Getting Our Anti/Critical Psychiatry Authors Read:
A Case for Book Activism

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As a movement theorist, I have frequently written about ways of increasing our effectiveness as a movement (e.g., Burstow, 2014a and 2015a). While prioritizing strategic resistance, mostly, I have focused on practices so horrific that they scream out for redress—ECT, for example (Burstow, 2015b). The topic of this article, by contrast, is a far less heart-wrenching problem—the lack of mainstream attention to our publications—whether these be books by Breggin, Whitaker, Scull, or others. If this seems an issue that can safely be relegated to the “back burner” while we attend to the real horrors out there, I would point out that to an appreciable degree, our success as a movement depends on our ability to sway the general public—and if the mainstream press and media never afford our books their due—not even the blatantly cutting edge ones (and if anything, these are treated worse) and the general public, as a consequence, remains largely unaware of their existence, the likelihood of succeeding in our primary mission(s) is substantially reduced. The point is, secondary though this clearly is on a human level, it is a problem that we can ill afford to ignore.

That said, there are three related disjunctures underpinning this article. The first is the number of critical psychiatry or antipsychiatry authors who have confided in me of late that they have largely given up trying to get mainstream coverage and so are putting their energy elsewhere. While to be clear, this is a reasonable choice under the circumstances, the mainstream is a battleground that we can ill afford to cede. I would add that while I do not share the dim prognosis of many of my colleagues, nonetheless, as I ponder how to garner mainstream coverage for what should have been an easy book to get it for (Psychiatry and the Business of Madness, Burstow, 2015c), I too am aware that those of us who push the boundaries are up against a seemingly impenetrable obstacle. And herein lies the larger disjuncture. The point is, we make little sense to the mainstream press or media. Whatever role the financial cooptation of the media does or does not play here, our discourse is simply outside of their story line. Consequently, they provide negligible coverage of our books—ergo, the general public seldom hear of them, nor are primed to pick them up. And to be clear, the difference in treatment at issue here is not minor but palpable.

What is telling in this regard, when I emailed news editor Rob Wipond asking him his sense of the extent of the differential treatment—a phenomenon that he is uniquely positioned to assess—this was his response:

In my role as news editor for Mad in America, I go through reams of news alerts and notifications every day, and I can tell you that Jeffrey Lieberman’s book celebrating the alleged successes of modern mainstream psychiatry has been getting an immense amount of coverage and reviews in the media. Conversely, since I started this job a year ago, I have not seen any book that takes even a slightly critical approach towards modern mainstream psychiatry get a tiny fraction of that amount of coverage. (personal correspondence)

Not an easy truth for sure, but all the more reason that we need to face it head-on.

The third disjuncture (a smaller one) presented itself when I checked how Disability Incarcerated (Ben-Moshe, Chapman, and Carey, 2014) was faring on Amazon.ca, approximately one year after its release. This is a stellar anthology by American and Canadian authors which brings together prison abolition, critical disability, and antiracism. Having reviewed the book for the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies (see Burstow, 2014b), four weeks ago, as I was perusing books on Amazon.ca, I decided to see how that site’s readers were assessing the book (as reasonable an indicator as any of the interest being shown by the general public). To my disappointment, I found one review only. Not that most of our other books were faring any better. And to be clear, not that on some level that I was not painfully aware of what I would find.

That noted, the immediate problem that we are facing is this: Despite the transparently superior quality of our authors’ publications—and compare any of our leading books to, say, Lieberman’s (2015) book, and you will quickly see what I mean—and despite our authors’ best efforts to break into the mainstream, our books receive comparatively few reviews in the mainstream press; they are not picked up by the mainstream media; correspondingly, they are not shown the same interest by the casual reader.

Such is the dilemma and the challenge.

For revealing accounts of why this is happening, see Whitaker (2010), Wipond (2013), and Burstow (2015c). That noted, “why” is not the focus of this article. The question being posed here, rather, is: Practically speaking, what can we as a movement do to turn this situation around? That is, how might we help increase the number of reviews which our authors receive in the mainstream press? How do we pry open the door to the mainstream media? And what can we do about the fact that a comparatively low number of people post comments about our books in the comments sections of sites like Amazon?

A good beginning, let me suggest, is taking the issue seriously. Also—and this may be a stretch for some—acknowledging that the movement as a whole has a huge vested interest in the success of our books, and as such, we have a role to play here. The point is: Yes, we can say that this is not our problem, that it is the problem rather of the authors and their publishers (without question, true to point), but if we do that, what is, after all, our cause suffers. A very different choice—and I am inviting fellow activists to consider it—is going in the opposite direction, that is, taking up what might be called “book activism,” whether in groups or at an individual level, whether systematically (developing concrete goals and a plan) or more sporadically. What am I suggesting? That individually and collectively, we concretely take this problem on as a movement.

For those interested, there are many different ways to go about this—and we will be but scratching the surface in this article. However, let me begin with a global suggestion that has an immediate payoff even were we not explicitly thinking about getting these books into others’ hands. As educators and activists, among the most valuable tools at our disposal are precisely these books and articles—they provide evidence; they give details; they make vivid; they explain. So why not conscientiously put them to work? Toward this end, activists who are taking up this challenge and who have not already done so might begin by truly immersing themselves in the literature, turning themselves into authorities in their own right (common mistakes to avoid here are: 1) restricting oneself to one’s favourite author and assuming that “he” has “said it all”; and 2), failing to appreciate the significant differences between the books—the very specific perspective, the unique contribution, who is being spoken to, what it teaches or could be used to teach).

With this expertise under one’s belt, one can readily go into “high gear”—and such is my recommendation. That is, as the occasion arises, use the familiarity gleaned to make effective selections to assist you in whatever task be at hand. If speaking with a person who is claiming that ECT does not cause brain damage, for example, you might cite specific passages in Breggin (2008). Alternatively, if calling the APA into question, Whitaker and Cosgrave (2015) could come in handy. And from the perspective of movement building, if trying to interest anti-colonial activists in our cause, you might draw on Mills (2013). Such an approach, note, has the obvious advantage of immediately serving your purpose while at the same time promoting the book(s) in question.

Those who want to approach the challenge more modestly, by contrast, can draw on methods already known to them. Some examples are: recommending specific books to friends. Lending out books. Correspondingly, those of us who are academics integrating such books into courses and reference lists.

Now, to be clear, none of the foregoing in itself results in mainstream coverage. This notwithstanding, if enough of us do it, it increases the exposure of these books. Additionally, in so doing, it creates an atmosphere more conducive to mainstream coverage.

For those wanting to go further, on the other hand, those moreover, intent on proceeding methodically, one way of beginning would be developing criteria which could be used to judge which books to devote most of one’s energy to. Examples of possible criteria are: a) the extent to which the book undermines psychiatry (the “attrition model” criterion); b) the coverage afforded sexism, racism, ableism, classism, etc. (the anti-oppression criterion); c) the degree to which the book hooks into issues currently in the news (the relevance criterion). A possible next step would be choosing a few books on which to focus. The pivotal steps of course are executing actions which create a stir about them.

That noted, the question arises: What actions? And where? One obvious venue is the social media—a revue, I would add, that a goodly number of survivors and their allies are already putting to good use. Individuals or groups might systematically use Facebook and/or Twitter to inform people about “pivotal books”. Other related and possible activities include: Sensitizing our “friends” and “followers” to a book by posting quotations; alerting them to news about the book; making a point of retweeting and reposting (thereby extending the work of other activists). Additionally, where a book is assessed as especially critical and you and/or our group are so inclined, more extensive internet-related book activism might be considered, including:

  • Creating YouTube pieces about why it is important and/or what it reveals.
  • Interviewing the author and mounting the interview.
  • Creating pages and/or blog sites dedicated to it.
  • Generating discussion about the book on Reddit.
  • Creating pointer pages for book-related events.
  • Writing your own reviews, then tweeting about these.

Now the reader may well be thinking: Fair enough, but social media coverage hardly equates with mainstream coverage. True. Nonetheless, the point is, if done skillfully, what you post can attract the interest of the general public—which is, after all, the ultimate goal. For example, if one your tweets goes viral or if enough people put your messages on their timeline, a stir is created which takes the message far beyond your original network. Correspondingly, if there is a big enough social media stir around any of these books, at that point the mainstream press and mainstream media themselves “sit up and take notice”. What is critical here, is not just posting occasionally (which many of us already do) but keeping the pressure up, retaining the focus.

That said, book activism can of course also include directly approaching the mainstream media and press. In this regard, if you know any reporters who write reviews in the areas of health or social change, you might approach them—and if you do this, where possible align your proposal in some way with a storyline that they have already used (a clear hook). Additionally or alternatively, you might send individualized proposals involving a book to select programs. Watching previous shows makes sense as preparatory work for the familiarity so gleaned will help you choose judiciously and shape the proposal in ways that increase the likelihood of it gaining traction. Keeping an eye on current items in the news and linking with one of them is likewise an asset. And note, coordinating with others who subsequently submit overlapping proposals to the same program greatly enhances the chance of a proposal of this ilk being taken up.

In this regard, numbers are all-important (as is independent status). If both author and the publisher try to pitch a book to the producers of a mainstream program, short of having a solid relationship with them, vital though it be that they make such pitches, in most instances, they stand little chance of being successful. By contrast, if say, over a three month stretch ten different people make similar but separate pitches, the producer is primed to surmise a growing interest in the area and respond accordingly.

Examples of Canadian programs that might be approached in this regard include: The Current, The Agenda, the Fifth Estate, The Passionate Eye, W-5. I leave it to readers from other parts of the world to generate comparable lists.

This sheds a bit of light on the first two questions. Which brings us to the issue of the paucity of comments afforded our books on online sites like Amazon and Indigo.

An obvious answer—and I will stick with one—is that we rectify such problems by posting in the comments sections ourselves. The good news is: Here our power as readers is considerable, and here we can make a major impact with very little effort. The point is that whether the target book (the book we are trying to promote) be Disability Incarcerated (Ben-Moshe, Chapman, and Carey, 2014), Psychiatry and the Business of Madness (Burstow, 2015c) Psychiatry Under the Influence (Whitaker and Cosgrove, 2015), Mad Matters (LeFrançois, Menzies, and Reaume, 2013), Decolonizing Global Mental Health (Mills, 2013), or one of Breggin’s works, the more of us who post comments about the book, the more significant the book looks; what goes along with this, by sharing what we ourselves think of the work, we are concretely suggesting to people who are specifically looking to be interested, why they should consider this book. Correspondingly, comments, as it were, themselves beget more comments. The point is, after reading several comments about a book which they themselves have read, people are tempted to “add their two cents”. And while there is hardly a one-to-one relationship, the more comments, the more readers for the book—all of which translates into more people potentially being “persuaded”. By the same token, the more comments, the more that the mainstream media will take note, which further translates into broader coverage, and by extension, a broader readership.

What, in a nutshell, is the process?

  • Go to one of the online sites where the book is sold.
  • Find and click on the book about which you would like to comment.
  • Scroll down to the “Customer Reviews” section.
  • Click on the box which reads “Create your own review” or a variant thereof.
  • Rate the book (usually a 1-5 rating), and enter your comments.
  • Then hit post or publish.

Do you need to have purchased the book from the outlet in question to post a comment? In the case of some sites, yes. With others, no.

That said, we all have multiple demands on our time and so while I have outlined some fairly extensive actions, I am aware that most people’s contributions will be on the modest side. All good. Should you choose to get involved in this dimension of our struggle, just do what you are comfortable doing. Have fun in the process—you may find yourself discovering skills that you never knew that you had. However large or small your individual contributions, each contribution adds up. Correspondingly, be assured that if we as a community have a mind to do this—and such is my hope—together we can turn ourselves into a force to be reckoned with.

Concluding Remarks

This article has put forward the case that pivotal to the success of our movement is getting our authors read by the public at large; it has noted the paucity of coverage by the mainstream press and media (a highly related issue); and it has recommended that we include book activism within our activist repertoire. The bulk of article focuses in on ways to go about such activism. Ways explored include: assiduously referencing our books when making points; use of social media; directly pitching a story to the mainstream media; and posting comments on online sites where the books are sold.

In ending, let me invite readers with experience in this or related areas to share their own suggestions about how best to do book activism. What have you yourself done? What have you seen work? Not work? What do you know about the media in your area that it would be helpful for the rest of us to know?

An observation in closing: While for sure there are exceptions, generally, all coverage, including psychiatry “panning” our books works to our advantage. So do not worry if your postings culminate in psychiatry going on the offensive, that is, devoting their energy to attacking the target book—don’t even become alarmed it they start making spurious claims about it (to some extent, inevitable). The fact that they bother is itself an indicator that they are losing ground. Correspondingly, their doing so, spells controversy. And the value of controversy especially when handled skillfully may be gleaned from the PsychOut experience:

To wit, PsychOut was an activist University of Toronto conference on organizing against psychiatry. It received highly negative and indeed demeaning press—presenters being portrayed as “flakes”, the entire operation portrayed as a waste of the public purse—hence the controversy. A war of words ensued—which the knowledgeable activists won handily. The long and short? The bad press, together with activists’ able response to it, culminated in the most extensive and the best press that we activists/antipsychiatry scholars had received in decades (see Burstow and Diamond, 2011).

* * * * *

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

References:

Ben-Moshe, L., Chapman, C., & Carey, A. (2014). Disability Incarcerated. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Breggin, P. (2008). Brain-disabling treatments in psychiatry: Drugs, electroshock, and the psychopharmaceutical complex. New York: Springer.

Burstow, B. (2014a). 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. (2014b). A prison by any other name: A review of Disability Incarcerated. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, 2014, Volume 3. No. 3, pp. 137-143.

Burstow, B. (2015a) “Doing” antipsychiatry on all cylinders: Possibilities, enigmas, challenges. Retrieved April 15 2015 from http://www.madinamerica.com/2015/04/antipsychiatry-cylinders-possibilities-enigmas-challenges/.

Burstow, B. (2015b). Protesting ECT: A moral/existential calling. Retrieved April 17 2015 from http://www.madinamerica.com/2015/03/protesting-ect-moralexistential-calling/

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

Burstow, B. & Diamond, S. (2011). Building a global network of activists. Asylum, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 21-22.

LeFrançois, B., Menzies, R., & Reaume, G. (2013). Mad matters: A critical reader in mad studies. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press.

Lieberman, J. (2015). Shrinks: The untold story. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Mills, C. (2013). Decolonizing global mental health: The psychiatrization of the majority world. London: Routledge.

Whitaker, R. (2010). Anatomy of an epidemic. New York: Broadway Paperbacks.
Whitaker, R. & Cosgrove, L. (2015). Psychiatry under the influence: Institutional corruption, social injury, and prescriptions for reform. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wipond, R. (2103). Pitching mad: News media and the psychiatric survivor perspective. In B. LeFrançois, R. Menzies, and G. Reaume. Mad matters: A critical reader in mad studies (pp. 253-264). Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press.

