A New Year’s Letter to Our Readers: The Past, Present, and Future of MIA

Robert Whitaker
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The beginning of a New Year is always an occasion for looking back at past accomplishments (and failures), and to look ahead too, at what the New Year may bring. And as 2016 opens, it’s clear that MIA has reached a crossroads moment. We can look back and see many accomplishments, and we can look ahead and see many exciting opportunities. But we also have to confront a challenge: we need to figure out how to sustain our operations.

We started this webzine nearly five years ago, and as our mission statement declares, our goal was to create a forum—and a community—for “rethinking psychiatric care in the United States and abroad.” We do believe that we have created such a forum, one that is having an impact. We now get an average of 150,000 unique visitors each month, and our readers come from many countries. What we haven’t accomplished in these five years is generate the revenues needed to cover even our very limited expenditures.

We have, since our start, operated as a C corporation. We raised $120k from investors, but not with the thought that this would ever be a “profitable” operation. The hope was that, with this initial investment, we could build a readership and then figure out a way to generate the needed revenues. And even though we have operated on a shoestring (and in a way, as a quasi-volunteer organization), we have always operated at a loss.

In 2015, our revenues—once we have closed our books—will be about $45,000. Most of this came from reader donations. Unfortunately, our expenses for the year will be about $80,000, which means we will have spent $35,000 more than we took in. Our cash on hand at the end of 2015 is about $15,000, which means that at our current run rate, we have about five months of life left. (I have attached a link to our P&L statement for the first 11 months of 2015, and our balance sheet as of November 30, 2015.)

But we have plans, of course, for a very different future, one that will involve our expanding our activities, and in important ways.

This past summer, we applied to the IRS to convert to a non-profit. In November, the IRS granted Mad in American Foundation 501 (C) (3) status. As of January 1, 2016, we began operating as a non-profit. Any donations to Mad in America Foundation will be tax-deductible. As part of this conversion process, the remaining assets of Mad in America, Inc. will be transferred to the non-profit.

As a non-profit, we can now approach charitable organizations for support, both to sustain existing operations and to fund our new initiatives. At the same time, we will launch a fundraising campaign on January 15, asking our readers to provide the support we need to keep going. At that time, we will detail our plans for 2016, so please stay tuned.

We believe this is a time for great optimism about what MIA, operating as a non-profit, may accomplish in the coming year. We see this community as a grass-roots, collective effort for change. We thank all of you who have provided financial support to us in the past year, and look forward to your continuing support in 2016.

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Enjoyed what you just read? Consider a donation to help us continue to produce content, provide up-to-date research news, offer continuing education courses, and continue building a community for exploring alternatives to the current paradigm of mental health. All donations are tax deductible.

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31 COMMENTS

  1. I’m glad MiA is finally a non-profit. I’ll send a letter to our local Community Fund requesting a donation from our family trust, and hopefully they’ll be able to find others there who would also like to contribute. If you have any information you recommend I include, in my request, please have Emmaline email it to me. Thank you for all you have done, and do, Robert.

  2. A Message to My Fellow MadInAmerica Commenters: For all those who value MIA, I encourage you to sign up for a regular monthly contribution right now. (I just updated mine).

    A lot of people’s lives are positively impacted by the information on MIA and it is a cause to which it’s worth giving a small amount of our hard-earned money. After a while commenting here I came to feel I had an obligation to contribute something back; since I was getting a lot of value from the site. I hope others will come to feel the same way and more people will donate. If we make small sacrifices almost all of us can give something monthly via autopay. MIA is too important to let sink due to lack of funds.

    I also emailed Robert and volunteered my editorial services for free (there’s a reason B.A. comes after my name; I was an English major!). I encourage anyone who has technology or editorial skills to offer them as a volunteer service too. MIA probably doesn’t want an antipsychiatry commenter like me getting their hands anywhere near the steering wheel, but you never know 🙂

    As a fundraising idea, I suggested the idea of a http://www.kickstarter.com fundraiser for MIA once or twice a year targeted at specific budget needs. This could be in addition to the regular donations.

