Human Rights, Disclosing the Truth, and Psychiatric Diagnosis


There is far too much covering-up of human suffering and of what the so-called helping professions do and do not have to offer.

When I turned on NPR recently and heard the tail-end of an interview with a psychiatrist and former American Psychiatric Association president about his new book — Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry — my first thought (will I ever learn?) was a hopeful one: “At last, someone high up in that power structure is telling the truth!”

As I listened though I heard the author, Jeffery Lieberman, state that psychiatry is a medical discipline just like other medical disciplines. I began to suspect that my first thought was wrong. I became convinced that I was wrong when he went on to say that psychiatry has treatments that “truly work beyond a shadow of a doubt” but then failed to explain that when it comes to human suffering, nothingworks beyond a shadow of a doubt, and when he also failed to explain that not psychotropic drugs or forced confinement but loving support, respectful listening, provision of housing, food, employment, healthcare, community, and such alternatives as mindfulness, exercise, involvement in the arts, and service animals often help people heal and do not have negative effects.

I felt so sad as I listened, and when the interview ended I dreaded having to read Lieberman’s book and write about it. I know that many people share my feelings of frustration and exhaustion about the ongoing misuses of the power, not only by some of the most powerful psychiatrists, but also some of the most powerful psychologists and members of other professions as they distort the facts and consistently close their ears to people whom their systems have harmed as those people speak the truth. When Dr. Dave Holmes invited me to write a chapter for his wonderfully-titled book, Power and the Psychiatric Apparatus: Repression, Transformation, and Assistance I wrote about some energetic but failed attempts to make real change, and called my chapter “When you try to speak truth to power, what happens if the powerful turn off their hearing aids?”

Gratitude was what I felt when I saw that Robert Whitaker had taken on the important task of actually reading Shrinks and writing the truth about it.  No one is in a better position than Whitaker to comment on claims about the field of contemporary psychiatry having found what works “beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

One bit of Whitaker’s review that jumped out at me was his reference to the addresses given by each year’s president of the American Psychiatric Association. That brought back memories for me. I had read every word of each of those, as well as of each year’s address by the APA presidents-elect, from 1988 when work began on DSM-IV for almost the next quarter of a century. If you want to be bored to tears — as well as appalled by displays of arrogance and public relations assertions — have a look at most of those addresses.

Why did I read them? I read them in connection with my attempts to assist eight women (only women volunteered bravely to do this) who each filed a complaint with the American Psychiatric Association’s Ethics Committee about damage done to her — or in one case, to her brother, leading to his death — that had all begun with being given DSM-IV labels.

Some of their heartbreaking stories are told in brief videos, some by the women themselves, some by actors, here. When helping to prepare those complaints, I read the annual lectures in order to see whether any president or president-elect spoke the truth about the lack of scientific foundation of the DSM-IV’s contents, the fact that they had been shown to be not valid or even reliable (that is, two therapists seeing the same patient at the same time were unlikely to give them the same diagnosis), or the fact that they cause so much harm.

In all those years of speeches, with only one exception, every address either contained a patently false claim that psychiatric diagnosis had become increasingly scientific or contained no mention whatever of psychiatric diagnosis. The latter is especially stunning in light of the vast sums of money the selling of DSM brings to the APA’s coffers — said to be more than $100 million for DSM-IV.

It is appropriate and responsible to warn of the negative consequences that any drug can have, even while one defends the sufferer’s right to try or use anything that turns out to help them, but in all the outcry about psychiatric drugs in recent years, what has too often been ignored is the enormous number of other troubling results of getting a label. These include problems with employment, losing custody of a child, losing or failing to get security clearance, losing the right to make decisions about one’s medical and legal affairs.

And as is just now starting to be recognized, when people — especially women — are sexually assaulted on campuses, in the military, or elsewhere, if they go for “professional help” because they are understandably devastated by the assault, they are likely to be diagnosed as mentally ill, and this damages their credibility on those all-too-rare occasions when the perpetrator is brought to trial.No therapist is supposed to treat you in any way until they have first labeled you, so because of harm not only from drugs (which do occasionally help some people, but as Whitaker has shown, harm far more than they help) but also from a wide array of other results from being diagnosed, people throughout the world are suffering because of receiving those labels.

None of this would be much cause for concern if unfounded claims about effectiveness of treatment and risks of harm were simply ivory-tower debates among academics, but every time any therapist or physician or well-meaning family member or friend urges a suffering human being to try X or Y in order to feel better, that sufferer has the right to know the whole truth about the basis for the recommendation — which usually begins with a diagnosis — and about the known potential benefits and negative effects of that approach and also about the huge number of approaches that have been shown to be helpful and do not require calling the person mentally ill.


