New Video and Campaign Calls for REAL Change in Mental Health Policy 

The problems that we face in America today are many and they are grave. Mass gun violence grips our communities on a regular basis. A wave of protest against unfair policing policies and police violence directed against people of color and people with mental health and other disabilities. “Zero tolerance” policies in schools that lead to the school-to-prison pipeline. We incarcerate more people than any country in the world, generally for nonviolent offenses. Suicide rates are on the rise in America for the 10th year in a row.

These pressing social issues are deeply interconnected and are rooted in trauma, the breakdown of community support, and socioeconomic inequality. We need reform that sees the intersections and addresses the public’s health and well-being across the lifespan. But instead, we continue to scapegoat the most vulnerable members of our society for the problems we face, churning out simplistic answers to complicated social questions.

One politician, Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), has exploited the mass shooting tragedy at Newtown, and every tragedy since, to launch a crusade against people diagnosed with “severe mental illness.” The research evidence shows that people with a psychiatric diagnosis are no more violent than the general population. They are far more likely to kill themselves, or to be killed by law enforcement, than to kill another person. Murphy’s focus on people with mental health diagnoses as violent and incompetent is not only wrong, it actually serves to increase fear, discrimination and social distancing. When mental health is treated as a public safety issue rather than a public health issue, then we have taken a disastrously wrong turn.

Congressman Murphy first introduced the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” also known as the “Murphy Bill,” in December 2013, but it never made it out of committee, because it was seen as too controversial. In June 2015, he reintroduced the bill in slightly modified form as H.R. 2646, and it is quickly gaining co-sponsors in the 114th Congress. Don’t be fooled by the “helpful” sounding name; this is dangerous legislation that represents a giant step backwards for people with psychiatric diagnoses and their families.

Rep. Murphy purports to solve the serious problem of mass incarceration of people with mental health problems and/or addictions by instead forcing them into our broken, inadequate, outmoded mental health systems. We don’t need to create a false dichotomy of jails vs. institutions. There is a third and better way: increasing access to meaningful community support. People can and do reclaim their lives and health if they have access to the right kinds of supports and services in their communities. But cities, counties, and states everywhere lack the resources to adequately support people with mental health needs and other disabilities, largely because of misguided local, state, and federal spending priorities.

Rep. Murphy has also gotten an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) for his voting record on gun control. He deftly uses “mental health” as an excuse to deflect and distract from discussion and action on sensible gun reform in this nation. Sensible gun reform would go a long way towards curbing community and domestic violence of all kinds, and would help to prevent suicide by firearm.

In summary, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” is a sweeping bill that promises “reform,” but would actually return the nation’s state mental health systems to many of the failed policies of the past.

  • Many provisions of the bill would significantly curtail the civil rights of people with psychiatric diagnoses, including an increase in forced treatment and restrictions on the federal protection and advocacy system.
  • The bill is inconsistent with scientific understanding of the cause and treatment of mental health issues.  It ignores the significant role of toxic stress and trauma, precludes many interventions that have been proven effective, and does not make allowances for cultural differences known to affect diagnosis, treatment and help-seeking behavior.
  • The bill uses language that dismisses the possibility of recovery, and effectively promotes a return to harmful institutional services over evidence-based practices in the community.
  • The bill does not approach mental health as a public health problem.  It explicitly restricts funding for primary prevention programs and would prevent the federal mental health authority from working to promote wellness.


The bill ignores the progress made over the past 20 years.  It promotes a narrow, professionally focused system of care, in stark contrast to current thinking in healthcare, which is moving rapidly to implement patient-centered care, shared decision-making, and self-management of chronic conditions.

For all of these reasons, the Campaign for Real Change in Mental Health Policy was formed. We are a diverse group of professionals, researchers, policymakers, citizens, family members, and people in recovery who don’t necessarily agree on all points, but who are united in our effort to stop the Murphy bill. We are also united in the belief that we can do better than what this bill proposes.

The Campaign recognizes that we don’t have to sacrifice people’s civil rights to create an effective mental health system. The Campaign also believes that to enact any “mental health reform” that does not take a comprehensive public health approach is a missed opportunity.

We are pleased to partner with the Open Paradigm Project and Digital Eyes Film to produce this short video that lays out the issues and encourages action for real and meaningful change.

How to get involved:

  • Participate in our Day of Action for REAL Change in Mental Health Policy!

On Wednesday, October 7 we encourage you to call, write, or use social media to contact your member of Congress and tell them that the Murphy Bill is bad for America. Everything you need to be a successful advocate on our Day of Action can be found here. Make your voice heard!

  • Twitter Campaign: Tell The National Journal “Nothing About Us, Without Us!”

