Robert Whitaker Speaks at NAMI National Convention


Opening his presentation, “The Case for Selected Use of Anti-Psychotics”, at the national convention of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in San Antonio, Texas this past weekend by noting “I think it speaks well of NAMI to have invited me.”  Reports by attendees of the talk, including notes on the controversies before and during Whitaker’s appearance, are collected at Pete Earley’s blog, linked below.

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  1. Why even bother to provide a link to mealymouthed trash like this?

    The comment about mandated outpatient treatment being non-coercive because there’s a judge involved really made me hurl. If a treatment is foisted on someone against his or her will, it’s coercive, whether a judge is involved or not.

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  2. I think it IS a good sign that Bob was invited to speak at the NAMI convention. Certainly there are some people within NAMI with a more humane attitude. And there are plenty of people in NAMI, I’m sure, who really care about their family members who are enmeshed in the mental “health” system, but who have been exposed to so much drug company propaganda that they continue to push drugs their family members.

    One observation that is slightly off point here. Notice how our “friends” in TAC and elsewhere (like the APA) use the phrase “anti-psychiatry” as if it were self-evident that anyone like that is beyond the pale. We shouldn’t back off from this. What’s wrong with being “anti-psychiatry?” I think everyone should be anti-psychiatry, at least anti- the way psychiatry is generally practiced.

    Hey, I’m anti-psychiatry and I’m proud of it.

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    • Ted, their use of “anti-psychiatry” is nothing more than an ad hominem. Much of society has come to associate psychiatry with “help” and anti-psychiatry with “no help: make them pull themselves up by the boot straps or throw them in jail!” and much of the pseudo-intellectual college graduate professional types have associated it with anti-science and flat earthery.

      It’s a way to refer to a group of people as if there is no validity to their opinions. It’s what people like to call us when they know they can not confront the data with our arguments and succeed against us.

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      • Great post JeffreyC. If you don’t mind, I am going to use your point the next time I respond to someone who uses the term, antipsychiatry. Call them out on their BS by asking where their scientific proof is that they can’t produce.

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    • Yes, they use the term anti-psychiatry because these days it has become a degrading term. Sometimes they make even references to scientologists. I don’t know if it’s possible to change the meaning of that word to a more positive one. Until then, maybe it’s easier to say it’s not anti-psychiatry, it’s something else.

      I told one woman about some of the studies such as brain shrinkage, Harrow, etc. She then told about them to her doctor and he said of each one that ‘there are no such studies’ and then talked about Scientology.

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  3. I am surprised that MIA posted this. Surely there are other, better reviews of his talk at NAMI than one that begins with an “anti-psychiatry” ad hominem:

    “Author Robert Whitaker, who has become a darling of the anti-psychiatry movement ”

    “Others in the audience pointed out that although Robert Whitaker’s presentation was moderate and left room for common ground, his blog is a home to virulently anti-psychiatry people whose views are irreconcilable with NAMI’s mission. Others in the audience pointed out that although Robert Whitaker’s presentation was moderate and left room for common ground, his blog is a home to virulently anti-psychiatry people whose views are irreconcilable with NAMI’s mission. ”

    Referring to those of us who believe that so called experts who are caught misinforming professionals in spite of honest science while receiving money from drug companies should be held criminally responsible for the harm it produces, especially in the cases of children growing up with brain damage that can be expected to be life long since their brain was developing around it. Why should NAMI support such financially corrupt and mischievous professionals like Joseph Beiderman and Charles Nemeroff (among at least dozens of others)? Oh yeah, that’s right. For decades NAMI received much of it’s funding from DRUG COMPANIES. Let’s not forget that, or allow them to think that they don’t need to disclose that to the public, each and every single time they feel the need to speak.

    Whether they were the ones at the top who took the money and pushed the misinformation to their membership, or are the misguided members who mistook drug company propaganda as science, the public needs to be aware of how corrupted they are. Every mention of NAMI in the media should include the fact that they have received enough money from drug companies that they could reasonably be considered a drug company sponsored front group.

