Are You Committed to Eliminating Labels and Medications With Emotional Distress?


I am committed. Fully committed to creating a solution. Are you with me? I think medications and labels for people experiencing emotional distress should be almost entirely eliminated. They should not be applied first, for everyone and forever, to people moving through extreme states. Our current mental health system is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. We need mental health exit ramps, we need human ways to help each other in crisis and through adversity, we need compassion and love and friendship in times of struggle. We need each other.

Here is what I believe, what I am committed to. I want to hear what we are all doing to show our commitment and what we need to make it happen.

8 ideas I want to share with the whole world:

1. Emotional distress is temporary and transformative. (Thanks to Vocal Virginia’s Firewalkers project and Leah Harris for these ideas.)

2. Psychosis is an event not a person. (Thanks to Duane Sherry for this tweetable statement).  See my explanation of people who ride a bicycle across America in 9 days without sleep.

3. I am not anti-medication, I am pro fully informed choice. (Thanks to Frank Blankenship of Mind Freedom Florida for this tweetable statement.)

4. Psych meds function like emotional painkillers, and should be marketed as brain disabling drugs with the same mechanism of action as illicit meds, but just a different side effect or addiction or risk profile. (Thanks to Peter Breggin for looking into this when few else did.)

Kathleen Dake from Jefferson City, MO models her UnDiagnosing Emotional Distress T-shirt.
Kathleen Dake from Jefferson City, MO models her UnDiagnosing Emotional Distress T-shirt. Click this image to get your shirt.

5. Emotional distress rarely, if ever hits someone “out of the blue.” I believe the ways into the mental health system include but aren’t limited to:

  • Past trauma experiences (Thanks Ken Braiterman and Beth Filson for teaching me this.)
  • Lack of social connections
  • Job fit or career goals (Thanks to Randy Johnson who did the best a boss could for me.)
  • Grief, Loss of hope
  • Spiritual unrest (Thanks to Tessa Manning for promoting “spiritual emergency”.)
  • Drug Use
  • Nutrition , exercise, or sleep habits
  • Being an antiauthoritarian (Hat tip to Bruce Levine.)

6. There are very rarely any chemical, genetic, or structural differences between people who end up with mental health labels and those who don’t. I believe this is a biographical not a biological problem for most. This is why we need biographical and not biological solutions for most people.

The UnDiagnosing Emotional Distress T-shirt shows ways into the mental health system, and the Connect Power shirt shows the way out,.
The UnDiagnosing Emotional Distress T-shirt shows ways into the mental health system, and the Connect Power shirt shows the way out. Click this image to get both shirts.

7. My job is not get people into the mental health system, my job is to get them out. Services must be without coercion or force and freely chosen by all participants. Complete recovery means all this goes away.

8. The ways out of the mental health system are by talking to someone who’s been there before and finding what gives you Personal Power. People can get strength and motivation from sports, exercise, gardening, nature, art, poetry, music, spirituality, mindfulness, animals, social change, activism, or anything else. (Credit to Pat Deegan for the Personal medicine concept.)

Let’s invest in these ideas:

If you believe in many or most of these ideas, what can we do to implement them? I am building a business to promote these ideas worldwide. I want to provide jobs where we provide mutual, bidirectional help out of the pit of adversity. (Cheers, Shery Mead.)

I want to build an online community where all people going through adversity connect very inexpensively with people who know the way out. What I need are programmers and web developers to make this possible, and a bit of funding, which you can help with today. We have an Indiegogo Crowdfunding project up with only 12 days left on it.

This is an investment opportunity – you can be in on the ground floor of a business creating hope for our entire community worldwide. What if you were one of the first stockholders of Apple or Facebook or Google? That’s where we are now. And if you give me your heart I’ll respect and cherish our shared commitment to move beyond labels and medications first, for everyone and forever. We can stop this system in 3 – 5 years. You and me, we can end it, and you can join our project today.

