Many Small Actions Bring Big Results


Events of last week raised my awareness of the mess we Americans have made, both here at home and across the globe.

Last week there was a shooting at a suburban shopping mall in Portland Oregon. Then there was another shooting at an elementary school in a small town in Connecticut. I didn’t think things like this happened in such places. Folks move away from cities to small towns and suburbs to feel safer.

There are no safe places for children.

Because of our bombs, there are no safe places for children in Iraq. Children are not safe from our bombs in Pakistan or Afghanistan either. Children in places we choose to bomb are not safe in their homes, markets or schools.

Our country is not safe.

Our own country is not safe for our children and young adults. We kill them with cars. Automobile accidents are the number one cause of death of Americans between the ages of 4 and 34 (per the CDC). In 2010 an average of  52 teenageers a week were killed by cars. That’s seven kids a day. We individually and personally risk our lives and our childrens’ lives every day when we drive our death machines to work, malls and schools. We not only poison the planet with cars, we kill ourselves, our children and each other.

Our country is especially dangerous for young men of color and the disabled school kids. We preferentially funnel these people directly from schools into prisons (per the ACLU). In 2010, there were almost 71,000 children incarcerated in the US. We are number one in the world for numbers of people locked up, numbers of children incarcerated and rates of imprisonment. Number two isn’t even a close second in any category. African Americans are imprisoned at four times the rate as whites.

Training Killers

We box up our babies from the age of six weeks, away from families for ten hours a day, five days a week in day care. We keep our children inside schools for many hours of most days till the age of 18. Many of these buildings are locked.

Outside of school hours we train our childrens’ developing minds with violence through the media and video “games”.  How did “first person shooter” get to be a kid’s game?

We poison ever growing numbers of children with chemicals known to cause aggression and suicidality. We routinely drug children with these so they’ll sit still and be quiet in classrooms. Now, we drug babies for crying and 3 year olds for acting frightened while locked away from their families in day care centers.

Those unsuccessful in school environments are incarcerated. It ‘s a well-worn path. Many of those successful in school go to work as cogs within the military industrial complex that kills impoverished families half a world away. Our children die doing this “defense” work for us.

We pay for all this with money from our paychecks.

We are responsible.

Locking the doors of our homes and schools will not protect us when we’re raising, training and arming shooters inside our homes and schools. Locking our car doors will not keep us safe inside our vehicles. FDA black box warnings will not protect our children.

You and I can make a difference.

Many small acts can bring big results. Everything ever accomplished began as a thought, an electrochemical shift inside a person’s brain. Everything ever done started with an idea.

Making a difference is easier than you think. Mass grassroots demonstrations from coast to coast and waving placards is a great idea. But this isn’t easy to orchestrate nor easy to maintain. Big attention getters generate big resistance and soon vanish.

Instead, I suggest a sustainable movement made of small changes that every single American can participate in, each in his or her own way. Even children and old folks can make a positive difference.

I have a few ideas. I’m certain you will have more and better ideas of your own. We Americans are smart. We control most of the world’s resources. We can do better than we have been.

The world needs our immediate action. All of us. Today.

Now is the time to take action. Take the first step today. Look for what will motivate you to make a move and keep going.

Perhaps the thought of saving gas money when you take one day off from driving a week will motivate you. Maybe the lower overhead of a smaller lifestyle will click you into action. It could be that feeling good about doing the right things might be enough for you to make small positive changes in the way you live.

Even if you don’t empathize with the plights of starving families and school children being bombed on the other side of the world, even if you imagine that you’re a “safe” driver in a “clean” car, even if you think your school is different and safe and your day care is good day care, then think of the polar bears. Polar bears are drowning as their home melts from beneath their feet.

Your kids and grandkids would want you to park your car to help save the polar bears. My kid asked me to. My car is parked most days now.

All of us together can reduce the insanity of American life.

Occupy your life. Small actions add up to big results.

“Occupy” your own life. During the recent “occupy” movement, people camped in the front of government buildings. But those people have been cleared away. The grass is thick and green again in front of city hall.

Think small and go for personal, sustainable long-term change. Small actions can make big results. Together we can make a difference.

Here’s a starter list of things you can do to “occupy” your life. Live an owner-occupied life through your meaningful daily choices. Encourage others to join you with their own changes.

1. Park your car and walk. Even one time could save lives.

2. Say “no” to drugging your child. There are ways.

3. Turn off the media. Do this for a day or a week or a month.

4. Sit down together for family meals.

5. Say hello to that guy that sleeps outside. He’s a neighbor, too.

6. Down-size your life. Buy less. Give stuff away. Recycle.

7. Make time for daily quiet contemplation. Ask your heart, then listen to the answers.

The buck stops here.

