Dear Boston Globe: You Are the Failure You Describe


the-boston-globe-officeDear Boston Globe,

I learned something interesting about you and your ilk the other day when discussing that terrible ‘Spotlight’ article you published on June 23. Not something I kind of didn’t already know, exactly. But a different way of framing it, I guess. I hope you’ll take the time to read.

Historically, there has always been some disagreement about the role of journalists in democratic society. The crux of the divergence has centered around just how much credence (read: power) was to be given to the ‘experts,’ and whether or not the reporter’s role was simply to feed such opinions to the public in palatable bites, or to create a community forum wherein such opinions could be thoroughly explored and (in some cases) deconstructed.

Although surely, neither perspective would lead a journalist with any integrity at all to intentionally spread mistruths, those who took to the latter approach always regarded reporting opportunities with an air of skepticism, and an eye for uncovering the facts. They happily earned the titled of ‘muckraker’ as they dug insatiably for the truth. They served (at least in theory) the public, and their own passion for the job above special interests and the powers that were. And, even as that has shifted and become corrupt over the years, most journalists have still generally held (at least outwardly) that their role has been to discover what was real among all the political and business marketing schemes. Yes, news in its various mainstream realms is now (and perhaps has always been) incredibly biased, but there has nonetheless generally been at least an operational theory that business types were selling their businesses and politicians were selling themselves, and it was up to the reporter to get underneath all that.

Not so with anything deemed ‘medicine,’ as it turns out. No, when it’s come to those seen as wearing the crown of ‘science,’ journalists have apparently been instructed (or so I’m told) to simply act as ‘translator.’ That is to say, they’re expected to speak to doctors and scientists, take their words as unquestionable truth and then translate them into layperson’s language so that we may all be so well informed. In other words, there has never been even the illusion of playing at the role of ‘truth finder.’ Because – unlike with politicians and business types – the assumption is that one is already starting with the truth. Therefore, to question becomes sacrilege, or the act of one who must be ‘crazy’ (or at least hell bent on destroying their journalistic career) themselves.

Where does that leave us with this latest piece? Perhaps the one thing I can say that you Globe folks got right in your aforementioned ‘terrible article’ (you know, the one where you claim over 10% of murders in the last 10 years in Massachusetts have been committed by people with psychiatric diagnoses) is one hell of a sensationalized presentation.

The Desperate and the Dead: Families in Fear.” That title sure is something. I bet it will attract almost as many readers as all the pictures of the ‘desperate’ and the ‘dead’ that you go on to embed in the piece itself. I mean, really, it’s all kind of a disgusting circus sideshow trick, but no one could say you don’t know how to pull your audience in. So, kudos to you on that point!

The rest is a cruel joke; Erroneous claims mixed with misdirection and a little bit of fraudulent marketing tactic thrown in for good measure. I’d like to go step by step here, but let’s start with the last point. Not unlike that ‘free trial’ schtick I got sucked in by last month while watching an early Saturday morning infomercial, your ‘terms and conditions’ are all the way down at the end of the page where (nearly) no one will ever read them. Let’s take a moment to raise them up:

“The Globe compiled its list of killings by people with signs of mental illness from news clippings, court records, and interviews with families, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. The Globe included cases where reporters found that the accused had some indication of mental illness, such as being diagnosed with a mental disorder, spending time in a psychiatric hospital, taking psychiatric medication, acting suicidal, or being found unfit for trial or not guilty by reason of insanity.

However, defendants’ full medical records are typically confidential and experts sometimes offered conflicting opinions about whether they thought the suspects were mentally ill. In addition, the presence of a mental illness does not necessarily mean a defendant could not tell right from wrong. In many cases, courts found that people were still guilty of murder, even when there were indications they were suffering from a mental illness. In addition to these cases, there are almost certainly others in which mental illness went undiagnosed or an assailant’s mental health history was not publicized or known.”

What you, my dear Globe staff, are essentially saying here is, “Uh, there was no way to know, but we really wanted to write this story… so we guessed!” Or, perhaps a tad more fairly put: “We poked around a bunch of inconclusive evidence, made our best guestimation of something approximating what some people might at least mistake for the truth, and presented it in the most dramatic fashion possible under the cloak of factual reporting.” You’ve already manipulated the ‘net’ to somehow more than double the national 4% figure, but apparently that wasn’t enough. Just in case, anyone bothered to read your ‘disclaimer,’ its final sentence alludes to an assertion that it could have been much worse if only you had access to all the sordid details. Oooo. If you can’t scare them with what you supposedly do know, terrify them with the looming unknown! Yeah, that’s how it’s done!

Okay, sorry. I don’t mean to get carried away here. Really, there’s so much wrong with this article, it’s hard to know where to go next, but how about this:

(Once again) Correlation is NOT Causation (Say it with me now!):

I think this point can be confusing for some (and apparently especially for journalists who are angling to manipulate emotions), so I’m really going to try and spell it out as carefully as I can.

Correlations (at least from a statistical perspective) occur when two potentially independent characteristics appear to ‘vary together.’ In other words, when one characteristic shifts to the left, the other characteristic appears to have a tendency to follow, and thus a relationship of some sort is assumed. However, the meaningfulness of such correlations exists on a vast spectrum with more than a few variances. Here’s just a small handful of examples:

  1. Correlation with no actual meaningful relationship: A high number of people who commit murders are wearing jeans. What does this correlation represent? It seems likely that all it means is that jeans are one of the most popular versions of pants in our country at this time (for both people who murder and people who do not). Does wearing jeans lead people into murderous rages? I suspect not. Is it indicative of anything else? Perhaps only a vague sense of the era during which the murder occurred.
  1. Correlation with shared root causes: A high number of people who commit murders also seem to be concentrated in certain geographical areas. Does that literally mean that if you live in a city where the murder rate is high, that the city made you do it? No, but it could be that people who live in certain areas end up there due to lack of resources, and living in poverty (for example) might be a shared factor for a number of things including where a particular person resides and violence they come to perpetrate.
  1. Correlation with potentially causal properties: A high number of people who commit murders are using drugs or alcohol at the time of the violent act. In other words, did drinking or using drugs lead some people to commit violent acts? Yes, in some instances, it would appear (at the very least) to be a directly contributing factor. (It seems worth noting here that research does not suggest any greater likelihood of violence among those with psychiatric diagnosis when drugs and alcohol are introduced than among those who have not been diagnosed and who become similarly intoxicated.)

All too often, people rest on the argument that if someone is deemed ‘mentally ill,’ and they do something bad then it must be that they did something bad because of that so-called ‘mental illness.’ However, there simply is no well-done research that suggests any real validity to such claims. At least in some instances, circumstances may seem to land a particular situation in the second grouping (‘Correlation with shared root causes’) where we might say that the traumatic conditions that led someone to develop ways of being in the world that brought on psychiatric diagnosis are also those circumstances that led them to be violent, but that’s quite different than saying one caused the other, and some of the time, there is no apparent connection at all.

Yet, in spite of all that, you Globe folks takes it even one step further. You include in your counts (announced in large bold fonts splayed across the page for dramatic effect) not just those who had actual diagnoses on the books, but also, those who were merely suspected of qualifying due to supposedly “strong indications” (noting in your end-placed disclaimer that there was disagreement on some of that among the ‘professionals’).

That’s quite a leap when making such all-consuming proclamations, especially in the face of contradictory research. It seems like the facts not supporting this claim should be enough to stop people from going down this path with such regularity, but it’s clearly not. So, how about this: Research (and the basic ability to see) *does* support (pretty conclusively) that mass shooters in this country are most commonly young, male and white. Who wants to talk about that? Are any of you ready to pen a Globe article called, ‘Desperate, white and male,’ and examine those correlations?

I’m not about to start writing any articles entitled, “He did it because he was 25,” or “He did it because he was he,” but given the headlines of the death tolls I could claim, perhaps we should at least begin to explore the underlying issues.

And, by the way, in what other situation would so many people be so quick to go along with focusing in on 10% of the (supposed) reason something terrible is happening while letting the other 90% skate on by? Oh, wait. That kind of happens all the time, right? Like, when we focus in on the alleged system abuses of people who are destitute and phenomena like the mythical ‘welfare mom,’ while mostly ignoring the enormity of corporate fraud.

