Escaping the Grip of Forensic Psychiatry

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Six years ago I was a lecturer at the University of Auckland in New Zealand when a new neighbor moved into the house across the street. Paul Ellis was his name and we gradually moved from a nodding acquaintance to long conversations about philosophy and then to walking our dogs together. Then one autumn evening, he asked if we could meet and talk; he had something important to tell me, he said, something I should know. We sat outside in the garden and as it grew dark Paul told me that he had spent seven years in a forensic psychiatric hospital for killing his father in a substance-induced psychosis. He wanted me to know before our relationship went any further, he said. It was obvious how hard it was for him to tell me.

Since that night our relationship has indeed gone further and I have lost count of the number of people that have cited Oedipus when they learn of Paul’s history as if there is no other way to make sense of this than through the mythical. But there is nothing mythical about this story – rather it is human, all too human. Nonetheless imagine for a moment that in a psychotic state, caused by abrupt cannabis withdrawal and intensified by an antipsychotic to which you are acutely sensitive, you kill your father.

Paul Ellis

Paul Ellis

Now imagine that you emerge from that psychosis to become fully cognizant of what you have done and that being found not guilty by reason of insanity means you will spend an unknown number of years within a forensic psychiatric hospital. You are told within the first six months that you are schizophrenic – paranoid no less – and that you will have to take medication for the rest of your life. You accept this because a) you are completely overwhelmed and desperate for anything that will explain your own behavior to yourself and b) you are being told this by experts. But the experts keep increasing your medication until you feel as though you will explode into a thousand pieces if you have to keep still. Eventually someone notices your unrelenting movement and changes your medication to something that makes you feel numb, so numb that your face seems to lose all capacity for expression. This, you are told, is a sign of your schizophrenia and so your medication is increased.

Several years pass inside the hospital, years in which you never have anything remotely resembling a symptom of psychosis or indeed schizophrenia. This, you are told, is because a) it is currently in remission; b) the medication is ‘treating’ it and c) both (a) and (b). For this reason, you are allowed a day-pass to work several days a week except almost every morning that you have to wait for the train, you fall asleep and miss it because the medication is essentially a tranquilizer. You decide then to stop taking the morning dose of 200 milligrams because you are still taking a hefty 400 milligrams every night and the only difference you notice is a sense of yourself returning. And you had almost forgotten what that felt like. You decide then to further reduce your medication because – not for the first time – you have doubts about your diagnosis and this seems a way of testing what you have been repeatedly told: no medication = rapid decompensation. Of course you tell no-one because you know what the response will be: you will be deemed to be suffering from a “lack of insight” which will mean an increase rather than a decrease in medication. And what you learnt very quickly in the clinic was that the ability to keep a secret was the only power you had.

Gradually over the next few years you reduce your medication to nothing and although during that time you are placed under significant stress, there is no decompensation, not a single sign or symptom of schizophrenia or indeed any mental illness. Each time you are reviewed by the psychiatrists, they report your progress and mental well-being – you become in fact the poster boy for the “good” forensic patient – because they still believe you are taking 600 milligrams of Quetiapine every day.

It is now nine years since your index offence, nine years since you last touched cannabis or alcohol and nine years since you had any kind of mental disorder. This does not appear to be a coincidence. You are allowed now to live outside the clinic and are attempting to live as normal a life as possible though you are still very much under the control of the mental health system, still considered very much a risk. You are a paranoid schizophrenic in remission – ostensibly the longest period of remission ever recorded – but in the ever changing world of psychiatry, all things are possible. Except mistakes.

You have been medication free for over two years when the only person you trusted with this information, in a fit of pique, takes four months’ worth of unopened medication to the clinic. You are immediately summoned to the clinic and told you will not be able to leave again unless you agree to be medicated and as you clearly cannot be trusted to take the medication, it will now be administered in the form of fortnightly injections. But there is a problem: you are not unwell – at all – and so the only way to force you voluntarily (and the irony of those three words is not lost on you) back onto medication is to keep you locked up until you agree.

It will take five months and a Mental Health Review Tribunal to release you. Five months of being told over and over again that you are deceptive and cannot be trusted. Five months of trying to tell them they have made a mistake. Five months of refusing medication. When you are finally released you have lost your job and are not allowed to see your children. And so you begin all over again constructing a life. Approximately a year later a highly respected independent psychiatrist will agree that you do not suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar I or schizoaffective disorder or any other of the received diagnoses but rather, as you have always believed, a substance-induced psychosis. You wonder how many other people are being locked up and medicated into illnesses that, like you, they never had.

It is now 2016. Fifteen years since the death of your father and eight since your last dose of medication. You are no longer subject to the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act which means that your life is once again your own but no-one within the system will admit they made a mistake. Instead they say “Such changes in diagnostic formulation are common in psychiatry, as they are in other areas of medicine.” They do not add the obvious: that other areas of medicine will not force you to take medication, that other areas of medicine are governed by science rather than subjectivity, that in other areas of medicine the goal is recovery rather than risk management.

