30 years serving people in madness. Jay Mahler was the only person who came to me and thanked me for saying I didn’t believe in mental illness. A great many people responded to me as if I was radioactive that day.

I’m prompted to write this blog because I just read an article by Marianne Farkas published by the The Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University entitled,  “The Vision of Recovery Today: what is it and what it means for services.” She refers to people who need those services as having “Serious mental illness.” The article was written in 2007 but is still being recommended by leaders at the Center for its in-depth analysis of the recovery movement based on the vision that people have serious mental illnesses.

What we believe motivates much of what we do with our lives. Because I didn’t believe in mental illness, I spent my life since I was a young person that went through madness without medication or treatment asking, “If madness isn’t what bio-psychiatry says it is, then what is it?” I came up with my own definition of madness based on my personal experience, therapist work experience and study as a doctoral level researcher. I shared that in previous blogs.

If I had believed that madness was a genetic based brain disorder I may have become a bio-psychiatrist or welcomed taking medication for my madness.

Because mental illness is how bio-psychiatry refers to madness and every diagnostic formulation in their DSM, I never tell the people I serve that they have a mental illness. I don’t see them through that lens of the DSM.

I see them as I see myself,  a person who may have various experiences of human emotional suffering which sometimes takes the form of madness.

I was recently chastised by a national peer recovery leader for describing myself and others as able to experience human emotional suffering. He said suffering is the wrong word — distress is more accurate. I don’t believe so, because it doesn’t reflect my own experience or how I would describe others’ pain when in terror, despair or  madness. Distress is a mild form of suffering in my understanding. Kind of like indigestion that maybe a couple of Tums will relieve. But that’s just me, what I believe.

Our culture and world is rife with polarizing beliefs — political, religious etc. In a meeting, I heard someone publicly call a national leader of the peer recovery movement a Nazi because that peer leader had said that full recovery was possible. The person who called him a Nazi feared that if mad people believed him and didn’t take medication, there would be a holocaust of death and it would be on his hands. I have heard peers call bio-psychiatrists Nazis.

How far can we go in respecting and opposing each others’ extremely different belief systems before we lapse into name calling and seeing the other as evil?

I imagine some people believed Bob Whitaker had crossed the line when he wrote his blog, “The Taint Of Eugenics In NIMH-Funded Research.” Because of my beliefs I don’t believe he crossed the line.

I believe some practices — such as forced medication, seclusion in restraints, ECT for toddlers and children and teens and forced ECT for adults, prescribing psych drugs for children — are all human rights abuses. Do you think I have crossed the line by saying so?

Is there common ground we can stand on even with our polarized beliefs? That piece of common ground varies in size. Sometimes it doesn’t exist.

I don’t believe in mental illness. I believe we are sovereign souls that should not be imprisoned or be given forced treatments or offered any treatments that do us ANY harm when we are suffering human emotional suffering and madness. I believe we should be given respect, love and compassion.

What do you believe?

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102 COMMENTS

      • Only because I have lived with mental illness do I believe it does exsist. I did not always have menatl illness, then in teens those brain chemicals or “imbalnce” resulted in a crzy life. When I was 25yrs old i got dignosis bipolar. Lithium brought a sanity back to my life! Sure I have tried to go off meds but each time the quality of life is severely disabled. I am coming to grips that my longevity is comprimised;howevr,
        for me, quality of life is much more precious. That’s my take on things! Be well, Cameron

        • I deal with issues myself. My humble opinion is that we are a product of our environment. Im not saying don’t take a medication …IF it REALLY works for you. What I think is we all have different past and struggles. I hate that doctors label us so easily. Manson is a product of child abuse and frying his brain with hard drugs. Ed Gains is a product of having no friends, poverty and a bad mother + learning disabilites that causing him relentless bullying and isolation. I’m a product of my parents ignorance. They didn’t have the tools because of their childhood later I joined an acult and abuse from an ex and spiritual abuse from so called Christians. I began panic attacks after going to a controlling church. I think you see my point.

        • I think that posting disbelief in mental illness in general contributes to the stigma that we who need medicine to live a normal life face. I had a great childhood, have a great marriage, and owned my own buisness. Then, all of a sudden at 35 years old, I flipped out and started thinking I was chosen by God to lead His army. I started walking and clapping and expecting people to start following me. I wore my shoes out before I stopped walking. I went to a church and lit all the candles and ripped the prayer cards off the wall. I thought my husband had demons in him and that I could see them in his eyes. The episode continued and I was finally hauled away by police. I didn’t have any idea why. I was taken to the hospital but didn’t know why. I was psychotic. I was treated involuntarily for two weeks. When I got out, I could not afford my medicine and as soon as I got off it, I got sick again. This time was worse. I got thrown down by a cop. I am a very calm girl normally. I don’t and never have been in any trouble at all. Nobody could contain me and it was not my fault. I was a victim of my illness. This was not fun and I have a curse of remembering too much of it, but I was so lucky that I did get admitted to the hospital again and had a good doctor. I took several days to come around because I would not take medicine. Finally I took it and got my mind back. A year later, I am fine. I have never missed a dose of my medicine and my doctor has gradually weaned me safely off the antipsychotics because she says I have bipolar 1 disorder. What I went through is a textbook case of bipolar mania in the extreme form. I now only have to take a mood stabilizer and pay attention to any changes such as odd thoughts, lack of sleep… Things like that. I think that many people have trauma and things that affect them for their whole lives. Maybe some people have mild depression that doesn’t need medicated. However, so many people really do need medicine and the medicines that we have now are far from perfect, but they do work. I am sorry there are bad doctors. There are bad primary care doctors, cardiologists, oncologists, radiologists, surgeons. The medicines can cause liver damage, hair loss, weight gain, and other health issues. So can diabetes medicines and medicines for other problems. If your medicine is going to keep you well so that you can live a full and healthy life, then take your medicine. I respect your views, but there was really something wrong with me last year, and the medicine helped. So, I have been classified as mentally ill.

          • Sounds to me like GOD really roused and moved you. I don’t know your personal relationship with GOD but your story makes it sound like GOD is a mental illness in your life.

            I’m quite interested in your Testimony for GOD if you’d be willing to share more.

        • I know this is an old comment, being on antidepressants for 3 years being self conscious in high school i personally think is something learnt. If you don’t talk to anyone at school and you continue this you’ll be scared to talk and people will call this social anxiety which i think from experience is not right it is something that needs to be unlearnt or lived with taking medication won’t change this. I personally thought medication made me worse probably less worried about change but worse overall.

    • I was trying to Google search the change in the way we perceive mental disorders, or the abandonment of such classifications. Rather than a Borderline View of disorders, one that is black and white, I’ve noticed I really have all disorders depending on the circumstances of life and experiences. When unable to be open-minded, these “disorders” come to light. The inability to be open-minded though, is confined in what was taught to me. As a child with less experiences, I was much more open-minded and capable of learning. The interference of certain peoples own perceptions that challenged my perceptions, created conflicts and increased Avoidance Personality Disorder. Physically abused people have always been significant burdens in challenging my perceptions. The most important thing to all of us is really being recognized. Those who currently have a lack of recognition, or those who received too much of it at a younger age, seek more recognition in erratic ways… I think the need for Recognition is equivalent to the need for Food. I think the DSM already understands this, but is incorrectly defining this idea in the replacement of SEX. Sex=Intimacy=Recognition = Purpose of Existance.

    • Hi. I am totally with you here in believing in a holistic approach to mental illness.

      I want to tell my story and see what you think, about my roommate who is in a mental hospital right now.

      To start off, I am a very meloncholy, and people who know me might think I am a pessimist, and I don’t have a lot of self esteem, I was sexually abused as a kid, and haven’t really made amends. My roommate has been my best friend for 5 years, and his father was diagnosed bi-polar. 6 years ago, he came home to see his father on the ground, just passed away from a heart attack. He tried CPR, but it was at least an hour too late, and it didn’t work. He has always been very emotional (maybe not before I met him, but at least after his father passed away).

      He moved here to live with his brother and abandoned his past and lived with his brother for about a year, his brother’s wife was very controlling and always pushing him to get a job and a career and go to college, etc. He became on EMT and tried that out but gave up because he wasn’t saving many lives, and it was too much to handle. His sister in law then eventually kicked him out, and he got an apartment.

      His friend from his home town moved in with him, and eventually left while he was at work because “he couldn’t stand living with him” (he hasn’t said why exactly). We had known each other as acquaintances for a bit and I offered to help him out with his rent and live there. He got a job as a delivery driver until his boss thought he was lying about his car being in the shop, and got fired. We moved to another apartment when that lease was up, and I told him that I am bi-sexual, and that I liked him. I asked him if he was possibly as well, and he said no, but we have been roommates and best friends since for the last three years, but he can’t get past the fact that I like him.