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    • In point of fact, no; I was not aware of another mention of this event. And I thought that where it was appearing was interesting, and the fact that it included a range of responses that seemed to fairly represent the event as I had heard about it from Bob. I thought that everything written within the blog was a fair and reasonable point; questions respectfully raised, with an openness to a range of possible answers. I thought it represented a clear sea-change in the reception that Bob and his viewpoint are receiving in the world. For someone as presumedly radical as Earley to place something so open-ended as this notice of Bob’s appearance could serve as an example of how we aspire MIA to be. So, to not include it on the basis of who’s website it appears on would have been prejudiced, and wrong.

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      • I don’t find everything written in the article a fair and reasonable point at all.
        The points, to me, brought up are mostly quite untenable and convoluted.
        That an “agrarian” society has less stress is almost laughable, given what kind of stress those people in these days have to go through. The life of any farmer not part of a big corporation of mega farming is quite difficult in these days ,to say the least. I think perhaps those people might have different values and a stronger family bond but that isn’t something you can remove from how you approach “psychiatric illness.” Those would be things that point out how you heal it, not how you excuse it. And to say that the services they have in Finland aren’t available in the United States also says nothing except that it’s not available; this says nothing about whether it works, or whether that alternative deserves to be looked at. Or that there might be “unknown factors” impinging upon the results, also really says nothing. You can literally dismiss ANY statement made about ANYTHING that way.
        And the blog continues going on about why they couldn’t change the system because they don’t have the resources to change it; as if, would they have to change it completely overnight, they wouldn’t know where to begin. Or statements that Robert’s blog is full of people who are virulently anti-psychiatry and their views are irreconcilable with NAMI. These supposedly anti-psychiatry people have the same goals in mind, and attain them. They help heal people. If that’s irreconcilable the problem is in refusing to see that there’s another way. And these “anti-psychiatry” people really don’t have a police force arresting people to lock them up take away their freedom and force them off of medications; they’re just promoting free choice; and can strongly argue that point given statistics, science and human rights. This then is supposed to be “virulently” anti-psychiatry.

        The only statement I read trying to refute any of the statistics Robert shared is that someone says 7 out of 10 “respected professionals” with “schizophrenia” are still on medications. Interesting that it’s admitted that even 7 out of 10 can do without them. Given that schizophrenia is advertised as a permanent physical ailment based on a yet to be proven theory of chemical imbalance. But we aren’t told what this means or who they are these “respected professionals,” we aren’t told whether any other choice or method was available to begin with than drugging, and we aren’t even told how difficult it is to get off of these highly addicted medications and what a feat that even 3 out of 10 have accomplished this, or against what kind of aversion to them even attempting it. I would think that more than just “trusted professionals” have ever been diagnosed as having schizophrenia. People in “undeveloped agrarian” environments have already been dismissed, as well as those in Finland. What’s left that’s referred to as “trusted professionals”!?

        And sorry, I’m not interested in getting dizzy reading any more of it, here or there. I’m actually one of those people who is there for others who beat the odds and likely will never end up being counted. The people that set a new trend others don’t believe is possible, exactly BECAUSE of numbers. I have better things to do than count numbers like a media outlet would……

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  4. Regarding the term, “anti psychiatry”, many people criticize doctors in various specialties for poor and sometimes even horrific treatment. But they don’t get derisively criticized as being anti oncology, anti cardiology, etc. Since when did it become ok to essentially equate people who criticize psychiatry to being traitors?

    Jeffrey C, I am glad this link was posted as I think the way to best advocate for our position is to be aware of what the other side is saying so we respond in an effective manner. Your suggestion to link NAMI to drug companies at every opportunity is a great way to start.

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  5. I looked briefly at the blog linked to. One of the most amazing responses was how there’s not enough money for talk therapy, so then we have to give drugs otherwise these people aren’t being treated, and everything gets worse.

