“Doing” Antipsychiatry on all Cylinders: Possibilities, Enigmas, Challenges


Year after year, we confront, we explain.
Maybe we get minor concessions.
Then presto, something happens,
and even those handouts are gone

(S. R., activist and interviewee)

On several occasions I have written about the complexities of antipsychiatry politics, exploring more specifically, how to “do our politics” in a way that moves society squarely in the direction of the abolitionist goal (e.g., Burstow, 2014). In this article, I am once again theorizing the “how” of activism—for understanding this territory is critical to maximizing effectiveness. However, this time round, I am approaching it from an angle at once more general and more practical. That is, I am investigating the tools or approaches at our disposal as activists. What relates to this, I will be discussing the genus of politic—that is, the manner of politics being engaged.

Pivotal questions grappled with in this article include: What fundamental approaches might be taken to end/rein in psychiatry? What are the strengths and shortcomings of each? What dangers do they present? To what larger genus of politic do they belong?  How are we to understand these in themselves? In relation to psychiatry? What are some of the enigmas, or challenges facing us? And how might they be met?

Now obviously, very different approaches might be adopted depending on the intended target of our change efforts—psychiatrists, survivors whom we hope to influence, our selves, the general public, the state. For the purpose of this article, I will largely be limiting the focal target to those with power in this area on one hand and the general public on the other.

That said, let me suggest that there are two overarching or umbrella approaches available to us as activists—persuasion on one hand and the application of political pressure on the other (for an articulation of these principles in relation a neighbouring movement, see Rosenthal, 1996).

To begin with persuasion, persuasion is predicated on the supposition that if we make our points well enough, say, by assembling cogent evidence, by making it assessable, by personalizing this with sensitizing stories and other emotional persuaders, people will become convinced that action of the type suggested is called for—for example, that ECT should be abolished. Correspondingly, it is assumed that there is an extremely close relationship between people being persuaded and change happening. Now whatever the limitation of this perspective and this approach, without question, persuasion is a key element in most change processes. Moreover, it is part of our existential nature to try to persuade and to move. Understandably, correspondingly, efforts at persuasion abound in our movement, whether we call what we are doing providing information, exposing, sensitizing, telling our story, or educating. Examples are: almost all the articles in Mad in America, the books that we pen, fact sheets that we produce, dialogues that we invite.

That said, I would agree that this is a necessary, even pivotal dimension. Why, for example, would the public support banning ECT short of becoming convinced that it is inherently damaging? Our tools here—and it is important to master them—include: sound scientific evidence, latest findings, cogent analysis, people’s stories, with ones with which public can identify being particular important, for they heighten empathy, lead to “aha” movements, and motivate. And with all of this, painstaking accuracy is critical. Note, the establishment can get away with lying, twisting, and exaggerating—we cannot.

That granted, a number of questions arise. First, are there risks involved in heavily relying on persuasion? Let me suggest that indeed, there are, with the risks different for different types of persuasion. To begin with the simplest of these, when trying to persuade, especially when using personal stories as persuaders, we can readily fall into what has been called “the politics of compassion” (in the politics of compassion, we are in essence leveraging the compassion that people feel or can be induced to feel to effect the changes sought; for an articulation of this concept, see Rosenthal, 1996). To be clear, I am in no way trying to minimize the importance of compassion. Nonetheless, the politics of compassion is at best a tenuous base from which to proceed. Why? For one, the presence of compassion does not in and of itself mean that the shift that materializes will be benign, despite our best efforts. In this regard, strange though this may seem, most people who support forced drugging are convinced that there are thereby being compassionate to the objects of the force. Additionally, even good changes made on such a basis tend to be less than reliable. Why? Because people whose political decisions stem overwhelmingly from compassion seldom have a solid grasp of the territory. Correspondingly, the object of their compassion can shift—and as a result, such changes can be very short-lived.

One way that this happens is by the establishment likewise appealing to compassion. In this regard, in the early 1980s ECT survivors frequently got on tv and moved the public with chilling stories of how the treatment ruined their lives—seemingly, real progress. Within short order, though, psychiatrists were bringing their own patients onto shows with them, with the patients testifying how ECT had saved their lives. The audience was still compassionate but compassion now culminated in support for the status quo.

Indeed, even when substantial (and benign) changes have materialized, in the absence of a more solid base, they can quickly be reversed. Consider, in this regard, the great strides made with respect to psychiatric survivor rights in the 1980s. In Ontario Canada, for instance, education on the impossible plight of psychiatric survivors led to legal changes predicated on the notion that the default mode should be survivors making their own decisions. Shortly thereafter, however, a man called Brian was killed by someone identified as  “disordered” and the incident was seized upon by institutional psychiatry, its supporters, and the media. Whereupon, the public’s compassion shifted from survivors per se to what was seen as their potential victims. The result was the passing of Brian’s Law—a piece of legislation which dramatically lowered the bar on what suffices to incarcerate involuntarily (for details, see Burstow, 2015a).

For changes to be benign, solid, and enduring, in other words, additional education is needed that goes beyond the education typically associated with the politics of compassion. Examples are: education debunking the myth of the dangerous mental patient, education around the inefficacy of and the harm done by the “treatments,” and education on psychiatry’s lack of foundation. More fundamentally, if substantial and enduring change is to be achieved, the politics of entitlement has to take precedence over the politics of compassion. To hone in on consent, for example, the message that needs to be delivered is: Irrespective of how others may feel, it is everyone’s right to be free.

This being the case, public education on people’s rights is important. And of particular importance are initiatives like Tina Minkowitz’s, which culminated in the U.N. declaring involuntary treatment torture (see Minkowitz, 2014). And here we move from liberal to radical education, and, indeed, consciousness-raising.

At this point the question arises: If education is both more thorough and more radical, will it then suffice? At risk of frustrating the reader, let me suggest, for the most part, no. And here, we come up against the limitations of persuasion, also the inadequacy of what passes as common sense. In this regard, it is commonly believed that if provided with good evidence and ways to relate, people can be persuaded to see things differently; correspondingly, once enough people or the right people are so persuaded, social change, ipso facto, will occur. The very fact that for decades now an abundance of  scholars, activists, and survivors have masterfully provided such education (e.g., Szasz, Breggin, Frank) and yet psychiatry continues to command respect and to grow is itself an indicator that such an understanding is too simplistic. While of course, on some level or other, persuasion is generally at work when change happens, what such a perspective ignores is the very fact of power and how it works.

The point is that there are structures and there is a profession here endowed with authority. And there are huge vested interests at play—the multinational pharmaceutical companies, for example, armies of  “professional helpers”, indeed the entire psychiatric/psychopharmaceutical industrial complex. These yield enormous power, including the power to determine who and what is credible. Correspondingly, they can be counted on to use that power to further their own interests, including their own bottom line. On top of which the public is wary of people whom they see as mad— and so want such structures in place. Moreover, the industry has vast sums of money and other capital at their disposal, and whenever it has seen public sentiment shift against it, it has invariably responded by drawing on its extensive resources to wage a new campaign (for details, see Burstow, 2015a). All formidable reasons why persuasion does not suffice.

If the combination of logic, facticity, and fellow feeling, while essential, do not suffice—and I am suggesting that they do not—what else is needed? At this point in history at any rate, force. The point is, insofar as an oppressor wields power, and insofar as we are trying to overturn a system that is inherently oppressive and all-encompassing, we too need to wield power. To be clear, I am in no way suggesting physical force, but non-violent action such as that waged by visionaries like Gandhi (see Sharp, 1973).

Now indeed, albeit it is underutilized, to varying degrees nonviolent resistance too has always figured in our repertoire. Note, in this regard, the Highlander work, wherein survivors  pointedly modeled themselves on the civil rights movement. Note the demonstrations in the UK (see Mckeown, Creswell, and Spandler, 2014). Correspondingly, witness MindFreedom’s 2002 hunger strike (for details, go here).

The latter, I would add, is a particularly instructive action to probe. The protestors’ ultimate demand was the provision of choice in “services”; and in the process of making this demand, they challenged the American Psychiatric Association and the National Institute of Mental Health to point to a single study showing that “mental illness” is biological—which, of course, they could not. This action was nothing short of remarkable; it included among its team no less a figure than the former head of “schizophrenia studies” at National Institute of Mental Health; it brought together survivors and radical professionals, drawing on the knowledge of each; it garnered press; it brought goals, methods, and means of measurement into alignment with each other, as is critical in strategic activism; correspondingly, it constituted a formidable education in its own right. At the same time, even this stellar piece of activism fell short of achieving its objective. Nor did it exactly create a base from which to proceed. And here is the rub.

Now to be clear, as I have stated elsewhere (Burstow, 2015b), standing up and being counted is important irrespective of effectiveness. And so is raising awareness even when nothing concrete materializes. Nonetheless, insofar as our goal is social change, effectiveness in the strictest sense of the term matters. So the question is: what kind of pressure can we bring to bear that might actually materialize in change? In short, there are two types of pressure involved in non-violent action. The first is moral force, also known as the force of truth (and the personal stories alluded to earlier are a part of this). Such is arguably achievable in our movement, for the cause is just and the harm demonstrable.