      In our new apartment, he was living off of his passed away father’s pension and retirement fund, and I was working. He suffered a somewhat major concussion when he fell off a skateboard and split the back of his head open, doing some damage to his frontal lobe, including eliminating his sense of smell entirely. Some months later, my dad who lives in Florida asked us to drive his car to him and come vacation and he’d fly us back. As we were leaving town, he smashed his phone and said that he didn’t want “them” watching him, and I guess my friend had other plans than to go to Florida. It was just in the middle of winter when we left and our first stop was the strip club.. He loves the strip club way too much. His grandma just passed away and he was given 10,000. He spent a thousand on private rooms and all that and we hadn’t even made it out of town yet. We then drove into kentucky where he had started going absolutely “manic”. Whatever you want to believe about the term, it was still how he was acting.

      He said he wanted to teach me patience and drove in circles for 3 hours around a national park, and then backed the car up to the lake cliffside, nearly knocking us into the lake. He was claiming he could talk to the shadow people in the forest, and that we were going to camp with them. After being thoroughly terrified, he drove into a nearby neighborhood and right into someones backyard. We left a few minutes later, and the owner of the house chased us down and pointed a shotgun at us. He laughed at the guy and said sorry, and drove off.

      Then he got beer out, and started drinking and driving ( all of this despite my nervous breakdown about chilling out and stop trying to get us killed ), when we were pulled over by a cop who was called by the guy who’s house we parked at. Apparently, his license had been suspended or expired (still don’t know personally). So the cop (who was very understanding and didnt give him a DUI or book him), impounded my dads car, and took us to a hotel. So now my dad’s car is stuck in Kentucky, and us at a hotel. He became convinced somehow that the hotel clerk was something like an agent Smith from the matrix, and was going to try to kill us, and that the hotel was full of cameras, and started talking about satan and demons all over the place. I didn’t sleep much that night, neither did he, but I wasn’t buying it.

      The next day, he wanted to go around town since we had to check out of the hotel. He became enamored with the idea that I don’t like myself and said that I should die here in kentucky, and ran away from me. I had no money, and no phone at the time, my car had been impounded and had no way to get home or to Florida. I contemplated walking into the woods and just laying there to die. But eventually I found him, screaming at teenagers walking home from school. I convinced him to stop and he said he wanted to find a lawyer for the ticket he got the night before. We talked to a lawyer but eventually they kicked us out of the office for him being too abrasive and scary. Then he went to an att store and bought a new phone. The whole town seemed on alert of us being there and were scared of him. He finally decided that we would get a taxi to the nearest grayhound bus and go home, not caring about what to do about my dads care anymore and gave up. So we went home and my dad hasn’t trusted me since.

      We have fought about that ever since, but I didn’t even consider a mental illness to be the cause, I just thought he was pretending or acting or something, because I didn’t think mental illness was anything more than distress. About 2 months ago, he had surgery on his leg, and couldn’t move much for the first two weeks, and he was watching a lot of religious documentaries about buddha and christianity and stuff, as well as dealing with pain in his leg. Since then, he had begun getting really paranoid again, lost 30 lbs, and began acting “manic” again. I told him I did not want to follow him in his fearful path, and he broke. I will tell you right now I have always been supportive and talked to him about his emotions and have gotten really deeply connected. I am a deep person, and we have deep conversations, I do not ignore his feelings at all, and am as empathetic as one can try to be. I feel his pain about his father’s death, and about his leg, and we love each other as brothers. But he flipped out.

      He decided to try to let my dog run away and jump on the neighbors out the front door, and started throwing a knife at my car. I told him that he had to leave, but he didn’t listen and just waltzed back in. After freaking out about him letting the dog free, he laughed at me, with pupils dilated as if he was on LSD, and went outside to start screaming at my neighbor about god and the devil and judas and jesus. My neighbor hasn’t talked to me since. I tried to call all of his friends to come and chill him out and talk to him, none of them answered. So I called his brother and his wife, who answered. He was still screaming at the neighbor. When he came back inside I warned him that she was coming, and that if she saw him that she would probably take him to a mental place, and that he should leave if he didn’t want to go. I didn’t want him to go to a mental health place, I just wanted him to get away from me because he tried to let my dog run away.

      He declined leaving, saying he was not going to run, and then right before his sister and law walked in, he looked at me (incredibly fearful) and said “we need to leave, NOW!” and she walked in. She convinced him to go to the ER, and lied to him and said they will not force him to stay. I knew it was a lie, but I let them go because I figured he knew that too and would not let it happen. I guess he didn’t, and ended up staying for four days. When he got out I welcomed him back and, understandably, he was incredibly traumatized by being there. Now it is three weeks later. Every day in the past three weeks he has stayed in “manic mode”, and had stayed up for 3 days straight when he came back. He refused all drugs they wanted to give him, so he was never under the influence of psych meds.

      Every day things have gotten worse. He could talk faster than I could process the sounds, going on and on about numerology, and about how crazy he was. He said he was embracing psychosis and going to stay that way, and every day he has done incredibly terrifying things. He has broken or smashed almost everything that can be in the house, one minute he says he trusts me, loves me, that I’m his best friend and the next he says he hates me, that I’m evil for not being straight, that I’m possessed by demons, and that he is as well. Some times there was clarity in what he was saying, sometimes absolute unprovoked rage toward strangers, me, my dog, my family, and his own.

      He was banned from a BP gas station, banned from 2 bars, banned from seeing his nephew because the nanny thought he was going to kill her. He smashed his phone again, threw his socks at people, screamed and cursed at innocent people on the street, and jumped out of my car in traffic. When I tried to tell him to leave for a few days and stay somewhere else he told me he would just break a window if I locked a door on him. He even almost ran over his own mother driving away. He cut himself on accident many times by breaking things or grabbing the broken glass from things he’d broken. The whole time we’ve known each other I tried to listen to his problems and try to help him talk through it because I still didn’t believe in mental illness.

      Just yesterday, he flipped out in front of our friend’s mom after he stole my phone and texted my mom hateful things while screaming at everyone “fuck you bitch” and things like that, and our friend’s got a baby, and she banned him from being there. My mom would not let me bring him back home after she got the texts, and then he decided to go back to the hospital.

      What is the right course of action in my situation?! I’ve been on the verge of a nervous breakdown ever since the mania came back around, whether its biological or not doesn’t matter to me. We really are truly best friends and he still believes it, and so do I, or I would have given up a long time ago. I love my bud, and I want him to heal, with or without meds, but going the no meds route has not been working, I can’t change his past or stop him from burning bridges that he wants to drive on later, but I cannot abandon him either. I just don’t know what to do. I know for sure meds won’t solve the whole problem, but we have been working on getting full nights of sleep every night (he just can’t sleep sometimes for days..), eating healthy and balanced meals, breathing and meditation, but his thoughts keep making him paranoid and terrified of everything, turning him from my best friend to someone who attempts to terrorize me for being nearby when the thoughts come.. (which is every hour sometimes)

      Even with all of the non-drug approaches, it is getting worse because he is scaring more people, losing more friends, losing hope for the future, and getting banned from everywhere. No matter what I do to reason with him to at least not trample over everyone else in the world, he won’t listen and doesn’t realize or care how he is being perceived, and then still expects people to welcome him. I know he cares deep down, its like a waves runs over him, he doesn’t trust himself, and feels like he is uncontrollable when he is like this. What would you all do? He really doesn’t like the idea of meds either. I don’t want him to be a zombie, but I want him to be able to live life as well, and there is no way he could get on an airplane or get a job the way he gets. His blood pressure is nearing 190/90 when he is worked up, and stays worked up for 24+ hours at a time. If he doesn’t accidentally hurt someone or himself, he may die of a heart attack. 🙁

  1. What is astounding to me is people in general have come to accept that lying to people who are in distress, who have a psychiatric diagnosis is part of ‘medical treatment.’ Further, many believe that the misery and the real physical and emotional damage caused by the deleterious negative effects of drugs are simply, ‘tolerable side effects’ and claims/protestations of patients that the effects are not tolerable, but harmful are dismissed out of hand as a matter of course. So culturally what it means to me is biopsychiatry has operated by discrediting people with a diagnosis utterly and completely. Truly ironic all things considered—this is a premise which is contradictory to the core. With little to no understanding of the causes, or the conditions themselves, these professionals sure seem to be claiming they have a great deal of insight into their patients.

  2. Many people have swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the idea of “serious mental illness.” In other words, people with less “serious mental illness” may get well, but people with “serious mental illnesses” as in schizophrenia, obviously need their drugs. The intent of this label is to not question “serious mental illness” or even attempt to make it less serious, by seeing the value of the experience, and maybe even exercising a little humor. Certain professions and certain companies (I refuse to divulge which ones!) make their living off “serious mental illness” and encourage people to think of their condition in these terms.

  3. I know from personal experience that what you are saying is true. When I went through a breakdown in 1960, my parents helped my recovery with love and tender care. When my son collapsed in 2008, he was sectioned, forcibly medicated and nearly died from the antipsychotic side effects which doctors ignored. What’s more he was diagnosed mentally ill and this diagnosis is overshadowing his life and stopping him moving on with his life although he took himself off the drugs and has been perfectly well since.

