Conferring Legitimacy on the Counterhegemonic


Those of us who are radicals are commonly struggling to find ways to confer legitimacy on positions which substantially challenge hegemonic constructions/ruling (oppressive status quo ways of constructing/operating made to look like common sense). In this article, via a case study, I will be exploring how to accomplish such feats successfully, leveraging the authority of mainstream organizations in the process (obviously not the only way to go). Highlighted are what kind of problems happen along the way, and how you might deal with them.

The “case” in question involves two separate but related campaigns to establish an antipsychiatry scholarship at a leading university. What makes this case particularly instructive is that psychiatry and all that surrounds it is the height of hegemony, universities are recognized gatekeepers of what counts as knowledge, and academic psychiatry is pivotal to psychiatric hegemony (for a discussion of academic psychiatry, see Burstow, 20151).

The Case

The first of the struggles to launch such a scholarship began early in 2006. Knowing of course that someone personally endowing such a scholarship would be pivotal to making this happen—for the extremely counterhegemonic are hardly agendas that mainstream organizations rush to implement—I wrote the Senior Development Officer in the Gift Planning Office at the University of Toronto with this proposition: That in accordance with previsions that I was creating in my will, my residual estate would go toward creating scholarships in two different areas—antipsychiatry and combating homelessness—and such scholarships were to be awarded annually to thesis students at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). The stipulations were: 1) students who were psychiatric survivors and students who had experienced homelessness would be given priority; and 2) the words “homelessness” and “antipsychiatry” would both be squarely in the title of the award.

To be clear, why I put these two areas together (besides the fact that they often interact and that I was committed to both) is that I was counting on the fact that the antipsychiatry area could, as it were, “ride in on the coattails” of the homelessness area.

At this point, you may be wondering why did I not just let the will speak for itself after I died? I did not because that would seriously jeopardize the success of the venture. After I died, the president of the university, the university’s lawyer, and the dean of OISE would have to agree to the terms of scholarship, and I would not be around to marshal my arguments. Given how out-of-the-box the antipsychiatry part was; given, moreover, that it conflicted with the teaching of psychiatry, and given that academic psychiatry is a mainstay of most universities, such a gift would hardly be approved easily. However if I could prevail upon the current dean, current lawyer, and current president to agree in principle in now, it could pave the way for future agreement.

Was there any interest in the scholarship? There was. Nonetheless, what followed was a very difficult nine-month struggle—at this juncture, all of it at OISE. Examples of challenges presented and how I responded were: I was told that having such a scholarship was probably a non-starter for it would be outside of everyone else’s area of expertise and therefore no program at OISE would ever agree to administer the scholarship. I realized that this was likely to be the first of many obstacles, and if I did not deal with them thoroughly, the initiative would go nowhere. I proceeded to ask the coordinator of my program (adult education) if our program could oversee it. She sounded doubtful. I instantly suspected that my best course of action would be to see if I could interest another program in it, for this might well result in two programs agreeing to oversee the award. Whereupon I turned to “Sociology and Equity Studies” (SESE), who quickly passed a motion agreeing to administer it.

Then I returned to Adult Education. As I had intuited, in response to SESE, adult education passed a similar motion (see minutes, Adult Education Program October 11, 2006). So now I had official minutes of meetings showing that two different programs were happy to oversee the scholarship. With such obvious “buy-in,” would it now be “clear sailing” for the scholarship? Of course not!

Next problem: I was informed that while it was just fine giving priority to students who had experienced chronic homelessness, there was a serious problem giving priority to students who were psychiatric survivors for doing so would constitute a human rights violation, moreover, no students “in that position” would even want such a scholarship. Leaving alone the question of possible prejudice here, I quickly demonstrated that it was not a human rights violation for we have queer scholarships for which gay students are given priority. Correspondingly, I went on to write both an antipsychiatry and a mad organization (Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault and The Mad Students Society), who forthwith consulted their membership, then went on record stating that their members very wanted such a scholarship . All of which evidence I duly presented. Was this the end of the objections? Hardly!

Though naturally this had been the issue all along, the word “antipsychiatry” was now objected to. I proceeded to successfully defend the term/concept. Whereupon I was asked to sign a variance clause that in essence would allow the university to do anything they wanted with the money if they thought that the area was no longer relevant. Knowing that no gift is acceptable to the university without a variance clause, I immediately created a substitute variance clause that seriously limited what they could do and would ensure that the money would be used for the purposes intended. And indeed, they agreed to the clause.

Now I thought that this must surely be the end, for nine months had passed and I had dealt with every single objection. However, at this very juncture yet a further objection arose: I was told that it would be important to consult with the head of my department to see if antipsychiatry made sense to her as an area (the head of my department is a very nice person but one who, significantly, had no knowledge of the area at all).

