My Fixed Delusion


I’ve spent my adult life working in mental health services.  I worked for 15 years in residential treatment with adolescents, and another 15 years in large outpatient programs with adults.  I’ve been in clinical roles and leadership roles, primarily as a group therapist.

I am a strident cognitive behaviorist. I’ve been a passionate and sincere student of human behavior for as long as I can remember. I respect the scientific method, and try to maintain critical thinking.

Obviously I haven’t been a true believer in the psychiatric standard of care for a long time; at some point I became a skeptic. However, I never stopped to consider that my suspicions could be evidence of a “serious mental illness” until it was suggested by my supervisor in a “counseling” meeting.

Although it’s hard to specify when the seeds of my insanity took root, the documentation of it began shortly after I donated Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic to our clinical library. I suggested that Whitaker’s statistics mimicked trends in our own clients.

Questions of my sanity first came up behind my back.  I only know about it from a former co-worker, after she switched allegiance.

Months passed. Whitaker’s statistics clearly correlated with the day-to-day, person-to-person anecdotal evidence in our patients. I was especially interested in the people who returned to us, months or years after being discharged. What these people had in common was that they accepted their illness and complied with medications.

Obviously I shared my observations with my team. I was eventually able to form something of a predictive template for bad outcomes. I wasn’t surprised by the initial defensive reaction. It’s an understandable reaction to cognitive dissonance.

I was surprised that as evidence accumulated (and accumulate it did) the defensiveness only deepened.

The official pushback began gently. I was invited to counseling sessions, offered more trainings and greater supervision. I believe they genuinely wanted to bring me back into the fold.

It was no longer gentle after the fourth or fifth disciplinary counseling session. They had to come right out and tell me to “stop telling people they can get better.”

Ultimately they expressed their concerns for my own mental health which, they assure me, were shared by many members of my team. Although they declined to offer a specific diagnosis.

My boss asked me “how could you be the only person who sees this big conspiracy?   

A valid question, it must be said. And I had no immediate response.

This, after all, actually is a definition of a delusion, especially now that the DSM 5 is the new standard.

Perhaps, all this time I have only been in denial?

I developed a list of all the crazy things I believed.

There are no lab tests of any kind for any DSM diagnosis. The diagnosis is subjective. The diagnosis can’t be tested for, measured for severity, or tested against.  The current system lacks validity and reliability. Everyone inside the system seems to acknowledge this, but simultaneously insist on treating a diagnosis as sacred.

For example: It is rare that two psychiatrists in our network seeing the same patient will arrive at an identical diagnosis.

And, any legal case involving competing psychiatric testimony will demonstrate how two experts can examine the exact same evidence for as much time as they care to and arrive at completely contradictory conclusions.

Psychiatry is faith-based medicine.  It discourages second opinions. Psychiatry places an institutional priority in convincing people to “accept their illness,” even at the expense of informed consent.

The chemical imbalance theory had been completely debunked even before Prozac came out. This is so well-known that psychiatric talking heads are even now trying to pretend they never believed it.

Psychiatrists who did promote the idea, or continued to present it, are simply misleading people for their own good.  The “stigma of mental illness” justifies a little coercion. Since, obviously, the people who accept their illness and comply with medications will have the best outcomes.

Except that there is very little evidence that people who get treatment have better outcomes then people who don’t. In fact, the worst outcomes, (chronic illness, disability, shorter life span, suicide, violence) are associated with people who have been exposed to treatment, especially across time.

By “treatment” I am referring to medications, and/or psychotherapy. Although psychotherapy will not cause weight gain, diabetes, and shorter life span of medications, it is far from benign.

1 in 5 Americans are currently taking a psychiatric medication. Yet the conventional wisdom holds that not enough people are in treatment.  The numbers are often repeated: “40% of mental illness is untreated.” Which led a recent APA president to declare “the greatest challenge facing psychiatry is untreated illness.”

Prescription drugs are now the leading cause of death in young adults. Opiates being the worst, but psych meds are frequently involved, particularly benzodiazepines.

A recent CDC report on suicide confirms one of my less documented long standing delusions: The suicide rate (for mental illness) has never been higher, and most people who kill themselves are in treatment when they die. Many people were not suicidal until after they got into treatment.

It surprises even the most experienced clinicians who fail to realize that there is no treatment proven to prevent suicide, simply because you can only accurately measure suicide in those who succeeding in killing themselves. In other words, those who failed in treatment.

Suicide prevention consists of a series of assumptions we make about why people kill themselves and what they need from us to not die.  Mostly this amounts to drugs, talking at length about why life sucks and is futile, and being very subtly rewarded for making existential threats and gestures.

As far as I can tell, most of the mass/spree shootings in America involve people who have been exposed to treatment.  And, as far as I can tell, mental health professionals are as good at predicting violence as the CIA was in predicting the fall of communism.

Because of the legal requirements for disability, 100% of the people permanently disabled by mental illness have participated in treatment, usually across time. No one has slipped through the cracks to disability, simply because it requires a doctor’s efforts to become successfully disabled.

And, the disability rates are staggering and unsustainable. I suspect they increase wherever psychiatric treatment is more widely available. It is not uncommon for a person to have maintained an occupation and social role without any treatment at all, only to become disabled after getting into treatment.

I suspect the same correlation can be found in the divorce rate and availability of marriage counselors. The incidence of unresolved grief and the availability of bereavement counselors, and the rate of PTSD and the availability of trauma counselors.  As I said, therapy is not benign.

Obviously there is a very clear financial incentive to encourage chronicity, since we can’t charge someone who recovers. There is no profit in recovery for the treatment provider. Like any other business our best customers came back over and over again.

And, treatment is the only item on the menu. The only option for someone who clearly deteriorated after getting into treatment is more treatment.

The people who become chronically mentally ill are our best customers.

People who pursue disability are particularly profitable, because they will engage in treatment in order to secure documentation, and don’t complain when treatment fails. They may come back to inpatient several times in the two years of appeals in order to demonstrate and document their incompetence.

Like any other faith-based system, it is impossible to disprove a negative. I can’t disprove God any more then I can disprove restless leg syndrome. Or Asperger’s, or ADHD.  Faith and denial are evidence resistant.

Certainly my sincerely held beliefs conflict with widely held conventional wisdom, which is the very definition of a delusion. And now I have been diagnosed by several skilled and experienced mental health experts who knew me well. Yet I don’t accept my illness, which constitutes anosognosia, more evidence that I am indeed insane.

The last year at the hospital was bad. I hired a lawyer. I went to work every day expecting security to come walk me out. I attended six therapy sessions through our EAP program.

The whole thing ended rather quietly. I was downsized and given a generous severance package. People cried when they announced I’d be leaving.

I can’t find anyone in the field to work for who has managed to avoid the corruption, and even if I could, who would want an old group therapist with a fixed delusion? The people with integrity went out of business a long time ago.  These days I run a very selective online private practice and produce a podcast about the dark underbelly of the mental health system. The podcast is called anosognosiac, and you can find us on iTunes.

I did find an answer to my boss’ question that troubled me, “how could you be the only person who sees this?”

I am not the only one. Many other people have come to the same conclusions I have. Many are articulate and offer compelling evidence.

Also, since leaving the hospital I’ve been quietly approached by some of my former team members, including one who participated in my diagnosis, who admitted they actually saw the same problems I did, but worried over the consequences of speaking out.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand it is vindication. On the other hand, some of those professionals looked me in the eye and made me question my own sanity.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. Your story reminds me of my own experience as a clinical psychology intern at a psychiatric hospital some 25 years ago. What struck me then was how self-perpetuating and self-serving psychiatric “care” was and that in my 12 months stint saw many people return after their discharge. There was no actual involvement with the patients or preparation for life outside the hospital walls. When I encouraged a female patient to refuse the “medication” she was injected with on a regular basis as it had such severe side-effects, I was called irresponsible. And when a young man who had received more than 60 electric shocks to the brain before the age of 18, asked me whether he was a schizophrenic during an intake interview and I said to him no, you are (his name) and that it was just a label that psychiatrists use to substitute any real connection with him, I was chased out of a ward round like a rabid dog. This was fortunately towards the end of the internship and they were happy to see me go.

    For a few years after that I questioned my own position which was shaky to say the least following the experiences at the hospital. Then I read Toxic Psychiatry by Peter Breggin. He eloquently stated what I intuitively knew and since then have in my own small way with my clients made sure that the psychiatric doctrine does not get promoted in any shape or form. I am also encouraged by the contributors and readers of MIA

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  2. During my long taper from psych meds that was nearing an end, I respectfully told my psychiatrist that I wish I had never set foot in the arena of psychiatry. His next question was to ask about my mood which made me realize the mistake I had made in starting this conversation.

    It was a real eye opener to me how protests against psychiatry were seen as a mental illness. Needless to say, I kept my mouth during future visits which were quite minimal near the end of my taper as I had less need to see the psychiatrist for any medication refills.

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  3. Excellent article! It takes courage to stand up against the mental health industry.

    I always try to remember other people in history who stood up to injustices in our country and at the time were questioned but are now considered heros.

    I have been a clinical social worker for 25 years. Fortunately most of the time, I have worked in the medical field and did not need to label/diagnose people.

    I see a mental health industry that is heavily invested in protecting itself at the expense of doing what is right for other human beings. I also see a lot of primary care doctors influenced by drug companies and a desire for a quick fix misdiagnosising people all the time. I see the public buying in to the chemical cure myth through the heavy drug marketing and misinformation passed on by many physicians.

    I see a lot of arrogance in providers. I see providers unwilling to question the status quo and be open to new ideas.

    The public needs to remember that psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers do not need to have their own mental health evaluated before being able to be licensed as a provider. I have seen many questionably emotionally stable people working in the mental health industry.

    I am glad to find other like minded professionals who are seeking to help people in less harmful ways. As Peter Breggin warns, if you are going to question the current mental health system, make sure to have a back up job or self employment.

    I am so grateful for Mad in America and the way this website educates all of us about the risks of the current mental health paradigm.

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    • When I went thru my psych rotation during nursing school, one of the things our instructor told us, right at the beginning, was her theory that most psychiatrists have ‘issues’ themselves.

      Makes sense, huh?

      I’ve also learned (the hard way) to avoid people in my personal life who are super interested in ‘the brain’ or psychology.

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      • Michael,

        I have been a physical rehabilitation therapist for 35 years and have worked with infants,children and adults with a variety of physical, neuro-developmental and/or behavioral-psychiatric conditions in settings to include hospitals and other community facilities. We often work as a team with physicans, psychiatists, social workers, neurologists, neuro-psychologists etc. Working in these “team environments” has given me a better perspective on how other professions approach what we call “diagnoses and treatment”. I recently left the industry albeit quietly, because I could no longer be a participant in what I will refer to as the “corporate machine”. Modern Medicine, Psychiatry and Alternative Therapies have turned into nothing more than patient quota and billing productivity machines burning the candle at both ends in the name of profits while forsaking the very patients they claim are being “helped”. When will the Medical, Psychiatric and Alternative Therapy communities realize that although there have been some gains, these disciplines have not after decades of billing various diagnoses, treatments and medications been able to effectively treat, much less cure the most common medical and psychiatric conditons that have exsisted for centuries. There is no incentive for anyone to cure anything. They just keep billing “diagnoses codes” to Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies so the overhead can be paid at the end of the month. I could write a book on the rampant misdiagnoses and fraud that I have witnessed on a daily basis as a practitioner in these facilities. What is even worse is that many of the “clinicians” dressed in white lab coats, holding the clipboards and making these diagnoses have a diagnosis themselves. So we have a good number of Narcissistic, Borderline, Obsessive Compulsive and other personality disordered people running the organizations. And dare not ask questions lest you be banished from the kingdom. On a separate note, the “machine” has gotten much worse with the recent “demonizing” of chronic pain patients who take opioid medications for intractable pain conditions and have failed multiple prior treatments. These are not “street addicts”. These are children in hospital Cancer units, Veterans coming back with injuries from war, elderly people in nursing homes etc. People injured in car accidents are being treated in the ER with aspirin for pain all because of the so-called “war on drugs”. Chronic pain patients are now being forced into invasive surgeries and painful procedures that have failed over and over to offer a cure of much relief. Once again medical, psychiatric, alternative and addiction treatment centers are booming with business. Who are we helping? Medicine and Psychiatry have failed and we blame the “patients”. While I can empathize with the “war on addiction” to some degree, the restriction and stigmatization of pain medications for patients with legitimate pain conditions has caused an epidemic of suicides and an increased use of misdiagnosed psych labels. There are many high level contributing members of society who may require a combination of “treatment methods” to include taking pain or psych meds just to function, hold a job, or raise a family. Now many of these people have been forced to collect disability because they are let go from employers or insurance companies who will not accommodate the needs. I thought “function” was what we strived to see in our patients and society as a whole. It’s become Eugenics for the sake of profit and weaning out the “drains on society”.
        Genetics and Epigenetics is nothing new. Every human being is born with a genectic pool of traits that may include organic mental and physical conditions as well as environmental and/or behavioral traits or practices. Who really cares what the diagnosis is? We all have to live on the planet. In my opinion we need to go undercover and expose these frauds in a documentary and then in the media. Small blogs and podcasts are good but it is not enough to get the system to change. Mass media exposure is the only way.