    • Thank you for your comment Alix. I’m glad you got what you needed in the 1960’s and that your son survived his ordeal in the mental health system. Like many people, it sounds like he is trying to recover from that negative experience. It’s really sad that medical care that is supposed to help us can set us back in our lives.

  4. While I share most of the beliefs you expressed in this blog, I believe your terminology and title are counter-productive and polarizing. Maybe the most obvious common ground between anybody involved in mental health care is that emotional suffering and/or distress does exists (it is not faked). The debate/differences over how to address this suffering is not helped by wasting time and generating misunderstandings because of terminology, and the use of the two words “mental illness”. Some people not familiar with your thinking (isn’t that the ones you want the most to connect to?) will first understand your title as “I believe emotional suffering is faked”. I think you would engage more people with “I believe people can fully recover from mental illness without medications”. Nothing would be more sad than two opposite camps respectively saying “I don’t believe in madness” and “I don’t believe in mental illness” while for most purposes, the two terms are used interchangeably. I do believe that being provocative, should be reserved (as a last resort) to challenging beliefs, never naming or vocabulary.
    Anyway, I am a big fan and supporter of your blog.

    • Thank you Stanley. I hadn’t thought of the concern you raise. I hope anyone misunderstanding the title of the blog to mean I don’t believe in human emotional suffering will read to where I talk about the human emotional suffering of terror, despair and madness as more than emotional distress- and see that for me the term mental illness is a generic, innacurate bio-psychiatry label that memorializes the DSM, medical model paradigm which I don’t support. That is the reason why I don’t believe in mental illness.

    • I disagree with you totally. It is not an illness, no matter what the psychiatrists say or the drug companies, or anyone else. It is an anguish produced by a psychspiritual breakdown. It only becomes an illness when people are put on those toxic drugs that are supposed to “help.” We must be specific in what we say. Too bad if people do not like the terminology I use or Duane uses. We must be allowed to say what we mean and feel, whether others agree with us or not.

  5. There is an elephant in the room. It’s painted with a lurid Joker’s face. It is gigantic and covered with neon dollar signs and pictures of the grim reaper depicting various types of death and disease stemming from the use of psychiatric drugs. There is one for suicide, homicide, one for mass murder, one for an epidemic of soldiers killing themselves and others, one for neuroleptic malignant syndrome, one for tardive dyskinisia…others for despair, anxiety, and hopelessness. There are banners hanging from its neck with the names of various pharmaceutical companies and their specialized billion dollar brain disabling poisons. It is surrounded by a crowd of cheering ignorant. There are flags—hundreds with the names and faces of researchers and psychiatrists and not a few pastors. Right down the middle of the elephant’s head are the letters “FDA” and spilling from its rectum are the fetid wasted lives of hundreds of thousands!

  6. I think a mental health diagnosis is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I agree with your headline, but I never try to say this because often when you say, “I don’t believe in mental illness,” people hear, “I don’t think you’re really in distress.” So I always challenge labels and diagnoses and partial recovery sold as all that is possible. I know that my suffering and distress and extreme emotional states were hard to go through, so I tell people, “I don’t believe that medications and labels are the best solutions for distress.”

    • Thanks Corinna, part of what I hope this blog will do is help us see that “mental illness” is the generic proprietary label that goes along with a DSM diagnosis and the treatments that are dictated by that diagnosis. By renouncing being mentally ill we are shaking off the bonds of that bio-medical brain disease definition of ourselves and repudiating the treatments it dictates. Of course another way of describing what we are experiencing must be available- hence my frequent question- “If madness isn’t what bio-psychiatry says it is, then what is it?” Human emotional suffering in all it’s painful ways of being experienced is not mental illness. Madness is not mental illness either.

  7. It is absolutely refreshing to hear your comment and your view onto the “madness” of psychiatry and also now should be labeled as a quack science .. The biggest error in the western world and about Western values by my observation, is that most of us have been emotional handicapped — by not being able to activate the other psychological ambiance , or so called the wisdom or the affective domain of our fellow men — We have been obsessed with human cognition and thus,with it, the human intelligence… and we praise intelligence, and yet from this mental faculty of intelligence, it also comes with some of the most “destructive” side — as in the case of the use of gunpowder, once used by the Chinese for festivities had deteriorated into bombs and now nuclear arsenals. This is not to say, we are wrong to have this marvelous cognitive/intelligence in our mental wholeness.. But it is the neglect and the total denial of the other humane side, the affective domain of our mental faculty — where yes, wisdom, heart, souls and all of the real Homosapien attributes of giving, of altruism, of caring have all been denied .

    I have found this absence or the total ignorance of the Affective Domain of men have been totally neglected by the psychological society and more so by the world psychiatric associations , why ? Too much of the free human influence by our hearts and souls (remember, not a religious soul) have been deliberately ignored — and denied.

    For the most part, only using this to illustrate of the many linguistic groups , by way of Latin and the Greek world — I dare say, Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish — and let me only use my second and third language who shared a great deal of the common romance/Latin heritage — we have to mental and psychological channels to reach human knowledge (I am also an avid cross cultural psychologist, by way of education, thus, I am proud to say, I am an educational psychology with multiple cultural backgrounds :).. In our Spanish/Portuguese heritage, we have the verb to learn in two forms. First, to know, or CONHECER in Portuguese, and CONOCER in Spanish — is all about to seek knowledge — yes, thus far, I will credit into the mental chamber of Cognition.

    And we have also the verb “to know” as to saber .. in both Spanish and Portuguese ..and the3 word for Wisdom for both Spanish and Portuguese is SABEDORIA ….

    I am making a very strong hypothesis — that I doubt that this double channel of access to our human knowledge , of this duo tracks are less aware or even existing in the linguistic groups of Anglo/Germanic, Hebrew, Slavic, Scandinavian ..and many more …

    One more note — we are still evolving as human beings .. We have come from reptilian past to become HOMOERECTUS, yes, erected man, HOMEINTELLIGENS, intelligent human beings and we are still in process to become a real HOMOSAPIEN, and just to remind us all — In Italian, a much closer linguistic group to Latin — Wisdom is Sapienzia — thus, HOMO SAPIENs, has to be human who is capable to embrace the wisdom side of our mental faculty to become a full being — with both .

    Even the word PSYCHE, if one dare to remembering back, psyche was a Greek nymph who saw her image from the water — It meant, reflection … and in my teaching of cross cultural communication — The very important steps is all about thinking — We
    Think
    Think Again
    Introspection, or introspective thinking )of one self)
    Reflection or, reflective thinking ….

    I have two major men who had influenced me into becoming a better teacher/educator, then psychologist — and never a psychiatry – Carl Rogers who basically by me, was and is one hidden Zen man in the West — By using “unconditional positive regards”, basically he had ignored or denying all the scripts put forth by the world of psychiatry and psychology .. he stressed the ideas in being Congruent, and authentic — to be genuine and his work can not be taught, but yes emulated..

    Second, by way of Paulo Freire, another thinker , philosopher, educator who wrote “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and his key word — Conscientization .. yes, to put conscience into an organic, dynamic action —

    More so in this context, the deceptive practice of most psychological service and psychiatry – basically are “oppressing” those many suffering anxiety and discomfort ..

    More damaging results carried on by Sigmund Freud’s own American Nephew – Edward Bernays .. go to google or to your tube as all of you will find out the crimes committed by this one deception artist and his manipulation of the libidinal side of men , by way of Freud .. and Anna Freud also, have done psychology huge damage — I do admire Freud in being the pioneer in dealing with non medical human anxiety — where also by experiment, Freud had also discovered the wrongful use of cocaine as a tranquilizer and Hypnosis had resulted not into any cure — but a short term memory block — No wonde3r Gustavo Jung had to be departing from the commercialization of Freudian Psychoanalysis and his own nephew, Edward Bernays had it totally perverse where the entire war propaganda have been made to have “lied” to the US and had the US invading Guatemala and the destruction of the first democracy created in Latin America — Edward Bernays had also in the use of cigarette smoking , manipulating the women smokers into the use of cigarette as it becomes the control over the male “genitalia”… and after the war, by my measure, the Bernays use of psychoanalysis had almost using the same strategies as did in Nazi Germany — and the most deceptive element was his ideas to create desire and consumption to fuel a false democracy …

    Please feel free to find in youtube of “The Generation of the self ” — or just search for Edward Barnays ..

    The damage by way of psychoanalysis was tremendous, to even to these days and age — of the military industrial complex and the mass influences onto the psyche of the people.

    I urge the return and better analysis of the human Affective Domain, more than ever, we will not be efficient when we are less collaborative and self serving — Wisdom, soul, heart and many other good sides of our mental faculty from the deposits of AFFECTIVE DOMAIN, like our use of computer cells or spreadsheet — have to be activated — this perverse consumer culture of the perversion of psychology and the misuse by Freud’s own relatives have done enough damage to the world — which including of the pharmaceutical practice of the more perverse psychiatry ..

    March on — we have to be brave enough to foster change and into making us to become better man – in order to take that title of HOMOSAPIEN with wisdom and not intelligence alone.

