Co-Optation, Failed Analogies, and ‘How to Touch a Hot Stove’


How to Touch a Hot Stove‘ (the centerpiece of what is being called ‘The Hot Stove Project‘) is a film that professes to be about a new civil rights movement. It employs interview clips from a wide array of ‘big names’ on all sides of the ‘mental health’ world, in a purported effort to compare and contrast the many voices that lay claim to that concept.  I could go on explaining in my own words, but instead I’ll use the words of the filmmakers themselves:

Featuring narration by actor John Turturro and exclusive interviews with Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, Oliver Sacks, Temple Grandin, Elyn Saks, Susanna Kaysen, Joanne Greenberg, and others, “How to Touch a Hot Stove” points to complex variations in human experience and differences in thinking, feeling, and perception. It identifies the new civil rights movement that has emerged to combat the marginalization of those with ‘mental disorders,’ explores why that movement is more complex than other civil rights movements, and reveals the often disparate perspectives held both by professionals and those with lived experience — as it challenges audiences to go ‘beyond the movement’ and make a difference!

Indeed, this is the description that lured me into the first screening I attended.  Because of this language of ‘Civil Rights Movement.’ Because of the suggested recognition of oppression and advocacy for change. Because that language resonated with me, and in fact, is language I’ve used myself on many an occasion. It promised to be something different.

In fact, the filmmakers, Lois Oppenheim (a Professor of French at Montclair State University) and Alice Maher (a practicing psychiatrist based in New York City) did a fairly good job of writing about a film that would surely have stood out in a sea of chemically imbalanced cinema. They even put ‘mental disorders’ in quotation marks in the written description (and did the same with ‘mental illness’ when it appears in the film), which of course, for most of us, signifies at least some degree of skepticism about such medicalized perspectives. Perfect! Unfortunately, the film they wrote about is not the film they made.

Instead, I would suggest that the film’s write-up was more manipulation mixed with low expectations, anticipating that people who see the world in that manner (such as myself) will take validation from the marks and ‘civil rights’ pretense but somehow miss all the disingenuity and superficiality. In truth, the film’s blatant bias in favor of a ‘mental illness’ perspective becomes evident a mere four minutes in when actor John Turturro provides a voice over that reads:

“…a class of illness like no other.  All other forms of illnesses – from diabetes to cancer – are things that one has, but mental illness (Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, depression) can feel like conditions that define one’s worth, one’s integrity, one’s competency, trustworthiness. For this reason, mental illnesses are like invisible scarlet letters revealed when a diagnosis is made public, when a history of hospitalization or medication treatment is discovered, or behaviors that we do not recognize as normal are displayed.”

Strangely, the film also fails to define what on earth a ‘civil rights movement’ even is within this context. At best, they seem to be linking it to ‘stigma’ (“A new civil rights movement emerged to counter the stigma,” says a slide about halfway through). As far as I can tell, the filmmakers are – much like Glenn Close (whose terrible commercial is given some screen time here – see my blog ‘Anti Anti-Stigma’ for more on that) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – fully enveloped in the misconception that getting rid of ‘stigma’ means easing the way to people happily accepting their psychiatric diagnoses and the resultant recommended treatments. Imagine if that’s all it took to win this fight? But, civil rights movements are not about ‘stigma.’  They are about:

  • Abuse
  • Pain
  • Seclusion
  • Lack of choice
  • Lack of voice
  • Fear
  • Force
  • Exclusion
  • Violence
  • Death

No real mention is made of losses of liberty or harm done within the current system in this film, and although a few people throw that ‘civil rights’ term about, they never quite get to why.  Perhaps most notably, the filmmakers seem to fail entirely to recognize that so much oppression (you know, that stuff that’s inextricably connected to what drives a civil rights movement) is generated by promoting a one-size-fits-all disease-oriented perspective. Kind of like they are doing.

Does the film actually give face time to people who see the world in a different way than the voice over (a.k.a., the voice of the filmmakers) suggests?  Absolutely. However, with the occasional exception, the ‘counter’ clips suffer from bad sound, bad imaging, or bad editing.

For example, David Oaks (referred to in Stove’s credits as the ‘former Co-Founder of Mindfreedom,’ although it’s unclear to me how, in the absence of a time machine, anyone would ever become the ‘former’ Co-Founder of anything they once were a part of founding) is given a grand total of 5 seconds on screen, and this is all he’s allowed space to say:

“We’re directly inspired by the civil rights movement. We need our own.”

No one who didn’t already know him would have any idea from that statement what he actually believes or how loudly and articulately he’s spoken out about so many human and civil rights violations. Frankly, I receive his presence in the film as manipulation, as well. Including a leader from one of the most well-known and radical organizations in the country allows the filmmakers to tout their diverse cast of characters and gives them ammo to combat their critics, while still silencing the messages that people like Oaks would normally bring.  (Anyone who wants to understand Oaks’ real message should simply head over to directly.)

Ron Unger, on the other hand, is given a fair amount of screen time, but not enough to make real sense of the complex ideas to which he’s speaking (especially for people who are new to them). Meanwhile his entire interview is filmed over the web so that it’s hard to ‘hear’ anything over his strange, zombie-like pallor. (Anyone who wants to understand the thoughtful and nuanced place that Unger tends to come from need only go as far as his blog on this very site.)

And, Joanne Greenberg’s interview is so chopped up that, at more than one point, it seems to suggest that she takes a flatly medical model view of her own experiences, which simply isn’t accurate even if she does indeed use some ‘illness’ language at times. (Anyone who wants a much fuller version of Greenberg’s story can watch Daniel Mackler’s ‘Take These Broken Wings’ available free on Youtube here.)

To be clear, this is not a simple critique of a filmmaker’s method or skill. What I am saying here is that people who could have potentially spoken from the point-of-view of personal experience and who could have offered some depth to the ‘civil rights’ terminology were routinely silenced or diminished by the way they were filmed and cut up.

In fairness, some of the medical model stalwarts are also poorly presented (for example, Elyn Saks offers commentary in voice only with questionable sound quality layered over a still image), and honestly the whole film is largely an incomprehensible mish mash. But, within the chaos of clips, who (other than Turturro) comes off most strongly?

Well, for one, there’s Peter Pitts, the President of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.  I’ve never heard of him before, but he makes a point to bring us back to the time-honored tradition of relating ‘mental illness’ to ‘brain chemistry’ and what film of this nature would be complete without that? Jeffrey Lieberman (Chief, Department of Psychiatry and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and President of the American Psychiatric Association) is also graced with a clear image and good sound as he pontificates about the certain biological roots of psychiatric diagnoses. There’s also two clear mentions of people with psychiatric diagnoses being “scary” (one coming with a recommendation to keep them away from the general public when they’re like that), and a whole parade of individuals saying ‘mental illness’ or ‘mental disorder’ more times than I can possibly count.

And the real kicker? Patrick Kennedy.  Yes, Patrick Kennedy is one of the only people to specifically speak the words ‘civil rights movement’ in this film. He appears directly before Oaks, and his first four speaking parts are spliced together over archived footage from his uncle, President John F. Kennedy. (And yes, I said ‘first four.’ Because there’s at least two more. Because P. Kennedy clearly deserves at least six times the air time of someone like Oaks when it comes to talking about this work in relationship to a civil rights movement.  What!?)

Powerful? Yes (the music even gets louder and more dramatic to tell us so), but bear in mind that that’s the same Patrick Kennedy that is a white, cisgender man born into wealth who regularly promotes pro-force initiatives such as the Murphy Bill. (See the Campaign for Real Change in Mental Health Policy’s website or the Western Mass RLC’s ‘Stop the Murphy Bills’ page for more on that!) Yes, he’s that guy. I know this will be a shocker for some, but his is not a name that typically leaps to my mind when I think about ‘civil rights.’ Frankly, how a film can claim a ‘civil rights’ framework and then fail to talk at all about force, while simultaneously elevating someone whose one of our current-day, force-pushing mascots is kind of mind blowing to me.

Any mention of the problems with diagnosis and understanding people’s experiences differently is only given a cursory mention, and in ways that are generally so vague, incoherent, or hard to hear that most people won’t even notice them, once again pretending to represent us while actually having the effect of silencing. And there’s certainly no emphasis on what most of us mean when we say ‘this is a civil rights movement.’

What we mean, of course, is that it’s the system that has most typically oppressed us. It’s often been the ‘treatment’ that has oppressed us. It’s the casual nature by which the rights of people who’ve been given psychiatric diagnoses are disregarded or invalidated that has oppressed us. As aforementioned, it’s the very label of ‘mental illness,’ the lack of choice, and the perpetuation of a one-model system that has oppressed us. It’s the fact that our society is structured around raising up particular types of people (generally white, male, cisgender, heterosexual, Christians of at least moderate means and who behave and understand the world in popular ways) and constructing all systems as if their way is the way, while painting the rest of us as inherently aberrant that oppresses us.

And it’s well-degreed people with influential roles like Maher and Oppenheim, and movie stars like Turturro, that further that oppression (even if only unintentionally) by pretending to understand. By responding with condescension when they are challenged, as if we should be thanking them (if only we knew what was good for us) instead of offering up objections. By acting like they’re trying to do something different while pushing the same old thing. By creating something palatable to the NAMI-addled masses through meaningful words that have been virtually stripped of all their meaning. By speaking for us while pretending to speak with us (just as people have done throughout history with  all civil rights movements that have come before us). How nice for all those organizations that don’t want to be challenged, but do want to feel good about themselves and like they’re a part of the ‘good fight,’ too.

At the last screening of ‘Hot Stove’ that I attended, a fellow audience member approached me when I expressed offense that the filmmakers were using the language of ‘civil rights movement,’ and suggested that maybe they just “didn’t understand.”  She said they were probably “just ignorant.”

But isn’t that in itself a key element of an oppressive system? That people in dominant societal roles have the privilege of getting their voice heard regardless of their ignorance on a given matter? Isn’t that what, at least in part, a civil rights movement is designed to fight against? And, when that system takes our language and twists it into an unrecognizable pretzel, isn’t that what we would normally call ‘co-optation’?

And, speaking of language, I am no one’s ‘hot stove.’ I don’t know quite what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish when they came up with that particular analogy but it is deeply offensive no matter what they intended.

Honestly, at this point, I have to wonder why this film continues to get so much play. Why have organizations like the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis (ISPS – who themselves claim to be making efforts to change the conversation and who have truly put in substantial effort to incorporate alternative perspectives from the Hearing Voices Movement among others) played ‘Hot Stove’ at more than one of their conferences, and often at prime times and in prime locations? Are Oppenheim and Maher members? Are their credentials that impressive?  What is it?  More importantly, how can we get them to stop?

And, before I recommend turning this ‘Stove’ off for good, some food for thought: Although this film employs (I might even say ‘takes advantage of’) many references to and images of people of color (and borrows footage of Obama and, basketball player, Ron Artest)… Although its formed its whole thesis on a comparison (however superficially explored) to the civil rights movement that rose up in the 50’s and 60’s… The filmmakers seem to have chosen not to include interviews with a single person who appears to be black, brown or anything other than white.

In a film that feigns ‘civil rights movement’ while the ‘professionals’ continue to speak for the diagnosed, in spite of the fact that all civil rights movements have fought for people to be able to speak for themselves, that seems worth thinking about.


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’m not going to watch this film, since you know that a film with Lieberman, Kandel, and Saks in it is going to be tainted with medical model lies about fake diagnoses, genetic/biological causes, and need for neuroleptics. At least Unger, a good guy who’s not tainted by Big Pharma, and Joanne Greenberg (same) are given some amount of speaking time.

    Like you said Sera the whole premise of this film is flawed and any movement based on it doomed to failure. The premise is something like, “We need to fight against stigma for these valid mental illness categories like schizophrenia, bipolar, etc, and help sufferers and the public accept the existence of these disorders so that more can be treated via meds and therapy.”

    This approach is doomed because mental illnesses are not separable valid reliable entities, and accepting that one “has” a lifelong brain illness is false and crazy-making. What con man would support a civil rights movement based on that? I guess someone who’s getting payoffs from Big Pharma, i.e. Lieberman and Kandel.

    A more realistic message would be: “Schizophrenia and bipolar are not valid, reliable, discrete diagnoses period. These false labels should be abolished and the understanding of mental suffering as individual, varied, and existing along a continuum of severity should be promoted. Medications should not be used outside of short-term, extreme situations. Psychological help and peer support of various kinds should be the front line offering for people in extreme states.”

    Has Mad In America or any of the authors here made a film interviewing non-Big-Pharma professionals/survivors, and promoting some version of the latter message? Can we do that? It doesn’t sound like the competition is that good.

    Lastly, I went to the Hot Stove website and it says, “The hot stove metaphor refers to situations in which different perspectives appear equally valid and worthy of respect, but are not easily reconcilable.”

    The problem is that some perspectives are not valid nor worthy of respect. For example, the perspective that schizophrenia is a brain disease treatable with neuroleptics should not be given respect alongside the view that psychosis is an individual and potentially temporary problem occurring along a spectrum, mostly caused by trauma, and healable via human help. The medical model framing is a lie and lies are by definition invalid and unworthy.

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    • bpdtransformation, We’ve started on such a film, but film production is challenging especially when you’re not particularly funded to be doing it. 😉 But those sorts of films are circling, in one stage or another. We definitely need more.

      At one point in the film, Alice (one of the filmmakers) definitely refers to a person with a diagnosis as a ‘hot stove’, or at least that’s how it came across … The quote you found on the website doesn’t even particularly make sense. I guess it’s trying to say that touching a controversial topic is like touching a ‘hot stove’? Anyway. Bad analogy one way or the other!

      Thanks fo reading and commenting 🙂


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      • That’s good to hear. Hopefully a lot of good can be done with a limited amount of funds… fortunately the key ingredients to such a film are clearly communicated views and ideas, not special effects.

        Do you have a kickstarter? Here’s an example of what it can do:

        In this example, 74,000 role-playing computer game fans pledged $3.9 million total so that Obsidian could privately produce a videogame, Pillars of Eternity, that the major gaming studios like Activision and EA refused to fund. I bet there are a lot of psychiatric survivors and professionals out there that would fund a privately produced documentary about hopeful alternative mental health views.

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      • Dear Sera,
        we met last year in Hilerod. Thanks God for your insight. About Alices first response. She says: It is short film bla bla designed to be shown in classrooms? Achieving some awards? Though it is flaw? Forgive them God as they don’t know what they are doing? Yes, I know – God will forgive. Me not. BigPharma targets children all over the world not only in US. You gave me insight into peer support problems. Here in Lithuania there are no peer support.
        Alice do not hear you, Sera. I don’t know what her aim is here on MIA. I am not wasting my time on her words any more. Better i’ll study all your writings here on MIA. I will learn a lot.
        Those people with high profile diplomas – they are able to speak a lot and use meaningful words. But they say so little! And it takes time to realize that.
        Thank you, Sera. Karl did good job when inviting you to Hillerod. Best wishes, Sera

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  2. I would say that the mental health movement is a large part of the problem here. Some NAMI and MHA supporters are likely to show this film precisely because it misrepresents people in the real civil rights struggle. The mental health movement is all about paternalism, and paternalism is what gets a lot of people dismissed as deranged and locked up in prisons that call themselves hospitals. This has to be a big fear for anybody facing a camera these days. Co-optation of message, well, expect it, and have a talk with the people doing the shooting before the film is processed. The danger is real, and very present. There is an antidote, of course, if anybody is up to it, and that is to produce your own film that exposes the fraud, and gets the facts straight as well. Remember the ABC news show skimming the mad pride movement. This is hardly the first time any media medium has erred on the side of bias. I think the only way to deal with this kind of thing is to clear the air by telling the truth. Once you know who your adversary is, you don’t need to make the same mistake twice. You have met the film makers, with an editorial capacity for many sins of omission, you don’t want recording your message.

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    • I commented before I’d watched the movie. I think Ted is right. This thing is not going to win any Oscars. It’s a hodge-podge. They’ve got part of David Oaks speech at the rally in 2012 in Philadelphia. They’ve also got a clip of the march at the same event. The biggest problem with it is that throughout the film nobody seems to seriously question the idea of “mental illness” at all. People are “sick” because they think differently. Thinking differently is a “disease”. Sure, the world needs more tolerance, I just don’t think different thought equals “disease”. This movie plays up the “mental illness” belief of the new “mental health” religion. The idea is that if you talk about it, this belief, you are doing the world some kind of service that will make it, this belief again, somehow better. I don’t see that. I’m wondering what the purpose of this movie is? Increased funding for increased services. Groan. Befriend a loony bird. Double groan. I’m not sure. I think the belief in “mental illness” sort of goes along with the belief in “stigma”. Enter a different church, and you’ve just killed two birds with one stone. I’m basically amazed at the extend of people’s beliefs in these two concepts. Personally, there are any number of things I have more faith in myself. Do I have faith in “mental illness” and “stigma”? Not so much. I just can’t see how it would serve me if I did. Of course, on the other hand, I’m not on the look out for a government job either.

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      • Hey Frank, Thanks for taking the time to not only read and comment, but also watch the film. I totally agree it’s not winning Oscars, but it does seem to be getting a fair amount of attention and play which I find frustrating. I think that may have more to do with the connections of the people who made it – as so many things do – but nonetheless, that’s what is seeping out into the world… If it were just another straight forward medical model deal, it’d be one think… But this one is wearing a mask of words and some progressive faces, and that makes it more dangerous in my eyes.


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  3. Sara

    Thanks for the warning. I won’ t go out of my way to view any slick retelling of the morally bankrupt ‘anti-stiga’ narrative. Already had my fill. Pity they took David’s quote completely out of context. Can people who are significant in our movement exercise greater control over the use of their image/words in such ill- guided propaganda pieces?

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    • Madmom, In fairness, this film definitely doesn’t come across as slick, but it does come across very much (to me, anyway) as missing the point and co-opting it at the same time! It’s tough to manage how your image and words get used, I’m afraid.

      People relatively freely pull on what’s out there, and in my experience, it’s only the ones who have the best intentions and understanding to start with that ask permission. But maybe permission was asked here. I certainly don’t know either way.

      Perhaps the biggest bind comes with the fact that we want out messages to get out and it’s hard to make that happen without taking some risks on who’s interviewing you and what they might do with it!

      In any case, thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

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  4. I know the two filmmakers, Alice and Lois, and I respect their intentions both to create dialogue about mental health issues and also their intention to create mental health services where people try to talk to and understand those experiencing “psychosis” rather than just drugging them. But I think we need to distinguish between a positive intention to create dialogue and methods used whose results may be to actually suppress or appear to discredit some of the voices that most need to be heard.

    In order to strengthen our movement, we need to find ways to simultaneously make alliances with as many people as we can who have positive intentions, while also drawing attention to the way just having good intentions doesn’t guarantee good results, and sometimes the results obtained may be really bad. Having discussions like those are tricky, but in the long run I don’t think there is any substitute for learning how to have them.

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    • Ron, I don’t k now Alice and Lois (other than attempting to interact with them briefly at the screenings I’ve attended), so I can’t speak to their underlying attention … And I have to admit that their approach seems so dishonest to me that it’s hard for me to assume good intent.

      That said, whatever their intent, I absolutely agree with the second half of your first paragraph. It doesn’t really matter what their intent was… the impact – especially as the film gets shown with greater prominence and frequency than the voices of those about whom they are speaking – is the same.

      I’m not opposed to allyships and have formed some.. But I have to admit that I have found these particular filmmakers to be pretty closed off to any feedback that would make any of their good intent feel relevant to me… Perhaps they will change. I do not know.

      Either way, thank you for taking the time to read and comment.. 🙂


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      • Hi Sera, I think sometimes people have positive intentions, but are also in reality doing harm, and are closed to feedback about the harm they are doing, because they are so sure they are doing good!

        That’s kind of maddening to deal with, but in those cases I think it is still helpful to recognize the positive intent. This can lead to a softening over time, or maybe lead to others who are a little more open to feedback being willing to engage with us, because we come across as friendlier, less polarized.

        People often hear voices that have positive intent despite in reality doing a lot of harm: I think it’s helpful to recognize the positive intent in those cases as well. It can set a foundation for interacting more compassionately and lead to eventual change.

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  5. I watched the first 5 minutes, to the end of the intro, paused it and took a deep breath, as I knew this would be a rabbit hole. Then I went 2 more minutes and I was feeling so angry that I had to turn it off. What utter crap, total bs. This film IS blatant stigma, purely. This is either ignorance or dishonesty or both. I don’t see another option, other than totally insulting to humanity.

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      • What angers me is that I don’t see how it’s possible to even have a discussion at this level. These are non-survivors who are trying to tell OUR stories. I don’t care how ‘compassionate’ (dubious word in this case, but I think it’s their intention) they try to sound, it is about as patronizing as it gets, and 100% FALSE.

        What is it going to take to get SOME people (take your pick) to get that we’re all our own people, regardless of ANYTHING. I get mad because it keeps coming back to this, and it is such a brick wall. I think it stalls progress, keeps us spinning in the mud.

        The conversation BEGINS and ENDS with the survivors of this madness. Everyone else can watch and learn.

        Sorry to rant, but this is a sore spot for me, how this ‘professional system’ has taken over the voice of others. That’s just pure vampirism.

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          • Indeed, I did. And I started to respond below your response. But it got kind of long and it involved my own film about stigma, which I wanted to share that with her, as it is exclusively the voices of those of us who experienced this–and our spouses, the two of us who are married–and no one else. This was the best way I felt I could start a dialogue with Alice, a ‘filmed response’ that was already in the can.

            I did not, however, want to co-opt your blog and make it about me, so I looked up Alice’s contact info on her website and wrote to her. I figured she had read my comment and I referred to it.

            I’m happy to take it public, but my feeling is that we are all coming from different angles on this. I would very much like to have a clear and honest dialogue, I’m not convinced it would be satisfying in an online group setting. Although I’m interested to see what unfolds here. I’m grateful you posted this. I think it’s THE WALL we’ve been trying to knock down–hopefully.

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          • Thanks, Alex. Remind me your film? It’s hard to know what will stick or be worth it with some of these on-line dialogues, and these wall threads get super hard to follow after a while so I can appreciate your wanting to take it to e-mail. I just also didn’t want to be the only voice responding… I think it’s important for Alice, Lois and others to see there are many voices taking issue with this (even if we are coming from our own somewhat different angles…), and that’s certainly happened at this point. 🙂



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          • Thanks, Sera, I’ll post it here, Voices That Heal–


            It’s by no means perfect and I had no resources nor model (I was alone in this in San Francisco, I did not know of MIA or the like at the time), this is a $0 budget film.

            I was also trying to invite dialogue, not slam anyone. Although most of us (not 100%, though), are extremely critical of the system and its power imbalance, and I think we provide a reasonable introduction to why this would be. I think these issues merit focused exploration. We are relating intimate, personal and emotional experiences in the process, so it’s kind of a delicate balance.

            But I do feel that my film is FAR more truthful, authentic, and diverse in perspective and experience than Hot Stove. Our film shuns stigma, simply from our presence; we plow right through it by showing up and speaking our truths, without apology.

            This business of the ‘terror and shame’ of ‘coming out,’ right up front in the Hot Stove film is, I feel, the epitome of stigma and shame, which is why I feel that film promotes it, as usual with this. Same with the title, that says it all. I made my film to take back this issue, because I do feel it is a real and present danger and is keeping things good and stuck.

            And in Voices, it is us talking about us, not others talking for us or about us. That is what I find most frustrating, stifling, and demeaning. Speaking for ourselves is empowering. Speaking for others can be terribly misleading and presumptuous, imo. I don’t feel second hand accounts and interpretations of others is powerful enough to create change. We each have to empower ourselves, individually, to make an impact.

            In this film, we are at different places on a continuum, along with all of humankind. I agree that we need to cover a range of perspectives, but I’m just not interested in the professional clinical perspective any longer, to me that is old news and totally irrelevant to, both, healing and justice.

            This is about experience and survivorship, that is our expertise. Professional are exploiting people, purely, when they use personal stories as ‘evidence.’ Our stories are sacred, and belong to the ones who live them, not to the ones that observe others. Really, I think that’s kind of a no-brainer, but in practice, we get sucked dry so others can make a few bucks and gain some prestige.

            I also made Voices That Heal 4 years ago (with a slight re-edit last year) just before I entered into any of these discussions and have learned such a great deal since. Still, I feel this film has enough truth to it to generate plenty of dialogue around the controversies, in a way that will lead to clarity rather than yet another rabbit hole.

            It’s been a while since I screened it, but when I was taking it around San Francisco, in and out of the system, and Humboldt County Health & Human Services, it was rich and hoppin’. It also played on Humboldt cable access for a year. I posted it on YouTube so that anyone can have access to it.

            Thanks for asking about it, Sera.

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        • Hey Alex,

          I am both a survivor and ongoing as well as on Occupational Therapist so I certainly understand where you are coming from. I certainly try to bring myself into any patient related situation and tend to leave my compassion at the door step where I came in.

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  6. I agree with you, Sera. I watched the 24 minute piece, it’s an advertisement for belief in the DSM “mental illnesses,” and a claim it’s important to also theoretically accept, those so psychiatrically stigmatized. It’s an amazingly disjointed, thus rather incomprehensible piece.

    It’s a piece trying to claim the DSM disorders are real, that doesn’t even touch on the fact that the psych drugs actually create the serious “mental illnesses” symptoms, which is the true reality, that the medical evidence does now actually show.

    We need to get rid of the DSM stigmatizations, and life long tranquilization of people who’ve dealt with injustices, rather than perpetuating the psychiatric industries’ historic and continuing unjust crimes against the decent within humanity.

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  7. Hi Sera and everyone,

    First of all, I’m grateful for your reactions, powerful and negative as they are. You ask about the meaning of the film. What’s happening right here, right now, IS the dynamic that Lois and I hoped to catalyze. We ARE “hot stoves” to one another right now (ouch!), and the fact that we’re talking across that divide is a very good thing.

    Why? Because as much as we might want a civil rights movement to catalyze integration of people who think, feel or behave outside socially accepted norms, THAT WILL NOT HAPPEN unless and until people immersed in the issues are able to talk across OUR OWN MASSIVE DIVIDES. For every person and practitioner who believes that the medical model is toxic, there is another person and practitioner who experiences it as lifesaving, or maybe just helpful. If people in the mental health field are going to join separate organizations and fight for vastly different solutions, people who need help, social acceptance and empathic imagination, will continue to suffer.

    When the film was first shown at ISPS, the discussion went on for 2 HOURS, until we were asked to leave at… was it 11 PM? Yes, the film itself is clumsily filmed and edited. Neither of us ever made a film before and we did it for almost no money, with a young and inexperienced (though highly creative) filmmaker. But given that the “hot stove” dynamic was exactly what we were hoping to catalyze, it was gratifying to feel the energy in that heated conversation. We have shown it in multiple arenas since then, and the conversations are always excellent. It’s a very short film, meant to be shown and discussed in classrooms. (It also received honorable mention at the SAMHSA Voice Awards.)

    I understand that the number of “white coat” people might have been triggering to many of you, but please realize that we tried hard to show all points of view. What specific people said was less important than the meta-level communication. As we clearly state, PERSPECTIVES DIFFERED DRAMATICALLY. We tried to show one point of view followed immediately by another. For example, as I recall, Joanne Greenberg’s line came right after Jeffrey Lieberman’s. He said he believed in the brain disorder model, and she is then shown saying, “It’s in the brain. Yes, it’s in the brain. You haven’t said anything!!! Yes, it’s in the brain. Now get rid of it!” I think that’s exactly what she meant to say, and it’s exactly what WE meant to say.

    The movements were also presented as different, often clashing perspectives. We state that clearly in the title screens. Patrick Kennedy, Glenn Close, David Oaks, Mad Pride and others represented those vastly different points of view. Our point is that we need to talk, bridge those “hot stove” divides, and eventually come together, before a new civil rights movement that addresses prejudice against people with mental disorders and differences can emerge and be effective on a large scale.

    I could go on, but I think I’ll stop here. I’m looking forward to your responses. If you want to see the film, it’s 22 minutes long and it can be found on website.


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    • Alice your opening comment (“What’s happening right here, right now, IS the dynamic that Lois and I hoped to catalyze. We ARE “hot stoves” to one another right now (ouch!), and the fact that we’re talking across that divide is a very good thing.”) makes me almost wish I hadn’t written this blog.

      If you see this blog and its resultant commentary as a product of your film’s ‘intent’ or as any sort of movement forward… If my blog led you to some self-congratulatory place… then I have not done my job.

      And please, please do not worry about having ‘triggered’ me… I fear you do not understand how that statement in itself is offensive. I am not so fragile, I do not even use that language of ‘trigger’ for myself, and I don’t need people to temper what I’m exposed to in order to keep me balanced. No, you did not trigger me. (Have I, perhaps, instead ‘triggered’ you?)

      To be clear, you OFFENDED me. There’s many differences between those two things (trigger and offend), but here’s one highlight: When you say you are sorry if you ‘triggered’ me, you are suggesting that my problem with the film is that I couldn’t handle it and that perhaps if I were in a place where I could handle it, I’d see the good. On the other hand, when I say you offended me, I am saying that I got it, I sat with it, and I found it fundamentally problematic in a way that’s similar to the problems in your comments above and both are indicative of the kind of oppression that the *real* civil (human) rights movement is fighting against.

      I feel like I’m about to conjure Inigo Montoya (Princess Bride) when I say this, but: You keep saying that phrase (Civil Rights Movement). I do not think it means what you think it means. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you really don’t seem to be keyed into what it means at all.

      You can’t just keep blindly claiming that it’s just that we’re on different ends of the spectrum, or that you did your best to represent both ends. We’re not, and you didn’t. Your definition of ‘civil rights movement’ is so askew, that we’re simply talking about different things altogether. We’re not on the same spectrum. And just because you’re a white, educated psychiatrist doesn’t mean you get to define ‘civil rights movement’ however you wish. If you had any real desire to undo the oppression, work through our differences, and create real space for dialogue, you’d understand (or at least be open to learning) that it’s up to people who’ve been *in* the system (voluntarily or by force) to define such things.

