Thomas Insel Steps Down as Director of NIMH


After 13 years as the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Dr. Thomas Insel is stepping down.  While the NIMH conducts a national search for his replacement, Bruce Cuthbert, Ph.D., will serve as the acting director.

Insel served in the division of intramural research from 1980 to 1994 before becoming the director of NIMH in 2002.  His research focus is on the neurobiology of complex social behaviors, and he is the founding director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience.

In 2013, Insel authored a blog for the NIMH that pointed out the limits of a symptom-based diagnostic system like the DSM and launched an effort to reorient research away from DSM categories.  He authored another NIMH blog, in the wake of the Harrow and Wunderkind studies on antipsychotics and schizophrenia, where he wrote:

“It appears that what we currently call “schizophrenia” may comprise disorders with quite different trajectories. For some people, remaining on medication long-term might impede a full return to wellness. For others, discontinuing medication can be disastrous.”

Insel is reportedly planning to join the Google Life Sciences team to lead an effort to create technology for the detection, prevention and management of mental health conditions.


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Justin Karter
MIA Research News Editor: Justin M. Karter is the lead research news editor for Mad in America. He completed his doctorate in Counseling Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He also holds graduate degrees in both Journalism and Community Psychology from Point Park University. He brings a particular interest in examining and decoding cultural narratives of mental health and reimagining the institutions built on these assumptions.


  1. His focus is on “the neurobiology of complex social behaviors.” The study of which has yielded almost nothing after decades. Sounds like a sadly wasted career to me. I hope his replacement has a broader view of behavior as an adaptive response to environmental factors, but I’m not holding my breath…

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    • I interpret this resignation as an admission of failure. His resignation reflects an utter failure to promote any improvement in understanding or “treatment” of what are really responses to life problems…. although Insel did have great success in lying to the public and increasing profits for drug companies and psychiatrists.

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      • I dunno. Thomas Insel is going over to Google. I think that, in itself, is even more problematic and worrisome. Google is getting into the health field, and it would seem, indulging in it’s own bit of fraud promotion to boot.

        It’s certainly a mixed blessing as far as I’m concerned. The NIMH may have a more or less biologically oriented director, certainly not a non-biologically oriented director to advance in the future, while Google is engaged in revolutionizing, through technology, what might be termed “mental health” police science. Don’t look out the window. The NSA is watching you.

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        • Google has blimps, driverless cars, control of the software on most phones, and through the marriage connection to, a lot of people’s DNA. They know our voices and many of our faces and everything confided to or from a gmail account. Let’s never piss them off.

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  2. “Insel is reportedly planning to join the Google Life Sciences team to lead an effort to create technology for the detection, prevention and management of mental health conditions.”

    Good luck to him with that and yes I am being sarcastic.

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    • Exactly we should do everything possible to detect, prevent, and manage life problems, because people shouldn’t have problems…. there should only be normal, healthy people, and anybody who responds to stress, abuse and neglect with symptoms must have some sort of disorder or illness that needs to be controlled and managed.

      Doesn’t this sound kind of like a Franz Kafka novel? The “detection, prevention, and management of mental heath conditions”? Who the F are these idiots?

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      • People shouldn’t have problems? Well, that’s not “perfect world”, really, if you want to know the truth, that is “stupid world”. People are going to be challenged, any way you look at it, and how they respond to those challenges will come to color the world at large in major ways.

        I always like to think that the author of The Trial, The Castle, The Penal Colony, Metamorphosis, etc. had in the back of his mind another great masterwork that he never got around to, and the title of that great unwritten book would have been something like The Mental Hospital.

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        • And a book called “google” about robber baron’s actualizing a new super highway of accelerated pseudo science – the electronic data gathering then profiling and identifying and placing in various categories individuals then diagnosing from a distance through advanced more better pseudoscientific data processing ,like psychiatric drone operators recommending further processing options for groups of individuals while the population is caught like deer in the headlights. Or are we ? What is that neuroleptic mist falling from the sky . Please yes I love the caring rulers don’t you ?

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    I dont believe in “Schizophrenia”.

    Disabling Medication:

    This is a description of the medication I consumed in Ireland between 1980 and 1984 (when I was disabled).


    In the 5 months to April 1984 while attempting to withdraw from psychotropic depot medication, I experienced 4 hospitalizations 1 suicide attempt and at least one near miss. Recognizing Withdrawal Syndrome, I switched to a careful drug taper with practical psychotherapy. The side effects eased off and I became independent and functioning (and I have remained well since). I found my solutions in psychotherapy.

    1998 Research Paper from Ireland:

    Consumers are described as “schizophrenics”, hospitalization following withdrawal is described as “relapse”, and the drug is promoted as “economical”.

    Research Partner:

    The drug producer is a present day Research Partner to the University.

    Present Day Use:

    Today these drugs are still being used unsuitably in Ireland.

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      I think the ‘neuroscientists’ in Ireland are wrong about “Schizophrenia” and wrong about the benefit of their drug treatments – and my Irish records reflect this.