Realizing that the same issue was just returning in a new guise but that it was possible that they wanted my money more than they hated the area of study, I figured that the moment had come to “play hardball,” So I said to the dean, “Thanks for the consideration, but this has been going on too long, and if the general tenets of this scholarship have not been approved by you, the university lawyer, and the President of the university within the next week, I will extend the offer instead to the School of Social Work at Carleton University.” Three days later an agreement had been reached—all three players had consented. And a few days after that, in a highly collegial spirit, the dean, the gifting specialist and I got together for a celebration.

Now I proceeded to go on to other projects as if this matter had been thoroughly resolved. However, about eight years later it dawned on me that the antipsychiatry part of this scholarship might not be secure after I was dead, for here lie the bones of contention—moreover, no one else would fight for it as skilfully as I did. My solution? To endow, and to endow now, a scholarship in antipsychiatry only—an initiative that I took on partly because it would be good for the movement if such a scholarship existed now, and partly to prepare the way for the later and far larger scholarship which would materialize upon my demise. I named the new scholarship “The Bonnie Burstow Scholarship in Antipsychiatry” and I constructed it as a matching scholarship wherein I would be matching up to $50, 000 of contributions by others, and where I would do the fundraising work necessary.

Negotiations quickly ensued. Now, this battle I deliberately fought on the grounds of academic freedom—something that was transparently an issue and something dear to the hearts of all of us academics. And “sellable” grounds it proved, for everyone at OISE quickly understood the relevance. Nonetheless, on four separate occasions I was asked to remove the inconvenient term “antipsychiatry” from the name of the award—something which, of course, I refused to do. In fact I was even asked to consider endowing instead a scholarship in counselling—obviously an attempt to depoliticize.

At one point, for reasons unclear to me, the process stalled for about a year, though I used this time profitably to construct lists of possible donors. Then something utterly unanticipated happened—the administrator who had been the central contact for both scholarships was let go, at which point I found, much to my chagrin, that no one at OISE had any record whatsoever of the previous agreement. Fortunately, I had kept 7 years worth of email and found what I needed. New people stepped up and negotiations continued, and support at OISE grew. With the new dean agreeing, we approached University of Toronto. Where once again, we encountered stalling.

It is here where my having upfronted the issue of academic freedom really paid off. Interceding on my behalf, picking up on my words, the person doing the negotiating for OISE repeatedly told the relevant official at University of Toronto, “I have two words for you—academic freedom.” And in the fullness of time, the scholarship was approved by University of Toronto.

And was everything okay now? With respect to the University of Toronto part of the struggle, yes. We happily signed on the dotted line, and with helpful staff at OISE lending a hand with the fundraising, the next stage of the work commenced. However, this was also the time where the most unpleasant of the obstacles presented themselves. From where? From the mainstream media. Not exactly surprising that the media would react highly negatively once they heard tell of the development, as for decades now, they have “tripped over themselves” rushing to support psychiatry’s standard line (e.g., psychiatry is progressive; its treatments are life-saving, and anyone who says otherwise is an enemy of progress). Though who would have guessed the extent of it?

Both the scholarship and I personally were forthwith trashed in several major newspapers, including The National Post. We were likewise trashed on one national television program, on approximately a dozen radio programs, and several leading social media blogs. Although I am a recognized scholar in the area—one who, among other things, has challenged psychiatry precisely on the basis of science—I was portrayed repeatedly as unscientific, as the enemy of progress, and as someone who was unconscionably placing vulnerable people at risk. This by people most of whom had read virtually nothing that I had written, never mind checked their own bogus claims.

Correspondingly, the scholarship itself was depicted as an “affront to science.” On top of which, I began receiving death threats. I was likewise warned (read: threatened) that several lawsuits were in the process of being drawn up against me. Moreover, I was repeatedly urged by an OISE ally not to talk to the media at all.

Now amidst this onslaught, this utter ignoring of the principles of good journalism, I “kept my cool.” I decided carefully what to respond to and what not. I ignored the lawsuit threat for it was not credible. Despite being urged to, I never once cancelled a speaking engagement—and the public turned up to my events in droves. I asked one particular publication that they grant me an op ed piece as a counter to the sensationalistic article penned by their reporter, to which they consented. I gave an interview to a solid reporter (Kevin Richie) who worked for a sympathetic lefty newspaper (Now) and he wrote a terrific piece. I likewise rallied students and other allies to respond to some of the attacks.

More significantly, along with students I created a video about the scholarship, wherein, among other things, antipsychiatry students shed light on the bias which they face when applying for scholarships—and how this award counters the inequity. Moreover, we created both fact sheets and letters. Along with allies like Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault, correspondingly, we all of us together created fundraisers, with one that was particularly enjoyable and participatory being an auction facilitated by a joke-cracking auctioneer. In essence we created our own good press, while making what we could of the bad press. We created community. And all of us watched as the contributions rolled in.

