Badgers Included


The story of “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH” has a great deal of personal significance to me because it was the last book I can remember reading to my three young daughters before taking Prozac.  My hypomanic reaction to that drug earned me the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and the subsequent adverse reactions to the steady stream of drugs that followed led to myriad other diagnoses and, eventually, electroshock, which was deemed “medically necessary” due to my worsening “mental illness”, which was “treatment resistant.”

I remember reading “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH” in my youngest daughter’s Laura Ashley wallpapered room, the four of us piled on the WWII hospital bed I had spotted on the ceiling of an antique shop in Vermont on our way home from visiting my mother in Syracuse, New York.  It was one of many ideas Martha Stewart imparted to me.  This is one of my last memories of the peaceful life I had with my children before biopsychiatry ripped us apart.

Although I have often reflected back on those nights of bedtime reading these memories have taken on a newer and more relevant meaning since Gary Greenberg invoked the title of that children’s book in his excellent article for the New Yorker, “The Rats of NIMH,” following Thomas Insel’s blog, “Transforming Diagnosis,” in which for a brief moment, the director of the NIMH disavowed psychiatry’s bible, the “DSM-5.”

In his article, Mr. Greenberg described Insel’s statement about the DSM as “nothing more than constructs put together by committees of experts.  He continued, “America’s psychiatrist in chief seemed to be reiterating what many had been saying all along; that psychiatry was a pseudo-science, unworthy of inclusion in the Medical Kingdom.”

The point at which he tied this to “The Rats of NIMH” was when he implied that Insel himself was a rat (the word rat being used to mean “bad guy”) intending only to advertise the NIMH’s billion dollar baby, RDoC, a research project intent upon realizing the dreams of biopsychiatry and fueling a resurgence of research and development for a psychopharmaceutical industry beginning to despair of its future.

As much as I appreciated Gary Greenberg’s article, I feel it incumbent upon me to rescue the Rats of NIMH (who rescued Mrs. Frisby), both to save their reputations and to raise the story itself to its rightful position.  It is the perfect allegory for the psych survivor movement.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of reading Robert C. O’Brien’s 1972 Newbery Medal winning book, “Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH,” here are the Cliff Notes.  Trapped in cages by the NIMH, a group of highly intelligent rats who were the subjects of experimentation, fooled their captors into believing they are less than exceptional and bide their time as they study copiously and plan their escape.

Once emancipated they flee to the countryside, and underground they build a peaceful civilization employing all the latest technology.  A generation passes, and only two of the original group that escaped remain when their leader, Nicodemus, agrees to come to the aid of Mrs. Frisby and her son (who are badgers not rats) in honor of those who came before.

Meanwhile the rats are diligently working on “The Plan” to abandon their dependent lifestyle and form their own independent farming colony.  In devising this plan there is a philosophical divide among them and a group of the rats defects.  This incident attracts the attention of a group of men who plan to exterminate the rats.  In the end, despite adversity, two casualties and the loss of their home, the rats survive.

The parallels here to the psychiatric survivor movement are eerie to say the least.  Even stranger, as I write this remembering how I first read this story to my children it is almost as if I had been reading my destiny.

My own captivity spanned nearly two decades, and indeed I was no more than a lab rat ingesting chemicals that not only were experimental, but reserved for those of us considered less than human (“mentally ill”).

When finally I began to understand the oppression I had been subjected to, as a result of researching both the drugs and the history of psychiatry on the internet, and reading Robert Whitaker’s “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” I had to keep a tight lid on what I was learning so as not to experience further coercion.  In secret, I connected with hundreds of other lab rats like myself, many of whom had been organizing to save others.

Like the Rats of NIMH our movement is divided.  There are those of us who are willing to remain as consumers in the mental health system, or work as “peer specialists,” while at the other end of the spectrum there are those who will not rest until psychiatry ceases to exist as a medical specialty. And, while we argue and debate, new laws are sweeping the country whose explicit intention is to force chemical compliance which has been documented to shave at least 25 years off the lifespan of anyone who is captured.

In my daughter’s tiny bedroom as she hugged her stuffed rabbit, Hester, the “Rats of NIMH” was an exciting storybook adventure.  In the New Yorker Magazine, “The Rats of NIMH” was a metaphor for collusion and corruption between government and medicine.

In the world of surviving psychiatry, “The Rats of NIMH” is an allegory for a group of people despised as diseased rodents who are becoming resilient survivors capable of making a more compassionate and  sustainable society for all.  Badgers included.



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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Nancy Rubenstein del Giudice
Nancy is a psychiatric survivor, writer, and coach. She is director of public education and volunteer coordinator for the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights). She holds a BA in Psychology from Syracuse University 1978, and has done graduate work at Tufts University in Counseling, where she did an internship at 735 House, a Residential treatment center for adolescents.


    • I could not agree more! Beautifully written and touching on all 21 years of my own captivity, a multitude of drugs, ECT., hospitalizations, loss of everything in my life to turn around to help others off drugs in steering them towards the truth.

      When I was at my worst end with no where to turn, I prayed for help and heard an inner voice say “research in reverse”, so typed in “dangers of….” and that started me on my journey of drug withdrawal, support through fellow recovery masters and organizations!

      I am truly blessed in knowing so many people who are working for the better of all people, especially those who others consider less then themselves! May this time in history stop to never again repeat with all of our lessons!

      Thank you, Nancy (and all)

  1. Yes, like Ted said.

    One point where I would differ though, I don’t think though that we should be claiming that psychiatric drugs are “documented to shave at least 25 years off the lifespan of anyone who is captured.” Yes, it is documented that people in the US who are in the public psychiatric system are typically dying that much earlier, but the drugs are not the only cause of the early deaths, even though it appears likely they play a huge role.

