One of Mad In America’s biggest challenges, ever since our founding as a webzine in February of 2012, has been this: How do we create a forum for exploring critical psychiatry perspectives, which naturally will include opinions and thinking that will seem quite radical to many, while trying to reach as wide an audience as possible? If your mission is to promote a fundamental rethinking of psychiatry, how do you reach beyond the “choir” and invite the general public into the discussion?
While this is not easily done, partly because this whole subject is so contentious, we have sought to continually expand our audience ever since our founding. Our webzine features research news, personal stories, and blogs written by people with a diversity of experience and “expertise”: peer activists, family members, therapists, psychiatrists, researchers, lawyers, journalists, and so forth. We also invited readers to add their voices to the community discussion, which is why our front page features a running log of the latest comments.
We then expanded our activities beyond the webzine with that goal in mind: how do we reach larger audiences? Our film festival in 2014 sought to explore the power of film to tell “critical psychiatry” narratives. We developed Mad in America Continuing Education as a way to promote research findings that, in a universe dominated by pharmaceutical interests and psychiatry’s guild interests, are not usually promoted to the medical community (and the general public). And we have worked with critical psychiatry folks in other countries to set up affiliate sites, which fits with the mission of promoting critical psychiatry perspectives to a broader audience.
We are now launching a new effort of this sort, one that has us excited about its possibilities. MIA Radio will begin airing podcasts on July 1. We will be both producing our own MIA podcasts and serving as a host for independently produced critical psychiatry podcasts.
We are very fortunate to have James Moore leading this initiative. James, who is from the UK, has been producing the popular “Let’s Talk Withdrawal” podcasts for some time. Listeners know him as a great interviewer, who is always well-informed about the work of the person he is interviewing and the larger issues involved.
James will be hosting a weekly MIA podcast that, in essence, will follow in the footsteps of his Withdrawal podcasts. Our news editor, Justin Karter, and his team of correspondents from UMASS Boston’s Clinical Psychology program, will produce a monthly science podcast. Kermit Cole, who for a long time was the editor of our webzine, will develop a series of podcasts that explore dialogical practices and other non-drug approaches for responding to psychiatric crises (such as the Hearing Voices Network).
In addition, we hope to use the MIA platform to help independently produced critical psychiatry podcasts expand their reach. There are many well-known figures in the critical psychiatry world who are producing terrific shows, and by promoting them as “affiliates” on our site, we hope to amplify their reach. The first such podcast that will appear as an affiliate on our site is Will Hall’s Madness Radio.
The one thing we have learned during the past five years is that each “information channel” builds on the other, in terms of creating a broader audience for the “critical psychiatry” narrative. The different channels reach different groups, and each has its own special kind of impact. A webzine provides an intellectual (and emotional) framework for the entire discussion; films may provide a particularly memorable emotional impact; continuing education courses create a learning environment; and global affiliates provide a sense of community, which transcends national politics.
Radio podcasts, I believe, add something new. They provide a chance to hear people in the critical psychiatry world think, and of course we get to hear the tone of their voices, which creates a very intimate experience for the listener. Radio can create a communal sense of caring about an issue, which can move mind and spirit in novel ways.