What is especially interesting here is that while the bad publicity pieces greatly outnumbered the good, if anything this only encouraged more people to join the cause. The point is that bad publicity is still publicity—in fact the contributions to the scholarship picked up considerably after the bad press began, for now way more people knew of it; moreover, many were outraged by the shoddy journalism.

Now by most standards, our fundraising was proceeding well. This notwithstanding, as the campaign began to draw to a close we still had come nowhere near reaching the $50,000 target—and please remember we needed to, for this was a matching scholarship with me matching up $50,000 of donations by others. That said, close to the very end came a most unexpected development. An anonymous Texas donor materialized who pledged enough to bring the amount to be matched to $50,000. How did he know about it? In a word, because of the deluge of negative publicity.

And were this not gift enough, the anonymous donor proceeded to create a second stage of matching. That is, he signed a contract with the University of Toronto committing to match every Canadian dollar subsequently contributed over the next period with an American dollar.

In short, we had prevailed beyond our wildest dreams!

As an aside, I would add, I received a call around that time from the executor of my will, who said, “Bonnie, I can’t tell you how relieved I am that you did all this! Otherwise they would never have honoured the conditions of your will.”

Lessons to be Gleaned

While every situation is of course unique, what follows are general “take-away” lessons that arise from this “case,” and some guidance for others, whatever their cause, in their efforts to involve a mainstream organization in the struggle to bestow legitimacy on their counterhegemonic area:

  1. Ask for something relevant to your cause, that fits with their standard ways of operating, and which they have the power to grant.
  2. Always keep your eye peeled for what could go wrong imminently or in the long run.
  3. Keep in mind both the instrumental goal and the final goal, as well as various accompanying goals. In this case, the instrumental goal was getting the scholarship approved. An example of an accompanying goal was assuring that students doing research in this area had access to scholarships. The final goal was raising the credibility and enhancing the profile of antipsychiatry. Now by way of example, had my only concern been the immediate goal and the accompanying goal, I could have simply contributed the whole $100,000 myself and saved us all literally thousands of hours of work. Creating a matching scholarship, however, and involving many in the campaign was a way of mobilizing the community—which community, in the final analysis, are critical to what Foucault2 calls “the insurrection of subjugated knowledge.”
  4. Know the law or consult an ally who does.
  5. Prepare for a long haul and prepare to do a whole lot of educating.
  6. If you think at any time that you are “home free”, think again.
  7. Be prepared for the fact that parts of the fight that seem to have been won will return in new ways, for such is the nature of hegemonic rule. Do not get frustrated. Just tackle whatever new form emerges.
  8. Do not accept the concept of impossibility. In this regard, take every obstacle in your path as a practical problem for you to solve.
  9. While working cooperatively with the organizations whose cooperation you are requesting, always be prepared to challenge and to stand your ground. Note that they will likely want you to “water down” what you are asking for—and please note, this is just not the way that revolutions happen.
  10. If there is money that you are giving in the process, know that this gives you leverage and you should use it (if not, do spend time figuring out what your leverage is or might be—for battles of this significance are seldom won without leverage).
  11. Identify principles held in common by you and those whose cooperation you are seeking. Then use this as leverage, and what is even more significant, use it as a basis of solidarity (note the enormous importance of the principle of academic freedom in the saga above).
  12. What relates to the last point: help people comprehend exactly what they are standing for in aligning themselves with this project. In the case study, they were standing for academic freedom, they were standing for the creation of new knowledge, they were standing for liberatory knowledge; and they were standing up for equity.
  13. Realize that the very slowness of the process can work in your favour. The time taken gives folk with whom you are dealing the experience necessary to truly identify with the cause. Then by the time the inevitable challenges arise from higher ups or the public at large, the people that you have spent all this time educating have become so identified with the cause, they are not simply fighting for you. They are fighting for something they have come to believe in, something that they too have invested their care and energy in.
  14. Be very clear what the organization as a whole gets from taking the measures that you are suggesting and help people internalize this. In the case study just presented, note: they got money, they got the opportunity to both be moral and be seen as moral, and they got the opportunity more generally to be leaders in the sense that the University of Toronto would be the first university anywhere to have such a scholarship.
  15. What relates to the foregoing: help people take in that they have something to lose if they do not get involved. This sense of gain and loss can enter in in a variety of ways. Sometimes the issue is that someone else might get what you are offering them—in which case it starts to look more attractive. Note how the coordinator of adult education became more interested in an adult education connection once it looked like SESE as opposed to adult education would end up associated with the award; similarly how the dean of OISE in 2006 became more committed to the scholarship once the prospect arose of it going elsewhere. Other times, it is simply the reality of losing the chance to be associated with and to be part of a wonderful and groundbreaking venture.
  16. Hold onto evidence of agreements reached, for institutional players come and go, and when they leave, institutional memory typically goes with them.
  17. Be aware that most of the press will be lined up against you, and so begin developing a media strategy early on.
  18. Even if you and the venture are being attacked mercilessly, never devote more than 2% of your effort to responding to attacks. Instead spend the time getting your message out. Note in this regard, I personally responded in writing to only one attack (in the OP Ed piece referenced earlier). Correspondingly, I quickly summarized what was wrong with the article, then devoted the vast majority of the piece to explaining what made this scholarship vital. To put this another way: be active, not reactive.
  19. Rally your allies wherever you can. You at once receive considerable help and what is far more significant, you turn this struggle into what it absolutely has to become—a community effort and a common cause.
  20. Build in fun events, optimally using art and celebration. In this regard, remember anarchist Emma Goldman’s famous remark, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”
  21. Up-front the voices of those who will benefit from the measures being taken (note, in this case, the up-fronting of voices like the Mad Students’ Society and the voices of current students who would themselves benefit directly or indirectly from the scholarship).
  22. Figure out what to counter and what to ignore.
  23. Reach out to sympathetic media and create/co-create your own positive coverage.
  24. Never let threats scare you off. The more they threaten you, the more visible/audible you need to become. Such is the nature of revolutions.
  25. Operate on the principle that “bad publicity” is invariably better than “no publicity.”