You have rebuilt your life and a successful business and are half-way through renovating your own house. You really should be the poster boy for mental recovery. You read recently that “being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health” and reflect that there was never a single day within the mental health system that you felt either safe or heard. As a result you now distrust all systems especially those that claim they are there to help you. You have learnt to help yourself. There is something quite evidently wrong with a system when the people it is meant to serve are afraid to use it.

You will not, however, allow your life to be one forged by fear – will not change your name or hide – but you know also that there will always be people afraid of you and your history, people for whom you are simply a headline, people who cannot imagine what I have just explained. Mostly it is because they do not know the truth of you – your courage, your honesty, the strength it has taken to be who you are now and for which you are deeply loved though you struggle sometimes to understand why.

So you see there is nothing mythical about this story – nothing that cannot, in fact, be imagined – rather it is a story of tremendous pain and loss, of inching one’s way back from the abyss but that he managed to do so makes Paul’s story one also of something hardier than hope, more profound than possibility for ultimately it is the very real story of a man who saved himself.

Love is not consolation. It is light.

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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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84 COMMENTS

  1. Aimee

    What a beautifully written story of a man who shows immense resilience in face of such an oppressive psychiatric system.

    In so-called democratic countries that profess to have some version of a Constitution and/or Bill of Rights it is almost unfathomable that Psychiatry can be granted such enormous power to take away someone’s freedom based on junk science and mythical “diseases.”

    The very mind altering psychiatric drugs that they claim can cure these mythical brain “diseases” are themselves often the decisive causative factor in unusual or sometimes violent behavior that pulls people back into the sinister clutches of Psychiatry.

    Stories such as these cry out for Psychiatry’s ultimate abolition from this planet. Why would one even consider reforming such an institution?

    Richard

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    • This is a very unfortunate case of arrogant doctors who won’t admit they were wrong. However, to categorically reject psychiatry as “junk science” is irresponsible and harmful to those who really do need medication. I suffered from deep depression for years until I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and started taking medication for it. Over the years, I have tried stopping my medication several times to see if the doctors were wrong. Each time I did I fell back into the abyss. Now I take my medication faithfully every day and my life is much better for it.

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      • Many people relapse after a swift withdrawal of medicine due to chemical abnormalities imposed on the brain by the drugs. If you want to truly test whether you can function medicine free (and you certainly can), you need a tapered withdrawal. But if you’re comfortable with the side effects and don’t mind what the meds do to body and mind, then so be it.

        As for psych being a “junk science”, most consider mania, depression, psychosis, to be real medical conditions when diagnosed correctly. Where this community diverges with conventional psych is in treatment. There are a minority of us who can function at a high level without exposing ourselves to the chemical toxicity of drugs, many of which work only slightly better than placebo but impact the brain in ways that I personally am highly uncomfortable with. Good luck!

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      • I am not sure you’re getting the point of the article. This is not a rogue doctor engaging in anything unusual or outlandish. These are the STANDARD RESPONSES that people receive. Despite absolute, unremitting proof of TWO YEARS with no drugs and no psychotic reactions or episodes at all, the IMMEDIATE response is to punish the subject for FAILING TO COMPLY WITH ORDERS. So this is NOT about whether or not medications work for you or someone else. This is about a system that is IRRATIONAL – that believes that their patients need drugs EVEN WHEN THERE IS ABSOLUTE PROOF TO THE CONTRARY. I am not sure how you can argue with the label “junk science” when the supposed scientists involved are unable to see the actual results of an actual experiment right in front of their own eyes, just because it conflicts with what they want to believe is true. Any real scientist who encountered this story would immediately be very INTERESTED: when did you stop taking it, how did you do it, what if any symptoms did you have as a result of discontinuing, how long did they last, how did you get this diagnosis in the first place?

        Instead, these psuedo-scientific pretenders focused on the patient’s unwillingness to follow their orders, as if the patient were a wayward young child or the doctors were military commanders whose orders must be followed without question. Please tell me, where is the science in that scenario?

        —- Steve

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        • You’re confusing my response to aigiarm (who has a legitimate medical condition) with Paul who does not. I don’t believe Paul or anyone should EVER be forced to put something into their body against their will. So you’re right, in Paul’s case, and for long-term usage of drugs, the application of psychiatry is junk.

          But when aigiarm experiences depression or I go through a mania, I believe the SHORT TERM use of medication (voluntarily taken) can help bring us to “baseline”. I have yet to see an article on M.I.A. about how to come back to “baseline” without meds. I’m sure it’s possible as our ancestors didn’t have these drugs available; I just don’t know how at this point. And in relieving these short-term conditions, I don’t believe psych is a junk science.

