Finding the Way to Mental Health


I have been a counselor for over twenty years, and during that time, I, like many of you, have sought answers to very difficult questions about mental health. I love counseling and helping people with personal problems, but after about ten years in private practice, something happened. A client came in and gave me a tape by Ann Blake-Tracy in which she outlined the effects that antidepressant drugs were having on people. She described the horrific effects, such as suicide and self-harm, and a host of other effects that were damaging the lives of persons using psych drugs. I was stunned.

Like all behavioral health professionals, I was trained in the medical model, whereby we would learn to diagnose the various mental disorders using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). We were taught that by using this guide, we would be following the medical model. Thus, I and my colleagues entered the realm of psychiatry, and came under its hegemony. There was no deviation from this system allowed, and we all had to memorize the various symptoms and syndromes to make the correct diagnoses. I must confess, at that time I felt like a mini-doctor and it was a powerful feeling. Remember, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Of course, I obeyed, and made diagnoses and sent people off to their family doctors for the prescriptions I was taught would help them achieve mental health.

But was there trouble in paradise? Could it be true that people were not getting better at all, and in fact were getting much worse? I was not dealing with psychoses or seemingly very serious mental problems, just mostly depression and anxiety in their various forms. The question arose in my mind: Had I been taught something that was not true? The fact that I might be causing harm to my clients was quite alarming. I started looking for answers, and really, for the truth.

I found an organization founded by the famous psychiatrist, Peter Breggin, which is currently known as the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP), and immediately joined it. There, over many years, I learned through my colleagues that the use of psychiatric drugs and other psychiatric treatments does not cure mental problems. Worse yet, this approach was harmful to the brains of those treated.

I became convinced that psychiatry was essentially a sham. Psychiatrists have enormous power over us in that they can deliver us to false imprisonment in mental facilities, merely by declaring we are mentally disordered. Many reading this article will have suffered that fate, and perhaps are still suffering from it.

Eventually, I learned more about the medical model from Fred Braughman, MD, a neurologist, who has shared this information with ISEPP. And I share his information with others who were not taught the whole truth about the medical model, but only that which would continue the spread of psychiatric hegemony.

The medical model teaches physicians to think like doctors, in the process of diagnosing various disease states. To make a disease diagnosis, there must be present a gross, microscopic or chemical lesion (a change in the body). Without detection of such a lesion, the word “disease” cannot be applied. Another word for “disease” is “illness.”

Of all medical specialties, only psychiatry does not diagnose diseases. Instead, it deals in syndromes, which are collections of symptoms reported by the patient. This is why the DSM refers to mental disorders, not diseases. All psychiatrists are physicians, trained in the medical model. They all know that a mental disorder is not a disease or illness.

The history of psychiatry is a strange one, with two threads persisting throughout. One is that mental distress is caused by something taking over the mind, like demonic possession, which is purely a spiritual phenomenon. The other thread is that madness is caused by something in the body, but what that is was very hard to pin down.

In the early 19th century the famed physician Philippe Pinel declared: “The primary seat of insanity generally is in the area of the stomach and intestines.” This idea drove decades of research into medical treatments to cure insanity, including drugs, lobotomies and ECT.

In the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud revived the non-material viewpoint, jettisoning demons and substituting his own theories of Ego, Id and Superego. Many accepted this theory, and ignored the ideas of those who sought a physical etiology. In addition, Freud discovered cocaine and recommended it to many of his patients. This kicked off the use of drugs by psychoanalysts to change mental status, but it was not based on any brain science, merely observation of effects.

Unfortunately, cocaine, like all drugs designated to fix mental disorders, was a bust, and highly addictive to boot. But the quest for that perfect pill continues to the present day, with horrific and life-destroying results.

Freud rejected the medical model, but invented a new way of looking at mental disorders, with neuroses and psychoses as the main categories. Eventually, these disorders congealed into the first DSM, which was a quite slender volume.

Here is where Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, comes in. He wrote the book Propaganda in 1928 and is considered the Father of Public Relations. He wrote that he who controls the language, controls people and their behavior, and this fact was not lost upon psychiatrists. They have pushed the idea of insanity arising from what people think and believe, and they now stress the “chemical imbalance” theory which teaches that mental disorders arise from physiological substrates—notably, neurotransmitter problems. Drugs are now sold to supposedly correct these imbalances. They never have shown any scientific proof for this theory, as there is none, and there are no tests to confirm their diagnoses. As such, belief in psychiatry falls in the realm of a rigorous belief system or secular religion. Dissension equals heresy, and apostates are punished.

If there is no disease to be found in examining mental patients, but just a label from the DSM, this means that there is no way to locate the disorder in the body. The term “mental illness” instead of the more correct “mental disorder” entered the lexicon and was used to describe unwelcome mental states. The fact to remember is that the phrase “mental illness” is a metaphor and does not describe a real thing. It is merely a poetic representation of mental distress.

I would judge that there is almost no one on earth who has not heard and used the term “mental illness.” It is everywhere! And, as psychiatrists well know, this is a misnomer and essentially a lie. The concept “mental illness” resides in the realm of fantasy. This is the reason many of us who know this always enclose it in “air quotes.” This indicates that we do not believe in its use.

