Life & Death: Robin Williams, Suicide “Prevention,” and the World as We Know It


I’ve been very, very sad lately. Some might even call me “depressed.” There are a lot of reasons. Robin Williams’ suicide is not one of them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not happy about what has come of him. I have fond memories of Mork and Mindy, just like everyone else over the age of 30 or so. It is unquestionably sad to learn he was hurting so much, and even harder to reconcile that with his relentlessly upbeat public persona. On a personal level, it hurts at least a little to know that someone who experienced that level of success (about which most can only dream) also fell so far and experienced so much despair. After all, many of us count on dreams of a similarly lauded existence to keep us going so much of the time. We fantasize that fame and wealth and adoration might make us immune from the pain of being human.

But no, that’s not what makes me saddest right now. For what it’s worth, here are five things that make me sadder than Robin Williams’ suicide:

  1. People getting ‘treatment’ in the mental health system die, on average, about 25 years younger than others in the community. According to several sources, the average life expectancy for men in the United States is around 77 years. Robin Williams died at 63. That gives him about 11 years of life above and beyond the average person being ‘served’ in the mental health system. I realize this is an imperfect statistic, but meaningful nonetheless. (It’s even more meaningful when we consider that much evidence seems to point to non-medicalized approaches as leading to substantially better outcomes for people who are experiencing life-interrupting emotional distress.)
  2. People are diagnosing Robin Williams posthumously and calling it undeniable truth. This may seem a relatively minor point, and it would be… if not for the fact that people are so commonly diagnosed against their will and in a way that is used as justification for forced or coerced treatment on an extraordinarily regular basis. This is the same ‘treatment’ that leads to the 25-years-younger figure noted above.
  3. People who die in their fifties whilst seated firmly in the palm of the mental health system often do so in over-medicated hazes that have left them isolated and unable to do much more than sit around and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. Consider this in juxtaposition to Williams’ rather full life that included children, wives, friends, multiple homes and a career.
  4. A growing number of people appear to have killed themselves precisely because of the mental health ‘treatment’ they have received. Some of them weren’t even suicidal before they got on the psychiatric drugs that directly preceded their self-inflicted deaths. We’re talking kids, in a lot of instances.  Williams had over 40 years of life on many of them.  (And, by the way, I think the jury is still out on exactly how ‘treatment’ or psych drugs might have been used or impacted Williams himself.)
  5. Robin Williams’ suicide is being manipulated as an opportunity to push more ‘treatment’ as usual. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve seen comments on-line from people saying, “I hope news of Robin Williams’ mental illness will go viral, if it will mean that more people get treatment,” or, “If only he’d been on medication, he’d still be alive…” Most of them don’t quite realize the potential harm they’re doing or the mythifying misinformation they’re spreading.  And then there’s the standard cast of characters – people like Tim Murphy – who are wholeheartedly, knowingly and opportunistically jumping on his death to push forward their force-laden, rights violating agendas.  Let’s make no mistake, here. People are using the death of a man who claims to never have even been formally diagnosed to push mental health ‘treatment’ on countless individuals in spite of the fact that said ‘treatment’ seems to be leading to even earlier deaths than Williams’ own, skyrocketing disability rates and overall poor outcomes.  Perfect.

I don’t want to minimize Robin Williams’ death. It is awful (though, no more or less awful than most any other suicide).  He was an undeniable talent, and at least seemed like an overall good guy. His family must be devastated and they are more than entitled to their grief (and privacy). Yet, his death should not be used to dwarf, camouflage, or distract us from the much broader problems in our culture. It should not be used against his postmortem will to sell more drugs or the concept of ‘mental illness’ (which is, of course, used to sell more drugs).

I cannot claim to know what was going on for Robin Williams, in particular, but suicide does not equal ‘mental illness.’ What about existential crisis? What about sickness and torture and homelessness and joblessness and war? What about pure exhaustion from the monotony of it all? Is it ‘mental illness’ to feel hopeless and want to die when life really is full of pain and loss? Perhaps calling it ‘mental illness’ makes it feel just a little easier and more distant for those on the labeling end of the stick. Perhaps it sometimes lets people ignore the bigger problems in the world, and act like the issue is all self-contained within that single person, their brain run inexplicably amok.  Perhaps at least some of this is about the comfort of everyone else.

We make one great and repeated mistake in this society: Assuming responsibility for one another. In truth, I am not responsible for what you choose to do. Suicide prevention is harmful to its very roots for the essence of the assumption it makes about my responsibility to control you. It pushes us toward force in the name of ‘safety’ in the moment, and without any regard for ‘safety’ in the long run. It has no reverence for what ‘safety’ actually even means, and will turn its back on meeting your most basic needs (a place to live, food, a job, human connection) if it perceives its job to be done. Does your life and bodily integrity only matter so long as you’re in my sight? safe comicPreventing you from killing yourself does not necessarily make your life any better, even if it makes my life easier and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m in control of any more than the fact that you’re still breathing at this very moment. As one of the individuals in Daniel Mackler’s film, ‘Healing Homes,’ so wisely states:

“Are we doing our best?… [if] they choose to do this terrible thing… have we a clear conscience that we have done our best?… [If yes,] then that is their responsibility. They take that step.”

We make another great and repeated mistake in this society: Denial of responsibility to one another. We have a responsibility to be with one another, to make space for one another, to be kind to one another… and hopefully through doing so, we make life that much more bearable. We do our best suicide prevention by letting go of the goal of suicide prevention, and, instead, creating alternatives.

