Polarization or Accommodation To Transformation: What Would
Malcolm X Say?


Timothy Kelly recently authored a challenge to Robert Whitaker’s position on the increasing use of psychiatric drugs being “the driving force” in the rising numbers of people in the U.S. declared mentally disabled because of an assigned psychiatric diagnosis. He stated that Whitaker has “missed the mark” in his writings, and he called for a complete shift of emphasis away from targeting the damaging effects of psychiatric drugs and the related DSM diagnoses that provide the so-called medical justification for modern psychiatry to promote their pervasive brain disease/drug treatment model.

Instead, Kelly proposes an agenda that he believes creates less “polarization” (he refers to it as “loosening up polarizations”) by avoiding “debates” and seeking more “common ground” with psychiatry and other advocacy groups. He wants us to refocus our work on “reformist efforts” with apparent greater emphasis on academic investigation and an implied legislative agenda that targets broader socio-economic factors such as poverty, deficits in housing, racism, and mass incarceration. All of these factors, he believes, better explain the increasing numbers of people receiving SSI/SSDI disability benefits for “mental illnesses.” Kelly labels his approach, as do other authors he cites, a theory of “structural violence.”

Does Kelly’s approach truly grasp the critical relationship between the struggle against psychiatric abuse and the overall forms of “structural violence” within the larger economic and political system? Will Kelly’s approach actually grow (or stagnate) the necessary political movement that can lead us towards ending psychiatric abuse and related human rights violations? Does Kelly’s critique diminish the historical significance of Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic by focusing criticism on a single aspect of his overall analysis? What can we unite with in Kelly’s critique, and what needs to be criticized and rejected in his proposed strategy for future work in our movement?

Let’s begin by stating that Kelly raises some thought-provoking ideas about institutional violence in America. Kelly’s call to broaden our analysis of psychiatric oppression to address issues of “structural violence” in the larger economic and political system is both important and necessary; other writers here at MIA have made similar suggestions. His thoughts on what constitutes ‘the driving force” in the rise in diagnosed “mental illness” and disability rates in America deserves further discussion (more on this in Part 2). So at first glance his ideas appear to be on a positive tack.

However, the content of his overall critique and his specific call for a new road forward in the struggle against psychiatric abuse should give serious pause to those who yearn for a world free of all forms of human oppression. Let’s review some of his main ideas and proposals.

“I chart an alternative perspective on psychosocial disability that calls for a decentering of psychiatric drugs in both public discourse and advocacy.

“I’d like to see us shift our attention from debates about medication, loosening up polarizations that hamper our ability to work effectively on these issues…

“I suggest refocusing reform efforts… {on}…the identification of areas where interests align among advocacy groups that may otherwise strongly disagree about the role of psychiatric treatment in recovery.” 

To Timothy Kelly and all others who advocate an approach that calls for less polarization, and seeking more common ground and accommodation with psychiatry (and other advocacy groups), and calls for a strategic academic and legislative shift away from targeting the damage caused by psychiatric drugs and DSM diagnoses/labeling (and I am assuming also away from targeting forced drugging and hospitalization and Electro-shock), we must shout a resounding NO, a thousand times over!

This approach fails to grasp every key lesson that history has taught us about how to make meaningful social change in the world. Name one significant historical battle for much needed social change which was NOT preceded by an enormous level of social polarization PRIOR to the actual birth of meaningful social transformation.

Imagine for a moment telling Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Rosa Parks, Stokely Carmichael, MLK, Huey Newton, and Malcolm X, that their writings and actions are too polarizing, and that they need to focus more broadly on education, and patiently making slow legislative change. And, once again, imagine urging these same heroic activists to back off their political exposure of racial inferiority and their radical organizing efforts against specific examples of racial violence and discrimination because they are being just too controversial and might be alienating potential allies for their cause. How absurd this advice sounds today!

Today the movement against psychiatric abuse is only in its earliest stage of development; we have barely scratched the surface of what is necessary and possible. At this time in history we are merely a serious nuisance to Biological Psychiatry and the institutions that prop it up; they march on, totally unfettered and with complete impunity. The drugging, the diagnosing, and the use of force are expanding every day. How can we stand by, while thousands upon thousands of people are being harmed by psychiatric drugs, psychiatric labeling, Electro-shock, and the rampant use of force? Then justify this by saying that we need to avoid polarization and focus our work on the so-called more important “broader” political issues; all of which ends up being rechanneled into more academic research and some sort of slow legislative agenda?

Now do not misunderstand me, I am not advocating that we just put our heads down and narrowly (or blindly) fight the daily battles against psychiatric abuse. No, we must adopt a political strategy of walking on two legs of struggle. That is, while fighting the particular daily battles we must always link these specific fights to the broader issues of systemic and ‘structural violence’ within the larger economic and political system. Neither leg of the overall struggle can be effectively conducted without the other. Combining particular battles with broader political exposure will grow the movement; narrowly focusing on one leg (in a less confrontational and more reformist way, as Timothy Kelly has proposed) will ultimately paralyze the forward motion of our movement and lead to demoralization and political dead ends.

Those activists (such as Monica Cassani, Laura Delano, Nancy Rubenstein de Giudice and others) who are leading the daily battles (in Underground Railroad-like fashion) by organizing psych drug withdrawal activity, education and support groups, while at the same time challenging Biological Psychiatry’s oppressive disease/drug model of so-called “treatment,” must be fully supported and encouraged to expand their efforts. This vital activity not only provides critically needed social support for people in desperate need (and most importantly actually saves human lives), but also creates fertile ground for new activists to emerge out of their daily battles for survival.

As psychiatric survivors begin to lift their heads and ask the question, “how the hell did this happen to me?” they will be exposed (if we do our work correctly) to the truth about the harmful theories and practices of Biological Psychiatry (in collusion with the Big Pharma) that has created a psychiatric disaster of enormous human proportions. Psychiatric survivors and other dissidents working inside the mental health system may eventually draw links to an even broader systemic analysis of how the economic and political institutions (centered in a profit-based system) have created the material conditions for these types of human forms of oppression to occur. This same overall approach can be applied to all other important political movements (such as stopping the destruction of the environment) and could eventually lead to a merging of multiple forms of human rights struggles challenging the current status quo in unprecedented ways.

We must firmly and resolutely plant our pole against psychiatric abuse by educating minds and organizing forces in particular battles. If polarization in society develops as a result of our political activism, this will only prove that we are doing exactly what history demands of us. Bring it on!

I respectfully challenge Timothy Kelly and others who might support his position on “loosening polarizations” to answer the following questions:  Is it true that psychiatric labeling/diagnosing is currently unsupported by real science and at the same time very harmful to many people? Do psychiatric drugs, Electro-shock, and the use of ‘force’ cause FAR more harm than good to those who feel they must (or are forced to) endure it?

How can anyone rightfully claim that strongly expressed affirmative answers to the above questions should be labeled (in a very negative way) as unduly biased, “one sided,” or “dogmatic” when there is mounting scientific evidence to support such a firm and passionate response? On the contrary, these are becoming objective truths that we should never (ever!) shy away from expressing. They can be determined through a combination of legitimate science and a summation of the mounting evidence contained in the narratives of a rising number of psychiatric survivors who are now speaking out. How is this fundamentally any different than declaring that the theory of human evolution is a proven matter of scientific fact, and then unabashedly promoting it throughout society, no matter who might be offended by such discourse or how much polarization might result?

As an aside to this question about psychiatric drug use, is it not true that if science and government were not ruled by the bottom line of profit, and organizations such as the FDA were actually interested in protecting the masses from harmful drugs, then most of the current psychiatric drugs (not medications!) in the market place would never have seen the light of day? This would mean that many of the people today that are currently psychologically wedded (or physically dependent/addicted) to these drugs would never have ended up becoming upset, embarrassed, or defensive about those activists that are now declaring these drugs to be primarily harmful to people.

While analogies comparing the struggle against racial oppression and psychiatric abuse have some limitations, it is true that many black people in this country (under extreme duress) incorporated a historically common occurring inferiority complex of the oppressed, and also accepted many of the oppressive labels and language used to describe them as a racial minority. The struggle of African-American people in this country throughout its entire history (and still today) has had to sharply take on this deeply ingrained kind of thinking. We are currently facing similar struggles in today’s mental health system.

So, by analogy, this again means that we must never feel we should avoid criticizing psychiatric labeling, and definitely not shy away from challenging those that advocate that people should embrace their psychiatric labels as some type of personal identity. Now I urge everyone to take a careful look (here) at the resource that Timothy Kelly promoted in his blog as a so-called “bright spot” in the work of certain mental health advocacy groups. Having youth from different racial minorities “proudly” holding up signs stating “I am Bi-polar” or “I have Borderline Personality Disorder” is very sad, and definitely not my vision of human progress or empowerment.

We need to make the issues of psychiatric abuse powerful dividing line questions on every street corner and in every home, barber shop, and community mental health clinic etc. throughout societyThe more polarization we create around these dividing line issues now, the better we can advance our movement and create more favorable material conditions for social change and future unity to be accepted more broadly throughout the entire society!

To achieve the above goals means we must find very selective ways to disrupt business as usual in situations where we can make a decisive difference in a particular struggle, and attract appropriate mass attention, as well as, gather new forces for future battles. Our movement currently lacks the present day seminal moments of political struggle that might have parallels to such historic events as the 1912 Bread and Flowers factory strike in Lawrence, Ma, the Civil Rights boycotts, marches, and sit-ins in the 50’s and 60’s, or the nationwide shutdown of college campuses in 1970 after the invasion of Laos during the Vietnam War. These types of critical moments in American history will never occur in our movement’s future if we adopt a more academic, legislative, and overall passive approach to fighting psychiatric abuse.

Creating more polarization around the issues of psychiatric abuse DOES NOT mean becoming more uncivil, dogmatic, or unnecessarily confrontational. Nor does it mean “demonizing” or cutting off dialogue with rank and file psychiatrists or members of system supported advocacy groups. On the contrary, we must have an overall activist strategy of “uniting all who can be united” around a firmly set pole (of theory and practice), with banner flying high, that is based on the highest degree of principled struggle, using both the best science and personal narratives of psychiatric survivors available at the time.

In the 50 years since his death on February 21, 1965 can anyone deny that Malcolm X was one of the greatest thinkers and orators in the Civil Rights/Black Liberation Movement, and perhaps in all the significant political movements in modern times. Despite the deepest disdain and political attacks directed towards him by the American establishment and its media, can anyone say that he was ever uncivil, disrespectful, or unwilling to engage in political discourse. And, while under these extremely difficult circumstances he was able to sustain the most honest, truthful, and unwavering presentation of the historical struggle of the African-American people fighting for total emancipation.

And yes, Malcolm X was a very polarizing and yet positively transformative figure in our history. On a personal level, it is interesting to note that while in high school I was taught by the American media and others in authority to hate this man. I am ashamed to admit that at that young age I was pleased to hear that he had been brutally assassinated. However, while in college, after reading his autobiography and learning the true history of racial oppression in America, I grew to love and deeply respect this man as a true revolutionary fighter for all of humanity.

There are, indeed, important parallels and lessons to be learned from the rich history of Black Liberation and Civil Rights struggles in America, and all this directly applies to our current movement against psychiatric abuse today. Let us struggle and learn without reservation or fear of controversy. Yes, Timothy, (I say, again, respectfully) we can do better.


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. Richard,

    I don’t have a ton of time this morning, but here are some problems with what you wrote.

    1. This is a straw man argument. You grossly mischaracterized my position.
    You wrote i was arguing for an ” accommodation with psychiatry (and other advocacy groups), and calls for a strategic academic and legislative shift away from targeting the damage caused by psychiatric drugs and DSM diagnoses/labeling (and I am assuming also away from targeting forced drugging and hospitalization and Electro-shock)”

    I called for a decentering of psychiatric drugs in advocacy efforts, not a cease on efforts in this area. To the extent that I addressed diagnosis and force, my comments were apposed. But it’s certainly easier to set up a straw man than engage in a productive way with ideas one disagrees with. My blog addressed itself to a broader view of oppression, and what I see as a more effective approach.

    2. I find your argument from analogy to Malcolm X and civil rights very problematic. It is tricky territory indeed to discuss a marginalized community of which you are not a member in terms of critiquing their (our) “inferiority complex” or “deeply ingrained way of thinking.” To discuss the People of Color Mental Illness Photo Project in this fashion is offensive.

