The Sunrise Center: A Place For Adults To Recover From Psychiatric Drugs

Janet Foner
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Welcome to our blog that will keep you updated on the Sunrise Center. We hope this Center will become a catalyst for a movement of people creating places for people who want to stop using psychiatric drugs.

We will have stories by people who have stopped using psychiatric drugs about how they did that, articles by a doctor who is working with us on our project, articles by allies and relatives of people who have stopped taking drugs and articles by psychiatric drug survivors about their work on this Center.

Why We are Creating the Sunrise Center

Many people now using psychiatric drugs have been convinced or forced to use them while being treated in the mental health system. A good number of people are eager to stop using these drugs, but are often discouraged by others from doing so. Many psychiatric survivors believe that they can never stop using these drugs because they were told they would need to use them the rest of their lives.

In 1967/68 I was a patient in a mental hospital and was told the same thing. I happened to be lucky, and my psychiatrist, who was in training at the time as a resident psychiatrist, helped me stop using the drugs by decreasing my prescription gradually, since he knew I wanted to get off the drugs. On my entry into a mental hospital I was forcibly injected with both Thorazine and Stelazine. I knew instantly that there was something wrong with these drugs, because I passed out. The next day I tried to refuse the drugs but I was injected again. I knew I didn’t want them, because they made me extremely tired and unable to think. I even forgot how to draw, which was terrifying to me as an artist. I felt like I was living in a strange nightmare, like a spy story, where the spy is being drugged by the ‘bad guy’.

As soon as I finally got off the drugs a year and a half later, I felt happier and much lighter. I no longer had trouble thinking. This experience convinced me on a personal level that psychiatric drugs were not helpful. I never used mental health services again after that, nor did I ever use psychiatric drugs again. Years later I decided to try to change the mental health system and work with others for the rights of psychiatric survivors.

I got a master’s degree in Community Psychology in 1986, with the idea of becoming a mental health worker and changing the system from within. However, after trying for a year to get a job as a mental health worker, I realized that I was too much against psychiatric drugs to get hired. I got a job with the psychiatric survivors movement instead. Meanwhile, in 1973, I had gotten involved in Re-evaluation Counseling (RC), otherwise known as Co-Counseling (see www.rc.org for more information about Re-evaluation Counseling). I worked with other psychiatric survivors within RC to build a group working towards mental health liberation. (There are many such liberation groups within the RC Communities: women, men, parents, African heritage people, Japanese people, young people, artists, etc. We call our issue mental health liberation, meaning that our work encompasses the way that particular oppression hurts everyone, as well as psychiatric survivors. Everyone in our society gets hurt by this oppression by being made to look good and act “normal”. For further explanation, see frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Mental Health Liberation on the Sunrise Center website www.thesunrisecenter.org)

Forming The Center Board

When I got my master’s degree in community psychology, my thesis was about a community mental health Center that would use Re-evaluation Counseling. I didn’t have the degree necessary to run such a Center, nor the people to work with me on it, so I put that idea aside for awhile. In 2003, a family doctor who was active in the RC Communities and had stopped prescribing psychiatric drugs to his patients, asked me if we could set up a place where doctors could come to learn that they don’t need to prescribe psychiatric drugs, and could use Re-evaluation Counseling with their patients, instead.

We started talking about forming a Center that would use some of the ideas I’d had in my thesis and would be a place where people could come and decrease their use of psychiatric drugs and finally stop using them. At the Center, people will use the natural emotional healing process of Re-evaluation Counseling, in which people exchange listening time with each other to release emotions as they begin to reduce the amount of psychiatric drugs they are using. Since psychiatric drugs hold back emotions, as people reduce the amount of these drugs that they are taking, more emotions are likely to surface and the process of RC will be very useful to help people release their emotions in a safe, healing way.

Eventually they can complete the withdrawal and stop using psychiatric drugs permanently. A number of people who already use the Re-evaluation Counseling process have successfully used it to stop taking psychiatric drugs and stop being involved in the mental health system permanently.

Our Goals For The Center

We want to create a Center where many more people can learn the process and at the same time use it to stop taking psychiatric drugs. We want the Center to be a catalyst for creating a group of people who have stopped using psychiatric drugs, reclaimed their minds as their own, and are helping others do the same. As well, we want the Center to become a teaching Center where people can come to learn how to create their own, similar Center.

Eventually doctors and mental health workers who are interested allies can also come to learn how to use this process in their work, and create similar programs to help people stop using psychiatric drugs.

