Moving ‘Beyond the Medical Model’: HELP WANTED

Sera DavidowLaura DelanoSean Donovan
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In February, the blog entitled, ‘A New Film Called ‘Beyond the Medical Model’ announced the impending release of the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community’s first full-length film. 

The 67-minute film promises to examine the impact of a blindly ‘one-modeled’ system that “has been written so inextricably into our law and language that it has become difficult for many to even hear the evidence supporting a much broader take on what we so often call ‘mental illness.’”

It features many voices including Jacqui Dillon, Will Hall, Gail Hornstein, Daniel Mackler, Ruta Mazelis, Maria Tarajano Rodman, Richard Shulman and Robert Whitaker and ultimately seeks to counter the status quo ‘medical model’ belief system with the many very different and very real stories around us.

Although there were many bumps and learning curves leading up to the final product, the DVD is now readily available and has been screened and used as a training tool in several places including – most recently – the National Association for Rights Protection & Advocacy’s (NARPA) annual conference in Connecticut last month.  Two screenings with special guest, Robert Whitaker, are also set for Springfield and Framingham, Massachusetts in November (click here for more info!), and a tentative screening is planned at the Alternatives Conference in Austin, Texas in December. 

But, now comes the moving ‘Beyond,’ part.  There is a real hunger for these sorts of films, and why?   Because there is a different story to tell; because there are different voices to be heard; because there is so much pain and hurt gone ignored. 

This summer, Sera Davidow, Laura Delano, Sean Donovan and Caroline White began a collaborative process with many others from the Western Mass RLC and beyond to develop two new films (not yet titled) focusing particularly on the topic of psychiatric drugs. 

And that’s where YOU come in.

We are looking for *anyone* who has ever been told, “You NEED to take these medications,” to speak up and be heard. 

We’re looking for as many ‘home video’-style film clips as we can get from people willing to share a bit about their experience of being told they needed to take psychotropic medications for life.  We are particularly looking for clips from people who have successfully withdrawn from all or most psychiatric medications.

So, if you’re willing, here’s what we’re asking:

1.     Take a video of yourself on any device you have available.  Cameras, cell phones, web cams, video cameras… it’s all good!  Don’t worry about the quality as long as we can hear you well and without a lot of background noise!  If you don’t want to be fully visible, feel free to hide your identity in creative ways so long as the video is still useable.  (One suggestion for anyone wanting to remain anonymous would be to write your answers on poster board and hold it in front of your face!)*

2.     At the start of your video, please state that you are giving the Western Mass RLC permission to use your clip in the upcoming films on medication and in any related media (clips on Youtube, a trailer, etc.). 

3.     If you’re comfortable doing so, please also state what part of the world you’re in (nothing too specific… just the country!)

4.     Then, answer some or all of the following questions:

 a.  Were you ever told you need to be on medications for life?  (Don’t just say yes or no!  Please be sure to re-state the question in your answer… for example, “Yes, I was told I needed to be on medication for the rest of my life.”)

b.  Who told you that?  (E.g., doctor, nurse, family member, therapist, etc?)

c.  How old were you when you were told you needed to start taking meds?

d.  If you were under 18 at the time, did prescribers/clinicians talk directly to you or mostly to your parents?

e.  What psychiatric diagnosis were you given at that time?

f.  What other reasons did people give you for needing to stay on medications?

g.  Did it help?

h.  Were you given honest information about the risks?

i.  What negative effects did you experience?

j.  Have you withdrawn from some or all of the psych drugs they said you needed to take?

k.  How long did it take you to withdraw?

l.  What did you experience/feel while withdrawing?

m. How long have you been off of psychiatric drugs?

n.  How do you feel now?

o.  What would you like to say to the people who told you that you needed to take psychiatric drugs? 

5.    If possible, film your clip(s) in .mov (or quicktime) files (but we’ll work with anything we’re able to download and translate!)

6.     Use a file sending/sharing (like wetransfer.com) service to send us your clip.  (Click here for ideas and instructions on doing this, if you’re not sure!