  8. Très interessant.

    I don’t really know what I think on an in-depth level such as this.

    But on a surface, general, overall level I think it’s interesting to reflect
    on the terminology in question and realise that words have personal energy.
    They can mean different things to different people.

    In this context, my own personal reaction to this assumes that we’re
    reacting here against labels, boxes and types of medical treatment.

    That’s how I’m interpreting this anyway.

    I do feel that the word ‘illness’ can imply ‘cure’.
    It can carry the connotation for some of ‘incurable’.
    Of course this doesn’t have to be the case.

    I believe that all illnesses are theoretically curable,
    once we discover the cure.

    I believe that with mental health issues, some of the
    most useful things are:

    -To believe in a cure – to believe in a release from
    suffering (although not always total, could be zig zag progress)

    -To work to a ‘holistic’ model – heal mental illness on the mental
    level yes, eg. through psychoanalysis , CBT and more new age things,
    but also emotional (eg. love as you say is very helpful), physical (eg. exercise,
    a job, etc).

    There are probably more things I can think of!

    Natalie

  9. i totally agree with your article: there is no such thing as “mental illness”. my only comment is that i don’t believe in suffering either. From a buddhist perspective “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. i am not negating the fact that “we” have all experienced deep emotional pain, but suffering comes from not letting go of that pain. Attachment to our pain (attachment to anything) is what causes suffering. everything is impermanent, look @ our thoughts (even when we are in pain) they jump around everywhere so knowing that one does not have to suffer. For Buddha, all attachments (good and bad) ultimately cause suffering.

    so i do agree with all of your basic ideas, but i also don’t like the use of the term “suffering”

    • Thank you Danni. I’m not a Buddhist but I do understand that emotional suffering can be relieved. I see the path to the full liberation you describe for the people I have served for 30 years as requiring allot of heart centered care before such detachment is possible for most. Suffering is a universal subjective experience as you say, but the intensity of the trauma that has caused the suffering determines whether one may ever be able to exercise the Buddhist option of letting go of the inner emotional pain. I have worked with victims of every kind of abuse and trauma from ages 3 to 80. Some were victims of extreme physical and psychological torture. Suffering at the hands of their abusers and torturers was not optional, especiiallly for the innocent children.. The concept of mental illness as a theoretical construct aimed at describing such human emotional suffering makes a mockery of the terror and unbearable pain so many have suffered.

    • Good point, Danni. My understanding of the Four Noble Truths is that the world is indeed full of suffering, that most minds are unliberated and ego attached. Gautama had to walk through his own existential crises and dark nights of the soul before he saw a path to the liberation of letting go, of accepting that pain (and joy, boredom, etc.) are all inevitable, but suffering (what we add to our experience) is optional.

      So, if we look at intense suffering as an overwhelming of current capacities (as Dan Fisher’s emotional CPR defines it), we can acknowledge suffering is real for those experiencing it (the acknowledgement of which is important to healing). We can also hold the light of liberation, the promise that there can be an end of suffering, without getting tied up in words, which always fail to accuratelyncapturebmoment-to-moment experience anyway.

      One thing I like about reframing mental illness is that it takes a term that for many has an artificial (but self-perpetuating) solidity to it. Mindfulness practice, when supported for those in the midst of intense suffering, reveals that even intense emotional states are constantly changing, there are moments of ever-changing constriction, opening, ease, fear, discomfort, etc. The possibility for Liberation, or relief, is always but a breath away.

      I’d like to suggest another way to frame or describe emotional suffering, anguish, etc. Rather than trying to come up with a blanket term, we acknowledge that we can all be overwhelmed at times, and we seek and provide support for those in overwhelm as an opportunity to practice compassion, empathy, loving kindness. In the end, does it really matter what we call it?

      • I believe having empathy does mean we name human emotional suffering by it’s name. Sitting face to face with trauma abuse and torture victims for over thirty years has shown me that when a little girl shows me dozens of puckered scars on her back and asks me ‘Why did my mama put her cigarettes out on my back mr. Michael?” that my visceral response to her anguished and heart breaking question better be real. The litttle girl wasn’t in distress or overwhelm when the searing paint and terror was inflicted on her, she like so many others was suffering the living torments of hell. If you read my first blog on initiatory madness you will see that I suffered there too.

  10. I wouldn’t be concerned about those who, inevitably, yes, will call you a “denier”. I’ve been called one innumerable times, and, without exception, it has been by people who wouldn’t accept anything but the medical model. When it comes down to it, it is, in fact, these people, who are the true “deniers”, since by labelling it “mental illness” they deny the nature of emotional suffering (suffering is optional, yes danni, but isn’t it the suffering, not the pain, that actually gets labelled “mental illness”?), and thus they deny human nature.

    Somebody who is just the least open-minded and curious, if they’re in doubt, will not immediately call you a “denier”, but ask you what you mean when you say you don’t believe in “mental illness”. Those who will, well, you can try and explain to them till the cows come home, they will not listen to you anyway, no matter how you word your statement.

    • Thanks, I hear you Marian and always get allot from your great comments on facebook! I am not trying to change anyone’s mind who is a true believer in the medical model- been there, done that, will leave that to younger, wonderful souls like Bob Whitaker. I guess i am partly on a mission born of frustration to prompt the consumer survivor peer movement to realize what seems like a very obvious fact to me. As long as we let bio-psychiatry define what we experience subjectively when we are suffering emotionally and/or are mad with their proprietary generic label of ‘mental illness’, and since they have the legal power to inflict their treatments on us and have the power to have every single mental health services dollar be tied to a DSM diagnosis- then for a start, so as not to be at their mercy for another 50 years- we better come up with a first principle definition and viable explanation of what lands us in psych emergency that is different than theirs. I have attempted to share such an alternative causation theory of human emotional suffering and madness here on the several blogs I have written, along with a way of lovingly responding that naturally flows from such a formulation..

  11. It would seem, Dr. Cornwall, that what you DO believe is in the innate dignity, wisdom, strength and resilience of the human spirit which, when held in a loving and safe space, has the capacity to find meaning, healing and a deeper connection to life that can tranform the soul.

    Very powerful medicine!

  12. There is another piece of this, Michael, and it is endocrine.

    My experience with psychosis is that blood sugar fluctuations and hormones (PMS and peri-menopause) can create havoc in the mind. For those of us very sensitive types who are also anxious, lack of sleep can also be triggering. For this reason, I call my “mental illness” an emotional/endocrine vulnerability. I also tell folks that I have an extreme sensitivity to lack of sleep.

    There may also be emotions or childhood trauma at the base of it, but my experience tells mental illness is a whole-body crisis.

  13. “I Don’t Believe in Mental Illness, Do You?”

    I certainly DO NOT!

    However I do know that psychotropic drugs and electroshock cause brain damage even severe brain damage! I know that the so called ‘cure’ can kill the spirit and cause Parkinson’s, tardive dyskinesia, akathisia, dystonia to name some real effects.
    I also know that the diagnoses of so called ‘mental illness’ can deny those afflicted to loose their human rights. They are then considered less than human and can be forced to receive brain damage legally without having committed any crime. This for me is outrageous! It is the reason I will continue to expose this cruelty while I am able to do so!
    Thanks for continuing to ask this important question Michael!

  14. Thank you Mary for your tirelss and brave work fighting against the tragic destruction done by bio-psychiatry that you list in your comment above. I hope everyone clicks on your name above to see the Mind Freedom Ireland website that shows how you and your comrades are a huge force for change in this humnan rights struggle.

  15. But there’s a huge difference in not believing in mental illness and believing people shouldn’t be forced in to treatments. I have mental illness and want the anti-depressant and my counselor. I know I can function better and do better in counseling if I have both. I willing go and I willing tell my counselor and PCP if something is off or not working. While I’ve had experience with being forced as a kid and adult, I want help to overcome the abuse and neglect I suffered as an adolescent. But to say there’s no such thing takes away from those wanting and seeking help. If I say I don’t believe you are a male, does mean you aren’t? If 12 of us say we don’t believe you are of male gender, does that make us right? For those people who are so far gone in there mental problems that the only real fix is to force them isn’t a good thing to do, but what if we could get them into a state of awareness that these folks can function and find jobs/homes/a real life? I don’t know. Forcing someone against their will really shouldn’t be done. What if it’s a psycho who hurts people? Someone who hurts children and if forced to live in a halfway house and made to take meds that would prevent him/her from harming others, do we owe society safety? I do think if we start taking human rights away and medicating them just because someone says it’s a good idea will start the bandwagon down a dangerous road. Like sterilizing people who show they can’t make good parenting or personal choice to prevent more unwanted/abused children who grow up to perpetuate the problem, where do we draw the line? What constitutes the rules of this? What about when it gets out of hand another ‘purification’ begins like Hitler? Back to the beginning, there’s a huge difference between saying this doesn’t exist to saying people should be free to choose or not choose treatment.