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. Hi Paula,
    Good to see you.
    ” I read them in connection with my attempts to assist eight women (only women volunteered bravely to do this) who each filed a complaint with the American Psychiatric Association’s Ethics Committee about damage done to her — or in one case, to her brother, leading to his death — that had all begun with being given DSM-IV labels.”
    This is exactly what I have found. It is still the medical model that is at the root of the problem. And as you say it has consequences for people in all areas of their life. I could give other examples. For example an elderly acquaintance in a nursing home (She’s perfectly lucid when I talk to her) who cannot get medical treatment because she is told it’s “all in her head.”
    And irony of irony the lady had great pain from arthritis that she used to alleviate with Vicodin. SNow she can’t get any narcotics to alleviate her pain because they say she’s an addict. I say it’s ironic because they force her to take neuroleptics. She lost her rent controlled apartment when she was given a guardian–and a new DSM label. I could tell you of even more ghastly cases, the woman who was blinded by her deranged violent roommate in a state hospital (Trenton Psychiatric Hospital where Joseph Cotton once reigned does not protect their non dangerous clients from criminals and NJ passed a law exempting themselves from liability) where she did not belong because she had Medicare and the schizophrenic label. Her presenting problem was “OCD.” And the labels never go away. They follow the patient like scarlet letters….. I could go on and on.
    Seth Farber, PhD., [email protected] The Spiritual Gift of Madness: The Failure of Psychiatry and the Rise of the Mad Pride Movement Inner Traditions, 2012)

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    • ” … the labels never go away. They follow the patient like scarlet letters….” This is very true. I was labeled as “bipolar.” My husband had, unbeknownst to me, taken our children and I off his employer’s health insurance plan two months prior to him passing away. My children were 13 and 16 when he died. I was unable to find any health insurance company willing to insure us for years. Despite the fact I could medically prove my “bipolar” was the result of being drugged based upon lies from alleged child molesters, and a DSM-IV-TR misdiagnosis of the adverse effects of an antidepressant, given under the guise of a “safe smoking cessation med.” And then the subsequent “bipolar” psychosis creation via the central symptoms of neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg when dealing with a bogus “mental illnesses” stigmatization.

      And, Paula, thank you so much for bringing up this point. “And as is just now starting to be recognized, when people — especially women — are sexually assaulted on campuses, in the military, or elsewhere, if they go for ‘professional help’ because they are understandably devastated by the assault, they are likely to be diagnosed as mentally ill, and this damages their credibility….”

      I was psychiatrically stigmatized based upon lies from people who abused my children, according to my medical records. And John Read’s research implies a very high percentage of children who are brought into hospitals due to child abuse are also being diagnosed as “psychotic,” resulting in, of course, either a bipolar or schizophrenia diagnosis. And, either diagnosis leads to treatment with antipsychotics.

      But since symptoms or concerns of child abuse or sexual abuse are not actually a brain disease, of course the antipsychotics / neuroleptics harm the patient. They can actually cause the symptoms of schizophrenia. Proof from

      “neuroleptics … may result in … the anticholinergic intoxication syndrome … Central symptoms may include memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, hyperactivity, twitching or jerking movements, stereotypy, and seizures.”

      I think it’s time to start warning people that if you’re dealing with any kind of sexual abuse issue, be it child abuse concerns or regular sexual abuse, going to the mainstream medical community will likely get you or your child defamed with a supposed brain disease and drugged. And I have concerns, based upon my research, that it is likely that the most common cause of schizophrenia may indeed be due to doctors misdiagnosing sexual abuse symptoms as mental illness, then creating the schizophrenia symptoms with the antipsychotics.

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  2. I think this article makes a good case for why going outside of the mental health industry would be desirable for healing and personal growth. This field has become so tainted with controversy and conflict, how can it possibly be sound in any way? It’s frustrating to even witness.

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  3. Dr. Caplan,
    Thank you for continuing to speak the truth.

    Whenever I look at the men at the top of the psychiatry pyramid scheme, as I view it, I see successful-looking (tan, good suits, nice teeth) guys who have had, and continue to have, great material success and prestige, at the expense of so, so many who have suffered and died due to their utterances and non-scientific snake oil.

    I hope these views are not seen as personal attacks, because that is not the intent. The intent is to speak out, and also to urge that the collective “we” to determine ways that will subvert the psychiatry game and promote real, human caring and real relief, not promised relief that relies on coercion and that causes lifetime stigma, physical and psychic harm, and even death.

    Two in my family have died untimely deaths at the hands of psychiatry’s “ministrations” – one from an early (in its history) electroshock treatment gone awry and another from an atypical antipsychotic side effect.

    Both were given labels, and in both instances our family believed the doctors.
    Such tragedies can haunt families for generations but this will not be true in our case, because the times they are a’changin’. Psychiatry knows this, which is why they are buying larger and larger megaphones. But it’s not going to work anymore. The gig is up.

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  4. It is know all systems look for a hand and glove to promote their wealth and power: for example wars make arms dealers rich and men powerful, car companies in the 50’s tore up the public trams and sold cars to us.

    In the human domain, the need to define normal or un-normal is powerful and when coupled with the big drug companies – profit to be to turn down and as well if you do maybe you will not practice ever again– you are on the bus or off it.