270 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent. Thank you Bonnie. I look forward to reading your “Psychiatry and the Business of Madness” and Robert Whitaker’s new book “Psychiatry Under the Influence.”

    “That noted, the immediate problem that we are facing is this: Despite the transparently superior quality of our authors’ publications—and compare any of our leading books to, say, Lieberman’s (2015) book, and you will quickly see what I mean—and despite our authors’ best efforts to break into the mainstream, our books receive comparatively few reviews in the mainstream press; they are not picked up by the mainstream media; correspondingly, they are not shown the same interest by the casual reader.”

    Might we briefly discuss the “why” behind this phenomenon? Any “how” is possible when the “why” is made clear.

    Here is an excellent blog, complete with book reviews, that skillfully excoriates psychiatry, exposing it for the deadly charade that it is: https://psychiatricsurvivors.wordpress.com/

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    • Thanks, Slaying_the _Dragon_of _Psychiatry. Why, let me suggest, is precisely the hegemony of psychiatry and its backing by the state. The media like the average person don’t even know that they are backing an ideology, for these concepts, as I point out in my books, seem as real as the air they breath. That said, of course, the financialization of it is also a factor

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      • This makes sense. Psychiatric ideology permeates society and culture to such a degree that most people blindly embrace it as reality. Myth is a powerful way to convey truth, but it is also a powerful way to deceive.

        Long ago Dr. Thomas Szasz correctly pointed out that “mental illness” is a myth. If the hegemony of psychiatry, (backed by the therapeutic state and financed by big pharma) has reached proportions that would make Hobbes’ Leviathan look like a minnow, then shouldn’t criticism of psychiatry aim at dismantling the ideology at its core? Few, if any, have dissected and discredited psychiatry more skillfully or with greater care than Szasz, but his work is almost unheard of, even in survivor circles.

        Why is that? Did psychiatric supremacy simply silence Szasz by stigmatizing him as a Scientologist? If there is now a resurgence of the survivor movement, why did earlier versions fail? How were they snuffed out? Can we learn something from history?

        As I see it, one of the most incredible feats of the psychopharmaceutical industrial complex under the aegis of the therapeutic state has been its untrammeled access to the hearts and minds of America’s citizenry. How is it possible that psychiatric atrocities have remained hidden so successfully and for so long that the average American knows next to nothing about them?

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        • Slaying _the _dragon _of _psychiatry: It was a far as I can see the big bucks that went into portraying all of this as scientific. That is what defeated Szasz–and that’s the ediface that we need to dismantle. I trace these trajectories in Psychiatry and the Business of Madness–and will be eager to see what you think.

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        • If there is now a resurgence of the survivor movement, why did earlier versions fail? How were they snuffed out?

          The late 70’s-early 80’s version of the movement — commonly called the ‘mental patients’ or psychiatric inmates liberation movement — went dormant for a number of reasons, some internal, some external.

          For one, it was not prepared for success and for the tactics used by the APA and other sectors of the mh establishment. We could handle being attacked by psychiatry, but many couldn’t resist being seduced, in the form of activists being invited to conferences in fancy hotels, being lauded for their work and treated as the “reasonable” activists that psychiatry could “work” with, handed funding for “reasonable” projects (like “Alternatives” conferences), and in general being treated by establishment types as special and important people, and being conditioned to actually see themselves as somehow more enlightened than the mental patient masses. This eventually resulted in the liberation movement being co-opted into the “consumers” movement.

          Another factor was too much work being done by too few people who eventually “burned out” from the constant pressure of being the “go-to” folks. And when Reagan came into power in 1980 more and more people had to put their energies into basic survival, with less time available for activism. (I had never seen people sleeping on street vents before then.)

          Finally — I remember Abbie Hoffman being asked at an event about the 60’s movement being “sold out” by Jerry Rubin and others. His response was “no one sold out; the movement ate its own.” We should take heed of this as we attempt to reconstruct what once was and make it better.

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          • I agree that the cooptation of individuals in the survivor movement played a role here–especially in the UK, where larger of survivors who were at one point activists became peer researchers, etc. I would also add that in many cases, what mainstream success was had came fromfact that survivors telling their story of how psychiatry had ruined their lives was new to people and so had a special impact. Psychiatry quickly mobilizing and starting putting their patients on shows, before Boards, etc. testifying to how ECT or whatever had saved their lives. At this juncture, telling one’s story, while still enormously impact, no longer had the same impact. The point is that we have an industry very into protecting its own interests, and is very good at it. By the same token, we need to get better at countering it.

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          • “And when Reagan came into power in 1980 more and more people had to put their energies into basic survival, with less time available for activism. (I had never seen people sleeping on street vents before then.)”

            I think that’s a big one. It was essentially a peak of counter-revolution. Consumerism raging on the sometimes literal corpses of disposable people. I think this tide is changing.

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        • The earlier versions of the psych survivor movement failed because the NIMH (and later, SAMHSA) spent a large amount of money (by our standards) creating and continuing to fund Astroturf groups that advocated the policies of their funders. I was there in 1985, when after the first “Alternatives” conference, funded by NIMH, a large number of activists dropped out of our movement, as they recognized and were rightfully frightened by the power of money and government arrayed against us.

          Meanwhile, the drug companies and their public relations departments went into a frenzy to successfully convince the public that the solution to all problems in living was drugs and drugs and more drugs.

          Unlike even the gay movement, which also faces the attitude of the public (which is changing rapidly for the better) that they are somehow less than human, we psych survivors are up against a very profitable industry focussed on us, and on keeping us quiet and passive.

          Another huge problem for us is that we are invisible. Sure, there are strange people walking the streets who the public perceives as typical of psych survivors. But the fact is that almost all of the tens of millions of people who have been in the clutches of the mental illness system are out there with everyone else in society, trying to blend in, usually successfully. They have no motivation to come out of the closet, because all they will get for that are lost jobs, lost relationships, and the status of lepers. We have the potential to be a large and powerful movement, but we have not addressed how to bring these secret survivors into it.

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      • Dr. Burstow:
        you say ” I have focused on practices so horrific that they scream out for redress—ECT, for example…” Do you believe this is what it will take to change psychiatry, shine more light on its abuses? I have nothing but admiration and gratitude for those who expose what psychiatry does, but don’t see how this will change things. Even Fuller Torrey decries the drugging of children and the way in which doctors prostitute themselves for big pharma, so it is not as though there is not enough information about psychiatry’s abuses. (Breggin took his principled and courageous stand decades ago, and we are still where we are.) I am convinced that for meaningful change to occur, we must show that recovery is possible, not just in a few isolated cases, for the vast majority of people. I believe in recovery, I have seen it and believe recovery and healing needs to be the primary focus.

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        • Yeah but what are we “recovering” from? I believe in recovery too, who doesn’t, but a key point to consider here from an anti-psychiatry perspective (at least a leftist one) is that we shouldn’t have to live in such a toxic culture that masses of people spend their lives and build their identities around recovering from the trauma it inflicts as a matter of course. Understanding that we are trying to recover from the abuses of capitalism, not some mysterious, complicated disease leads us in the direction of political solutions, not medical ones. And of course we need to give each other support as we undertake the job of transforming this evil system to one which serves the needs of the people, not of corporations. But the ultimate goal should not be simply a better system of support but the elimination of the oppressive conditions which make it necessary.

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          • Recovery would be the wrong word for many people in relation to mental distress…. recovery is a medical word implying that a person was emotionally well and whole, then something happened to make them ill, and then they recover to become healthy again. But for many people with neglectful and abusive childhoods, they never became psychologically mature and well in the first place. They need to grow up, develop an identity, and establish/further build healthy interpersonal relationships often for the first time. That is different than “recovery.”

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        • I have never said that any one thing will be suffice–for it simply won’t. Not highlighting children. Not demonstrating recovery. In this regard, People have shown repeatedly that “recovery” is possible. And so no, I don’t think that would remotely suffice–as it important as it is. When you are up against an industry that manufacture and markets lies, while telling and demonstrating the truth is essential–the fact remains that you will be speaking to the choir–and this will not glean you mainstream coverage–it will simply be ignored. Hence my reason for writing about pressure, about strategies, etc.
          there is no magic formula that will win for us here. Quite simply, we need to be fighting on many fronts at the same time and proceeding strategically.

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          • “…the fact remains that you will be speaking to the choir…”

            Do we not need to move beyond preaching to the choir to change things? As for what it will take to change anything, I do not believe it is a question of what is sufficient (nothing in and of itself will suffice) but what is indispensable. And I would put recovery or healing at the top of the list. It just makes it that much less likely that people will take the fateful step to take psychoactive drugs if they see better options that work.

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          • I think we also need another “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest”. Both a book but maybe more importantly a movie. There were few singular thing that did more damage to psychiatry as this piece of art. It doesn’t have to be fictional – a good documentary would do. But it has to be something that not only tells it like it is – it has to be able to catch people’s attention. We need our Michael Moore or a person of this talent to get people entertained and interested – otherwise the only people reading/watching are the choir.

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  2. These are brilliant thoughts. I am sorry to discover there is a sense of hopelessness on the part of the writers but it helps to know the truth. Our story has been co- opted for so long, in so many ways, and always there is a pattern of rise and then fall that one can get discouraged.Rage and outrage can only provide momentum for so long. Sometimes the justified outrage becomes more of a stumbling block than one would like. I know it did for me.
    We are dealing with historical isms and also a very mixed bag. The general media outlets on all levels don’t specifically hear us for several reasons. There are the corporate issues, the societal issues, and the personal issues. Personal issues are that for some medication works. In my nuclear family we have the anti and the pro medication folks although all cast a wary eye on current medicine practices on all levels. So how to reach the folks that are not able to perceive that the system is really awful for many many folks and that medication can be a dangerous thing. Some would say all the time but I can;t say it because my pro med family members really believe they have been helped and I really can’t deny it. I haven’t been able to see any of the side effects that so terribly affected me. It may come in the future.
    Anyway we have lots of folks who have bought into the system for various reasons and how to get them to read another point of view.
    Books clubs may be a way to go.l Anyone working in an agency where there are groups can start a book club and eventually interject one of these books for reading.
    General community book clubs could also be used. Trick is getting people to want to read about our cause. Personal stories would be a good start. I know there are a number of folks working on them or already have gotten them out.
    I also wonder about reaching out to the cancer community. There is growing evidence that many folks have been damaged by the chemo and radiation that was used to cure them of their cancer. In fact, I remember a time when on the medical floor we didn’t know if a patient sent for treatment would come back alive.
    Can we study how such a stigmatized illness such as cancer ( see the story of Emma Lazurus and how she died- at that time hospitals refused to allow a cancer patient in) changed into a very pro celebrity pro everything good cause?
    Many issues not the same but still worth a look see.
    What about reaching out to libraries? Many libraries have workshops given to staff on how to work with”us”. Maybe giving them notice on these books and their research will turn the tide on their prejudice and lack of in depth knowledge. For every negative experience a neurotypical has there has to be a tenfold powered positive experience. Wish that were different but I think the ratio works for book reading and ways of opening up other folks’ eyes.
    Thanks for bringing this all up!

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      • Yes I totally understand! I was thinking of a two or three part reading series. Three different writing genres with the same basic philosophical outlook. And maybe a college community would be easier. Some book groups read and then watch either the movie of the book or a movie with a related topic.
        Look what Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” did for Abolitionist movement.It brought up cogent discussions to the fore.

        And her own life story is worth a read. Try Tillie Olsen’s” Silences” for a empathetic view of how educated females survived in an earlier time. Not well.

        And L\ook what the musicals of Rodger and Hammerstein did to begin to change the perspective of America in the 1950’s pre civil rights era, “The King and I’s” Uncle Tom Cabin play within a play and “South Pacific” ‘s “You Have to Be Carefully ” song on prejudice lay the groundwork for a new perspective. Not much but enough.

        Also some of the blacklisted Hollywood writers wrote some pretty wonderful subversive screenplays in the 1950’s . “Bad Day at Black Rock” and “Johnny Got His Gun” are two that come to mind. Art and literature have always been a way to get new ideas out. Lately so much of social media and movie and book media have just been content to replay the same old same old song and dance of the medical model.
        Just some thoughts. Keep up the good work.

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  3. Bonnie:

    Thanks for your tireless efforts to identify strategic pathways to a new paradigm. One thing book activists could do is collectively organize brigades of volunteers to counter the high number of trolls on the internet. Since big Pharma has such deep pockets, they can spend lavishly to hire people whose sole livelihood is to obfuscate data, smear reputations, spread rumors, and reinforce mythology on the internet.

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      • I forgot brigade is a military term. Duly noted. I work for a Veterans organization that delivers mental health and somatic services to returning veterans. So much of the psycho babble in the mental health industry borrows from the military…for example

        ‘battling depression’ rather than’ exploring depression’
        ‘conquering fear’ rather than ‘working with fear’
        ‘triggering’ rather than ‘eliciting’

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        • ANZAC Day here in Australia.

          I sometimes wonder about why ‘we’ seem to be fighting for human and civil rights. These were already paid for in blood, only to be stolen by frauds with pens.

          I hope your book (and others) take back those rights for ‘us’ Bonnie.

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  4. Perhaps we can also discuss the make up of our audience. The average American doesn’t read books. He plays video games, surfs the web, watches T.V., and when he’s feeling adventurous, he goes to movies. His attention span is very limited. Just who are we trying to reach?

    Effectuating change at a grass-roots level (even with activism) is very difficult, tedious, and slow. It needs to be done, and the dissemination of the appropriate literature may be helpful in the long run, but until Joe Schmo clicks on an articulate antipsychiatry article in the New York Times and understands what he reads, it will take some time for the momentum to pick up.

    Until a special on “The Untold History of Psychiatry” reaches major networks, until “Psychiatric Survivors: The Movie” is a box office hit, until the President of the United States has to grapple with the antipsychiatry version of MLK, jr., the battle will be long.

    Nevertheless, I am very optimistic, because truth wins out in the long run. Freedom wins out in the long run. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

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    • While Lieberman’s book got more coverage than Whitaker’s the mainstream American won’t read it–though they will probably hear of it. What they will do is watch lots of pro-psychiatry, sanist television programs. Few of them will question the reliability of programming substantially sponsored by dancing pills. (They are SO CUTE after all!)

      Most of us have benefited from the works of Robert Whitaker, Breggin, Statz and countless others. Most of us are not the average sheeple you meet on the street or find at a NAMI meeting however. I’m starting a forum post under Organizing for Change where we can discuss using popular cultural methods to reach John and Jane Doe. These include commercial fiction genres, humorous Youtube videos and T-shirts for starters. We need to start a Mad Renaissance!

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      • The myths are so many and deeply embedded into social consciousness, starting with “incurable illness.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When offered a different perspective, powerful emotions take control over reason. In the meantime, these kids are getting sacrificed. Indeed, sickening.

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          • And in any case, she received the full-on psychiatric standard of care and still ended up killing herself. At one point in the article, she says, “Since I’m going to hear voices anyway, I may as well stop the medication.” That sounds like the voice of a person in despair, who has been told that following this path will make everything all better and finds out that it does not remotely come close to fixing her situation.

