The End of Rethinking Psychiatry?


Here in Portland I have been involved with a group called Rethinking Psychiatry, an organization that is working to critically examine the modern mental health system and to promote alternative options for helping people in emotional distress.  This group works out of the Unitarian Church here, the largest one on the West Coast.  Sadly, I just heard news that the Unitarian Church no longer wants Rethinking Psychiatry to be affiliated with them and is effectively asking them to leave.

The main reason they gave is that it strongly conflicts with other members of the church who are not opposed to psychiatric treatment and feel served by modern mental health care.   They also described certain people being strongly turned off and angered by some of the messages connected to this movement.  Certain members of the church are taking psychiatric medications or have family members who have been hospitalized and feel that our message is not only offensive; it is threatening.

This is sad to me for a number of reasons.  The main reason is that, as a member of the Unitarian Church, I value its goal of fighting for social justice.  They have been on the front lines of fighting for LGBT rights, working to curb Global Warming and fighting to reduce our imposition of military might in the world, amongst many other things.  But in this instance, they decided to choose against fighting for the reform of psychiatry.   I think it’s key to examine why.

The main core group who form Rethinking Psychiatry here in Portland are passionate, strong people who believe in righting injustice, and most have personal experience of being directly or, through family members, indirectly harmed by the system.   Though they are passionate, they are civil and welcoming to people with different views and I never saw them shutting down other people from talking, or avoiding challenging conversations.

I personally had a chance to talk at a Rethinking Psychiatry event this Spring where there were about 50 people.  As someone who works part time in a hospital, this can be seen as deeply unsettling to people who have been abused in that setting.  They were kind enough to welcome me and, after talking about the deep problems inherent in crisis care, the conversation opened up to the greater audience.  Numerous people shared their stories, and passionate discussion took place.  It felt like these issues were touching a very intense emotional place, but there was also a great deal of respect for all the different voices.

This is another reason I am sad; because the chance for a deeper discussion about these really important issues has been shut down, at least for now.  If a place that is as open minded as the Unitarian Church will no longer host a psychiatric reform group, what does that say about our message to the broader public?  Sometimes I worry that the depth of anger and emotional intensity surrounding these issues turns off people who may be open to the message of deep and systemic reform.  But, at the same time, I know that – at its base – that intense anger from survivors is what is driving this movement.  For some that anger is a flame that wants to burn down anything associated with psychiatry.  And for others, they want to channel that flame into productive systemic changes.

What is sad to me is that an organization such as Rethinking Psychiatry, that does not come across as unwelcoming or angry at those who have other opinions, would no longer be allowed a voice at the table.  At the end, I am left only with questions.  What could we have done to keep Rethinking Psychiatry aligned with the Unitarian Church here in Portland?  How do we find new ways to not only share our message that psychiatric treatment is often deeply problematic and has been extremely harmful to many people, but also reach a wider audience while not retreating into just expressing our anger amongst ourselves?

My hope is that Rethinking Psychiatry can reform in a different venue and in a space that is more amenable to our message.  And my hope is that this message can stimulate conversations that broaden perspective, that support holistic alternatives to the current system, and that open doorways to common ground so that real substantial change in modern mental healthcare takes place.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. This is pretty scary. That a generally progressive church supports people being oppressed by psychiatry frightens me. Yes, of course they didn’t say it openly, but that’s what this action meant.

    I have seen this among the Quakers as well. In spite of their long history of treating at least fellow Quakers with emotional issues in a humane and nurturing way, their thinking and ideas on this issue now come from NAMI and the drug companies.

    Again, I find it very frightening. Thirty or forty years ago, this was not the case, at least in “progressive” places like Portland and San Francisco.

    We are the last frontier for bigotry.

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    • The ‘chemical imbalance’ in the brain message is so entrenched that even decent people are ‘prejudiced’. The drug company money has the PR advantage, and the medical system is mostly also in its pocket.
      The majority of people I know believe in illnesses like ‘Schizophrenia’. I believed in ‘Schizophrenia’ myself until I met ‘Schizophrenics’ in hospital, and then I could see that they were young people with more or less the same problems as anyone else, that were being fed drugs.

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  2. As the mother of a psychiatric survivor who received zero meaningful support from NAMI, I personally benefited from and received great hope from the educational conferences and workshops presented by Rethinking Psychiatry and ! was deeply disappointed by the UU’s decision.

    Now that the shock is over, I see that as usual, the voices of the survivors of psychiatric harm and abuse are silenced by a few militaristic, NAMI type family members who are afraid to consider other possibilities, such as the possibility that they have been horribly wrong about the care their loved ones received or are receiving under the current paradigm of mental health care or that their loved ones chances of a full and meaningful recovery were reduced or destroyed due to scientific deception, institutional corruption, over medication, isolation, the stigma and hopelessness of being told that one has a ‘broken brain’ while the possibility of healing from family and societal dysfunctions are overlooked as avenues for recovery.

    These NAMI types discriminate and shut down dialogue by claiming that they are offended or threatened by alternatives. What hogwash. They are simply afraid to be in solidarity with a loved one who experiences extreme states.

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    • Ya’ know, I don’t want to fall back to Freudian views that blame mothers for everything, but I have to suspect that the fear that a family member who has freed themselves from contemporary psychiatry and their upbringing might point unabashedly to the elephant in the living room and describe it in painstaking and accurate detail. That can be terrifying to some family and group members and can be what puts a labeled person in that role in the first place.

      Family and group dynamics— some of which can look totally unreal to the outside viewer— can be very powerful and the facts of it suppressed with every ounce of energy it takes to keep ignoring illogical, hurtful, harmful, and bizarre behavior and thinking patterns while insisting that everyone else ignore it too, no matter what psychological costs and loopy mind tricks are required to keep it from being directly challenged.

      One of the things I loved about an uncle who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and also suffered from PTSD from two tours in Viet Nam, is that he would talk facts, straight up, while all his sisters were reanimating fantasies about who and what their sociopath parents were really like. And, he was the only person I could have a pleasant conversation with at my stepfather’s funeral. By being honest and realistic, he could free himself from a lot of the anger and denial that goes into festooning an invisible elephant that’s crowding everyone else out of the living room who is not being crushed by it.

      It takes a whole lot of anger and lies to deny pathology and its effects. I imaging that there is also a lot of mental/emotional disturbance and crises that has nothing whatsoever to do with entrapping group dynamics, as well; but it seems to be extraordinarily difficult for most people to address “mental illness” or mental illness without being reactionary and unnecessarily fearful, while clinging desperately to one answer to keep them from falling into an existential free fall in which it is necessary to recognized how little one knows and the pain and vulnerability that goes with that. Our culture is very conformist and made for business, not individuals, not families, not friends. We too often don’t have the slack and freedom to give ourselves and others what we need.

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      • Some people are helicopter parents and there is nothing more frightening for them, consciously or not, that they may come a day when they don’t need to “sacrifice” themselves in caring for their loved ones. I think psychiatry has a label for that – Munchhausen by proxy. I’ve seen that with mothers who have disabled children who do them great disservice by trying to protect them from everything and therefore hindering their development. I’m sure many NAMI moms fall into this category.

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        • Two things here
          Recovery doesn’t have to be a blame thing – Mum and Dad, The Catholic Church, The Teacher at School, The English for causing the Irish Famine. Recovery involves putting things right inside in the ‘head’ and getting on with life.
          The other thing is a young adult often gets ‘sick’ when Mum and Dad are getting close to retirement. The welfare state pays for the basics so the ‘disabled’ person is not prohibitively expensive.

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          • “Recovery doesn’t have to be a blame thing”
            No, it doesn’t have to be, but a little justice (or at the very least recognition of the source of the problem) could help in a lot of cases. One of the biggest problems with psychiatry is that it completely ignores the context and blames the person for his/her problems.

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    • When I was first married to my second husband and sought help for the waves of panic attacks that would come and derail my functionality, his caring and commitment led him to choose supporting me in the face of conflicting advice from psychiatric personnel. One example remains a tangible imprint. In abject misery and confusion of mind, I begged to go to the hospital. I wasn’t under any professional care. I was sinking and willing to accept any lifeline in the moment even though I’d had several frightening in-patient experiences in the past. After being processed at the psychiatric unit of a regional hospital, they allowed him to stay the night in my room. Looking back I see how extraordinary it was for a hospital to allow. Nonetheless, he agreed and within minutes after being shown to the room on the ward, all the calming effect of believing I would be understood and aided began to be replaced by paranoia. I begged him to take me home. Immediately. I was completely panicked. Irrationally so. He didn’t respond by listening to the staff tell him this was “normal” and to “trust their knowledge of how to handle me.” I had signed in voluntarily and was free to leave. He took me back home.

      He had nothing in his upbringing any where close to experience with mental health. He was 35 so he had maturity; he’d served in Vietnam and seen that madness. What I realize now is that he simply paid more attention to what I wanted than what the staff said I needed.