    Oh and also, if you have any local community philanthrophic/charity group that might contribute them, please try to get them to give something (I suggest to Robert and the MIA that perhaps a stock document stating MIA’s missions/what it delivers in value, usable as a presentation to potential donor entities, might be useful to have accessible somewhere on the site). I bet some of the professionals on here have some leads to such groups, and maybe some laypeople too. It would only take a few major institutional donations a year to make a significant difference. The first priority in my opinion should be meeting the basic operating expenses for MIA in terms of paying the editors/website people who maintain the site and make up much of the $80,000 yearly operating cost. I think these people already work at a relatively low rate and deserve more than they get.

    And if you REALLY love MIA, consider leaving something significant to it in your will, like many people leave something to their favorite church or college 🙂

    Robert please feel free to prevail upon us again for more one-time donations as needed as the year continues. I believe people will respond. I am surprised nothing was mentioned quarterly or at the mid point of last year (maybe I missed it) because if I had seen it I would have responded.

    • ” if you have any local community philanthrophic/charity group that might contribute them, please try to get them to give something (I suggest to Robert and the MIA that perhaps a stock document stating MIA’s missions/what it delivers in value, usable as a presentation to potential donor entities, might be useful to have accessible somewhere on the site).”

      Yes, I agree. And I would imagine most communities have a fund similar to the one my family took a tax right off, to contribute to years ago. And given the scope of the psychiatric industry’s harm of so many people, no longer just the poor and those with low IQ’s, but now also their attacks on those whose children and they test in the top 1% on standardized testing – since everyone outside the norm has a “mental illness,” according to today’s US psychiatrists.

      I do recommend people, who don’t have family trusts, also consider researching into their local Community Funds, and giving information regarding MiA’s mission to as many of these small local investment funds as we can. As mentioned, these funds will try to match donors’ investment fund concerns / interests with requests for money, and it’s my understanding they will do this from anyone who requests donations for any non-profit cause.

      I know a lot of the middle and upper middle class families, like mine, are being, or have been, destroyed by the 1%, their corporations, and their psychiatric minion. But there is potentially money in these local investment funds across the country from these ethical and once prosperous American families. And I actually recommend MiA send information to as many of these as possible, as well.

  3. thanks so much, robert, for this site, and for everything you do. you have been a lifesaver, literally. i have donated in the past, and i will step it up this year. i have also purchased several books featured on the site.

    one thing i’d love to see is a central location where readers can see information about events/rallies/speakers/conventions related to ” madness reform “. i would love to step up my activism and live participation.

    god bless you for the vital work you do and the truths you reveal. may 2016 be the biggest year of system reform and healing for all those destroyed by the lies and the greed.

    all the best

    erin

  4. Congratulations on all you have accomplished. I have tried to donate to MIA, but when I try to sign up online, I get rejected by a notice that says my email or my password are already in use on this site. I emailed MIA for help on this, but never heard back.

    I am light years from being a pro at computers. Can anybody tell me how to fix this?

    I look forward to reading about MIA’s plans for the future. It is very effective – it is one of several sources I rely on for decent information about the “mental health” industry and its shenanigans.

    • I’ve heard multiple people mention this type of problem; it’s not good. When people are reluctant to donate already in tough economic times, MIA simply has to make it easy and straightforward to donate. Perhaps a significant minority of what could have been donated last year was lost due to issues like this.

      Here’s my story… a few months ago I changed to a new bank card and so needed to update my information on MIA to keep donating. But then when I tried to do so, for some reason MIA wants a “Issue Date” for the new card as well as the normal Expiry Date. I didn’t understand this – no other site requests a start and end date for a card – and then when I emailed the support person nobody responded. So for several months I gave up and donated nothing. Finally now I figured out that I needed to cancel the current account/card data entirely. And then just restart from the beginning. Then I could enter a new card without being asked the start date as I would have if I had had to update the card. Which makes little sense, but at least it worked now, and I just got the email that I my first new payment was processed.