    3. I’m not sure quite what you mean by science in this piece. It seems to refer plainly to ideas you already agree with.

    4. Nowhere in your bio do you discuss yourself being a survivor. I’ve lived the things about which I wrote.


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    • As somebody who was force drugged, I don’t see how advocacy efforts can be “decentered”, as you put it, without enfeebling any advocacy efforts I would be involved in. First, the drugs are harmful. Second, people are not adequately informed about the dangers involved. (Drug company glosses don’t represent unbiased information.) Third, people have their liberty to refuse these damaging foreign substances taken away from them.

      You target Robert Whitaker in the heading of your post. He is one person who provides information regarding long term studies in his books. Should we suppress the mental health industries own research results when it comes to the long term effects of a psychiatric drug taking regimen? (The drug industry, for obvious reasons, suppresses information all the time.) I think not. Such nonetheless would be the result of your “decentering” efforts I imagine.

      In 1978 Philadelphia I was among a small group of people marching on the offices of what eventually became Glaxo-Smith-Kline. It was something else back then, Smith, Kline, and French, or something like that. In 2012 I was among a much larger group of protesters outside of the APA convention in Philly. David Oaks, then director of MindFreedom International, asked who among the people at this march was on psychiatric drugs, and a pretty large number of hands shot up. There was no question, then, about marching on Glaxo-Smith-Kline. I would gladly march on Ely Lily, Glaxo-Smith-Kline, Pfizer, what have you, today, even with a very small number of fellow protesters.

      It is easy for mental health centers and facilities to dismiss anybody who questions the efficiency and ethical soundness of drugging people. Brave are the people who do so. Cowardly are the people who run away from the reality of the situation. There is a great deal of pressure on people in the field to toe the line, so to speak, and to become drug company pitch men and women, wittingly or unwittingly. The person who doesn’t do so is often minus a job. I really don’t think we need a movement any more “decentered” than this one already is. I myself am perfectly content not to be working in the labeling and drugging field. I find, in my case, opposition, resistance, is so very much better for my overall health, especially when you read about studies, scientifically sound studies, showing people dying on average 15 to 25 or 30 years younger than the rest of the population in large measure because of these drugs.

      Of course, electro-shock and psycho-surgery may be less pervasive in psychiatric practice than is psychiatric drugging, but we should not be “decentering” our opposition to the harm that they cause either. There are many ways to destroy a human being. I can’t see aiding and abetting in that destruction as a positive thing.

      Case closed.

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      • I actually think that targeting drugs and ECT specifically is more likely to appeal to the general public as so many people have a close and personal experience with the damage the drugs can do and have an opinion about ECT not yet distorted by current propaganda. Fewer people are subjects to the most atrocious practice of forced “treatment”.

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    • Timothy
      I too was forcibly locked up and drugged and have since gone through the horrors of both antipsychotic and antidepressant withdrawal.

      Knowing that there was no scientific basis for the use of those drugs and that pharmaceutical companies have actively covered up the harms they cause, makes me wonder why anyone would wish to decentre action from psychiatric drugs and psychiatry.

      Search this site and you will find all the scientific evidence you could wish for that the drugs are dangerous and do not work. There are plenty of books other than Robert Whitaker’s too that expose their dangers…Pharmageddon, Bad Pharma, The Emporer’s New Drugs, Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime to mention just a few that pop into my head.

      There are also plenty of books about the spurious “science” underpinning psychiatric diagnoses and the DSM “diseases that the drugs “treat”, some written by leading psychiatrists concerned with the mounting abuses of psychiatry.

      Adopting a softly softly approach so as not to upset or alienate psychiatrists, drug companies and those in their thrall would be to effectively give up any credibility or sense of urgency that rightfully belongs with such a serious struggle.

      Yes, there are a multitude of social issues that have led to this situation, but keeping a clear focus on the primary enabler of abuse – psychiatric drugs and their pushers – is essential for change to occur.

      Decentering would be akin to knowing that the patient on the operating table needs urgent heart surgery but deciding instead to operate on say….the kidneys, liver and lungs because his family finds the thought of heart surgery too confronting.

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    • Timothy

      1) I did not create a “straw man argument.” I read over your blog multiple times to get the essence of your themes and central arguments; some were clearly spelled out others were hinted at and implied. I never said you had no opposition to issues of diagnosis and force. You made it clear that all hot button issues should be “decentered” and “debates” about them avoided, and that would necessarily include the use of diagnosis, force, and Electro-shock. If this were to happen it would literally gut the heart out of our much needed opposition to Biological Psychiatry.

      Your opposition to DSM diagnoses is not clear in your blog. You stated “I don’t think it’s helpful (or accurate) to center debate on the supposed nonexistence of more enduring psychosocial disabilities.” This tells me you accept part of Biological Psychiatry’s disease labeling.

      2)What sealed the deal on your defense of psychiatric labeling is your support and promotion (in the source you provided in your blog) of minority youth proudly holding up signs identifying their supposed “mental illnesses” and the labels that go with them, such as “I am Bi-polar” and “I am Borderline Personality Disorder;” the scarlet letter of all diagnoses. Then you tell me it is “offensive” for me to criticize the advocacy group that promotes this. What is more “offensive” here, your support of this backward form of advocacy and the group that created it OR you calling me “offensive” for daring to challenge this. Do I have to be a minority or have “lived experience,” or both, to have the “right” to criticize the defense of oppressive disease labeling.

      3) Timothy, when I make reference to “science” in my blog I am not just referring to what I believe. I am making reference to all the authors (many who are here at MIA that have many credentials after their names) who make use of the scientific method to deconstruct the pseudoscience that forms the shaky foundation of Biological Psychiatry. There are authors of countless number of books and journal articles that have culled the scientific journals to arrive at a “scientific” critique of psychiatry’s bogus theory and practice. MIA constantly posts scientific journal articles on the left side of the blog website that I incorporate in my analysis.

      4) Are you implying that I should be silent or that I have “no “right to speak” on these issues because I am not a survivor with “lived experience.?” Timothy, please tell me what human experiences or forms of trauma must I live through in order to qualify to speak out about oppression?

      I would never pretend for a moment that I have the direct experience of all the horrors that many survivors have endured at the hands of Biological Psychiatry. I have, however, indirectly shared some of those experiences with those who have.

      Over 22 years of working in community mental health as a counselor. I have heard hundreds of personal stories about the worst forms of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse that one can imagine. And I have watch as Biological Psychiatry has labeled these extreme forms of psychological distress as various forms of brain diseases, and then added to people’s trauma with the worst kinds of poly pharmacy. Some of my clients have died (in my opinion) as a result of this so-called “treatment.” What do you think it does to a person who must bear witness to all these various forms of trauma, including by those who claim to be helping people.

      Timothy, I do not possess a “sincerometer” to test your degree of compassion for people, your hatred of oppression, or your commitment and willingness to take risks to end oppression. Nor do you have such an instrument to test that of me. I am 67 years old and have been a political activist since my early 20’s; sometimes putting my life at risk for causes I felt strongly about. Nobody will silence me by playing the “identity politics card.”
      You can read all my blogs (as well as my comments) here at MIA to find out where I stand on the issues. I have studied psychiatric drugs for over 20 years and been a critic of Biological Psychiatry during that same period of time. I read MIA and carefully studied and learned from the stories of psychiatric survivors for months before I dared to post at MIA.

      I stand by my words AND actions opposing the theories and practice of Biological Psychiatry. I will let the psychiatric survivors and other activists at MIA decide whether I deserve to stand with them at the barricades in the struggle to end all forms of psychiatric abuse.


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      • There is a big difference between people who are not psychiatric survivors and who dabble in our issues, for whatever reason, and sincere allies who have put their jobs and careers at risk to support us, like Richard, like Bob Whitaker, like the late psychiatrist Loren Mosher. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t easily trust non-survivors in the context of our movement. But I don’t think it is right to dismiss Richard’s arguments because he is not a survivor. I know what he has done for other people trapped in the psychiatric system, and I respect what he has to say here.

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        • Ted

          Thanks for that comment; it means a lot coming from you given your history in this movement.

          You had some of the strongest reactions and criticisms of Timothy Kelly’s blog when it was first posted; your first instincts were spot on.

          I was thinking of some of your past comments when I spoke (in my blog) to the need for seminal events of struggle in our movement. You always said that we missed the boat when Rebecca Riley (the little child from outside Boston, Ma.) who was killed by theory and practice of Biological Psychiatry and for whom we failed to respond in a decisive way. We cannot, and should not, miss these opportunities in the future.


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      • “… minority youth proudly holding up signs identifying their supposed “mental illnesses” and the labels that go with them, such as “I am Bi-polar” and “I am Borderline Personality Disorder …”

        I have to wonder, who in the hell are you to tell other people how they should or should not choose to identify themselves? Isn’t this another form of force, anti-psychiatry taken to the extreme? What if these persons don’t want your help, don’t want you to think of them as “backwards” and “very sad?”

        I get it Richard, you really don’t agree with Timothy Kelly. Seeing you speak to a fellow survivor in this manner, at great length, is not okay with me. I feel this whole conversation and even the original article went way past the point of a personal attack on Timothy Kelly. Can a moderator chime in here?

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        • Moderator chiming in, but first I would like to point out that discussion of moderation in comment threads is in most cases considered off-topic to the blog posts. Readers are encouraged to use the report button for problematic comments, or contact us directly for feedback on moderation or editorial decisions: http://www.madinamerica.com/posting-guidelines/. I’m pointing this out because by sharing my perspective there’s a risk of sparking a debate about whether a moderation issue exists here or not, and I don’t want the conversations about the issues discussed in Richard’s or Timothy’s posts to be derailed.

          That said, my perspective is that I don’t see persons being attacked here. I see ideas being criticized. I think it’s okay for Richard to write about how he thinks Timothy missed the mark, just as it was okay for Timothy to write about how he thinks Robert Whitaker missed the mark. I’m quite certain that both authors understood that their viewpoints would stir the pot and generate controversy, but I feel that they’re attempting to engage in respectful debate (and for the most part succeeding, although both occasionally used terms such as “dogmatic” or “absurd” to describe positions they disagree with).

          I view the resulting discussions in the comments similarly — while there are very strong feelings around these topics, and some pointed critiques, I see an effort to keep it civil and largely non-personal.

          I do think it’s important for people working as clinicians or counselors etc to be mindful about how they address people with lived experience, though. While there’s no power differential among authors on this website, there can be one in the roles people represent.

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          • Emmeline, I appreciate your call out for a heightened awareness that this website welcomes those who have been negatively impacted by multiple trauma in their lives, including social trauma due to oppression and discrimination as well as medical malpractice, but still, there is an emotional safety issue here for many with lived experienced.

            One of the vital issues on here is the question of whether clinicians, social workers, and all staff that work with people in a recovery or rehabilitative process, have the required empathy to work effectively with clients. Lack of empathy when working with others in this capacity will inherently do harm to others, even subtly and insidiously when it’s not so obvious in the moment.

            Many of us have pointed out that this is the case–that empathy toward clients has fallen by the wayside, and it is evident in the state of things at present in the mental health world.

            There is a fine line between criticizing ideas and invalidating a person’s process, the latter of which is unambiguously harmful to a person’s health and well-being, if that person is in a process of healing that leaves him/her vulnerable at that moment. Indeed, people are responsible for themselves, but many on here who have dealt with a plethora of conflict in their lives, whether emotionally or physically violent (it’s ALL emotionally violent) causing chronic trauma, will not be able to tolerate the conflict on here. To me, that speaks of a somewhat oppressive and inherently divisive dynamic within the community.

            This is what I see from my perspective, limited of course, because it’s just me on my side of the computer, but I’ve certainly picked up a trend of this growing division and resentment on here, as per lack of empathy, over time.

            I question now whether or not this platform is safe for many people who would like to be more active in the discussions, as per their own healing and education, but who only feel they are walking back into the ring of fire that did them so much harm to begin with. Seems we’re back in the same dynamic that led people to seek health care and counseling support in the first place.

            That’s how professional advocacy felt to me when I had gotten there, just as oppressive and skewed as the system they professed to be fighting…all more of the same. That just repeats social trauma for people, in the exact same way as before.