7.     Send or share files to [email protected]       

*  Please note that we may not be able to use everything we are sent, depending on how much we receive, etc.  You do NOT need to get your answers perfect or answer all the questions in a row without pausing!  We’ll be editing and pulling out clips on our end! Unfortunately, it won’t be possible due to time limitations to review written stories for this film, so please be sure to stick with video clips! **

The timeline for completing this film is uncertain.  Interviews have already begun, but fundraising and substantial time will be necessary to bring the film to full fruition!  Film clips will be accepted at least through early 2014.

A few words from Sera, Laura, Sean, and Caroline:

Sera:  This isn’t really about eradicating all use of psychiatric drugs.  I heard Katherine Sharpe – author of ‘Coming of Age on Zoloft’ – speak not too long ago, and she had a really great perspective to offer on the use of psychotropics.  It went something like this:  Sure, psychiatric drugs have an effect, and some of it can be positive.  Just like coffee or any other mind-altering substance, these drugs have an effect.  If you decide that the good effects outweigh the bad or unintended effects, than take them.  But, let’s not kid ourselves anymore and keep claiming that we know exactly what they do or that they truly have a targeted and ‘corrective’ effect!

Ultimately, this is about the indisputably devastating effects of telling hundreds of thousands of people that they have no other choice for the rest of their life.  It’s about failing to offer true informed consent.  It’s about making the decision for people that they can’t handle the truth of hearing about the risks or that it’s better that they be on the meds, so “let’s just leave the scary stuff out.”  It’s about denying the bad outcomes, early deaths and permanent damage staring us in the face.  It’s about our children.  And, about our future. 

The only way real change will happen is if our voices get loud enough and our numbers get big enough that the balance simply tips.

Laura:   I am incredibly excited to be collaborating with the Western Mass RLC on this film project!  More than ever before—with at least one in five Americans on psychiatric drugs and comparable rates across much of the world—our collective human family is in dire need of both space to explore the idea of coming off psychiatric drugs, and access to the resources and supports to do so. 

I am not anti-psychiatric drug—what I am is pro-informed choice, which simply does not exist in the “mental health” system today.  Misinformation starts with the deceptive language used to describe these drugs—“medicines” and “medications”, “antidepressants” and “antipsychotics”, “treatment”— and continues with the fraud and bad science running rampant throughout the Pharmaceutical Industry and academic Psychiatry.  Additionally, most practicing psychiatrists do not offer patients and their families the full story about these “medications”, whether because they themselves are misinformed by industry-funded research, or because they so firmly and blindly believe in the efficacy of their “medical treatment” that they want to make sure their patients do, too. 

Never once did I make a truly informed choice about my “meds” during the time I was on them.  Nor did I have a solid understanding of how to come off of them when I finally discovered how much they were harming me.  I know that I am not alone with this experience, and it is for this reason that I am eager and honored to be working alongside the folks at the Western Mass RLC to bring these films to fruition.  Through the sharing of our collective voices, we can and will break apart the seemingly impenetrable shell of the medical model of “mental illness” and “life-long treatment” to let the light shine through.

Sean:  After starting to help draft ideas and film a couple interviews for this project, I started taking Lithium again, something I had been off for nine months and had struggled with taking for ten years.  During this coming off process I experienced a couple of moves, a breakup, starting a new job and family emergencies that piled on distress.  And, while off the drug, I had newfound energy to pour into my job, this project, my music and other things, I eventually hit a period of extreme states, depression, anxiety and often feeling suicidal. My decision to be back on Lithium(even temporarily) was a devastating one, but one that seemed a last but necessary resort.  But, this project is not anti-medication; it is about finding our own truths, our own voices and our own ways to thrive in the world.

I share this now to bring up some of the more existential and painful experiences that I’ve faced among countless others involving our country’s wide use of psych drugs.  Would I be seeking out this drug had I not been exposed to it, many SSRIs and other pharmaceuticals when I was an adolescent (when I was told that some of these drugs ’unmasked’ an underlying serious mental illness)?  Could these drugs themselves be responsible for creating such so-called imbalances?  Whether more or less informed, voluntarily or involuntarily medicated… would I, could I, be a different person without them?  While we are all more than the medications we take or have taken, they certainly leave their mark.