    The current consumer society has at its roots, neurotic creations, it also has think that only through buy products we are fine. Add this to TV and a constant push to not relate to others in collaborative manner, in honest manner what do you have?

    To be normal use must be either a megalomaniac, a happy slave, (self centered) and vicious or able to call out all sitcoms of your generation….Life has been reduced to insanity, disconnected from the human heart, feeling, touch, love and compassion, from truth and wonder, beauty and understanding, we attach ourselves to the Ads: Possessions, Status, Power, Money and Sex, and TV and legal Drugs.. this is called the sane world — the Roles we play or the substitute for the self, madness is normal: perhaps it is the past for this Short story tales the tale such things;

    The Death of Ivan Ilyich – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Russian: Смерть Ивана Ильича, Smert’ Ivana Ilyicha), first published in 1886, is a novella by Leo Tolstoy, one of the masterpieces of

    Currently I with others — we are cut off from real authentic experiences and cut off from our own minds and languish in the consumer society, and TV, movies — SOMA and Violence, and Shadenfrieda is the new way…never look behind the mask of the society, others or within:

    Sane what is that?

    Helping others and allowing for them to heal, not to happen or go through experiences

    Label them, shelve them and kick them.

    If not this we know this:

    60% of all deaths by police in the US are disabled and mentally ill by the states view

    We know this the Diagnoses is –on us in many cases is end point of living…it will never come off your name Stigma is rampant: and even if you did fall, and come back, no one looks at you the same or most no one.

    In that you will either have lots of bark around the tree or be obliterated….that is the fact

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  5. Dr Caplan, thanks for a thoughtful and grounded article. I’ve been following the fracas between you and Dr Allen Frances in recent weeks. Yours comes across as the far more centered and constructive voice.

    It now seems established that mainstream medical psychiatry simply doesn’t consistently work to alleviate human emotional or cognitive suffering. Many of its treatments are actively dangerous or disabling. Antidepressants work no better than placebo for mild to moderate depression in millions of people, and neuroleptic drugs over long periods cause Tardive Dyskinesia in a third or more of those who take them. Over-diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in kids causes obesity and developmental problems in many. Regrettably, the track record for alternative non-medical therapies for human distress or cognitive disarray is equally weak. The hype over “Open Dialog” and similar approaches hasn’t been supported by controlled outcomes study over periods longer than a year or two, and the number of patients in the published studies is miniscule.

    These things being said, I would pose two questions that I’ve offered in other commentary threads here at Mad in America, to some degree of controversy. (1) If the entire edifice of psychiatry needs to be burned to the ground as a fraudulent enterprise, then why has nobody sued the APA out of existence in a massive class action? (2) What are the appropriate elements of a way forward to better outcomes for those who need assistance in major life crises (e.g. how can research or observation establish what actually works and for whom)?

    Criticism of the reigning psychiatric mythology is certainly appropriate and needed. But it isn’t enough. Where’s the action plan for doing something to clean up the mess? I invite your further thoughts on both of the questions above.

    Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D.
    Resident Research Analyst
    Living With TN
    An online community within the Ben’s Friends cluster for patients with rare medical disorders

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    • Dr. Lawhern,

      People are constantly asking me why I don’t organize a class action suit about psychiatric diagnosis. It seems such an obvious question, and I can see why you raise it, and I appreciate your interest. First, for two decades (first in my 1995 book, They Say You’re Crazy), I have been searching for lawyers (who are NOT affiliated in any way with Scientology or its CCHR or any of its front groups) who will take on even a single case about this. I have not found one. With regard to class action suits, it can take years of attorneys’ work to try to figure out the best way to define the “class” — and often it goes to an appeals court, even the U.S. Supreme Court, which then declares the lawsuit cannot go forward because it is not a legitimate class. Since this happened with so obvious a class as the women employees of WalMart, when there was massive evidence that they had been discriminated against systematically and appallingly, just imagine what would happen with trying to define, e.g., the class consisting of “people who have all been harmed by psychiatric diagnosis.” The kinds of harm and the routes through which they were done are so varied. Furthermore, I have spent endless hours talking with and writing to lawyers who at first expressed an interest and who then dropped out, often because they know that a lawsuit against the APA for harm done by its DSMs would be opposed with the vast sums of money the APA has and no doubt joined by the vast sums Big Pharma and other entities such as perhaps insurance companies would provide in order to keep the diagnosis juggernaut rolling along, and I don’t know any law firm or even individual lawyer who can afford or is willing to risk everything they have to fight a case like this. I have ideas for much less demanding cases that could be wedge cases and very effective, though.

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      • Okay, Dr. Caplan. I understand your point. Perhaps one has to start small with targeted legal actions for negligent harms or fraud. That being said, what about the second question? What are the broad outlines of research to establish reliable and REPEATABLE practices among professionals in the healing arts, which aid people in emotional or cognitive crisis to come back from the brink of marginalization or suicide?