The Details of the Revolution:

Share your Commitment and Your Needs:

What are you doing or what to you want to do to eliminate labels and medications? I want to hear everyone else’s plans. What do you need? What if everyone committed to ending labels and meds for emotions put their goals and their needs in the comments below? We can link a lot of people, solve a lot of problems, and gather an incredible amount of support with this one discussion. We are the change we wish to see in this world – we are the evidence. We have walked through the fire and come out stronger on the other side. We know how to do this. We are one of the richest communities in the world.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. I don’t know what to make of this. Corinna’s statement at the beginning is eloquent and inspiring. But then describing this as a business is very troubling. We have plenty of people around already who are doing very well financially while selling us out. I’m not saying that’s what this is, though.

    Also, we can talk about alternatives till we run out of breath, but surely no one thinks the people who benefit from what there is now are just going to step aside after they see the light. Or do you?

    So, I don’t know what to make of this. I might regret commenting too, but I think it is important to respond to this, even without the clarity I wish I had.

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    • Thanks for the question, Ted. Here is an earlier post I did answering why we need a business approach – to make it expandible:

      Right now our peer support approaches are funded by charity and government. Charity funding is only 4% of the US Economy and grant writing is tough. Government funding is dominated by hospital, jail, nursing home and pharma lobbies that want to keep the lion’s share of the funding. So we need to look elsewhere for funding if we want our programs to grow to reach the whole population.

      We are a social business as defined by Mohammend Yunus, who won the Nobel for expanding microlending. Normal corporations seek to maximize a return to shareholders. Social businesses, according to Yunus, provide no return to shareholders. Any excess profits are used to grow the business or simply return the original investors’ funding.

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  2. I love this article because I feel it pretty much nails the issue of how people get to feel disempowered by current mental health care–namely by creating and propagating distortions and illusions about what is ‘mentally healthy/unhealthy,’ as well as projecting inaccurate (often to the point of being absurd) beliefs onto a vulnerable population who seem to be simply reaching out for support. Indeed, personal empowerment is the key.

    I love the idea of ‘exit ramps’ from the mental health system. I entered it voluntarily, trusting that I’d receive the help I need to get back on my feet, and instead, I was pushed down so far that it took nearly a decade to recover from the disenfranchisement this decision unwittingly led me to experience. During my disability period, I was so shaken down and discouraged by the individuals protecting the system (from clinicians to social service staff to professional advocates), that I was even more challenged to recover at all from what had ailed me in the first place. The treatment I got, both socially and medically, only rubbed salt into the core wounds and I became very despondent as a result, more so than I had ever been.

    Fortunately, I found my way out, over the last few years, and have turned it all around for myself. That was one helluva process, both treacherous and exciting, definitely healing and self-empowering.

    In short, after healing from my initial imbalance and core wounds by tapering off of 9 meds to none in a period of 2 years, disengaging from anything to do with the DSM and the mental health system, and starting a variety of natural and energy-based healing practices and disciplines which allowed me to once and for all come into balance and recognize and feel my true spirit, I was able to ground, shift my negative self-beliefs, and focus my thoughts so that I could begin to actually manifest what it was I wanted from life. This vision had become clouded underneath all of this system-induced chaos and confusion. Finally, after 30 years on medication–the last 10 of those being on disability, *after* finishing graduate school—I became healthy and balanced, and had clarity about my heart’s desires and my path in life.

    All of this resulted in my making a 99 minute documentary film where 6 of us tell our stories and share our perspectives about what it was like inside the system. We have overlap as well as differences in our opinions, points of view, beliefs, and we share them in a round table discussion in the film, as well as tell our story of healing.

    For me, this was THE exit ramp. Not only was it my dream as a teenager to become a filmmaker, and somehow, miraculously, this twisted winding path led me to produce and direct my first film 35 years later, but also, I am now doing trainings and presentations in the community and within two different located mental health systems, with the film. I also have a healing and meditation business helping others now to heal from trauma and social alienation. I was on disability while making all of this happen, so I had no money for funding anything. I wanted to keep the film independent, so I came up with viable resources, creatively, and got it all done. The film is posted on YouTube as a public service, Voices That Heal.