In my world, we have something called ‘Alternatives to Suicide’ groups. They’re run by people who’ve ‘been there.’ Those people know that campaigns like ‘Zero Suicide’ appeal to the non-suicidal masses but, underneath it all, reek of panic buttons and risk assessments and, frankly, scare many of those most in need of support away. Their own experience informs them that sometimes retaining the option of suicide as an ‘out’ is all that keeps some people going, as challenging and counter-intuitive as that may feel to others. They’re willing to sit with people in intense places and they work hard to shed any savior complexes. They know to ask ‘what does that mean to you,’ when someone says they ‘feel’ suicidal, because suicide is an action based on feelings and not the other way around.

As I sit here watching the world spin, trying desperately to turn one man’s death into another misguided answer to life’s pain, I know where my heroes can be found. They aren’t the people looking for pat answers. They aren’t the people who believe they can save everyone. They are the ones willing to sit with everyday pain and know that sometimes there simply aren’t any answers. They are the ones who know they can’t possibly provide houses to all those without homes or families to people who have been disowned, but stick around anyway (and don’t ignore that those issues exist). They are the ones who know that some will be lost, but they still open their hearts. They understand the cruelty of offering support for people struggling with thoughts of suicide, and then ripping out the rug from under them should they actually talk seriously about death. bouncer comicThey are people like Caroline White, Sean Donovan, Currie Murphy, Janice Sorensen, Samadi Demme, Erick Anaya and so many more who deserve to be named and who are with people in this way every day while others comment at a distance.

They know the difference between saving the world and changing it. As always, we aim to do the latter.


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. My latest thing is busting NAMI and it’s push to ban smoking by psychiatric inpatients.

    I can’t think of anything worse to add to a suicidal crisis than the pain of FORCED cigarette withdrawal, even healthy happy people describe it as hell and NAMI wants that hell included in the inpatient psychiatry experience for everyone everywhere.

    I asked the NAMI helpline how many suicidal people they though avoided help and tried to endure it alone and are dead now because they knew going to the hospital included cigarette confiscation and withdrawal hell.

    How does adding the pain of nicotine withdrawal help a person in crisis when it causes Headache Nausea Constipation or diarrhea diarrhea Falling heart rate and blood pressure, Fatigue, drowsiness, and insomnia Irritability, Difficulty concentrating, Anxiety, Depression, Increased hunger and caloric intake, Increased desire for the taste of sweets, Tobacco cravings ?

    I asked lots of questions like that and they hung up on me.

    Anyone can call NAMI and ask these questions 1-800-950-NAMI

    It’s also fun to ask NAMI about it’s millions in funding from the pharmaceutical companies (you know the ones that make stuff like Chantix).

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    • I am to fast on the post comment button. Got more.

      I also asked how many people inpatient in the US do they think right now are having anxiety attacks from hell pushing them into that scary psychosis right now as a result of forced smoking cessation NAMI supports ?

      I always post to much on the topic of suicide only because I lived the hell of the one size fits all suicide precautions and inpatient abuse they call “help” after those brain drugs screwed me up all the way to the hospital.

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      • It just sucks.

        People that never lived a nasty panic-anxiety attack and never took a nasty ride through psychosis just don’t get it.

        “I just need a smoke to get right, to focus and figure this out…”

        No person is not being “difficult” they are riding through hell and just need a smoke to get right a bit, to focus and figure a path to out.

        With the exception of the addictions field , the problem with the mental “health” system is it’s almost entirely run by people who never lived it.

        For example I have seen people majorly bugging out from benzo withdrawals and if I never lived it and was just looking at them as an outside observer I too would be telling them “just try and relax and get some rest” . I lived it and know damb well they can’t relax or rest at all not one bit and are in that hell space.

        Oh well, pushing back the tide on the smoking thing may be impossible but it’s fun to make noise and expose those phonies at NAMI.

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  2. Sera,

    You don’t know how much I needed to read your post after dealing with someone who had no problem with a suicidal person being drugged to the gills if it meant keeping him/her alive. I just dropped the subject because I felt it was pointless to continue the discussion. I wish I could have hung in there but it was the best I could do at the time.

    Anyway, I had made the point to this person that being suicidal didn’t equate to mental illness which unfortunately didn’t make an impression. So seeing you verify my thoughts about this really did alot of good along with the rest of your post.

    Thanks again.

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    • It’s sooo frustrating to talk about “mental health system” with people who have no personal experience of it. I know that for my family and friends. They flood you with the psychiatric nonsense talk and when you debunk all of it one by one (chemical imbalance, it’s a brain disease, drugs are safe and effective, schizophrenic don’t ever recover…) they simply switch off and decide they don’t want to talk with you – because they can’t say anything you could not disprove with facts so they just put fingers in their ears and go lalala – let’s talk about something else. I think it would be easier to convert a devout Catholic to atheism than to persuade anyone unless they face the shit personally.

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  3. Some people will be very sad that Robin’s wife gave this statement and no antidepressant is revealed:

    “Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly.”

    I’m appalled that mental health advocates are so eager to put a celebrity in the Hall of Antidepressant’s death.

    Quite unethical and… makes me sad and angry. Mainstream is making people behave like vultures.