  16. There might be such a thing called “mental illness” due to brain disease, the trouble is that a lot of other problems having simmilar symptoms due to other causes like stress,sleep deprivation, infection and physical break down get all lumped together under the same umbrella and treated in a similar way with antipsychotic medication. The people having a genetic brain disease might need the medication but the others don’t.Indeed the medication makes them worse and the hartless treatement they get in their hour of need traumatises them for years. When talking to several psychiatrists, I realised that they didn’t know/ weren’t taught that you could get psychosis from infection and sleep deprivation. Being diagnosed “severly mentally ill” when you are not ruins lives and can lead to suicide

  17. I don’t believe in Mental Illness as a disease process which is analogous to diseases like cancer or diabetes.

    I believe in emotional dis-ease, affected by developmental issues of social attachment bonds, which are at the very core of our human experience. I also believe in poorly understood traumatic disruptions to our secure sense of self, which is rooted in the unconscious physiological aspects of our core affect/emotions.

    Sadly we remain innately tribal in our view of life, with active distrust and suspicion of other groups, on other turf, defeating societal harmony and our developmental progress. It is depressing to say the least that this unconscious reactivity applies as much to the highly educated as it does to those of us less fortunate.

    In the field of mental health it is even more depressing that professional disciplines seem more interested in protecting their “turf” and securing their own survival than cooperation and knowledge sharing, in honor of their Hippocratic oath. As such I am astounded by the continuing denial of the “body” in relation to so-called “mental illness,” the myopic focus on the brain alone, now stands in contradiction to human development research, which implicates the nervous system and its “feedback signals” as key elements in the generation and regulation of brain altering emotional states.

    In an effort to go beyond my subjective awareness of bipolar disorder, research led me to developmental neuroscience, where I expected to learn more about my brain chemistry. Reading people like Allan N Schore, who calls for an “interdisciplinary” approach to the problems of emotional disorders, led me back into the survival mechanisms of my body, and the energy mobilizing or immobilizing capacities of my nervous systems.

    Emotion, as metabolic energy, is key to the functioning of our brain and our subjective experience of being human. Learning how I “unconsciously” organize my emotional energy has been the key to my own ongoing recovery, (although recovery is a paradoxical term when applied to what is essentially the human condition) and developing a felt sense of core emotions, has had its healing effect.

    These days I don’t believe in mental illness, I do believe in thwarted emotional development and traumatic emotional disruptions, which are slowly yielding their hidden mechanisms to the spotlight of rigorous, “untainted,” scientific enquiry. Let me share some of my reading from one the leading minds in human development research, and the book which finally gave me a light to shine on my own experience of the nonlinear discontinuous development patterns, psychiatry labels bipolar disorder.

    “Studies that ignore organism state are analogous to experiments of psychics which ignore time, and that the ubiquity of state-dependant organism changes reminds us that biological systems are highly dynamic and notoriously nonlinear.

    The concept of psychobiological state lies at the common boundary of the psychological and biological sciences, and as such it can go far to overcome the myopia of “Descartes’ Error,” “the separation of the most refined operations of mind from the structure and operation of a biological organism” _Damasio.
    At all points of human development, and especially in infancy, the continuously developing mind cannot be understood without reference to the continually maturing body, and their ongoing interactions become an important interface for the organizing self.

    Homeostatic structures which maintain stability are primarily lateralized in the right brain, which is, more so than the left, well connected into the limbic system and the mechanisms of autonomic and behavioral arousal, and their maturation is experience-dependant. This organization, like all aspects of human brain maturation, is nonlinear and shows discontinuous development patterns.

    The organization of brain systems does not involve a simple pattern of increments, but rather changes in organization. Development, the process of self assembly, thus involves both progressive and regressive phenomena, and is best characterized as a sequence of organization, disorganization, and reorganization.

    Damasio asserts that emotions are highest order direct expression of bio-regulation in complex organisms, and that primordial representations of body states are the building blocks and scaffolding of development. Emotion occurs in the context of evolved systems for the mutual regulation of behavior, often involving bodily changes that act as signals. Emotions and their regulation are thus essential to the adaptive function of the brain.” Excerpts from;

    “Affect Dysregulation & Disorders of the Self” Allan N Schore, 2003, Norton & Company, USA .

    Please keep up your great work Michael, in honoring the essential nature of the human experience, by living an authentic adult life which is not governed by the average “cover my arse in public, conceptual spin.”

    • Thank you again David for another illuminating comment and references.. I hope everyone clicks on your name above to take advantage of seeing more of your writing and resources that are very valuable.
      Decartes- ” I think therefore I am” error, is the hallmark for our modern over determined belief that our cognitive function or mind is the high priest of the total human being. So why wouldn’t visceral, glandular, heart and soul based emotion filled experience be reduced to faulty brain functioning and-‘thought disorder’?

  18. Thanks for an inspiring and refreshingly honest post.

    One of the hardest parts of my journey as a care person for my relative who was receiveng mental healthcare services in ‘the system’ was when the best team of providers in the area continued telling me that I would have to go against my heart, my gut, and my natural Motherly instincts to get my son the treatement they claimed was the only way to help a person with his diagnosis.

    Now, I believe they may have been/are wrong. I believe my heart is a pretty good guide. I’ve been a “FenceSitter” for years in regard to what I believe about mental illness, but times are changing.

    I can finally explore what I believe, without fear and guilt being put upon me for not supporting forced medication, for being concerned about liver tests and for inviting my son home for a meal, the latter of which was said by professinals to be aiding in his continued high functioning, which made it impossible to “treat” him.

    Your story and willingness to say what you believe, the other inspirational stories I’ve read lately, along with exciting new research have helped me get off that fence.

    • Thank you Rosa Michelle for your comment. I encourage everyone to click on your name above to see your wondeful blog site that shows about green healing and horticulture therapy, as well as other interesting things. I’m glad you are feeling supported by those of us who have another, alterntive health oriented story to tell about our own experiences and healing.

      • Thank you Dr. Cornwall. I appreciate your kind note. I wish I could spend my day reading this blog and the comments. That’s how exciting all this is to me. I never thought I’d get to see this day. Only months ago there was a psychiatrist telling me that it would be okay for my son to get diabetes, and not long after, one told me “that everyone has to die from something sometimes,” regarding abnormal liver tests. So, you can imagine how happy I am that there is a new era! I am amazed and truly grateful, not to mention hopeful for my son’s future 🙂

        Good day to you,
        Michelle.

        PS As I write, my son’s labs are normal because he came off the drug they had him on, and finally has private healthcare too.

  19. There is no such thing as intrinsic mental illness. All challenges of the psyche are due to energies that are external to it…chemical, emotional, psychic and spiritual energies. I spell it out on my site http://www.thespiritualkey.com.

    The best bipolar website on the internet is http://www.bipolarORwakingUP.com, owned by Sean Blackwell. It’s a must read, with lots of great videos. His site, and a conversations with him, inspired my page on bipolar.

    • Yes, I agree Dr. Cornwall. They really shouldn’t be able to practice medicine with those attitudes, but I think the entire institution would have to close down if they couldn’t. And, it cost about a hundred thousand dollars for him to get their “treatment” –I sometimes think of all we could do with that much money. We could build a residential healing community, or at least have a good go at it.

      Have a blessed day.
      (Rosa Michelle)

  20. This is a complex question. Having been symptomatic in my life, I do believe that illness can compromise the mind, but I don’t think that any diagnosis should limit anyone. We are not our diagnoses. We are leap years ahead of that. At the same time, I am uncomfortable with the pigeonholing of any human being with a label. It took me over 40 years to discard the prognosis slapped on me at age fifteen. It felt like an albatross hindering my growth. Let’s think beyond those labels and treat each other with love and respect.

    • Thank you Barbara. How we view each other and ourselves when we are suffering emotionally can be dramatically impacted if DSM diagnoses are applied. When they are based on the physicians firm belief that the person has a life long brain disorder, and delivered by one’s trusted personal physician, I have seen people lose hope in their future.

  21. hi Michael your articles are good to read, a refreshing take, and i believe you’re probably a very capable and warmhearted therapist, that your work in this style is valuable and that you have a great deal to contribute to human wellbeing.

    yet, you push the “mad” label very heavily. that’s unusual. “mad pride” is great, but just like the word “queer” in the old days, which has since gained some measure of acceptance in the GLBT community, the word “mad” involves a significant cultural baggage, and has been through a lot of usage phases many of which are anything but acceptable-by-appeal-to-ancientness or connoting the “divine madness” that you talk of elsewhere regarding your own journey. it’s still offensive to many people, and isn’t that much different from modern terms used in separating people based upon characteristics which are seen as somehow defining a person as “less than” another (usually by people with position and authority).

    you seem to be casting a potentially stigmatising term of identity onto people… isn’t each person experiencing a unique set of phenomena, that deserve to be described based upon the qualities of the particular case? ie. Person X has been seeing the movement of walls, and shadows flitting across her periphery, also hearing a disembodied voice perceived to emanate from approximately 50 metres in front of her, and seeming to pass commentary upon her thoughts. does this make him “mad” or does this description equal the occurance of the phenomena described by this description, and may not each case be described this way, according to the particulars of the instance?

    i understand that you wish to communicate, to clients and other health care professionals, about a large number of instances all at once, but i offer that an injustice is committed when this attempt at generalisation by naming is attempted. i don’t care really if you call it crazy, mad, loopy, nuts, bonkers, eccentric, or any one of the compound euphemisms that are readily avaulable. it is still labelling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labeling_theory), and although to be honest i often quite like the name “mad” and frequently use this and other similar names as terms of admiration for someone’s radically inventive and adventurously creative personal way, the term “mad” is not without negative connotation to many people in many usage contexts.

    in effect, on the ground, isn’t it almost equivalent to the terms “schizophrenia” and “mental illness”, carrying similar stigmatising implications…?

