In a recent post, Phil Hickey — my favorite blogger on Mad in America — asked: “Why is there an Antipsychiatry Movement?” I would like to respond, as a psychiatric survivor, to this question, as well as Dr. Hickey’s more recent piece about Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman. I have been called many things by many people over the last six years of my advocacy, and “Antipsychiatry” is, actually, one of the nicer ones. Yet, as much as I agree for the most part with what Phil writes (because it is obvious, and true), I still do not resonate with this term, and I would like to explain myself.
In addition I would respectfully disagree with both Drs Hickey and Lieberman on the point that there are no “anti” movements against other medical specialties like Dermatology, Cardiology, and Orthopedics. There most certainly are, and they are called Naturopathy, Chiropractic, Homeopathy, Acupuncture etc. This point gets directly to the heart of the matter, for me, which is that there is a broader movement against the medical tyranny that is underwritten by the pharmaceutical industry and enforced by the FDA, our courts, and even child protective services. This larger movement is the one with which I identify. I consider myself an activist for Civil Rights, and Health Freedom.
In 2010, when a psychologist arranged to have me arrested in North Carolina in order to teach me a lesson for being outspoken on the pharmaceutical industry, I certainly did learn many lessons, but not the particular lesson he intended; that I should shut up. In fact, the twenty-four hours I spent at the Buncombe County Jail effectively ensured that I will never shut up. I started an organisation called “Artists Against Psychiatry.”
Asheville was, in 2009, a place where being against anything was politically incorrect. In the face of forced drugging, which I knew would shorten my life and provide absolutely no benefit, I was not in a position to appreciate the semantics of that point, and neither was I inclined to respect a community ethic of censorship which called itself spiritual. I dreamed of wearing a tee-shirt bearing the words, “YES, the universe does hear the word NO.” Instead, I found a safer home in Alaska.
While I completely identify with Antipsychiatry activists because of the abuse I have experienced and that of all the Survivors I know, I have felt pressured within “the movement” to take stands I don’t agree with, and express opinions I do not hold. This makes no sense to me except to the extent that trauma often leads people to behave in the same ways as they themselves were abused.
My last problem with the label “Antipsychiatry” has to do with the way it translates to many people in the world who are struggling in desperate straits, or in concert with someone they love, and have nowhere else to turn for help. Many people contact me expressing a sense of shame, and I don’t think that is fair. It also predisposes many people not to take “Antipsychiatry” seriously, for this reason. For many people, in many situations, there are presently no alternatives to psychiatry.
What is also important for me to note is my sense of clique-ishness within the ranks of Psych Survivor activists. This idea that there even is a “we” is something I cannot ascribe to, much less the idea that we have been uniquely oppressed. Over the last few years, I have spent time researching a number of rare disease communities whose members routinely encounter psychiatric oppression. There is a phrase I find myself repeating over and over again; Psychiatry is the wastebasket of Alopathic Medicine.
In the course of researching the “Medical Child Abuse” cases I have written about, I have had the opportunity to get a good close look at the agenda the psychiatric profession has for the future, and it is a frightening one. Just as psychiatric drugs have been marketed to every woman, man, and child, there is a similar imperialism in regards to psychiatric oversight of all hospital admissions. Doctors, you see, have undiagnosed mental disorders which affect their medical judgement. Apparently psychiatrists do not.
I read Psychiatric Times, as I believe should anyone who seeks to understand the business plan of the APA. The vision of complete medical care for every psychiatric patient is a chilling one, couched in the language of benevolence.
I experienced a glimpse of this in North Carolina when my primary care physician retired. I was referred to a relatively new practice where, upon reviewing my medical records, the doctor refused to treat me for a sinus infection because I was no longer seeing a psychiatrist for “my complex brain disorder.” I was “Bipolar” because I had an adverse reaction to an SSRI prescribed to me during a divorce. This portends the future of psychiatric segregation; “separate but equal medical systems.” Much like Medicare patients have been discriminated against, so will people who have been slapped with these arbitrary and insidious DSM labels. George Orwell could not have made this up.
Why then, am I not “Antipsychiatry”? Because the entire medical profession is participating in this. Most of the people in the wonderful support group I am in were prescribed psychiatric drugs for insomnia or “stress” by family physicians and when protracted syndromes disabled them they were met with disbelief and sent to psychiatrists. The psychiatrists (who also do not “believe” what is happening to them) pronounce all kinds of new underlying “illnesses” and suggest new drugs to mask the already profound central nervous system damage they had sustained. This is a medical profession completely out of control.
1980 was a significant year, not only for psychiatry and the campaign to legitimize the DSM-III, it was also a time when the medical profession in its entirety succeeded in asserting an entitled position in our society.