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    • Ana, The number of people I’ve seen make outright assertions that Williams’ WAS certainly on psych drugs that WERE certainly responsible for killing him are few and far between. They pale under the heavy shadow of the mountain of posts pushing his death as proof for more NEED for psych drugs… I do agree, though, that it’s not particularly helpful to jump to conclusions and make assumptions on either side of the argument. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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      • I think it’s just assumptions and I hate it when people use famous people’s deaths to push agendas (although it may sometimes be justified it still has a vulture feel to it). We don’t know if he was on drugs or withdrawing, we don’t know if that was the cause, we don’t know anything.

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  4. It is almost irrelevant whether he was taking antidepressants. The facts will be hidden anyway.

    What is really important was that he received the best help psychiatry can offer, and he killed himself. His death is being used to promote psychiatric “treatment,” so the question to be asked is why wasn’t he helped?

    I certainly agree with Sera about the kind of help that really should be offered, people giving support from their hearts to other human beings. But Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the “mental health” establishment fights this approach fiercely. People who try to do real alternatives are not encouraged by the system. It needs a political fight, and as Frederick Douglass wisely said, “Power concedes nothing without a struggle.”

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  5. Per the link below, Robin Williams’ wife sent a news release that he was suffering the early stages of Parkinsons disease.

    So much for all the mental death disease mongering “experts” trying to use this and other crises and tragedies to push for more money and forcing mental death stigmas and drugs in the guise of treatment for everyone on the planet except the 1% psychopaths hijacking the globe.

    Another speculation is that given most if not all psych drugs cause brain damage and Parkinson type damage, it wound not be surprising to find that Williams took some or many of psychiatry’s toxic drugs for so called depression that brought or worsened many of his symptoms. Dr. Healy has shown that antidepressants (not to mention Xanax or booze in a pill) can easily drive people to drink and many have reported just that on his web site).

    When all is said and done, the mental death profession did Williams far more harm than good since they are the ones who demonized and tormented those with addictions to push their bogus multibillion drug/alcohol treatment industry while hijacking the free 12 step groups as their great program though results of such so called treatment are increasingly dubious. Many experts are going back to the common sense theories that people are driven to drink due to excess stress, trauma, unbearable powerlessness in horrible situations like work/domestic/school bullying and mobbing, etc. Dr. Lance Dodes, author of The Heart of Addiction and Breaking Addiction brings back common sense by showing how one can easily become addicted to drugs/alcohol when trapped in seemingly no win situations he helps people explore to escape such death traps.

    So, not only was the mental death profession useless to Williams, but also, helped to drive him over the edge as he repeated AA slogans of self loathing, labeling, contempt and self blame enough to cause anyone to be depressed and wanting to self harm as those around the so called monster addict add fuel to the fire by blaming all their woes on the so called addict or new scapegoat.

    There has been speculation that Williams was bipolar and it would be no surprise IF he had been so labeled since anyone with an addiction is now automatically given this bogus fad fraud stigma per Jill Litrell on another MIA post. Those with “depression” are converted by fiat or due to the toxic effects of useless but deadly SSRI’s, benzos and other psych drugs to push the latest lethal billion dollar drugs on patent: neuroleptics and epileptic drugs fraudulently misnamed mood stabilizers by drug companies “repurposing them” per Dr. David Healy in his great book, Mania: A Short History of Bipolar Disorder.

    I have been totally furious and disgusted to see all the mental death disease mongerers pretending to feel such loss and sadness about this tragic death and pushing for more of their evil, horrific life destroying stigma and poisoning in the guise of treatment. It is all the more vile and repulsive while they treat most they encounter like objects to be stigmatized and drugged within minutes for greed, power, profit and status and sent on their way without a shred of concern for their real problems, suffering or humanity. And any questions or resistance brings out the worst viciousness from these supposedly concerned, helpful mental death experts. I won’t deny I am very angry at all the suffering caused by the biopsychiatry/Big Pharma cartel created ONLY for profit and social control to create the current horrific fascist therapeutic state that has made life hell for so many including even wealthy, powerful people like Williams.

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    • Thanks, Donna. Your anger comes across loud and clear (and articulately) and I can appreciate it. At some point, in some post, I saw someone going on about how Williams’ death is evidence that we all need to stop fighting so much and just be there for another… I agree with that sentiment to a point, but there’s an awful lot to fight about including this very situation and how it is being used to lure more people down a misguided path.

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    • Why isn’t anyone questioning whether or not Williams was taking drugs for Parkinson’s disease? There are many classes of drugs to treat Parkinson’s and all of them can cause side effects including when tapering off them:

      For instance, If you suddenly stop taking dopamine agonists, this can lead to dopamine agonist withdrawal syndrome, which can cause symptoms such as depression, anxiety or pain.

      Any withdrawal from Parkinson’s drugs needs to be done in a tapered way, under the supervision of a health professional.

      If Williams was suffering from the side effects of a drug for Parkinson’s or from the withdrawal from a drug used to treat Parkinson’s he could have been experiencing a number of ‘psychiatric’ reactions leading to his self inflicted death.

      I believe that Ernest Hemingway was suffering from a bad reaction to the drugs he was taking to treat his heart disease. Instead of recognizing an iatrogenic harm, he was institutionalized, drugged, and shocked.

      We are only beginning to scratch the surface of understanding the deep level of harm done by Western medicine.