          Until neuroscience identifies what causes psychosis or depression, little of psychiatry has any scientific merit. Instead it’s an art form where all too many of the practitioners are poor in practice, in large part because they haven’t seen enough genuine patients that can function drug-free at a high level. The anti-psych movement will NOT gain ground until those numbers grow or until someone goes deeper into explaining why these drugs are harmful.

          One last point – I think Paul should be in prison. A hospital is no place for him; the only alternative other than jail is to send him back into the community and say don’t do it again. Very sad story.

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    • Thanks Richard. I’m not actually anti-psychiatry – in fact about the only thing I am anti is ignorance. I’ve encountered some truly wonderful psychiatrists who all tend to have two things in common – backbone and the recognition that what they are dealing with is a person and not just a made-up diagnosis. The issue for me with mainstream psychiatry is that it tacitly appears to be based on Enlightenment principles whereby rationality is king and being judged to be irrational thereby automatically means you forfeit your place in rational society – your social contract is null and void – and this means that things like dignity, respect, empathy are no longer your natural right. Except of course the science that the medical model of psychiatry is supposedly based on is almost non-existent so it’s exceptionally heartening to see people within the system such as Dr Chris Gordon actually willing to look at the hard evidence and try something else.

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      • Hi Aimee

        I also know a few wonderful psychiatrists and have read great writings by them as well. But this tiny minority are NOT doing what psychiatry is all about in today’s world. They may have the degree but they are doing something very different and antithetical to the medical model.

        If all psychiatric diagnoses have no credible basis when viewed scientifically then there is no basis for Psychiatry to exist as a medical specialty. They should either become some type of therapist, or somehow.transition into neurology leaving all their junk science and religiosity behind.

        For the next several decades all well meaning psychiatrists should be focused on the following two main tasks:

        1) Devote all their time to raising havoc within their field by exposing psychiatry’s fraudulent foundation while thoroughly deconstructing the medical model. Also help those people incarcerated by this oppressive system obtain their freedom.

        2) Deeply study the science of psychiatric drug withdrawal protocols and help the millions of drug victims find ways to reduce their dependency and/or taper completely off of these toxic substances.

        When these tasks are completed and this type of understanding is promoted throughout society Psychiatry will no longer have respect in society and/or reason to exist. It will then be viewed as something akin to astrology.

        People will then have no reason to seek out Psychiatry anymore and it will simply wither away and join other oppressive institutions that came before it in the “Dustbin of History,” and the world will be much better off for this result.

        Richard

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        • Richard,

          With all due respect, you and many in this community are making the mistake thinking that if there was a transition to neurology, things would be better. But none of you seem to realize that 80% of all psych meds are prescribed by non psychiatrists.

          Additionally, neurologists are just as capable of haphazard prescribing of psych meds. Can’t find the link but one of them prescribed a toddler Risperdal due to reaction to an epileptic drug.

          I do agree the good psychiatrists don’t do enough to expose the BS in their fields. But regular doctors don’t either as I think the fear exists that if they do, their careers will be destroyed.

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          • AA

            I completely understand your point. All of medicine must reject the diseased/drug/based medical model for all that gets labeled as so-called “mental illness.”

            My suggestion regarding neurology was just to compare and contrast the fact that neurology has a real basis in science where the medical problems they are addressing in the brain have a cellular basis with a provable progression of some sort of pathology; psychiatry has none of this.

            Notice I said if psychiatrists switch to “neurology” they must do so “leaving all their junk science and religiosity behind.”

            Richard

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      • Did not Forensic psychiatry prevent Mr. Ellis from going to prison for murder? He should grateful for a NGRI plea (not guilty by reason of insanity), or you two might never have meet. I understand how the insanity has come to terms so to speak and the drugs serve no purpose now. But he got a good deal and even got to leave the “compound” and work after 3 years and work at an engineering firm.

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          • I’d rather THANK “lovebug” for posting the 2 links. One was for what seems to be a general interest NZ news site. The other, from a Fla. law firm, *might* be construed as “commercial”/”spam”….
            Either way, I say both links help provide valuable additional info.
            There’s ALWAYS a “more constructive” way for ANYbody to spend their time, but that’s THEIR decision….
            (BTW, I never came close to actually killing my Father, but my story, and that of Paul Ellis, are VERY similar….)….

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  2. Well done to Paul for persevering through so much.

    What a Kafkaesque trial to have to deal with fake doctors and fake diagnoses and real losses of freedom for so many years. It makes me think of what one of my fellow antipsychiatric commenters on here says, “Psychiatrists don’t treat the insane; they are the insane.”

    Along with the US, New Zealand is one of the worst, most coercive mental health systems on the planet, from all I’ve heard from several people involved in that system. As with the US, fear of risk infects every aspect of what is done within the system. Mental health workers are so scared of repercussions if a patient hurts themselves or another person that they cannot let people try getting off drugs, try having more freedom, risk being independent. It’s pathetic.