Also on Wednesday, October 7, from 8:30 – 10:30 AM Eastern Time, The National Journal and Janssen Pharmaceuticals are sponsoring an event in Washington, DC on mental health reform with speakers including Rep. Tim Murphy, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), and a variety of others. The sole voice missing from the discussion is that of those who would be most directly affected by the proposed policies – people with mental health diagnoses and/or disabilities!

The National Journal is encouraging people to use the hashtag #NJMentalHealth during the event. Here are some sample Tweets – or create your own. You can also use the hashtag #RealMHChange throughout the day.

Other ways to get involved:

Together we can defeat this dangerous legislation, and pave the way for new, enlightened policies that will directly benefit people with mental health diagnoses and their families – in their communities, where they belong.


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.


Mad in America has made some changes to the commenting process. You no longer need to login or create an account on our site to comment. The only information needed is your name, email and comment text. Comments made with an account prior to this change will remain visible on the site.


  1. Regarding this, “The research evidence shows that people with a psychiatric diagnosis are no more violent than the general population.” – I doubt this is correct; rather, if one counts all the antisocial and borderline individuals filling our prisons that are likely undersampled in these studies, I bet this fuller accounting would indicate that people with a psychiatric diagnosis are on average somewhat more violent than the general population, .

    A very large proportion of criminals would receive the diagnosis of antisocial personality, borderline personality, or some other personality disorder, if they were to come into formal contact with the mental health system. These individuals have poor impulse control, lack superego/conscience/guilt, and experience intense rage/desperation that predispose them to violent acts.

    However, these antisocial or acting-out borderline individuals may rarely seek out psychiatrists, and since they are not the ones seeking “treatment”, they may be undersampled in studies of psychiatric diagnosis and violence. That’s because they rarely seek help and they are largely “treated”, i.e. controlled, but not consistently identified as mentally ill, at the largest mental asylums in our nation, the prisons.

    When you think about how “mental illness” discriminates against blacks and poor people, and how blacks and poor people on average commit more violent crimes then the general population for understandable reasons of desperation and lack of resources… it points toward the possible conclusion that “mentally ill” people, being disproportionately poor and minority, also commit more violent crimes than the general population. This thought experiment is simplistic, but may contain a grain of truth IMO.

    This point doesn’t detract from the main thrust of this article. Even if mentally “ill” people are more violent, so what? It’s not a justification for coercion. It would be understandable – they’re subject to a lot more stress and have less resources; no wonder they might be prone to violence. If mentally ill people are more violent, we shouldn’t be scared; rather we should understand the terrible social/psychological stresses that are making them more vulnerable to violence. And should provide them more human-to-human help, e.g. psychotherapy, peer support, community interventions, family therapy, etc. And less medication and certainly less coercion/forced hospitalization.

    Report comment

      • How does this relate to what I said Margaret?

        Violence may sometimes be necessary to defend oneself. If one is assaulted, one has a right to defend oneself. If people followed your advice in situations where no escape from an attacker were possible, they would just let themselves be beaten to death. In cases where escape or disengagement is not possible, sometimes one has to fight back violently before fleeing. So, your black and white statement fails on that count.

        And there’s another “excuse” for violent behavior. It goes like this. If someone is abused or neglected in extreme ways for long enough, they will sometimes snap and become violent when upset. Expecting someone to have enough self control to never lash out when they are constantly abused or neglected is foolish. People need security, love, and support of a certain quantity and frequency to be able to control their impulses. So some violent behavior is understandable.

        Then one could say, “there’s no excuse for neglect and abuse”, because neglect/abuse causes a lot of violent behavior. But the people who are doing the neglect and abuse to the one that becomes violent… those people in turn were usually neglected or abused by people in their past, and so on. So saying people have no excuse to be doing something is simpleminded and doesn’t make sense.

        These simple “NO” / “NEVER” statements are easy to pick apart.

        Report comment

    • I think the correct statement would be that the “mentally ill” are no more violent than the general population when controlling for substance abuse. There may be a slight trend for the “mentally ill” to be more likely to be violent, but when compared to the impact of substance abuse, the trend is negligible. Of course, when we include the misuse of psychiatric drugs that can cause violent side effects, it may well be that there really is no difference at all.

      Mind-altering drugs are by far more correlated with violence than any other indicator. In addition, domestic abuse and other forms of economic and social oppression are far more significantly implicated in the widespread violence in the USA. “Mental health” experts assure us that the presence of “mental illness” is similar around the world. Why, then, is mass violence so common in the USA? Can’t be because we have more “mentally ill” people, since the rate is supposedly the same world wide. So why is “mental illness” getting the blame?

