Envisioning the Future of Mental Health

Eric Maisel, PhD
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There are many people in what are variously called the critical psychology, critical psychiatry, and anti-psychiatry movements, both service providers and service users, who rarely get to be heard in the mainstream media, where the dominant paradigm of “diagnosing and treating mental disorders” is entrenched and virtually unquestioned.

Because I had gotten a bit of experience running virtual conferences, where I would interview experts on a variety of subjects (I’ve done conferences on emotional healing, life purpose, and so on) and because I am deeply involved in mental health reform (and am proposing a “future of mental health movement” in a forthcoming book of mine), it struck me that I ought to interview “experts in the critical psychology field.”

I reached out and did just that (though the conference I put together is woefully short on interviews with service users—that will get rectified in a future conference). I video interviewed Joanna Moncrieff (The Bitterest Pills: The Troubling Story of Antipsychotic Drugs), Gary Greenberg (The Book Of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry), Anne Cooke (Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia), Will Hall (host of Madness Radio), Mad in America’s own Robert Whitaker, and ten others in the mental health reform world.

There was general agreement that most people held the following ten erroneous assumptions about “the state of mental health services.” None ought to be believed — and yet most people do believe them. It must be that they sound quite plausible; it is certainly the case that they are reinforced by drug ads and the mass media; and, unfortunately enough, it must be that they “meet people where they are at,” at a place of wishful thinking. It must be that people want these ten things to be true. But they aren’t.

What are these ten assumptions? The following:

  1. That we have “come a long way” in our understanding of the human psyche and that, when it comes to mental health, we have clear ways of distinguishing between “normal” and “abnormal” and “well” and “ill.”
  2. That “mental disorders” exist in the same way that diseases like tuberculosis and cancer exist.
  3. That “mental disorders” are discerned as opposed to created. That is, professionals “see real outbreaks of ADHD” as opposed to inventing “ADHD” in a room, after which children are found to fit the label.
  4. That there is a professional class able to “diagnose and treat mental disorders.”
  5. That a mental health professional can tell you what is “causing” your “mental disorder” and that he then logically relates his “treatment” to that “cause.”
  6. That there is “medication” available to “treat mental disorders”; and that the existence of these “medications” is a kind of proof that “mental disorders” exist.
  7. That we possess adequate, appropriate language with which to talk about mental health.
  8. That it is plausible and proper not to take an individual’s goals, circumstances, history, or personality into account when it comes to thinking about his mental health. For example, that it is proper to think that if you hate your job, your mate and your life that has nothing whatsoever to do with your “depression.”
  9. That, while perhaps “depression” and “anxiety” aren’t actual medical illnesses, certainly “schizophrenia” and other “serious mental illnesses” must be.
  10. That because you feel emotionally terrible, because you feel immobilized, because the darkness in you is blacker than anything you’ve ever experienced before, that because you are in severe emotional pain or in a real panic—that because you are so disturbed, bleak, unhappy, or terrorized inside—that you must have a “mental disorder” or a “mental disease.”

We definitely had a lot to talk about!

* * * * *

If you’re interested, please do tune in to the conference. The video conference, which is free, starts on Monday February 23.

14 COMMENTS

  1. “That, while perhaps ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ aren’t actual medical illnesses, certainly ‘schizophrenia’ and other ‘serious mental illnesses’ must be.”

    As Whitaker, and others, point out the ADHD drugs and antidepressants both cause the symptoms of bipolar, particularly mania. And one “manic episode,” with no depression, is enough for a bipolar diagnosis, according to the DSM.

    As one who had the adverse reactions of a non- “safe smoking cessation med,” Wellbutrin (an “antidepressant”), misdiagnosed (according to the DSM-IV-TR at the time, but not according to the DSM5) as bipolar. I’d like to point out that the bipolar drugs (the “antipsychotics”) can and do cause the central symptoms of anticholinergic intoxication, which is almost identical to today’s definition of schizophrenia.

    “Agents with anticholinergic properties (e.g., … neuroleptics … skeletal muscle relaxants; tricyclic antidepressants …) may have additive effects when used in combination. Excessive parasympatholytic effects may result in … the anticholinergic intoxication syndrome …Central symptoms may include memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, hyperactivity, twitching or jerking movements, stereotypy, and seizures.”

    The only difference between today’s definition of schizophrenia and the central symptoms of neuroleptic or other drug induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome is schizophrenia is claimed to be characterized by “inactivity,” while anticholinergic intoxication “hyperactivity.” And, in as much as I will admit, it’s likely easier to continue with one’s busy life when one is only suffering from anticholinergic intoxication, the neuroleptics do make all people very tired, not hyperactive. They’re tranquilizers. But my medical records did record I was “hyper” to figure out the etiology of my illness, since I had no personal or family history of any mental illnesses, other than a psychic (not psychotic) grandmother had briefly been put on Stelazine (an old neuroleptic) and then been quickly taken off it because it’d made her ungodly sick. She was never diagnosed with a mental illness and lived to the ripe old age of 94.

    All the DSM disorders, including bipolar and schizophrenia, are iatrogenic, not genetic. And anticholinergic intoxication syndrome induced psychosis can be caused with as little as .5mg of Risperdal, at least in a patient with a family history of adverse reactions to the old neuroleptics.

    My personal theory is all schizophrenia is caused by the neuroleptics (especially when given to patients who have concerns of child abuse or adverse childhood experiences misdiagnosed as one of the major mental illnesses, see Read’s papers on child abuse and schizophrenia).