    I found my power by speaking my heart’s truth, even though it is very vulnerable making. To heal, it was essential for me to trust my path and spirit, as well as to trust the universe—that is, what is beyond our physical and psychological natures. To me, it is within that vulnerability where our true nature and spirits lie.

    I am currently negotiating a contract to make another film giving platform to mental health system consumers in order to support their transition from disenfranchisement. Finally, it will be nice to get paid for this work, but even when I am volunteering, the rewards are endless. Trust was the most empowering element, here, so I continue to practice it, even though that can be a challenge, with all the betrayal going on in the mental health arena.

    Great vision, Corinna! Thank you!

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  3. Corinna, I think you have captured the experience of many people who have used or who are trying to avoid using the current system dominated by the mental health industry. However, there are many people who have different experiences. What I’m committed to is self-determination which, to me, means carefully listening to each person and being present with them as they discover for themselves how they want to lead their lives. I try, as much as possible, not to assume that my experience is everyone else’s experience and I try not to impose what might work for me on other people. I also try, within my own limitations, to present information to people on the risks and benefits of all mental health and alternative treatments. In order for people to find their own way, I believe in a vigorous process to protect the human rights of everyone which doesn’t force the beliefs of the dominant culture on others and which doesn’t force or coerce people into so-called “solutions” which might not work for them.

    I strongly believe in informed consent which means that I try to advise people about the mental health industry but would also try to advise them about the consequences of what you are suggesting, Corinna. While there are many possible benefits to your proposals, there are also, many risks which I and others have found. Basically, the exit ramp which you talk about is a road to nowhere in terms of any system or network or movement which has the capacity to help individual people. Yes, there are some spots throughout the country where one can get alternative support but those places are few and far between.

    When people try to come off their meds or try to avoid taking them, there is just nowhere to go except maybe for Daniel Hazen’s program and a few others on the West Coast. When Dr. Breggin lived in the DC area, I could not see him because he was too expensive. I have searched high and low for an alternative doc who takes Medicare with no luck. I have also searched high and low for a therapist who takes Medicare or my secondary insurance who incorporate mindfulness Buddhist practices into therapy with no luck. There are no people who I know of who have learned and practiced intentional peer support in the Northern Virginia area or in Sarasota, FL. All of the people who have been trained in peer support in Northern Virginia have been trained and work within the traditional mental health system. Almost all peer specialists who I know of are not very active in pursuing the rights of their peers within the m h system because they are so low on the totem pole in the system and have so little systemic power that they are afraid to rock the boat.

    As far as using a “business model” to provide viable and effective alternatives, I’m not too excited. There is nothing magical about business. In fact, many would say that it is the capitalist business model which is destroying our country and which certainly was responsible for the last economic crash and deep recession. I do support alternative models, but one must realize that many people in the mental health industry are not corporations seeking profits for shareholders. The people who have been oppressing us for years where working under a professional model which has no shareholders and in which the professionals are supposed to have a fiduciary responsibility to their “patients” or “clients”. What we have gotten from them is a God complex in which the docs act as if they are infallable and have every right to hold all of the power and control the whole system.

    I don’t know where this leaves us. I support many of your ideas but right now I think there needs to be some sort of collective effort for people to come together and present and practice new models which take into account the different experiences which people have. I think the suicide rate in the U.S. tells us both people using the traditional system and those who don’t are in deep despair.

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  4. I’m taking a huge risk in this comment, but I hope folks understand the intent and its relationship with this blog and several others by Corinna.

    What is the relationship between “recovery” or “recovered” and receiving a disability check for a “diagnosed mental illness”? Is there any?

    Corrina, in my opinion, is trying to encourage all of us to recognize a simple, yet important point, if you want something to happen, go make it happen. One way to make it happen is through work; whether thru entrepreneurial endeavors or just plain working for someone.

    Dr. Bob Drake has consistently shown that the best intervention for persons struggling with so-called mental illnesses is competitive employment. Models like Supported Employment and IPS have been around a long time but don’t get the attention they deserve.

    I personally believe that social security disability helps many people exist but prevents them from living. In so many ways, it’s a diabolical arrangement.