    We sound more dramatic when we claim the drugs are entirely responsible for the problem of early death, but we also sound biased and unscientific, out of touch with what is actually happening. Let’s just keep the attention on the fact that the drugs do shorten many lives while on average reducing chances for recovery – that is damming evidence enough.

  2. Beautiful piece, hits all the notes, well chosen quotes, and then well inserted/placed in the piece, the pacing and length were ideal, the analogy to the children’s book is good and builds on Greenberg recently using the same one (Greenberg was by no means the first to use the childrens story NIMH thing)…

    I agree with Ron, I wouldn’t have said so absolutely about:-

    ‘And, while we argue and debate, new laws are sweeping the country whose explicit intention is to force chemical compliance which has been documented to shave at least 25 years off the lifespan of anyone who is captured.’

    If only the words ‘at least’, and the specific ’25’ were not in there, this would have been the best piece on here in weeks.

    I believe that there are a lot of factors, toxic drugs a huge factor, coalescing into what I would call the ‘mental patient role’, or mental patient lifestyle, mindset, life, life sentence, that can and do shorten and diminish millions of lives to varying extents. The data on life shortening is one of our most disturbing and terrifying trump cards, it needs to be stewarded with responsibility. In fact with such a specific claim made at such a crucial tonal point near the conclusion of your submitted op-ed, the editors of this site should have worked with you on that.

    That said, re-read my first paragraph of this comment. I mean it, this is a good piece and it is great to see you contributing, Ms. Rubenstein del Giudice.

    And the most powerful statement you made, ‘When finally I began to understand the oppression I had been subjected to, as a result of researching both the drugs and the history of psychiatry on the internet, and reading Robert Whitaker’s “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” I had to keep a tight lid on what I was learning so as not to experience further coercion. In secret, I connected with hundreds of other lab rats like myself, many of whom had been organizing to save others.’

    So powerful, therein lies the essence of what they’d love to be able to stop, but know they can’t. The internet turning someone from true believer in psychiatry into one of the growing faithless. I love it.

    There is just no end to how excited I am about the internet, it is the best thing ever.

  3. “And, while we argue and debate, new laws are sweeping the country whose explicit intention is to force chemical compliance which has been documented to shave at least 25 years off the lifespan of anyone who is captured.”

    “In the New Yorker Magazine, “The Rats of NIMH” was a metaphor for collusion and corruption between government and medicine.”

    This looks a little scary to me

    XXIst World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics

    Redefining Mental Illness Through Genetics

    I enjoyed reading your informative and *awesome* entry. I feel myself appreciating it and that feels pretty good. Thank you.

  4. Nancy,

    Thank you so much for writing this piece. Unfortunately, your adverse reaction to Prozac, leading to “hypomania” and subsequently, introduction into the mental health system is not unique. The more the word gets out, the better chance to keep this from happening to others.

    Also, I agree there are two camps out there: the status quo and those of us who want to see this mental health system put out of business.


  5. Nice post, Nancy! I had never heard of this story. I love parallels, metaphors, analogies, fairy tales, etc, even though among all else my psychologist found with here tests that I have “concrete thinking” which presumably means I can only understand the literal meaning, not the abstract or metaphorical meaning. OK OK, I get it, these were real rats that really escaped from NIMH and we were not told about it! I just read the Wiki page of this story. I got many other parallels too, but I won’t go through them.

    Lastly, perhaps I’m so big nerd that I immediately combined badgers with this internet meme from a decade ago.

    What does the snake mean? Pharma or something even more sinister? Also, perhaps connecting mushrooms with drugs such as neuroleptics is not right since they often work in opposite ways in a sense. 😉

    • Hermes,

      I regret that you were upset that I was upset by your seemingly treating bogus terms like bipolar and schizophrenia as real entities in your above post. I’ve read some of your posts, but many had to do with technical drug and other issues, so despite what you said, one’s position on certain issues like bogus DSM stigmas is not necessarily clear unless one clarifies their position about it.

      Obviously, I can’t tell you what to do, but your posts would be less inclined to make my blood boil if you would include quotes or some indication that you are referring to junk science entities when speaking of bipolar, schizophrenia and other fraud DSM stigmas.

      I asked you about it because I was not really sure about your position, so I’m glad to hear that you don’t promote these life destroying stigmas as real diseases.

      Thank you for your response. You are very good at analyzing drug and other technical information. It would be great if you could apply that expertise to the latest bipolar fraud fad and the bogus theories behind it!

      • Does Whitaker’s book make your blood boil because he didn’t put terms schizophrenia and bipolar in quotes? I don’t see what is it that makes your blood boil with me since we share so much things. Is is that I’m also interested in biology, metabolism, neuroscience, the functioning of the brain and its relationship to mind? I see things such as biology and neuroscience at their core neutral, a study about how the world works. Psychiatry takes part of them and tries to use it as their advance. Similar data can be used against psychiatry, such as in showing chronic D2 blocking back make your life suck or atrophy your brain. Understanding of the metabolism of the body can help you eat more healthily (Peter Attia, etc).

        It’s just interesting that I get my fellow survivors’ blood boiling even though my position is very anarchistic on many levels and at the same time I’m trying to keep some kind of balance. Is it just because of my interest in biology?

        For instance, here I talked about my readings in sociobiology (Chorover: From Genesis to Genocide)

        It’s basically about the same thing that you say you’ve been spreading word in this recent article:

        If I still get your brain boiling boiling (beware, brain boiling could cause you brain inflammation which will shut your NMDA receptors), just give me a chance. I’m not all bad.

        • Hermes,

          I addressed you in some posts below.

          Actually, I guess I may have been disappointed by your seeming lack of mental death correctness because I’ve been so impressed with you on many posts. In fact, I’ve asked you questions about some of the technical issues you’ve discussed in various blogs and you have been very generous about sharing such information. I have gotten the impression that you were pretty antipsychiatry, so I guess I was taken off guard by your post speaking of bipolar as real. I really felt a need for clarification from the way you presented bipolar and schizophrenia since you have focused a lot on more technical issues like drug effects, etc.