            It astounds me how bio-psychiatry’s proponents manage over and over again to take stories of psychiatric failure and turn them into advertisements for more psychiatry!

            —- Steve

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          • “Then she returned to college in the fall to restart her senior year — and, as is common in these scenarios, stopped taking her meds. (…) Natalie was re-committed to the hospital and Doris admits that this relapse was more severe than her initial psychotic break. (…) While she did rebound again, the devastating cycle continued: Natalie would take her meds, feel stable and then would forgo the meds believing they were no longer necessary. “Yet if she even inadvertently missed a few days of medication — even while receiving therapy and other forms of treatment — the demons would return, and one of the first things they would tell her was to stop taking her medicine,” Doris wrote. “The second thing they would tell her was not to talk to her mom, the most powerful other influence in her life. Each time she obeyed and relapsed, she plunged into a longer free fall, hitting the ground harder, recovering more slowly and returning at a lower plateau.””

            Well, this is so well known – stopping the drugs causes relapse psychosis which is worse than the previous one simply because the drugs sensitize the brain. It’s been covered extensively by MIA.
            I wonder why people never ask their children and parents etc. WHY they don’t want to take the drugs? Why is it that the “crazy ones” have this single thing that they fixate on which is to stop the drugs as soon as possible. And they do that when they’re supposedly stable, that is they should not have “symptoms” and should be having insight if the drugs are indeed working. Not a reflection on that in the article.
            It’s really a remarkable piece of propaganda. The voices in the poor girl’s head knew better but nobody bothered to listen to her. “Take your drugs and shut up”. The most painful thing is that this is often the attitude that the most well-meaning family members have, being brainwashed by psychiatry.

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          • “Since I’m going to hear voices anyway, I may as well stop the medication.”

            Sounds like the meds weren’t “working” anyway. But, hey it can always be sold as “if she only took her meds” story. They never ask why people want to get off these meds at every opportunity. Maybe because there are logically only two possible explanations:

            1) They have no insight – in this case it means they are still “symptomatic” and the drugs don’t work anyway so why bother?

            2) they are sane and they prefer to take the risk of going “full crazy” again to whatever they feel while on the drug

            My guess is the 2nd one’s true. A guess supported by a personal experience of some 2nd generation “anti-psychotics”. They are torture drugs – I’d rather jump in front of a train that zombie through the rest of my life on them.

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          • In response to B, I once dredged up an article by “Creepy” Pete Earley. Didn’t read the masterpiece but it was entitled, “Why Won’t You Take Your Medicines?” I believe it was a rhetorical question. None of those pro-psych activists ever asks that question of us it seems. They automatically assume it’s our “illness”, “poor insight” or some such nonsense.

            If those drugs magically solved all my problems and gave me perpetual warm fuzzies all the time I never would have wanted to stop them. Even after Anatomy of an Epidemic.

            They have always–except a brief high on zoloft for the 1st month–made me feel sick and dead inside. Taking them, as I religiously did for well over two decades, was an act of extreme penance. Picture a medieval monk in his cell flogging himself with a bloody whip. Friends and relatives were ALWAYS accusing me of not taking my “meds.” Although I assured them I was, often with tears in my eyes. After all, Dr. Quackenbush assured them if I only took my brain-drugs “exactly as prescribed” my problems would magically vanish and I would be fine and dandy as piece of candy. Due to Dr. Quackenbush’s diagnosis of my non-existent chemical imbalance I believed I was a monster of depravity capable of harming many others on a massive scale. Unless I took his drugs of course. Without them I was worse than nothing–I was a menace to society. I was praised by the psych establishment for my “good insight” though they marveled at my frequent thoughts of suicide. Duh!

            The drugs never made me feel good. Although I knew they were slowly poisoning me, body and soul, I kept taking them. If it had only been my own life I had feared for I would have stopped. I took those poisons because I was afraid of harming others.

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      • Why would she have been diagnosed as any kind of bipolar? From the story it sounds like a schizophrenia diagnosis would have fit her symptoms and signs.

        I have a hunch that the article is meant to encourage the trillions of “bipolar” “patients” that DSM-IV and -V have created, and their loved ones, panic and seek more and stronger drugs for the “patient,” and to spend more money “complying” with psychiatrist’s prescriptions.

        (Sorry for all the quotation marks, but I can’t use those terms and mean them 90% of the time.)

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  5. Very timely post, Bonnie, and I feel, yes, very much behind you on this matter. We need to get on board with this sort of book activism that you are suggesting. I also feel that we could use more DIY media activism across the board. We’ve ALL got voices, and in many instances, they are going unheard, unheeded and, in fact, ignored.

    Criticism of psychiatry, and the whole mental health enterprise, was more acceptable 40 years ago than it is today. There is a reason this is so. Mental patient as a career choice is more more acceptable today than it was 40 years ago. Psychiatric disability, in fact, is a paying field of endeavor now. The idea that mental patients don’t need to be lifers, well, that one went by the wayside, didn’t it? Recovery and support today have become huckster careers. We have to get beyond this sort of careerist hucksterism, or huckster careerism, and back into the business of on countering “mental illness” the industry, and an expanding industry at that. Social problems are no longer social, are they, if they can be consigned, with finality, to the “mental” category? Conformity, even non-conformist conformity, is key; fashionable to boot. Oh, how enlightened folks aren’t! Given that they aren’t so informed, all the more reason for us to enlighten them.

    Anybody with university degree, and that doesn’t describe me by the way, want to update the Wikipedia antipsychiatry page? The only ex-patient mentioned by name there that I could find is the late Leonard Roy Frank, and there is no mention whatsoever of Dr. Burstow. I would imagine that revising this Wikipedia would be one way that people could do a little activism, and I suggest that maybe some people could start working on it in earnest. Sooner or later, then, people might realize that critical thinking has not been completely chemically lobotomized, or socially engineered, out of the picture.

    Anyway, yes, yes, and re-yes, when ‘publish or perish’ is the mandate, we should not be promoting perishing, but we should, on the other hand, be expressing our continuing support, and solidarity with, those courageous few who have a message that goes beyond the suppression and doping of the voice of certain physical experiences into silence and oblivion, death and degradation. Dissent, in the face of such silence and oblivion, death and degradation, can be a very positive thing indeed.

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    • “Criticism of psychiatry, and the whole mental health enterprise, was more acceptable 40 years ago than it is today.”

      I think that’s the effect of PR “anti-stigma” campaigns which equate being anti-psychiatry with being anti-people who suffer from emotional distress. Are you against psychiatric drugging? Or, you’re just this terrible person stigmatizing the poor depressed folks. Have you maybe mentioned the fact that ADHD drugs are chemically similar to meth? You’re horrible to vulnerable kids who are now going to end up in prison because of you. And similar bs. One would think the trick that psychiatry uses – equaling themselves with their patients when it’s profitable for them (“you can’t criticize us you insensitive person”) and distancing themselves when it’s unfavourable (like when someone on psych drugs shoots up some school kids) is transparent but it works frighteningly well. It is easy to debunk if you can just get people to stop and think for 2s but people are not used to doing that nor are they taught that in schools, at least most of them. We used to do that in classes – take statements and point out contradictions and manipulations etc. But that’s like forbidden knowledge because it takes away the power from advertising and PR. God forbid you not only hear and internalize but listen and think about it. Just move on and keep shopping.

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    • This is another reason we need a centrally coordinated network. I fear that right now if individuals started editing Wikipedia — which could be a highly significant and effective action — we’d be getting a hodgepodge of partially thought-out and contradictory ideas. If there were a collectively approved set of positions which represented a movement consensus a panel of anti-psych “experts” could make such a project a priority. Lots & lots of people suse Wikipedia as a reference and significant inroads could be made if it presented accurate information about psychiatry and anti-psychiatry.

      (And Frank, last I checked you were quite literate; I don’t know why a degree would be a prerequisite for this.)

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      • Oldhead has a point. Frank, I think that if you were interested in taking this on, you would do a great job. A suggestion that of course you are free to decline–so please don’t feel on the spot. So just see this as a brainstorming proposal: You take this on, and you bring together and work with what Oldhead is calling a panel of anti-psych experts that you can draw on and pass things by., moreover, that can brainstorm together. If you took things on and oversaw it, I would be happy and honoured to serve as part of that panel of anti-psych experts. Many other people who post on this site could be part of the panel. A suggestion I would have for someone who does not post but is a survivor who has been actively antipsychiatry since the 70s is Don Weitz. And I am sure that we could think of a number more.

        One difficulty, I would note, that we have is that there are differences and not consensuses, but I think the consensuses are substantial–also it is fine to mention the differences.

        A few additional problems with Wikipedia that we could correct in the processes is that it conflates antipsychiatry with the mad movement and with the survivor movement–which it profoundly overlaps with both, is not identical to other. Also, it is focused on the U.S. So it would be beyond an update–it would be a rethinking.

        Ironically, with regard to Leonard, ableit Leonard was an absolutely wonderful activist, Leonard was not antipsychiatry and was very clear about that, and so we would have to be more precise.

        What exists now on Wikipedia is sloppy thinking and we could surely remedy that.

        What say you, Frank? And do other readers who have or would like to comment on this blog have ideas? For example, can you suggest other people that might be good to have on such a panel–whether yourselves or others?

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        • Perhaps, OldHead. I did add the last paragraph to the antipsychiatry Wikipedia webpage because I thought it needed. However, I also cited no references. There are no citations on that particular paragraph. Before I update the Wikipedia page again, I’d have to read Bonnie’s book first, and although it may be on my reading list, it’s updating this old head of mine that’s taking time.

          Don Weitz, as an activist, has long been on my radar. Did we ever gather such a panel, he’s definitely got first dibs when it comes to serving on it as far as I’m concerned.

          The conflation bit gets delicate and complicated, too. You’ve not only got to separate the antipsychiatry movement from the mad movement and the survivor movement, but you’ve got to separate all three from the mental health movement, and that’s a big one. There is overlap there, too, and the question about it in relation to any antipsychiatry movement remains uncomfortable to say the least.

          As for Leonard Roy Frank and antipsychiatry, speak of the devil, Wikipedia not Leonard, he’s said, on his Wikipedia page, “to have helped to develop the theory and practice of humanistic antipsychiatry”. There is also his YouTube video Psychiatry’s Bible –DSM, showing Leonard Roy Frank’s name above the words, “Anti-Psychiatry Activist”. I’m just saying I’m not all that clear about what his position was entirely. Apparently some people liked to use the word antipsychiatry to describe it. Perhaps, like Szasz, he was merely anti-forced-psychiatry. Anyway, maybe this matter is something somebody could clear up for me.

          As regards Wikipedia, I’m not sure it’s all ‘sloppy thinking’ either. Given the critical psychiatry movement, you could say, there’s that overlap again. I don’t know that we’re at a place, given the origin of the word itself, of saying that we can disregard potential allies. I would imagine there are yet divisions in divisions that we may have to contend with for pragmatism’s sake alone. Anyway, yeah, that said, I’m with you on this matter.

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          • Leonard was clear that he was against forced treatment–and he a number to times objected to the abolitionist stance. That said, I agree with you that here is where things become less clear. For he felt that this was compatible with antipsychiatry, whereas it is not with antipsychiatry as a number of us define it.
            Re the origin of the term, there is no question but that it originated with Cooper and Cooper for sure did not mean what we mean by it to today–something it is important to talk about. That said, words change meaning over time–as in typewriter at one point meant the human being that did the typing. My own sense is that for example antipsychiatry no longer means what Cooper and Laing meant by it, though they are without doubt still influence the thinking, including mine, and they are a vital part of the history. Obviously all of the complexities should be covered in a new entry.

            That said, Frank, do give some thought to what Oldhead and I are suggesting–for these are all issues that you have clearly given a lot of thought to.

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          • I don’t really see how anybody can be against force AND against the abolitionist stance, at least, when it comes to abolishing forced treatment, but that is that. Reform can’t abolish forced treatment because forced treatment is the law. Repeal the law, and you’ve got, bingo, abolition.

            The physical presences of Laing and Cooper are many years in the ground. It is only natural that antipsychiatry should take a course of it’s own. I fault Laing with, despite the Philadelphia Project experiments, not coming out in favor of abolition and, therefore, by default and trade, exposing himself as a reformist. I agree with Szasz when such is his criticism. I disagree with him when he would use Ludwig von Mises anti-communist “libertarian” arguments against experimental “therapeutic” communities. I’d say that that is kind of an absurd argument to make, and certainly it is no better in principle than that of arguing for contracting out to a private psychiatrist. Of course, neither in itself gives justification to the profession of psychiatry, and that’s something we could dispense with altogether.

            I think your suggestion an excellent one, however, I also think it a difficult one follow through on, and for something like this update and revision, it would seem we would need something approaching the kind of anti-psych panel you allude to. If OldHead and others are amenable, I certainly am. I’m not the person to update it alone though, as I would imagine that to be a more monumental task than I could manage by myself.

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          • You’ve not only got to separate the antipsychiatry movement from the mad movement and the survivor movement

            Hmmm. I actually don’t have much experience w/the mad movement or the survivor movement. I don’t even know if there can be a survivor “movement” — isn’t anyone with psychiatric experience considered some kind of “survivor”? (my reaction to the term survivor is always something like “ok, and what’s the date today?”). Movement implies some goal, and I don’t know that simply being a “survivor” implies any particular goal, other than “surviving.” I don’t know how adherents of the “mad movement” construe themselves, tho i envision the term as being associated with the cultural/spiritual/artistic manifestation of the (here’s another term) mental patients/psychiatric inmates liberation movement.

            Nonetheless, when there’s a will there’s a way & I’m sure all this can be sorted out. We can become “experts” on all the above and if there’s anyone else more qualified to edit some things than we are we can find them.

            Now we need volunteers. Personally I’m not concerned about too many chefs, we need a bunch.

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          • I believe psychiatric survivor and mental patients/psychiatric inmates liberation movements pretty much synonymous in a way. Out of it you get ex-patients movement. You could call them two sides of the same coin. One survives mental health treatment, and one is liberated from the mental patient role. Later, you get consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement, but that’s kind all about co-optation, isn’t it? The government saw how effective the survivor movement was, and then figured, well, wait a minute, we’ve got the big bucks, we can defuse that, and get back to the good little compliant mental patient routine. How about that, a good little compliant mental patient movement? Imagine lemmings.

            The mad movement develops much later, in the 1990s, and has much to do with the failure of psychiatry to cure people of non-normality and recover them to normality. Non-normality is good in some quarters. Now you’ve got an opportunity, not to mention excuse, to take pride in your eccentricities. And why not? Normal is for squares, and it’s bohring to boot.

            Sure. People is all it takes.

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        • I actually think it would be a bit premature right now in lieu of a more widely accepted consensus on some important issues, but I am more hopeful than some that such a consensus is possible; when it is achieved depends on how many actively participate in the process. Still, this is an action that could likely be successfully undertaken in the near future and I’d be happy to participate at some level, especially since it doen’t involve travel.