      As Robert Kiyosaki said, “Money flows to those who make things easy.”

  5. I just tried to donate. I discovered that I have to put my visa number on a page that appears to be not secure/encrypted and it would not accept the donation because the site already had my email registered. So I was not able to donate…
    Could you please make the page secure so that we don’t risk anything by putting up our visa numbers and don’t have to get a new email to do it?

  6. Thank you, Mr. Whitaker, for all that you and your wonderful staff are doing for the world. At some point in the future, they will write the history of our time, and they will write the history of what you did in the same terms as they write now about the Abolitionists who helped stop slavery. It’s truly that important, and I admire you and your staff, regardless of whatever minor disagreements we might have.

    I have tried to increase my monthly donation, and the website wouldn’t let me do it. It told me that I couldn’t. You might want to check into how all that business stuff works.

    Best,
    Eric Coates

  7. I cannot help but be impressed that Dr. Whitaker is actually responding to these letters. One never knows how involved any particular person actually is. I share the goals of Mad in America and will try to be more involved in the future. My personal story includes dependency on amphetamines, xyrem,, and benzodiazepines. All were taken as directed. My efforts to get clean were met with unbelievable resistance. After reading all of Dr. Whitaker’s books, I can’t help but appreciate the display of insight and courage. Please keep working to end the for-profit orientation toward mental health care.

    • sadsack50,

      Truth needed to come from a medical journalist, Robert Whitaker is not actually a doctor. Unfortunately, that’s how truly pharmaceutically misinformed, and greed inspired, our current mainstream medical industry today actually is.

      My best wishes to you in your efforts to “get clean.” And I’m so very sorry today’s medical community met you with “unbelievable resistance.” But I also met with a similar problem, when trying to wean off drugs that made me ungodly sick, so I could once again gain control my own life. Rather than having psychiatrists, with delusions of grandeur it was their right to rewrite my life’s story, “manage,” ad infinitum, their iatrogenically induced “mental illness.”

      How embarrassing I used to believe doctors had promised to “first and foremost do no harm,” and used to trust in them. It’s such a shame medical journalists must point out today’s current psychiatric industry crimes against humanity, since the entire mainstream medical community has also lost their historic understanding that the psychiatrists are nothing but quacks.

  8. “We now get an average of 150,000 unique visitors each month…”

    All I know is drug and alcohol treatment centers and dual diagnosis centers spend an absolute fortune on advertising and referrals and this website comes up alot when people net search the related keywords like Klonopin withdrawal dual diagnosis bipolar ect.

    AdSense is a free, simple way to earn money by placing ads on your website… Don’t know all that much about that but again that 150,000 visitors should have value to advertisers in the treatment industry.

    • We have looked at doing things like AdSense, and repeatedly found that we could not in good conscience capitalize on our constituency by giving our space over to a flow of ads that we could not really control. Ultimately, the monied interests would find a way to dominate and MIA, if anything, exists to serve the people and the approaches who do not have that kind of backing. So, as tempting as it was to cash in on the traffic flow, at every point that we’ve considered it, we felt that doing so would have compromised the clean space for thought and dialogue we have tried to hard to cultivate. It would have taken the joy out of what we started out to do.

      So, we’ve had to hope that the people who benefit from MIA, whose experiences were affirmed and validated by Robert Whitaker’s research and writing, and whose outpouring of energy in the quest for meaningful change brought MIA into existence, would be moved to help it survive. At every point that we looked for ways to capitalize on our traffic, we felt we couldn’t do it in a way that wouldn’t betray our readers’ faith. It would mean shutting out money from those who could afford to pay, and asking for money from those we wish to benefit – but who really didn’t have it. Hence the need to be nonprofit.