Here is what I tell you: There is no such thing as a mental illness. Let that sink in for a while.

Once the term “mental illness” was let loose on society, it seemed that if a psychiatrist, like any other doctor, were treating an illness, there should be a drug for that illness. After all, this is the basis for allopathic medicine—a drug for every disease! With this semantic sleight of hand, “mental illness” now gives the psychiatrist a seemingly rational reason for treating this disease with a drug.

Of course, there are more and more persons who suffer from mental disorders every year. It is said that 60,000,000 Americans are taking psychiatric medications. Babies to the elderly are being drugged for supposed mental illness. But: There is no mental illness, no disease state that a medication would fix. It is also very true that Americans are getting sicker and sicker every year, and their bodies are not functioning properly. For example, 75,000,000 Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases, and the three leading causes of death are degenerative diseases with their roots in nutrition.

Having now taken the concept of “mental illness” and sent it to the dustbin of history, what is left? I believe we need a new paradigm for understanding mental disorders, and fortunately there is an answer to the search for relief.

I will share a bit of my personal background to help you understand how I came to believe in the new paradigm.

I was born into a second-generation Polish family, and I have always been in touch with that culture, including its food. My mother was an adventurous cook, and we also dined on a wide variety of foods from different lands. I married a man from Sicily and learned about healthy Mediterranean cuisine. I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study music in Poland, and I traveled throughout Germany and most of Europe, and studied in Siena, Italy. All the while, I was eating foods that were traditional to those lands. I remember a christening in Graz, Austria, held in a tiny private chapel on an Alpine mountaintop, where large platters of sizzling schnitzel were brought out for our feast. A ripe peach eaten after ascending from the catacombs in Rome remains one of the singular culinary experiences of my life. Another was feasting on a rooster I watched my great aunt slaughter on a big stump in the yard of the farm where my grandmother, Tekla, was born, in Siedliszowice, Poland. And in Polynesia, I can never forget a feast of fish cooked in coconut over a fire on a large coral reef. As I look back, all of these experiences were deeply rooted in the traditional foods of each country.

When I returned to America, I was invited to teach at a university in Canada, and at that time, for fun, I started cooking feasts of foods for the other faculty members, always expanding my repertoire of cuisines. Returning to New York, I trained professionally with a French chef who taught me the glories of French cuisine.

I returned to my hometown and had the pleasure of creating a healthy cooking show on local cable which ran for nine years. I catered special parties for our local museum. I learned all I could about food and cooking, mastering a number of the cuisines of the world. Through all my adventures in understanding the foods of different nations, I realized that all peoples in touch with the traditional foodways that had sustained their cultures for thousands of years were possessed of life-giving and health-sustaining means to nourish themselves. Sadly, though, in America, few among us had maintained continuity with those ancient cultures.

As a professional counselor, I became convinced that psych drugs were certainly not the answer to mental health. By chance, I found the answer to connecting the two disciplines of counseling and nutrition.

At an ISEPP conference about ten years ago, I attended a seminar by Gary Kohls, MD on how to help clients withdraw from psychiatric medications. Dr. Kohls introduced me to the Weston A. Price Foundation as a good source of nutritional knowledge. Even though I knew a lot about food and cuisines of the world, I knew little about the science of nutrition.

As I learned and studied more from the sources at Weston A. Price, I saw an ad for a program called Nutritional Therapy. I had never heard of this discipline, and looking into it, I knew that I had to pursue it. I became a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) and soon after, a certified GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) Practitioner. The GAPS Program was created by the neurologist Natasha Campbell-McBride and is concerned with healing all problems arising from a distressed gut.

Now I had knowledge of nutrition, and the methods for conducting functional nutritional therapy. I was provided effective tools to help those with nutritional problems and poor digestion. This was very powerful and heartening.

But what about persons with mental problems? Could this program work for them as well? I kept studying, and found that there are over 3000 articles on nutrition and mental health in PubMed, the very large online medical research resource. Articles showed how so-called bipolar disorder, or anxiety, or schizophrenia and most other disorders could be helped by attending to nutritional deficiencies. I followed the work of Russell Blaylock, a retired neurologist who devoted himself to finding nutritional answers to diseases and mental disorders. I found that there is a whole world out there that promotes the idea that proper nutrition is the answer to most physical and mental problems Americans are facing.

I did more and more research into such things as toxicants in our environment, the poor quality of the food supply in America, how our very foods have changed over the past hundred years, and the fact that Americans are constantly being propagandized with nutritional messages that will never lead to health. And, especially, I studied the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, who traveled the entire world in search of the answer to the question “What do human bodies need to function properly?”

The final answer to my quest came from a line in Dr. Price’s masterwork: Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. After traveling around the world in search of societies that had not succumbed to the Western diet and were eating their traditional, whole food diets, he stated that in all the cultures he visited, he found people who were vibrantly healthy and “whose mental health and general character were outstanding.” Reading this, I experienced a paradigm shift. If mental health depended upon proper nutrition, this, and not psychiatric treatment, would be the road I would take to help others heal.