It’s kind of the norm in our culture to scapegoat the historically powerless. My bad. I forgot.

Death Tolls: Who’s getting counted? (And who’s not?)

Yes, if we truly value human life, then every untimely death is a tragedy. (Please, let’s save the death penalty debate for another time.) You, my Globe friends, claim that 139 people have been killed by individuals diagnosed (or suspected of being diagnosable) with some sort of ‘mental illness.’ You claim to have dug through countless articles and records to create your database detailing those numbers.

But, who is keeping the database of people in the psychiatric system who have been killed themselves? They have died at the hands of the police and in restraints at hospitals. They have died on the streets because others saw them as unworthy, a joke, or an easy target. They have died by the chemicals forced into their bodies and called ‘medication,’ at the hands of the doctors who diagnosed them, lied to them about their ‘chemical imbalances,’ and said it was their only path to ‘well.’

I know of no such database, and any one that were to be created would be hopelessly skewed by all the falsified records of those in denial who checked boxes signifying ‘natural causes.’ Yet, I can say with confidence that the numbers would be higher than 139.

Does that mean the 139 does not matter? Of course not. But where are the articles about all those other untold deaths? I suspect it won’t ever happen because it would mean moving from ‘translator’ back to investigator, and challenging those who are seen as untouchable ‘expert.’ It would mean not seeing a distinct separation between those who are diagnosed and those who are not, and valuing them all the same. It would mean getting okay with projecting out suspected numbers not just in favor of those already in power. (Somehow, even wild projections are accepted freely when coming from those with mainstream credibility, while even far more well-founded estimates become conspiracy theory when less accepted voices speak up.)

The Proposed Solution is a Known Problem (Congratulations, team Globe. You’re making things worse.)

Sometimes I start to feel a little silly relying on actual evidence, when those with all the power scream about the importance of ‘evidence-based treatment’ that is anything but. I’m not sure how many times more we can tolerate being ignored while we keep citing research that points out that forced treatment doesn’t seem to be helping, that psychiatric drugs may actually be making things worse, that outpatient forced commitment is a failure, that more of the same treatment is not the answer, or that this very concept of ‘mental illness’ and all its related diagnoses is off base at its very core.

It all seems like so much wasted breath. Even worse, it would appear that stating any actual facts not only renders one invisible, but lands one painted as a heretic who must be summarily discredited and silenced because what they’re saying doesn’t fit with the current agenda. We’re all terribly inconvenient, aren’t we? (Are you making jokes about how I must be some sort of Scientologist even as you read?)

Am I in some alternate universe? Are we using different definitions of the words ‘evidence’ and ‘research’? How does one even talk back to people who are only pretending to care about ‘the facts’? Clearly we must change our strategy.

But, while we’re still grappling with the details on where to go from here, consider this: As opposed to the majority of actual medical illnesses (heart disease, cancer, etc.), outcomes for psychiatric diagnosis have not gotten better over the years, and have – in many instances – gotten worse. Unlike with physical disease, research does not suggest that the standard treatments you seem to promote lead to improvements over the long-term. In fact, research like Martin Harrow’s look into neuroleptics, suggests that long-term treatment of that nature can make things worse at every level for the majority. Oh, and by the way, you sometimes neglected to emphasize that some of the examples of murder by psychiatric diagnosis that you’re including were committed by people who were under treatment. Apparently, none of it matters. Or did that part of your Globe diatribe just get edited out for length?

Why doesn’t anyone care that what you’re recommending with such fervor (under threat of more murderous mayhem should we not act) is actually causing more harm than good? If psychiatric drugs are ‘just like insulin for diabetics,’ what would the reaction be if insulin started killing diabetics on a semi-regular basis? What if, instead of helping to eradicate a cancerous tumor, chemotherapy simply held its growth somewhat steady, while the individual being treated was sentenced to feeling sick and unable to function for the rest of their lives? What if blood pressure medicines led to permanent impotence, and the occasional violent rage?

I realize that there are a whole host of issues with medicines in every medical field. However, psychiatry seems to be the only arena in which chemically zombifying someone is considered a success, and the ‘best practice’ includes treatments that are often no better (or worse) than nothing.

Tell me, dear Globe, is there any other realm in which you could foresee yourself recommending forced ‘treatments’ that are known to be such a failure and regularly do harm?

Okay, But What About That 10%

Sometimes the critical world in which I walk gets chastised for acting as if no one who’s ever received a psychiatric diagnosis has ever been or would be violent. That would be just plain silly, especially since diagnosis lies in the fate of about one in four state residents (and is plainly applied with greatest frequency to those who do things people in power don’t like). Yes, people with psychiatric diagnoses have the potential to be violent, just like anyone else on the planet. The question isn’t whether or not that’s true. It’s why, and what to do about it.

You, my dear friends at the Globe, would have us believe there’s no more to the ‘why’ then ‘mentally ill,’ but we’ve already discovered that you’re off base on many points, and that particular circular argument is old and tired. So, let’s say that we somehow weeded out everyone among your 139 who we could easily identify as having some other possible motive or reason for having acted out so violently. I’m talking about weeding out people who were perhaps severely abused by those relatives that the Globe is so quick to sanctify and label as ‘beloved,’ or who were high on mind-altering street drugs.

I’m also talking about weeding out those who were sent into altered states due to the use of or quick withdrawal from psychiatric drugs, both of which are now becoming quite well known for putting people into mind states where they can become uncharacteristically violent (toward themselves or others) not because of an underlying tendency to hurt people but because of the impact of such foreign chemicals on the way we think and feel as humans.

I’d also want to be sure to weed out those who were violent in situations of force (like in restraint or threat of restraint in a hospital) during which people who are never otherwise so rageful have sometimes quite reasonably moved into hyper-aware states of self-defense.

After weeding out all of those people, I’m not sure how many of the Globe’s 139 would be left, but there’d probably be some. Inevitably less, but still some. People who were violent for reasons we can’t identify other than – at least in the moment – they seem to have gone mad. Maybe it was due to past trauma or some other unexplained and perhaps even biological cause, and in most instances the answer will be complex. (None of us are omniscient, so in many situations, we’ll never know for sure.)

Yes, let’s say this quite small percentage of the total number of people who committed murders in Massachusetts in the last 10 years now stands before us. Then what? Could we ever have predicted who most of those people were in any other than a retrospective sort of way, and without sweeping so many others along in the guesswork undertow? How many more would have been killed, or imprisoned or had their children taken away while we tried to figure out who the truly dangerous ones were? Moving forward, what sort of discriminatory practices would we need to get okay with in order to predictively start placing restrictions on people’s freedoms just because we’re afraid of what they might do?

Yes, the mental health system is failing us. On that point, we can all agree. Its hospitals bring more trauma in place of the healing and compassion that is so desperately needed. Even in the most progressive places, there’s a dearth of alternatives available, leaving people who feel alienated or unhelped by the mainstream with nothing and nowhere to turn. Meanwhile, articles like the Globe’s have nothing better to offer than wistful memories of the days when people could be indiscriminately “locked away in one of the public psychiatric hospitals that once dotted Massachusetts.”

You, dear Globe, seem to long for the very forced treatments known to shave years off lives while also often worsening those very ‘symptoms’ they’re meant to cure. I also wonder if you know (in a bit of a different twist on discrimination) that people who are actually committing violent acts are being excused and sent back out into the public precisely because they are deemed ‘mentally ill,’ rather than being held accountable for their acts. (This in spite of the fact that one clear predictor of future violence is violence in the past!) And, basic needs like housing, food and all those elements needed to find and sustain emotional balance are consistently neglected or quite literally seen as ‘not our responsibility.’

At some point, you may want to ask your Globe-reading public why it’s easier to sensationalize the few than address the many. You may want to puzzle on why you’re so willing to be just another cog in the machine that perpetuates the violence you pretend to lament (because anything that serves to push for more force and strengthens the same old lines does little more than that).

