The Media Missed the Story: Civil Rights and the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

Christian Exoo
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There’s a fierce debate brewing on Capitol Hill over two competing bills that seek to overhaul our nation’s mental health system. Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ), a survivor of Jared Loughner’s 2011 mass shooting, has proposed the Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act of 2014, a bill that would provide additional funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). Barber’s legislation specifically targets at-risk populations who may be underserved − young people, seniors, veterans, and Native American communities − and seeks to provide patient-driven treatment before the illness becomes unmanageable.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) has offered the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, the final result of a yearlong investigation that began after Adam Lanza’s 2012 attack on the Sandy Hook Elementary School left 28 dead, including Lanza. The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act seeks to reallocate the $460 million in block grants currently distributed to community mental-health centers by SAMHSA, and replace that with a top-down system of federal control. It’s already garnered impressive bipartisan support − a full one-third of its co-sponsors are Democrats − by seeking to disperse $60 million in federal funds to states willing to collect data on key outcomes (such as emergency room visits and mortality rates of persons with serious mental illness) and institute evidence-based programs of medical-model practices.

However, buried under Title VII, Section 704 of the 134-page bill, there’s a catch − to be eligible to receive federal grant money, states must change their standards for involuntary treatment of the mentally ill from posing an imminent danger to oneself or others, to the far more vague “disabled and in need of treatment.”

Disabled is defined in this way: “[T]his impairment causes the individual to be incapable of understanding the advantages and disadvantages of accepting treatment and understanding and expressing an understanding of the alternatives to the particular treatment offered after the advantages, disadvantages, and alternatives are explained to the individual.” In other words, refusing treatment would become sufficient grounds to legally compel treatment.

This is the standard that currently exists in most states. A person may have the right to refuse treatment, as long as he or she is competent, but the very refusal to accept treatment is regularly seen as evidence of incompetence. In essence, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, for a person seen to be mentally ill to refuse treatment. Diagnosis leads to an almost automatic claim by the state that it can now force treatment.

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act would expand outpatient commitment laws, curbing the civil rights of millions of Americans. That expansion is predicated on the assumptions that the mentally ill are more likely to engage in violence than the general population, and that forced medication will reduce this violence. Yet, looking at the clinical research may question these assumptions.

Are Persons with Mental Illness More Likely to be Violent?

Are persons with mental illness more likely to be violent than the general population? The New York Times offered a roundtable discussion entitled “Can Therapists Prevent Violence?” where two of the six pieces explicitly endorsed Rep. Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, and none of the six questioned the premise of the discussion. American Enterprise Institute scholar Sally Satel wrote a piece entitled “Loosen Restrictions for Therapists to Report Danger.” However, 2012 study of violent risk assessment by psychiatric residents found that the young doctors were “no better than chance” at predicting violence in patients.

There is a simple explanation for this ineptness − mental illness has nothing to do with violence. Studies show that the mentally ill are no more likely to be violent than their sane cohort. The MacArthur Community Violence Survey found that persons with mental illness have no higher risk for violence than the others from the same neighborhood. A 2000 study on violence and delusions using the MacArthur data found that “[n]either delusions in general nor threat/control override delusions in particular were associated with a higher risk of violent behavior.” Seena Fazel, a psychiatrist at the University at Oxford, studied violence in people diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2009 and in people with bipolar disorder in 2010. He found that the increased risk for violence is caused by substance abuse. Fazel concluded that for people diagnosed with schizophrenia, “most of the excess risk appears to be mediated by substance abuse comorbidity” and for persons with bipolar disorder, “[t]he risk increase was minimal in patients without substance abuse comorbidity.”

In the same Times roundtable, Associate Professor of Psychology Kevin Nadel suggested that mental health professionals work in crisis teams with police to prevent violence: “These qualified professionals are much more competent in assessing mental illness than police officers.” Nadel omits the main reason mental health professionals should work with the police − to train law enforcement not to kill persons with mental illness. The recent acquittal of two officers who beat to death Kelly Thomas, a homeless man living with mental illness, as well as the regular killings by police of persons with mental illness underscore the vulnerability of this population and the need for protection. In fact, those with mental illness are much more likely to be a victim than an attacker. The National Crime Victimization Survey reports that persons with severe mental illness are 16 times more likely to be raped, and 10 times more likely to be violently victimized than the general population.

Does Outpatient Commitment Work?

This focus, not on treating persons with mental illness, but on the ostensible danger posed to rest of the society was echoed throughout the roundtable. D.J. Jaffe, Executive Director of the Mental Illness Policy Org, touted the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act as “a smart limited exception to confidentiality law that could help improve care and reduce violence.” But does the forced treatment of Rep. Murphy’s bill actually improve care and reduce violence?

The studies on forced treatment are decidedly mixed. Even those that have found a reduction in violence are unwilling to ascribe the drop to coercive treatment, and recommend against the expansion of outpatient commitment. A 2010 study of New York’s outpatient commitment program found that patients in the outpatient group acknowledged that “assisted outpatient treatment clients also received other enhanced services, such as priority for housing and vocational services. We cannot conclude which of these elements of the package deal contributed most to the generally positive outcomes for participants. We therefore caution against using our results to justify an expansion of coercion in psychiatric treatment.”

