Your Input Welcome For 2012 Alternatives Keynote Speech – SURVEY


I was invited to give a Keynote Address at the 2012 Alternatives Conference in Portland Oregon, and I’m collecting your input on what I should say — I’m crowd sourcing my Keynote!

Alternatives is a federally funded annual SAMHSA conference that brings together more than 1000 peer specialists, advocates, policy makers, and people in mental health recovery to learn about and discuss new directions for mental health services. Thanks to everyone who organizes the conference and made my invitation possible!

I have lots of ideas for my hour long  talk — you know me, once I get started I have a lot to say about recovery alternatives (and I’ve done just that at I plan to focus on practical recovery innovations that can be implemented immediately to improve recovery and end harm done by the system.

***And I want your input!***

Please go to this Survey and take a couple of moments to share YOUR input on what my Alternatives Keynote address should cover:

And share this link with everyone you know who might also want to give input. I’ll take all the responses to heart as I write my Alternatives speech.

(You may remember that 2 years ago Robert Whitaker and I were both invited to Alternatives, and then Bob was un-invited and I was prevented from offering my coming off medications workshop as planned. A public outcry turned all of that around, and Bob gave his keynote — followed by a very strange rebuttal — and I gave my workshop — not quite listed correctly in the program, unfortunately. It was a living example of the recovery movement having its voice heard, and the flexibility and openness of Alternatives to taking risks that reflect changing times.)

Does my invitation reflect a genuine shift to more progressive, honest discussion of mental health reforms, including topics I’m closely identified with such as medication alternatives, ending force and diagnostic labels, and challenging Pharma influence? We’ll see. In the mean time, I’d love your input to make my Keynote Address a crowd-sourced reflection of community voices. The survey only takes a moment to complete, and I’ll take all the input to heart in my talk. And thanks to Alternatives for recognizing my ten years of recovery movement work in this invitation and opportunity.



  1. “”Does my invitation reflect a genuine shift to more progressive, honest discussion of mental health reforms, including topics I’m closely identified with such as medication alternatives, ending force and diagnostic labels, and challenging Pharma influence? We’ll see.””


    As a great admirer of yours who has listened to just about all of your podcasts, I would like to think what you said above is true.

    But when folks do what they did to you and Bob two years ago, it is going to take a long time for them to completely win back my trust. This is a good start.


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  2. Hi Wil,
    I forgot to put in suggestions questionaire:

    Please refute the notion that patients should consult with their doctor about getting off meds, or not try to get off meds without a doctors oversight.

    The only principal anyone needs to know is titration and using a pill cutter. Doctors have zero expertise on weaning off meds, and their authority over the administration of meds should be refused entirely.

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    • Hi there, I discuss the issue of doctor approval at length in my Harm Reduction Guide To Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs: I’ve been outspoken about choice and the importance of coming off without doctor support for many people. And while it is true that sometimes coming off can be quite straightforward as you suggest, sometimes it is not. For example, many pills are designed in a way that they can’t just be cut with a pill cutter, and even small reductions can sometimes have large withdrawal and be part of altered states. It’s important to treat this topic with the careful consideration it demands, or else we risk becoming as shortsighted as the medical professionals we are challenging. Thanks for your comment and please do add to my survey.
      — Will

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  3. Also — I really question being delicate about talking about the effects of meds out of consideration of the decisions of patient’s choosing to use meds. There is plenty of social support in the outside world for using meds, and I think the principal should be honesty, not tact.

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    • Hi there, I agree and for more than 10 years have faced tremendous opposition in my insistence we speak openly and clearly about medications, risks, benefits, and coming off. Patients in all areas of medicine are becoming more empowered and informed consumers, and mental health care should be no exception. – Will

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  4. Please do iterate again the importance of gradual tapering to get people safely off psychiatric drugs, and that typically withdrawal symptoms are misdiagnosed as relapse or emergence of a psychiatric condition calling for even more drugs, sending a possibly recovered patient on an endless loop of overmedication.

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  5. I don’t know about the USA but what I missed most when my son was sectioned out of the blue here in Britain, was a sympathetic person, able to explain to me what exactly was going on and what rights I had. I learned only later that I could have objected to him being sectioned for example. Also, during his stay in hospital, he didn’t get any emotional or psychological support which would have helped him greatly. There was nothing to do appart from knitting and jiggsaws which are not quite his thing. The brainwashing people into believing that they will never get well, should stop of course, once and for all. Taking away people’s rights to have a say in their treatment is disgusting. Speaking of coming off the medication, the doctors would really need training themselves first because the advice we got was totally inadequate. I could go on and on…

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  6. I just want them to follow ethical standards. Stop lying to their patients “for their own good”. I don’t believe that’s even legal….oh, and stop traumatising the hell out of people in inpatient wards.

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  7. That the mad and the way they are treated are a barometer of a whole society.

    Just as the systemic therapists such as found in the Open Dialogue system in Western Lapland think that the mad person is expressing the problems in the family the mad could also be considered to be expressing the sickness of society.

    According the the researchers who wrote the book, “The Spirit Level,” there is more madness in countries with a big difference between the rich and poor. There are high levels of madness in urban poor areas. Countries which have outlawed smacking and put in state funded support for parents, such as Sweden, have lowered their level of depression, crime, alcoholism and drug use.

    To tell mentally distressed people they have brain disorders and ignore the facts of their lives is callous. For example the very high levels of sexual assault and family violence amongst the mad has been known about for some considerable time yet is mainly ignored by the mental health systems and by society as a whole.

    To then corrupt science to push damaging drugs on the mentally distressed, as is the mission of drug companies, is to put greed before caring for people.

    That the mad and the way they are treated are a barometer of a whole society.

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