I decided this information was extremely important, and set about creating a seminar that would be offered to behavioral health professionals. My six-hour seminar was delivered to audiences across America. I visited sixty-five cities, from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, and points west, south and east. I have presented to several thousand professionals, and almost without exception, they agree that psychiatric drugs do not cure people. But there are problems.

First, mental health professionals, like most physicians, are woefully ignorant of the relatively new science of nutrition. If nutrition is the answer, they are not the ones, yet, to fix things. In addition, there is a veritable abyss between the behavioral health professionals and those trained in nutrition. With my seminar I was attempting to bridge that gap and point the way, but this doesn’t mean that these behavioral health professionals are up to the task of fixing their mentally troubled clients using nutrition.

It is my belief that all those trained in mental health need training in nutrition, so that they can make available to their clients and patients the benefits of proper nutrition. Most of my seminar attendees agreed with this premise. How to bring it about is another story.

This will require a rethink of the current hegemony of the DSM over all our work. We need to break away from the rule from above. Psychiatry has become largely a drug delivery system, and other behavioral health professionals must accede to this dominance, for some reason. I cannot tell you how many articles are sent each month through Medscape to psychiatrists on nutritional interventions and how they help with mental disorders. Here’s a quote from one Medscape article sent to all psychiatrists, entitled: “Dietary Change Key to Improving Mental Health.” It begins: “A number of nutrients…have a clear line to brain health, including Omega-3 fatty acids, Sam-E, B vitamins, choline, Vitamin D and amino acids…” But what do psychiatrists do with this information? Very little. And yet, as behavioral health professionals, we are bound to use the DSM in all our work in diagnosing the mental disorders of our clients. We must label the disorder, and by extension, the person. No space is given for nutritional interventions.

If DSM disorders are the result of poor nutrition, what does a psychiatric label mean? What does it mean to label a child as “having” ADHD, when the truth is, they are lacking in nutrients that would calm their brain and allow them to function properly? When the brain again functions properly, are they in remission of the disorder, or is it gone? Did it ever really exist? Was the diagnosis a big mistake? Once full functioning is restored to someone, do they lose the label? Wouldn’t someone prefer to know that they have a nutritional dysfunction or deficiency, and that it can be taken care of and removed, compared to having a label like “schizophrenia” attached to them? I believe so.

There are hundreds if not thousands of professionals out there who can help with these disorders, since they arise from poor nutrition and other digestive problems. They are not difficult to correct if the client is willing to follow the protocols prescribed. I chose the new discipline of nutritional therapy, and it is a wonderful aid in resolving supposed mental disorders merely through dietary protocols.

The process of nutritional therapy, which is a form of functional nutrition, involves many different steps. There is an interview, the administration of a comprehensive online assessment, the use of Food Journals, often a hands-on functional exam, other screening tools, eventually a personalized recommendation protocol, and then continual monitoring of progress for several months. And, very importantly, together we must create a healthy diet for the client that they would enjoy. This process works!

There are two major components of nutritional therapy. First we must look at digestion, and correct any problems there. In other words, we need to heal the gut! Without proper digestion, the use of different foods or supplements will probably not produce results. However, once this is accomplished, clients can begin to see that their mental disorders are receding, and probably cured.

Very often nutritional problems are a question of having either too little, or too much of something in the body. Too much involves things like parasites, bad bacteria taking control of the gut, or too much of some substance like sugar, alcohol, bad fats and dead processed foods or other foods that can overwhelm and destroy the digestive tract. On the other hand, there can be many problems when people have too little of things such as stomach acid, beneficial bacteria, food enzymes from raw foods, essential fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals and even nourishing foods. Another significant consideration is the problem of intestinal permeability, popularly known as “leaky gut.” This damaging condition is responsible for the development of a toxic brain, and it must be addressed if it is detected. Leaky gut leads to autoimmune diseases, as well as any mental disorder that is concerned with perceptions of reality being altered.

In addition to these concepts, there are about fifty nutrients that are considered “essential” for proper function of the body. Few know what they are, but if even one of them is not present in sufficient quantity, the body begins to falter, and both physical and mental health decline.

Many people are becoming aware that the human body is actually an organism in league with 100 trillion microorganisms like bacteria, yeasts and viruses. Many of these reside in our gut and are responsible for many processes we need to survive. I am referring to the microbiome, and we must learn to take care of this precious resource.

The diets of people hundreds of years ago were created by trial and error to include all the nutrients a human needs to thrive. Now, most Americans, cut off from their traditional diets, have absolutely no idea what their body needs. So, entering a modern supermarket with 200,000 different foods, picking out the right ones is something of a crap shoot. Many just go with what they “like,” not realizing that what they like might be dictated by harmful bacteria and yeasts in their gut. Yes, we are controlled by messages arising in the microbiome when we experience dysbiosis or a negative state of being overrun by bad microbiota. This is part of the problem with people who are suffering with mental problems. The microbiome can be repaired with help from someone trained to do so.

What we consume on a regular basis matters, a lot. When we do not know what this should be, or will not consume it even if we do know, our physical and mental health decline. This is the basis for the new paradigm in treating mental health. We must nourish our bodies, and give them the raw materials to create the proteins—and in the case of mental health, the neurotransmitters—that contribute to good mental functioning. It is not rocket science, but it is science! And a final thought: Talking to a malnourished person cannot correct their nutrition. Only proper nutritional intervention can do this.