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        • Dr. Lawhern,
          You might want to take a look at some of the initiatives sponsored/funded by the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care. These might meet your criteria – a number of them are based in academic medical centers.
          Having said this, and having lost two family members to the current (what I view as) coercive. medication-based model of psychiatry, I am eager to see other approaches take the fore, approaches that value and respect the humanity and well-being of the person needing support.

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    • (1) If the entire edifice of psychiatry needs to be burned to the ground as a fraudulent enterprise, then why has nobody sued the APA out of existence in a massive class action?

      Sanism is the prevailing theory of the general population. If a person is a state hospital, they are there because they desemost irve to be. A plea of insanity is rarely accepted regardless of history, and a jury is more likely to choose a harsher punishment if you attempt it. Judges are not psychiatrists and are more likely to support their expert findings than any compelling argument made by the accused, and without the rights and protections promised in a criminal charge, mental illness is not ruled on by the High Court.

      (2) What are the appropriate elements of a way forward to better outcomes for those who need assistance in major life crises ?

      Well, we seem to have established what doesn’t work. Diagnosis should not be passed out like Halloween candy particularly in children who I honestly still don’t believe exhibit actual disorders. Psych meds should be held to the standards of any other branch of medicine. We don’t treat patients with chemo because, after a ten minute discussion, you think it might be cancer, and chemo might work, but you don’t know how or why. Misinformation, stigma, and scapegoating should be met with clear and corrective measures. Most importantly, we need to stop generalizing as though the mentally ill lack the unique and human qualities appreciated in the rest of the populace. It has not proven effective, the assumptions are largely based on language meant to persuade and influence others, and it’s demeaning. Survivors should be encouraged to share their stories with others as it is more effective than than inpatient treatment.

      Criticism of the reigning psychiatric mythology is certainly appropriate and needed. But it isn’t enough. Where’s the action plan for doing something to clean up the mess? I invite your further thoughts on both of the questions above.

      The problem is, even if you show an illustrated guide to the reality of mental illness and the fabrication of research and statistics, the polity ignores us, and the public would rather hear implausible claims from a person with an M.D or Phd (even if it’s in advertising, DJ Jaffe), then to hear it from a person with a diagnosis.

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  6. I am a psychiatrist, and I am one of the most disappointed ones in my own field.I have spent years in academics teaching a humanistic approach to working with those in distress:at times fading fancy in psychiatry.It has indeed become a field hypertrophied in medication management at its worst, but life saving for the many people whose lives have been saved by lithium etc.

    That said, I should share that your vitriol and saber rattling aginst windmills of the greater academia in psychiatry holds very little weight:you provide not a shred of credible research to replace the currently flawed system.The reason is that it is easier to knock down a home than to build one.

    Do you know what is “normal” and what is not, and how to measure it? Shall we say all are normal and just inappropriately “labeled”?

    What data have you published that presents a credible scientific model of mental distress that can inform clinicians and patients how best to proceed?

    The current structure is deeply flawed, as is Whitacker’s temper tantrum.Maybe his next volume will give equal time to the adverse outcomes of talk therapies and the labels used for personality disorders.

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    • Thelonius,
      It’s not clear what your point is. You have nothing condtructive to contribute so you attack the messengers. Yu are wrong–the truth in itself can lead to great changes. Read for example Laura DElano’s story–in numerous articles here. Or my own books show how people have gotten better merely by getting off the drugs.
      It seems pointless to continue with you because you probably
      won’t work with those who need the mist. AS I fdiscovered n,any created it themselves,
      Seth Farber,Ph.D.

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    • I just ran across this in an article published on CounterPunch by Ben Denby

      The production of deviance is based on the fact that deviance itself is a completely subjective concept, and as such is a matter entirely of how those with the power to enforce their own interpretation of the word on common usage choose to define it. It typically has very little or nothing whatsoever to do with the appearance, thinking or behavior of those so labeled. The process of producing deviance is notable for the fact that the interpretations of deviance that are chosen and imposed on common usage are generally self-serving for those creating them; in effect, they create a problem or threat for which the creator becomes both cause and cure. For this reason, the production of deviance is as much a matter of reasserting the authority of the definer of the term in the face of crisis and shifting the blame for the crisis away from them onto a physically or numerically weaker scapegoat who can then be silenced through whatever means are considered appropriate. The value of this process to a power structure facing ever more acute threats to its own existence by virtue of the finite nature of the substance upon which its existence depends is obvious.

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    • First, as a medical professional you have an obligation to first do no harm. So asking for something better in place of a harmful system is putting the whole thing upside down. Secondly, there are alternative approaches, they are just being funded or applied because nobody makes huge money out of them. And people here at MIA are also critical of “adverse outcomes of talk therapies and the labels used for personality disorders” so I don’t see whom that particular criticism is aimed at.

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  7. Just in case the question about what is normal is not intended as a rhetorical question, an entire chapter in my book, They Say You’re Crazy, is dedicated to that question, and I go through many different ways of deciding what is normal and address the serious problems with each.

    May I request that people commenting in here refrain from name-calling against anyone and just focus on facts and debate. As people who write essays here and post comments here know better than most people, there is much nastiness and hurtfulness in the world, and I know that some people come to MadInAmerica looking for information, validation, or thought-provoking material…but not nastiness.