Development of the Project

In 2005 we held our first Board meeting, and most of the same people have continued as our Board.  The Center was incorporated as the Pajaro Valley Sunrise Center around 2006, and received 501(c)3 non- profit status in 2007. It has been a wonderful experience for me as Chair of the Board to hear great thinking about the Center from Board members every month.

In 2012, we realized that we hadn’t been able to raise money as fast as we would like, and we needed to find a way to start the Center now, without having a building and staff. In this way, we hope that our project will accelerate more rapidly. We created a new brochure for our new idea, a handout about our best practices for getting off psychiatric drugs, and another handout with anonymous stories of people who have used RC to stop taking psychiatric drugs. These are available on our website.

Our First Sunrise Centre Project Workshop

Our first workshop, in September, 2014, was extremely successful. It had as participants people who want to help others stop using psychiatric drugs. All the participants have become part of our Sunrise Center team that is working towards creating the Center. At this point, we are inviting to our workshops only those who are already using RC. Once our Sunrise workshops are more established, we will invite others to the workshops, where we will teach them how to use RC, as well as what we know about withdrawing from psychiatric drugs.

Stay tuned to this blog for reports from our first workshop and more news about the Center.

32 COMMENTS

  1. I agree, sounds wonderful. And I truly believe we need places or groups that aid people in withdrawing from the psychiatric drugs, since I know there is absolutely no one who will help people with such, at least where I currently live (I called around, just out of curiosity). Best wishes on your new endeavor.

    • it sounds nice but hopelessly naive. I, too, once believed that talk therapy or variations were all that were needed, along with a gradual taper. It isn’t so. My husband (who doesn’t know English, or else he could be writing this) was on a very gradual taper off just 2 drugs (risperdal and lithium) with a wife very supportive of his process, but he still became psychotic, and it wasn’t even immediate – it was several months after being drug-free that it started up. What he needed to get that under control was a lot of nutritional support along with the emotional side of things. If someone doesn’t get the physical help he needs (sometimes even temporary use of tranquilizers) then things could get even worse, if they go psychotic and think, “oh no, i really am mentally ill – proof is that psychotherapy isn’t working for me.”
      I write “hopelessly naive” and I hope that I’m not being overly charitable and that the author doesn’t have some hidden agenda here, which some of the reader responses suggest might actually be the case.

  2. This is a very dangerous action that Janet Forner is treading on….yes, SOME people with mental illness can be weaned from psychiatric drugs…but these drugs ALSO save lives, stop violent re occurences, and give the mentally ill happier and peaceful lives..believe me . I know. My 29 year old daughter would probably be dead by now if it wasn’t for her medication. It took years to get it right, but, once we found the right therapy, medication, and psychiatric help, she is happier, healthier, and living life to the fullest.
    I’m sorry, but this smacks of Scientology…be careful readers. it doesn’t work for most people with REAL mental illnesses…..

    • dreamflyer44: You, I think, are in more than a bit of a fog here. It’s “action” she is taking, “ground” she is treading, and the testimony you offer would be far more convincing if your clearly managed 29-year-old daughter were speaking for herself. The mental health field is one long erroneous path of testimony ABOUT patients, rather than FROM them.

      I am so grateful to hear about this work at the Sunrise Centre. Thanks to Janet Foner and her associates.

      On a side note, if psychiatry was ALL Scientology got right, I’d feel positive about them.

      • Yeah!

        I’ve had some very valuable experiences in RC. I’d been asking psychiatrists how to shut down after sessions in which I felt the full force of trauma, and RC helped me.

        I left when they got into more metaphysical beliefs that I didn’t think necessary, but will always feel gratitude for what I got out of it and the connectedness.

        • Hi Wiley. Glad you got some good help from RC. I agree that some of the ideas are helpful, and have gotten some limited help myself from them. I’ve liked to pick and choose what’s helpful in combination with my traditional therapy. What were the metaphysical beliefs that you didn’t think were necessary?

    • Dreamflyer44, here’s what’s dangerous, drugging people to the point where we don’t know what’s true any more, then telling us we have to take drugs the rest of our lives to find peace. My heart goes out to you for having to watch your daughter suffer. My heart goes out to her for being managed in such a way that even if she were to express the thought that she wants to get off those drugs, or maybe take fewer of them, she would be reminded how “ill” she is without them. She is a captive of something with such dire long-term effects, it’s tragic.

      On the other hand, if she chooses, on her own, based upon her own adult authority (and with adequate information about the drugs she’s taking and their long-term effects) to follow that protocol, I support her. It’s all about choice, dignity and being recognized, not as someone’s daughter or as “seriously mentally ill”, but as someone who has the basic human right to choose how to live.