      Sure, you can say Joanne Greenberg meant to say exactly what she did, and I’m sure that’s true because she said it. However, what she said is quite meaningless and even misleading without the context of whatever she said before and after. Really, the *only* perspective you represented clearly was that of the ‘it’s all brain disease’ medical model

      Okay, I can *see* that you are invested in some way in the ‘idea’ of dialogue, but I’m not sure you know how to really engage in it. If you actually wish to do so, then please answer these questions rather than jumping to more comfortable places:

      1. Why are the people representing the medical model in your film consistently allowed the space to clearly present their ideas, while people representing any other perspective are not?

      2. Why does the voice of the narrator (John Turturro) come from a strictly medical model place, if your point was to illustrate the differences between multiple perspectives?

      3. Why, in a film that speaks endlessly about a ‘civil rights movement’ and lifts so many images of people of color, did you not actually include interviews with anyone of color?

      4. How *exactly* are you defining ‘civil rights movement’?

      5. How on earth can you put anything out there claiming to be about a ‘civil rights movement’ yet not even directly touch on force and oppression?

      6. Are you familiar with the commonality of dominant groups speaking for oppressed groups in all incarnations of civil rights movements?

      7. If no, can I send you some links? If yes, why do you not think that’s an issue here with you taking our language and then failing to define it, failing to take feedback to heart from the people whom you are speaking for, and failing to let people speaking from a personal place truly present their ideas?

      Those are just for starters.


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        • Don’t shoot! I bring fluffy white clouds to rain on the fiery parade.

          I’m not making a joke but Alice comes right out with it: she’s a hot stove. Or, like this: she’s a HOT STOVE. That’s stress (a lot of us are stressed).

          I’m just waving a little flag of caution here, because there’s what we see on the screen and then there’s what we don’t see behind the screen. If Alice has a touch of madness (hot stove, stressed, mad) and if Sera has a touch of madness in response to Alice’s madness (or, replace the word madness with stress)…

          Well anyway, you’re encouraging them, uprising. lol. No, it’s not funny but seriously, I’m a little worried about this thread…

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          • Hi Sera,

            What I was worried about was obvious but for further clarification, here was Alice “We ARE “hot stoves” to one another right now (ouch!),” and here was you “To be clear, you OFFENDED me.”

            Anyway, your article and the commentary are lively but you all seem to have it under control. 🙂

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      • Hi Sera,

        I hear you that you found the film offensive. I feel really bad about that, but I think you wanted it to be a different film. We may not have effectively communicated all that we intended, but your assessment of our intent is different from what our intent actually was.

        When I used the word “triggered” – which I understand was offensive and poorly chosen – I meant that I think you overreacted to the medical people and gave less weight to the equally important non-medical representatives. Or maybe we emphasized that side too much. We may have. It’s hard for me to know, but if we did, it was definitely NOT what we intended to do.

        I agree with you that it’s up to people “in the system” to define such things. We’re working on filming, in much greater depth, four people with different lived experience, ranging from a young man who defines himself as having schizophrenia and takes large doses of medications to an older woman who regained her life and her voice when she stopped them. Yes, at least one of those people will be a member of a minority group. That’s a flaw with the first film, to be sure. We didn’t know any, and we didn’t think to actively seek them out.

        I AM invested in dialogue, and I do appreciate your questions. Here are my preliminary responses:

        1) As I said, I think we tried hard not to do that. We may have failed in that attempt, or you may be overreacting to the (more famous) medical people in the film. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

        2) The narration by Turturro was written by Anne Harrington, Chair of the Dept of the History of Science at Harvard. She studies the problem of stigma from a historical perspective, and wrote it from that point of view. We filmed that narration early in the process and we couldn’t tweak it at the end when we might have wanted to. But they would have been subtle changes. I don’t agree with you that that narration comes from a strictly medical model. Anne isn’t like that, and neither are we. I’m a psychiatrist, but I’m desperately trying to emerge from society’s demand that I be a “medical doctor” and diagnose from that place, especially if I want to get paid. That’s why I did the film in the first place. I’m not only not trying to advertise the medical model, I’m trying to do the opposite.

        3) As I said, that’s a flaw.

        4) There is no civil rights movement yet, because “we” are too conflicted among ourselves to come together and create one that works. People who think, feel and behave outside socially accepted norms need to be integrated into society with value, meaning, and creative contributions. But as long as the medical people and the non-medical people remain antagonistic, that movement won’t happen. It reminds me of the conflict among the gay community when I was young. Half of them wanted to come out and own their place in the world, and the other half wanted to stay in the closet because life seemed easier that way. It was the AIDS epidemic that brought them together. Once they did, seismic changes happened. I’m hoping for an analogous process to occur in the mental health community. I think you want the same thing, but I don’t think you’ll be able to do it without befriending and empathizing with people who have a different perspective on their own mental disorders; people who value their medications and believe that it works for them.

        5) I think we touched on it (a lot!) in the segment about the way society still comfortably uses words like “crazy” and “psycho.” I see those words as representing that force of oppression, similar to the way “nigger” and “faggot” were comfortably used, oppressively, in years past.

        6) I didn’t think of that at the time we made the movie, but I hear you and I will.

        7) I’d be grateful for some links. I hope I’m taking your feedback to heart, and I hope you’re hearing me as well. I’ll be glad to continue this discussion if others would like me to.

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        • I find a problem with you’re film implying, both the “medical” side and the “patient” side agree the DSM disorders are all about brain diseases. Many of us who were stigmatized know the DSM “mental illnesses” have nothing to do with a brain disease (at least not prior to the iatrogenic illnesses created with the psych drugs), and everything to do with “social control” to cover up child abuse or easily recognized iatrogenesis, which are not brain diseases.

          And the medical evidence does now seem to show 2/3’s of so called “schizophrenics” today are dealing with psychiatrists who profit off of misdiagnosing abused children as “psychotic,” resulting in a neuroleptic prescription.

          Please do read Read’s other research papers, too. And my research, and experience, show that when psychiatrists put a non-brain damaged person, a person dealing with a psychiatric child abuse cover up, on the neuroleptic drugs and drug cocktails. The neuroleptics can, in fact, create both the negative and positive symptoms of “schizophrenia.” The negative symptoms are created via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome. And the positive symptoms, including actual psychosis, can be created via anticholinergic toxidrome, aka anticholinerginic intoxication syndrome.

          This is the divide I see between “patients” and a psychiatric industry that believes their toxic, mind altering drugs are “wonder drugs.” Would you like to explain why you didn’t address the fact that most stigmatization is done to cover up generally paternalistic crimes. And why you didn’t address the fact that the ADHD and antidepressant drugs can, and do, create symptoms that get misdiagnosed as “bipolar.” And the “bipolar” / “schizophrenia” drugs and drug cocktails can, and do, create the negative and positive symptoms of “schizophrenia.”

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        • Alice,

          I find that you are employing a ‘Straw Man’ argument tactic often within these dialogues. In other words, you are presenting refutations – at least in some instances – based on arguments that *I* did not make. Yet, you’re doing so as if I did make them, and thus inevitably distracting some readers into believing I did. It can be an effective tactic, but it also can be a supremely frustrating one.

          I’m not sure if you do it intentionally, and I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that you are not. However, I will say that I experienced the same exact tactic from Lois at the ISPS screening that I attended.

          What am I referring to specifically? Repeatedly in your in-person and on-line assertions, you seem to be asking me/us/whoever to respect people who believe the medical model and its related treatments (most notably, medications) have been helpful to them.

          Incidentally, I’ve never argued that medications should be universally banned or disregarded, and that all people who disagree or report finding them helpful should be discounted. Actually, I never do that. What I do fight vehemently against is this:

          Acting as if medication is a given, or that we know more about it and why it works for some people some of the time at some point in their lives. And conveying to people that there’s only one way to see things – the medical/disease way.

          This is what most people get, and at best that’s fraudulent. At worst, it’s deadly.

          There’s LOTS of layers here, so I’m going to do my best to deconstruct *some* of them and what I mean in the quite limited amount of time I have at the moment.

          First and foremost, there’s a prime difference between saying:

          The medical model and all conventional psychiatric treatments (most notably, medication) are WRONG…


          It is WRONG to say that we categorically know the medical model and its treatments (most notably, medication) to be RIGHT.

          I don’t profess to know the first to be true, but I sure as hell know the latter to be false. And yet, on the whole, this system that we are in presents the medical model as the one option, considers any lack of acceptance of it in someone whose been so diagnosed to be evidence of their ‘illness’ (in some instances, even misusing the term ‘anosognosia’ to make their point), claiming to know HOW and WHY medical treatments work, and acting so certain that they are willing to FORCIBLY ‘treat’ people who refuse.

          THAT is fraudulent on so many levels, and dangerous, as well. Now, if a doctor, instead, said:

          “So, we don’t truly know what is happening or why you are experiencing x. What my training suggests is that your experiences are consistent with a diagnosis of x, and the most commonly used treatments when someone has a diagnosis of x is y. However, I have to be honest that there are no real tests for x which is a diagnosis (like all other diagnoses of this sort) that was created as a best attempt to explain a particular experience and bill for associated treatments. Sometimes, people who get this diagnosis find these other ways of thinking about it to be a better fit, and here some of the approaches associated with those models. In truth, even if we go down the medical model path and I prescribe medications to you, I can’t claim to know how they work, and here’s some of the reactions I hear from people – both good and bad…’ And for those for whom it doesn’t work – regardless of what way of thinking about their experiences they find most helpful – here are some of the alternatives they’ve tried that some have found helpful.”

          If a doctor said THAT… Then it wouldn’t be so fraudulent anymore. But most don’t. Most are literally afraid to say such things not only because it runs counter to their training and belief system but for fear that someone would be less likely to ‘comply’ with what they really want them to do (accept their ‘mental illness’ and medications).

          I’m not guessing at this. My personal experience and my now 20 years of working in this world (half in a traditional provider role and half in a peer-to-peer community and as a part of this ‘movement’) have given me countless examples.

          So, you see, it’s not about completely discounting the medical model. It’s about being *honest* about it, and being *honest* about what we do not know.

          You must be exposed to enough in this world to know that not only do many doctors, psychologists, news people, and beyond speak about extreme experiences as if they *know* them to be diseases, but they also speak about those diseases and their treatments as if they know them to work.

          The film that was shown first in the afternoon last weekend at the same film festival where ‘Stove’ was screened went on about ‘chemical imbalances’ in their ‘bipolar’ son. Colin Powell keynoted to over 4,000 people at last spring’s National Council conference about his wife’s ‘chemical imbalance.’ People profess quite constantly that they understand how particular psychiatric drugs interact with one’s body, and they claim with some regularity that knowing one’s diagnosis allows them to properly ‘target’ the relevant phenomenon.

          But many of us (here, anyway) realize at this point that those claims are full of inaccuracies, lies, and pharmaceutical influences.

          Now, does that mean that all psychiatric drugs are evil and should be banned? There’s several possible answers to that one, but my two favorites are here:

          1. No, but we should be HONEST about what we know about them. For example, we should stop referring to ‘side-effects’ because there are no ‘SIDE’ effects… Simply desired and undesired ones. And we should stop pretending we know how the drugs work or that we know WHY they seem to work for some, and instead say things like:

          “Hey, we do not know why some people find that these work for them, and here’s some of the risks we’re most aware of, though it’s also likely that there are risks of which we’re not yet aware. Meanwhile, all we can tell you is that this particular chemical – when ingested – seems to impact some people in this way for at least a period of time. Other people prefer to get that effect by trying x, y and z. Is that an effect you desire, and if so, which approach would you like to try?”

          After all, many people seem to like the effects of caffeine (but some don’t!), yet discovering they like the effects of caffeine does NOT mean we’ve discovered a caffeine deficiency nor does it even necessitate that we understand how caffeine works…Right?

          So, the question simply becomes are the potential desired effects of this particular chemical – when balanced with the potential negative effects – valuable enough to give it a go? No need to claim all the knowledge we don’t have because claiming all that knowledge TAKES AWAY A SUBSTANTIAL DEGREE OF OUR CHOICE WITH THE PICTURE THAT IT PAINTS.

          2. Even if we accept that some fraction of people feel helped by psychiatric drugs, is our society responsible enough to manage the drugs on the whole? I believe this is a question raised by Peter Gøtzsche, and it’s quite an interesting one.

          In other words, is it better to simply not have access to such a thing even though it would help a fraction of people, because our society runs so amok with it that its availability does far more damage than good?

          Then there’s the argument advanced by other responders in this thread: That some people may say it’s been helpful to them largely because they weren’t offered anything else and have been so misinformed about the possibilities that it would be unreasonable for them to say anything else, no matter the underlying truth.

          For example, I found myself once at a hearing with a man who said that ‘force’ saved his life, and that he’s now been in ‘recovery’ for over 20 years… But he was shaking, shuffling and having difficulty forming those thoughts, and recognized that he’d not been able to work for most of that time. Is that really true for him? Maybe that sort of existence is better than the alternative for him, but it’s hard to watch and hard to believe there couldn’t be a fuller life possible.

          And I’m also reminded of the sorts of arguments that DJ Jaffe, Torrey, etc. like to make in favor of Involuntary Outpatient Commitment. Jaffe, in fact, responded to my blog just prior to this one with some statement about how many people say that so-called ‘AOT’ saved their lives… But he left out that when people said that it ‘saved their lives,’ they were often responding to questions like, “Would you rather be in prison or on Assisted Outpatient Treatment?”

          Funny how our environment shapes our perceptions so deeply.

          There’s also the concern of going too far with blindly portraying all approaches to be equal when some actually seem to be shaping up to be far more harmful than others… Not all matters are ones of ‘opinion’. At some point, there are just black and white facts that we need to pay attention to when we’re putting information out there, yet in systems of oppression such facts tend to fall prey to systemic biases based on financial interests, fear, and so on.

          In any case, Alice, please stop distracting from what’s actually being said by suggesting that I am arguing that the medical model be completely disbanded or that all medications are evil all of the time.

          Those are not the criticisms that I have of your film, as I think has been clear both in my original blog and in my first response to you.

          To get back to my questions (thank you for taking the time to answer them):

          1. Can you please point out to me the points in the film where you feel people coming from a non-medicalized place are stating their positions as strongly as Lieberman, Pitts, etc? Why do you suppose that the people presenting medicalized takes tend to more frequently be both clearly visible and audible? Was that just by chance? (To be clear, I’m not suggesting you necessarily set out to use poorer film quality or sound with people coming from other perspectives, but is it possible that your personal biases impacted whether or not you recognized that as important in the first place? Or the respect you were inclined to show to people who were seen as ‘important medical’ figures?)

          2. Why – as the filmmakers – could you not tweak the narration if you wanted to? Can you please cite specific examples in the narration where they are clearly coming from a non-medicalized point of view? More importantly, can you please explain to me how pointing ‘mental illness’ in quotes or occasionally saying something like (not a direct quote) ‘experiences deemed unacceptable by society’ effectively counter balance narration that says ‘mental illness’ and ‘mental disorder’ so repeatedly as if it were fact? Have you gone through and counted how many times ‘mental illness’ and ‘mental disorder’ (or other medicalized terms) are spoken during the narration?

          3. I’m glad that you recognize this as a flaw. It seems a rather fatal one to me… I wonder if you understand the relationship between using images of people of color and the civil rights analogy but not interviewing anyone of color for the film and speaking for and over people who’ve been given psychiatric labels?

          4. It’s interesting that you think there is ‘no civil rights movement’ yet, because we’re all too conflicted with one another. Is it your line of thinking that we need to align with psychiatrists in order for a civil rights movement to begin? That would be a strange belief in my eyes, as that’s not my experience of how civil rights movements tend to work… Who do you think gets to decide when a civil rights movement has begun?

          I get your analogy with the AIDS crisis… Catastrophe does serve to bring people together, yes. I personally, however, believe that the level of abuse and death resulting *from* a one-size-fits-all medical model approach is fairly catastrophic, and I wonder if you might be willing to explore *that* further and consider coming a little further over in our direction rather than expecting I might or should head in yours?

          5. I feel mystified and a little bit stuck on how to respond when you equate language like ‘crazy’ and ‘psycho’ with force (restraint, seclusion, violence, death, forced drugging, forced ECT, etc.). Yes, terrible language can drive belief systems that ultimately allow for the abuse and violence to happen unchecked, but it is a far cry from naming that abuse and violence. It would be like talking about African American history in relationship to the N-word (as you liken it all to) without mentioning lynching, slavery, and so on. Can you explain further how referencing the language equates to ‘a lot’ of talk about force and how it is connected to the need for a civil rights movement? Honestly, in the absence of further explanation, it strikes me as failed rationalization.

          Also, what is your take on force as it relates to a civil rights movement? Are you in support of the Murphy Bill and/or Involuntary Outpatient Commitment? How do you understand these things to be related?

          6. I’m not just asking you to think about this for future filming endeavors. I’m asking you to think about this NOW, in relationship to your ‘Stove’ film and how its rather frequent screening is hurting the people you’re attempting to speak for, and the civil rights movement you’re saying you’re interested in…

          You and Lois at least come across (in my experience) as very quick to dismiss criticisms of the film from anyone including people who are speaking from personal experience of having been forced, or being a part of a civil rights movement now. It is not coming across to me that you are willing to recognize the importance of that.

          This is particularly true when you (here and on the ISPS Listserv and wherever else it’s happening) claim that these sorts of objections are a sign of the success of your film. Frankly, that’s fairly maddening.

          You are going around and screening a film that serves to re-enforce the medical model and further deny many of us our voice, and you see our protests as a sign of your success? That comes across as both paternalistic and naive.

          You are widening the divide that you claim to want to be a part of shrinking, yet, from what I hear, you are accusing *me* of being the divisive one. This is also a common phenomenon in civil rights movements: Accusing the individuals associated with the oppressed group of being ‘too angry,’ or ‘too divisive,’ or what have you, and holding to the status quo expectation that they play along with what the majority believes and wants all under the guise of being ‘patient’ for change.

          I’m going to take the leap of believing you wholeheartedly that your *intent* was something different, but your impact has not been… and I’m going to ask you to hear me as equally wholeheartedly: However well intended you were in making this film, sometimes the best of intentions simply lead us down the wrong path. Recognizing that, owning it, and starting over would be of far more value than any ‘dialogue’ that comes out of your attempts to stick by your initial choice.

          Finally, a word about your feeling attacked or alienated: I can appreciate why you are sometimes feeling attacked on a personal level. As individuals, we’re pretty much all vulnerable in our own ways, want to be liked, want to be seen as good, etc., and it hurts when people are coming at us with other opinions and perceptions.

          But if you truly want to be a part of undoing some of this oppression and healing any divides, I think you’re going to have to be able to deal with some of that. I’m not suggesting you should be down for full-out abuse, but the truth is that you are still a doctor, a white person, highly educated, and (I’m guessing but could be wrong) probably living comfortably from an economic perspective. You have a ton of privilege.

          Any attacks you may perceive in these sorts of dialogues couldn’t even begin to touch the oppression and lack of privilege experienced by those you are often speaking about. Yes, it’s human to get defensive – just as white people so often get defensive when ‘white privilege’ gets brought up, and so on.

          True, you’re not responsible for all the wrongs done within the mental health system, and you may very well be on the much better end of the spectrum of ‘psychiatrists’, but you are nonetheless a part of an extraordinarily privileged and powerful group, and with that privilege comes some responsibility for how things have played out, whether you like it or not…

          If you truly want to be a part of the change, I think that’s worth thinking about some more.


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        • You know, it’s not the people who take the drugs and believe in the system that bother me. Everyone must do what they think is right so I have no problem welcoming them into any group I’m part of. I never try to coerce anyone into believing anything what I believe.

          That said, the people I have real problems with are the so-called “experts” from the “mental health system” itself who believe that they know me and my life and what I need to lead a productive and healed life better than I know it. The majority of the psychiatrists I dealt with in my own initiation into the wonderful system were three of the most emotionally and psychologically abusive people I’ve ever met in my entire life. Two of them screamed at me at the top of their lungs, as if they had a right to do so. These people are not ever going to sit down with the rest of us and have a logical discussion because they do not believe that we have anything of value to even talk about.

          I feel that you are somewhat naïve to think that most of the people running the system even want to carry on a dialog with survivors and ex-patients. Personally I don’t think that will ever happen. I’ve tried talking with the psychiatrists where I work and they treat me with benign paternalism in their very patronizing manner. It’s totally disrespectful to me as an individual.

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      • Sera,
        i have such respect for you and what you have written. i also have seen different incarnations of this “hot stove” film and i couldn’t stand it — for the reasons you described. i found the film, and the creators’ reactions to the criticisms of it, disingenuous. also, i wish the filmmaker, Sheryll Franko, were involved in this discussion. i do not know if she understands the subject matter well enough to realize what she got herself into, or if she actually believes that people like lieberman actually have something valuable to say. but i think it’s also not fair for alice maher to put some of the blame for the film on her being “young and inexperienced”. if i were Sheryll i would be troubled by this.
        -Daniel Mackler

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        • Hey there Mackler,

          Good to see you on here 😉 It’d be great to have Sheryll Franko chime in. My general impression of the film is that it ended up being what Alice and Lois wanted and felt good about, so it does seem unfair to blame it on someone else.. But in truth, I really don’t know what that early filmmaking process was like, so I’d be curious to hear more.


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    • Alice, I have a question to add to this. It’s:

      Why are Lieberman, Kandel, and Pitts given prominent voices in the film?

      Their position is essentially that psychotic distress is a brain illness with genetic/biological roots and causes. This is a complete, unevidenced lie, causing massive harm to sufferers, families, and the economy. Its main purpose is to sell toxic neuroleptics.

      Yet, their viewpoint is included as if it were equally valid and worthy of respect as other non-disease model viewpoints. Not so. I was half expecting E. Fuller Torrey to come on screen.

      The Lieberman/Kandel/Pitts viewpoint on schizophrenia as a brain disease caused by biology/genes should be given equal weighting with the following:

      1) The 1% of scientists who believe that human activity does not contribute to global warming.
      2) “Scholars” who believe that genetic differences make black people more stupid and violent.
      3) Holocaust deniers – seriously, because denying the psychological aspects of psychosis and asserting that people have a brain disease they cannot fully recover from is no better.

      That is how fraudulent and damaging their disease model viewpoint…. we need to stop spreading it or presenting it as a position worthy of respect and serious consideration.

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      • I think it’s impossible to catalyze large scale social change around the problem of difference unless the position of people who have benefited from medications are offered respect and empathy. I believe that meds will become less necessary and will be used much less frequently once we have a world that invites “different” people to live in it without marginalization and oppression. Until then, some people will suffer less with the judicious use of medications. I don’t want to make a film that attacks that model head on, because I don’t think attacking people on the other side of a divide will be as effective as a position that gets people talking across that divide. That was our intent in the film

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        • Hi Alice, as I said above in response to Sera, I sent you an email via your website, so I don’t want to overstate myself. But I’ll repeat here that I did make a film where the central thread is the role of ‘stigma’ in all of this, because that is a big part of my story, blatant stigma that involved legal action because my civil rights were blatantly violated.

          I believe stigma is vital to this discussion, but true, it has been co-opted and confused with something else by NAMI, professional grant-run advocacy, and the field itself.

          In my film, I attempt to actually make it true and meaningful, not a commercial for the system. I feel people are better off healing elsewhere, but I completely honor how anyone finds their healing path, on or off medication or whatever. Everyone has their path, but the professional class is seriously bigoted and carries so much prejudice, really makes a mess of things, to say the least. We’re trying to wake people up to this paradox.

          I feel very critical of the system, the field, and the medical perspective for a variety of reasons, and one of them is because dialogue becomes like the tower of babel. I think it’s futile to speculate whey this is because it inevitable turns to victim-blame, exactly the issues that take people into the system. It is an abhorrent and toxic cycle. I guess everyone and no one is to blame, but that’s the way it always seems to turn out.

          In my film, not all of us are critical of the system, and in fact one person validates it. I disagree with his position and make it clear in the film, but we all still stand by our truths, which I think is reasonable and sound. In the process of this, we offer our own healing perspectives, paths, methods, and information to inspire hope and to encourage others that there are many ways to heal.

          But we’re all survivors of the system, one way or another, and speak our truth ourselves. Aside from having our stories told by others–on our behalf or for ‘our good’– being, to be very frank, demeaning in and of itself, I also feel this can be easily exploitative of others.

          Our intention is the same, to create a dialogue that crosses the great divide. But where the conversation is weighted is important to discern. Why would we want any perspective other than our own, about ourselves–meaning those of us who experienced the system to our horror and did the healing ourselves? That is what is personally not sitting well with me, especially when my film starts the conversation directly from the voice of lived experience.

          I’ve posted the film here a lot so I don’t want to do that again, but I did send you the link so I hope you check it out and, perhaps, I will hear from you. For others who would want to compare these two perspectives on how stigma fits into this, Voices That Heal is posted on YouTube.

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          • And btw, we may not offer all the answers but I think we get the ball rolling in the right direction. Plus, this film is directly from the heart. We’re not scientists. We’re human beings.

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        • Alice, this is a reasonable position, but does not address the problem that authors like Pitts, Lieberman, et al. are labeling suffering which is usually caused by trauma, abuse, neglect, and stress “brain diseases” (with the implication that they’re caused by misfiring neurons). This is one of the most blatantly false, unscientific, and frankly harmful and hopelessness-inducing representations out there.

          That is the biggest problem with including these people, who in my opinion are charlatans.

          It is possible to incorporate the viewpoint that some people are helped by medications – as they obviously are – without pandering to the lie that schizophrenia is a valid brain disease that people have to live with for life. Two different issues. Severe emotional suffering can be helped and have its intensity reduced by medications, without framing one’s problem as a lifelong brain illness that you’ll never fully recover from.

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        • “I think it’s impossible to catalyze large scale social change around the problem of difference unless the position of people who have benefited from medications are offered respect and empathy.”

          It just needs to be kept in perspective. One side can’t nullify the other. There ARE people who are harmed (to a severe degree) by diagnoses and drugging. The “success” stories cannot be allowed to distract from, invalidate, or cover-up the atrocities. And the atrocities cannot be allowed to discount, invalidate or ignore the “successes”.

          There are people who say they’ve been helped. Fine. But that doesn’t mean that people who have been harmed haven’t been harmed.

          As long as people are honest, and don’t try to manipulate anything, these two opposite realities should become more clear and evident.

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        • Alice, In reviewing all the comments on this blog, I find myself wanting to add something quick in response to this one:

          I’m getting the impression that you’re operating under the belief that ‘if we just offer positive change, then negative critiques aren’t necessary because they’ll change simply by virtue of more availability of the positive.”

          Is that at all accurate in terms of your take on things?

          I guess I just have to say that I see *no* evidence in this world that suggests to me that that would be true. Instead, what I see is people being somewhat interested in positive experiences and changes, and then *completely* misunderstanding (and co-opting, etc.) them if they don’t *also* equally understand the problems and what we need to avoid…

          The idea that if we offer something positive over here, all the people over there will simply begin to move is just… Well, it just doesn’t hold water if we look at history.

          Especially when there are financial forces driving them over there… Especially when people understand their roles to be one of control, safety, and responsibility *for* people, etc…

          It all needs to be offered. I prefer something more along the lines of Jim Gottstein’s ‘Transformation Triangle’ which suggests that there are (at least) three things that need to happen AT THE SAME TIME (strategic litigation, creation of alternatives/other choices, changing public attitudes)…

          I guess that wasn’t so brief.


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        • Alice,

          My perspective is based on close encounters with psychiatrists who lied to patients and/or their parents and/or significant others; psychiatrists who claimed to have identified the fundamental cause for *extreme mental/emotional duress that often precipitated behaviors that were problematic for those who sought psychiatric care for someone exhibiting behavior that was problematic *; psychiatrists who claimed to have knowledge about the neurochemistry of the brain; psychiatrists who claimed to have drug treatments for what they had labeled, a disease/disorder; psychiatrists who were ignorant of the adverse effects of these drugs, including dependency and withdrawal; psychiatrists who diagnosed adverse reactions and drugged those, too. From my perspective, a nurse on inpatient, locked wards and residential psych treatment settings from 1988-2014 (minus 7 years working in early childhood education) I have to assert the crucial, fundamental issue that is at the heart of the civil rights movement started by psychiatric survivors. That issues, is that psychiatric treatment– from diagnosis to drugging is not based on scientific evidence, or anything resembling medical treatment. It is/was a fraudulent enterprise that was supported, funded by the pharmaceutical industry who shared their absence ill-gotten profits with psychiatrists. The most prominent psychiatrists of the past 2 decades are responsible for this *crime*.

          Now, you want to acknowledge that some people are quite satisfied with this? Without saying what they are actually accepting? To me, your reasoning supports Freud having a good experience under the influence of cocaine, or Robert Downey Jr.’s award winning performances while under the influence of heroin. Both are true– but not recommended for those who are seeking human performance enhancement via drugs.

          I have no disrespect for anyone’s claims to successful use of drugs, but I find it hard to respect my professional colleagues who continue to dismiss the fundamental issue of the sham that is psychiatry, and, instead, look for something to justify their pay checks in the field.

          Psychiatry, branded in America over 20 years ago, is not a *model of care*, but a lesson in the dark side of human nature— that our medical community could allow and then silently condone the exploitation of vulnerable people for profit is too crazy…. Equally, crazy, imo, is justifying this in the name of respecting those who weren’t severely damaged.

          Oh what a tangled web…!!!

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        • Alice

          I suspect that if people had not attacked the evils of slavery we probably would still have an entire culture of people, people of color, owned by white people. I had a good friend in New Orleans whose parents let the African American maid they’d employed for 25 years eat meals at the table with them. They were nice people and they felt that letting her do that made up for all of the horrendous things done to African Americans in this society of ours. They were cultured and wealthy people and they thought that they were so enlightened. And they didn’t have a clue.

          Many people exposed slavery for what it was and tried to talk in a positive and rational manner to convince slave owners of the wrongness of owning other human beings. They appealed to the goodness of the slave owners, for many slave owners were not bad people as such. And we all know how well this approach worked. It took a civil war in which more Americans died than all the other wars we’ve fought combined to get rid of the abomination of slavery in our country.

          And if the African American community had not started their demonstrations and sit-ins and began taking control of their own lives in this society they would still be where they were prior to 1963.

          I don’t think your approach has as much merit as you believe it has. It will never be enough to stand there and model the proper behavior for others to see and emulate and copy. Things of this importance, the civil liberties of an entire group of medically and psychiatrically abused people, will require more than nice words and welcoming arms. It will require direct opposition and let the chips fall where they may.