    And if you have not read everything that any given author has written, how about instead of calling names and assuming the worst, just asking the author if they have addressed Question X or Y?

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  8. Paula,
    I wan to defend humanbeing against the psychiatrist thelonikousmonk. It was the latter whose posts were filled with ad hominem arguments and attacks on you and Bob Whitaker. He says,”Do you know what is “normal” and what is not, and how to measure it? Shall we say all are normal and just inappropriately “labeled”? ”
    In the light of that usurpation, humanbeing statement was very appropriate. He/she
    wrote: “I wouldn’t in a million years be what is considered ‘normal’ in this society.

    What is ‘normal’ and who defines it?

    That is not name calling. It is pointing out that psychiatrists have taken it upon themselves to define legitimacy. It is arbitrary at best. And humanbeing has an answer–not always available: drop out, don’t concede that huge power
    to the psychiatric Priesthood.
    Seth Farber, Ph.D

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  9. For Seth Farber and others: Psychiatrists are not the inventors or (despite the large egos of some of the worst of their profession) the custodians of the term “normal”. The rest of us are.

    We live in a society. By definition, no society exists without shared “norms” — concepts (sometimes standards) of normative behavior, of expected social interaction, of acceptable function. The norms, as we have all seen, can and do change — sometimes in remarkably unexpected ways. Who would have predicted 70 years ago that LGBT persons would ever be accepted as “normal and different” from the primary gender identifications of most people in society? Who would have predicted that some otherwise sensible people would declare with perfectly straight faces that hearing voices or being compelled to confrontational behaviors by those voices should be embraced as merely “odd”. This latter bit, of course, is far from universally accepted as a social norm.

    We can debate what the norms of society should be in an enlightened time. And perhaps we are doing just that in response to Paula Caplan’s article. But I don’t think we can credibly believe that there should be no norms. Another name for such a vacuum is chaos. There is a quite real and predictable consequence for dropping out of the majority culture: drop-outs and their families get marginalized just as weaker animals do in a herd. Those at the margin will either exist on the charity of others, become hunter-gatherers, or (sometimes) starve.

    So could we try just a bit to deal in practicalities instead of pie-in-the-sky philosophy?

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    • I believe that the world is big enough to contain “all” of us; I believe in the basic goodness born within the individual.

      I believe that evil only manifests itself when the organism is violated in some way.

      But then, I’ve always been an incurable idealist.

      And I’ve pretty much had it with “society”.

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    • “There is a quite real and predictable consequence for dropping out of the majority culture: drop-outs and their families get marginalized just as weaker animals do in a herd. Those at the margin will either exist on the charity of others, become hunter-gatherers, or (sometimes) starve.”

      Richard, these are not at all the only two options in life–to either be part of the ‘majority’ culture or else…at least, that’s what this reads like to me, “or else…” That feels so oppressive to me, and rather threatening to someone suffering from stigma and discrimination in the mainstream.

      People ‘drop out’ of mainstream society all the time and create a new, different kind of life that is their own. Especially as the modern industrial/technological world has exploded, many have sought options outside of this rat race and network of illusion and corruption.
      In many cases, people have succeeded in establishing themselves in the world in a completely different way, from new core beliefs that better serve them. That’s the nature of our individuality.

      This is what we seek, as healing and well-being, permission to express our individuality! A society which does not allow this is an oppressive society, which becomes a ‘sick society,’ the way I understand that phrase to mean. I believe this is what we have on our hands, which is why psychiatry, social change, and healing are such hot topics now.

      True, Americans do seem to have a ‘marginalizing mentality,’ this is the culture I best know. It is not a tolerant culture, but extremely divided by fear, blame, and resentment. That creates stigma, and THIS is what marginalizes people. It depends on how evolved a culture is, which I really don’t think ours is terribly evolved, which is where the consequences to which you refer, occur.

      Mainstream academia, from what I’ve gathered, rejects ancient wisdom as ‘nonsense.’ At least, at large, this seems to be the case. I’d hate to make a generalization that is not true, but that’s been my impression, which, if that is the case, would be a big deal, here, I think.

      It’s the ‘norm’ attitude, and the willingness of a culture/community to grow and expand and shift, which can make a difference. That takes a lot of humility and trust in a process without controlling it. Until we can better achieve these, I support anyone who wants to drop out of this ‘norm,’ which is not terribly kind or healthy, in general, to my mind, and find a new way. That would be the kind of example to others which people seek.

      Thanks to having been once diagnosed (no longer relevant) and all that I needlessly suffered from all that until I finally came off medication and healed from that, and then having been in legal mediation fighting for my employment rights at EEOC–at which I succeeded but it took its toll, and from which I had to again, heal and recover–I found myself headed right outside the mainstream, which was scary.

      But I did my work, stayed focus and grounded, and landed exactly where I wanted, and am now happy and thriving in my new life with my new self. Have been for years now.