        War of the Minds

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        • I’ve had some recent contact with brain injury rehabilitation. Its very easy to chalk up some one’s reaction to brain injury as evidence of psychiatric diagnosis and pump them full of drugs. This makes the person’s capacity and baseline function even harder to assess. Meanwhile the person becomes more confused or more agitated, which leads to more drugs. People who are trying to recover from a stroke or TBI should be the last people we start indiscriminately pumping full of psychoactive agents (aside from children).

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          • I’d like to hope ECT victims could be included in this group. In case anyone has lingering doubts, or hasn’t connected ECT with Acquired Traumatic Brain Injury…
            1.Traumatic Brain Injury occurs when an external force to the head causes disruption to normal brain function.
            2. ECT is the application of an external force (450 volts for 8 second to the head that causes a convulsion and coma), disruption to normal brain function, therefore…
            ECT causes a Traumatic Brain Injury.
            To understand the aftermath of ECT it is necessary to check out the aftermath of Traumatic Brain Injury. The two are one.
            The claim of 100,000 is probably more like 200,000 and GROWING, as ECT is surging as the `best treatment’ available for severe, treatment resistant depression, i.e. that which the drugs have failed to help or have, in fact, caused, (Tardive Dysphoria).
            This means that at least a 100,000 people in the US alone are being given a Repetitive TBI every year. When are people going to recognise this? Perhaps when a lot of them stand up and have MRI and fMRI scans (not all will show anything as many TBIs don’t, though this doesn’t mean a thing if you’re a footballer or a `normal’ person); neuropsychological tests which WILL show deficits; get autopsies done on their loved ones who have ECT in the past and have died for any reason, and ask for Neurological rehab. 100,000 people asking their insurance companies and the government to pay for treatment for the consequences of injuries caused by psychiatrists (who DO know, why else are they dodging the required safety tests), for which the insurance companies and the government also pay, questions might be asked. Just talking about it won’t stop it, action might.
            Only pro ECT `researchers’ have access to people actually having ECT and we know how they fudge results, so we must use the aftermath as evidence. Your working with recognised brain injured people will alert you to the same injuries in ECT recipients who are NOT recognised, if you LOOK.
            I actually did this, and involved a neurologist, He diagnosed the brain injury before I told him how I got it and this is what MUST be done, remember, they stick together and f**k the patient.

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          • deeeo42
            I hadn’t thought of it but of course you are correct. ECT is obviously brain injury. I don’t have much experience with ECT, although memory loss is a common complaint in the people I’ve worked with who went through it.

            The people with TBI Im referring to are car accidents and strokes. There are several stroke survivors who had been on psych meds for extended periods of time prior to the stroke. I don’t think any had ECT, but Ill start asking the question just for my own information.
            Thank you

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          • “Its very easy to chalk up some one’s reaction to brain injury as evidence of psychiatric diagnosis and pump them full of drugs.”

            Imagine how easy it would be to chalk up someones reaction to ‘coercive interrogation techniques’ as evidence of a psychiatric diagnosis and pump them full of drugs? The Guantanamo Guidebook doesn’t allow the use of techniques which cause permanent injury, organ failure or death. These techniques are however “responsible, humane, legal, proper, and consistent with the Geneva Convention” (Rumsfeld). Imagine being released from Guanatanamo only to be handed to a psychiatrist for ‘treatment’ lol. Coz they can cause brain damage, organ failure and death and it is “responsible, humane, legal, proper, and consistent with the Geneva Convention”.

            A somewhat lame repeat of the Stanford Prison Experiment. Anyone who has been subjected to forced psychiatry will recognise the techniques “pride and ego down”, “scenery up, scenery down” etc. All this and the ability to drug people without their knowledge before capture?


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  4. Hi Michael, First class Article.

    When I say I recovered from CBT people don’t believe me. When I came off depot injection I started getting dreadful anxiety attacks (over everything); I had never experienced these before. I learnt that if I could put the ‘problem’ onto a shelf and look at it again once I calmed – I would then know how to deal with it. This worked for me and it was all the CBT that I needed.

    It took some months to come off depot reliably so I had a series of hospitalisations. And in one of these hospitalisations I got talking to a mysterious character who was circulating (I had talked to him before and he told me he used to be very shy when he was young – and this made me cringe).

    He told me he was a psychologist and he said that he was not against medication – but that everyone could make complete Recovery without medication. He promised me this.

    Years later I got my records and saw that the psychiatrist had classified my withdrawal hospitalisations as relapses. So I reported him to the medical Council. But he was on the Medical Council and at first they deflected me. Eventually I made the complaint and the Medical Council let him off the hook. But next time I looked he was off the Medical Council.

    My problem had been drug induced restlessness disability, and suicide attempts – these symptoms left me with the medication. And I moved to recovery and independance.

    But when I asked the Unit to send ADR warning the Unit sent a Record over to the UK without ADR Warning and changed my history around describing me in the negative (and this is giving me a certain amount of trouble over here in the UK). But I do have solid evidence of adverse reaction suppression and the historical assessment of the (Foreign) Admitting Doctor – that there was not much wrong with me on admission.

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  5. Michael,

    My former psychiatrist took part in a Published Research Paper on depot medication in 1998. The paper acknowledged extrapyramidal side effects, it recorded hospitalisations following withdrawal as relapses and claimed depot as an Economical treatment Option. I would describe depot as a very Uneconomical option because the drug disables near everyone that consumes it and I had to stop this drug to make recovery.

    The 1998 paper did not mention suicidal reaction: my last hospitalisation was in April of 1984 after being given a first time alternative depot. The next day I had to break my way into hospital because I was going mad and I knew it. Less than 2 days later I discharged myself and I never took an injection again.

    Treatment definitely causes longterm ‘mental illness’ but to withdraw I think a person needs support. I think this also applies during crisis or first time crisis.

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  6. I’ve been wondering what happened to you since you last wrote something for MIA. We are the heretics and the system wants to do to us what the Church did in the Middle Ages when they persecuted those who refused to accept what it believed and taught. They can’t allow anyone to walk to a different drummer nor tell people the truth about psychiatry because they can’t allow anyone to doubt the “treatment” and their expertise and authority on all of our lives.

    I hope that you’re able to find something that uses your compassion and intelligence for walking with people in their distress.

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    • Stephen,

      For me all my experience happened years ago and doesn’t seem like a big deal – but there are many many people who are trapped in the same situation as I was in years ago – and they might never escape.

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      • I agree. I’m trying to work from the inside of the system to change this but am not having a lot of success at this point. I think what happened to you, even if it was years ago, is still very important. And it points out how badly the system has done when things have not improved from the time of your experiences.

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        • Stephen,
          The system is actually a lot worse today than when I was a part of it!

          The NHS is not able to deal with the people they have and they are still attempting to recruit more and more.

          Most people’s problems are probably the same as mine – the medication (and the need for suitable help).

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  7. Michael, you are a heretic and are being the modern equivalent of excommunicated. Which I think you should consider a badge of honor. I did not receive the same degree of hostility when I made my views known, it was more a degree of marginalization – people knew I was one of “those people” who “didn’t believe in medication” and therefore my views could be discounted whenever the topic came up. Eventually, I “excommunicated” myself because I felt bad about participating in such an oppressive system, plus there were fewer and fewer dissident professionals to whom I could talk openly about the situation. At this point, those with integrity have mostly quit or been tossed out of “the system” and outside advocacy seems like the only path toward rethinking/reforming/rejecting the current dogma and faith-based “treatment” protocols.

    Well done for standing up and calling out the fraud for what it is. When people suggest I’m a “conspiracy theorist,” I say, “I never said it was a conspiracy. It doesn’t require a conspiracy to be corrupted, only a nice, reliable conflict of interest.”

    — Steve

    —- Steve

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    • Steve ,
      Many times what some describe to be a conspiracy theory can better be described as a business plan. Also to say there are no conspiracies is not true . Certainly powerful individuals or organizations wielding fabricated pseudo science for profit across many domains are the main threat to all life forms on the planet . Edwin Black’s book “War Against The Weak ” is a real eye opener. Your comments most often are clarifying . I know mine are a little wilder . It comes from much harrowing lived experience . Fred

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  8. This is a very disturbing story because it confirms what parents with a child in the mental health system already know, that it is getting even more difficult finding a therapist who is skeptical of the medical model of mental illness because therapists with integrity are under threat of losing their employment. Conversely, parents who seek non medical models of understanding and treating their children’s extreme states are also under threat of medical kidnapping of their child, or later, of losing custody or guardianship. There are other threats against parents too. I had a friend charged with a no-contact order with her adult son because she offered him a sanctuary in her home from forced drugging.

    Peer specialists are under threat of losing their employment therefore they may not speak up on behalf of a client when a treatment is harmful or disempowering to a client.

    Therapists and peer specialists who are afraid of losing their employment are generally unwilling to speak up on behalf of a client to help him/her fight an involuntary treatment order. The psychiatrist nearly always have the last say in a hearing and very few therapists are willing to cross a psychiatrist. Very few psychiatrists are willing to cross a peer. Even medical doctors who practice in other fields of medicine rarely cross a psychiatrist.

    If a parent is lucky enough to help an adult child identify a therapist who is skeptical of the medical model, say, a therapist who uses cognitive behavioral therapy for people in extreme states, let alone something even farther out on the fringe, such as shamanism, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to integrate that into a person’s treatment plan. There are simply no choices.

    Allies and family members quickly learn that even treatment that is considered as ‘complimentary’ and not in conflict with the medical model must be done somewhat covertly, often without the knowledge of a treatment team, otherwise, a client who is empowered by such therapies may start to question the medical model or the original diagnosis. It’s like the house of cards representing the ‘disease’ management moel which always ends up in drugging begins to fall apart. All manner of bureaucratic, policy roadblocks exist to discourage implementing outside therapies, second opinions, even complimentary therapies from being funded programatically, let alone implemented on a case by case basis.

    This teaches patients who are seeking alternative models of understanding and managing their behavior, as well as their allies and family members to be covert and duplicitous, in the pursuit of recovery. To live a lie is the antithesis of what is required to achieve mental wellness, yet if one is faced with ongoing incarceration and torture, one will do whatever it takes to get out from under the threat. What a double bind.

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    • As a peer specialist myself I talk to the people I support about how they feel about the treatment they are getting. I can express any concerns I have with them but only as it being the way I see it. If they agree we talk about what they want to do. If not I continue to support them the best I am able to. But when there is a need for advocacy the best way to go is encouraging that person to advocate for themselves and I can help them with what they want to say, what they would like to have happen, and be there when they talk. It always means more when it comes from the person themselves. It also helps to take that pressure off of me…I doubt I would get fired in the end because the agency I work for doesn’t even have therapists of any kind or psychiatrists so if that therapist or psychiatrist wants to complain they can but it won’t do much.

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      • Try working in a state “hospital” and see how far you get doing this. I’m also a peer worker but I work in the traditional setting of a state “hospital” and there’s no talking about choice or any of the other pillars of peer support. It’s like being in the French Underground during the Second World War. I’m glad that you’re able to do real peer work in your agency. Hopefully someday I will also get to do so.

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    • The very worst part of this whole mess is what we are doing to kids. You can assume that some, if not most of the professionals you are dealing with are pretending not to know whats really going on.
      It might be helpful to approach a member of the treatment team privately, ask to speak freely and off the record, and ask questions. Its quite possible that they will level with you, especially if they are parents and feel they can trust you.
      Its often pointed out that psychology and psychiatry have always needed to apologize for what they did to the previous generation. 50 years ago lobotomies were not off the table. I wonder how the next generation will judge our silence now.