    Meanwhile New Zealander psychiatrists are so deluded into believing that diseases like schizophrenia and bipolar exist as discrete entities which can be treated by “medications”, that they are entirely unable to see the person beneath the label, and therefore unable to understand the person’s story and what non-biological or non-genetic causal factors might be involved in creating a person’s problems.

    As the article implies, psychiatric diagnoses like bipolar and schizoaffective are not valid illnesses, psych medications are not drugs treating illnesses, and psychiatrists are not doctors doing work comparable to real physicians. How many times have I written some version of this on here; probably over 1,000 now.

    Oh and, about the psych drugs, outside of a hospital environment it is in many cases pretty easy to trick psychiatrists into believing one is still taking an orally-taken drug when one is not. The diagnoses are subjective and unable to be confirmed via biomarkers. So whatever one tells a psychiatrist is usually believed, and when it comes to drugs, most psychiatrists are very gullible. I self-tapered off multiple psych drugs including an antipsychotic while easily deceiving the psychiatrist I was with that I was still taking them. Luckily I was not at a psychiatric prison at that time – it’s much easier to accomplish the deception as an outpatient. To this day that psychiatrist has no idea that for over a year I deceived him into thinking I was still taking the drugs and that they were still benefitting my “disorders”.

    This is one of the primary ways “patients” have of reversing the situation and gaining power over psychiatrists: by not taking their prescribed drugs and secretly directing their own treatment/recovery efforts.

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  3. Aimee, thank you for sharing Paul’s story, and advocating for him. I heard a very similar story from one of the Peer Specialists I trained. It was heartbreaking. A story of pain for everyone involved, but also resilience, forgiveness among the family, yet an injust, stigmatizing criminal “justice system.”

    I have had flashback-like experiences, and altered state nightmare visions during chemical withdrawal from psychiatric drugs psychosis , where my reality would become something else and I would mistaken loved ones for violent sexual aggressors (I have a trauma history with this) or doctors who were force medicating me. The whole tone of the environment becomes quite dramatic- like a movie.

    I am so thankful that I have loved ones who have helped re-orient me, that I’ve developed a capacity for mindfulness through much work on my part, and loved ones who have even held me down and wrapped me up in a sleeping bag, but with compassion and care, to stop me from living out these nightmare states and hurting myself and others.

    I am so sorry for what happened to Paul and his family. I don’t think it’s too uncommon. It’s a great tragedy, and this needs to be fixed.

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    • Thanks Naas. I’ve always found that those people who have either been patients or close to people who have been through intense mental distress are able to better understand Paul’s story. It doesn’t take much imagination however to appreciate how difficult it would be to live each day with the knowledge that you had killed the man you loved the most when in a psychotic state – something you would never have done in your right mind. Somehow, in all the moral judgments, this is always overlooked.
      It is absolutely a tragedy – and unfortunately similar tragedies continue to occur.

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  4. In Paul’s story we see the confluence of the criminal justice and the mental health system, and what is ultimately wrong with that merging. The mental health system would “medicate” unruly behavior. Given the criminal justice system, this means applying a chemical prison on top of a physical one. What was once “cruel and unusual” punishment (i.e. torture), because of this procedure, is no longer taken for “cruel and unusual” punishment (i.e. torture). Neither psychiatry, nor the department of corrections, should be carrying either “correction” to the extent, as they are, of physical injury. I’d say that in some respects there are many people that have not been as fortunate in some respects as Paul. He was able to escape from his chemical prison. They will never be given any opportunity for release, except through death, and that death hastened in fact by the chemical prison. In the USA, for instance, in the criminal justice system, an inmate can be forcibly drugged if that inmate is determined to be “mentally ill”, and, therefore, violent, and there is nothing whatsoever the inmate can do about it. It is the law. I’m saying it is bad law. When you can isolate the inmate from all the other inmates in an institution, you don’t need a drug to contain violence, if the drug can in fact do that, questionable in itself. This is rather like the argument against physical restraints in mental hospitals. Why do you use restraints at all when you’ve got “quiet rooms” (i.e. the mental hospital version of solitary). Anyway, it is, to my way of thinking, encouraging to hear of Paul’s escape from both forms of imprisonment. The death rate due to the use of psychiatric drugs is a criminal matter in itself, and the only psychiatrists being prosecuted in this matter are only the “tip of the iceberg” so-to-speak. I think Richard Lewis said it all, above, when he wrote, “Stories such as these cry out for Psychiatry’s ultimate abolition from this planet.” Imprisonment, injury, and death by drug are not a good way to treat anybody..

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  5. Like Dr. Thomas Szazs, I believe that we are ALL accountable for ALL of our behaviors. We cannot pin them on “substance-induced psychosis.” Therefore this man should have been tried for murder, not held on a psychiatric defense. Is Szasz wrong?