      And I have psychiatry and social services to thank, because they pushed me out soooooo far into the margins (at least they tried, they never really succeeded in getting me to internalize this, but they made my life a living hell anyway, for a time), I never would have known this kind of freedom and creativity. I was totally brainwashed into the mainstream, which is why I went so far into the depth of mental health ‘care.’ Thank God, I woke up, just in the nick of time.

      I almost lost my life, literally and figuratively, due to mainstream beliefs that are considered ‘normal.’ Defecting from all this, I’ve now won my life, which was mine to begin with, but I felt it was kind of stolen for a while.

      By no means am I either a needy charity case, nor am I any of those other things, certainly not starving. Hardly, in fact, because I love to cook. I live a totally normal life like a normal person in normal society, which happens to be rural, which is heaven on earth to me. Never imagined this lifestyle for myself, but we took to each other extremely well.

      Still, I am also totally off-the-grid, free, and living my dreams, relaxed and at peace–finally. It can be done!

      I just ask, very respectfully, that you not discourage others with this limited information. It’s quite freeing to be off-the-grid and thriving, away from the fire-breathing dragon of mainstream society.

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      • Alex, perhaps there are communities “off the grid” from mainstream society, where people thrive in a context of more liberal (“less restricted”) norms of behavior and thought. However, it might be reassuring to identify large numbers of those who have done as well as yourself. I personally have no experience with such communities.

        Counter-examples to your vision seem wide spread, though one in particular comes to my mind. I grew up in the 1950s and 60s amidst poverty, a few miles south of the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, with its “tune in, turn on, drop out” mind set and slogans. At least as far as I can observe, the “flower people” have mostly disappeared or been co-opted into the majority culture of work and property ownership. Aside from a wider acceptance for recreational pot, it’s unclear to me that the flower children changed a darned thing in the larger culture, for all of their fervently felt good intentions.

        I’m have no wish to be unkind or unfair to anybody. But I would agree with the sentiment that whining never changed anything. Real work and organization-building and changing of social perceptions and institutions are often bloody hard. But such steps seem a more realistic alternative to endless circling about the notion of what the world “should” be if (for example) those bloody-minded capitalists would only disappear overnight, or social authorities were discredited and deposed from power.

        Those versions of magic aren’t going to happen, Alex. Not on any large social scale. Maybe for exceptional individuals, but not for large numbers of the rest of us who have to work for a living in the context of the majority culture. I don’t see a transition strategy here. And without one, we might as well be walking on fly paper. We’re stuck.


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        • “Those versions of magic aren’t going to happen, Alex. Not on any large social scale. Maybe for exceptional individuals, but not for large numbers of the rest of us who have to work for a living in the context of the majority culture. I don’t see a transition strategy here. And without one, we might as well be walking on fly paper. We’re stuck.”

          There is a lot of assumption here. I do work for a living, but my business is designed a whole new way, and it’s working quite well. I am, by no means, exceptional. I focused, believed in what I was doing, and kept going through all the ups and downs, healing and evolving my awareness every step of the way.

          You say it won’t happen, but that is merely a belief. My belief is the opposite, because I made it happen, and I’m not in any vacuum, I have a partner of 30 years, friends, family, etc.

          This cannot be explained in a post like this, it is a complex transition. My website, however, is a composite of my transition, which is partially told in the film I made about all of this, posted to the last page. The classes I teach light up the transitional path, did for me, my partner, and for my clients.

          Just btw, I lived in San Francisco for 17 years, in Castro, before moving to the Lost Coast in N. Cal. It’s a highly restrictive, oppressive, and out of balance city now, with downtown money and tech having taken over. Money money money. It’s led to a lot of crap in SF, getting worse every day. That city has turned upside down, because it has totally repressed individuality, and instead, the free thinking individualists tend to be either medicated or homeless or both. OR, we got out of there. That’s what the new money class in the city has created.

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          • I also disagree about the flower power movement. Along with The Beats before them, they most certainly did influence society a great deal, opened a whole new door to consciousness that continues to be with us. The problem is, that movement of individual freedom was interrupted, thanks to Watergate, etc. Reagan sealed shut the fate of that social revolution.

            I believe we are returning to complete this now, but it has gotten more violent because society has gone so far downhill. Still, it’s upon us now, I’m sure of it. This is like the second wave of awakening on a grand social scale, a continuation of the Beats and and the Love Revolution, it is now being continued, because the old systems have failed, and it’s no secret.

            Analogous to the individual journey of awakening being interrupted by psychiatry. Same thing, larger scale.

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        • Great but embracing social norms as they are is going to kill us all and pretty soon so what’s the point? The example of LGBT community being now more accepted is one where the “deviant” is forcing the rest of society to finally give them space to breathe.
          The moment you go on a quest for defining “normal” you’re on a road to oppressive, fascist society and that’s pretty much when we are heading right now with few notable exceptions as the one you’ve mentioned.

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    • Well said. This ‘movement’ is all whining and no working, all argument and no lawsuits or huge actions. And I include myself in that. I spent two years of my life looking full time for an attorney. I don’t waste my time now, plus the time limit is up on my situation.