    Talk therapy is cheaper than drugs, to begin with, when you add everything up. And drugs correlate with an increase in mental illness. Which is why we need to have more drug treatment to make sure that the increase (directly correlating with psychiatric drugging rather than talk therapy) is treated, which would then logically correlate with more of an increase, thanks to the treatment; and this is why there’s no money for what’s cheaper and more effective.

    Quite amazing.

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    • You’re absolutely right, talk therapy is far cheaper than drugs in the short term and long term. Insurance companies would do well to consider that before approving life long courses of drugs for invalid (according to Insel)diagnoses. Especially in light of all the evidence we have that alternatives (talk therapies, nutrition, exercise, etc.) are just if not more effective and again much cheaper. Now it’s important to note that many people might believe results from talk therapy take too long as compared to the drug effects they realize rather quickly. I think that’s a legitimate observation. I would like to think with good and accurate information, most would choose talk over drugs but that won’t be true for everyone.


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      • Yes the insurance companies could do themselves a favor. The police could also do themselves a favor and not arrest people to have them doped up, something which correlates with more violence; and the legal system could do the same, if it’s trying to promote harmony in society and prevent violence and understand the human condition rather than promote false advertising.
        Human evolution has come to a brink where there’s a lot of answers that have to be solved regarding our environment and our interactions with others. We have enough nuclear weapons to blow up all life on the planet 20 time over to make sure the “enemy” is dead, is just one thing. It would help if finding ways of disabling the mind (which is all psychiatric drugs have been proven to do), and conning people into believing things that aren’t really true weren’t such a focus.

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  6. In the state where I work NAMI is the only “voice” that counts where it comes to anything having to do with so-called “mental Illness.” If you dare to raise issues about alternative treatments the NAMI people swarm on you like white on rice. So far, I’ve not met or heard any of the supposed “new” voices of NAMI in this group. They are spouting the same old mantra of “people who are mentally ill need more treatment, for their own good. And the only treatment are the wonderful medications!” Frankly, as a peer worker I steer totally clear of them and have been questioned as to why I don’t take part in any of their “activities” if I supposedly care about people who are “mentally ill.” I state that their group and myself have almost diametrically opposed belief systems, which gets me quite a few open mouthed stares of disbelief. NAMI is not the friend of people who have issues in my state; they are out to drug everyone and of course they’re willing to do it for our own good!

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  7. Hi, Stephen,
    I have no doubt that your experience of being given the party line when attending NAMI activities is typical of what one encounters in “organized” NAMI events. I can only speculate, because I’ve never attended any, but I started to participate in the NAMI LinkIn discussion group after Paris Williams urged MIA readers to do so in a recent post. I have to say, the discussion group has a wide variety of opinions and nothing is sacred. What I do notice is that it is NAMI trainers who are the ones who give NAMI its deserved reputation for promoting meds to the exclusion of just about anything else, but the organization is too large to prevent others from thinking for themselves. There are people like us there, and there should be more people like us there. Nobody is approving my comments, like they do at other sites, and they are published right away. Of course, I keep my comments civil, which is key in any discussion group. One of the most lively discussion of late was started by a Norwegian psychologist, called Informed Consent, Will Anyone Take the Meds? Paris William’s point, which is my point in joining, is to eventually insinuate our thinking into the minds of many. We can’t accomplish this unless we engage.
    Best regards,

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  8. Yes I personally don’t really get it. Especially when it comes to what was said in one comment about this site and Whitaker in particular.

    I’m not seeing any hero worship, or cult-like behaviour. To me he’s just a guy trying to point out facts and attempting to get people to see reason. He doesn’t seem to be avoiding criticism either.

    Is it all just not hardcore enough ? Well surely it has to better than nothing, better than being completely ignored and written off. He probably wouldn’t be speaking anywhere if his power point slide started off with “It’s all bullshit”, even though plenty of rational people would come to that conclusion about psychiatry.

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