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      • madmom, I think there’s so many arguments that could be had here. For *me*, the most important one feels like “suicide does NOT equal” ‘mental illness’ (no matter what, whether or not psych or other drugs were somehow involved), and that this situation (or any situation) certainly shouldn’t be used to push people into all that is meant when someone says ‘treatment.’ I’m curious about the drug piece, too, *and* I’m open to the idea that it was not drug-related. Some suicides aren’t, and yet they still aren’t ‘mental illness.’

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      • You nailed it, madmom. I just saw it yesterday, when someone sent me an article by his widow. He was in Mirapex, was taken off, and put on Sinamet. Mirapex is a dopamine agonist, Sinament is levodopa. Going off Mirapex is the #1 route to Dopamine Agonist Withdrawl Syndrome, and I am here to tell you it is about as bad as being conscious can get, out side the obvious physical things and the obvious terrible life events.

        The syndrome (DAWS) was named in 2013, and it typically visits those who go off Mirapex because of its “impulse control disorder” side effect. That is, they have gambled away their life savings, shopped it away, or had sex with anything that moved. It’s almost a perfect predictor, apparently, that DAWS lies ahead. ANd they say they have no treatment for DAWS. Someone who commented on RxISK said Wellbutrin was helping, and another guy keot saying Oxycodone…That might sound too risky, but I don’t think anyone who has DAWS would fear the risk of opioid addiction if there was a way out of DAWS. I don’t think the MDs have tried stimulants, but they should. I am not pro-psych-drug, but DAWS is not a psychiatric disorder. It’s physical and it kills. No one should ever have endure it for more than half a day, and that’s only if they are a magnificient jerk.

        I can’t find a media report that figured this out. But a bunch of doctors would have known it right away.

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  6. Sera,

    Thanks so much for this! I have written at least a half a dozen posts in the last couple of days trying to say exactly the same things – that it’s arrogant to presume we know the reason for Robin’s decisions, that we trivialize his suffering by calling it a “disease,” and that most people who are depressed have damned good reasons for being depressed. The world is a pretty depressing place right about now, and I kind of think that anyone who isn’t at least a little worried is either incredibly enlightened or willfully ignorant.

    I also appreciate your articulate description of exactly what does help. It is, indeed, that willingness to live in the grey area, to not try and “make it all better,” to neither distance ourselves nor join in the misery, but to simply be there and provide a listening ear and compassionate perspective, that truly helps. Normalizing depression as a response to a crazy world is a much more healing response than labeling the sufferer as “diseased” and stamping out his/her “symptoms” in order to make ourselves feel less uncomfortable.

    Your posts are always filled with warmth, wisdom, and hard truths. I hope I have the opportunity to meet you in person one day, meanwhile, keep on keeping the “mental health” world honest!

    —- steve

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    • “Normalizing depression as a response to a crazy world is a much more healing response than labeling the sufferer as “diseased” and stamping out his/her “symptoms” in order to make ourselves feel less uncomfortable. ”
      Great comment as usual Steve, agreed 100%.

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  7. Ever looked at how the coroners deal with suicides?

    Mental illness, next, mental illness next…

    It feeds back into the loop of providing more need for ‘treatments’ and coercive powers for mental health services.

    Good article Sera.

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  8. I feel like this is one of the only places where I see people talking about depression and suicidal feelings without mentioning the need for “treatment.” I have to say I feel less depression than anger right now Sera…anger that Williams’ death is being used by many to push more people to “get help”. I put both those terms in quotes because generally all that really means is to take psych drugs. Occasionally it means seeing a counselor but that is less and less.

    I see people bringing up the same refains that depression is an illness; that it is a chemical brain imbalance that can be corrected by “meds”; that people who are depressed need to get treatment from a doctor. These views are repeated over and over again throughout the web. It is so pervasive that it reminds me that alternate views, such as yours and mine, are very outside the mainstream, and are frankly very unpopular.

    A while back I was talking to a friend who had become profoundly anxious, panicked, confused, sad and overwhelmed. Someone could call that state “Major Depression.” She felt like hurting herself. She was strongly considering hospitalization. I told her that she would likely receive benzos while in hospital, a prescription for antidepressants and then discharge within a few days.

    Instead, we developed a circle of friends that could be with her for a few days. We offered her cups of herbal tea, massage, some flower essences, good home cooked food, support. Within a couple days she felt much better and was no longer suicidal and “clinically depressed.” I wish we could recerate that experience for anyone going through a dark time. I get that that is not possible for all people.

    But at the core of me, it frustrates me that the meme of “getting help” and “treatment” has been comandeered by doctors who’s only solace thay can offer is a drug.

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    • Hey Jonathan, I definitely do not begrudge you your anger, and feel plenty of it, too. For me, it’s a mix of sadness… Anger at how people are using this, and sadness about how many people get hurt and lost in the process… and then anger again. You’re right, the ‘other side’ is so huge, it’s easy to get lost in how big and unshakeable it seems. Thanks for reading, posting and supporting people in your community the way that you do.


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    • Jonathan Keyes (MIA Author), in his comment, above (on August 15, 2014 at 2:05 pm), said:

      A while back I was talking to a friend who had become profoundly anxious, panicked, confused, sad and overwhelmed. Someone could call that state “Major Depression.” She felt like hurting herself. She was strongly considering hospitalization. I told her that she would likely receive benzos while in hospital, a prescription for antidepressants and then discharge within a few days.