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      • I posted this in the wrong spot–I was replying to Lawhern’s
        “So could we try just a bit to deal in practicalities instead of pie-in-the-sky philosophy?”

        Mad and proud is not the way. Mad and suing your a___ is the way.

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    • Dr Lawhern, Nobody here is advocating nihilism but our values are completely different from your. I can’t help but start with one of our more successful “drop-outs.” Timothy Leary himself who coined the phrase, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Now it is true that most of the 60s’ generation ended up conforming. Leary dropped out. He even dropped out of CIA. And he made a living for himself writing books and giving speeches. And preaching his odd ideas. Ram Das was less marginal but he also rejected the egotism of capitalism, and embraced Hinduism.
      But admittedly we are talking about individuals. But there are other such individuals–like Alex. Or the “schizophrenics” wshose true stories I tell in my books. (See website.)
      You write:”Psychiatrists are not the inventors or (despite the large egos of some of the worst of their profession) the custodians of the term “normal”. The rest of us are.” Not exactly true. Shrinks play a major role. Until 1973 professionals considered homosexuality an illness. But that years things changed. Gay psychiatrists were tired of being marginalized and said so. They lobbied for change. AS a result the APA took a vote and decided by a narrow margin homosexuality was no longer an illness!!
      Alex IS too optimistic –the competitive corporate society we live in is so obsessed with making money that the elite is doing nothing about global warming. AS a result humanity may be extinct in 50-100 years. What kind of INSANE society is THAT?? Put the normates in the loony bin and let the inmates run the asylum (i.e. society). That is the only genuine solution. Psychiatrist R D Laing suggested that in 1967. How right he was!
      Seth Farber, PhD.

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      • I really love my optimism, and I hang on to it dearly mainly because it feels so much better physically and emotionally than cynicism and pessimism, it just feels better in my body to be optimistic, keeps my heart open, a bounce in my step, and my creativity easily accessible. I’m not concerned at all with how I appear to others, but more how I feel in my own skin. People may think I’m gullible, naive, stupid, etc. due to having this perspective–but I’ve been through enough to know I’ve learned from my hard knocks,

        That was actually THE big turnaround in my health and life in every respect, because it brought me clarity about who I was and what I most desired, rather than concerning myself with the expectations (norms) of others. That cleared my mind, heart, and path entirely, took me out of mental chaos to stop focusing on what others thought, and more about how I felt.

        I also have found that having myself going from a somewhat cynical perspective to a more open, optimistic one, is what actually fueled the positive turnarounds in my life, which aligns with the good spiritual teachings I know, so that felt very comfortable and real to me.

        I certainly honor how anyone chooses to perceive life, humanity, and our fate on the planet, but to me, it’s much preferable and way better feeling to believe that anything is possible in any moment, that will lead to higher awareness and a shift in global perspective. As I do this, I back this up with my own actions, and do what I can to bring love and light to my community. Tomorrow, for example, I’m playing in a band for which I’m musical director, as a volunteer at an assisted living center. My work as a healer is mostly volunteer, too. The more I surrendered my needs, the more robustly they’ve been met.

        Living in fear can cause us to bring more fearful situations to us, and is draining to our energy. It’s hard work and exhausting to live in fear. We can always choose to shift our perspective when we feel stuck. Fear and stuckness are what fuels personal growth, because we are determined to find our freedom and sense of justice, I believe that’s human nature. Indeed, we have allowed ourselves to be taken far off this path.

        I always likened entering the mental health world as going through the looking glass. I’m back on this side, now, out of there, and life and the world look completely different now, not nearly as dark. Indeed, the global situation is grave, but I, personally, don’t believe it’s literally “the end of the world.”

        What I do believe, is that it is the beginning of a new era, and healing is at the center of this.

        I also believe that it will be a struggle to make this transition, because most people are at the end of their ropes with the destruction in the world, and others are quite resistant to change. So in a way, like Richard says, we’re stuck.

        At the same time, I believe in a higher power, so I believe that stuckness is temporary because the damn is already bursting. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen tomorrow, but I’d rather feel optimistic, which is a good feeling, than pessimistic and cynical, because that feels bad. That’s my only criteria about what I choose to believe, how the belief/perspective makes me feel. That’s how I determine my own truth.

        When I made that shift, my reality unfolded accordingly. It can only be experiential in research because there is no arguing about how someone feels, and that is what determines our subjective realities.

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  10. The answer is simple: lawyers and lawsuits

    Where are the brave attorneys who in the past stepped up to fight for these survivors and prevent future harm?

    John Whitehead is one. Where are the others?

    Beat the bushes, search everywhere. But without lawsuits we are nowhere.

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    • I did sue a discriminating and corrupt social service agency, went to mediation and won, and was told I could go further but that they would make my life “hell for me.” Seems these are the options. It’s a rough road, just fyi.