That said, while moral force is absolutely critical—and for sure it was being wielded in that hunger strike—it similarly does not suffice. In this regard, history teaches us—and we ignore this to our peril—that moral pressure needs to be combined with pressure of a more material kind. Note, in India when Gandhi mobilized against the British colonizers, or to add a second example, when the Black community in Nashville sought to desegregate the commercial centre of their city, they were successful because not only had they moral force, they used and leveraged the power of numbers to obstruct. In this regard, the oppressed inhabitants of India greatly outnumbered the British occupiers, did all the work utilized by the regime, and so by the very act of striking, they were able to bring production to a halt and in the process, undermine the British. By the same token, the Black community in Nashville was sufficiently large that once the overwhelming majority of Black residents (plus allies) had joined the ongoing boycott of stores practicing segregation (more or less all stores in central Nashville) and had engaged in it long enough, the seemingly intransigent merchants of Nashville were, in essence, brought to their knees (for a blow-by-blow of this very extensive campaign, see York, 2000).

To put this simply, the question facing any movement intent on change is leverage. Having large enough numbers that you can stop the work of industry constitutes leverage. Being able to wield sufficient economic power that simply by refusing to purchase you can materially affect companies’ bottom line constitutes leverage. Now generally, the leverage in question is of an economic nature, but there is no obvious reason why this must be so. That noted, the question facing our movement is this: Besides the morality of our cause, exactly what is our leverage? And if we haven’t sufficient leverage now—which I am suggesting is the case—what kind of leverage can we get and how do we acquire more?

The answer to this question is anything but obvious. A course which I teach (Creative Empowerment Work with the Disenfanchized) is instructive in this regard. Year after year, I have engaged students in an exercise—and it invariably ends with the same impasse: The class having been divided into three, each group is tasked with brainstorming a strategic piece of resistance that would stand a reasonable chance of being successful—group one, in regard to homelessness, group two with respect to prisons, group three with regards to psychiatry. While all three encounter difficulties, almost invariably, it is the students in the antipsychiatry group that flounder. Why? Precisely because, try though they might, they cannot locate a point of leverage.

This said, arguably, the single biggest task confronting us as a movement is finding or generating leverage. Boycotting the drugs, clearly, would not get the unity needed and would otherwise backfire. And in the end, even at its best, the only pressure of use to us that would arise from a hunger strike is moral pressure, which short of having a person with the reputation of Gandhi at the helm, is not going to advance the movement far.

I do not have a clear answer to the dilemma posed here, though I can hazard some guesses about direction. Insofar as lack of numbers presents a formidable obstacle to any strategy, let me suggest that coalition politics appears to be called for. Note, if even a modest percentage of the people poorly served by society banded together, we would greatly outnumber the establishment, and as such, arguably, the necessary critical mass could be forged. Though to accomplish this, obviously, ongoing work reaching out and co-visioning would be critical.

Not an easy or a quick answer, I agree, but one with the added advantage of being holistic and truly leading in the direction of a better society.

In summation, there are very serviceable tools at our disposal as antipsychiatry activists—and these include various kinds of persuasion and force. Correspondingly, it is critical that we know them, select and use them skillfully. At the same time, major challenges confront us.  Getting past our conviction that persuasion suffices is one of them—and then there are the material problems, together with issues like power and leverage. Hopefully, this article has shed a little more clarity on all of such aspects. And hopefully, the reflections and dialogue started here can continue.

Indeed, as you go about your work, I invite the reader to continue pondering the distinctions, queries, and challenges raised. In particular, I invite you to ask yourself: What power do we wield? Could we wield? Who historically have our allies been? (e.g., homelessness activists, prison abolitionists, Quakers) And who might new allies be? As an addendum, correspondingly, I leave you with the following consideration:

No campaign is successful without images. And if chosen judiciously, symbols can be of considerable help in generating leverage.

One possibility in this regard is using the violence of ECT as a symbol for psychiatry overall (see Burstow, 2015b). What might be at least as potent—and I think that we would do well to seriously entertain this possibility—is to focus in on the psychiatrization of children. By this I do not mean what happened to current adult survivors when young (important though this dimension is), but the rampant targeting of children going on now (see Whitaker, 2010). Children being placed on Ritalin. Children being labeled ADHD. Children being controlled/subdued chemically in classrooms around the world. Herein lies a powerful symbol. Question: If we leverage it properly, might not the public at large be moved to rally in protection of its children? And were that possible, in the long run, might not such a focus deliver the numbers needed for strategic action?

What is significant here, irrespective of espoused belief, understandably (given that the young in particular are entrusted to our care), people are readily outraged by what happens to children, and more pointedly, what happens or could happen to their child. And significantly, the vast majority of the human population are parents, grandparents, and the like. Now for sure, a frightening number of parents, moreover, the vast majority of ones publicly weighing on these issues are in the opposite camp, have become, in essence, an extension of psychiatry. By the same token, a particularly formidable weapon in psychiatry’s current arsenal are pro-medical model family organizations like NAMI, tutored, funded, and otherwise resourced by the psychopharmaceuticals. This notwithstanding, those of us who organize in this area have witnessed first hand the enormous power that can be unleashed when parents suddenly realize that they have been, as it were, “sold a bill of goods”. As such, arguably, if we put our minds to reaching and leveraging the power of this very considerable constituency (of which we, after all, are a part), for the first time in history, we might be able to create the leverage needed—indeed, potentially, leverage beyond our wildest dreams—a good beginning.

Insofar as this is the case, I would add, the greed of the psychiatric/psychopharmaceutical industry in relentlessly pursuing this erstwhile “untapped market”—the real reason that our children have been targeted—could prove to be its own undoing.

* * * * *

(For this and related articles, see http://bizomadness.blogspot.ca/).


Burstow, B. (2014). The withering of psychiatry: An attrition model for antipsychiatry. In B. Burstow, B. LeFrançois, & S. Diamond (Eds.), Psychiatry disrupted: Theorizing resistance and crafting the revolution (pp. 34-51). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Burstow, B. (2015a). Psychiatry and the business of madness: An ethical and epistemological accounting. Toronto: Palgrave Macmillan.

Burstow, B. (2015b). Protesting ECT. Retrieved on April 3 2015 from .

Mckeown, M., Creswell, M., and Spandler, H. (2014). Deeply engaged relationships. In B. Burstow, B. LeFrançois, & S. Diamond (Eds.), Psychiatry disrupted: Theorizing resistance and crafting the revolution (pp. 145-162). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Minkowitz, T. (2014). Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and liberation from psychiatric oppression. In B. Burstow, B. LeFrançois, & S. Diamond (Eds.), Psychiatry disrupted: Theorizing resistance and crafting the revolution (pp. 129-144). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Rosenthal, R. (1996). Dilemmas of local antihomelessness movements. In J. Baumohl (Ed.). Homelessness in America (pp. 201-232). Phoenix, Arizona: Oryx Press.

Sharp, G. (1973). The politics of nonviolent action. Boston: Porter Sargent Publications.

Whitaker, R. (2010). Anatomy of an Epidemic. New York: Broadway Paperbacks.

York, S. (2000). A force more powerful (PBS). New York: United States Institute of Peace.


  1. I have a list of reasons for psychiatry.

    Number One, Drugs: People need drugs.
    (Voluntary patient) How are they going to get their drugs? They need a psychiatrist to legitimize their use of drugs. The psychiatrist cleans the nastiness up. They are not taking drugs, they are taking medicine. A lie. 11 Billion dollars a year in antidepressants are being sold. And the chemicals don’t work on the physical level. The chemicals work like Dumbo’s feather, but have withdrawal effects that keep people taking them.

    The second reason for psychiatry is a fear of the uncertain future. Abraham Lincoln — ‘The best way to predict your future is to create it’

    The helpers fear the bad future, and are blind to their own actions that create the bad future. They refuse to call drugs as drugs, refuse to call a prison a prison. Your most precious possession, your child, is what you fear the most of losing. You do not want to lose him/her to disease. You do not want to lose control over your child.

    [2) the fact that you cannot control your teenage daughter or son]
    [4) you want your son, daughter, brother, sister, etc. to get chemical dependency treatment] from http://emergency-room-nurse.blogspot.ca/2015/04/we-interrupt-this-blog.html

    You end your writing with the psychiatric/psychopharmaceutical industry and children problem.
    The children? What? Don’t you want to help the children with medicine?