      Instead, we developed a circle of friends that could be with her for a few days. We offered her cups of herbal tea, massage, some flower essences, good home cooked food, support. Within a couple days she felt much better and was no longer suicidal and “clinically depressed.” I wish we could recerate that experience for anyone going through a dark time. I get that that is not possible for all people.

      But at the core of me, it frustrates me that the meme of “getting help” and “treatment” has been comandeered by doctors who’s only solace thay can offer is a drug.

      Apparently, he’s saying that, for someone to be prescribed “benzos while in hospital, a prescription for antidepressants and then discharge within a few days” is to be “comandeered by doctors who’s only solace thay can offer is a drug.”

      Really, I think Jonathan should have warned his friend about how some folk have wound up commandeered far worse in his “hospital” by a therapist.

      After all, eight and a half months ago (on November 30, 2013), in his first MIA blog post, titled “Inpatient Hospitalization: An Inside Perspective”), Jonathan explained:

      As a therapist my main job is to listen to patients, help them navigate the maze of inpatient hospitalization, and offer them support and comfort measures. I also help patients if they become severely agitated. I spend time trying to hear their concerns, sometimes helping them find a comfortable and safe space to vent. And yes, I have taken part in restraining individuals and delivering injections of medications to patients who become severely hostile, threatening or self-destructive.

      (No matter how many times I go back to that first MIA blog post of his, I never cease to feel terribly frustrated, as I come to those lines; so, please forgive me, as I steal Jonathan’s phrase “At the core of me, it frustrates me…”)

      At the core of me, it frustrates me to know, that frequently, here, in these MIA comment threads, is an MIA blogger, who’s a therapist, who’s fully inclined to put out, on the one hand, messages of perfectly sublime compassion (e.g., above, in his reference to a friend, whom he felt so determined to shield against any “hospitalization” that would include “benzos while in hospital, a prescription for antidepressants and then discharge within a few days”), while, on the other hand, he explains, that it’s supposedly quite necessary for him to forcibly inject “medications” (i.e., neuroleptics) into some of his “patients” veins, in that same “hospital”. I’m sorry, but I just can’t get over the fact, that a therapist would do such a thing, as that….

      To me, it seems such a completely inappropriate duty for a therapist.

      And, to know that Jonathan is, moreover, someone who (by his own description) briefly took neuroleptics and found their effects making him want to kill himself.

      So, he knows the horrors of these drugs…

      And, in a comment (on May 24, 2014 at 10:32 am), he wrote:

      I agree we have to honor both sides of the issue and have courteous and open dialogue with people who strongly support using psych drugs in their life.

      At the same time, it is hard to play the balance of being open, while still reporting the strong dangers of these drugs. Very challenging indeed when you see some of the harm they have caused.

      In fact, quite recently (on July 25, 2014 at 8:12 pm), Jonathan posted this,

      So in a hospital, a clinic or a doctor’s office, someone is handed a bottle of neuroleptics that they are supposed to take every day. These are heavy tranquilizers. And they become quickly habituated to them. Maybe stay on them for a few weeks, a month or two or longer. And then maybe half of them say, nah- these are awful. Dump em. Stop taking them. And then…

      Everything goes to pieces. The withdrawal effects are a nightmare for most folks and tend to cause psychosis, espeically for those who have been susceptible to extreme states. And then some of them get suicidal and violent. “Its the illness” some say. Hell no. You take 300 mg of seroquel a day for a few months and then stop suddenly. See what happens. I’m guessing I would go fully ape shit.

      Yes, exactly! (In fact, I implore MIA readers to review that last passage, which I’ve excerpted, because I think it proves — beyond any shadow of a doubt — that Jonathan does understand some of the worst effects of these drugs, far better than most people who work in psychiatric “hospital” settings…)

      So, I can’t help but wonder: How is it, that Jonathan (a person with so much insight into such harms that are caused by neuroleptics) can maintain, that sometimes the ‘right’ thing to do, is to forcibly inject a person with such drugs?

      Truly, I am baffled by his refusal to concede, that it’s clearly wrong to force these drugs on people. And, I am not only baffled by that, but I am troubled to know that he is actually a therapist. To me, it seems therapists should not engage in such activities, and I have never heard of any other therapists forcibly drugging people.

      But, if this is what therapists are expected to do when they work in “hospitals,” then no wonder there’s no way for any “involuntarily hospitalized” person to avoid being “medicated”.

      Recently (on June 8, 2014 at 10:33 pm), MIA author, Andrew L. Yoder, who is a social worker, posted a comment, in which he stated,

      I am a social worker, engaged most often in individual counseling directed by the individual, not by my agenda. I’m not able to write and say that my education was a waste, because it wasn’t. Never in school was I indoctrinated in a medical model. In fact there was little at odds with the very passions and missions that drive the community here at MIA. Maybe “social work” is vastly different that psychiatry or psychology in its education or professionalism. But I feel left out when I am written off by my label as a “professional.” I need you and every other member of this community and the consumer movement as partners and allies. But I also think you need professionals like me. I don’t believe in coercive, or directive, or authoritarian structures of interactions with other people, and I carry those values out in the small agency I work for, celebrating the ways in which the agency upholds those values and challenging and pushing the agency in the instances where it does not.

      I really appreciate what Andrew says there, and he explained to me, in an MIA comment exchange, weeks ago, that social workers absolutely do not forcibly drug anyone.

      He seemed to be indicating, that it’s a universal reality, in social work, that the social workers are not authorized to ‘medicate’ anyone.