      As I read your words above concerning the readiness or lack thereof of a given audience to hear certain stories/personal accounts and thought about my brushes with NAMI involvement (both as a volunteer and as a recipient/participant), I thought of how the event involving my husband lends some insight toward understanding why individuals tend to place their faith in established authority in subjugation of their own judgment.

      As underlying causes to the absence of independent thinking go, I believe this to be one of the basic elements. Psychiatric experiments have been conducted testing just such phenomena; one involving administering a painful shock on an authority’s order is quite illuminating. Participants were led to believe that the individual set up in the white coat was a true doctor and the subjects were actually receiving an electric shock. Would the participants follow orders from the doctor to increase the level of shock no matter the signs of distress acted out by the subjects? In fact they did. They went against their better judgment and turned up the dial…witnessed the resulting writhing in pain. All because they believed that an authority representing medical knowledge knew better than themselves.

      I think this is a part of what’s at play when folks who have no lived experience are confronted with accounts by those who have been acted on and do know the harm that can result. Not only is the public bombarded with PR campaigns that misrepresent the truth of intent as well as outcome – not only are the number of topics vying for public attention causing a tuned-out effect – but thinking/acting outside the perceived realm of mainstream is too much of a risk…unless one has been up close and personal with a system that operates within a closed circuit…not unlike other closed subsets of our culture like the military and the penal system.

      This understanding is not unknown. So why hasn’t this understanding…reflecting human nature…informed each group approach to educating the public on whatever aspect of the overall problem they are focusing on? I have no answer for that except a vague notion that even among survivors and their supporters, there is dissension. It seems that all groups struggle to maintain a collaborative atmosphere in the presence of a basic organizational principle – hierarchy.

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  3. I get the feeling from my experience that it’s sometimes easier for people to pretend they never knew. We are seeing this in a Royal Commission into institutional response to child sexual abuse here in Australia. It’s taken in some cases 40 years for some victims to have their ugly truth heard. And these are people who were within organisations which had missions to help people.

    It isn’t easy to hear of the types of abuses that are occurring, and takes great courage to listen. And attempting to stop these abuses can be frustrating to the point of despair. I don’t blame these people for being offended or even threatened by the stories, i just hope they don’t pretend to be outraged when the truth does finally emerge.

    Saving whales or protesting human rights abuses in Afghanistan may be easier. Personally I’m just not going to have those with the power to act, have the ability to say later that they didn’t know.

    Sad to hear this news Jonathan. I hope the group finds another venue and continues to speak out. It’s important for their own well being that they do. And maybe someone will get past the anger and see there is very real problem.

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  4. “They also described certain people being strongly turned off and angered by some of the messages connected to this movement. Certain members of the church are taking psychiatric medications or have family members who have been hospitalized and feel that our message is not only offensive; it is threatening.”

    And I’m sure the Nazi doctors like Josef Mengele would have been angered too if you tried convincing him that what he was doing was an atrocity and made him a horrible person. The evidence of harm combined with the evidence of corruption equal more than enough to just move on from trying to reason with these people and concentrate more on legal efforts to stop them.

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    • And also, at what point did humanity come to conclude that human sacrifice is all the sudden OK? So what if some people think the drugs may have helped them. How does that make it OK to knowingly HARM OTHERS? Since when is it OK to just shrug off this group of needlessly harmed people over here because of the smiles on the faces of the people over there?

      I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: this is what human sacrifice looks like in our time.

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  5. It’s been a source of great sadness to me too, that progressives and liberals, and feminists too, (all in general, with exceptions, of course) do not support the human rights of those subjected to psychiatric abuse. It’s not just sad to me, but also horrifying.

    This is one of the last fronts of blatant human rights abuses that goes unchecked by said groups.

    I wrote something about this a few years ago when I was first faced by it…in feminist circles. It’s continued to be quite distressing.

    I think it all boils down to fear, I think. Terror, really of ones own psyche. We are a people out of touch with ourselves so when that manifests more blatantly in some folks fear tells people to shut it down. By any means necessary. Drugs, force, and silence. Let’s not talk about it. And that is, of course, what the Unitarian Church is doing…it’s silencing you.

    Still, even with this fact, that we are routinely shut down, I’ve seen many people throughout all parts of society open up to what is really happening in the last many years now that I’ve been doing this work…so I am not without hope and optimism. Groups as a whole may still have issues, but individuals in all groups are opening up everywhere…I do think that the balance is slowly changing…it’s just that the balance has been seriously out of whack…so that remains for now.

    thanks for your insights Jon…talking about this is exactly what we need to do and I’m sure some other thoughtful Unitarians will read this and understand.

    I’ll share a post I wrote on this topic…quite a few years ago now…

    An open letter to liberals and feminists

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    • Read your letter to liberals & feminists. Tho by feminists you may mean liberal feminists. At any rate, this is a major struggle we face, as liberals and “progressives” for the most part don’t have a clue about any of this. They want to stay ensconced in their cocoons of “rationality,” not realizing that when they try to apply such “scientific” standards to the contents of our minds they are promulgating totalitarianism. My guess anyway.

      The result of this obliviousness to our efforts is that, as in the Justina Pelletier case, the right-wing opportunists, Glen Becks, etc. take advantage of the vacuum to advance their own agenda.

      Back in the 80’s a very cogent analysis of women’s oppression and psychiatric oppression was written by a sizeable contingent of activist women ex-psychiatric inmates. I’ll see if I can find a link to it somewhere.

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    • Skip liberalism. I don’t see how making people economically dependent on the government long term is not debilitating. Additionally, politicians like Ted Kennedy positioned themselves with the government, and against parental rights. I don’t see how throwing money at any issue is the way to make it go away, although it is a way to make it stay. Also, after Barrack Obama made criminalizing people in the mental health system a reelection campaign promise, working my way through the fall out has become problematic.

      I consider myself a leftist, and we have the same problem among leftists. As a psychiatric survivor though, I see it as my job to bring the matter to them, and not vice versa. The left has gone as far as embracing LBTG issues, and Disability Rights, in some cases, but the absolutely unscientific nature of psychiatric scapegoating still manages to elude many of them. Eugenics has been swept under the rug as if an apology were ever enough to make it history. Nonetheless, I think the absurdity of psychiatric practice today gives us an edge. How long can anyone continue to ignore the complete lack of basis for so many new and frivolous diagnostic categories? Psychiatry (and the drug industry) may have their propaganda, but they are still a laughing stock, even if they claim to be tending a laughing stock. The underlying tragedy, iatrogenic death and damage, is increasingly hard to ignore. Drug companies have had to contend with some of the biggest out of court settlements, and some of the biggest civil penalties, of all time, over harm to psychiatric patients. I could stand back and whistle, but it’s not as if this kind of thing isn’t happening, and it’s not as if it doesn’t speak for itself. We don’t have a single elephant in the house, we have a herd of elephants. Ignore them at your own peril.

      Homo sapiens is Latin for “wise man”. I think the court is still out on that appraisal, but given time, maybe we can come to view some stupidities for what they are. It would be a shame if we were to continue to allow ‘ignorant man’ to set the agenda for the future. I have a little faith that despite the advent of the new dark ages a few good people will, nonetheless, come to the light eventually.

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      • Nonetheless, I think the absurdity of psychiatric practice today gives us an edge

        I agree.

        On a related note, I was thinking of trying to find a way to approach Noam Chomsky on the matter of “mental illness” and the medical model. I can’t find anything he’s written that refers to the matter at all. If one of the world’s top experts in linguistics would address the matter of conflating metaphor with reality (the essence of the medical model) maybe a few leftists would start paying closer attention to what we’re saying.

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        • Noam Chomsky is a case in point. Darby Penney interviewed the late Judi Chamberlin some time back, and she spoke about her own experience with Chomsky. She thought him very medical model. According to her he just didn’t get it. The interview can be accessed online.

          That was my impression, too. I saw Noam Chomsky speak at UF just last year, and it seemed he was out to pathologize the right wing or, at least, his opposition.

          I haven’t entirely written Chomsky off but, on the surface of it, I’d say he still has a way to go before he can understand where many of us are coming from.

          Noam Chomsky has had his own critique of Behavioral Mod and, while he was alive, B. F. Skinner. That, on the other hand, is worth looking at. He did take Behavioral Modification on, and to good effect.

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          • Here’s to Judi Chamberlin. Such a profound loss for us all.

            Thanks for the link. I’ll study that, didn’t know Chomsky had taken any kind of position or non-position. I was afraid about the not getting it — I have a friend who always wants me to love this film called The Corporation, which holds as its central premise the comparison of various “symptoms” of “sociopathy” to aspects of major corporations. He thinks it’s really brilliant & probably thinks I don’t get it.

            If we could get Chomsky to address Szasz’s basic logical/semantic arguments it would be a great read, at the very least. Him being a linguist and all.