    On the Dr.Phil TV show yesterday “Is Our Son a Kleptomaniac?” , I saw the real life “A Clockwork Orange”(1971). They are going to fix the child with medicine. http://www.drphil.com/shows/show/2390

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    • Hi there. I totally get that we are in disagreement. This article was not about the issues themselves but how to do activism. So it assumes an antipsychiatry analysis and proceeds from there. To find out where I stand on the substantive issues per se, I refer you to my other articles, also to my recently released book Psychiatry and the Business of Madness.
      Re your question around, I do want to help children. But I see the drugs as the among the major problems that they are facing.Again, to find out why I believe this, you would have to look at my other writing.
      –All the best.

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  2. Getting out of the clutches of psychiatry and social services was a highly chaotic, complex, and rugged process for me because of all the double binds produced within these dynamics. Staying on drugs was harming me, getting off was scary, painful, and a complete unknown, with no support from the system; if I wanted services, I had to comply with their power issues and allow them to control me; when I used my voice to grieve about injustice and discrimination, they targeted me in an attempt to publicly humiliate and shame me. Once in, it became a lose/lose situation, no matter where I turned.

    I did win a legal mediation against a corrupt agency. My leverage there was that I did not back down from my truth, regardless of their intimidating and sabotaging actions, and despite the fact that it took me 6 months to even find an attorney who would take a moment to listen to the details of my story. I was treated terribly by a couple of them before I got to one who was respectful and could hear me. I don’t know how I found that strength, because a lot of people were telling me I was being paranoid, and caused my own problems, here. That was not true, I was put in a no win situation, and I stuck to that truth until my attorney could see this, as well, and we proved it.

    After I made my film where 6 of us discuss the problems with psychiatry and the system, from our perspective, more sabotage came my way, and I had no leverage this time–except for one thing. I knew how to align with the absolute truth of my heart, thanks to the brand of healing that I had been doing. That gave me a lot of grounding and clarity, regardless of the chaos and sabotage outside of me, and what the system tried to saddle me with.

    Probably the most important thing I discovered in my healing and ascending from all this horror and nonsense that the system puts one through, is that certainty trumps lack of certainty. I learned about the importance of certainty and aligning with our heart and spirit as a way of feeling our power. When we do, then we have more than enough leverage over those that are in the dark, who operate from a split in consciousness, e.g., psychiatry. There is no certainty, grounding, nor truth in these practices, which is a very weak position. Certainty, grounding, and operating from truth is what trumps the lack thereof, and is, therefore, leverage.

    Ok, so I’m a “heart-and-truth-advocating spiritualist” and perhaps this is not exactly the kind of leverage that this movement has in mind, but it is how I beat the system, so I thought I’d share my experience in this regard. I learned this in my spiritual healing work: one person aligned with the light (unity) is more powerful than the entire world in the dark (duality).

    I think many parents want their kids on medication.

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    • Wonderful point about CERTAINTY, Alex! Combine that with a sense of the culture of bureaucracy and the problem of states going broke (I’m from Illinois), and leverage may come from using the system against itself: tying the legal processes regarding forced meds or commitment or property rights in knots, conducting discovery, dragging it out, costing public employees more of their bosses’ budgets, making them all do even more paperwork (and simultaneously making them worry more about putting anything on paper)… just reveling in the utter inefficiency and confusion of it all, making it an all-out non-violent war of total attrition.

      And all the while, take EVERY opportunity to find that occasional individual who is respectful and will listen. That’s where the moral persuasion and the certainty of individual truth takes a heavy toll against the enemy. They must be in lock-step to maintain their lie. Consider that every slave they lose to the nobility of recalcitrance, and every mind we change, is a real disaster for them. We have forever: they have to retire soon and their pensions are unfunded.

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      • “They must be in lock-step to maintain their lie. Consider that every slave they lose to the nobility of recalcitrance, and every mind we change, is a real disaster for them.”

        Yes, exactly, it is a house of cards, this is certain. One person at time makes all the difference, as it resonates exponentially. Between my legal action, my film, and my big mouth, I’ve convinced A LOT of people that this is all no good. Still at it…

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    • Hi Alex – Appreciation, regards. Listen, something Bonnie probably has knowledge on how to work with from her point of view due to scholarship, more than me: Mysticism in all its variety is its own thing, and has certain validity and certain limitations as an exclusive perspective, udnerstanding of which you would definitely have the inside track on. Meanwhile, the scientific point of view–and much less the scientistic one (that no questions need asked of our viewpoints themselves from proving scientific theories true)–works out only to provide another alternative viewpoint, not the be all and end all readily championed…. I feel sure you can believe as much for good reasons, but have also seen the point demonstrated by rational, deductive argument. So Bonnie in mentioning this limitation to the value of common sense, has to have considered the evolutionary project of updating it, besides its accomodations of our mystical and scientific traditions, it has to respond to philosophy, which in turn we can really only approach after tiring ourselves out at the limits of common sense. But it’s a daunting mess for novices beginners, and no perfect jumping off place for anyone can be predetermined in any branch of philosophy, although consensus about the top four or five minds in history is fairly easy to achieve. I thought would pay to mention that Thomas Szasz held that his reading of Susan Langer’s Philosophy in a Brand New Key changed his life forever (along with two other books, one by the sociolgist G. H. Mead, perhaps on social games, and one by Ludwig von Mises, I believe, on freedom). The work of Susan Langer’s that I’ve looked over, and her development of it throughout her career, seems to invite the holistic perspective; takes evolution into account; employ ordinary language: and appears compatible to the feel of the inclusive approach to marked differences in worldviews. Just sharing the thought…

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      • I guess after a certain point of resolving these issues, reality drifts into a new landscape.

        For me, more than anything, healing from what felt to me like ‘mental illness’ (which is how I interpret my own story) meant identifying and shifting sabotaging/self-sabotaging thoughts and actions. Once I got that straight, my entire world shifted, and I found out just how creative we humans really are.

        However one discovers their true power and whatever that particular process of discovery is for anyone concerned, I would like to see everyone on the planet own their intrinsic power, on their own terms.

        However, some seem to prefer sabotage over creation, which is not compatible with my reality. So I guess we have parallel realities going on here. Fascinating.

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts, T-V.

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        • Hi Alex, Late follow-up. Down to the metal, I get you on the approach you have mastered. In point of fact, your explanations generally resonate with me. My language reflects certain cognitive deficits and what I do about them which is read very abstract literature, although the reason is that following someone else’s ideas is easier than generating sequences of my own for communicating later…. So, I really mean it that the scientific viewpoint is too much with us, the touchstone of common sense vital, and the philosophical level necessary for increasing understanding, with mysticism tending to its own needs, and that my knowledge of how to mediate between them is at novice level. I think that from what you have said so far, that our differences lie in the pleasant land of debating how best to determine the effective way to criticize views that are inconsistent or somehow “unconscious” of their problematic embrace of favorite biases. Beyond that, although you talk spiritually, the step out to the analytic discussion of the same facts is easy for me to make. So like with Dr. Tim Evans, I’d say you get the fact/value distinction meticulously understood in regard to mind and behavior and personhood, at least compared to most. Talk to you later.

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          • I appreciate your expressing this, Travailler-vouz, and for clarifying your process, that really enriches my understanding.

            When it comes to bridging the gaps in language and perspectives between cultures and sub-cultures, I think we are all scrambling novices here. I believe this is where we can all grow together. I don’t speak about spiritual issues in relation to health and wellness as exclusive, although I do feel that it plays way more an important role than what many can acknowledge at present. There’s nothing to criticize here, we all make our discoveries about life as we go along. I happened to learn what I learned about all this after exhausting all academic, research/science-oriented, and psychology-oriented disciplines and perspectives, all of which led me to a disastrous dead end, as many on here describe. I was so desperate to heal and get on with my life, I would leave no stone un-turned.

            And I was sooo compliant and followed directions precisely, doctors orders. I grew up in that world, heavily indoctrinated. My dad was a physician and taught med school, my brother is a dept head at Stanford. I was surrounded by science and academia, while myself, wanting to pursue the arts, which is my life now, as a musician and filmmaker.

            I don’t eschew the worlds of science and academia, per se, I wouldn’t deny the value of these institutions; but they are not at all solving the problems of humanity, in fact, these worlds have led us down a dark path, for whatever reason.

            Talking about spirituality and energy is to add a much needed component, where I feel solutions and answers become clear. I don’t know what else to say about that. I only wish I were better at communicating across cultures, as well.

            Thanks for letting me know that you do hear me! I will work more on my communicating-across-the-cultures skills.

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        • Well, on that note, Alex, let me suggest some international crossing of cultures–since the American Academy is the total snoozer of the century, all over again, of course. Google up Oxford Buddhism neuorscience. You’ll get a conference that tends to center on the right idiom and conception for understanding how these two Disciplines can approach the Self. You need to be good with accents, but the information is tres fab. The videos start with some Buddhist drumming, and the conference organizer has a book out called The Music of Life–just several years old, all of this, I vaguely recall. The point is, you see what goes wrong and what needs made right in the whole of neuroscience with correlations discerned in problem areas of Buddhist doctrines. Nothing leaves aside what attaches for all of us to the critical assessment of the research model for behavioral healthcare and disingenuous lack of attention to problems in living–so defined. But the practical application for that has to be found within the implicit understanding of what the lay community and various types of clients and patients have to gain from such a convocation of learned minds as this, emanating as it does from the multi-disciplinary approach at this high inside level of things. You have to be pretty content with heavy European accents, as I said, and up for the erudition; and need lots of efficiency from your browser and CPU, too. But it is the pure feed on tomorrow, today. Hope you think of something if you watch it. Best wishes.