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    • Madmom

      You’ve described the dilemma perfectly. I work in a state “hospital” and will tell you that the psychiatrists run everything. For some reason no one is willing to cross them or call them into question, even if they’re drugging people with six or seven drugs that dangerously interact with one another to the point of causing psychosis or even killing people with heart attacks etc. No one seems to be able to hold them accountable. Peer specialists cannot work in traditional institutions because they’re not allowed to support people in their own choices as to what they want for “treatment”.

      You’ve done a great job of summing up the problem. I’m just glad that your child has you for a parent since not all families are as supportive as you of the person experiencing issues. There are many “patients” whose families want to keep them infantilized and dependent and compliant and they do this for many reasons.

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      • You mention heart attacks – my GP is fixated with cholesterol and I have refused to do any more tests. I have done one more despite myself and my cholesterol is the same as average (which is about 20% more than what they call “normal”).

        But what I did have was dodgy heart rythm and nobody asked me anything about this and when I’ve discussed it, it’s been kept off records (I don’t suffer from heart rythm problems now – and the cholesterol has a good ratio so it’s not a problem anyway). The heart rythm problem was definitely caused by medication.

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  9. I found myself nodding my head in agreement throughout much of this article. However, I am curious if you see any benefit to therapy? It seemed as if you were speaking in absolutes towards the end and placing items into separate boxes. When I think of treatment efficacy, I think of it on a spectrum. Certainly there are terrible interventions with harmful and deadly effects. There are have been many, many people who have been traumatized by the mental health system. I am not trying to take away from that at all. I just also think that sometimes we don’t always recognize when it has been beneficial?
    I am appalled by your work experience at the hospital. I work at a hospital as well, but in an outpatient MH program. The whole time I was reading this I was thinking, this guy should be working here! At our program, recovery isn’t an option, but an expectation. I am constantly telling people that they can and will get better. I work with a large team who generally share this mentality. I find it absolutely tragic that at your last job you were treated in such a manner.
    Lastly, the one thing I full-heartedly disagreed with you on was your point about there being no profit in recovery for the treatment provider. You miss out on one of the primary reasons people enter into this field of work! I am over the moon when my clients experience success, when they are able to wrestle with past demons and move on. When I see someone who has been suffering for so long find relief, it’s just….awesome. I am so happy for them. Some days are really tough, but the successes remind me of why I do what I do. Generally, I do what I do, (Psych. Social Worker), because I love people and I’m passionate about the field and it makes sense to me to earn a living doing something I like. However, as any social worker will probably tell you, I am not in it for the money. I do it because it makes me feel good. When clients have successes, I feel a burst of happiness. I know it’s their success and not mine, but I find it a privilege that I could witness it. Sometimes the ride is bumpy as hell, but they let me come along with them on this ride and that’s really something. I guess I just felt compelled to let you know that, to see that there’s someone IN the system with this mindset?

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    • Hi Erin
      You raise some very good points. The EAP sessions were not helpful, but its really not a fair example because of the situation that sent me for counseling and the relationship EAP had with my employers. Neither of us could be completely candid. I knew the therapist professionally and she knew about my conflict with my employers, who paid her.
      I have been in therapy several times over the years, and I have found it very helpful when I needed a sounding board, or to clarify my values on a decision that was troubling me. I like therapy to be time limited and goal oriented. So I dont attend indefinitely. I think too many people dont realize they have become dependent on therapists.
      On the other hand marriage counseling was unhelpful to the point of harmful. We went to three different therapists over 4 years. All highly recommended. Im sure its works for some people. Just like medications probably work for some people. I dont have statistics, but I bet divorce is the most common outcome of marriage counseling.
      I also agree that mental health professionals aren’t generally profiteers. As you say, there are much better ways to make money then social work. People get into this work to help people. I was referring to the corruption that happens when profits are prioritized, typically at the corporate level, over the instinct to do the right thing for a client. Its when these forces are given the power to dictate what is the most important consideration that the problems begin. We see it with money in politics and steroids in baseball.
      Its really good to hear that not everyone has been compromised. I love what you wrote about “expectation to recover”. Spot on. Low expectations are much more harmful then high expectations. Ive heard about a program in Chicago that works with bipolar teenagers who embrace the same ethics.
      I want to say also that I was able to hang in as long as I did because I was protected by the clients who rated me highly on follow up surveys. I wasn’t suppose to promote high expectations for recovery in our clients, but I did anyway. The message was overwhelmingly popular with the people who passed through. I like to think I was helpful to people.

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    • Erin

      I’m glad that you’re happy for people when they are truly able to regain their lives and move on. But you are not the run of the mill therapist, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist working in the system. I don’t think you’d be posting here if you were. I believe that many people who work in the system don’t really support recovery since that means that they would lose “clients”. Part of what the system does for itself is to assure that it will always have “patients” to see. This is the one specialty of medicine that doesn’t really work for recovery in the people that it supposedly assists and works for. The system teaches learned helplessness and dependency and people are told that they’re sick for life and will always have to be on the toxic drugs. Too bad that the drugs destroy people. It’s the breaks of the game and the “patients” are on the losing side.

      I don’t think that you are the usual person working in the system. There are people that are trying to work from the inside but as this article attests to, those people are eventually forced out of the system.

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  10. People say they want to end coercive psychiatry, but they keep playing footsie under the table with psychotherapists.

    “Please don’t subject us to forced medication and psychiatric treatment. We have already been rendered non-violent. Have pity on us. Give us a chance to try psychotherapy and recovery.”

    So given that the reason that we have psychiatry and psychotherapy is to legitimate child abuse and to perpetuate an underclass using eugenic arguments, the anti-psychiatry movement is not being very effective.


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  11. Personally medication and therapy have been helpful for me. Without meds my emotions would run wild and would be incredibly difficult to reign in and I wouldn’t be able to function like I can now. But it doesn’t solve my problems and never will. Therapy…for a long time therapy was a place to go and drag up all the crap I’ve experienced and talk about why life sucks and no one was helping me learn how manage those emotions and find ways to make life not suck and I usually left more a mess than when I walked in. That time served no purpose, didn’t push me in the direction of growth and change. The way I see a diagnosis is that it summarizes a group of symptoms. For me having a diagnosis was helpful because it brought all of my symptoms to one place and they weren’t just taking free reign. But they are just symptoms and the diagnosis itself was just a storage place for me. They aren’t who I am and they have changed since they started and are constantly changing still

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  12. Thank you for reading this and taking the time to comment.
    During the worst of it I sincerely did start to question my sanity. The point that really hit home was the question “how could you be the only one who questions this?”.
    It was you people, this growing community, that got me through. I am not alone. I am far from the only one who sees whats happening and speaks up. And for what its worth You are not alone. Although I don’t comment often, I read the articles and the comments every day. So I hear your voices too.
    I wrote this essay when I was angry. It was originally intended to be a snarky written reply to one of the counseling supervision meetings I attended. I decided not to use it, and it sat in a file until I ran into an ex co worker a few months ago. By then she found herself marginalized as I had been, and so she told me about the secret meetings they had to speculate on my diagnosis. She apologized for her part in it. I didn’t realize that the process had gotten that far. I was angry again.
    Its all very much like a witch hunt, or rooting out communists. The tactics are the same, its really only the labels that change. When some one refuses to conform to a point of view that is critical to maintaining a power structure, they must be isolated. I worked in mental health, so my problem must be mental illness. If I worked for a church, Id have demons. We are easy to pick off when we are alone.
    Please check out our podcast “anosognosiac”. You can find us on Itunes or on our website, Comment, like us on facebook. But especially consider allowing us to interview you via skype for the podcast. There are others out there who need to know they aren’t alone.
    Again. Please know that I am very grateful.

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    • I am all too familiar with this dynamic.

      Shout, “The Emperor has no clothes,” too loudly and too often and you will be marginlised and bullied, your sanity will be called into doubt by others and if you hang around too long, by ourself.

      Congratulations on getting out and yes, this is a small, but growing community

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  13. Although I agree with most of the article there is one glaring error that I would like to offer to the readers and writer to consider because it is very important. The reason people are depressed is not because they want to work, but because they don’t want to work and are compelled too by society. That is why they are blackmailed into getting forced treatment, because society wouldn’t allow them to prove they are unable to work without proof from a Mental Health Physician.

    People have the right to life, and in other to secure the right to life they must have food and housing, and in order to have food and housing they must have money or a disability pension.

    When you make people feel they must work even though they are too sad or angry to work, you make their depression worse by taking their right to life away.

    We see many stories of workplace violence, the stresses of work that cause chronic illness, and a society who is being overworked and underpaid for their labors through globalization.

    Please don’t let pride get in the way of your goal, removing treatment is not going to get people back to work. Telling people you have to right to live and will provide everything you want in order to exercise that right, will cure ‘mental illness’

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  14. “I suspect the same correlation can be found in the divorce rate and availability of marriage counselors. The incidence of unresolved grief and the availability of bereavement counselors, and the rate of ptsd and the availability or trauma counselors.”

    I suspect the rate of divorce is more related to well paid jobs for women. But, hey, maybe I’m wrong. I have no figures.

    Unresolved grief and ptsd are socail constructs. However mapping the relationship between trauma and distress has been done and it shows that those who have psychiatric diagnosis for psychosis (if you like the term) have high rates of easily identifiable trauma. But hey, lets not let facts get in the way of a good bit of rhetoric.

    Otherwise a good piece that describes what it is like to be on the outside of the common delusion of a place of work. Most of the good workers leave or get coopted.

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  15. Michael,

    If you’re crazy then I’m also frickin’ nuts because we share many of the same beliefs.

    It’s pretty clear from research I’ve read that accepting one has a “mental illness” worsens your chances of getting better and developing an independent satisfying life… here’s a sampling:

    Blame it on biology: how explanations of mental illness influence treatmenthas a good summary of how bio beliefs reduce empathy and warmth in providers, and decrease hope for non-bio treatments etc. 
    William Schultz wrote and article on how focusing on biology increases “prognostic pessimism” and will provide access to his academic article on the issue – check out this link.  
    On the same theme, something I wrote, It’s Not Just the Drugs; Misinformation Used to Push Drugs Can Also Make Mental Problems Worse   
    Prejudice and schizophrenia: a review of the “mental illness is an illness like any other ” approach documents how these beliefs increase stigma and hopelessness.   
    And Effects of a chemical imbalance causal explanation on individuals perceptions of their depressive symptoms describes a bit of research into immediate negative psychological effects that happen when people are falsely led to believe that their depressive experiences are definitely caused by a chemical imbalance.
    Drugs don’t do shit to address the root causes of one’s life problems, nor do they treat any specific brain disease… they just dull down the central nervous system and reduce the ability to feel pain, but also the ability to be motivated and constructively deal with conflicts. And they make you believe you have a brain disease you can do very little else about, which is pretty depressing.

    One of my proudest achievements was rejecting the notion that I had a mental illness and needed to be on drugs, and deceiving my psychiatrist by self-tapering myself off drugs and leaving the mental health system of my own accord.

    Can’t believe those dumb mofos told you, “Stop telling people they can get better”. I assume getting better means they can really get well and no longer have any brain disease called “schizophrenia” or “major depression”… even though of course the supposed signs of these maladies don’t represent diseases people have in the first place.

    But Michael, have to call you out clearly on one thing: your comment about psychotherapy was pretty unsupported and speculative. The major meta-analyses by Barry Duncan, Paul Knekt, Falk Leichsenring, et al show that most people who get psychotherapy tend to have better functional outcomes and be less distressed than similar people not getting psychotherapy. This is on average. It doesn’t mean psychotherapy can’t do harm. Of course “it” can. “It” is just some form of human relationship. And psychotherapy isn’t like a pill coming off an assembly line. Human relationships vary greatly in so many ways…

    Saying “it is far from benign” about psychotherapy is pretty meaningless as a generalization. It’s like saying, “human relationships are far from benign.” I guess that might have a grain of truth, but it’s pretty meaningless. And on the whole human relationships are soul-supporting and good, in my opinion… far more good comes out of relationships than bad, in my opinion – for most, not all people. We’d die without others. The same goes for psychotherapy – on average, according to the authors I cited.