Finally, keep in mind that there is a type of dialectic by which issues of this ilk operate. That is, in the very ways that the forces of hegemony go after you lies the seeds of your eventual (and collective) success. You have but to apply the moral jujitsu of principled social activism.

Concluding Remarks

My hope is that these general principles are of service to you in your ongoing work. Whatever your counterhegemonic battle is, whether it be antipsychiatry, or prison abolition, or gender-bending, feel free to use them, add to them, share them with friends. This said, I, along with many of my readers have a special interest in their use in the war against psychiatry. May they help us reach new heights! May they help us slowly but surely turn antipsychiatry/critical psychiatry into an accepted form of knowledge.

In concluding, to return to the Dr. Bonnie Burstow Scholarship in Antipsychiatry itself, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all who joined the cause, including my ever trusty allies Lauren Tenney, Don Weitz, Peter Breggin, and Cheri DiNovo. Thank you all who contributed money; all organizations who put time and effort into the venture (e.g., Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault); all the students and others who phoned people, mounted fundraisers, co-created videos, responded to critics, spread the word (e.g., Sharry Taylor, Sona Kazemi, Efrat Gold, Lauren Spring, Simon Adam, Rebecca Ballen, Mark Federman, Edward Fox, Nichole Schott, and Oriel Vargas). Likewise, a special thanks to OISE employees for your enormous support, for going the “extra mile” (e.g., Mark Riczu, Inna Hupponen, Charles Pascal, and Sim Kapoor).

To close, correspondingly, with a timely reminder: A new stage of matching has just begun—so if interested in contributing to the cause, check out the OISE website; also see

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Burstow, B. (2015). Psychiatry and the business of madness. New York: Palgrave.
  2.  Foucault, M. (1980). Power/Knowledge (C. Gordon et al, Trans.). New York: Pantheon.


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  1. Homelessness and anti-psychiatry.

    I wrote this paper already.

    I simply compared the cost of a one month psych inpatient lockup and the cost of the prescription drugs that follows and saw it is the same as purchasing a new home.

    The hospital bill is your down payment and the cost of the shut U up make U a zombie drugs will cover the monthly payments.

    Latuda. LURASIDONE is an antipsychotic. It is prescribed all the time. The lowest GoodRx price for the most common version of Latuda is around $1,055.00, 14% off the average retail price of $1,227.66.

    Generic aripiprazole is covered by most Medicare and insurance plans, but some pharmacy coupons or cash prices may be lower. The average retail price of $842.26. Per month.

    The psych industry loves the homeless revolving door patient who gets nothing but an abusive lockup and lobotomy pills and thrown back on the street wile they drive luxury cars and buy houses in the best neighborhoods using their license to lock doors and rip off everyone’s health insurance.

    Housing First is an approach to quickly and successfully connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety, psychiatric treatment or service participation requirements.

    Profits First is an approach used by the psychiatric industry to make billions even though they can show little positive results for those billions given to them by the government every year. Governments, groups, families, and individuals that continue to accept their faulse information and techniques, do so at their own peril. The odds overwhelmingly predict that they will continue fail in every respect like they have been. Problem should have been solved by now.

    I did it, I cost the system the down payment on a new home once simply cause I did not have a home to go to and drank to deal with my situation then landed in the hospital.

    I have a buddy who did that at least 20 times, Treatment > relapse > Kicked out homeless > Hospital > Treatment > relapse > Kicked out homeless

    He must have cost the health insurance system a million dollars by now and all he needs is a ****ing place to go where if he does get fed up frustrated and drink it does not result in another cycle of kicked out homeless > Hospital > Treatment > Sober living> relapse > kicked out homeless

    He would be just fine with his EBT and a place that was his and no one could kick him out of. I have know him for 6 years he has been doing this I think at least 10. A million dollars in treatment is no exaggeration.

