Thinking Upstream: Winning Real Mental Health Reform By Joining the Anti-Corruption Movement


At the end of my talk at the American Psychiatric Association Institute on Psychiatric Services, a psychiatrist in the crowded lecture room put his hand up and posed a surprising challenge: Why was I so concerned about reforming psychiatry and ending iatrogenic harm from medications, diagnosis, and forced treatment when there are so many other issues in society to worry about?

Looking back, the answer was obvious: because psychiatry harmed me personally, and because I saw so many others harmed (including both of my parents), I was inspired to make a difference. I wanted to share what I learned so other people wouldn’t go through what I went through. Like many people who endured injustice personally, I was motivated to do something about it.

An obvious reply now, but not the reply I gave at the time.

Instead, I said to everyone off the top of my head, “I agree, I think we all should be concerned about every issue!” The room burst into laughter, and then I explained that I took his point seriously. The Madness Radio program I host has done shows on many topics including poverty, homelessness, elder care, the environment, birthing, and police, and organizations I’ve been part of, including Freedom Center and The Icarus Project, have taken multi-issue approaches. My talk at the Alternatives Conference urged us to bring issues together, including discussion of the prison industry, the war on drugs, and the harm to the Black community by our biased criminal justice system.

After all, everyone is concerned about many social problems: even psychiatrists and psychiatric survivors think about issues beyond mental health. We are not single-issue by nature. We worry about affording dental care, we worry about endless wars, about the coming generations growing up in a world of ecological extinction, about the financial system, homelessness, climate change, student debt, the disappearing middle class, and children in poverty. We all worry about these things, but we just choose to narrow our focus onto manageable areas of life where we believe can make a difference. Going smaller, going single issue, seems more realistic. Sometimes that means a career in a field, sometimes that means a role in a movement, sometimes a mixture of both.

I think we’ve got it backwards though. Going smaller and single issue isn’t the way to be effective — going small means we won’t be effective, even in our small single issue.

I was inspired to read Robert Whitaker’s latest research into psychiatry and institutional corruption because Whitaker is taking us in a direction that will inevitably lead to multi-issue organizing and away from single issue. Not by adding concerns and causes on top of concerns and causes, nor by scattering our energies where they should be focused, or just creating laundry lists of change we’d like to see. Instead, as Whitaker and Lisa Cosgrove’s new book points towards, seeing things from a multi-issue prospective is the inevitable conclusion you come to when you follow the money trail of what it will take to actually achieve the institutional reforms of mental health care that we are all reaching for. Corruption of our political system has to end if we are going to provide meaningful mental healthcare to people. Because no other effort, no matter how innovative or appealing, will succeed without the rules of the game being changed, and those rules affect all the issues.

Over 13 years I have sat in many hundreds of support groups, workshops, and events talking with many hundreds if not thousands of people who have been psychiatric patients, on medications, and in hospitals. People speak of their lives, first and foremost, as people. Mental health is about human suffering, and human suffering does not limit itself to a single issue. We may advocate for a better standard of psychiatric care, but often that narrows what someone truly needs for wellness in their whole lives. The well-documented intersections of mental health and poverty clearly illustrate this, but we should also consider the roots of mental distress in violence, isolation, and consumerism.

Most of the case managers, social workers, peer specialists and counselors that I meet with and do trainings for recognize this immediately. Aren’t most of the people we work with, I ask, really facing the problem of poverty in our society? Don’t homelessness, the criminal justice system, child abuse, lack of jobs with adequate pay, lack of funding for substance abuse programs — aren’t these the issues we see on a day-to-day basis when we talk with people diagnosed with a mental disorder? Aren’t these the “stressors” we know that turn coping day-to-day into collapse and crisis? And among those who are more middle class and privileged, isn’t there a terrible stress around lack of adequate childcare, a heavy consumer and student debt, a scramble to keep up with 60-hour work weeks, a despair about the future in a world of ecological extinction, fear of falling behind, substance problems, failure to prevent or heal child abuse, and a media-saturated and materialist world that seems to have no real space to be human?

When we sit and listen to people we find a society in crisis from multiple issues, a crisis that is affecting everyone. The enormous popularity of the short-lived Occupy movement showed that ordinary people in the US are deeply affected by the decline of the middle class and growing economic insecurity. Many of us watched our pensions and retirement savings suddenly shrink in the 2008 economic crisis. And if you talk with people, all this plays directly into mental health diagnosis and recovery.

What will it take to establish a new standard of care in mental health? A standard of care that serves recovery, avoids iatrogenic harm, keeps people off disability payments, saves money, embodies humanistic values, is preventive, and responds to consumer needs? And what will it take to actually lift people above the suffering that drives mental health crisis? To actually create a society that not only responds to crisis well downstream, but prevents the causes of crisis upstream?

So when we look deeply at people with psych diagnoses facing mental health problems, we find human beings living in a society that has problems that are multi-issue. But then of course we say, “Well we can’t address everything, so let’s at least try to focus on the outrageous harm from psychiatry itself, and at least make a difference on that specific area of our lives.”  It’s manageable. We can’t tackle everything. We have lived experience or professional training that makes us experts in this single issue. And, especially since we’ve now got some momentum – there is more credence to non-medication approaches, the influence of pharma corruption is under greater scrutiny, and the faulty science is finally coming to greater light – some alternatives are being funded (sort of). We can’t address everything, so go more single-issue around mental health, and keep it smaller.

But, it turns out, as Whitaker, Cosgrove, and others (including Lawrence Lessig — who wrote the preface to the new Whitaker book — and his colleagues in the growing “anti-corruption movement”) are now starting to suggest, not only do we discover multiple issues behind peoples’ mental distress when we listen deeply, but when we look deeply at psychiatry itself we find that the very solution to the “single issue” of mental health reform necessarily brings in all the social issues.

Just follow the money.

As Whitaker is pointing out, psychiatry harms people despite being dedicated to helping people, because economies of influence create incentives for psychiatry to act in a way antithetical to psychiatry’s public mission. If you want to reform psychiatry, you have to change those economies of influence. And you have to change the rules of the money game that are creating those incentives. Pharma creates payoffs for psychiatrists to embrace a disease model that markets drugs, and in turn enhances the marketing power of the doctors who prescribe the drugs. When problems are framed as diseases to be cured with pills then more consumers will turn to the prescribers. Sickness becomes a commodity and the more illness the more incentive.

This corrupt economy of influence means money will flow into science to twist it to back the model that serves pharmaceutical and professional interests, even at the expense of honest research. Marcia Angell, former Editor-In-Chief of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, writes what is now widely known:

“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.”

The entire industry takes in money for its mutual enrichment, and the public trust of science and human needs is broken. As Whitaker notes, this economy of influence — and the rules of the game it plays by — is properly named “institutional corruption.” Not “backroom payoffs to bad apples, breaking-the-rules” kind of corruption (though that happens, too, and just results in court battles and fines that Pharma covers as a cost of doing business), but out-in-the-open corruption — legal corruption:  funding through lobbyists, research money, payoffs to researchers, bribery of leading advocacy and lobby groups like NAMI and MHA, a revolving door of legislators, regulators and the industries they should be overseeing. A corrupt — but legal — economy of influence.