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    • Would you say and defend then the proposition that if someone is doing more harm than good (though having all the good intentions) then we should defend his/her actions? Is that what you say? Because that sits very very well with oppression. So much oppression is founded in wanting to do good and having all the right intentions and it is jet fueled by those who dare not speak against it and those who defend it by saying these people (oppressors) are not bad people.

      Here is a learning lesson for you. You are right. The oppressors are not necessarily bad people. Often they are cultivated and sweet. The misconception is that this is about them as persons. It is NOT. It is about how they act (as professionals). So it is their actions and not their wonderful persona that is being critiqued and rightfully so!

      Say you have a system like ‘New Public Management’ which in many cases forces and educate people to act against their conscience and common sense. Those are not bad people. But they still act in a way that should be criticized. The whole system should be criticized and the ivory towers torn down. Not because it consists of bad people but because the most scary scenario is good people acting in the service of good in order to oppress and shorten the lives of those they are trying to help because they act within a flawed framework/system.

      By saying that you need to build bridges between ‘hot stoves’ within this system is an angelic thought but since I am not a religious guy and since the whole system is flawed beyond despair then the very notion that there are bridges to build would only serve as a feeding line for the oppressing machinery. This is not about good versus evil. It never was. It is about getting rid of oppression, marginalization, alienation, injustice, incarceration, isolation, life shortening practices and deprivation and you could put ‘occupational’ in front of all of those.

      Only your actions (not your words) define you before your peers.

      I for one would be very eager to hear and reflect upon and go into dialogue with those who criticize what I do – and be willing to act upon it. That sets a divide between me and the system. Not between me and say Lieberman as a person. Between me and the system he represents. If he cannot handle critique of how he chooses to act from the high position then someone should pull the ivory tower out of the pole position. It might have the beneficiary side effect of relieving his buttocks.

      Warm regards


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      • Hi Jens,

        Just need to point out that you say this is not about good versus evil but then you give a list of things that are known evils.

        ” This is not about good versus evil. It never was. It is about getting rid of oppression, marginalization, alienation, injustice, incarceration, isolation, life shortening practices and deprivation and you could put ‘occupational’ in front of all of those.”

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        • Sorry, I just don’t see the world in *Good and Evil*. I think Good vs. Evil is a religious construction that only leads to fear, harm and ultimately warfare.

          When I talk about oppression, marginalization, alienation, injustice, incarceration, isolation, life shortening practices and deprivation I see that as social problems with social-societal solutions. I do not think warfare will change things for the better.

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          • Yes, the realization of the existence of evil causes great fear. The fear is so severe and terrible that it causes people to lie, and deny the very existence of evil. But ignoring and denying doesn’t work to eradicate the existence of evil. It fosters it, and then evil thrives.

            War ship and worship, what are we gonna do. *shrug*

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          • Ah but I beg to differ. There are acts that can be considered harmful and destructive to a state that you would call it evil. But I do not believe in the concept of evil. It is a human construction. I believe in every action in the world has a prehistory and people may have destruction on their mind when acting in a certain way or they may intentionally want to harm someone in their way but is it evil? Like evil would require some sort of angelic existence… I do not believe in this. I believe humans in and off themselves can be terrible and cruel and menacing but I also believe that is our own responsibility and our own footprint into the world and we cannot excuse it by some angelic evil force acting through us.

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          • What we can do is try to be to others what we want others to be to us. In our doing we become and if we want to leave a footprint of doing and becoming just, social, together, non-oppressed and so on then we need to do and become exactly that. Only by our own doing we can become.

            I was sexually abused as a child but I have not become a rapist by possession of some evil force. Rather to the contrary I am trying my very best to do stuff that I can stand for and which will not make me become my bleakest experiences.

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          • So does that mean you also don’t believe in Hell? Or Heaven? Hmm. Well I don’t want to make people mad by talking about the hellish evils of life so I suppose we can end our conversation now, and have ourselves a pleasantly good day. See you around, Jens. 🙂

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          • Yeah, I do not believe in *hell* and *heaven*. I believe that is a human construct. I may buy into the idea of something metaphysical about our world but I find no answers in any conventional religion constructed by humans.

            Human actions can in and off themselves be *hellish* enough and I suppose that is why such a concept needed to be constructed to try and seek answers to the incredible cruelty we can invoke on each other as well as ourselves but again I find no answers nor any redemption or solutions in any conventional religion to these questions. In most religions I find the same oppressive forces that I find in the psychiatric biomedical system.

            You don’t make me mad or anything by saying what you believe in. I can communicate fine with you regardless of your beliefs and whether I share them or not.

            Thank you for sharing your thoughts and giving me the opportunity to share mine. 🙂

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      • Hey Jens,

        Just getting to really read your comment this AM. Thanks so much! I love particularly your first paragraph, at it gets to the heart of a loop that so many of us get stuck in… The whole ‘what you’re doing is wrong’ followed by ‘Don’t attack me! I’m doing the best I can!’ And around we go…


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        • Yes, and thank you dear Sera. That loop can be particularly vile if you get trapped in a system where doing becomes intrinsically followed up by a visit at the hand-washing facilities and routine decrees about how you should work to be a good evidence-based practitioner.

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          • In the end you can put on a robe that will color you blind and you will work exactly as you are instructed and then at the end of the day you will go back to being yourself and exclaim at the dinner table what a wonderful client-centered practice you are part of without one clear thought about the colossal schism between what you practice and what you preach.

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    • Alice, I’ve got a few complaints of my own about your cinematic adventure. Maybe you could address them sometime. Chiefly:

      1. A film featuring prominent (and very corrupt, in terms of drug company ties [i.e. conflict of interest]) psychiatrists. (Nobody has yet gotten down to the extent to which patient/consumers/etc. have become corrupted by the institutional corruption of psychiatry. Is this film not an example of that corruption?)

      2. A film that lumps all mental patients together in one big blob. Please, we are as different as day and night, and then some. In fact, we are as different as are people who have not been abused and oppressed by the mental health system.

      3. A film that doesn’t even take a good look at the coercive and damaging nature of mental health treatment, nor question people who think they’ve received a bum rap from that system. Ahem. (For interesting parallels in the Criminal Justice system, see the Innocence Project.)

      I know we’ve got a kiss-ass approach going on here, please nobody, in other words, by trying to please everybody. I just feel that a good deal of deceit is being used in the process. Alright, some of us are outside of the labeling and drugging mind control system now, and so as far as we’re concerned, you can remove the “mental patient” gloves.

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  8. Thanks, Alex, very much. I responded to your email and I’m looking forward to seeing your film and remaining in dialogue.

    Jens, you say, “the very notion that there are bridges to build would only serve as a feeding line for the oppressing machinery.” OK, you don’t like the film. That’s fine; you don’t have to like it. But right now I’m speaking not as a filmmaker, but as a human being – a psychiatrist who feels like one of those “oppressors” that you seem to lump together, criticize and dismiss. I trained in psychoanalysis 40 years ago, when our pharmacology class was optional, and I watched my profession change into something I no longer recognize. Now with the new billing and coding system, complete lack of privacy, and need to diagnose a disease in order to get paid, I’m horrified. A seismic change needs to happen, and it needs to happen now. I want to be on the forefront of that change process.

    But change has to happen slowly, and in the right way. If the rest of you are going to react by lumping me together with your “oppressors” simply because I have an MD after my name and I sometimes prescribe drugs that I believe to be helpful, then you’re shooting yourselves in the foot and increasing stigma against your own community. Because I bridge the divide, I can help, maybe a lot, because people on my side of that divide may be more likely to listen to one of their own. When we show the film in classrooms, we have an opportunity to share other points of view besides the medical model, which is the only one the students come to know. The only way we can get a foot in the door of those classrooms is because the medical model is an integral part of that presentation and that dialogue.

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    • Certainly I am not lumping you together with the oppressors. Who are they? The system itself is oppressive. Like most systems being gradually distorted by fear and “angst”.

      What I want you to understand is that the way you communicate your thoughts is counterproductive and offensive. You should self-reflect on that rather than attacking those who dare say it to you because those people are not out to make you a monster. They actually attempt at changing your ways of communicating through dialogue.

      What is so depressing is that if even you who claim to be working against oppression is not prepared to listen to and take in the dialogue and reflect upon it yourself then how much of an uphill angle and slippery slope do you think it is to get people like Lieberman to listen and reflect upon what a voice-hearer would have to say?

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  9. Alice,

    How do you know people have benefitted from medications? The reason I am asking is when I took several of them, I thought they were helping only to later realize they were destroying my life. Peter Breggin refers to that as being spell bound.

    So if your patients tell you that, do you ask them questions about various aspects of their life to make sure reality matches perception? Obviously, you can’t force them to say they don’t work if they feel they do but having this information might lead to better treatment.

    And what if your patients tell you the drugs don’t work and they want off of them? What do you do?

    Regarding stigma, what are you doing to prevent patients from getting substandard medical care due to physicians seeing a record of the psych med history? It seems this issue is greatly overlooked by psychiatry and the medical profession.

    Finally, you talk about change needing to happen slowly. Meanwhile, many people’s lives continue to be destroyed by psychiatry. And I don’t say that to be mean spirited by the way but I find this point interesting because in other areas of civil rights, I don’t recall leaders saying change needed to happen slowly.

    And by the way, Sandy Steingard, a wonderful psychiatrist, who posts on this blog, got creamed by another psychiatrist on the 1 boring old man blog even though she was quite reasonable. Her credentials meant zilch.

    My point is I don’t think the Jeffrey Liebermans of the world would give a hoot about the fact that you are a colleague. If you are perceived as antipsychiatry no matter how reasonable your position is, it doesn’t matter what credentials you have.

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  10. Jens, as much as you say that you’re criticizing the system and not me, your responses make me feel criticized as an individual as well as a representative of that system. I could well be wrong about many things and I like to think that I’m open to hearing that, but I don’t know how to respond when you exhort me to stop my “projective identification.” I’m very sincere about what I say and what I believe to be true; it’s not a “tactic.” I do think it’s possible to coax the medical profession to think differently. Many of us feel highly compromised by the increasing medicalization of our profession. We may misunderstand a lot, but we truly do want things to change and want to help facilitate those changes. All I’m saying is that if you push us away, you could be doing yourselves a disservice. Or maybe not; I dunno.

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    • Alright. Point taken. What I was trying to say with regards to projective identification is that I hold no grudges on you for being an MD yet the first thing you did when responding to me was to project on me some sort of biased dislike of psychiatrists and MD’s.

      That means I have to take a sidestep in the comment topic to explain that I have no problems with psychiatrists and it lowers the credibility of what I really wanted to communicate being that the way of communication needs some reflecting upon (that I would have written even if you were not a psychiatrist or MD).

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    • Alice,

      If many of you feel highly compromised what are you doing about it? I know that you can only speak for yourself, but I’m wondering what the many others you refer to are doing about it. I see what you’re trying to do about it. I don’t see many psychiatrists talking about the destructive nature of the so-called “mental health system”. I don’t see many psychiatrists changing their prescribing practices where they give drug cocktails to most everyone they deal with. If many feel highly compromised then why don’t they seem to be speaking out about it and doing something about it? I don’t think we’re pushing you away but I do feel that for myself I don’t see your solution of slowly trying to change this abuse as working in any shape, way, or form.

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  11. Thanks, Jens. Communicating in this faceless, affect-free medium is really hard. I appreciate your efforts very much.

    AA, yes, I work very hard to use a minimal amount of medication and help the person wean from it as soon as possible, as much as possible. I see a lot of teachers in my practice. They don’t have time to wait to see if time and tools and support and insight will help. If they behave in ways that are even a little bit outside expected norms, they will be accused of “corporal punishment,” lose their jobs and their insurance, and/or be outed as being “crazy” and “sick.” A little bit of medication can allow them to function effectively while they work to understand and tolerate their affects and perceptions. I completely agree about people getting substandard care when records are shared. My personal compromise is to keep handwritten records as far away as possible from the eyes of others. I think change needs to be slow right now, but there will be a tipping point when it will happen quickly.

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  12. Alice, your approach is balanced, reasonable and clearly you connect emotionally with your patients and their families. Many people think in black or white categories and their anger towards the prevailing systems of mental health preclude real dialogue or action. The predominant feelings of rage and the focus upon harm and stigma are paralyzing in terms of progress. We need to use all of our strategies in order to help people who have serious symptoms continue to work, be with their families, sleep and function. I think that the philosophy of encouraging oneself or another person to indulge in “extreme states”, or transforming experiences for any length of time is, quite frankly, a possible pathway to loss of friends, loss of family, job etc.. What happens to one’s family (children) if one is going through the “extreme state” without emergency medication or treatment? Who cares for the family? I find little mention of this and it is of concern to me.

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    • Margie,

      With all due respect, you’re missing the point as this isn’t about pro medication vs. anti medication. This is about giving the patient a fully informed choice and letting them make the decision as to how they want to proceed based on the available research that has been MIA regarding extreme states.

      And you seem to assume that emergency medication would work when that isn’t necessarily the case in various situations. Then what?

      As far as rage at providers, would you tell rape victims not to be so angry at men? I have never fortunately been committed against my will but reading the stories of commentators on this blog sure sound like chemical rape to me. Anyway, I get really tired of their situations being minimized.

      By the way, the mental health providers who acknowledge their anger and rage on this site end up getting the most respect. Just saying.

      You keep acting like responsible calm dialogue is the key to change. Been there done that on mainstream psych blogs and it isn’t worthy bleep as long as one questions any aspect of psychiatry.

      Anyway, this sounds like what 70s feminists were accuses of. Oh, stop being such angry women. Meanwhile, things happened like rape victims were treated like criminals by police which no one wanted to focus on. But no, anger was the problem that prevented dialogue. I say that is bunch of malarkey that once again, blames the victim and prevents any real significant change.

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    • “Many people think in black or white categories and their anger towards the prevailing systems of mental health preclude real dialogue or action.”

      That’s classic double binding, Margie. Crazy-making. THIS is the problem in these dialogues. The anger is reasonable.

      Perhaps you are confusing ‘anger’ with ‘digging in heels defensiveness,’ which, yes, can be problematic in a dialogue, but when this is pointed out in the moment, one can get past it (sometimes). At least it is telling where the stuckness happens.

      But what you say is what we’re all sick and tired of hearing, and what actually CREATES the big divide we’re trying to bridge. The anger is totally justified. You are talking about people who have been seriously violated and not vindicated, all in the name of ‘help.’ That is no help, believe me.

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    • To Ms. Altman,

      So you think that Mad people are “indulging” when they live in their extreme states as they process the trauma and victimization that made these states essential for the preservation of their lives? Ms. Altman, you’ve hit a new low. Framing extreme states as “symptoms” of “mental illness”, I suppose, that ruin Mad people’s lives unless they are “treated” by the drugs, shock treatments, and psychiatric incarcerations that have a 300-year long track record of utter failure is patently and inexcusably sanist. As for the friends, families, coworkers, and employers of Mad people, I believe they need to think about how they would want to be supported by the people they’ve emotionally or financially invested in if disability or Madness ever becomes their new way of living. Intolerance is what ruins Mad people’s lives, not their extreme states. I know. I’m a Mad person and I can vouch for our ability to sustain relationships that are safe and happy for us and our able-normative friends, coworkers, employers, and family members. All that the significant others of Mad people need to do is obey the golden rule. TREAT OTHERS THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED.

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    • Margie,
      We cannot all be Neville Chamberlains pandering to and compromising with psychiatrists.

      Some hard-line positions are necessary. For example, the notion that schizophrenia is a brain disease that requires medication cannot be accommodated, dialogued over, or compromised over… it needs to be rejected outright. Medication may sometimes help with psychotic states, but that is very different from saying psychosis is a brain disease that REQUIRES medication, as is the position of many psychiatrists.

      Your criticism of those who express outrage is mistaken. The focus upon harm and stigma, given the extreme damage done by lies about “schizophrenia”, is quite understandable, and the outraged feelings justified. Expression of these feelings, including anger at mistreatment and stigmatization, may be necessary for change. Sometimes being nice doesn’t cut it.

      Your comment about “indulging in extreme states” is vague and doesn’t make sense to me. No one I’ve heard is asking people to “indulge” in extreme states. Some therapists, with a good-enough supportive containing environment, find it is possible for clients to work through rage, terror, and despair, feelings that are at the core of psychotic experience. There is a time when those feelings should be contained or walled off because they are too overwhelming, but given conditions of sufficient support, it is possible and productive to work through extreme states and emerge stronger. Unfortunately, this is almost never possible in American hospital or prison settings; rather, it is only usually possible in outpatient psychotherapy, in situations where the person can afford help and has some reliable support already from family and friends.

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      • This discussion makes me think of a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Dark Night. Alfred and Bruce Wayne are discussing how to understand the sociopathic Joker. Alfred eventually says of the Joker:

        “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

        This is not exactly analogous to today’s psychiatric system – for one thing, it is all about money and control, not killing people (although it does that too). But Margaret’s mistake, I think, is to believe that the psychiatrists controlling our mental health system can be reasoned and negotiated with.

        They can indeed be bought – as they have been already by the drug companies. But their position of power, their status and income, requires maintaining lies about supposed mental illnesses like schizophrenia, and through this propaganda and coercion forcing everyone labeled as schizophrenic to take antipsychotics. And like the Joker and his expendable henchmen, the psychiatrists and corporations act together like a sociopathic hive-mind, chewing people up and spitting them out as the fodder for their profit-making machine.

        Outrage at these tactics is justified, and given the extraordinary amount of profit and control available for psychiatrists, it cannot be expected that the masters of such a system will engage in reasonable dialogue or compromise. They must be forced from power via strong words, demonstration, and actions. Expecting them to willingly compromise and relinquish power would be naive.

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      • I think that one of the issues here is that we are talking about very different levels of extreme states. I am focused on the individual who is not able to function due to the experiences of negative command hallucinations, delusions that put them into high risk situations, agitation and fear to the extent of not being able to communicate. Do you agree that there are various intensities of extreme states? I have had my own experience (in college) and was non-functional for several months, kept in my room at home, had to drop out of school. It gradually resolved on its own and at that time my parents did not want me to take the meds because they were the primitive Thorazine and Stelazine. So I would never want to undergo that again and would take some meds temporarily, but my point is that my state was really close to being totally disabled and I think that the next rung in the ladder would have been close to what I see in the ER. this is not what other writers are describing as far as I can see. Do you agree that we are talking about different intensities of experience and that some of these states can be experienced while being a functional, working, family-involved person and the more extreme state is one that no one would willingly undergo because it is too disabling?

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        • Margie, when I discuss “schizophrenia”, “extreme states”, “severe psychosis”, I mean to include those who would be considered as “nuclear” or “process” or “out of contact” psychotics/schizophrenics in psychodynamic language. In other words, those whose personality is mainly dominated by severely negative introjects, and swamped with rage, terror, and fear of closeness to the point that they cannot function or relate in any meaningful way. These are the people you are seeing who are delusional/nonfunctional most of the time.

          Usually these states arise out of severe long-lasting trauma, abuse and neglect. Such fears and “unthinkable anxiety”, of feeling whatever self one had to be shattered into pieces that will never be recovered, can be worse than the fear of death, in my opinion. The sense of terror and doom is like darkness on the face of the deep. I have some direct experience myself of what this state is like, by the way, and of course I don’t need to tell you it is a living hell. That is why I am so outraged that the approach of psychiatrists is to (over)medicate and label these helpless people, approaches that usually just make things even harder, if that is possible.

          Yes, there are varying degrees of extreme states. Beyond the aforementioned process or nuclear “schizophrenia” – the one which was called the “out of contact” state, e.g. by Harold Searles… further along the continuum, you have a more related, “ambivalently symbiotic” form of psychosis…. this type of psychotic person has a greater awareness that other might help and relationships can be meaningful, but they also have great difficulty functioning and experience fusion of self/other images and unthinkable terror/rage, etc. It is partly a matter of degree.

          Then you get to more “borderline” state, where the person is beginning to be more aware of a separateness between them and others, and has some stronger degree of internal positive self/other representations, and so on.

          Anyway, I’m not sure what the point is of focusing on the most severely ill psychotics. That doesn’t change the gist of my argument. Whether it’s severely psychotic or more functional/brief overwhelmed people, the same points apply:

          1) Labeling people with words implying chronicity, brain dysfunction, hopelessness, and a requirement for medication is wrong and harmful.

          2) Implying that someone has to take medication is false and often, not always harmful.

          3) There can be no compromise with psychiatrists who insist that people’s psychoses are biologically caused brain diseases that require medication. Medication is not even the biggest issue… the bigger issue, to me, is how to realistically and hopefully conceptualize the person’s problems and how to communicate this understanding to them and their family so that they can have hope.

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          • This is a really good comment, bp.

            The sometimes purpose of the drugs is to make the crises / flare-ups / episodes stop. Humans don’t know that those are the moments to pay attention, listen, understand and possibly even engage. Those are the moments to not stop. Those are the moments to tune in, care, and be willing to do the work it takes to understand the person and the storms of their world.

            Where there may be a need to engage, the helpers have to understand the difference between the fine, delicate balance between supporting and assisting the individual, or trying to take over (command or control them). We aren’t soldiers and the directives of “do this” and “don’t do that” can shut a person down (although maybe not all the time or in every instance).

            You know the famous psychoanalytic depiction of writing down what one hears as the sufferer is communicating? Taking notes.

            The people in the professional realm don’t always do that, or don’t know how to do that. They’re too focused on trying to make that diagnosis rather than actually comprehend the life, the world and the individual they find sitting before them. The “patient” isn’t exactly seen, by the doctor. The so-called disorders, diseases and diagnoses are what they look for and see (through an expensively educated and trained lens).

            I’ll give a short example. When I was a teenager, 17 years old, the counselor I was seeing at the time announced that she thought I was “borderline” (which was my fourth diagnosis since 13 years old). She made no sense to me. I sat in her office once a week for an hour pouring my heart and soul out about my terrible situation (teen mom in a foster home, not getting any help for the traumas, abuse and neglect that landed me in foster care, worried sick about my damned teen motherhood and the bleak future my son and I had ahead of us, while enduring a terrible sleep disorder, which people kept ignoring in favor of their precious mental illness belief system). Through all of that burden she could only see what her eyes were paid and trained to see (which didn’t exist, except for her projection of it).


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          • correction:

            Where there may be a need to engage, the helpers have to understand the difference between the fine, delicate balance *of supporting and assisting the individual, or trying to take over (command or control them).

            There. Fixed it. That’s much better.

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          • Hi Ms. 9,

            Yeah totally agree with your comment. Most psychiatrists’ minds are infected by what are essentially projections about the supposed “mental illness” the person sitting in front of them “has”, with all the implications about medication and chronicity flowing from that.

            It causes the psychiatrists to mistakenly think there’s something fundamentally different or wrong with that person, not that they are having a normal, understandable response to abnormal, extreme stress, neglect or abuse. I have found that most people I speak to who were labeled “borderline”, “schizophrenic”, “bipolar”, felt this attitude on the part of psychiatrists to be strange and alien, and even dangerous… they sense the person cannot be with or understand them. Severely disturbed people are much more perceptive of others’ feelings than many people realize; being very attuned to other’s unconscious processes.

            Since such people already have real and severe problems in trusting and feeling safe with others, psychiatrists thereby make the process of trusting and getting emotionally close – the process needed for healing – virtually impossible.

            The average American psychiatrist is so much worse at understanding and helping psychotic individuals than experienced psychoanalytic / psychodynamic therapists, it’s like a chasm. Not only do psychiatrists not understand the true genesis of psychotic states… i.e. in the paranoid-schizoid position and the associated terror, rage, and self-fragmentation which is part of that overwhelming experience of feeling abandoned and destroyed… but they inflict harm and come to resemble the client’s inner persecutors by labeling, medicating and controlling them.

            Understanding and helping a psychotic person is hard enough when one understands the developmental and object-relations basis of such states relatively well. For most psychiatrists, that task is rendered impossible by their lack of a developmental relational understanding of psychotic states, and by their distortions about brain disease, chronicity/impossibility of cure, and belief in the necessity of long term medication.

            Expecting a psychiatrist to cure a severely psychotic person is therefore kind of like expecting an uneducated handyman to be able to write a high-level legal brief. They simply don’t have the skills or understanding to help.

            I emphathize with your example about the psychiatrist and the borderline diagnosis. It is so horrible because for many people the projection of hopelessness/chronicity associated with these labels (e.g. the psychiatrist calling your problems “borderline PD”) simply makes already hellishly difficult that much harder.

            I hope you have been able to do better since then, and do not identify with this label so much.

            I myself have much experience with the label borderline, and write about it at: bpdtransformation (dot) wordpress (dot) com ; please check it out if you get a chance.

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          • I see it. In your blog. We’re both saying the exact same thing but each in our own words.

            I didn’t develop and cultivate the borderline personality like they wanted me to. Through my 18 years of involvement with psychiatry and the mental system, the brainwash that worked, more than individual diagnoses, were those two rotten, mentally destructive words “mental illness” – fused together with the idea that drugs were necessary. A couple of drugs made me feel homicidal, so I stopped taking those, but once I had the seizure, that was the beginning of the end. It’s been years since I’ve been involved on a regular basis but exiting the system cost me my children. I was given an ultimatum: obey the doctors and take the drugs or never see my children again. I kissed my kids goodbye and saw them for the last time on International Torture Day (June 26).

            I’ve since taken the direct opposite path from psychiatry’s pathological, negative, condemning self-examination: I dug for gold, in my genes and in my mind, and in my heart and in my soul, and became a zillionaire. LOL!

            Sure, I’m a train wreck and all sorts of batshitcrazy but I blame that on being American in the 21st century.

            Your blog is great. You’re a people’s hero 🙂

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          • I agree with all above. when I wrote my article ( and when I experienced my extreme state at 21) I was describing the state which you call nuclear; there is no chance of getting one’s thoughts together, there is extreme terror, no sleep, agitation, inability to communicate anything) and I was telling the story of one of my people in the ER, in that state, and the time I spent trying to connect, to hold, to reassure, to feed, to enable him to feel in control of the situation so that he could help me find a place, a person, something so that I could provide some safety for him or the police were going to pick him up again, get angry, tase him etc. My point was that it was terribly difficult to, after hours of work, put him on a hold. When the article was posted I got hateful comments, was compared to a Nazi (some of my family died in the concentration camps) and was told that I was controlling, authoritarian and had sentenced him to death. I always check back and he spent 3 days in the hospital, had one initial dose of meds, ate, slept and was able to accept going to a shelter program with case managers on site. I don’t agree with meds unless a person is in a terribly extreme state and then the person needs time to talk, recover their ability to think, talk and direct their own pathways. Recently Dr. Hoffman who comments here and who said that he would never write a hold, messaged me on facebook and said that he could see the need for holds in such cases. So I don’t know if my initial post was miss interpreted? I am not pro-meds or pro-holds or pro-coercion in any form. Anyway, I still feel sad and abused from the comments that I did receive and I want to clarify my position here.

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        • Margiealtman
          I copied what you posted as I don’t know how separate my response will be from your reply. You write

          ” Do you agree that there are various intensities of extreme states? I have had my own experience (in college) and was non-functional for several months, kept in my room at home, had to drop out of school. It gradually resolved on its own and at that time my parents did not want me to take the meds because they were the primitive Thorazine and Stelazine. So I would never want to undergo that again and would take some meds temporarily, but my point is that my state was really close to being totally disabled and I think that the next rung in the ladder would have been close to what I see in the ER. this is not what other writers are describing as far as I can see.”

          The grave concern I have about your comment above is that it seems to make the assumption that ‘newer’ meds cannot cause the severe problems of the older meds, and that taking newer meds will take someone out of a severe, disabling form of psychosis. Perhaps that is true for `some,’ but it certainly not true for `others’, and if those ‘others’ are not brought out of an extreme state by medication, they have instead landed on a devastating track ( of higher doses, different meds, or if stopping the medications – all the extra problems of trying to withdraw, supersensitivity, obesity and health concerns, and on and on). Not to mention those people who only went into a more severe, disabling psychosis AFTER medications were introduced and or changed around in their sensitive brains! Your parent’s advice to wait to see if you were able to come out of a severe disabling psychosis on your own could well have saved you from this track and could still save others from a similar track with current medications.

          Your comments about people (or families) ‘indulging’ psychosis by not taking a ‘medication route for severe, disabling psychosis is so distressing to me. I think most of us on this site understand that conventional treatment for psychosis with medication is not evidenced based in terms of long term recover of severe disabling psychosis! We are not ‘indulging’ our loved ones but desperately trying to prevent our loved ones from suffering a life long disability which we know happens much more frequently in societies where medication is the first line of treatment.

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          • I would only support medication use in an emergency situation and then a period of time to allow the person to recover their ability to think, talk and self-direct. I’ve seen this protocol in the ER (Oliveview UCLA) and then in the in-patient unit where the person went for a few days and ate, slept and talked….was able to think about a shelter-resource program and was released. Of course this was fairly recent, and the resident psychiatrists were better informed about meds. In my case, many decades ago, there were 2 choices in “extreme” psychosis; either the deadly older meds or being locked in your room at home. That was the choice my family had; they just left me alone because they could not communicate with me (I was too paranoid to know who they were). I did slowly recover but it was hell and if it happens again, I hope that someone will relieve me of those symptoms as fast as possible; I don’t care if I sleep for 2 days its better than the agony of paranoia, terror, utter confusion.

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          • margiealtman,
            You just hit on something important part of your statement below this :” I don’t care if I sleep for 2 days its better than the agony of paranoia, terror , utter confusion .
            But they won’t give a person a sleeping pill just an anti -histamine ” cause sleeping pills are just to dangerous besides they prefer to give you a chemical lobotomy cause thats just dandy and it hooks you up for life and ensures pharma psychiatric cash flow for life for them if they can make you buy the schpeal and internalize it . Try a 200mg.” tab” sometime to see what you missed of Thorazine . You’ll never take another.
            Yeah couple nights sleep , waking up in a safe kind place uncoerced with kind peers around , free to go or stay awhile and rest treated like a human being civil rights intact not made into a non person inferior entity. Sotera House yes but certainly not psychiatry and psychiatrists and co-operating social workers. They’ll rob you of your lifetime your children, and everything that doesn’t pertain to the human being becoming there slave meal ticket.
            I’ve been in and out of mental institutions 17 times escaped 6 times recaptured once and SEVERELY TORTURED that time beyond the usual torture all over a 40 year span . When I tell you Psychiatry sucks and belongs in the dustbin of history you’d be fool not to believe me.