    There is another guy in town who is similar with the so called mental illness but he inherited a house, decades ago I think, the place is a complete disaster like an episode of hoarders but he does not do the revolving door mental patient thing. He just lives his life, shows up at AA sometimes drunk that’s how I know him.

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      • It was a few years ago now, 3 – 5 maybe. There were 2 articles in the same edition of the local newspaper about the so-called Mentally ill”, and the local CMHC/Community Mental Health Center. A reader would have to read BOTH articles, and do some math, to arrive at this TRUTH: Every so-called ‘mental patient” represents a MINIMUM of $100,000./year in billing for salaries, alone, to the local CMHC. This doesn’t include housing, drugs(“meds”), “program fees”, etc. Just billing for salaries. $100.000./year. And that so-called “mental patient” will themselves be living on LESS THAN $10,000./year!…. Yeah, do the math. The drugs they are forced to take, often cost *somebody* well in excess of $1,000./month, – $100.s/month more than the Social Security Disability they live on. Thanks to the pseudoscience lies of the drug racket known as psychiatry, we have exploited persons for $ PROFIT $…. No wonder TPTB don’t like the term “antipsychiatry”…. It threatens their income stream….

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    • My bill for two and a half months as a “guest” of the state “hospital” where I was held was $62,400! All I could do was laugh when I opened it up and saw it. I could have spent the same amount of time at Cooper-Riis in North Carolina (a private facility that does use alternative treatment) for a lot less money, and I would have had my own private room with bath to boot.

      I could not pay this bill, to say the least.

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  2. Congratulations; your scholarship is quite a feat and quite a legacy!

    However, I do not understand one concluding remark: “May they help us slowly but surely turn antipsychiatry/critical psychiatry into an accepted form of knowledge.” I do not understand including “critical psychiatry;” I thought you made a strong case for anti-psychiatry (an abolitionist movement) and understand “critical psychiatry” to be a reformist movement. I do not understand how to reform psychiatry (a “medical science”) from pathologizing natural emotional suffering (seeking medical legitimacy).

    Best wishes, Steve Spiegel

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    • A very good question, Steve, and perhaps I shouldn’t be creating using this slashed word (anti/critical), though I do from time to time. Here is why I do. For sure I think critical psychiatry is a highly problematic, simple reformist, and as such, not the way to go. At the same time, I am aware that there are discoveries made by critical psychiatry thinkers that antipsychiatry thinkers fully agree with, while in no way agreeing with the reformist position. I use the “slashed” word every so often to suggest the inclusion of those discoveries. Can you think of another way to do so that does not get one into huge explanations at every turn? So far I cannot, but as I said, I very much get why you are raising the issue.

      What about other antipsychiatry people who are on this forum and are reading this exchange? How would you deal with this question elegantly without having to go through a major explanation each time the issue came up? For it surely does come up repeatedly.

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      • I understand appreciating “critical psychiatry” for providing most of the academic support for abolishing psychiatry; however, our goals are radically different. The “tenets of psychiatry are faulty… (anti-psychiatrists) see reform as having a tendency, irrespective of intent, to reinforce the status quo (Burstow, MIA, 10/26/2014).”

        A slash is punctuation used to identify “non-contrasting terms.” Anti-psychiatry and critical psychiatry may be non-contrasting terms under specific circumstances: “anti-psychiatry/critical psychiatry” believe that psychiatrists over-prescribe drugs.” However, anti-psychiatry and critical psychiatry are philosophically contrasting terms that should not be combined.

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  3. Anti-Psychiatry hasn’t had such publicity, albeit much of it bad, in ages. The only anti-psychiatry news there’s been, and this in a few decades, is news of the scholarship at UT. Shrinks have been talking about anti-psychiatry, and now they can’t hide from it. It, too, is a college course. Congratulations. You have certainly struck a blow for academic freedom. There should be more courses of this sort. It is certainly a few steps beyond, as it should be, in any good college, ‘business as usual’ school. You know, what the bad schools are so good at excelling in. Let’s hope we can manage to make more good news out of it in the future, especially when the need is so great for such good news.

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    • Yes, indeed, Frank. It would be nice to see more such news. Maybe now that there has been a single inroad, others who are in a position to do so can use it as leverage for getting such a thing going at their university. Or possible a change that is a bit different but that this provides leverage for?