    • Thank you for your comment Taotiger. I will take it to heart. What I went through I hold as madness and I have felt comfortable with the word in R.D. Laing’s book title -“Sanity Madness and the Family” and my mentor John Perry’s -“The Far Side of Madness” and Whitaker’s-“Mad in America” which is also the name of this web magazine. Using the word mad and madness and mad pride has always felt subversive in pushing back against the terminolgy of the DSM and the pathologizing language and labelling inherant in psychiatry. Plato talke about the 4 types of divine madness and the God Dionysus, the livberator was called the mad God, so I probably will continue in my path that began with my own madness that you can read about in my blog here- “Initiatory Madness.”

  22. I was taken into the principal’s office during my senior year in high school and told that if I did not receieve immediate psychiatric help, I would surely degenerate into schizophrenia. I love your comment about love and compassion. Had I been raised by a loving, compassionate father, I would not have become ill. I have forgiven my father for his actions. I think mental illness could be lessened if not eradicated if we were to cultivate a culture of love and compassion, one that would exclude drugs and alchohol and all other addictive behaviors. I believe “mental illness” comes about due to generations of misconduct. Perhaps one can be raised in a loving family and still be mentally ill. Chances are that some genetic abnormality coming from some form of misconduct could be passed on down. I don’t know the answers.
    What is your opinion?

    • Thanks for your comment Barabara. I don’t believe, and the research doesn’t prove, that there is a gene for madness that is inherited. I Think it happens for some of the reasons you say and others I share in one of my other blog posts- “Responding to madness with loving receptivity.”

  23. I believe that I have a mental illness, and I don’t believe that just because some people can manage their madness without medical help that we should abandon the neuro-psychiatric model altogether. It’s also thoroughly hypocritical to complain about the mud-slinging on both sides of the argument and then quote Laing’s ‘The harming effects of psych drugs aren’t side effects, they are the effects!’ at people.

    Holistic therapy, counselling, talking about emotions and healing and yoga and all of that stuff is great, and I encourage ANYONE suffering with ‘madness’ (or whatever you choose to call it) to try those things, but for some people they are just NOT ENOUGH, and taking an imperfect medication that puts your life somewhere in the spectrum of tolerability is preferable to carrying on with problems that in all likelihood (statistically speaking) will only get worse otherwise.

    Like another commenter said, it’s a big leap in logic from disagreeing with forcible hospitalisation etc to not believing in mental illness. Many people choose medical intervention, and feel their lives are a lot better because of it.

  24. I hold the same belief that no one suffers from mental illness, I believe psychiatry is a scam. Its sad that society holds itself as a “judge” to label someone this or that. Only because that person is different or has a different belief.I for one strongly hate society, and all its teachings. People look down upon their fellow human brother who has a so called ” mental illness” as crazy or insane. These labels only divide us, not bring us together. Many people believe that these pills that psychologist give them, will in fact help them. Not knowing, these pills only give you the illusion you are getting better but in fact its only hiding the symptoms. Also, I believe the governments uses psychiatry to their advantage, so they can lock up people who question their authority. This is a poem I wrote not too long ago, its called The scorned one and pretty sums up everything.

    The night turns to gray,day turns to ash. The beast prowls among this empty place. No man shall come here less he be consumed by the monsters claws.The darkness calls my name,and the well shall be my resting place.Such a cold place it shall be, where hearts rot and eyes lose their shine.Such a horrible fate for a man such as me,but yet what worries lies therin after? Society is a prision,empty men with empty hearts.Woe is them,if only they but knew… such a empty place.. A sign with no sense of direction,ahead where the confused lie. Eyes view the one who thinks diffrently as insane,oh how it hurts.Minds filled with Venom,from the fangs of so called truth.The glamour and glitz for how long will it please a man,for the sky will crack and show the infection it hid.What do you consider normal? For every man has a reality tunnel,but the wolfs come out to play.quick to judge,but lack of similatry.Does the judger see through the eyes of the condemed? Oh,how unfiar it is. The scorned one walks all alone,with no place to call home.The voices of the alike scorn him and tells him there is a place for him.Woe is him Woe is him,in the pit of the abyss where others such as him will go.But comfortable to see men such as him.The scorned one views love as evil,becuase the bucket is easy to spill.Such a over used word,in a heartless world.But yet,within him he cries for love.The ghost of the “before” haunts him reminding him of the scars that appeared within him.The dragon holds dominion upon the sheep,oh will when they wake up? The whips of ignorance slice across the scorned one,and the bullets of the hateful writhe his inner reality.He views himself as crazy upon the wolfs,but his hope holds a rope for him.Watch Rome the second crumble upon its errors,will the truth touch them then? Oh how awful it is to see the sun turn black and the beast regin among the dead.Where naked woman dance,and bitter men cheat.Let it be,that it will not change me.Skulls reign among the machine,and the Octopus prospers.For it gains the riches,and steals from the low.The buildings of conformity,prey among the young to mold them into a mindless drone.May they call me insane and lock me in the place of the well,but my eyes see the truth.Who am I you ask? well im the scorned one

  25. I am in the middle ground, I believe in mental illness, I just disagree with EVERYTHING that professorial have to say about it, or how to treat it. Doctors say everything will help, when really, they are just EXPERIMENTING on their patients. “try this new medication! I am being given bonuses to give it out and record the side effects!”

    I had an Uncle that became schizophrenic when he hit 18. My grand parents where fooled by their doctor into thinking ELECTRO SHOCK therapy will help. Guess what? It didn’t. just made him worse.

    Doctors keep giving my grandparents different medications for THEIR “mental problems” but they refuse to take any. So far 5 different medications they where told to take have been RECALLED due to causing DEATH.

    I’m not saying all, but most doctors don’t care at all about their patients. They care about their bonuses, and experimenting and finding out new things using patients as human test subjects.

    When I was 3 I was kidnapped. I have memories of being taken around the country for a year, then the SWAT TEAM kicking the door to the motel suite down and rushing in with guns and what not. My step dad and mother kidnapped me, so for years afterwards I had to talk with judges, lawyers, be in court. Things are different now, but back then they actually would bring the child to the court case, and have lawyers question em infront of everyone.

    From then till I was 16 I would wake up every night from night terrors screaming, and my nightmares felt real, and where more like memories than dreams.

    The court couldn’t decide who should get me so I had to grow up with my grand parent who where strict JW. No birthdays, no Christmas, no holidays, no cartoons, no movies, my entertainment was reading the bible.

    I was robbed of my childhood. It has made me really screwed up now. I am 28 and I can’t keep a job, I can’t trust anyone, I can’t make friends, I can’t believe anything or anyone. I have no faith in Government, police, doctors, school systems, the FDA.

    Every night I sleep I wake up knowing my dream was just another repressed memory. I can’t sleep right because when I do it makes me think and remember all my repressed memories, so I always stay up and generally do not like sleeping. Every time I talk to someone repressed memories rush into my head and make me unable to trust the person talking to me. When I am at work and my boss yells at me, it’s like I am a kid again and everything I hated from my childhood I see in my boss, and I can’t control myself.

    Every decision i make, every thought I make is clouded by all the bs from my past and I can’t escape it.

    So now I just smoke huge amounts of Marry J, and empty my head. If I am not high, my head gets so full of repressed memories and sounds, feels and sights from my childhood that I cannot think, do anything productive, and just generally get very very angry at everything…

    Some say I HAVE a mental illness, I just say I am having a bad time dealing with my past

  26. a soveigern sane soul will be made crazy by people whom they perceive to be normal, namely psychiatrists whom are diagnosing them with disorders and telling them that theres something wrong with their brain. what makes it worse is that they are backed by ‘science’ and popular belief.

  27. I, personally, don’t believe in conventional understanding of mental illness for two main reasons.

    First, unlike most other illness’s, that have biological markers–that is not present within the biological model of mental illness. Without any conclusive evidence that can show consistent physiological abnormalities, than; I have conclude mental illness is simply a social constructed catch-all term.

    Two, when diagnosing someone as mentally ill, I feel there is a stigma that follows, and that stigma comes with side effects–so to speak. The side-effects include: social isolation, alienation, and most significant, the stripping of one’s own agency.