And why, we ask, was pharma allowed to corrupt the public trust of mental health care and science so thoroughly? Where is the regulatory apparatus that protects the public from such corruption? Where is congress? Where was oversight as this unfolded? And the answer is very clear – the governmental regulatory apparatus that should be overseeing the public trust and that could be counted on to curb these social harms is part of the same system of corrupted economy of influence. The democratic bodies of accountability that might have stepped in and prevented the moneymaking incentives for psychiatry’s social harms have themselves come under the influence of the same moneymaking influence. Both parties, Democrat and Republican — just follow the money. The founding fathers of the US democracy said that government shall be accountable to the people, yet that accountability no longer exists today. Government is accountable to money.

(We see the same pattern in the financial crisis that nearly toppled the world economy and led to an unprecedented bailout of banks, a return to business-as-usual, and zero prosecution of any of those responsible. The financial sector dismantled regulation, created financial high-risk super profit products that cause social harm and destabilized global markets in a speculative bubble, and finally threw the entire system into crisis — and the financial sector had already captured the regulators that might step in and fix things.)

Pharma spent $2.6 billion on lobbying activities from 1998 through 2012. Oil and gas companies spent $1.4 billion lobbying Congress over the same time frame while the defense and aerospace industry spent $662 million. Yes, an industry with that much influence will shape the whole society in its image. That is why so many people are on psych drugs today. When the rules of the game allow it to, pharma has every rational economic reason to seek maximum profit by turning the entire society into a prescription pad, which it has effectively done over the past thirty years. That is the reason psychiatry continues its social harm: there is clear financial incentive for the government to play along with rigging the rules of the game against fairness and honesty. If you want to understand politics, you just need to follow the money.

The power of lobbying and the power of money in politics. The revolving door. The fact that if you want to predict who will win any election just look at who raises the most money. The secret donors swaying election results. The obscene Koch brothers’ legal bribery that is just the tip of the iceberg of political process sold to monied interests, with Citizens United only the latest excess. We are all aware of this to some degree.

But we’ve sort of stepped to the side of it all, in the name of focusing on our manageable, smaller single issue. And now here we find it — at the very center of our concern for mental health reform.

We even have stories of bright examples in the past — Soteria for example, or the promise of the early “recovery” and now “peer” movements — being co-opted and twisted when they are up against the power of this institutional corruption. And so, this is the key: the corrupt economy of influence that drives psychiatry’s social harms is a normative economy of influence for every policy issue in the US today, because the entire US policymaking system is based on corrupt economies of influence. Psychiatry’s corruption is just a single example of the standard operating incentive structure of every aspect of our national politics.

As I write this I am becoming emotional. My compassion goes out to everyone that I meet and work with, everyone I listen to and learn from. Each of us is suffering and struggling with the large social issues of our time. I am not talking about left or right here, Democrat or Republic, tea party or anarchist, I am talking about human suffering. I am talking about how hard it is to get childcare, how working families are under extraordinary stress, how it is hard to look at a child today and feel joy when you know the world they are growing into will be a post-mass-extinction world. My deepest passion is to meet human suffering in the most ethical and honest way that I can, and my focus on mental health has been a way to use my own personal experience for the social good.

And now I see clearly that if we truly care about each other as suffering human beings — which is what “mental health” is really about— we have to challenge the broader institutional corruption of our society as a whole. I have always sought to bring issues together, and always spoken out for a multi-issue perspective. Now the “anti-corruption” framework of “get money out of politics” articulates a clear imperative. And Whitaker’s new book points to the same inevitable conclusion. Not to add issue on top of issue, but to recognize that no meaningful and widespread mental health reform can ever be achieved as long as the broader corruption remains, broader corruption which affects all issues.

And I struggle to make this clear, to convey it succinctly, and convincingly. I can’t summarize or persuade you of the pressing social issues of our time: child poverty, climate change, species extinction, homelessness, violence, the prison system, the disappearing middle class, endless war, financial giveaways to those responsible for financial crisis. But I want to say that those on the right, Republicans and tea party activists, share a human need to have our social concerns addressed, and that is just as impossible for the right as it is for the left under the corrupt political economy of influence in the US today. Right-wing thinkers are waking up the corrupting influence of moneyed special interests in our democracy as well.

I am not pitching a mental health reform movement that just joins a broader left. This is very significant, because the “left-right,” Democrat/Republican, Red-state/Blue-state divide in our country is an image of the corruption itself. The Democrats are just as much a part of this problem – they thrive on it as well. Talk of the Red-state/Blue-State divide obscures the many common concerns and interests that people have when you look at public opinion polls – commonalities that are obscured by the corrupt economies of influence that capture both sides of the political aisle.

Public opinion polls show broad and overwhelming support for the framework of “get money out of politics” and “end institutional corruption” regardless of political orientation. According to the Pew Research Center, public trust in government — from the left and the right — is at near-record lows; shockingly, 50 percent lower than immediately after Watergate. Another poll shows about 81 percent of people surveyed said the current campaign spending rules are “bad for democracy.’ 81 percent — Red-state/Blue-state. Yet like other broadly supported issues, that doesn’t translate into policy — because of the corrupt economy of influence.

So, please take this essay as an invitation to think and research and discover. I don’t have the answers, I don’t have a grand strategy or solution. But I do know this: We have to start talking about getting money out of politics — not just to win real reforms of psychiatry, but for all social concerns. We may not know exactly how to do that, but no real mental health reform will be possible when the political system is sold to monied interests invested in preventing reform. It just is not going to happen. Some of us continue to push for our single issue, but where are those who are asking for a winning strategy? I personally am not interesting in pushing for change, calling for change, advocating for change. I want the change to actually happen.

Getting money out of politics is the only way to end the corrupt economies of influence driving the social harm of psychiatry. When I talk with people involved in mental health advocacy, they are inspired. Then we talk about corruption of politics by money and how that creates a real bottleneck for true change. They become despairing, cynical, fatalistic. That won’t change. So we have to focus on our single issue area. But, if we are honest, we see that this is no longer viable — our single issue will never succeed without the larger upstream problem being addressed.

We tend to separate reforming the standard of care for mental health from the problems with the health care system as a whole for example. But seen from the standpoint of institutional corruption, they are the same. As are the issues of climate change, a living wage, a financial sector that won’t keep blowing up, a fair and just police and prison system. How many times have we heard that the US delivers terrible healthcare for the highest cost? How many times have we been told there is not enough money, or no insurance reimbursement, for alternatives? Follow the money and the same picture emerges.

The story of Medicare Part D is just one example. In 2006 US political leadership under heavy pharmaceutical lobbying and campaign contribution influence — under the corrupt economy of incentives that is standard — passed a Medicare law that prohibited the government from negotiating drug prices. (Bear with me here, because I realize some of you may be saying, “We don’t want cheaper psychiatric drugs.” I hope this broader discussion will show the pointlessness of narrow single-issue downstream thinking when the upstream cause is what is important.)

The Veterans Administration has already set a precedent for negotiating prices, but Medicare now cannot. Pharma profits rose 33%! From a single legislative act! And the congressperson who wrote Part D went to work as a lobbyist for pharma, with a $2 million salary. Obama campaigned strongly against this giveaway to the pill companies, and it was estimated his proposal to reform Medicare Part D could save the country $137 billion over 10 years. But Obama, too, operates under the rules of the corrupt economies of influence, and so $69.6 million in Pharma lobbying meant that Obama broke his promise to end Medicare Part D. Publicly broke a promise at the center of his flagship issue, healthcare reform.