      Bob has, in the creation of this website, consistently made choices – whenever they were there to be made – that benefitted others over himself or the website. Hence, again, the need to become a nonprofit – and hope that those we aim to serve will be moved to help us continue. If not, and we cannot survive, at least we’ll know that we did the right thing when we had the chance to do it, and we benefitted those we wished to in an unsullied way. We came into existence in large part to provide a forum for voices that had gone unheard, and we could not have then cluttered up that space with anything that diminished the voices that we should be heard the loudest and clearest.

      But in answer to Pat Risser, below, we also exist to be a forum for discussion and debate. In order to do that we have to keep the door open to those who speak to a range of perspectives. We exist to make sure that people and perspectives that hadn’t been given a meaningful seat at the table in these discussions would get that seat and be heard. We do not exist to shut out people and perspectives. We exist to foster a dialogue and to keep it going, because it is – as the Open Dialogue experience has shown – exactly keeping the dialogue going that helps to resolve the madness. Any point at which a voice is summarily dismissed or shut out is the point at which madness begins. I think the big lesson from all this is that we can’t move forward by throwing anybody overboard, even if it’s in retaliation for those who have been thrown overboard in the past. We need everyone on board.

      However, for those who have no interest in reconciliation, I offer this; MIA is a place to sharpen your arguments. We are a dialogue space in which to track and develop the evolving language within which this debate takes place, and by which it is shaped. We bring in viewpoints that are relevant. That doesn’t mean that they pass a litmus test for ideological consistency and purity; it means they have something to add to the conversation, or sometimes something to which an argument should be developed. To ask for a space in which no divergent viewpoints exist would be like asking for a gym that doesn’t have a lot of inconvenient weights lying around that need to be picked up. The point is to engage with them. (And, ideally, pay your gym membership, so we don’t have to blast you with advertising while you work out.)

      In answer to one of Pat’s specific questions; the problem of what to do about people who may harm themselves or others has been a part of this conversation from the beginning, stretching back long before any of the terms currently used for it even existed. Thomas Szasz didn’t really solve the problem. Nobody has. It’s a perennial, ongoing problem, that probably can’t be dealt with in any global or permanent way. Dealing with it involves an engaged, vigilant citizenry, well-armed with the information, philosophy and rhetoric needed to make sense out of these problems if and when they arise. There is no perfect solution to the fact that life is inherently risky and dangerous, and people sometimes make choices – as they sometimes must – that run the risk of harming themselves or others. I think that Szasz’s argument to leave it to law enforcement leaves out an awareness of the fact that people come from, and are in, circumstances beyond their control that shape them and their behavior. How do we address that fact in a way that doesn’t run the risk of somehow being called “treatment”? Short of reshaping our society fundamentally (which I’m certainly all for) how do we address the current needs of people whose lives have been stolen from them by trauma and injustice?

      I think that over the short time MIA has existed we’ve seen meaningful evolution in the public awareness of the ways that stress and trauma contribute to what has been called “psychosis” and “mental illness.” We have done all we can to promulgate this awareness on MIA. We can’t end the conversation, but we can help to make sure that that part of it gets heard.

      • Kermit, This is an admirable response. However I hope that MIA will not rule out reconsidering different possible sources of income.

        It is certainly ideal for MIA to remain without advertising. But there may be some kind of advertising – perhaps advertising not directly related to the mental health field – that would bring in some revenue. Although obviously that type of advertising, being less relevant to the readership, might not bring in much revenue.

        Also, the visibility of what is going on financially with MIA is poor. For the whole of 2015 I had no idea that MIA was in such poor financial shape. Now, you may not want MIA to become like a company that constantly sends out its financials to “investors.” But on the other hand updating readers 3 or 4 times a year on how things are going might be useful in terms of motivating people to contribute more. Perhaps if it reached the halfway marked of 2016, and MIA were down significantly in needed operating revenue, then a one time “Fund MIA” drive on one of these sites:

        http://www.kickstarter.com

        http://www.indiegogo.com

        http://www.gofundme.com

        might help significantly. It appears there is no interest in this idea but I hope that Robert and yourself will take it seriously, as campaigns on these sites have done very well for organizations less established than MIA.