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    • David – I agree that you are taking a risk in this comment.

      Although I don’t like the term ‘mental illness’ or the fact that governments have hijacked ‘recovery’, I would be concerned about a move to force people off benefits and into paid work. This is happening where I live at present. Under the guise of benefits assessments and employment initiatives.

      For years and years psychiatry has been telling people that they have a lifelong mental illness that requires lifelong medication and that they won’t be able to do paid work. Now that we’re in a recession the economic pressures mean that the mantra is changing. The topsy turvy world of mental health.

      Those of us who are able to do paid work shouldn’t be putting pressure on others who are not able to do paid work. People can be gainfully employed without being organisationally employed. Voluntary/charity work is beneficial. Helping in our communities, helping our neighbour. It might not mean getting a pay check but it can be making a difference to many lives.

      Excuse the rant but I do get fed up with the idea that if we’re not earning money then we’re not doing anything useful with our lives. I have always worked voluntarily, I’m nearly 60 now. And now I mostly do voluntary work, many hours a week writing and campaigning, going to meetings, trying to bring about improvements to mental health/psychiatric services and hopefully even a transformation.

      Let’s not go on about people on benefits/social security. Rather let us go on about the psychiatric system, about government and about injustice for the marginalised.

      Regards, Chrys

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      • Thanks Chrys. I think you’ve hit on one of those relationships I was asking about. Meaningful activity is a critical component of living for most people. The disability system CAN rob people of that initiative. Especially when coupled with “professionals” or others who tell them they can’t work, shouldn’t work, too risky to work and then offer nothing of meaning to replace those 40 hours a week. Nobody, in my opinion, can maintain much sanity sitting around an apartment/house all day everyday with a lack of meaningful activity (paid or unpaid).

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        • Sometimes folk might need to sit for a while in their house or apartment. To get over whatever. This is what I was like back in 2002 after mental distress followed by traumatic treatment and psychiatric drugging.

          It required me having to take charge of my own mental health, to start tapering the drugs and getting on the road to recovery. If you had got on to me then I wouldn’t have done it. And might have stayed more in my house sitting around.

          I hear what you’re saying about the mental illness mantra but the employability mantra shouldn’t be a replacement.

          Regards, Chrys

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    • I don’t think that decisions about working, coming off meds, choosing or not choosing labels, or anything about a person’s “treatment” need to be made by anyone but the person.

      In a way, this is why a business model is best. How many charities like homeless shelters use restrictive rules to weed out their customers? What if their funding came entirely from the customers so they had to provide better service? Often being a purchaser gives people incredible dignity compared to third party funding. And a well designed model can account for people who can’t pay at the time using barter, trade, volunteering, or sliding fee scales for using more affluent customers to help fund others.

      However, I don’t think a voluntary system forces anyone to move on from supports before they are ready, except for government funding limitations that are totally out of my control.

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    • I am thinking of handling crisis on the model of People post profiles if they can host people, with what amenities or limitations they might have. The user surveys I’ve done show that about 1 in 10 peers have done or are willing to do this. I’ve gotten suggestions about what needs to be covered in the training process.

      I too would have my profile posted, so mjk, if you were in Kansas City, Kansas and knocked on my door and were safe to be around my kids (my call – I’m not too strict), then I could invite you in. Pretty soon I’ll have Google Fiber so you can enjoy the 100 times faster internet. Plus the neighborhood is really historic and quiet and transit accessible.

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      • This is a nice idea, but I worry the state control grid would smash such an underground railroad. People would be charged with “practicing medicine without a license” or some BS.

        The whole idea of an underground railroad is that it needs to stay on the down low.

        I’ve got crisis plans, on the down low. And hidden from view.

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  5. I hate the label addict and addiction and am all for blasting labels in all their stigmatising ways but first drug users and their reasons for using drugs needs to be separated from the idea that once a person likes the drug, they are taking or have developed a dependency to said drugs, that a separate entity called addiction is manifested. To often people fight for one thing/group at the same time as labelling another group

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