A 2001 study of outpatient commitment in North Carolina found that patients assigned to the forced treatment group did not experience a reduction in violence, but that frequency of service contacts (three or more per month) did reduce violence in the studied population. It also found that the outpatient commitment group reported greater feelings of perceived coercion, which often leads to self-reported low medication adherence, higher feelings of devaluation and discrimination, and lower quality of life in discharged patients. The North Carolina study ultimately recommended against the expansion of coercive treatment, concluding: “A court order alone cannot substitute for effective treatment in improving outcomes.” Indeed, these legislative measures may be preventing people with mental illness from seeking help. A 2003 survey of people diagnosed with schizophrenia indicated that 36% of people resisted seeking help for fear of coerced treatment.

Judicial Intervention, Not Preventative Care

A recurring theme in media coverage attacked the focus on preventative care of Rep. Barber’s bill, favoring the more forceful approach of Rep. Murphy’s proposed legislation. In a blog post on mental health reform, the Washington Post gave just 37 words of the 600-word report to Rep. Barber’s legislation: ”Democrats have also called for changes in mental health programs in a similar bill, authored by Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) that offers broader reforms to mental health programs instead of focusing solely on the most severely ill patients.” D.J. Jaffe in the New York Times wrote that Rep. Murphy’s bill “requires the government to start focusing it’s [sic] vast spending on getting treatment to the most seriously ill rather than all others.” However, Barber’s bill is designed to focus on vulnerable populations to ensure that treatment is provided before the illness becomes so debilitating that the patient cannot actively participate in his/her own recovery.

In an editorial endorsing Rep. Murphy’s bill, the Washington Post seemed to misunderstand exactly what the legislation proposes: “It makes obvious sense for the government to back community-based clinics that promise to prevent individuals’ mental illnesses from spiraling out of control, when possible.” However, cutting funding to community-based clinics and replacing them with a federally controlled system of medical-model care is exactly what the bill seeks to do.

Both the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal issued editorials supporting Rep. Murphy’s legislation and attacking the patient-driven approach currently used by SAMHSA. The Tribune referred to patient-driven care as “dubious” and the Journal deployed selective quotation in its attack on SAMHSA: “The agency is a fan of ‘patient driven recovery,’ which allows the mentally ill to craft their own treatments and stresses ‘hope’ and ‘empowerment.’”

Yet, the preventative, patient-driven care ignored by Rep. Murphy’s bill has been shown to be hugely clinically effective in treating persons with mental illness. “A recovery-oriented and patient-directed approach to care was associated with greater satisfaction with mental health medications, leading to fewer mental health symptoms and to better quality of life and recovery. Recovery-oriented care was also directly associated with improved recovery outcomes, and indirectly through clinician satisfaction, with quality of life. The total effect of patient-directed recovery-oriented approach to care on recovery was 0.57, and on quality of life 0.37.” concluded a 2008 study.

Civil Rights Coverage

Joe Nocera’s New York Times op-ed in the wake of Elliot Rodger’s shooting was one of the few to acknowledge that Rodger was “an outlier” and that “you can’t go around committing them all because a tiny handful might turn out to be killers.” (However, this position represents a reversal of the one Nocera outlined shortly after the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut: “[L]iberals need to acknowledge that untreated mental illness is also an important part of the reason mass killings take place . . .  The state and federal rules around mental illness are built upon a delusion: that the sickest among us should always be in control of their own treatment, and that deinstitutionalization is the more humane route.”)

The New York Times was also one of the few media outlets to cover the civil rights aspect of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act in an even-handed way, quoting Gina Nikkel of the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care and Robert Bernstein of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law– both strong critics of the bill– along with Keris Myrick of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and E. Fuller Torrey of the Treatment Advocacy Center, both supporters of the bill. However, the article failed to mention Torrey’s involvement with the legislation, which is so large that journalist Pete Earley was moved to note on his blog that “Torrey’s fingerprints can be found all over Rep. Murphy’s bill” and that the bill is informally called “Torrey’s revenge.”

The Times article also misunderstood the scope of the proposed legislation. “But the bill’s backing for involuntary treatment is highly contentious. It would provide state grants for so-called assisted outpatient treatment programs under which certain mentally ill people with a history of legal or other problems get court-ordered therapy, which in most cases means trying to ensure they take their medication.” The bill would provide grants solely to states that change their outpatient commitment laws, lowering the standard for judicial intervention to “in need of treatment.” This standard encompasses not only persons with a history of legal problems, but also people deemed “in need of treatment,” which could affect millions of Americans who suffer from mental illness, not merely those who pose a danger to society.

The Root Causes of Violence

But has the media been too focused on mental illness to examine the true causes of violence? By focusing on mental illness as the cause of violence, the media has missed not only the rollback in civil rights that Rep. Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis would entail, but also as the connection between drugs and violence. As Saleen Fazel notes in his studies of violence in persons diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, substance abuse, not mental illness, appears to be the mediator of violence. A 1994 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics notes that in 64.4% of homicides, the perpetrators had been drinking alcohol. A separate 2011 study found that “57% of the homicides would be attributable to alcohol” in the United States.

Additionally, there is some evidence that prescription drugs commonly prescribed to treat mental illness may spur violence. A 2010 study by Thomas Moore, Joseph Glenmullen, and Curt Furberg concluded: “Acts of violence towards others are a genuine and serious adverse drug event associated with a relatively small group of drugs. Varenicline, which increases the availability of dopamine, and antidepressants with serotonergic effects were the most strongly and consistently implicated drugs.” Not knowing this connection led the media to cover Newtown shooter Adam Lanza’s autism rather than his celexa prescription. Likewise, coverage of Tuscon shooter Jared Loughner focused on his diagnosis as a paranoid schizophrenic rather than the drug use that got him rejected from the army. And in the case of Elliot Rodger, the Santa Barbara shooter, the story was possible mental illness, ignoring his risperdone prescription and possible Xanax dependency.