    However, I’m not so naive in saying people do not experience unpleasant or extreme states of consciousness, but I don’t think those unpleasant states need to be medicalized through the narrow lens of a psychiatric diagnoses.

    Lastly, if someone is experiencing extreme emotions (including myself) I would advocate for alternative methods of help. Which could be: support groups, talk-therapy, specific herbs/plants, and ultimately develop a more compassionate understanding of one’s emotions.

  28. How I Cured My Bipolar Disorder
    I read that omega-3 was being used for psychiatric disorders and gave it a try for myself. It didn’t work, but I noticed that after 13 years my urine had no calcium sediments in it anymore. Before omega-3 supplements any extra calcium I ate showed up as extra urine sediment. I then read that calcium was important for proper neuron function and added calcium supplements to my diet thinking that I might not be getting enough. I increased the amount until I started seeing calcium sediments in my urine again. My mental symptoms stopped then. I believe the mechanism for the success of omega-3 is through its ability to allow the body to maintain a higher blood level of calcium. Higher calcium levels are known to reduce the level of excitability of neurons. Perhaps omega-3 allows the kidneys to reabsorb calcium to a level that satisfies all the body’s requirements.

  29. Just because “mentally ill” people don’t behave like you do, doesn’t mean that they are actually sick. We’re on a planet in the middle of nowhere, and we’re stuck here with people who are so different from each other, trading paper and shiny objects, and trying not to “go crazy”.It’s already weird in my opinion that anyone has the right to call another sick. Just because a doctor or “expert” says it’s so, doesn’t make it true.

  30. So people seeing blue people or talking on the phone when no one is there or opening all the windows in sub zero temperatures while blasting the tv on max volume while it’s on fuzz or kicking and screaming at animals for no reason at all or saying i see my dead mother or hallucinations or extreme emotions or torturing/eating/killing/raping/molesting innocent kids/adults whatever else i can’t think of at all moment is not a disease of the brain? Can’t a brain be sick?

    I’m new here… just registered to comment and share my story.
    My Mom was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was born. She has lost custody of me numerous times… usually around the holidays. I have suffered, yes suffered, all my life because of her illness. She also has SUFFERED the most (the ignorant one who says that those are not suffering with it should walk in their shoes before assuming.. and I mean REALLY be severely mentally ill). I take care of her and I will continue to until the day one of us dies. With that being said, yes, I do believe people can have a brain disorder/disease. I still do not understand how that happens or how one gets sick but I know that there is such a thing.
    I’ve witnessed it for 24 years and have lived with it for more than half of my life. I have not had any schooling and I haven’t even been to college yet.
    Right now all I can think of is that disease stole my Moms life away. She wasn’t/isn’t able to work, form close relationship/friends, her family ignores her and blames her, she doesn’t have a significant other and in ALL OF THAT HELL… she still loves.
    So maybe this gave me an outlet to vent/express and I most likely didn’t answer your question correctly but thank you for giving me this outlet. Just letting whoever looks at this know how I feel just made me feel a little bit better.

  31. I feel a little disheartened by the world of mental health. I can’t seem to wrap my head around the ethical practices of psychiatrists. Are they good or bad? Is psychotropic medication helpful at some point? I do believe a lot of the mental disorders in the DSM are just bogus and “money-making” disorders (i.e. ADD, ADHD, etc.) However, what about the other mental disorders that seem very real, like Schizophrenia? Are we to dismiss all of the disorders listed in the DSM? Should medicine never be administered to patients? I don’t know what to think anymore, especially as a new mental health clinician in the field.

  32. When I was little I was diagnosed with a so called mental illness. I do not believe in such rubbish. I was also diagnosed with “A.D.D”. which is not even a proven theory yet. Therefore I do not believe in such lies. I thank you for this post. This may be selfish of me to say, but this post cheered me up. I just came back from the hospital and I was treated like some kind of biological meltdown.

  33. Thanks Dr. Cornwall for writing this article and for devoting your career to help make the mental health treatments of the world more humane and effective.

    I particularly resonate with your point about the vague line where respecting the believes of others and advocating the treatments you know to be effective clash with each other.

    Reading this made me think of the ludicrous option that conventional psychiatrists give to their patients who propose more holistic, less invasive and harmful treatments, which is to use the alternative therapies to supplement the psychotropic drugs. If someone is taking harmful drugs which cause extreme exhaustion, muscle atrophy, and various other debilitating side effects , how is implementing therapeutic changes such as exercise, yoga, or nutrition, going to be possible or even marginally effective if by some miracle the patients body is able to exercise? Also, what use is changing your diet when you’re ingesting toxic harmful chemicals each day?

    I feel strongly that in the case of mental health, especially bc there is no known biological evidence of disease, allopathic medicine cannot be beneficial nor be healthy, thinking about the suggestion that alternative therapy should go hand in hand with harmful drugs that negatively effect every organ in the body actually disturbs and angers me. Until the use of harmful drugs, restraints, isolation and other human rights violations prevalent in hospitals and conventional psychiatry are completely eliminated it is only right to expose the public to the harsh truth, no matter how impolite it may come off as.

    Thanks for opening up the dialogue and allowing me to take part in this discussion.

    With gratitude,
    Gianna

  34. Great blog post. I too do not believe in mental illness. I believe in emotional fragility and some people are too beautiful for this broken world, and their spirit becomes fragmented. It is so sad that there are professionals out there who are numbing the natural emotional centre with drugs making it near impossible for people to feel and process their emotions. Crying, for example, is such a healthy process. Anyhow, I often think I’m approaching the ‘madness’ box with the way I see the world and its people, and forgiveness is very difficult especially towards the psychiatrists who do not care about my mother. You are right, drugging someone against their will is a human right violation, and as my sister always says, one day we will meet our maker.

    It is such a shame that the powers that be are afraid of human emotion, because that is key to the health of this world, taking off our mask, displaying our vulnerability, being our true selves. Thank you again for highlighting this ginormous problem.

    I blog at http://www.bloodyhelldell.wordpress.com. Regards Helen

  35. oh HELL no. only an idiot would believe this bullshit. so you’re just going to invalidate the experiences of real mentally ill patients, including myself, by stating that mental illness is simply a mixture of emotional issues and insanity? nicely done, jackass. i pray that people like you never involve themselves in the psychiatric field

  36. I don’t appreciate people saying my issue is simply “suffering”, and that saying otherwise makes me a “denier”. I’ve experienced many forms of suffering, but when you suffer greatly, with no end, for no logical reason, there is an issue. To say that mental illness does not exist is completely going against all proven medical science. I need medication just to be able to function, Because laying around with no interest in even eating, and contemplating death most of the day, for no proper reason, is not normal, and goes well beyond the scope of suffering. Being afraid to even leave the house, being nervous around your own parents, and having massive anxiety attacks because “everyone hates you and thinks you should die”, going 6 days without sleep, is beyond the reasonable scope of human suffering. Doctors go to years of school, to be able to properly diagnose and treat people that come to them for help. They don’t just spit out weird wannabe philosophical nonesense, “I was insane once, therefore mental illness doesn’t exist”. What right do you think you have to try to input an expert opinion in a field you have no expertise in? That’s like me saying, “I don’t believe in cancer, they just need to get fresh air and eat more kale. It’s natural human suffering, like the cold and the flu, I had those once. This is why I didn’t become a doctor.”

  37. You can’t believe whatever you wish but in this brief article of yours there is nothing to back up your position.
    While I understand you have a PhD and many years of experience in the field but that alone is not enough without any studies or empirical evidence to corroborate your position.

    In any case I, like you also had a strong suspicion about the merits of mental illness and its currently accepted treatment practices. While not yet a teenager, I witnessed firsthand Americas new obsession with doling out strong stimulant and anti depressive medications. As a kid I was always told by my parents that severe mental illness and depression ran strong in my family. Now even though I was young, I still concluded that what I was told had no firm relation to myself personally and that gong to see the “doctor” and quickly being medicated was not the answer. From what you wrote I conclude you infer that most peoples mental illness is the result of there environment and is just a strong emotional feeling. I too once would have agreed with you and in many cases I still do. If you take me for example in relation to my first encounter with a psych doctor at age twelve. I was recommended by a couple of teachers because I was constantly drowsy, inattentive, and constantly off task and not paying attention. My mom believed what they were preaching and also was concerned about my drowsiness and lack of interest in school in general. While I didn’t mention to her how I actually felt about it as I saw no means to an end with that conversation so I just went along for the ride. Now by this point I had about 3 good friends that I always seemed to hang around with and it seemed they too were having the same issues. After a brief doctor visit I came home with my new ritalin script and at first I decided I would not take it and just toss it. Eventually though I tried it and was amazed how much energy I had along with a fairly overall sense of well being. I would have my friends over for a sleep over and for the two of my special friends there moms dropped off there prozac and adderall for in the morning.