      Why would a therapist be allowed to forcibly drug someone? Are there not therapists’ codes of conduct, which forbid this?

      Honestly, I don’t expect a clear answer from Jonathan. I know he feels that, when he’s forcibly drugging someone, it is for that person’s own good; he thinks he’s preventing that person from being tased by the police…

      I do not want anyone tased…

      But, I cannot read Jonathan Keyes’s comments about tasing without shaking my head and wondering, is tasing really more horrible than forced drugging???

      Question: Are there not any therapists who are MIA readers or bloggers who can explain to me how it is, that a therapist would be charged with forcibly drugging people?

      What is the reasoning behind such hiring practices?

      And, why would any therapist choose such a job?

      It just seems so totally wrong…



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      • Hi Jonah,

        I haven’t followed Jonathan’s posts and comments in the way you have, so it’s certainly interesting to see them laid out. Similarly, to see Andrew’s.

        I wonder if Jonathan’s initial statement about forced drugging is more than a somewhat inaccurate series of word choices. I wonder what he even means by ‘therapist’ in the hospital setting. Hospitals do all run at least somewhat differently (as much as they all so frequently claim that they HAVE to do certain offensive things that they are doing BECAUSE of regulations and licensures that are common across them all), but in the ones I’m most familiar with there aren’t exactly ‘therapists’ in the way I know them in the outside world… That is to say, in the day-to-day of the rest of the world, I think of therapists as people I might see for an hour a week and then go on my way… Whereas, in hospitals, I think of those who have the PhDs, and – more commonly – the LCSWs and LMHCs, as the ones who are driving a great deal of what happens… They are often the primary shapers of the doctor’s opinion, the lead voices on the units, etc. In that way, I think they OFTEN (almost always) have a hand in forced drugging, even if they don’t literally have a hand in it.

        Anyway, that said, I know very little about Jonathan’s hospital or particular role, and at the very least, in the absence of trying to reconcile them with the comment you pointed out above, he’s said many things that I appreciate. I’m operating under the assumption (though, I certainly could be wrong) that when he says he’s had a hand in forced drugging, he means it less directly than you’re suggesting, but still, it’s an interesting conversation to have overall… How people in provider roles who really ‘get it’ in some very fundamental ways can continue on in those roles, and how they come to draw their own lines about existing in a system where such force happens, and whether it’s better that they exist there and try and change things from the inside or if, at some point, it just becomes them being a part of the machine. I’ve had that conversation with a friend of mine who works in a clinical role quite recently (though more about forced hospitalization than forced drugging).

        I also appreciate Andrew’s statement that you quoted above… Though, in reality, it also makes me feel uneasy. While it may be true for him (and I can certainly appreciate the sentiment expressed therein), my experience is that ‘Social Work’ degrees are actually THE MOST common degree among current-day hospital unit directors and lead staff, as well as within the more ‘community-based’ services. I’m quite aware of the medical model being spoken about just as pervasively in social work schools as it is in the broader community. So, anyway, I have no reason to not believe what Andrew says about himself, but I don’t believe it for a second for the social work field as a whole (even though I would agree that the roots of the Social Work field suggest it should be more as he says).

        In any case, thanks for reading and commenting, Jonah. I appreciate your comments, though I’m wary of getting into personal battles in this thread, and hope it doesn’t go there.


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      • “I have taken part in restraining individuals and delivering injections of medications to patients who become severely (…) self-destructive.”
        Well, true that this kind of attitude actually disagrees with the point of the article above:
        “We make one great and repeated mistake in this society: Assuming responsibility for one another.(…) We make another great and repeated mistake in this society: Denial of responsibility to one another. ”
        “Their own experience informs them that sometimes retaining the option of suicide as an ‘out’ is all that keeps some people going, as challenging and counter-intuitive as that may feel to others.”
        Giving someone the freedom to hurt or kill themselves if they choose so is respecting their freedom and ownership of their own bodies. Psychiatry is so arrogant and abusive in this point. The criterion of harm to self should be once and for all taken from every legal and procedural justification of using any type of coercion, especially physical.

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    • “that people who are depressed need to get treatment from a doctor.”
      Well, that’s a very comfortable viewpoint – it takes all the responsibility from you as a spouse, parent, child, friend… to understand what is going wrong and try to help in a meaningful way. Sometimes by looking critically at your own behaviour and changing it (like – am I treating my partner well? Am I giving my kids attention they need and deserve? Do I spend enough time with my elderly parents?). It’s so much easier to just tell someone – oh, you’re sick, go to the doctor and stop bothering me. A really nice sociopathic society we have created…

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  9. Sera!
    Your voice and writing empower us all. I tried to come up with the right words to express my gratitude. I’m sad right now too. All I can say is how much I appreciate your words and insight. How much hope I have every time I visit this site. The writers here deserve a place to say what isn’t being said elsewhere. I don’t know where all of you came from, I am just so happy that you are doing what you do.

    thank you,
    From the bottom of my crazy heart

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      • Hey Sera!
        Thank you for your reply! Sorry about my garbled DBT post. Totally off topic. It’s a rant I sent to my local NAMI email list. I somehow got roped into being a “board member at large”. That’s what they call those of us crazies who are the token “consumers” required for a quorum. Doesn’t that word “consumer” speak volumes?

        Most of the folks in my local small town chapter are great. Most also don’t know about NAMI being hijacked by big pharma long ago. Before I was born I think.