If the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis bill passes, boosted by editorial support in the media, millions of Americans will potentially face the forced medication of outpatient commitment, which could potentially spark a new wave of violence across the country. But one thing is certain. If we are going to have a sensible discussion about mental health in the United States, the media needs to stop equating mental illness with violence and start considering the civil rights issue of forced treatment. Only then will we be able to have a real conversation about the underlying causes of mass violence in America.

71 COMMENTS

  1. These proposals would bring the USA’s bar for involuntary treatment down to the shamefully low Canadian one. Essentially, in Canada a patient can be deemed competent to consent while incompetent to refuse. There is simply no mechanism for refusal, no matter how well-considered that decision may be.

    In general, it’s a bad idea to craft policy that will affect individuals on the basis of statistical characteristics of their group. There are other common threads beyond psychiatric labels and substance abuse comorbidity in these shootings. They always seem to be perpetrated by young males. Is anybody going to support locking males up between the ages of 18 and 24 or so?

    • Unfortunately, yes — especially if they’re black or Latino. That’s what they US system does. One in three black men in their twenties are under some sort of criminal-court control, largely for drug crimes, in spite of the fact that blacks and whites use illegal drugs in roughly the same numbers.

      It leads to a lot of horrible results for individuals and society. One of the more ironic ones is that people in the US who call for “treatment, not jail” are regarded as very progressive, even if they advocate coercive, invasive and inhumane treatment strategies.

      • Hoping that this post isn’t somehow out of place or order…but MA is on the verge of approving a “Pilot” AOT program…calls needed THIS WEEK…

        I’m hoping that the Murphy bill is DOA, as it should be. However, there is a definite need for vigilance, as the ideas behind it are now much more public, thanks largely to the media hype. I don’t know if this is happening elsewhere, but here in Massachusetts, there is some “tiptoeing” towards AOT. The FY15 State Budget includes $250K to fund a “pilot” AOT program, which will then report its data to the Legislature. Even in our ‘progressive’ state!

        We are hoping that the Governor will veto this pilot program, as it is the only remaining part of the budget process. The legislature can override his veto by a 2/3 vote, but it is the only way to prevent the AOT program from happening that I know of.

        If folks are interested in contacting Governor Deval Patrick and urging him to veto the AOT Pilot program, please FEEL FREE!

        He can be contacted at:

        http://www.mass.gov/governor/contact-us.html

        (The above link gives you an email form).

        Phone: 617.725.4005
        888.870.7770 (in state)
        Fax: 617.727.9725

        Suggestions on what to say:

        – Urge the Governor to veto the language contained in line item 5046-0000 that would create a “pilot program” for AOT in Massachusetts.
        (Try to be brief, polite and to the point).

      • “treatment, not jail”
        I think that is because most progressives don’t know what the “treatment” in fact means. You’ll find the same people expressing concerns over overmedication and big pharma but there is little connecting the dots going on. I think we may need another “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest”.

    • I am reading this now, what a crock ! People experiencing psychosis don’t know they are ill ?

      Bullshit ! I was accused of this. You know damb well your tripping, torn to hell emotionally and spirituality during a crisis and the so called treatment does nothing but disable the crap out of you causing MORE distress as you try and try sort it all out !

      Using the same logic these people would strap a backpack full of concrete blocks on a person having trouble climbing stairs.

      This is not good, I really screwed up and I am in a psychiatric hospital, I need to think about how I am going to do life and solve my problems but if I don’t take these pills that disable my mind and thinking, feel toxic to my body they may carry out the injection threats they made at me. This sucks I wanted help and now things just go from bad to worse, help- one more crappy thing to endure, one more shitty thing that happened to me, and why do they even call this help? When this hell when this over this is the last time I every go near psychiatry if I can help it.

      What the hell is wrong with these NAMI advocates ? They are the ones with anosognosia ! They want all there loved ones helped but refuse to acknowledge and seem totally unaware of how abusive and ineffective this “help” is. Seems to me if they had any awareness at all they would be on the front lines of fighting human rights abuses by psychiatry so “loved ones” would go and get help without force.

      Hey loved one would you like some “help” ? How about a strip search, some locked doors and pills and drugs coerced down your throat with the threats of a forced injection “needle rape” ?

      No thanks, I think I will just keep going back and forth to the liquor store, buy some street drugs or just find a quicker way to kill myself. I got help once before, so again no thanks on the help.

      • Copy cat — I can’t tell — are you saying you are actually presently incarcerated? You speak in 1st person present tense. If so are there resources or individuals associated with MIA that could help you access legal or other help? (Just checking.)

        • No, Having lived the psychiatric nightmare I was just trying to explain the thinking of many psychiatric prisoners being “helped”.

          I didn’t have a computer access in that UHS hellhole.

          April 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Universal Health Services, Inc. (NYSE: UHS) announced that its reported net income attributable to UHS was $128.6 million, or $1.31 per diluted share, during the first quarter of 2012 but UHS PSYCH-PRISONER TELEPHONES WERE FOR LOCAL CALLS ONLY !! I was like who the F even uses the antiquated term “long distance call” anymore??? Are you kidding me !!