I love counseling, and helping people deal with their emotional and relational problems. But in addition, I encourage anyone suffering from mental issues to consider that nutritional issues are also involved in their distress. There are thousands of nutritional professionals trained to do this work across America. A holistic approach looking at body, mind and spirit is the key to health. A whole new world awaits those who can be freed from mental suffering through proper nutrition.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to serve as medical advice, and anyone reading it is urged to contact someone trained in functional nutrition or functional medicine to address nutritional problems, especially if you are currently taking psychiatric meds.


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


  1. Thanks, Elizabeth. I enjoyed reading this.

    One thing that you did not mention (and I think it is true) is that many drugs actually selectively destroy the body’s bacterial balance and also selectively USE nutrient elements for their metabolism – thus aggravating deficiencies and imbalances.

    Even with supplementation, it may be difficult to counter the effects of continual drug administration of ANY kind. Older allopathic doctors seemed to have been aware of this. Newer ones are so deep in the ‘sell’, I think they have lost their original caution.

  2. I advocate a free, unified alternative therapies program that includes Nutritional Therapy because better nutrition (better physical health) promotes better “mental health” ( However, claiming that mental distress is caused by nutritional deficiencies and solved by improved nutrition is advocating a new “medical model” that seems illogical for numerous reasons.

  3. I liked this Liz, then you said:

    In addition, there are other conditions, like leaky gut, which allow toxins to enter the brain, and wreak havoc with clear thinking. For me, madness is a toxic brain, not a psychological problem.

    Doh – I thought we were beyond blaming the brain in MIA…

    Those who are properly nourished have the raw materials to create the neurotransmitters they need for brain function. Is this illogical?

    People are screwed over by inequality, poverty and injustice- not neurotransmitters. So what u r saying is illogical. Oh Liz… don’t blame the brain- learn that context and experience is everything.

    Go well

    • In my case my brain is toxic and my brain chemistry is indeed askew. I have been drugging myself with addictive neurotoxins for 25 years and am still forced to take 65 mgs of effexor. In a year I should be drug free.

      What’s wrong with a four-pronged approach to madness? It is not a true illness, but extreme emotional states that cause suffering are. A lot of people who go through this want to end it. If you enjoy having delusions or hallucinations, you have the right to experience them.

      (We all know psych drugs DO NOT WORK. You could have as much relief with street drugs–probably more. Your dealer would allow you more control over how you used these “medicines” and what types you used.)

      Prong one: Attend to verifiable physical needs. Get exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, adequate hydration. Rule out thyroid issues and real diseases. Avoid mind altering drugs–with the possible short-term use of a sedative for 1-3 nights. This can sometimes break the pattern of insomnia and end the psychotic episode. No need for a lifetime on uppers, downers and benzos!

      Prong two: Attend to emotional needs. Restore quality human relationships and learn to make better life choices.

      Prong three: Attend to spiritual needs. Not sure what to say here.

      Prong four: Work on ending social problems such as: various kinds of discrimination, bullying in school, the breakdown of homes and other social structures. There’s also a lot of unemployment similar to what happened during the Industrial Revolution. All the unemployed (especially fugitive “consumers”) need help making necessary adjustments to the new economic system.

      I appreciate what you are doing, Elizabeth. I’m sure you make less now than when you worked with the system. Nutrition doesn’t hold ALL the answers, but you never made that claim in your article. I’m sure my gut would have benefited if I had received your kind of therapy in high school. That might have helped me cope with social stress and prevented my being sucked into the MI system for over 2 decades.

  4. No. Please. Just, no. Someone please set the record straight here. How do we make the illogical leap from the myth of “mental illness” to confirming that there is such a thing as a mysterious “mental health” that depends upon nutrition. Once a person understands that “mental illness” is a myth it should go without saying that “mental health” is likewise a myth. The sooner we get rid of “mental illness” and “mental health,” the sooner people start minding their own business instead of going around trying to “cure” people. If we want to talk about the health of the body or the brain, and the importance of healthy nutrition, that is fine. But for heaven’s sake, let’s not pretend that we object to the biological model of psychiatry only to replace it with our own biological model.

    Please people. I beg you. Please read Thomas Szasz. Read Breggin. Read Whitaker. Read. And please discard these silly notions of “broken brains” and “mental health” and all other such nonsense. When will people start minding their own business and leave these poor suffering people alone, or at least show them that their brains are great, their bodies are great, their minds are great, and their souls are great. “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a SOUND MIND.” Everything else is nonsense.

    Of course people suffer. Of course people should eat healthy food and take care of themselves. But that is a choice that people need to make for themselves, through education and not by the tyranny of psychiatry or any of its off-shoot replacements. The sooner that psychiatry and the “mental health” industry go, the sooner health will flourish, and the sooner that well-meaning “health care” workers can put their energy into worthwhile pursuits such as gardening or educating themselves.