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          • Premature is hardly the word I would use. I think we’re going to continue to have divisions, but what of it? Disconcensus can be a good thing. Those little divisions are the reason we build coalitions, coalitions help us get around our differences, and they even help us to make use of our diversity.

            I think there is always going to be more danger in neglecting the moment than there ever could be in seizing it. If this were a crossword puzzle, couldn’t we find another word for “premature”, like, say, procrastination. I really don’t see procrastinating as such a good thing but, hey, wasn’t Prince Hamlet good at that sort of thing.

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          • Oldhead–if we wait for more of a consensus, the important job does not happen, for consensus has a habit of not happening. I honestly do not think it is premature–but, quite the opposite, long overdue. the trick is simply to acknowledge the differences rather than pretend consensus.

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          • The last thing I want is a pretend consensus, which is why I may seem overly cautious. Not to procrastinate but to be as democratic as possible from the start.

            How about this: Can we maybe reprint the current Wikipedia materials in question in the forums section, then have an ongoing group discussion involving as many anti-psych people as possible for a month or 2 or whatever we decide, then choose a couple people to draft a final edit?

            One problem here is making sure only people who consider themselves anti-psychiatry from the start (by whatever definition) should participate in, or at least vote on this. In lieu of such controls in the forum as presently construed I guess this would have to be based on the honor system, combined withh common sense. Thoughts?

            (Of course doing this in public would give Wikipedia advance knowledge of our plans, but if they attempt to interfere with something which at that point would clearly represent an anti-psych consensus they will be creating an issue which could generate a lot of positive attention for us.)

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          • “Mission Statement

            The site is designed to serve as a resource and a community for those interested in rethinking psychiatric care in the United States and abroad.”

            i though this site was about having an open discussion about mental health/psychiatry – Or is it a platform for staunch anti-psychiatry that must conform to denial of mental illness & the goal of the abolition of psychiatry?

            i’d like some clarification on this?

            & why should a supposedly impartial Wikipedia entry be totally biased to such ends?

            i don’t think critical, anti, & other various aspects of people/groups that would like to see a change to mental health treatment are so black & white/one sided – i’m very critical of the system, but i’m not an illness denier & i don’t want total abolition – & i’m sure i’m far from alone in that?

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          • CPU this does not concern you, it is a conversation between those of us who are unambiguously anti-psychiatry. What is being discussed is not meant to be interpreted as representing MIA per se, but concerns which involve those of us who are anti-psychiatry. We are the only people capable of presenting an accurate account of what anti-psychiatry is all about. Just as holocaust deniers should not be participating in Wiki-accounts of WWII, neither should shills for the “mental health” industry be contributing to anti-psychiatry articles. Since you are clearly not anti-psychiatry this is not really a conversation you belong in. You’ll find plenty of places at MIA to pontificate and engage in back & forth; this is not one of them. Thank you.

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          • i think it’s very debatable as to what ‘anti-psychiatry’ actually means – as per the complexity of the current Wikipedia article. You seem to think that anti-psychiatry means agreeing with Szasz? i disagree that anti-psychiatry means illness denial & wanting to abolish all psychiatry.

            i’ve been labelled as anti-psychiatry for years by a lot of people. My views are generally very critical of a lot of psychiatry & the current system.

            Good luck with posting totally biased agendas on Wikipedia – i don’t really care what you want to do with it all.

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          • OldHead, the anti-psych panel sounds like something that might work. Hashing things out on a MIA forum is, as goes with so much discussion around here, not going to work.

            Also, no reason to come up with conspiracy theories where Wikipedia is concerned. We’d be working for and with Wikipedia, not against it.

            The idea is that if we got Bonnie and her book mentioned on the anti-psychiatry webpage, we’d have done a number of things, such as update the webpage, and engaging in precisely the type of book activism that Bonnie is talking about.

            Mention of her would certainly be more appropriate than that of Allen Frances, in my opinion, and somebody has given Allen Frances his own little space on the anti-psychiatry page.

            Then there is the matter of disentangling it from those other movements mentioned. I wouldn’t call doing so an easy or a simple task by any means.

            Also, we would not entirely be able to disentangle it from Laing and Cooper. Their critiques went beyond merely doing psychoanalysis. Laing had much to do with the whole counter cultural thing way back when, as well, and that in itself touches upon other areas. People are entitled to their opinions, even if they differ from yours and mine.

            That said, there is nothing wrong with bringing it up to speed as far as the abolition versus reform arguments are concerned.

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          • Looks like this sub-thread is cooked, we need to continue this elsewhere maybe but first

            Hashing things out on a MIA forum is, as goes with so much discussion around here, not going to work.

            I’m sure we both realize that we disagree on this by now, but it still seems like sort of a negativistic asuumption, not that I think any of this would be a breeze. I’d like to get a sense of what other anti-psychiatry people think about this.

            Specifically, is there a reason that the Wiki stuff shouldn’t be posted and discussed here?

            (This could be continued in the forums, but if it is to continue here whoever makes the next post should start a new reply thread.)

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          • The discussions tend to go nowhere, OldHead. They are basically without purpose. Sure, we have some general desires about what we want, but that doesn’t make it happen. You can talk about anything forever, but if you don’t do anything, nothing gets done. This is where you have to refer back to Organizing 101 to get your bearing. Basic Saul Alinsky, and that kind of thing. There is an ABC to getting things accomplished. It doesn’t happen by merely talking about accomplishing things. It happens when you actually do them.

            No problem revising Wikipedia. I will get around to attempting to tackle it eventually I think. I wouldn’t expect too much of me though. I’m working alone. I think Bonnie deserves some kind of mention on the Wikipedia page to say the very least. First things first. For starters, I have to order and read her book. I’m bogged down for the moment with other matters, nonetheless, slowly but surely I’m making my way there.

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        • I’d love to take part in that but it sounds like a full time job, and I’m already working two :(.
          As for things that are arguable – maybe one could add a “anti-forced treatment abolitionists” to the “anti-psychiatry” entry and explain that it’s a part of anti-psychiatry movement that’s restricted to mostly or only to forced psychiatry. I think it’s possible to do.

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  6. Although I look forward to reading your book my gut reaction is that you have mis perceived what to expect from the main stream media, as you called it.

    In the last several decades the main stream media has become the corporate media, and it is owned and operated by only a small hand full of people. Their purpose is solely one of profit, and they do not want anything in the public’s eye that would cause them to lose even a cent.

    Psychiatric treatment is big business, and the drugs that are sold to the people under the mantle of medicine, make billions upon billions of dollars each year. They know full well that these drugs, are at worst dangerous, and at best worthless. and they don’t really care. Because they are extremely profitable, cheap to make and they are sold for top dollar.

    At one time, the truth had some force to it. And many of us believed that by just airing the truth we could changes things. Unfortunately corporate media will not allow the truth to be widely known especially when it comes to what psychiatry has become, that would cost them a lot of money.

    As crazy as it seems, they will seek to expand their ability to dispense dangerous drugs to the public, and relax drug laws, as a means of social control, and to keep the money pipeline growing…

    Years ago something like this article below would never happen, I expect that in the near future the public will have access to many more drugs that were once considered dangerous.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/18/dea-mdma-study_n_6888972.html

    While I have not given up hope, those that want to provide the public with the truth will be marginalized if not out right censored. Its going to be a long up hill battle.

    My own belief is that only legal challenges in the form of lawsuits, coordinated against the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies, treatment facilities, psychiatrists, and others who profit from this industry, will bring the publics attention to this urgent matter.

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    • Prisoners Dilemma: Thanks for your comments. Actually, what I expect from the mainstream press or media is intransigence and insistence on the medical model. And yes, I agree that persuasion is hardly sufficient, as I made clear in my second last article on this site. It remains nonetheless one tool among many that we have at our disposal.

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    • Yes. Legal action. Those who dare to stand up to the pharmaceutical giants need support from good laws and wise government officials. Eli Lilly, Pfizer, GSK, and all the others need to be held accountable for the suffering and death that they are causing.

      On the other hand, there are a few notable exceptions to the media’s refusal to air the truth about psychiatry and pharmaceutical companies. We need to befriend and make allies of the influential voices who see the corruption of the psychopharmaceutical industrial complex and the therapeutic state.

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      • Lawsuits are good but in the current system all that happens is even if you win – they pay a fine which sounds big but is like 0.00000001% of their monthly profits or something and they move on. Regulations don’t get changed, nobody goes to prison, they continue business as usual. Essentially the same problem like with banksters.

        The whole system has to go…

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  7. I think this is an inititive in movement building. It something many people can take part in and will have a small but visible effect.

    There was a post sometime ago on MIA where someone suggested online activism on wikkipeadia and social network sites that usualy take an uncritical perspective. I think these inititives are well worth pursuing both for thier own purpose but also as ways of encouraging easy to access activism.

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  8. All community mental health centers I’ve seen have bulletin boards usually more than one . Some say you have to get permission to tack something on but I’ve tacked stuff up anyways and seen it remain up for months. Just make it of appropriate size without covering up someone else’s message. Check back and tac it up again and try to tac your message when no authorities see you. It could be lists of helpful books or movies or articles etc. Just don’t monopolize to big of a space on the bulletin board. Maybe a stack of flyers could be left on a table or somewhere where there are other brochures.
    What about a few people trying to pass out book lists at the APA meeting in Toronto on May 16 2015. Or emailing or mailing them to psychiatrists and other psych employees all over. Or targeting facilities, universities or student orientations where psychiatric wannabe doctors are trained or are thinking about becoming trained as psych docs or nurses etc. Or getting e mail lists somehow and emailing them lists of books etc.
    What about after a book has been on the market for awhile authors selling E-book versions of it or making key excerpts available online.
    Having books mentioned and for sale at film festivals . Just some ideas.

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  9. Great article. And very on target. I think the other factor is for those of us who are professors and instructors to teach and promote these ideas and resources in classrooms. I find each new semester that my students have grown up drinking the kool-aid and have never heard the radical ideas I am teaching them about. By the end of the semester, many of them are thrilled and curious. I suspect this can be a very effective method for increasing readership/exposure, but also shaping a new generation of professionals.

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  10. Hi Bonnie,

    Thanks for this good article. I like the idea of more reviews for critical psychiatry books. You are right that these books tend to not have many reviews/attention online. Robert Whitaker’s books are an exception.

    I keep a blog which promotes ideas that are intensely critical of psychiatric diagnosis. I sometimes share these ideas with people on major online mental health forums. Sadly, it seems that many people have been so heavily brainwashed by their interactions with psychiatrists or hospitals – being told they “have” a certain “mental illness” and need to think about treatment in terms of their illness – that they are unable to consider their psychic reality in more flexible, individualized ways.

    This may be partly because considering oneself as “being borderline” or “having depression” or “having schizophrenia” provides a perverse sense of security that removes the need to consider uncertainty and face feelings that may be contributing to current problems. Instead, feelings and past experiences can be forgotten through focusing on “illness” and dumbing down the symptoms with medication… this is the easy way out in the short term. But the most bitterly hard way out in the long term.

    Fortunately there are some “lost sheep” who want to understand psychological problems in a non-medical way, to question psychiatry’s poisoned offerings, but often lack the awareness or knowledge to do so. These are the people we need to mobilize and get involved more… if even a small proportion of them became active in challenging the current system it would make a large difference. This makes me think of the Pareto principle, in which a small proportion of a group can have a very large influence on the rest of the group.

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  11. How many people are now well read & genuinely literate? Seems to be a minority.

    i’ve spent years trying to raise awareness on certain subjects – especially critical psychiatry & spirituality – But certain areas are fringe – & there are a lot of them. There is a problem with the mass media, it is part of the system/problem.

    i have to say that there is also a big controversy with anti psychiatry. It simply is a complex question, especially regarding this idea that mental illness doesn’t exist – to the masses/general public of course mental illness is real & exists – & i don’t think they’ll be convinced otherwise.

    There are a lot of confusing & in depth arguments – pro & con psychiatry – it’s taken me decades of careful study & research to come to my own working conclusions – & other people simply won’t spend the time on it all.

    Personally i very strongly fundamentally disagree with Szasz.

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    • Cpusage: Please note that while antipsychiatry people draw very heavily on Szasz, Szasz was very clear that he was not antipsychiatry (that is, not in favour of abolition). Many of us also disagree with Szasz on certain issues.

      That said, I suspect that where you fundamentally disagree with Szasz, most antipsychiatry people would agree Szasz–and that is the core question of whether the very concept of mental illness is tenable–where all antipsychiatry people would be emphatic that it is not, and you if I am reading you correctly have a different stand.

      On all sides, some are literate, some not. All we can do is be informed ourselves.

      Re: What the public as a whole will entertain–that is precisely one of the key battlegrounds on which the fight has to take place–and no one is under any illusions about the difficulty of the battle.

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    • It simply is a complex question, especially regarding this idea that mental illness doesn’t exist – to the masses/general public of course mental illness is real & exists – & i don’t think they’ll be convinced otherwise.

      People aren’t stupid. Once they get it that the mind is not the brain and realize that the notion of “mental” illness is absurd, they can never un-get it. True, they might have to have the ideas planted in their minds initially by their favorite celebrities or others with name recognition, but sooner or later they’ll put it together; our job is to help speed up that process. Once people understand that psychiatry is a sham they will naturally resist attempts to have it shoved down their/our throats by force of law. And once the force of law is gone psychiatry will crumble under the weight of its own contradictions.

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      • “People aren’t stupid. Once they get it that the mind is not the brain and realize that the notion of “mental” illness is absurd, they can never un-get it.”

        You’re into Dualism i take it? The mind is not the brain? Anyone that has looked into such a question understands this is an incredibly in depth & complex question – one that is also unanswered.

        As i’ve said i take the Integral position.

        If you take the position there is what could be psyche, i don’t think it realistic to say it can’t suffer disturbance/illness – of one form or another. Szasz was wrong, imo.

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    • I actually believe changing the system is simpler than most think. Unlike many, I do not believe we suffer from a lack of resources or providers of quality mental health services. Instead, I think we misuse those resources to a staggering degree, leading to an inefficient and arguably unethical degree.

      I worked at a large county jail for several years. When I arrived (I’m a psychologist), the system was you would expect: very psychiatry-heavy. The social workers and psychologists were glorified baby-sitters, putting out fires, but doing little actual clinical work. Any inmate who hinted at a mental health issue was referred to the psychiatrist, who naturally had a hopeless backlog they would never get seen in 20 years. Every inmate referred was given whatever medication they felt they needed/wanted and we were spending something like $50-60k per MONTH on psychiatric medications alone.

      Me, being the radical shrink I am (proven by my following and posting here!) suggested a “radical” shift. Let the clinicians already on staff do actual clinical work. Let’s (wait for it) ASSESS people to see if they really are mentally ill; to see if they actually need medicine or not. We let social workers do what social worker are best at. We let psychologists do what they are best at. And we reserved our psychiatry hours for those seriously mentally ill people who really needed it.