          UHS makes like a billion a year and makes its victims call collect.I had to call my family collect after foolishly seeking “help” and getting kidnapped by those dirty bastards. I hate UHS.

          This site is dedicated to all the people who were harmed or killed in UHS facilities. They speak for those who have no voice, to protect others from experiencing the pain they endured.

          http://watchinguhs.wordpress.com/

      • Your charactetization of NAMI is “interesting” since those I know supporting the Murphy bill see NAMI as an impediment and it’s suppprt of h.r. 3717 tepid and its bold backing of the Alternatives Convention as part of the trend to SNAKE OIL tx which Murphy so well documented in his senate hearings re SAMHSA.

      • “This is not good, I really screwed up and I am in a psychiatric hospital, I need to think about how I am going to do life and solve my problems but if I don’t take these pills that disable my mind and thinking, feel toxic to my body they may carry out the injection threats they made at me. This sucks I wanted help and now things just go from bad to worse, help- one more crappy thing to endure, one more shitty thing that happened to me, and why do they even call this help? When this hell when this over this is the last time I every go near psychiatry if I can help it.”
        Great summary of my experience with the system. Bunch of f***ing abusers.

    • I also had no problem knowing I was experiencing drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity manic psychosis, when it happened to me. Although, since I hadn’t been forewarned to expect it after I’d been weaned off drugs, and hadn’t yet researched medicine at that time, I didn’t know what to call it or why it was happening. But people are people, we all know when we’re experiencing an altered state of mind, the extreme medical industry paternalism needs to end. The forced drugging needs to end. “Forced psychiatric treatment is torture.”

  2. My question is the following: research shows that forcing individuals identified as high risk for HIV infection (in the US those would be gay males, IV drug users and prostitutes since these three groups of people account for the the overwhelming majority of new HIV infections) on Truvada would dramatically reduce the number of new HIV transmissions and, over time, the number of deaths due to AIDS as well as expenditures due to healcare expenditures associated with AIDS. We know this because,

    1- Research on the effectiveness of Truvada as an agent that prevents HIV transmission on high risk populations http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/01/06/truvada_prep_hiv_gay_men_should_take_pre_exposure_prophylaxis.html

    2- The Cuban experience that adopted a coercive HIV policy since the early stages of the HIV epidemic http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2688320/ . As a result, Cuba is considered a country with low HIV prevalence despite being a well known destination for sexual tourism.

    So, why the double standard? Why are the people the APA labels unscientifically eligible for “forced treatment”, despite its dubious efficacy, while the people who would arguably benefit from forced Truvada are let loose?

    Note that I am NOT defending forced Truvada for these populations. I am highlighting the outrageous double standard that I can only blame on bigotry towards those the APA labels as “mentally ill”.

  3. Are Persons with Mental Illness More Likely to be Violent?

    Not until you force ‘care’ on them with things such as strip searches including squat and cough to thoroughly dehumanize during civil rights removal process, take away their cigarettes in time of crisis (Got to love the new non smoking policies and the logic behind that) , violate human rights by violating bodily integrity by forcing and coercing people with violence ‘needle rape’ to ingest unwanted drugs.

    I went into “care” voluntarily for help with severe anxiety made worse by drinking and by the time the “process” was half over all I wanted was to beat the piss out of everyone working in that hospital, pee in there gas tanks, pop their tires ect ect. Feelings I did not have before.

    They should call the new law “helping families get hated by their loved ones Act” : )

    • “half over all I wanted was to beat the piss out of everyone working in that hospital, pee in there gas tanks, pop their tires ect ect. ”
      My own experience is similar. I’m actually still super proud of myself that being drugged so much I hardly remember anything I managed to throw chairs at them and destroy some of their netbeds (basically human cages). At least I know I’m not that easy to break (which is actually what a lot of people experiencing torture show as even the report on CIA torture can confirm). Forced treatment is morally wrong, stupid and counterproductive just as any other form of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. When will the people get it finally?

  4. Thank you so much for including links to the studies. This is a fight all c/s/x advocates have been waging for years, and well-done research is important. Especially to fight the notoriously slanted “research” done by Torrey and TAC. Always glad to have links to useful tools. I hope you write more for us.

  5. Christian Exoo – How your story worked for me. For one thing, it was unlike most of what I read about this stuff, “mental illness”. You can try this yourself about something popularly misconceived, if you can think of it. I got twice as informed by purposely pausing to register the feel, not adding time so much as effort, of the actual meaning of “mentally ill” and “mental illness” each time you said it. So each time, it was the generic or named but unknown by me case of some human being who just has got messed up, very much like getting extremely fatigued, and pushing beyond punchdrunk into unrecognizable patterns of unhelpful to notice things and feelings and adventures in thought that may or may not seem to present a problem. There is after all no real attention paid to talking people down or into the most pliant (not compliant) and safe feeling of moods in order to “take their tempature more accurately”. There are not these illnesses and no discrete disorders to lift away from the person and treat, wholly mental or biological either.

    So I said the first part of my special attention to watching the sense of the meaning sink in with the least part of it, the lived experience side. The new and valuable difference was seeing the “others” from the neutral viewpoint, that they just have some very subtle functioning shut down, some very subtle functioning on like it shouldn’t be. Just like me. So, besides for this one actually mythical object of reference, you could read some stock trade literature on alcoholism ramifying the disease model, as literally as possible, at every turn. Focus on the fact of how people work themselves into the addiction with continual effort, and see how much better you understand what you’ve been told. You could see the point of grappling every time with that word “mental”–if you don’t already, if only for a moment. Although, you could just have gone ahead as though blithely in support of the popular take, and that led to the smooth, attractive flow of your reporting, there’s bound to be so much variance on what patients and non-patients alike imagine or feel is proved that you will certainly have a worthy history of the evolution of your own use of the term to recount and decide on in the off-moments, perchance.