            This is what I’d like to see change, the entire platform for these discussions. To me, that would be a creative path to new solutions. This feels like a hamster wheel at this point, because the relationship dynamics are simply repeating. People may have new ideas to think about, but communities will continue to sink as they exalting some and demean others, as per their particular norm, so duality will continue to prevail. That is a hotbed for more oppression and discrimination…and for what we are or are not calling ‘mental illness.’ Either way, it is an imbalance and we only perpetuate injustice by continuing to operate in such a ‘survival-of-the-fittest’ manner. I don’t see how this adds any compassion to people who are trying to heal, or to get clarity to the matters at hand. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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          • Alex, what I’m hearing is that certain needs might not be met by this discussion platform. I want to acknowledge that those needs are real and valid, while also acknowledging that this platform has been created for a specific purpose, and people are free to choose for themselves whether it meets their needs or not.

            My feeling is that if healing or emotional safety are what a person seeks, the comment section of a blog site might not be the most likely place to find them. There are inherent limits to text-based internet communication. There are inherent hazards in debate, and (especially) in interacting with people who represent a role that you’ve been harmed by (such as psychiatric survivors interacting with psychiatrists). It can all feel very draining or even triggering. Ultimately a person needs to weigh those risks for themselves and make their own decision about whether it feels worthwhile, constructive or healthy to participate in such conversations. That is the responsibility of the individual.

            Of course, the creators of a space also have responsibilities. While I personally believe that emotional safety and the internet are mutually exclusive to some degree, I also believe it’s important to be thoughtful and aware of the risks and make a good faith effort to mitigate harms. I think we do make that effort.

            What I’m hearing is that for you, and maybe others, it’s not enough, or there’s a need for a space that’s very different than this one. I hope you can find that space, or create it if it doesn’t exist. Recently I’ve been hearing talk among survivors about creating a survivor-led (and maybe survivor-exclusive) space for discussion, support and information sharing. I think that would go a long way toward meeting some of the needs you identify, and would be a good complement to what we’re doing here. But in terms of empathy, I believe that face-to-face connection is more likely to facilitate that than anything that could ever happen on the internet.

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        • Cataract

          Did you take the time to carefully examine the website that is being referenced here?

          My criticism was not directed towards the young people holding the signs. My critique was aimed at those advocacy groups and individuals that would promote and encourage this approach (disease labeling) as a way of dealing with extreme forms of psychological distress.

          Timothy Kelly referred to this as a “bright spot” in the struggle of people with “lived experience.” Is it not fair game and important to critically examine whether or not this actually represents progress in our movement, or keeps us stuck in the current paradigm of so-called “treatment?”

          Doesn’t the promotion and acceptance of psychiatric disease labeling lead minority people away from understanding that their oppression emanates from “structural violence” within our economic and political system?

          What do you suggest as an appropriate way to critically evaluate the content and effect of this form of advocacy?


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          • Obviously your criticism is directed towards the young people who chose to have themselves photographed with signs they themselves created. As far as I could tell, the premise of the project was very simple. “If you’re interested in being part of this project, please submit a photo of yourself holding a sign saying “I’m [your name] and I have a mental illness (or the exact type).” Whatever you feel comfortable doing.” What is “our movement?” If “our movement” involves ridiculing, questioning the judgement of, or endlessly critically evaluating the progressive value of people who choose to identify as having psychiatric labels then I’m out, because that’s me.

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          • Cataract

            In no way was I “ridiculing” anyone.

            My criticism was clearly directed towards the advocacy group promoting this when I said the word “having” before I referred to “minority youth holding up signs…”

            “Sadness” is truly a feeling I have when viewing this form of advocacy. I cannot deny my feelings.

            You apparently still support using the word “mental illness” without quotation marks and the disease labels such as “Bi-polar” and “Borderline Personality Disorder.” You must know that this language is a major issue of contention at MIA and among those critical of Biological Psychiatry’s disease model.

            It is more than fair to criticize this within the dialogue and debates at this website.


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          • Replying here to Richard’s comment below. What advocacy group promoting it? The people who photographed themselves are the advocacy group! It’s hosted on the website of Dior Vargas. Are you criticizing her? Am I missing something?
            “You must know that this language is a major issue of contention at MIA and among those critical of Biological Psychiatry’s disease model.” So what? Not sure what you want me to say here. Boo hoo? I guess I’ll contact the moderator (again, sorry Emmeline) to clarify that as a person who identifies as having psychiatric labels I’m “allowed” to be on MIA? I guess I will accept that your comments of “backwards” and “very sad” were not intended as ridicule.

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          • Cataract

            This individual in question is not just an independent person creating her own activist website.

            Dior Vargas is part of NAMI’s Third Wave Foundation. She is also identified as a member of the Young Professionals Advisory Board NAMI-NYC Metro.

            One of these could even be a paid position. So there definitely is a connection to a system supported advocacy group that we know is funded by the pharmaceutical corporations.

            This was not immediately apparent by viewing multiple websites connected to her project, that is until I Googled her name Dior Vargas and NAMI.

            That being said, based on her bio she has done some very good work fighting against women’s oppression and racial discrimination, including some activity with the Occupy Movement, all of which I completely support. It is unfortunate that she has been influenced by NAMI’s agenda.

            She would be a perfect candidate to read Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic and the MIA blog; hopefully some one will reach out to her to expose her a different perspective on the mental health system.

            Cataract, I do not mean to offend you in any way or imply that you do not belong at MIA. I have read and agreed with many of your comments in the past. I hope we can grow in mutual understanding as this movement develops.

            Respectfully, Richard

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          • I am unable to see how the Third Wave Foundation is affiliated with NAMI. I am unable to confirm that she is in a paid position with NAMI or influenced by any agenda. Unless you are able to confirm that, I would suggest you refrain from saying it. I just keep being offended…

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          • Cataract

            I stand corrected; the Third Wave Foundation is apparently not connected to NAMI, but separated by a comma in Dior Vargas’ Linked In resume.

            Her connection to NAMI cannot be disputed. It is listed first in her Linked In resume, and other websites clearly list her as a member of the NAMI-NYC Metro Young Professionals Advisory Board.

            Does this direct connection to NAMI concern you at all?


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          • I don’t understand Cataract’s comments at all, they seem out of synch with his/her past posts, unless I’m forgetting something.

            At any rate your taking offense at the disempowering self-identification these folks have been conned into is totally justified.

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      • When Richard points to these particular diagnoses as scarlet letters, I feel the need to underscore that. Timothy Kelly may be blind to the reality that holding up a signs that says “I have Borderline Personality Disorder” is exactly the same as holding up a sign saying, “Stay far away from me, I will wreak havoc”. Holding up a sign that says “I have Bipolar Disorder” translates to , “I am Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I may murder you in your sleep”. There is no excuse for this kind of labeling, none at all, and convincing vulnerable people to identify in this way is the worst possible brainwashing I can even imagine. Brainwashing like this always serves someone else’s agenda, and an agenda like this must be fought tooth and nail. Bravo Richard Lewis, for your well reasoned arguments, your wonderful historical context for the fight against oppression, and thank you for the mention.

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      • When I did live with a diagnosis, I, myself, would never have held up a sign like this, because I didn’t feel the need to defend my position around how I perceived myself or my life at any given moment. That’s my business, and the business of those with whom I have intimate relationships, should I choose to involve them. It’s all a process and we allow ourselves to grow in awareness.

        And while I understand that the mental health industry creates an oppressive environment which teaches people to believe they are less than, people do have the right to their process without others compounding the issues by adding their own shame to the process of another.

        This website appears to be more exclusive, divisive, alienating, and marginalizing at this point, rather than inclusive and unifying. I don’t understand the point of that, if we are seeking change. That seems like more of the same to me.

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    • Hi Richard,

      I’m following up because my initial comment on your post hasn’t sat well with me. The internet makes it all too easy to engage in a disrespectful manner, or to forget that the person(s) we address are, in fact, persons. So, apologies for the dismissive and combative tone.

      Here I aim to clarify the four issues I raised. My intent is to offer insight into my thinking, not to tell you what you think, or to say that you are wrong–except insofar as you attribute positions to me that I do not hold.

      The use of the term “straw man” was a poor choice of words. What I meant was, it is difficult to respond to your post because much of it links my original post to positions I don’t hold. For instance, in your follow up you say “You made it clear that all hot button issues should be “decentered” and “debates” about them avoided, and that would necessarily include the use of diagnosis, force, and Electro-shock”

      My post called for decentering psychiatric drugs in advocacy efforts. I did not include these other practices in that comment. I see these as each distinct–albeit often linked–practices. I intended my view on diagnosis to be clear in the caveats I offered. It is basically this: they are not valid categories–in the scientific sense of validity-they do not refer to any objectively verifiable physiological processes. I don’t think they ever will, not because there are not biological processes (and differences) that are involved in various forms of distress, but because I think the nosology is just crude and sometimes arbitrary.

      Psychosocial disability: In your follow up comment you said that because I said it was inaccurate to deny the existence of “more enduring psychosocial disabilities,” that this means I endorse “Biological psychiatry.”

      Actually, this is not what I meant. I intend “disability” here more in terms of what the broader disability rights movement means by disability. For instance, many deaf people do not think of the experience of being deaf as a medical problem. It’s a celebrated difference with a culture and history. In these contexts, “disability” refers to socioenvironmental barriers that prevent access/inclusion for persons whose bodies/abilities are not “normative.”
      This is how I see “madness.” Yes, scientific understanding of the relationship between biology and subjectivity (consciousness) is not remotely understood. But I do think the evidence is quite strong that the nervous system is deeply implicated in subjectivity. Genetics as well as environmental exposures are clearly established in shaping the structures and functions of the human body. Now, am I a biological reductionist? No. First of all, experience shapes the structures of the brain. It’s been demonstrated that directed activity of the “mind”-if you will-changes the brain. It’s quite extraordinary if you think about it. Trauma, for instance, can have lasting impacts on brain structure and function. In fact, there is evidence that trauma actually alters gene expression in subsequent generations. So no, I do not think the body is supreme. I think ‘body’ and ‘mind’ are coextensive.

      But even more fundamentally, I take an anthropological view on theories of subjectivity and medicine. This is to say that the question of whether a theory is ‘true’ cannot be established apart from the ‘conditions of possibility’ that make it true, in the Foucauldian rather than the Kantian sense. From this vantage point, talk of genetics, for instance, has already parsed the world in a particular way that belongs to a specific socioculturally situated and historical context. So on a deeper level, I actually don’t privilege this way of framing the world-which is not neutral or ‘objective’-above other less privileged ways of viewing the world or experience. I am spiritual person, for instance. I experience spiritual forces and I regard them as real and quite apart from and in no need of ‘scientific’ explanations.

      But a consequence of taking an anthropological view seriously is this: people make sense of their experience partly from the materials–the words, the systems of belief etc.–that are given-but people also have agency and fashion often quite distinctive and unique meanings from otherwise familiar material. So the question of making use of a diagnostic term transcends it’s validity, actually. People make use of these terms. I’m not going to position myself as somehow knowing how someone else should understand their own experience, which words are the right ones. Take “extreme states,” for instance. Does this refer to something specific? Or is it a particular way of organizing a set of experiences within certain subcultures? Does it mean the same thing to me as it does to each and every person on MiA? I rather doubt it. What about “emotional distress?” Why do some militate against the idea of disordered thought, and leave emotional distress unquestioned? On what nonarbitary grounds do we even separate thought from emotion?

      So yes, I characterized the POC Photo Project as a bright spot because the young woman whose project that is–and it is her own project–is organizing mental health activism in communities of color. She has an oppression framework. I’m not going to legislate the terms that she or anyone chooses to describe their own experience. I’m not going to assume to know better than they do what their experience is or means or what to call it.

      Is there a massive power imbalance when it comes to psychiatry? Yes. Absolutely there is. Ought we to consider this when thinking about the use of diagnostic labels? Yes, we should. But I also think respecting, actually respecting someone’s agency, narrative and self descriptions comes first.

      The “identity politics card.” To an extent, I agree with you here. You certainly have a stake in these matters just as person on this planet. You have ideas and experiences and a point of view that I would, in general, support your right to express. But social movements have always staked claim to “situated knowledge.” In the disability rights movement and the survivor movement we’ve often said “nothing about us without us.” Malcolm X surely made a similar claim. So I referenced my own experience not to silence you. I was admittedly upset by what I felt was a mischaracterization of what I had written. I was even more upset by the description of the young people from the POC Photo Project whose right to name their own experiences I would defend, and I would not presume to understand without actually talking with them.