      I read somewhere recently that something like 4% of all severe violence in the USA is associated with “mental illness.” Even if we drugged all the “mentally ill” into a stupor, as appears to be Murphy’s general intent, that would still leave 96% of the violence untouched.

      I’m glad someone is standing up to this convenient but inaccurate narrative and laying the truth on the line. More oppression is not the answer to violence!

      —- Steve

      Report comment

      • Maybe USA has more violence because it’s so easy to get guns and shoot people here. Duh… 🙂

        In Murphy’s thinking some people are mentally ill and others are not, and one can compare the two disparate groups and argue how violent each is. But that’s not how life works. There’s a continuum of life problems and levels of suffering. People don’t fit neatly into mentally ill versus non mentally ill.

        Nevertheless, I’d bet there is a correlation between severe abuse and neglect in childhood and being violent in adulthood. Abuse and neglect, if long enough, are going to lead to impulse control problems, superego/conscience deficits, lack of friends and jobs, drug use, and other risk factors associated with violence. So it makes sense that a certain subset of people who get mislabled “mentally ill” – those with severe abuse and neglect, who often are poor/black and end up warehoused in jails – it makes sense to me that these people are going to be more violent.

        If that’s true, it’s not a judgment of those people. It’s tragedy. Their violence / lack of impulse control / acting out should be understand and they should be given peer support, psychotherapy, job programs, etc., not medications and decades of imprisonment. American “justice” policy is so stupid.

        Report comment

    • Hello. The general population is innocent until proven guilty. The “insane” population is “sick” until declared “well” by an expert in “sickness”. Count me among the general population, if you don’t mind, thank you, kindly.

      Criminals with diagnostic labels, and people with diagnostic labels who commit crimes are kind of hard to distinguish from criminals without diagnostic labels. Why is that? They all have one thing in common, namely, crime.

      Labeling people anti-social and border-line is a way of trying to call them criminal without calling them criminal. Really. Do we need to circumvent “burden of proof” and assume guilt in such cases? I think not. Of course, that’s the problem. Due process doesn’t apply in mental health hearings the way it does in regular courts of law.

      “Even if mentally “ill” people are more violent, so what? It’s not a justification for coercion.” Well, it is a justification for a coercion, only it’s a very, very bad justification. Given 10 people in the general population, how many of them are likely to commit a violent felony? Given 10 people with diagnostic labels, how many of them are likely to commit a violent felony? In both cases, the wrong question is being asked. We don’t, at least, we shouldn’t, prejudice people against other people on such spurious grounds.

      Next question, how many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders? I just say, first things first. innocent until proven guilty. Were the “mental health” system put on trial every time a person was suspected of “mental illness”, what an improvement!

      Report comment

      • Besides studies do show that people given diagnostic labels actually are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crimes. We don’t need to even make subtle distinctions between different “disorder” categories. That makes sense. You are always going to find people who are going to prey on the disadvantages other people face. There is no litmus paper than can prove a “mental illness”, however, a lifeless cadaver is pretty hard to ignore.

        Report comment

      • Hi Frank,
        I agree mental illness labels suck, explain nothing, and should be abolished. Especially BPD and ASPD.

        I was saying that many/most of the people in our jails would be labeled with these horrible words and thus be considered “mentally ill and violent” if more of them were evaluated by psychiatrists and included in these misguided studies. That doesn’t mean diagnoses are actually valid or useful at all.

        You are quite right that they are not valid or useful and that the artificial division between mentally ill vs not ill is misleading/harmful.

        Report comment

  2. Just because Tim Murphy supports the second Amendment doesn’t mean the second amendment is bad.

    “Don’t Drug my Child or I’ll Shoot!

    Detroit mother Maryanne Godbaldo is cleared of criminal charges related to her effort to prevent Child Services from physically taking her child.

    Mother Faces Down Swat Team & Tank For Refusing to Drug Daughter”

    Guns have a purpose, they prevent tyranny such as child snatching and drugging if they take it too far.

    “Mass gun violence grips our communities on a regular basis”. Pass all the gun laws you want the gangbangers won’t stop shooting each other over turf until the war on drugs is ended. The same violence happened during alcohol prohibition.

    You will not defeat the Murphy Bill by attacking gun rights, you will only loose supporters.

    Report comment

    • Unfortunately, studies show that those who own and keep a gun at home are less safe, i.e. more likely to be shot and killed by guns, than non-gun owners. See here:

      So much for The_Cat’s comment.

