The Family Care Foundation was founded nearly 30 years ago as my reaction to a psychiatric system which tended to fail to take into consideration that human beings are relational and contextual. The vision was to make some changes, not only for individuals but also for society as a whole. Did we manage to do it?
In some ways we did, especially regarding individual people and their families. We have also made wonderful connections with people from all over the world, which is enriching and powerful. In my daily practice as a psychotherapist, and leader, it is extremely important to know that there are many people all over who have experienced that it is possible to reduce and get off psychiatric drugs, and to leave behind a life defined as “a patient.” If it had not been for the network we have built up, I am not sure we would have made it, either as an organization or as individuals.
But — and here is the hard thing — in the last decades it has become worse when it comes to diagnosis and prescription of psychiatric drugs than it was 30 years ago, and as many of us know, these practices have now become widespread in the care of children and young people as well. It is unbelievable how this has happened, and there are days when I feel powerless and a bit overwhelmed by the fact that so many people are “psychiatric patients,” and by the fact that so many people accept what is going on as necessary, and inevitable.
Some years ago some of us at Family Care Foundation realized we have to do more, to extend our work even more in a social and political direction, and to find allies far outside psychiatry and psychotherapy to try to involve and engage with people who still do not know what is going on.
I decided to leave Family Care Foundation to focus my attention on setting up the Extended Therapy Room Foundation, from which we are reaching out to connect people of all kinds in an effort to get the word out.
I have given up on psychiatry as a system capable of “being there” for people who are dealing with life and death issues. Psychiatry as a system of care lacks validity. Every day — unfortunately — we learn of new examples proving this statement. A recent example is found in Joanna Moncrieff‘s blog on how an important workshop was rejected from a psychiatric conference. I meet with people every week at my work place who tell about the way they are treated in psychiatry. Every day people are told there is no cure, there are no possibilities other than “medication,” and so it continues…
Before I start to seem too pessimistic, here comes the good news: every day we meet people who show that the predictions of psychiatry are not true; that there are “cures,” that it is possible to reduce or withdraw psychiatric drugs, and that in most cases it is better never to have started them! It is not done without effort, and it is not done alone, but it is possible. I have experienced this many times, and so have others, all over the globe.
We have to continue to show this to the world – in practice, research and other manifestations. And so, this October 15th, we will host Scientific Symposium – Psychiatric Drug Risk and Alternatives in Gothenburg, Sweden. The symposium will mark the start of an International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Risk and Withdrawal. Some of the initial members of the institute’s faculty – Volkmar Aderhold, Birgitta Alakare, Will Hall, John Read, Olga Runciman, Jaakko Seikkula, Sammi Timimi, Robert Whitaker and myself – will present on what we know, and what remains to be learned, about the risks of, and withdrawal from, psychiatric drugs.
Even if we are still a minority compared to the dominant system, I am absolutely sure – I know – that there are a lot of people out there who support the idea, who are just waiting for something to happen, and who long for other narratives. We have this conversation often with people — both professionals and former psychiatric patients — who travel from around the world to know more about what we do.
The real challenge is how to make it happen in a way that people feel that this new narrative belongs to them. These alternative ways of working don’t cost more money. There don’t have to be large structural changes. It’s important that we do research with traditional numbers and figures; but there are enough numbers and figures already. There are a lot of the things that can be done now. All that has to happen is to find a way to describe our experiences in a way that moves people.
There are many more people who we would have loved to invite to speak; so many who know the truth of what we are saying, and doing wonderful work. But time and space are limited, and we hope that many of those people – you – will come and participate. We hope to gather more knowledge, more strength, and more courage from this event, and to find ways to let more people know what is happening.
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For those of you who want to know more about the
Extended Therapy Room and the Symposium,
please have a look at www.extendedroom.org
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.