      In any case, apologies again for my initial glib response. I do hope this comment further clarifies where I’m coming from (and where I’m not.)


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      • Hi Timothy

        Thanks so much for responding and rejoining this discussion. I really appreciate your apologies for the glibness and tone of your initial response. I, too , worried that perhaps the passion and stridency of my blog and responses were somehow cutting off further dialogue.

        I very much value your opinions, the courage you have to express them, and the depth in which you attempt to explore these very complex issues we all face when trying to understand and evaluate the theories and practices that dominate the current paradigm of mental health “treatment.”

        Sometimes polarized viewpoints and discussion, when conducted in an appropriate manner, can lead to a higher level of understanding and unity if we can hang in there for the duration. The “unity, struggle, unity (at a higher level)…” dialectical process of learning and making social change operates in the broadest sense when looking (in a macro way) at historical transformation in the world, and also in (a more micro way) in our most intimate personal relationships.

        Hopefully something positive will arise out of our current dissonance; dissonance that actually follows our common belief that there is something very wrong in the world in the way human beings are being treated. This is why MIA exists in the first place and why we bother to commit out time and emotions to these challenging discussions and debates.

        On the issue of “decentering drugs” or other hot button topics of contention related to psychiatric abuse. Perhaps I over reached in some of my assumptions regarding the full intentions of your “call” for a shift of direction in our movement. There was a clear theme in your blog of “loosening polarizations” and “avoiding debates.” The additional issues of ‘force’, disease labeling, and Electro-shock are certainly some of the more polarizing issues facing us today, and we need to be clear about the importance of also “centering” our struggle against them as well, despite the polarizations they will inevitably bring our way.

        On the issues of diagnosis, labeling, and “disability” as you defined it, I agree that biology is involved in all human thought and behavior. I also agree that there is evidence that trauma and other negative life experiences can seemingly effect brain structure and neurochemical processes, such as the influence of cortisol levels in the brain etc. However I do not believe this understanding in anyway validates the use of DSM diagnoses to explain extreme forms of psychological distress.

        The whole Biological Psychiatry paradigm denies the decisive role the environment plays in “triggering” genetic expression in the material world. So in some ways it is more important to talk here about the concept of “neuroplasticity” and how creating a safe environment (through revolutionary transformation of human social and economic structures) can provide the material basis for human nurturing, love, and mutual respect. A place where people no longer relate to each other in some type of “commodity relationship;” that is, as a means to an end for more profit or power over another human being.

        So if we agree that human spirit and biological structure can be damaged in today’s world, hopefully we can also agree that it does NOT arise out of “genetic theories of original sin,” and that it can, and must, and will be (if we do our work properly) repaired by human love and revolutionary intervention. And that material conditions will eventually arise in a world where spiritual and biological damage never (ever!) has to occur again.

        Just as you have made a point that sometimes “context is everything,” I would make a similar point about how we evaluate the work of the activist, Dior Vargas, and the POC Photo Project. We cannot ignore the fact that MAMI has their fingerprints all over this project; this was my first thought when I looked at the website, even though it took some searching on my part to find the connection.

        Suspending for a moment any judgment on this project, imagine if Dior Vargas happened to be a depressed young person in the 1960’s (and into the 1970’s) before the takeover of Biological Psychiatry and the creation of their PR groups such as NAMI. Given the level of her critical thinking skills and her very laudable activities fighting women’s oppression, racism, LGBT discrimination, Occupy etc. I can imagine her (in that era) coming to a very much different understanding of her psychological distress. She most likely would have been attracted to Radical Therapy, The Mental Patients Liberation Front, Mind Freedom, and other critical systemic approaches to understanding her oppression as a Latin women and the related psychological distress coming from that experience.

        Unfortunately the theories and practice of Biological Psychiatry (and their PR group, NAMI)) thoroughly dominate the current landscape (with billions spent on advertising), and they have the ability to capture the hearts and minds of thousands of vulnerable individuals and their families. We have much work to do in countering the pervasiveness of their propaganda. One of the major strengths of Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic was his critical historical expose’ of how the guild of psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry colluded at the highest level in order to engineer their takeover of the mental health system for profit and power interests. We now see the disastrous results of this institutional oppression.

        How people define themselves today and how they use highly charged (system created) labels to do this, should not be abstracted from the socio-political environment that actually gave rise to these (DSM) constructs, nor should it somehow be off limits to critical judgment. This is all a much bigger question than offending someone’s particular individual identity; just as we need to have rigorous debate and discussion about the use of “bitch” word or the “N” word, whether or not it is a women or minority that chooses to use those terms for whatever reason.

        And lastly, I do respect and understand the critical leadership role of psychiatric survivors in this movement, and I also understand why you might have reacted defensively to my blog. Much of my passion on these issues comes from my long history of struggle against ALL oppression, and, in particular, with my intimate contacts with psychiatric survivors over the past few years, including those that write at MIA. I am not getting any younger, and as one gets closer to facing their mortality their frustration with a slow changing world and their desire and passion to make a difference can grow exponentially.

        I hope that Part 2 of my blog will address (in a fair way) issues related to “structural violence” and some of the contention related to aspects of Whitaker’s analysis in Anatomy od an Epidemic. I am all for a spirited and high level dialogue, which I believe is now happening as we communicate through the written word.

        Thanks again for responding and fighting for your beliefs.

        Respectfully, Richard

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        • Richard, I have no problem with you criticizing NAMI, which is almost entirely funded by pharmaceutical company donations. I would like to suggest that you consider criticizing NAMI and not specific people who work for NAMI, many of whom are good people and many whom provide an enormous amount of good work for free. I know there is at least one writer here who worked for NAMI. Would you use it to discredit her too? If you have problems with a particular form of advocacy you might want to consider that the people who are performing that form of advocacy made an educated, informed decision you don’t agree with and don’t support. Suggesting people didn’t make an educated, informed decision about how they choose to own their own activism and that they are nothing but a company’s propaganda is insulting, and yes, it’s especially insulting because they’re POC. Maybe you should talk to them about how they feel about it first. Yes, for better or worse the world has changed and what would have happened in the 60s wouldn’t happen now and a lot of people have never even heard of anti psychiatry. Do you seriously want to invalidate these people and their own advocacy work? NAMI’s fingerprints are all over the place, even here.

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          • Your responses to Richard’s piece are puzzling to say the least. He has not made personal judgements and has responded directly and logically to your objections. I as a survivor completely support his taking umbrage at young people — or anyone — being taught to view themselves as “ill” when they are not. Talk about disempowering! This is not “advocacy” in the least.

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      • So yes, I characterized the POC Photo Project as a bright spot because the young woman whose project that is–and it is her own project–is organizing mental health activism in communities of color. She has an oppression framework.

        If she is “organizing mental health activism” which encourages people in “communities of color” to identify as mentally ill, she is part of the problem, not the solution, no matter her intent.

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  2. I was just doing a search for ‘healing mental illness’ to research a healing manual I’m in the process of creating for my practice, and I found this interesting webpage, not sure what to make of it. She claims that her website and accounts are continually tampered with, so I hope the link works. Many errors here, she says she is typing in a hurry for practical reasons. What she writes here is interesting and scary, outlining many things discussed or implied on this site. Interesting, too, that MIA blogger Tina Minkowitz is mentioned here.


    In case the link is problematic, this one passage, below, certainly got my attention, seemed relevant to this blog, and something I imagine would raise eyebrows here. I, myself, have exited this website, for the most part, other than occasionally checking in to read about the progress being made in this endeavor to free people from psychiatric harm, so I’m not participating in any discussion here; but I felt this would be good fodder for MIA to consider, as far as outside perception of the psychiatric survivor movement, at least from this one individual who wrote this. I’d never heard this before, although it sure does illustrate the inherent polarization that seems to occur here, chronically:

    “This webpage is intended to help anyone exit psychiatry…This web page also explains how the psychiatric survivor movement is not a grassroots organization. It is an organization with an international agenda. The leaders intend to sabbotage (sic) anyone from really recovering. It will hurt your mental health to have anything to do with it…”


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  3. How sad that this is being taken seriously. Our movement is not very strong as it is. Now we are told that we are too militant? That is the same position that the psychiatric system takes.

    I suggest that anyone reading things like that should ignore it. We have a lot of work to do. Those who think psychiatry isn’t really so bad have a right to their opinion. Those who want a job in the system have a right to do that too. But they don’t have a moral right to tell us that we should not defend ourselves, and we shouldn’t take this seriously.

    Again, we have work to do, and we should keep our focus on that.

    I do have to say, for those who don’t know me, lol, that I can’t say what I really think because MIA will remove my comment. But I must say that people who defend evil don’t deserve our respect.

    There is a quote from the Talmud that I like that is very relevant: “Who can protest an injustice but does not is an accomplice to the act.” Think about it.

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    • Thank you Ted for your unwavering support of those who have been hurt by psychiatry. I hope that MIA will continue to focus on this. There are a lot of other people and groups who are fighting poverty, sexism. racism, homelessness and other social problems. MIA is one of the few groups fighting for the rights of the mentally ill and I hope they never lose that focus.

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    • I think that the author is spot on and so are you pretty much, I agree that this kind of stuff basically doesn’t even really deserve a response.

      As for the movement, I think that if it’s kept as a PR/information war you can get to people individually and that’s really where it’s at, until you can somehow get past that corruption and get to a tipping point where psychiatry becomes universally unpopular and therefore starved.

      The main threat is when this stuff becomes forced or involves crazy levels of brainwashing etc. There’s a point almost all individuals can reach where they can terminate all “treatment” and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, obviously it depends on what the level of difficulty is on that but it’s possible with determination, patience etc.

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    • One more good quote comes to mind:

      “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”

      ― Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

      As soon as you step out of the spectrum you’re labelled an loony and an extremist. Does that sound familiar?

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  4. I may be oversimplifying the issues here. I think I can hear that feedback if others feel I have done so. But I’ve been thinking about the original article by Timothy Kelly for a few days now. I keep coming back to one theme:

    False dichotomy. I’m not sure I believe (and I don’t think a case has been sufficiently made) that focus on issues such as psychiatric medication prescribing practices that are unsupported by clear evidence, over prescribing, suppression of data that is in the public interest out of clinical trials on powerful drugs, lack of any concrete evidence in support of the efficacy of long term psychiatric drug you and a plethora of long term studies that suggest long term use may be contraindicated — not sure any of this precludes us from considering to taking action on the issues of institutional/structural violence, or engaging in class analysis. It’s not an either/or subject as far as I can see.

    Standing opposed to psychiatric coercion, psychiatric manipulation through half truths or untruths (ie. chemical imbalances, saying that people have a literal disease and we know this for fact when we have no such proof or evidence whatsoever) does not have any relationship to whether or not we are also active and aware of structural oppression and the intersection of economic inequality and social injustice with mental and emotional health and wellness.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m quite capable of holding more than one though in my head at the same time.

    Apart from this, I don’t want to “reform” the institution or practice of psychiatry. What I mean to say is, in order for the practice of “psychiatric” to function in a way that would be consistent with my deepest values and sense of morality, it would look and function so completely different from anything we have today, that the word “reform” loses much of its meaning in this context.

    As a therapist, I do believe that it is possible to have a meaningful, respectful, dignified and loving partnership with another human being where the therapist and that person collaborate together in a process of resolving suffering and cultivating internal strength and resiliency. But that process is led by the individual, not the therapist. Anyone can come together in these kinds of healing collaborations. Notions of power or authority in that process need to be deconstructed and done away with.

    If there is a place for “therapists” as a work career, the values and mission of that endeavor are completely different than that if institutional psychiatric in the united states today. I don’t see a place or a value in psychiatric as it is currently practiced, or as it’s mission is articulated by its institutional leaders. There’s nothing for me to “align” with. There’s nothing to “reform.”

    Clinical Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, Spiritual Life Coaches and the rest all have their own “group” challenges, and are not immune from needed critique and criticism. But I will say that my “on the ground” experience – both as a professional AND as a client of a counselor – has led me to conclude that these other professions are leaving psychiatry in the dust – at least on the ground in my community – as psychiatry becomes increasingly less relevant, and as greater attention toward psychiatry’s abuses and irrational evidence-absent dogmas continues to increase.