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  13. I am going to through myself into the chasm again one more time and then I am outta here.
    There can be no dialogue between survivors who see the MH for what it is and the MH community at this point in time. We go round and round in circles.

    I think the only way around and through is through the camera.This is what I am currently thinking.

    When I was in the crisis period of several years. some of my family members were in their own medical crisis. A sibling had terminal cancer, a parent had terminal COPD. I could go on.
    When I was seen as the caregiver, advocating family member and SS professional I was treated with dignity and respect. My sibling threw his Hospice Nurse out of his house, there were other levels and acts of depending how you saw it independence or dysfunction. I always saw it has independence. But I was seen as competent and most professionals dealing with me had no idea of my MH history or experience of solitary confinement and forced drugging. I would be on “their level”. I could talk about my well known relative at a famous medical center, my own career and I was in.

    Perception is EVERYTHING in the MH and Medical world.

    Then I would go and take my meds, see the signs of Parkinsonism slowly getting worse and more noticeable. Then I would see my MH doc and be infantazlized. Are you taking your meds? What are doing to take care of yourself?
    THEY HAD NO IDEA what my life was really life in any way shape or form. Maybe not that didn’t want to hear but had no time for me to tell the ongoing extreme stresses. By the way Doc yeah I really think I a being emotionally abused but why bother telling you? My family wouldn’t believe me . They think my husband is so brave for driving me to the ER? So why in God’s name would I tell you? I am stuck in endurance mode and I am too afraid to stop the meds because I don’t want to go back to that hell hole. Oh yes my so called friends called my mother broke boundaries when they did a botched intervention thinking I needed help when I already was getting help but oh no you can’t admit to getting help and using meds because the voice inflection will change, the diction and lexicon change. You go from a person treated with respect to less than human just because your environment changes and they put a label on you. THIS IS WHAT IS NOT BELIEVED BY MH FOLKS!

    It was only after I left my husband with family money from dead parents that I became well. It was only then that I could successfully stop the medication. So many people are not that lucky!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It was only after my children had their own dealings with the current medical system not all MH but some that saw what I had been dealing with. They can now say in all truth Mom you have been through hell and back. NOT ONE MH person has ever admitted that to me. And it isso true!

    AND BTW , Where where the MH prof with my children? Did no one think of them?
    I was being kept in confinement so worried about them and who was taking care of them. I think they got by mostly on their own. Did any one MH think of talking to them? My husband was there at meetings but it made him feel good. He was not able to tell the whole
    story because he was a huge, huge part of the problem. They were listening to the wrong person!

    So first before a dialogue can truly take place we need film on how MH folks are treated by professionals when the label is known and when it is not known. Like the police shooting it all comes out on film!

    Then when the stigma is out and faced then we can have the dialogue.

    Meds work at times but who really knows why? There are not enough hardly any good places to go when when is in need of support, withdrawal is a true problem, we live in a stressed out traumatizing society, – all things need to talked through , dialogued.

    We desperately need all of us need to connect but until our voices are heard, our stories of abuse our heard and believed. Dialogue cannot happen, the anger from the original trauma will continue to come out. I think the fear of the pain is hard on people of good will. Like the white society kind members who feel no I just can’t watch “12 years a slave:” too painful.

    We need acknowledgement and that means true empathy from all. I guess it goes both ways too . I was traumatized by my work during my years as a MH prof.
    So Alice and Alex use your film making skills to show the actual stigma!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Work together!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Take off your white coat Alice and go down the rabbit hole. Film it, use new eyes and see and most of all record what we having been living through. Then and only then can we begin to make true and lasting change. Take Care all and Keep Safe.

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  14. Wow, lots of powerful responses, and not enough time to give them the thought they deserve. For now, I’d like to respond to Sera. Sera, you say that you would like to hear a doctor speak like this: “So, we don’t truly know what is happening or why you are experiencing x. What my training suggests is that your experiences are consistent with a diagnosis of x, and the most commonly used treatments when someone has a diagnosis of x is y. However, I have to be honest that there are no real tests for x which is a diagnosis (like all other diagnoses of this sort) that was created as a best attempt to explain a particular experience and bill for associated treatments. Sometimes, people who get this diagnosis find these other ways of thinking about it to be a better fit, and here some of the approaches associated with those models. In truth, even if we go down the medical model path and I prescribe medications to you, I can’t claim to know how they work, and here’s some of the reactions I hear from people – both good and bad…’ And for those for whom it doesn’t work – regardless of what way of thinking about their experiences they find most helpful – here are some of the alternatives they’ve tried that some have found helpful.”

    Sera, that’s almost exactly the language I use when I offer medication to people that I see in my office. Does it help to know that??

    I apologize if I seem to be responding to comments that you didn’t specifically make. Sometimes I respond to you as an individual (whom I don’t know, and email is fraught with ambiguity), and other times I respond to “you” – a composite of several posts by different people who seem to be against the medical model in very intense and powerful ways.

    I’ll go back and respond to your questions in another post.

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    • Alice,

      It’s great that you speak in that manner. The criticisms of your film do not necessarily need to be criticisms of you as a whole person or as a doctor. I know nothing of those pieces. But how you are in those roles doesn’t change the impact and outcome of your film…


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  15. Frank (and others), you ask “Is the film not an example of that (big pharma) corruption?” It’s hard for me to say that my film is part of something corrupt, except that I don’t think so. Same with your reference to the idea that the film “lumps all mental patients together in one big blob.” No, it does not. The people in the film are as different as night and day. Maybe that wasn’t made clear enough and should have been. It seemed obvious to us. With regard to looking at the coercive and damaging nature of mental health treatment, that’s not what we were trying to do it this film. We could go there, but it would be a different film.

    Perhaps it would help to look at the problem this way. The one line that I myself speak in the film addresses the problem as one of difference, and of the need for hard work that society doesn’t want to do. “A democrat and a republican in a room together would have the same dynamic.”

    That’s how I feel when I read and respond to these posts. It feels as if I and many if not most members of MAI belong to different political parties, with different platforms addressing the problem of prejudice and integration. “Your” platform believes that the medical model needs to be addressed and fought head-on, while mine believes that people who believe in different models need to come together first. Maybe if we just accept those beliefs as simple differences, we can stop pathologizing one another.

    I’d like to tell all of you about my other projects. One is an emotional literacy curriculum,, and the other is the overarching not-for-profit organization, I also have a very intense dialogue page on Facebook, and a separate public page, the Depth Perception Party.

    My model is that left and right eyes and left and right sides of the body, working together with one side dominant and leading, allows us to move forward with stability and focus on a shared horizon with depth, clarity and focus. If one eye wears blinders to the landscape that the other eye sees, the person will see nothing and go nowhere.

    I think that’s true of our “body politic” as well – not just in the mental health arena, but all of them.

    I could be wrong, but that’s the very well intentioned place that I come from. What I see in the film is right and left perspectives alternating. I hear that that didn’t come through for many of you.

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    • First word in the heading of Sera’s post: co-optation. This is a real concern with many of us. Confusing issues just doesn’t help. We used to have what we called a movement. The government knows now that co-optation works better, when it comes to stifling a movement, than violence. If you can’t scare them into changing their tune, in other words, buy them off. Human and civil rights have always been a big concern with some people. The FBI spent much time and energy sabotaging the efforts of black people to change things.

      We’re not talking two sides. Democratic and Republican politics are now part of our problem, too. That problem is corruption. There is a slogan: Get the money out of politics. Obama ran his re-election campaign on taking second amendment rights away from people who had experienced the mental health system. That and spying on them. Both parties have been bought by corporations through Super PAC funds. Left and right are about the same when it comes to our rights, opposed to them. The lesser of two evils doesn’t hack it anymore. The third way makes more sense. People can still vote for the best candidate rather than the lesser of two evils even if the best candidate doesn’t stand a chance in the election. These elections, not being a matter of direct democracy, and given the amount of gerrymandering you have in a state like Florida, aren’t truly democratic anyway.

      What am I saying? I’m saying people have to take sides. Pretending not to take a side is a pretty deceitful game. I’m not hedging my bets. I’m not out to be on the winning side myself because I know who’s losing, and I know the cost. The people who are losing are the people who have had close encounters of the coercive sort with the mental health system. They are often victims of social injustice and bad family situations more than they could be said to be the victims of any disease whatsoever. It is this kind of thing that your video is downplaying. Excuse me, I’m not voting blue or red. I’m voting green instead. I definitely feel my voice was suppressed in this movie you made. We aren’t one big sappy family. Some of us are out to end some of the violations of human rights that are such a common sight in this society.

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    • There is no big difference between democrats and republicans and that is the real problem.

      Like if you are against using torture and military force and want CIA and NSA closed down then who are you to vote for?

      You cannot imagine yourself in a dialogue and cooperation with them because you cannot get yourself to support what they do.

      The exact same problem is present for any survivors out there who find themselves unable to support the life-shortening, unjust and scientifically corruptive biomedical psychiatry.

      I understand the need for reconciliation but I also understand very well why psychiatric survivors would be unwilling to reconcile with their tormentors when it is so obvious that there is no political change due and there are so few biomedical psychiatrists who even understand the harm the system is inflicting.

      Warm regards


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    • Comparing psychiatric proponents like Lieberman/Pitts (the medical model view) and activists like Oaks/Unger as “Republicans and Democrats” is completely misleading.

      A better comparisons would be holocaust deniers and historians who accept reality.

      Lieberman and Pitts are like holocaust deniers in that they continously misrepresent reality in a way that causes offense and harm. They lie about psychotic symptoms representing cohesive brain illnesses, project hopelessness onto sufferers and families that causes massive damage, and lie about the necessity of medication.

      As another commenter said to Alice, it may be hard for her as a white, privileged, educated, rich psychiatrist to see just how damaging her fellow colleagues’ lies are to sufferers and families, and to understand why people are so outraged by the illusion she creates with this film that Lieberman/Pitts’ view is as valid and worthy of respect as the view of honest recovery movement people not tainted by drug company money.

      One wonders whether Maher has worked with psychotic people in intensive psychotherapy and helped them to heal, return to work, form families, and become sane citizens.

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  16. This is like a film documenting a “civil rights” movement for slaves. Slaves who are not supposed to do anything crazy or radical, like rejecting their self-definition as slaves, but who want to improve their conditions and social status a bit.

    Though many will need no further explanation, defining anyone as “mentally ill” is an oppressive act in support of an oppressive system. It is a demonstration of how pernicious this system is that big system liberals would lend their names to a systematic effort to disempower those who might otherwise present problems, then claim they are working behalf of “civil rights.” Orwellian newspeak at its best.

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  17. Sera, here is my response to your questions:

    1) Areas where people come from non-medicalized places? I don’t have time to watch it again, but to my recollection the ISPS people, Alex, Tom, and the other young people. You heard Lieberman as speaking strongly, but to my ears just the fact that he, Elyn Saks and Alice Flaherty said that they believe the medical model was a way of pointing out the fact that another perspective exists! If we didn’t want to convey the other side – that some people don’t believe the medical model – we wouldn’t have had them state that they believe it. BTW, Oliver Saks – speaking of famous people – didn’t speak to the medical model. He liked the word “mad” and referred to people coming from a different center.

    2) Why could we not tweak the narration? Do you know how complicated it was to get John Turturro to a studio to film it? He was comfortable with the words he was asked to speak, and we couldn’t ask him to do it again.

    3) About people of color. Yes, that’s a flaw, but honestly we didn’t know any. The focus group were students from Lois’ college, and the professionals were, are, all white. Looking back I know it’s a problem, but in retrospect I’m not sure I would have been comfortable combing the world for a person from a minority group, just for the sake of having one. That feels just as discriminating as not having one. I think it’s a problem in the field, not just our film.

    4) Please see my response to Frank about my political perspective – the need for left and right sides to focus on a shared horizon. To me, that shared horizon is our children and people who are suffering. I think if medical and anti-medical people could respect the landscape that the other side sees rather than fight against it, we could come together in ways that would be more helpful to them. Honestly, it’s also a way for me to focus the two sides of myself.

    5) I think that exhorting society to stop using words like “crazy” is a first step in the direction you want to go. It wasn’t the goal of the film to look at issues like forced restraint and drugging, or the Murphy Bill. That would have taken it too far afield. It’s something I see on the horizon, but adding that element to this film didn’t feel like a place we wanted to go. Maybe at some point we will.

    6) I’m sorry if the film hurts you, but I don’t intend to stop screening it. Others respond positively, and it opens eyes and invites dialogue in classrooms. Interestingly, your side often rises to the surface. It allows students to question the medical model, which is typically the only one that they’re taught. It may be hurtful to you, but I don’t believe it will hurt your cause. When I say that, please try to think of me as a person who comes from a different political party. One of us believes in higher/lower taxes, gun control and climate change or not, etc. We’re not going to change those beliefs, but we can respect the fact that we believe something different and keep fighting for what we believe to be true. Hurt may happen (or not), but it’s not intended by either of us.

    I know there is much left unsaid, but I have other things to do to prepare for a long (ICD-10 infused – ugh!!!) week. Thanks for the dialogue. I do appreciate it. I hope we can continue it, slowly, over time.

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    • Alice,

      1) Oliver Sacks *also* refers to people diagnosed as ‘them’ and ‘they’ several times, *and* doesn’t particularly state clearly what he *does* believe. In fact, that’s true of most people you’re referencing above. (Saying he prefers the word ‘mad’ is fairly meaningless on its own.) Martin, perhaps, comes off most clearly when he suggests we need to remain more curious about why people experiencing what they are…

      A couple of things:

      First, I’m not sure you’re understanding what I’m saying… I *REALIZE* you have included people in your film who do NOT come from a strictly medical model perspective. I also realize that some of them are perfectly capable of explaining their alternate views because I know some of them and have heard them do so. But choosing people who have alternate views and are capable of expressing them, does NOT mean that those views are expressed in any sort of intelligible way IN the film.

      This line of conversation leads me to believe that you are coming from one of three places:

      A. You are so strongly biased toward the medical model that you do not care and/or it was intentional to bias the film in such a manner.

      B. You do not understand alternate views well enough to be able to recognize when they are clearly explained. (It’s hard to seek what you do not know or understand.)

      C. You understand alternate views so well that you hear much more in vague and unintelligble statements. I.E., You’re reading between the lines (while what you are reading remains invisible to the vast majority of your audience).

      I’m not going to try and guess in which of those three categories you best fit, but I hope you’ll consider it for yourself.

      2. I have made films before, and I do understand. Yet, I also understand how important the message is of these sorts of films, and how important it is that I not do harm with them… In the end, what’s more important: Asking a movie star (who, btw, showed up to the Q&A a couple of weeks ago so he could sit almost silently next to you) to re-shoot some parts, or living with a message that is potentially damaging to so many people who’ve already been hurt enough?

      Honestly, this speaks to that system of oppression once again.. Why are we *MORE* afraid to ask the famous, privileged movie star to go the extra mile and re-shoot than we are afraid to ask people who’ve been hurt and damaged by the system to be quiet and deal with something that is disrespectful?

      3. I’m not sure you realize this, but your phrase, “We didn’t know any,” comes across somewhat offensively. It makes humans sound like things. If someone asked me if I had any jellybeans, I might say, “I don’t have any,” and feel okay about that, but when referring to human beings, it sounds objectionable, at least to me. You also live and/or work (to the best of my knowledge) in New York City, and while I recognize that this movement tends to be very white, I suspect you could have found people willing to speak who are not white presenting without having to ‘comb the world.’ In fact, you focused on Mindfreedom however briefly (and unrecognizably for most audiences), and Celia Brown is a prominent part of that organization, as well as being a woman of color and a part of this movement for many years. She also lives in New York State… But I don’t mean to suggest that options are so slim. Again, you live in New York City, diverse on many levels. No combing required.

      And no, ‘tokenism’ (which you seem to be referring to) only occurs when you select someone *only* because of a superficial quality while not also taking them seriously or respecting their role and what they have to contribute. That’s what I’m suggesting you *did* do with people like David Oaks.

      4) I return to my ‘Straw Man’ point. I’ve never said anything about being ‘anti-medical model’ or needing to wholly exclude the ‘medical model’ from the conversation. I’d like to send you a copy of the film, ‘Beyond the Medical Model,’ which I and others in my community produced. Perhaps it would help you understand. Meanwhile, you’re not answering my questions.

      5) No, asking people to stop using words like ‘Crazy’ is not the first step in the direction I want to go. And if you didn’t want to look at issues of force, you probably shouldn’t have used the language of ‘Civil Rights movement.’ The two are inextricably linked and your unwillingness to recognize that is part of what makes the film offensive.

      6) Since you seem determined to not understand many of my points, I can’t imagine you would want to stop screening it. I can only hope that others will stop giving you space to do so.

      I’m not trying to argue for you to be exiled or unable to have a voice in any of this, but your actions and your film are a part of an oppressive system and I am interested in a system that shifts enough to no longer be willing to participate in that.

      I’m struck by how invested you are in this, and how closed off you seem to hearing what myself and others are truly saying. I’m left wondering if the stake for you is not somehow more personal… If you are connected to a family member or friend or someone else very close to you who has struggled with psychiatric diagnosis in some way? I’m not really asking for you to answer that. Just contemplating why this is so stuck and why you don’t really seem to be hearing me.


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    • I personally do not have a problem with your inclusion of people like Lieberman/Ellyn Saks to state their beliefs in the medical model. My problem with the film is what it does NOT say and WHOM it leaves out. Having allowed Lieberman to say his piece, in a white coat no less, could you not have given an opportunity for the expression of opposing views by the likes of Drs. Breggin, Berezin, Moncrieff, Jackson, etc., so that the viewer is aware that a genuine debate exists among credentialed professionals as to what is the etiology of mental illness and what should be first-line treatment? How about more balanced information about standard “treatment;” its effectiveness and safety (e.g., sharing information about the Harrow and Wunderink studies)? What about other treatment options that have shown promise (Open Dialogue, nutrient therapy)? What about the reform movement spearheaded by Robert Whitaker, and why was he not given a voice? Why was David Oaks’ presence so short-changed? The film refers to a new civil rights movement in a rather meaningless, platitudinous way, without ever explaining what drives the need for such a movement: it’s not stigma, but psychiatric coercion. I take you at your word about the good intentions, but I am disappointed that what came out of this is little more than a NAMI infomercial.

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    • “”….to my ears just the fact that he, Elyn Saks and Alice Flaherty said that they believe the medical model was a way of pointing out the fact that another perspective exists! If we didn’t want to convey the other side – that some people don’t believe the medical model – we wouldn’t have had them state that they believe it.”


      so, the fact that your film allows Lieberman & co. to articulate their belief in the biological model means that your film effectively conveyed that there is a contrary view? No need to give the platform to Breggin, Moncrieff or someone of that stripe because Lieberman already addressed it?

      Are you serious? This statement is causing me to rethink my earlier comment crediting you with good intent or motives.

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  18. I have no problem with being called crazy. It’s just someone expressing their subjective opinion and makes no pretense of being scientific. Call me “mentally ill” and that would be fighting words, if, frankly, I gave a damn what anyone thought.

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  19. It really isn’t a film yet. I think it’s an overlong trailer about a film that would be interesting to watch once it was made. Movements and diagnosis and theory and stigma and a tiny splash of lived experience, all in 24 minutes? The discussions generated by this film will be equally unfocused and full of sound bytes.

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    • Way over short for a film.

      One could deal a little more with some of the people, and perhaps a little less with the politicians and psychiatrists. Or give them equal time, still…

      I think of trying to take no side as a way of taking a side, and it’s definitely a side I don’t like.

      Is that to say I’m partisan about this matter? Yes, the person who is not partisan about it is a crook.

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  20. I feel the need to point out that the fact that the film’s lack of racial diversity (I haven’t seen it yet) seems to be (inadvertently) reflected by the authorship of the MIA blog itself, which is NOT a reflection of MIA itself nor its authors (myself included), who I believe are the FURTHEST thing from racially biased, having known and admired many of them personally. However, the VAST majority of posts (and authors) here are coming from white people (of about 120 regular authors, I only count 2-3 non-white faces, and these contributors haven’t posted for quite a while).

    I believe that MIA is in danger of APPEARING racially biased – in fact, I have seen several people in the online world express distrust towards this movement because of this seeming bias; I think this needs to be addressed!

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    • Jonathan,

      In general, I agree with you. This is a problem here, and in the broader movement.

      My only fear in saying so (although it’s something I’ve openly stated in other forums) is that it may seem to vindicate Alice or validate her statement that it’s okay that they made this film *that focused upon and lifted picture after picture of people of color from the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s* without taking the time to interview anyone of color simply because, as she put it above, they “didn’t know any.”

      I think the reasons this movement is so white are many and complex and it needs to change, though I can’t claim to quite know how to change it. That said, it’s a conversation we’re having more and more frequently on a local basis and I do hope we’ll start to see the evidence of a shift very soon.


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      • I appreciate the local focus on diversity. I don’t think the filmmakers set out to be racially exclusionary, however, and nor does MIA. I don’t see, looking in a general sense, how the lack of diversity is really any different in this case. Both “sides,” it appears, struggle in regards to the topic…

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        • This may be another thing we need to agree to disagree on, Jonathan.

          I think that when one is going to directly discuss the history of black people in this country, and directly lift photos of from that history, that it’s all the more offensive to not go to the trouble of seeking live people out who are of color.

          I also think there’s a difference between putting together a website where people need to voluntarily come and write vs. simply taking the time to ask around and find a few people of color who are willing to be interviewed. Having been a part of both types of efforts, I feel acutely aware of the different challenges involved with each…

          That said, I do agree that the whiteness of Mad in America (and the movement at large) *is* an issue. I simply don’t think it is one that should vindicate Lois or Alice’s lack of awareness or sensitivity, or Alice’s choice to twice now phrase the issue as, “We didn’t know any.”


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          • Perhaps we need to agree to disagree, yes. I do see many references to slavery and the civil rights movement here on MIA – not necessarily inappropriate or wrong, but they don’t (to me at least) sound completely OK to the public (especially non-whites) coming from predominately white authors.

            It’s clear that there are lots of people around the world that are part of MIA. If they volunteering to write or being asked isn’t entirely clear. My concerns are about public perception. I do agree that the statement “there aren’t any” doesn’t sound very appropriate as spoken, however!

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          • Jonathan,

            Like I said, I’m *not* disagreeing with you about the need for more diversity on Mad in America. I’m, in fact, one of the people who has written on here about race, and while I’m glad that I did (because the lack of mention in the face of what was happening Baltimore, etc. was deafening to me), I agree that mine should not be the only voice on the matter. I have no idea if people are being reached out to or not on the whole, and if I had to guess, I’d guess that they could be doing more!

            I’m simply saying that filmmaking and community building require two very different levels of commitment and different types of barriers… We’re onto making our fourth film now – in a much less diverse part of the country than where the Stove filmmakers live – and we’ve *never* made a film without including a diverse range of people with respect to ages, gender identity, race, etc… Yet, we’re struggling much more substantially to develop a team where I work that is diverse in some of those same ways. Because the barriers and complexities are much greater, and there’s a lot more to figure…

            I see the difference between making this film and developing a more diverse writing community similarly, and then add to that that the most basic premise of the film is a comparison to the civil rights movement… So, for me, it’s different, but that doesn’t negate the problem that you cite.

            In any case, thank you for taking the time to bring it up.


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        • Jonathan: I don’t want to derail the conversation from Sera’s post too much, but as a member of the MIA staff I’d like to address the concerns you brought up here. We are very much interested in bringing more diversity to the group of writers on the site. While most of our writers have come to us, we’re putting a plan in place to do more active outreach to potential writers in underrepresented groups. There’s a lot of energy around this right now, so hopefully you’ll be seeing some changes soon.

          Of course, the challenge for any organization or project that wants to become more diverse is to reach out in ways that are respectful and non-tokenizing. And the challenge for us at MIA is to find people who are specifically focused on “rethinking” psychiatry. If you have any suggestions for people we could be reaching out to, please feel free to get in touch with me via the contact page.

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    • The problem here is that Black Americans who experience emotional problems turn to their spiritual, family and community support systems. The MIA format and the way in which issues are explored are not the way that they say they perceive the whole domain of emotional pain, it’s causes and how to manage it. There are websites that I have researched that are written by Black Americans that fully describe their perceptions, their mistrust of the “White” mental health system and its advocates and their avoidance of sites like MIA is made crystal clear in their own voices. Try to do the research and you will see what I mean.

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      • Margie, I’m very aware that there is an element of what you’re referring to. Many different people from different backgrounds and cultures regard emotional distress and the mental health system in a variety of ways, and understandably, many people of color also have mistrust of many systems given the institutional racism that is so prevalent throughout…

        That said, there’s more to it. There’s the number of people of color in foster care and prison (i.e., they just get interpreted in different ways and end up in different systems)… There are race-based issues around poverty and access to education that create greater barriers to this way of communicating. There’s the fact that many people of color who do end up in the mental health system are even more likely to be subjected to force, violence, the strongest diagnoses, and heaviest medications (check out some of the long-term hospitals around… LOTS of young men of color)…

        And then there’s the way some of these spaces themselves are set up and how access is or isn’t created, and how it does or does not feel welcoming to come in and express one’s self honestly…

        And so on.

        So many layers…


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    • Whether MIA appears racially biased — I will use the actual term, racist — is less important than what unconscious racist attitudes may permeate people’s consciousness here in a way that discourages Black participation.

      I don’t know how to relate to “I don’t know any.” Are there really places left in the U.S. with no Black population at all?

      All white people in the U.S. are racist at some level, we were brought up that way. Younger people have less ingrained racism on the whole, but it’s still there. White people need to spend less time denying this and more time trying to overcome it on both internal and external (political) levels. We at MIA are no exception.

      I think if people are seriously interested in bringing Black people into our struggle they should realize that multitudes of African people already are struggling against this system’s abuses on a daily basis. One of these struggles is the prisoners’ movement. When we realize that the fight against psychiatry is a branch of the struggle against the prison system, people who are involved in both as a condition of survival might take MIA more seriously.

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      • I agree that there are lots of other issues at play here, especially for African-Americans. But I think appearance matters too. I don’t recall seeing much of anything suggesting racism on this site. But when people look at the site and see one white face after another, it sends a pretty strong message, even without intent. I don’t want to belabor the point, and I appreciate Emmeline’s comment and do not doubt her sincerity, and one African-American blogger out of 100-120 is pretty startling, even to this white man. When trying to recruit people to your point of view, ‘appearance’ matters!

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        • Appearance matters, but only if it reflects substance and isn’t just window dressing. I’m glad you brought this up. It goes beyond which bloggers are chosen; for example, a prevailing mentality that refers to Black people as “they” should always be suspect.

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  21. Hi all,

    It’s 10:30 and I just got home and skimmed your comments. Here’s my emotional response. I apologize for not having the time to respond thoughtfully to every idea and every question.

    When I used the analogy of political parties, I meant to imply that perspectives exist here that are very different from each other. VERY different. When that happens, challenges to specific ideas and specific plans of action almost never work, because the underlying paradigms are too different.

    I believe that, but I also believe in the power of dialogue – not rabbit holes or tolerating aggressive attacks, but genuine dialogue across divides. I believe that that must, by necessity, take a very long time, because it involves a process of softening edges over time, not submitting and admitting guilt or sending retaliatory weapons across massive divides.

    If you will have me, I’d like to share more about who I am, what I believe, what I do, and how this film came to be. I’d like to humanize myself, even though yes, you’re right, I’m a successful, well off, Caucasian psychiatrist. Maybe I don’t belong here, or maybe the fact that I feel like I don’t represents a kind of reverse prejudice on “your” part.

    The kind of “softening” I think is necessary is a process that can only happen over time. I’m willing to post on this thread once or twice a week, and/or invite some of you to friend me on Facebook where I post challenging thought experiments every day. I’d like to continue to relate to you from my personal center, and invite you to do the same. If you prefer that I engage in detailed responses to your detailed questions and challenges, I won’t do that, because I think it won’t work and may lead to more defensive/aggressive reactions that will suck time and energy from all of us.

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    • Alice,

      I’m curious about what you’re defining as ‘aggressive attacks’. As I read through the comments, I really don’t see many that would fit in that category… But I do see, over and over, for one reason or another, you not responding to people’s actual questions and comments because you’re using that aforementioned ‘straw man’ approach, because you’re claiming attack, or because you’re choosing to answer your own questions instead of someone else’s. I wonder what would be needed for you to actually ‘hear’ some of these points more clearly?

      In my eyes, it’s an easy way out to claim attack, or to claim lack of time… Both can be valid, but if you *really* want dialogue, then I think you may need to step out from behind your film *and* be willing to tolerate the fact that many people in these communities that you’re attempting to talk *about* have been hurt. Being willing to truly *hear* people’s pain *and*, yes, in some instances, accept some aspect of the guilt of being a part of an oppressive system is an *essential* part of any healing process of this nature. It is an *essential* part of this dialogue you claim to want.

      Meanwhile, I hope you will be really cautious about claiming ‘reverse prejudice.’ Such claims – reverse prejudice, reverse discrimination, etc. – are fraught with danger. While prejudice and discrimination are two different things (the former speaks to prejudging while the latter speaks to societal power structures), your use of ‘reverse prejudice’ – especially within the context of defensiveness – rings a little too close to the other.

      I’m sure that you know – as well studied as you are – that there is no such thing as ‘reverse discrimination’ because the people in power are still in power, and those that aren’t still aren’t. Systems are still built around the privilege of certain groups. No amount of ‘meanness’ or anger or unfair judgement from one individual to another can change that. The systems are still the systems.

      You, Alice, have a lot of power and privilege. You have the power to hospitalize someone against their will without any real due process. You have the power to command an audience. You have the power of access to resources. And so on.

      With that power and privilege comes responsibility – to truly listen, to self-examine, to sit with some discomfort, to be willing to shift and reconsider…

      …If, that is, you actually want to be a part of any real change.


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      • Sera, I for one do not see any of this critique as aggressive personal attacks at all. I see it as a way to try to reach out in order to have a dialogue rather than one-way communication. Your reply here contains all the qualities that I wish for in any health care professional. If we start right there we are on a great pathway to start communicating with each other.

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      • Hi Sera,

        I agree with a lot of what you say, especially the importance of listening to people’s descriptions of how they have been hurt if one ever wants to have a productive dialogue.