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      • Good on you, Alex. Sorry you couldn’t proceed with it to complete satisfaction. FYI, I an imagine it is a rough road–litigating against Power always is. That’s why we need the toughest lawyers around, the kinds who went up against Big Tobacco. But where are they? I don’t know. Maybe if we crowd-sourced half a mil we could get some hotshot to sue somebody.

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        • Thank you, Ann. The satisfying part was having my reality validated, when those in the system tried to tell me that I was paranoid or whatever. They were wrong–lying–and I was vindicated.

          However, no, the settlement was not at all justice, although I’m still working on the justice aspect of it, simply because I’d really like to see society shift in a radical way.

          I later made a film and spoke a bit about this, and sent it throughout the system. A year later, this agency lost its funding and closed. Can’t say for sure what was the catalyst for this, but I imagine that my legal action combined with a film widely seen within the system played a big part in closing down corruption.

          So all in all, I felt good about it because my activism was effective, and this is where I felt free, because I was being taken seriously about this corruption and discrimination, and heard. Although it seems never ending! So many components to this network of corrupt systems.

          I wish with all my heart for everyone to find their vindication and justice.

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    • The lawyers can’t and won’t take cases against the psychiatrists because creating “mental illnesses” in the patients with the psych drugs is currently the “appropriate” standard of care within that industry.

      The ADHD drugs and antidepressants are known to cause psychosis and mania, in other words, the bipolar and schizophrenia symptoms.

      And the antipsychotics cause the schizophrenia symptoms via the central symptoms of neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome (see proof below).

      To win a malpractice suit, you have to prove the psychiatrist did something not considered standard of care within that industry. But when an entire industry agrees that creating “mental illnesses” in patients with drugs for profit is an appropriate standard of care, lawsuits can’t be won.

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        • I’m sorry but you’re being naive. I have explored the options of suing the hospital that tortured me and ended up with a bunch of documents which were largely falsified and missing such insignificant details as drug dosages and names being seen as proper and not validating further inquiry. I could have probably hired better lawyers (if I had the money which I don’t) and play this game for the next 3 yrs (that short is the statue of limitations in where I live – which is ridiculous on its own) but my chances of wining where the only “hard evidence” was the said documents and all I had was my word against the “good professionals'” was null. The system is created in such a way that the chances of winning are scarce if at all existent. Everyone in the system has vested interest in sweeping the abuse under the carpet and that included the so-called “advocates”. One of them explained to me that it’s not a problem I was denied the right to an interpreter, was so drugged that I don’t remember my hearing and that I should simply go back to the good professionals, who are also her friends (!) and she knows are awesome people and explain that I feel violated and they will surely be sorry that I feel this way (in other words – not sorry at all). Lawsuits? Laugh along with me.

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  11. RE: “The labels never go away.”
    Try this:
    1. Safely withdraw from psych. drugs that were never needed in the first place.
    2. Move far away.
    3. Have a primary care doctor whose office never gets it together to forward your records.
    Viola! No labels, no “psych. history”, done!

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    • Or medically prove that antidepressant withdrawal syndrome (from a non-“safe smoking cessation med”) was misdiagnosed as bipolar (according to the DSM-IV-TR) and then the symptoms of bipolar were created via the central symptoms of anticholinergic intoxication syndrome. “neuroleptics … may result in … anticholinergic intoxication syndrome … Central symptoms may include memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, hyperactivity, twitching or jerking movements, stereotypy, and seizures.”

      Ethical doctors will get embarrassed and “take that off your record” when a nice patient comes in with the medical explanation of how she was made sick, at least I was told it’d be taken off my records. I’ve got my second appointment with the good doc next week, wish me well. He works through a teaching hospital, and I’ve got a 2 hour physical, because he’s doing some teaching during my next physical. I’m a little nervous.

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  12. This is in reply to a couple of things said by two different people here above.

    One is that it is correct that one reason lawsuits are hard to win in this field is that the pernicious approaches — all of which start with assigning a DSM label, which means it is not scientific and carries risks of harm — are indeed considered the “standard of care,” and the Daubert decision by the Court helps maintain that problem.

    The other is to mention that the very brave attorney Jim Gottstein of PsychRights has done groundbreaking work about doctors who knowingly prescribe drugs that have been proven to be harmful and rarely helpful.

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  13. Dr. Caplan, Many nuances obtain to the concept of informed consent in psychiatric and psychologically monitored clinical situations, so much differently than with medicine. This is another chance to question the description of behavioral healthcare as entailing medical diagnosis and having its treatments qualified as medical in nature. Focus on this issue now in reference to psychiatry as actually a pseudomedical effort should come to mean several book projects if there exists really widespread concern about psychiatric harms getting accounted for. Hegemonists for the establishment and do-gooders alike rely too often on obscuring the distinctions between medical understanding and the way psychiatric diagnosis depends on medicine as a prop. We need a publishing house to get a good editorial heads up about what is and isn’t working out as advocacy and care some time in this decade. Rereading your article reminds me that it is time for the big step from the expose’ to issuing progressive versions of the edicts for change.

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