    There’s nothing to reform. There are however, structural institutions of oppression that need to be resisted and dismantled.

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    • Love this, I have to chime in, especially since you voiced an insecurity about what you say. I, for one, feel it’s the closest thing to clarity I’ve seen on MIA.

      As long as a counselor’s/coach’s counter-transference is in check and a co-dependent power relationship is not re-created, then I think you’re spot on. I was thinking along the same lines, that the ‘movement’ as I would see it, is, in reality, simply this, at the core: healing away from psychiatry. And this will, indeed, leave psychiatry in the dust. It’s a boycott en masse, which certainly speaks of earlier activists and freedom fighters. When at all possible, boycott the institution, and create new ways. That’s exactly how we evolve as a society.

      As far as the government’s involvement in all this, along with big business, pharma, etc., and all that corruption, these are such complex matters with so much going on behind closed doors, that I feel will inevitably resolve themselves as people stop using psychiatric services, when a choice is presented, given all the alternatives that exist now, and which are growing fast, in both numbers and visibility. That’s where our voices most matter, in being able to educate others from our experience with all this. That can be done in so many ways, each and every day.

      Right now, the law allows forced treatment, but going head on with this is certainly not a healing endeavor. The prize may seem nice, but the process is dreadful, I know this from experience. It’s courageous to fight them, and I honor those that do go head on, as I once did. It grew me, but looking back, I could have done more in a way that was way less taxing to me, on every level. So I always like to put out that it’s not always healthy to the mind, heart or soul, in reality, to push against, push against, push against. Some enjoy making those kinds of sacrifices for a cause, but in this case, the goal is healing, not re-creating trauma. That would be contra-indicated here. That’s my perspective.

      Thanks, Andrew, very nice comment, I appreciate the clarity and ease about it. I think it’s the exact right direction in which to go.

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        • I think challanging psychiatry is challanging institutional/structural violence, and potentially engaging in class analysis. People who use psychiatry are more likely to be poor, black, and other ways marginalised.

          Bringing that information to these groups is a way of potentially growing our movement and adding to other movements.

          Psychiatry’s two main functions are to be the drug delivery agent of Big Pharma (and therefore of interest to anti corporate campaigners) and to make sure no one thinks about why people are distressed (and therefore of interest to a whole host of social justice campaigners). I see no reason to weaken the message of people posting on this website while forming broader alliances

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    • I think one thing to take note of these days, the way things are with corruption and the internet.

      There are literally teams of people who’s sole job is to monitor the internet, social media etc. This is not paranoia.

      Now, with this in mind if you consider that… when something is working or there is something a pharmaceutical company doesn’t want you to do, they will be sneaky about getting you to stop doing it.

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    • “I don’t know about you, but I’m quite capable of holding more than one though in my head at the same time”
      I guess we are all just crazy this way ;).
      But seriously I think you’re 100% right on the false dichotomy. In fact both issues are part of the same system – in order to keep repressive system going you have to indoctrinate and pacify people. Psychiatry accomplishes that very well.

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    • There’s nothing to reform. There are however, structural institutions of oppression that need to be resisted and dismantled.

      Wow — I was about to post almost exactly the same thought as a response (including the word “dismantle”) when I saw that you had already written it. Anyway, good post.

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  5. Thanks, Richard, for coming out firmly in this article. Drugging on its own is a serious health issue and represents real moral failing among medics, especially psychiatrists – who, in their audacity, go so far as to order involuntary consumption of drugs. The importance of making a strategic hit on the drugging crisis and on psychiatry as the most culpable group cannot be underestimated – even if we were to leave the civil rights issues aside.

    But, it is also true that many social critics are side-lined with “mental health” diagnoses and silenced by fear and drugging. If you’re looking for overall reform, revealing this situation alone should lead anyone to deeply question the direction of our society.

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    • Another Voice: As a social activist coming out of psyche lockup in 1990, I found myself questioning my convicts and was sidelined from protesting the Gulf War. I learned of the mendacity of the war later, relying principally on the penetrating insights of Noam Chomsky, which brings as full circle to the major trust of the article:psychiatric oppression is one cog in the larger system of injustice in our society. In some sense, leading up to my initial incarceration in 1989, my concern in the community of activists that I ran around with, was the accommodating aspect of some of our strategies. I felt like writing grant proposals to fund activism led one into an embedded status within the body of the large philanthropic foundations which were being appealed to in order to receive their generous support. My individual act of protests was to withdraw my savings all in 50$ denominations, (Grants) and give it away. In this circumstance, it was included in the check list of behaviors spun into a diagnosis of bipolar, which then morphed into bipolar; similarly to asylums morphing into hospitals madmen; lunatics, mad men, mental patients then morphing into people with mental illness. In a different context, giving away money, was seen as an act of political disruption-Yippies throwing money onto the Wall Street exchange floor. Some one got tagged with disorderly conduct for throwing 100$ bills at the Chicago Board of Trade. Psychiatric diagnosis main function is to strip beliefs and actions from their context.

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  6. I’m sorry I want to share one more thought I had about the original article. I wanted to mention that I’m not sure I ever read Robert Whitaker’s comments about rising disability rates in the way that Timothy Kelly has.

    When I first read Mad in America, I was early in my investigation of the research data and evidence supporting many of the claims about psychiatric medications. Thus I was curious, and open to the subject, but not very fully informed.

    Robert Whitaker asks a question as way of piquing curiosity. That question is, if the claims of psychiatry are true – that we continue to know more and more about exactly what causes mental and emotional distress, that are treatments (i.e. medications) are more and more effective and overall we treat “mental illness” more effectively than we ever have before, then would we not expect to see some sort of impact on the number of people who enroll for social security disability due to a mental illness?

    When I read that question, I had the reaction “yes, that is strange and does make me ask questions.” It was simply a teaser that got me intrigued to find out more about what we actually know about mental illness, and most specifically what we actually know about psychiatric medications and how they work. It doesn’t actually matter what kind of “teaser” leads up to the actual evidence that is presented. A teaser is only a teaser. It says, “hey this might be one reason why you would be interested in actually looking at research data about psychiatric drugs.”

    Now, I never assumed for a second that there weren’t many intersecting and contributing causes for rising disability rates. But when specifically looking at disability for mental illness, I was still a bit surprised to see that our supposedly “amazing” and “best its ever been” treatment response to mental illness has had zero effect on those rates. That was interesting. It doesn’t prove anything. I don’t believe Whitaker ever said it did. As far as I can recall, he only said it is an interesting fact that can be one motivation for taking a closer look at what we know and don’t know about the efficacy of psychiatric medication prescribing as practiced in the industrialized west.

    Reading Keller’s article left me feeling like the criticism of the idea that rising disability (due to mental illness) rates might cause us to ask questions about the effectiveness of our current standard of care model was sufficient to somehow invalidate the subsequent exhaustive research and literature review that is presented through the rest of the book. That makes no sense to me. Even if we can prove somehow that there is zero connection between increasing disability rates and the ineffectuality of our treatment models, the DATA presented from exhaustive peer-reviewed research describing what we know about the efficacy of pscyhiatric drugs and what we don’t know (despite regularly popular claims by psychiatry and pharmaceutical companies that we do) remains completely relevant and untouched by Mr. Keller’s arguments.

    Perhaps I misunderstood the intent of Mr. Kellers article, at least as it relates to Whitaker. I do understand that the larger point of the article was to advocate for a decreasing emphasis on psychiatric medication misuse and decreasing emphasis on the abuses and human rights violations endemic within psychiatry. Instead, Mr. Keller advocates for a collaborative reform dialog that focuses on areas where he believes there is agreement (which I actually don’t believe, but nevertheless) such as social-economic issues, poverty and forms of structural oppression.

    I’ve already commented on my critique if that latter argument in my post above. But the opening of Keller’s article, pinpointing Whitakers question about disability rates and Whitakers suggesting that the question can serve as an invitation for readers to look into what we know about psychiatric medications, then rebranding that as some kind of a “fatal flaw” to Whitaker’s actual thesis and evidence – that didn’t resonate with me. It’s not how I read it.

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    • I must have come across someone paraphrasing Whitaker five years or so ago when I was In the counseling program at the Marshall Graduate School-I have never read is books. I innocently asked this question on the message board in the Introduction to Mental Health class about these disability rates, only to be summarily shouted down by the instructor, who rudely informed that yes, there were abuses in psychiatric hospitals 40 years ago-We now I guess living under the new and improved regime. Any way leading up to this, I had been exploring alternatives to what I had been told about “mental illness,” by reading Szasz, and the journal Online journal established by Peter Breggin, Ethical and Human Psychology and Psychiatry. (Sic). I had been trying these ideas out in other classes, leading up to this, but with little response either positive or negative on the message board.
      I should have known the fix was in the first class meeting, where the professor basically dialogued with a couple of her acolytes, who praised psychiatry for its advancements and the reduction of stigma. I tried to interject something about the colonial era “mental hospital” in Williamsburg that I had just visited, but no one really seemed to be interested. Things went down hill from there.
      The message boards seemed like a prime place to discuss my direct experience with psychiatry, only to be told that this commentary was off-base by the professor and my advisor. But the discussion board seemed to beg the question for my input on a frequent basis. I dropped the class, and slunk my way out of the program. In retrospect, and in large measure, it seems that I was on the right track, thanks to my experience on MIA.

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  7. Feels very much like a battle cry piece, Richard? Pitched perfectly to an “us vs them” choir who feel dis-empowered.

    But, “what will you do when the war is over, tender comrade?” -Billy Brag.

    This need for revolution which projects subconscious, internal systems of projection onto the external environment, while remaining blindly “unaware” of how the ego’s self-defensive, unconscious creation by the hearts polarizing “affect-system,” relationship with the brain, creates a cognitive illusion of knowing. The perceptual dichotomy of being human. Immersed, as we are, in an ocean of e-motive reactivity, in my experience.

    You write: “Now do not misunderstand me, I am not advocating that we just put our heads down and narrowly (or blindly) fight the daily battles against psychiatric abuse. No, we must adopt a political strategy of walking on two legs of struggle. That is, while fighting the particular daily battles we must always link these specific fights to the broader issues of systemic and ‘structural violence’ within the larger economic and political system.”

    While Dr John Weir Perry, suggests that understanding schizophrenia, requires a perception of our “systems of projection,” which are denied in “normal” human behaviour. And C. G. Jung suggested that although such human experiences as war, are presumed to be an external reality phenomena, war is produced by interpersonal psychic phenomena.

    My perception of Timothy Kelly’s essay, was of an attempt to broaden the debate about societal function in our Paradox of Modernity. A paradox, which from my own experiential resolution of spontaneous psychoses, and an embodied understanding of why Perry suggested that psychosis: is natures way of putting things right. Is a paradox of self-ignorance, in our common assumption that behaviour “fixated” on sight, sound and our capacity to “label” reality, is synonymous with true self-awareness.

    Kelly’s important discussion point, needs in my opinion, to be considered in the context of survival, in an Economy masquerading as Society. Where people will survive by whatever resources are available, and the providers of those resources will deny the conflict of interest, in meeting the resource needs of their own survival.

    So, “what will you do, tender comrade, when the war is over” and your external perception of injustice, no longer energizes your internal juices and the polar nature of your unconscious, affect-system?

    Jungian/Langian therapist’s would relate affect-system with affect/image and the processes of three global states of vigilance, that Jaak Panksepp describes as SWP (slow wave sleep) REM (rapid eye movement dreaming) and Waking state consciousness. While the wonderful American writer Jean Houston suggests, we are still undergoing the process of becoming, human. And the English writer Rupert Sheldrake suggests that “evolution/revolution” is primarily a process of habit. An existential view, which suggests that POWER is primarily a force of habit. But when does this habituated human process begin and how much of the process is available to our waking state consciousness?

    How much, is our taken for granted “politics of experience,” a product of unconscious Projection?

    Best wishes,

    David Bates.

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    • David,

      This is how I read your comment, and for that matter, Timothy Kelly’s blog post:
      Yes, a perspective such as ‘We (as) human beings construct so-called reality (Wirklichkeit) as we perceive that same so-called reality and vice versa’ might be “helpful” in obfuscating the human rights issues, or much better: the ongoing human rights violations, at hand.

      Exactly, we are, or should be talking about, structural violence. For me, this structural violence is epitomized by (biological) psychiatry as we know it, because ID could not get any more simplistic, even if “we” tried to imagine otherwise.