      What happened? It worked. We provided good quality mental health care to a huge amount of inmates. All were given quality assessments and although everyone of them thought they were mentally ill, most weren’t. We provided therapy for those who wanted it, and for the small percentage that was left, we referred to psychiatry. No more backlog. Over the course of 18-24 months, we reduced our psychiatric medication budget to 20k or less. We did not hire more staff. We did not throw more money at it. We simply rearranged the existing resource in a sensible, ethical way.

      We saw no increase in behavioral problems; no suicides, and we certainly did not have a bunch of decompensating, unmedicated mentally ill people flying the the rooftops of the jail. It worked because it makes sense. Most people need lesser interventions; we should use them. The research shows they help, they work, and most benefit. Instead, we tend to use the most invasive (usually medicine) first and non-medical mental health professionals scrape by on the crumbs that are left.

      I am absolutely convinced the system could change, but of course psychiatrist’s and other medical doctors’ egos will prevent it, as will pharmaceutical dollars and politics.

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      • “ASSESS people to see if they really are mentally ill; to see if they actually need medicine or not. We let social workers do what social worker are best at. We let psychologists do what they are best at. And we reserved our psychiatry hours for those seriously mentally ill people who really needed it.”

        Sounds very sensible – the vast majority being treated by psychiatry aren’t mentally ill – that’s a massive part of the problem.

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          • I think it is easy to get confused between saying “the mental illnesses defined in the DSM aren’t really illnesses per se” and that “the experiences that are labeled mental illnesses aren’t real.” No one’s saying depression isn’t a real thing that happens. At least I’m sure not. I’m saying that “Depression” is a state that a person is in which 1) is not a disease state in itself, as all of our emotions have survival value, and 2) there are literally hundreds of different situations, some physiological and some not, that could result in a state of “depression.” What is ridiculous is to assume that ALL states of depression result from the same cause and require the same “treatment.” What makes sense to me is to look at depression as an indicator of something ELSE that is wrong, rather than defining depression as the problem. For instance, a person can be depressed due to the loss of a loved one, a vitamin B-12 deficiency, a lack of purpose in his/her life, the side effects of a medication s/he is taking, loss of sleep, the long-term consequences of childhood abuse, a thyroid condition, or any combination of the above. Why would you assume that all of the above conditions are a result of an “imbalance in the brain?” Why would you prescribe an antidepressant for all of the above conditions?

            For sure, people get depressed. They always have and they always will. It’s real. And it CAN be caused by a disease in some cases. But it is not in itself a disease state. It’s a normal state of the body that communicates something about the survival conditions in the environment. Are some people more prone to assuming that condition, perhaps even biologically? Probably so. But that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with those people, either.

            If people feel bad and want to take drugs to feel better, I have no problem with that. But I do have a problem with taking a normal human emotion and defining it as a disease state without bothering to look at why it is happening or what other options you might have to get yourself to a more favorable condition.

            — Steve

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          • CPU — check out the APA propaganda budget (I don’t know what they actually call it). Check out all the psychiatry-friendly TV shows and commercials for psychiatric drugs. Then look for anti-psychiatry programs, PSA’s, etc. Does that help explain why so many people believe in a myth?

            Secondly, “mental illness” is a recent concept dating back to, at the very earliest, the late 18th century.

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          • “Secondly, “mental illness” is a recent concept dating back to, at the very earliest, the late 18th century.”

            You’re wrong – words/terms/concepts have always existed for madness – maybe it wasn’t exactly called ‘mental illness’ but the ideas/references were the same.

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  12. There is no single answer to how to change the system. There are many ways that have to be combined together. Though as I argued in a former article, I think the concept of changing or improving the system, is itself misguided and will only perpetuate a system that we direly need to get rid of.

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      • Exactly, I often find myself agreeing with some of the anti-psych movement, but then the very logical concern is: there will be nothing in it’s place. Like today, we tons of MIA authors that advocate that human suffering shouldn’t be medicated and that we need to find it within ourselves to cope. And I like that idea, to a certain extent, meaning if we had centers or places to go that would reinforce this idea and teach us on how to manage without medication. But such places don’t exist, and that’s dangerous to advocate for people to cease their meds when there’s no back up plan.

        The anti-pschy movement has some really great concepts and theory’s but it fails at real life application.

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        • Tablan, I agree that anti-psychiatry will continue to fail most sufferers of mental distress as long as it attacks what is wrong about psychiatry but cannot provide alternatives. Providing alternatives would take significant resources – e.g. a massive expansion of human help, including long-term, low-cost intensive individual/group psychotherapy for people in psychotic or “borderline” states, provision of safe, low-cost housing to the emotionally troubled, and a massive campaign to educate the public about how ineffective medications are over the long-term. This would involve tens of billions of dollars and political will. What anti-psychiatry can do is help some people escape from the predatory psychiatric system and raise awareness. But I am not sure how far they can go toward really changing the state of mental health via a vast new initiative.

          This type of initiative, a “New Deal” for emotional health, would results in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs currently supported by the gigantic parasite that is Big Pharma companies and associated “professionals.” Therefore, any such expansion will meet massive, intense resistance, since many people’s livelihoods depend upon “schizophrenics”, “bipolars”, “borderlines” etc. being lied to about the validity of their “illness”, and being pressured into taking drugs that cause long-term chronicity/disability.

          This resistance of psychiatric leaders to facing the truth about their field of “science” might be likened to how many people in the Confederate South did not want to give up slavery in the 1860s, because they benefitted so great from it financially, even if it involved oppressing and ruining the lives of millions of blacks. The same occurs today, except the slaves are “schizophrenics”, “bipolars, “borderlines”, “depressives,” etc. and the owners and profiteers of the medication-plantations are companies like Eli Lilly, Janssen, Pfizer, and allied psychiatrists.

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          • “The anti-pschy movement has some really great concepts and theory’s but it fails at real life application.”

            Thank you for speaking sense tablan30. i’ve done everything to fight the system & not be on medication – the upshot is there hasn’t been the understanding & support in the community, & i’ve done everything to seek it out. It’s NOT been a failing, or lack of responsibility on my part.

            The reality is that the medication works, as i expect it does for a lot of people, at keeping me relatively stable & out of severe psychosis.

            “Therefore, any such expansion will meet massive, intense resistance, since many people’s livelihoods depend upon “schizophrenics”, “bipolars”, “borderlines” etc. being lied to about the validity of their “illness””

            The truth is that people are ill – that’s why they’re being treated – some are chronically ill.

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          • Cpuusage,
            I think we are getting involved in semantic confusion… what you could “ill” I would call unwell, severely distressed, chronically confused/terrified/enraged, emotionally immature, etc. Yes, these problems are real… people are not trying to say that mental-emotional suffering does not exist, but rather that the organization of syndromes/illnesses based on patterns of suffering are unreliable and illusory.
            But, telling people that there are valid scientific “illnesses” based on arbitrary groupings of the observable results of their distress, as psychiatrists, is misleading and false. And brief meetings with psychiatrists who give people medications to dull down their feelings, while leaving their core needs for support and understanding unmet, is inadequate treatment for most deep-seated emotional distress. I’m sure you can agree with me on some of that.

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          • “I think we are getting involved in semantic confusion… what you could “ill” I would call unwell, severely distressed, chronically confused/terrified/enraged, emotionally immature, etc. Yes, these problems are real… people are not trying to say that mental-emotional suffering does not exist, but rather that the organization of syndromes/illnesses based on patterns of suffering are unreliable and illusory. But, telling people that there are valid scientific “illnesses” based on arbitrary groupings of the observable results of their distress, as psychiatrists, is misleading and false. And brief meetings with psychiatrists who give people medications to dull down their feelings, while leaving their core needs for support and understanding unmet, is inadequate treatment for most deep-seated emotional distress. I’m sure you can agree with me on some of that.”

            i agree up to a point. i’ve deeply researched, read & contemplated all this for the past 3 decades. Psychiatric nosology is a very in depth question. i’m not opposed to a more comprehensive psychiatry – some of my favourite people have been/are psychiatrists.

            i do take an a genuinely integral/holistic approach – that unfortunately incredibly few people really understand.

            All things considered i do think that some of these conditions are illness, in every sense of that word. & yes, of course we can debate best ways of approaching/treating it all & i’d agree that there are far better ways of helping people, but where can it all be accessed? Such help/support simply doesn’t exist for the vast majority of people. & i don’t see anyone really doing very much to change that – other than the endless polemics, which really changes nothing.

            i’ve spoken at depth with a lot of people diagnosed with mental health conditions, & something that has become apparent over the years, is that they do generally fit the symptomatology for the diagnostic criteria – Not in all cases, & i agree that psychiatry isn’t an exact science.

            Do depression, manic depression, schizophrenia & others disorders exist? On balance i think they do. Yes, debate the aetiology, & work on best ways of helping people so afflicted – But to deny it all? It doesn’t make much sense to me any more. Of course there is a wishy washy nature to a lot of mental health areas – But only really because there is imo such a confusion between milder & more severe forms of illness, & a lot of debate about what things are/aren’t. That’s people – we don’t agree on anything.

            i think all the extremes here are wrong – Szasz was as mistaken as Torrey Fuller. But there is truth i’d wager somewhere in-between.

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          • Furthermore many “career mental consumers” might become or stay well and have to get jobs in lieu of SSI. That partially explains why so many folks in the MI system embrace their “incurable illnesses.” Beats having to grow up and get a job! 🙂

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        • First of all not having a system at all would already be an improvement. As research shows everything psychiatry does only makes the problem worse so having no psychiatry would mean that a lot of people who are now locked up in the drugs/hospitalizations cycles or are chronically disabled would recover on their own. Especially when they were not told that they are sick by everyone around but have tehir feelings and problems acknowledged as real and socially acceptable (you know, things like grieving the loss of a loved one for more than two weeks).

          Secondly, it’s in essence a system of lowest effort. The easiest thing you can do is to take the person who’s causing trouble and dump them in a hole and drug them to stupor and early death. It’s not only easy but also profitable for certain people. But not for society at large. Instead the things we all want and deserve: taking care of people basic needs for food, shelter and feeling valuable for others (like by having a meaningful employment) would take care of most cases of mental illness. Building communities and acting against the atomisation of society would cure others. It’s true that there will probably always be “hopeless cases” but compared to what it is now it’d be an enormous improvement.

          I think the biggest problem is that this thing is systemic. You can’t really re-build a system from within without radical change. I suggest you watch “the Wire” – it shows beautifully how a system works, from the lowest to the highest levels and how individual attempts on reform and improvement and what not are doomed to fail. There’s no incentive to build alternatives because the system as it is makes them futile.

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  13. “That said, I suspect that where you fundamentally disagree with Szasz, most antipsychiatry people would agree Szasz–and that is the core question of whether the very concept of mental illness is tenable–where all antipsychiatry people would be emphatic that it is not, and you if I am reading you correctly have a different stand.”

    If anti-psychiatry means denying that mental illness exists (which i’m not sure anti-psyhciatry does?) then i’m not an anti-psychiatrist. It’s also odd that almost everyone labelled as an anti-psychiatrist, when push comes to shove – denies that they are.

    i agree with Jung & Laing (among many others) & take an integral/holistic view – bio/psycho/social/spiritual – to varying degrees/ways i think people can be ill – That there is a psychopathology. That there are varying degrees of a disturbance of the psyche – that after all the arguments; i think can be considered to be mental illness. To my understanding people are mentally/emotionally ill in various ways. Of course there are imo, better ways of helping people than what is generally currently done.

    i suppose i’d call myself critical psychiatry – i’m not in opposition to a more comprehensive psychiatry (& there are/have been many good psychiatrists, i’ve mentioned 2) – Nor am i opposed to a wise use of medications (although i disagree with the current mass drugging of society). Where i think the emphasis should be is on primary genuinely comprehensive psychosocial approaches to peoples care, & a shift to a far more humane system. i disagree with a primary focus on biology, although i wouldn’t deny there are varying physiological aspects to peoples conditions. In the majority of cases of functional mental health disorder i think the primary aetiology is psychogenic, & should be addressed as such.

    i think all our systems reflect the overall development, advancement, & civility of our collective humanity – & i don’t think ‘we’re’ very civilised – genuine change i think must come through a shift in the collective civility of humanity as a whole.

    imo this is a very complex area – dealing with many things that ‘we’ know little about – the nature of consciousness/the self – & a full understanding of how that relates to our entire physiology/brain/CNS. We simply don’t fully know – no one does.

    But i don’t think all the polemics helps – & it’s not all going to be resolved with polemical arguments. The entire conversation on this site was largely had some 50 years ago – what has changed? i do think things are very nuanced, that there is no black & white – especially within such an in depth subject. It may well be that some of the questions raised by Madness/Psychiatry are simply unanswerable, & may always be.

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    • The real issue is coercion versus freedom, not whether or not any such animal as “mental illness” exists. No other branch of medicine imprisons its patients, and then presumes to present itself as science.

      People in mental health treatment for the most serious of disorder labels are dying at an age on average 10 -25 years earlier than the rest of the population. Why is this so? It is so because the physical treatments rendered those patients are harmful across the board. If your idea of treatment is to harm your patient, well, no wonder he or she is dying.

      Thing is, it isn’t just a matter of physical harm as treatment. Yes, there’s that, but it goes beyond harm. Treatment involves a deprivation of liberty, and the loss of those rights associated with full citizenship and adulthood. I don’t think the state has any good excuse for legislating fully grown adults into “adult children”, but once you’ve got “adult children”, making ‘fully grown adults’ of them again becomes very complicated indeed.

      Psychiatry is berating, imprisoning, and killing people. If this were Halloween, then most all its “treats” are actually tricks. I would oppose this crime against humanity. You would aid and abet it. I guess that puts us on different tracks. I have absolutely no problem with this different track that I’m taking. I’m not injuring people in the name of “helping” them and, what’s more, I’m not claiming that doing so is a good thing.

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    • Cpuusage: You keep conflating “distress” (not a medical concept) with “mental illnes” (a medical concept). Also “mad” (not inherently a medical concept) with “mental illness” (a medical concept). Yes, there have always been distressed and/or distressing people who society tried to figure out what to do with. The supremacy of medicine in this area did not happen until the 18th century (in Europe) and far far later everywhere else. What is likewise important, antipsychiatry theorists in no way deny mental distress, and some of us argue for abundant help to be available. What we are disputing are what medicine itself initially described as “putative illnesses”

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          • I don’t hear anyone saying that mental emotional distress doesn’t exist, only that it isn’t an illness per se, as I’ve described before. You seem a bit stuck on this point. People suffer and we should help them, but emotional suffering has many, many causes. A disease should be something where you can identify a cause and recommend a treatment. A rash is a condition but not a disease. It can be caused by lots of things, and depending on the case, requires nothing or intensive treatment.

            What are called “mental disorders” in the DSM are not identifiable disease states. It doesn’t mean no one gets depressed or has hallucinations or that those people don’t deserve help. The question is whether all people having those conditions require medical assistance because of a physiological condition that causes the “symptoms”. The answer is clearly no.