    If you want to make statements like that about psychotherapy, you need to have data!! And you don’t have it… your statement about psychotherapy was about as unevidenced as the unsupported claims you accused psychiatrists of making about drugs and psychiatric treatment outside psychotherapy. If you can name authors / titles of major studies / meta-analyses showing how most people are worse off with psychotherapy than without, let’s see it…

    By the way psychotherapy is far less available than drugs and many people who want a human relationship with a therapist cannot get it. So the speculations about grief and bereavement counselors, and about ptsd and availability of counselors, are questionable too…

    I’m not being paid to support psychotherapy. I just don’t think you have the data to support what you’re saying about it… it showed in your article. And I don’t like when people make broad sweeping claims without any data…

    Here’s some of my data:

    These are meta-analyses, not single studies. The difference does matter… also this…

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      • I agree that we agree on most points Michael. I just think it is important not to throw broad sweeping statements out there that are not based on careful analysis and on some level of data. The data I shared suggests that psychotherapy is more a positive than a negative in the long-term for most, not all people… thus, we could be doing damage by discouraging people from seeking it by overfocusing on its negatives and painting it with too broad a brush. That was my concern. But overall I applaud what you are doing in questioning the axioms of a truly ignorant, stupid, harmful, arrogant profession.

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        • I agree that we agree on most points Michael. I just think it is important not to throw broad sweeping statements out there that are not based on careful analysis and on some level of data. The data I shared suggests that psychotherapy is more a positive than a negative in the long-term for most, not all people…

          “Psychotherapy” is a fancy word for talking to someone who has the capacity for helping you sort out and deal with your feelings and experiences. It could be a friend, or someone who hangs out a shingle saying “psychotherapist.” It is a subjective, not objective, experience and as such is not quantifiable or reducible to “data.”

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  16. I thought I had a good therapist when I met “Becky”. Unlike all my previous therapists, Becky didn’t insist all my problems were self-generated. At first anyways. She agreed that my family was abusive and should be avoided at all costs. In prior dealings with therapists, since I was a teenager, I would hear the same thing: You think it’s abuse because you are delusional. Then one day Becky started talking about EMDR. I noticed her office was full of books by Depak Chopra. Every time I tried to bring up the idea of brainstorming plans for me to effectuate real changes in my life (getting a new job) all she wanted me to do was make gratitude lists and write about times when I replaced a negative thought with a positive one. I think on some level even Becky realized her practice was a castle with a straw foundation. But she wouldn’t let all this new age unscientific stuff go, so I walked away.

    In my darkest days I actually think about calling Becky, but I know better. Even though her Power of Positive thinking crap wasn’t as compelling as the chemical imbalance myth, I still often wonder all my problems are all my fault. Even situations clearly outside my control that no one could predict. Every time I have seen a therapist, all they’ve done is chip away at what was left of my sense of self. It’s also eviscerated my faith in humanity or at least Americans. No one really cares what happens to me. Only money matters.

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    • I laughed at your description of Becky as I have just ended therapy with someone who was a bit like this, though not nearly as bad. There are very few people interested in what therapy is actually like for clients, when it helps and when it doesn’t and when it harms. It is an important topic and one well worth looking into.

      Personally I like this little video which more than debunks positive thinking, it eviscerates it

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      • Loved the video, John.

        Read the book and bring it up often to my annoying cosmic friends.

        Will repost the link on BenzoBuddies which seems to populated by many of the discussed delusional ‘positive’ thinkers.

        It’s dissing, pure and simple.

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  17. Wow, Michael, very powerful story with pristine clarity. Much of it is painfully familiar to me, having also been on the clinical and client side of things, often overlapping. The shift in perspective and social experience is profound, and quite telling of where the core problem is, imo. These are two incompatible realities, or so it seems. So ironic, and truly a call for a radical paradigm shift. What else?

    This really stood out to me–

    “Also, since leaving the hospital I’ve been quietly approached by some of my former team members, including one who participated in my diagnosis, who admitted they actually saw the same problems I did, but worried over the consequences of speaking out.”

    I am not one to judge others and I think people have their own reasons for doing things as they do, which I always try to respect. But when people who know these problems exist and have seen for themselves the corruption, and don’t speak out due to fear, then they are purely enabling the corruption and along with it, the harm it does to others. I don’t see a way around that, and it is a choice.

    I’d imagine they would, therefore, counsel their clients toward fear-based living, even it is unconscious, that would be the natural order of things. Our beliefs always influence those we counsel and support, it would be impossible for that not to be the case. That’s a terribly negative ripple effect, starting with a fear-based therapist. I’d also call that “lack of integrity,” as this is the opposite of embodying one’s beliefs. It is deceit.

    Personally, I feel that a good and creative life is best fueled by courage to live in our truth and trust in a process, rather than hiding in fear.

    Kudos to you for speaking your truth and letting the chips fall where they may. That is freedom.

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  18. While I find this a good article, I think you did make a mistake in generalizing therapy as harmful, though understandably so as you were angry, hurt, and rather betrayed by what happened.

    However, the weird reality seems to be that, in our critique of the psychiatric medical model, there are people vulnerable and dysfunctional in need of real intervention, particularly children being victimized by their parents.

    Parents that have unwanted or inconvenient children LOVE psychiatric labels. They love them so much they will use them with or without the aid of an equally abusive treatment team in order to excuse their problems which may actually be causing the malady.

    High functioning autism was a wonderful excuse for the fact that I liked things that weren’t traditionally feminine, that I was getting into “embarrassing” “loser” hobbies like Pokemon and anime, that I was socially awkward and being harassed by other children no matter where I went, and for the fact my parents disliked having to actually provide means of socialization by giving me rides.

    Fortunately, when the school demanded that she take me into the psychiatric system or face the consequences over my notes indicating self harm, I got set up with a psychiatrist who seemed rather skeptical of all this and of the traditional medical model herself.

    She disagreed with the Autism diagnosis my parents had insisted on, she disagreed that I was “disabled” and incapable of normal human interaction, instead directly implying to both my parents and I that it was the fault of an abusive dynamic where I was being isolated and invalidated. Boy did mom ever not like that! She believed strongly that what I had was ADHD, but never told me that I was incapable, she empowered me and said that I could always get better, that I could learn to cope.

    Now unfortunately, this part of the story doesn’t have a happy ending yet. Enraged that the medical model failed to excuse my abuse and isolation, putting all the fault on the child for having a “disorder,” my mom took me out of the practice as soon as she could. My psychiatrist, I realize now, knew what was happening and was concerned. She tried to insist I would find socialization and power in attending group therapy sessions, which, as you can guess, my mother ignored because it was not an easy solution or an excuse.

    Now, after several years of wallowing in dysfunction that was caused by this isolation, after going into early adulthood did not change my mother’s subtle sabotage of myself, after I realized that they did not truly love me and were not going to provide the support necessary to help me become functional in an empathetic and supportive way, I became so very lost and alone.

    However, my ex finally saw that I was begging for help, that I couldn’t do it alone, that I had been so convinced of my inability to heal and function by myself that I was dependent in all the worst ways. He helped me get a low cost therapist from a charity organization and paid for the sessions himself, even after we parted ways. Now, while this didn’t totally fix my severe issues, and even though the therapist himself ended up being not what I needed after awhile, he made me realize I don’t have to be alone, that there are people that exist in that field that won’t abuse me, if I just have some judgment and empower my own intellectual abilities. There were slightly unconventional techniques he used that made me realize some of the roots of my problems, that helped me to truly start to cope and take responsibility for my dysfunction.

    Now I am doing intakes again. It is definitely nerve wracking, and I want to avoid the medical model, the insistence of medication, and most likely, useless diagnosises vs. “this is a dysfunctional behavior, let’s work on getting you to a functional one.” I have symptoms but I am not my symptoms. That is what the medical model fails to provide, that empowering statement that you are not the illness.

    However, I believe that I am lucky, that I am an example of what can happen when we empower even what seems to be an extremely dysfunctional case with autonomy and praise of their own intelligence and introspection. Therapy does not have to be harmful.

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    • Wow, what a sad story, though I’m glad it seems to be moving in a happier direction of late! I work with kids in foster care and I see this dynamic all the time. Not only the parents, but foster parents, the school system, caseworkers, and even mental health professionals supposedly trained to help kids who are victims of abuse have blamed foster youth for being angry, sad, anxious, or inattentive, or for having “mood swings”, all of which are clearly related to their horrible upbringings and the traumatic experience of being in foster care. Instead of normalizing their emotional reactions as an understandable reaction to a very abnormal life pathway, these kids are told that THEY have a “mental disorder”, and that faulty brain chemistry is at fault, all of which implies pretty obviously that they SHOULD be happy about their situations and that any adverse emotions or behaviors they experience are an indication of their own “disorder” rather than their crappy lives. It is most infuriating, and truly represents the exact OPPOSITE of what is actually helpful to traumatized individuals, in my experience.

      I wish I had some answers, but the pathway forward seems to lie in finding individuals you can trust and develop relationships with, so you can learn, just as you say, that there are people who care and won’t abuse you, if you look around and learn how to judge who is legitimately on your side.

      Well done to you for hanging in there and getting on a positive pathway!

      —- Steve

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      • Rae, I had issues with my mother growing up, too… She was often angry at me and I was angry at her, too, because she never listened to me. I spent most of my free time in my teen years hiding in the prison of my bedroom, either because my mother sent me there for punishment, or because I was hiding from her and my brother, one of my many bullies.

        Parents don’t want to be criticized, I guess out of fear for being seen as a “bad parent.” My mother was very loving when I praised her, but when I criticized her, all hell broke loose. She’s still that way. I believe my mother would prefer to protect her own reputation, than her own child by admitting she partly contributed to my mental “illness.”

        It’s convenient for parents to have their child labeled with a diagnosis, it takes them off the hook for bad parenting…

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    • Hi Rae. I agree therapy does not have to be harmful. What you describe is horrifying, and I’m glad you found some people in the profession who saw your strengths and your potential and at least tried to intervene. I don’t know if you are familiar with “Munchhausen syndrome by proxy”, but I’m curious of your take on it.
      You might have had more people on your side then you knew about, since most clinicians will automatically, although discreetly, examine the parents role in “dysfunctional” children. Unfortunately since the parents write the check, they are the customer. If the parents don’t like what they hear, they can take their business to some one else. This sounds a lot like what happened to you, if I read between the lines correctly.
      I hope you know that no one can tell you who you are suppose to be. No one is more qualified to figure out who you are, or what you are capable of, then you. I hope you learned to take a close look at the lives of anyone who judges you “dysfunctional”.
      I turned 51 this year. I’ve lived and worked in different parts of the country for many different organizations. I’ve spent my entire adult life around mental health professionals. I’ve worked with them. I supervised them. I’ve had them over for cookouts. So I’ve had a good look at their personal lives. One thing I can say is that, as a group, outside the office, they don’t seem any more mentally healthy or stable then any other friends or family I’ve known well. Their kids aren’t happier or better adjusted or “functional”, then anyone else. Another thing I can tell you is that they very often don’t practice what they preach. They often don’t live by the same standards or practice the coping skills, or take responsibility for their own “dysfunction”, that they are quick to define in others. This makes them human beings of course. Just like you and me.

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      • Hi Michael, even though you directed your comment to Rae, I feel as if you were writing to me, too. When you wrote “this makes them human beings,” I saw my mother, also a social worker, in a new light. She’s not a bad mother, she’s simply a human being that has both a light side and a dark side… as we all do!

        My therapist only focuses on my mother’s dark side, so therapy kind of warped my perception of the woman who gave me the gift of life itself. My mother is very loving when I’m loving, and I’m the same way; I’m very loving when she’s loving. It’s a domino effect of karmic reactions, except human beings are the dominoes and the effect is more of an emotional contagion!

        I now see that therapy, too, has both a light and dark side. Thank you for your insight!

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        • Hi Victoria
          I was writing a comment to Rae when your comment was published. You said a mouthful in your last sentence:
          “It’s convenient for parents to have their child labeled with a diagnosis, it takes them off the hook for bad parenting…”
          Psychological defenses (ie rationalization, denial, and so on) work best when they are subconscious and automatic. They function to protect habits from change.
          I can use myself as an example. Being a father is the most important role in my life. If I were confronted with evidence that would reveal me to be deficient in this role, it would require me to reconfigure and reassess all kinds of things I want to be true about myself. It would threaten a cornerstone of my identity, not just to myself, but to my neighbors, friends, family, etc. A diagnosis, as you say, would indeed be convenient. I might even be able to define myself as a victim in the narrative. And Id be sensitive to different interpretations and defensive when something gets too close. So on the one hand Id be decrying the horrors of mental illness while simultaneously dismissive of any other explanation for my child’s behavior, or even suggestions that my kid isn’t mentally ill at all. It shouldn’t be difficult for even a novice therapist to recognize cognitive dissonance. But I’m not likely to respond well to this perception. The therapist, being human, is subject to the same, subconscious drives as everyone else. I might complain about him and take my kid to some one who “gets mental illness”. And all he must do to keep my business and win my approve is validate, validate, validate. Id certainly feel better when I left his office, and likely to be a repeat customer. The therapists job is to agree that the kid’s “illness” is the problem. Validation may sound like a harmless, kindly thing to do, but it can be insidious. If you want to find real life examples of my little story, attend any NAMI meeting.
          Consider a thought experiment: Imagine that your mother, instead of you, has been attending the same therapist you are now. The therapist hasn’t met you and has only heard your mother’s side of the story of your family. Would your therapist focus on getting your mom to realize what a horrible parent she was? Or would she simply find some one else to blame? Who would be the villain of the story now? Your grandmother? you?