That is how much power the rigged rules of the game have: they routinely overwhelm even explicit campaign promises and commitments at the highest levels. No vision of humane, honest mental health treatment can stand up to that kind of corruption. It just won’t happen.

Currently our strategies look like this: speak out and change public opinion. Engage, as Jim Gottstein has written about, in strategic litigation, and build viable alternatives such as peer respites and medication alternatives to point the way to the future.

None of that will succeed unless the more upstream issue of institutional corruption is addressed. The Medicare Part D issue is instructive: it was at the top of so many people’s agendas, and makes perfect logical sense. It was under huge public scrutiny. And it was a corruption of healthcare priorities pure and simple. And still, reform was not effective because the incentive structure of corruption was too powerful.

The reality is that we rely on changing public opinion to make change. That is the assumption — get the word out, wake people up, get people on our side. Publicize research showing that alternatives to the medical model work. Convince through great investigative journalism. Appeal to conscience by speaking from lived experience. Reach people. A pluralist assumption: change opinion, and it changes policy. Attitudes will shift and there will be a gradual change of society. Right? Sadly, no. That assumes that public opinion and attitudes drive political policy in the US, that the views of ordinary people shape social issues. But people don’t. Money does. There is no pluralist democracy in the US. Activism and education on the assumption of pluralist democracy will fail.

This has been demonstrated again and again, if you look beyond the “wedge issues” that distract us so often from real issues and have become the spectator sports of election time. This is clear if you go beyond the single issue, lesser-evil logic that leads so many to vote single-issue and mocks the very concept of democracy expressing the will of the people. Opinion polls consistently show wide support for issues that never get support on the policy legislative level. While a clear majority of the 1% super-rich favor cuts in Medicare, education, and highways to reduce budget deficits, only about a quarter of the rest of the population agree. Eighty-seven percent of the general population agree that “government should spend what is necessary to ensure all children have good public schools,” while only 35 percent of the super-rich share that sentiment.

And 53 percent of regular people believe that “government should provide jobs to everyone who can’t find one in the private sector,” while only eight percent of the super-rich agree. By overwhelming margins, Americans favor raising the minimum wage, reducing wealth and income inequality, stopping any more NAFTA-style trade agreements, breaking up giant banks, investing in infrastructure, taking measures to avert catastrophic climate change, protecting and expanding Social Security and Medicare. Those are strong public sentiments for humane policies — despite a barrage of media messages pushing these views out of the realm of the thinkable.

But this public opinion doesn’t translate into public policy — money does.

In fact, Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page did a careful study (“Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” in Perspectives on Politics) looking at whose opinions actually shape government policy. Using careful analysis of data that showed that it is money, not people, who run our democracy, they looked at 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002 and concluded that

“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

They found that when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a “non-significant, near-zero level.”

Average citizens — the ones we hope to change the opinions of — have little or no independent influence on government policy. Non-significant. Near-zero.

Personally I have not voted in every election. Voter turnout in the US is very low (in 2014, only 36% of eligible voters turned out for the midterm elections… 36 percent!) . But when you look at the facts — that ordinary people’s votes don’t really make a difference, it is money that makes a difference — who is more “apathetic”? Someone who votes in a system they won’t actually influence, or someone who votes with their feet against that system by not voting? And many of those non-voters do know, if you ask them, that the game is rigged.

I’m not arguing against voting. But Lawrence Lessig summed it up. There are two elections. The first election is by money. The 1% sets the agenda for this election. Then you and I step in with our vote — once the real election has happened. It is a modern form of what Lessig calls “Tweedism” after the New York corrupt politician Boss Tweed. Tweed said, “I don’t care who does the electing, so long as I get to do the nominating.”

It’s a time-honored racket to keep democracy out of the hands of the people, and it continues today. In the Jim Crow south a similar corruption kept racism in place: the “white primary” where only whites did the nominating of candidates, then the general election where Blacks were (nominally) included. Today we have the same – a “money primary” where all the issues and candidates are determined, and then they vote for the rest of us. Isn’t that why, again and again, there is no real candidate supporting an alternative to the medical model of mental illness – despite huge public support for holistic healthcare, and huge skepticism of pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrists? Isn’t that why we are reduced to ridiculous “lesser evil” calculations for our votes that go nowhere? It is because pharma already did the nominating — ensuring that both sides of the aisle were pro-pharma.

I am all for alternatives and for hopeful initiatives. I love to see reforms moving forward. I do them myself. But philanthropy is no solution to the economy of influence; it is moneyed influence in its purest form. I am inspired by the rise of large-scale philanthropy around mental health reform that Whitaker’s research (and the failure of the mainstream standard of care) has helped inspire, and I’m excited to see small changes and more open minds among wealthy patrons, leading to good causes getting funded. But if we are honest, rather than just career reformers content with endlessly calling for change, none of it will succeed if the upstream issue of corruption of our political system remains unresolved. Philanthropy isn’t just explicitly anti-democratic, it is a reversion to monarchy.

A few philanthropists are joining the movement against corruption and the upstream problems, including some in the tech sector who have been following Lessig’s work, and this is good. But philanthropy, because it is pure influence by money, becomes the very gatekeeper that is the problem within the economy of influence itself. We are now beholden to our rich funders rather than county and state contracts, but we are still beholden, and the result is the same: we are now driven to remain single issue, and now this issue becomes the focus and not that one (notice how medications, not trauma and forced treatment, are more and more at the fore in our movement?). We can go and talk so far, but not too far; mental health innovations but not multi-issue thinking; downstream focus but not upstream solutions.

Who is talking about preventing child abuse in the first place? Isn’t that a way to deal with mental distress – by preventing it? Why is that issue not part of the broader mental health reform agenda? Do gatekeepers keep the issues separate despite common sense bringing them all together?

Again and again I see this when I give talks and trainings. People working in publicly-funded agencies are the same as people working in philanthropically-funded organizations. If you talk with them individually they embrace a multi-issue view and agree with getting money out of politics. They get it. I get cheers and applause at my talks. But the work they do publicly? It’s beholden to the language of their funders and contracts, and limited to narrow agendas. They are held back by the same gatekeeping dynamic of the corrupt economies of influence as a whole. Lessig calls this “dependency corruption” — you don’t go against the implicit agenda of your funders or whoever gives you access. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you, or the patrons that open doors for you. So, as much as I respect the good small single-issue work of my colleagues — and I do this work myself — it is a dead end. Just follow the money and ask yourself: what is truly needed to make real mental health reform happen in the US? Real change that will really help people? Reforms are impossible without reforming the rules of the game itself.

There is currently no established mental health advocacy organization that is actually addressing what it will take to get not only meaningful mental health reform but any social policy reform. There is no established mental health advocacy organization that is raising the question of corruption of our democratic policy-making system by monied interests. There is no mental health advocacy group that is joining with other organizations in the society and addressing the upstream issue of political corruption. None. And that needs to change

The only organization I can think of that comes close is The Icarus Project, where I was co-coordinator for many years. At Icarus political reform discussions are routinely woven into discussions of mental health reform and mental health activism is woven with social justice activism in general. But the corruption issue is broader than the left, and Occupy burned itself out on failure to focus. We need a clear focus people can relate to across the false Red-state/Blue-state spectacle that falsely divides us.