      Coming off psych drugs is no picnic. I’m going through it. I’m having to deal with the very emotional baggage and trauma that has been masked by those drugs for many years. Thank goodness Janet and her team are taking this on. Those of us who are going through it need this resource because the “mental health” system seems only willing to fund “treatment” that creates dependent, drugged, individuals, infantilized by both system and family members into believing our brains are broken.

    • I am curious to know if your daughter is employed, gets along well with family and friends, and is experiencing no side effects from the drugs, (weight gain being the one that comes to mind.) There is a vast difference between being happy you aren’t dead, and living life to the fullest. I understand your point, but is it really dangerous ground to want to live life to the fullest by freeing oneself of the downside of medication. 80% of the “mentally ill” are unemployed. I assume many are underemployed. What percentage of them are obese and suffer other socially inconvenient side effects?

      • Another thing that these drugs rob you of is time. I find that I spend more time in bed sleeping than before.’ Thankfully now that I am off lithium,’ I no longer have the embarrassing shakes. I would like to be completely
        Off these drugs, but zyprexa titration at low doses is extremely difficult.’I have also heard horror stories about coming off klonopin.’moreover,’how does one drop out of life long enough to go through detox?

        • I couldn’t read anything more complex than a Sue Grafton murder mystery and could not write a grocery list while on lithium. The dose I was on was way too high, and I didn’t even hear about blood testing for levels until I got V.A. care. I had payed private psychiatrists who didn’t bother with the testing and didn’t mention it, and were administering monster doses that made me a lump. Grrrr.

    • So this is how you defend your reedy and tenuous position, by accusing us of being Scientologists. Not by presenting facts in a rational manner. This is not a Scientology site. I can’t speak for individuals who post here, but I am not a Scientologist, nor have I ever been.

      Buh bye.

    • Hi dreamflyer44 and ajewinisrael,
      It is extremely difficult to come off psychiatric drugs – the presence of the drugs causes a hidden imbalance which comes to the surface when the drugs are reduced, and this is on top of any original difficulties. I’ve come off lithium and modecate depot injection myself, and rebounded and remain in withdrawal syndrome (despite careful taper) to this day – 30 years later.

      I got back to work again – I loved my work (so that was no test), and I mix with nice people. But what I really had to do was to find some way of managing my “head”, and ultimately everything hinged on this.

  3. This!! This type of action is exactly what is needed. Please let people know what they can do to help or get involved.

    I also feel it is important to ask if the author and others on the board of the Sunrise Center have investigated the reality of the psychiatric withdrawal experience on the physical level and have you learned what it takes to heal the body from the drug damage? No amount of counselling is going to stop the horrific physical affects from occurring and I am interested to know if you acknowledge this reality. I fear that if this reality is denied and you expect people to heal up because of counselling, you are sadly mistaken and will only cause more harm to victims of psychiatry. Please advise on this topic. Thank you.

      • Well, if you’ve been taking a cocktail, no one knows, really. I don’t think our brains know what to do on and while discontinuing. At least being informed of all the known effects of discontinuation can help so that we know that what we’re going through is not “our illness” but our bodies’ efforts to find a natural balance again. Patience can be hard when your body is in a confused uproar and your brain is wiggy. Support sounds good.

  4. Hooray for your efforts at getting this going Janet. I believe the Sunrise Center will be of great value to many. I’m familiar with RC because I’ve had several friends who’ve used it. Given that it allows a person to express emotions with safety and support, it could be quite valuable.

    As someone who is currently in the process of withdrawal, right now recovering from an extreme state I experienced as part of that withdrawal, I think a broader base of supports is necessary. I believe people who have gone through this process after taking the drugs for a long period of time, especially those of us who are older, need multi-disciplinary supports. Nutrition has been a big issue, as is the ability to regulate my daily life and self care given the withdrawal effects. Is there more to the Sunrise Center than RC?

  5. I have to disagree with the mother who says her daughter is “better off” on medications, but of course our perhaps disparate definitions of “better” are in operation there.
    I have to agree with her that Janet Foner is alleged to be a Scientologist or perhaps is an ex-Scientologist. I have no idea. I do know that Scientology is not a “philosophy,” a “mind science” or a “church.” It is an organization that specifically and factually exists for the purpose of “clearing the planet.” If you don’t know what that means, please education yourself on the web, watch the new HBO special Going Clear or inform yourself thoroughly in some way.

    You cannot be a mere humanitarian in Scientology; if you are not actively working to “clear the planet,” you are considered a Cleared Cannibal at best and a Suppressive Person at worst. If the latter, then Scientologists are permitted and encouraged to accuse you of child abuse, get you committed to a mental hospital, lie to your employers, steal from you and even physically attack you.