          So, I am sorry to have offended you. I guess I was under the impression that people posting here or “survivors” try to put offensive terms like “bipolar” in quotes to show we don’t accept them as real, so I wasn’t sure where you stood on this when you didn’t put them in quotes. And yes, Bob Whitaker speaking of bipolar and schizophrenia has made my blood boil and I have told him this on some posts. I have also confronted him on making assumptions that people getting these bogus stigmas actually have the supposed symptoms given that biopsychiatrists are often pathological liars. But, I still have a very high regard for Bob Whitaker’s work and respect him very much even if we don’t see eye to eye on every issue. He’s certainly contributed enough to exposing the fraud of biopsychiatry and its horrific results to not have to worry about my view of political correctness with regard to psychiatry. Also, Bob has explained that he had a specific agenda when writing the book, Anatomy of An Epidemic, which he fulfilled with a vengeance per the great reviews.

          Anyway, thank you for the clarification. I can see I could have and should have been more tactful since you have written many excellent posts and are obviously not a great fan of biopsychiatry either.

          Take care.

          • Thanks, Donna. When talking about studies with schizophrenics and bipolars, I know very well about their vague nature. I personally have had both of those labels, and now that I’m totally out of the system, I don’t eat any meds and I’m not seeing any psychiatrists, I guess I don’t have either of these disorders anymore in a sense. If there’s no one to label me, I don’t have the label. When scientific studies talk about schizophrenics or bipolars, they mean people who some psychiatrist has classified as such. When talking about such studies, it’s often convenient to talk about studies done on bipolars or schizophrenics. I know it’s in other sense wrong, for instance there is no single disease called schizophrenia, it’s an umbrella term, but it’s also a valid term in the sense that they were all people who a psychiatrist had decided to label schizophrenic. So the studies were done on people labeled schizophrenia, bipolar, etc, by psychiatrists or psychologists. If I talk about people recovering from schizophrenia in this rate in this way, I mean schizophrenia in this vague way. They are people who some person has labeled with schizophrenia. That group includes many different types of people with different types of problems. That’s basically my position. I’m sorry if my use of terms has caused distress, but I think you’ll understand that with my history of getting labeled bipolar, schizophrenia, severe depression and psychosis and then quickly “recovering” by withdrawing from drugs and other means, I am extremely sceptical of all of these labels.

  6. My hope is that the new interest in “personal” and “personalized” medicine will help conventional medicine transition to Functional Medicine, where many forward-thinking practitioners are gaining market share.

    Functional medicine assesses where people are at baseline and where they want to go. It is person-centered and function-enhancing in nature, rather than looking to “repair” something “broken.”

    Ancient knowledge has worked from this basis for thousands of years. Yoga and tai chi developed from this outlook, as did Traditional Chinese Medicine and the use of herbs and food to help people improve function.

    I do think it might work better to speak of the details of how and why people die sooner if they take medications. There is increasing attention on the death rate from medications properly taken or over-dosed with outside what calls itself mental-health as well as inside.

    I even heard an M.D. on NPR saying he would not go in hospital or want anyone in his family/friend community in hospital without a hospitalist, who is a person charged with seeing that best practice happens for patients.

    If we change to Functional Medicine and its emphasis on the individual person, we may get over some current issues.

    • I think that the statistic is that at least 100,000 people in the United States die each year from the medications prescribed to them and problems that result.

      After working in hospital settings for 15 years as a medical hospital/nursing home chaplain I agree totally with the doctor on NPR who said that he wouldn’t allow a member of his family in a hospital without a hospitalist being there to watch over what’s done, or not done. If you go into the hospital and you have difficulties speaking for yourself and demanding attention, you are in bad trouble. Everyone needs a family member or friend to actually stay with them 24 hours a day to make sure that they’re taken care of properly. People seem to fail to realize that mistakes are made constantly in hospitals, from the doctors right on down to the people transporting you from one place to another. People who work in the discipline of Medicine make mistakes, plain and simple. They’re human. Society has a very unrealistic viewpoint of all of this.

      Also, the service given to patients in hospitals has become less than adequate in many respects. People needing help can stay on the call light for an hour before anyone shows up from the nursing station to see what’s wrong. I was in the Medical Intensive Care Unit as a patient. I was hooked up to heart monitors and all kinds of other monitors. I pressed the call button time after time with no result so I took off all the leads connecting me to the monitors and someone was in there in an instant! I’ve watched nurses reach over and switch off a patient’s call light with no intention of going to see what was needed. They just couldn’t be bothered or they were tied up in paperwork. Hospitals are not as safe as the general public thinks they are. We need hospitals and their staffs but we also need to be more realisitc about what does and does not take place in them.

      • Stephen,

        This is to thank you for your many great, passionate, empathetic posts from an insider’s perspective about those trapped in the mental death system and/or harmed by medicine in general.

        Your understanding about the horrific Nazi eugenics agenda that continues today is also very insightful and very useful as a wakeup call.

        This is just to let you know that I truly value your many comments of brave honesty, wisdom, moral outrage and compassion for those suffering from the predatory biopsychiatry therapeutic state deadly agenda.

        I think that those trapped in the place that you work are fortunate to have you there in that I believe that even if your hands are tied in many ways as was/is the case with your own situation, at least you won’t sadistically use the vulnerability of the so called patients to inflict some sadistic abuse like some of the warped personalities in this field. Just sharing a smile, compassion, understanding, whatever listening/validation you can do would seem to be very helpful especially since you’ve been there.

        Thanks for your great information and passion on these issues.

      • Remember, though, that most of the deaths due to medical intervention are NOT due to “mistakes.” They are mostly due to the adverse effects of properly prescribed and properly administered medication.