And we all may want to take a great deal more time to wonder why we’re so damn invested in identifying those who are ‘mad’ enough to be violent in the moment, without ever really being willing to understand the path and societal ills that may have led them there. No one starts with violence. Unless chemically induced, it generally takes time to build up.

You walk in blindness, claiming to see without ever having truly looked, and yet you ask us all to follow. At some point, dear Globe, I wonder if anyone among your ranks will stumble across their lost journalistic integrity. Perhaps they’ll find it, stuffed in a corner, covered in dust bunnies, rolling around under that broken stool over there. I sure hope, if that happens, that they’ll grab ahold of it and begin asking the hard questions once again.

Until then, dear Globe, you are the failure you describe.


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.


  1. Whether you like it or not, the fact is that mental illness and crime do strongly correlate and the public is not blind to this. From all that I can tell of this publication, it seems that the founders want all the mentally ill people turned loose unmedicated and unchecked, and the safety and wellbeing of the general public be damned.

    • Givemeyourking,
      1). please provide evidence in the form of peer reviewed academic studies that support your claim that “mental illness” causes crime;
      2) Please note that, as stated in point (1) of the original article and again above, that correlation does not equal causation, so even IF you can find a study that correlates “mental illness” and crime, it will not prove causation!

      In fact, there is research (academic and reviewed) that shows the “mentally ill” are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators….and that even excludes the incidence of people being kidnapped and forcibly detained, drugged and/or shocked.

    • ‘Mental illness ‘ is simply a denigrating description, a maddening metaphor, a pejorative psychiatric label for the stresses and strains of a person’s life beginning at conception such as the different timing of environmental risk factors like toxins, infectious diseases during mom’s pregnancy and / or trauma; physical, mental, emotional, sexual ( allostatic overload, Bruce McEwen, neuroscientist ) that a person Unconsciously Reacts To and is simply given a description of that person’s lived stressful experiential life, a ‘ diagnosis ‘ by an unaware, often compassionless pro. So What? ! To continue to call that person ‘ mentally ill ‘ is to be obtuse, be ignorant of the facts, the reality, the truth of that person’s lived stressful experiential life. Hocus Pocus Diagnosis where the focus is on the label, and Not on the facts of the individual’s experiential life, the hypnotizing, mesmerizing effect, objectifying the person to be controlled and managed by harmful synthetic chemicals, pharmaceuticals and ECT, electric current through the brain, which are tools of torture with No Cumlative Healing Effect used by pontificating pros for their pockets at the expense of suffering individuals. Allopathic medicine is eugenics. Then, medical records are documentation for the day of reckoning when correctly understood. Harmful synthetic chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other instruments of torture to innocent people in Nazi Germany by ‘doctors’. Thosr same Nazis came to the US after WWII, Operation PaperClip. Project MK ULTRA Mind Control Techniques CIA Program A documentary about Psychiatry and the CIA. Stop blaming the “mentally ill ‘. We, those erroneously labeled ‘ mentally ill ‘ survive, thrive We Have Earned and Only Accept Respect. 🙂 Kurt Wilkens

  2. The term mental illness is really nothing more than a slur, similar to a racial slur. It is a term that is used to label a person as a lesser being, an inferior human.

    With 374 diagnostic codes to choose from, every person in the US is “mentally ill.” The only thing that stands between a diagnosis and no diagnosis is a visit to a psychiatrist or psychologist. If you walk through the door, you will, most assuredly, be diagnosed with something.

    If you commit a mass murder, it is convenient to attach a label of “mentally ill” onto the killer. But a psychopathic killer should not be lumped into the same category as a kid with “ADHD” or a woman with “post partum depression.”

    The label works best for the self righteous politician who thinks it can be used as a solution to gun control.

  3. One more thing. If politicians are trying to figure out how to create a no fly list for guns, instead of constructing a list out of diagnostic codes, why not construct a list based upon the drugs they take? For example, if people on Prozac are more inclined to shoot people, then don’t sell a gun to a person on Prozac. Or, better yet, take Prozac off the market. But if they stop Prozac, their rights should be restored. Don’t punish the person for the side effect of a drug.

    • Quoted from the Spotlight article:
      ““She’ll say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s those meds that made me crazy,’ ” Barbara Biasotti said.”

      And nobody believes the girl, her parents keep her drugged and locked up. I wonder what her story is?

      On the “meds,” changing the “meds,” coming off the “meds” = all are recipes for distress, akathisia, and when nobody understands what you are going through – potential violence.

      Why does nobody look at the drugs? The REAL drugs, not just the street, illegal “recreational,” socially unapproved ones.

      Sera – awesome work, bringing this to the attention of the mainstream media (I hope!). You at least got their attention!

  4. Actually, if someone stops Prozac, that is no guarantee they will become less violent as cold turkeying a med or tapering too quickly can cause homicidal ideation.

    Sera, after I read the article on the Boston Globe website, I wrote to the email address at the bottom and provided the link to this blog entry. I also told them that as one who used to defend the media against multiple critics, I felt this article was a low point in journalism with its extreme sensationalism in demonizing people with the “MI” label.

    Thank you for writing this.


  5. Hi Sera, great article. I’ve never read the Bustin Glob and well…. if this article you have deconstructed (read destroyed) so well is any indication of the standard of their journalism, don’t think I ever will.

    I was reminded of the article published with the headline “Ike beats Tina to death” (referring to the passing of Ike Turner). Clearly a misrepresentation lol. But I wonder about what may occur in my community now that domestic violence is a mental health issue (Chief Justice). Personally I can see an increase in the levels of domestic violence once a range of drugs are introduced into a what can be volatile situations. Will this result in more violence rather than less resulting in the call for more interventions? State authorities are going to begin installing cameras into selected households (for now).

    I was also reminded of a line by Groucho Marx who once said “Who you going to believe? Me? Or your own eyes?” Might be the case that the Bustin Globs readers are chosing the former for convenience?

    Anywho, once again this was a good read 🙂


  6. The Boston Globe June 23 article says “prescribed medications” several times without asking what the magical medication is in chemical form. Medication is for disease, the mind (a non physical object) can not be diseased.

    Try to find a “sane” murder, is there such a thing? All acts of violence are inherently insane.

    The first story, the 35-year-old adult son named Lee should not have been living with his mother obviously. He is not wearing a shirt in the screen capture ( November) showing his adult chest hair.

    Lee should have been getting a disability cheque for his mental illness. He should have used that to rent an apartment.
    If he was not intelligent/diligent enough to pay the rent on time, the Government usually takes care of the intellectually handicapped.

    No one questions the psychiatric “medications” making him worse ( inability to think logically/rationally) instead of “better”.

    The drugs are not working, more drugs! Who is insane?

    • “sane” murder? Wasn’t Jeffrey Dahmer declared sane and fit to stand trial, but the people he was eating were ‘mentally ill’ as a result of their lifestyle choices? I know, not what your getting at markpps lol.

      It is a good point though about the drugs/medications and the contribution to acts of violence. The three card Monte that is used can be difficult to spot at times. For example, why are benzodiazepines called ‘medicine if a person takes them willingly and yet are a stupefying drug if administered without knowledge? The changes of status of these drugs is worthy of deep consideration. Because it is possible for a doctor to use them as chemical baseball bats and later claim that it was ‘medicine’. (not that anyone in the area would ever dream of doing such a thing)

  7. In my Benzodiazepine Awareness group a member brought up his own experience with ex convicts who are forced to take psychiatric medication as part of their parole. I would like to see a story on this and how often the combination of psychiatric medication combined with a criminal record leads to or diminishes future criminal acts. Now THAT is the kind of bold investigation we need from people with such resources as the Spotlight reporters.

  8. Sera,

    There is so much wonderful power in your essay – so many good points and needed deconstruction that I hesitate to say anything negative about it. But I will because I think it’s important. Just know that I share much of your anger and point of view toward the BG article.

    I just wish you had pared down some of your rhetoric and tone – particularly the mocking condescending terminology like “my dear Globe,” “you Globe folks,” “(Once again) Correlation is NOT Causation (Say it with me now!),” ” Oooo. If you can’t scare them with what you supposedly do know, terrify them with the looming unknown! Yeah, that’s how it’s done!”