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        • Alex – I know my time on this thread is getting too far along, but had to apologize or at least explain. In case you thought my completely academic recommendation was rather inconrguent with your preferences…that was me in the grip of my usual reaction to anyone American saying that Politics and Culture (which is where science and criticism both are for me), then I think I know who dampened their interests: us. Our media, our university system, our bureaucracies–all working full-time at it. Meanwhile, I was believing just the drumming sequence was exciting, and that maybe one lecturer stuck pretty closely to just the Buddhist self/no-self ideas. Anyway…it’s my way of coping that concerns me foremost. But fyi, what you said about no sabotaging yourself, and how you went at it is not hard for me to see as parallel to how Sartre came around to explain how to approach pure reflection, having explained how bogus guiltification is and how it dominates “impure reflection” on your mental states. That’s the compatibility that came to my attention for something natural and good in your program that generally corresponds to lots of integrated analysis about how to be authentic. Ciao–

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          • Its all good. T-V, I appreciate the recommendation.

            In the end, for me, it’s just about being–my way of being, and anyone else’s. If my way of being is not compatible with another’s, there are choices to be made, based on preferences, no right or wrong. Once can work with the differences or walk in opposite directions. Either way can be sound, but it’s a matter of making a choice.

            Really, I’m pretty much done with these issues but since they were such a part of my life, I like to check in and see how the transformation is coming along, from the inside. After all, I’m still part of the world, and these systems are bringing down that world, so I do have something at stake, just not so directly any longer, I’ve taken care of that myself, in my own life.

            I perceive this all from the outside now, since the system is finally out of my system. It’s about music and art for me now, that’s my own personal Renaissance. That’s the transformation for which I like to set an example–soul-nourishing. That is the highest value I place on my healing, and it’s how I succeeded at being an activist: it’s an art.

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        • That’s taking it all the way, Alex. From getting shut out, shut in, and shat upon, beaten down and pushed to the margins, to not wanting to let anyone suffer the same, to walking off and striving ahead, to unfolding your own loving and fighting spirit and manning the ramparts. My latest acquisition for the arts includes the drift of prehistory (while we still have that subdiscipline), by recently deceased Australian philosopher Dennis (sp.?) Dutton. Of course, I always refer back to poetics, drama and verse if considering art, even pure music. My reading in Sartre studies just included an interview with him (beyond one just before that dealt his association with Cooper and Laing) on how his problem as a well self-trained pianist was to pass from the note to the sound, since he had got himself hooked on form, on tone, on the classiest purity of it. But he claimed to listen to everything. Rage Against the Machine? He might have missed that.

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  3. those of us who organize in this area have witnessed first hand the enormous power that can be unleashed when parents suddenly realize that they have been, as it were, “sold a bill of goods”

    I believe you are absolutely right on this. I believe that most, if not almost all, parents are desperate for their children to become well,

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  4. “Though to accomplish this, obviously, ongoing work reaching out and co-visioning would be critical.”

    I think the ” co-visioning” aspect is key. And in order to do that you need a great deal of communication with your potential allies.

    I am an adult, using medication for Adhd by choice. I share many of your critical views on psychiatry and enjoy reading here, as part of my continuing consideration of my own concerns.

    Sometimes, though, I feel as though I am observing an academic pissing contest, with each side plotting to co-opt for their cause the patients/clients/service users/survivors or whatever we are being called this week.

    Communication and listening and respect will be key, I think, if you want to avoid alienating the people you are trying to support. Traditional psychiatry has been “done” to us for generations. The thought of a new movement “doing antipsychiatry” to us, doesn’t sound all that appealing.

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  5. Thank you Bonnie. This is THE best article that I have read on Mad in America thus far. Finally, clear thinking combined with articulate writing and a prudent call to action. Thank you.

    Persuasion is powerful, and it is a necessary starting point. Persuasion does not need to rely primarily on compassion, although it will be necessary to win the hearts of people by love. Truth is persuasive to both the heart and the mind, particularly when it is articulated clearly and succinctly out of concern for the common good.

    This ties into your discussion of moral force. Love and truth are the most powerful forces for good in the universe, and both are indispensable supports to liberty. The psychiatric survivors movement falls neatly in line with the abolition of slavery under Lincoln and the Civil Rights movement under King. I am optimistic that in the long run, truth will win out. As King was fond of saying “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

    Regarding leverage and images, those are also excellent points. The leverage and images you mentioned are good and sustainable.

    I realize that not everyone involved in the psychiatric survivors movement considers himself or herself to be religious, but it is clear that, regardless of one’s particular framework of belief, there needs to be a rallying cry behind the banner of liberty. Psychiatry and the psychopharmaceutical industrial complex are, as Szasz explained, a direct threat to liberty and freedom of conscience. They are also threats to responsibility. There were undeniable religious supports to the American Revolution, the abolition of slavery, and the Civil Rights movement, but they were causes that everyone could embrace, regardless of background, based upon the basic human inclination toward life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    The revolution has begun. Slay the dragon of psychiatry.

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  6. Good points, Bonnie, and you’re very right about our need for leverage. Thing is, I’ve seen people who would lay leverage aside, or even argue against it. I’ve seen c/s/x then arguing for their own disempowerment, for their own oppression, whether subconsciously or intentionally. This leaves me, given such a situation, looking for people who are not so religiously attached to psychiatry. Explaining that disempowerment is not the best aim in the world to strive for becomes very problematic. Awkward, in fact. It’s not a reasoned argument I’m facing. It’s a religion. Nonetheless, very true about leverage. Nobody can accomplish anything without a little leverage, and without it, progress is more than slow, it is non-existent.

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  7. I was hoping you would have a simple solution, Bonnie, lol…sigh.

    As you know, I am working right now on the issue of shock. I think it is a way to get the public to see the true nature of psychiatry, and it is also something we can get our very fragmented movement to agree on.

    But I think you are right that the issue that would really resonate with the public is the psychiatric abuse of children. I think if we did this, it would make a lot of people, especially of course parents, rally to our cause.

    Unfortunately, it has been very hard to get people in our movement to see this. When four-year-old Rebecca Riley died eight or ten years ago of massive doses of psychiatric drugs, her tragedy got national media coverage, which our issues rarely do.

    When Justine Pelletier was taken from her parents by psychiatrists because they refused to have her “treated” for her “mental illness,” literally tens of thousands of people came to her aid.

    But in both cases, which both happened in the same city, our psych survivor movement just sat there, saying and doing nothing. It seems there was no appreciation of how important it was that a child was being abused by psychiatry, and that it was being noticed by the media.

    I played a small role in fighting for Justina, and I came to Boston several times to try to help. I was appalled by the disinterest shown by our own people. We could have focused the discussion of Justina on the issue of psychiatry, instead of the “disagreement among doctors” explanation by the media. It wasn’t a disagreement among doctors. It was a naked power grab by psychiatry, which if our movement had paid attention could have been brought to the attention of millions of parents. We could have reached many of these parents and formed coalitions with them.

    I totally agree with you about coalitions being a means to expand the influence of our movement, and what more logical, and powerful, coalition than with parents? Recently, I have had the chance to work a little with parents who have come to realize that psychiatry was harming their kids, not helping them. They are wonderful allies, very respectful of us survivors, because they have seen for themselves that the propaganda of psychiatry is lies.

    I hope you write more about this issue. I think the issue of psychiatric abuse of children can be very powerful, but it is very hard to get our people to see this. In general, it is very hard to get our people to act in a strategic way. And since our movement is not large, we have to think hard about how to use our limited resources.

    Keep up your good work, Bonnie!

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    • Ted,

      I believe the problem isn’t apathy…I believe it is fear. You and I know well the power of stigma. Psych survivors often have a lot at stake, including job loss, etc for being outed as a former psych patient so a concerted approach to reform has to include a way for people to work fairly safely behind the front lines. If people think they will be discovered- and possibly even forced back into psychiatry in order to keep job/family- then it will be difficult to recruit help.

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  8. One real challenge we face is our society’s deification of doctors as the ultimate arbiters of scientific truth. Even very reasonable and rational people still have this bias, and letting people know that doctors not only don’t always get it right, but are downright corrupt, is something that many folks are unable to tolerate emotionally. It undermines some folks’ basic beliefs in “progress” and the basic goodness of our modern social system. Many of our posters and bloggers (Laura Delano is a great example) describe being completely mesmerized and taken in by the idea that Modern Medical Science had an answer for their woes.