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    • I can’t really play judge and jury here as I certainly don’t have all the facts. We’ve got a serious prison over-crowding problem here in the USA where we have the largest prison population in the entire world. I’d say that if in New Zealand they manage to release a few people from imprisonment that doesn’t need to be construed as a bad thing. We, as a nation, could easily get by without such a booming prison industry as we’ve got. I imagine that recent right wing shifts together with a too heavily law and order emphasis are, in part, responsible for this situation. When congress is a millionaires club, illegal criminality just got a big boost from legal criminality. That’s my view anyway.

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    • And his violent behavior was due to external influences, cannabis and Seroquel. Really? Cannabis?
      Reefer madness?
      Twinkie defense?

      I agree with Szazs…ingesting substances that influence you to commit violent or criminal acts does NOT excuse the behavior.

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      • Don.

        I believe Dr Satz said a person was a responsible agent providing they were NOT taking psychiatric medications.

        32 years ago I had to fight my way into a Psychiatric Unit in Western Ireland for my own protection. I had been given medication a day or two previously and I was out of control. I remained in hospital for less than two days and this was my last hospitalization.

        When I was reacting to the medication, I had no control whatsoever – I had attempted suicide twice previously in the same state (when I stopped medications, and when I restarted medications).

        Theres an Epidemic at the moment in Ireland of medication takers committing “out of chatacter”, homicide/ suicides. People talk about how communities must pull together but in my opinion they are missing the point – when a person is in a drug induced chemical state like I was, they have no control whatsoever.

        Drug induced homicide/suicide has always been widely accepted to exist (within psychiatry), but suppressed – because it wouldn’t be possible to use these drugs if it were acknowledged.

        Psychiatry (and supporters) are doing a very good job at suppressing this information. I have been successfully obstructed many times when I have attempted to report it.

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      • does NOT excuse the behavior…….
        Perhaps if you had violent neuroleptically induced akathisia you would feel differently. I would never as a juror convict a person of a violent crime if they were suffering from this form of psychiatric malpractice and did not have a violent history. Neroleptics reduce effective IQ to the mental retard range and the akathisia is a form of physical rage. The psychiatrist of the offending person should be sued by the victim for damages.

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        • I think the act is strongly mitigated by the drug use, especially any drug use that is forced or engaged in without informed consent. That being said, I agree that abusing substances, or even being intoxicated on a substance involuntarily, doesn’t completely remove responsibility for the action taken.

          — Steve

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          • I think this is where the rubber meets the road in anti-psychiatry. We must admit that people can commit horrible crimes under delusions with or without psychotropic drugs. Maybe if hospitals restrained people without drugging then we might understand the source of these tragic mentalities. But, yes we are all responsible for our unconscious and conscious decisions no matter what the circumstance. Although, the punishment should be appropriate considering the situation. As regards to Mr. Ellis. well, I think he got a fair deal. He is off meds, married, has a career, and is suing for his inheritance.

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    • The law defines varying degrees of culpability when a life is taken, such as first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter. Creating legal and social accountability for psychosis-driven assault can be addressed in a similar way. The problem is forcing drugs on people under the guise of treatment for a chronic disease, when there’s no scientific proof of a chronic disease process at work. And therefore no way for the individual to counter the accusation that they are still dangerous.

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    • I agree with Don, this is a primarily criminal matter. Treating it as a medical issue not only confuses things but subjects the accused to extra-constitutional torture, while absolving them of personal responsibility for their actions and preventing any sort of self-understanding from developing which might help him abstain from such acts in the future.

      What makes this situation less cut-and-dried is the possibility that psychiatric drug use or withdrawal caused or exacerbated his violent impulses. (I’m skeptical of the notion of cannabis “withdrawal” btw but I guess someone will jump in to vehemently disagree.) At any rate, there should have been a trial in which the likelihood of iatrogenic drug use being to blame could have been competently argued as being an extenuating circumstance.

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  6. Sound like this Mr. Ellis got off easy with 7 years in a Psychiatric Hospital. Most murders would jump at the chance to receive such a light sentence. This really stretches the limit of the anti-psychiatry movement, in my opinion. I dont think this guy is a victim, and how are we not to doubt that maybe he found a loop hole in the system?

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    • Well, he’s not a victim of murder although he may be a victim of psychiatric poisoning. Yes, the insanity defense is a bad thing, and that because it harms innocent people with experience of the mental health system the most. Had they given him life, okay, they certainly should have left, and should leave, the Seroquel out of it. If they’re going to be murdering inmates, let it be quickly through lethal injection rather than slowly through neuroleptics.