I see the stories we’re seeking to gather through this project as ways to reclaim some agency and empowerment about who we are, what drives us as human beings with emotions and dreams, and how we might find ways to connect with ourselves, each other and the world that had been previously drugged or beaten out of us.  And, I’m excited to be sharing this project and these words alongside those of three extraordinary people!”

cwhiteAnd introducing Caroline:  For the past 60 years, psychiatric drugs have placed limitations on our stories and defined human lives.  Together we can write a new script.  When looking back at my own childhood it is very difficult for me to remember a day where I did not wake to find a pill on a plate waiting for me with my cereal and lunch money. It is hard for me to remember milestones that were not linked to a med change.  I matured into a body that felt heavy and slow, like it was not my own, with hands that shook with tremors.  My emotions and visions, and those of thousands of others, were reduced to “chemical imbalances” and divorced from deeper meaning.  Now that I am free, after 18 years in this system, I experience a far richer life than the one I was told someone with my psychiatric diagnoses could expect.

As we share stories of this nature, it is about something far deeper than “pro” or “anti” drug messages.  We are stating the case for honoring the breadth and width of human experience.  Our stories allow us to step outside the corner we have backed ourselves into by defining human suffering, spirituality, diversity, etc. as a sum of our neurotransmitters and synaptic firings.  It sets us free to exist in all our complexity, as visionaries, empaths, voice-hearers, human beings that experience great highs and lows during the course of our lives.  I look forward to having many of these new conversations.

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Sera Davidow
Tangible Intangibilities: Sera writes here to share her thoughts on how the language we choose and our apparent need to concretize the inherently complex is leading to violations of rights and humanity on a daily basis.
Laura Delano
Journeying Back To Self: Laura Delano is an ex-mental patient who writes about her thirteen years of psychiatric indoctrination, how she woke up in 2010, and what it's been like to come off psychiatric drugs, leave the "mentally ill" identity behind, and rediscover an authentic connection to self and world.
Sean Donovan
Recounting Chimera: Sean writes about issues of civil rights, human rights, personal experiences and the madness created when founding myths of liberty, justice and freedom in the United States clash with the realities of his own life and those of many others, telling a very different story.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Of course, films like this are very valuable, and I’m glad you guys are making them. I can’t help out because my psychiatric incarceration was so long ago that the drugs did not exist yet. I am close in politics with the people I know in your group, and I strongly support what you are doing.

    But I’m disappointed that you will be interacting with the so-called Alternatives conference with your film. As I’m sure all of you know, SAMHSA tried to ban Bob Whitaker a couple of years ago from the conference because any discussion of the truth about psych drugs is not something they will fund.

    I am distressed that people who know better continue to attend the “Alternatives” conference and thus legitimize it. This conference was explicitly set up for the purpose of destroying the previous national conferences that we, not the mental illness system, controlled. It is not harmless to attend it. If those who really believe, like us, that we have to fight for our human rights stopped going to this fraud, it would make it a lot easier for our movement to go in the right direction. We can’t make progress if we accept SAMHSA’s concept that we are just a little powerless wrinkle in the mental illness system.

    Going back to the attempted ban on Bob Whitaker, it shouldn’t be lost on you that SAMHSA backed down when a large number of people threatened to boycott the conference. SAMHSA depends on the appearance of legitimacy here. Without that, there would be flak for them that would be very costly to their “enlightened” image.

    People who want us to be a human rights movement again should not be attending the SAMHSA conference.

  2. It creeps me out that every mental illness activist has to make the qualification up front that “I am not against the use of psychiatric drugs.” Why is it so bad to be against psychiatric behavior-control chemicals? Of course people who are addicted to these petrochemicals are going to be touchy about hearing that they have been lied to and tricked into consuming poisons that cause suicide and early death from the physiologic stress on every body system. Addicts don’t like being confronted with the truth, even when they are involuntary addicts.