      • Kermit, I appreciate your response. We may have to just settle for leaving me in a confused state. You speak of MIA as a forum for discussion or debate and yet I still don’t understand the boundaries. It’s like speaking of a table as a place for meals but without considering whether the guests you’ll be serving are Vegan or Muslim or have other dietary restrictions. It kind of feels like I’ve expressed that I’m strict vegan and you’re defending the right to serve me bacon. There’s nothing to reconcile. As I’ve said before, this is Bob’s forum and I respect that. It can take whatever shape he desires and I am free to participate or not, just as someone would be in a forum operated by me. Like it, stay and play; don’t like it, leave. I get it.

        • hi, pat. just felt like jumping in. my story in a sentence or two-i always knew there was nothing more or less wrong with my husband than anyone else but he fell for the scam of the big pharm/dr system and nearly/kind of ruined all our lives.

          the truths i found here on mia i have always known. but i found them validated, respected, researched- here on this site. not 100 per cent sure how i found mia in the first place- possibly through benzobuddies site- but it truly saved me.

          i am at the point, as i believe you are, where i feel some contributors don’t take it far enough. to put it simply, as others have, i am anti-psychiatry completely. some are just critical of it. but i have a raging fire burning inside of me against anyone who knows the lie of chemical imbalance, for example, and still prescribes these horrific, vile drugs as “medicine”.

          i can still appreciate all that mia has to offer, and support it. a quick glance at your bio shows me you have done more as an activist for the cause than i can ever hope to do.

          so i say huge kudos to you, pat, for all your work.
          and kudos to mia for all taht it has accomplished and all it will accomplish.

          we are all flawed, but doing our best.

          may 2016 be the greatest year ever of exposing the lies of the system, and activism, and healing.

          ty,

          erin

        • Glad that MIA is not interested in blood money. Those who can’t handle their assumptions being challenged generally aren’t of much value here anyway. Why not check out Psychiatric Times? They have forums there too, where y’all can pat each other on the head.

      • Kermit — I find little to disagree with and much to admire in the way you folks are approaching this. You seem to be doing your best at straddling the tenuous boundary between inclusiveness and compromise. I agree the big umbrella is an at least acceptable model for now; I can envision deliberate provocateurs infiltrating for the obvious purpose of creating chaos, but I don’t see that happening right now so we don’t need to fix what’s not broken.

        I also laud the ad-free policy. Any “Mh”-related advertising would be the end of MIA as we know it, but I would worry about any advertising other than the sort of MIA-related stuff already being done. (Can ads put cookies on your computer when you click on them?) Can MIA get a bigger cut of merchandise sales maybe, or find advertisers to put it in front of a bigger market?

        I guess you are probably in touch with experts in writing grant proposals and locating sources of funding. It seems that MIA reaches and will reach a wide enough audience that after the first grant or two it will get easier to get more and better.

        I think that over the short time MIA has existed we’ve seen meaningful evolution in the public awareness of the ways that stress and trauma contribute to what has been called “psychosis” and “mental illness.”

        I totally agree and have seen this evolution unfolding at a rapid rate since first stumbling upon MIA not quite two years ago. I appreciate your appreciation of the totally outrageous perspectives of anti-psych “survivors” and the (yes) work that those with no personal MIA affiliation put into articulating them. I like to believe I have contributed to this process.

        Not to imply that this excuses me from throwing some cash into the mix. It would be real helpful if MIA would publish an address where people can just send a check or money order.

        • I think that over the short time MIA has existed we’ve seen meaningful evolution in the public awareness of the ways that stress and trauma contribute to what has been called “psychosis” and “mental illness”…

          I would have continued “…and of how the notion of “mental health” has been employed to mystify and invalidate people’s experience, and convince them to blame themselves for their natural responses to political and economic oppression.” Because I see lots of evolution in people’s understanding of this too, at least here.