    I’m interested in how folks think this can be approached. It is a big part of our conundrum, because attacking Psychiatry means attacking Medicine, which means attacking The Holy Order of Scientific and Technological Progress, which means attacking the core values of Western Civilization! If Scientists don’t have all the answers, where does that leave us? I think this unspoken question pushes many who might join us to the sidelines of this fight, even when they are sympathetic with our cause.

    —- Steve

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  9. I think there are two problems:
    1 building a movement. MiA has some function here, but it also needs newsletters, projects people can join in with and real support – not the kind offered by most of psychiaty
    2 a target and a strategy that is likely to achieve something. Without that people tend to fall away.

    All of this is well worth debating though and something I am passionatly interested in. So thanks for the article.

    I am thinking of offering a workshop on anti-psychiatry at one of the UK’s Anarchist Bookfairs by the way. I found Anarchists and anti-corporate campaigners sympathetic.

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  10. Great article; thank you for your community service! I believe that science is our best argument against psychiatry; real science proves that mental distress is a social problem rather than a medical problem. Psychiatry dominates the mental health industry based on their claim of biology but true (basic) neurobiology proves that mental distress is emotional distress from distressful experiences.

    Please consider the real science of mental distress at NaturalPsychology.org; any criticism of its science would be greatly appreciated.

    Best wishes, Steve

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  11. Hi Bonnie,

    love the article. I was wondering how you feel about mocking these court jesters (psychiatry) and the thieves of the public purse (Big Pharma) who are exploiting the popularity of the jester with the King?

    I am thinking of James Scotts Weapons of the Weak and how powerful a weapon humour can be. It is a tool that can be used to shift power very rapidly, anbd can bring people onside very quickly. See for example the Char;lie Hebdo publication, and the response of the Muslim community.


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    • I think that is a good point, though not easy to carry out. Besides the difficulty of getting an audience, our movement itself, at least a lot of the people in it, doesn’t seem to grasp how ridiculous the claims of psychiatry are. Before we can convince others of this, we have to perceive it ourselves. When I have pointed out what nonsense much of the psychiatric propaganda is, I have been met by something like, no, no, no, it’s serious because everyone believes it. This is just a manifestation of folks in our movement not being able to think strategically.

      A good example of how humor can be used, though, is the recent program about drug company propaganda by the comedian John Oliver. One line just really cracked me up: “Ask your doctor if taking bribes from drug companies is right for you.”

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      • I think through mockery exposing the absurdity of current psychiatric practice a very good method of educating the public. Out of this education are bound to come ‘ah ha moments’. When it comes to people in the mental health profession, on the other hand, as they are paid well for their ignorance, banging a drum usually results in zilch insight, and harder measures are, of necessity, called for. This is equally true of the people they serve, families, law enforcement, and politicians, for instance. This is to say that parody is one means of effecting change among many but, because of the lack of gravity involved with any jest, it might not be considered in the same light as, say, heavy artillery. Just what heavy artillery might amount to I leave to the imagination. Perhaps legislative and legal efforts, perhaps extra-legal or non-violent civil disobedience efforts. When we are ready for them, of course. I was, of course, referring to non-violent heavy artillery. Psychiatry and its allies are the ones, after all, with the inane labels (not to be confused with “insane”), psychiatric prisons, abusive goons, restraining straps, scalpels, brain-numbing drugs, and shock machines.

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  12. I was thinking about potential allies: the research on the social cuases of mental distress is clear, family violence, sexual assault, racism, homophobia and poverty are all linked to mental distress. At the moment people who are severely distressed and get psychiatric labels get treatment as normal which is damaging and ignores the problems that cuased the distress. Therefore potential allies come from groups that address these issues.

    Survivors of Child sexual assault are a powerful movement in the UK now. There are services for women who have experienced family violence. Black and ethnic minorities organise and fight racism. Are not these groups our potential allies?

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    • I would think that yes, John, all of these groups are potential allies. That said, cultivating the allies is no easy matter, for you have to take on causes for which they are fighting just as you are asking them to take on the causes central to our movement. It would mean a whole lot of people getting involved with a wide range of politics–something that we have yet to do.

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  13. Great article. I really don’t know.

    It’s so frustrating that no one seems to grasp these issues of basic freedom anymore. Even my own family just don’t seem to get it.

    We’ll be there watching the news, oh and there’s a report about how a mother was getting her welfare benefits cut if she didn’t agree to vaccinate her child.

    I’m not against vaccines, i’m not saying they don’t work or they all cause autism but how does anyone see that the government being able to force injections on people as a great idea ? The parent should be making an informed decision and it’s incredibly low to say you can’t refuse a vaccines on religious grounds, because you are poor !

    I honestly don’t really know anymore, I feel like i’m just living in crazy land filled with crazy people and there’s nothing I can do about it because i’m just outnumbered.

    It’s terrible really and even i’m tempted to play victim to get my rewards. I don’t work, i’d love to be but I can’t really do much to remedy things without using this crap as an excuse.

    bah ! I don’t really know what to do besides try to stay reasonably healthy and be honest in my disdain for psychiatry. mad world.

    I just don’t think it’s the time for leverage. We can’t convince enough people for capitalism to work and for some reason the left wing has become psychotically authoritarian.

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  14. Yes StDoP and all, why is there not. I was thinking along the same lines . A friend of mine back in high school used to say ” Great minds travel in similar patterns.” Any way I was thinking of a movie idea or a play titled maybe The Last Psychiatrist about some mad movement people capturing the last leading psychiatrist hiding in a remote area maybe the Fiji islands trying to revive psychiatry among a small group of natives . Then sneaking him back to the USA to put him on trial for crimes against humanity. On trial in a bullet proof glass booth and questioned like Eichmann . Maybe even call it The Banality of Psychiatry (Evil).The movie would be serious but also wit great comedy like in that sense “Everything will be Illuminated”. The script for a movie or play could maybe be written open source by the people.

    I’m not real computer literate but what if there was an open source sight with a moderator for the purpose of getting idea’s to the population on how to completely avoid psychiatry while we are fighting to abolish it ?

    After seeing the movie The Imitation Game about the Enigma decoding machine during World War II one line pertains to us . It was “It’s not the Germans who are the enemy it’s time.” For us too isn’t time also the enemy in the sense of the mounting numbers of casualties. We need brilliant solutions and as long as we are probably being observed anyway why not invite the population to help us on an open source website like the one that built the Lennox operating system with imput from the people from everywhere ?
    Just some idea’s , Fred

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    • After reading the plot for The Last Psychiatrist Fred I keep getting an image of Judy Garland and Toto arriving in the Land of Oz. “Look Toto, a pharmaceutical company”. It then cuts to Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in Apocalypse Now whispering the words “the horror, the horror” lol

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    • By all means. We need creativity. The Last Psychiatrist sounds like a great flick. There are a lot of movies that have already been made, but none that has really awakened the public to what is happening (or at least none that have become widely viewed and popular). There are great documentaries, and books… but until we get the truth into the mainstream for public consideration, it will be rough going at the grassroots level.

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  15. Boans, I should thank Bonnie for a great article. Maybe I got carried away.

    It could probably be a great remake with the wicked witches being pharmaceutical execs and their backers and lackey psychiatrists and the wizard a renegade psychiatrist that threw it overboard.With Dorothy & company trying to escape the psychogulog and make it home free.

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  16. Bonnie and all, Is it correct to say that the psychogulog’s strategy is to shock,awe, and overwhelm . The Art of War says to attack the enemy’s strategy , is best if possible . Most people don’t even know they are being attacked because its disguised and propagandized as some kind of beneficial health care .The casualties are written off cause they were not compliant to the benevolent help so don’t you be non compliant or else . How to do a mass education effort ? Or what else to waken the people ? What about Code Pink type Actions ?

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    • I’ve remade Wizard of Oz now Fred. Songs like “Follow the Yellow Pill Road’ and “Somewhere over the Bell Curve” lol

      Seriously though, Sun Tzu would suggest attacking strategy, though in this instance it would be difficult. The production of good research would fall into what he termed “claculations” or “estimates”. Hagakure says that it is possible to sit around forever and not act. Sometimes it is necessary knowing that one is going to die, to run in and start cutting at a thousand enemy. You will, in large part achieve your task. But the key is to ACT.

      On movies, I wonder if a remake of “The life of David Gale” might give some ideas on dedicated activism?

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      • http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/8296954/How-One-Flew-Over-the-Cuckoos-Nest-changed-psychiatry.html

        Ideas for a film seem easy but getting a blockbuster made , I don’t know how to do it. If after Cuckoos Nest was made it needed to be followed up by more blockbusters ,about 3 a year.

        A film could be made about how a big pharma laboratory invents neuroleptics, operates and looks inside, what their philosophy is ,How they get financed . Since they wouldn’t let anyone in to see and ask questions , the whole movie could be be made into a Dr Frankenstein type laboratory with assistants and all into a potential blockbuster comedy that helps expose the pharma cartel .