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          • Well, sociopaths do exist, I have much too much personal experience with one. Which has nothing to do with mental illness – it’s just a personality type just as being altruistic is a personality type.
            About Chomsky – he doesn’t like to talk about things he has little knowledge about (which is a great thing in itself – he’s open about the fact he’s not an expert on everything). Hence I think he’d evade the answer and tell you he doesn’t have much expertise. But maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, many things he talks about are very relevant for the movement as it is a systemic problem having to do with the condition of our society as a whole.

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      • Homo sapiens
        I think we’d be more successful advocating for changing the species name to Homo idioticus (a more properly descriptive term) than to change people’s opinions on “mental illness”. But maybe I’m overly pessimistic today.

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    • I see a lot of this in the so-called “progressive” community. If one scans the comments sections of the many blogs and news sites I haunt like Alternet and Raw Story, many otherwise very enlightened people often demand more involuntary commitment, more involuntary drugging and more crippling psych diagnoses for those they deem “mentally ill.”

      For example- Little Johnny goes on a shooting spree and kills several people. The reaction will run like this: “If only his parents could have put him into a mental hospital.” If only he could have been Baker Acted then we wouldn’t have this.” “Why wasn’t he on medication.” “If people don’t take their medication, they should be forced to- it’s for their own good!” “Damn Ronald Reagan for closing the hospitals!” “We need a list of the mentally ill so they can’t buy firearms!” I suppose they would include anyone who has ever received a psych diagnosis!

      I am sad to see the Unitarians distance themselves from psychiatric reform. But after reading numerous comments from, as I said, open and progressive and otherwise very liberally minded and kind people, I am not surprised.

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      • “Liberally minded” is a questionable term of praise to begin with…

        The current scapegoats for gun violence are basically a) the existence of guns and b) untreated mental illness. No mention of c) the inherent violence of the system; d) SSRI’s and other psychiatric drugs; e) ad infinitum.

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  6. Very sad, Jon. Yesterday I read a blog ( about David Hilton by Ken Braiterman. Ken wrote: “As an activist team, David and I played good cop/bad cop with the bureaucrats. As the good cop, I sat in the room talking to them, and David Hilton stayed out, feeding me facts and ideas. Part of my job was to translate his good ideas into proposals I could sell. Politics is the art of the possible. You settle for a little at a time until you have all you want. A good change is better than a great idea…Our adversaries liked and respected me because I treated them like I wanted to be treated, and brought in reasonable ideas. He never stopped to enjoy seeing the enemy adopt his ideas. Like Jackie Robinson, who also died young, David Hilton did not care how about far we’d come, only how far we still had to go.”

    After 35+ years working in the church, I have learned how much it is like politics. And it is an art. And you settle for a little change, rather than a great idea. And the ideas must be reasonable (read “we can finance this”). And most psychiatric survivors and their families have been too financially devastated to finance this. It does make me angry and that anger could kill me unless I do some self care.

    We are in this for the long haul. So let’s take a moment to celebrate how far we have come.

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  7. Jonathan, it’s a shame that your group has lost its venue and I hope you are able to find a suitable replacement soon. However, the Unitarian Church’s decision is valid and understandable. Much of the rhetoric of the psychiatric reform movement IS offensive and really doesn’t further our cause. A member of the public could do a quick blast through these comments, see the reference to Mengele and reject our entire point of view. It’s time for us to figure out what are realistic goals and what is the most likely way to achieve them.

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    • Francesca Allen, so you think censorship is justificed if people use rhetoric you don’t like? Did you really just say that?

      I don’t see how the Unitarian Church’s decision is anything but cowardice based on a serious misunderstanding of human rights and social justice on their part.

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      • “Did you really just say that?” No, I did not. In fact, I am very much opposed to censorship. My point was that much of the psych reform debate is framed in a way that is guaranteed to fail. It has nothing to do with what I “like.” It has to do with assessing how to calmly and intelligently put forward our message.

        I’m sorry that you can’t see how the Unitarian Church could make such a decision but there is no indication that the Church lacks an understanding of either human rights or social justice. What is clear is they are not interested in being associated with a particular, often unsavoury, slice of the psych reform movement. Neither am I.

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        • Francesca, I hate to disagree with you when you just praised a comment I wrote but here goes.

          I am perplexed as to why you are labeling the psych reform movement in such a negative fashion. Jonathan make it clear that the Rethinking Psychiatry Group was very respectful of opposing viewpoints. It sounded like the Church was making assumptions that were unfair and stereotyping this group.

          Regarding people on this board that you are coming across as referring to often unsavoury, that sounds quite harsh. I definitely don’t agree with every viewpoint but at the same time, I realize I haven’t been brutalized by psychiatry like many of these folks have who are understandably angry.

          And anger isn’t a bad thing as history shows, it propelled many social justice movements forward. Unfortunately, due to being in a different time, it is just tough for us to make progress. But we have to keep at it.

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          • I think Monica’s comment above, and the article she links to are worth considering.

            Soften the language to make it more palatable? It won’t have any real effect. Alliances are going to be difficult to build anyway because of the stigma.

            We are on our own in m many ways. The message from some may be angry, very angry.

            I agree with AA that anger is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a result of the abuse.

            Were not saving cuddly panda bears here. How do we “reframe” the issues to make it appear that way?

            I would hope that people read the articles here are judge them separately to the comments. And if the comments aren’t breaching the guidelines? They should stay as far as I’m concerned.

            Just my late night thoughts.

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          • I apologize for my poorly worded comment. I most certainly did not mean to say that either Jonathan’s group or the psych reform movement in general are unsavoury. I was mostly just sticking up for the United Church which I consider to be an admirable organization.

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          • Once again as I commented on elsewhere, people are allowing Francesca to divert the discussion with personal digs and attacks.

            The way to stop this discussion or any other from being diverted is to simply refuse to take the bait. I doubt many newcomers will be impressed by a site full of personal diatribes back & forth. Doesn’t matter who starts it, just don’t continue it.

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          • Oldhead, repeatedly putting my name into your comments in a derogatory fashion is hardly “ignoring” me. If you are truly interested in more civilized discussion, then consider examining your own words rather than just assigning blame to those who happen to disagree with you.

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        • Francesca

          For a long time gay people “calmly and intelligently put forward their message” and it didn’t get them anywhere except dead or beaten up or ridiculed and named called on the street or thrown out of their housing or thrown out of their families of origin …..

          It wasn’t until some gay men in a bar in New York City stood up and fought the police who came to hassle them that people finally began to listen. Stonewall was the birthplace of the Gay Pride Movement. All the wonderful talking using calm and intelligent words were for nought until that day. All of the things that have been accomplished in the gay community since that day in 1972, are largely due to the fact that people quit talking and started fighting back. Frankly, most of the psychiatrists where I work tend to ignore or discount the calm and intelligent words I try to use and keep right on abusing the people in their care. Of course, they dispute that it’s abuse and prefer to call it “good treatment.” I get to watch on a daily basis what that “good treatment” does to the people as I sit in my office and watch the people in the courtyard outside my window. It’s heartbreaking.

          I believe it’s time to quit talking and begin taking up for ourselves. Just my opinion.

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          • We will all do what we think is best. I don’t think your analogy of the evolution of Gay Pride works, though. For example, we achieved marriage equality through rational debate and litigation.

            Please consider the civil rights movement instead. Although the anger of the Black Panthers was completely justified and understandable, they scared the public and may have slowed the movement down.

            It’s true for a lot of issues. In my neck of the woods, agricultural animal welfare (another cause I support) is being brought into the spotlight once again by the release of videos showing appalling abuse of dairy cows. Getting the truth out there is way more effective than holding up “Meat is Murder” signs.

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          • Another way to look at this is that the calm and intelligent words laid the groundwork for the big shifts that Stonewall brought about.

            I say we need a diversity of tactics, and we need to be pragmatic about how those tactics work together (and how they sometimes don’t).

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          • “Although the anger of the Black Panthers was completely justified and understandable, they scared the public and may have slowed the movement down”
            It didn’t – Cointelpro and other such actions did.
            Btw, there’s a good chance that MLK’s style wouldn’t have achieved much if it was not under a threat of a more radical developments. If you listen to Chomsky the post WWII reforms happened for a fear of global communist revolution. Violence is usually bad but a little threat of violence may do miracles. Sorry, but that’s just how it is.

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          • Please consider the civil rights movement instead. Although the anger of the Black Panthers was completely justified and understandable, they scared the public and may have slowed the movement down.

            If by “the public” you mean white people.

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          • “Cointel Pro was the authorities’ response to what they perceived as threatening. I stand by my statement about the Black Panthers.”
            Yeah, so is the crackdown on Occupy, massive spying on internet and cell phone users etc. The biggest enemy of the state is it’s own citizenry:
            “Governments should not have this capacity. But governments will use whatever technology is available to them to combat their primary enemy – which is their own population,” he (Noam Chomsky) told the Guardian.”
            It doesn’t mean that people who call practices like that abusive, unjust etc. are wrong or that they should “soften their language” in order not to offend sensibilities.