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  7. It’s an extraordinarily difficult situation that brings together the intersections of what is societally considered “normal” behavior with what is psychiatrically considered “normal” behavior, along with, of course, the myths we use to explain and understand ourselves. We can be divided from our brain (and our behavior) as if we were two (or more) different people and therefore be alienated from and lack recognition of our own bizarre or damaging behavior. However, you put in so-called experts (and experts themselves recognize how little of the brain/behavior we understand) and the hopeful belief that drugs can control and solve all and we have danger, big danger. Some have written that we must be “accountable for ALL of our behaviors” and yet certain states (deep clinical depression) mitigate that. Have you ever tried to help a suicidal individual (deeply depressed) try and not go that route? It can be like trying to stop water from circling a drain. With drugs, we have bought found solutions and the opposite–other ways of imprisoning folks, sometimes from who they really are (which can be scary and sound authoritarian).

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  8. I’ve been hospitalized for severe depression four times when I was younger and have experienced many of these things. I could write a book about it. Once, in a hospital I was given a drug (lithium) that made me severely ill. At first I wasn’t sure what was causing it – I was so physically sick. The hospital staff kept telling me it was my “illness” and treated me very badly, disrespectfully and unkindly. I kept inquiring of them to re-evaluate what they were giving me but they didn’t want to hear anything I said. I finally decided to not take the drug for a few days and the sickness immediately dissipated then went away. Just to be sure, I took it again and once again I became severely I’ll. At that point I just threw the medication down the toilet. A week or so in later in “therapy” the hospital doctor told me how good I was doing and how well the medication was working. This was an utter eye opener for me. Like so many institutions these days psychiatry is broken. I have lots of stories of my hospital days and could go on and on. Eventually, over the years, I found a way to get better on my own without psychiatry or doctors. Essentially psychiatry gave me nothing but the realization that any help would not come from them.

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  9. He committed murder. In America, being on drugs (or not remembering) at the time of the offense does not dismiss one’s culpability. Sure, he had to go through a lot of garbage during his inpatient stay. Murderers and other violent criminals experience far, far, worse throughout their imprisonment and ‘rehabilitation’. The author’s bias borders on a pseudo-Stockholm Syndrome. After describing in detail what occurs in state hospitals on a daily basis, the author seems to forget the crime he committed in the first place. She is simply blaming psychiatrists and drugs to minimize his crime, because you know, he is such a good guy and she likes him. Perhaps she should have walked dogs with his father and got to know him as well. Oh wait, he’s dead! Source: 18 years working in inpatient settings, 5 of which were on forensics units in Kansas and Missouri.

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    • http://www.metromag.co.nz/metro-archive/the-night-i-killed-my-father/

      Here is the story in, his own words, which differs from what MIA is claiming. Mr. Ellis actually sued the NZ mental health system for releasing him from the hospital with a clear bill of health prior to the murder. He claims they are at fault for NOT helping him enough, which is a completely different angle than claimed in MIA. The article also passes by, rather quickly as an after thought, that he was using other drugs besides marijuana. None of the facts in this case point to a medication induced homicide, since he admits to having these homicidal thoughts prior to being medicated. If anything, his release from the hospital was a travesty. Had the psychiatrists talked to Mr. Ellis and discovered he had murderous intentions on his father, and then held him for a significant period of time until he had come to his senses then this tragedy would have been avoided. It is clear in the article that Mr. Ellis wants full responsibility. Period.

      Here is the crux of the matter. This site claims forced hospitalizations are cruel punishment, and, yet clearly Mr. Ellis needed to be hospitalized against his will. The result of the his early release was catastrophic for his father and family.

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      • I don’t know that MIA has taken any kind of stand on this sort of thing, assuming you are talking about the staff and/or Robert Whitaker. As for the readership, that’s the general public, or, at least, the interested public.

        I do see a little problem here in that one of the ruses lawyers have used for getting people released from treatment facilities has been ‘lack of treatment’ in those facilities. This is to say that people in the system don’t have the right to refuse treatment. Your argument regarding Mr. Ellis would suggest that they shouldn’t have a right to refuse treatment. I would thoroughly disagree with this suggestion.

        There used to be a problem, before psychiatrists became so infallible, pertaining to the incarceration of sane people in institutions for the insane. There is, to use a parallel from the criminal justice system, an Innocence Project for procuring the release of people falsely convicted of murder. I seriously don’t think Mr. Ellis at this point would qualify to be served by the Innocence Project.

        Do mental health institutions qualify as means of crime prevention when the vast majority of people held within them are not, in the slightest, violent? Mr. Ellis case creates a real dilemma when it comes to people who are falsely incarcerated in those prisons that call themselves hospitals. Real hospitals don’t have locked doors, nor do they prevent patients from coming and going at will.

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        • I don’t think this is a good decision at all. Mr. Ellis sued the hospital for releasing him. Now hospitals in New Zealand are going to have problems releasing people for fear of being sued. As for treatment, about the only kind of treatment they’ve got in the hospital is a regimented schedule of daily activities. At least, it was, until “the treatment mall”, which more closely resembles a reeducation camp for brainwashing people. You get many more successful “insanity defense” cases like the one Mr. Ellis was involved in, and hospitals will go back to incarcerating patients for life.