        Also I’ve always admired the way code pink got to strategic events and by surprise unveiled banners with their message plus got onto the national media.

        Also the way Carlos and another Olympian by way of surprise unveiled there black gloved fists in a salute to their cause during the medal presentation while the national anthem was playing during the Olympics as part of the civil rights struggle some years back.

        If all things are talked about on the internet doesn’t it interfere with strategic actions ( civil disobedience actions) that need some level of surprise to succeed ?

        What if there were 6 psychiatrists that threw it overboard meaning decided for ethical reasons they could be psychiatrists no longer and maybe a couple psychiatric nurses also throwing there job completely overboard and 6 psych survivors some therapists and social workers too ,with them all with clear statement and the goal to stop the psychiatric drugging and shocking of children, toddlers and babies. Chaining themselves to the White House gate or somewhere just as important ,demanding at least form the authorities to free the youngest asap. In real life by surprise preferably , or in a movie blockbuster. Are there any psychiatrists that have actually thrown psychiatry totally overboard ?

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  17. Act, yes. It occurs to me that, much as I agree with Bonnie about strategy, we can’t build alliances until we have a movement of our own to connect with other movements. We are at a point now where we have almost no activism at all. I think anything that gets people to stop talking and start acting is a great leap forward.

    That is one thing we are addressing with the coordinated demos on May 16.

    The other thing that is holding us back, and is very related, is the incredible nastiness we express to one another in the psych survivors movement. I ask myself every time I try to do something why I am letting myself get into this swamp. Sometimes I feel as if I have gone back to my childhood in Rockland State Hospital, where I would be physically and emotionally assaulted all day long sometimes.

    There are tens of millions of people in the US who have been inmates of psychiatric institutions. They keep their psych histories secret, since anyone who admits to it is at risk of losing jobs, being rejected by friends and lovers, all those things. These are people who could make a great contribution to this cause. But you really would have to be crazy to join this movement the way it is now.

    This happens to a lesser degree in other movements and the general left as well. But our movement is the WORST.

    I don’t know the solution to this, but I know that as long as working in this movement means being attacked constantly, no one is going to join us. If we don’t address this soon, I think our movement will stop existing.

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    • I know what you mean, Ted, about the difficulty of being attached in the movement–a problem faced in every movement. Yes, of course, we need to work at treating each other well. In the final analysis, a society in which everyone is treated with kindness and respect, is surely part of the change we are seeking–and we can never get there by putting each other down. And in that regard, our relations with one another are a vital part of our activist work. For your personally, whenever someone is nasty to you, do remember, there are many of us here who greatly value and respect the very important work that you do.

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    • Ted – I’m not sure this will register with you about conflicts…but as an adult in hospitals, the phenomenon of conflict (between patients) always had the dimension that involved shared disempowerment, immediately. So while on the one hand some attitudes seemed to remain amenable to reconciliation because they saw the commonality, others were resistant to the point of vanquishing all subsequent kindnesses after any slight disagreement (“you are all crazy for not believing the doctors like me” often seemed the theme underlying the person isolating themselves “due to overt conflicts”). Out here it also seems that we shouldn’t catastrophize the headaches we make for each other, but should look to the mediating factors still more thoroughly to decided how capitulatory attitudes and ambiguous declarations of anti-psyhciatry are making communication difficult. Of course, since you emphasize this I’ll have gotten sensitive to it all myself now…. But who could remain unaware of it? At bottom, though, better validation here and with persistent supporters of our cause coming from all walks, more direct impact of compliments and positive suggestions than any professional situation afforded me, so far. More ideas, too. The encouragement I feel in seeing patient building of commitment and determination according to scholarship, keeps the inroads for better coming together in view, also, as any time we create touchstones in our basic research…likemindedness gets its footing: Szasz, Bourse, Foucault, and more quotable efforts, especially. Thanks for prompting the attention to spats and curses and whatnot…

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    • Regarding “I don’t know the solution to this (nastiness)”.

      First you have to understand the cause. What does psychiatry do to their patient? They make them obey orders.

      Humans in truth, are animals. Intelligent apes, we eat , breath, sleep and die just like all the other animals on the planet.

      I hope you know of Don Weitz’s three F’s. Fear , fraud and force.http://www.antipsychiatry.org/weitz2.htm
      What does an animal do when it loses its fear? It gets a chance to express anger.

      The person needs to learn to modulate on their own, ( previously controlled by drugs), their level of anger.

      If they are on psych drugs, they are not angry.

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      • Inane labels, psychiatric prisons, abusive goons, restraining straps, scalpels, brain-numbing drugs, and shock machines…What did I leave out? Oh yeah, under all of the above, brain-washing techniques. If compliance is a matter of following a cult, the cult of psychiatry, maybe what we need is our own brand of deprogramming.

        Deprogrammers have a method, and perhaps it would be instructive for us to look at that method.

        Sylvia Buford, an associate of Ted Patrick who has assisted him on many deprogrammings, described five stages of deprogramming:

        1. Discredit the figure of authority: the cult leader
        2. Present contradictions (ideology versus reality): “How can he preach love when he exploits people?” is an example.
        3. The breaking point: When a subject begins to listen to the deprogrammer; when reality begins to take precedence over ideology.
        4. Self-expression: When the subject begins to open up and voice gripes against the cult.
        5. Identification and transference: when the subject begins to identify with the deprogrammers, starts to think of him- or herself as an opponent of the cult rather than a member of it.


        We are fighting the ways in which the state would break human beings down into less than human beings. As such, I don’t think we would have so very far to go before we would be able to reach the human being within the psychiatry cult follower. How many human beings, really and truly, after all, want to be treated as if they are less than human? All we have to do is reach the human being.

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    • As I said above, it’s the fear- if I were to expose myself as a survivor I would risk everything I have worked hard to achieve thus far.

      I recall the not too distant past where people I knew actually crossed the street to avoid passing me on the sidewalk…all from a one week stay in a psych ward. I do not want to relive that humiliation.

      then there was the sneering psychiatrists who said, “You’ll be back”

      There’s a lot to fear.

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  18. I think some good old fashioned self-reflection would help here:

    “The other thing that is holding us back, and is very related, is the incredible nastiness we express to one another in the psych survivors movement.”

    And; we are all doing the best we can with the resources available to us. Some kindness and humility would go a long way. When I, personally, feel someone is trying to throw their weight around, I run for cover. It feels too familiar.

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  19. What I see is a growing movement: Robert Whittiker wrote his books and assidiously toured, talked and touted them and he set up this website. He then set up a film festival. The Soteria Network is slowly growing. There is growing interest in Open Dialogue with a trail project startin in the UK soon. The Hearing Voices Network is slowly growing internationally. There were two Bonkers Fests in London several years ago – rather large art events and street festivals organised by nutters. The critical psychiatry network is of growing influence. There is a drug free and diangosis free child and adolescent clinic in the UK, called an OO clinic (Outcomes Orientated) that is getting some national interest in the UK mental health scene. There are two groups I know of in London that actively critique psychiatry, Friends of East End Loonies and Speak Out Agaisnt Psychiatry. There is that conference in London that is brining a lot of these people, the survivors and service users, together.

    There are other inititives I am only vaugely aware of. Some of them, such as Time to Change, are complicit with psychiatry and I feel slightly ashamed and sometime appalled by them.

    Then there a few inititives to actively campaign such as the International ECT day of action.

    There was an article on this website a while ago where someone suggested people take up online activism, re-writing wikkidpaedia articles for example or udermining social media posts and blogs by pro-psychaitry advocates.

    So I am left wondering if it is time to concentrate on movement building rather than campaign strategy until strength and confidence is built up more?

    I also wonder about whether setting up alternatives to psychiatry under anti-psychatiatry names would be a good strategy? The Hearing Voices Network is an alternative but it does not challenge psychaitry, although it is hosting this conference to bring together dissident voices together in London. So how about a counselling service, santuruary, making sense of psychiatry drugs and practical help to withdraw services, and family work provided by groups that explicitly say they are doing it because psychiatry causes more harm than good?

    It is going to be a long struggle, we need to sustain ourselves, and alternatives to psychiatry are always popular because psychiatry is such nonsense.

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    • There was an article on this website a while ago where someone suggested people take up online activism, re-writing wikkidpaedia articles for example or udermining social media posts and blogs by pro-psychaitry advocates.

      While I sometimes cringe at the notion of “online activism” as somewhat of a contradiction (if one is being active what’s with spending all one’s time on a computer?), I think that this is an important project that a coordinated network of anti-psych educational activists could effectively engage in. But first we would need a working set of agreed-upon positions, otherwise Wikipedia would be as contradictory and confusing as some of these discussion threads; this is one way a centralized network could enhance the work of all activists.

      Again, such matters could be fleshed out in the Organizing for Social Change forum if enough informed anti-psych adherents (and those who wish to become such) decide to take part.