            — Steve

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          • “The question is whether all people having those conditions require medical assistance because of a physiological condition that causes the “symptoms”. The answer is clearly no.”

            After 30 years of contemplating, reading, researching & experiencing it all, i don’t think there are clear answers Steve – partly why it’s all in the mess that’s it’s in.

            Currently in the UK the Government is denying that people are ill & in need of help & slashing the welfare/care system – the anti-psychiatry arguments play directly into their hands – regardless of how well intentioned people are, or noble some of these ideas are. People are being made out to be lazy, work shy, irresponsible, malingering scroungers.

            i’d love to see a transformed society/system, with a primary focus on comprehensive psychological, social & spiritual understanding & support for people – with places like Soteria/Diabasis/Windhorse etc in every community – places of genuine sanctuary & healing for people.

            i don’t agree with the current system – But i do think it is a very in depth & complex question as to how & in what ways people are unwell/ill. i don’t think it’s clear cut. i agree there isn’t a definite/known physiological aetiology – but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t physiological components to these conditions/experiences. i’d also agree that the primary aetiology is psychogenic in a majority of cases (with presumably toxic nuances) – But again that doesn’t mean it’s not illness – not to my understanding anyway.

            Some people i think need hospitalisation, & some people i think are best helped with medication (as part of an ideal comprehensive approach to care). To all intents & purposes i think some people are mentally ill.

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          • CPU, I’m not arguing that such folks need and deserve all the support and care that is available (and I’ve been one of them from time to time, too). All I’m saying is that you can’t assume that just because a person fits a particular list of symptoms you somehow understand what is wrong with them and what is needed to help. I’d never argue against pain relievers if someone has a lot of knee pain, but I’d be very disappointed in any doctor who didn’t look for the cause and try to treat it. It seems to me that this is what psychiatry has become – we list off a bunch of obvious “symptoms” of a condition that often occurs, such as being depressed, and call it a “disorder.” We disclaim technically that these people necessarily have the same problem and claim to be doing research to find causes, but in actual practice, all the research focuses on the “disorder” as defined and all “treatment” focuses on reducing the listed “symptoms,” with no attempt to differentiate between the various possible reasons the person is suffering. I see this as harmful, but my view of this labeling process as being harmful doesn’t mean I don’t respect that you, for instance, have suffered very real hallucinations/delusions and that you’ve found psychiatric drugs at least somewhat helpful in suppressing these manifestations. And I’m not even denying that you or someone experiencing similar might have something physiologically wrong with you. I’m just saying you don’t KNOW what if anything is physiologically wrong just based on that DSM symptom checklist.

            I think we agree about a lot of things, but the sticking point seems to be that when I say “DSM diagnoses as described aren’t discernible diseases” you hear “people with psychiatric diagnoses don’t have any real problems.” I am not saying the second, I’m saying the first.

            — Steve

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          • “People are putting forward the argument that mental illness doesn’t exist.”

            I’ll give you an analogy. When I say “there are no killer whale fish” doesn’t mean I don’t believe in killer whales – I simply know they’re not fish. And they should not be treated as ones because if you try to treat a killer whale as if it were a fish you’re going to do some damage to the poor animal.

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  14. The history of psychiatry can be seen as a history of constant “reforms” that cause greater and greater damage. A good analogy is that the attempt to reform psychiatry is similar to the attempt to reform to slavery. No amount of reform ever solves the problem. Slavery was and is an evil institution that must be abolished. We would never entertain the idea of reforming Naziism or the Ku Klux Klan, and yet there is constant debate over reforming psychiatry. It’s nonsense.

    Most people don’t know about Thomas Szasz. Those who do know about him often dismiss his arguments without undertanding them. Many online conversations about Szasz make it clear that people, even vehement antipsychiatrists, haven’t really read his works. One of the major reasons Szasz did not consider himself “antipsychiatry” is because a handful of psychiatrists (Laing, Cooper and others) promoted psychiatry and “reform” behind the mask of “antipsychiatry.” To Szasz, psychiatry was quackery and antipsychiatry (the antipsychiatry of Laing and his cohorts) was quackery squared.

    Szasz’ argument was positive, or in other words, he argued in favor of responsibility and liberty. He correctly understood that psychiatry stands in direct opposition to liberty and responsibility. He wasn’t right about everything, but he wrote very lucidly about the fraudulence of psychiatry. The current antipsychiatry movement would do well to learn from him.

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        • i’ve read thousands of books.

          By Szasz a few – main one the first – the rest is just regurgitating the same stuff – i.e. mental illness doesn’t exist & promoting an extreme libertarianism.

          Think it’s too simplistic & that in regards to what people actually experience (i.e. severe mental illness) – is plainly wrong.

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          • Your simplistic replies are becoming somewhat oppressive to those who can deconstruct most of your “arguments” in their sleep. But if you must persist you might actually present what you consider a solid rebuttal to Szasz’ specific arguments instead of directing people to bogus “references” and calling something you clearly don’t comprehend “nonsense.”

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          • “Your simplistic replies are becoming somewhat oppressive to those who can deconstruct most of your “arguments” in their sleep.”

            Please be my guest & deconstruct them then? Instead of personal attack/slurs, & ad hominem arguments – that doesn’t show you can?

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          • Most antipsychiatry people are not libertarian, though Szasz for sure was. That said, Szasz was refuting the false medicalization of people’s problems–not the fact of those problems. No offense intended, but if you think you have understood Szasz, your comments keeps showing that you have not. And what I would recommend is picking him up again and reading more carefully.

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          • “No offense intended, but if you think you have understood Szasz, your comments keeps showing that you have not. And what I would recommend is picking him up again and reading more carefully.”

            Believe me i have read & understood him – Hope you can all get over the fact that i do understand him & disagree with him. i have hundreds of far better books & areas to study thanks – rather than wasting more precious time with Szasz.

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          • “i think it’s a balanced & intelligent article/overview – Amusing as well.”

            You have an interesting idea about “balanced”. It’s basically a list of some facts from Szasz’ life without any relevant citations written in a biased tone. An example:

            “While Szasz did write a few paranoid things about psychiatric dystopias, he never descended into the really cranky conspiracies that the Scientologists did”

            Sounds quite opinionated for a balanced piece, but maybe that’s just me. Plus what are these “few paranoid things”? Why didn’t the author bother to cite them so that the reader can say for him/herself if they were indeed paranoid but not quite cranky as the article claims?

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  15. I was sarcastic in another response, writing “Won’t you help the children?”. People do care for the children, hopefully more than their pet dog or cat.
    When the current children grow up , the evidence of psychiatry working, or not working will be obvious.
    Jesus the healer reportedly said , Matthew 7:15 “By their fruits you will know them”

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    • “help us out here… what is mental illness? What is severe mental illness? How do you distinguish between the two? How do you know when someone is mentally ill or severely mentally ill?”

      From what i’ve seen & experienced over the past 3 decades i think it’s all fairly obvious.

      i elucidated things in one of the above posts – degree of psychological/emotional disturbance primarily. i think that needs to some degree be separated from behavior/presentations. There is a degree of subjectivity to it all, with the patient & Doctor – & language is obviously limited.

      Can you explain how mental illness doesn’t exist? What are people experiencing then? Why does so much of it fit the general diagnostic classifications?

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  16. Of of the biggest things that changed my mind more was coming across a severely disturbed/delusional/psychotic mentally ill anti-psychiatrist (not on this forum). They have a lot of contradictions – one of them being that they’re heavily involved with psychiatry/mental health services.

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      • Cpuusage… while mental distress is “real” in the sense that I think you mean, probably you are also aware of how poorly the reliability for “diagnoses” in the DSM V came out in their field trials (which were studies done by the DSM V team, and only replicated the poor reliability of earlier DSMs). British critical psychiatrist Sami Timimi goes over that there – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5caitdQA6HY

        The relevant part is shown at 22:30 in. Many of the well-known “diagnoses” only reach reliability/agreement levels (i.e. how reliably/frequently different psychiatrists agree on whether a person has a given “illness”) which are little better than chance. For example, Major Depressive Disorder (0.20) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (0.32) have kappa/reliability levels from the DSM trials that are little or no better than flipping a coin. It’s essentially arbitrary whether a psychiatrist will or will not diagnose a distressed person with one of those. That is disturbing…

        This is the problem with classifying people’s distresses into categories of “mental illness” – it is so greatly based on subjective descriptions and on when the outside observer judges that certain symptoms are of a kind/nature that crosses a subjectively judged “threshold” of severity-intensity…. that mental “illnesses” will never have strong validity and reliability like physical illnesses. As long as this situation continues, and as long as long-term mental health outcomes stagnate or worsen, etc. psychiatry will continue to come under attack as being unscientific and poorly evidenced…

        Again, the signs and experiences of people’s distress, suffering, or craziness are very real in innumerable different combinations and degrees. But classifying them as if they were medical illnesses is not working well from a medical or scientific standpoint. Several decades have now elapsed and yet psychiatry has failed to find any consistent genetic-biological markers for their “illnesses”. The looming issue is that their model of how to understand human distress is clearly poorly correlated with reality, but what can it be replaced with?

        Since you appear to support the idea of “mental illness”, do you think the current system is adequate, or do you think it should be replaced by another paradigm?

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        • i fully agree with all that bpdtransformation, thanks for the reply.

          “Since you appear to support the idea of “mental illness”, do you think the current system is adequate, or do you think it should be replaced by another paradigm?”

          i’ve answered this already in one of the posts above. i think it should be transformed/replaced – with primarily comprehensive psychosocial approaches based on a genuinely integral/holistic bio/psycho/social/spiritual paradigm. i could expand on it all, but very few people appear to understand what i’m discussing.

          i don’t see that transformation happening, not for hundreds more years, if at all? A lot of the reasons – imo ‘we’re’ collectively uncivilised. Society needs to transform.

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          • Thanks for replying. Yeah I agree with what you’re saying in a general sense.

            But I think the other big factor militating against a comprehensive psychosocial way of supporting distressed people is profit. It is much more profitable to give people pills, and it is much easier than supporting them psychosocially. It’s hard work and exhausting to help emotionally distraught people. Why not just give them pills to dull down their troubling feelings and ignore whatever social/psychological factors caused their problems? While making billions of dollars off of them at the same time…

            I’m not trying to make a joke or be cynical. I just think this is really what is happening, to a large degree. Opportunistic corporations have seen a business opportunity in the “mentally ill” and are amorally exploiting it to maximum effect.

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  17. Have noted Slaying_the_Dragon_of_Psychiatry, that from what i’ve seen you’re strangely reticent to share anything whatsoever about your own circumstances/mental health – a ‘common’ mo of the staunch anti-psychiatrist as well, it often appears.

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  18. 🙂 Oh Cpuusage… why are you so reticent? You have yet to write anything that proves that “mental illness” is other than symptoms or behaviors that you find objectionable. No one is denying that people suffer from a variety of emotional or psychological troubles for a wide variety of reasons (which suffering is often a direct result of psychiatric abuse, torture and drugging), but the attempt to medicalize and psychiatricize suffering has no basis in science, let alone reality. Your defense of psychiatry and “mental illness” would just be sad if it weren’t so deplorable.

    Please define degree of distress. What does it mean that a person is “functioning”? Are you “functioning” or “non-functioning”? Where did you obtain the authority to classify your fellow human beings in such a way?

    I’m not reticent about my obvious brilliance and superior health. I’m also not reticent about the fact that there is no such thing as “mental health,” just as there is no such thing as “mental illness”?

    And for the record, I don’t necessarily define myself as an antipsychiatrist. I am pro truth, pro liberty, pro reason, and pro good. It just so happens that psychiatry is anti-truth, anti-liberty, anti-reason, and anti-good.

    Furthermore, many survivors of psychiatry do not share their stories out of a legitimate fear that they will be incarcerated, tortured and drugged against their will. That’s not reticence… it’s sagacity.

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    • That’s the problem. It CAN be considered “mental illness” and in many circles it IS considered “mental illness,” but just because something is considered “mental illness” doesn’t make “mental illness” real. I could consider that you are really a rabbit, but that doesn’t make you a rabbit. You could consider that Szasz was a Scientologist, but that doesn’t make him one. People are capable of considering a lot of things that just aren’t true.

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      • i don’t quite understand the issue with calling/understanding certain experiences/conditions as being mental illness? & i think there is a great danger in simply denying what people are actually experiencing. i’ve lived, some people are very obviously mentally ill.

        Of course debate best ways of helping people – what incidentally was Szasz’s solution – stick em all in prison wasn’t it? Isn’t that what America has done…

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  19. Cpuusage – Actually, Cpuusage, I’ve had trouble placing where you might be coming from. I do think you are on dangerous ground when you regard a person’s tendency to show unhappiness as a criterion for diagnosing illness. It certainly explains why so many women end up in psychiatric treatment. Oddly, too, your illustration of someone who is one of the anti psychiatric mad seems to come from a personal disagreement between you and this other person.

    I admire any person who puts him or herself up as an anti psychiatrist or even as publicly critical of psychiatry, but, as Slay the Dragon points out, many don’t because of fear of losing friends, family, and of reactivating a system which has drugged them into a complete loss of self. You seem to be coasting along within the system, with vague comments about how the whole realm of psychiatry is difficult to define, justifying the system’s existence because of some “serious mentally ill” contingent (in which you don’t seem to include yourself), a contingent who, on examination, seems to consist of those who disagree with you.

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    • “I do think you are on dangerous ground when you regard a person’s tendency to show unhappiness as a criterion for diagnosing illness.”

      i don’t – & where have you read where i’ve done that? The vast majority of diagnosed people imo aren’t mentally ill.

      “Oddly, too, your illustration of someone who is one of the anti psychiatric mad seems to come from a personal disagreement between you and this other person.”

      i’ve observed a lot of contradictions in these areas.

      “I admire any person who puts him or herself up as an anti psychiatrist or even as publicly critical of psychiatry”

      Thanks, i’ve been highly critical of psychiatry, personally & publicly for 30 years.

      “You seem to be coasting along within the system”

      You know my history & circumstances?

      “with vague comments about how the whole realm of psychiatry is difficult to define, justifying the system’s existence because of some “serious mentally ill” contingent (in which you don’t seem to include yourself), a contingent who, on examination, seems to consist of those who disagree with you.”

      On aggregate i think a majority of people take the middle ground, not extreme anti, nor extreme pro psychiatry. i do class myself as having suffered a long term, severe & enduring mental illness.

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  20. What about learning difficulties? Alzheimers? Brain trauma/injury? Huntington’s disease? Down’s syndrome? etc…

    Pre/perinatal trauma/pathogens may cause changes in brain development that later precipitate psychosis – it may be a factor/cause in cases.

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        • There is no proof whatever that there are. And you cannot call things illness without proof. They hoped they would find proof for what they called (see Kraepelin) all the “functional illnesses”, but in point of fact they did not, despite a century of trying. When this happens and psychiatrist keeping calling it illness, what is happening is not science but something more like fraud.

