New York Times Profiles
NIMH Director Thomas Insel


The New York Times‘ profile of National Institute of Mental Health Director Thomas Insel traces his path from research on the biology of attachment in voles to controversial stances toward the DSM (“At best a dictionary” that lacks scientific validity) and questions about long-term drug treatment for schizophrenia. “The future of psychiatry is clinical neuroscience, based on a much deeper understanding of the brain,”  Insel concludes.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. This bio is as much a history of psychiatry over the past 40 years as it is of this particular leader in the field. He rebelled – or just never embraced – the prevailing psychoanalytic paradigm. He then had an early enthusiasm and optimism for the promise of molecules, only to see them over used and not as effective as he initially hoped. He then moved to animal models only to find the limitations of trying to create an animal model for functions that seem to be uniquely human. He then had to confront how profoundly flawed our diagnostic system is.

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  2. I looked some time ago on the NIMH website and I could see they were broke – they had no more money. This did not surprise me. While I cooperated with chemical treatment in Ireland I was disabled and costing the taxpayer roughly 50,000 Euros per year. So I moved to basic psychotherapy and a drug tapering. I then recovered and became a normal taxpayer. ‘Chemical Imbalance’ is fraud, with suitable help most people can make full recovery.

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  3. Fascinating bio of Insel. I’m glad that he has chosen to be a harsh critic of the DSM and its complete lack of a basis in scientific underpinnings. However, he is devoting his energies into exploring the biological underpinnings of “mental illness.” What we need to focus on is much more effective strategies for helping people who are suffering. If he truly believes that long term use of antipsychotics is not generally warranted, what does he propose as an alternative? And if he does propose other options, why not sink money into researching non-drug alternatives?

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  4. It’s sad times when the head of the NIMH concedes the flaws in the DSM system which includes the long-term outcome of people prescribed anti-psychotics. At least my son knew to wean off all the crap he was forced to take while locked away for 10 days during his FEP. 18 months later, returning to the same drug, cannabis, again he was hospitalized but this time the adm p-doc insisted my son stop the anti-psychotic soon after discharge. It didn’t matter his brain spun out the same amount of time like the first hosp, 18 months earlier. Of course, it was the way his brain went thru cannabis wdr (both times it took 10 weeks, with or without psychotropics to re-normalize his brain function). But instead of being upfront about the effects any drug that has psychoactive properties can do to some brains, it was just brainwash “MI forever”. How does taking away a young person’s hope for being “normal” again play into his death at age 25? I believe most in the MIA community know the answer. Any wonder why I seek accountability from the MH industry? The LEAST that Insel could do is to help direct funding into non-drug alternatives but that direction wouldn’t generate the money to keep this industry afloat.

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  5. Psychiatry is subjective guesswork with powerful drugs that are not ready for prime time.

    “Last summer, he questioned whether people with schizophrenia should remain indefinitely on antipsychotic medications — a shot at accepted medical wisdom.”

    What medical wisdom?!


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  6. I’m glad Insel has spoken the truth about the DSM, or at least spoken part of the truth. I do think it should be stated point blank that DSM is a medicalization of normal human behaviors, with the goal of getting as many people as possible on mind altering drugs. And the DSM also describes the “serious mental illnesses” that their drug cause. The antidepressants and ADHD drugs can cause the bipolar mania. And the antipsychotics cause the schizophrenia symptoms. The psychiatric industry spent 60 years creating a “bible” of “mental illnesses” which medicalize normal, and describe the serious iatrogenic “mental illnesses” their drugs can cause. It’d be truly pathetic, if it weren’t so downright evil.

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