Keris Jan Myrick, a Mad in America blogger, as well as president and CEO of Pasadena-based Project Return Peer Support Network, has been elected president of NAMI by its board of directors. She has been interviewed and designated a “Game Changer” by Canadian Broadcasting Centre’s radio show The Current: Changing the Face of Schizophrenia. The New York Times profiled her in 2011, including a video.
Keris Jan Myrick
“It is very exciting to be elected by the board of directors to serve as the NAMI National Board president. Through our board’s commitment to succession planning and leadership development, I feel confident and supported in this new role. It is also an exciting time for NAMI as we strengthen our organization in many ways inclusive of diversification of our funding, increasing our focus on recovery and resiliency in policy, education and supports and building an inclusive organization based on our new Standards of Excellence.
“Our recent NAMI convention “Think, Learn and Live: Wellness, Resiliency and Recovery” is a testament to NAMI’s commitment to focus on the whole person approach to living with and overcoming emotional distress. The highlight for me was attending the Hearing Voices Network seminar by Ron Coleman, from Wales, who wowed a room overflowing with NAMI members who embraced his message and the Hearing Voices Network paradigm. It was also wonderful to look out at a crowd that is younger and more diverse! Many of our NAMI members and leaders throughout the country are engaged in really cool things such as traveling to Finland to learn about Open Dialogue!
“This is an opportunity to broaden the discussion about mental health treatment, advocacy and research. I am looking forward to doing what I do best which is to listen, learn and act from all perspectives as well as to bring my lived and leadership experience to continue drive our organization forward.”
Wow. Keris Jan Myrick elected president of NAMI (Beyond Meds)
This seems incredibly significant to me, is it not? NAMI is generally not regarded as being a true voice of mental health consumers, supporting policies which many clients oppose. By electing a consumer/professional as president, this appears to represent a shift. Perhaps I’m wrong, I am no expert in these issues, but given what I have learned over the past two years about the consumer/self-help movement, as well as my own personal experience, this seems like very good news.
I have spoken with Keris and Bob about it; they are both excited and hopeful. Keris cautioned me that, even as president, she is not all-powerful, but she spoke of the many positive and progressive things she has observed, such as people wanting Bob to speak at NAMI national, NAMI chapters sending people to Finland to learn about Open Dialogue, and she feels she will be in a position to encourage and promote such energy.
Bob thinks that this is a “sea change” and a potential “paradigm shift.” He will be writing a blog about it shortly.
/// Ms. Myrick insisted that there were large holes in her brain, probably from the side effects of drugs she took to control her symptoms. Dr. Pylko ordered a brain scan, handed her the images and said, “O.K., show me where.” She couldn’t; there were none.
He wanted her to try certain antipsychosis medications, and she was skeptical. “He basically fired me, at one point,” she said. “He was telling me that if I didn’t accept his help, there was nothing he could do.” She went along only after he presented her with the evidence of the drugs’ benefits and risks. ///
–New York Times (October 22, 2011)
With all due respect, to those who view Ms. Myrick’s new position, in NAMI, as a great advancement, in ‘mental health care’ advocacy, it should be pointed out, that her therapist is also her prescribing psychiatrist (according to the New York Times); and, from the start, he insisted she needs ‘medications’; I consider that to be problematic.
Here, briefly, I elaborate why I say so…
From the New York Times article, it is clear that Ms. Myrick needed help; and, her therapist/psychiatrist gained her trust – only to insist she must be put on drugs; otherwise, he would abandon her.
And, sadly, she was not viewed as reasonable, by him, when she explained that her meds were damaging her brain.
(That the damage was not creating gaping “holes” visible in a brain scan is truly irrelevant. Her psychiatrist/therapist was missing the point – or ignoring it.)
A good therapist knows there is always considerable truth in his/her clients’ deepest concerns – especially, with respect to the aversive effects of psych-meds; s/he will not seek to minimize them.
Readers of the New York Times may not be aware (but, regular readers of this web site are cognizant), that so-called “antipsychosis medications” (“antipsychotics”/neuroleptics) are known to cause significant brain-shrinkage.