    I have been watching people suffer and die from these chemicals for 20 years. Time to grow a pair and stop apologizing for fighting Big pHARMa and the Corporate-Industrial Medical System. These chemicals WILL kill you. Detox Now!

    It’s not my job to make people feel ok about poisoning themselves and it’s not my job to come up with “alternatives.” I just want to stop the damned holocaust.

    • I do resonate, Dragonfly, with your annoyance that a lot of people in this movement somehow seem to think they have to sound “moderate,” otherwise no one will take them seriously. The trouble with this is that if you just tell people whatever they already believe, they will never change. What is the point of that? Our movement is so isolated and unknown already. We aren’t here to be respectable. We’re here to change minds.

      Having said that, I’ll sort of contradict myself here. I guess my position on psych drugs is kind of like Bob Whitaker’s. Short term, they have some advantages. Long term, they are very destructive. Forced on people, they are an atrocity.

      As a patients’ rights advocate, doing many commitment hearings, I often saw people who didn’t have a chance to win their hearing the next day. With their permission, I would postpone the hearing for three days. When I talked to them again three days later, they often could talk sense and I could help them win their hearing. Of course, it would be much better if we had places like Soteria House, so people could go through their freakout without drugs and come out the other side a more together person. But we don’t have that yet. We have to fight for it, and in the meanwhile, at least the damn drugs help people get out of the psychiatric prisons.

      I agree too that people who continue to take the drugs more or less (mostly less) voluntarily shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it. They feel bad enough about themselves already.

  3. Sera, you and Ted have made some assumptions about me and my opinions based on your own values and projections. I am all for informed choice. When we actually have that I will shut up. I guess I need to be out here on the fringes shouting about the psychiatric holocaust, but we are on the same side.

    I am the kind of activist who burns her bra and her draft card. I march in the streets and carry signs in front of corporate boardrooms, and I sued Astra-Zeneca for giving me diabetes. I was arrested last spring for growing medical cannabis in my window. (I need the cannabis to relieve the system-wide damage that I sustained as a captive in the psychiatric ghetto who was used as a chemistry experiment by “doctors.”) I’m half-dead anyway after 20+ years on the behavior-control chemicals and I grieve every moment for my many friends who have died in front of my eyes as a result of psychiatric poisons, so I am willing to take risks. I don’t have a job in the mental illness system and I’m not trying to create alternatives so I don’t have to equivocate about the mass death that is being perpetrated against the one in three women who are being slowly euthanized by behavior-control chemicals and the one in ten kids who are killing themselves and their schoolmates on doctor-prescribed amphetamines.

    • It’s always interesting to me that it seems that no matter what the topic of conversation is, it almost always ends up coming back to these toxic drugs. They are poisons. Actually, I think that thorazine and haldol had their origins in chemicals used to dye synthetic material and from insecticides. What in the hell were they doing giving people drugs that were originated from these things? Just goes to show how much they didn’t and still don’t care about us. Some of the later so-called “antipsychotics” were developed from animal tranquilizers used to tranquilize large animals such as horses and cows. What in the hell are they doing giving people toxic drugs originating from animal tranquilizers?

      Anyway, enough of my digressions. I do work in the system and I am fighting for alternative treatments for people to be able to choose. It’s an overwhelming battle. I myself would have no problem with people taking these drugs if they were given true informed choice. There’s no such thing taking place in the hospital where I work.

      Obviously, I’m not privy to every conversation between the so-called “patients” and their wonderful psychiatrists. But, I have a pretty good idea of what does not go on when the toxic drugs are concerned, based on my own personal experience with the psychiatrist who supposedly “treated” me when I was a patient in the very hospital where I work. There was no informed oonsent at all; I was given only one bit of information about the one of the drugs I was made to take. I had to initiate that discussion myself since it wasn’t forthcoming from the psych.