    Of course people will feel better if they have proper diet, nutrition, sleep and exercise. But the problem is that there are vast hordes of busybodies who are convincing everyone that their brains are broken. Please. I beg you. Make it stop. Eat good food. Exercise. Sleep. And most of all, Slay the Dragon of Psychiatry.

    • You are so right, Slaying. i think it is dangerous to replace the evil psychiatry medical model with another “aha! I have found the exact cure to mental distress” model. the things that disturb our inner peace are wide and varied and the things that help us are wide and varied as well. of course, like you said, healthy food and exercise and fresh air and a good night’s sleep will help a person. but, as i say, no one is crazy or we are all crazy. we all fall on the spectrum of humanity and can live our best lives if we have support and validation and strength from many sources and the knowledge there is nothing “wrong ” with any of us- as well as better nutrition and clean air and all the rest. all the best, -erin

  5. I do recoil from the term mental illness. Actually it’s a trigger but in order to dialogue with folks until they become more aware I will merely mention my discomfort and put it on the table.
    Please think on it. Your ideas Elizabeth are interesting and very worth consideration as one piece of a multilayered puzzle.
    Where and how that piece is located is still unknown.
    If we take off our 1 st world glasses and take a very painful look at let’s say
    South Sudan and child soldiers who are returned home in apparent altered states nutrition would play a role as well in a big way trauma
    And how do we heal these children much less our own foster children who are experiencing devastating but different trauma as well
    Healing costs in time – money – labor intensive with each individual persons own code so to speak to and for maintained healthy living.
    Cry the Belived World

  6. Constipation can make anyone feel badly, lead to a short temper, depression, and impact appetite/enjoyment of food . The psychiatric drugs that are designed to interfere with brain biochemistry also interfere with the stomach/colon biochemistry.

    “Most of my patients have a very good understanding that there is a close connection between their emotions and their guts. But there are still very few neuroscientists who understand the complexity of this enteric nervous system and its links to the brain.”

    “20 reports of serious gastrointestinal adverse effects resembling obstruction, three of which were fatal.”/”Death from clozapine-induced constipation prompts warning”

  7. Did you hear me properly Elizabeth?
    Again you used the word mental and you totally ignored the current untenable situation with South Sudan which hilights terrorism and trauma to the max.
    You used the word “they” in a pejorative manner not taking into account or taking the responsibility to share with your readers a fact that every nutritional student in college knows the pervasive desert islands of grocery stores in urban lower SES neighborhoods.
    And the pervasive in your face marketing of the Big Pharma of food companies. They all use the same playbook. They all make tons of money off of us.
    You may have interesting information but that and a cup of coffee will help no one and only continue to hurt your soul.
    Until you allow yourself to go from they to we you will be worst than any the worst of us
    Until you can share in the human world you and your work are nothing
    You are like the APA NAMI Big Pharma all the moneyed interests that care less for others than for themselves
    Read the latest on Syria
    Read the recent books out on mass incarceration
    Read about The Lost Boys of Sudan
    Have you ever once talked with a refugee?
    I have- a family who lived under a card table on the Main Street of Phom Phen sp?
    Have you ever talked to a grown man who was a lost boy? Gentle kind men and so so very fragile with the torture they survived.
    Have you ever spent time with folks in deep deep trouble and trauma?
    Have you ever experienced times if deep deep trouble and trauma?
    Until you can honestly claim both and use the vocabulary of compassion
    Don’t bother replying
    And BTW
    Check out
    Cry the Beloved Country – one of the first of many many good reads on Aparthied.
    Mary O’Malley MSW MFA

    • It has plenty to do with it, in addition to the mood and sanity changes you get from classical deficiency diseases like pellagra and scurvy, you can get them from idiosyncratic reactions to foods and environmental chemicals of one sort or another. I, for example, am incapable (or barely capable) of controlling my temper if I consume anything containing caffeine. Where do you think you get all those neurochemicals that the poisonous neuroleptics are trying to tinker with? Addictions are likely to be nutrition related in some form or other- the results of chronic heavy drinking sure are. Loss of the senses of smell and taste (occurring in some depressed states) are responsive to zinc supplementation.

  8. I understand but everyone needs to think long and hard on how to dialogue with each other in order to change things as the are.
    First is respectful listening with a vocabulary of compassion.
    Then there needs to be an acknowledgement that we all have hidden or visible trauma.
    You can’t be human and not have it.
    You have to take off the masks and get down on the floor
    Some folks do it better than others and it is a learning curve.
    See the musical
    “Fantastic” and “The Madwoman of Chailot” in particular the ragpickers speech.

    And we have to acknowledge we are working on a puzzle with no box top cover to follow.
    We each have pieces and it will take time and effort and mud and dust and ash to deal with the process.
    Psych survivors like myself suffered trauma in treatment and in life circumstance or with something.
    Our feelings and needs for the ability to acknowledge and help deal with inherent triggers in dialogue had to be understood and acknowledged.
    I am very aware that if I use my name and degrees it will be seen and heard in a different light then if I use my name here.
    Same person two sets of realities.
    The voice changes and the stigma begins when you state your full reality many many times.
    Before my time in the belly of the beast I was aware of psych survivor movements and some in the professions.
    At times the ones who opened up were gossiped about and derided behind closed doors.
    I hated that as well and I am so sorry I was not able to stand down their words.
    We all carry baggage memories of what was done and what we could have should have done.
    My concern with this blog was in Elizabeth as well intentioned and so well informed could not hear my plea for compassionate listening and then responding
    She has replied so Thank you for that!
    What is so hard in saying I
    Oh I am sorry
    I never thought about that aspect
    I will try to keep that in mind.
    Not expecting perfection here just real humanity
    Thanks for your reply.