        — Steve

        From the AHRP website:

        “The findings by Barbara Starfield, MD, of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health:

        12,000 deaths from unnecessary surgeries;
        7,000 deaths from medication errors in hospitals;
        20,000 deaths from other errors in hospitals;
        80,000 deaths from infections acquired in hospitals;
        106,000 deaths from FDA-approved correctly prescribed medicines.

        The total estimated number of deaths caused by medical treatment in the US every year is 225,000.

        Thus, the US medical system is the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer.”

  7. ‘…psychiatry (is) a pseudoscience, unworthy of inclusion in the Medical Kingdom.’ AMEN!

    I have yet to read the book, but I do remember the 1982 animated movie ‘THE SECRETS OF NIMH’ directed by Don Bluth, who was later based here in Ireland. He changed Mrs. Frisby’s name to ‘Mrs. Brisby’ so viewers would not get her mixed up with a certain type of plastic throwing disc! He also made her a mouse instead of a badger. Dam! (Sorry, the Devil made me do it.)

    Many thanks, Nancy. John

    • John,

      Your barb at me for saying “supposed Survivor” had nothing to do with one’s physical state of being alive or not as you sarcastically implied.

      What I meant to imply was that in my own best of all possible worlds, Survivors of biopsychiatry would be against more predation by what you yourself call a “pseudoscience, unworthy of inclusion in the Medical Kingdom.” Or at least you agreed with the quotation. Survivors have tried to request that other survivors put offensive terms like “mental illness” or “bipolar” in quotes at least so that we are not recognizing these evil, fascist, bogus terms as anything real or medical.

      As I told Hermes above, I was not sure of his position, so that’s why I asked him about it.

      Do you always try to grab the ear of a mad dog in various fights when you aren’t involved? Or something like that as the saying goes. HA HA

      • Like beauty, barbs and sarcasm are sometimes in the eye of the beholder, Donna. What you implied was that Hermes and others are not real survivors, which is quite offensive and a lot worse than what I humorously suggested.

        I’m not certain what your last paragraph is intended to mean, but the debate on psychological terminology and the use of inverted commas is something in which I am very much involved.


        • John,

          Again, I think it was unwise of you to get involved in this since it didn’t involve you. If I recall, it seemed I communicated with you on another post and had a good experience. I seem to recall being quite impressed with you as a pretty nice person with a lot of good input.

          I have also had some very positive encounters with Hermes, so I was disappointed with the way he cited such terms as bipolar and told him so.

          When I spoke of “so called survivors” it was not meant as an insult at all, but rather, the idea that I may be assuming too much by using the term “survivors” or any expectation one might have of them. This has just been an impression I’ve gotten from many that think terms many of us find very offensive like bogus “bipolar” and other stigmas should be in quotations like “mental illness.” Since I’ve been impressed with a lot of Hermes’ posts, I was disappointed that he treated these terms as real and questioned him about it. I was glad to be reassured by Hermes that he is probably as much against these stigmas as I am, so I’m glad I asked him rather than making wrong assumptions.

          Perhaps you would be wise not to make assumptions about me either. Obviously, none of us can force our views on others, but rather, try to clarify others’ positions and maybe try to influence others as much as we can if we feel others’ positions are harmful to themselves and others.

          As one song goes, “So put me in jail without bail, bread and water from an old tin pale….” for my supposed great crimes you criticized.

          • You are not the first person to judge something I’ve said as unwise, Donna. But if I accepted such judgments and avoided doing what some people think is unwise I would not be commenting here.

            As for assumptions, you assumed I was a pretty nice person on the basis of a few comments I made. You are of course entitled to your assumptions, but I could be an ax murderer for all you know.

            I am again uncertain what your last paragraph means, but I have not accused you of any crime, great or otherwise. I do not consider giving offense to be a crime.

            Thanks for your clarification. John

          • John,

            Thanks for warning me about not making assumptions about seemingly nice people having the potential to be ax murderers. Such clarification is very helpful.

            I don’t consider your giving offense a crime either.

  8. Nancy,

    I thought this was a superb article and I was motivated to find and read the article you cited by Gary Greenberg and now I want to read the book as well. As you point out, “the rats of NIMH” has many connotations regarding the “brave new world” of “1984,” “animal farm” and “lord of the flies combined.”

    I wouldn’t change a thing about your article because there are many more ways to destroy/murder somebody than physical ones. For example, there are many books that describe the type of “soul murder” perpetrated by typical emotional/psychological abusers of whom the mental death profession is chief.

    I cited some links to Dr. Loren Mosher’s web site in other posts whereby he demonstrates that a great deal of the destruction of people stigmatized with schizophrenia or bipolar is the destruction of their place in society, ostracism, robbery of one’s ability to have or continue a career and creating permanent physical and mental problems out of a temporary crisis that could have been contained and healed in a humane way rather than biopsychiatry’s demolition enterprise on countless lives. So, in my opinion part the murder perpetrated by biopsychiatry is their whole horrific predatory agenda of creating permanent “patients” with life destroying stigmas to push their lethal drugs and other brain damaging tortures on their victims trapped in their webs of deceit for what the mental death profession dictates will be their miserable, drugged, controlled shortened lives with much poison drug/ECT induced brain and other organ damage. Given this scenario, I am sure many of the early deaths are caused by suicide after one is totally betrayed and invalidated into a life that is no longer worth living when seeking their so called help

  9. There is no wrong ways to be an activist. There are no wrong words when righting a wrong. The most important thing is finding the courage and the will to put yourself out there. If the 10s of thousands of people that have escaped their ‘care’ and made a full recovery would begin to weigh in. Our reality would change dramatically and perhaps even within our lifetime.