It seems to me, that, had she been in the care of a good therapist (or, even a good psychiatrist), Ms. Myrick would have been given the option of receiving non-medical care; accordingly, she would not have been treated via the prejudice of a psychiatric label. (She is reportedly ‘diagnosed’ as being a sufferer of “schizoaffective disorder.”) Though, yes, the New York Times celebrates the fact that she’s a successful professional, her label still functions as a curse – more or less – defining her treatment.
I highly doubt Ms. Myrick would have been made President of NAMI had the New York Times reported that she held her ground, remaining skeptical of psych meds. (After all, NAMI is underwritten by Big Pharma; 75% of its funding comes from the major drug manufacturers.)
It’s wonderful that she will be opening NAMI to the wisdom of Open Dialogue; but, for her sake, I pray she – sooner rather than later – realizes the mistake of entrusting her therapy to the care of medical-coercive psychiatry.
Here is a possible response, in Keris’ words, from a Project Return Blog (copied from Beyond Meds).
The New York Times and all that…
Posted on November 3, 2011 by Keris Jän Myrick, M.B.A., Ph.D.c
It has been indeed an honor to have my story featured on the front pages of the New York Times. It is rare that people with a mental health diagnosis, featured on the front of any newspaper, are seen as recovering, competent and active citizens in society. Add the many negative stereotypes associated with being African-American in the United States and indeed the front page story might look drastically different.
What is most important for me in sharing my story of recovery publicly has in some ways been filtered through the lens of how mental health treatment and paths to recovery are generally conceptualized. In our society’s worldview, the path to recovery includes medication. The terminology used is “adherence to medication” and recovery cannot happen without it. However, we are now finding that there are many things that contribute to one’s recovery inclusive or exclusive of medication.
When Benedict Carey approached me to be involved in the series of profiles (Lives Restored, Living with Mental Illness), I was immediately attracted to his approach; highlighting the many resources, skills, techniques, supports and coping mechanisms each individual discovers and uses to lead meaningful and full lives despite having a diagnosis of ‘severe mental illness’. The series focuses on everything that works for a person in their recovery by shining the light on the many, many things that rarely receive attention and diminishing the focus on the role of medication. In my profile for the series, the word medication is used only 4 times in a word count for the entire story of 2, 771.
I am a person who values what works for each individual in their recovery, from medications, to yoga, to walking. We are all different! I am not anti-medication, I am not pro-medication. What I am is pro-education and choice. I believe each person should have as much information as possible so they can make the decisions with their treatment team, families, and other supporters that will help them realize the meaningful lives of their dreams.
I find it very interesting that some of the summaries of the New York Times article, state that my recovery was due to “adherence to medication”. This is not what the article said nor is it the primary focus of the piece. I started to wonder if people were missing the point – that recovery happens for me (and I have heard for others as well) due to a multitude of factors. The New York Times feature clearly states that work has indeed been my treatment of choice. Also, family support, a great dog, a wonderful psychiatrist with whom I have a strong therapeutic relationship, and other techniques, inclusive of medications on occasion, are all the things that contribute to my recovery and are the highlight of this profile.
Journalist Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic, asked me if I would share with him more detailed information about the use of medication in my life. He too was unsure of the role medication played in my recovery. Because of its minimal focus on medication, the article may have unintentionally amplified the issue. What is important in my story is this: By working in conjunction with my doctor, and using all the tools available, I have found the combination of interventions that allow me to lead the best possible life and be engaged in the world in a way that I could never have done in the past. Each person is different. My journey is not a prescription, but a very personal story of recovery.
And here is what Bob wrote in Psychology Today:
A Rorschach Test for Psych Meds
Off Meds and Enjoying Robust Recovery: Reimagining What Is Possible
Published on November 2, 2011 by Robert Whitaker in Mad in America
On October 23, the New York Times ran a very nice feature story about a Los Angeles woman, Keris Myrick, who, even though she has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, thrives today as CEO of Project Return Peer Support Network. Today, the mental health community regularly speaks of promoting “recovery,” and her inspiring story serves as an example of how robust that recovery may be. Indeed, when you meet Keris, you are struck at once by her extraordinary grace, warmth, and intelligence.