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          • That’s a great way to look at it! If my mother talked to my therapist, she would blame me for being a “bad” child… even though she partly raised me that way. She would blame my anger back in my teen years (today, I feel angry at her only in my psychosis… my anger was suppressed… one of my past delusions was that there were two clones of my mother, one good and one evil) for the reason she punished me so often. It would be a role reversal, she’s the “good mother” who has to make the “bad child” obey.

            She once explained to me that genetics made my brother who he is today, turned my brother into our “bad father.” She said she tried so hard parenting him to prevent that from happening, but genetics rules in the end. So she probably blames who I was in childhood on bad genetics, too, as well as bad brain chemistry. Today she says I’m sweet, but that’s only because I obey all her rules, I don’t criticize her, I agree with everything she says even if I disagree.

            I don’t rock the boat, because I’m afraid to be who I truly am around her… I’m afraid she’ll demonize me the way she did my brother, who turned out great in my eyes… he’s totally honest with her, and I’m not… he should be viewed as the good child, but instead I, the liar, am the “good child” now and he’s the “bad child.” Why does the truth get punished and the lie gets rewarded? Because the truth often hurts!

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          • This is, of course why the `chemical imbalance’ became so very entrenched. You can’t be blamed for your kid’s pathology. And back in the early poart of last century with Anna Freud, Melanie Klein among others, parenting DID cop it. Probably justifiably but terribly distressing, particularly mothers, who believed that they loved their children and did everything they knew how to make them happy and fulfilled.
            They didn’t know that some popular child-rearing practices were destructive, the Truby King baby clinics insitutionalised emotional deprivation in the first 50 years of the 20th century, the boarding school system in the UK brutalised children for generations and so on. This is what happened as part of society and the psychologists who castigated the `schizophrogenic mother’ for instance, who failed to see the contributing continuum, has led to the embracing of bio-psychiatry.
            My mother used the Truby King program from birth and under no circumstances could anyone have called my childhood abusive. We were well fed, well clothed, well educated and outwardly a `lovely’ family. Inside there was tension, verbal violence and the constant threats of disintegration! But there was no divorce, no physical or sexual abuse. But when I had a severe depressive episode as a consequence of severe bullying at work, I was told by the psychiatrist that I should contact my parents. I told him that that would be fruitless because my mother would just say, `don’t you blame me for this.’ I complied, however, and the first thing my mother said was, you guessed it, `Don;’t you blame me for this.’ I don’t. Not now. She was as much a victim of her own upbringing as I was of hers.
            But I do blame the mental `illness’ system – they don’t have to continue the way they are – as I wrote further down – we tried to do better.

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          • In working with children in an inpatient setting, I learned to blame the parents. My usual conclusion was that they were the ones in need of treatment. Instead we drug the children and teach them they are somehow wrong and need modification. The drugs in my opinion have limited value. They were all to often prescribed with little thought, usually unnecessary and even harmful. This is especially true in regards to the damage that may be caused in a developing brain.

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  19. I like your article Mr Rock, and the comments that have followed. Just a google definition of delusion:
    “an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder:”
    I’ve been having trouble with a delusion of sorts. The sworn statutory declaration used to allow me to be deprived of my liberty and transported to a hospital by police (which would without “reasonable grounds” would be called kidnapping) contains a bunch of “facts” required by law. Now in order for these facts to be “observed” the observer would have to have been able to travel through time and space, observe thoughts (mind read) and observe potentials (fortune tell) and not see things which were put right under his nose. So I sent a letter to our Chief Psychiatrist who says that this is “reasonable” and not misrepresentation. A statutory declaration requires that the document not be false or reckless as to the truth. So it’s got me wondering about my delusion because nobody told me that time travel, mind reading and fortune telling had been cracked. And please don’t spoil my day by telling me they found a gene that causes chemical imbalances too, my world will come crashing down.

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    • I get that Mental Health Services can just go out and grab someone from their bed because a psychologist asked them to. So there was a need to plant a knife on me and drug me with benzos to obtain a police referral (they will just verbal one anyway for future reference) and avoid the issue of police having to shoot me out of the need for the knife to be on my person for referral.

      But how come I am a patient before I even meet this Community Nurse? Don’t they need to see if a person is ill before making them into a patient against their will? And man, did a guy who had been drugged with benzos and collapsed in his bed quick become a violent psychotic drug abusing wife beater in a hurry.

      I dunno, these fixed delusions. I’m stark raving bonkers and have the fraudulent and slanderous documents to prove it lol

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  20. That should read “I get that Mental Health Services CAN’T just go out and grab someone from their bed because a psychologist asked them to.” But getting around the rules like this seems a little dangerous to me.

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  21. Hi Boans
    I read your comments on countless articles. So I feel like I know you.
    Sounds like you have a case of Anosognosia my friend. A rather bad one I’m afraid. I hope you check out the podcast.
    You describe the absurdity so well. I hope you can laugh about now, or soon. Wouldn’t it be satisfying on some level to know that the people on the other side of the table totally understood reality and were pretending not to? If they had to acknowledge that theirs is the delusion?
    I want to acknowledge an important difference in our experience: I could leave at will. I may have felt trapped in my situation but every day I swiped a badge and the doors opened. I had the option to call in sick every morning. I can only imagine the skin crawling horror of being confined and at the mercy of actual delusional people.
    Another really important point that hasn’t come up is the Murphy bill, and how this might effect people in our situations in the future. It’s like two groups of delusional people having competing parties and trying to drown out the others music by turning the crazy volume up and up

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    • “Wouldn’t it be satisfying on some level to know that the people on the other side of the table totally understood reality and were pretending not to?”

      Gaslighting. Doesn’t really help someone who they claim is in need of their help (which given the false narrative created to kidnap and lets all pretend it’s lawful). It does however mean they get to treat the person for the trauma of being kidnapped and locked in a mental institution drugged without their knowledge. So they knew they were committing serious criminal offenses but pretend they aren’t and …… oh good crimes, bad crimes lol.

      I’m fairly lucky in the sense that the equivalent of the Murphy Bill here I do not believe will effect my future (says a man who was snatched from his bed and looking down the barrel of a chemical baseball bat because he had a disagreement with someone and because they knew how to set people up. Skys the limit for these folk). But I do feel for those who will be (and in Australia’s case, have been) corralled by it. Certainly it resulted in a lot of psychiatrists fleeing the public system here. I don’t think they planned a career as parole officers with drugs. So we have hired a mob called Pinkertons Detective Agency and are going to understand the reality (people need drugging without their consent) but pretend we don’t. All be plausibly deniable.

      “It’s like two groups of delusional people having competing parties and trying to drown out the others music by turning the crazy volume up and up”

      Looked a bit more like a gang of thugs running round smashing other peoples stereos coz they didn’t like Tom Jones to me. Still, thing about turning a blind eye to these crimes is that they have moved on to other families now, safe in the knowledge that their criminality is being enabled by some very important people. It will spread and denial is not really such a good defense but hey…..will someone turn that music down???

      Take care Mr Rock and I will do my best to listen to the podcast.

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      • Had a listen to number 8 and will be listening to more (perhaps an intro to who is who at the start of each podcast?)

        But I got to thinking a little more about this for some reason. “Wouldn’t it be satisfying on some level to know that the people on the other side of the table totally understood reality and were pretending not to?” and went back to the Formal Investigation which was done. It was made perfectly obvious to me at that time they were aware of the crimes which had been committed against me, but were making bizarre statements. For example, It doesn’t matter what reasons are given for locking someone up and force drugging them. Because it doesn’t matter what is written on Statutory Declarations (sworn court testimony). Perjury is fine as long as the target goes to prison? And when our politicians discuss that 45% of women report being sexually assaulted in hospitals but no one is ever charged? Saying, oh they are mental patients so don’t listen to them? This is ‘treatment’? nahhhhh.

        The deliberate gaslighting being done by these people is resulting in deaths and is being done deliberately? 2 Thessalonians 2? ….and God sends upon them a great delusion so they might believe the lie? But they are not God, and if sexual assault is being used as treatment then ….. who is delusional.

        All this forgiveness for criminals posing as medical people, guess there might be a little of it for my sins too.

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        • Thank you for listening. We are upgrading our equipment and figuring out a formula, any suggestions are appreciated. We are not natural media people so the learning curve is sharp. I hope you keep listening.
          I forgot you arent living in the u.s. The Murphy Bill isnt an issue for you. It also wont be needed in Australia because of the sensible gun laws down under.

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          • Oh we have an equivalent of the Murphy Bill which has been in operation for some time now. The 60 odd people who were going to be ‘caught up’ by the legislation became 3000 very quickly. Though I can see why people in the US might want to point to our gun laws as being one method of reducing violence, they sure won’t be bragging about the success of the CTOs (or maybe they have, but just haven’t discussed how they only advantage certain parties).

            Listened to a couple more of the podcasts and i’m enjoying them. Anosognosia though….. I had to translate it into Arabic to understand it properly. Jahiliyyah, which is the justification by violent jihadists for their questionable actions (beheadings, bombing, shootings etc).

            For a brief understanding of how this works see about 15 mins into this doco called “Power of Nightmares” re Sayyid Qutb and the birth of Al Qaeda.


            The ‘infidel’ lack insight into their own corruption and our conduct towards them is doing a service to our community. Sound familiar??As long as it looks like medicine though….

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          • You know Mr Rock there are times when someone says something which puts matters into place. It may have been that they have said nothing new or that hasn’t been thought about, but it just clicks over like the mechanism of a clock. This is one such comment

            “Wouldn’t it be satisfying on some level to know that the people on the other side of the table totally understood reality and were pretending not to? If they had to acknowledge that theirs is the delusion?”

            I realised that the Chief Psychiatrist and the Minister for MH had been responding to my lawyers in a manner which seemed more than a little strange, it was gaslighting. Sorry for the 14 month delay but the manager was away over Xmas, the law isn’t the law i’ve rewritten it to remove the protections i’m paid to enforce, we assault all patients on arrival at the hospital as “accepted practice” etc. I would ask the people concerned what occured but they don’t work there any more (oh wait, now you point it out, yes they do but I can’t be bothered asking).

            Of course what was really going on was that they were aware of the criminal fraud and accepted in ‘good faith’ that the proof of the offences had been retrieved, and they were free to mock and mislead the lawyers at the law centre into chasing their own tail. This would thus make them co conspirators in the concealment of kidnapping, stupefying to commit indictable offense, and on and on…. They jumped on board with the crimes assuming they could not be proven as a result of the Clinical Director tampering with the evidence.

            Anyway, my non delusion is now fixed and I realise why these matters can’t be examined, coz the methods of maintaining the good guy image are well….. not so good lol

            I was going to post a track called The Rock from my favorite album by The Who for your listening plaesure, but chose this one instead. It was what went through my mind when I walked in front of a truck to end the gaslighting and abuse I was being subjected to by police, mental health services, a psychologist and my own wife.


            Thankyou for your help 🙂

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          • Probably the most honest words to come out of the Operations Manager (who did the “formal investigation” into these matters) mouth was that when I explained that they had been engaged in attempting to pervert the course of justice was that they would “fucking destroy me”. They are really good at this let me say. Shame they don’t seem to be achieving anything in the way of healing.

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          • Hi Boans. I used to listen to Quadraphenia on my commute. Thank you.
            A couple years ago I noticed a psychiatrist carrying a copy of Anatomy of an Epidemic, and I asked to speak to him when he was finished with it. The copy I donated to our clinical library was “borrowed” and never returned, So he must have bought his own copy.
            My intention wasn’t to debate him or bust his chops, I was really just curious what he thought about it.
            We had a long conversation a couple weeks later. He said he didn’t disagree with the book, although he isn’t sure about some of the conclusions about meds being the only cause of the rise in disability. He was certain that none of the other psychiatrists in the network would disagree with the statistics, and that treatment often dosent work and sometimes makes things worse. He felt that this couldn’t be discussed openly until some one at the national level opened the discussion. He felt it had to be a “guild” statement.