    In my opinion, using rhetoric like that distracts from the very serious points you are making. I can imagine that the Post would far more easily dismiss and deflect the message that needs to get to them regarding this irresponsible article because of that tone.

    This is not to say your response should be devoid of emotion or passion – but much of this comes across to me as almost childlike mocking. Your strongest passages are where you make your points with succinctness.

    To me, this is not a trivial issue, I’ve found through my own bitter experience that the critical psychiatry movement is often derided more for its tone than for the substance of its arguments. Resorting to using some of this excessive, derisive rhetoric gives the Post a way out of addressing the crux of your argument.

    And let me repeat, I feel as angry as you do about their piece – it’s infuriating that the reporters simply accept as an a priori fact that mandated hospitalization and medication are inherently therapeutic – that they ignore the very real issues raised about the efficacy of our treatment strategies. But I also think it is human nature when attacked with snark and derision to put up a defensive wall where they actually ignore the substance of an argument.

    • I can imagine that the Post would far more easily dismiss and deflect the message that needs to get to them regarding this irresponsible article because of that tone.

      Nah. They’ll use any excuse they can find to ignore stuff they’re getting paid to suppress. I wouldn’t sweat it I were you Sera. Sometimes mockery is what’s called for.

  9. If “over 10% of murders in the last 10 years in Massachusetts have been committed by people with psychiatric diagnoses”, as there are estimates that 30 % of the population in the USA has a “mental illness”, I wouldn’t call that too alarming. This stat would indicate that members of general population unaffected by any “mental illness” are much more likely to commit murder in Massachusetts. Anyway, you know where this kind rubbish is coming from. The original (Tim) Murphy bill could have been written word for word by people connected with the Treatment Advocacy Center, you know the nation’s leading lobbyists for forced drugging. It has also received a great deal of support from some mental health groups throughout the country clinging to the erroneous view that any money spent on mental health treatment is money well spent. Where else would support be coming? From the drug companies, of course! You can’t say they won’t be gaining from “forced” consumption of their products. This is the line of our politicians now, who, when violence occurs are going to blame it on a “broken” mental health system. It is unfortunate, but I think they are determined to enact one or the other of the Murphy bills regardless. I see an uphill struggle coming. You are very right to go after The Boston Globe for their sensationalist and biased reporting, only realizing that the Globe is far from alone. Thank you for this piece. Our voices have been silenced, and it’s great that you have a something of a forum here at MIA for breaking through that silence. Kudos to you.

  10. Sera, I saw the article and immediately wrote to the Spotlight people. I offered them my story and told them I was available for interview. I told them I’d submitted commentary to the FDA regarding the shock machine and my experiences as McLean. I also wrote to journalist tycoon Gideon Gil because I went through public school and Hebrew School with him and his twin brother. I reminded him of that bit, and told him he can interview me, too. I am one of the overwhelming majority (with or without “meds”) that hasn’t killed anyone, nor done any violent crime nor anything of the sort. I think the Gil twins would be laughing their butts off (they both had a great way of laughing) if they ever heard the bullcrap said about me by psychiatry. “Potential dangerousness due to mental illness diagnosis.” Tell that to my entire Hebrew school class. I think they’d ban any mention of psychiatry at Shul for the next 4o years.

  11. I am curious about your recommendation on the action that should be taken. I am well aware of how woefully inadequate many psychiatric drugs are in treating mental illness but really what is the better way? While I agree equating mental illness with violence is pretty off base, I work in the system and would love to see how we can help people with mental illness in a more constructive way, I think that rejecting medication is not the answer.

    • An excellent question, one that I as a former provider have struggled with.

      I think the first answer is to know that there is no specific answer to “treating mental illness,” because “mental illness” as it is defined doesn’t have one “answer,” since there is no requirement, assumption, or observation that says that all people with the same “diagnosis” have the same problem or require the same intervention. If you read the introduction to the DSM-IV, the authors state this very point in a very direct way.

      Milton Erickson used to say that you have to reinvent therapy for each client you meet. I agree with him 100%. The biggest failure of the mental health industry is that we have not bothered to ask the client him/herself what the meaning or purpose of his/her behavior might be, or provide an opportunity for him/her to figure that out for him/herself. There is no medication/drug that can ameliorate years of abuse, for instance, nor is there one that can embolden one to quit a dead-end job, or adjust more effectively to a foreign culture (migration and urbanization are highly associated with “schizophrenia” diagnoses, for instance), or to analyze a nutritional deficiency. There is not even an effective drug to deal with sleep issues, for that matter! We’re simply barking up the wrong tree, in essence, giving someone painkillers for a bum knee without bothering to find out whether they have a bruise, arthritis, a poor exercise routine, fallen arches, or a torn ACL ligament. If we want to do a better job, step one is to recognize that each and every “diagnosis” is simply an insurance billing code that tells us essentially NOTHING about what is wrong with a person or what might help them make progress toward a happier or more effective life. And the long-term research bears this out. If you have not yet read Anatomy of an Epidemic, the book which inspired this website, read it right away. It will answer a lot of your questions as to why rejecting medication, at least over the long term, as a first line “treatment” is, in fact, an important part of the answer.

      —- Steve

  12. Sarah, What is equally if more harmful than the drugs is the psych diagnosis itself. Simply telling a person that they will have to have “treatment” for the rest of their lives, or that they have a “permanent disorder” even if “but wait, there’s hope!” is far more demeaning and demoralizing than professionals or any outsider realizes. Imagine hearing you cannot work, or you shouldn’t be part of ordinary society, or that you have something intrinsically “wrong” with you that makes you unworthy of inclusion with your peers.

    It took me over 50 years and much soul-searching because really, all those 3-1/2 decades all they did was grasp at straws. I’m 58 years old and with much hindsight I can say that for three decades these “expert” therapists saw me as “bipolar” but I had totally normal moods! They even perceived me as psychotic when I wasn’t. I wonder who was lacking insight!

    I started to ask myself who has the right to determine what is normal in our society, and why do these people or institutions have so much power over us? These powerful institutions combined with the media sway our thinking, they instill fear of abnormacy into us at every turn, and have us constantly on guard for the latest “disorder” that we must call an anonymous “help” line about or “ask our doctors” discretely. On pour the bucks into the pockets of the institutions simply because they’ve succeeded in duping us.

    I was never bipolar. I was only coerced into being HYPER-AWARE of moods. So I used my creative nature to produce the most colorful mood charts with crayons, markers, and fancy graph paper. I still have those works of genius that reflect the normal moods of a normal, completely fooled former composer of music.

    I never composed another note. To me, that’s tragic. I’m not dead, but the fact that the System killed my career at the young age of 23 or so is tragedy committed by the Mental Health System in the name of money.

    How about listening and caring for a start? I vote for these two things. Don’t even call it stigma since that already acknowledges a person is diseased and singles that person out. I vote against overuse of “healthy boundaries” and blacklisting of those you see as “crazy.” I vote against purging one’s friends list. Don’t use terms such as “negative energy” or “bad karma” since these are euphemisms for mental illness (face it). Other words include narcisist. Stop calling people that, it’s baloney, harmful labeling based on finger-pointing. If you don’t like another person leave it at that without psych labeling the person. Talk instead of text. Ask people how they’re doing. Across the board we need societal changes. Instead of targeting those deemed mentally ill, or “treating” a certain population by glorified treatees. We ALL need to change how we do things.

  13. Boans, if the doc prescribes benzos and then rapes the patient, it couldn’t possibly be date rape since “it was lifesaving medicine.” Like administering CPR! He was saving her life but accidentally slipped his dick where it didn’t belong. Our justice system needs an auto-excuse app for that to get these docs off faster, maybe a bulk discount rate. Or a very large broom to sweep them all under a huge enveloping rug. Or doesn’t that already happen? It’s called the Mental Health System, an oxymoron in itself.

    • There has been an interesting case here in Australia recently Julie.

      In my instance, because the same amount of benzos were administered without my knowledge to stop police shooting me when they found the knife which had been planted in my pajamas pocket (and deprive me of my liberty: don’t let him get away by telling him we have arranged a home invasion by police and mental health) then mental health can authorise the drugging of people without knowledge.