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  4. Praise Jesus for this!!! We need our own space in higher education SOOOO much! Deinstitutionalization relied heavily upon the scholars who outed psychiatry’s human rights violations and pseudoscience. And to revolutionize or abolish psychiatry (either outcome is fine with me), we’ll need more than a Mad Renaissance every few decades. So many of our problems would be resolved with our own degree programs and, eventually, a Mad health licensure. Just think – with those tools, we’d be able to assert ourselves with the public and NOT become victimized by censorship or “anti-science” stereotypes. No more being accused of closet Scientology. No more marginalization of our work. No more “studies” that don’t examine our needs and our lives. No more Mad people being railroaded into psychiatry’s medical model, simply because they aren’t exposed to any of its SAFE AND EFFECTIVE alternatives. Thank you, Dr. Burstow, for bringing us closer to a safer and fairer society!

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  5. Bonnie

    Again, congratulations. There are many important lessons in this struggle which you have sought to educate people about.

    As to the issue of including “critical psychiatry” next to “antipsychatry,” I am not sure the best way to write this, but I do think it is important to include them as an important developing trend in the world, even though they are ultimately “reformist” when it comes to still wanting to preserve Psychiatry in the world.

    The way I see it is that IF the “critical Psychiatry” people take their use of the scientific method and their search for the truth regarding the true nature of Psychiatry in the world today to its ultimate and final conclusion. they will be forced to conclude that this fraudulent and overall harmful branch of medicine should be *abolished.* And we should do everything in our power to help them reach this conclusion. Of course, many of them will have to put aside their own self interests in order to make such an analysis and also act upon such discovered truth.

    *Abolished* not by a single legal decree, but instead systematically (through the work of anti-Psychiatry activists and others) exposed, isolated, and discredited for its oppressive use of the “Disease/Drug Based/Paradigm of so-called “treatment.” And thoroughly condemned for its legal power (second only to the Executive Branch of the U.S. government) to take way a person’s Constitutional Rights by forcibly incarcerating and drugging them in a psychiatric hospital/prison.

    When Psychiatry is ultimately stripped of these legal rights and exposed in society for its harmful and fraudulent form of so-called medicine (with its medical license also ultimately removed as well), Psychiatry will then be ignored by people and viewed as a strange and isolated sect in society, and simply “wither away” in due time.

    And all those people in society who worked towards “abolishing” Psychiatry in the above stated manner, they will have done the human species a big favor, as well as, advanced the cause of creating a freer human society.


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    • To Richard D. Lewis, you wrote “by forcibly incarcerating and drugging”. The mass population believes in the mistake of a “brain chemical imbalance” and that the psychiatric drugs are medicine ( not drugs). This has to be changed.

      Forcible incarceration can be justified as a mercy on someone whose emotions are larger than their rational logical mind.

      An example of mercy is someone who proclaims (to many witnesses) they plan to kill themselves, the bystanders can not stand by and do nothing. If a person instead of suicide threats, threatens to kill someone else the can be charged with a crime.

      In the case of threatening someone else’s life, they do not give or force “medicine” on to this person, similarly they should not give or force “medicine” on to the person threatening suicide.

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      • Hi Markps2

        I am opposed to the use of force WITHOUT ANY EXCEPTIONS. This is not a view I’ve always held, but I was educated by psychiatric survivors, my own experience working inside the system, and new studies showing the harmful effects of forced “treatment.”

        If you read my blog at MIA a few years ago (here) you will see this subject covered from every conceivable angle. The discussion in the comment section is rich as well, especially dealing with the issue of involving the legal authorities and the jail system in these situations.

        Abolition of ‘force,’ without exception, I believe is the only truly moral and just political position one can take on this vitally important issue.


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  6. Bonnie Burstow,

    I read an article about your scholarship on Now Toronto.

    The comments on the article were expected and nothing new.

    Psychrx writes: “So you don’t believe in X-rays, MRIs or CAT scans or PET studies? Um ok. All are heavily analyzed and validated over years of study. Read a textbook.”

    W Wood writes: “I’m so sick of hearing that there is no biological basis for psychiatry. There is plentiful evidence of neurotransmitter dysfunction fron Positron Emission Tomography studies as well as genetics and epigenetics, not to mention a plethora of clinical studies. Environment including stigma perpetuated by Burstow and others obviously has an effect. This is where the study of epigenetics seeks to find more answers. As a psychopharmacologist and clinics pharmacist I’m deeply offended by the denigration of my work and others. As a former MEd student in Health Professionals Education I’m appalled at this “scholarship”.”

    I remember in the late 2000s, I was in a psychiatrist’s office, and when I expressed skepticism about psychiatry, I was told the same thing. “So, you don’t believe in MRIs, scans etc? Let us read the literature”.

    This is a standard psychiatry part line. The scans and studies. The fact is, this is practically worthless in real life. In real life, all that happens are 3 things: labelling, prescribing drugs, and if your unlucky enough, having social and moral decisions made on you.

    This “deeply offended” “psychopharmacologist” does not have to bear the brunt of his and his colleagues’ work. Easy for him to sit back and be offended. People whose lives have been screwed over….”offence” is a euphemism for how they feel.

