MIA Continuing Education: An Update

Robert Nikkel, MSW
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As I’ve told Bob Whitaker and many others, it’s taken me 45 years in my career to get to the point where I feel completely free to “do the right thing.”  By that I don’t mean to downplay the work I’ve done in the public mental health and addictions systems.  I’ve worked at virtually every level from psychiatric inpatient aide work to alcohol/drug counseling to clinical wok (mostly with young adults and adults), and many years in management and program development.  In partnership with many people, I think I got a lot of good things accomplished.

But now, the Mad in America Continuing Education project moves me in a more recovery-oriented direction than ever, and has a specific focus on the ways in which most programs have over-used psychiatric medications to the detriment of the people we are serving. Yet, rather than getting stuck in regrets about how I could have been a stronger advocate and force for change in the past, I’m charging ahead with developing the core catalog of continuing education courses at MIACE. We are also now planning a marketing campaign to make our courses better known to providers, administrators, and others involved in mental health.

Course update: Over the past two months, we have posted several new courses, including Irving Kirsch’s course on antidepressants and the placebo effect, and a two-part course by David Healy on the history of psychosis and a deconstruction of the infamous study 329, a pediatric trial of Paxil. We also have a new course, by Adam Urato, an assistant professor at Tufts Medical School, that presents a thorough review of what science is telling us about the risks of antidepressant use in pregnancy to the developing fetus and newborn child. I think every family doctor, ob-gyn, and psychiatrist in the country should view this course.

And we have other courses in development. We just taped Larry Davidson of Yale University for his course on recovery this week, and are moving forward with a course using a tape made in Copenhagen in September by Peter Gøtzsche on his review of the research on SSRIs and antipsychotics.  Chris Gordon of the University of Massachusetts and medical director of Advocates will be doing a 1 hour course on adapting  Open Dialog to the United States.  We have taped an initial module by Canadian researcher Bonnie Kaplan on nutrition and mental health.

Marketing MIACE

One of our key challenges is now to expand our audience for our courses beyond the 500-plus people who have already taken one or more of our courses. I’ve visualized our market as an inverted triangle. The smallest group of potential viewers of our courses are those who are already primed to learn about the real effects, short-term and long-term, of psychiatric medications.  This group is already convinced of the need to change medication practices, but is eager to know the research that supports this change.

The middle group in the triangle is composed of a larger group of people who, if they knew about us, would likely be interested in signing up for courses.  They are aware of some of the problems with psychiatric medications, but aren’t really familiar with the research literature that documents these problems. For example, primary care physicians are daily inundated with patients who are anxious and depressed, and the quickest way to treat these patients is to prescribe benzodiazepines and antidepressants.  But this treatment often doesn’t work very well, and integrated care systems are starting to wake up to the risks of such quick drug use. This is a group MIACE needs to reach, and I would welcome suggestions of how we can do so.

The largest group in this inverted triangle consists of the many, many health professionals who are unaware of the research telling of bias in clinical studies and the many problems with use of psychiatric drugs, particularly over the long term. How can we reach this group and introduce them to the science and evidence that demands that we rethink our societal use of these drugs? We have ideas, but once again, I would very much welcome your ideas.

I look forward to working with all of you and encourage each of you to sign up for one or more of our courses if you haven’t already.  Our webpage is: http://madinamericacontinuinged.org/

Feel free to contact me by email at [email protected].

5 COMMENTS

  1. Bob, These courses sound really excellent.

    I am a psychiatric survivor who writes about a non-medical approach to trauma ( the pseudo-illness “BPD”, i.e. borderline personality disorder).

    Let me give a few pieces of advice, that have helped me, on getting more people online to find these courses:

    – Make sure many related keywords are used in the description / tags so that people will find it in search engines.

    – Identify the communities or boards where the desired audience congregates and periodically announce the posting of a new free module on your site, with a brief description and link. Do this in a nonintrusive, positive, not-too frequent way. It is best if you do so as a participant who is involved with the group beyond just “soliciting” links, but this is not always possible and I find that if the link is relevant people tend to appreciate it even from a non-regular participant.

    – For my site, I found the following groups of survivors:

    http://www.psychforums.com/borderline-personality/

    http://forums.psychcentral.com/borderline-personality-disorder/

    http://www.crazyboards.org/forums/index.php?/forum/31-personality-disorders-fuck-off-no-wait-fuck-me-now/

    https://www.reddit.com/r/BPD/

    If you go on these boards, in some cases you can se what I’ve been doing recently. On these boards are coming thousands of people every month who usually only know the medical model understanding of BPD, but who often also want to see something different, which I try to offer in my posts.

    In your case, looking for professionals, you might look to places like Medscape and other forums where professionals get their news, looking for message boards or forums. You might also have a writer on PsychologyToday.com who does an occasional blog highlighting MIA education.

    Also, have a twitter posting and a Facebook page about these courses. If you don’t know how to do any of these things get someone to help you. All of these activities will raise their rankings in search engines.

    • Thank you very much for all these great suggestions. These are exactly the kind of ideas I was hoping would come along and you obviously have a lot of experience with implementing these. We have a board meeting coming up and I’m doing an immediate “cut and paste” of your comments so that we can consider them carefully and begin to implement some or all. Again, thank you very much, I appreciate your taking the time and sharing these.

  2. Thanks for the heads up on this Bob. Its timely for me, as I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how to get the word out to doctors and mental health professionals that I know. Although my professional experience is nowhere near as extensive as yours, as a retired school psychologist who became enlightened on these issues fairly late in my career, I share a number of the feelings you express, particularly about regrets versus moving forward to promote positive change. I am most concerned about making a dent in the “false knowlege” that abounds among mental health professionals. Are there posters and/or flyers that can be printed about these courses?

    • Dr. Russerford,

      I appreciate your comment and also appreciate your understanding of some of the regrets that some of us have. It’s good to know I’m not alone!

      We’re talking about a number of new marketing ideas at our next board meeting and I will add the suggestion/question about whether we have posters or flyers. The quick answer right now is that we don’t but it’s exactly the kind of thing we will be talking about.

      Thank you!