        But I think you might be able to do a bit better of a job of also trying to look at this through the eyes of the other party, to see how things might look and feel to Alice in this case. For example, about the “aggressive attacks” thing – while Alice didn’t in her comments explicitly say she was aggressively attacked on MIA, I think she would be right to describe some of the comments by some of the commenters that way – for example one comment suggesting her film was “utter bs” and pure stigma comes to mind. The tone of some of the remarks is pretty hostile, not dialogical.

        I think this is a very tricky area, because it is all too easy for people with power and privilege to claim that they are being hurt, or reverse discriminated against, or whatever, and to use that as justification for staying with and/or reinforcing the system as it is.

        But when we claim that the only rights and the only pain worth talking about are those of people who have been denied power, we create a climate which feels very unsafe for the person who has had power, because it’s kind of like being in a car that has no breaks – there’s a feeling that things are shifting but they are being given no way to stand up for themselves if things shift too far and they start being the one who really being hurt, misunderstood, having their reality denied etc.

        It’s a tricky balance to both keep in mind the ways the power balance has to shift, while also being willing to talk about those who have had too much power as human beings with needs and rights that we can also sympathize with – but I think it’s worth trying to do so.

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        • “for example one comment suggesting her film was “utter bs” and pure stigma comes to mind.”

          Given that this is my comment, I’ll say that I stand by that, I do think the film is deceiving, false, and completely stigmatizing, and I offered my film about the effects of stigma on all this as a rebuttal. I also have been in dialogue with Alice daily since this all started and it’s been extremely honest and 100% civil and open.

          You, yourself say that we should better understand those whose lives have been so negatively impacted by all this, and i’m one of them. Does your directive not go for you, too?

          Alice and I are in dialogue and have exchanged a variety of ideas, thoughts and feelings. What else can I say? I would suggest you stop taking it all so personally and being critical of others, and look at your own truth.

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        • “But when we claim that the only rights and the only pain worth talking about are those of people who have been denied power, we create a climate which feels very unsafe for the person who has had power, because it’s kind of like being in a car that has no breaks – there’s a feeling that things are shifting but they are being given no way to stand up for themselves if things shift too far and they start being the one who really being hurt, misunderstood, having their reality denied etc.”

          Ok, I see your truth. I believe you are perpetuating an imbalance of power, here, and a power struggle. If the clinician is so vulnerable to being hurt and misunderstood, then where is their sense of self? This is a safe clinician, a role model for personal empowerment? I think not.

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          • Are you aware that a client is ALWAYS an aspect of yourself? And if you feel agitated by a client, that is something for YOU to deal with, not to put onto the client. This is how healers grow and evolve in the healing community with which I work, and I find it to be sublime personal growth, just fyi.

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        • Ron,

          I don’t disagree that some of the comments go further than I would choose to myself (which is, in part, why I framed my response to say ‘most comments’ didn’t come across that way to me), although I think ‘aggressive attack’ is going a little bit far with it in most instances. You’re probably right that I could have been clearer about that point.

          I agree that it’s a tricky balance… And I wouldn’t personally be in favor of a so-called dialogue that required the professionals to stand against a wall while people who’ve received or been forced into services hurl stones (verbal or otherwise) at them endlessly. I also don’t think it does people who are a part of that latter group any favors to not have any asks, expectations or agreements about how we might all interact with one another.

          AND I think people are legitimately angry and have legitimately been hurt and legitimately have a need and right to speak to that and sometimes it won’t sound pretty or nice, and that’s just also GOT to be okay, because without it I don’t believe there’s any healing either.

          Where the lines get crossed is often blurry and will likely look somewhat different to each of us…

          In the end, if Alice were able to name what specific comments she felt were over the line while responding directly to everything else, it would be easier to sort out (I think) how to have a dialogue that worked on both sides. However, my experience here has been that she’s rarely pointing to something specific because she’s rarely responding so directly to what people are actually saying (though, in fairness, I’m not reading all comments as closely as I normally would as I’m on my way out on vacation tomorrow and slammed with things I need to get done). When I have seen her point to something specific, it has seemed to me that she’s pointing to things that are challenging her perspective and thus that bring her to a place of defensiveness.

          In any case, I’ve tried to affirm in a few different ways that my criticisms of the film do not need to be read as my criticisms of the human being, Alice, who I really don’t know beyond her replies here (though her replies have certainly led me to question her more directly on some points). However, I don’t think it’s fair or reasonable of me to ask or expect that everyone follow a dialogical principle when commenting on my blog. It’s not necessarily what they’ve signed up to do (have a dialogue in the comments section here).

          I certainly am in total agreement with you that its worth engaging people in provider roles around talking about hurts and pain that they’ve experienced. I’ve already seen that be incredibly productive, but for me, that works best when the ‘hurt’ comes from an honest place, rather than a defensive one…

          Anyway, I guess in the end, I don’t disagree with most of what you’re saying, Ron. But I am feeling confused about why Alice would expect people to want to go to a dialogic place with her based on what she’s offered up thus far.


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        • Cutting right to the chase, anyone who is put in a position of defending the indefensible , will invariably resort to shifting the focus from that [the realization of having acted in error] which is causing painful inner turmoil [shame, guilt], to seeking sympathy for his/her pain.

          This defense mechanism is learned very early in life. It is very frequently seen in young children by the age of 3yrs. Briefly, i will describe what i mean here:
          When a caregiver/authority figure confronts a child who was witnessed hitting another child with a toy, for example. Strong emotion expressed by the caregiver as admonishment directed at the child for having hurt a peer, will likely feel like a hurtful attack to that child–, who will sob and wail, seeking comfort, and missing the point.

          It is the injured child that deserves immediate sympathy, comfort. The child suffering shame, anguish over being admonished for the wrongful action needs to be engaged in dialogue — to enhance her understanding of the situation. Mutual involvement can be reinforced, by making a connection between hurting another and hurting oneself.

          I have spent most of my adult, professional life in the company of children, adolescents and young adults in a variety of settings from locked wards to community dance classes; as a nurse, dance teacher, even toddler teacher. I have never encountered a kid who could not engage around the reality of consequences for his/her actions– especially that one will hurt oneself – feel guilt, shame- both painful,BTW, when one hurts another. Natural consequences of our interactions with others– based on believing we are interconnected, interrelated and mutually endowed with the full gamut of human emotions.

          It is disconcerting to encounter so many professionals in the MH field who resort to the “I’m wounded” response when confronted with their participation in the *indefensible*. And I don’t say this lightly. Bear in mind that psychiatry is a subjective, arbitrary playing field, where the power is owned by the professional. The power to completely discount the humanity of a patient, client, lay person with absolutely no ostensible grounds for doing so. Ironically, psychiatry, dealing with the psyche/soul, something uniquely experienced and expressed by each individual; psychiatry has labored long and hard to categorize and develop one-size-fits-all practices and calls this, treatment. Naturally, those most adept in this irrational thinking style, are also the weakest candidates for reality testing. BUT, when a MH professional (especially a psychiatrist) pulls the *I am hurting by what you said about what I do*- card, I am a strong advocate for teaching him/her the likely source of their pain– and possibly get them a little closer to compassionate caring, or being capable of sharing the suffering of others.

          Nothing is gained by suggesting the playing field here is level– that the stakes are even; that all stand to lose the same vital stuff when something goes wrong. Because those are all lies.

          It’s noteworthy that so many MH professionals believe themselves to be rescuers, healers and even saviors of the most vulnerable amongst us– yet, have so little tolerance for hearing exactly what might enable them to fulfill their wishful thinking about themselves as professionals.

          No human being, regardless of their good intentions or breadth of knowledge should ever have the power psychiatrists have in our society. No doubt psychiatrists are being hurt by what they are allowed and often expected to do– Why aren’t they shunning this role? Why aren’t they the first to admit they are only human in the context of having been endowed with divine power?

          A mere mortal wielding divine power over others will be pressured to either force into submission those who oppose her authority or destroy them. There is no other way to maintain divine power– And you will notice that the majority of colleagues, peers & consort groups in psychiatry keep to *the code*–. An assault on one of them, threatens everyone else’s power–

          As difficult at is surely is to reach these MH professionals, the task at hand should always be consistent messages based on truth and reality– To do otherwise is to become complicit with committing indefensible acts towards other human beings– The main one here being: You are attacking me, hurting my feelings, and therefore, I cannot pay attention to you–”

          Which is, after all, just another category a psychiatrist can place another person in, and justify robbing him/her of their inherent dignity.

          Such behavior is indefensible..impo (in my professional opinion)

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          • Hi Katie, and others,

            I certainly agree that it is important to be aware of the way people who have abused power are often happy to paint themselves as victims in order to avoid taking responsibility for harm they have caused. I did address this in my comment, where I noted that it is “all too easy” for this to happen.

            But that reality doesn’t negate the other reality which I spoke of, which is that there can also be some bad consequences if we fail to see and respect the humanity and vulnerability in the person or people who we see as causing harm. (Katie, you used the example of children: I think it’s much easier to work with bullies for example when we see them and let them know we see them as people whose needs deserve respect, even if we also are firmly demanding they start meeting those needs in less destructive ways.)

            I think we would all be well served by working on our ability to have balanced dialogue, where we demonstrate ability to hear and respect all the voices. I think this is important not so much so that we will be “nice” to the people in power, but so that we will come across as balanced and thoughtful to the people who are less polarized, and so we will be able to attract allies and convert some of those who are still muddled but leaning our way. Because we need a lot more allies, if we are ever going to have the power to really change things!

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          • “but so that we will come across as balanced and thoughtful to the people who are less polarized…”

            Ok, I’d like to have an open dialogue with you, here, Ron. Or maybe in the forum? I’ve never done that before, but I’m game. But I’ll start here:

            What do you mean by this statement above? It appears to me that you are advocating that people should “come across” as a certain way to appeal to people who are “less polarized?” Although that last phrase ‘less polarized’ is what is confusing me.

            Is this your strategy for bridging the gap in communication? I ask this because, to me, this feels polarizing in and of itself because it seems to me that you are wanting people to compromise their emotions and put on some kind of ‘mask’ that would acceptable in mainstream society, in order to appease someone in the establishment. Is that what you mean by ‘less polarized?”

            By polarized, do you mean something like, for example, mentally ill, psychotic, crazy, off balance, etc…aka a hot stove? How does ‘polarized’ translate into accessible English to you, I don’t think this would word would be at all meaningful to the general public.

            I don’t know, I’m just inferring, but if could you expound on this a bit, that would help me with getting clarity on exactly what you mean by this. Thanks.

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          • People can be killed by kindness, Ron. I see our struggle as a struggle for power more than an appeal to power. Power defines reality, and it would punish those who err from its definition. Not being a mad jellyfish, I can show a little mad backbone in this matter. Let’s see some tolerance, as in there are many more realities than one. I’m back to a MLK Jr. quote that means a lot to me at this point. “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” I guess another way of putting it would be to say, “Beggars don’t become choosers by begging.” I think we can choose a better world, however I don’t think we will ever reach that better world by begging for it. Sometimes, I guess, a little elbow grease must be applied. Additionally, sometimes anger and righteous outrage are not things to be suppressed. Anger and outrage just might supply that little push that gets us over the hump.

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          • “anger and righteous outrage are not things to be suppressed.” Indeed, otherwise we become internally ‘polarized’ (from what I understand that word to mean).

            The irony in all this is just way over the top out of this world unbelievable.

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          • Hi Alex and Frank,

            When I referred to those who are “less polarized” I mean those who don’t have such firm opinions say either for or against what psychiatry is currently doing. They are the people we might be most able to draw to our side as allies, that is, if we get better at communicating our concerns.

            Being balanced doesn’t rule out being angry, but it does mean learning to focus our anger toward what is actually wrong, and not just attacking whatever seems associated. Martin Luther King was actually great at that kind of thing: he was no doubt angry about, and he attacked, racism and injustice, but he didn’t demonize his opponents, he conveyed that he saw people as human even when they were advocates for things that were really wrong.

            So yeah, it is about power, but until we can get a lot more allies, we won’t have much power. And to get allies, we need to come across as thoughtful and balanced, not just angry. Anger by itself is too likely to come across as just a tantrum, or even as more “mental illness.” Our cause is too important to let down in that way.

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          • I cannot be the only person here to notice that we have had a slew of clinicians on here saying that people need to temper and suppress their emotions. That’s what makes people sick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            To the mental health clinicians who are triggered by the extreme emotions and passion of others: Are you serious?

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          • Ok, thanks for the response, Ron. I posted my last one before seeing your response because, indeed, I am somewhat fuming, but I feel I am still clear on how I’m thinking and communicating.

            But I do feel a great deal of passion for this, and when I am told that I need to express my personal opinion in a certain way to be heard, then that is not my audience. I do not feel my anger is displaced, I am focused with it, and I’ve created a lot with it, including transformational change in my own life. I have no stake in having my voice heard, it is heard by those who hear it, and I hear myself clearly.

            Point is, I don’t think that caring about what others think is going to bring about any kind of change, but more so, it will keep people feeling powerless and oppressed. I think we need to be real, authentic, and heartfelt when we communicate our truth. If someone cannot take the heart passion of another, than that it their issue with which to deal.

            If it is a mental health professional, then they either need to grow or get off the pot. But giving directives about how someone should navigate their anger is neither helpful nor healthful, that is simply my honest opinion. It is merely status quo.

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          • Hi Alex,

            I agree with you it is important that people both honor and express their emotions. And I agree that “professionals” shouldn’t be authorities about what should get expressed or not.

            But as activists, it makes sense that we pay attention to what is effective and what isn’t, especially in getting us allies, as we can’t succeed without them. My sense is that those who are most effective are able to combine things like their own feelings and legitimate anger, along with thoughtfulness and respect for the humanity of the people they disagree with. That can be tricky to do, but at least in my opinion, it’s a trick worth trying to learn.

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          • I don’t know, I think if I cannot create an alliance with someone or some group with my authentic voice, then this would be an alliance based on false pretenses, which is bound to have consequences at some point.

            I made it all the way through–off tons of meds, through the entire and wretched disability/social services world, relinquishing diagnoses, taking the system to legal task successfully, and getting on with my life, without any alliance, other than with what I knew in my heart and soul was the truth, and I never once wavered from it–emotional truth, as well as what I knew to be real and valid for me, personally. And in the process, I managed to take down a couple of corrupt agencies, for real.

            If each of us, individually, really walked our talk and lived our truth, change would happen in each of our corners of the world, and eventually, it would all come together. I firmly believe that, and to me, it is completely logical.

            Trying to appeal to others and bring people together as some kind of cohesive group is virtually impossible right now. I think that would be the universe’s job, that’s my personal belief.

            In the meantime, I, personally, feel it is most sound to live our truth, ourselves, and to have that inner-personal alliance, first, in order to best help those who request it from us. I not only think that’s the best we can do, I think it is everything good. I don’t see change happening any other way.

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          • And when I say I feel that it is virtually impossible to bring a cohesive group together, it’s for at least a couple of reasons I can think of off the cuff that would be relevant here:

            1) most people have been wearing masks for a long time, living with no transparency or disclosure, and

            2) not everyone that would actually be harmonious has travel money, if cash on hand at all.

            I’m sure there are other reasons, but these are two of the most powerful ones, imo. Basically, that means that physically bringing people together simply to have some kind of ‘alliance’ would be a bunch of privileged, two-faced liars, and isn’t that what we’re saying about ‘the system?’ This is how it self-perpetuates.

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          • Hi Alex, I think you are seeing some need to choose between your “authentic voice” and being thoughtful and reasonably considerate of the humanity and perspective even of people who you oppose for important reasons. What I’m suggesting is that it may be possible, though tricky, to have both.

            As for the process of gaining allies, it is quite possible to gain allies and do important work, while speaking honestly, even before the revolution is completed. Sera for example does great work alongside others with the Western Mass recovery learning community, and they wouldn’t be able to do what they do without knowing something about getting allies.

            One way to keep up one’s spirit in this difficult work is to notice the ways our work makes a difference to many people even before we can change what dominates in the system as a whole – though of course we want to change that too.

            Anyway I think I’m going to withdraw from this conversation now, so I don’t repeat myself too much, and so I can get on with other projects…….

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          • That’s fine, Ron, I appreciate what you did offer.

            In this conclusion of our open dialogue, I walk away with the awareness that you and I are totally not on the same page, nor do I feel you are reading me accurately. Oh well, par for the course.

            I also find your rhetoric vague and confusing, and your reasoning to be paradoxical. I guess we’ll see what happens with all this, time will tell…

            Best wishes,

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          • One last conclusion–without a doubt, I am certain you are perceiving me through the lens of stigma, that’s what I find ironic and concerning. You speak in dualistic language, that of those that marginalize people.

            I’m a professional healer, extensively trained and with multiple certifications (including as ordained non-denominational minister and spiritual counselor), also an actor, and a teacher, married 30 years, living in bliss out in the country, with the Redwood forest as my backyard. I also am music director and piano accompaniment for a band that plays for residents of an assisted living center. My life is peaceful and fulfilling, joyous on all counts.

            That’s the reward for completing one’s dark night of the soul. Mine started in grad school and lasted through my period of disability, about 10 years or so.

            Uprising, thank you for the support. I believe this is THE problem. What do people expect to happen to all that anger that is being suppressed? I shudder to think…

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    • Alice, see what you are doing is talk a lot about how you work, how you want to work, how you want others to perceive you and how you think others perceive you. I don’t really see you as going into the dialogue. You walk around it rather than actually relating to what is said. Like you are not really interested in relating to what others say. Instead you come across as repeating the same message about how you seek ‘genuine dialogue’ without ever getting to specify what that is and how to achieve it.

      In my book dialogue is dialogue. There is no ‘genuine’ dialogue which is potentially better than any other dialogue.

      Rather than inviting people to join you on facebook to see who you really are? You can also make an effort to show who you really are where the dialogue is taking place here and now? That means at the MIA site. You don’t need to defend how you come across by saying that what you do on facebook is totally different (and better you seem to imply?).

      When it comes to guilt then there must be some sort of concession from the system and the people who represents it before there can be a talking about reconciliation. You must understand this. You can not expect the service users to lie down flat and get trampled while you speak through the proverbial megaphone saying that everything is ok and it is just a matter of smoothening out differences in the coffee club. It will not help those who are trapped in the system getting hurt and getting their kids taken away from them at this very moment.

      Lastly you talk about that you don’t want to go further into dialogue about the topic because you do not want more defensive/aggressive action to take place.

      Well… You say that you want to have dialogue yet when the going gets tough you bail out…

      Is that seeking dialogue?

      One time I sat with a patient for half an hour amidst a lot of other personel in the dinner hall at my work and she would yell at me and tell me what a downright incompetent and unhelpful occupational therapist I was. I sat there and listened and explained my limitations and my potential and I very carefully told her that I was there as a resource to her and that I was perfectly fine with her using me as a resource to vent her frustrations with me (as well as the system, I suppose). After she calmed down she gave me a big hug and kissed me on the cheek and said I was wonderful.

      How would you have it? Would you have expected me to bail out on her saying that I wouldn’t tolerate her aggression?

      Warm regards


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      • Brilliant observations, Jens. I could cc this to tons of clinicians I’ve known over the years. And we wonder why the field has failed? (I don’t say ‘is failing,’ I think it’s a done deal, just a matter of awakening, rude as it may be). What could be more obvious??????????

        I’m starting to feel that 1:1 private clinical meetings should be outlawed, due to danger of a client, literally, being driven crazy. Or at least a surgeon general’s warning….

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        • Thank you, Alex.

          If we look at the situation with my patient the Real problem is that other personel talked to me afterwards and they didn’t understand why I put up with it.

          What would have happened is that if I had left the situation and told her that I wouldn’t accept her talking to me like that, she would have gotten an injection, laid to rest and her frustration and fear and sorrow wouldn’t have been addressed.

          I saved her from that at that time but I am well aware that at other times she would have just been injected and escorted to her room.

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          • Right on, Jens. I think ‘put up with’ is the operative and troubling phrase, here. How much more authoritarian and oppressive can it get than that? It is so obvious so many in this field do not understand process and healing, ironically enough.

            What I can’t figure out is what is the motivation for having such a job? People say they go into this field to help others. But I can’t help to wonder if there is an underlying need to feel superior to others. Cynical, I know. But that’s how it seems to play out…every single time.

            You sound like a gift to your clients, Jens. Good for you 🙂

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          • When I wrote, “What I can’t figure out is what is the motivation for having such a job?” I’m talking about the ones that complain they have to ‘put up with’ clients and wind up forcing unwanted things onto them. These are the ones I wonder bout, regarding ego needs vs authentic altruism.

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      • there are no more reply buttons way up the thread where you started a comment with this statement:

        “I would only support medication use in an emergency situation and then a period of time to allow the person to recover their ability to think, talk and self-direct. I’ve seen this protocol in the ER (Oliveview UCLA) and then in the in-patient unit …”

        I think it needs to be noted that the condition of many patients who are experiencing severe mental states is worsened, actually becomes an emergency IN the ER. It is so important to be fully alert to the context of the episodes you describe as “emergencies– that leave no options but to order a hold on the patient and to administer *emergency drugs*– which, my experience tells me, will be done via force in the majority of cases.

        As we all know, having no objective test for ascertaining levels of neurotransmitters during these crisis states, and no scientific evidence to support a rational evaluation of the significance of these levels, any so-called emergency psych drug– which, my experience tells me would be either Haldol+ Ativan, or Zyprexa + Ativan is a *crap shoot*. It has never made sense to me to administer neuroleptics or the newer, atypical antipsychotic drugs , both known, BTW to potentially cause the same severe mental states that a person is suffering from —when these drugs are routinely administered as *first line treatment* — So, first line treatment is– What the hell– it can’t get much worse? When in fact, it can get much worse. WE can thank Allen Frances and his team for this specific insane response to a *psychiatric emergency*. (TMAP–1995)

        It is simple logic and basic humanism to assume that the best environment for someone who is *losing their grip* would be one that feels safe. This has probably been known and understood by human beings since the dawn of humanity. Yet, here we are in the 21st century, still transporting people who are feeling like their lives are unraveling, to an Emergency Room. And from there to hell– which is very easy to conclude if one simply pays full attention to the response of the suffering person receiving *the best modern psychiatry can offer*.

        Why aren’t there services that directly offer support, in our communities; caring capable people who can support a fellow human being suffering an existential crisis, or facilities that are home like respites ? Why no life to life, face to face reassurance for family members? Why absolutely no evidence of faith in the human element and the human potential to weather these storms? Why is there nothing BUT the worse environment, staffed by *professionals* who don’t seem to get how they contribute to, or even create the emergency , that incites the use of force?

        No one would expect that a severely injured victim of a MVA would be wheeled into the scene of another motor vehicle accident. People in respiratory distress are not wheeled into a burning building. No one suffering from an obvious physical injury or physiological illness would be transported via ambulance anywhere , BUT a medical emergency center–. Yet– a person who is terrified by the strange thoughts, perceptions and feelings he/she is experiencing, is wheeled into a loud, chaotic emergency room, full of strangers, cries of distress, high level emotional intensity and a myriad of strange sights that even veteran nurse like me can find alarming.

        Given that this is the standard of care and first line treatment produced by the top of the food chain in the MH system, psychiatrists– it is any wonder that so much doubt is cast regarding any psychiatrist’s claim to *expertise*? And, at least to me, it remains a mystery that MH professionals on the front lines, encountering their patients in emergency rooms have not managed to get a few very basic, very logical, totally in synch with psychological theories, points across — if for no other reason than to provide what is in the best interest of their patients/clients.

        You were fortunate to have been spared the drugs and the lock up that is the usual adjunctive treatment for severe mental states. You say you would go that route now that you have more knowledge of the benefits? Well, you have knowledge that no on else has– and I would be remiss if I did not warn you. There is absolutely no solid reasonable, scientific evidence that supports your belief that yours would be one of the few *good outcomes*.

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        • Thank you Katie so much for this reply ….you don’t know how this resonates with the situation we had with our loved one….and in addition to the chaotic emergency room etc. …it is unbelievable that standard of care actually forces separating the terrified person from the people whom he loves and trusts……..he still was able to trust us at that time… I will never get over the the horror of leaving him at the time when he needed us the ,most…we didnt know we would have to leave and by the time we realized it was too late……

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          • @sa,
            The first wave of *reform*, or the MH system’s response to the evidence that psychiatric emergency and inpatient care was traumatic for the *patient* and that trauma was most likely the underlying issue precipitating the *psychiatric emergency* was the (drum roll please) Trauma Informed Care model. This consists mainly as window dressing and a marketing ploy to cover business as usual. I have been verbally attacked by colleagues for – essentially translating the research into my clinical practice. Why? Because all that is required to provide a safe environment involves communicating to the patient via *signals of care*– The key to TIC– is meeting the needs of the patient and family to feel safe and cared for. What you probably already know, and the MH professionals feeling *attacked* on this thread won’t admit, is that the philosophy of care for those in the most severe distress is : GET THE MEDS ON BOARD! and indoctrinating the patient and significant others with the (fraudulent) treatment model: MEDS ARE KEY TO “RECOVERY”– In the MH system, there is no such thing as recovery from a psychotic episode without meds/drugs. Period.This is first line treatment–Despite the evidence that it: causes more damage , often destabilizes the entire family unit; re-identifies the patient with a label that guarantees he/she will be viewed everywhere in the health care system as an unreliable historian — and subjected this question wherever he/she goes “Are you taking your meds?”

            I have yet to meet the psychiatrist, nurse or SW who speaks up about any of the research that contradicts this first line abusive, traumatic model of *care*. I have yet to see any MH professional document or advocate for *no meds* and family support in the ED. By the same token, people experiencing the super sensitization phenomena after stoping their *meds*, will be treated like a standard psychiatric emergency– again the only goal is “GET THE MEDS ON BOARD”–etc.

            IF only the wanna-be critical of psychiatry folks would honestly state WHY they think change will be slow– or on what basis they believe they are making changes from the *inside* of this dehumanizing system, there could be dialogue– perhaps. but, first and foremost, they all seem more invested in keeping the secrets– the justification for this torture– the mindset that is deeply engrained in a completely non-medical environment. They know. It is impossible NOT to know–

            I will offer you one ray of hope regarding the loss of trust your loved one experienced, which is based on a feeling of being betrayed; that those closest to him would throw him to the wolves, cooperate with those who tortured him.

            I have worked mostly with young adults, whose lives were seriously damage during childhood and/or adolescence by the *best modern psychiatry has to offer*. They all are developmentally predisposed to transferring distrust of the *MH system* to their caregivers/parents/loved ones. I was already known to a few as kids on a unit where I had worked. I already had rapport with these few and had established trust for being fully aware of their issues, and supportive of them during their inpatient crisis. These few know that I failed to make any significant changes *while inside the system*– and even being more outspoken on the outside, I am still only successful on a very small scale with those I am fortunate to encounter. At the right time, in terms of their overall understanding of what the MH system represents in our society, I am able to connect them closer to those they feel betrayed them, by openly expressing the pain I feel due to overwhelming helplessness in the face of what should only be a matter of stating facts and intervening based on evidence, and rescuing a vulnerable person from this horrible excuse for * mental health care*. I encourage unity, solidarity and mutual understanding, because it is so very important that those of us who have experienced and witnessed the truths NOT told in Alice’s film and by other MH professionals on this site’; it is vital that we remain strong in believing that our humanistic bonds will prevail. You shared your loved one’s suffering — were in the same boat, for the same reason. The best evidence presented by the most credible people of our time, has made absolutely NO difference to those who will not give up the power they wield over our lives.

            I worked out very detailed plans with my *clients* and their families, to avoid
            future trips to the ED — and was available immediately whenever these plans failed. Just as psychiatric survivors writing here, are only asking for acknowledgement of the abuse they have suffered, those close to anyone who is entrapped in the MH system also needs to have his/her feelings acknowledged– vicarious trauma or witnessing and feeling helpless during events that are clearly traumatic for a loved one, is a deep wound inflicted by the same so-called professionals who take over — during *a psychiatric emergency*.

            THIS is the topic that reveals the TRUTHS worthy of a film, a documentary. Still untold…Because while the MH professionals we hear from here are telling us that *they* are obliging a dysfunctional society– the fact remains, the majority of the people who make up our society are completely in the dark regarding what It is these profs believe they are obliged to do. And I have enough faith in human potential and *the people* to believe that WHEN they are accurately informed, THEY will go to whatever lengths it takes to stop this.

            And one other thing– healing from these deep wounds of betrayal by our very own mental health care professionals, elected leaders and agencies we fund to protect us, is not only possible, but goes well beyond the concepts we associate with a cure. Never the same, true, but better in ways that we could have never imagined possible.

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      • Sorry you are experiencing the pain. I’ve been the recipient of the same thing.

        Is this really what it seems, i.e. an allegation by Ms. Altman of “victimization” by survivors? Looks like she is resistant to the education she has been offered here and chooses to see it as aggression. Surprising since she seemed like a supporter of justice at one point.

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  22. I didn’t want to comment until I saw the “film”. Now that I’ve seen it I’d say “normally ” to someone who made a “film” of this quality with the explanations given about it and about what it’s purpose was , if they asked me what I thought , I’d have to say , “Don’t quit your day job” . But then again the maker of this film is a psychiatrist so I must reassess and suggest maybe it would be better to cease and desist from your activities and maybe try to convince Daniel Mackler to take you on as a grip for about 5 years so you can learn and afterwards try again to make a film. Cause this particular ” film” that you made comes across as a propaganda film propping up biological psychiatry and would surely gain you Kudos from Torrey, Lieberman, and Pies and they might help you finance something beyond this propaganda trailer , something longer and even more propagandaish where by you could make a living as the film making darling of the pharma psych industrial complex . Thank you very little . By the way I am anti- psychiatry but to say I would deny those that want to take psych neuroleptics their right to do so is ludicrous as I know first hand the addictive characteristic of these poisons as well as the pain of the electric voltage to the brain. End the Torture. Still waiting for the first psychiatrist to throw their psychiatric practice overboard. You wanted dialog . I want health freedom and no coercion as a minimum.

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  23. Hi all,

    I just want to say thank you (whether I agreed with you or not! 😉 ) for taking so much time and energy to respond to this blog and to one another.