    Many Scientologists are survivors of child abuse and feel they must save others and save the world. They should save themselves, first, from domination by a delusive cult. Inform yourselves, don’t take my word for it. The last thing a psychiatric survivor needs is Scientology.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Janet! There is such a dire need for what you are doing. This is the kind of intensive support center I wish were available everywhere, since there are so many people caught in psychiatry’s deceptive and often life-diminishing web. It is good to know there is a brave and obviously independent-minded (i.e., “liberated”) doctor working with you, because like it or not most people trying to withdraw from toxic medications will need as an ally someone who can help with a very personalized taper. Keep us posted, and God bless you and all those involved in this noble project!

  7. Don’t bother disagreeing with anybody in RC. They will double-talk you until you give up. That’s their MO. RC has ideas that are valuable and the discharge process offers some help. Unfortunately RC does not acknowledge that their method, like ALL methods, has only limited value and is best used in concert with other modalities. RC reels vulnerable people (especially young people) in with classic methods of group catharsis and love bombing. It develops hack theories about human behavior that are based solely on their own “best thinking” about a variety of issues, then distributes those ideas as truths to their members. They insist members “think for themselves,” yet they also insist that members abide by a series of rules, counsel a certain number of times per week, take a certain number of classes per year, teach classes, attend a certain number of workshops per year, etc. RC “leaders,” many of whom experience pressure to become such, are expected to “counsel” on whatever issues the RC mothership sets forth.

    RC attempts to covertly get other progressively-minded people involved in their “growing” (not really) organization through projects like United to End Racism and by having its members teach RC “skills” to non-RC orgs they work in. The whole thing smacks of secrecy but it you call them out on it they turn it right around and make it about your “frozen needs,” “early hurts,” “need for discharge,” etc. They won’t use those terms, but they all believe that stuff (most of which is based in Freudian theory, though they will deny that too). They think if you “discharge” enough you won’t want to have sex, because to them all sexual desire is a result of early hurts. They think all same sex attraction is the result of early hurts, frozen needs, etc. It’s pathetic, until you care about somebody who gets sucked in and you see the way RC twists good people’s minds. People who want to do right, who care about others and want to work on themselves so that they can live a life in opposition to racism, sexism, ableism, etc. get drawn into this organization because RC (Harvey Jackins first, and now those who have taken over since his death), brilliantly, happened upon a way to play on this drive. I think most people who are in it, probably even most leaders, genuinely think it’s good and helpful, and in many ways it is. But it some key ways it is not, and sadly those who have really bought into it don’t have the perspective to see that.

    RC’s insistence that it is the be-all and end-all solution for emotional healing, interpersonal connectedness, and societal oppressions is the very thing that limits its relevance and the trustworthiness of its leaders. Do yourself a favor and just read a few things about it on the internet. Meet anybody involved in RC, experience the off extent to which the org insists people build their lives around it, and you will start to see the problems. The Sunrise Center is a wonderful concept, but sadly it’s use of RC will limit what it can offer.

    I’m guessing this post will be removed before long. Before that happens- take a look at resistrc.wordpress.com.

    • I’d also recommend anybody endeavoring to learn about RC read the papers by Dr. Kerry Strand, a sociologist at Hood University who has done some interesting and valuable research on the org.

      Harvey Jackins, who started RC, was a close associate of L. Ron Hubbard. Jackins split from Hubbards in the 50s or early 60s, and took many of the ideas that later formed the basis of Scientology with him, but renamed them for his own use. The similarities between Scientology’s “auditing” and RC’s “discharge” are striking. RC seems to deny the connection between Hubbard and Jackins by refusing to acknowledge it, though I’ve been told by a very active RCer that Hubbard wanted to make money off of the techniques and Jackins didn’t. That may very well be true, given the current states of each org. RC seems to lack all the crazy alien mumbo-jumbo of Scientology, but the fundamental similarities are undeniable.

  8. Ms. Foner, I can see how your awful, traumatic experience of the mental health system led you to think RC had the right answers. I’m sorry you had to go through that, nobody should have to. It is tragic that people still do. But your years in RC focusing on mental health liberation do not make you an expert, and do not qualify you or your colleagues to provide care to anybody. Harvey Jackins was a smart, charismatic man but he had no expertise in anything except getting people to follow his lead. It is irresponsible to think that your single RC approach is sufficient to undue for people years of trauma on top of what is most likely a neurobiological imbalance. I am a mental health survivor, and I think what you and RC are trying to do here is just as irresponsible as what the organized mental health system does. I hope that at the very least you bring in some non-RCers who share your views on the distinct limitations of the mental health system and psych meds but who will offer a different voice to temper the RC perspective.