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  20. Bonnie

    This was great post; very thought provoking with some important strategic insights about our movement. I agree with the importance of searching for leverage. I also agree that the drugging of children and Electro-shock are psychiatry’s weak points and should be highlighted targets of our struggle.

    In my previous blog titled “What is Biological Psychiatry, Part 2: Anatomy of Power and Control” I made the following statement:
    ” Today’s Biological Psychiatry has become such an essential part of the economic and political fabric holding together our present day society, including its ability and need to maintain control over the more volatile sections of the population, that its future existence may be totally interdependent on the rise and fall of the entire system itself.”

    The U.S economy needs the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry needs psychiatry. The importance of social control of the more volatile sections of the population such as the poor, racial minorities, women, prisoners, and other outcasts and non-conformists is of great importance to a system with such extreme class disparities that are only widening as we speak.

    For this reason this system most definitely needs psychiatry (with its drugging and labeling) to help perform this vital role of social control. All these institutional alliances of oppression grow out of their mutual interdependence and need for survival.

    Very similar to the struggle against racial oppression, women’s oppression, and the destruction of the environment, it is clear to me that the struggle against psychiatric abuse cannot be ultimately won within a profit based capitalist system.

    Racial and sexual inequalities are endemic to the system itself and intrinsically a part of it’s history of imperialist growth and expansion. The same could be said for the capitalist economy and its leaders need to have no barriers or impediments for its ability to rape the environment while following the innate expand or die economics that are part of the internal laws of capita growth. The CEO’s of the major corporations only care about maximizing profit and cannot see (and don’t choose to look) beyond two to three years in the future.

    Our ability to dramatically grow this movement (against psychiatry and the therapeutic state) may ultimately depend on our ability to develop alliances and common ground with these other movements mentioned above. These other movements actually share similar origins in the nature of their oppression and how their struggle needs to grow. The struggle against Biological Psychiatry and the entire mental health system could potentially become as historically significant as these other movements, as well as, act as a unifying catalyst drawing together many diverse sections of the basic masses with very common life experiences. Focusing narrowly on reforms or a legislative agenda will lead only to political dead ends.


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    • what you write here reminds me of the Beat writeres, specifically Allen Ginsberg who was in a psychiatric hospital, a gay man who was an outcast but who venerated his outcast status, his mother was incerated in a psychiatric hospital and lobotomised. She was an imigrant, possibly a regugee, and a communist. His father was aslo an imigrant, possibly a refugee, and a socialist. His parents had huge rows!

      Ginsberg bought all these things together in his poetry, in his life and sometimes in his politics.

      There is not much anti-psychiatry campaigning that brings diverse struggles together. It should be possible but it doesn’t happen. I was at a talk on psychiatry and such like at the anarchist bookfair in London last year and psychiatry was hardly challenged, never mind bringing struggles together. But if someone did and went to the right audience I think they would be appreciated.

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    • I agree with you of course, Richard. The question is here then that to link up with each of these movements, with the possible exception of feminism (which has always had links with the movement) the onus is on us, for we have the most to gain and the other movements, in the short run anyway, the most to lose. And the dedicated energy to making this alliances is something that we have never devoted energy to.

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    • Our ability to dramatically grow this movement (against psychiatry and the therapeutic state) may ultimately depend on our ability to develop alliances and common ground with these other movements mentioned above.

      There’s no “may” about it; in the end there is only one movement, the movement of those who cherish life to eliminate a system based on the exploitation and sale of all life. Those who think that there can be an anti-psych movement separate from the larger movement are sadly mistaken, as are those who believe that psychiatry and social justice can coexist.

      Very similar to the struggle against racial oppression, women’s oppression, and the destruction of the environment, it is clear to me that the struggle against psychiatric abuse cannot be ultimately won within a profit based capitalist system.

      Hmm. Not sure about that, but when psychiatry is defeated the collapse of capitalism won’t be far behind. That doesn’t mean that everything will be ok, however; unless people are educated and prepared the void could be filled by straight-up fascism.

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  21. Just want to remind anti-psych people who are interested in ongoing discussions about creating an effective anti-psychiatry movement that you are are encouraged to join the fray and visit the Organizing for Social Change forum.


    “There are two ways we can go: 1) Show that psychiatry is not legitimate medicine; 2) critique both psychiatry and medicine. I do both, while especially emphasizing the first.”

    Agreed. Psychiatry and corporate medicine (e.g. mandatory vaccines) constitute the current totalitarianism of the left, i.e. attempts to replace religion with “science.” Until they are recognized as such there will be no revolution, as we will be effectively holding ourselves back from transformative change by way of our own self-imposed parameters.

    Psychiatry is not medicine, period. But in many ways modern medicine is not legitimate medicine either, simply a means of pushing pharmaceuticals and other profit-based scams.

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  22. While I respect and admire your commitment, I don’t think persuasion is an option. While politicians and psychiatrists have malicious or selfish reasons for the way they treat us, the general public just doesn’t see us. They are not compassionate because they have been distanced so effectively that they don’t see us as people in the normal sense. It doesn’t help that we haven’t been willing to speak for ourselves, and the news media Has happily profited from their all shooters must be mentally ill media. That’s what they see., and they’re happy being lied to. we have got to start putting a real face on mental illness, and we’re going to have to start clearly objecting when they lie or misrepresent the mentally Ill.

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  23. Sorry. I needed a general term describing people that lack the same rights and privileges as those deemed sane, white, male, educated, christian, and heterosexual. I went with mentally ill. I mean the claims being made by politicians and doctors. The version of mental illness that they sell on the news and in hollywood horror.

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  24. Michael Weinberg As the principal organizer and a participant in the MindFreedom sponsored Fast for Freedom, I find your work both useful for the movement and of a nature rarely found within it. Here are a few of my thoughts. 1) It is true that a number of the participants involved in the hunger strike did believe that its goal was to open space for new and innovative “treatment” choices beyond that found in the medical model. When I conceived the idea, however, and what I continually emphasized throughout the strike (see, for instance, Where’s the Evidence? A Challenge to Psychiatric Authority) was the goal of placing psychiatry on the defensive in a manner which gave its leadership neither room to maneuver nor opportunity to disparage the participants. Both the scientific panel and the hunger strikers were chosen carefully and even in a particular order (for example, Loren Mosher – then a member of MinFreedom’s board- and Mary Boyle were approached first). 2) I never intended for the hunger strike to be an end in itself. No single action will ever produce significant change in any powerful system such as biological psychiatry. What is required for success is persistent and imaginative pressure. Strategies and tactics relevant to particular conflicts with specific opponents must be tailor made with respect to a variety of factors and, as the late, great Saul Alinsky admonished, should ideally be geared to and within the experiences of the oppressed group and outside the experience of their opponents. I was unable to get board approval for a complex and more risky follow-up idea, and no other viable ideas were advanced by other MindFreedom members. This is not to criticize too harshly the board and membership. As you point out very well, strategy and tactics for our purposes are difficult to compose and, I would add, survivors are, not surprisingly, risk averse. 3) The reason I chose a hunger strike as the primary tactic was that it required only a limited number of people and historically has drawn mainstream media attention. The idea was to get the strike into the msm at which point the question of why folks might be risking their health would be up for public discussion.4) you and David Cohen (one of our panel members) , probably among others, have raised the cogent point that psychiatry performs a control function desired by the culture (note the near universal call for psychiatric “treatment” for mass murderers…this without regard to how many of them were “in treatment,” or had had treatment prior to their violent activities). Which leads to 5) my current thinking: As long as the culture believes that psychiatry is capable of performing its desired function, the public, media, courts and entertainment industry will give little notice and less concern for HOW it performs that function, that is, whether it is coercive or harmful, or is forced upon children or the elderly; whether by shock, lock up, or drugs. The way to weaken psychiatry is to reveal that not only is there no scientific basis for its claims, but also that its treatments and techniques are very often counter productive to its stated goals. Loren Mosher, on occasion pointed out that akathesia, one effect of psychoactive drugs, likely and frequently led to violence to oneself and others. It is my belief that the focus of our efforts should be to reveal every area and instance where psychiatry has no basis for the authority and police power it has been granted and every instance where it does not serve a desired social function. It might be possible, for instance, to gain legislative support for laws which mandate investigation into whether mass murderers were on, or had recently been on, psych meds. There appears to be evidence that many of them were.

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    • “Code Pink type Actions”
      Good idea – this group has an element of humor in their seriousness – the very zany quality doesn’t scare people but enchants.

      Used to dream of some sort of street theater surprise (and peaceful) demonstrations in front of the FDA and other places.

      Once went to a one-week demo. aagainst psych. drug harm (by those of us who had lost loved ones) in Lafayette Park (across from the White House). Met a lot of friends there in this movement, but no press showed up – no coverage. So, a good mix-and-mingle it was, but that was all.