      So, apart from engaging in heavy philosophical and epistemic relativism your – and Timothy’s – point is…?

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      • Hi MIG,

        I understand where your coming from, my point is that structural violence comes from our still, overwhelmingly UNCONSCIOUS, behavioural motivation. Particularly in Western educated world, with no history of developing “embodied” self-awareness.

        Therefore, the debate is stuck in a Cartesian circle, because we don’t know how to make words incarnate, (take their meaning into the flesh) and we simply confuse our ability to speak, hear & write words, with self-awareness.

        Hence, we see the political classes in all our democracies, increasingly confused about the difference between rhetoric & reality. While individually, we demonstrate no capacity to feel how we all rationalize our behavioural needs.

        Which in the primary process reality of being in any given moment of time, is a need to regulate AFFECT. Which is why academic psychiatry labels psychosis as affective & non-affective, although that confusion is beginning to resolve itself. As the dissociated perception of paranoid schizophrenia, as a non-affective psychosis, is being accepted as a syndrome of dysfunctional behaviour, energized by innate terror.

        Since my first comments here on MIA, I have suggested that nothing will change until we recognize how the hidden nature of our evolved function, and that the human rights aspect of the debate here needs to recognize that the epidemic of mental illness, involves a historical movement towards accepting what the human species is.

        Both Timothy & Richard’s essay’s demonstrate how we manage to talk all around the core issue of what lies at the root of individual, family, community & societal function. IMO its the dichotomy of being human, in how we simply take our experience for granted and end up, as Einstein pointed out, just sensing an “obvious” reality, and not inquiring any further. With great PARADOX of the recovery movement, an assumption the NORMAL is good.

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        • No offence but I read something like this ?

          “I understand where your coming from, my point is that structural violence comes from our still, overwhelmingly UNCONSCIOUS, behavioural motivation. Particularly in Western educated world, with no history of developing “embodied” self-awareness.”

          First I might ask, why use the term “structural violence” ?

          Secondly can’t you see that although this all looks intellectual, what does it actually mean ? What is the unconcious ? Don’t you think you’re being rather assumptive ?

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          • Structural violence is institutionalized violence that can do a lot of damage just by not being challenged. It’s an automatic pilot, or the invisible hand of discrimination, if you will. Individuals changing is necessary but not sufficient to change the system and stop the oppression of those who are not in the ruling class or their minions.

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          • The UNCONSCIOUS IMO is your body & our inherent subconscious “structural violence” is our mind’s fearful denial of its own creator. In a paradox of modernity, where all the average person knows about their own internal structure & function, are WORDS.

            Hence this highly insightful statement about our common-sense illusions, in the global mental health debate:

            “The delusion is extraordinary by which we exalt language above nature:- making language the expositor of nature,
            instead of making nature the expositor of language. Alexander B Johnson

            In my expertise by lived experience, our common sense dependence on sight, sound and our recognition of words, has created an unnatural perception about the roots of human behaviour and biological disease.

            For example; do know about your own development within the womb & do you know that your heart has its own nervous system, which is intimately involved in your subconscious orienting/attention processes? Have you read or heard of developmental science perspective’s on psychiatric disorders, and their references to our autonomic nervous system?

            For, in the context of my comments here & Richard & Timothy’s essay’s, our subconscious need for “affect-regulation” in our universal needs of self-regulation, is “driving” the cognitive constructs of a political argument.

            While Timothy’s use of the word Mark, holds an interesting parallel to words Sin. For as Tolle points out in his book “A New Earth,” The original meaning of the word sin, in Greek & Hebrew, is mark. And to commit a sin was to miss the mark, to miss the point of life. Which we all do, in this current “paradoxical modernity” by assuming the world is made of words.

            Interestingly though, right here on MIA, some bloggers are turn towards the inner nature of reality, with suggestions that we can only FEEL our way out of mental distress, by focusing on the internal sensations of our body. For as one the great champions of the anti-psychiatry movement (an association he did not condone) R.D. Laing pointed out:

            “The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.”

            My own resolution of spontaneous psychoses, whether on or off neuroleptic medications, came from broadening my knowledge base and beginning to notice HOW I habitually failed to notice, the internal structure & functionality, of my body-mind & HOW I do, being me.

            How do you do, being you, barrab?

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        • I still don’t get your point?
          I mean sure, world is complicated and we simplify it in order to be able to function and make decisions and what not. Philosophy of an nth degree is nice and fine but now when you’re hungry, homeless and in the process of being abused.
          Btw, “war” is never over.

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  8. It was good to see at least one therapist (may have missed some) comment on this. From its original greek root, the word “therapist” means “to contribute to the healing of a family member as a trusted servant or slave.” in this spirit, the vast majority of professional people-helpers today do not desire to be “mere movers of molecules across semi-permeable membranes,” but trusted healers–therapists– that utilize timeless healing traditions of talk, touch, and relationship. Simply put, modern psychiatry put all of its eggs in the wrong basket–the former rather than the latter. As a result, the entire profession is suffering a loss of relevance to the needs of postmodern society. I believe this has something to do with the dwindling number of psychiatrists and medical psychologists in the mental health field and the burgeoning number of counselors, psychotherapists, and family therapists. I am with Andrew in believing that the theoretical debate is over. What remains is the socio-political debate and the undoing in our society of the greatest pseudoscientific myth since the earth-centric solar system. Galileo did not seek to be an activist or a rebel. He merely felt a deep obligation to discover and propagate the truth. The institutions that oppose the truth in our society are no less formidable than those that opposed Galileo in his time. Now, having looked through Galileo’s lens, how can we in any measure comprise the truth of what we see and know? I would suggest that anything less than a total commitment to the unabashed and uncompromising propagation of the truth becomes professionally unethical and immoral. Political compromise gets legislation passed–the truth sets us free. Uncompromised, it is the only fulcrum upon which a paradigm shifts. I like what Gandhi said: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Let’s fight.

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  9. All I wanted to say when I read this was: Bravo!

    Then I read the comments.

    First of all, I wanted to agree with what Andrew said about what Whitaker was really doing — looking at the real effects of these drugs, versus how they’re portrayed in the rhetoric/marketing of the psychiatrists, the pharmaceutical companies, and picked up without examination by the press — and that I had the same reaction I did when I read Kelly’s piece: that it just didn’t make sense, that it was disconnected from what we’re actually talking about. And I felt exactly the same way Richard did about keeping our focus on the issue we’re coming together around, not getting lost in accomodation or lost in the crowd, compromising our goals away for minor gains. When the piece in question appeared, I was so annoyed at the idea of “decentering” that I couldn’t resist replying at greater length than I might have. The main points were:

    “First, I never got the impression that Robert Whitaker was trying to explain every change in disability (SSI/SSDI) as a consequence of psychotropic use. In fact, I’ve never gotten the impression that disability, per se, was even Mr. Whitaker’s larger concern. Mr. Whitaker is a medical journalist, and his focus is on medicine — specifically, on psychiatry, if I understand him correctly. While people tend to focus on his book Anatomy of an Epidemic, which talks about antidepressant use and the rise in disability, I see the focus on disability as a way of looking at the real-world effects of psychotropic use — in other words, psychiatric practice. The other book, which I’m sure you know but which people talk about less, is Mad In America, which focuses on the history of psychiatric treatment of “psychosis” and does not really focus on disability. Thus, the common theme of his work is psychiatry, and I see his discussion of disability as only one pathway — the one he has chosen to explore, possibly because it is a clear way to demonstrate what is really going on and what the long-term effects are of current psychiatric practice — to talk about psychiatric practice in general. So, to bring it back around to the unfortunate title of your piece — that Mr. Whitaker “missed the mark” in how he talks about the rise in disability due to the use of psychotropic meds, I think that it might actually be you who missed the point. He’s not talking about everything that’s happening with disability, because that’s not his main concern. He’s using disability to draw a larger picture of the effects of modern psychiatry. The name of this website, after all, is “Mad In America”, not “Disability In America”, and while your concern with the larger issues surrounding disability is laudable and important and it’s good for us to know about other issues, you may have mistaken what Mr. Whitaker’s larger focus is, if I understand it correctly myself.

    Second, I disagree with you completely that we need to “decenter” from the discussion of medication. While some people who are well acquainted with the subject may be familiar with its broad outlines and ready to expand their focus to other areas, there are lots of other people who are using this website to explore the subject for the first time, or to keep up on current information and perspectives. The movement to change psychiatric practice — which is the real focus of this website, not disability — is starting to gather some steam, but the broad societal change hasn’t happened yet, and to “decenter” from medication is the very last thing we need to do at this point. If anything, we need to center on it even more and with even greater purpose: tie the broad range of perspectives together into a cohesive and panoramic picture that the public and practitioners can understand so that enough people will grasp enough of the whole dynamic that we’ll create enough momentum for change. Right now, many pieces of the picture are out there — the emptiness and failures of the current chemical imbalance model, the long history of psychiatry’s failures and the dangers of its coercive power, the long-term consequences of psychotropic use, the dangerously corrupt practices of the pharmaceutical industry and how it is intertwined with the psychiatric establishment. The pieces are out there, and I would like to see someone come along and create a unified picture of how it all works. And, if I get my druthers, there will be someone like you who has a broad knowledge of how public policy and government programs actually work involved in putting that picture together, because without that knowledge of the system, any attempts to implement change will be hampered along the way by institutional interests, just as Big Tobacco did, in order to preserve their own interests and profits, often by seeming to concede to changes while ensuring they were implemented in ways that worked to their own advantage.”

    In short, I thought the whole piece took a great idea — broadening awareness to other issues — and presented it in the most tone deaf way possible, not only by suggesting we aren’t aware of the broader social issues and learning from and supporting other movements (I know I am, but I don’t talk about that here) but by suggesting we should reach some sort of false accomodation over our central issues in order to achieve . . . what? Our own defeat?

    To be honest, I thought that Kelly, even if he thinks he’s on some higher path of unity, is actually a great voice for the other side of this issue. He’s got lived experience, he’s getting his Ph.D., and he can throw around quotes about structural this and structural that and sound perfectly reasonable to someone who hasn’t got their eye on the prize: stopping the drugs and the coercion, and replacing it with something that actually works. The tobacco industry set up a thing called the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC) that was staffed with all kinds of well-meaning academics who were willing to confuse the issues in pretty much the same way and keep the public confused about what cigarettes were really doing to people, just like they’re trying to pretend the psych drugs aren’t just about as bad. If Kelly hasn’t gotten a call from one of their PR firms yet, offering him a corner office at NAMI or some other institution they bankroll, he might expect one soon after he graduates. I’ve got lived experience too, and it annoys me that he used that as a claim of authority in his comments up at the top of this section to try to delegitimize and beat down someone else’s point of view that a lot of people with lived experience would agree with and when having lived experience doesn’t mean you know everything and that you can’t learn from other people who don’t have it. I think people have been pretty respectful overall in how they responded to him, and tried to focus on the good things he had to say, but that’s only another example of his tone deaf approach. We need every ally we can get, and that doesn’t include trying to fault Whitaker’s argument for failing to make a point it wasn’t even looking at or talking about, and it doesn’t include deligitimizing anyone’s point of view on the basis of who they are. He complained about a “straw man” argument? Catechizing us all again? And then he concludes with one that’s “ad hominem.”

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    • Eric and Andrew

      Thanks for your support on these issues. Both of you have spoken, in a very incisive way to some of ways that Timothy Kelly’s blog rendered less profound the significance of Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic. You have touched on some of the arguments (with great insight) that I plan to address in Part 2 of this blog.


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      • I’ve been reading along, and I’d like to thank Andrew and Eric (and others) for saying pretty much what I’ve been thinking about all this. And right on, Richard! This needed to be written and I’m looking forward to part 2. I cannot get over the irony of reading talk about “straw men” from the author of “Timothy Kelly misses the mark on Robert Whitaker.”

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  10. I’ve been an active reader and participant of MIA for almost 5 years, and I have to say, “What movement?”

    I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but I see no movement on this site. There are personal stories that make anyone with a heart weep. Ted’s comes to mind – what he underwent as a child. Dorothy Dumas, as well. Many others, but those are the ones that touch my soul.