    This has to do with how content is learned anyway, and is also more practical and understood by changing and rearranging how you attend to things than it is theoretically explained. Focusing Institute does obscure the limitations of their research, and they haven’t got the monopoly they say, but they’re big. Just not advocates except for the standard fare division of labor and theory for the upset a little bit here and the real defects! there.

    And if you want something to get the idea straight and to keep around and share that is top of the line, from a woman in the business who advocates for patients too and is British and a damned fine philosopher of the mind and enough as one of science. Here, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Hannah Pickard:

    http://www.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf-file/0016/11608/MIIM.pdf
    She is critical and ethical.

  6. Thank you for this article. It includes the science necessary to debunk the idea that enforcing “treatment” will somehow magically reduce violence in the community. It will be very useful to me and I am sure to others as we advocate for our congresspersons to oppose this dangerous bill.

    And BTW, I love your author photo! You don’t look scary, just kind of intense, and that, in my world, is a good thing.

    —- Steve

  7. OK this sh** isn’t funny anymore.

    I didn’t realize exactly how draconian Murphy’s Law would be. For that I blame myself for not actually reading it but depending on synopses. Also for the self-delusion that my opposition to the bill is some sort of advocacy for others. Now I see that this ultra-orwellian language can apply to anyone unfortunate enough to be known to a shrink who wants them under his control. If the catch-22 nature of using someone’s refusal of “treatment” as evidence that they are incapable of making an informed choice — and thus subject to involuntary drugging and worse — is not recognized by vast segments of the population for what it is, I have scant hope that we will avoid the unnecessary step of descending into a totalitarian police state before we achieve our ultimate liberation.

    I suggest that MIA take this seriously enough to perhaps make a section of the site devoted to publicizing and agitating against these bills. We won’t be having these supposedly enlightened dialogues for long if they manage to track down all the survivors here and drug us for refusing to be psychiatrized. I know Thorazine had a devastating effect on my ability to conceptualize & write, as well as everything else I did.

    Meanwhile is there anyone with an update on the current state of this legislation?

    • Why do you think I have been alarmed about the Murphy bill since day one?

      You don’t even need to have a wild imagination to know how things would look like under the Murphy regime because a similar standard exists in most European countries, including the one where I was civilly committed.

      I was involuntarily committed because my refusal to accept that my HIV fears needed to be “treated” was evidence that I needed to “treated” thus it was in my best interests that I be involuntarily committed. I was not civilly committed because of I was “dangerous” but because it was “in my best interests according to the psychiatrist who made the petition”.

      I am not making this up. When I write that anti-psychiatry book about software/hardware, I will also include a copy of the court order that got me committed so that people can decide for themselves :).

      In the meanwhile, here come a couple of data points that show what a Murphy bill world would look like,

      – In the UK, an Italian woman lost a daughter to adoption because she got a panic attach when she was unable to find her passport while she was in the UK temporarily for a training . The Guardian explains http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/apr/15/pacchieri-baby-adopted-forced-caesarean-case-uk

      – In Norway, 1 out of every 500 people has been involuntarily committed http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19199121 “The overall study generated incidence rate for civil commitment based on “involuntary referrals”, “treatment periods” and persons involved were 259, 209 and 186 per 100,000 adults/year, respectively. Moreover, when official civil commitment rates based on the NPR data were computed, almost 30% of all admissions were routinely excluded. Civil commitment in this study was higher than corresponding figures based on registry data.”

      I do believe that Murphy is trying to have the US Supreme Court to revisit the current nationwide standard for civil commitment that requires “dangerousness” with his bill. The reason in the US we are freer of psychiatric oppression is that unlike the SCOTUS, the European Court of Human Rights has consistently sided with psychiatry when it comes to both the validity of their diagnoses as well as the appropriateness of “psychiatric treatment” http://www.researchgate.net/publication/6618539_Psychiatric_commitment_over_50_years_of_case_law_from_the_European_Court_of_Human_Rights/file/d912f5093ca711f8af.pdf .

      The good news is that, at least for now, the coercive measures of the Murphy bill seem doomed, but we must remain vigilant,

      http://www.cmecoalition.org/content/weekly-healthcare-update-june-30-2014

      “Aides said that last week’s bipartisan gathering was an acknowledgment that neither Murphy nor Barber’s bills alone have sufficient support to pass this year.”

      • If it goes to the Supreme Court we could be doomed. The current batch of crackers is in the process of dismantling existing civil rights laws, it’s unlikely they’ll take a reverse course here. (Unless a good no. of “justices” have had bad experiences with psychiatry on a personal level, i.e. their families & friends. Always a possiblity but i wouldn’t bank on it.)

        It used to be “I’ll take this to the Supreme Court if I have to!” Now it’s “Good god, don’t let this go to the Supreme Court!”