    I am sorry for the hard times.
    What would your family member think of all this?
    Could there be a dialogue?
    Please think on my thoughts8

    • “Then there needs to be an acknowledgement that we all have hidden or visible trauma.
      You can’t be human and not have it.
      You have to take off the masks and get down on the floor
      Some folks do it better than others and it is a learning curve.”

      Absolutely true.
      Beautiful, CatNight, all the way through.

  9. You might have bitten on the wrong worm there, misfitxxx. My earliest exposure to mental health types came shortly after first exposure to colas, tea and the caffeine in them. Even after losing most of my disperceptions and distortions, I still had “anger management issues.” Eventually I learned caffeine was bad for me if I had a snit, but didn’t realize I had to totally avoid it until the early 1990’s. I’ve saved unknown sums, by not breaking my personal and household items, since.

  10. Again Elizabeth reread your words!!!!!!!! ” I have found a way to get many people get past their mental suffering.” I am not denying your knowledge base’s truth or ability to help folks. You are not a savior and your terminology is still problematic in my eyes. That’s what got Carl Whittaker, the famous family therapist, in trouble – he drank his own cool aid.
    I think most psych survivors are open to new helpful ways. The terminology you use is important. Mental suffering my foot! Let’s do the time warp again! As far as I know you have no idea what suffering really is. It would be helpful to take off that mask. Get in the mud and find a way to describe trauma issues, nutrition issues, medical issues – pellegra sp? – actually did cause altered mental states as well as syphllis – the environment ! “Silent Spring”.
    I was also a LISW for twenty years in the trenches of urban areas and severe trauma, humility is everything. Again think on it.

  11. Elizabeth, I believe good nutrition has some benefit. But only if the problem is caused by a deficit of vitamins or minerals.

    In high school I suffered from IBS. My nutrition was probably poor because of this. But my spastic colon resulted from excessive social fears which finally peaked in scopaphobia. I was insanely terrified of people looking at me. At 17 I had an overwhelming urge to shun humanity. My dream job was hermit. 🙂

    My guess is the constant bullying/sexual harassment and resulting social fear led to chronic diarrhea, but then the malnutrition started a vicious cycle. Maybe better nutrition could have helped.

    For 6 months I ate little but rice, bananas and broiled white meat. And sometimes a little jello for dessert.

      • I overcame my social phobia the old fashioned way–repeated exposure to the source of my fear. I had a lead role in a play as a college freshman and made many new friends in the process.

        Unfortunately I thought this was due to the 6 mgs of stelazine I had been prescribed. Dr. X deserved all the credit. Boy was I wrong!

    • I wonder if the term “mental” is what leads to so many psychiatric professionals to think we’re hopelessly stupid even when “compliant” and possessing “insight.” This is especially true for social workers and those wonderful shrinks we all adore! 😛 Not!

      Just ask Jeffrey Lieberman. He won the title of Runner-Up in the most recent Dr. Deity contest. Now he gets to wear a banner and ride around in a convertible while throwing rose buds to the throngs lining the sidewalks.

      There are plenty of full-length mirrors lining the way. That way the winners of the Dr. Deity contest will have someone worthy of receiving the kisses they blow. Ha ha!

  12. Elizabeth

    I agree with many of comments here challenging some of your central beliefs.

    In the recent blog on nutrition and “mental health” by Bonnie Kaplan and Julia Rucklidge, I raised the following question and comment – to which they never answered:

    “You said: “…our research has helped put on the map the idea that mental health problems CAN be addressed through nutrition, offering an alternative to our current approaches.”

    “What exactly is meant by this statement, especially your emphasis on the word “CAN”? I am a firm believer in science and the scientific method. I support your efforts at researching the value of nutrition as a valuable “aid” to recovery, but I believe it can be harmful and even dangerous to exaggerate its meaning if not backed up by proven science.

    “In my comment above I stated the following:
    “And more importantly, RECOVERY from these negative and harmful experiences in life must ultimately be UNDERSTOOD AND ADDRESSED in each person”s own experience and timetable for recovery. This may, or may not, require therapy, but most certainly will require A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT to nurture one’s recovery.”

    “It is here where good nutrition and gut health may be an important ENHANCEMENT or ADDITIONAL SUPPORT for such recovery by aiding a more suitable INTERNAL BODY ENVIRONMENT for such recovery, but NOT the PRINCIPLE MEANS for such recovery to take place.”

    “A person in recovery will STILL have to address the original traumas that began their conflict with their environment AND the subsequent traumas that took place when they encountered AN OPPRESSIVE “MENTAL HEALTH” SYSTEM that added to, and reinforced, earlier traumas. There can be no SUBSTITUTE OR SHORTCUT for doing this work.”