Charlotte Hill of the anti-corruption group Represent.US writes

“The one-sided nature of many past ‘money out of politics’ campaigns left them vulnerable to opposition attacks painting them as pet projects of liberals intent on shutting down their opponent’s financial support. If we want to avoid a similar fate, we need to call out corrupt behavior regardless of party affiliation, and make it clear that we believe it should be illegal for anyone to use money to purchase political influence.”

I’ve been writing and speaking about multi-issue advocacy for many years, and have begun writing and speaking about institutional corruption of the democratic system and the comprehensive reforms needed to get money out of politics. When I’ve made speeches and shared info about the prison industrial system or Lessig’s work, the response from movement leadership has often been that I am changing the subject, or going off-topic, or they are personally glad to hear it but won’t bring it into their daily work agendas. It hasn’t been picked up. But I think this is changing. Whitaker’s new book asks the right questions and points in the right direction.

I’ve already made a personal commitment that I will no longer be speaking as a mental health advocate without also speaking as an anti-corruption advocate. It’s just not honest – calling for something that’s impossible without bigger, upstream reforms. Not as a way of “adding on” new issues. Not as a way of pushing a liberal or left agenda against the right. But as a way of being realistic about what it will take to achieve mental health reform itself: it won’t happen unless the rules of the game are changed.

I am a learner and I am a researcher about this. I’m expanding my thinking and broadening the scope of my awareness. I have begun to find organizations, writers, campaigns and projects that form the broader anti-corruption movement in the US and abroad.  Because, yes, many of our international colleagues are coming to the same conclusions — most much faster than we in the US, especially after devastating economic crisis in Greece and Spain make it impossible to think of any reform without rules of the game reform.

I’m not beholden to any specific organization and I am not writing a grant proposal to go solicit funds for some new project. This is about what my heart says needs to happen for us as a society. What I am doing is reading books like Lessig’s Republic, Lost, and his other writing, joining some of the efforts of and, checking out the Sunlight Foundation and Public Citizen, signing up on sites like, speaking out about the Citizens United ruling, and learning about the American Anti-Corruption Act. I don’t know that these are ultimate solutions, and my thinking is evolving, but I do believe these are in the direction we need to go. Organizations are always interested in self-preservation, and many of these campaigns have a “we’re doing great work, support us” emphasis where I prefer coalitions and broad discussion communities.

So perhaps my direction will shift as I learn more about the issues and find out more about organizations and individuals working on them. But I do know that we as a society — and as a species even — are facing extraordinary social crisis rooted in an out-of-control political system corrupted by money. We need a fully human response. We need to think upstream. And above all, we need action that has a real chance of winning, not single-issue action that fails to address the corrupt economies of influence that have sold our politics in the US and around the world.

Deep electoral system reform is possible. In the 19th century most balloting was public, which led to massive corruption and bribery of voters. That was changed to secret ballots as the result of state by state reform movements in the 1890s. The New Deal dramatically reformed our economic system.

The American Anti-Corruption Act is one possible direction of reform to deal with bribery of candidates: it would make it illegal for politicians to fundraise from interests they regulate, ban lobbyists from offering elected officials lucrative jobs after they leave office, and create a system of citizen-funded elections to make it possible to run for office without selling out. The Act would also provide for public campaign financing that would put ideas and people, not bribery, at the center of candidacies.

New York City, for example, has public electoral campaign funding, and a much more diverse political spectrum to vote from. In Maine the Clean Elections Act dramatically increased accountability and reduced corruption, and could lead other states to head in the same direction (the Act is under challenge by a pushback from the courts, leading proponents to mount a defense to get it re-established). Efforts are growing against the Citizen United ruling, and to make visible the 90% of campaign donations that are “dark money” — money that is unclear about where it came from, hiding the influence of monied interests.

Does this seem like changing the subject and “adding on” new issues that will just distract us from the narrower agendas we should be focusing on? Or do we need to join efforts to end political corruption and get money out of politics or else we will never achieve the mental health reforms we are calling for?

Just follow the money.


Some possible links for further learning and action, an incomplete and imperfect list:,

Sunlight Foundation



Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. I completely agree…follow the money and get money out of our so-called democracy! I find Wolpac a good group focused on overturning Citizen’s United. It should be illegal for money to buy our democracy…yet Citizen’s United declared that money is the same as free speech; the more money one has, the greater one’s voice.

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  2. Yes, we need to use a broad lens. However, America is in love with labels and with branding and branding anything under the term “psychiatry” or “mental health” has little or no appeal for the American public’s attention. The things that do appeal in terms of attention and possibly motivation to get involved are; children, cute pets, diets and getting rich.
    I think that a multi platform approach using the child issue of heavy medication for young children will cut across all domains and this is what I am doing in my articles for MIA. The “child issues” involve things that Americans get fired up about; oppression,loss of freedom of expression, money going to drug companies, massive corruption, and of course undermining of family values. When your child is possibly labeled with a fear inducing diagnosis of ADHD or Autism or even “sensory disorder” that is when families get motivated to search for cures or explanations as well as insurance problems, financial drain, the lack of available treatment except for medication etc. This is where the energy and passion come in. Kids health is a big issue in the media and it leads to all of the other issues.

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    • Margie: I agree with everything you say. In my years of working for social service charities and in the poverty alleviation movement, I observe that well intended social workers are encouraging poor families to have their kids labeled; the SSI is desperately needed to increase household income. In fact, without one or two children in the household receiving SSI, some families cannot even reach the income threshold necessary to stay housed ( And I’m talking section 8 bare minimum housing; nothing fancy)

      So, how do we roll back this mess without promating more welfare queen sterotypes? The far right has spent the last three decades waging an effective war against the poor, portraying all poverty as proof of a chacter flaw?

      One suggestion I would make is educating the workers of the Catholic Charities organizations who are in the trenches arguably delivering more donated food and providing more housing support than the federal government. The Vatican hosted Robert Whitaker and Joanne Moncrieff to a debate on this topic. You can view clips from that event on this site. Even if the Catholic hierarchy is divided on the topic of labeling children, they understand the social justice issues behind poverty, racism, and discrimination and the workers tend to operate independently of the hierarchy.

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  3. In 300 years, perhaps large parts Earth will be uninhabitable due to climate change, or much of industrial civilization may regress to a pre-industrial or early industrial state comparable to 100-300 years before 2015. In these cases, modern factories, plastics, oils, automation, etc – necessary to manufacture zombifying medications – would no longer be available on a large scale. It’s interesting to think about what would happen to psychiatry then; it would largely atrophy and disappear.

    I sort of agree with the psychiatrist’s point. Psychiatric abuses directly affect a small minority of the population at any given time (and a larger proportion indirectly).

    When you read about the potential outcomes of climate change, oil/coal/gas depletion, and other environmental resource destruction over the next 100-300 years, it is impossible to say psychiatric abuses are as important as those issues. Not nearly, since those issues if poorly handled could destroy modern civilization entirely, whereas with psychiatry, its destructive impact is limited to a subset of the population.

    But, reforming psychiatry now is still important, as you said, because the people who it has impacted are really hurting and they deserve help.

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  4. Will

    This is one of the most important blogs ever written at MIA. Your critique was deeply insightful about the current state of today’s social movements and their inherent limitations. I share your utter frustration about the major forms of institutional power and control that stand as a colossal impediment to all human progress, including being able to rid the world of all forms of psychiatric abuse.