      • Thanks for summing up the miserable state of psychiatry in Europe, I’d just add some more egregious cases from the German-speaking world:
        – Gustl Mollath – spend circa 8yrs involuntary committed because he tried to bring to light financial crimes by his ex-wife and her friends (of course there were no consequences for the doctors):
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustl_Mollath
        – Otto Wagner Spital in Vienna, Austria has a long history of abuse dating back to Nazi regime, including (unfortunately the articles are in German):
        death of kids by neglect and abuse in the 80s:
        http://kurier.at/chronik/wien/die-kinder-vom-steinhof-in-der-psychiatrie-zu-tode-vernachlaessigt/15.817.743

        death of a sedated patient in restraints:
        http://derstandard.at/3228915

        keeping people in their own feces while restraint:
        http://diepresse.com/home/panorama/oesterreich/349456/OttoWagnerSpital_Patientin-dachte-es-gehort-so
        overdrugging and beatings by the staff:
        http://derstandard.at/3305500

        …just to name the few (of those which made t out to the press).
        No need to mention – it goes on despite media attention and bad public image and nobody does sh*t about it.

    • Dont take this synopsis as the final word either. it is truncated and a false repredentation. it is NOT merely refusal to be drugged that constitutes “need for treatment.” you might research how those several collective “draconian” criteria are working across europe and scandanavia.

  8. Yes, you do look pretty intense in that pic – (even your hair looks like it wants to attack me 😉

    I appreciate this truly enlightening post – I also missed some of the key intentions you’ve pointed out. The funding being diverted from SAMSHA seems to send a clear, chilling message. “Ok, enough of this consumer driven crap – it’s time for the adults in the room to reassert control”

  9. I don’t think “survivors” should get bogged down in supporting one fang of the psychiatric vampire over the other. I don’t care if they take money away from all of these coopted programs, just don’t let them dare try forcing any of their toxic “treatment” on innocent and nonviolent people.

  10. Fantastic article Christian, and thanks for the wake-up call! It gives me the ammunition I need to explain to others what’s wrong with the Murphy bill and other proposals that hide behind “helping the needy” and of course, “busting stigma.” We need programs that start with what every human being needs: a stable place to live, refuge from violent or coercive homes, schools & institutions, a place to hang out with friends, and someone to talk to whose job is not to rat you out.

    I’m not surprised that NAMI supports the Murphy bill — and I guess I should not be surprised that Keris Myrick supports it as well. Since she has been a columnist here, I hope we can get her to stop by and write something explaining her point of view. I for one promise to answer her without “raging out” — might have to write a red-hot first draft and then cool it down, but what the heck.

    I feel like she’s a dynamic person who was brought in to demonstrate the “New Face of NAMI” — one where patients/consumers/survivors/whatever are equal partners; one that’s open to dialogue with everyone; multi-racial and open to diverse cultural perspectives. Etc., etc. If there were some genuine reality behind the image-making, I’d have to admire the role she’s playing, even if I didn’t agree with every single choice or compromise she made. But if it’s all just a bright coat of paint on the same old house — which is sure how it looks to me — then she is just getting used to put a friendly face on oppressive policies.

    • Christian, Thanks for update and information. I want to add a few points. In the first place while it’s good to know the Bills are not going to pass (yet), the bar is already low for AOT. The purpose of AOT is not to provide help to people in tough situations. The bar is low and then there is economic draft for forced drugging for those who can’t find decent housing–virtually impossible in NYC. So they end up some place where they’re forced to take toxic psych drugs. The goal is to sell drugs.

      Let’s recall the point Bob Whitaker has been making for years–which complements Ms Ryan’s points: Forced drugging is a death sentence. Apart from diabetes, cardiovascular problems, obesity, and 15-20 years shortening of life span, there is the fact, now proven by Harrow Wunderink etc that clients forced to take “anti-psychotics” are doomed to a life time of chronic “psychosis.” Add to this the deterioration in the quality of life caused by the “meds” in addition to “psychotic” symptoms.

      I could go on but I want to make a different point. This is part of nationwide trend of government surveillance and harassment. The problem is too often the anti-psychiatric movement had tendency to compartmentalize. But mental patients are like Gitmo prisoners—they are punished in the absence of evidence. Call them “dangerous mental patients” and call toxic drugging “treatment” and mental patients might as well be alleged terrorists. Losing your freedom at Gitmo or being injected with poisons. Which is a worse fate? This is all part of the attack on due process begun by Bush and continued by President Obama.

      But Snowden’s revelations and the Supreme Court’s refusal to say No to the POTUS’ power under NDAA to kill any American citizen accused of “supporting” terrorism mean we now live under a totalitarian regime–no due process. Add to this the double standard applied to people of color, and the continuing expansion of NSA snooping.

      It would be a terrible strategic blunder if the survivors’ movement does not recognize the broader trend and approaches this as if we are not all in the same boat. The movement should seek out allies and protest against the vitiation of due process, of the Bill of Rights. The subjects of the dictatorship are all American citizens, except the super-rich. The slogan should be either, “We are all Gitmo detainees” or “We are all mental patients” The goal is to destroy the new NSA/CIA/military junta, the Therapeutic State and forced drugging and to restore genuine DUE PROCESS and thus the American republic.
      Seth Farber, Ph.D.

      • In response to my comment above a reader and survivor wrote to me, “It’s too incendiary. It’s safer not to link this with wider social issues….Also, he wants to highlight the danger of deeming people mentally incompetent because they refuse treatment. That’s specific to mental health.”

