Our Movement Has Failed (So Far) – Here’s How To Change That

Will Hall
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Our movement is brimming with great ideas. From the inspiring potential of Open Dialogue to the simple hope of support for medication withdrawal, from the vision of the Hearing Voices Movement to the growing research on peer supports, nutrition, and trauma informed care, we have wonderful solutions and real possibilities for change. And we have powerful outspoken champions pushing hard across the country and around the world working to put these visions into reality.

We also have common sense on our side, as our growing voice for sanity in mental health care resonates throughout society. Skepticism about forced treatment has deep roots in the US since One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest broke the taboo about psychiatric violence. Calls for greater holistic and collaborative approaches resound today throughout all medicine, with a steady stream of research endorsing more humane and people-centered healthcare. Critiques of Big Pharma are widespread in the media and an ongoing dimension of our healthcare debates; more and more people have experienced firsthand the broken promises of psychiatry’s pill promotion. When I talk with people around the country and US — people who have been in the system, family members, professionals, and yes even many psychiatrists and researchers at institutions ranging from Harvard Medical School to Oregon Health Sciences University — there is a clear level of agreement with our ideas, that more compassion and listening, and less medical authority and pharmaceuticals, are needed.

We’ve all been busy pushing hard for these alternatives, these programs and reforms.

And we’re also going to fail.

Fail, that is, unless we completely change our strategy. That’s right, nothing is going to change unless we change how we are doing this work.

Either we realize the truth of this — that we are going to fail without a new strategy — or we risk betraying the trust and hope that people have put into us as leaders for reform. We risk becoming a professional complainer class — funded and salaried ‘advocates’ calling for change who have no real incentive to switch strategies when the reforms fail, because the money and influence for being a professional complainer continue to flow.

I have no intention ten years from now of writing another essay or making another speech or doing another training or making another film about how the “system has to change.” I”m just not interested. I don’t want to be a professional advocate and reformer.

I WANT TO WIN.

If you think it’s not possible, if you think a real total transformation of our mental health system is not possible, then you have no business advocating for change in the first place. It’s hypocritical, and you should get out of the way of people who are taking real change seriously.

And if you do think real change is possible — I mean real change, such as an end to homelessness in the US, widespread trauma prevention programs, Open Dialogue style response as the standard of care, a drastic curtailment of toxic meds, an end to forced treatment, the disappearance of diagnosis as the gatekeeper for services, truly caring dedicated compassion when people are in crisis — if you DO think these and other basic minimums of an effective mental health system are possible, then you can’t continue to support the present failed strategy of reform. Because we will just continue to fail.

I’ve been advocating for system transformation for more than 15 years, when I started waking up to mental health politics and we developed Freedom Center as a support community and multi-issue social justice organization. I’ve devoted countless volunteer hours to this cause. My life has been in this cause. I’ve worked with dedicated, caring people around the world to bring forward this vision and call for common sense — again and again, for 15+ years.

Yes, today our voices are louder and our movement bigger, and yes there are always “signs of hope.” Yes there are “small steps.” But come on people, let’s be honest — our movement has been a failure so far.

(And please note the “so far.”)

15 years later we don’t have a transformed mental health system. It’s not here. Instead we have the same abusive failed system that harvests and processes “psychotics” like agribusiness harvests and processes factory farm animals. And we actually have worse than just a failure to transform the US system. What we have is that the US pioneered system is poised to spread globally and wreak havoc around the world, which it is already doing.

And I do I wish the “peer movement” aspect of our work was actually achieving real change. But traveling around the US and taking a look at what counts as peers hired in the mental health system? It’s just not real change. What’s happening in the “peer” world is very far from the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community’s vision of peer leadership. And my colleagues at WMRLC will be the first to point out that their work is limited by the need for larger social change.

No, it’s clear that we have — so far — failed.

So what do we need to do instead?

The way forward is clear. The US, the richest and most powerful country in human history, fails to make any headway on real issues — from the environment, to health, to peace, to racism and to caring for our children — because we no longer have a democracy in this country. “One person, one vote” — a cherished ideal people in the labor, abolition, and women’s movements gave their lives for — became one dollar one vote. Republican, Democrat: it’s the same pitch-to-the-rich money-raising mockery of real democratic process. Slavery era mechanisms like the Electoral College and Senate, gerrymandered voting districts, special interest lobbying, voter disenfranchisement — what we have today in the US bears no resemblance to democratic governance. We have a money-driven circus posing as democracy.

And the result is clear: no amount of “advocacy,” no amount of convincing or educating or proposing or promoting to get our ideas out there will ever make a bit of difference. It just doesn’t matter if 25%, 45%, 65%, even 99% of all citizens in the US agreed with the agenda of the mental health reform movement — the 1% still runs the show at the end of the day. Persuading public opinion to be on your side only makes sense as a strategy if public opinion translates into public policy. It doesn’t. Public opinion counts for nothing. The opinion of money is what counts in what our country has as a democracy.

If you don’t think this will change, then you don’t believe real mental health reform is possible. Because getting money out of politics and returning to one person one vote is what it will take to achieve real mental health reform in this country. We have to end the corruption of our public priorities — including our health priorities — by private monied interests. And I don’t mean Democrat vs Republican. Both are corrupted by money. (Ask anyone serious about educational reform, for example, about the role of teacher’s unions blocking any initiative from the Democrats).

I’ve written about this before on Mad In America (“Thinking Upstream: Winning Real Reform”). I’ve been talking about it every chance I get, and have remained committed to no longer advocating single-issue change but always pointing out the deeper, upstream issue of money corrupting democracy. I’ve met with mental health advocate leadership across the country and around the world.