    YES, we must follow the money and carefully examine all the “economies of influence.” And YES, putting all our eggs in single issue struggle is a dead end that will change nothing in the final analysis and lead to defeat and demoralization.

    YES, there is no fundamental difference between the Democrats and Republicans when it comes to these “economies of influence.” In fact, the Democrats are THE most deceitful and dangerous because they pretend that they are for the poor and oppressed and that they have THE REFORM solutions within a totally unsalvageable system.

    BUT, your blog avoids a major elephant looming large within our collective living room. The blog fails to mention THE BARREL in which all the “bad apples” and “economies of influence” are operating – A PROFIT BASED CAPITALIST SYSTEM.

    Is it humanly possible within the material conditions of today’s capitalist world for truly objective science to be conducted on a grand scale, and for there to be the necessary political and social institutions to meet the needs of ALL the people – including basic medical care and psychological supports for those in emotional crisis???

    You advocate a movement focused on “rules of the game reform” and “getting the money out of politics.” Won’t these campaigns also become just another dead end if people do not address the fundamental issues of what kind of economic and political system we live within?

    Human beings at this stage in history live collectively (for the most part) and produce the goods necessary for survival in a collective way, is it not also historically the time for all of us (not just the 1%) to own the means of production collectively? Should we not be moving (in a systematic way) in the direction of removing money from ALL endeavors (not just politics and science) within our society?

    And Duane (and others of his political persuasion) please do not send out endless sources on the internet about the evils of socialism and communism. While I would not share YOUR particular summations of these historical movements, I am acutely aware of the mistakes that were made in the two major social experiments in the Soviet Union and China. But these mistakes combined with their isolation in the world (the fact that they were like Soteria House being surrounded by the mad dogs of Biological Psychiatry) were what led to their defeat.

    Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water and settle for the belief that capitalism is somehow the highest form of human organization. We must re-sum up those past social experiments and make the necessary changes to chart a new course in our future struggles. But merely trying to get “the money out of politics” in today’s economic and political system without critically evaluating the “bad barrel” that surrounds and envelopes EVERYTHING that we try to do or change in this world, is to deny the fundamental capitalist law of value and it’s inherent logic of “expand or die” and seek the highest rate of profit by any means necessary. This law operates independent of any type of human intervention. This would be like asking Dracula to suck water instead of blood; ain’t gonna happen!!

    Will you said : “So as much as I respect the good small single issue work of my colleagues – and I do this work myself — it is a dead end.”

    Having made my points on the larger issues, I do still believe there is GREAT value in fighting single issue struggles such as against psychiatric abuse, racial oppression, and for saving the environment etc. I am all in for building a movement against psychiatric abuse in all it forms. It is by educating and arousing the masses in these individual struggles that powerful movements will emerge where people will be forced to reconsider what kind of overall system makes the most sense for humanity to move forward with for their future world.

    So the question is NOT whether or not to fight these individual struggles (we absolutely must) but more about how we actually conduct these particular struggles. We must always attempt to link these struggles with all the other human rights battles within society. We must always educate people about where “the money ultimately leads to,” and also broaden our analysis to the larger forms of “structural violence,” and this necessarily includes what is inherently wrong with the big “bad barrel” we are all stuck within at this stage in our human history.

    Again, thank you Will Hall for writing such an important blog.


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      • The USSR was obviously a union of republic; China a single republic. Nation is probably an unfit title for either when citizens have no voice, and group-think is all that is allowed. The people (were, in the case of the USSR), and are, in the case of China simply not free.

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        • Duane

          Please spare us all the tired and hackneyed attacks on the possibilities of human beings developing a society where people live more collectively without the capitalist law of value polluting every sphere of our society; turning everyone and every human interaction into some type of commodity relationship.

          Many human and scientific experiments failed to achieve their desired results in the first go around. There is NOTHING inherently wrong or impossible about the ideas of collective ownership and human beings moving in the direction of a classless society; even if it takes several hundred years to achieve.

          Duane, the 1% run everything. Those who have the gold, and control the gold, make all the rules. You NEVER, in any of your comments, speak to how there can be objective science or a society where the basic needs of the people can be met when the profit motive ultimately corrupts every single human endeavor.

          The Constitution says nothing about preventing THE 1% or ANY 1% from running the whole show. There can never be real freedom if people are allowed to use private property and the profit motive as a means to exploit other people.

          Your tired right wing platitudes about “big government” mean nothing. Every one is against political bureaucracies. It is not the size of government that matters, but rather who does the government represent and who do they serve?

          I want to live in a society where EVERYONE ultimately has both the capacity and the opportunity to govern. This will NEVER, and can NEVER, happen in a profit based capitalist system.


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          • Richard,

            You apparently find great joy repeating what you read/hear from the far left media.
            The exhausting 1% speech… You put it out there as if it should be “news.” Do you really think that I’ve never listened to mainstream media and commentary – CNN, Rachel Maddow?

            Like so many others on the far left, you blame everything on the one percent… Everything. The far left claims to want to create a society of ‘social justice’, ‘income equality’… Mmmm, where have we heard this before in history? How was it tried, and what were the results?

            It’s like being back in grade school. The comments from the far left about economics, politics, history… With absolutely no knowledge about wealth creation, how economies grow; no knowledge of political systems and how they work; no knowledge of major historical events, western civilization, the people and ideas that formed this country.

            I used to find myself outraged; now I expect it, especially from people who are obviously ideologues, pretending to be idealists.

            You wrote, “It’s not the size of government that matters…”
            Making my point, much better than I could have, once again.


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      • I think what he was saying was that their systems were isolated not in the sense of being geographically small but being encircled by hostile (capitalist) systems (under the rubric of “containment”). Yes, both countries were huge and had large populations but were unimaginably poor and trying to survive in world dominated by moneyed interests.

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  5. I agree with the ‘multi-issue’ approach, and ‘economies of influence’ degrading influences in ‘mental health’, psychiatric domination, and so many other overlapping issues needing change. But it seems your article here overlooks the importance of ‘from the bottom up’ influences as well as ‘top down’! The activities of groups/ individuals involved in raising public awareness- whether the public of voters or non voters- of harms/risks/better alternatives may be even more important in reforming psychiatry/’mental health’ by reforming the Demand side of those economies of influence. Without Demand, the corrupted Supply dries up.

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    • I hope there is much truth to this statement, related to this! “…Freedom of information… constantly counteracts the inherent desire of tyrants to oppress and control information. The very existence of electronic, decentralized media is anti-tyrannical by its very nature. The democratization of information automatically leads to the democratization of power,……Your mainstream media blackouts will backfire and make alternative media more popular than ever……Escalations of coercion only encourage greater resistance…”-Mike Adams(the “Health Ranger”)

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  6. Yes, anti-corruption campaigners and those fighting the influence of Big Money are our natrual allies.

    Psychiatry was always bad, you can read about that in Robert Whittikers book, Mad in America, but Bio-psychiatry took off as Neo-libralism took off in the 80’s under Thatcher and Reagon.

    That does include your rabidly anti-captialist, pinko commie queers like me (though most days I am far too lazy to actually get out of bed). But it also includes many others.