        My response is: I was not criticizing the author of the article–although I’m curious as to his position on this topic, which he seemed to evade when I made my comments. He did what you said he did –effectively highlighted the specific dangers of “mental patients”–and as a journalist it was not his obligation to discuss strategy. My criticism has been of the strategy of the antipsychiatry movement or survivors’ movement if you prefer, the activists, for not making these links and for not seeking to build alliances based upon a response to the increasing repressiveness of the state. Don’t you see it is ALL part of a strategy of the Surveillance state? Chelsea Manning in prison for 35 yrs (formally) Julian Assange forced to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (if he leaves the premises to go to Ecuador where he was granted political asylum, an international right, he would be immediately arrested by British police) and Edward Snowden in Russia. And mental patients placed under great surveillance and forced to take toxic. drugs

        These are not independent and unrelated events. They are all manifestations of the State ‘s increasing surveillance and control of its populations. I have no doubt Foucault if he were alive would see this as the apogee of the surveillance state, of what Foucault (following Bentham) called Panopticon. Panopticon a condition, a policy (an architectural design actually) in which the State sees everything. Nothing is invisible, there is no privacy. Even one’s innermost thought are monitored by the State. While the State on the other hand is invisible. FOIA requests–passed as law in the 70s–are no longer responded to. No legal action can be taken against the State (eg for torture at Guatanamo) because Obama invokes “State secrets” (a doctrine that claims national security allows the State to shield all its operations from public view), thus making the State invisible to its citizens.

        Obama as candidate promised to have the “most transparent” Administration in history. It has probably been the least. Under Bush there was constant leaking by disillusioned former Bush supporters. Under Obama the ONLY leaking (besides whistleblowers who are persecuted) is BY Obama as PR moves in his own interest. Obama has prosecuted/ persecuted more whistle blowers than any previous Administration in an effort to eliminate transparency and democratic accountability So today all citizens are observed and the state is invisible–the ultimate Panopticon.

        I argue that it is a major mistake for the anti-psychiatry movement to view what happens to “mental patient” in isolation. First it is politically naïve–mental patients–as “wild people”– are made the scapegoat and pretext for increased repression. But second I have always disagreed with this policy of failing to connect the dots, of treating repression of patients and parents of “patients” (like Justina) as if it was isolated phenomenon unrelated to other developments. Third by doing so the movement deprives itself of political allies and plays into Establishment’s hands: We(“mental patients”) are different from the others.(I have argued that culturally this is true–but I speak now politically.)

        The movement instead should be leading a battle against increased repression, against the National Security state. Mental patients forced to take drugs are as much victims of this Surveillance State as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. And we should all unite and build a movement against state totalitarianism and repression, against the repression of free speech (that keeps Julian Assange in asylum in Ecuadorean Embassy for 3 years) and thought control that keeps mental patients on toxic drugs that control their thought and prevents them from “recovering.”. And against the targeting of person that subjects them to non-consensual mind control through cutting edge technology discussed by groupsof TIs I have discussed elsewhere. See http://www.Freedomfchs.org
        and http://www.mindjustice.org
        Seth Farber, Ph.D.
        http://www.sethHfarber.com

        • “It’s safer not to link this with wider social issues”
          I also disagree with that. Linking it to a wider social problem can draw more people, even those without personal psychiatry-related trauma to support us as a part of common struggle.

        • That’s what scares the sh** out of me-and as someone with a diagnosis, my views on the subject are sluffed off as the rantings of a ‘crazy’ person.

          Why would anyone willingly use Google? Or use an email service/smart phone knowing what we know?

          What was that saying? “Those who surrender freedom for security deserve neither…” paraphrasing Ben Franklin here.

      • You have a point here. The roots of psychiatry are swimming in the blood of Holocaust victims and their methods were taken over, adopted and creatively developed by the CIA to torture detainees. Psychiatry is a tool for social control not for treatment.

      • Dear Seth,

        This is very pertinent and also the first comment that looks at the “big picture”. You are right about seeking out allies. The Center for Constitutional Rights comes to mind. It has done tremendous work with some of the prisoners at GITMO and could be solicited for advice.

        Susan

  11. RE :

    “http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iatrogenesis

    Medical “mistakes” are NOT a problem of the past, so perhaps that’s why they changed the terminology to “effect”? But not sure why the article stopped warning of the psychiatric industries’ historic role in the “controversial” iatrogenesis process.”

    Pharma has it’s hired team of marketers on working on Wikipedia articles , my wiki additions repeatedly got deleted and I was very careful to add facts and not opinions.

    look at this,

    “Perhaps owing to its mechanism of action relating to dopamine receptors, there is some evidence to suggest that aripiprazole blocks cocaine-seeking behavior in animal models without significantly affecting other rewarding behaviors (such as food self-administration)”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aripiprazole

    There was a study I saw on MIA negating this , I added this to wiki and it was removed.
    Antipsychotics Ineffective Against Cocaine, Stimulant Addictions
    https://www.madinamerica.com/2014/01/antipsychotics-ineffective-cocaine-stimulant-addictions/

    That’s pharma watching there back end.

  12. The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is a travesty. I sought help, got labeled bipolar, took meds that made me worse over 15 years, and lost friends. Fortunately, I met people, not in the medical field, that educated me and helped me learn that I could heal from the traumatic abuse years ago and symptoms that occurred without meds. After trying 8 different counselors I found one that is helping me heal, feel again and live. I am labeled bipolar for life, yet I did not do anything illegal or wrong. I am stigmatized and now with the Act I will be assumed violent and guilty. I wish I had never sought help then I would not be labeled bipolar and would not have to endure being stigmatized and now scrutinized by the HFMHCA. I know someone who has threatened three people’s lives, hit his now ex-wife, done some illegal things and has not been to a medical facility and therefore, has not been labeled anything. He has been to jail for a day or two, but with no label he will not be stigmatized like I am for the rest of my life. I feel that I should be able to get rid of my label for seeking help. Why am I consider ill when I am healing, learning and growing from my trauma and symptoms. How can I erase my bipolar label?