      I always admired the hunger strike at the APA meeting – and got to know Vince Boehm 0ver the years (one of the participants)….as its organizer says here, there is a need for persistent and imaginative, well thought-through actions.

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    • Certainly a strategy worth pursuing. I am aware at the same time that Breggin and others in their response to the school shootings has consistently taken this line–that being on pscy drugs was a major factor in the shootings–and nonetheless consistently the response to such things has to ensure that more young people are on drugs. So putting on that the treatments endanger the public has so far not worked, but maybe we if we thought more carefully on how to deliver the message.

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  25. In 1939 Einstein composed a letter alerting President Roosevelt of the feasibility of building an atomic bomb and of signs that Germany was moving forward in this direction.

    Couldn’t a clear science reenforced presentation be made that pharma-psychiatry’s modality’s themselves are weakening unnecessarily growing huge numbers of the population constituting a growing brain drain including into the future , of countless creative people whose ideas and potential the country cannot afford to lose if a better life for all humanity is something we want . Also that pseudo pharma-psychiatry,medicine , dental work,and pseudo scientific diminished food & water quality and environmental neglect, themselves constitute the greatest security threat to the country. That life enhancing alternatives all the way around have been suppressed . And those profiteering from these failed paradigms at this point are witting and unwitting traitors to their country and all of humanity.

    Is there nowhere a statement along these lines could be sent to the right place signed by the right people and backed with some kind of activism follow up . Or modified to be made more detailed or shorter to do some good? Or presented as a challenge in the right place and time in the right way by the right people ? Where the issues can’t be evaded ?

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    • There was a secret report obtained by the media here in Australia, and a brief item about it on the 7 30 report tonight. It describes the current mental health model as a “disaster” and suggests taking 1 billion from acute care and giving it to community based services.

      My hope is that this doesn’t mean the building of ghettos, because I think we know what the next phase is. However, the federal government would appear to know some of what your saying Fred. Sad part is that those making the most noise, are people calling for more intervention to stop suicides. Bit like their drugs, the cause is seen as the cure.

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  26. Make your case, Fred, and we can debate it. I’m dubious to say the least, but that’s no reason for you not to work on a compelling plan. After all, I’m the guy who just suggested above a need for imagination and certainly I don’t have an exclusive claim on it. Dental work? Hmm.

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  27. Mickey,
    My comment was a reaction to what I learned from your clear statement, Bonnie’s thought stimulating post , as well as so many other important comments, colliding well with my lived experience. My life that includes being directed toward understanding how to allow a natural healing and living process to proceed in the face of so many man made stumbling blocks seemingly as big as the great wall of China propped up by pseudo-science megaphoned systematically at the population and then to often repeated to each other enhancing the financial power growth of the obsolete sickness and death dealing guilds of the Therapeutic State with their fountains of lies and paid for legal boot heels , ever ready to enforce compliance or crush real science , other real human concerns , including life ,liberty ,and the pursuit of happiness, health freedom and the earth itself.
    As far as dental work (I was referring to ADA American dental association (guild) recommended practices). In the free preview of the book Healthy Gaians : How Healing Our Body, Mind, Spirit, and Culture Helps Heal the Planet by Richard Leviton scroll to the section titled Practicing Biological Medicine-The Importance of Cellular Terrain which is a good explanation of what kind of dentistry does enhance living . see link below.


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  28. It does seem we’re dealing with the same stupid unscientifically unproven psychiatric eugenics theories that occurred during the Nazi era, but now we know the psychiatric drugs actually cause the symptoms of the psychiatric illnesses, except our government officials still don’t understand this. I hope they wake up. What’s going on in our county today is disgusting.

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    • Mickey, the only time I saw psychiatry concede a truth that shows that they know nothing is when they don’t want to be found culpable in law for not being able to recognize “dangerousness. They need to have their back against the wall otherwise in this way to concede their lack of knowledge and/or ability. So the tactic needed would be one that makes it economically problematic not to tell the truth.

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  29. Bonnie

    Benzodiazepine prescriptions (along with the drugging of children and Electro-shock) should be added to the list of the top three most vulnerable areas in which to target Biological Psychiatry. In my earlier comment above I neglected to include this.

    Given the high amount of prescriptions (and the numbers of related horror stories) combined with the epidemic of opiate overdose deaths and their frequent connection (over 30%) with benzo use, this makes benzodiazepine prescriptions a prime target for our movement.


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    • I think it might be useful sometime to examine the assumption that the most noxious forms of psychiatric abuse necessarily constitute psychiatry’s greatest vulnerabilities. They well may, but I’d like to hear some people expound on this.

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      • Bonnie , old head, Richard and All, It seems that psychiatry is part of a huge net that is self repairing and unraveling at the same time . It’s true the outcry against lobotomy , and yet if someone was forced and/or fooled, and then followed orders to continue taking 800 mg of thorazine a day for long enough , and/or ECT , enough of them, they most probably over time would wind up near or in the same state as someone who was lobotomized. I’ve had both of these “treatments ” and the sheer torture in the getting and in the result afterward is a night mare to contemplate . Had I not escaped 5 or 6 times from mental institutions ( there were places from which I could not escape) and quit the “meds” whenever possible over a 40 year period, and tricked them into switching me when I was across the country to a different “med” and dose ( 2mg. of haloperidol ) which I was always shaving the pill with a single edge razor to the lowest dose possible. Some days I’d go down , some days up, always trying to work my way down lower .Today in this computer age with video cameras I’m sure it’s much harder to escape from institutions, and with time released coated “meds” you can’t safely do a controlled shaving of them. Although there is possibilities with compounded pharmacies to get liquid “meds” and titrate, with a doctor’s approval, if you can get it. Advanced holistic dentistry saved me ,proper removal of mercury loaded fillings , root canals , and treatment for cavitations made it possible for me to leave psychiatry’s treatments behind while Traditional Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Meditation , Prayer, YuenMethod , mineral baths , supplements, exercise, knowing there were people that loved me, social security disability income , the great outdoors, 3 outstanding first do no harm practitioners Joesph Liss ND , Kam Yuen 35th generation Shaolin and master of his own developed system of Chinese Energetic Medicine called http://www.YuenMethod.com and Joel Shepard MD who stopped practicing surgery so he could start a Homeopathic practice, and a lot of luck, all kept me alive till I could get all the advanced dental work completed. I just found the old dental bill for $5800 dollars dated 2007. So actually I was 60 years old when I finally broke free completely to consuming none of psychiatry’s treatments. Finally able to quit totally the last of any psych or stuff called medications. My folks left some funds for me after they passed on, administrated by my younger sister (a staunch believer in psychiatry even more so then were my parents) she approved payment for my dental work. I’m thankful for myself but , how many don’t have funds to get the help they need or don’t know what help they need ? Skepticism without any inclination to investigate can be dangerous.
        The net includes lots of stuff but what holds it tightly together is the paid for infrastructure that can delay any changes no matter what the evidence or how compelling the science for 50 years or more. And the across the board ability to shove pseudo scientific products and polices in every category convincingly at the majority of the population. Then they roll out more defended pseudo science in a variation rerelease of what was debunked previously faster then they can be effectively exposed.
        Actually the strongest weapon against psychiatry is letting families and individuals know all the ways they can avoid the pseudo science generated “products”, “polices” and who are they that push it, That there is much unfunded innovation in natural healing modalities since and besides Mosher and open dialog . Energy healing is for real for example.Real Organic food production , organic gardens are important, as well as real education. Poverty is a huge obstacle.It leaves families and individuals held hostage. Maybe bring out that pseudo science creates slavery wherever it touches down, and that in psychiatry it manifests as a neo spanish inquisition pac man . Maybe its right to start saving the youngest and going after ECT . How can you attack something that self repairs? If we could get rid of psychiatry the MD doctors will push the load for the pharmacartel. Nevertheless we must try and I love the cry anti-pschiatry but we must have health freedom too. We cannot give up. In solidarity ,Fred

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  30. Another place to target may be the drugging of seniors into the sleeping chair at the slightest sign of independent verbalization , discomfort, discontent , disagreement , standing up for their rights ,to cover up staff mistakes, most anything in nursing homes across the USA. ( They were agitated they call it) and it doesn’t matter if they’re getting paid $6000 per month or more . The nursing homes feel the money belongs to them anyway.
    And how many of us psychiatric survivors , and activists , and independent thinkers may after decades of fighting for our personal rights and/or other’s human rights may face psychiatry’s revenge in a nursing home tranquilized into silence against our will. We must fight them and figure out alternative options like maybe Sotera like places for seniors . Someplace this needs to be discussed and solutions figured out . So much to do and anti psychiatry to grow.

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  31. Fred, I would surely love to see us zero in on the treatment of the elderly–for this is the population most pscyhiatrized. And I think it is critical that we do so irrespective of whether or not this brings into question psychiatry as a whole. that said, I don’t think it does for most people–a travesty, for which, alas, we can thank ageism.

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