      It really did seem strange to me that this guy even got convicted. Surely he could have invoked the emergency provisions of the Mental Health Act and had the registrar ‘treated’ for her mental illness? I know that when I attended a police station with the documents proving the drugging without knowledge, a call was made to mental health to come pick me up and treat me for hallucinating that drugging someone with benzos without their knowledge was a crime. They don’t even have a copy of the Criminal Code at a 200 plus officer police station apparently. Oh, well they do seem to find it when it’s white folk asking lol.

  14. Its like that Boston Globe article was designed to anger people who know the truth about psychiatry and have lived through their so called treatments.

    Ryan, member of MindFreedom, describing coercive psychiatry

    OK Boston Globe you told some scary stories but did you ever hear that “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” ?

    How many harmless people should be disabled with drugs to prevent that one dangerous person from bugging out and killing themselves or someone else ?

    100 people drugged against their will, disabled with those nueroleptic “nerve seizing” drugs or maybe 1000 people forcibly drugged and disabled to prevent that one person from bugging out and killing themselves or someone else ?

    How many mentally so called ill people who will never harm anyone do we condemn to a tired zombified anhedonia life on drugs with horrible ‘side’ effects like diabetes to prevent that one person from going off and hurting someone???

    In criminal law, Blackstone’s formulation (also known as Blackstone’s ratio or the Blackstone ratio) is the principle that “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”

    That it is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer – Benjamin Franklin

    No one ever wants to talk about it but tell me what the acceptable level collateral damage is.

  15. Thank you, Sera, for posting this article and your comments. This Boston Globe is sensationalizing and adding to the stigma and misrepresentation of “mental illness” and violence in what I see as an attempt to certainly highlight the problems in the mental health “system” which does look like more like a random billiard balls on a table then a structured, coordinated system. There certainly has been a gap in services since the closing of state hospitals. CBFS (Community Based Flexible Supports Program) for adults and CBHI for children/adolescents were supposed to fill this gap in but not hitting obviously all the needs. Substance use, past history of violence and criminal behaviors, and psychosis with command hallucinations were the greatest “predicators” of risk for violence.

  16. First of all, this is one great piece you have written and I think it hammers home a lot of points. I hope if you don’t mind me adding my own. I would love to challenge the Boston Globe team in going to see a psychiatrist and see if they can get out of the office without a prescription. In fact, I’m willing to bet that it will probably be around 99% that will leave with a diagnosis.

    So I’m not surprised that all the accused are diagnosed. The American public needs to rationalize why people do horrific things and need to push the situation as far away from them as possible; hence, they create the stigma for their own protection. There will never be a physical marker to determine who is mentally ill or not because that would limit the amount of customers that the pharmaceutical companies can acquire. And the stigma puts another level on top of this that the customers suffer in silence. Not many will write in and of course they won’t. I’m not surprised the response is generally congratulatory on the article.

    The other thing that bothers me is the story telling part of this story. Talk about fiction. The reporter should retire and write a book. To write from only one side of the story is, in my opinion, biased. Did the reporter look into what happened for the gentleman to be where he is now. I think I can guess. Some horrible fate fell upon him like a life event that any normal human being found intolerable then led him to take medication, which of course, didn’t work. The dose was increased or more dangerous drugs were prescribed. After a while, he was hooked on them and can’t get off. And with each prescription, his diagnosis changes to something different, his behavior becomes more erratic and to another higher level. The doctor ignoring the side effects of the medicines and saying it’s because of his disorder. He escalates from depression to bipolar to schizophrenia in this pyramid scheme of prescriptions and at some point the damage is done. His brain is damaged permanently from the prescriptions and has no choice but to forcibly take some kind of psychotropic.

    And then we have a consumer of psychotropics and the pharmaceutical company for life.

    And all just a pyramid scheme with one underlying object, the almighty dollar.

    By the way, I do plan to write to the Boston Globe but I need to let this sink in a bit and really think about what I’m going to write. As far as readership, I will never buy this paper again.

  17. TThanks Sers for your words
    I had great respect for journalism in the past now not so much
    I would love to access their emails and contacts for their article
    Something smells fishy to me
    How was big Pharma involved did they plant these stories and thebTrestment Advocacy Centermwere they in contact with the team
    Also if one of their peers has a blog on
    MentaHealth -wouldn’t that be one of your first go to research places?
    Did the RC church have anything to do with this?
    They did a number on the church and maybe there are ties underground
    Definitely not the way I was taught journalism 101
    Full 360 not just forced perspective
    Sera can you try to get access to their research probably not but it might be something to look into

  18. Is it even possible to pool together our dough and take out a huge ad in the Globe?Use up their space and refute, point by point?

    Or is the average Globe reader too brainwashed by the slick advertising and “ask your doctor” ads out there?

    “Watch out, you might have a disorder! But don’t worry, there’s a pill for it…. Call this 800 number, and we take ALL insurances. Your confidentiality guaranteed (but we’re lying, duh, this is advertising,,,,,It won’t matter, you’ll be drugged…..)..”

    • I think if we had that kind of money we could do more effective things with it. It’s not just one paper, the media as a whole has been assigned to maintain the mystification around psychiatry. Let’s not confuse this with journalists misunderstanding things that we just need to explain better. Without the willingness of the people to see their pain as their personal inadequacy, rather than their natural reaction to a toxic culture, this system would collapse almost overnight. They will go to any extreme necessary to forestall this. The only thing that can keep the 99% down is allowing their revolutionary energy to be turned inwards against themselves.

  19. Knowledgeispower, I was subject to CBFS myself so I, too, am familiar. Yes, it is in sorry state. I had to jump through hoops to get them off my back. I lived in eastern MA and I found that just about everyone in my area who had an eating disorder (or, rather, struggled with food, eating, or weight concerns) fell miserably through the cracks. They just didn’t know what to do with us! I wish they had admitted it instead of LYING and claiming “You must have some other disorder we can treat.”

    I don’t for one minute believe these labels have validity. The System categorizes people, and humans shouldn’t be put into categories at all. The story of my mislabeling, and the awkwardness of my fitting into that label, I believe, is typical, and illustrates one example of why labeling should not be done.

    • I am sorry, Julie, for your bad experience at CBFS. There are not very clinically oriented and experienced CBFS workers. CBFS is good for some things like case management, housing and skill based activities such as managing finances, getting to medical appts, getting employment, etc. but not good for clinical work. For that get a private practice PHD or masters levels clinician with experience in certain area you need. Eating disorders is a specialty and one needs therapist with training and experience in this area. The CBFS you were in should have known their limits of what they can do and cannot. Good intentioned people certainly can do harm. I like CBFS for their mission of helping people to be more independent and learn skills to live successfully in the community. I became very involved in Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association because of my experience with CBFS as CBFS agencies certainly saw the need to train CBFS workers who generally do not have much training in mental health to at least get some basic clinical training and a set of ethics to guide them. Take care, I wish you well.

  20. OOOOPS! They did none of that. They didn’t drive me to appointments even when I sprained my ankle and needed a ride to get it looked at. That’s when I could have used transportation and the paratransit didn’t kick in for three weeks. They flat out refused, and refused to drive me to therapy when my pills were giving me bad vertigo so I couldn’t use the bus.The only ride I ever got was one ride to the ER and a ride back from the ER once. The ride to the ER was a “sectioning” one to ensure I didn’t report the CBFS supervisor to the DMH, which I had threatened to do. He ended up fired, that I know of. As for “specialists,” my experience with such “experts” in the mental health field (ha ha) is that eating disorders specialists are a joke. They tend to be controlling and abusive, get overly involved with their clients, have terrible professional boundaries, and/or they completely do not know what they’re doing. Many are completely ineffective as well, they do not actually help but keep their clients coming back forever. Also, many charge insanely high fees. Some have no real experience with ED so they only have book-learning. Go read my blog and you’ll see what I went through. The last thing I want is a clinician….EVER AGAIN. Sharing experiences and exchanging tips and pointers and giving support to others who have been through it is the way to go!