However, the story didn’t clearly detail the role of medications in her life, and as Keris can attest, the published article seems to serve as something of a Rorschach test for readers. Those inclined to think of medications as essential to recovery may read the article and conclude that must be true in her case. Those who think of psychiatric medications in a more critical light may read the story and conclude that she probably uses the medication very infrequently. I ran into Keris last weekend, where I asked about this Rorschach aspect of the story, and she thought it would be important to publicly clear up the details of her medication use, since she has now been presented, in this very visible newspaper venue, as a model for what is possible.
In the Times story, her treatment regimen is said to consist of a “combination of medication as needed and personal supports, including an intuitive pet dog, the occasional weekend stay at a luxury hotel — and, not least, a strong alliance with a local psychiatrist.” Then, a little further along in the story, she is said to have started on her journey to recovery in 2006, when her psychiatrist got her to “try certain antipsychosis medications.” Finally, readers learn that researchers in southern California are studying a small number of people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder who are thriving, with Keri one of those in the study, and that the researchers state that most in the study, like Keris, “adhere to a medication regimen.”
Add those bits of information together, and some readers conclude that Keris, in one manner or another, must take antipsychotics — and perhaps other psychiatric medications as well — on a regular basis. Keris told me that many doctors and other readers called her psychiatrist, asking for information on the specific drugs, or drug combination, that she takes. However, other readers focus on the line that she takes “medication as needed,” and concluded that she probably takes them fairly infrequently.
Here is the detailed story of Keris’s use of psychiatric medications. From 2000 to 2006, she regularly suffered from thoughts of suicide and hallucinations, and it was toward the end of that time that her psychiatrist, Timothy Pylko, convinced her to take antipsychotic medications on a daily basis. She did so for about six months, but it has been at least five years since she used antipsychotics or any other psychiatric medication in that regular way.
Once she stopped taking psychiatric medications daily, she began to use them on an as-needed basis “when all of the [non-drug] techniques I usually use do not work and I am truly unable to work, hang out with my friends or participate in life.” For a time, she found that she would need to take an antipsychotic on the “very rare occasions” when “the voices are very distracting and any kind of stimuli (light, noise and touch) cannot be tolerated.” She would take the antipsychotic for two weeks or so, “while also engaging as much as possible in life.”
However, she found that even this occasional use of an antipsychotic had its drawbacks. “Truly, what I have found in returning to work is that this approach is not as successful, as the meds usually make me too tired and ‘cognitively slow’ to work effectively. It has been a while since I used this approach, and the last time I did, I more than likely took time off while on the meds until the side effects diminished, and then I came back to work and tapered off.” She has not used any antipsychotic medication for more than a year now.
She still does use an anti-anxiety medication on “rare occasions.” She’ll turn to this class of drugs when “I have so much anxiety that I am incessantly pacing, cannot physically keep still and the type of OCD that I have kicks into overdrive.” She says such moments are now “incredibly rare,” and that when she does take an anti-anxiety med, she does so “mainly at night.”
Keris is fortunate to have a psychiatrist who has supported her use of medications in this way, on an as-needed basis for those rare occasions today when her anxiety or her voices flare up to intolerable levels. She consults with him on the dosage and for how long to take the drug, and “he provides instructions on how to taper [from the drug] as well.” As a result, she has a therapeutic relationship with her psychiatrist that works very well and is an essential part of her recovery.
The reason that is it important to know this aspect of Keris’s story is that, in her use of medications on “rare” occasions, she is not following the model of “medication adherence” that is usually promoted to the public-and to patients-as essential and necessary. If you look at her story of recovery, hers is one of using antipsychotics on a daily basis for a relatively short period of time, and then developing “personal supports” and finding meaningful work as a foundation for a more lasting wellness. And once she stopped taking psychiatric medications on a daily basis, she used them only as temporary aids when her symptoms flared up. In essence, she was “non-compliant” with the usual model of drug treatment for someone with a schizoaffective diagnosis, and today, given her very infrequent use of any psychiatric medications, she would be best described as “off meds.”