    The scans and studies party line, and also TV shows like the Charlie Rose Brain Series etc., completely remove the focus from what psychiatry and psychiatrists do to people in real life, and what having DSM labels attached to you entails (obfuscating truths with tautological labels, disease-mongering etc.)

    All that stuff is pure mental masturbation, and only good for internet argumentation.

    I have talked to people with 8 labels. They’re now going to show us scans of people with “schizophenia-ADHD-Bipolar Disorder-Schizoaffective disorder-borderline personality disorder-OCD” ? Give me a break.

    A piece from the article: “Since Burstow announced the fund, it was swiftly criticized by a mental health advocate in the Huffington Post, who noted that the Canadian wing of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a non-profit founded by the Church of Scientology, has praised the scholarship.”

    A related comment; James Jamadi comments: “Did I just read a recruitment article for Scientology?”

    The Scientology angle is so goddamn disruptive. The pro-psychiatry crowd have done a good job of associating contempt towards psychiatry with the nonsense of Scientology.

    Brennan comments: “Without SSRIs and other modern mental health medications, which are methodically prescribed to me by my psychiatrist, I would be a complete burden on society. No one (medical professional or layman) has even questioned my need for pharmaceuticals for my physical ailment but, very few understand the importance of my need for my other medication.

    Purposely using atrocious abuses and ignorance of the medical system as meaningful examples from decades ago to justify her current stance is pretty low (and I do mean building a wall low). Just because she shamelessly cites examples of a system that targeted and forced treatment upon on “gays” and “women” is reason enough to kick the soap box from under her. Personally, I do not see how her stance on mental health is the least bit progressive. She is, at best akin to Ann Coulter participating in an open panel discussion on Bill Maher’s show. If she can teach antipsychiartry, why can’t Eugenics be brought back; calipers and all.”

    One of those “psychiatrists saved my lives”, “I need my pills” comments. To this, I just point out in the following comment:

    “You’re happy taking your prescription drugs. Your prescriber is happy prescribing your prescription drugs. Good for you. You don’t have a problem, he doesn’t have a problem, no one else has a problem. So there is no problem.

    But when you get to practical real life cases, things like the following (a passage from a book of hers) happen in the lives of other people in which the mental health profession has caused problems:

    ‘These two case studies illustrate how labels of ‘mental illness’ can be used to silence those who speak out against oppression and pathologization within those professions where such interventions are sorely needed. In one case, violence and bullying was dismissed, ignored, and perpetuated by labeling the victim as ‘mentally ill.’ In doing so, her accusations of bullying and her competency regarding her job became discredited and disbelieved. Her actions and words were constantly interpreted and viewed through the lens of sanism and used as further justification for abuse.’

    These are the things she stands against.”

    Clearly, this man, as of writing this comment, has never been through gaslighting (by making use of psychiatric labels), had psychiatric labels used against him as weapons, been forcefully drugged, fought a legal case with psychiatric labels used against him etc.

    He cites, that there were abuses long ago, and this isn’t justification to take an antipsychiatry stance, but has no idea about the abuses happening even today.

    As far as SSRIs go, what about people who are being labelled bipolar due to mania caused by SSRIs? An atrocious practice to label people with disorders for the side effects of prescription psychotropic drugs.

    Some of these comments aren’t very different from what I would have written myself 6-7 years ago. But from all of this, I have realised, that the only way these people will ever truly learn, is when they go through what many of us have been through, themselves. Till then, it’s all fine and dandy. They will keep thinking they are on the side of “science” because psychiatry appears in journal papers with stats and jargon. Many of them have zero practical experience of the ugly side of this profession, and all the associated garbage that come with it.

    I know that some of the people who are on the side of what they think is “science”, will be here tomorrow, on sites like MIA, on the doorsteps of people like you (Bonnie Burstow), because they will run into similar problems. Till then, they can have their fun comparing those of us here to scientologists, psychics, shamans or whatever else they think we are.

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  7. The problem with psychiatry I see it is that it legitimizes the attitude of victim hood. For the entire time I was psychiatrized, it was demanded of me that I be a victim. I was never allowed to rise above the challenges that had been presented in my life because if I did that it somehow deligitimized someone else’s victimhood. I only learned effective methods of coping with distress when I wrested back control of my life from the professionals I had entrusted my care to – whose mission, it turned out – was only to continue to profit from my “care”.

    Thank you for this very explicit road map for fighting back. It’s one thing to speak up against psychiatry but for those of us with little experience operating within organized systems, these instructions are extremely valuable.