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          • “There is no proof whatever that there are. And you cannot call things illness without proof. They hoped they would find proof for what they called (see Kraepelin) all the “functional illnesses”, but in point of fact they did not, despite a century of trying. When this happens and psychiatrist keeping calling it illness, what is happening is not science but something more like fraud.”

            Largely i agree – i take an integral view on it all – bio/psycho/social/spiritual – i don’t see any either/or. i suppose just because it can’t be classed entirely as a biological illness, doesn’t mean it isn’t an illness, & it doesn’t mean there isn’t a physiology/biology in cases, nor an aspect/aetiology on a biologic level. i don’t agree that it’s brain diseases in the vast majority of cases – i think the primary aetiology is psychogenic. i think there is some evidence for physiological changes with some people.

            This is from the RCP on schizophrenia – i think it’s quite balanced –

            http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/schizophrenia.aspx

            There are certainly differences between the UK & USA.

            i think far more people are moving away from a strict biomedical/brain disease view on all these areas – most people seem to acknowledge there is a combination of factors involved – physiology, environment, psychology, & some acknowledge the transpersonal & spiritual.

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          • This argument fails when you say there is no proof. This is where anti-psychiatry (in my opinion) falls apart.

            Lets take depression for instance: people who experience depression for extended periods of time experience changes in brain structure. Shrinkage of the hippocampus can lead to memory problems, learning issues, etc.. These discoveries have been found using MRI technology, and it’s reported in any major medical journal.

            True there is no bio-markers to diagnose depression, but that don’t mean there won’t be in the future.

            Now if you don’t want to call the shrinkage of parts in the brain an “illness” fine, call it lets say “just part of the human condition.” but the at the end of the day whatever you call it doesn’t change the fact that biological changes are present, and the person going through it is suffering.

            The challenge I think is to find more effective ways to relieve the persons depression, while drugs work for many, as you know, it can hurt people as well. Just as they have left me disabled.

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        • Maybe, but pre-emptively lumping them together into categories actually obscures any chance of really finding out of there is a brain function disorder that is verifiable. For instance, “ADHD” is diagnosed for kids fitting a range of symptoms that are common for many kids but appear to a greater degree in those so diagnosed. What if 20% of these kids had a B vitamin deficiency? If we treat a whole group of 100, only 20 get better. But if we give them stimulants, 70% get better. So stimulants are “more effective” for treating “ADHD.” But 20% of these kids got better with a nutritional intervention!!! We lose sight of those 20% if they are lumped in with the rest as all having “ADHD.” There may be another 15% who suffer from sleep apnea, another 5% have low iron, another 30 % (this figure is actually validated in a Canadian study) who went to Kindergarten a year too early, and 10% more who are really smart and are so bored by the curriculum they have to do something to break up the monotony. Add in another 10% who are in abusive homes or in foster care, and we’ve taken care of 90% of the cases without a milligram of stimulants. But they each had different issues, and none of these issues will encompass more than a minority of kids so labeled.

          There may be a hard core 10% or less (of those diagnosed) who really have some kind of brain damage, though that figure seems ridiculous high for kids who haven’t suffered head injuries), and maybe we can then study those 10% and see if they have anything in common that is malfunctioning or can be fixed. But we’ll never actually find THOSE kids, either, because they’re lumped in with the 90% whose brains are actually fine!

          It may seem like a small thing to simply name a condition of non-optimum operation in order to talk about it, but words absolutely have power and they alter and restrict how we think about a problem. There are consequences to labeling that go well beyond simply a recognition that a particular set of behaviors or emotions objectively exists.

          — Steve

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  21. “I do think you are on dangerous ground when you regard a person’s tendency to show unhappiness as a criterion for diagnosing illness.”

    The Cosmic Joke in that is for the past 10 years i’ve made close to some 30 thousand posts or so, on a load of mainstream mental health forums, arguing anti/critical psychiatry viewpoints, & coming under a lot of flak.

    My opinions have evolved & changed a bit – for the basic fact that people simply are unwell in different ways & to different degrees. & i don’t generally really see the anti-psychiatry lot offering any realistic alternative to the current mess. Just denying there is a problem & wanted to abolish everything is imo just as stupid.

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    • “for the basic fact that people simply are unwell in different ways & to different degrees.”

      Again, no one denies that there are many people who are “unwell in different ways and to different degrees.” It’s one thing to say that people are “unwell,” but it’s quite a leap to then claim that such people are “mentally ill.”

      “i don’t generally really see the anti-psychiatry lot offering any realistic alternative to the current mess. Just denying there is a problem & wanted to abolish everything is imo just as stupid.”

      Again, you have fundamentally misunderstood everything about antipsychiatry.

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      • “Again, no one denies that there are many people who are “unwell in different ways and to different degrees.” It’s one thing to say that people are “unwell,” but it’s quite a leap to then claim that such people are “mentally ill.””

        Some people certainly do deny that people are unwell, & often use anti-psychiatry arguments to do so. i don’t think it is a leap.

        “Again, you have fundamentally misunderstood everything about antipsychiatry.”

        Please enlighten me Master 🙂

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        • “Some people certainly do deny that people are unwell, & often use anti-psychiatry arguments to do so.”

          No one here is doing that, and no one who understands antipsychiatry would do that.

          If I understand the problem correctly, you are unwell, and have been for quite some time. You have suffered under the psychiatric system and wish to see it reformed. You are convinced that your suffering has been caused by mental illness, and therefore you are skeptical of antipsychiatry because it advocates for personal responsibility. Is this correct?

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          • “If I understand the problem correctly, you are unwell, and have been for quite some time. You have suffered under the psychiatric system and wish to see it reformed. You are convinced that your suffering has been caused by mental illness, and therefore you are skeptical of antipsychiatry because it advocates for personal responsibility. Is this correct?”

            Partly correct – my definition of mental illness/the diagnosis i have is not entirely in agreement with the biomedical view – But rather a far more comprehensive integral understanding.

            i don’t take issue with personal responsibility – i’ve been living a highly independent life & taken full responsibility for a lot. i do however think that in a genuinely civilisaed society the more vulnerable/unwell/needing support would be properly looked after, & their needs met.

            In relation to having wanted more in the way of genuine understanding & support, people have in general been quite cruel about it all & in my experience the worst people about my views have been anti psychiatry types – as if my difficulties are far more to do with a moral failing/lack of/disorder of character etc.

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          • “Partly correct – my definition of mental illness/the diagnosis i have is not entirely in agreement with the biomedical view – But rather a far more comprehensive integral understanding.”

            What is that diagnosis?

            “i do however think that in a genuinely civilisaed society the more vulnerable/unwell/needing support would be properly looked after, & their needs met.”

            I agree completely.

            “In relation to having wanted more in the way of genuine understanding & support, people have in general been quite cruel about it all & in my experience the worst people about my views have been anti psychiatry types – as if my difficulties are far more to do with a moral failing/lack of/disorder of character etc.”

            I’m sorry that people have been cruel and attributed your difficulties to any real or imagined moral failings. This is a disservice to you and to antipsychiatry.

            I sincerely hope that you will find healing and joy.

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          • “What is that diagnosis?”

            There has been a mish mash/long history with it all – But the one that’s stuck for the past 17 years has been paranoid schizophrenia. For the past 2 & a half years i’ve been fully discharged again from all services, & they say i’ve made a remarkable recovery, which in ways i have, but in other ways not so. There seems to be some debate with them as to dual diagnosis & how much prior drug use contributed to things?

            Was sectioned for 4 months on a locked ward when i was age 17 & they said it was a severe drug induced psychosis. Then age 21 after a severe suicide attempt they said it was psychotic depression. Then the resurfacing of an undiagnosed psychotic illness. Was sectioned/hospitalised 4 times, & spent around a year in psychiatric hospital – But have also gone through a lot of psychosis with zero contact with services.

            i was in heavy addiction/alcoholism for 17 years – have been clean/sober 13 years. i can identify a lot with depression, anxiety, social anxiety & complex PTSD – the depression & anxiety is on record, but it’s just officially the schizophrenia diagnosis – i take a low dose of anti-psychotic medication.

            “I’m sorry that people have been cruel and attributed your difficulties to any real or imagined moral failings. This is a disservice to you and to antipsychiatry.

            I sincerely hope that you will find healing and joy.”

            Thank you – that is very kind of you. i get very hopeless about everything at times.

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        • An illness is a state of pathology in which the body is not functioning and responding to internal and external clues in the right way. It can be caused by an external factor (like a virus) or internal (like cell death or cancer).

          Examples:
          – people with type I diabetes don’t respond to elevated sugar levels properly because they are not able to produce a hormone which normally mediates this response
          – people who have a bacterial infection will have cell death and metabolites in their system which normally should not be there and which are either a direct product of bacteria or response to them (like cytokines)

          If your “mental illness” is cause by any factor like this – brain damage, viral infection, vitamin deficiency – I’m fine calling it an illness. I’m not fine calling it a mental illness since we don’t call sepsis “fever disorder” and don’t put it in a book full of temperature-dysregulation illnesses. These are illnesses which should be handled by the appropriate area of medicine: infectious medicine, neurology, gastroenterology and what not. Even more importantly – they are not actually illnesses sensu stricte but rather symptoms of illnesses – so HIV-induced psychosis is a symptom of HIV infection. But in this case you can trace the symptom to a real illness.

          In cases of these illnesses you can also establish, if not the original cause, then at least a “normal” state. So the blood sugar level and corresponding insulin or the lack of tumour or lack of virus/bacteria and the lack of fever etc.

          Now to the “mental illnesses”: they have no known etiology and they can be diagnosed solely based on symptoms. Here however we’re making assumptions about what is a right response to the environment. We know what is the right response to a certain sugar level in blood -we can measure it in all people. We know what’s the right response to bacterial infection and that’s fever. But what is the “normal” response to a death of loved one? What is a normal response to sexual abuse? What is a normal response to loneliness? You cannot define a normal in these cases so how can you define a pathology? The etiology of these “illnesses” is also purely external so even if you called them illnesses you can’t fix them by fixing the individual but by addressing the cause. You don’t treat “fever disorder” by cutting off the piece of the brain which controls body temperature – you may give someone aspirin but you won’t ask them to take it for the rest of their lives to control their genetic illness (though ability to produce fever is certainly written in our genetic code). That would be absurd. You find out what the reason for the symptom is, and you eradicate it. You may give some medicine to control the symptom as above mentioned aspirin but you do it with full knowledge it’s only an accessory and not addressing the root of the problem.

          In case of “mental illness” the root of the problem is not a pathogen but toxic social environment. And the answer to that is not medical – at least I don’t know a pill that would stop people from abusing you or making them love you or appreciate you. the answer is psychosocial and therefore it’s not an illness – it’s just a response of a person to adverse environment.

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  22. Dr. Burstow,

    Thank you for your wonderful article – I couldn’t agree more. I’m currently working on a thesis project to counter the serotonin hypothesis within a pop culture context (targeted at a 25-35 year old demographic) – I’d be honored if you gave it a look: http://prayersandapples.com/howdoyouknow-research-proposal/

    Several years ago, I created a website (PrayersAndApples.com) to bridge the disconnect between scientific literature in this area and the general perceptions of my peers, who are not focused within the academic community. My posts typically mix research, advancing non-drug-based treatments for depression/anxiety, with pop culture jokes, references and celebrity pictures. This past week, I’ve published several pieces paraphrasing Anatomy of an Epidemic, illustrated with pictures ranging from Elton John (“Rocket Man”, in reference to iproniazid’s early start) to the Muppets. This approach has been met with success (readership increased almost 600% within the first year), but greater outreach efforts are needed; the platform is still relatively small.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that mainstream media cannot be ignored. As I write in my proposal, “As antidepressant commercials are often showcased between episodes of Keeping up with the Kardashians, I believe a failure to address the claims of psychopharmaceutical propaganda within a pop culture context reflects a refusal to fight the battle where it’s being won.”

    Thank you for your contributions in this area!

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      • Thanks – the original plan was to turn it into a professionally run forum – But there just hasn’t been much interest. i wanted it to be as inclusive to everyone as possible.

        i’ve tried to focus on & raise awareness of more comprehensive, integral & holistic approaches to the whole area – & have been met with a lot of opposition.

        i think our civilisation has gone very sick.

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  23. BTW, I just wrote a scathing review of Liebermann’s “Shrinks” on Amazon. It’s something like 34-10 positive, so I encourage others to add your two cents worth and bring down the average. It is kind of interesting – people are either 5 starring or one-starring for the most part – they love it or they hate it. You can guess how many stars I gave it.

    —- Steve

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  24. “Think it’s hard to deny that there isn’t some form of physiology to these conditions. Regardless – what’s the logic here – if it’s a physical brain condition it’s real, if not then it doesn’t exist/isn’t real? What kind of logic is that?”

    No. Really it’s not. It’s easy. All you have to do is recognize the fact that symptoms of suffering don’t always arise from physical etiologies. The logic is quite clear. If it’s a physical brain condition (cancer, a blow to the head, aneurysm, etc.), then it’s real, and it’s called either an illness or trauma. If the symptoms of suffering arise from an unknown source, the suffering is no less real, but there is absolutely no logical reason to call such suffering “mental illness.” If there is “some form of physiology” to “these conditions” then it’s not called “mental illness.” It’s called whatever the physiological condition is called. You have once again proved Szasz’ point.

    Again, I sincerely hope that you find the help and support that you need, and I am just as opposed to antipsychiatritic unkindness as I am to psychiatric unkindness (although the latter can be much more damaging, and even lethal).

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    • i answered this question initially – The majority of people are now largely illiterate.

      How to get people reading/exploring different areas – especially more fringe areas? i don’t know? i’ve tried to raise awareness of a lot of fringe areas for the past decade on-line – the odd person gets interested – the majority do not.

      i’ve studied a lot of esoteric & occult areas – literal meaning of those words is ‘for the few’ & ‘hidden’ – & i think it’s like that with deeper knowledge.

      We’re living in a very orchestrated/controlled World – with the mass media, political, religious, medical, economic, & other areas of mainstream control. It’s very hard to impossible for most people to see beyond all that. The majority of people are caught up in some kind of mass illusion/delusion – & i don’t know how to wake people up from all that?

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  25. This comment thread has gotten pretty sidetracked — I’m hoping we can bring it back to the topic of book activism. In her concluding remarks Bonnie asked readers to share suggestions about how best to do book activism, and one thing I thought of is audio books. A lot of people lack the time or attention span to sit down and read a book, or the money to spend on books about topics they’re unfamiliar with or skeptical of, but might download a free audio book and listen to it while driving or doing things around the house etc.

    Looks like they’re pretty easy to make: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-record-your-own-audiobook. In fact, I’ll volunteer to try it out and make one, if any authors want to send me a book? I actually used to record audio books for kids when I was little, at the request of my school library (I guess because I was such a good reader) — it might be fun to do that again.