There may be many paths to robust recovery, but what is clear from the research literature — and from stories like Keris’s — is that one possible path involves being “off meds,” or using them in the selective, occasional manner that she does. In Martin Harrow’s 15-year study of schizophrenia patients and patients with milder psychotic disorders, the off-med patients had much better long-term outcomes, and for those with milder psychotic disorders, those who got off psychiatric medications — as a group — had good long-term outcomes.
It is refreshing to see the New York Times publish Keris’s story, for it presents a vision of recovery that our society needs to know and embrace. We can read such stories and then ask, okay, so what do we, as a society, need to do to help make such recovery commonplace? But as we ask ourselves that question, it is important to know the details of Keris’s story in terms of her medication use, because such clarity can help us reconceptualize what is possible. Her story, together with a close look at what the research literature tells us about long-term outcomes, can ultimately help us imagine a radically different paradigm of care.
Kermit, these two comments you’ve offered are helpful. (Previously, I had read the articles to which you’ve referred; they are both highly informative; I’m glad you represented them here.)
Still, I maintain, that: Ms. Myrick’s psychiatrist/therapist was treating her, from the start, with negligence; for, he was apparently fixated on the idea, that she supposedly needed so-called “antipsychotics”; and, by convincing Ms. Myrick, that he could only help her if she agreed to use such “medications” (by, indeed, minimizing her complaints, with respect to the brain-damage, that can be caused by such), he was undermining a natural process of healing.
Trauma of some kind is being suppressed, when such meds are prescribed, in the midst of a personal crisis.
The trauma caused by coercing (and, worse yet – forcing) “patients” to take such drugs runs deep; and, ones successive traumas become cumulative in effect.
The various psychiatric labels (e.g., “schizophrenia” and “schizoaffective disorder” – “OCD”) used to ‘justify’ the prescription of such drugs, at such times, are, at best, meaningless; at worst, they destroy a person’s belief in his/her own ability to cope, with what s/he is going through; in the long run, those labels function as a barrier against maintaining full citizenship, in society.
As for Bob’s article, “Off Meds and Enjoying Robust Recovery: Reimagining What Is Possible”: It places a lot of pressure on Ms. Myrick. (Of course, that is not Bob’s intent.)
So, too, I imagine her new position in NAMI will add significantly, to the pressure, in her life.
My suspicion is that NAMI – which is backed by the APA and by Big Pharma – will never allow its members to reject psychiatric labels and/or meds; so, therefore, I doubt Ms. Myrick could ever do so, as president of that organization.
Nonetheless, perhaps, Ms. Myrick will see through the nebulous nature of her so-called ‘diagnoses’ and acquire the kind of support system she’d need, to realize she can survive without “hospitals,” from this point, forward – and, indeed, eventually, thrive without resort even to palliative psychopharmacological drug use.
I highly recommend seeking the help of those who realize that freedom from the paternalism, of psychiatry, is not only possible; it is essential.
“Crises refine life. In them you discover what you are.” ~Allen K. Chalmers
I think that it need not be about whether the APA and Big Pharma allow NAMI’s members to reject psychiatric labels. It can be about whether the alternatives are sufficiently and vigorously explored, that pharma begins to pale. It’s known (I’d have to find the citation, but it’s out there) that 80% of people would opt not to use drugs given the option. The challenge is to make sure they know the option, and have the opportunity to use it.
I don’t think this is really a new problem, or one that will go away. There have always been “miracle cures,” “snake oil,” etc. Always. And there always will be, because life is challenging and sometimes scary, and things happen to people that make even that worse than it has to be, and people will always want the comfort of certainty, even when it’s patently illusory.
But we can keep the conversation going; and I’ve found that as the picture gets fuller, the less people leap to the temptation of miracle cures. Throughout history there have been people who offered them; and those people generally got money and fame for a while, but they hurt people. And there have always also been people who faced the uncertainty of life quietly, without glory or reward, but they got to experience the pleasure of being with people at the moment that the clouds broke and life began to seem possible.
I like to think that this website is about learning and sharing in that; it’s a place where we can compare notes on how to do that.
I hope that Keris Myrick’s psychiatrist, Timothy Pylko, learned from her that his initial assumption that her illness had to be bludgeoned into submission with daily long-term psychiatric medications is incorrect, and has applied this lesson to other patients.