  21. I apologize by suggesting that seeking out professional help is the only answer to recovery, it certainly is not. There are many ways to health and healing. Finding others with shared experience is wonderful. Internet has been helpful with this. High costs of specialized care is an issue. As a social worker I believe that all should get the best evidenced-based care regardless of ability to pay. I feel ashamed for those in the helping field who are doing harm, it truly breaks my heart and angers me too. You prove that the expert lies within not without.

  22. The mental health system (sic) is based on the assumption that we need “help” from some “professional” in an office, but that basic premise is false. If you go get such “help” you will only get an office, an appointment, a bill, a medical record, a diagnosis, a prescription, a prognosis, endless follow-ups, and probably scores of extremely bad fallout as a result.

    The System steals our expertise away from us. We all have the potential to have decent lives and we can do so much more than we realize. The System takes away our power to make our own decisions. We need to take it back.

  23. It is sad to see the simpleton journalists spewing forth the illusion that if only more “mentally ill” people were able to get “treatment” – i.e. being isolated, told you have a brain disease, restrained, drugged – that things would get better.

    Most mental hospitals do absolutely nothing to help people, instead just trying to control and coerce them – something which paradoxically makes them more afraid and isolated. This may for a short time keep vulnerable people safe from suicide, but then of course they get out and can do whatever they want. Much of a stay at a mental hospital is wasted time sitting on a bed, eating terrible food, attending meaningless group therapy sessions about “managing illness symptoms”, and being pressured to take and try new psychiatric drugs which reinforce the ill identity. For the most part, the only people that can help “patients” at all at a mental prison are their fellow inmates, not the warden-psychiatrists.

    If you take away the term “mental illness”, and just talk about people who have been through more abuse, stress, poverty, and discrimination, of course these people are going to more easily get angered, have less ability to regulate their feelings, and be more prone to act out destructively. So, it should be a surprise that some such people (those who get these arbitrary meaningless labels) are more violent toward themselves or others than other members of the population who have had less abuse, stress, poverty, and discrimination in their past. Why wouldn’t they be more likely to do those things?…. but it doesn’t mean they’re fundamentally different or that they should be coerced into useless “treatments”. If those who do hurt others or themselves were treated better or had more resources they would probably be functioning fine and not become violent.

    They don’t have discrete mental illnesses, but they have been through a lot of bad shit.

    A lot of the blame for these problems has to go toward the profit motive and the greed that underlies capitalistic corporations, and to the incredible ignorance that permeates most of the American public, who like sheep believe almost anything they are told about “mental illness.”

  24. People who protect themselves and others are respected, and room is made for them. But people who try to get by via bowing and scraping continue to get stepped on. Psychotherapy and psychiatric medications are designed to make people more amenable to being stepped on.

    Those in our society who support the middle-class family control the land, the capital, and the politics. Those of us who do not support it are kept on the margins, and delegitimated. So most survivors are afraid to even think about opposition. I say this pertaining to survivors of the middle-class family and to survivors of the psychiatric system. To me these are the same. So this situation will not change until we start standing up for ourselves.

    Always the fate of children, and the fate of adults too, is in the hands of the broader society. Every society inscribes upon it’s members. Okay, but never before in history has their been anything like the middle-class family, where adults are encouraged to deliberately assert themselves by going into a Barnes and Nobel’s and purchasing a pedagogy manual and then by making some babies and then by using them for display and bragging. And then each time the FDA approves a new drug, what this means is that it is approved for parents to get their kids put on it and brag about it.

    In traditional societies and primitive societies it is not anything at all like this.


  25. Great article, Sera about the Boston Globe.

    I have an analogy about the myth of the connection between ‘mental-illness’ and violence, and how it
    connects to the Spotlight section of the Boston Globe.

    There are three types of Elephants in a room.

    The first one is clearly visible, but people don’t want to talk about. That is the proverbial elephant, and it’s sometimes is huge.

    The second one is visible, but it’s really a very small elephant, but the people in the room feed it, and it grows and grows as people talk about it. This kind of elephant is like the myth of the ‘mental-illness’-violence connection, and the Boston globe has just fed it some more. There are very few rooms that can hold the size of this once tiny elephant at this point.

    The third elephant is the invisible elephant, and that elephant is the biggest, and most dangerous one of all. It becomes huger as its influence becomes more powerful, and the people in the room refuse to make efforts at detecting it.

    The latter elephant is the elephant of psychiatric abuse. Robert Whitaker, Peter Breggin and others have made it more visible (and smaller in the process), and it’s more than ironic that a resource like the ‘Boston Globe’ and ‘Spotlight’ has sprayed some invisibility paint on the third elephant and made it that much bigger in the process.

    The Boston Globe decided to take the easy route and feed the second type of elephant (the one that everybody in the room talks about). ‘Spotlight’, has shown its bright light on injustice and cruelty fifteen years ago in terms of the first elephant in the room, but it does nothing about the most dangerous elephant of all, the one that’s so hard to see.

    When I saw the documentary about Spotlight (and the story they did about the Catholic Church abuse scandal), I wished that there were such groundbreaking story about psychiatric abuse, but instead
    spotlight acts even worse than them (Leaders of the Catholic Church).

    They turn on the victims of psychiatric (abuse) and labels them as criminals. It is sad to see that ‘Spotlight’, whose journalists were a voice of compassion and justice (in the Catholic Church abuse scandal), became (I hope temporarily) a voice that creates fear and injustice.

    I wish that one day, there will be a ‘Spotlight II’ movie, about psychiatric abuse, about all the lives
    shattered and destroyed because of it, till that day we still have MIA and Sera Davidow (and all the others who fight for psychiatric abuse victims).

    Again thanks for the article, Sera.

    Kindest regards, Even.

  26. “The Boston Globe recognized and reported that the media’s performance in this case, INCLUDING ITS OWN, was less than exemplary. In a thoughtful analysis, prominently displayed in a Sunday edition, Globe reporter Thomas Palmer concluded that competitive pressures had placed hasty and imbalanced coverage by both newspapers.”

    – From “Breakdown: Sex, Suicide & The Harvard Psychiatrist” by former Globe reporter Eileen McNamara 1994, Edgar Award Nominee, pages 264-265) regarding the Paul Lazano case, when a Harvard campus psychiatrist was – eventually – stripped of her license for engaging in a sadomasochistic sex scandal with a Harvard Medical School student, which ended with the patient’s suicide in 1991. He injected himself with liquid cocaine, leaving 72 pinpricks in his forearm. This is not a defense of The Globe at all – by heaven – but one documented example of a feeble confession when confronted with its blatant complicity with the psychiatric establishment.

    In fact, it gets so much worse, but you’ll have to read the book.

    This whole debate is a sinkhole that thrives and collapses on bad semantics, does anyone else see that? If we are going to engage in a fair debate, then let’s start by framing its basic parameters.

    Perhaps an actual definition of “mental illness,” is in order please?

    In my experience, that is too much to ask of a psychiatrist.

    So let’s talk semantics. The Boston Globe attempts to blame ten percent of “murders” on those with previous mental health symptoms. What the hell does that mean…really?

    Unless its self defense, one could argue that 100% of murderers are “mentally ill.” It is by definition the act of someone who is “mentally disturbed” in some way or the other, isn’t that obvious? It is obvious but its also the nut of the problem. So let’s turn it around on those who love to scapegoat the “mentally ill” in general. On the flip side, are they trying – as ridiculous as it sounds – to contend that 90% of murderers have no indicators for mental health issues? If that is true, then its the sane people in this world that are 9 times more likely to murder someone. I have an advanced degree in financial statistics and the author is spot on to criticize this from a correlation versus causality perspective.

    But I propose that another big problem is language. In addition to the abuse of statistics, the stigma of mental illness has compounded this issue ten times with emotional jargon.

    Again, what do you mean by mental illness?

    If you mean all diagnoses included in the DSM V, then everyone from caffeine addicts to those with restless leg syndrome to anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders and phobias should lay down their weapons, drop to the ground and surrender their civil rights to the nearest psychiatrist.