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          • With the ability to bury the victims/whistleblowers along with the truth it might be some time before the “guild” statement is forthcoming lol. And a wise career move on the part of the psychiatrist.

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  22. Make sure people aren’t working 60 to 80 hours a week and spend more time finding real meaning in life, which isn’t just work so they don’t become delusional.

    Bring living wage jobs back to America, make sure people can afford to work 40 hours a week and still maintain a comfortable living and they won’t be delusional.

    Make sure their jobs aren’t outsourced to other countries, or cheap labor doesn’t take their jobs at home.

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    • Hi liberalminority
      I read your earlier comment and started to respond, but decided its too broad a topic. I agree completely that Disability due to mental health has more to do with economics and quality of life then actual incapacity for most people. I think finding purpose and meaning to life is a basic human need. For many people I worked with, receiving disability became as much of a trap as being stuck working at walmart. Being paid to be incompetent has an effect on identity too. We touch on these themes on the podcast but obviously have much more to say about it. Its a sensitive subject. Im sure to offend everyone trying to open up a real conversation.

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  23. I think I’m in love. To see this kind of thing gives me hope that there really ARE alternatives possible. How to make them count is another matter, however.
    The saddest thing about the system is the complacency, the acceptance of the status quo as the RIGHT way. I worked in an old mental hospital in the 1970s. It had enthusiastically embraced the new meds, and was incredibly optimistic about the future because of them. BUT, the unit I worked in was `experimental’ and was aimed at `crisis intervention’ with limited or no drugs and the hope that with social and psychological interventions we could get people over the trauma/crisis and hopefully never see them again. We were carefully selected and trained in counseling and psychotherapy, 1:1 and group, with an emphasis on forming relationships. The patients were not selected as it was a public hospital acute admission unit and we took all comers, but treated them all on the same basis. We didn’t win them all but we, and therefore the patients had hope, and as you said, Erin, an expectation that all would be well.
    When I fell under the psychiatric bus, courtesy of a Prozac reaction, in 2000, there was no such hope. There was no expectation, no communication of anything much, including hope, just drugs and more drugs and in my case 87 Electroshock `treatments’ as well. Gone were long talk sessions with distressed people and their families, gone were the dynamic groups, large and small where everyone had a say every day, gone was anything that even remotely resembled psychotherapy. Nurses stayed in the office for their entire shift coming out to dispense meds or hold down angry patients, there were few groups, just didactic instruction sessions on `discharge planning’ & occasional handouts on depression & anxiety. There were no psychologists, few if any occupational therapists, a few social workers dedicated to keeping everything under control with drugs, shock and threats of admission for non compliance.
    Every now and then I gave the staff a serve, telling them that they would have been transferred out of my unit for laziness, and non-performance in a heart beat had they worked with me. That generally got me some extra meds and a diagnosis by ill-trained, ignorant and arrogant staff, of `elevated’ mood, consolidating, in their eyes, my diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
    The doctors appeared distracted and 10 minutes was a long consult. Once, foolishly I ticked one off and she promptly sectioned me, ordered a heavy drug and diagnosed me with one of three different diagnoses I gained at the time, none of which were valid, but which I still have to wear despite never having had it, before or since. My family and friends were never contacted, and it took me 13 years to escape.
    When we ask why these people behave as they do, a) there is a fear of repercussions such as what happened to you, Mike; b) the early learning that this is the system therefore it must be right (the Milgram phenomenon), with its rationalisation, denial and conformity; the institutionalisation and corruption of the staff as a result of the power they have; d) fear of losing authority, thus the `them and us’ syndrome which is a way to deny their own issues and inadequacies; and e) the number of disturbed people who are attracted to the profession in the first place BECAUSE of opportunities to exercise their pathology with impunity. (we used to say the place was full of psychopaths and lunatics – and that was the staff.)
    That’s all I can think of right now, there are others. It is a destructive system to both staff and patients and it needs to be shut down. The only way to do that is to avoid the professional mental health and build alternatives. Without them we cannot go forward.

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    • There needs to be more funding to the Psychiatric system but it has to be used right. In the 1980’s and 1990’s the Doctors were paid to keep people trapped in mental hospitals which was wrong.

      Today they are paid to keep mental patients medicated which is another wrong.

      The money needs to go in the right places for Psychiatry, like more alternative therapies. Counseling does not necessarily have to be structured as ‘Psychotherapy’, but it is better than being over medicated. The money should go for more support systems to keep people independent, and not medicated.

      The problem is they are not funding it, and the rules governing it are just directed at medication for emotional problems.

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    • Milgram and Rosenhan should be required reading for everyone working in mental health. If critical thinking can be defined as questioning assumptions and asking questions, its obvious why those habits are institutionally discouraged.
      There was a strange dissonance where I worked: Med compliance was always perceived as a huge problem, and the reason people came back over and over. But it was actually not a common compliant. Most people reported taking the meds as prescribed. It was fairly uncommon that some one came in reporting that they stopped taking meds and symptoms came back. I pointed this out occasionally by showing the actual numbers, but the facts did little to change the narrative.

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      • Psychiatry really is cutting off its nose to spite its face. Despite its current and seemingly unstoppable trend of driving Mad people into the so-called “anti-psychiatry” movement, it STILL runs out the clinicians who WOULD actually help us when no one else will. (Read Chaya Grossberg’s recent blog, “A Decade of Searching fort he Needle in the Haystack”.) That’s how you know that psychiatry, by and large, has no social or medical value whatsoever. What other industry or field of medicine could blow up the careers of its most talented and devoted workers? If only Mr. Rock had been in MY life before psychiatry nearly wrecked it for good.

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    • deeeo

      Amazingly, your experience in the early 197-‘s parallels mine that I had at the very same time. I worked in a huge “hospital” on a unit that was experimental in that we mixed the ages and sexes of people and tried the same things that you spoke about doing on your unit. We had some pretty good results.

      Stupid me. I was expecting to get the same kind of treatment myself when I entered the wonderful system in 2009. What a shock as the drugs where pushed at me and the psychiatrists became immensely agitated if I tried to explain what happened to me to get me in their system. They could never spend more than 10 minutes with me and they certainly didn’t want to hear anything that I had to talk about. When I asked questions about why staff wanted me to do certain things I was threatened with restraint, seclusion, and the SHOT. I often told the nurses the same things you told them, because they were totally lazy and never interacted with the “patients”.

      It’s amazing how our experiences are so similar.

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  24. Very interesting and poignant article and discussion. Thank you, Michael, for your candor and your courageous. I am sorry about your negative experience working in an environment that needed to make you “sick” in order to justify its own sickness and dishonesty. What resonants for me is the defensive posture the “professionals” have for just questioning the validity of treatment and outcome for the very people they are here to help. Certainly much easier to just go along with your peers but that is plain cowardice. You were not mentally ill, just not fitting into a system that wants to keep status quo. Your peers dos to you what they apparently do regularly to their clients: disempower them. I feel for those trying to find help and are correctly confused by the differing messages and for not getting all the information they need to make a clear, informed choice. Your hurt and anger about what you experienced is justified. May it continue to make you a better person and therapist.

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  25. Back when I was starting out the psychotherapy industry was in crisis, and we aligned ourselves with the new medical paradigm in order to survive. We embraced or at least colluded with dsm III and the shift to biology. It’s hard to get reimbursed without those codes and few could afford to pay out of pocket.

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  26. Hi Michael
    Thank you for your article. So much in it and in the comments resonate with me.

    I too was bullied out of working in the mental health system. However I wasn’t even sticking my neck out about the abusiveness of the medical model as at the time I had not discovered all this information but by simply standing up to those who were not doing their job properly. I have suffered more abuse and discrimination from mental health “professionals” for having a label of Bipolar disorder than any other sector of society. When I lost my temper over the clinical coordinator allowing the slack behavior to continue (and yes I admit I did shout and swear) I was sent home from work for being “mentally unwell” a day later. I had to see a psychiatrist to be cleared as fit for work, which of course I was because anger is not being mentally unwell.

    Unfortunately about a month after this incident I experienced a very traumatic event that had me off work for 5 weeks and required the support of mental health services to get through this trauma. I am pretty sure that there was a lot of “I told you she was becoming manic” speak amoungst my then colleagues as I did not want them to know the trauma I’d experienced. I left this job about 3 months later and was unemployed for about a year.

    Fortunately since that time I have worked in Peer Support services quickly becoming the coordinator. This position has opened my eyes to the major flaws in the medical model. Mad in America was one of the sites I came across early in my search for good information for peers and like you I now read this site every day, although have only commented very occasionally.

    I struggle as to how to get the truth out there though. Although we are an independent organisation we are contracted to the district health board so although this allows us to work true to the intentional peer support model I am very aware of not “cutting off the hand that feeds us” by not shouting from the rooftops that the medical model is a lie. Not only could they cut funding but more importantly we are somewhat reliant on clinical staff to connect people into our service . I do however raise information to them about such things as the Harrow report and other such studies proving that long term medication is not good etc. It makes me hopeful that the UK now has a number of projects using Open Dialogue as here in NZ we often follow what the UK does.

    As for your comments around therapy I like to think therapy is very useful but only if you have a therapist who you can relate to and understands you well. Maybe I have cognitive dissonance as I am an Occupational Therapist and would have to challenge my whole career but personally I find talking therapies very helpful with the most helpful being mindfulness based CBT. I have however found medication at times useful too. However the most traumatic treatment I have had is when forced treatment and receiving medication that has caused me to have the most horrific hallucinations I have ever experienced (also the only ones I’ve experienced)

    I want to thank everyone in this community for their support and great wisdom. All I feel I can try to do is educate people one person at a time. I am currently trying to pluck up the courage to do a presentation to our local psychiatrists. I hope my fear of the clinical director won’t stop me as she was the one who medicated me with high doses of her favourite drug olanzapine and thinks the hallucinations were just my mental illness. Thanks goodness I was shipped out of town (due to my job) for the rest of my treatment. You see like you if I say too much or make too much noise I too will just be labelled mad.

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    • Hi Pauline
      I’m sorry this happened to you too.
      I read your comments this morning, but I was busy today working on the podcast so put off writing until now. I found myself chewing on your objecting to people “not doing their jobs properly”. I assume what you meant was something overt or even bureaucratic, such as psychiatrists signing off on nurse practitioners assessments without seeing the patient themselves, and that sort of thing. But of course there is an entirely different level of corruption and misbehavior at work in both of our stories. Its systemic.
      Years ago, when I was still working in residential treatment I was a supervisor in a group home for young adults who had aged out of the juvenile system. Out mission was to teach them lifeskills and transition them to independence. However, everything the company did undermined the clients independence. I got frustrated explaining over and over again to my bosses, and watching the clients become even more dependent on the system. I got no where except dreadfully burned out.
      One day I was complaining to my Dad and describing what I saw. I told him “they just don’t understand”. He corrected me. “No Mike. YOU don’t understand”. and he was right. I was stuck on the embraced mission, and overlooking the real mission. Actions speak louder then words. As a behaviorist, I should know better.
      I also wanted to point out that even the professionals have no expectation that treatment will actually work. The diagnosis allows us to be categorized and disregarded. Treatment would have made no difference in people listening, no matter how “effective” it could possibly have been.
      I hadn’t thought about “gaslighting” until I read the comments here but its such an apt description. Think of all the people it has worked on. It makes me feel a little more kindly to the people who haven’t found our community yet.

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      • Thanks for your reply,
        Yes it was very overt, the crisis triage nurses going shopping rather than seeing people in a timely way, often meaning the crisis had to be dealt with after hours and a very ineffective manager who would only act if we made a written complaint. They were “best friends” with the coordinator so the other staff wouldn’t make formal complaints due to the bullying they knew would happen, but when I found something that could stick I went for it and suffered the consequences. This happened to me almost 6 years ago and I have been very surprised how much it still effects me when I write about it. Especially as I was seen as a “management problem” Your dad sounds like a wise man, after all why did I ever have such high expectations.
        Yes “gaslighting” is what happens and like you I didn’t really think of it like that until I red the comments here.
        When I first discovered MIA I sent the link to my very close colleague who is the consumer adviser for mental health services and the site was blocked, therefore blocked to all mental health staff. Fortunately she didn’t have too much difficulty having the block removed. So yes it is totally systematic.
        I love working in peer support, even though I earn a lot less. All my staff are so compassionate and only want the best for people. I dream that one day peer workers will take over mental health services so people can be treated humanly and long term medication become a thing of the past. I dream that future generations will look back at this period of mental health treatment as archaic.
        I’m looking forward to getting time to listen to your pod casts.
        And I will continue to visit MIA everyday to gather good evidence against the system and good ideas for instigating change.
        I danced with joy when I saw the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry open in the UK and are so grateful for these people’s work as they have the mana (Maori word that translates as kudos, prestige but kinda means more than that) to instigate change.
        I used to think it was good there were people like me working from within the system, but I was held back from really knowing the truth and only leaving has truely opened my eyes. However I intend to educate those working in the system as I know many compassionate workers who would do things so much differently if only they new how.