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    • “Though they are passionate, they are civil and welcoming to people with different views and I never saw them shutting down other people from talking, or avoiding challenging conversations.”
      So what else can you do, according to you? Censor everyone in the movement? Because in many cases Mengele comparisons are just accurate (like doctors experimenting on patients without obtaining proper consent for pharma money ending in death of a patient).
      You can’t reason with someone who puts fingers in his/her ears and goes lalala. And that’s what people do – I experience that often with friends and family who are otherwise intelligent people but somehow can’t grasp basic fact about how a clinical studies should be conducted and understood. And I’m not even mentioning systemic coverup and denial.
      I think there should be more people in the system acting as whistle blowers – one leaked video could do what years of advocacy can’t.

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  8. Francesca

    “To give a person ones opinion one must first judge whether that person is of the disposition to receive it or not. One must become close with him and make sure that he continually trusts one’s word. Approaching subjects that are dear to him, seek the best way to speak and to be well understood. Judge the occasion, and determine whether it is better by letter or at the time of leave-taking. Praise his good points and use every device to encourage him, perhaps by talking about one’s own faults without touching on his, but so that they will occur to him. Have him receive this in the way that a man would drink water when his throat is dry, and it will be an opinion that will correct his faults. This is extremely difficult. If a persons fault is a habit of some years prior, by and large it won’t be remedied…To be intimate with all ones comrades, correcting each others faults, and being of one mind to be of use to the master is the great compassion of a retainer. By bringing shame to a person, how could one expect to make him a better man?”

    Hagakure. P.2

    I agree with you in certain arenas. In this space I feel i am being intimate with my comrades, and not providing an opinion that is trying to change any psychiatrists mind. I am in some ways learning how to temper my anger, and when I have achieved that I will be prepared for a “fire attack”. I don’t know if the comments section here is for the sole purpose of presenting an image to others. There are many reasons people comment here. I hope you see what i’m trying to convey here.

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    • Yes, I do see what you mean, Boans. I have, however, received emails from the other side which indicate that these types of discussions are read and judged so, even though we might be just thinking out loud in the comments section, we should keep in mind that we are doing so publicly.

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      • These discussions are judged from within the radical mental health movement too… sometimes people describe Mad In America as too militant, extreme or black-and-white, and what they’re really talking about is the comments section — it gets conflated in their minds with the organization itself.

        This worries me, especially when I hear it from fellow survivors who haven’t rejected psychiatry yet and could stand to learn a lot from this site.

        I think it’s possible to have intimacy among comrades while also keeping in mind the messages that we’re sending and how they might land (and on whose ears). But I hear what you’re saying Boans about how people might have different needs for this space, and may be at different places with their anger. That’s legit.

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        • It’s sad that some people might be driven off by the passion that is expressed in the comments here. For me it was the opposite. When I discovered this site, I found the majority of the comments to be validating and exactly what I needed to see to help correct the psychiatric indoctrination I had previously been subjected to for years. I’d never had much support in that way, in-real-life, so reading the comments here was empowering.

          Regarding people who might think that the opinions expressed in the comments are necessarily those of the site: I’m not sure what to say. I mean, presumably they don’t read YouTube comments that way.

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          • I’m guessing it’s not the passion so much as an impression of a “with us or against us” mentality? For people who are in the gray area (of just starting to question psychiatry, or having mixed feelings about it, or wanting to get off the drugs but not succeeding, etc), a polarized framework might not leave room for their experience — might even feel like judgment, whether it actually is or not.

            But I can only guess because this is not how I personally feel about it. I cut ties with psychiatry a long time ago and find much of the discussion here pretty inspiring.

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        • Emmeline,

          This discussion caused me to remember that when I was on psych meds, I was just like the folks who were opposed to Rethinking Psychiatry. I felt very threatened if I read anything that questioned psych meds. I am not sure why but what changed my thinking was I was experiencing mysterious side effects and finally linked them to the meds.

          I was wondering if it would help to have something like an FAQ on meds. Something like, experiencing mysterious side effects? Perhaps you want to read, “Your drug may be your problem” by Peter Breggin.

          Think you are safe deciding your child’s medical care at a hospital ER? Might want to rethink that in light of the Justina Pelletier case and similar type ones.

          Not sure about the legal issues but my point is maybe if we could so something to put the bug in people’s brains about what these meds may be doing and the abuses of psychiatry, that may be a way to get more folks over to our side without them feeling threatened.

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          • Since the facts are on our side, this repeated concern about people “feeling threatened” seems a bit unnecessary.

            No one wants to feel like a fool or a sucker, and such terms are inappropriate and counterproductive in most situations. Still, no one wants the wool pulled over their eyes in any case. So if someone “feels threatened” by something you’re trying to explain to them, be patient and supportive, tell them how it’s not hard to understand how they would come to feel that way given the billions of dollars that drug companies and the psychiatric industry pour into deceptive p.r. aimed at people such as themselves, and give them examples of that deception. If they still put their fingers in their ears and roll their eyes, they obviously they have a personal agenda, recognized ot not, which prevents them from hearing you. And at that point there’s not much you can or probably should do. Or, as one of my personal mentors said once, “if they still don’t understand, f ’em, maybe they’ll get it the next time around.” 🙂

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        • “sometimes people describe Mad In America as too militant, extreme or black-and-white”
          Well, apparently they didn’t read a lot. This site presents a super wide spectrum of views with some people even embracing coercion in certain cases which I personally find reprehensible. This doesn’t make me say “MIA is too mainstream”. You have to expect people to have some intelligence and willingness to read others points of view rather than get offended by one or the other article and retreat.
          Btw, what exactly would you advocate? To censor the comment section? To kick out specific contributors? Which ones ad for what? That’s not a way to get anywhere. You can’t convince someone who doesn’t want to listen.

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          • If I were to advocate anything it would pretty much be what I said above, to keep in mind the messages we send and how they might land. This site gets thousands of unique visitors daily, and recent comments are displayed right on the front page — every one of them is a chance to reach someone with a perspective they may never have considered.

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      • We should also keep in mind that the growing oppression of the mental death profession complex ,or chemical electrical gulag (whichever terminology you prefer) is also, however , as we speak , doing publicly and boldly crimes against humanity, no matter what we say, how we say it,or whoever says it etc. They are proceeding with rigor and increased coercion to imposing a proven pseudo science system of behavior control (disabling, torturous,life shortening ,eugenically inclined etc.) upon the human population of the planet while Monsanto company poisons the food supply as it sweeps across the planet in its quest to control, own, and modify all the planets food seed stocks. This almost sounds like a script from the old Flash Gordon science fiction series , but it’s not.
        If I G-D forbid was a Pharma- Psych- Harvard or Yale etc. think tank flunky I guess I would read whatever was written here at MIA and figure that the Psych Pharma Medico government financial war chest and my fellow think tank flunkeys could easily come up with strategies to neutralize any strategy telegraphed by the discussions at MIA while at the same time keeping the general population brainwashed and inactive and loving Big Brother.
        Maybe someone just paid off the preacher at the Unitarian Church or made him or her an offer they couldn’t refuse.
        I don’t know what to do but I am mad in America and I have been tortured , I’m not trying to make it difficult to survive for people that are where I have been that are addicted to “meds” etc and need government financial aid etc which I still live on. I know there is a better way and I will fight for the abolition of psychiatry and against oppression and coercion wherever it rears it’s ugly head and if some of that battle is verbal ,I will use words of my own choosing to honestly reflect the life experience I have lived and understand.

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        • A youth leader has hundreds of children pass through their care. If they sexually abuse only 1 in every 100 would this be acceptable?

          Would we say that we should look at all the good deeds and ignore this minute indiscretion? A few angry victims who are easily ignored. I mean all this anger and claims of rape, soften your message and call it making love, and your more likely to be listened to?

          I am that 1 in a 100. And while my life has been destroyed, i feel that by speaking about what happened to me, others may not have to suffer at the hands of my abuser.

          I’m sad that others don’t truly understand my anger, and glad that they have not suffered the same treatment i have from those entrusted with the care of individuals. Perhaps my life was an acceptable loss. It just meant a lot to me.

          So ignore me if you must, but understand that by doing so you are enabling those who are doing damage to many others. I hope it is never someone dear to you.

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          • Unfortunately uprising they do.

            Acknowledging the abuse would mean two things.

            A liability, that would cost them money for the damage. So make the victim look like they are after a big cash payout and they will receive little if any support.

            A loss of public confidence. Too much effort has gone into making it appear that no abuses are taking place. So subject anyone with a legitimate complaint to further abuse and invalidate their truth. By a process of attrition they will disappear.

            No amount of money could repair the damage done to me. They took a good man and scooped out everything, and filled me full of hatred and rage. They then offered me drugs for the damage they had done.

            And if i should act on my anger? This will be used to justify the intervention and calls for powers to do damage to more individuals.

            I’m sure the at some point there will be someone notice that the cart is before the horse. That the ‘cure’ is causing the ‘disease’. Until that time i will do what i can to slow the body count.

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          • Just as a point of interest, we have laws here to protect people with mental illness from abuse.