    Big money dominates politics and Big Money demands influence of all the major parties politics. As that happens the everyday folk, of all political pursuassions have less influence – unless some right wing billionaire starts funding them, as in the Tea Party.

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  7. Will Hall and Others concerned,
    The level of corruption you speak about like big pharma turning this society into one big prescription pad yes and hand in hand the quality of the water supply, food supply , air , and level of close to a person spraying of deadly insecticides like in government housing near children. The poorest have no chance of getting anything but the lowest quality of these most basic necessities of life plus the largest load of deadly chemicals whether sprayed near them or given as medications. In the town I live in Reedsport, Oregon 40% of the grammar school children are given Ritalin . And in government housing brain damaging insecticides are sprayed where they play and on the roofs of the apartments where they live. Overloads of vaccinations are killing and maiming children in the poorest families. It seems you’ve omitted speaking about quack AMA medical care and Toxic Metal poison dental care for the poorest of kids in addition to Toxic Coercive Psychiatry. Aren’t we talking talking about corruption thats as deep and wide as Eugenics by Theraputic State and other supporting cartels run by the same ole robber baron families with help from the 1% and others of the population coerced to comply . People in their numbers while we are still alive will have to surround with sustained demonstrations the abodes of the robber barrons , pharma executives ,and at their money choke point business places and offices . Can large demonstrations bring change in the climate you describe ? And I remain anti – psychiatry and anti- human rights violators.
    You want answers view clearly a big portion of the problem in real historical perspective read Edwin Black’s book ” War Against The Weak” . Answers will then begin to present themselves.

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  8. Yes, I agree this is a very important article. Though my political activity is almost entirely in the anti-psychiatry movement now, in the past I’ve been involved in groups dealing with larger issues

    And it is clear, at least to me, that the huge influence of the multinational drug corporations is mostly responsible for the terrible situation that people with psych histories have to deal with now.

    Myself, being a democratic socialist also, I am choosing to get involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign. The issues he is raising in his campaign are exactly the kind of issues Will talks about here, but better than that, even, he has raised and continues to raise the activism level of regular people to try to do something about this situation.

    It is also true that in 1985, when he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he addressed the last meeting of our Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression, just before it was destroyed by the power of money, in this case the federal “mental health” system.

    Disclosure: In the 1960’s, both Bernie and I were members of the Young People’s Socialist League, and like him, I will not hide the politics I believe in.

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  9. Great points but i’m not quite sure I agree with the approach you want to take. One of the tactics the enemy uses is divide and conquer.

    If you insist on being critital of the current mental health paradigm + something else, no matter how much sense it makes to you, you are potentially dividing.

    The thing with psychiatry/big pharma, is there does appear to be some element of higher up that seem to be ok with it being challenged. Is that controlled opposition ? Is this site itself merely controlled oppositition ? Who knows, there’s certainly some odd things I see about it, anyway it seems to me that you’re better off just focusing on the many many weak points of the mental health system if that’s the forum you happen to be in. At some point there may be a point where the greater system has to either yield or enforce. Forced injecting of vaccines seems like a neat bypass.

    Who knows though I personally think you can’t beat working on an individual level, you should be getting people to avoid diagnosis/screening, question their “diagnosis” if they have one, and get them off psychiatric medication if they are on them. That’s winning the way the current system is.

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    • I very much agree!

      Will concludes: “Just follow the money.”

      Money is important but it’s not the central issue. The ill-treatment of troubled souls is an issue that cuts across economic systems, cultures, and historical epochs. It’s about how society treats the Other and should be regarded as a liberation issue like the aspirations of the feminist and LGBT movements. Corruption and industrial-scale medicalization are important but they’re not the heart of the issue.

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      • Sally – Hi, I agree with your agreement. Barrab offers a tremendous alternative focus. Encouragingly presented, since it is so streamlined and he aims to stay precise. As for this corruption, the main corruption for us, how about the civil rights abuses? All the “care abuses” get supported and indeed enabled by the fact that the involuntary commiment strategies are terrifically corrupt and disempowering. The excuse-making that stands as your “legal benefit” with the (apparently only used by celebrities a lot) insanity defense, likewise as with the forced detentions, obviously is the psychiatrists game fixer, too. The idea of finding all the solutions with shifting payment schedules and retreading care with alternative services can’t work without finally this problem with using people to fit the agenda of the helping professions getting at least thought of.

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  10. While seeking reform, there is one place nobody has yet looked, and it is right under our noses. The foundational concepts of psychology and psychiatry, the concepts upon which these two edifices are built, are not scientifically verified or verifiable. Apologists in these fields will explain why the same way religious apologists explain things.

    Both psychiatry and psychology are a house of cards and can be dismantled if we look far enough under the hood for the logical and scientific inaccuracies, false assumptions, and contradictions. Read a single intro to psychology textbook. Each foundational concept and theory has a handful or more definitions that begin with this sentence. We don’t really know what this is, but here is our best guess. Then the hald dozen or more theories are presented, pot luck style.

    There really is no theoretical foundation underneath psychology or psychiatry to even prove to be wrong. They exist upon vague concepts that cannot be pinned down in order to be either proven or disproven.

    There is no way to reform these fields because they operate with false assumptons which is like putting new tires on a car with an engine that is shot. New tires will not help.

    It is not the sexiest way to dismantle these two fundamentalist belief systems, but it can work. If we strart from scratch with evidenced based definitions and theories that describe human behavior rather than prescribe it, we could create the badly needed reforms.

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    • I think that’s basically been done already really, in a way the OP makes a good point I guess.

      We’re basically at a point where you either see that there is something going on with politics and the media or you’re some kind of idiot. Unfortunately in my opinion even here some posters/commenters kinda look like shills or idiots.

      I don’t think that hardcore communism is really compatible with ‘antipsychiatry’ because how do you get people to conform with hardcore communism ? Probably use psychiatry type methods in some way right ?

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    • You are an articulate advocate of the truth; thank you for your community service.

      I have investigated the pseudoscience foundation of the popular psychology/psychiatry paradigm and identified four anomalies of scientific principles that support current theory. Solving these four scientific failings explains human psychology including mental distress. Please consider the real science of human psychology at; criticism is greatly appreciated.

      Best wishes, Steve

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  11. I know Richard considers this a very important article so i’m struggling through it (it’s late). I won’t finish it tonight but still I have to make a few initial comments:

    this economy of influence — and the rules of the game it plays by — is properly named “institutional corruption.” Not “backroom payoffs to bad apples, breaking-the-rules” kind of corruption (though that happens, too, and just results in court battles and fines that Pharma covers as a cost of doing business), but out-in-the-open corruption — legal corruption: funding through lobbyists, research money, payoffs to researchers, bribery of leading advocacy and lobby groups like NAMI and MHA, a revolving door of legislators, regulators and the industries they should be overseeing.

    This notion of “corruption” seems to contain an implicit naivete which assumes that there is or once was a happier state of affairs which has been “corrrupted” by big pharma; in fact it’s all just a matter of degree, and it’s on a continuum. From the viewpoint of the capitalist all these things you label “corruption” are indications that things are working just fine. And if your only goal is to maximize profit they are.