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    • I also really like the idea of presenting material from fact-heavy, academic books in more condensed and maybe unconventional forms, like in the blog Jessica linked above, or like this Rat Park comic: http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comics_en/rat-park. Sometimes you just have to meet people where they’re at, and those pop culture forms can be more accessible to a broader range of people. But once you pique someone’s interest with some kind of “teaser” they might be more inclined to read the book. Ever since I read Anatomy I’ve been wishing there was some kind of Cliff’s Notes version of that book that I could hand out to everyone I know. Of course, authors should be fairly compensated for their hard work and it could be problematic to undercut that, but ultimately I think that getting the info out there is the most important thing.

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    • It also might help to enable the text to speech software for all Kindle versions of Bob’s books. Mad in America had it but not Anatomy of an Epidemic which I found very disappointing. I am also disappointed that the most recent book doesn’t even have a Kindle version and I fear it may be priced too high for alot of people.

      It just seems to me that the more accessible you make activist books with as many formats as possible, the better chance you have of spreading the message.

      I do like the idea of the Cliff Notes version.

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      • A good point, re the Kindle version, AA, but the related point missed here is that authors do not have control of what publishers do. For example, when I was offered a hardcover only release of my new book Psychiatry and the Business of Madness, I argued that hardcover would not not affordable for most people i know–psychiatric survivors in particular–and so I would walk away from the contract. Five hard moths of negotiation followed. Eventually I was offered both a hardcover and soft cover release. What I would not have say over–is whether a Kindle version would come out and what the price of the soft cover would be.
        the point is, it is difficult to bring major presses (which my publisher is) to take our books. And while we can get some concession (as in what I did with my publisher) we do not have the leaverage to get the kinds of things that you ask

        And so given this is not a possibility, while it may seem an obvious thing to do, in fact such options aren’t open to us–and so we are better off brainstorming things over which we actually do have power.

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        • Actually Bonnie, I saw examples where this was done thanks to the author’s influence. Maybe it wasn’t going to work in your case but at the same time, based on my experiences, it is incorrect to say the author doesn’t ever have any influence. You never know unless you try is my opinion.

          And speaking of accessibility issues, I would also see about doing whatever is possible to make these books part of the National Library of Congress books on tape program for people who have print disabilities. Again, the issue is expanding the audience as much as possible.

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          • Agreed, AA. It all depends on how many other things you have asked for which are considered concessions–as in things that they do not want to do. I think that you can assume that all of us authors ask for such things–then when are forced to decide, what is deal-breaking and what is not.

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  26. One observation on getting books read: Amazon is indeed the 600 pound gorilla in book sales. And I agree that if a book is to be read widely, it must be reviewed multiple times on Amazon — like fifty or more, not five or ten. But I wonder if authors in the anti-psychiatry movement really understand what steps are necessary in order to generate those reviews.

    To get your books reviewed, you must be prepared to give them away. That’s an especially harsh reality to new authors in any genre, but it is reality. You need to find Amazon reviewers who may have an interest in your subject matter, and then offer to gift them your books in return for a fair-minded review. Given the focused nature of your subject and concerns, you’ll need to locate reviewers who do serious non-fiction, which the majority don’t. But there is one venue which may help: “Author Meet Reviewer” provides a list of over 200 Amazon and Goodreads reviewers, some of them rated in the top 5,000 at Amazon. If highly rated reviewers are impressed by your stuff, it stands a much better chance of getting read by the general public. If such reviewers pan your stuff, then you might want to consider where you screwed up, because you have — at least as far as a general reading public is concerned. And oh, by the way — you’ll need to follow up and establish an ongoing presence in social media (facebook, twitter, goodreads, other critical book lists) to intereact with present and potential readers.

    See http://www.authormeetreviewer.com/

    Regards,

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    • “…….given that we as a community and a movement have a vested interest in these books being read, what can we do ?”

      i’m not sure? i’ve tried to raise awareness on certain spiritual/transpersonal perspectives to things over the years – with certain authors & ideas – across multiple platforms & 10’s of thousands of posts/articles on-line.

      i recently lent a load of anti/critical psychiatry books to a friend – whether she reads them is another matter?

      i have a collection currently of over 600 books, mainly on ‘mental health’, psychology, spirituality & alternative subjects – & i lend stuff out regularly. A nice idea would be to have a collective/community library – But how that would work in practise is another question?

      i’ve also tried to correlate resources on certain forums & places on-line – there are some 150 different schools of psychology – & simply thousands upon thousands of books on related subjects – a lot of the difficulty is that i think that people are simply unaware of a lot of the stuff that is out there – a simple database i think is a good idea – that lists subjects/authors/genres etc – in an easy to navigate & search format – so people can easily search some of the areas that are there – i have complied extensive book/reading lists before – covering hundreds of books – also the same with web sites. That could be compiled & added to this forums resource pages?

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  27. In addition when I hear the word data base for many decades I’ve thought that a cross referenced computer program could be created by computer knowledgeable survivors, or a group survivors plus a computer geek, that included a combined multitude of (first due no harm ) strategies that where actually successfully used (how and when) by survivors at the various stages of their battle , tied to various descriptive verbal phrases that people actually use ,describing various lived phenomena ,how they avoided drugs (meds) ,what the drugs they used did , how they replaced them or eliminated them focusing more on what specifically worked (in the category of first do no harm) outside psychiatry that helped them , even stuff they figured out , or modified, or discovered or lucked into organized in a computer software program in various user-friendly ways , to facilitate growing numbers of people emerging free of psychiatric modalities and their inherent oppressions. Maybe a team of survivors could be assembled to do interviews , maybe excerpts from existing life stories with permission from individuals could be used also . Suggestions could be asked for. Help from computer wiz’s asked for. I know this is beginning to sound like an alternative life problem mapping the genome project . But maybe it could help bring closure to psychiatry through an ultimately mass popular abandoning of it , without violating the rights of those that may freely choose to use drugs or even chose to bring home a homeless unemployed psychiatrist .

    Did anyone ever read Thom Hartmann’s and Gene Latimer’s book “We The People a Call to take Back America ?” It handles an intricate subject by masterfully combining the work of a writer and a cartoonist , illustrator , in order to facilitate in an entertaining and informative manner the free flow of important info on life, liberty , and the pursuit of happiness . It would be interesting to see some books on our issues presented in this manner in order to reach a larger readership.

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    • Much thanks, Erin. and do let me know what you think of the book. I wrote it for a wide array of different audiences in mind, including: scholars, the general public, psych survivors progressive professionals, visionaries. So I am naturally interested in hearing from everyone,

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      • so- it took awhile to receive the book but now i have and it is wonderful. i’ve read most of it, in parts, and my husband is in the middle of reading it front to back (my hub is the mind drug survivor( i hope ) and kids and i are collateral damage. some highlights: the list of questions you ask readers to ask themselces on page 200. also, chapter 6, where so many workers working under the almighty doctors question the validity of what they see, keeping opinions to themselves… i’ve actually lost the bookmarks where i marked some of the other highlights but i did want to just write to you. ty once again for speaking the truth. i agree i think with every thing you have written in the entire book. but i am the choir. i constantly share the truths you and others have written with the peoplein my lif. i get yelled at, shushed, scorned. but i keep at it. ty for your work.

        all the best

        erin

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  28. This is a continuation of the Wikipedia conversation.

    This comes up alot and I don’t know why it’s so problematic: Though the Laingian-Cooperian tendency was often referred to as “Antipsychiatry,” it was actually a school or faction of psychiatry. This is clearly not what we mean by the term, but all we need to do to correct the confusion is point this out.

    I think it would be helpful to leave the term “antipsychiatry” sans hyphen to Laing/Cooper and always spell what we’re talking about “anti-psychiatry” with a hyphen. Seems pretty clear to me but others? Bonnie?

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    • P.S. To paraphrase Szasz, this is sort of like arguing over whether a screwdriver is a hand tool or an alocoholic drink. Is it so difficult to acknowledge that it’s the same word but a completely different meaning? And of the two terms, I think ours is more accurate and descriptive.

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    • Hi there, Oldhead: I think Cooper and Laing have to be mentioned for history’s sake, but except for that, yes, I agree with you. Antipsychiatry no longer means what they meant but it, though there is an influence. And my own sense is that for some time now, there is 99.9% census on one issue only–and that it psychiatry has got to go. After that, we can talk about variations within the movement.

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      • Actually I don’t know what wikipedia even says about anti-psychiatry, I just know that once we have our process down it shouldn’t be a big problem to get it right.

        Problem is, even among thosee who consider themselves very anti-psychiatry, not all would consider themselves abolitionists; abolition seems to imply coercion, after all. Then again, one can believe that psychiatry has to go but not believe it should be by coercive means. This seems to be a sticking point for some when the term anti-psychiatry is mentioned. (I personally believe that without the backup it gets from the legal system psychiatry would rapidly fade away.) Anyway, I think whatever we come up with for Wikipedia needs to be at least a little more in-depth than “psychiatry has to go,” but I get your concern with not getting bogged down in too many minor points. Still I think there are some pretty concise definitions that we can come up with that will satisfy most who consider themselves anti-psychiatry.

        I think I’ll read the relevant Wiki stuff and make some suggestions back at the organizing forum about how it could be revised, maybe we can continue this conversation there, if this hasn’t happened already.

        Good to hear from you Uprising!

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        • I’m with you up to a point. I think coercion must be opposed. Szasz WAS for abolishing coercive psychiatry. Laing and Cooper were more wishy washy on the subject, but that doesn’t mean that they were vehement defenders of coercive practices. That also doesn’t mean they weren’t apologists for it either. I have a problem with the idea of coercing an end to consensual psychiatry. If somebody wants to peruse the services of a witchdoctor, I don’t see how we can prevent them from doing so.

          I don’t like psychiatry whatsoever, and I’d like to see an end to it. Psychoanalysis, too. Szasz with The Myth of Mental Illness lobs a bomb at the very basis of the profession, a profession of which he was a practitioner

          I question whether Laing and Cooper are history. If Laing was the Guru of Kingsley Hall, should we be outlawing Gurus? That’s religious freedom for you right there, and me, I’m a died in the wool atheist. I appreciate the fact that blasphemy will not longer get me executed by the state.

          Sure, psychiatry, just like the pharmaceutical cartel, is a matter of organized crime, racketeering, but by that standard of reasoning so too is the federal government. I’d like to see us do something about them, but that is obviously going to take a little doing.

          Laing is often quoted by folks in the news media. Laing is a symposium. There is a Laingian studies website. That doesn’t strike as completely gone to the dustbin yet. He’s sort of, like, as Swinburne put it in his poem about Villon: Laing, “our sad bad glad mad brother’s name!” He haunts the very industry that disgraced him.

          Further more, then there’s Loren Mosher who with his Soteria Project was out to do improve on what he saw at Kingsley Hall. Psychiatrists may not be saviors they make themselves out to be but, surely, they are worth a good laugh or two.

          Anyway, I have to stress, I’m much more concerned about abolishing coercion than I am about abolishing any consensual arrangements. It’s all fine and dandy to theorize a withering away of the field, but, really, there’s a “consumer” born every second I hear. Psychiatry did arise in a context of coercion, that’s for certain. Could it survive without coercion? Let’s get rid of coercion, and find out.

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          • I guess there are two forms of coercion we’re discussing here.

            The first issue is whether psychiatry should be coercively outlawed rather than simply stripped of its power to coerce others. I would personally say probably not, but that’s irrelevant; the point is that a “legitimate” anti-psychiatry perspective could embrace either position, or both.

            As to whether psychiatry should have the power to coerce others, of course that’s got to be an emphatic no all around.

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  29. bpdtransformation said:

    “Fortunately there are some “lost sheep” who want to understand psychological problems in a non-medical way. . . These are the people we need to mobilize and get involved more… if even a small proportion of them became active in challenging the current system it would make a large difference.”

    I think Bpdtransformation is right on target. Seems to me we’re playing a losing game in just being “antipsychiatry” and negative all the time. If all psychiatrists departed for psychiatric heaven (or whatever) tomorrow, it would not solve the real problem of people trying to deal with strange experiences that disrupt their accustomed notions of “reality.” The younger generation rightly suspects experiences like this can be valuable if they’re properly interpreted and understood. They are more and more wanting therapists who have had the same experiences, who have been there and come back, and know how to help others do the same. But how can they find you if all you talk about is how you hate psychiatrists? How about tackling the question of how to understand “psychological problems” in a non-medical way?

    There’s a new book out by Dick Russell, “My Mysterious Son.” It’s about a father who learned to do this with his “schizophrenic” son. I highly recommend it for you folks who go on and on about “antipsychiatry,” which doesn’t even recognize the real problem. See amazon.com.

    Mary Newton

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    • I get where you are coming from. And at the same time, I don’t think that you quite get what antipsychiatry is about, Maryy. Antipsychiatry is not just negative. Any more than people in the antiracist movement are “just being negative. What is perhaps particularly apropos to you rpoint, many of us who are antipsychiatry have and put forward very substantial visions for the future. Please see in this regard, the last and very long chapter of Psychiatry and the Business of Madness, which provides both a very substantial vision and detailed suggestions on how one might handle dilemmas and issues which arise with regard individuals whose way of being-in-the-world is a problem for themselves and/or problems for other.

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    • Seems to me we’re playing a losing game in just being “antipsychiatry” and negative all the time.

      OK stop right there! 🙂

      Substitute the phrase “anti-war” for “anti-psychiatry” and tell me if you still think your reasoning there is valid.

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      • Oldhead,

        I see your point, but I have to quibble about substituting “anti-war” for “anti-psychiatry.” The opposite of war is peace. What’s the opposite of psychiatry? No psychiatry?

        So if there’s “no psychiatry,” what’s to take its place?

        I went through this in very deliberately doing without psychiatry during my own psychosis, which was truly terrifying and suicide-making. I desperately wanted a therapist who wasn’t psychiatry-oriented, but was in no shape to conduct the kind of search that would have turned one up. Instead, I was left with no therapist at all (“no psychiatry”) which I can assure you was no fun. For a few months it was just barely better than having a psychiatrist.

        So that’s why I say “anti-psychiatry” is not enough.

        Best wishes,
        Mary Newton

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          • There are myriad alternatives to psychiatry, have been since before psychiatry. They are here, all over the planet, up and running, and successful. Not a big PR machine, though, so it’s a matter of intuition, inner guidance, and trust. Also, the internet, so much information on what is true healing and all different ways to find it.

            It also requires considering a variety of perspectives beyond mainstream media and academic society. Our beliefs are challenged when we heal, that is what allows the healing to occur, raising consciousness.

            Here’s just one of many examples of where to find a variety of avenues to true and authentic healing, above and beyond anything remotely close to psychiatry–

            http://beyondmeds.com/category/alternatives-to-psychiatry/

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  30. Excellent suggestions. I may add one: if you buy a book and read it – let it free. If you don’t want to part with it in order to be able to quote it etc. – you can copy it for personal use or buy a second one. Many people read books they would never otherwise read because they find them in a pile in a cafe etc. There are many places where one can drop and pick up books and that increases the number of readers dramatically. Find one or more in where you live and share.

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