            Our legal advocates claim that these laws have never been used to prosecute anyone.

            This would suggest an excellent environment, and a first rate service.

            And yet in one hospital alone, i have personally witnessed two vicious assaults on patients. I’m not talking about someone who required restraining or was even verbally abusive.

            I think it shows how weaponised the complaints process is. An environment where the staff can do no wrong. I’ve spoken to many patients who have told me about the way they have been treated, and how investigations have been done in such a way that evidence is not examined, or in some cases disappears.

            So if you have been abused you might make legal history where I live. The very first person to have something done about it.

            Not bad for a service that deals with thousands of people annually.

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          • boans

            No. your life is not an acceptable loss.

            I have a good friend who “lost” his life in the same way. It’s gut-wrenching to watch what he goes through as he struggles to reclaim his life and attempt to live it out after the abuse that was done to him as a child.

            In some small way I understand your anger and call it righteous. I also agree with you that we have to keep exposing the perpetrators who prey on children and those not strong enough to defend themselves.

            And we also must fight a “mental health” system that perpetuates itself and makes money off of the psychological and emotional distress that trauma survivors experience, a system that keeps people in thrall to itself rather than empowering people to deal with their trauma,claim their lives, and rise from the ashes like the Phoenix.

            I’m done with trying to gather in a circle, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya with those who could care less about our trauma, our suffering, and our loss of life. All that most of them care about is power and privilege and prestige and making sure that people continue to take the toxic drugs that assure them a profitable life.

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          • Boans,

            I just want to say thank you regarding your remark of June 24, 2014 at 9:18pm. I largely agree, and can relate, because it was my four year old child who was the 1 in 100 raped. But it was his perfectionist but in denial, imperfect mother, who now has medical evidence of the sodomy, and that I was misdiagnosed and drugged, based upon a list of lies and gossip from a pastor and his best friend (at whose home the abuse occurred).

            “And while my life has been destroyed, I feel that by speaking about what happened to me, others may not have to suffer at the hands of my abuser.” Although, while I was researching what happened to me, via studying medicine and the psycho / pharmaceutical industries’ almost unfathomable in scope current crimes against humanity, the private school my ex-pastor’s best friend was on the board of, unexpectedly closed down, ironically (for a Christian) on 6.6.06. And six stigmatized children in my ex-pastors’ neighborhood violently committed suicide over the next few years.

            “I’m sad that others don’t truly understand my anger, and glad that they have not suffered the same treatment from those entrusted with the care of individuals. Perhaps my life was an acceptable loss. It just meant a lot to me.”

            “So ignore me if you must, but understand that by doing so you are enabling those who do damage to many others. I hope it is never anyone dear to you.” None of my doctors since 2007 have agreed with my medically provable misdiagnosis, and it’s now only the main synod headquarters of my ex-religion that are ignoring and still defaming me as “mentally ill,” due to their desire to “not pay you.” But I had initially asked for help medically deciphering the crimes committed against me, not for payment.

            My subsequent pastors, from a different religion, explained to me I had dealt with the “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” Apparently the psychiatrists have historically, and still today, cover up pastoral sexual abuse for the religions with psychiatric stigmatizations and their iatrogenically created illnesses.

            Perhaps, now that we all now live in the Information Age, the religions should all realize maintaining this “dirty little secret” strategy to cover up their sins, is not necessarily still wise? I hope, and pray, for the day.

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          • boans
            The same is happening with the child abuse in Catholic church – they have covered it up for years because of fear of liability and loss of public trust. And still they’re people who say that all the priests’ victims just do it for the money. Psychiatry is no different.

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  9. Every movement for liberation in the last half-century, at least, has been fueled by anger. When people are abused, it makes sense for them to protest.

    Of course this doesn’t mean you tell anyone who hears you to f— off. But as someone pointed out earlier regarding the gay movement, as long as they tried to act “reasonable” and “respectable,” they got nowhere. Once they started demanding respect instead of begging for it, they made great progress.

    “We’re here and we’re queer!” got gay people a lot further than telling people how respectable they were. This is always true of any group. Why should people pay attention when your message boils down to one that says that things aren’t really that bad? If you aren’t bothered by your oppression, why should anyone else be?

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    • Just an asterisk about the notion of “protest.” While some might consider “protest” to be a radical thing, when we limit our activities to simply “protesting” the status quo we are implicitly accepting its authority and appealing to it, rather than organizing to strip that system of its power to dictate, thus making “protest” unnecessary. So when we protest, tho it may be necessary, remember that “protesting” is only the first step; transforming and transcending are the ultimate goals.

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    • Ted

      Thanks for stating this so well. “Reasonable” and “respectable” got a lot of gay people murdered with no investigations to find their murderers. I will go so far as to say that today’s psychiatric “treatment” is doing much the same thing to people experiencing psychological and emotional distress who enter the system, usually against their will. It’s just taking longer for us to die.

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      • I think ACT UP was an example of “unreasonable” people having a tremendous effect. (There used to be a publication called Act Out, incidentally — think it was Mental Patients Liberation Front in Boston, but I’m not sure.)

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  10. I too am sad about this decision by the Unitarian Church. I have participated in Rethinking Psychiatry events and I have found their organization to be quite helpful, if imperfect like all of us.

    I do think this event could be a cause for taking a moment to reflect WHY an organization that otherwise is very much into human rights would have a hard time with an organization looking to improve human rights within mental health, and generally why mental health oppression seems harder to battle than most other forms of oppression.

    I believe the biggest factor is the way there are really various kinds of oppression in the mental health field. There are the forms of oppression that frequently lead to mental health problems in the first place, though this is often not seen. Then there is the oppression from the mental health problem itself – the problem for the individual and for others close to the individual. Then there is the oppression caused by poorly designed “treatment.”

    A key problem is that when we push back against oppression caused by treatment, lots of people out there in the world think we are attacking the very thing they are hoping is going to save their loved one and their family from the second kind of oppression, that caused by the mental health problem itself. So naturally they oppose us.

    I think we need to find better ways of talking about how we want to address all these forms of oppression in the best way……this might help us make more friends, which we desperately need.

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    • When people see the truth they may struggle against it for awhile, even back off or go away. More often than not they come back. It’s not primarily a matter of “how we say” something (tho we can work on that too) but whether or not someone is ready to hear it. We don’t need to persuade people of the truth, just to point it out

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      • Totally agree Oldhead. My mother desperately tried to tell me that psych meds were bad news for me. But I wasn’t ready to hear it until I suffered adverse effects that I linked to the meds. I cringe everytime I think about that.

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  11. I am also one who has participated in several meetings and events sponsored by Rethinking Psychiatry; the organization provides a valuable community service. Rethinking Psychiatry is valuable support for people harmed by psychiatry and their families, as well as an important forum for improving mental health care.

    It is sad that emotional distress and mental health care are such touchy issues that such a liberal organization like the Unitarian Church has decided to stifle discussion.

    I hope that Rethinking Psychiatry can regroup elsewhere.

    blatant human rights violations against sufferers of emotional distress is considered different than human rights violations against other groups.

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  12. “Once I was young and impulsive, I wore every conceivable pin
    Even went to a socialist meeting, learned all the old union hymns
    But now I’ve grown older and wiser,
    And that’s why I’m turning you in
    So love me, love me, love me — I’m a Liberal!”

    — Phil Ochs

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    • Copycat

      I would bet that the vast majority of the most oppressive psychiatrists are very much church going believers in God.

      Biological Psychiatry is PSEUDO science not GENUINE science. Genuine science is our friend in this battle.

      Genetic theories of so-called “mental illness” are quite similar to religious theories of “original sin.”

      What’s wrong with evolutionary theory? Psychiatric theory actually runs counter to theories of evolution.

      Extreme forms of psychological distress are actually “normal” human reactions to “abnormal” conditions of life. What gets labeled as “mental illness” is actually necessary (natural) coping mechanisms that have developed over thousands of years in the human species in response to severe stress in life. Psychiatry likes to label all this as genetic defects and brain diseases with NO scientific proof or understanding of evolution.

      Copycat, most of your resource postings are very good; this one was just right wing nonsense.


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      • Now, a study shows that “the least religious of all medical specialties is psychiatry“

        “Right wing nonsense”: The thing that protects us from the ever growing nanny state into things like mental health screening in schools and “free” psychiatry for everyone.

        Doesn’t matter, agree or disagree with political stuff that psychiatry page is a great resource if you want to criticize psychiatry on religious grounds .

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        • It also protects you from getting any kind of healthcare. I very much oppose psychiatry but I’m happy I can get my antibiotic when I need it or physiotherapy for my back pain or a vaccine. Without the “nanny state” we’d be in the XIXth century conditions and if you don’t know what it’s like watch a documentary about labour in developing countries. You need the state to impose certain rules, it’s just common sense. The only problem is to balance and monitor its power and that’s not an easy one.