I also hope he’s told his colleagues about these important findings: That a treatment regimen must take into account the whole person; that medication may be used as only a short-term, temporary crutch; that there is no one-size-fits-all dosage or dosage regimen; and that chronic medication can interfere with the individual’s functioning and quality of life.
This is a good comment from you.
Proof of actual change might lie in NAMI’s reconciling its two messages. The first is that treatment in our nation’s mental health system is quite effective. The second is that the mental health system functions poorly which is the experience of too many consumers. The first can’t be true if the second one isn’t and NAMI gives our nation’s mental health system a grade of D.
The first message doubtless encourages NAMI’s funding constituency but at the expense of its consumer constituency which it has long marginalized.
A brilliant move by NAMI.
I hope it’s not just a public relations gesture: Look, a patient heads NAMI!
I do find this kind of startling – I am hoping a sign of a change of attitude as the hard facts about DSM diagnosis and poor long-term outcomes for those exposed to drugs even makes the mainstream media. Could this be a sign that psychiatry’s stranglehold on the mental health world is beginning to loosen?
@Kermit – thanks for the fyi! This is exciting and thanks to Mad in America for the scoop 🙂 ! I am both a consumer/client and a former journalist attempting to revive my writing career. I started learning/becoming part of the consumer/survivor (or whatever one chooses to call it) movement about a year ago, and that is how I also heard of Mr. Whitaker. I am attempting to launch my own Web site but it appears you guys have already beat me to the punch in covering news in this sector – which I’m all too happy to concede :).
Outstanding. Congrats to Keris.
Congratulations to Ms. Myrick!. This is great news. I have no idea how it happened, but I’m guessing it has something to do with being an open human being who makes positive connections with other human beings and isn’t put off by any different views they might have. Connecting with people, with positive energy, makes a huge difference. All the best in this new chapter.
Congratulations and godspeed!
Please present this vision to NAMI National –
The use of force has to stop, yesterday.
I’ve been down on NAMI for years, but remain hopeful the organization can change. I look forward to seeing what you can do to bring about a much-needed transformation.
There is always the possibility that NAMI realizes that they’ve gotten in too deep. Decades of forcing brain damage onto people and then some guy (Whitaker) writes a book detailing how all the evidence that such a thing was an atrocity had been piling up since the very beginning. Maybe they discovered that they would have no good excuse when the facts finally become undeniable and are trying to change direction before that time comes so that they don’t get treated like Nazi’s and be destroyed.
Great news and congratulations to Keris for a job well done!
The National Alliance for Medicalizing human distress is not an organization I’d ever want to get into bed with, but I suppose this development may be a good thing.
It remains to be seen. Will NAMI still be a drug company funded force for coercive laws?
We will wait and see.
In my personal experience it’s a betrayal to survivors of forced psychiatry and the sister & brothers locked up on psychiatric wards and people forced drugged under IOC/AOT “law” that NAMI supports. It’s a betrayal under the continued acceptance and use of funds from pharma. I don’t expect much more from the invasion of “consumerism” in the movement. It’s a sad day that people call themselves “peers” or are claim they a part of a CSX movement that rose from the human rights violations of people labeled by psychiatry. Everyday people are tortured (force drugged, shocked, restrained and secluded and put in institutions and ordered under commitment laws) with the “help”, promotion and supporting of agency’s such as NAMI and it’s “dynamic propaganda duo” EF Torrey and DJ Jaffee . To all you wanna believers that NAMI can “change” or to you all who are a part of and have a “voice or a seat at the table”. Let’s see action “call” (voice and use your seat at the table) to cease the support of
Of accepting pharma money and above all “call” for the the NATIONAL NAMI & other state NAMIs to end support and marketing of AOT/IOC and all forced psychiatric treatment.
Oops! I think it’s Hear, Hear. Public education.
I thought it was public edubucation.
Very good comment. I reiterate what I said above, this MAY be a good development and I wish this lady the best.
But, ‘consumer’ is with me and many people, the dirtiest word.
A plantation slave is not a ‘consumer’ of employment services.