      I also know what the so-called “patients” tell me about the concersations they have with their wonderful psychs about the toxic drugs. I question them about said conversations and they never are ever informed about what will happen to them because of the poisons that are forced on them. Our hospital has a large forensic unit and ALL of the so-called “patients” there are FORCED by the court system to ingest the toxic drugs. They are not informed about what will happen to them due to the effects of the toxic drugs.

      So, I have real problems when it comes to discussions about the toxic drugs. It would be fine to say that people can take them if they want but these people who are here at the mercy of the psychiatric staff are never informed about what will happen to them. When I was a patient on one of the units I used to have to listen to so-called “patients” beg their doctors right out in the hallway to at least change their wonderful “meds” because they couldn’t stand the effects of the ones that they were on. The psychs just marched on down the hallway as if they didn’t hear a thing being said.

      I’m with you Dragonfly. When so-called “patients” are given true informed consent about the toxic drugs then I will quit protesting the use of the damned things. Until then, I will still keep speaking out against their use, even if it may seem that I am speaking for everyone else and as if I know everything.

  4. I think I know what the hell I’m talking about and I don’t need to be nice about it so others don’t feel threatened. I know more about the drugs than the designers, sellers and prescribers of theses poisons because I have had every single one of them dumped into my body. I know the chemicals from the inside. I have been chemically raped from the inside of my cells.

    To Be a Mental Patient
    by Rae Unzicker (1948-2001)

    To be a mental patient is to be stigmatized, ostracized, socialized, patronized, psychiatrized.

    To be a mental patient is to have everyone controlling your life but you. You’re watched by your shrink, your social worker, your friends, your family. And then you’re diagnosed as paranoid.

    To be a mental patient is to live with the constant threat and possibility of being locked up at any time, for almost any reason.

    To be a mental patient is to live on $82 a month in food stamps, which won’t let you buy Kleenex to dry your tears. And to watch your shrink come back to his office from lunch, driving a Mercedes Benz.

    To be a mental patient is to take drugs that dull your mind, deaden your senses, make you jitter and drool and then you take more drugs to lessen the “side effects.”

    To be a mental patient is to apply for jobs and lie about the last few months or years, because you’ve been in the hospital, and then you don’t get the job anyway because you’re a mental patient. To be a mental patient is not to matter.

    To be a mental patient is never to be taken seriously.

    To be a mental patient is to be a resident of a ghetto, surrounded by other mental patients who are as scared and hungry and bored and broke as you are.

    To be a mental patient is to watch TV and see how violent and dangerous and dumb and incompetent and crazy you are.

    To be a mental patient is to be a statistic.

    To be a mental patient is to wear a label, and that label never goes away, a label that says little about what you are and even less about who you are.

    To be a mental patient is to never to say what you mean, but to sound like you mean what you say.

    To be a mental patient is to tell your psychiatrist he’s helping you, even if he is not.

    To be a mental patient is to act glad when you’re sad and calm when you’re mad, and to always be “appropriate.”

    To be a mental patient is to participate in stupid groups that call themselves therapy. Music isn’t music, its therapy; volleyball isn’t sport, it’s therapy; sewing is therapy; washing dishes is therapy. Even the air you breathe is therapy and that’s called “the milieu.”

    To be a mental patient is not to die, even if you want to — and not cry, and not hurt, and not be scared, and not be angry, and not be vulnerable, and not to laugh too loud — because, if you do, you only prove that you are a mental patient even if you are not.

    And so you become a no-thing, in a no-world, and you are not.

    Rae Unzicker © 1984

  5. Hello Sera, Laura, Sean and all the people of this website.

    First, sorry for my English level (I’m Spanish). Just tell you thanks for sharing information about antidepressants. My name is Anna, 37 years old and I’m near 2 years off paxil ( 10mg during 10 years) and withdrawal is here yet.
    This website is very helpful for me for understand what happen when I decided don’t take more antidepressants.

    Once more, thanks!!!

    Anna.

    For curiosity, does someone know the title of the song that is in video trailer of this page? I like it!!!

  6. First – I totally appreciate this film project. I think it will be invaluable to all sides of the debate about these drugs and their impact on individuals. Anytime we can put a face to an issue it becomes more personal and relatable.