    We have articles on research, and all of the fraud taking place – both on the pharmaceutical-side, and on the side of government-funded research. Follow the money – both private and public. We have pieces on alternatives, front-and-center is psychotherapy; followed by a few on nutrition, with very little on other medical causes of psychosis, mania, depression, etc… Very few. We have a great mix of writers, from academics to those on the front lines. It’s entertaining, and enlightening. Their work engages us – we have dialogue.

    We have numerous readers who were so gravely injured they make reference to Nazi Germany. Something that is the last thing anyone should do, if they want to be taken seriously, but as fate would have it, psychiatry has its roots in eugenics and Nazi Germany.

    On the flip-side, we have people who occasionally chime in who swear they were helped by psychiatric drugs. Sandra Steingard says many of her patients were helped. There are those who insist on a judicious use of psychiatric drugs – for a short period of time, in small doses, for a limited period of time…..Robert Whitaker and others insist that a small sub-group do well on small amounts for larger periods of time. In rare circumstances, indefinitely.

    So, we have the two extremes, when it comes to outcomes (and all sorts of areas in-between). Then we get into politics, with many on the more progressive-side of the equation insisting psychiatry is a symptom of a society that is ill. Wanting to get rid of capitalism altogether.

    There is sometimes on ending oppression in all forms, universally. A noble enough challenge, but I wonder how we can possibly get anywhere with the political fight we have to undertake, when we spread ourselves so thinly…

    And what is this fight of ours? In my opinion, it is to put an end to psychiatry by force. Plain and simple.

    If someone swears they were helped by psychiatry. Fine. If they continue to swear they were helped by psychiatry, fine also…. But we must put an end to psychiatry by force.

    And how do we get this done? That’s the million dollar question. I think we need to start out with the acknowledgement that the average Joe and Jane Doe have not a clue with what is taking place. No idea of the fraud behind research; no idea what effects these drugs, ECT and incarcerations can do… the grave harm and trauma. So we need to educate them, and invite them into our tent.

    I do not see that a militant approach is the right way to go, when the overwhelming number of Americans have no idea what is taking place. We need them on our side.

    Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals? Reaching out to them? I think not. Not if they are behind this injury. We need not become allies with them on a systematic change. They are the ones we are trying to replace.

    I’ve said before that I think we need to begin to work on getting a bill passed through Congress – the would put an end to forced treatment, replacing force with a variety of alternatives. This may be possible with amending the ADA; if that is not enough, then a federal law that would do so.

    But we are not in a place to have a militant approach. The vast majority of people in this country are completely unaware of what has been taking place. I think that if more people were aware, they would be ready to march alongside us. Not at the moment, because they’ve never heard of us!

    Lastly, I lived through the civil rights movement. It was a different time and place. Blacks were being hosed down on the streets. Everyone could see it on the six o’clock news. And people began to get outraged. The oppression and violence that happens to the “mentally ill” happens behind closed doors. Millions of people overcome the horror, and somehow move on. Because of the stigma, they don’t tell anyone (or a select few) and move on. Being black was visible in the 1960’s; being diagnosed as “mentally ill” is not.

    Just a few scattered thought.


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    • Tina Minkowitz got the job done through the UN.
      The problem is *enforcement*, IMO.

      We need to get something passed through Congress, to protect people in this country. And we need to encourage, and back people in other countries to do the same. With laws that are both *enforceable* and *enforced*.

      Yes, it can be done. But we need to start a *movement* .


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    • I’m just not sure what you’re really looking for when you say *movement*, does a protest infront of a conference of sold out ‘doctors’ do anything ? Are lawsuits here and there ?

      I think what does the most is getting accurate information to a person who is doubting what they are being told. Giving them alternatves etc. If it’s safe to reject this system then I think more people won’t get caught up in it.

      I’m not sure that you can really convince the complex that exists to just go away of it’s own violition. Unfortunately people do buy into the model, unfortunately there are benefits for people who do, benefits that have nothing to do with actually being right. I feel with some of these people you might only see regret from them when confronted with the damage. E.g someone that has taken benzos for 3 years might not regret it now, but maybe they will in 30 years time. I think this is important here because we are getting to a point where there will be an observable impact of the cost of what this system is doing with newer drugs etc but the counter to this is things don’t seem to be slowing down with debt, US immigration etc so government cost doesn’t seem to be the conern you’d assume it would be.

      I have agreed with you in the past about the progressive element but hey to use one of their phrases…. we are not a monolith but I do hope some of these people do see that “social justice” sure can look a lot like tyranny or authoritarianism if you breach the well meaning surface.

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      • I don’t know that we disagree. What I’m trying to say is that, at least IMHO, we ought to focus, like a laser beam on precisely what it is we are trying to accomplish.

        NAMI has plenty of hard-liners, and many members who swear by these drugs. I think it’s better to fight the larger fight – namely, making it illegal to force someone to take them.

        Perfect world, they would be used only as a last resort, after alternatives have been exhausted; their use would be reduced to almost no use. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and the big battle, the one that we need to start with, is an end to the use of psychiatry by force. Only then will alternative approaches really begin to take root.


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        • Doesn’t it seem as though there is still a heavy amount of consciousness raising happening?

          I feel like I notice slowly but steadily increasing public awareness to the no-clothes emperor that is psychiatry and the pharmeceutical industry. I note, still with some surprise, the increasing frequency in which real criticisms and real challenges to long-held dogmas are coming out in more mainstream media publications. Not often enough, and not with a consistent voice – but more than ever before.

          Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I am not trying to steer a movement nor am I saying others should slow down, speed up, or do things differently. I’m only musing – I think there’s still a lot of building to do before a cohesive movement will be able to translate is power into more effective and direction action on a large scale. I think – but nothing is stopping us from trying to do that sooner and faster wherever and however we can.

          In my small community, I’m still having conversations with people who are actually listening, but are seriously confused about even the most simple things. It’s still shocking to some folks that mental illness is not accurately described as anything literally true. I mean, we’re still at the very basics for many, many people I think.

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          • Very true. In the area of the country where I live anytime you bring up even the most basic things people sit there with these strange, confused looks on their faces and you realize that they have not one idea what you’re talking about at all. People just assume that all the stuff put out by the drug companies and biopsychiatry is absolutely true and they’ve never heard a dissenting opinion about any of this. We’ve got a long way to go where I live before we’re ever going to have enough people to stand up to the abuse of the system.

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  11. Duane this really resonates with me:

    ”And what is this fight of ours? In my opinion, it is to put an end to psychiatry by force. Plain and simple.

    If someone swears they were helped by psychiatry. Fine. If they continue to swear they were helped by psychiatry, fine also…. But we must put an end to psychiatry by force.

    And how do we get this done? That’s the million dollar question. I think we need to start out with the acknowledgement that the average Joe and Jane Doe have not a clue with what is taking place. ……..
    ….I’ve said before that I think we need to begin to work on getting a bill passed through Congress – the would put an end to forced treatment, replacing force with a variety of alternatives. This may be possible with amending the ADA; if that is not enough, then a federal law that would do so.””

    Hear! Hear! A call for a unified, legitimate, non-violent plan that I bet almost everyone on this site could agree with: END FORCED PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT.

    I think the focus of increasing the awareness of Jane and John Doe is crucial – I know my network of friends (especially those who are parents) have been very open about learning about these issues, and some already had knowledge from other sources. It is the many people and friends I know who work in the mental health field who surprisingly seem to know nothing about the issues discussed on this site.

    I believe critical psychiatrists could play a very vital and supportive role. I understand how their hands are sometimes tied given the system they work in (and we don’t want them to leave the system and be replaced by a non-critical psychiatrist). However they could still speak up about the importance of ending forced psychiatry; and call loudly for the supports and services they need to have in place, so they can help to preserve the safety of all, without forcing treatment.

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  12. It isn’t “dogmatic” or uncompromising to fully reject practices of psychiatry that are as wrong as was blood letting, septic surgery and lobotomy. There is plenty of evidence that this is a “blood letting” kind of case that should not be portrayed otherwise.

    It strengthens our position, rather than weaken it, if we look objectively at whether other factors besides psychiatric drugs could also be influencing SSDI numbers. This rebuttal is fine, but it doesn’t really address the SSDI issue directly. We need to do that to stay out of the “dogmatic” category. “Dogmatic” is what psychiatry does, by refusing to consider negative evidence; that should not be us.

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  13. Note to Timothy Kelly don’t walk by the scrap yard and kick the fence because there are some big dogs in here. I’m not sure the intent of Mr. Kelly was to attack Mr. Whitaker as the title suggested but to point out the fact that there might be other reasons behind the rise in SSDI numbers. I found it an outstanding and provocative post. Yes I’ve read all of Whitaker’s books and say wow to his work.

    The rebuttal is refreshing and interesting as well.

    One thing for certain…it woke up this place. 🙂

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  14. What say we wake it up some more ? Does not the rat hole of psychiatry go so deep that if we can stop it from being forced the medical profession will pick up the potential money maker and quickly reestablish the “force” factor in much the same way they vaccinate our babies at birth and create the need for mass flu shot campaigns and are able at the cry of (manufactured by the powerful) “pandemic ” potentially have most everyone line up for the “miracle ” antidote injection ? (all based on pseudo science , the free gruel dumped on the people to cull and enslave.)
    Another words ” there is big trouble in Virginia city . And enough people really ready to protest the “steaming pile of shit ” are yet not ready to move for various reasons. Maybe they don’t smell it yet . Is that what they call therapeutic state fascism ?
    I like Alex’s idea best cause their are more alternatives then most people are aware of that work that can allow us to bypass psychiatry. Although in your face protest against oppression can go hand in hand.
    So many clarify so much here at MIA we’re bound to win someday if we just keep on better and better with more and more people, idea’s , and focused actions.
    Ted C’s comments (elsewhere) on slavery and psychiatry are haunting and ring of truth .

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  15. I just read an article by UK child and adolescent psychiatrist (who runs a drug and diagnosis free clinic, so don’t all get hoity toity here about psychiatrtists). The article has the following quote: ” 40-85% of variance of outcome accounted for by extra-therapeutic factors such as social support, parental mental
    health, socioeconomic status and motivation. This should make us take seriously the de-centring of our (and our treatments) importance to the process of change.”

    In other words life is complex and many factors effect a persons sense of wellbeing. Ignoring these factors is silly if we want to help them.

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  16. A dose of reality and a dose of activism. I started to receive phone calls from a friend of mine starting in early December 2014 . She a woman 50 years old ,was locked in a mental hospital in Glendale California a thousand miles or so from me here in Reedsport Oregon where she also used to live . She was begging me to get her out of there as conditions were intolerable for her. I finally got a call from her social worker who said that after 2 months of being in mental hospitals in California they could only put her in some kind of group supervised home, among people she didn’t know , that she was too fragile to survive in and that the best option would be if they could release her to me as she requested , if there was a place she could stay as she had no ID’s or funds that the hospital would provide $100 towards gas. Someone had stolen all her possessions but the social worker would get her some clothes for the journey back to Oregon. I tried to contact her family to help in some way to no avail. She had been badly abused by them as a child and onwards and they preferred she be locked up somewhere medicated to the gills unable to speak of the unspeakable things they done to her as they had businesses, churches they went to, and were “respectable ” members of society .
    Luckily I have a reliable Toyota Pick Up truck and made the round trip within 3 days getting her back to Oregon and helping her reclaim her life. She is no longer in rigamortis.
    Among other things, I had to make the medical clinic in Reedsport (that was the main cause of her leaving for California and causing her to cold turkey meds she’d been on for decades ,) an offer they couldn’t refuse. This was due to the incompetence and sadism of a physicians assistant at the Reedsport clinic. The offer went like this , “If you allow this incompetent physicians assistant at your clinic to harm this woman any further , I’m a retired senior citizen 67 years old , I have nothing better to do with all my time then to put up on every bulletin board along the Oregon Coast repeatedly by every grocery store and launder mat or wherever notices of what your “clinic’s employee has done to this woman. ” I was told to leave the clinic by another assistant.”
    I figured that a lot of wisdom was available at the senior center. I went their asking for advise. I was informed that Reedsport’s single hospital owned both clinics in town . I got a meeting with the director of the hospital. I stated my case and my offer . I could see the concern as the powerful realized their bottom line was threatened. The clinic has so far acted more respectfully to my friend and she has been provided with a female social worker that is acting as her advocate. I am only one person . imagine if half a dozen or a dozen acted in a unified way .
    Who said there isn’t an underground railroad , it’s us and it just touched the surface momentarily to remind us of what creative maladjustment looks like.