A death row inmate is not a ‘consumer’ of lethal injection drugs.
A rape victim is not a ‘consumer’ of sexual services.
A rendered CIA terror suspect is not a ‘consumer’ of waterboarding services.
An Afghan woman accused to adultery is not a ‘consumer’ of Kalashnikov’s gunsmithing services.
A person labeled brain diseased by quacks who don’t even examine brains and held down and injected is not a ‘consumer’ of psychiatry.
The same person ordered to front for regular injections on AOT under threat of immediate detention and violent forced administration of same drugs is not a ‘consumer’ of community based psychiatry.
The primal scream of involuntariness, coercion and institutionalized violence cannot be silenced and sanitized with language synonymous with voluntariness.
The brain rapists, associated policy wings of the brain rape / coercive apparatus of which NAMI has been a strong part, must shelve the designs they have on other peoples’ bodies, because other peoples’ bodies should not be on the table as something that is accepted to put things in to by force.
A society that has a system of wholesale violence, putting things into, doing things to, the bodies of the unwilling, is a society in need of a push back.
Our body, our choice. Non-negotiable.
Our body, our choice. Non-negotiable.
I believe one of NAMI’s goals is to incorporate the consumer movement under NAMI’s wing. It’s a great idea to put the consumers at the head of the organization as a means to unite the parent/family/consumer mental health movements.
More than one psychiatrist has pointed out that consumers/peer leaders have become the greatest asset the bio-medical paradigm has…NAMI has a pretty tight reign on my home State’s so-called ‘consumer movement;’ it is only for drug treatment compliant consumers—there is no advocacy for people harmed by the policies NAMI promotes.
I would like to believe that this is a good thing and a ray of hope for things to come. However, many times peers are used if and only if they parrot the sacred mantra of “take your med!” As a peer worker myself I find that I quickly become persona non grata when the other so-called “professionals” find out that I believe in freedom of choice in treatment choices. They only want you around if you are willing to support their biopsychiatric take on things. My training as a peer worker quickly throws me into opposition to the people making decisions for patients at the hospital where I work; it’s almost impossible to function as you were trained to functin because we stand for mutual relationships and freedom of choice. these are not supported by the powers that be. I hope that I’m wrong, but I have the feeling that this womoan is being used because of her status as a well-known peer worker. My mother had an old saying that all of you know. She said, “A leopard doesn’t change its spots.”
Sorry for all the typos. I didn’t proof read before I hit the button!
Glad to see I’m not all-alone with typos.
Great news for everybody. Congratulations to Keris! And an important step for NAMI.
Unless, and until, I see NAMI stop its efforts to promote atrocities such as Laura’s Law in California, I won’t believe anything. NAMI has been during many decades nothing more than a front group for Big Pharma lobbying for having everybody in America medicated for some mental issue. It’s hard to believe that they will stop being that out of the blue.
Indeed it is hard to believe.
NAMI is really in essence the ‘National Alliance For Mothers’ Immunity’…
Having roots in Moms pushing to make it easier to get their kids committed.
There is no such thing as a bad mother, remember that, or else you get the needle.
Correct. My former psychiatrist tricked my ex-wife into going to NAMI meetings. Things began to go South very quickly with her. All that was discussed there is how moms had a hard time in California getting their children committed and getting ways to workaround that (like having the kids’ therapists lie). NAMI is a pathetic pro Big Pharma, pro psychiatric establishment group. I don’t think this appointment will change much. Either they would have Keris Jan Myrick converted to their Big Pharma religion or she will resign from her position once she realizes that change is impossible. I see little hope here.
The United states get new presidents all the time, things dont change much. Abolish NAMI .
I have been posting against NAMI lately,
I didnt know Keris Jan Myrick, a Mad in America blogger, as well as president and CEO of Pasadena-based Project Return Peer Support Network, has been elected president of NAMI by its board of directors.
I just don’t like NAMI. I read there member posts in online forums “kid needs meds…” compliance…
Keris Jan Myrick, Good luck and congradulations !
I just dont like NAMI.
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult…
NAMI is both robber barons and omnipotent moral busybodies.