    These figures make a lot more sense to me:

    “In fact, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, “only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness” and “people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. The act “is trying to prevent gun violence by ignoring gun control and going after the the rights of mentally ill people,” Rodríguez-Roldán noted.

    Most people do not know the difference between a “psychologist” and a “psychiatrist,” “psychotherapist,” or a “psychoanalyst,” much less the difference between a “psychotic” person and a “psychopath,” where there is all the difference in the world. The psychotic is someone who is out of touch with reality – delusional perhaps. A psychopath is a serial killer. If we want to change public perception, and frame this debate fairly, we need to change the language.

    Why is this so passionate and personal? Please consider this cherished anecdote:

    It reminds me of the time a shrink slapped me with the diagnosis “Personality Disorder,” because I became slightly agitated with him when he refused to acknowledge the cerebral shock that he plunged me into when he dropped me off of Clonazepam and Cymblata in five days. I probably did raise my voice when he told me my symptoms were “neurologically impossible,” and “all in my head” and that I was a “baby whose bottle had been taken away,” but I did not threaten him. I did not even curse at the the guy, but he told me that I had a “personality disorder,” because I “could not control my emotions.” I was going through combined benzo and SNRI withdrawal and not small doses – the kind of withdrawal that drives many people to suicide, but that did not matter.

    It was not a factor in his mind, not a part of his training at all – and thus impossible.

    When I later reviewed my medical records, I wrote to remind him that there are four clusters and twelve types of personality disorders. If I have a personality disorder, could you at least tell me which one? I received a letter apologizing for not being able to answer my question. So here is another part of the problem. A shrink has the right to generalize to such a preposterous extent, the whole concept of “mental illness” is too obscure to have any real substance or lawful application…whatever. You cannot have a fair debate much less derive just laws and policies without a genuine definition of “mental illness.” And there is no such thing – some argue it does not even exist.

    His response to my request for a real diagnosis was tantamount to an oncologist saying, “Robert, you have cancer. We don’t know which kind. We cannot describe or isolate any symptoms. Its just our hunch because you once got flustered while going through the kind of withdrawal that drives some people to suicide….so you have cancer. Sorry – I am not required to justify it at all, and its not coming off your medical records because psychiatrists are the only medical professionals under federal HIPPA not required to share their clinical notes or correct their errors.”

    Most members of the public cannot make these distinctions, and I bet that includes unfortunately most lawyers, judges and jurors. As a profession, most psychiatrists prefer to blur those lines. In the absence of medical credibility, they have done a masterful job of infiltrating the judicial system and the court of public opinion. I have no criminal record whatsoever, and no history of violence. I have never applied to own a gun and I do not want to own a gun. I cannot imagine hunting anything personally. But I am a greater threat to society that someone on the FBI’s terrorist watch list?

    • Mental illness defined from MHA

      4 . Mental illness, defined

      (1) For the purposes of this Act a person has a mental illness if the person suffers from a disturbance of thought, mood, volition, perception, orientation or memory that impairs judgment or behaviour to a significant extent.

      (2) However a person does not have a mental illness by reason only of one or more of the following, that is, that the person —

      (a) holds, or refuses to hold, a particular religious, philosophical, or political belief or opinion;

      (b) is sexually promiscuous, or has a particular sexual preference;

      (c) engages in immoral or indecent conduct;

      (d) has an intellectual disability;

      (e) takes drugs or alcohol;

      (f) demonstrates anti-social behaviour.

      I could demonstrate how to make someone who sneezes into a mental illness but ….. note that the term “significant” means it is a matter of opinion, not a measurable fact. And it is as simple as misrepresenting matters to make what are exclusions into symptoms of mental illness. Someone is drunk, simply don’t attribute their behaviour to the alcohol and hey presto, got yourself a patient.

      • Interesting – so its not legally a mental illness if substance abuse is involved? Even stranger, it is not a mental illness if anti-social behavior is involved, when that is a criteria for everything from anti-social personality disorder to schizophrenia. There is also no mention in this definition of a tendency or proven pattern of violent behavior, which is supposed to be the core issue and thus should be included in any definition upon which the legislation derives its purpose. This definition is self-negating and – of course – insanely subjective as you noted, with its use of the word “significant.”

        It also means nothing when your psychiatrist only needs to wave his hand to render a diagnosis and he only needs to squeeze you into some of the criteria. There are ways to make the diagnostic procedures more accurate, but this profession would fight any reasonable restrictions or rules. For example, why can’t there be a simple requirement that the psychiatrist must administer a urine or blood test for cocaine or hallucinogenics, before he assigns someone a bipolar or psychotic diagnosis? It seems reasonable to me, but I have never heard of it happening outside of a hospital setting.

        There is also a catch-all diagnosis (Affluenza, anyone?) that allows a psychiatrist to extrapolate a new diagnosis by borrowing and combining criteria from various disorders. It is also meaningless when the patient has no right to challenge it, or access the “doctor’s” clinical notes.

        This definition is a perfect example of what I mean when I contend that there is no real, applicable definition of mental illness from which you can frame a debate, much less distill meaningful policies. Everyone I know has demonstrated an absence of good judgment, sans substance abuse, at some point in time. This abuse of language and statistics is about money and power. The more vague the definition of mental illness – the bigger the market for psychiatric care and its drugs. And the looser the criteria, the greater the margin for error, which negates the probability of malpractice suits too. Think about it. If you are a medical school student, prone to fraudulent activity, which residency are you most likely to pursue? The one where the doctor has the most leverage – the east accountability – and the patient has the least recourse for corrective action.

        Its transparently bogus and sours my stomach.

        • “so its not legally a mental illness if substance abuse is involved?”

          No, but 2 issues with the question. When is the line between substance use and substance abuse crossed? (eg with alcohol we have a reading). And if it is “involved” the attribution about the behaviour is that the substance is not the primary cause of the disturbance, the mythical mental illness is.

          It has meant that the use of the MHA to target certain groups for incarceration and forced drugging (with unintended consequences). This needs to fly under the radar though, because it would be an admission of what the consequences of taking these ‘medications’ really are if the sole intention is to physically harm someone. Difficult to look at cases like that of Garth Daniels and not know how ‘treatment’ can be used to harm.

          Others have been held at a distance. But to me it is a concern that for example Muslims participating in Ramadan meet the criteria of a mental illness and could be forcefully treated for that illness. Particularly with drugs which are prohibited.

          I’ve certainly met people who have been treated for no other reason than matters covered in the exclusions..

          And yep, it is transparently bogus and sours my stomach too.

    • P.S. There is a far greater correlation between substance abuse and criminal violence. Alcohol alone is responsible for 40% of violent criminal offenses and 95% of campus rapes, and 37% of all convicted offenders admit to drinking when they were arrested. But are we talking about the evils of substance abuse, when there is a much stronger correlation and common-sense causality between those two variables? No – and do you know why? Because then those who wish to demonize and scapegoat the “mentally ill” would have to look in the mirror.

        • Biggest correlation with violence in my country is with public officers. Though because it is State sanctioned violence it doesn’t count in the statistics.

          Terrorism is defined in such a way that it is something ‘they’ do, ‘we’ provide safety and security.

          Drug and alcohol abuse is something ‘they’ do, ‘we’ take medicine and drink responsibly.

          Police here can only find the copy of the Criminal Code based on your gender, colour of your skin, religious affiliation, etc. So many ways to ensure that citizens rights can be denied. In fact, in my instance placing proof of criminal offenses in front of a police officer was grounds for referral to mental health for a ‘hold’. (didn’t end up happening because MHS had seen the proof, and police then intimidated them into silence. Bit embarrassing that victims of crime are being ‘treated’ for their “hallucinations”)

          • My general point (and I perceive we are most on the same page) is that there are far more compelling variables that lead to violent crime than “mental illness,” however you define it – to scapegoat the mentally ill is an obvious red herring.