    I am headed out on a family vacation tomorrow and won’t be back until October 26, and so I’ll likely n ot be able to respond too much more myself (I’ve already been unable to keep up at times with all the comments as I’m under a lot of pressure to get ready to leave and finish up stuff at work)…

    I really believe in responding to people’s comments if they take the time to make them, so I feel badly that I’ve already done that less than ideally here… But just know it’s not for lack of my wanting to. Again, I really do appreciate people’s taking the time to read what I send out into this Internet world.

    Thanks 🙂


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    • Thank you, Sera– for your courage and tenacity — and amazing stamina displayed throughout this discussion thread. Your arguments are well articulated and equally eloquent. I always appreciate your responding to and engaging with commenters on your writing. Considering the issues you raised and the push back received from those who claim to want *dialogue* to enhance soft, gentle change– and the maintenance of their comfort level, your work here is astounding. Amazing. Brilliant!

      I wish you a very relaxing, rejuvenating, and well-deserved vacation !!


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  24. Margiealtman

    I am not sure you will find my response to your comment but if you do I have to tell to you I am very saddened by your reply. Not only does your comment not speak to my point that what works for some does not work for others and how starting medication can precede worsening psychosis, (which makes me feel you discount my experience), but it also in no way justifies you saying that people ‘indulge’ psychosis.

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  25. Seems the smoke has cleared a bit here and things quieted down. At the end of the day (literally), one thing has become so very clear to me–if we criticize anything about psychiatry in any way shape or form, it is taken completely personally and we are called triggered, crazy, loony, aggressive, zealous, etc. That is a dead end to dialogue and a rabbit hole, complete communication shutdown. Not sure if there is anything to connect that great divide. Seems to me like two completely different and entirely non-compatible realities! Hmmm.

    Thanks for the extremely stimulating blog, Sera and commenters, I found a lot of clarity in this experience.

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  26. Like Sera, I want to thank all of you for responding to me. I sometimes felt attacked by you, and I know many of you felt offended by me. I don’t think either was intended. Feelings aren’t facts.

    I understand that many, many people have been terribly hurt by experiences with the psychiatric profession, and I DO want to do something to change that. Many of you are saying that that horrid problem needs to be confronted in direct and powerful ways, and you’re put off by my model of “softening.” I get that, but I’m not going to change my perspective because it’s the best that I can do. If I came on too strong I’d just be ostracized, and I don’t believe that all psychiatry is hurtful and dangerous. I think it is for many, but not all, and for some it’s lifesaving. My work emerges from within that paradox. I understand that that feels wrong to a lot of the people in this group. The fact that the film is shown in classrooms allows for discussion that – you may not believe this – moves away from the medical model – the model that is often presented as the only true perspective to young people today. If I wanted to show some of your more powerful and one-sided films, they’d never be granted a screening because they would be considered too extreme.

    In the future, if you could tolerate me, I could imagine collaborating with some of you to make a film about the survivor movement, a film that would come on much stronger in opposition to the medical model than this one does; a film that could be offered screenings in places that you can’t reach right now.

    If you want to hear larger segments of the interviews, many of them are on our website, I apologize to Ron for the bad quality of his interview. That wasn’t done by Sheryll. It was a skype interview filmed at a university, at the same time as Elyn Saks. (As I said, we filmed with virtually no budget, and they were too far away.) Elyn’s visuals didn’t come through at all, which is why she’s just a photograph.

    I also apologize for not responding to all of your questions. Like Sera, that’s simply a question of time. I come home every night to dozens of posts, all of which are detailed, challenging, and thoughtful. Unfortunately I have to pick and choose, only because there are not enough hours in the day to do justice to all of them.

    I hope we can continue this dialogue, slowly, over time. Thanks again for listening and responding. I particularly appreciate the opportunity to share more of myself with those of you who have reached out to me personally.

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    • Alice,

      I want to come back to the point here that I don’t find your approach to be ‘softening.’ I find it to be avoiding. You’re right, I do not believe that your film is effective in classrooms to lead people away from a medical model philosophy or even to explore it, although it is plausible to me that a very skillful teacher or well-informed and critically thinking student could lead it in that direction based on their own internal reactions. However, that would be in spite of the film rather than because of it.

      Have you spent much time looking at learning theory? It’s extraordinarily hard for people to *unlearn* things (much harder than to learn them in the first place), and when you create an environment or tool that re-enforces all of what they already think they know, not much learning is going to happen with anything else. This is one of the issues I find with your film… The ‘environment’ created is quite one sided.

      By the way, I’d suggest you watch my film before you call it ‘one-sided,’ though it’s certainly more challenging to what people believe than your film. And, it has been shown in multiple college classrooms, for the record.

      All too often, I see people making the compromises that they *expect* others will demand of them… but it’s precisely those expectations (and not the reality that could have been had they had different, bigger, better expectations) that hold them down.

      I see it all the time.


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      • My film has also been shown in college classrooms and I also received requests for the film from family social service agencies. Although admittedly, it is exclusively the client/survivor voice, since this is traditionally what has fallen on deaf ears and continues to get twisted around and interpreted cynically (aka stigma), to avoid facing the powerful implications of our truth.

        I, too, think avoidance has been a major player here in the client/survivor vs. clinician dialogue, on the part of mainstream-oriented clinicians. Regardless, truth-speaking is healing and freeing, so I feel the truth will win out in the end, hopefully much sooner than later.

        There are all sorts of films about these issues floating around out there now. Some embed the status quo while others challenge it. It will be so interesting to see how this continues to unfold in the collective.

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        • Alex,
          I was deeply moved by your -full length documentary, “Voices That Heal”. I just happened to watch it before screening “Touching A Hot Stove”. Taking in these two films in tandem is perhaps the best way to experience all of the points you & Sera have made here in this thread.

          What helps? What hurts? Who is most helpful? And what is the most difficult experience to heal from? All answered in the narratives shared so brilliantly in your film.

          So, for me, Lieberman in his white coat is priceless–. What a poignant contrast his oppressive, unbridled arrogance is to the shining lives of the stars in your film !

          What I loved the most about the 96 minutes I spent engaged with your work, was the absence of any authority based approach to healing. A breath of fresh air to listen to stories that show respect for whomever the audience may be. I felt completely free to appreciate and learn from everyone’s *voice* , and totally welcomed into a circle of healing that asked nothing of me.

          Thank you, Alex, for this treasure,– this totally unexpected gift.


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          • Katie, thank you from the bottom of my heart. This means everything to me. That is our intention, to be the authority over our own lives, stories, growth, and healing, and to encourage others toward personal sovereignty, freedom, by speaking the truth of their heart without apology.

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    • HI Alice,

      I feel very strongly that the way psychiatrists could make the biggest, most profound and helpful change is to lobby against coercive treatment [educating the public that forced treatment is different than forced safety, speaking out clearly (it doesnt have to be agressively) about the lack of evidence -based research to justify forced treatment, educating the public and supporting the development of ‘sancturary’ type settings (even within hospitals) that don’t invoive forced medication,forced treatment, forced isolation and separation from loved ones etc. , speaking loudly that your practice doesnt involve such things and explain why, publishing the way patients should be educated about drugs (like the way you said to Sera you talk to your patients) , joining with other psychaitrists to make a strong, dedicated internal stand against forced treatment that could also be done in your `softening’ way.

      There are psychiatrists within the system who have written endlessly about the corruption in research and have made some changes there (e.g.around study 329 etc. in one boring old man, etc.) We need a similar type of persistent attack against coersive treatment.

      I find it strange (or perhaps this is the ‘cognitive dissonance’ that Robert Whittaker speaks of’,) that even many of the psychiatrists who speak out against all the fraud in research and feel responsible as a psychiatrist to (as one psychiatrist put it) ‘clean up psychiatry’s side of the street’ (even though there were not involved in the fraud); these same psychiatrists can take a completely different stance when issues of coercive treatment comes up. For example, they say, like you, ‘I don’t do it so I feel blamed when people bring it up’ ; rather than say ‘it happens regularly in psychiatry so what can we do to clean up this part of the psychiatry street. There is a film that could be done from the unique power position of the critical psychiatrist .

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      • …..pressed post too soon sorry, so to continue……….if you really want to help – imagine the power of that kind of a film …you could interview people like Pat Bracken who talks about a new type of psychiatry, talk about how important it is to change psychiatry (as Whitaker says) from being a profession that has the power and control over ‘mental health’ and instead become ONE of the disciplines and services that people could either access or not depending on whether they find it helpful or life saving. Once the power differential has been changed, that is when you will naturally begin to see more communication across, as you put it, the ‘wide divide’. I know people make lots of comparisons to slavery. I don’t usually make these kind of comparisons as I feel it often makes people defensive and I don’t feel I really have the expertise to comment on it anyways , but it does feel to me that until coercive treatment (particularly in the absence of evidence based treatment) is addressed, your efforts really could be compared to the ‘good slave owner’ trying to improve the living conditions of the slaves and wondering why slaves are not more appreciative of your efforts. Someone once wrote an article on MIA’s all about the coercion stupid … (I am not calliing you stupid but that title has stuck in my mind as really I believe it IS ALL about the coercion.

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  27. Alice,

    I assume you are familiar with the basis for biomedical ethics; that Kant’s philosophical view that the human being should first and foremost be considered the ENDS, not the MEANS ? It is not such a leap in consciousness to observe how you have reversed this principle, when you wrote the following:

    “.. and I don’t believe that all psychiatry is hurtful and dangerous. I think it is for many, but not all, and for some it’s lifesaving.”

    Here, you claim that sacrificing the many to help the few is — the basis for your thinking? You are not thinking like a doctor, then.

    ” My work emerges from within that paradox. ”

    Your work violates the ethical principles that medical practice is based upon.

    “I understand that that feels wrong to a lot of the people in this group.”

    Those would be feelings based upon *facts*.

    “The fact that the film is shown in classrooms allows for discussion that – you may not believe this – moves away from the medical model – the model that is often presented as the only true perspective to young people today.”

    So, you show propaganda that supports the prevailing erroneous, fraudulent “medical model”– to evoke discussion of alternatives? I think that may actually insult your audience– or rather, it is a sneaky way to bring up discussions about what may actually help people suffering from mental, emotional anguish. I imagine you think your audience “can’t handle the truth”?

    “If I wanted to show some of your more powerful and one-sided films, they’d never be granted a screening because they would be considered too extreme. ”

    IF you showed films that demonstrate the humanistic ways in which people assist others to recover from severe mental states, you would be rebuking the model upon which your livelihood currently depends. The result might be your own journey through sever mental states…. and considering what awaits you by way of treatment for that, I suppose you are justified in doing whatever it takes to avoid that.

    What you are doing is extremely damaging, imo– and regarding medicine, which has been my life’s work, you are definitely on the wrong side of establishing trust in it, the medical field. Knowing there is no sound scientific evidence for what is “the only model most young people are exposed to”, you continue to propagate it via the fluke positive results from it. Do you really believe that your *feelings* should dictate your practice? I know that is the case with ALL of the MH professionals I know who are still in the system that has only a fraudulent model to rely upon. THEY FEEL this is he best that can be done for the *mentally ill*. BUT:
    Considering the expansive, horrific damages– especially to children, adolescents and all vulnerable people who cannot advocate for themselves– who are NOT deemed credible in your model *of care*; considering the fall out from the practice you believe needs to change slowly, I cannot help but notice that your feelings, themselves, are misguided.

    My comments are based solely on what you have shared in this discussion– from the perspective of a professional who has been intimately involved with the model of care you have referenced here and in your film–. Additionally, I am well versed in both the ethical and moral principles that were established as the foundation for medical practice– . So far, you have only argued from the validity of the feelings you have on these issues— especially those evoked when your argument is challenged. As a nurse, a professional in the health care field for 41 years, I cannot relate to the concept of basing one’s clinical practice upon one’s feelings— actually there is absolutely nothing but admonishment in our field for doing so– I happen to remember the days when medical professionals at least tried to assist each other to uphold the high standards that won them the trust of the public and the salaries they have attained as proof of their value.

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  28. Hi Kathy, Sera, Ron, Alex and others (sorry again for skimming),

    Sera, I’d love to see your film (after I finish Alex’s). How can I get hold of it?

    I stand firm in my belief that the medical model is severely flawed, dangerous and hurtful to many. But I stand equally firm in my belief that it is lifesaving for some and helpful for others. A smaller subgroup of people want meds and don’t need them or shouldn’t take them, and another subgroup could potentially benefit but adamantly refuse. Side effects and withdrawal effects are awful.

    After 40 years in the profession (private practice), I like to think that I can differentiate these situation much if not most of the time, to the best of my ability. I don’t work in a hospital and I haven’t forced hospitalization on anyone since I was a resident. People come to my office because they choose to ask for my help, and I offer what I can with honesty and integrity. Most of what I do is long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy, with adjunctive medication used very judiciously.

    This is just in the realm of a thought experiment, but I could imagine doing something like this down the road…. Would any of you be willing to be filmed in dialogue with people from the other side of the medical spectrum – people who take medication and are grateful for it, side effects and all – with a filmmaker acceptable to all? That might be fascinating.

    I fear that if your message is that all psychiatry is destructive, period, your will remain more marginalized than you ought to be. I could be wrong.

    I’m sorry if my film didn’t show that element. Perhaps it should have, but our focus was on stigma, not the strengths and weaknesses of the mental health profession. We believe that it’s important to come together before prejudice against people who think, feel, and behave outside socially accepted norms can be better accepted, understood, and integrated into society. Given society’s fears (especially with the rash of shootings), I think coming on too strong might scare them off. I could easily be wrong.

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    • Alice,

      Sorry? Why do you keep restating your *belief* that the medical model is *severely flawed*? It was a matter of lifesaving importance to me and continues to be for many of my former colleagues, to learn that the medical model is, in fact, a complete lie. The distinction between flawed and fraudulent speaks volumes–. It is the crux of a very serious matter, Alice, whether or not you force this fraudulent model on any of your patients, the fact that it is forced on *many* vulnerable people, should be of some interest to you.==Civil rights violations start here.

      I am also curious about the pronouncements you appear fond of making– like: “I fear that if your message is that all psychiatry is destructive, period, your will remain more marginalized than you ought to be.”

      I appreciate that most of the commenters here, and Sera in particular went to great lengths to provide you with invaluable feedback. Your patronizing come- backs pretty much sucked the remaining air out of this discussion. At least for me. It’s with great effort that I draw a deep breath and decline your invitation to be filmed in dialogue with people who take medication and are grateful for it, side effects and all… with the same conviction I employ when declining to waste any of my precious time—. the only reason I can think of that would explain how you could view this as a relevant topic, or even an issue anyone here has voiced, is that for the past 40 years, you have been living in your own private Idaho– and just can’t imagine the degree of disregard and disrespect your commentary has displayed toward those of us who were sickened by the film you produced.

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      • Alice,
        Katie has a good point. The model your profession is based on, the disease model of mental illness, is not just severely flawed, it is a complete fraud and fabrication. There’s no biological or genetic basis for any of the so-called diagnoses your profession uses, nor do medications treat any known illness. Can you admit this?

        Other readers hopefully will see that Alice, as a psychiatrist, probably feels some loyalty toward her fellow psychiatrists, and is therefore unable to fully admit that the disease model it is based on is totally fraudulent, for fear of being seen as a traitor or as unfair to those who have devoted their lives to this false model. That goes some way to explaining why Lieberman, Pitts, etc were given equal or more time than others in the film.

        The comments also quite clearly show that Alice is a kind, well-meaning individual and helps a lot of others by doing essentially non-psychiatric psychotherapy. That’s good! Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that she is not seriously biased due simply to being trained as a psychiatrist and being surrounded by a culture which economically rewards the promotion by her profession of the false disease model of mental illness.

        As I comment below, if Alice wants to film those who benefit from medication versus non meds, then the proportion of people shown on screen who benefit should be proportional to those who don’t benefit in studies of psych drug outcomes: for example, in a big room of 100 people, there should be 10-15 people shown who benefit (more than placebo) contrasted with 85-90 people sitting on the other side of the screen who don’t benefit more than placebo or who get much worse. Or, if we can’t afford 100 people, then out of 10 people there should be 1-2 benefitters against 8-9 who don’t benefit.

        Who thinks Alice would do that, versus misleading showing 1 person who benefits debating 1 who doesn’t?

        Since Alice brought up the Republicans versus Democrats metaphor, it makes me wonder if Alice’s film’s pro/con representations about disease models benefits and harms is fundamentally different from Republican senators like Ted Cruz and James Inhofe who, disagreeing with 97% of scientists, argue over climate change as if it were a 50-50 issue.

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        • “Since Alice brought up the Republicans versus Democrats metaphor, it makes me wonder if Alice’s film’s pro/con representations about disease models benefits and harms is fundamentally different from Republican senators like Ted Cruz and James Inhofe who, disagreeing with 97% of scientists, argue over climate change as if it were a 50-50 issue.”

          I think we can conclude that these two arguments are the same, as they are based on a *Value Ethics* model, that supports authority based beliefs over scientific evidence and general guidelines that prohibit beliefs from becoming accepted standards for decision making.

          Of the two examples, psychiatrists are in a special position with respect to *authority*– and are pretty much protected from any but their peers criticism and challenging of their *beliefs*. Which, I believe, accounts for their cavalier attitude toward any push back that comers from the peanut gallery.

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        • @bpdtransformation– you’ve done an excellent job here summarizing and framing the key issues and the sources of conflict.

          I found something of value in “Touching a Hot Stove” when I compared it to a straight forward documentary, “Voices That Heal”. Alex’s film destroys the premise in her film via– inference, innuendo, thought provoking nuance and a strong dose of courageous truth telling— without a single shot fired directly at psychiatry. Now, that is brilliant film making !!

          There is quite an amazing display of talent on these really controversial threads– well worth the strain to break higher ground., imo.

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    • Hi Alice,

      I think it is a good sign and shows that you care when you say that you think the Biomedical model is flawed and that side-effects and withdrawal-effects of psychotropic medicines are awful.

      In my opinion though the Biomedical model works for biological medicine and curing biological diseases and so on. But it should never ever have been implemented to guide psychiatry in the first place. It was never made for that and psychiatric problems are impossible to affiliate with biological disease models as the origins are very different. Yes, when it comes to symptoms you can medically affect symptoms by use of medicines (if you are willing to accept the side-effects, which I am not) but the biological model and medicines can in no way cure the origins of the symptoms as there is no biological disease behind them.

      The problem is that you then say that people will get marginalized by remaining truthful to themselves and denying the destructive forces of the disease model that guides psychiatry today.

      Well, Alice. People who accept the disease model and accepts when a psychiatrist says they are incurably ill from a biological brain disease… They are being marginalized, oppressed and exposed to great injustice just by that – whether they accept it or not.

      I do not agree that you will be more marginalized by not accepting the disease model as a patient. I have never accepted the disease model and I never received a microgram of psychotropic medicine – yet here I am. I finished my education, I am a voice hearer. I am working as an occupational therapist and I have two lovely little girls (asked me ten years ago and I would have said you were the delusional one). I am not marginalized in the same way as I would have been in the system – believe me, because my mother is actually a psychiatrist, so I believe I know how it is and how it would have been (I love her of course and we have many deep conversations but we also disagree on some things since she is more like you in terms of believing in primary psychoanalytic psychotherapy accompanied by secondary treatment via judicial use small doses of medicine).

      Believe me also when I said that at times in my life I could have been a candidate for being forcefully medicated and put in a closed ward – had I been unlucky enough. Instead at the most critical moments I tended to run into people who would help me rather than try to bend me their way or that way.

      Took me 30 years of my life to get this far (counting from the original trauma) and it will take me my whole life to get further but it is worth it all the way compared to being isolated in the system, single and with no hope for the future.

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    • “I fear that if your message is that all psychiatry is destructive, period, your (sic) will remain more marginalized than you ought to be.”

      I believe you are making assumptions here, Alice. Who are you thinking is ‘marginalized?’ Perhaps that is a projection from your own mind, because you keep talking about ‘marginalization’ as though it were our (generalized) reality.

      I honestly do not believe that being opposed to psychiatry, based on our vividly horrendous experience of it, makes one ‘marginal.’ You are placing ‘psychiatry’ on some kind of false pedestal with this statement. “Psychiatry’ is certainly not the measure of reality, I think that’s our point around here.

      I can only hope that my film puts this illusion to rest, and leads to a bit of an awakening for you. None of us lives ‘in the margins.’ We are simply living our lives according to our paths. Why do you keep dividing people up in terms of being ‘marginalized’ and…whatever it is you are…what, incorporated? I’m not sure what the opposite of marginalized is.

      There’s the great divide to which you’ve referred, it’s entirely in your perception!

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    • That element is the whole impetus behind this propaganda, ideology. I don’t think anybody is saying all psychiatry is destructive. I am saying most psychiatry is destructive. Not being in the “mental health” business, I’m not worried about marginalization. “Mental health” propaganda is really not my ideal idiom. My understanding of what you mean by suggesting that were one to do so (“your message is that all psychiatry is destructive”), your task would be to suppress that message (“marginalization”). Luckily. There are many more avenues for getting one’s message across than one. At least you admit you could be wrong. Regardless, this person doesn’t see truth telling as a good reason for “marginalization” as you put it. Fears of violence, as I see it, are just one more ploy used for expanding the mental health system, a system involving the monitoring and surveillance of mental patients.

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    • Alice,

      Regarding the people from the other side of the medical spectrum, maybe you could do it like this:
      – Get 100 people who’ve been through mental health systems. 10-15 of them would be people who benefit significantly from medication over placebo (matching the research in which only 10-15% do much better on meds).
      -Maybe 3-5 of those would be people who say their lives are saved by medications.
      -30-40 people would be those who didn’t benefit much at all or got a little bit worse on medications.
      – Another 30-40 would be those who had serious negative side effects or whose level of functioning worsened significantly.
      – Or you could have a smaller group, maybe 10 people, with 1-2 being pro meds, and 8-9 being those harmed or nonresponding to meds.

      Does that sound fair? I bet those proportional numbers are pretty close to what comes out of company sponsored drug trials, per 100 people.

      The problem with your proposal, is that, just like with your film, having 1 anti-med person dialoguing with 1-pro med person would deceive the viewer into thinking that the number of people benefitting greatly from medication is similar to how many don’t respond or get worse. It would be like having one climate scientist debating one denier, rather than 97 climate scientists debating 3 deniers. Why would you want to promote that? Perhaps unintentionally, you are little more than a promoter of the status quo, even if you don’t realize it.

      The point is that the preponderance of evidence shows that medications are minimally helpful and often harmful. Overfocusing on the small minority of people who respond strongly to medications – those who believe their lives are saved by medications – is reminiscent Republicans’ clinging to the 2-3% of scientists who do not believe humans contribute to global warming.

      Whitaker’s writing, and the research of Kirsch, Gotzsche, Moncrieff, and others, the WHO studies, Harrow/Wunderink/WHO studies, and many others point clearly to the fact that medications and the disease model cause much more harm than good.

      The reasons behind this overfocus on those who benefit from medications are mainly economic: 1) to protect the interests of corporations which profit to the tune of billions a year, 2) and to protect the ability of psychiatrists such as yourself to make an average of $186,000 a year (average income for US psychiatrists in 2012).

      These economic reasons are arguably the main reasons we are even having this debate. Without your profession and its corporate owners’ need to profit off the poor, young, and distressed, medication use would drop drastically and psychosocial approaches to mental health like therapy and peer support would be the front line approach to emotional suffering rather than medication.

      I acknowledge that you’re not one of the crap psychiatrists that does 15 minute med checks. That makes it even more strange, however, that you present Lieberman and Pitts et al in the film as if their positions were equally valid and evidenced as the positions against medication and against the disease model. You would think you’d have more courage.

      Not all psychiatry is destructive – for some short-term situations, medication use can be helpful. But psychiatrists should be honest that psychiatry is not a real medical field based on real medical illnesses, nor do neuroleptics treat reliable or valid illnesses. It should be publicly admitted by psychiatrists, including yourself, Alice, that psych drugs simply dull down a person’s ability to think and feel clearly, rather than treating any illness.

      Honestly, until or unless psychiatrists can prove the existence of discrete brain diseases beyond Parkinson’s/dementia, etc, psychiatrists should not be allowed to promote themselves as (false) medical doctors, nor to have any special standing above other mental health workers.

      For myself, I try to devote my energy via my blog to helping people who want to think differently and understand the mind and relationships via a non disease model. I think this whole overfocus on “medication pro and con, and is it useful” is a sad waste of time that mainly serves to keep psychiatrists working and keep drug companies profiting off the weak and miserable.

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    • Hi Alice,

      Popping in from the road (in Virginia, about to leave for a drive to Georgia) while most of the family is still asleep…

      A few things:

      First, if you’re genuinely interested in watching my film (actually I’ve been a part of making more than one film, but the one I’m referring to here most primarily is ‘Beyond the Medical Model’), then e-mail me ([email protected]). I won’t get your e-mail right away as I am determinedly avoiding work e-mail at the moment, but once I do, I’ll send it to you.

      More importantly, I continue to feel like you’re missing the point of much of what’s getting said here. I don’t know if it’s intentional or just that you’re still not quite ‘hearing’ most people?

      A few things…

      One, I understand that you’re saying that you wanted to make a film about ‘stigma’ and not force. What I am saying back to you is that that *would have been* fine(r)… that that *is* fine(r)… If you had also NOT lifted the language of ‘civil rights movement’ along with it.

      There’s many layers to this conversation and to the arguments being offered up to you or why people are upset or concerned, but can you at least hear some of us when we say that lifting the language of ‘civil rights movement’ is offensive if you separate it out from all the force and abuse people have experienced? You could have made a film about stigma that was much less offensive to me, at least, if you hadn’t couched it in those terms. (To be clear: I likely still would have disagreed with a lot of it, but no more or less than I disagree with a thousand other films out there… For me, it’s that perspective and subject matter framed within a ‘civil rights movement’ theme that pushes this film to a different level.)

      Meanwhile, your film idea (along with some of your earlier comments) – while potentially interesting in some contexts – also suggests you are missing one of the main points of all this. This is *not* a fight that exists between those who are ‘compliant’ and ‘non-compliant,’ between those who feel they’ve been helped, those who feel they’ve been hurt, and all those who fall between.

      While I think this is probably not intentional on your part, the simple suggestion that we be essentially pitted against one another on film – especially under the guidance and lead of a psychiatrist. No, the problem exists not between those of us who have been effected differently by a system that is largely dishonest and one-note. It is between us and *that system*…

      I have no interest in arguing with people who want to take psych drugs (though I do have interest in sharing information with them, so that they can do so in a better informed way). I do not see them as the ones on the other side of any line of this fight. I see lies, and force, and abuse, and misuse of power and poorly earned ‘credibility’, and financial interests over human interests, and dishonest ‘research’, and the failed and bought concept of ‘evidence-based practice’, and so on and so on as what is on the other side of that line…

      Now, off to Georgia.


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      • Thanks for making these very important points. It is very true that there are people who felt helped by medication, yet still found their experience with the mental health system very traumatic. You are so right that this is not an issue of those who take medication against those who don’t. I also do not believe that is Alice’s intention, but I can imagine how this kind of a message could be so abused by ‘non- critical psychiatrists’

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  29. To the issue of stigma, I used part of this quote by Marianne Williamson at the end of my film. This is the full passage, which I find so inspiring. To me, this is what leaves ‘stigma’—or anything of the like–in the dust. Shine on, everyone!

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

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    • To the issue of stigma –I see potential for creating value using both “Voices that Heal” and “Touching A Hot Stove” as teaching tools.

      It is within the norms of our society that the trap from which stigma arises is baited, then a hierarchy develops and an authoritarian voice arises to direct, instruct and define the norms. In “Hot Stove”, this voice of authority also makes judgments and assigns value. The bait is the belief that some of us are superior to others and can attain power via credentials, status symbols. The trap snaps and immobilizes anyone who believes this to be true.

      “Hot Stove” employs the most banal of society’s norms, the didactic,. This authority based teaching method is used to define and describe *stigma* through the filter that stigmatizes to begin with. How ironic? Yes, but it is also an excellent example of why there is so much turmoil and confusion around the term, “mental illness”. There is an error in the premise that some are more capable than others of pointing out what is wrong with any of us via our expressed thoughts and behaviors. This is shown to be a falsehood in Alex’s film/documentary.

      The truth that psychiatry has it all wrong is in the *stories*, in hearing the only voice of authority; the voice that resides inside the one that has been labeled. Yet, and this is the pivotal message I heard in “Voices that Heal”– there is no actual authority or claim to knowing everything about oneself, coming from that voice. It has also been my experience that the perceptions of self and the perceptions of the challenges, difficulties expressed by a *patient* are very different from those used to assign the label. What I heard from the *patients* I encountered was this :”Help me figure this out.” What I saw psychiatrists and other MH professionals do, indicated they were hearing “What’s wrong with me?”

      The really funny thing about my observations, being a nurse trained to respond to the questions of patients suffering pain and disability from physiological illness, was that I did not hear pleas for a label, a diagnosis from the* psych patients* I met on locked wards, though there were always some who initially felt gratified that their predicament had some kind of rational explanation, assigned by the rational authorities who were by then, their captors. –. Many in this category may have actually been relieved that there was a way out of the locked ward, after all— but this subtle difference between what I heard and saw, standing elbow to elbow with the DSM thumping zealots, made all the difference.

      There is So much to compare and contrast in these two films that highlights the essential errors in a society that sets up norms as rules, guidelines and criteria for dividing the fit from the misfits. How do these errors come to light? When those who have been stigmatized are ready to take center stage and clear up the confusion that their unique expressions of humanity have created.

      In “Voices that Heal”, the stars are the stigmatized. Ninety-six minutes pass too quickly–. Like any stellar production, this film leaves you wanting more–. Are these cast members in Alex’s film the *Hot Stoves* Alice’s films is talking about? Well then why are they so engaging and why did I feel I wanted to know them better? Why did I never look away, or want to escape? Why was I humbled by their honesty, and amazed by their courage and talent? I’m guessing it all comes down to a very human phenomenon, the capacity to honor the unique voice we all inherently have, which was first accomplished, then demonstrated by Alex via the art of film making.

      “Voices That Heal” is the real deal, the true, actual “Thing”– not a provisional pointing to or analyzing it, but just seeing it. “Touching A Hot Stove” is the image of the” thing”, but it is also the root cause of the “thing” called stigma. Dividing us, separating us, even admonishing us for the result of doing what psychiatry is predicated on. Alice’s film is an excellent model for the etiology of a society’s sickness that has reached epidemic proportions. It is important to teach the root cause for the survivors movement, because this lesson has something for everybody to work on.