      In my experience it’s the psychiatric drugs that cause the disability. These drugs also have Rebound and Withdrawal Syndromes that make coming off them very difficult.

      But it’s possible to make complete Recovery with non drug help.

      David Nutt was (I believe) President of the British Association of Psychopharmacologists in 1998, and this is something he has said:
      “NUI Galway has built an excellent reputation for high quality neuroscience research and clearly provides a superb environment for training the next generation of neuroscientists”

      But in my experience these ‘neuroscientists’ are wrong about “Schizophrenia”; and their treatments are creating the disability that the country has to pay for. My Records reflect this.

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      • I believe you.

        I lost at least 5 years of my real life to psychiatry, the life I planned and worked and suffered for. The ability to retire. Job, savings, house, forever-boyfriend, best friend since 1986…all gone. It was traded in for the role of “patient” or ping-pong ball, and my initial complaint was not psychiatric. I couldn’t manage my own affairs and there was no one to do it for me.

        Nutt is an idiot, or a liar. I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I encountered this article (below). Nearly everything in it is wrong. False.

        “Professors George Davey Smith and David Nutt fight the case for statins and SSRIs. The drugs work: the truth about statins and SSRIs” by Suzi Gage (a moron), Guardian, July 31, 2015

        Psych drugs are bad enough. Statins disable healthy old people who deserve better. The “study” they did was barking up the wrong tree. Statins cause weakness, not pain. On statins, my dad got the weakness and though he stopped taking them, the weakness hasn’t gone away. He also became depressed (enough to talk about it, something I’d never heard from him before) and was sure he was developing dementia. He doesn’t complain of those anymore, but he seems to be less engaged with things.

        He was at no risk for heart disease. He and my mother have an ideal-looking diet, don’t smoke, and walk 2 miles a day, every day..

        Thank God I saw the 2013 article in the NYTimes by Abramson and Redberg–the same article and authors cardiologist Lisa Rosenbaum mocked in her pro-Conflict-of-Interest series for the NEJM this summer.

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        • Medical doctors are pushing statins down the throats of everyone that they can get their hands on, claiming that they’re the safest of drugs for people to take.

          Some are even putting people on them as a “cautionary” measure even though people do not have high cholesterol at that point. I had a GP that denied to my face that there were any problems with these drugs and when I told him I would not take them he commanded me to do so. That’s when I walked out of his office and never went back and I didn’t pay the bill for that visit either! GP’s are in love with statins and yet significant numbers of people are suffering great harm from them. Statins particularly affect the leg muscles and people end up falling and then not being able to walk without crutches, canes, or walkers. It’s disgusting.

          And of course, we all know about the SSRI’s so there’s no point in even saying anything about those toxic drugs at this point.

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        • BetterLife,

          I haven’t had my cholesterol tested in years but every time I did, it would test higher than 200 with a superb HDL to LDL ratio. Fortunately, this was before the throw a statin at every patient type of situation but I remember when the nurse told me the results, she cautioned me that my cholesterol was too high. So I responded, uh, according to the lab interpretations, I have less than 1/2 the average chance of getting a heart attack so what is the problem? She had no answer and continued to insist I needed to watch my level.

          There is no doubt in my mind that if this happened today, I would be offered a statin which of course, I would decline. Even if I felt there was a problem with my cholesterol and I would do very careful research to make sure there was one, I would try a million things before thinking of resorting to statins and even then, I might still refuse them.

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        • Better Life:

          in his book, The Grain Brain (which I strongly recommend), David Pearlmutter, M.D. elucidates the connection between statins and depression….statins promote it by lowering cholesterol. It has been known for some time that the low fat (meaning, high carbohydrate) diet is the reason for the explosion of obesity and diabetes. Studies increasingly show low fat diets and the obsession with lowering our cholesterol levels are implicated in depression. We need a diet high in good fats (e.g., olive oil, coconut oil, butter made from milk produced by grass-fed cows) for our mental health. Our first food as infants is or should be mother’s milk which is mostly fat and babies do very well on it. Statins are awful; in addition to the side effects experienced by your Dad (discussed by Pearlmutter in his book), statins cause diabetes.

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  4. ‘Mental illness’ is simply a denigrating description, a maddening metaphor, a pejorative psychiatric label for the stresses and strains of a person’s life beginning at conception such as the different timing of environmental risk factors like toxins, infectious diseases during mom’s pregnancy and/or trauma; mental, physical, emotional, sexual (allostatic overload, Bruce McEwen, neuroscientist) that a person Unconsciously Reacts To and is simply given a description of that lived experiential stressed life, a ‘diagnosis’ by an often uncompassionate ‘pro’. So What?! To continue to call that person ‘mentally ill’ is to be obtuse, be ignorant of the facts, the reality, the truth of that person’s lived experiential stressed life. Allostatic overload effects ( a person’s) epigenesis Allostatic overload effects epigenesis Kurt E. Wilkens

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