This is our country. Together we can make our country and the world a better place.


Thanks for reading, thinking and writing.











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. Alice,

    Of course you are right.

    But social politics also have their part to play. As your beautifully eloquent president put it, society and politicians have to give it a try on the guns control front;

    Idem for not letting families of disturbed violent teenagers down.

    I couldn’t help answering this morning an unwised attack on a couragous sufferer of a mother who asked society to do better for suffering violent children and their family:

    The MIA activists are more than welcome to offer peers (here ex peers) solutions for families of “angry violent children” but to deny the suffering of some family is not acceptable.


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    • Thanks for your global perspective and observations on how all the little stuff is big stuff Alice.

      Dr. Ivana Fulli,
      Unfortunately, your comment was removed before I had a chance to read it, so I have no idea what you said. I am puzzled however by your stating here in this thread that your censored comment was in response to “an unwised attack on a couragous sufferer of a mother” I will assume that you are characterizing the comment left by Rossa Forbes in this manner. I want to say, that such a characterization of her comment is so far off the mark, it’s simply ridiculous. Part of the whole bio-diesease paradigm is that it in effect attibutes emotional and behavioral difficulties to a biological mechanism within the individual, and thereby assigns blame for emotions and behavior to a so-called “disease” the person supposedly has. Emotional and behavioral difficulties children have DO NOT develop in a biological vaccuum doctor. I am utterly disgusted by Liza Long’s blog post. The woman seems to think it’s ok to abuse her kid, and then play victim. I really don’t think that what she did takes courage; it takes something, not sure what it is, but it isn’t courage. She fails to demonstrate any responsibility for how her own behavior may cause or exacerbate the behavioral problems her child has, does not even demonstate awareness of her own inappropriate behavior. Worse than this, IMO, is this woman showed no compassion and no respect for her son in what she wrote. Maybe she wrote this post on a bad day; but, I suspect after reading her own website, that blaming her child and playing the victim /parent martyr is typical for her.

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      • yobluemama,

        Thanks for reading my blog and your support of my writing here. I feel so powerless to make a direct and significant impact the larger political, economic and environmental issues myself. I have to find small things that I CAN do. I park my car and walk to save lives. I think and read and write and encourage others to do so. I hold my own family close. I cook dinner. I focus on my own internal locus of control and support others in finding their own power. I can do these things every day.

        I believe that combining the little things I CAN do with the small things that others CAN do will add up to the big changes we need.

        All the best.

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  2. I read the mother’s blog post and after thinking about if for a long time the question came to mind as to who she really cares about in all of this. I got the feeling that she’s feeling more sorry for herself than she is her very own child. I would never have posted something like that about my child for hundreds of thousands to read and comment about. Isn’t it bad enough that this boy has been treated so badly by psychiatry to begin with that now his very life has to be exposed for everyone to poke around in and riffle through. I thought her move was tactless and pretty heartless and that she wanted more attention for herself than she did for Michael. “Look at poor me, how much I’m suffering with this kid who won’t behave when I want him to!” I wonder what kind of toxic drug cocktail the poor boy is one and why his wonderful mother allowed him to be drugged in the first place. I would never allow my child to ever be drugged to the gills with these toxic drugs. They are not med, they are drugs, plain and simple. Reading her blog post did not make me feel one bit sorry for the mother. It certainly made me feel sorry for Michael, who has a mother who would do what she did with this blog.

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    • Back to Alice’s post. I think that you’re absolutely correct in pointing out that if each and every one of us begins doing one small thing to change what’s going on in our defective and sick society that we can have a positive effect on society as a whole. It certainly does no good to stand around and wring our hands and state how awful things are, and then go right on with what we were doing. There are no simple answers, the lesson you’ve taught me here on MIA, but that’s no reason so begin finding my own small answers in my own life and doing something positive for others around me. Thanks.

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      • Stephen,

        I believe that each of us must be the change we can be in the world. I have felt so overwhelmed at times by the enormity of the situations that need reparation that I’ve wanted to give up. I finally had to get busy doing things that I know I can do and hoping that everyone else pitches in.

        Thanks for doing your part too.

        All the best.

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    • Hi Stephen,

      Many parents and sibling live in fear and society has to give a help.

      My unbderstanding is that that mother do not want psychaitric care for her son but helps from the society at large.

      Do you not think about the siblings ?

      Seriously Stephen?

      Good special needs sleep in schools are one of the answers and in UK, for example, the society pays the huge costs of precious schools for few pupils and a lot of trained staff.