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  8. My problem with “antipsychiatry” is that it grants more legitimacy to psychiatry than it deserves. Psychiatry is a pseudoscience, a drug racket, and a means of social control. It’s nothing more than 21st Century Phrenology with neuro-toxins. The DSM is a catalog of billing codes, nothing more. All of the bogus, so-called “diagnoses” in it were INVENTED. So what do we “replace” psychiatry with? Easy. Psychology and psychopharmacology. Yes, sometimes, some people do seem to do better, for some short length of time, on some small dose/s of some drug/s. But long-term polypharmacy, the so-called “standard of treatment” of psychiatry, ALWAYS results in worse outcomes. Psychiatry is a pseudoscience, a drug racket, and a means of social control. The so-called “mental illnesses” in the DSM were ALL INVENTED. rsvp, Bonnie?

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      • If I say that I’m “anti-psychiatry”, then I’m granting psychiatry the legitimacy of being the thing that I’m against. It’s a semantic nit-pick, really. My thoughts and words have evolved in the 20+ years since I’ve seen a psychiatrist. For better or worse, I remember. the WORST of my so-called “symptoms” didn’t appear until AFTER being on neuroleptics. And, since I’ve been off the drugs, the “symptoms” have (mostly) disappeared. Psychiatry did me FAR MORE HARM than good…. So to my ear, saying that I’m “anti-psychiatry” sounds like I’m legitimizing psychiatry as something to be “anti”. That’s the best I can explain it. Thanks for asking. ~B./

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          • Yes, in the same way that I’m “against” pedophilia, murder, lying, cheating, stealing, rape, etc. But I don’t identify as “anti-murder”.
            I truly believe that Roman Catholicism is satanic. (Small “s” satanic….) But I’m not “anti-catholic”. Or “anti-Catholic”. I’m not “anti-Phrenology”, or even “anti-phrenology”, either. Psychiatry is a pseudoscience, a drug racket, and a means of social control. It’s 21st Century Phrenology, (or phrenology, if you prefer), with potent neuro-toxins. I’m also a surviving victim of psychiatry, learning to live with terminal iatrogenic neurolepsis. Sure beats the alternative! Thanks, Bonnie! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! ~B./ (Psychiatry and it’s apologists usually try to label “anti-psychiatrists” as being Scientologists. That’s by design…. So while I support your efforts to endow a Chair of Anti-Psychiatry, I myself choose to NOT self-identify as “anti-psychiatry”. I DO find this conversation valuable, tho! ~B./

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  9. “oldhead”, on June 03, 7:33pm, wrote:….
    “So Bradford, you allow your opposition to define you rather than just asking why they are changing the subject to Scientology?”….
    (There’s no “Reply” box left to click, but I want to respond to “oldhead”, anyway….”….
    No, “oldhead”, I do NOT “allow my opposition”, simply because I have no “opposition”. I neither endorse nor oppose any persons or causes. If somebody chooses to see ME as their “opposition”, then that is on THEM – that’s THEIR responsibility, not mine. Even if I did say I was “anti-psychiatry”, (which I don’t….), does that mean that psychiatry is “anti-Bradford”? True, psychiatry did me far more harm than good, but it’s absurd to call it “anti-Bradford”. And, really, “oldhead”, let’s not be pedantic, OK? We BOTH KNOW exactly *why* Scientology has been set up as the largest single, organized “anti-psychiatry” force in modern America. Critics of the pseudoscience of psychiatry are labeled “Scientologists”, to discredit them. Scientology is portrayed in the media, and seen as, a fringe cult. CCHR does do some good work, but it’s also superficial, glossy, hyped, and over-dramatized. It’s TOO emotional. If you wanna see some sort of bogus “spectrum”, with Scientology on one end, and psychiatry on the other, then go ahead. Personally, I think that’s stupid, wrong, and shows a very limited worldview. The whole idea of “spectrums”, whether political, clinical, as in autism, etc., is just another means of oppression by the oppressors. Another way to keep the masses controlled and confused. So no, “oldhead”, I really don’t “allow your(my) opposition to define you(me)”, nor do I “ask why they are changing the subject to Scientology”. You got any more inane prattlings you want me to unpack, deconstruct, and demolish?…. I enjoy the intellectual exercise. The revolution will not be televised, but we ARE live-streaming it on the interwebs…. *grin*
    **ROTFLMFAO**, just LOL…. ~B./

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  10. Do you think the Uni of Toronto went along with this on the ‘academic freedom’ argument because of the scandal over the David Healey affair a few years ago relating to that big pharma psychiatrist shutting him down for critiquing SSRIs and neuroleptics? Was that issue leveraged with them actually or they might have decided it for themselves for PR reasons or genuine change?

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    • There was no discussion of Healey at all. There were three issues really, neither of which would have won the day without the others: 1) academic freedom; 2) the fact that universities don’t like saying no time a free gift of money; and 3) the fact that I am a faculty member. Pushing all of these together and repeatedly is what won the day.

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  11. I do not agree with you. Maybe some years ago I would have. Today I say that the legitimacy issue is not that serious. All it takes is:

    1. Stop letting people mess with us, give us psychotherapy, give us advice.

    2. Find ways and attack.

    I do this on the ground 365 days per year.

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