      At the beginning of *Hot Stove* is the visual “coming out” and the voice saying “They are terrified”. Yes, “they” the hot stoves. And the voice of authority claims “they” are terrified of being “out” or visibly crazy.
      This is so wrong– or rather, the perception of what is terrifying “them” is clearly a projection and not even close to the internal struggle “they” are waging. I don’t mean to imply that there is one specific struggle, but there does seem to be universal themes expressed when “they” tell the story (of how they came into contact with the MH system). I totally resonate with the theme expressed as a fully cognizant state, where one is confronting all the unanswered questions regarding our existence and the very real perpetual threat of unforeseen disasters, or rather, as the Buddha taught: “There is no safety in this threefold world”. What Jeff Lieberman calls a biological illness, looks exactly like an existential crisis we should ideally be sharing and solving together.

      True, most people work hard to tune out the *existential hum*– and others find all unanswerable questions just too tedious to contemplate. But, there is , I believe, more scary truth in the narratives of a *mad person* than the mainstream can handle– even factual accounts of abuse by the healing professionals in the white coats, are apt to be blocked out of consciousness or rationalized out of existence by the MH professionals themselves. But, it is also true that when people grapple with these truths together, pooling their resources and their creativity, we can actually enjoy this precarious existence. The Buddha also said that the purpose of life is to “enjoy ourselves and be at ease”. The voices of mad people, stigmatized psychiatric survivors, are an invitation to enjoy what we are and what we already have.

      “The voice does the work of the Buddha”– is a teaching I am getting close to understanding– and the vibration of sound, that breaches all boundaries as it touches our innermost selves, conveys both warnings and comfort. We need more comfort. We need more voices from the psychiatric survivor community –.


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      • Katie, this is so brilliant and so moving, thank you. You nailed it, spot on, as usual.

        You are so perfectly eloquent, I just want to highlight a few phrases which really popped out at me, and why–

        “How do these errors come to light? When those who have been stigmatized are ready to take center stage and clear up the confusion that their unique expressions of humanity have created.”

        Yes, indeed, this is precisely my purpose with presenting this film. We have a story to tell around the experience of being blatantly stigmatized, and the multiple negative effects this has had on our lives and well-being, for the purpose of healing ourselves and awakening society at large. There is no separation among the members of humanity, that is an illusion. We exist on a unified and extremely malleable continuum. Poles shift all the time, which is a heads up to anyone and everyone.

        “At the beginning of *Hot Stove* is the visual “coming out” and the voice saying “They are terrified”. Yes, “they” the hot stoves. And the voice of authority claims “they” are terrified of being “out” or visibly crazy. This is so wrong– or rather, the perception of what is terrifying “them” is clearly a projection and not even close to the internal struggle “they” are waging.”

        Yes, yes, yes. They’re projecting some kind of terror about disclosing and here we are with no apology, spilling our guts so that others can feel hope and encouragement. I was never IN the closet, so indeed, I could not at all relate to that. Entirely projected, a false reality and message that leads to pure stigma, nothing real about it. Fear- and shame-inducing messages are extremely harmful to our well-being.

        “But, there is , I believe, more scary truth in the narratives of a *mad person* than the mainstream can handle– even factual accounts of abuse by the healing professionals in the white coats, are apt to be blocked out of consciousness or rationalized out of existence by the MH professionals themselves.”

        Sadly, we have a bad habit in our culture of enabling abuse by denying it, and/or blaming the victim, often making the victim feel crazy or delusional, falsely of course. Admittedly, it is hard to face ourselves and our foibles, I believe we all share that, it’s not easy for anyone to humble themselves when they realize they have been operating from core misconceptions.

        But we all have foibles and we all experience awakening at one time or another. Facing our own shadow head on is what leads to healing and freedom. I think many of us have done this, as part of our healing, and I know we are here to help others do the same. We needn’t take ourselves so seriously, life is supposed to be enjoyable. Which leads to:

        “The Buddha also said that the purpose of life is to ‘enjoy ourselves and be at ease.’

        I agree wholeheartedly, this is the goal. It’s why I chose music and bringing joy as the focus of my next film.

        It’s amazing, though, how many people and institutions are, somehow, guided to sabotage the joy of others. To me, that’s what I hope comes to light, here, the saboteurs.

        Live and let live. If you don’t like how someone else lives, walk in another direction. No one is interested in another’s negative opinion of our character, that is for us to assess and own. It is we are who to be comfortable with ourselves, we are not hear to appease others, but to live our lives creatively, dictated by our heart’s desires. We are all entitled to peace and joy, and this is what we are reclaiming, and inviting others to do the same.

        And yep, we are the only authorities of our lives, period. At this point, it goes without saying, although some people need reminding to tend to their own garden rather than fiddling around in someone else’s, which usually leads only to trouble.

        A psychiatrist told me 14 years ago, just as I had come off all medications, that I had ‘lost my dreams;’ and I had a brief hospital stay which, upon release, the box checked on my release forms said, “Poor chance of recovery.” I believed them for a while, and it was so distressing, I can’t even describe the feeling of hopelessness.

        Then, thanks to the encouragement of a very gifted psychic healer, I found the healing community I was looking for, and now, over a decade later, I’m perfectly healthy, grounded, and living my dreams, purely.

        At this point, I guess I can forgive what happened to me, for my own sense of relief. But what continues to make me angry is that, despite all of these vivid testimonials of grave harm done by the industry in the name of “health and healing support,” they continue to do it, and stubbornly! It will be a happy day when this industry wakes up to itself, and once and for all, deals with it like mature and reasonable adults rather than continuing to rationalize, justify, and blame their extremely well-informed critics.

        Beautiful, Katie, thanks again for hearing the heart of our film.

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  30. Thanks, Jens, for your openness and willingness to talk to me. You remind me of a woman I saw some years ago. She had been hospitalized for “paranoid schizophrenia” in the pre-medication era, and was treated in 5x/week psychoanalysis with a marvelous analyst. She came to talk to me not for herself, but to help her think about the best way to deal with her son who was developing similar symptoms. This woman was blind, in her 80s, and traveled alone on the bus from another state. How was she able to do that? Because that accepting, meaningful treatment by a man who cared enough to get to know her and help her know herself transformed her persecutory voices into loving, embracing ones. She negotiated the NYC transit system because her voices told her that she was smart, beautiful, loving, capable of doing anything she wanted to do. I thought it was the most beautiful story I ever heard.

    If our world – not just the world of psychiatry, but The World – were less toxic, this could be true for most, if not all of us.

    You guys should continue to come on strong, and I’ll try my best to soften around the edges. Maybe our perspectives will come together someday, in better times.

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    • “If our world – not just the world of psychiatry, but The World – were less toxic, this could be true for most, if not all of us.”

      I wonder how psychiatry could exist in a non-toxic world. I also wonder about psychiatrists who are commenting and writing on this site and others, who consistently seek the causes for the corruption in their field , outside of themselves–or rather, in *our society/our world*.

      I wonder why those in positions of authority with status attained via education and training, who are in leadership roles, can do little more than cite the problems in our world, which of course, we all can pretty much see. Meanwhile, as the psychiatrists in this category lament the pitiful conditions in society, they busy themselves evaluating, judging, labeling and *treating* the casualties of this society, and justifying the need for their services–. Not a hint of reflecting on the merits of an ounce of prevention– nor a single bead of sweat produced from the smallest of actions that would at least address the cause of the suffering in people they see– like a humanistic, warm supportive environment, an alternative to emergency rooms and locked wards–.

      Or as Sa has commented above, psychiatrists could become a formidable force for good– standing up against the coercive practices and the use of force that deprive the civil rights of those suffering the most in this MH system.

      After noting the tendency of psychiatrists to complain– even diagnose society at large, assigning their greatest critics a label in the *resistant to treatment* category, I can’t help wondering if they have some deep rooted motivation to maintain the status quo, or at least up the ante a bit on the causes for the suffering that ensures their patient load increases.

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  31. There is an eyeopening documentary film on Netflix that I believe all psychiatrists and others working in supportive professions to them or all those that aspire to these professions should definitely see and think about . As well as all the rest of us considering especially here in the USA where even the youngest are being coercively deceptively psych “medicated” to keep them and make them quiet , compliant , and reliant , customers of the psych-pharma industrial complex , the it’s OK with creating brain damage while spewing pseudo science and blaming as they torture whoever they catch in their ever widening net , the cartel from hell. Also considering the Murphy bill anaconda slithering through the bought and paid for halls and offices of our government threatening to arrive as the mother of all witch hunts . There is trouble in Virginia City . The name of the documentary on Netflix is called Nazi Medicine .
    It might wake people up if they were to see even another film that needs making , of psychiatry’s thought leaders including Lieberman , Pies, and Torrey and the Murphy’s actually watching Nazi Medicine and then discussing among themselves or with a group of psych survivors like myself and/or investigative journalists whether or not or to what degree Psychiatry and its practitioner’s are treading down, too near , or even beyond a deadly variation of that too well worn dark path , Psychiatry’s Mein Kampf the DSM Pseudo Scientific Bible clutched tightly in their arms and Pharma’s dollars in their pockets . Are they committing crimes against humanity ?
    If Lieberman and them refused to participate it would have to be made with actors (one way or the other) if people with the resources and talent think it’s a project worth doing , and that it could perhaps save from disaster countless human beings . People in other countries are affected by what spreads from here as well .

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  32. Again, my apologies for not addressing every point. I appreciate them and will continue to think about all of them. The problem is merely one of time.

    I’ve been asked why I don’t spend more energy lobbying against coercive treatment. It’s also been suggested that my statement about our toxic society was defensive against recognition of the evils of my own profession. This post addresses those questions.

    I don’t know where the rest of you live, but New York City is a horrid place to regress. Everyone here moves so fast that the idea of stopping, creating a safe environment, really listening and responding appropriately and effectively to what another person is saying, doesn’t exist. As soon as a person enters some kind of extreme state, they lose their jobs, their families have to get to work or they’ll lose theirs, their kids are in danger or others believe that they are, and people respond to them in all sorts of problematic ways. Psychiatrists are no longer trained to listen. They diagnose “thought disorder” and walk away, leaving the person totally alone, relating to no one other than the people who populate their inner world. This makes everything worse.

    Question: If forced hospitalization is wrong, but there’s no one around to offer support, safety, human connection and genuine listening, and the person is potentially dangerous to self or other, what would you do?

    This is a genuine question, NOT a commercial for forced hospitalization. I’m very opposed to that. But if I’m going to fight against it, I need to offer my field, and society, a worthy alternative. I’d appreciate your thoughts about this problem. (I’m also curious if it’s better in other parts of the country or the world.)

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    • Possible answers:

      1) Retire? Seriously. Rather than continue to be part of a corrupt system where I saw no hope for change, I’d probably retire or retrain in another field.

      2) Make a small difference: Offer discounted psychotherapy, or referrals to sliding scale psychotherapy, to people who cannot afford intensive treatment, rather than charging them $250/hour for occasional pill-pushing? I.e. reserve part of my practice for helping those in extreme states, rather than taking the easy way out and mainly working with the worried well.

      I realize this is difficult but many people do get through extreme states and then regain a marginally functional state where they can at least participate in outpatient psychotherapy. But most don’t get this because it’s too expensive or no effort is made to refer them to people who will offer it affordably; instead, pill-pushing takes over.

      3) Speak out publicly against forced hospitalization, and at the same time publicly discredit the DSM categories and call into doubt the efficacy of medication. In other words, admit that psychiatry is not only seriously flawed, but in most ways based on spurious and fraudulent falsehoods around diagnosis and medication. Alice, you are not a psychiatrist like most are though (i.e. the 15 minute pill pushers, those who actually work from a truly medical model)… you are more of a psychologist/therapist in the way you work with people.

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    • Well we’ve talked about this elsewhere, you don’t need an alternative to something that’s harmful other than to cease & desist. The fact that under this system there is and will be no real answer is unacceptable but accurate. The answer is to fight to be rid of this system while supporting each other the best we can along the way. Counseling absent medical trappings is one example of the latter, but then there’s those fees…

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  33. The lack of alternatives is the most pressing problem that needs to be lobbied as one is arguing against forced treatment. Because of the dominance of the psychiatry model, alternative programs and support have not been developed or funded properly. (They are certainly NOT more expensive than psych wards) .

    They are many initiatives throughout the world that people have talked about on this site, and written about but I will leave it to others who will be able to explain them better than me.

    In New York I thought there was Parachute NY? I imagine if initiatives like parachute NY had more support and funding then I imagine their type of services could grow to meet even more needs (e.g. for people who needed more of a ‘sanctuary house’ to go to rather than a parachute service for example).

    One very important point I want to stress. Forced hospitalization does NOT and SHOULD not equal forced treatment. Maybe that is the most practical way to start. Separating the need for ‘forced safety’ from ‘forced treatment’. Also when ‘forced safety’ is deemed necessary , emphazing how the person’s feeling of safety is crucial to their recovery If these two things were emphasized, then energies would be directed towards trying to first locate the person’s support people, developing more humane ways to allow a person to work through their extreme states in the hospital, allowing their loved ones to stay with them in the hospital (like loves ones stay with patients in every other wards on the hospital), offering some medication for sleep (rather than psych meds ) and then once the person is in a calmer state, providing ACCURATE and HONEST information about drug choices and then allowing the person to stav or GO to another healing environment of their choice (possibly home or eventually to sanctuary type dwellings as services grow).

    Again I imagine that a group of critical psychiatrists would have the most power in terms of helping funding be redirected to `healing homes’, parachute programs and other types of sanctuaries.
    One has to start somewhere,,,,,please please really consider taking on this fight. You could do an enormous amount of good.

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    • …….and strategically – if I were a psychiatrist trying to get other psychiatrists /mental health people on board to provide care that did not include ‘coercive TREATMENT” I would simply and steadfastly stick to the line that ‘we do not have the evidence -base to justify forced treatment (- research has not shown better long term outcomes for medicated people dx with sz and bipolar, research has not shown better than placebo outcomes for people with depression etc. ) – whatever we believe or see in our clinical practice, we simply do not have the evidence base that proves are results are better than alternative approaches, we just do not have the evidence base to support the use of force in treatment.” ..”Instead of continuing with force, let’s looka at our practises and work towards making pscyhiatry something more people WANT to access because they find it helpful “

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  34. Alice, I think you ask an excellent question and I hear you, because I went through my worst time while living in San Francisco, which, despite its reputation, is quite cold, competitive, and, as you describe in NYC, extremely speedy. The homeless population is out of control, and this is where I traversed the mental health world top to bottom, as student, intern, disabled client, social worker, advocate, activist—in that order. In fact, the mental health industry and system seems to practically run that city. That, and Google. There is no compassion here, just cut throat competition, all political, 100%. How can anyone in an extremely distressed state function in this, never mind actually heal?

    Well, I did, and trust me when I say it was so not made easy for me. I had to really humble myself as I went around town looking for healing, my entire mind, body, and energy a totally wreck from coming off nine medications, on top of being suddenly treated as though I were second class. I fought back, and even won a legal action for discrimination, so I never took on that identity, but on the most practical level, it makes life next to impossible. Certainly, the system felt that I was, in no way, entitled to a quality life.

    I had to fight so hard to get my voice heard and my rights respected, it nearly killed me, literally. I cannot understand why this would happen?

    I was most definitely in a very extreme state (not at all angry or violent, more so in fear, dread, panic, and paranoia), and I was clear enough in communication for my friends and my partner to understand me perfectly; but in the system, I could not engage ANYONE in a way where I felt they heard what I was saying, and their responses would make me feel terrible about myself, as though I did not deserve any regard or respect whatsoever. I had already been a practicing therapist, and never had this trouble with my peers.

    But just because I was ‘in the system,’ it was assumed that I was, somehow, not deserving to be well or to have a quality of life. I’d never felt so dehumanized in all my life! Of course, this was the motivation for making my film. It’s like, “Hello, I’m right here!” With the clinicians with whom I worked (or, tried to work), it was as though instead of hearing what I was saying, they were looking for things in my words, thoughts and manner that would trigger in THEM a diagnosis or something being amiss with me, just because I was there. It was frustrating and infuriating, to say the least. Overall, it was highly traumatic, because I was trying to heal and get back to work, I had no other agenda. What the system did to me totally undermined my attempts to heal and transition from disability status.

    In the end, I sought help from the alternative that worked for me, which was a community of energy healers and teachers, and that was the ticket for me. It was a meditation and healing school where I learned about grounding and chakras and how energy works, and I took their program for 4 years. When I graduated (which is how I also being an ordained minister and spiritual counselor, aside from a trained psychic energy healer), I was a totally different person inside, integrated and clear, and of course, as a result of that, my outer world transformed. Change starts from within, and then we externalize it around us. That’s how energy works.

    It was a fantastic and powerful program that not only led to some spectacular healing for me, but it also changed the entire course of my life. Those teachers were brilliant, and they knew about healing better than anyone I’d ever met. It’s where my world opened up–finally, the light.

    I took their program as I was healing from medication withdrawal of all nine medications, after 20 years of one thing or another, and discovered that clearing out our chakras and energy field covers a great deal of ground when it comes to healing. I took all their classes, including the 18 month graduate internship program, did many readings a week, and got healing after healing. It was an amazing program, and made all the difference. I was on disability at the time with no pocket change for this, but I made it work, much of it by doing trade and volunteer work in exchange. I was so desperate to heal, I was willing to create any avenue to make it happen.

    Aside from that, I think that if people would just be a bit more in tune with what another person is trying to communicate, especially when extremely distressed, that would go a really long way in alleviating the problem. But we can’t force people to change, and that kind of change is quite challenging. We’ve all been ‘trained’ by society to be way too speedy for our own good, that staying busy, busy, busy is the way to go.

    I would beg to differ. I think that’s exactly what has created a toxic, ungrounded, and totally dissociated and narcissistic society. People no longer have attention span for others, or so it seems. And when it is not communicated linearly and quickly, in short hand, then there is no hope to be heard. I think that’s a huge problem in society at large, but certainly in the urban centers, that’s what rules. How can ANYONE not be stressed to the edge, in that environment?

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    • I just wanted to add the core distinguishing features between what I learned in the world of psychology vs energy, as far as healing goes:

      In the energy healing world, we learn to focus on how we feel about ourselves, whereas I always felt that in the psychology world, the emphasis, at least by implication and sometimes more than that, the focus was more about how others felt about us. I can’t say how often I heard, “Alex, if you say that, people will just think you are…(fill in blank).”

      I find that focus to be oppressive and self-defeating, because it renders us powerless to others. That’s a terrible feeling, one of always having to appease others. We lose our own sense of ourselves this way, putting others’ feelings over our own. Often, they are just not compatible, and that’s the way it is. Why force it? Sometimes it can be worked out, and often it can not. When one doesn’t accept that, they can become controlling and manipulative, to force a square peg in a round hole, so to speak.

      Also, in energy work, we are taught to get our own information, which amounts to going by our own feelings and intuition to guide us, not by the information of others. Our paths are all unique, and going by the information of others (e.g. research studies and others’ processes) as our guide can really screw us up after a while, and it’s so subtle and we become so familiar with it, that we’re not aware of this insidious dependence that inevitably develops. In energy work, we are taught how to be personal sovereign and self-responsible, to follow our own path. While we’re of course willing and open to supporting others, in the end, we are ultimately responsible for ourselves.

      When we are not connected to our feelings and intuition (dissociated, out of body, in our heads, etc.), then that is the first order of business in energy healing, to connect with that emotional part of ourselves, that is vital! That’s how we connect with our own personal inner guidance, this is what is taught in energy healing, to heal dependence.

      Most often, this is where it gets really healing, because I can assure you that when a dissociated person (or society) starts connecting with its feelings after a long period of dissociation, well, that can be pretty rough as many things rush to the surface, and can feel very chaotic and painful in many ways.

      This is usually called a ‘relapse,’ or an ‘episode.’ In psychology, of course, we turn to medication and psychotherapy. In energy work, we turn to chakras and spiritual teachings in order to apply them. When I say ‘spiritual,’ I’m talking about the nature of energy. We go straight to discover our truth, and allow that to transform us into who we really are.

      So to me, these are two divergent paradigms, total opposite in values and perspectives. And I’m telling the God’s honest truth when I say that the psychology world tanked me in every way–and I was extremely dedicated to it and even compliant and followed directions, much to my regret; while the energy healing, also dedicated and with focused diligence, lifted me right out of it, and continues to support me, as it has become my way of life, from this perspective.

      That’s what happened as I healed, my entire world shifted because I learned this perspective that was the exact opposite of what I had been programmed with, from traditional mainstream culture, in which I was raised.

      That’s a hard gap over which to communicate. The ideals are not only opposite, they are not compatible, totally conflicted. It’s totally a choice, I know a lot of people in each camp, and I know what is compatible with me. My partner learned what I learned, followed in my footsteps and found his own chakra healing, and he transformed as well, he had to or else I would not have been able to heal altogether within the relationship, I’d have had to leave.

      I fairly certain that there is reconciling these two perspectives, each one creates a different reality. The psychology perspective is the basis for one reality and the energy world is the basis for another reality.

      I can assure you that the energy world is gaining fast. A lot of people are awake to this now, and are continue to see the value in it, as the old ways of doing things just don’t seem to be working out any longer. in fact, they are failing miserably.

      I find it interesting to have experienced both perspectives, as I was raised in an academic psychology based family and world. For me at least, where I am now is much, much, sooo much better. It’s freeing to have learned how to take care of myself to this degree, self-healing. I’m 54 and I take medication for absolutely nothing, completely healthy in every respect. Considering where I had been and how long I got stuck there, that is an absolute miracle. Thanks to energy and chakras, and many more interesting things I learned along the way. To me, that’s the new world, that’s the alternative waiting to spring forth. It’s growing in popularity, thank goodness.

      Ok, I’ll stop here, I’ve said a lot. But I wanted to see if I could drive my point home, here. Yes, I know that it is only my experience, and I’m so grateful for it all. But I still think there is something to al this, that could apply to more than just me. In my experience at least, it was THE paradigm shift that affected absolutely everything.

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  35. Thanks again to everyone who responded. I’ve heard about the Parachute program but I don’t know anyone who has been involved with it. Does anyone reading this have any first-hand experience? I’d love to have that contact info if it’s operative and effective.

    I got the idea of creating a “hospital at home” from Jessica Arenella, President of ISPS-US. When our patients are in an extreme state, we make sure they’re safe at home, see or call them once or several times a day, help them and their families understand what’s happening, and offer meds and/or healing techniques of various kinds. It works very well, especially for people who have had mixed or bad experiences with hospitals in the past.

    I trained during the five minute period when psychodynamic understanding and medication were integrated and done by the same practitioners. Meds were used only for the most severe cases. Most people were treated with analytic understanding and family therapy. That model had problems of its own – the problem of blame. If you had a psychotic break, it was because you had a flawed ego and/or suffered at the hands of schizophrenogenic parents. When the medical model arrived, people felt liberated from blame. Whew, it’s just an illness! Problems in communication arose because our thinking and behavior was idiosyncratic and hard to understand, but it wasn’t necessary to begin from a position of self/other accusation. Believe it or not, that was liberating at the time. At the same time, Prozac arrived on the scene and the fantasy emerged that common ordinary unhappiness could be treated with a drug. That was a shared societal delusion, but it was pretty exciting at the time.

    I’m not sure what I’m trying to say… Maybe just offering some historical context for the serious problems we face today. I witnessed a change in tide once long ago, and I’m convinced that it will change again soon.

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    • I think this is really interesting, Alice, the idea that people celebrated that what they were experiencing was an illness, so “thank God, it’s not our fault and we don’t have to blame anyone. No one did anything wrong, whew!”

      I think that communicates interesting things about our society. Mainly, what I see is that we really hate not being perfect and making mistakes, don’t we? To the point that we can, literally, ‘drive ourselves crazy’ over that.

      Guilt is such a powerful emotion, although personally, I don’t feel it is natural. I think it comes from self-judgment, because we are taught that we need to be perfect, and to be perfect for others, or we will suffer consequences. I think a lot of families and teachers give this message, one way or another, and we can easily internalize that, and we end up with a committee of critics in our heads watching and judging everything we do. That’s incredibly burdensome and stifling, and can lead to terrible anxiety, depression, feeling double bound, etc.

      There are so many ways in which we drive each other to the brink, don’t you think?

      So maybe now it’s time for yet another evolution in thinking, the way you describe above. Perhaps it’s not an ‘illness’ after all, and maybe it’s no one person’s fault.

      But perhaps, generation after generation, we have created such a society, a “social system”–as you and both describe to be toxic–that actually breeds mental illness, simply from the accepted dynamics of the norm. Perhaps it is time to shift our perspective into something that we hadn’t thought of before. After all, there are always new things to discover. And if ever we needed to discover something new about our mental health and well-bring and emotional balance, it is now, because we are in an emergency situation around this. It is exploding.

      Alice, I so appreciate that you have kept coming back to this. I have to say, even though we have disagreed on a few things, we also have overlap in perspective, I see this. I think you have shown great courage, trust, and fortitude to have so thoughtfully fostered an open dialogue here. Nice job! Personally, I feel as though I, myself, have moved forward quite a bit since we’ve started this discussion. Thank you.

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    • “got the idea of creating a “hospital at home” from Jessica Arenella, President of ISPS-US. When our patients are in an extreme state, we make sure they’re safe at home, see or call them once or several times a day, help them and their families understand what’s happening, and offer meds and/or healing techniques of various kinds. It works very well, especially for people who have had mixed or bad experiences with hospitals in the past.”

      There are many people in extreme states without homes. Families will tell you as they have told me many times that their loved ones in extreme states threaten them, isolate in their rooms and refuse to communicate and the family is traumatized and helpless.

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  36. Alex ,
    When you speak from out of your psych survivor lived experience as well as out of the epiphanies that come to one who bravely seeks the truth wherever it may take them to come out the other end of severe oppression with so many gifts for other human beings and having the understanding that more helpful options are available then many are able to presently understand the importance of , like energy healing for example while it is a source of constant joy to find yourself to have become a wounded healer how can insights of such importance be shared , experienced , and learned by so many impoverished and oppressed by psychiatry ? Or even by unempoverished educated self assured professionals ? As an energy healer myself I know that even a 5 year old could become an energy healer and I hope the day will come soon when energy healing is taught even in grammar schools everywhere. Thank you for your from the heart efforts . You are an inspiration for all that hear you .
    In solidarity ,

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    • Thanks, Fred. And I agree, being a ‘healer’ is in everyone, and we do it without thinking. Once we start ‘thinking’ about it, we shift out of healing mode. We are all, inherently, self-healers, and we can have a healing presence for others, if and when we choose to do so.

      Healing is about heart, truth, and light, which we possess naturally, we are born with it. Then what happens? In general, we are taught to suppress our light and truth from the get go, and do what we are told to do that would take care of others, rather than to follow our natural tendencies to grow ourselves, explore our humanity, and experiment with our creativity. That’s how people get sick, depressed, anxious, resentful, dependent, shut down, etc.

      I’ve also found that not only is about healing, but it is about transforming our consciousness. When we get that we are vibrational beings who put out a frequency like a radio antenna, and that that frequency–which we can alter at will when we understand how we operate as ‘energy’–is the basis for each of our personal realities, then we are awake to our own power as the creators of our own reality, from the inside out. When we get this, we can influence change in the best way possible, from our integrity. Walking our talk is vital in order to have a healing presence and effect on the world around us. Otherwise–well, you see what happens when a society is created from and based on deceit, illusion, and force. It’s not pretty, and in fact, terribly harmful for all concerned.

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      • One thing I would add here, though, is that there are rites of passage to go through in order to be awake in our society–mainly, one has to really allow themselves to submerge into shadow, which usually happens as a result of trauma, that cracks the egg.

        As we follow that process, as scary, lonely, loopy, uncertain, messy, confusing, chaotic, and temporarily debilitating as that might be, we are fortifying our heartfelt faith and trust in our spirit, and connecting to our inner voice and guidance.

        Eventually we find the way out, from dark to light (this whole process can take years), and as we emerge from that phase of our lives, we have so much new awareness of ourselves, that we are in tune with the universe, at large. That’s when we can relax, heal fully and completely, and be free from the past. This is pure present time awareness and living, which is where our power resides.

        That’s what I mean by ‘transforming consciousness.’ That’s an integrated reality, which is a different energy (vibrational frequency, as in different colors) than before we go through this in order to heal and align all aspects of ourselves, into an integrated whole being in full consciousness. That’s a truly awesome shift in perspective and life experience, changes everything for the way better.

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        • One last word on healing for today–

          It’s imperative to know that all wounds can heal. What undermines healing more than anything is our belief that we cannot heal.

          The fact that so many around here believe in “permanent damage” is a problem for me because that belief alone will sabotage healing as it is occurring, so it’s a constant hamster wheel, eventually downward spiraling. That is a negative and self-defeating belief which impacts everything inside and outside of us, it becomes our reality that everything is about trauma and personal damage.

          In turn, this belief makes us feel chronically anxious, despondent, enraged, and hopelessly frustrated, and it creates a reality, through this filtered perception, that supports these heavy and negative feelings–hence, a perpetually negative reality and life experience.

          At many points in our lives, we are given plenty of opportunities to totally let go of the past and move forward integrated and unfettered, totally aligned with our personal power, through our healed hearts.

          Our wounds have guided us on this path, to our healing and spirit alignment; it’s all part of our evolutionary process. Denying healing is denying ourselves of ever reaching our universally inherent potential for inner peace and joyous living.

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          • Sa, I totally empathize with what you’re saying. I don’t know how many times I thought I was kidding myself, it just seemed to be one thing after another, a bottomless well of anxiety and issues. My perpetual question became: where is my power here?

            Then, lo and behold, that feeling would pass, and the path would light up again. Those little moments of insight, clarity and relief as we go along are worth a lot, I think, each time reminding us of our power to heal.

            Frank, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Fictitious wounds?

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          • We’d better not go there, Alex. Speaking of the power to heal is about as absurd as speaking about the power not to heal. I’m only saying there’s a lot of rubbish in psychology, some people use the word psychobabble, there just isn’t a lot of separating the rubbish from fact. Fact as in non-fiction.