    Gods Speed
    Wendy Dixon

  10. The 25 year shorter life span is specifically with respect to people diagnosed with serious mental illness in the public mental health system. It comes from the study, “Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness,” by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, October 2006, which is posted in its entirety at

    In contrast to this, I understand Dr. David Healy compared the outcomes for people diagnosed with serious mental illness around 1900 (before the drugs) and in the modern era (with the drugs) and found that back then they had normal life spans. Healy D, Savage M, Michael P. Harris M, Cattell D, Carter M, McMonagle T, Sohler N, Susser E (2001). Psychiatric service utilisation: 1896 & 1996 compared. Psychological Medicine 31, 779-790. I thought I had this last article, but can’t find it.

    There is no question in my mind that almost all, if not all, of the cause of this early death is the drugs.

    • From that PDF linked to by Jim…

      ‘II. Executive Summary
      A. Overview—The Problem

      People with serious mental illness (SMI) die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population. State studies document recent increases in death rates over those previously reported.

      This is a serious public health problem for the people served by our state mental health systems. While suicide and injury account for about 30-40% of excess mortality, 60% of premature deaths in persons with schizophrenia are due to medical conditions such as cardiovascular, pulmonary and infectious diseases.’

      – On average 25 isn’t ‘at least’ 25, on average isn’t ‘anyone’.

      The original contested claim from the op-ed is:

      ‘force chemical compliance which has been documented to shave at least 25 years off the lifespan of anyone who is captured.’

      That’s clearly an over the top interpretation of the facts.

    • The 25 years figure may very well be correct, Jim, but both your citations have problems. The NASMHPD PDF’s references to drugs are highlighted in yellow, but are few and far between, and not strongly emphasized by the overall article, which, for example, states immediately under the first yellow-highlighted passage:-

      ‘Their increased morbidity and mortality are largely due to treatable medical conditions that are caused by modifiable risk factors such as smoking, obesity, substance abuse, and inadequate access to medical care.’

      My compatriot Dr. David Healy is a regular here on M.I.A. but his support of ECT and condemnation of talking therapies have always undermined whatever he says about drugs for me. No doubt there are better sources.

      Thanks, Jim. John

      • One should consider that the sponsor of this study is totally invested in the current treatment paradigm and did everything they could to explain away the findings from the drugs. The reality is that this shortened lifespan was not seen before the drugs. “But for” the drugs, to use the legal criteria for causation, we wouldn’t be seeing this decreased lifespan.

        • Good points, Jim. I am to some extent acting as Devil’s advocate in this.

          There is a great old proverb which warns there are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics. I’ve long been skeptical of statistical studies, even when they seem to support something I agree with. I see statistical studies as the modern successor to Holy Scriptures, and used and abused in similar ways.

          I’ve even invented what I rather grandly call ‘Shea’s Law’ which states that ‘For every statistical study that seems to prove something there is or soon will be an equal and opposite statistical study that seems to disprove it.’ Put too much faith in numbers and we can end up knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing, as another old proverb puts it.

          That said, such studies can be useful as evidence, but circumstantial rather than conclusive, in the popular sense of those words. If we wish to CONVICT (in the court of public opinion) psych drugs of reducing people’s lifespan by 25% we really need a study that compares a large population of drugged people with a similar population of never-drugged people with similar ‘diagnoses’. Both groups also need to be contemporaries in time and place. I know of no such study. The problem, of course, lies with the second group. Where do you get a large number of ‘diagnosed’ but never drugged people today? Psychiatry’s critics sometimes suggest Finland, its defenders India, neither very convincingly.

          But this 25% debate, though important, does not detract from the overall metaphorical power of Nancy’s article. And metaphor and symbolism are more important than statistics.

          Thanks to all, particularly Nancy, Robert C. O’Brien and Mrs. Frisby/Brisby! John

        • Dr. David Healy has stressed in all of his articles exposing the fraud and junk science behind Big Pharma and biopsychiatry that “doubt is their product.” Here is a book by that title about how this great ploy has been used:

          I think the toxic drugs alone are lethal, but I think there are many other horrors of having one’s life destroyed with bogus stigmas to push lethal drugs by a very corrupt profession in bed with Big Pharma/business/politicians that make up the deadly, dangerous, horrific fascist therapeutic state. As I said above, per Dr. Loren Mosher’s web site on schizophrenia/psychosis now converted to the latest bipolar fad fraud, it is the complete demolition enterprise by biopsychiatry against the lives of those they stigmatize and poison that is so very deadly and life threatening/shortening/infuriating/despicable for what would mostly be a short term crisis. Thus, the person’s social network, job/career potential, family and other relations and all levels of health and higher aspirations are COMPLETELY destroyed by the mental death profession and their evil, fraudulent, invalid life destroying stigmas and predatory agenda to foster only themselves and their destructive careers in the guise of health at the gross sacrifice of young lives for the most part. One has to be totally lacking in conscience to engage in such crimes against our youth and humanity a la Joseph Biederman and cohorts in my opinion.

          When I think of the mental death profession as robbing about 25 years off the lives of adults they stigmatize and drug, I don’t see the whole toxic effect coming just from drugs, but rather, the whole evil, contemptuous, psychopathic viciousness and lying that goes into each and every disgusting, dishonest DSM stigma slapped on each victim so the fraud psychiatrist can profit from their victims’ suffering and trauma they deliberately make far worse to deny the target’s reality, invalidate them, retraumatize them and other crimes to perpetrate more crazy making behavior or gas lighting similar to what the victim has been forced to tolerate all along. Such massive betrayal by those in the so called helping and legal professions results in what experts like Dr. Janov-Bultmann call Shattered Assumptions whereby the targets of such vile soul murder must completely reinvent their entire schema and world view to incorporate the massive evil they have witnessed that has to be included there now.