        Anyway, thank you again for your words.

        with humor and solidarity


        “She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
        of her life, and weaves them gratefully
        into a single cloth—
        it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
        and clears it for a different celebration!”
        – Rilke

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  10. Sera, making sure your message is heard over social networks. A lot of my friends are young artists and sad kids trying to find a way to live. As an artist, is there a possibility that this site can create a place for us to share our images, and music? I have not been able to make art for many years. I’d still love a place to share the art I did make. Now all I can do is write. That’s why I so appreciate great writing, and let’s say it out loud… Great Healing / Great Medicine like this.

    A few thoughts

    Hello all,
    Depression costs us so much. In another way, it gives us something beyond price. Robin, in his genius, in his honesty and humor, gave us so much wth his life. In another way, he gave us more with his passing. He is saying take this seriously. Take neurological problems seriously. Understand that no drug, however subtle or effective, can “fix” all of us. I have tried so many. I am sure Robin tried many more. Some work for a time, some work for longer. What has worked for me more than any drug is DBT. Not a drug but a therapy, a therapy that teaches something so basic and simple, it seems trivial at first glance. Dialectical Behavior Therapy has a lot of complexity in certain ways, in other ways it is blindingly simple and brilliant. You learn to feel bad. You learn to feel like stinking shit. You learn to feel really, really awful, maybe all the time, and just keep going. Just keep walking, and never let feeling bad steal from you your life. I have no doubt it is why I am still here, and will remain. You learn that even great pain is better than oblivion, you learn that staying with life, however unbearable, is your deepest responsibility.

    That’s it.

    Learn to feel bad.

    Learn to be ok with the reality that you may never feel better.

    Learn that you, however much you might hate yourself, can do this.

    I think Robin left us with a great teaching,
    and a life of whistling in the dark,
    I can still hear him.

    Thank you Robin,
    Not for the laughter

    For the red hot pain behind it.

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  11. I agree with the post above from Jonathan. In fact, I’ve received several organizations this week, like the AFSP, using Willims’ tragic death to ask for donations. We have become really a disingenuous society that money drives everything today. I have no doubt that these organizations think they can convince folks by funding their groups, the suicide prevention methods they support actually help. I ask – ” if so, why as the video you posted with the terrifying stats ” every 16 mins, another suicide occurs”. So, I’m linking my friends to “alternatives to suicide ” which makes more sense than anything I’ve heard since I lost my 25 y/o son to suicide, 31 months ago.

    If our society doesn’t start to open up dialogue where human beings feel “safe” amd “supported” to discuss their deepest, dark thoughts and fears, how can suicide lessen? For anyone suffering a severe emotional crisis, irregardless of the trigger, to be told they are hopelessly and incurable mentally ill, for life, add in the toxic and debilitating meds given ( which is why my son weaned off them) what is wrong with this picture? I so wonder if I had known to not be afraid and ask my son was he having any dark thoughts but I never did. I just believed once he came out of his 2nd ‘episode’ of psychosis and never touched any recreational substances again, ate healthy, was surrounded by his family that loved him…he would bounce back into the always fun loving, bigger-than-life personsonality he had been. But my son insisted on moving far away, deeply wounded by his wife who left him in the midst of his 2nd hosp for another guy, than losing his job….and somehow he got lost so far away. My son whom people described as a “people person” left us a note which said “I can’t go on”.

    The education from what I quickly became immersed in sadly didn’t help me save my son, in time. But I hope the various ways each of us, here at MIA, learn about how to reduce these devastating suicides it will help someone else. So, thank you for this link as it seems like a much more community based, non-judgmental environment which offers people HOPE . Surely, it can’t be so hard to see by including people, where others share these same fears, the message can help prevent suicide. It seems so rationale, to be honest, before my life was sucked into the traditional psychiatric wastelands my son sadly got entangled with, I just assumed there were support groups like this all around. How wrong I was but the organization you work for and the people like Leah Harris who also work with you truly inspire me. HOPE, 4 letters that mean the differnce between life and death. Thank you.

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    • Thank you, Larmac. I always appreciate your posts and your sharing about your and your son’s story. And thank you, too, for your commitment to there being something different for others who might be going through similar experiences.

      I’ve never been able to muster much faith in places like AFSP… All these places seem – at best – hell bent on spreading the same old message as if they haven’t already accomplished most of the country believing in it… And at worst, they seem heavily pharmaceutically funded and driven.

      Lots to be sad and mad about.


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  12. Sera, I’m so happy you tackled this issue, and from this particular perspective. Two aspects of your blog resonate with me. First, the notion that a person who commits suicide must necessarily be “mentally ill.” As someone who has lived with chronic pain for many years, and it’s only getting worse, it is something I think about from time to time. While I know I’m not nearly there yet and there are many avenues to exhaust before I reach that point, I fear most the helplessness that would remove any choice I might have about whether I live or die, whether I am forced to take medication, etc., etc., etc. Sometimes suicide is the rational choice.

    I spent many years of my (earlier) life thinking about suicide often–several times a day. I knew better than to tell anyone because I knew I would be locked up, and I had seen my father locked up in the state hospital in the 60’s, treated with Thorazine and ECT. And so I struggled with it. When I first mentioned it to someone in a peer support situation, they helped me sort through it: is it a thought or a compulsion? Just a thought. Okay, so it’s certainly always an option, but do you need it right now? No? Well, let it go then. After that, it became easy to see it as a thought, an option I didn’t need right now, and to say good-bye to it for now. How much easier might my life have been if I had had a place in which to talk about it years earlier?