    Psychosis likely can be caused by trauma or drugs, but it’s not a “life long incurable genetic mental illness,” as the DSM disorders fraudulently claim it to be.

      • The purpose of governments is supposedly to protect the citizens from the psychopaths who only worship money. But the US government is now totally controlled by these psychopathic corporations. Our founding fathers warned us of this:

        “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered…I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies… The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

        Gosh, wish my daddy, who was apparently one of the last of the ethical American bank presidents and arguably the number one management information specialist in the nation in the in the 1990’s, hadn’t had his concerns ignored, resulting in his early resignation.

        Perhaps the US should reconsider the wisdom of our founding fathers, and my own father, rather than worshipping the psychopathic American corporations?

  2. We’re treating non-diseases with drugs that make people sick, and physically sick, too, not to further confuse matters. All of the conventional physical treatments for so-called “mental illnesses” involve injuring the patient. This on top of a system that locks innocent people up in the name of medicine because it has a law around the law called mental health law. I should think that there were better things to be doing with people than trashing them, but if there were, there wouldn’t be a “mental health” system, would there? “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” Ogden Nash wrote that. Although we’ve got laws against killing people outright, doing so slowly through the “mental health” system is also the law. A recent article I read, averaging mortality rates, found that people in the “mental health” system were dying at an age on average 10 younger than the rest of the population. Throw together the rates for people diagnosed with serious mental disorders with those diagnosed with more minor mental disorders, and that’s what you get. Seeing as by “mental health” one usually means “mental health” treatment, the future of “mental health” then is a matter of more and more physical convalescence. Spare me any “mental health” future, thank you. I’m perfectly happy maintaining my physical health for as long as I might.

  3. There that wonderful moment in the movie “A Few Good Men” when Jack Nicholson spills the beans on normality’s avoidance of truth. “You can’t……….”

    While during the Vietnam war, smart heads in the CIA created “plausible deniability,” knowing that most people will accept lies, in an immediate need to self-regulate internal homoeostasis.

    “Deception is the art of Plausibility,” was the catch phrase used to give voice to the propaganda industry, that such an innate human need creates.

    But is there a “basic assumption” that such deceiving behaviour only applies to THEM?

    Last week I spent two days in company of mental health professionals, who demonstrated no lived-experience capacity to FEEL how they rationalize their own behavioural needs. No capacity for understanding a “continuum of human experience,” in their fixated belief that the surface image labels, we call words, can describe the phenomena of our actual experience.

    I’m hopeful that the search for a deeper sense of “meaning & purpose,” advocated by the author, will lead to a realization breakthrough, this century, as the reality of lived experience, continues to disprove the “conceptual” sense of reality, so many career academics, cling to. Even in spite of “paradoxical” nature of their public rhetoric.

    While I fear that the conferences put together by people like Eric, will be highly selective in the choice of lived-experience individuals, invited to participate.

  4. No, hating your job isn’t a cause of depression – you hate your job BECAUSE you “have depression!” Apparently, if we healed all of these “disorders,” no one would hate their job, or feel out of control of their relationships, or wonder what the point of life really was. Everybody would always be happy no matter WHAT happens. (Well, unless someone died – then we’d be upset for no more than two weeks and be back to normal!)

    Welcome, Stepford Wives!

    —- Steve

    • Well, then kill me first, I don’t want to get cured… Fortunately they can destroy your memory, your cognition, give you physical and mental injuries but they can’t stop you from being human.

      “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” – Ernest Hemingway
      They are the destroyers.

      On some more social and historical context I recommend Naomi Klein’s book “Shock doctrine”. She beautifully links psychiatry and neoliberal agenda to oppression (though there are huge trigger warnings especially for the 1st chapter).

  5. It’s good that some people are acknowledging some of the unquestioned assumptions of psychiatry. But we need to go back to the real questions, all the way back. We are just scratching the surface when we speculate about the future of “mental health.”

    There are even more fundamental assumptions that we need to consider. We assume, for example, that “mental health” and “mental illness” are real things, rather than constructs, or myths that psychiatry perpetuates.

    We need to start with the question: “What is mental illness?” or “What is mental health.” How can one possibly pretend to answer such questions until we know what “mental” even means, or what the mind IS, or what a person IS. How can one possibly pretend to know what “mental illness” means unless there is consensus on what “illness” means. If anything, these terms are metaphors that promote psychiatric labeling and oppression. They are fantasies that foster psychotropic drugging of children, the elderly, and the homeless. Psychiatry is an elaborate psuedo-science. It is a lie.

    Charcot and Freud initiated what could be considered the greatest hoax in world history. Until we understand why the founders of modern psychiatry were charlatans, we will only be grasping at straws.

    Until then the world will continue to decry “mental illness” and work to promote “mental health” without even stopping to consider where such notions came from. It’s all madness.

    Slay the Dragon of Psychiatry.

  6. Dr Maisel;

    Thanks for getting right to the point. Great post.

    May I suggest an 11th erroneous assumption which is near universally held?

    And that being, that Any of this Industry’s doings are even legal to begin with.

    14th Amendment US Constitution.

    Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    Due Process and Equal Protection are violated with every disabling Diagnosis so long as certain groups of people, by virtue of employment status, are granted special legislative carve outs protecting them from Psychiatry.

    http://psychroaches.blogspot.com/search/label/California%20Diversion%20Programs

    And perhaps a 12th too.

    Excusing the homicides the Industry knowingly sells as ‘Side Effects’ is also a misconception. They know full well what they’re doing.

    http://psychroaches.blogspot.com/2012/05/us-18c95-sec-1958-skull-at-banquet.html