          So, though the lethal cocktails of poison drugs, stigma, harassment, contempt, abuse, insult, lies and other crimes by psychiatry against their targets cause massive health problems, many other factors also caused by this “spoiled identity” process inflicted by psychiatric criminals can contribute to hatred at such injustice, a struggle to overcome feelings of rage and helplessness and other negative feelings that can contribute to great stress, heart attacks, strokes along with the toxic effects of the poison drugs. But, when all is said and done, the mental death profession is the major cause of the early deaths of those unfortunate enough to be their targets/scapegoats/guinea pigs by inflicting massive, unescapable huge stress, irrevocable evil, harm and injustice and a high unlikelihood that their targets will be able to refrain from harmful coping mechanisms like smoking, compulsive eating and others adopted to cope with previous abusers they thought they were escaping when they walked into psychiatry’s deadly web of deceit and destruction, which was the most dangerous thing they could have done per Dr. Peter Breggin’s Toxic Psychiatry. Thus, the victims soon learn the motto of biopsychiatry’s captive victims: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” as with Dante’s victims entering his inferno or hell.

          So, I don’t think it is just the lethal drugs that kill; it is bogus biopsychiatry that kills with its evil lies, violence, massive human rights violations and fascist, psychopathic global elite agenda to enslave, exploit, rob, poison and destroy the majority of people in their now despicable, deplorable and even laughable mask of sanity/medicine or mental health for anyone able to do the least amount of research and engage their common sense.

          • People running the system where I live accept the fact that people are dying earlier than would probably be normal but they bypass the drug issues completely and blame things like smoking and drinking and people not taking care of themselves. The possibility of the drugs having some part to play in all of this is never, absolutely never, mentioned. If you even suggest that the drugs should be investigated as having a hand in what’s happening you get attacked as being someone who doesn’t care about “these poor people who are mentally ill,” and who must be taken care of “for their own good,” since they obviously don’t know how to take care of themselves or how to make good decisions.

            I would say that some of the problem stems from the fact that people are expected to live on SSI or SSDI when in fact all a person can really do is exist and survive. They often live on foods from food banks and, not knocking food banks, but you get a lot of carbs from those foods and little fresh fruits or vegetables or meat. Poor nutrition is going to lead to more problems with health.

            People end up in substandard housing in bad areas where people attack and pick on them because they’re perceived to be different or “crazy.” People hurt them emotionally and physically and when they fight back and the police are called the person with the supposed “mental health issues” are the ones carted off to jail, and then they’re brought to the state hospital where I work and they receive their massive doses of their “medications” which they so badly need.

            Poor nutrition, poor housing in dangerous areas, ending up in jail, having to start over each time they come out of the hospital, ending up on the street, and the drugs; all of this plays a part in why our lives are cut short sooner than they should be. Again, it’s a complex issue with lots of parts to trace down and evaluate.

            Frankly, I’m not going to quibble about the “25 year” figure. I believe that even one year cut off a person’s life due to the so-called “treatment” that they receive at the hands of the so-called “mental health system” plus the the events that result from such treatment is one year too much. The fact is that people are dying from “treatment plus living conditions.” One year is too much. Why are we quibbling about the number of years when the fact is that we’re dying when we souldn’t be?

    • I haven’t read that paper from Healy, but Healy himself posted these things in MiA quite recently:

      La Reine Margot: Data Access, Ghostwriting, Suicide and Mad Reviewers

      “Patients with psychosis, just as they were 100 years ago, are now 4 times more likely to be dead after 5 years of treatment than the rest of us. Patients with schizophrenia are 11 times more likely to be dead – this is much worse than 100 years ago.”

      Mortality in schizophrenia and related psychoses: data from two cohorts, 1875–1924 and 1994–2010

      “We found a 10-year survival probability of 75% in the historical cohort and a 90% survival probability in the contemporary cohort with a fourfold increase in standardised death rates in schizophrenia and related psychoses in both historical and contemporary periods. Suicide is the commonest cause of death in schizophrenia in the contemporary period (SMR 35), while tuberculosis was the commonest cause historically (SMR 9). In the contemporary data, deaths from cardiovascular causes arise in the elderly and deaths from suicide in the young.”

      The causes of death in people diagnosed with schizophrenia or related psychosis between these time periods vary, but here even Healy is not saying this group of persons had a normal life span in the historical period.

      • Hermes — I think the high death rate Healy found among the patients of the Denbigh Asylum 100 years ago was not due to psychosis, as a disease or a risk factor. It was due to TB, and that’s because every group of people confined to crowded institutions in the 19th century had a high risk of TB. It was as true for prisoners and people in “the poorhouse” as it was for people in mental hospitals. Psychosis itself did not raise your risk of getting TB. Being locked up did — especially in crowded quarters, especially if food & sanitation were not the best.

        So in both eras, a “psych patient” had a higher risk of dying before their time. At least back then it was for reasons that were “incidental” to your treatment — now it’s for reasons that are inextricably entwined with your treatment.

    • I doubt there is an article by Healy that documents the claims you report. I tried a Google search for those authors and year of publication, and found only the article “Psychiatric bed utilization: 1896 and 1996 compared” which is not about mortality.

      Meanwhile, people on MIA should be aware that this issue is murky enough that there are even people making the claim, supported by at least some evidence, that antipsychotics used moderately reduce mortality, see

      John Read is a person critical of treatment as usual: he was a co-author of a review that found some role for antipsychotics in increasing mortality, but certainly not responsible for even most of it: see

      I think the argument against antipsychotics should be that they have three strikes against them: they are often subjectively experienced as oppressive, they have negative effects on physical health and mortality, and their continued use reduces the likelihood of recovery in the long term. I think we can argue all that based on science, we don’t need to make dramatic claims which we can’t back up with science.

      • Ron,

        I find your continued use of the term “drama” to be condescending. The blog author addressed this earlier in the thread and you continue to ignore her response.

        I agree with Nancy. I think some passion would go a long way in our effort to replace this broken (shattered) system. It seems that we’ve tried many things (including a calm presentation of facts) that have gotten us nowhere.


          • Hermes,

            A person can be both crystal-clear and passionate.