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          • I do, however, applaud his release from psych-drugs. Nobody “needs” psych-drugs, and they shouldn’t be forced, under any circumstance, to take them.

            Like I was saying, I would prefer to see people not locked up, and keeping people longer in any of those prisons that call themselves hospitals, is no improvement.

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          • Dear Frank

            Paul did not sue the hospital for releasing him as it’s not possible to do so in NZ but rather his family wished to make a case for negligence in the district health board’s duty of care. His initial case was the subject of a government inquiry which found – like many subsequently – that there were many systemic failures but no one could actually be held accountable or responsible.

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          • It still sounds like he, or somebody, maybe his family, is trying to blame the hospital for the murder he committed. I can’t see this as anything but evasion. The hospital did not kill his father, he did. Negligence in the hospital, if anybody was negligent there, didn’t kill his father. I don’t see how this can be good for patients. If the hospital was less negligent, in somebodies eyes, it wouldn’t have released him, which still amounts to an argument for holding people for longer, rather than for shorter, periods of time. Hospitalization as crime prevention? Really? Not here. I’m not one to associate all the patients contained therein with his guilt.

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      • Hi Lovebug,

        Like a few other people commenting on the article, you don’t appear to have read it very closely. I would be interested to know where it states that this was a “medication induced” homicide.
        It should also be noted that the Metro article gets quite a few facts wrong.

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      • he admits to having these homicidal thoughts prior to being medicated

        But he didn’t act on them until after taking the drugs, which tends to confirm Dr. Breggin’s belief that they can facilitate people in manifesting violent behavior which up to that point had been repressed.

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    • I am not so sure that murderers or violent criminals experience worse, but I am sure that if they do experience worse, it does nothing to mitigate the stupidity of the system or the cruelty and injustice of enforced “treatment” on a person who has nothing wrong with them. Perhaps you missed the part where he went two years without using the drugs and had NO issues, yet once he was “outed,” their first mission was to punish him and force him to take the drugs he’d proven he did not need or benefit from? What kind of insanity is THAT?

      Comparative oppression is a zero-sum game to me. Being “less oppressed” than a comparable population is no cause to put up with it or fail to document it.

      —- Steve

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      • I think Psychological Problems relating to cannibas smoking are cannibas problems and psychological problems relating to alcohol abuse are alcohol problems. They might be serious – but are they Paranoid Schizophrenia?

        The other thing about substance abuse recovery – is that the best solutions are usually not chemical.

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  10. Maybe you should spend a little time as a patient for a few years. Sure he’s guilty – but psychiatry has a few skeletons in its closet as well. How many people has psychiatry damaged or even killed through no fault of their own except having been victims of bad parents and maybe bad genetics? At this point his guilt or innocence is immaterial. Psychiatry is on trial here – not him. I’ve been a patient and know all about it.

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    • Yep, workers in the psychiatric system get away with soul murders all the time.

      By soul murders, I mean making people die decades too soon by polypharmacizing them with multiple forced antipsychotics, which make them get obese and die young of lifestyle diseases. And added to them, falsely informing the patients that they have incurable brain diseases called schizophrenia and bipolar which cause vulnerable people to feel even more hopeless.

      So rather than have a chance to form trusting relationships, make friends, return to work, etc; vulnerable people in a life crisis are turned into lifelong wards of the system – alone, miserable, drugged up, physically broken down, and feeling a lot of despair, terror and rage most of the time, then dying decades early. That is soul murder and that is what a lot of workers in the mental health system do. Only they always get away with it.

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  11. I also think parricide is an unusual situation. Not wanting to make it an exception to the homicide law, experts have noted that the perpetrators are usually in a state where they believe that have no other alternative. And further, these killings are always victim assisted.

    A legal and psychological argument about this is presented:
    https://www.amazon.com/Fatal-Families-Dynamics-Intrafamilial-Homicide/dp/0761907599/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

    I find it interesting that in adjudicating this case, and in the above article, the focus is on mind altering intoxicants and on sanity or lack there of, and not on the dynamics and history of the parent child relationship.

    https://www.amazon.com/Fatal-Families-Dynamics-Intrafamilial-Homicide/dp/0761907599/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

    Sometimes in parricide cases there is some leniency. Sometimes once the Prosecution sees how hard it is to do jury selection, people telling of how they hashed out at a parent and how it could have been fatal, they become more willing to deal.

    Nomadic

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  12. Aimee,

    Thank you for this excellent article. I admire your courage and support.

    “Schizophrenia” is supposedly a long term chronic condition and I think in psychiatry that people rarely arrive at a point of remission.