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      • What gets labeled as “mental illness” is actually necessary (natural) coping mechanisms that have developed over thousands of years in the human species in response to severe stress in life

        Actually you seem to presume here that there is an “it” which has simply been mislabeled “mental illness.” The thoughts, feelings and behaviors which are labeled “mentall illness” run the gamut of human experience. Some but by no means all of them are problematic to those who experience them. Some are primarily distressing to others. As long as psychiatry exists their official position by definition will be that there are diseases of the mind which are just as real as diseases of the brain. It doesn’t matter if they don’t use drugs and employ talk therapy; if they profess to do this by virtue of an alleged credibility conferred upon them by a medical degree, they implicitly support the medical model. Or at least capitalize on it.

        There are individuals who are exceptions — who have psychiatric degrees yet don’t base their practice on their medical credentials and have no problem lambasting the entire field. Breggin of course comes to mind (anyone hear him on “Coast to Coast” a couple nights ago?), and there no doubt are a few others. But our fight is with institutions, not simply opprssive individual psychiatrists.

        We don’t need a “more scientific” form of psychiatry, tho — not sure if that’s what you’re implying, but that would be even more sinister and dangerous.

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        • Oldhead

          I think maybe your reading something into my comment that is not there. First off, I hope you felt that the essence of my overall point in addressing Copycat was important and worth taking on.

          I look forward to the day when both psychiatry and all other components of the therapeutic state (including the professional counseling I do) can leave history’s stage; the sooner the better. We may have some differences (I’m not sure yet) about strategy and tactics in achieving that goal.

          I believe we can have “programmatic” unity on certain issues at certain times with some psychiatrists, and there is value in attempting to seek such unity in a protracted struggle to dismantle the entire mental health system. (I plan to address this as a side point in Part 2 of my coming blog). And I do not separate the struggle to end psychiatric abuse, in all its forms, from the broader struggle to end all class oppression and all forms of human exploitation.

          And yes, you are correct to say that there is not, nor can there be, a more “scientific” form of psychiatry. The ideological and theoretical foundations of psychiatry can not be scientifically substantiated, and never will be, in my opinion. My emphasis on “genuine” science in my comment was addressing those who would promote creationism or superstition to supplant theories of evolution and other important scientific theories; scientific theories that we can use as important weapons in our battle to end all psychiatric abuse.

          Oldhead, notice I got through a whole comment without using the word “biological.”


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          • Hi. I wasn’t really trying to counter anything you said, just taking off from a few of your points. Tho the argument that psychiatry is not scientific tends to imply tha if it were it would be better.

            My attitude towards religion: I do not consider being spiritual and being religious to be the same. Many leftists eschew both spirituality and religion, I contrast them — spirituality involves our personal connection to the universe and universal consciousness; religion is an attempt by man to control and channel that spirituality.

            Oldhead, notice I got through a whole comment without using the word “biological.”

            Noticed. Does this represent a trend? 🙂

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    • Actually that’s not the case. I doubt atheism has anything to do with psychiatry.
      As to being evolutionist I don’t even understand what you mean. Evolutionary theory is a single most important theory in biology and in the same time the most misused and misunderstood theory out there.
      Someone said:
      “theory of evolution is not understood by 100% of its opponents and 99% of its proponents” and according to my personal experience it’s approximately true.

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  13. Given what gravities or potential charge some of these discussions will inevitably have I welcome a degree of messiness among the earnest searching. If we would avoid triggers and trauma all together, then we also shy from the risks of broaching, thus tapping into, how these topics, the details of our statements, land with each of us, in our diversity of perspectives.
    There is an inevitable risk of entering these discussions at all. Messiness is and never has been the issue for me. It is the context of relationship, and the lack of real container in online spaces that I often see leading to continual dead ends. It’s something I’ve witnessed over time and a lot of experience (I’m not even specifically talking about this forum). I sense that to do the deep juicy and messy conflict work that I agree is important, we need some sense of container. I’m not sure what that would be in an online forum. Maybe it is possible online, I’m just saying I’ve rarely seen it. It’s not about taking away the risk, I’d just like to improve the level of container, as I’ve seen so many of the same debates and weird dynamics emerge on so many forums on this topic.
    I had hoped that the UU church could form the container. I understand that they could not. Still need a container.

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  14. The untimely death of Jesus of Nazareth may have been prevented if his severe and persistent mental illness had been properly treated, but alas, there were no miraculous antipsychotic medications 2000 years ago, and they, unfortunately, were forced to crucify the young man.

    No, my friends, there was no NAMI Nazareth to assist the needy Joseph and Mary. Count your blessings.

    We can see from Jesus’ family history that his mother, Mary, also suffered from untreated delusions and hallucinations. At the age of fourteen, young Mary believed she was visited by an Archangel named “Gabriel” whom she claimed appeared in order to inform her that she was pregnant with the Son of G-d. Mary suffered also from command hallucinations in which, she felt, the angel was ordering her to name her baby Jesus. It is common for schizophrenia to run in families. In fact, Mary’s mother Anna was also afflicted with hallucinatory visions of angels.

    Mary’s much older guardian, Joseph the Carpenter, upon discovering her predicament, was not pleased. He was determined to leave Mary and dismiss her entirely. The stress of being unwed and pregnant in ancient times, may have triggered Mary’s genetic predisposition to mental illness, the very same illness that Jesus went on to develop during early adulthood. Joseph opted instead to assist in concealing Mary’s crime, and they were secretly married by the high priest.

    Indeed, this was a troubled family, prone to instability and homeless wandering. Jesus himself was born under less than sanitary conditions, surrounded by animals and their droppings, which gives credence to the possibility that he may have been infected at birth with a schizo-virus found in the animal fecal matter. Upon the birth of Jesus, three social workers visited to assess the situation, and provided some limited assistance. Yet, even with the large taxes being assessed in Bethlehem, there was insufficient funding for helping these displaced and mentally ill homeless individuals, and Mary and baby Jesus fell through the cracks of a cold, uncaring system. No, My friends, there was no Mother’s Act. Without the support of Joseph, Mary and Jesus may have succumbed much sooner to the ravages of untreated schizophrenia.

    Even as a young child, it seems Jesus’ symptoms were evident. He had few friends due to his outrageous and risky behavior, and many parents chose to disallow their own children from playing with young Jesus. Perhaps, it was during this time of social isolation that Jesus began to develop pathological personality traits which were exacerbated by his untreated brain illness. By the time he reached adulthood at the age of 12, Jesus was struggling with his symptoms. He chose to run away to Jerusalem, believing he was told to go home to his “father”, G-d. Joseph had passed away around this time, and Jesus became the sole supporter for his mother and himself. Again, they had fallen on hard times, losing their property and fighting poverty. “No adolescent youth who has lived or ever will live on this world or any other world has had or ever will have more weighty problems to resolve or more intricate difficulties to untangle.”

    “Jesus attained his full physical growth. He was a virile and comely youth. He became increasingly sober and serious, but he was kind and sympathetic. His eye was kind but searching; his smile was always engaging and reassuring. His voice was musical but authoritative; his greeting cordial but unaffected…yet he was developing a somewhat fluctuating and aggressive temperament.” Jesus began to engage in violent behavior, entering the temple and turning over the furniture in a rage. He spoke of receiving messages from G-d, of whom he claimed to be the son sent to redeem humanity. Jesus roamed the streets in his delusional state, speaking of things that no one else could understand. His rants and rages became the focus of the authorities, and Jesus was arrested.

    No, my friends, there was no jail diversion for the severely and persistently mentally ill back in those days. There were no state of the art psychiatric facilities that could contain Jesus, keeping him and others safe from his bizarre ideas and vagrant wandering. The authorities did not understand that Jesus had a serious brain illness. In ignorance and hatred, they crucified him. Jesus became just another statistic, a tragic victim of his untreated severe mental illness.

    But today, we have neuroleptic drugs and NAMI. Today we could have prevented Jesus’ wandering and ranting, his threats about the end times, his disruptive behaviors. His loving NAMI family could have called 911 as soon as he started turning over the tables at temple, and specially trained CIT officers would subdue, lovingly restrain Jesus for safety, and remove him from society to a safe haven of psychiatric care, where he would be given highly effective medications that would allow for his peaceful and productive re-entry into society.

    You’ve come a long way NAMI…Amen.

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    • Yes, Copy_cat, psychiatry’s DSM disorders are the answer to all life’s questions! All who believe in inspiration from the Holy Spirit or God, or who may be experiencing a spiritual awakening, must be immediately stigmatized and tranquilized by psychiatrists for life! or murdered with major drug interaction ladened cocktails, if at all possible! (at least according to my medical records).

      But what if medicalizing all human emotions and creating iatrogenic illnesses for profit is not The Way to creating a better world? What if, as psychiatry seemingly claims, the DSM is not actually a “bible” which properly classifies all, including that which is unknown to mankind?