            Dr. Peter Breggin has plenty of science to back up his claims that psychiatric drugs are *brain disabling* and that ECT is similar to a brain concussion.

            I feel like those of us who feel some passion are being lectured to. If the cool, calm and collected approach works so well, why has there been very little change in the system as we know it?

            The blog author raises some good points. IMO, she has been ignored.


        • Duane, I strongly support being dramatic in ways which are consistent with the facts. (After all, I worked with David Oaks on various dramatic protests over the years.) What I oppose is exaggerating the facts in order to increase how dramatic we are: and I oppose that specifically because our issue is too important for us to be discrediting ourselves with such exaggeration.

          • Then, it seems you should say you are against “exaggeration” not “drama”…

            This is an especially hard word to read, as it pertains to the writing of a woman in this case. For years, psychiatry has claimed women should not be so “hysterical.”

            I found it condescending.
            I still do, because you continue to use the word!


          • And I’m hardly “politically correct”!


            IMO, a person can have some *legitimate* passion on an issue, wityhout being “dramatic.”

            The term dramatic infers that someone is being “overly” passionate, “too” sensitive…


      • Try this one:

        Service utilization in 1896 and 1996: Morbidity and mortality data from North Wales

        “Death as a direct consequence of mental illness is commoner now than 100 years ago.”

        Healy & Co. conclude that those who died within 5 years of their hospitalization in 1896 usually died of TB, which was not directly related to either their illness or their treatment (although it was related to being confined to a crowded institution). Those who died within 5 years of hospitalization in 1996 usually died by suicide, and this appears to be related to the medications used today.

  11. RE: death rates, premature mortality and loss of years of life

    This is a paper that is often referenced when discussing premature mortality and death rates and years of life lost, as it was the first one to look at several US states. WARNING: Please note that I am using their terms where I discuss their paper. I also quote from the article a lot.

    Congruencies in Increased Mortality Rates, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Causes of Death Among Public Mental Health Clients in Eight States
    Craig W Colton and Ronald W Manderscheid
    Prev Chronic Dis. 2006 April; 3(2): A42.
    Published online 2006 March 15.

    The study and paper in 2006 by Colton and Manderscheid was the one that found a loss of years of life for people in the public mental health system, with a larger loss for people with major mental illness or MMI (schizophrenia, major depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, delusional and psychotic disorders, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders). The data used in this analysis are from eight states (Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia), out of the Sixteen-State Pilot Project funded by SAMHSA. Data was from 1997 to 2000.

    The authors looked at each state, comparing the death rates (standardized) for people in the public MH system with the death rates for all other people in the state. A person using the MH system even one time was included in this data.

    Results: Each state always had HIGHER death rates for people in the public MH system compared with the death rates of the rest of the state’s population. People with MMI had higher death rates than those without MMI in the same state MH system. Rates were also different in different years in the same state. In general, the people in the public MH system had a 2x higher rate of mortality compared to the state’s population (from low of 1.6 x to high of 4.9 x the general population in different states in different years).

    In terms of years of potential life lost, “Clients with MMI diagnoses died at younger ages than clients with non-MMI diagnoses in 14 out of 16 comparisons made for the six states providing data”. “Deceased public mental health clients had lost decades of potential years of life; averages varied from 13 to more than 30 years depending on the state and year”. One state (VA) only submitted data for in-patients and these death rates were lower than the other states. “Public mental health clients died at younger ages than their cohorts. Clients’ average death ages ranged from 49 to 60 in six of the seven states; Virginia public mental health clients who were in state psychiatric hospitals had higher mean ages in the 70s at time of death than the clients in the six other states. Male public mental health clients died at younger mean ages than their female counterparts, except in Virginia during 2000 (Table 2)”.

    Conclusions: “Most public mental health clients in all of the states died of natural causes and at younger ages than the general populations of their states. Leading causes of death for most public mental health clients were similar to those of individuals throughout the United States and in state general populations, especially heart disease, cancer, and cerebrovascular, respiratory, and lung diseases. People with mental illness have medical problems that lead to death, especially if they have inadequate medical treatment.” The explanations given in this paper were: “Researchers have studied the health risks of individuals with mental illness. Compared with other populations, people with mental illness have a higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors, including smoking, overweight and obesity, lack of moderate exercise, harmful levels of alcohol consumption, excessive salt intake, and poor diet (6,28). Lack of emotional support and social networks, lower socioeconomic status, and substance abuse are described as risk factors that affect mortality in people with serious mental illness (29). According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, people with psychiatric disorders have higher rates of medical illnesses, but they often do not seek needed medical care (30). Lifestyle, social consequences of mental illness, and difficulties in accessing health care are factors related to managing physical illness in those with mental illness (31). Lifestyle factors include long-term use of antipsychotic medication and sexual practices. Social consequences of mental illness include poverty, unemployment, poor housing, stigma, and low self-esteem. Difficulties accessing health care include doctors’ focus on mental illness and not physical health, erratic compliance with health screening and treatment, and poor communication. ”

    Solutions: “If primary care and mental health professionals pay attention to the physical ramifications of mental illness, the physical health of people with serious mental illness can be improved (32). Improved intervention practices could include engaging clients in preventive care, diagnosis, and management of serious physical illnesses and additional training for mental and physical health professionals to encourage communication about patient care.” Another recommendation is always RESEARCH: “Research to track mortality and primary care among mental health clients should be increased to provide information for additional action and treatment modification. More research about diagnosis-specific risk and evidence-based practices should be developed. Awareness among clients and providers of mental health services and primary care should be increased. Best evidence-based practices for the prevention and diagnosis of medical conditions among people with mental illness should be developed. Mental health clients should receive regular primary health care by a physician to monitor their physical health. Finally, the recommendation from the World Health Organization to integrate mental health care and primary health care should be followed (37). At the least, mental health care and physical health care should be better linked within health care delivery systems.”