  13. While there is no biological marker for the state of mind we call madness, I guess it’s safer to serve people broccoli than prozac.

    At one time there really was a brain disorder caused by lack of iodine. People who suffered from it would lose touch with reality as the disorder progressed. Once they started iodizing table salt, it went away.

    This was a biological disorder with an easy biological solution. A similar thing happened for syphilis victims. Nowadays if you get syphilis treated early enough you won’t wind up mentally incapacitated. No thanks to the psychiatric industry either, btw.

  14. Richard and others have already said it, but yes, to posit that nutritional deficiencies are the causes of most problems in living is at best misguided and incomplete, and at worst a major distraction from other factors which cause distress, such as abuse, neglect, trauma, poverty, discrimination etc. The ACE study is quite clear about how these factors are linked to severe distress in adulthood, as are dozens of studies of serious distress by John Read and others.

    I think the essay above has now been modified and softened a little bit, but it’s still a pretty extreme position. That’s not to say at all that good nutrition isn’t very important and can’t in some cases be a large cause of distress. But it’s just one piece, and in many cases a small piece, of what contributes to distress in the general population. Overfocusing on some cases where nutrition is very important isn’t a justification for positing that nutrition is the sole or primary cause of distress of everyone in our society, as the original version of this article incredibly did.

    A thought example might be instructive: consider if someone had been confined in a supermax prison isolation cell for two years and was experiencing depression, hallucinations, and severe anxiety. One could replace their crappy prison food with the best organic nutrition available, delivered three times a day, but leave them otherwise totally isolated without any human contact for 23 hours a day. Does anyone seriously believe such a person would “recover” emotionally if they continued to live in that environment, despite having great food? Let’s get real here. Human relationships, meaningful work/activities, feeling part of one’s community, a connection to nature, exercise, creativity, and many other environmental factors are at least as important, and collectively often much more important, than simple nutrition. To overfocus on one factor is not doing us a service in the big picture.

      • Well I have a couple of questions after reading this.

        #1. Just for myself. I have what seems to be permanent inability to sleep, at all, as a result of long term use of psych drugs. Any solutions? I believe this was damage to my brain. I have been hoping my brain, being plastic, would repair by now. I hasn’t. I see no evidence of improvement. I am unable to sleep at all, nor sustain sleep, nor sleep during any time of day at all. Not without external intervention, which I finally caved in to without having to see a doctor.

        #2. This has not been mentioned yet in comments. Elizabeth, do you have any answers to eating disorders, or, as it is sometimes called, “disordered eating”? I voluntarily took myself to therapy in 1981 due to this problem. I had anorexia and binge eating both. These were ignored for the next 30 years. In order to be seen at all, i had to claim I was suffering from other maladies, so I ended up falsely labeled with these for life. I left psychiatry behind in 2014, much to my benefit. I know many who are hoping for a real answer to ED, not this hocus pocus they hear from the specialists, who don’t know very much. The kids generally don’t listen to me, though they find me an interesting novelty, I suppose.

        • Regarding your sleep issue

          I worry about this too. It is my most persistent ‘symptom’ and leads to a cascade of all the other impairments. I don’t like reading about how it is permanent–altho I have those thoughts, too.

          What ‘outside’ intervention are you referring to?

          • Human being, I tried everything I could think of. Not one of the “pat answers” worked and it certainly is not due to anxiety. Not sleeping is rather consistent for me, I could go to a doc right now, leave out the psych drug history and for sure it would be dxed as narcolepsy, which is a sleep disorder, not a psych disorder, and they say it can be from chemicals such as drugs you are given. Also they say it’s incurable, but I don’t believe it. Also, caffeine helps! I used caffeine pills and it was like a miracle, coffee too, even cacao. And they say to avoid it. But stopping it wasn’t a good idea for me. I needed to end the mini-sleeps I was getting. I am amazed that I sleep better at night. Yeah it is a crap shoot figuring this stuff out.

      • Emmeline,
        Perhaps I was mistaken about that. It seemed like a few sentences had been softened the second time I read the article. But maybe it was all a “delusion” on my part.

        No doubt, if I did imagine these changes, the delusions could be attributed it to some undiagnosed and untreated DSM disorder that I still have. If only I could find the right pill for them 🙂

        • Matt, Can I suggest a pill for these delusions? I can suggest a budget version (since folks are concerned about price of vitamins). You can even buy these on food stamps. M&Ms. Only certain colors, though. And avoid generics. The dosing isn’t right on those. I can write you a script. Be careful, these can be habit-forming, and might have side effects. Let me know if the delusions go away.

  15. A lot of you commentators–excluding Julie and others–are putting words in Elizabeth’s mouth. Respectful disagreements and constructive criticism of her article are okay. But please take the time to make sure that you are disagreeing with what she has actually said; not just some straw man effigy. Perhaps you should reread the article.

    Elizabeth has raised a lot of eyebrows by using the term “mental illness.” Some of us consider that hate speech. I don’t, because it’s usually employed due to ignorance rather than hatred or conscious discrimination. The term is misleading though; therefore confusing.