My first husband was a resident in dermatology at Yale in the early eighties, and the ascension of the MDiety became clear to me when, after many hours of talking a neighbor’s daughter down from throwing herself off the top of a building an OB-GYN resident called to threaten me with legal action because I was not a licensed therapist. The point at which “first do no harm” turns into “Do not help or I’ll sue,” the mission drift of the medical ethos is complete.
If Hippocrates were here today, the FDA would be all over his case. What was obviously true thousands of years ago, that food is medicine, is today a threat to the profits of industries which keep us sick. Producers of walnuts and cherries have faced litigation for “making medical claims,” whereas codeine-laced cough syrups were cherry-flavored precisely because Cherokee indian cough remedies were made from cherries.
To suggest that psychiatry is to blame for the state of medical tyranny is to ignore all the institutions which rely upon it, and avert responsibility from them.
I am grateful to Phil Hickey and Robert Whitaker for challenging Jeffrey Lieberman in the manner they did, because, at this point my response to him is more of an emotional one and it can best be summed up this way; “How dare you?”
Dr. Lieberman, how dare you suggest that you should not have to endure critical examination? In case you missed the college experience, anthropology is all about looking at cultures and their institutions, and since your profession has sought to redefine what it means to be human, anthropologists have an absolute duty to examine that endeavor.
I am not sure what country you think you live in, but this is the one that celebrates freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and the New York Times is not here to protect your profession or any other.
How dare you ignore the thousands of people who have been harmed by psychiatric drugs and diagnostic lies over the last several decades. If you and your colleagues were the least bit concerned about people and society you would by now have mounted a full-scale investigation into hospital and physician records to find all the people who were told they had a “chemical imbalance” and needed to take psychiatric drugs for the rest of their lives, like a diabetic takes insulin. Dr. Pies’ well known assertion that this is only propagated by “uninformed” psychiatrists is belied by the fact that these “uninformed” psychiatrists run hospital psych wards all over the country.
You would find all the people who had an adverse reaction to an SSRI and were told this had “unmasked an underlying illness,” and were then put on polypharmacy cocktails leading to disability. That would be the responsible thing to do. But car manufacturers make changes for public safety, and they are not “well-educated professionals” who have sworn to “Do no harm.”
How dare you call Robert Whitaker a menace to society? The real menace to society is a profession that has knowingly lied for decades to vulnerable people for profit, and refuses to take responsibility for the harm done.
For the past five years that I have worked for The Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, I have known over a thousand individuals who have literally lost everything because they are disabled after withdrawal from SSRIs, benzodiazapines, “mood stabilizers,” and neuroleptics prescribed for sleep. They are a burden to their families, unable to qualify for disability because the medical profession refuses to learn and continues to deny the reality of their iatrogenic suffering.
How dare you ignore these young people whose twenties have been ripped away from them? As they suffer for years, unable even to leave the house, they watch their peers build families and careers and enjoy their youth. Any responsible group of people, instead of digging their heels in and denying this is happening would be diving in first to learn, and then to help. Because people matter. Because doctors are suppose to care about patients. Instead, we have a public health epidemic of iatrogenesis.
Last, I have a few things to say about the legal profession, after my own court experience wherein the only way my opposition could win was to discredit me. A psychiatrist who had never met me was hired, and he testified to how delusional I must be to suggest that I do not have “Bipolar Disorder,” which had no bearing on the facts of the case. In the judge’s opinion denying me relief he wrote that he could tell I had “Bipolar Disorder” from the sound of my voice in his courtroom in New Hampshire over a screen, from Alaska.
This is how our legal system functions everyday. If discrediting people through psychiatry were illegal, our legal system would be jammed from here to the next century with full dockets. It should be illegal, though, because a psychiatrist’s testimony is little more than slander, and the premise of validity is really a sham.
If the field of psychiatry were responsible for itself the APA would formally recognize that any testimony intended to undermine a person’s credibility is an ethical violation of the Hippocratic oath.
For all these reasons, I identify myself as a civil rights activists working on issues of health freedom and choose not to be distracted by the corner identifying itself as Antipsychiatry. The problem is Corporatocracy, and the solution is individual rights and civil liberties. Where due process is respected, juries decide who will be denied liberty and whether or not the state’s interest is compelling. Where health freedom exists, individuals choose the medical treatments that work best for them, and have accessible legal recourse for fraud and malpractice.
Robert Whitaker and Lisa Cosgrove have a new book out about institutional corruption. Pharmaceutical fraud is impeccably documented therein, and a timeline is provided outlining, step by step, the marketing of medical fraudulent claims. In the suggestions and solutions, I believe they miss the mark. What Whitaker and Cosgrove have documented is criminal. I hope someone out there sees what I do; a racketeering case against the American Psychiatric Association.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.