      May be “ex-peers” can organize and run such living in schools but to denied the suffering of the mothers (sometimes father when he dosesn’t divorce the wife and the difficult child-so to speak).

      A little compassion for the single mothers of threatening ‘s teenager and adults children is not a small things, Stephen.


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      • No, I have very little compassion for this woman. She seems to exhibit little compassion for her very own son. I think she wrote these things to simply get sympathy for herself. My mother was a single mother of four, two of which had mental anguish issues. She stuck with them through thick and thin and never allowed them to be drugged or hospitalized. My sister even tried to kill my mother with the help of her boyfriend. When my mother got loose from the two of them she beat the whoops out of both of them. Did she hold it against my sister and call the police and try to get her locked in a psych hospital? Absolutely not! She understood what was happening and let my sister know that she loved her, no matter what. Did my mother run around talking to the neighbors and posting blogs about how difficult and miserable her life with my two siblings was? NO! She remained strong through it all, loving my sister and brother with unconditional love. She remained quiet about how sad she was but kept plodding along, letting the two of them know that she cared about them and loved them. This is what a mother does for her children. As my sister and brother got older they were able to reconcile with her and both of them thanked her for not carting them off to a psychiatric hospital and for not having them drugged to the gills with the toxic drugs. They were able to get their lives back because of the unconditional love that my mother always had for them up to her very last breath. As a sibling I supported my mother in her support of my brother and sister, even though they did horrible things to her in the process. NO, I DO NOT HAVE ANY COMPASSION FOR THIS WOMAN WHO SEEMS TO CARE MORE ABOUT HERESELF THAN SHE DOES HER CHILDREN. SHE WANTED HER FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME AND TOOK IT AT THE EXPENSE OF HER CHILD!

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        • Dear alice,

          My comment has been deleted by moderator and I answered with:

          “”On MIA, it is OK to attack on a full post a suffering mother who put her face and suffering known to the world asking for the USA society to help families to deal with violent children but not to answer to the attack.

          Idem for comments like:

          ///The mother in the blog (divorced with four children) that Laura writes about, strikes me as someone who has poor parenting skills. (…) she’s dealing with him in a low level assinine way./// ?

          To deny the sad reality of single divorced mothers left to deal alone in fear and despair with very difficult behavior of a child with little help from society is OK and encouraged de facto by moderator.

          It is always interesting to see politics talk loud in any field… “”


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          • You just don’t give yp do you? My mother wasn’t a feminist and yes she was very fit since she worked in a factory where even the women had to be strong and tough.

            My sister was raped and murder in her own apartment in New York City. She’d just gotten her Masters in Art from the Perkins Institute of Art in New York City. She grew to be a very talented and wise woman and her life was unfortunately ended much too soon.

            No, I have little compassion for that mother with her blog.

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      • ///Dear Dr. Fulli,

        Your comment should not have been censored. I don’t even know how
        this happened, and I was quite unhappy about it.

        I can’t even figure out who pulled your comment. We don’t have paid
        staff, and so I rely on a small group to try to maintain the site, but comments are not supposed to be censored unless they are attacks on a person (the blogger). Critical comments are fine, of the sort raise here.

        I apologize for this. I see that one of your comments was restored, but not the other. I will get to the bottom of this, and get it rectified.

        Again, I hope you can accept my apologies.

        ///Dear Dr. Fulli,

        I have tried to make it clear that we allow comments, with free
        discussion of ideas, unless they are personal attacks. I will have to
        read this and see what has erupted . . . I just got back into my office.

        Bob Whitaker//

        ///From: “Kermit Cole”
        Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 7:08 PM

        Subject: Comments restored

        > I have restored your comments.
        They should not have been removed, and we apologize for any distress the removal may have caused you.I hope you will understand how difficult it is to maintain a positive environment in the comment section, and it can be almost impossible to draw a clear line about what constitutes a violation of policy. We generally have a very liberal policy, which usually means that bloggers are frustrated with us for not removing posts. Then, when we do, we get a lot of heat from the other side. There is no possible middle ground.

        But your comments, upon review, were clearly not a violation and should not have been removed.

        Again, we’re sorry.

        Kermit ///

        I had to restore my first comment myself on

        and the ludicrous smearing of my name has not disappeared. This is the rerason of that transfer of mails.

        if you cannot remove disgraceful intimidation by smearing a name with ludicrous false accusation, think twice before letting your bad nerves take the lead over honesty Mr or MRS censor and political activist not wanting any contradiction!

        Dr. Ivana Fulli.

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  3. Hi and so long Alice since your have a moderator who put injust remarks after my real name,

    I recommand you to read what suffering parents wrote to that couragous mother on her blog.