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  27. Thanks to the author. I think this is the fourth or fifth MIA post that I’ve read that documents the gaslighting of ‘mental health’ workers/employees by their own colleagues and administrators. It’s astonishing and horrifying. The system is hopelessly rotted from the inside.

    The few with critical-thinking skills are forced out (and eventually write MIA posts), then leaving the rest, a good percentage of whom are drugged themselves and are either terrible or simply complicit. Consumers are flies caught in a web, and don’t stand a chance anywhere in this scenario.

    Thanks, Robert Whitaker! Without MIA I wouldn’t have these windows into these systems. Very grateful.

    Liz Sydney

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    • Hi Liz
      After reading Anatomy of an Epidemic I wrote to Mr Whitaker and told him I intended to buy the book and donate it to our clinical library. He was kind enough to write me back and wish me luck. I saw him speak in Philadelphia and had the privilege of introducing myself at the Mad In America film festival a few years back. I found him to be genuinely warm, thoughtful, and approachable.
      There is a phrase in my area about professionals who are “Whitaker aware”. When I heard this the first time I realized we will eventually win.
      There are many hero’s in our movement.
      Laura Delano was one of the first people to tell her story here. By now we can see her story is all too common, but she had the guts to challenge what she had come to believe about herself without the benefit of a movement. She was a trailblazer for countless others.
      During the really bad days I reached out to Corrina West, and she immediately contacted me to offer support, encouragement and suggestions. I once read a comment about her that she is “incapable of not helping some one in need”. I think its true.
      I am in awe of Dr Phil Hickey, who contributes here and also has his own blog in part because we share a clinical orientation and in part because he is fearless and incredibly articulate. He has a true gift of sorting through the logical quicksand and exposing the rot.
      David Oaks, who I also had the privilege of meeting in Philadelphia, will probably go down in history as the father of this movement. If you don’t know about it already; look up the hunger strike he organized. I imagine the courage he must have had years before the internet allowed us to organize and share our stories. I saw him speak once after his injury on a video feed, and his humor and warmth came through to everyone in the room. I wish him well.

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        • Hi Liz
          I’m not sure anyone remembers Dr Mark Foster, who was one of the first contributors to madinamerica. He was a young primary care physician in a clinic who read Robert Whitaker and started educating patients about psych meds. He posted periodically and described helping people to reduce their meds of get off them completely. He was fired for this. I’m not sure what became of him. He struck me as the kind of Dr anyone would want for their PCP. Sincere and genuinely concerned for the health of his patients.

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  28. @ the author of the article

    I’d like to talk with you on skype with the the webcam on. Not intending to moon you or give you the finger. We’re on the same page. Although that doesn’t guarantee anything in a worthwhile dialogue.

    I have a hunch some people would attempt to persuade you from agreeing. They are pussies.

    Just to add I’m literally penniless so I can’t help you out in that way.

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    • That is indeed my photo, and I was not stoned. I must have a resting stoned face because I’ve heard this before. Useful at social events but not during traffic stops.
      We are actively looking for Skype interviews for the podcast, and you can arrange this through the website.
      You definitely can help us by giving us a 5 star rating on Itunes and liking us on Facebook. No money required.

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  29. Now I see what all the fuss is about. Great article! The title sounded like another one of those blogs that more properly belong in someone’s journal; I just read it for the first time.

    Now that you’ve been blasted into awareness of all this Catch-22 stuff I hope you will consider becoming an active part of the anti-psychiatry movement, if you don’t already identify that way. That can mean many things of course, so you would definitely have a role if you choose to assume it.

    Hope this thread continues for a while more.

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    • Hi Oldhead
      I know you from reading your comments on madinamerica. I’m a fan. Hopefully the podcast will contribute to the anti-psychiatry movement. I began listening to podcasts a few years ago, and couldn’t find any willing to present a skeptical view of mental health treatment. The popular ones, like “Mental Illness Happy Hour” celebrate diagnosis while promoting a great deal of misinformation and complaining about stigma. There are a dozen great podcasts on skepticism, but they seem dismissive of questioning psychiatry. I find Steve Novella particularly disappointing.
      Every week I read stories in mass media that relate to mental illness, but they are rarely analyzed from a critical point of view.
      A common theme in the comment threads here is that we are preaching to the choir, and we need to expand our audience. I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of people who comment on articles in the mainstream media who are willing to challenge the conventional narrative. I find this encouraging. However the stunning approval of the Murphy Bill last week reveals how far we have to go. Providing more money and more power to psychiatrists is outrageous. Hopefully expanding the message to a new media will reach a few more people. We should have the next episode released Monday. I hope you check it out.

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      • Wow, I have a fan!

        I think i’m also getting a touch of carpal tunnel from so much time on the computer lately, so I’ll be brief for now. I will definitely check out the podcast.

        Btw could I persuade you to at least use quotes when using terms like “mental illness”? Even though I know you’re aware that this is a metaphor and not a real disease, careless acceptance and usage of the term allows them to pull off the whole drugging holocaust in the guise of “medications” for “diseases,” leading to the further zombiefication of the populace. People need to know that the purpose of such drugs is to mask people’s perception and awareness of their objective oppression, not to cure a mysterious disease with which they’ve been afflicted.

        As for Murphy, etc. I’d like to get into all that later if this blog is still current, also please feel free to drop into the Organizing Forum for continuing anti-psych discussions, strategizing and in time hopefully some concrete planning.

        Hope they make you more of a “regular” at MIA if you’re up for it. Take care.

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          • Just to expand a little — this came up most recently when talking about building an anti-Murphy coalition containing both anti-psychiatry folks and others who are more “reform” oriented. I suggested that it would be an act of respect for those who were not “anti” to nonetheless put quotes around such terms if they feel they must use them. So If I sound extra nit-picky that’s what I was thinking about.

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  30. This letter was posted by an anonymous Australian nurse just this year:
    I wanted to add a slightly different perspective… I’m a nurse and have worked in inpatient psychiatric wards for several years. I’ve also more recently been working in emergency departments doing the initial assessments (which in effect determine whether people are admitted or not; voluntarily or involuntarily).
    I’ll never work in inpatient wards ever again. It was through and through a horrible experience. NOT because of the patients- they are by and large the kindest, most patient, funny and down to earth people you will meet. Obviously there are exceptions to this but overall, the patients are what get you out of bed and off to work everyday.
    Inpatient wards are a horror because of the burnt out, poorly trained and often disinterested staff. I work in Australia (not going to say where specifically, what I’ll describe below took place in 3 different wards). The training I received was a general nursing degree, followed by some brief intro level training about psych meds, basic symptoms and how to ‘safely’ restrain an aggressive patient. Many of my colleagues, to be frank, couldn’t give two s**ts about what the patients needed or wanted.
    Anyone with a substance use issue was “scum”. Anyone with a personality disorder was “just a f**king PD” who had to be made “as uncomfortable as possible” otherwise they’ll “get to enjoy being here and never leave”.
    There was effectively zero consideration of the social, financial, employment, accommodation etc pressures which pushed these patients into illness in the first place. This was in a very tough socio-economic part of a major city – no help was offered with any of those issues.
    “Seclusion” – locking patients into a windowless cell- often with the added joy of IM sedation, was regularly used as a punitive measure and called “behavior modification”. This ranged from 5min ‘time out’ to actual physical assault.
    Beyond the 3 meals provided, getting access to snacks otherwise was typically denied. Again, in a punitive fashion.
    There were no activities, group sessions or outings. The one occupational therapist eventually quit, in tears. Nursing staff just flatly refused to get any sort of program going.
    Illicit drugs were rampant amongst the patients and sexual safety was a joke- nurses sat in their office all shift, female patients were regularly assaulted.
    I recall being told that the idea of ‘recovery’ was “a joke”, “the patients don’t respect us, why should we do anything for them?”
    The result of course was constant violence, frequent self harm and suicide attempts; continuous re-admissions. It was 19th century standards, at best. My colleagues scratched their heads and wondered at all the hostility.
    I did what I could. I spent as much time as I could talking to, counseling, laughing and crying with the patients. As a junior nurse I was admonished several times for ‘wasting time’ in this fashion.
    I’m sure I was also guilty of poor practices, poor decisions, insensitive treatment. I know I was, I just fumbled through trying to figure out what to do.
    Eventually I took on a senior position working with management and trying to set up both some activities and to change some staff attitudes. Colleagues above and below me sabotaged these efforts. I also just struggled to know where to start, to be honest. There was zero support from management. I was bullied and threatened by ‘old school’ staffers.
    In the end, I quit and moved interstate. Now I’m working in emergency, doing assessments. ED is a nasty place at times for mental health patients, but at least we can intervene and make it a bit better. The inpatient wards where I am now are by all accounts the same. I was told “if you ever do a shift there, watch your back, the staff are all in cliques. They’ll let their colleagues cop a beating if they’re annoyed with them” etc.
    I’m not gonna claim to be the best nurse in the world, but I’ve got a heart and I’ve tried my best for the people in my care, who as I said above have been some of the finest human beings I’ve ever met. It’s been an honor.
    I’ll also say that not all of the nurses I’ve worked with were awful. The system is broken.
    In one word: terrifying.
    The worst thing about the psychiatric system is really not that the professional are suffering, it’s the appalling damage, physically and emotionally that’s being done, with apparent impunity, to the patients. I’ve been on both sides and the level of the potential for violence in the wards today is palpable. People, patients AND workers know they have to tread carefully or `solitary’, shackles and heavy drugging await. Anyone who has been shackled will know the dreadful helplessness, powerlessness, and panic this evokes. It happened to me, a sheltered, middle class, non-violent, elderly woman, and I still feel, after 13 years and complete recovery, that I would not survive if it happened again. There is an overwhelming fear and mistrust that even the most compassionate professional will have to fight to overcome.The toll on the workers who must suspend any compassion to justify the force they use is also huge. Alcoholism, depression, burnout and suicide are high amongst them. THAT is why people like you, Michael and Pauline, and people like I was as a therapist, MUST win this.

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    • I worked briefly for a locked facility for juveniles several years ago that was pretty bad. Not as bad as what the nurse illustrates, but a similar culture. It was dehumanizing for everyone involved. We would spend an hour in group getting the kids to open up, but as soon as they showed an emotion, the medical people would sedate them, sometimes against their will. They brought me in to reduce restraints just after a kid died being restrained.
      Im happy to report we did reduce restraints by 70% in the 6 months I worked there, but the culture proved intractable and I quit. the only time I walked off without notice. I still remember the smell of the place and the futility.
      The facility I just left was nowhere near that bad. Patients did have the right to refuse meds, and this was generally respected, although there was a great deal of pressure put on people to comply voluntarily. They did away with restraints years ago and seclusion is very rare, although it does happen.

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      • Mike, I am hyper-aware that my child could have been/could be one of those children dead in restraints in the kinds of institutions being described here. That’s why I never abdicated my responsibility for my difficult child and took responsibility for his development instead of handing him over to broken systems. That’s what has me hanging around MIA, learning from all the info that comes down the pipes here.

        Thanks again for your post.


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        • Thanks Deeeo, that unit sounds like a combination of just about all the things I have seen working in inpatient facilities in both NZ and the UK. We go into our local inpatient unit which unfortunately has the highest seclusion rate in the country. They still have a mantra of “if you don’t take this pill we will inject you. If you resist the injection we will seclude you”. My partner also was forced to leave the same health board as he was a whistle blower, uncovering physical abuse in some of the homes for people with intellectual disabilities. This has completed ruined his career and he can no longer get work as a social worker as no one likes a whistle blower. The systemic abuses are just awful and yes Deeeo we must win.

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  31. Did someone describe me as a troll?

    Anyway… I agree with a lot of the spiel but always the insistence on power differentials.

    I’ll do an ‘interview’. I prefer conversations but I’m willing to submit to the higher authority.