  13. NYT columnist Joe Nocera supports E. Fuller Torrey. Nocera has one article, in which he solely relies on Torrey’s “authority and expertise.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/29/opinion/nocera-guns-and-mental-illness.html

    On a different note, I believe it has been mentioned by at least one news outlet that Jared Loughner has his own history of traumatic brain injury, in which he was jumped by a several people and ended up in the hospital. … I’m pretty sure I saw that info it on the news, along with interviews with his peers from high school talking about him being a quiet, nice person and saxonphonist (and everything else to being a pothead and animal sadist) … It’s just strange how some small bits of fact(?) can be swept under the carpet.

    • We need a Torrey Task Force to expose not only the contradictions in his own career (e.g. “The Death of Psychiatry”) but the views of many other “authoritative experts” in the psychiatric industry challenging his credibility. If we have reliable info to back us up we can have it in our talking points any time we need to argue that, even by the standards of the psychiatric profession, this guy is dangerous and “rogue.”

      I’d appreciate any links in this regard or if someone at MIA could do an article along these lines it would be most useful!

      Also did anyone see “20-20” on ABC with the father of the Santa Barbara shooter blaming this punk’s actions on “untreated mental illness”? We need a group of folks who can respond to this stuff at the drop of a dime — whether on the comments section after the “news” articles or however else. Any volunteers?

  14. In response to my comment above a reader and survivor wrote to me, “It’s too incendiary. It’s safer not to link this with wider social issues….Also, he wants to highlight the danger of deeming people mentally incompetent because they refuse treatment. That’s specific to mental health.”

    My response is: I was not criticizing the author of the article–although I’m curious as to his position on this topic, which he seemed to evade when I made my comments. He did what you said he did –effectively highlighted the specific dangers of “mental patients”–and as a journalist it was not his obligation to discuss strategy. My criticism has been of the strategy of the antipsychiatry movement or survivors’ movement if you prefer, the activists, for not making these links and for not seeking to build alliances based upon a response to the increasing repressiveness of the state. Don’t you see it is ALL part of a strategy of the Surveillance state? Chelsea Manning in prison for 35 yrs (formally) Julian Assange forced to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (if he leaves the premises to go to Ecuador where he was granted political asylum, an international right, he would be immediately arrested by British police) and Edward Snowden in Russia. And mental patients placed under great surveillance and forced to take toxic. drugs

    These are not independent and unrelated events. They are all manifestations of the State ‘s increasing surveillance and control of its populations. I have no doubt Foucault if he were alive would see this as the apogee of the surveillance state, of what Foucault (following Bentham) called Panopticon. Panopticon a condition, a policy (an architectural design actually) in which the State sees everything. Nothing is invisible, there is no privacy. Even one’s innermost thought are monitored by the State. While the State on the other hand is invisible. FOIA requests–passed as law in the 70s–are no longer responded to. No legal action can be taken against the State (eg for torture at Guatanamo) because Obama invokes “State secrets” (a doctrine that claims national security allows the State to shield all its operations from public view), thus making the State invisible to its citizens.

    Obama as candidate promised to have the “most transparent” Administration in history. It has probably been the least. Under Bush there was constant leaking by disillusioned former Bush supporters. Under Obama the ONLY leaking (besides whistleblowers who are persecuted) is BY Obama as PR moves in his own interest. Obama has prosecuted/ persecuted more whistle blowers than any previous Administration in an effort to eliminate transparency and democratic accountability So today all citizens are observed and the state is invisible–the ultimate Panopticon.

    I argue that it is a major mistake for the anti-psychiatry movement to view what happens to “mental patient” in isolation. First it is politically naïve–mental patients–as “wild people”– are made the scapegoat and pretext for increased repression. But second I have always disagreed with this policy of failing to connect the dots, of treating repression of patients and parents of “patients” (like Justina) as if it was isolated phenomenon unrelated to other developments. Third by doing so the movement deprives itself of political allies and plays into Establishment’s hands: We(“mental patients”) are different from the others.(I have argued that culturally this is true–but I speak now politically.)

    The movement instead should be leading a battle against increased repression, against the National Security state. Mental patients forced to take drugs are as much victims of this Surveillance State as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. And we should all unite and build a movement against state totalitarianism and repression, against the repression of free speech (that keeps Julian Assange in asylum in Ecuadorean Embassy for 3 years) and thought control that keeps mental patients on toxic drugs that control their thought and prevents them from “recovering.”. And against the targeting of person that subjects them to non-consensual mind control through cutting edge technology discussed by groupsof TIs I have discussed elsewhere. See http://www.Freedomfchs.org
    and http://www.mindjustice.org
    Seth Farber, Ph.D.
    http://www.sethHfarber.com

  15. “Additionally, there is some evidence that prescription drugs commonly prescribed to treat mental illness may spur violence. ”
    Forced psychiatric “treatment” causes violence and psych drugs cause violence. But that whole thing is not meant to help anyone, it’s to excert control and sell more medication.