    Eventually my grades did improve and I would pay more attention in school. I also tried a little bit harder to be on task and get better grades the later more so I wanted to please my mom and not have heard called in to talk to my teachers. In a way I guess I could say the medicine worked for me but more or less for quite the superficial reason. In reality the reason I was constantly drowsy at school was because I would stay up building computers, reading video game and computer related magazine, and not to mention I had just gotten this thing called the internet! My poor grades were merely the result of a disinterest in the curriculum being taught as I went to a catholic school and had to subject hours everyday about religion! In truth, I could have probably fixed all of these deficiencies if someone had just ever asked me what my problem was. Instead my parent was talked to and told by some uninformed worrisome teacher that she feared I might have ADHD. To me what was worrisome was how haphazardly I was given powerful mind altering amphetamines with little to no counseling or discussion. But again, I never voiced this concern as I saw the pills as a benefit in that I could now stay up way late pursuing my hobbies and still feel good the next day.

    Eventually however I could not keep up the routine of the strong uppers. Eventually one day I woke up and went to class but upon arriving I started to feel very strange with a terrible brain fog type feeling along with a dissociation of body sensation. It was more than terrible and caused very panicky symptoms for me as I had no idea what was going on. I eventually went home sick and totally crashed sleeping for some 30 hours straight. When I awoke I had the same symptoms as before and was very scared and they persisted like that for about a week. I will say this was one of the worst experiences in my life and am still not sure what happened to me from a medical standpoint as I never increased my dose of ritalin. In any regard I vowed I would never to use any stimulant medication like that again. Looking back at this time of my life I conclude that if that psychiatrist I initially saw had spent more than 20 minutes talking to me he would have just given me a mild anti-anxiety medication as I mentioned to him specifically that I did have fairly bad anxiety at times but somehow he decided it best to give me the opposite of that?
    The anxiety I mentioned at that time was fairly minor and mostly just a general overall feeling of being uneasy and tense. I eventually developed some strange behaviors and fears for instance I often felt as if there was something stuck in my throat causing me to have a hard time swallowing. Situations or places that I lacked a sense of control over seemed to exacerbate the issue such as being on the school bus or on an airplane. I realized there was no getting around this as avoiding situations where I didn’t have control was not going to change anytime soon. Unsure of how to remedy the issue, I started to carry a small water bottle with me everywhere I went as this would help me swallow if I started feeling anxious. With the water bottle by my side along with being placed in many panicky situations I eventually started to conclude that my whole issue was not real and nothing was actually psychically wrong with my throat even though it felt strange. I concluded that I was not going to ever die from not being able to swallow or breathe. Along with this I started reading about calming methods to use in these situations. After awhile I almost never had this issue again. While I still had quite a high level of overall anxiety I had at least managed to curtail it with my methods and probably stopped myself from developing other strange behaviors. I thought back at what my mother had said about hereditary depression and at the time concluded that she was wrong about me and perhaps I just got the anxiety portion of it. However I now know I was the one who was wrong as even then I had symptoms of early depression however I had not yet experienced any strong symptoms. As a child I would always just tell everyone that I was ok and most people concluded that meant I was good and never cared or had time to dive deeper into my response. What I meant was that indeed I was just ok, not happy but also not sad. I also did not seem to have any true feelings either? I could have been riding my bike with bottle rockets shooting out the sides and wouldn’t have felt happy, but as mentioned I never felt down or sad either. I was a little concerned about my lack of any feeling, emotion, or empathy but just concluded that was normal for everyone. Later on in life I would learn that this was not normal at all. Sometimes you hear people say “Find a hobby” Well that saying definitely has merit as engrossing myself in things that I enjoyed, I was able to feel more calm and was able to forget about my constant racing thoughts of anxiety. With this I was able to get through high school and eventually college where I did quite well. It turns out if your allowed to choose something your interested in people will pay close attention. After graduating I found a good job and bought a house and eventually got married. In addition to that my anxiety had all but faded away. It seemed I no longer even had the time to worry about anything as I was constantly busy and things seemed great for a while. Eventually however I started to having just an overall feeling of unhappiness.It was very strange to me however as I had never really felt unhappy, sad, down, or whatever anyone wants to call it. I once again tried to come up with ways to overcome this on my own and tried making time for my personal hobbies along with dedicating at least one hour a day to get some exercise preferably outside in the sun as from what I researched also mentioned the importance of sunlight on peoples moods. I went this routine for a while but my thoughts worsened and eventually I decided to go back to the doctor. From there I was put on an antidepressant medication and as a few more months rolled by I felt no better and actually I felt things had worsened. This dance continued in this fashion over the course of three years with me trying what seemed almost the entire list of modern antidepressants. I was still having an overall sense of dread for no apparent reason as there was nothing wrong with my environment. I thought back to when I was first perscibed the ritalin and thought why cant these stupid antidepressant meds work like that did even if it provided some superficial benefit. I thought for instance perhaps I could find a drug that could turn my brain off? While obviously not the answer, this would help me not have negative thoughts? Frustrated by the lack of results I cancelled my next doctors visit and flushed my suitcase of antidepressants down the toilet. Eventually I went back to my mom and asked her about these issues and she also has them. She said she too and many others in the family seemed to have there depression start in there late 20’s early 30’s. I explained that I had run out of ideas on what to do. Things have gotten perpetually worse and now I have no coping mechanism or outside solution. I went a few more years without doing anything and at that time just tried to engross myself in work as it was the only thing that seemed to distract my mind. As I let this issue get worse I also no longer seemed to have any interest in much of anything. My hobbies no longer seemed to interest me any longer. Everyday, it was getting harder and harder for me to even get out of bed in the morning and eventually I hit my breaking point. I had let these terrible consume me for far too long and with that I started to convince myself that I should just be done with it. I had let this diseased thoughts win and now my logical conclusion was there was no way to repair or even block them. And with that I look at your article again just to see your unsupported opinion once more and see perhaps your somewhat right that these are just bad feelings all along and for some reason I left the baseline and can now experiences highs and lows. Perhaps from all these years of not feeling I have become a selfish person and my thoughts and feelings are from my own undoing of not being able to understand or actually feel? Before reading your article I actually came to that conclusion as well. I mus say you are dead wrong though on your belief that our environment is a factor however I also had that same conclusion at one point as well and deiced one day on a whim to take my 4 weeks of vacation time that I had built up and try to find a new passion or hobby. I found myself scuba diving, big game fishing and doing all sorts of totally awesome things but again they were all minor distractions and at the end of each day I still felt empty. Discouraged that everything I tried led me nowhere I started writing in a journal about my thoughts each day to try to build some sort of correlation. In my experience it seems everyone in the USA wants quick answers and a quick fix and mostly my frustration was that I was looking for the opposite. I put in the effort to try the methods such as exercising everyday instead of popping a pill as a first resort and this wore me down the most and nearly pushed me over the edge. I have always been fairly cynical but am also quick witted and always joked around about my issues and used comedy to not make such a big deal about things. However by this point I had let the cynical take over and no longer joked about anything let alone talk to anyone as everything seemed pointless.

    Then one day at work I went to lunch and walked over to the Qdoba nearby. As I walked in I saw a man who asked me if I could give him some coins. I walked in and pretended to ignore him as I have always done it the past to beggars. For some reason I felt sorry for the dog and that’s when I decided to buy him some shredded pork to put in a bowl. As my order was being made I came to the conclusion that this man outside would feel awful if I said the meat was for his dog and I went to the counter again and bought a 2nd burrito and soda. I put all the food in a booth and took the meat and also a cardboard bowl of water out to the dog and told the man I had a burrito if he was hungry. From this I was strarting to realize for the first time that even though I was having feelings albeit bad ones constantly I could now empathize with people which was all but foreign to me. I asked the man to come inside and eat with me and we tied his dog up and let him eat and drink.At first I think the guy thought I was kind of strange or something which is indeed an apt conclusion on his part based on my mindset the past few years. We talked for a bit but just kept it fairly mild as I think he still thought there was some ulterior motive or at least I was looking for pity points. At the end he finally asked me why I did this and at first I just said I didn’t know. After think a little more I finally just said “I just had to do something good so I could clear my mind”. As I went back to work that day I noticed that for a brief moment I no longer was worrying about myself and being consumed by my own thoughts. With being able to feel I for once actually understand. Prior to this I had never done one nice thing in my life and it hit me that I could do this again in some other capacity and feel some form of enjoyment. I have helped others at work or I have always been a good friend and helped them if asked but this seemed different in that I did it for no reason whatsoever. I am still a cynical, logical, skeptical person however I actually try to use that to my advantage now to help others. 2 years ago when I was FEELING terribly depressed I was talking with my family members who I decided to talk to one by one to see how they were able to feel happy. When I was talking to my aunt about it one day she went on and on about church and thats what saved her. I felt like I was transported back to catholic school all over again and nearly feel asleep in her lazy boy. On the way out she took my hand and said “son, you need to find jesus” I quickly replied that I almost met him a couple of months ago and she gave me a nasty look and said she would pray for me.
    I still have not found the lord I think she was right in a way
    [Happiness is fleeting] Definitely wise words as I have yet to find it and perhaps I never will, but until then I can continue living on the small amounts of satisfaction I get in helping some else.