    I agree with you to the need for taking care of social issues but some single mothers – are left alone in any level of society with violent children they can’t manage alone and it is not good.

    Hi and good by, Stephen,

    You cannot expect many mother to be as strong and fit and couragous as your mother was. Your mother was a truly exceptionnal woman and by definition it is a rarity.


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  4. Regarding “Park your car and walk” The life you are saving is your own. Pre historic humans did a lot of walking, so it follows we should as well. The pollution a car produces is nothing compared to the huge boats that cross international waters. These boats use the cheapest and dirtiest fuel and since they are in international waters can pollute the air as much as they like.

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    • markps2,
      Thanks for reading my blog and commenting here.

      That cargo ship’s another big polluter. Buy less imports that are shipped here? I stay away from imported food. I skip the apples when they’re shipped from New Zealand and wait till the local ones are in.

      Walking is good for your health as well as the health of the planet. Except when you get crushed in a crosswalk and killed (Woman in Portland OR last Tuesday. There are bound to be lots more examples).

      Cars are the deadliest killing machine on the planet just for out and out direct daily kills. We kill 89 Americans a day every day year round (2010 CDC statistics). There are lots of inury statistics as well with this.

      Thanks for checking in here.
      All the best.

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  5. Dear Alice,

    I would like your thought on this:
    Ivana Fulli MD on December 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm said:

    Dear Sir,

    I do not know if Adam Lanza was autistic but answering special education needs for the more intellectually able autistic persons taking care of keeping the bullying of the born different by neurotipical kids at school minimal is good prevention:
    From Temple Grandin, an autistic very bright woman who got a very nice education in” Animals in translation”:

    Teasing hurts. the kids would tease me , so I’d get mad and smack ‘em. That simple. They always started it, they like to see me react. My new school solved that problem The school had a stable and horses for kids to rid, and the teachers took away privileges if I smacked somebody. After i lost privileges enough times I learned just to cry when somebody did something bad to me. I’d cry and that would take away the aggression. I still cry when people are mean to me.///

    It is unfortunate that so many very bright autistic persons who haver so much for society do not get a speacil needs education.

    The DSM5 makes it impossible to diagnose and get support for the more able of aspies-a Yale child psychiatrist, Pr Volkmar and other teams published on this.

    It was for me a cultural experience to see that some MIA political activists -and admirors- agree with the DSM 5 and with the French psychoanalysts who claim that the mother behavior is the cause of autism and that she should suffer in silence-variant from a brtish know it all autism is a thing of the past.

    ///Should mothers know better than complain? Sure they should, the responsible and respectable grown-up people they want everybody to believe they are. Complaining doesn’t get anybody anywhere but deeper and deeper into the very same misery that’s complained about. /// is -to my view -as a psychiatrist with some and experience and training in the autisms and in forensic of autism although I am not a forensic psychiatrist.

    NB: Giving autisitc kids the special education and support they need and educating neurotipical children in not bullying persons born autistic will be good prevention-and an easier task than getting rid of the USA gun culture…

    Secondly, and be assured that it will be my last comment to your post: Although some psychiatric drugs – like SSRI can increase violence for other people and suicide risks- some persons with a history of violence are helped by neuroleptics.

    see one of my favorite blogger on MIA:

    NB: I felt privileged to have been invinted as a neurotipical autistfriendly psychiatrists. Some friends of mine were worried for my personal safety immerging myself for three days in an isolated place with very autistic persons but I had no hesitation to go since I knew it would be an autistic friendly place -with for example a special absolutely quiet little dining rrom for the minoirity who couldn’t bear the cutlery and conversation noises in the main restaurant.

    I remember some little bit of short temper- for example when the restaurant ‘s rules were changed by surprise by the catering staff- and a few meltdown but I always felt absolutely safe all the time.

    If the Western societies do not provide for the specail needs of so many gifted and brave and honest precious autistic people because the DSM5 prohibit it and not many parents can afford it or find the needed professionals, a very small percentage of Asperger’s syndrome persons will make their family home hell and do criminal acts after years of confusion and frustration with modern life intense sensory stimulation and neurotypicals social codes etc..

    All the extremisms are dangerous-and no activist has the right to decide what is good for every body-in my view

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    • Ivana,
      I’ll comment on this.

      I don’t yet know the impact that DSM 5 will have on providing or preventing access to care and special education. I suspect there will a continued push for more drugs and away from other kinds of services. This is the direction we’ve been going for a long time here: more drugs and less supportive avenues toward better lives. With or without DSM 5, this is the road we’re on.

      All the best.

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