    I so respect your Alternatives to Suicide group and wish we had one here.

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    • Thanks, Ann. Chronic pain is a major factor in contemplating death, as you know and point out. It makes sense. So much of this makes sense, if only people can work to not turn it into something else. I’m glad you found at least one person who could slow down enough to ask those questions of/with you. Sometimes it all seems overly simplistic, but it can make all the difference in the world. – Sera

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    • It’s great you’ve met someone who was actually willing to talk about it. Most people, therapist included freak out and either don’t want to listen at all (which is still fine – it’s not helpful but they have this right if they can’t handle it) or they call police and psychiatry on you (most people who are supposed to be “professional”). Many psychologists declare that they don’t allow you to talk about suicide because it somehow is “threatening”. To be honest I’ve found that the people who are qualified on paper to deal with such issues are the very last people who should be ever entrusted with dealing with someone suicidal.

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  13. Dear Sera,

    This is a timely, compassionate “pastoral” essay as we are each expected to find a respond to this highly publicized suicide. I now have your response to refer to and inform my own during the endless conversations that spring up at every gathering, family dinner and bus stop. Thank you for your endless hours, focus and generosity in organizing, thinking, writing and responding to others. I have been the beneficiary of your wisdom and generosity here, through the WMRLCommunity website, films and newsletter;; through your sharing knowledge about the Afiya respite while transcribing for three days at the MindFreedom conference on alternatives; and for actively defending others in the field who are attacked for their work on media sites like the Huffington Post. Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do. with affection and respect.

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    • Thank you for reading and responding, Diana. I appreciate your energy and passion for creating space for your fellow human beings and for finding the right path for you to make a difference. I really appreciated your presence (and push back) at the conference and beyond!


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  14. Awesome read, couldn’t agree more:
    “We make one great and repeated mistake in this society: Assuming responsibility for one another.(…) We make another great and repeated mistake in this society: Denial of responsibility to one another. ”
    “Their own experience informs them that sometimes retaining the option of suicide as an ‘out’ is all that keeps some people going, as challenging and counter-intuitive as that may feel to others.”
    “know that sometimes there simply aren’t any answers”
    You hit so many nails on the head that you could build a small house with it…:). The best discussion of suicide and what to do or not about it I have ever read from anyone. Thank you.

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  15. “A growing number of people appear to have killed themselves precisely because of the mental health ‘treatment’ they have received. Some of them weren’t even suicidal before they got on the psychiatric drugs that directly preceded their self-inflicted deaths. We’re talking kids, in a lot of instances. Williams had over 40 years of life on many of them. (And, by the way, I think the jury is still out on exactly how ‘treatment’ or psych drugs might have been used or impacted Williams himself.)”

    Great post… There are reports that Robin Williams was started on psychiatric medication, and anti Parkinsons Disease meds, according to a friend of his actor Rob Schneider.

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    • Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂 I’ve definitely heard the various reports, too. We will likely never know exactly what happened for him, but it’s clearly so much more complicated than you died from ‘mental illness’ and the answer is ‘treatment!’ I continue to be so incredibly frustrated by that simplistic and dangerous argument!


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  16. As soon as I heard about this I knew it was only a matter of hours before Williams’ death would be exploited to push more of the deadly agenda to which he apparently succumbed. “Depression” of course being a euphemism for the sensation of being crushed by the demands of “life” (i.e. life under a totalitarian corporate stranglehold).

    I know that phenothiazines cause “pseudo”-parkinsonian symptoms, but do these unlike tardive dyskinesia go away with cessation of the drug? Or is the “pseudo” a way of disavowing that the drugs actually cause parkinson’s? At any rate, if he killed himself because he just didn’t have the stamina or desire to go through all that at his age, that would be a sad “right” of his to decide, but a right nonetheless. And it would be comparable in terms of “rationality” to Dr. Szasz’s decision to do likewise when confronted with a fractured vertebrae at age 93.

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  17. Great discussion about suicide “prevention” versus alternatives! Since Robin William’s death, I have had successful conversations pointing others to peer-supported options. This article is very helpful in those conversations. Thank you!

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  18. Yes, this really IS a serious comment / question. And yes, it might be too much to expect a reply, but it’s not too much to ASK: “Please comment on the possibility, (or fact), that Robin William’s ACTUAL cause of death was “accidental auto-erotic asphyxiation”, and the “suicide” story was a cover-up, to protect William’s survivor’s.” No, I don’t intend this as “conspiracy theory” stuff. I heard he was found sitting in a chair. How can we be SURE of the EXACT facts of his death? Yes, this is a real question. Thank-you.
    (Major parts of “Jumanji” were filed here in Keene, NH, and there’s a mural near some of where it was filmed. I was tasked by the City with doing most of the clean-up of Robin’s memorial here. Lots of photos, flowers, candles, etc.) Still, I wonder about the suicide vs. “accidental auto-erotic asphyxiation”?

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    • Bradford,

      Just about anything is possible. Much of my point when I write these sorts of things is that everyone gets so fixated on knowing ‘why’ that they end up just making assumptions and speaking of them as ‘the truth’ in order to soothe (frankly) themselves.

      We’d all be so much better off if we could accept that we don’t know, and that even in knowing for one person, we do not know for anyone else.


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