      On the other hand, 90% of gunowners think they’re better than average shots and are likely to win a shootout with a robber. Too bad that only 50% of gunowners are better than average, and that they have less practice at shooting people than the criminals…

      Report comment

      • You have Zero chance of winning a shoot out with a home invader unarmed. They have gun you don’t.

        When seconds count the police are only minutes away.

        Benjamin Franklin once said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

        Gun hating liberals have that same paternalistic drive as psychiatry to “keep us safe from ourselves”.

        There are alot of gun deaths in America, the majority are gang related, but even the others are a small price to pay for liberty.

        The founding fathers warned us of tyranny and if the government coming to your door armed to forcibly take your child to be injected with Risperdal like in the case of Maryanne Godbaldo is not tyranny then I really don’t know what is.

        The patriot movement in America is stronger than ever, thank God, so I don’t think we have to worry about the liberty hating gun grabbers getting their way any time soon.

        Heck “they” can’t even control substances, how would they ever control 1800s technology – guns ?

        I am sure organized crime is just waiting for more gun control to start up the underground machine shops to keep the criminals armed. The patriots are already doing it.

        You tube: Make your own gun, $1200 CNC machine

        And Chicago has the strictest gun control laws and also the worst gun violence , what up with that ???

        I don’t even like guns , but it’s really is sad that we need an armed population to prevent the government from abusing us even more than they already do and to deter crime but its still the lesser of 2 evils.

        And what does gun control have to do with the Murphy bill anyway ?

        Report comment

          • What’s the most dangerous room in the house? Many worry about kitchen hazards like hot stoves and sharp knives but the riskiest room in the home is the bathroom.

            According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 235,000 people over age 15 visit emergency rooms because of injuries suffered in the bathroom, and almost 14 percent are hospitalized.

            What do we do now ban bathrooms for safety too ?

            Look at all the anti police brutality protests going on lately, do you really think if the population was unarmed they wouldn’t just come in and crush those protests ?

            It would go down like Tiananmen Square. It’s sad the world works that way but it does.

            When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

            Report comment

          • Absolutely we should ban bathrooms.

            We should also take other logical steps based on gun promoters’ rhetoric. Gun advocates say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

            From this, I understand that a person with an automatic weapon is no more likely to murder people than a person with a sharp pencil. We wouldn’t ban sharp pencils, so why would we ban automatic weapons, since it’s the person, not the nature of the killing implement, that causes danger. Anyone can understand such logic.

            If widespread availability of guns is truly safe, and if it’s the people not the weapon that are the problem, then it stands to reason that we should legalize citizen ownership of rocket-propelled grenades, roadside bombs, and anti-aircraft guns.

            Because RPGS, roadside bombs, and massive artillery don’t kill people – people kill people. So we can just sell these weapons freely to US citizens, so everyone can have them for defense against tyrannical government and criminals. Then we will all be safer.

            Because when the criminal comes in with his gun, you can shoot him with your RPG. Or when you see the criminal running up your steps with his gun, you can press the switch for the bomb installed under your front porch. Or when the gangsters arrive in their armor-plated car, you can shoot your artillery railgun at them.

            Sound good?

            Report comment

  3. So what if this Murphy Bill passes ?

    If psychiatry locks up and abuses more people it will only grow the number of anti psychiatry activists, this will hasten psychiatry’s own demise as more and more people learn what a fraud psychiatry really is and how it does more harm then good over all.

    Seems like a no loose situation to me.

    Report comment

  4. What a joke, the liberal democrats posing as friends of the human rights in psychiatry movement when they were the ones who CREATED the epidemic of child drugging by psychiatry by converting schools into behavioral health wards with there constant support of teachers unions , funding for school psychologists and the entire mechanism of the classroom to psychiatry pipeline.

    Hi I am a liberal democrat, hand over your guns and give us your children to be screened psychiatrized and drugged.

    “So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities,” said Harris-Perry, a professor of political science at Tulane University and host of the Melissa Harris-Perry show on Saturday and Sunday mornings on MSNBC.

    Report comment

  5. Where are my peers and I long into the mental health system to see the change that has long been promised? We have lived through successive eras where change was to have occurred but little changed. There was the Era of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, then Evidence Based Practices, Best Practices, Recovery and now Wellness & Recovery. Each era was supported by no end of scholarly and popular articles, campaigns, conferences, trainings and the like but what changed was largely our medications and what we were called, i.e. patient, then recipient, client, and consumer.

    The campaigners are right in that we have a “… broken, inadequate, outmoded mental health system” despite the “… progress made over the past 20 years.” The words have long been there for real mental health change but the deeds rarely were. A mental health system which represents change so often but fails to evidence it creates fertile ground for misguided legislation like the Murphy Bill.

    Report comment