      Here are a few YouTube clips from some contemporary others who are also questioning psychiatry’s seeming claims that they are to be the true rulers of the universe (second only to God, Dr. Biederman?), rather than the Triune God in commune with oneness of all of humanity:

      Dr Wayne Dyer -The Awakened Life (complete version)

      I believe that both your and my point, Copy_cat, is that defaming all people who stand out from the crowd, or who beat to a different drummer, or who have spiritual beliefs, with “mental illnesses” is NOT going to benefit humanity in the long run. Not to mention, in the US, this common psychiatric industry behavior is technically illegal.

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  15. The authors have analyzed the religious figures Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and St. Paul from a behavioral, neurologic, and neuropsychiatric perspective to determine whether new insights can be achieved about the nature of their revelations. Analysis reveals that these individuals had experiences that resemble those now defined as psychotic symptoms, suggesting that their experiences may have been manifestations of primary or mood disorder-associated psychotic disorders. The rationale for this proposal is discussed in each case with a differential diagnosis. Limitations inherent to a retrospective diagnostic examination are assessed. Social models of psychopathology and group dynamics are proposed as explanations for how followers were attracted and new belief systems emerged and were perpetuated. The authors suggest a new DSM diagnostic subcategory as a way to distinguish this type of psychiatric presentation. These findings support the possibility that persons with primary and mood disorder-associated psychotic symptoms have had a monumental influence on the shaping of Western civilization. It is hoped that these findings will translate into increased compassion and understanding for persons living with mental illness.

    Or it is hoped that these findings will translate into increased belief in the DSM billing bible instead of the real one ?

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      • Copycat

        Based on what you are proposing I guess we all should just declare that psychiatry is really a creation of the “Devil.” This will end all debate on the true nature of psychiatry. We can now joyously announce that all theoretical, scientific, political, and moral struggle on these questions to be officially over. Our work is done!!! Brilliant!!!


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        • I think you’re unnecessarily sarcastic. I am an atheist but I found CopyCat’s piece on Jesus hilarious and spot on. There’s a trend on diagnosis famous historical or even mythical figures with the DSM and using this to “promote awareness”. Which is laughable when one thinks about it for 5s – if mental illness is so bad then how comes all these people suffering from it have brought in important contributions to human rights, art and science? It’s psychiatry 101 and I think this could really appeal to religious people. It just highlights the importance of “creative maladjustment” whether you think the source of it is spiritual or biological in one way or another.

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      • Copy_cat,

        I don’t know if psychiatry is anti-religion, but it sure does seem to be anti-mystic. Psychiatrists don’t seem to mind people praying, but when people get answers back in response to their prayers, then they get labeled with being “delusional,” or having “ideas of reference” or whatever. It happens all the time.

        There certainly are, however, individual psychiatrists who feel that ANY religiosity or spirituality is a sign of “mental illness,” such as the ones I have read about in comments here who have pathologized people for believing in the Holy Spirit or in reincarnation. It just shows how dangerous it is for one group of people to have so much power in relation to another group, that members of the former can each force their own personal reality onto members of the latter. And by “the latter” group, I mean “anyone who finds themself in the role of a psych patient.”

        I liked the story about Jesus as “schizophrenic.” Thanks for sharing that.

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  16. Johnathon – you raise some excellent points. One that resonates with me is;
    “f a place that is as open minded as the Unitarian Church will no longer host a psychiatric reform group, what does that say about our message to the broader public?”
    The phrase; for me to be right does not require for you to be wrong – comes to mind. The importance of this blog and the Rethinking Psych forums for me is bearing witness to the many anguished stories from people who have been harmed by Psychiatry. Survivors whose stories are met w/ dismissal, invalidation and attack. These experiences are not heard by the public nearly enough (if at all) and are largely ignored by the media.
    But the many people who report being helped by meds or Psychiatry do not have to be wrong. They are entitled to their story and hopes and may feel threatened and dismissed by many writers in this movement. I once heard BWhitaker respond to a visibly nervous “consumer” at a conference who said he felt his meds were helping him and did Bob think that was wrong. Whitaker responded exactly how I felt – glad to hear it, I accept your story.

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    • But the many people who report being helped by meds or Psychiatry do not have to be wrong. They are entitled to their story and hopes and may feel threatened and dismissed by many writers in this movement.

      People may “feel threatened” for any number of reasons. Still I have yet to see any person undergoing psychiatric “treatment” attacked here in any way, told that their choice was stupid, or anything else that could reasonably considered bullying or threatening. I of course don’t read every single post. But am I wrong?

      BTW is there a movement? I hadn’t heard! 🙂

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      • Spot on: they seem to be threatened by the truth alone. I’ve never seen anyone here criticizing people for choosing to take drugs, some contributors on MIA either prescribe them or take them or both. Mostly it’s down to personal choice and all that’s advocated is truly informed consent.

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    • I think this brings us to the point that forced and coerced treatment (including being told one has a “chemical imbalance” that can be helped with psychiatric drugs, when there is zero scientific evidence showing this is true) is the real problem.

      I know that when a never psychotic person is put on an antipsychotic, it can (and in my case did) cause a terrifying psychosis, within two weeks of being put on the drug. But conversely, that may mean that it’s possible that antipsychotics given to a person who actually has psychosis might help that person. If the drugs work for you, by all means, take them!

      But the real problems are the misinformation, coercion, force, and the psychiatric (and medical) industry’s ungodly disrespectful claims that their patients are “un-credible” witnesses to their own lives and experiences. And telling lies in order to get people to take drugs that are known to be toxic and dangerous, especially in the long run, is wrong. Any kind of coercion or long run forced medication is wrong.

      Literally, we are at the point where innocent people who’ve dealt with a “bad fix” on a broken bone are being defamed and poisoned with known major drug interactions to proactively prevent non-existent potential malpractice suits. Literally, we are at the point the psychologists are misdiagnosing people based upon lies and gossip from child molesters and threatening people onto toxic psychotropic drug cocktails so they may cover up the sexual abuse of little children for the mainstream religions.

      Although, I’ve been told that covering up easily recognized iatrogenesis for the mainstream medical community and sexual abuse for the religions has historically always been the role of the psychiatric industry. Does our society really need an industry whose function it is to unjustly defame and tranquilize individuals harmed by the wealthy and / or well connected, for the unethical wealthy and well connected?

      We need to end the coercion and forced psychiatric treatment. And the psychiatrists, and our country, need to understand that the antipsychotics are, for most people, “torture” drugs, not “wonder drugs.” But apparently the psychiatric industry has bought off many of the mainstream religions with their ability to cover up pastoral sins for the mainstream religions.

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      • Yes to pretty much all of that with one small caveat — I think you use the term “psychosis” too literally; after all “psychosis” is classified as a “mental illness” for sure, meaning that it is actually a subjective value judgement regarding someone’s behavior (regardless whether or not there is collective agreement with such judgement. So when you talk about things being “mis”diagnosed there is the implication that the issue is the particular “diagnosis” rather than the entire approach of considering human behavior a question of “health.”

        But yeah, ending forced “treatment” for real would pretty much resolve the matter, because without force psychiatry would have to rely upon its own p.r. to survive, and they can’t hold up to that challenge without government support.

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  17. Greetings all,

    As an almost charter member of RTP, I appreciate the outpouring of support for the difficult position we are in, and the effort to look at the reason. Francesca, I can assure you that the reason this happened was not because of a strong anti-medication or anti-psychiatry message, and frankly, I felt a bit of resentment that you would assume this is the case without knowing anything about the situation on the ground. The name “Rethinking Psychiatry” was chosen with this in mind – the group’s purpose is not to ban or destroy psychiatry, but to help re-focus the profession on the experiences of the consumer/survivor/user of services and on the range of viable options that exist beyond the scope of the brain disease/chemical imbalance viewpoint. It is expansive and inclusive in nature, and definitely pro-choice for medication (many of our regular attendees use medication regularly), to the point that we even had NAMI present a film at last year’s film festival. They were very politely received and a rich and healthy conversation ensued after the film, which I hope left everyone feeling a little more enlightened.

    In truth, I believe WileyWitch is closest to the truth: it seems to be hard for people to get their heads around “mental illness” being something that could happen to almost anyone, or that oppressive surroundings, including in the family, our communities, and our society as a whole, can cause almost anyone to “lose their minds” and act in ways that are uncomfortable for us to see. In particular, it is very painful for family members to realize that they may have contributed in some unknown way to their children’s suffering, or that they might have been able to make their child’s path easier if they’d behaved differently. It seems to be “human nature” to avoid such uncomfortable realizations and project “the problem” onto a particular family member or social group who lacks the power to defend him/herself. Alice Miller writes very powerfully about this phenomenon. Of course, when the “scapegoat” starts complaining about being singled out in this way, it is in the common interest of those in power to minimize or distort his/her voice so that the social delusion of calm and order can be maintained.

    It is clear that there are a certain, very small number of INDIVIDUALS within the local church structure (or perhaps attached to people who attend but not members themselves) who were disturbed by our message, and would have been uncomfortable with any message that questioned the mainstream view of psychiatry, and those individuals acted to make themselves feel more comfortable by getting rid of the “dangerous group” who was disturbing their sense of reality. And they made enough noise to make enough other people uncomfortable that the church executives felt they had to choose one or the other, and sadly, chose to support the status quo and comfort over challenging the dominant paradigm. It is pretty much that simple.