    Second, it’s hard to navigate through the constant barrage of references to “mental health” and similar terms, and makes me wonder whether the author is primarily concerned about “single issue” politics in general or anti-psychiatry politics specifically. But perhaps I speak prematurely, I’ll know by the time I finish this…

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  12. I didn’t see any advocacy of “hardcore communism” made by anyone. Almost all western European countries have socialist parties, and they are voted in and voted out, since these countries are democratic. We aren’t talking about Joe Stalin or Vladimir Putin here. The bottom line in this discussion is, will this country continue to be run by a wealthy few for their own benefit, or will we have a government that works for the benefit of everyone?

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  13. Will,

    I agree, great article, and I believe the entire system is screwed up too, which is why psychiatry has been given so much power, despite its continuing lack of scientific validity. And historically we know, only evil and unjust governments and corporations actually sanction psychiatry. Plus, the U.S. founding fathers warned us of this day:

    Leaders of the US allowed our monetary system to be taken control of, prior to likely all of us being born, in 1913. And we now have the “too big to fail” banks and the corporations “that will grow up around them” hellbent on dividing (psychiatry’s specialty) and destroying our country, and stealing all our money and this countries assets, including our freedom.

    The Federal Reserve banks have destroyed and stolen from many countries. Here’s a decent YouTube video that explains some history on this system, at least this video is a place to start learning about this societal problem:

    I guess my point is I agree, our society has problems so large we may not survive, and pervasive psychiatric belief and control is merely a symptom of the much larger evil within our world, including – or especially within – the US today. Research the Bush family and that family’s controversial financing of both sides of WWII, potential child abuse allegations, and extreme profits off our current “never ending wars.” But the Democrats are equally to blame. Aaron Russo’s YouTube video is thought provocing also:

    I don’t have all the answers either. But I totally agree, governments who sanction belief in psychiatry and it’s right to unjustly defame, discredit, and take away freedoms from law abiding citizens have historically been, and are still today, governments controlled by the wrong people. We need a return of a government controlled by the people and for the people, not by the corporations and for the corporations. Since corporations, by law, are required to behave as sociopaths:

    We need to look at economies of scale within industries, and structure industries in a manner that optimizes both efficiency and ethical behavior – for example, there are no economies of scale benefits of “too big to fail banks.” One of my old Econ profs wrote a book on this problem, addressing numerous industries, called “The Bigness Complex.”

    I’m not an expert on the financial markets, despite my father being arguably the number one MIS specialist in the US banking industry in his hey day (back when there was some level of ethics within the US monetary system. But I was defamed and tranquilized, so I am now just trying to comprehend the financial destruction of this country). Look into the derivatives markets, my understanding is those are a completely fraudulent banking industry inspired market that can never be repaid.

    I agree, the U.S. today has been pigeonholed into the same place as was Nazi Germany, by the Federal Reserve banks, just prior to WWII. The evil bankers our founding fathers warned us of are trying to take over the world now, and that means they must destroy the formerly Christian, good old US of A.

    And, of course, the Holy Bible warned us of the evil world government also.

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  14. Transforming the mental health system as we know it… by upholding the constitution – ending the use of force… allowing people to choose safer, more effective means to address acute emotional crisis, and/or any underlying physical health condition(s).

    As far as all this “progressive” thought… I find it to be about as progressive as the Bolshevik Revolution, a century ago!

    But. in my opinion, MIA is not the place to talk about all this stuff… unless of course, IMO, people start using the Forums. They don’t and they won’t. So it appears that we’re taking the world’s largest website – the only place where people can get information about the dangers of psychiatry, and turning it into a political forum for the far left. I’m not a genius, but aren’t there a ton of such places on the web? I mean a ton of them! Oh, well.

    Tomorrow is June 6th, the 71st anniversary of Operation Overlord: The Normandy Invasions, D-Day.
    What a war the US and allied forces had to fight! When we finally defeated Nazi Germany in Europe, an equally evil enemy had to be defeated…. namely, the USSR.

    And now we want to create a ‘collective’ system ourselves.
    Why? I guess because it worked so well in the USSR; China, Cuba…
    As the 1960’s song goes: “When will we ever learn?”

    Re: The love affair some seem to have with the 1960s…
    This just in: The ‘Summer of Love’ is over. Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin have left the stage. There was some good music; there was some real progress in the area of civil rights; but I lived through that time, and much of what happen was change for the worse.

    There’s a lot more to say…
    Just not on MIA.


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    • Fred,

      I hope you know by now that I love much of what you write on MIA… I grew up on Austin, Texas and met many a great hippy… That was then, this is now. The world has changed, so has America. For the better in some ways, for the worse in others.

      We all watched the Soviet experiment. It was an absolute failure. IMO, the answer is not a larger, more powerful, centralized federal government, but a smaller one. I’m all for organic herb gardens, and people living however they choose, but I’m against being told what to eat and how to live by s bunch of little bureacrats!


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      • Duane,

        I also love much of what you write here on MIA . As far as politics goes seems to me that its just like in nature , scum always rises to the top . I believe any system can be corrupted and probably will be as long as there are determined people with great wealth seeking to bend things to there will without regard for their fellow human beings . They’ll always find or create loopholes hire lawyers to twist whatever laws there are within any system into something that nurtures their interests to the detriment of the rest of the population. If there is no good will or sense of mutually guaranteed survival or friendship between people no system can work or fail to become some kind of fascist nightmare eventually.
        Right now we are told what to eat by the Monsanto’s and big Agra with unlabeled GMO food I’ve seen a film on that says will cause people to be sterilized within 4 generations . According to a researcher on Amy Goodman’s show 53% of packaged food in grocery stores has mercury in it from the caustic soda used to clean food packaging equipment. They could use other stuff but they refuse to do it. We’re not even considering the additives and poison chemicals used to grow food. Or the biological stuff like growth hormones added to dairy food and meats. Poor people don’t have a lot of choices about what to feed their families. The wealthier can afford organic food but these cartels are not above labeling foods organic which are not .
        I lived on a kibbutz in Israel for almost a year when I was 21 . I was a founding and voting member . I saw democratic socialism in action among us 40 people there. I liked it and would have lived out my life there on Kibbutz Golon in the Golon Heights had I not had my 19th nervous breakdown which I did not know at the time was caused by mercury poisoning from dental mercury laden amalgam. So I to am a democratic socialist at heart and an old hippy. Best wishes to you Duane.

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        • Fred,

          I’m also concerned about what’s being allowed to take place with the chemicals in food. This is an area where some government oversight is needed, but none can be found, because the politicians have been corrupted. IMO, it’s a ‘crony’ capitalist system at play, because the ‘partnership’ between private corporations and businesses is corrupt.

          I’m also concerned about the debt crisis in Europe and here in the U.S. It seems as though the size of the federal government programs have gotten so big, they are unsustainable. Here in the US, we are 18 trillion in debt. That’s real money. And it will need to be paid by future generations, placing them in a form of economic slavery… owing their souls to the government store, so-to-speak.

          It looks like government debt in Europe is in enormous crisis also. So what happens next? I don’t know, but I do have some faith in what young people are beginning to envision.

          Here in the US, there seems to be a new hippy emerging… They are not their father’s hippy… They’re free thinkers of a new variety. Libertarian thought is getting big in their circles. They don’t want the federal government to fix everything… They want it out of their lives, and they really mean it when they say it. They’re big into organic food, living a healthy lifestyle… I see a trend here, and I’m hopeful.