            Substance abuse is just one example I chose, but I am not trying to start an argument with anyone. Your right to drink or bear firearms should be based on patters of BEHAVIOR and not a fictitious diagnosis. I am not attacking your right to imbibe. I don’t care if you drink – just don’t drive for your sake and mine. Another cherished, personal anecdote:

            Long ago, I once made the mistake of telling a police officer that I had a psychiatric diagnosis and he detained me despite the fact that my BAC levels were three points under the legal limit. I found out much later that in this state, with a BAC level of .05 – the cops are required to release you. You are supposed to be presumed NOT under the influence at .05, according to state law, but I was not.

            Its very clearly worded, no margin of error.

            When the BAC tests came back that low, I looked at the police officer without saying a word (compliant as a choir boy through the whole process) and he said “Now that I have arrested you, I cannot UN-arrest you.” Both of my attorneys responded to that claim with the same one-word rebuttal:


            But I am pretty certain he kept me because I responded honestly when he asked me if I had a medical diagnosis. You can call me stupid to trust to the cops – because it was stupid. I will never do it again. I will plead my fifth amendment rights to that question if it ever happens again.

            He then contended that I was under the influence of multiple substances, but yet he did not ask me for a blood or urine test, which was not only his right, but the logical next step when my BAC levels came in that low.

            And I would have complied, because I had quietly complied with all his requests and I had nothing to hide. but I know better than to resist the cops in this state. I do not think its paranoid to conclude that he decided the absence of evidence was his best offense, so he skipped that part.

            It took a year, but the charges were dropped.

            I have good, pro bono attorney friends!

            In his last desperate effort, he contended that I failed the heel-to-toe test. Well I had two knee operations that year, because of two torn meniscus joints (being a long-distance runner for 30 years) so a letter from my orthopedic surgeon put that argument to rest…and he finally gave up. BTW, cops in this state also receive bonuses for making DUI charges stick. A corruption of justice? Sure, but no one cares.

            So I just don’t need lectures about the twisted and systemic complexities and prejudices against people with mental-health diagnoses. I am also proudly and openly a member of the LGBT community, and I know what its like to have that held against you by shrinks too. I have pretty much been through it all…and I wrote a 355-page memoir about the first 25 years.

            If the advocates of this law really cared about reducing rates in homicide, they should shift their focus on the true roots of the problem. Its easy to define all people who commit murder as “mentally ill,” unless its self defense. Its a false premise based in bad semantics, supported by an even more blatant abuse of statistics for purely political purposes.

            I have no desire to control your behavior or define what’s right or wrong for you. I just don’t think in judgemental terms about individuals, and it has led me to trust some of the wrong people. I am pointing to obvious flaws in their construction of their red-herring position on this topic, the abuse of statistics and language that belie their true intentions. I have also cited actual quotes and opposing statistics from more credible sources.


          • Classic case here was that of Andrew Mallard.

            A woman was bludgeoned to death in a jewellery store. Police have an undercover officer provide Mallard with strong cannabis, give him some jewellery from the store that was robbed (one off pieces), have his hair cut in a Mohican and dress him in a Scottish kilt. Then they interview him and ask him what his hypothesis about how the murder occurred, and have him make some drawings of the weapon that may have been used.

            This then became his confession in court, and well….. 12 years later they figured they got it wrong.

            Trusting people who are being enabled in the planting of evidence with ‘verbals’ is a dangerous thing to do. They have treatment for that emotion? Must be some sort of drug surely lol.

          • On the issue of substance use/abuse.

            One of the stated grounds for depriving me of my liberty was that I had “refused to answer re substance abuse”. Now this was a Community Nurse who had been informed that I had been spiked with benzos (not my prescription), was taking no psychiatric ‘medications’, did not drink alcohol, and had been informed by another party that I had been known to smoke cannabis.

            Jumped in my bed by police, and essentially forced into an ‘assessment’, I am expected to confess to crimes in front of police. Should I refuse to confess, that is grounds for locking me up and drugging me forcefully? And no room on the statutory declaration to mention the benzos administered without knowledge?

            So i’m a little confused as to when substance use becomes abuse. Seems to me that the cocktail of drugs they were ready to inject me with would have made me very sick (not just my opinion either).

            Whole load of old Tottenham, a big steaming pile of Hotspur this mental illness stuff

          • Even more of a worry was my “thoughts of harming others” which the Community Nurse swore on the statutory declaration that he made personal observation of. It was one other who had attempted to blackmail my wife and was three weeks before he attended my home but …… so he has this ability to travel through time and space and observe thoughts that people have?

            Okay, maybe he is a bit loopy, but the Chief Psychiatrist and the Minister for Mental Health have both confirmed that this is “not misrepresentation” and is “reasonable”. The tools these people have are just amazing really

    • The general public seems to define “mental illness” as any behavior or choice that they don’t understand. Us v. them. Good v. Evil. Normal v. Crazy. Attribution at its finest. I don’t understand why my neighbors have a small carnival in their yard every Christmas. That doesn’t make them mentally ill. I don’t understand why politicians are willing to sacrifice people like myself to further their agendas, but they aren’t labeled mentally ill either. Sanism is also rampant in this country: particularly within the courts. It is widely accepted that if you are in a state hospital, you deserve to be there.
      The thing is… they say they want to talk about mental illness, but that simply isn’t true. They want to talk about their version of mental illness. No matter how ridiculous the statistics, no one will question them because (in my opinion) it widens the gap between “us” and “them”. It also gives them someone to blame, and nothing unites this country the way having someone to hate together does. Mental illness is the new “evil”. Personally, I don’t want a gun. I don’t need a gun. However, I do want to stop being referred to as though I am not there… Like I am a piece of litter attached to the bottom of society’s shoe.

      • Deena, all I can say is, WELL PUT and….Me too, I don’t want to be the butt of any further blame. Next time you hear it, just walk away. For me, that works better than trying to argue or defend myself against Chronic Societal Blame Disease. Do not believe the lies and name-calling. Look back at what fools they are to blame us. Such crazy ideas they have in their heads, don’t you think?

        • It can be very crushing. I remember, a few years ago, I was at the walmart pharmacy which is always overcrowded… and the pharmacist asked me what I took this medication. I told her Bipolar 1, and I saw this woman dramatically pull her child to her. She didn’t even drop her voice, and I could hear her saying that the child should stay close, and people like me should not be allowed out without someone to watch them. The child was looking at me like I was a serial killer… The line of people seemed to backup as I walked out… Like I had some highly communicable disease.

          • Next time be sure it’s between you and the pharmacist. Or do not respond. Your doc prescribed it, but whose to say the condition even exists? I’ve got colorful mood charts I made from 20 years ago when they thought I was bipolar. I fell for that, too. All those charts are of a normal person with normal mood swings. All those people at Walmart could make the same charts of their own moods and be called bipolar by the same docs. Read Paula Joan Caplan, MD, who writes that most of the time these docs don’t know one dx from the other. It’s just mean name-calling and scapegoating, exacerbated and prolonged by the drugs and labels themselves.

  27. Robert, I remember that case when the shrink had an affair with her patient, that news even made it to me. I may have met her. I am not sure. I’m sure my own shrink I had at the time knew her well.

    I am also familiar with the “personality disorder” accusation. Don’t believe it. They tell that to people who pose an inconvenience. No worries, just completely ignore it and make like it was never given, so that way it’ll disappear from your record. I hope! A neutral “I never heard of that” approach might be best to get it completely erased. Just consider it given as retaliation or to silence you since you were pointing out the obvious. So they wanted to give you a really bad one that would be wicked harmful. Look back, wave nyah nyah and tell them it didn’t work! Call back that maybe they should outright kill you next time they want to silence you! Then run fast and come back to MIA and tell us how it all went.

    • Thanks for the support. In reading the book, I discovered that the Lazzano family first filed a complaint with the medical review board. So I filed a complaint in this state against my last shrink. Just this morning, I received a call from the investigator assigned to my case. It looks like things might move forward – and I can not only have that diagnosis removed from my medical records, but address other egregious matters as well.

      But I very much appreciate your kind words.

      • Yes, I have heard that persistence will win out. We can do this. People have gotten their dxes taken off in a variety of ways, some rather creative, I must say! After all, they were given to us in a slip-shod, arbitrary, ameteurish manner, why should we go by the books when we do not have the money and barely any legal power to do so anyway?