    My views: I would say that this article is the template for discussions of premature deaths and loss of years of life generally found in the psych and public health worldview and literature to this day. The facts are there for researchers and clinicians. The discussions then go on to list many possible reasons for these facts. Some of the reasons may be true in some cases or contexts some of the time, some are clearly invalid as presented, some make assumptions that are biased or ignorant, some are due to unacknowledged effects of drugs, even metabolic effects of drugs are mentioned but not really grasped as a priority area to understand. But they cannot see past the assumptions they hold and the training that they have had about us and our issues (as viewed and studied and discussed by them) and how to fix us by doing more things to us.

    Basically, they see the answer in better training, more medical care and screening, Tx for diabetes, etc., but with no understanding or mention of the problems of Dx, coercion, drugs and polypharmacy, industry practices, etc. There is little interest in poverty or meaningful lives. The interpretations always go back to blaming our lifestyles and our refusal to fully engage in their systems of *MI and medical care. They don’t talk about genes here, but most articles of this type include the *facts about genes.

    The only good thing here is that it provided evidence that the usual reasons given for our deaths (suicide and homicide and accidental deaths) were not the main causes. However, the ramifications of this are not good, as I mention later on.

    I recently participated in a webinar of several groups who were running an “integrated MH-medical system”, which is supposed to be the wave of the future to make us live longer, and it was so coercive: lots of databases for every visit and dx, and linkages to all kinds of *Tx and *follow-up, and make sure we take our metformin and antichlonergic drugs and do our diabetes screens and take stop-smoking drugs, and so on. I guess they will force us to go to exercise class too! Or monitor our food purchases (without SNAP food stamps I guess). Solutions are so medical and mechanistic, and always include drugs and compliance. Social contexts are missing. Premature mortality and loss of life is seen as a completely medicalized problem to be addressed within the medical system.

    I hope that I have not offended anyone by copying and pasting a lot of the nonsense that passes for science in this field.

  12. And if it turns out, after we go through all the research, that the human lifespan is “only” reduced by 15 years (not 25), let’s all remain calm, and keep doing what we’re doing to change all of this mess.

    And, please, let’s not bring up a reduction in the quality of life by mentioning the impact drugs and ECT have on the emotional and spiritual parts of someone’s life, and the “death” this causes. That will seem too “dramatic.”


  13. Wow, this discussion sure went a long way off from Nancy’s excellent article. I will resist the temptation to take us even further away, and just say that I think we should all resist the temptation to attack one another when we have disagreements that aren’t over important principles. I’ve certainly been guilty of that myself, but that doesn’t make it right.

    Also, I do have to say that the various discussions here have been interesting, but I wonder if the “Forums” section on MIA could be used for this. I was excited when the forums section first appeared, but it seems hardly anyone is using it. I have a few points I would like to make that I don’t think call for a whole article, but right now it seems like anything I post in the Forums would hardly be read. I wonder if there is some way to get people to use this section more.

    • I think it was an important point; it should have read something like “at least 25 years, on average, off the lifespan of anyone who is captured.” In the moment I opted to refrain from suggesting the change, thinking that an op-ed has a certain degree more leeway.

      I’m not sure whether I’m sorry; the discussion and the points made were worthwhile. Though in retrospect I wish I’d at least checked in with Nancy about the point. I agree with Ron that, though it’s a small difference, it’s an important one that goes to credibility.

      I also understood Ron’s comment to be (at least in part) that we have to acknowledge that not all the problems people experienced can be attributed to the drugs themselves. I think it’s important point in that failing to acknowledge the reality of struggle and suffering as part of life is to perpetuate an aspect of the problem that leads to an overly “medical” approach; the idea that struggle and suffering, if they exist, must be attributable to an aberration or a disease, and therefore must also be eradicable.

      I think that the call to “destigmatize” illness is actually, inadvertently, stigmatizing of humanness, with all its frailties. What we might seek, instead, to destigmatize is suffering and struggle; that they should be reclaimed as part of the human experience, not signs of aberration or disease and, though they might be helped to some degree by the medical arts, should not be allowed to fall wholly under their aegis.

      I think that the kindest thing is to say; yes, life is hard, and it sometimes hurts, but the struggle is worth it, and sometimes the extent of the struggle and even of the pain is commensurate with the feeling of reward and satisfaction that comes with facing it straight on. Among the greatest losses are the missed opportunities that come with the hope of short-cuts and quick-fixes. At least that’s what we’ve always told our children. Or did, until we started giving them diagnoses instead.

      • Very well stated.

        I used to be a teacher but got out of the profession as I watched parents over the years begin making excuses for their kids, rather than helping their kids deal with adversity. Rather than showing them that it can be overcome, and that the triumph comes only with great heartache and great hardship, they jumped to quick fixes and making excuses. Quick fixes and making excuses so people no longer have to be responsible for their decisions and actions is going to be the death of more than just people caught in the “mental health” system.

        What is happening to people caught in the so-called “mental health system” must be looked at in the much broader context of society in general. I think that we want to jump at and grab easy solutions for all of this when in reality it’s a lot more complicated than most of us want to admit. As I’ve stated before, people dying even one year earlier than they should isn’t acceptable. But we must also be able to admit that it’s not just the toxic drugs causing the problem. To deny this is like the people running the “mental health system” who refuse to look at the drugs as contributors to the problem and who blame only lifestyles.

  14. Hello Nancy,

    Thank you so much for this post. I loved your closing passage:

    “In the world of surviving psychiatry, ‘The Rats of NIMH’ is an allegory for a group of people despised as diseased rodents who are becoming resilient survivors capable of making a more compassionate and sustainable society for all. Badgers included.”

    This message of inclusion and positivity and hope, in the face of great… well… evil, is exactly the right one to send, in my opinion.

    Thank you again for a wonderful post!

    In solidarity,