    On the deeper topic of “informed consent” and the idea that by taking a firm position on these drugs and psychiatry….by not taking a position we are indeed taking a position that enables the use of these neurotoxins to continue to be a social norm.

    Granted – it will take many more years to even put a dent in the “chemical imbalance” lies that have convinced us as a society that we “need” these drugs. And – “informed consent” is a noble goal; one that is perhaps a first step to the awareness of the impact of the use of these drugs over the long term and the idea that we need them “for life” might be a misnomer.

    As for the idea that by taking a strong position against the use of these drugs is akin to being as the original oppressors who require that one take them – I’m not seeing it.

    What I am seeing is that by taking this neutral position we are enabling the misinformation and denial of the impact of these drugs to continue and even continue to flourish.

    Somewhere in this very wonderful thread of discussion, I believe Sera was comparing this to the idea of others who choose to use things to “cope” like processed/fast food that leads to obesity, overuse of alcohol that leads to health problems and addiction, cigarettes that lead to loss of health and life etc etc.

    And while I can appreciate that we don’t want to be shaming those who are still choosing to use these drugs or – who have been so harmed by them that they cannot get off them – no real societal change started happening in the realm of those others substances or issues until there was a public position taken on them.

    Some examples: that drinking liters of sugar filled soda pop was not healthy, making fast food a way of life was creating the obesity problem, over use and abuse of alcohol and nicotine were causing life problems and becoming a burden to American tax payers who end up footing the bill for peoples abuse of these substances.

    Since there has been a clear cut position taken the rate of obesity has started to decline and awareness campaigns started – just this year.

    Alcoholism went down only when it became less socially acceptable to have martini’s with lunch, wine with dinner and a highball before bed as was common in the past. And the use of tobacco started going down only when there was public education provided on the harm done by the use of these products. Even those who love their caffeine are becoming more conscious of just how much – is too much.

    Yet – these changes have not occurred because there was a movement to not offend those who are still abiding by the former view of these substances and behaviors as not having any consequence. Rather – there has been an acknowledgement that by providing awareness and educating ourselves on the issues that we are empowered to create change for ourselves.

    I do get that we don’t want to be offensive to those who still use the drugs yet are we not enabling the lies of the “chemical imbalance” to continue and that these drugs are harmful vs helpful by NOT taking a strong position? Is it not possible to educate and inform in a way that allows the truth to be told and informed consent to be had without continuing to perpetuate the lies that got us here to begin with? Are we not “lying by omission” when we withhold information that could free someone from the hold of psychiatry with this tempered version of the truth and these drugs on their lives? Doesn’t it seem a bit off that those of us who lost decades of life, families and physical health to this outdated paradigm have to temper our own stories in order to not “offend”?

    Just as we now have those who are obese defending their right to eat the way they want to with no thought for consequence, or the user of alcohol or tobacco to continue to use these substances stating “personal freedoms” – we can allow those who believe they need the drugs “for life” and want to use them to use them. We can even support those who became “accidental addicts” and are finding it difficult to get off the drugs. But by not taking a position of strength on the issues I do believe we are in fact enabling rather than empowering.

  7. Hi Sera; thanks for taking the time to post a reply to my (and others) comments. I can see how it would feel frustrating to have the discussion take a direction that you had not intended. I think that speaks to the depth of the issues being discussed here. Personally I was viewing the direction of this discussion as separate yet a distant part of the idea of the videos. My intention was never to be off topic but to respond to the discussion being had already. I missed the post above where you were trying to get the topic redirected and apologize for adding to this thread being off topic.

    As I stated earlier – I see this project as a huge step forward in sharing the message of the drugs being harmful and that we can find our way beyond them and “diagnosis”. I have complete respect and admiration for what you, Laura and Sean are doing with this project and can only imagine the application and impact it will have. With that – I have to thank you (all of you) for putting in the time, energy and effort to create this project. I know it will be amazing and even perhaps help to reach some of those who in the past had no hope for full “recovery” to find hope for something better.

    In peace and hope for all of us.

    Susan