    Sometimes I’m forced to use the term because there is no other term people will be able to recognize. If you use words that only a small splinter of a fringe minority understand you might as well speak a foreign language.

    When I comment on most websites I never say things like, “Mental illness does not exist.”

    This is true. But due to lack of common semantics people unfamiliar with the anti-psychiatry movement, Robert Whitaker’s books and Peter Breggin and other dissident psychiatrists imagine I’m saying something very different.

    They usually think when I’m denying the existence of “mental illness” I’m denying prolonged periods of sadness when a person lies in bed for several days or losing touch with reality so they hear voices, see nonexistent objects or believing they are a dead hero–like Abe Lincoln or Catherine the Great. Worse yet, they think I’m accusing these people of faking the emotional pain.

    It’s easier to explain there are no known biological markers for mental illness and that the symptoms stem from emotional pain rather than faulty brain chemicals or bad genes. That in itself is good at reducing discrimination according to research.

    Elizabeth’s article never did state that nutrition was the only cause of emotional suffering or eating spinach would solve all our problems. Good nutrition does help you think clearly and can therefore alleviate emotional pain in a way that psych drugs won’t–even short term.

    The solution to madness is multi-fauceted. Nutrition is only one faucet, but the writer never claimed it was the whole.

    • Some of us consider that hate speech. I don’t, because it’s usually employed due to ignorance rather than hatred or conscious discrimination.

      On an institutional level it is hate speech. And it RELIES on people’s ignorance for it’s existence.

      Sometimes I’m forced to use the term because there is no other term people will be able to recognize.

      You can use phrases like “people LABELED ‘mentally ill'”; otherwise you are validating people’s misperceptions that there is such a thing.

  16. Emmaline and Elizabeth
    I worked with RD’s and still know some.
    What is important hear is the “othering” unintentionally going on.
    In order to dialogue well and there is a learning curve here
    Read Kein Uris he has a great section in working through listening and responsibility.
    It would have helped if Elizabeth had said
    I hear you and others have a hard time with the use of my terminology in the article
    How best can I reframe those phrases?
    Oh trauma yes thanks for bringing it up and I will have to do more research on that aspect
    Power plays a role even in conversation and now blogging.
    Colonialism 101
    It would be interesting to have a lunquist well versed in oppressive societies do an analysis of the power plays in this dialogue
    May not have been intentional
    but there you have it.

  17. While I do not ever agree with reductionism, I also feel that nutrition is usually ignored or downplayed. When it comes to ED, guess what is done in the ED treatment centers? You are forbidden to discuss food! Yep, forbidden. You are told that discussing food will trigger other patients. You are also told that “owning a scale is a disorder.” It isn’t. Then, many people get this extreme fear of scales and fear of weighing themselves or knowing their weight. Or even fear of all numbers. So now, you are forbidden ever to mention any numbers. You can’t say, “I am twenty-seven years old.” That’s a no-no, since you said a number. Yes it goes to very bad extremes.

    They also tell you that if you disobey them, this Devil named “Ed” will get you. This Devil person is named Ed as acronym for “Eating Disorder.” This ploy is a scare tactic to keep patients obedient. So if you question them, they’ll say, “Don’t question, that doubt in you is Ed talking.” They’ll even tell the parents of patients that “Your daughter has another person inside named Ed who is telling her what to do.” In other words, they tell parents their daughter is POSSESSED by a devil. Yep, young girls now possessed by devils named Ed. And this is a standard of care, this Ed business. “Don’t do that, Ed will get you!” They’ll tell you you’re married to Ed, and to “Get Ed out.”

    Go to ED treatment sites and you’ll see this, they’ll tell you they do psychodrama and have people “talk to their eating disorder” as if it is this Ed person. If the patient is male sometimes they’ll say he’s married to Ana or Mia. “Talk to Ana,” they’ll say. And they’ll have these stuffed animals you have to talk to.

    That is what I walked away from. And people are still there, being harmed by this, wondering why these kids have grown into adults and are still not getting better. Many die.

  18. As a survivor of sex-trafficking and ritual abuse, I developed anorexia as a way to become sexually unappealing and therefore of less value to my traffickers. In addition severe starvation caused amenorhea, which prevented me from being used as a baby breeder for the sadistic cult I was raised in. While I can not underestimate the value of nutrition in my recovery from anorexia, I also can not discount the necessity of ongoing psycho-dynamic therapy with a compassionate and trauma-informed therapist. I realize how fortunate I’ve been to find such a person.

    For me the trauma therapy came first. I needed to learn how to counteract the lies I was told about my body, my worth and my abilities, before I would even consider allowing myself to eat healthily and maintain a normal weight.

    Eating Disorders like most other conditions, have numerous causes which differ for each person. There is no single modality that works/ doesn’t work for everybody.

  19. Steve McCrea wrote,
    “It is misleading to tell someone who was raped by his dad repeatedly for 15 years and whose mother didn’t protect her and who later got into an abusive relationship because this guy put her on a pedestal at first and she had no way to screen his behavior for abuse that if she just ate better and got some exercise, all of that past trauma would no longer concern her.”
    This is how many eating disorders begin – through the misuse of diet and exercise to manage other problems.