    It almost makes sense to me that this would be the last form of oppression that even those battling oppression on other fronts would be able to embrace. There is so much fear of being labeled “crazy” as a means of marginalizing dissent, that those who have another agenda are probably worried that allying with the RTP movement will tarnish them in some way, much as the antipsychiatry movement has been intentionally tarnished with the “Scientology” brush (and of course, Scientology itself has been severely attacked for having the temerity to suggest an alternative to psychiatric treatment in the first place).

    That being said, it is a sad moment. I very much appreciate Jonathan bringing it to national attention. I have heard great things about the Vancouver BC Unitarians and am glad they’re still on board, and other Unitarian congregations around the country continue to be supportive of this work, so please don’t overgeneralize about Unitarians based on this one incident. It is political, but it is local, and has its own backstory that has nothing to do with Francesca’s formulation that if we’d just been nicer or less strident, things would have turned out differently. We made some people uncomfortable and they acted out to make themselves feel better. It is an almost inevitable result of challenging the status quo.

    I am sure we will reconstitute in some form or another. I hope that people are also considering that this kind of reaction suggest that we are, in fact, having an impact, because no one would bother trying to get rid of an organization that was easier to ignore. Let’s keep on that path and not apologize for our message making people uncomfortable. Comfortable people don’t change.

    —- Steve

    P.S. Thanks to Oldhead for the Phil Ochs reprise. There was a guy who didn’t mind stirring up a bit of controversy!

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      • But it would certainly also be premature for us to assume that they were legitimate. And given the nature of what we’re dealing with, emotional reactivity to the essence of the effort is a very likely component. It’s an old story that has happened to many before who had the courage to speak up about oppression.

        As it happens, I do know a bit about the expressed concerns and who expressed them, and I am comfortable with my statement above, as it is based on knowledge, not pure speculation. It’s impossible to know what people’s motivations are, but the information I have suggests this was a political move based on emotional reaction and defensiveness from one or two people, not a principled decision based on thought and discussion among the group. Of course, you’re entitled to assume whatever you want, but I hope you would respect the fact that I have direct knowledge that you are not able to incorporate into your viewpoint, and I hope you would trust that I am communicating that information honestly to help others understand what happened.

        —- Steve

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    • Thanks for all the comments here folks. I wanted to add that (like Steve said) the Vancouver BC Unitarians are very much supportive of our aims. The folks there are outspoken in their desire for radical reform so I don’t want to take this one case as indicative of all Unitarian churches. Steven Epperson and Diana Girdansky are doing powerful work up there to change things.

      I do think that these issues can be pretty confusing for folks on the Left. Many of them have avidly been promoting more access to mental health “treatment” for the poor, the homeless, etc., and are clamoring for more hospital beds. They see this as a civil rights issue to offer more “help” for those in need.

      Our message is that the help they, or anyone, is getting, often does not serve people well and can in fact damage them quite a bit more. Those on the Left who are allied with us have to separate that idea out from the idea of governmental “support” for those in need. It can be quite a leap, especially when there is disinformation to discredit reformers as being stooges of scientology, or anti-scientific, etc.

      I think the challenge is always going to be how to channel much of the justified anger coming from survivors as well as the evidence of modern mental health care malfeasance, into productive long term changes.

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      • Hi Jonathan, Thank you for this. I live in a county and state where NAMI’s influence is pervasive. As a parent of a special needs young adult son I understand many of their issues but disagree on their unquestioning belief system. Even before I became a psych survivor I had questions regarding their as if codependency.
        I was involved in an Unitarian church which I liked very much but they were very supportive of NAMI. I think this is where you hit the nail on the head with the inability of most open minded folks to be unable to see the psych survivor movement in a true light without overlay of multiple layers of societal prejudice foster by a multilayered conflagration of organizations.
        I think as a movement we need to use all of our talents. The radicals should be radicals, the diplomats should be diplomats.Infighting only hurts the cause, though my memories of inpatient hospitalizations are still associated with anger and reading some columns and comments can cause PSTD triggers for me. So anger here is just part and parcel of the problem.
        Trouble is unknowing folks are fearful and most people are fearful of anger especially in today’s society.

        At least you had a viable organization and group. It can happen again.
        Here where I live MIA type of thinking is an antehma. I tried the peer support services route and was basically shut out. Most are unable to hold the idea that sometimes medication works but nobody really knows the whys and the wherefores and sometimes it is just awful.Some of my children have chosen to be on psychotropics some refuse. I am trying to get off. Sometimes do it and then trauma happens and I have to go back on.
        Interestingly adults who survived chemo and radiation as children are now dealing with terrifically awful health issues due to the treatments that saved their lives.
        I think we have allies out there that we havent reached yet.
        Inn the first throes of the disability movement there seemed to be a more unified stance. We have all been spilt up- sometimes I wonder the how of how this came to be. It is a great loss.
        I have learned so much here and get support just from reading. At least you did have something concrete with networking and dialogue. There are many of us who are desert voices in our locality wilderness. And it aint easy.
        Keep up the work and let’s continue the conversations!

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  18. Hi Jonathan, I’m really sorry to hear that this is happening. I don’t know a ton about Rethinking Psychiatry, but they were actually the first group in the country to host a screening of ‘Beyond the Medical Model’ (before it was even released for purchase or shown at any conference), so naturally, I think of them fondly. 😉

    I, too, find myself wondering if there’s a way to reach out to the church and shift their thinking on this matter, at all. I haven’t had time to read through all the comments above, but any thoughts there?


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    • I’m sure Jonathan doesn’t want me answering for him, but i would suggest that it’s almost a no-brainer to try to have the Unitarian Rev. from Vancouver get in on this, maybe do some consciousness-raising with the Portland crew?

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  19. Rethinking Psychiatry took money from Scientology. No one should approve of that–it defeats the very purpose of opposing the psychiatric establishment. You know about Scientology, if you are well informed, and recognize that it uses the same tactics as abusive psychiatry–i.e. circular logic, invalidating the individual’s opinions and feelings, strict dogma and control, and retaliation if questioned or resisted.

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    • Ann,

      As a member of RTP, I must respectfully take issue with the accuracy and tone of your post:

      1) RTP did not take any money from Scientology or any other organized group. I don’t know where you got that idea, but it is absolutely false. RTP survived ONLY on the voluntary contributions of members and participants in activities, as well as in-kind donations from the Unitarian Church in the form of space and logistical support. Naturally, this kind of effort might be of interest to people of a variety of faiths, and we would not turn away a supporter based on their religious affiliations, but the group itself has and had no allegiance or financial connections to anyone but our membership.

      2) I am really, really tired of having folks in our movement buy into the use of the “Scientology smear” as a means of discrediting psychiatric reform/protest/revolt. It is clearly a tactic created and imposed by the psychiatrists themselves, and every time we bite on it, we reinforce their ability to distract others with their meaningless cant and lies. While Scientology as a religion may have many flaws (and I am personally quite aware of what those are from direct experience), it is a religious persuasion, not a scientific or professional source of information. The fact that someone in this movement is or is not a Scientologist is as irrelevant to the issue of psychiatric abuse as the fact of them being a Catholic or a vegan or having a California drivers’ license.

      We need to stop buying into this crap and state right out loud to anyone bringing this up: WHAT THE HELL DOES RELIGION HAVE TO DO WITH THE EFFECTIVENESS AND INTEGRITY OF THE CURRENT PSYCHIATRIC CARE MODEL???? The obvious answer is NOTHING! (Unless Psychiatry itself is willing to admit it is a religion and is threatened by the competition…) There are sound, scientific, factual reasons why psychiatric care as practiced today is often invalidative and destructive and leads to an increase in chronic disability. The professed religious persuasion of the person stating these facts has no bearing on the truth of them.

      So please, let’s not blame Scientology for the Unitarian Church’s decision. As I said, I have on the ground information that suggests a very small number of individuals, for personal emotional reasons, worked hard to have this stopped, and it had nothing to do with Scientology or the aims of the Unitarian Church, though of course, it is quite possible that those excuses were dredged up and used by the individuals behind this. It was all about personal discomfort with any message that contradicted psychiatric dogma, and it would not have mattered who delivered it.

      I hope that clarifies things a bit. It would really help if people didn’t make assumptions or listen to rumors about a situation that they are not personally familiar with, especially when you have more than one person available to do fact checking and rumor control.

      — Steve

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  20. I suggest hidden cameras in hospitals and another Rosenhan experiment. People believe that psychiatrists are good and compassionate people who practice scientifically valid medicine.
    Plus for some there’s nothing better than tranquilise people who bother you, without asking for the opinion of tranqualized individuals.
    I’m hitting y head against this wall daily – I explain and explain and in the end I hear “but my aunt got better (after years of being drugged and locked up and put in restraints)” – yeah…

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