    Most “Schizophrenics” in the community are not in remission either, as most are on sick pay and talking up their “schizophrenia”. I’m using inverted commas because I don’t think there’s any such thing as the illness of “schizophrenia”.

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    • //”Really? REALLY? 17 months now, and still no comments? I followed a link here from .madinamerica.com<, where this story is being told anew. There's far too much *missing* in this story, and it only serves to perpetuate myths of bogus so-called "mental illnesses". The obvious anti-cannabis angle is on blatant display. And, drugs are drugs are drugs are drugs. Call them "meds" all you want, and yes, cannabis can be used as a drug, but the so-called "meds" the quack shrinks use are still DRUGS. (One slight clue – Mr. Ellis knows almost nothing about his grandfather. Gee, I wonder why that is….????…) Sad. Once again, the pseudoscience drug racket known as "biopsychiatry" rears it's ugly head…. So-called "mental illnesses" are exactly as real as presents from Santa Claus.
      (c)2016, Tom Clancy, Jr., *NON-fiction"//
      ….the NZ Herald comment plugin is wonky….so I'm cut-n-pasting my comment HERE!…
      Glad to read this story, but the sheer propaganda is dismaying….

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  13. From the article I posted above:

    “”About four to six weeks later, as the anti-psychotics began to take effect, the paranoia and delusions faded. The enormity of what he had done hit home.

    “I started to realise what I’d done, how long I was going to be in there… and the losses. The loss of my father, the loss of my freedom, losing my mind, the loss of trust.”
    Says Sandy Simpson: “Take the delusions and hallucinations away and you take away the justification — ‘I was right to do that.’ You no longer have that defence and because most psychotic violence is against people one knows or in one’s intimate family, suddenly you are faced not only with the horror of having killed, but the horror of having killed someone you loved. That is an immense emotional and existential challenge. You have to be with people while they acknowledge that and be aware the emotional impact is huge and doesn’t go away in a hurry. Most people have an immense sense of self-blame.’’”

    His own words!!

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  14. His words again from http://www.metromag.co.nz/metro-archive/the-night-i-killed-my-father/:

    “When the medication was starting to work on me, I started to realise what I’d done, how long I was going to be in there… and the losses. The loss of my father, the loss of my freedom, losing my mind, the loss of trust. All those things come and hit you. If I’d had the means to kill myself, I probably would have. It was the only thing that brought me some kind of solace.’’

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  15. My mistake lovebug as it was the cannibis he was on that caused the psychosis. Thanks for the link to the newspaper article.

    However, even though I was in error blaming the med, I still hope that people will look at the link I provided regarding meds causing homicidal ideation because too often, that gets overlooked.

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  16. One note regarding whether MIA (or I personally) have taken a “stand” on the issues raised in this blog. MIA provides a forum for bloggers, who may have a variety of experiences related to psychiatry, to write about those experiences, under the overall general theme of “rethinking psychiatry.” We are certainly interested in writings related to forensic psychiatry, societal stigma, and yes, questions of possible drug-induced violence. We want to provide a forum for such writings. But as the saying goes, the opinions expressed are those of the writers, and not of MIA (or my opinions.)

    Bob Whitaker

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    • Dear Mr. Whitaker,
      I highly appreciate your work and have read your books. I believe this website and your scholarly work are an important contribution to the never ending investigation of consciousness and its vicissitudes. With that said, I think it is important to vet any articles that may raise a suspicion of doubt of their intent and content, regardless of the sincerity- especially when it comes to murder of another sentient being. Maybe this is a overwhelming task, and I am not advocating censorship; however this particular case is very troublesome. Not that there isn’t some merit to the controversy/discussion of this particular case. If we are to make make any progress in the de-medicalization of psychiatry , and, consequently, open up a space of dialogue we must be very careful not to allow tagalongs that have unconscious ulterior motives that defend their ego justifications. Obviously, I am making accusations at the legitimacy of this particular article and its intentions, yet I dont sense it is in vain. Murder is a various serious matter, which we shouldn’t glibly pontificate about. I hope you will understand that this is a very crucial element in our cause.

      Yours,
      Abraham Hempel

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  17. The first and last time I experienced homicidal thoughts was when I mixed a small dose of Ativan (< 1mg) with a couple glasses of wine. That's all it took to put me in a violent frame of mind that I had never previously experienced (I envisioned breaking my significant other's neck). Less than a milligram of Ativan and a few glasses of wine. I reported it to my pdoc and he said abruptly "not possible." I don't know what's crazier, my brief medication induced homicidal thought or my pdoc being so narrow minded as to dismiss an honest, concerned patient.

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      • The DSM is a catalog of billing codes. The vague “scientific-ness” of the word “statistics” is meant to give a veneer of legitimacy to the pseudoscience drug racket known as “biopsychiatry”…. The bogus “diagnoses” in the DSM are all exactly as real as presents from Santa Claus. But not more real.

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