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  17. Thank you Duane and warmac ,
    I realize I should have explained what this physician’s assistant did as a final straw that sent this woman like a pinball across the country and only to be finally captured like a fly in amber. I’ll call her Martha (not her real name). Martha for many years was prescribed wellbutrin, abilify, levoxal, and klonopin for the S word as a diagnosis. Yes Duane life is complex and wellness is based on many factors . And here I’m just giving a partial picture. The stairs were wet from rain and she slipped somersaulting down 17 wooden steps. She hit her head on the landing her neck and shoulders hurt. The ambulance and fire department people came. They braced her neck strechered her into the ambulance, They had to inject her with Haldol to get her into the cat scan machine. Amazingly nothing was broken just as I told the emergency techs before her cat scan as I tested her energetically without physical contact according to yuen method while she still layed on her back on the landing.
    Days later when she saw her “doctor” the physicians assistant she was treated like a mental patient . Upon hearing of the pain Martha still felt , the PA said to her .” I went to the discount store (cash king) the other day and I still have some of these heat patches in my purse . They really work good and they’ll make you feel better.” She then took out of her purse 2 small patches and placed one on each of Martha’s shoulders like she was a little child. No script for physical therapy or anything. Furthermore with no warning she notified the pharmacy and wrote out Martha’s scrips for her meds in such a way that the 4 meds she was on became available to her at the pharmacy only when she had one tablet left of each besides it came out she had to go to the pharmacy 3 different days as the meds ran out on different days. She lived a mile from the pharmacy and did not own a car. On one of her subsequent trips to the emergency room the emergency physician upon hearing how the PA did the scrips said ” That’s crazy.” One day she lost a whole bottle of her meds. She knew no way to get more.
    Martha met someone that told her he know where Jesus was and she paid out $300 dollars toward a $500 car so she could meet Jesus face to face. She cold turkeyed off her meds , smoked medical marajuana and took marijuana oil capsules instead and journeyed deep into California with a homeless vet where he abandoned her in a mental hospital as he grabbed her wallet and ID’s and took off in the car leaving her there with nothing.

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    • excederin, you had that question answered and explained in other articles that I presume you had read since you commented on them and also individually by various commenters in the comment section of aforementioned articles. Why don’t you go back to these comments and re-read them?
      I’m sorry but sometimes talking to you fills like banging ones head against the wall and I know the moderator will not be happy about what I’m saying but it sounds like trolling.

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    • Mr Lewis, I don’t know if you saw my question, but i’ve read a number of your posts and you are a sharp guy. I don’t agree with you most of the time, but you don’t toss your opinions around without giving serious thought to your positions. I try to find what really smart people think about topics like ADHD. I asked you for your opinion on this topic and I know i will enjoy learning what your thoughts are.

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      • Lastinline

        I saw Excederin’s question only, and I chose to swim by his bait.

        Most of the authors and commenters here at MIA have done a fine job at deconstructing the ADHD diagnosis and its so-called “treatment”; I can’t add anything new.


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        • Thanks, Mr. Lewis. Appreciate you response. Obviously I am disappointed.
          When I have asked doctors on this site if ADHD cannot exist, no one answered. No one has deconstructed the diagnosis, IMO, ever, not if you look closely. I hoped you would use your fine brain to examine it with me piece by piece, because, Mr. Lewis, ADHD most certainly does exist. It is very real, very destructive and usually amenable to drug therapy. I am speaking with my heart and my head. I am also certain, if some of those so adamantly opposed to it, would listen and look at the facts with a willingness to learn about it. ADHD would grab your attention for the monster it is. Shouting at the top of my lungs won’t change your minds. Facts will. Detailed, properly interpreted scientific facts prove that it is. With all the highly educated, dedicated scientists here, I am amazed not one of them is interested in plumbing the depths on this topic. Again, if you think it has been deconstructed, try me. I will demonstrate that it has in no way been taken apart successfully.

          If any doctor is willing to just take a fresh look with an open mind, start with this. If everything has been done to help a child in school, and nothing has helped him to do his schoolwork, what would you suggest? If he tunes out constantly, regardless of the topic or who presents it, if that much is known about the challenge he encounters daily, hourly, minute by minute, and nothing in his past in terms of abuse and what have you, can be a contributing factor in his circumstances, what would you recommend? I do not want a fight. I am as sincere in my desire to help others as anyone.

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          • Excedrin, we have answered your questions already and you’re ignoring them. The questions you pose are nonsensical because what does it mean “everything has been done”? You just want us to say “well, in that case drugs are awesome because the child has obviously ADHD which is real”. Sorry, but most people here disagree and we have already explained why. Changing your username and asking the same set of questions won’t help that.

            Btw, Emmeline does not allow me to call anyone a “t” name but I wonder if posting comments under many usernames is allowed?

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          • B: There hasn’t been a rule prohibiting it. Looks like we’ll have to add one, since it’s been used as a way to get out of moderation on a moderated site. I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and many chances to understand what the boundaries are and try again, but after a certain point if a person is just not willing (or maybe able?) to respect the boundaries of a space, they can’t be in it anymore.

            If anyone has more questions or feedback about what is or is not allowed on the site, please feel free to get in touch with me via email or using our contact form.

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    • Duane,
      During the ride back to Oregon Martha did smile and say it was Ghostbusters that saved her.
      There are similarities to the battle you are taking on in another battle , the battle to get legislation to ban mercury or even have it legally legislated to be too toxic to put in children’s mouths by dentists. Which has yet to happen although there has been progress made. The lead lawyer in this effort Charlie Brown has fought for decades .
      There maybe some ideas used in that battle that could help you .
      I’m thankful you’re here at MIA.
      Be Well,

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  18. Hmmmmmmmm………………I wonder how many conversations were carried on in the 1850’s about how people should quit talking about the misery caused by slavery. Gee, we need to come together and hold hands and sing Kumbaya with slave owners while decentering any attention to the misery created in peoples’ lives by this social institution. If we talk about the misery, the slave owners will never want to gather with us and talk about how they need to quit owning slaves because all human beings inherently have the right to be free individuals, regardless of skin color, ethnicity, religion, etc.

    If we don’t talk about the misery and the injustice and the wrongness of slavery maybe they’ll come over to our side and free all of the thousands of slaves that they own! Wouldn’t that be absolutely wonderful?!!! If we don’t talk about it they’ll sing Kumbaya with us and every thing will be hunky dory and they’ll do what is right all on theiron their own!


    Slavery in this country ended because people began breaking the law instead of gathering around to hold hands and find “common ground” where we could all agree! There was no common ground!

    Slavery ended because of a civil war that split our nation apart, with more Americans losing their lives than in all the other wars combined that we’ve ever fought in.

    The unholy alliance between psychiatry and the drug companies is not going to miraculously disappear one day because we want to hold hands with everyone and carry on discussions ad naseum (sp) to find some common ground that we can all graciously agree on. People are dying, children are dying, or having their childhoods and future lives ruined while we sit here wanting to find common ground. There is no common ground! As others have already pointed out above, our movement can work on more than one thing at a time. We do not have to quit concentrating our efforts on one are in order to take up a second effort. We are a muli-talented people, if we can ever get our stuff together and begin moving forward. We do not have to “decenter” anything in our discussions and in fact must begin hammering away ever more strongly concerning the toxic drugs and how they’re destroying people.

    I am a person with lived experience who works in the very “hospital” where I was once held. I am determined to work like the French Resistance did against the Nazis in WWII. But every moment that I am in that place I watch the constant and ongoing drugging of people as the ONLY so-called “treatment” that they must embrace with no choice of their own. I watch the psychiatrists pretend that they’ve never heard of any of the real scientific studies that point out all the huge problems with their so-called “treatment” and they all turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the very people that they are supposedly “caring” for. For after all, they are the high and mighty “experts” on everyone else’s lives and their opinions are the only ones which matter. I’ve sat in the courtroom where court is held twice a week so that people may be dragged against their will to the “hospital” where I work so that they may be drugged to the gills, all against their will. This is all done under the “they’re a danger to themselves and others” line and the “public defender” is an absolute joke. It’s almost like the public defender is in cahoots with the prosecuting attorney. The questions are demeaning and disrespectful and anything that the person says is used totally against them, no matter what.

    So, I’m no longer going to sit around the table and hold hands with the very people who are responsible for this and sing Kumbaya with them. It’s time to act; the time for discussing and singing is done and over with!

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    • “I wonder how many conversations were carried on in the 1850’s about how people should quit talking about the misery caused by slavery.”
      Ever seen “Gone with the wind”? It reeks with this attitude.

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      • This maybe a crazy thought but if the slave owners in the 1850’s had neuroleptics to play with they’ed probably be having constant conversations between themselves about how best to tweak the neuroleptics to get the best combination of absolute mental compliance and maximum physical labor out of their slaves. Where as today they just want us permanently drugged as close to the gills as possible to collect the cash from our disability medical insurance policies for the duration with no feedback wanted from us but from our families saying how thankful they are to them for their amazing professionalism displayed in their treatment of us.

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  19. I am a marriage and family therapist/educator/former regulatory board member in Louisiana– I am so thankful for, Robert’s work, this website, and this particular dialogue (I am just “jumping in” to the stream–wish I had more time to study all comments and responses–so please forgive my lack of contextual awareness!) Robert Whitaker was the keynote presenter at our conference last week–always attended by a variety of professionals of differing disciplines–not just MFTs. Of course, Robert’s presentations were “just what the doctor ordered” (pun intended!). In Louisiana, there are nearly 3000 non-medical mental health professionals not counting clinical social workers compared to a minuscule number of psychiatrists and medical psychologists whose practices largely depend on the funneling of “patients” to them by therapists, counselors, social workers.. Which leads me to my first comment…
    Dis&Recover: “I’ve been an active reader and participant of MIA for almost 5 years, and I have to say, “What movement?” I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but I see no movement on this site…”
    There is an organized movement among nonmedical mental health providers. MFTs have for decades been aware of and opposed to the harmful effects of psychiatric labeling and the use of brain-altering drugs. The pushback we have received politically from other mental health professions steeped in what we have come to call “medical model envy” has been considerable and downright ugly. Our choice of Robert Whitaker for our guest presenter this year at our state conference was strategic and related to our agenda to stop the medicalization of the mental health field (I think this must be done initially at the state rather than the federal level). My organization’s (Red River Institute) spring conference in April this year will be the first conference of its kind in Louisiana (of which I am aware) that will bring medical and nonmedical mental health providers together around these issues. Our guest speaker is Patch Adams, who has expressed interest in our agenda and I hope will help us recruit the “good” doctors. In our next legislative session, we intend to take the fight to “them” for a change (AMA, LPA, LAMP). Even after 20 years of fighting a good fight, we are still David against Goliath–but we all know how that turned out!

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      • Copy that wow! Great thing you, Tommft, did in Louisiana. We could really use Robert Whitaker at a conference here in Florida where I know of a great many more people, in the system, on psych drugs than off. Apparently, they haven’t gotten around to Bob’s book. Either way, I must work on the matter, or find myself another state to live in, and doing so is always an option. Patch Adams, too.

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        • Thanks, B and Frank! There is a coordinated effort at the state level on the part of the AMA to restrict the scopes of practice of all nonmedical mental health providers and subordinate them to “prescribing medical practitioners.” The boldest of these maneuvers is in Texas, where the AMA has brought suit against the counseling and MFT regulatory boards, claiming that nonmedical mental health providers do not have the legal right to diagnosis “mental and emotional disorders.” The purpose of the suit is to strangle nonmedical mental health providers economically by preventing them from filing third-party claims and forcing them to have a medical practitioner sign off on their work. This is not only a professional issue but also a consumer matter; If the AMA wins, the result will be a significant loss to the public in access to mental and relational health care that is rooted in wellness and healing. In Louisiana, the approach has been more subtle–and insidious. The Board of Medical Psychology and the state medical board in league with state legislators lobbied by the pharmaceutical companies passed legislation that requires counselors and MFTs to be supervised by “prescribing medical practitioners” when they are working with individuals with “serious mental illness” (that is an actual quote from the law!). MFTs were outraged. We will be working in the next legislative session to get that stipulation removed. I would be interested in hearing from anyone from around the country whose state is experiencing similar political shenanigans so that we can begin to team up!

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