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  15. Thank you Will,

    for formulating the issues of systematic oppression, exclusion, abuse inherent in unregulated corporocracy and its innumerable economic shock doctrines and destructions of the ‘common welfare’ and the guiding belief in ‘democracy’ and ‘social justice’. For some years I have been considering the priority of oppression, exclusion, abuse as sustained by structural violence and organisational managerialism as ‘fundamental causes’ of disconnect, dissociation, despair and suffering.

    Imo the psychiatrized gaze only focuses on the individual expression of the social, emotional, spiritual disconnect and the embodied terror. Rugged individualism forecloses that mind, spirit, emotions are always inter/dependant of social relatedness and collective co-living, co-enacting, co-thinking, co-believing. Martin Buber wrote that reality begins in meeting, Vygotsky described how mind is social, African wisdom knows that it takes a village to raise a child.

    I agree with Ted that much about the undermining of fundamental social trust and collaboration has been addressed by libertarian socialists, communists and anarchists, with some of the clearest writings done by Thomas Paine!, and has been elaborated to meet the challenges of unbridled feudo-capitalism by diverse social movements in the new millenium.

    In contrast to your opinion that validates ‘lived experience’ as individual expertise of suffering I have been saddened by but also challenge this ‘expertise’ which seems to nicely fit in the inherited and oppressive frameworks of individualist psy’ professionals illness frameworks. There is no liberation psychology in there, no awareness raising, as very rarely the real social shock doctrines, the abuse by more powerful ones and its socio-historical and structural embedding are addressed and exposed as the ‘agents of disconnect and shattering’ of the heart&mind robbed brutally of their necessary belonging to collective cultures.

    Indeed, imo, mad stories carry expertise as testimonies of social and systematic oppression, abuse and betrayal. Imo, who listens to people’s experience of madness as tales of extreme anti-social disconnect and harm that takes place in hierarchies of interpersonal hurt, aggression, rigidity, violence informed by historical and structural powers that be, who witnesses the antisocial violence and harm in all shattered stories of madness, is part of a bigger tale of socio-cultural expertise of the oppressed, abjected and abused.

    This has taken me on a long social road away from mentall illness as well as individualized recovery myths the corporate illness system so gladly incorporates.

    Perhaps there is only one single c/s/x book that I find firm ground in and that I can carry with inspiration from current social movements: Judi Chamberlin’s On Our Own. Rejecting oppressive and deceptive institutions, analysing how their deceit and power abuses work in systemic ways, but moving on to build collectives within the values and practices of libertarian socialism (Judi calls basic democracy).

    The way forward I do see is in clearly embracing the very values and collective practices which Judi Chamberlin describes as one of many current social movements who, more than just movening, claim a place in the commons as our structural and collective place.

    I will look out for a most inspiring reflection by Sascha Altman Dubrul to answer to the ironically challenging ‘go where the money is’. Certainly the money is not everything.


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    • Having reread Will’s blog in its entirety, I wish to correct my final statement.
      Follow the money in the sense of getting the government, that should work for the people and support the marginlaized, to pay is the right thing to do. This is hindered by scapegoating and excluding the marginalized in corrupted politics. A leading researcher in health services research in Britain has recently called the austerity cuts that eradicate up to 50% of social care services measures of social injustice and discrimination. This was a political statement.
      Nevertheless, I wanted to point out that the right demand for government funding of social care and respectful mental health care should highlight that this money is a means for solidarity, diversity, tolerance in the building of welcoming community collectives.
      Many activists since the 1960s and 1970s have turned the ‘vulnerabilities’ of people with mental health problems into more open minded and diverse, mutually supportive and creative abilities nourished in collaboration and acceptance of a huge range of sensibilities, awareness, sadness and mourning, as well as kindness and creativity.
      It is not just about claiming needed money, but about creating welcoming community collectives with a wide range of human connections and welcoming to offer – a contribution to communities.
      Imo, the predominant psychopathological framing and negative attitude against people with mental health problems overshadows the gifts in humanity, mutual care and support, kindness and creativity that tolerant survivor/peer collectives have to offer – to their neighborhoods.

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  16. Thanks will! Great article. One word of caution…the so-called progressive liberals can be horribly backwards on the issue of forced psychiatric treatment and obtuse on the need for human rights in the mental health system. In fact, sometimes there is better coverage on the issue of government overreaching its authority preventing individuals making their own health decisions on Fox news!

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  17. Hi Will,
    Interesting article. I agree with many of your points. Some of us in the medical profession have pointed out that many of the problems of psychiatry are seen elsewhere and are due to the medical system being to beholden to profit driven entities. This is a point Marcia Angel has made and is a reason why she has turned her focus towards single payer health care.
    But just as Whitaker and Cosgrove used Lessig’s concepts to focus on psychiatry, those who want to advocate for change can do the same. As you pint out. The Occupy movement may have fizzled out because it lost focus.
    It seems that you present this as an either/or whereas I see it as a both/and. One can set one’s sites on reforming (or for some on this site abolishing) the thing one knows best while keeping attuned to the broader issues and aligning with groups/individuals who share the same perspective.

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    • Dr. Steingard, My appreciation for your informed and common sense set of considerations is very thoroughgoing. As for the abolition concept, wow, what a job to wield that term here. But it just intends outlawing psychiatry that can’t keep itself consensual and contractual. And one would think that meets close enough to absolutely to fit with perfectly comprehensible adjudicatory rules for the most exceptional varieties of need, and the principles that go with them. What passes for daily operations in hospitals right now is nothing like what suggests principles, except for pre-emptive retaliation. No efforts are made to see who got triply diagnosed who had some traumatically induced problems all the years that the major mental illnesses ruled the diagnostic day. But you are giving Will and everyone great advice, and I also agree with most of his of sentiments and judgments of what needs looked into more and done better. Your commenting and choice of words seems distinctly encouraging for continuing the debate. Much else said in the thread seems to me like taking the point of every point of Will’s discussion, no matter how far-reaching or evocative of new ideas, to stand for no other opportunity than chiefly to arrive at a popular consensus and declare a slam dunk.

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  18. Great essay, Will.

    My iatrogenic brain injury kept me from being able to read and digest this until just this morning, but I agree with everything you said. It’s pretty much what I’ve been saying for months now when someone brings up the nascent anti-psychiatry movement.

    Can’t get away from the big picture.

    There are real investigative journalists publishing ‘real news’…one just needs to do a bit of research. The information is out there…but I wonder how long the internet will remain a viable source. The horizon is very dark…

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  19. Since Occupy has been mentioned at least twice to make a point, I must ask: Did the Occupy Movement really fizzle out? Did it burn itself out due to a failure to focus? If you mean the encampment phase, it seemed to me that it was ruthlessly crushed by the state.

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  20. Thanks for this thought-provoking article, Will. The following is something that I rarely see in print and which cannot be repeated enough, in my opinion:

    Philanthropy isn’t just explicitly anti-democratic, it is a reversion to monarchy.


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  21. Will, thanks for this brilliant piece, probably one of the most significant and important blogs ever to appear on MiA. Although the names and institutions differ in UK and Europe, where the emphasis is perhaps more on the problems that arise from the ideology of neoliberalism, and the impact of austerity on benefits, the fundamental issue – those of the democratic accountability of government and corporations to the public, remain the same. This issue concerns the unfettered and unethical use of power to shape our lives. Thanks again.

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