    But if that’s how you want it then please forward me a list of questions. I’ll give you a synopsis of my answers. I’ll even take my baseball cap off and reveal the TRIGGER WARNING tattoo on my forehead.

    My email is [email protected]

    Much respect and lots of smiles.

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  32. Michael, thank you for such a thought provoking article. This opinion is never heard from your side of the aisle and you should be commended on how brave you are to stand your ground. Unfortunately, the truth is not something the mainstream wants to hear right now and it’s amazing the amount of psychiatrists who don’t know about Breggin and Whitaker’s work. I find that people who expose the truth are the ones who are crucified especially when there is pharmaceutical money at stake. Do you think this is how Galileo felt? I guess this has to go the same route of cigarette companies, only after the amount of deaths are just staggering. Maybe the Murphy Bill is the beginning of the end, we’ll see. The problem is that this is just sad to watch.

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    • Anonymous

      My questions always is how do so many psychiatrists not know about Whitaker and Breggin at this point in time? How can they not know? Do they live and practice under rocks somewhere? I think a lot of this is chosen ignorance on their parts. The ones where I work try the same thing but I sometimes catch them in something that proves that they do know about them.

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      • They DO know, many of them, but they for the most part seem to dismiss any such person as a “crank” or a “menace” without actually reading what they write. That’s the insidious thing about psychiatry – since it’s really more of a religion than a science, you can just dismiss people for not following the dogma without having to actually entertain the possibility that your faith may be misplaced.

        —- Steve

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        • And some are so aware that they pay lip service to reform. People like Ron Pies and Allen Frances for instance, who appear at such diverse places as universities and ISEPP conferences, speaking and writing conciliatory pieces about `involving the patient’, the `value of the psychosocial approach’, decrying the chemical imbalance as a nonsense and castigating their fellows for corruption by big pharma. (These two have very bad memories) BUT, they blame big pharma, duck and weave around the drug issues, eventually coming out in favour, support ECT, attempt to discredit and/or downplay any evidence that exposes the medical paradigm (PIes actually wrote, `Unfortunately, a lack of medical training has not stopped a few critics from confidently charging that psychiatrists are harming their patients by prescribing long-term AP treatment.’ then went on to attempt (forlorn) to discredit studies that showed it.)
          Even the sainted David Healy claims psychiatrists as victims, defending their excesses saying, `other disciplines do it too, and some are worse.’ A childish defense, as if it’s okay to be a bad boy because someone is a worse boy.
          I can understand, if not excuse, why they have such difficulty. Firstly, if they have indeed entered the profession with a desire to help their fellow man, the anxiety (cognitive dissonance) produced by admitting that they’ve spent a lifetime hurting people is intolerable. Second, the investment in time and effort to achieve a medical degree has to be justified. Third, the money, prestige and POWER must be maintained, they do have commitments after all. If they speak out for change they’ll lose it all. (Of course if they don’t the whole ship will go down and only a few will survive.) The smart ones are quietly leaving already, the Critical Psychiatry movement with Pat Bracken, and the Council for Evidence Based Medicine?psychiatry in the UK are moving away from the mainstream, and in Melbourne there are at least 12 psychiatrists who advertise that they don’t prescribe psychotropic drugs.
          But in the meantime, ECT is on the rise and rise, , the NIMH, NICE etc still funding expensive, non-performing `research’ that continues to search for proof of the medical model, the mainstream media and magazines like the Psychiatric Times, Ron Pies old stamping ground, report every sensationalist claim of `breakthroughs’, medical journals publish spurious `research’ that should never see the light of day, and the public are encouraged to fear the `mentally ill’ as threats to their safety.
          But, as Machiavelli observed, tyrannical regimes become more tyrannical as they face more threat, “the conspiracy may make the tyrant afraid and his excessive reaction may make him even more hated which will spell the end of his illegitimate rule”, so don’t despair.

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          • Steve and Deeo42,

            Thanks for your replies. I especially love the quote, ” “the conspiracy may make the tyrant afraid and his excessive reaction may make him even more hated which will spell the end of his illegitimate rule”. I was hoping that Allen Francis even attempting to be at the ISEPP meeting being an indication of his fears that our opinion might have some teeth to it and he’d better make friends with the enemy.

            And I don’t understand how Healy can justify ECT. Being a former engineer and getting shocked accidentally, I have to tell you, it’s not a pleasant experience. You can feel elated after. The same feeling you get if you drink too much. You can just feel the brain cells dying. I can’t imagine this non-directed use of electricity actually helping anyone but to ultimately cause brain damage.


            They have to ignore the material and cough it up to the anti-psychiatry/Scientology rhetoric. Anyone who reads Whitaker has to have respect for the amount of work and research that it took to back up his theories. I’m just flabbergasted at the denial.

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      • Stephen,

        This gives me hope. I guess it resembles a child behavior, “deny, deny, deny. I will not get in trouble.” It’s nice to know you’ve actually cornered them into admitting they know the research. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall listening to those conversations taking place.

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  33. Michael

    Great blog. And I very much admire the important work you carried out at your job under very difficult circumstances.

    I worked for 22 years in community mental health (I resigned in protest in Sept. of 2015), and during those years I waged an on going struggle against the complete takeover by Biological Psychiatry and the medical model. I know how difficult it is to work in this kind of environment while trying to resist the Psychiatric/Pharmaceutical/Industrial Complex. It truly can be a crazy-making experience.

    You can read my blog summarizing my last two years attempting to be a whistle blower (here)

    Under these work conditions you know that you could be fired at any moment. I was prepared for this in many ways, including financially, but it still was very stressful. And I believe I had it much easier than you did because they adopted more of an “let’s ignore this person approach.” I was not subjected to the backhanded and covert efforts you describe that forced you out of your job.

    You have a important story and you tell it well. Stay strong, for you are a powerful creative agent of change. Like Oldhead mentioned, I hope you become more active in the anti-psychiatry movement as part of a much larger human rights/anti-capitalist struggle.

    Comradely, Richard

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    • Hi Richard
      I’ve been reading your articles here for years. I should have reached out to you after the whistle blower article was published, at least to send my regards. It was a very discouraging time.
      I am humbled by your encouragement but I completely disagree that my experience was harder then yours. As a senior clinician, with a public reputation earned over 22 years in the same organization, you had much more to loose then I ever did. I made noises about taking my complaints externally, but you actually did, several times. And you took a stand when it is especially bad times to be a whistle blower.
      I use the screen name Marcellas Shale, which you might recognize. We have commented on the same threads at times. I started using it back when I was concerned about backlash professionally, and its kind of a joke.
      Marcellas Shale is the geologic formation they are fracking in my area. It appears to be destroying our water supply, (although its hard to find reliable facts). We even had an earthquake, unheard of in these parts, which has been associated with fracking.
      I attended meetings about fracking when the movie “Gaslands” came out, and got active in the local politics.
      I live where the Molly Maquires were hanged in the early days of labor unions. The coal companies took the coal and went bankrupt when it came time to clean up the toxic waste they left. So the people around here should know better then to trust corporations.
      But our guy lost to the candidate who promised to charge no taxes on the gas industry, (who donated gobs of cash to help him win). I sent a letter to the winner, a guy named Doyle Heffley, and told him how sad I am to realize that our representatives no longer work for the people.
      Heffley responded with a form letter asking me for a donation.
      Perhaps its always been this way, but it certainly seems like something is very wrong at the top. Way above psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry. Somewhere above even the FDA, NIMH, EPA, and all of the other government bodies whose singular task is to protect the public from exactly the kind of naked institutional corruption we see right in front of us. I think Whistle blowers are ignored and prosecuted because they are drawing our attention to something we already know, but have collectively decided to ignore.
      We all drink to the Mollys here on St Patricks day and pretend to remember what they sacrificed so that we could have organized labor, a middle class, and an American century. They remind me that the system can change. It has corrected itself in the past. I hope old timers like you and me are around to see it when it happens again.
      Frankly I don’t hold out much hope for any of the candidates in the current election cycle.
      I apologize for the long ramble, but I wanted you to know that I consider what what you did was for all of us, and that there are people out there who get that.
      I certainly will be more active on madinamerica.

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      • Michael

        Thanks for those words and the history lesson.

        As to the degree of difficulty of our struggles working on the “inside,” my 22 years as a senior clinician gave me more room to function as a rebel and made it more difficult for them to play psychological games and to fire me outright.

        Many years prior to 2015 I did experience some paranoid feelings numerous times when certain psychiatrists were complaining about my beliefs and actions with some clients. I know how uncomfortable this can be when you are trying to take the moral high road and stand up for the clients as a lone voice in a sea of backward conformity.

        Psychologically I was much more prepared for the struggle in the recent period because I clearly was nearing the end of my career in community mental health. I felt a moral obligation to push the limits given some of my accumulated knowledge and freedom to operate in that environment.

        In the state of Massachusetts there is a Healthcare Worker Protection Act that is suppose to protect whistle blowers. I could have used this law as a way to sue the clinic if they had chosen to fire me. I was fully prepared to take that road if necessary and had carefully gone through appropriate channels to cover my bases preparing for the worst outcome.

        Trust me, your conditions of struggle were more severe. You may not even be aware of how much moral consternation and dissonance you have created for all those people working at all levels at your workplace. The few examples of latent support you described may be the tip of the iceberg. And as the truth of your political stance become more apparent in the coming years this moral dissonance may only grow as time goes on.

        And most important of all, those clients for whom you believed in and took great risks to give them hope and dignity in the face of such an oppressive mental health system, they will have benefited from your courageous work to build personal resilience.

        Struggle On, Richard

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  34. I’ve done far more off-paper help of mad people than any preofessional, but I don’t seek ribbons or medals. I’ve always just done it. No financial rewards, no status-gain, no fawning, and often at great personal emotional expense. In the truest spirit of Judi Chamberlain’s call to do things “on our own”, I’ve helped and supported many people. Most of it is common sense and simply accessing your personal humanity.

    I admit to having reservations, as Judi Chamberlain discusses in her seminal text. Reservations about the shepherding and messianic complexes as some call of of the non-mad towards the mad.

    And time and time again I’ve shared insights online about how I see things, and I’m lucky to get a pat on the back, so to speak. Often some time later someone with non-mad status comes along, seemingly parroting my insights, and suddenly people start listening and taking the them seriously.

    It’s the problem of professionalism. I’m endlessly torn about it. In fact it’s in those tensions that the antipsychiatry movement arose.

    I’m not a libertarian though by a long shot. I don’t hold the — as I see it — rather grandiose belief that the way to the liberation of mad people is through the dismantling of the state and its institutions of control.

    It doesn’t matter how well-meaning people are, Psychiatrists and psychologists are ultimately seeking to in some way eradicate madness. There is always an underlying violence to all professionalism.

    Judi Chamberlain’s book “on our own” explores these issues comprehensively.

    I recommend the author reads her text.

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  35. You were fortunate to know Judi Chamberlin. Apologies for the misspelling. I was once married to a feminist so I know how difficult they can be sometimes about wonderful words. Although I’m judicious with my use, all told.

    The last sentence was recommending the author of the piece read Judi Chamberlin’s “on our own”. Assuming he hasn’t already.

    I refer to him as “the author” because he says on his blog he’s not using his real name in order to protect his privacy, Although I don’t understand why he is willing to show his face and share his voice but wish to old back on his name. Especially when really names aren’t private. The whole point of a name is social.

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  36. rasselas.redux
    I think you’ve uncovered a rather embarrassing mistake on my part. I was referring to Eleanor Longdon whose TED talk I would link if I could figure out how to add links in these comments. I’m not sure if Elizabeth Longdon is the same person, a twin sister, or if the internet simply confuses the two as often as I have. My search engine dosent seem to know either. Mike

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  37. Are the related to Steve Rock?

    Anyway… yes your slip-up is embarrassing. But it goes beyond that into cringeworthy when your buddy “the asshole” replies to you something like, “Yeah, Elizabeth Longden yeah.”

    You wonder why I get fed up with some of you people?

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  38. I get fed up with appropriation. It’s like all the laws of intellectual property don’t apply to the mad. And yes I know how that sounds.

    The author described himself as abrasive and then goes full-on ballistic with a narrative that’d make frank blankenship shudder and say to you, did i just have my entire mind stolen?

    I love it when professionals in the mental health industry adopt the mad persona, or in some ways appropriate it, like I say.

    It’s so cute.

    And I am not against these fake mad people, by and large. Theres a few that have gone way over the line and constructed a false narrative, including recovery.

    But bejesus if you declare yourself as abrasive then ffs don’t wilter.

    PS he hasn’t been in touch

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