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          • That sounds so incredibly defeatist, Frank, feels so constricting to even read your thoughts. But of course you are certainly entitled to believe what you believe, the way I’m entitled to my beliefs. We do disagree and overall, our beliefs are not compatible. Although, I’m no fan of psychology, either, not in the slightest.

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          • Plus, it does take tremendous power to not heal. Healing is natural and inevitable if we allow it; and when it does not happen, that is someone using their power of resistance and negativity to stop healing and change from occurring. That’s a lot of power.

            We have tremendous power as humans, although some people are stuck in feelings of powerlessness. This is where healing can be extremely powerful.

            But of course, we can choose how we use our power: to heal and grow, or to stay stuck and bitter. That’s ALWAYS a choice.

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  37. Alex,

    With all due respect, I have to agree with Frank and no, I am not a defeatist person. Because if I was, I wouldn’t have been able to be able to drive when someone with my deficits supposedly didn’t have the ability to do so.

    However, having a positive attitude has not enabled me to be able to parallel park. By the way, I had trouble explaining that to someone who annoyingly invoked the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’ I wanted to slap her for that. 🙂

    All jokes aside, when I foolishly thought I could parallel park, I wasted alot of time and energy trying to park the car when I could have used it to simply find a better space and walk a few blocks. Just not worth the hassle.

    On a more serious note, psych med withdrawal has been very debilitating for many people. Kind of hard to be positive when you’re functioning at a very minimal level and wonder how the heck you are going to make it through a day.

    I know someone who is suffering with horrific withdrawal symptoms and it would be an extreme insult for me to tell this person that healing will happen if he/she lets it. Kind of like telling a blind person that they can read a book with a positive attitude.

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    • AA, I’m grateful for your response, thank you. I appreciate your truth, as I appreciate everyone’s truth. I just don’t always agree with it.

      However, that’s not the case here, I agree with just about everything you’ve said. Although I do believe you are not understanding me, so I’ll expound a bit, hopefully for clarity.

      I’m not talking about having ‘a positive attitude,’ I’m talking about how our beliefs affect outcome. That’s actually where we find our power, and that is a process of discovery. I don’t think it’s either natural or human to ALWAYS have a positive attitude, but we can certainly notice when we do and when we don’t, and how we feel and what happens around us when we do and when we don’t. I think that’s self-evident, if you practice this discernment consciously for a while. Then, we make a well-informed choose. I do believe we can choose what attitudes and beliefs to carry around with us.

      We have the freedom to choose whatever we want to believe about anything—positive or negative–and in addition, beliefs are malleable, we can change them when we experience and learn new things.

      No one can know another’s truth by simply observing, you actually have to communicate with a person and be open to what they have to say, and be willing to respond in kind. At least, that’s the way I see it, to me that is an open dialogue. I even asked Frank what he meant by something that confused me, and he said let’s not go there. Ok, but I still have no idea what he is talking about, so how could we possibly communicate further? I feel powerless in that situation, so I express my truth in response and I move on. What else to do?

      I’m certainly not going to become frustrated over that, that would be a waste of my energy; or insist, that would be a violation of Frank’s boundaries to my mind. I like to respect personally boundaries when I feel that’s what is being communicated, and in this case, it was unmistakable.

      “…having a positive attitude has not enabled me to be able to parallel park. By the way, I had trouble explaining that to someone who annoyingly invoked the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’ I wanted to slap her for that.”

      So would I, that’s not terribly sensitive nor helpful, kind of flip and obnoxious in fact.

      “All jokes aside, when I foolishly thought I could parallel park, I wasted a lot of time and energy trying to park the car when I could have used it to simply find a better space and walk a few blocks. Just not worth the hassle.”

      This is a perfect example of having choices—you can either stay frustrated, or free yourself in the moment. Sound like you got a little exercise in the process.

      “On a more serious note, psych med withdrawal has been very debilitating for many people. Kind of hard to be positive when you’re functioning at a very minimal level and wonder how the heck you are going to make it through a day.”

      Well, not sure what you know about me, although I’ve been on my sleeve on MIA for over four years now. I’ve told my story quite a bit, and I’ve been there, done it. I tapered from 9 meds after 20 years of one or more things or another. I had a helluva time of it, as others here describe. What I talk about is purely based on my experience, which was profound, and personal.

      That’s fine if you didn’t know this, but please do know now that I know of what you speak, from my own personal experience, trust me on this. I worked extremely and ruggedly hard to heal from all that, and I did, ok? My partner and my healers and a few others were right here along with me, witnessing in awe as I tumbled and swirled through a spectacular transformation. I was DETERMINED to heal, against all odds it seemed, and I do mean that; and my healing is real and valid. I don’t entertain any argument about that. That’s why they call it “the courage to heal.”

      “I know someone who is suffering with horrific withdrawal symptoms and it would be an extreme insult for me to tell this person that healing will happen if he/she lets it. Kind of like telling a blind person that they can read a book with a positive attitude.”

      What we communicate to others in a healing situation is a matter of timing and context. I don’t think it would be an insult, as it is truth and it is also where we actually have power and control over the situation, so to me, personally, that is fantastic news, and I’d deliver as such, that is a dialogue to happen, part of the healing process. But oh how I wish someone had communicated this truth to me at that time! Eventually, someone did, and it changed my life.

      But I do feel it could be without empathy and extremely irritating if ill-timed and spoken as if someone were doing something wrong. It’s a matter of growing in awareness.

      Aside from myself at one bleak point in time, I’ve known a lot of people who fit what you describe. They’ve been my clients. I’ve helped a lot of people, and still am. It’s my job and I’ve been doing it for over 10 years, learning as I go, always evolving as a healer and teacher.

      That’s not the case, here, though, I’m here as an activist, just like everyone else, equally. And my activism is around healing, I think that is completely relevant and sound. We’re talking about healing ourselves, and we’re talking about healing society.

      I know some people talk more about destruction, but I’m not in that camp any longer. I raged to that extent in the past, but I’m over it. I can still get angry thinking about these bozos and what they’re doing to people, but I’ve been vindicated. I’m all about healing now because what happened with me was that as I healed and spoke my truth, the right structures crumbled behind me, seriously! That’s another story, though.

      My main point is please do not reduce me to such black & white thinking such as ‘positive thinking.’ In a way, there is something to it, but isolated like that it sounds idiotic, and it’s neither accurate nor reflective to my way of thinking, per se. Living, creating, manifesting, healing, etc., is a bit more complex than that. Although not nearly as complicated as some would make it out to be.

      All good stuff, AA, thanks for your comment.

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      • Actually….

        Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.

        Certainly, perhaps, if not always true, often so.

        I see people not recovering, and that’s hardly surprising, as far as I’m concerned, because they have so many excuses for no doing so. Why are some people not resilient? In some instances because you’ve got a system that supports dependency more than self-reliance. My thoughts, anyway. In that regard, I’d like to see some changes.

        Not being able to parallel park though I’d consider the most minor of disabilities. Hardly a worth mentioning disability at all. Certainly a matter most people, who may have witnessed parallel parking problems at one time or another, should be able to understand. One might, after all, still accuse the person who couldn’t parallel park of “normality”, but that is that.

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  38. Frank,

    You missed my points. I used the example of parallel parking as a light hearted example to show that having a positive attitude is not the issue to all problems.

    The person I talked about who is having difficulty recovering isn’t failing to do so because of lack of resiliency. She/he probably wishes that were the case because the problem would be solved.

    I think it is very insulting without knowing someone’s situation to infer negative connotations.

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    • We can shift our perspective about ANYTHING. That’s what solves all problems, eventually. At least, it’s how one gets unstuck and finally pointed in the right direction.

      Often, there is nothing more to do than just that, shift how we perceive something, and feel the difference. Some problems turn out to not be so much a problem as it is a gift. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes we need to apply a little extra elbow grease to our healing, and allow our creativity guide us. Each of us is an original, no copies.

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      • This is a very profound and for me, timely discussion, that I have framed as, *the power of one’s beliefs*. I was engaged in another attempt to shift the beliefs of a dear friend suffering from both chronic debilitating physiological (diagnosed with lab tests variety) and emotional/mental duress– ( been at this heart wrenching project for the past 20 years)–

        Alex, Frank, AA,

        Each of your perspectives resonates with distinctly separate aspects of my consciousness and bears out in many experiences I have had with challenging the daunting task of *changing minds*–

        Today, based on what you three have shared here, I had a totally new insight. Teaching anyone who is stuck or just accepting their *human limitations* and resigning themselves to less than an ideal vision of their own well being; teaching the message Alex shares and I, too know to be the case. Yes, I will claim that his conviction regarding the possibility of healing from any and all wounds is simply the truth. And, I , could, support this conviction with both personal and professional experience– but I won’t do that, because I already know that as powerful as words can be, they don’t cut it when it comes to describing one’s awakening to an inherent, universal truth.

        It is only when somehow, the other becomes open to and then experiences this phenomenon that the lesson makes sense. And that, in my experience has always required life-to-life, real time connection, and my expending maximum energy to live the lesson– or rather, to maintain my own conviction no matter the opposition. It also requires skill in more than one area of energy healing– the actual thing that the other will benefit from most, or most readily and can use to further advance their own awakening.

        My new insight from your dialogue is this : Words are indeed powerful, vital and rich. Concepts or schemas are subjectively assigned value, and therefore, no matter the words , their intent, or even the validity one can show for speaking them, they all are subjected to the filter of the one hearing, or reading them. Ultimately it is our beliefs that shape our consciousness. Our conscious awareness is only directly altered by our inner voice– no other voice has power over it . A good example here would be the futility of convincing someone that their inner experience is invalid using logical discourse. Both sides of the psychiatric survivor issues prove this–A survivor could not be swayed from their own narrative, nor could *most* MH professionals yield to the veracity of that experience– by words alone.

        While most participating as commenters here already know this much about the power of their own *minds*, I think that is not a sufficient spring board for all to mindfully shift their beliefs as radically as Alex has shared via his story.

        But, I wonder if the preliminary impetus for becoming open, can be described in words? or rather, if there is a discourse on a method for a dramatic shift in consciousness?

        Just saying beliefs are powerful, for example, is a belief. Believing that beliefs, themselves, are very & critically powerful is dependent on our subjectively driven consciousness. So, this is not a concept that transfers just because it is made as a statement of *absolute truth*. Words, after all , aren’t that powerful (thank goodness!)

        IF Alex or I were to say that awakening to, experiencing, then generating one’s inherent power to heal from all wounds, indeed to recover with more robust health than previously possible to even imagine; if WE said this was a matter of *mind over matter*– think and it shall be, what follows is the dialectic– or argument focused on the weakness of the premise. But, WE aren’t saying it is just a matter of believing what we say, or even believing our experiences– shared with our words., but that it is a potential that anyone can *awaken to*–

        Now, for the impetus– described in words, for a shift toward openness– . A Purely subjective assignment. Research conducted within one’s own inner library or data bank. Search for an experience, a memory of an experience, to be more precise, where you realized that the difference between what may have happened and what did happen was more closely aligned with what you believed at the time, than what you found out later to be the case. Doesn’t matter why you believed whatever you did, or if it even made sense after really thinking about it– what matters is that you open a storehouse of experiences with the power of your conscious mind as a stronger influence than any other entity.

        There is not one particular healing method to push or propagate– as it is always the case that when one becomes open to the power of their own consciousness, he/she invariably arouses a seeking spirit toward a teacher, healer, guide– and discovers the best fit.

        It is not knowing, in the sense of agreeing with a concept that is crucial to healing fundamentally, but the experience of feeling, sensing one’s own power that is both an awakening and the first step of what may well be a 1,000 mile journey –. Once awakened you make the journey that is uniquely yours, without judgment, because of the experience of the power of it being only yours. What a rush !

        For anyone who likes the concept of individual healing — or rather , anyone who is still idealistic enough to believe that only when one is truly seen as a unique individual can he obtain the specific stuff he needs–It doesn’t get any more *indivdual* than this.

        I decided to share– with gratitude for getting a fresh perspective on a very difficult personal dilemma. Another unexpected gift for checking in on MIA talk–

        Thanks again:-)

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        • This is so powerful, Katie, it’s gratifying to know the profound value of this dialogue for you. Thank you for sharing.

          “It is only when somehow, the other becomes open to and then experiences this phenomenon that the lesson makes sense. And that, in my experience has always required life-to-life, real time connection, and my expending maximum energy to live the lesson– or rather, to maintain my own conviction no matter the opposition. It also requires skill in more than one area of energy healing– the actual thing that the other will benefit from most, or most readily and can use to further advance their own awakening.”

          So, so true. Conscious growth and evolution must be practiced with authentic intention and openness. It’s not easy for many, given our habits of belief and mistrust generated by a traumatic society. This is what I feel is being rectified. Heal the trauma, new beliefs emerge. There are teachers to help, until one gets it, then they’re on their path, awakened, whole, and self-reliant. Eventually, there is inner peace, but that takes time and practice, too.

          Life is a never-ending growth and learning process. I think the trick is to make it at least interesting, and fun when possible. And while I respect anyone’s personal choice, to go through life closed up, rigid, defensive, and angry does not sound like fun to me at all. That’s the ‘wounding’ to which I referred previously.

          “But, I wonder if the preliminary impetus for becoming open, can be described in words? or rather, if there is a discourse on a method for a dramatic shift in consciousness?”

          I think when we are our authentic selves and speak from our hearts, we witness present time truth, and this feels different than dry, emotionless discourse. This is the heart of humanity, our emotional selves, for all to witness.

          Other than that, we just have to learn to observe ourselves and our life experiences through the lens of neutral self-compassion, and when we do, we awaken.

          When we feel compassion rather than judgment, it is a totally different feeling in the body, more open, relaxed and loving, than when we feel judgmental, which is a dense and constricting feeling. Already, these are two different experiences in life based on perspective, and I do believe that will extend to our life experience, in general—one that feels good and one that feels bad, it’s a choice.

          “It is not knowing, in the sense of agreeing with a concept that is crucial to healing fundamentally, but the experience of feeling, sensing one’s own power that is both an awakening and the first step of what may well be a 1,000 mile journey –. Once awakened you make the journey that is uniquely yours, without judgment, because of the experience of the power of it being only yours. What a rush !”

          Indeed, what a rush!! I love taking this journey, even though sometimes it’s a total pain in the ass. Well, that’s life!

          Thanks as always for your brilliance and generosity, Katie 🙂

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    • AA,

      Just because the answer or solution has not yet appeared, does not mean it is not forthcoming.

      Have you ever taken a road trip with children ? The age and previous experience of a child makes all the difference in terms of how he perceives the answer to his frequent question: “Are we there yet?” It is the really young child who is new to traveling by car for a long distance to a new destination, who will take a “No, not yet” answer to mean “We’re never going to get there.” It isn’t so much a matter of the child seeking instant gratification as it is a matter of perception; that what is happening in this moment is everything. Experience over time shifts this perception dramatically.

      Continuing with this analogy, the challenge of taking a road trip with young children is about being prepared with various items and activities that will comfort or distract them. – otherwise, be prepared to suffer with an anxious, frustrated kid, who finds no solace in your promise that, “we will be there soon”.

      I compare this pretty generic experience with the tasks at hand whenever we or someone close to us is negotiating new, difficult circumstances while in a weakened condition made weaker by circumstances beyond our control. Just talking about basic fear of the unknown combined with skill set deficits– is enough to set us up to defeat ourselves.

      We don’t outgrow a basic tendency to *believe* that painful, uncomfortable moments are a life sentence to suffer–unjustly, I might add, since we cannot perceive ourselves as the cause for our suffering, much less the solution. But we can learn skills to distract and comfort ourselves and others, which does provide a moment to moment solution and a shift toward a positive attitude. For how long? As long as it takes to reach the destination.

      There is a guy in Alex’s film “Voices That Heal” who shares a strategy pertinent to the problem you shared with regard to your friend, whom you say is “having difficulty recovering”. He says that he employs *good acting to improve his thinking* and *good thinking to improve his acting*– both are skill sets in process, not a finished product or an instant solution. I could readily relate to this as a nurse who has been challenged by the aggravating barriers to healing that are designed into a locked ward. What I chose to do to alleviate a patient’s suffering and how I thought about my role in providing comfort were constantly evolving. Over time, I became confident enough in my role to appreciate almost immediate shifts in attitude from people who had been ignored, neglected — to the point of “acting out”. These were the people most likely assigned to me where I last worked as a nurse on a locked ward.

      One such *patient* who was reported by the nurse from the previous shift as being “drug seeking, hostile, disruptive– and delusional, demanding, grandiose–etc.” was a young woman who had suffered extensive injuries to both of her feet and ankles, following a *suspicious* jump from a two story window.(several months prior to this admission). There was a lot of gossip about the incident, and hostility from the clinical staff who had expected this young woman to confide the details to them. In addition to being diagnosed for having completely human responses to being homeless, estranged from family and receiving very substandard medical care for her injuries, which was explained as “necessary” because she was an “addict” and prone to becoming dependent on the medical *system*, she was very upset about being locked up against her will and treated “like an animal”.

      Before introducing myself to her, I already knew that she had received motrin for pain within the past hour, and that the treatment team had determined her story about prescription narcotic pain medication was a lie.( plus her urine to screen was not positive for opioids , which she had claimed she took daily) They had informed her she would not be given anything stronger than motrin on the unit. So, I was expecting all of the anger and outrage she expressed to me– which was the answer to my asking how she was feeling. I didn’t engage her at all around the treatment team’s rationale, or the policies around prescribing for people with “a history of substance abuse”. I needed to distract myself from outrage I felt over the way she was talked about and treated– so, I told her that I had some amazing foot soak stuff– aromatherapy foot bath, and would she like a Reiki treatment, too? I had received level I and II atonement at that time. She knew about Reiki, and was curious how it worked. We set up her foot bath/soak in the TV room, where I also gave her Reiki, placing my hands over her feet and ankles for about 30 minutes. We were joined by a few other patients, who put in a DVD. It was a transformative experience– actions ( care, comfort, conversation) transforming thinking. Thinking (doing something is better than comlaining about nothing being done), transforming attitudes– ( life to life connections are therapeutic) of everyone on the unit, except for the other two nurses on duty, who mostly hung out in the nurse’s station anyway– .

      I had a few more opportunities to comfort and distract this young woman before she was discharged to the home of a relative who was excited about her *new* interest in Reiki and alternative therapies, as she ( the relative) was about to graduate from a massage therapy program. Actually this had been the reason my *patient* called this particular relative , whom she now saw an an ally and valuable resource for her healing.

      The positive shift in perception and attitude persisted even though the nurses who had done little more than power struggle with her over pain meds , “labeled” my intervention as “feeding into her grandiose delusions and reinforcing her attention seeking behaviors”.

      The moral of the story is that the truth wins out, over whatever perceptions anyone else chooses to honor. Doing something that comforts and/or distracts us from anxiety and frustration , anger and outrage, shifts our thinking automatically and a positive attitude becomes a spring board for answers, solutions and resolutions, naturally, though clearly not effortlessly.

      Though you may not perceive it this way, I am sure that your concern and presence is having a positive effect on your friend ‘s recovery/healing– even if she/he does not articulate this or appear to be improving–yet.

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    • First of all, I never, ever said that withdrawal issues are ‘so easy to overcome,’ in fact just above I said the opposite, that it was hard and rugged work. It took years to complete this process, and with a lot of different components. What I say is that it is doable, where others claim they feel defeated. My intention is to encourage, not to insult.

      AA, I don’t know why I have to keep explaining myself, you are turning around everything I’m saying in what I thought was plain and simple English. I’m curious about this gap in communication.

      Second of all, I don’t go to groups and say, “Hey, I can save you!” That would be arrogant and presumptuous on my part. I don’t even advertise, people know me word-of-mouth. This is the only website on which I post, I’m not even on Facebook, I’m not really a fan of social media.

      If you want to send anyone over for a free consultation, be my guest:

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  39. It’s very interesting to me that having spoken on this thread there are at least 3 different approaches to energy healing represented. I studied and learned from Kam Yuen .
    Just a small explanation of it that pertains to the conversation. A person at a subconscious level knows everything about themselves . For example at a conscious level they may clearly verbalize that they would like to stop smoking . At a subconscious level they may really enjoy smoking .If a person wants to accomplish something and succeed the subconscious must support what the conscious is trying to accomplish .This type of energy practitioner can practice on themselves or another with a clients permission pertaining to the issue articulated, it simply silently removes blockages as needed as if a light switch has been turned on. The work can cover any combination of 6 different levels spiritual, psychic, psychological ,mental, emotional , and physical. It can strengthen or weaken to the clients benefit for example someone strongly depressed may want the depression to be weakened while a someone with a weak grip may want it strengthened. It is a constantly evolving system for each practitioner. Its a system well worth learning even if only for oneself. You can see more at Kam’s website written above. Thank You

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  40. Alex,
    You write: “It is imperative to know all wounds can heal. What undermines healing more than anything is our belief that we cannot heal.”
    I am assuming you are referring to “psychic wounds”, to wounds resulting from abuse or trauma or neglect or rejection or violence?
    There are, however, those who do suffer “permanent damage” and it isn’t just “believing” this damage exists that makes it so.
    This, of course, refers to the permanent wounds and injuries experienced by people who have fallen into the clutches of psychiatry, perhaps after the initial treatment by a clueless GP for insomnia or mild anxiety spirals said formerly “well” person into a state of mania or psychosis or suicidal thinking or severe depression which in turn leads to frantic knee jerk poly pharmacy, more rapid deterioration with labels of “treatment resistant depression” or “severe bipolar” which ends in “treatment” with ECT or neuroleptics. Which results in severe “mental” damage.

    The brain damage that results is often profound and is added to the trauma of a sudden sick role, and often, the discovery or realization one has been poisoned and shocked by lunatics with no idea about healing anything. The people with the brain injuries and the psychiatric disturbances springing from those injuries are not going to “recover” from the Parkinson’s symptoms, dystonias, tardive dyskinesia. The ECT induced amnesia, decimated IQ, personality changes, lost skill sets, epileptic fits, loss of intellect, ability to build new memories or to learn are not “wounds” that can be healed. This has become biological, chemical, physical, and neurological injury.
    The “psychiatric” or “emotional” problems of people resulting from TBI’s of ECT or severe drug damage to the brain are not about “insight”, “spiritual awakening”, “healing one’s heart”. That hyper smart little kid dosed with Ritalin and made “bipolar” is possibly without trauma or issues or in need of “talk therapy”. What is to be done with his young brain whose structure and architecture was profoundly damaged, now that he HAS the injuries or “imbalance” created? What profound good or insight or epiphany or healing springs from these wounds and injuries that have, for many, become permanent?
    What is the solution here? Think positive? Learn to be the best brain injured “patient” with iatrogenically created “mental illness” that you can be? Come to “terms” with never being the person you were? Live your newly created terror-laden, shattered life, in and out of hospitals, with the final acknowledgment that there is no return to self. Accept the loss of your 30 year career, the ignorance of the family that says, but the “doctors” said you “needed” drugs and ECT, bc you got “sick”, accept their anger at you for not “getting better” for all that help?
    Psychiatry is an evil poisonous toad. It causes monstrous harm and its success rate is probably a possible 5%, in patients who were likely not too ill, could withstand drug treatment, or recovered spontaneously while coincidentally seeing one of these “doctors”.
    The reference to interviewing those who “feel” or “say” they were “helped” or “benefitted”? Is this the “spellbinding” Breggin refers to? Would their relatives see this benefit? Could the apathy and numbing they feel be seen as helpful while it robs them of physical health, memories, connections, things they are blind to?

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    • Thanks for the reflections, truth.

      Our perception, perspective, beliefs, and reality changes significantly when we heal our psychic, heart, and spirit wounds. Healing happens in layers, it’s not overnight and when it is the kind of multiple psychic and physical trauma you talk about, it is complex healing.

      But it begins with the heart. Once we recognize the role of the heart in healing, then we can heal ourselves from anything. I firmly believe this.

      I experienced a lot of what you describe in my lived experience with multiple psych drugs and subsequent withdrawal. I was on a variety of things–neuroleptics, benzos, ssri, etc–for 20 years, ending with 9 that last year, before my system totally crashed from it all. I had all sorts of things going on with my body that I thought were permanent damage, including my brain and also my liver. I worried about my kidneys, too, because I’d been on Lithium for years, and all my panels were off. By the time I got off all medications, I could hardly speak and I had some involuntary movements that really worried me. Aside from that, a tremendous amount of physical and mental pain.

      I’ve never been one to throw in the towel, so I bit the bullet and looked for healing in every corner of my world, until I found what I needed. I rejected NOTHING that came my way, because I believed that if I persevered, I would heal fully and completely. Not that I didn’t go into doubt and desperation about a million times a week, but I’d keep going, regardless. Eventually, I found the exact right combo of everything I needed, and I’m 100%. Been healthy and grounded for years now.

      Maybe it’s just me, that’s been suggested to me. Wow, that makes me feel special. But I don’t think I’m special in the slightest, I believe everyone can access their healing–but if and only if they get over resentment, and start looking for what they need in present time, to move forward. Looking back only turns you into a pillar of salt! Look ahead, instead, and with hope. That’s a good place to start.

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  41. Yes, I believe it is possible for some people to recover from the wounds inflicted by trauma and the damage caused by multiple toxic psychiatric drugs, even when they are ingested for 20 years. Kidneys recover, tremors resolve, livers regenerate, mild involuntary movements may lessen to some degree. But not always. The body can compensate. Sometimes, based on the physical or psychological resiliency of the individual, and perhaps a less chronic poisoning, people can work to recover their mental and physical health.
    Realistically, other victims of psychiatry are just permanently disabled or die, without ever achieving the recovery they fought to achieve, no matter what resources and healing they pursued, no matter how much elbow grease they applied. No amount of therapy, peer support, energy healing, nutrients, sunshine, love, etc. “worked”.
    And, even under a prolonged chemical assault one still remains ones self, even if blunted and zombified in a chemical straight jacket. However, as new studies show brain shrinkage and atrophy from long term neuroleptic use, how does that damage “heal”?

    And, when the assault is ECT induced, the brain injury is extensive and profound and permanent, the disability for keeps. The “disconnectivity” between the frontal lobes and the rest of the brain is forever. The person is never the same again. The self is shredded. The person they were is not hiding, waiting to blossom or bounce back. That person is not going to “recover”. The cells are dead, not temporarily stunned. There is no return from this kind of destruction of the self, of personality. Chemical “lobotomies” may be reversible for the most part; the straight jacket removed when the drugs stop bathing the delicate brain. Electrical lobotomies from ECT do not “heal”.
    I read about people struggling with symptoms of withdrawal. I would take the physical symptoms gladly. They seem so much more bearable when compared to the symptoms of profound anxiety, dread, agitation, and any other terrifying manifestation of these.

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    • We each choose what we believe, and from that, we create our reality. And you can choose whether or not to believe that. Under any circumstances, I always choose hope over defeatism, and I always see the light in any situation, and I go with that. But that is my choice, yours might be a different choice, what you choose to believe and where you choose to focus. Reality has various perspectives, aspects, dimensions, and layers. We have free will of choice when it comes to what where we focus, and what we believe and perceive to be truth vs illusion.

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      • In reality, I don’t believe any can make a generalization about this, because we each live our own beliefs and reality. So, for me, everything and anything can heal, because that is what I believe and what I know. My life experiences and how I have integrated them so far has led me to this belief about myself, so that will be my reality.

        What happens in the future is unknown, and I believe I can influence it, with my own personal power. I believe everyone has personal power, and we choose how to focus and use it. Some people use their power to create, and some use it to sabotage. Some use their power to create negativity, and some use it to create positive, life-affirming realities, beliefs, and feelings. We each choose how we focus our power. And if we believe we have no power, then so it is.

        Can you perceive your power, at all? If you can, then you can choose how you want to use it–to create and affirm healing, or to sabotage and deny it? It is a choice we all make, at least that is what I believe, and with certainty, I choose to create and affirm healing–and life–every time.

        Even what we call ‘death’ (which I believe is simply a transition into another state of being) is an affirmation of life. That, we can generalize. I do believe every single one of us makes that transition at one time or another, don’t you?

        How we experience that, however, is a choice, based on what we believe. How we experience anything is a choice, based on what we believe.

        If you don’t believe me, then ask yourself what you believe, and see if you have any other choices, perhaps something that might feel better in present time. That is how we have the power to alleviate our own suffering.

        Is ‘death’ something to fear? Or celebrate, like a graduation? Your choice, based on your beliefs, and what you believe about death and transition will affect how you feel now, in present time.

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        • As a chaplain working in a Catholic hospital I moved among a number of sisters, or what most people call nuns. One of them once told me that sometimes death is healing. At first I thought she was awful for saying something like this but over time have come to believe that she was absolutely correct. Sometimes death is healing. You only have to work in the intensive care units of hospitals to come to understand and believe what the sister was trying to get across to me.

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          • It’s quite powerful how we can consider different perspectives in order to give reality meaning and purpose, regardless of the circumstances. I’m sure there are perspectives we have yet to consider, since we can never know absolutely everything.

            The journey of life is about learning and growing as we have our life experience. Hopefully, we can find some joy in the process. Otherwise, it is a rather painful journey, guaranteed.

            When we lose all sense of joy, we still have choices on how to address this, if at all. For me, that would be devastating, as it once was. But it was not permanent. That’s the best thing I can think of to say, here.

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          • Been sitting with this and thinking that ‘death’ is, perhaps, always healing. After all, we leave our bodies and become pure spirit. No burdens, illness, or worries, just awareness and light. Of course, it all depends on what one chooses to believe.

            But the idea that we simply are born, live, and die feels treacherous and meaningless to me. I believe we are on a journey of the soul, of which this lifetime is a very tiny fraction, although fraught with opportunities to learn, grow, create, and have some fun.

            In that perspective of our process, we stumble upon our soul purpose in this lifetime, and that’s where we find freedom, clarity, and relief. We also find where we resonate with others.

            So we can either wait until we transition out of our bodies to fine this freedom and relief, or we can own our soul journey, and find freedom and relief while we’re still alive in a body on the planet, and the clarity that goes with that. If we choose the latter, then our power of manifestation is unlimited, because it is from the heart, our integrity. Anything else is illusory and precarious.

            Awakening to our unlimited power of focus and belief is what the Shamanic journey is all about.

            Seems like a good note on which to end this very interesting week.

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