      • “Any point at which a voice is summarily dismissed or shut out is the point at which madness begins.” I find this to be a very insightful quote, thanks Kermit, it’s also the point at which injustice begins, which is what actually causes the madness. Etiology matters, not just symptoms, IMO. At least that was my family’s experience, and seemingly also the experience of 2/3’s of all so called “schizophrenics” today, according to John Read’s research.

        And sadly, I’ve come to believe covering up the crimes and underbelly of an unjust, historically shockingly still paternalistically controlled society, is largely the point of psychiatry. Since we do have a legal system that theoretically should be dealing with such crimes, but is largely not. Especially when it comes to psychiatry’s seemingly number one money maker, covering up child abuse and adverse childhood experiences, by claiming them to be “psychosis,” then turning child abuse victims into the “seriously mentally ill,” via denying the known adverse effects of the psychiatric drugs, which the psychiatric industry then claims to be “genetic mental illnesses” instead of known iatrogenic illnesses.

        “I think that over the short time MIA has existed we’ve seen meaningful evolution in the public awareness of the ways that stress and trauma contribute to what has been called ‘psychosis’ and ‘mental illness.’ We have done all we can to promulgate this awareness on MIA. We can’t end the conversation, but we can help to make sure that that part of it gets heard.”

        I thank MiA for this, and absolutely believe this is important. Not just for my little family, but for the millions harmed by psychiatry, who are not as fortunate. Who have for decades (or maybe even centuries) been harmed by the paternalistic, and greed inspired, powers that be. By those greed inspired few (“the two original educated professions”), who have historically, and still, advocate belief in psychiatry’s scientifically invalid and continuing greed inspired, and unjust, crimes against humanity.

  9. I am as unclear as ever about the role, purpose, mission or reason for MIA. I cannot seem to figure out if there are boundaries and if so, what they might be.

    I think of the example of the man who seems kindly enough, doesn’t yell at or beat his wife or kids, doesn’t kick the dog, does a good job of upkeep on his home and property, goes to work every day and church on Sundays and in every visible way seems a good neighbor. However, I choose to not be friends with him and to judge him in the negative because he belongs to the KKK. To me, that affiliation means something. I feel the same way about affiliation with NAMI and all that they seem to represent. If an otherwise good person chooses to affiliate with them, it says something about the person.

    I know of a psychiatrist who is very good at speaking to the dangers of psychiatric medications. He’s a leader in the research and well written on the subject. However, he admits to there sometimes being a case for the use of ECT. So, while he sees the potential harm of drugs on the brain, he’s just as unwilling to admit to the harm of electricity on the brain.

    As long as I’ve been a part of the movement for human rights and against psychiatric oppression, we’ve drawn the line at ECT. Many will admit to freedom of choice regarding the drugs and even the most radical will often allow for their use in the short term but we’ve always agreed that ECT is brain damage and unacceptable. Does the good this psychiatrist performs regarding drugs somehow outweigh his stance on ECT? I don’t think so. I believe we should not affiliate with him at all, even as a potential ally.

    All around us are tough ethical situations to consider. It would be helpful if MIA were to clarify or present some guidelines or boundaries. If writers who support ECT are okay here then are those who favor involuntary commitment and involuntary outpatient commitment and other forms of force and coercion? There is, in the USA, pending legislation that most here find unacceptable for many reasons. Would the author of that legislation and the pro-force people who back that bill be accepted on an equal footing here? Please consider carefully because I may make my own choice regarding support or being part of this based upon a response. My boundaries may be different than those considered acceptable here.

    Thanks for all you do, you and the rest of this fine community.

    Pat Risser

    • I agree that lines will need to be collectively drawn as history progresses, but without a basic means of communication there will be no collective to draw upon. So step one is establishing and preserving our ideological infrastructure which at the moment is headquartered at MIA.