Here is what I usually encounter.

The leadership of our mental health advocacy groups agree that yes, money has corrupted democracy in the US and this has resulted in blocking potential for real reform. But they aren’t willing to actually act on connecting their small single-issue efforts with the larger movement against the corruption of our democracy.

Why? This is where we see the corruption of our own movement. Because instead of following through on the implications of money in politics blocking the possibility of real reform, leadership continues to advocate in the narrow way. Reforming democracy is not on the agenda. So leadership continues promising what cannot be delivered, pushing small change as presumably the idea that will catch on but never does, and setting us up for more failure. And in so doing, we have to ask: has the leadership of mental health reform organizations become a leadership class of professional complainers? Getting the grants and donations, stirring hopes and making promises, but really focused on fulfilling contracts and job descriptions and keeping the money and influence flowing? Is our leadership actually presenting a winnable strategy? Or are we setting ourselves up for more failures as a movement?

As I’ve written about there are many initiatives on getting money out of government that we can link up with — both on the liberal and the conservative side. One of the national leaders of anti-corruption work is Lawrence Lessig, whose efforts I have just given some money to. I want to ask you: are you serious about transforming the mental health system? Not just complaining and getting a few small changes here and there, but really and truly winning a society that meets people’s needs when they go into emotional crisis and distress? Are you?

One current initiative Lessig is leading is a legal challenge to winner-take-all electoral college voting. The electoral college effectively robs voters not in “swing states” (both Democrat and Republican) of any influence in choosing a president. Lessig has a strategy to change that, and it has far-reaching implications for the possibility of any future mental health reform.

What’s your strategy?

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158 COMMENTS

    • Caring for money; that’ll fix it.

      Capitalism *is* the elephant in the room.

      Not ‘crony’ capitalism.

      The whole premise is not sustainable, and we’re living at the end of the road. The ‘resources’ are played out, more growth (capitalism) is killing us all.

      Good essay, Will, but I don’t’ think Lessig has any answers. He’s a player, too.

      • The Environmental Protection Agency has become an Environmental Destruction Agency, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to corruption in politics. Both parties in this two party system are owned by multinational corporations. What we’ve got is government of, for, and by the rich. I’d say the time for a real clean up is long over due, and I hope it gets here soon.

        Capitalism IS part of the problem. A conscious decision has to be made to put people over profits, or one form thievery or another will be the rule. There is not enough room on that mountain for more than one king, and, therefore, capitalism has to go. We don’t need one elite or another ruling over and bullying the vast majority of humanity. We need government by, for, and of the vast majority of humanity.

        Mental health reform is bunk. You’ve got two types of reformers. The law and order type that wants more restrictions, and the human rights type that wants fewer restrictions. Fewest restrictions are no restrictions. Reform is the problem. Forced treatment should be abolished, not reformed. The mental health system itself should be dismantled. Allow people to make their own mistakes, and you don’t have a mental health system anyway.

        • I’m not quite sure what free economic exchange has to do with the problem. History has clearly shown that the best way to “run” the economy is to let it run itself. Even the Great Depression was the result of FED interference. See for comparison the Great Depression of 1920, which was far shorter in duration: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=czcUmnsprQI

          And the Great Recession a few years ago? Again, the FED.

          “Economic history demonstrates that not only has the Fed not provided economic stability, again and again it has introduced instability and economic destruction through its inflationary credit expansion and interest rate manipulation.”

          https://mises.org/library/fed-reality-trumps-rhetoric

          • “History has clearly shown that the best way to “run” the economy is to let it run itself.”

            I seriously beg to disagree. We now live in an oligarchy. Politics has been corrupted by corporate funding. Both parties are owned, in the sense of Mafia bought politicians, by corporate interests.

            How often have we heard that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Also, that the middle class is threatened with extinction.

            Some economies are forced to function on less money than the 60 billion $ obscenely rich man is credited with possessing. What the heck is he doing with 60 billion $ when people in the world are starving? Nobody, but nobody, is worth that much.

            Of course, Wall Street propaganda will say something else. Forbes magazines 10 richest men in the world know where their wealth comes from. All those poor people working for and under them for much, much less, and others, with money they are already reaching for.

            The 2008 economic crisis should have taught us one thing, that this kind of thing will happen again and again under the present system. So much for an unregulated economy. We’re just waiting for Trumpanomics to come undone due to its own greed and thievery. Don’t you know it’s coming. It always does.

      • OMG!

        Lessig’s thesis: Trump is removed because he was helped by “Mother Russia” (!), Pence “should” resign since he got the same help, Ryan steps in. “If Ryan becomes president, he should do the right thing and choose Clinton for vice president. Then he should resign.” This is where we are. Poor Larry. Such a shame.

        Lifted from the links portion of Naked Capitalism today.^^^

    • I totally agree with Corinna on this. Will Hall didn’t mention the crushing poverty experienced by individuals who are permanently designated as ‘disabled’. Class disparity and the extreme consolidation of wealth to a smaller and smaller segment of society is deeply harming our democracy, but more relevant to this article, our movement for a revolution in the mental health system is not financially sustainable, and bringing one vote to one person does not address the crushing poverty that prevents the number one stakeholders of our movement, psychiatric survivors, from being regular donors and sustainers of the work that must be done to achieve change.

      For movements to exist, we need creative and administrative resources to connect people and get the word out to a larger audience, and launch legislative campaigns. We need hired creatives, ad space, public service announcements, computer systems, phone systems, rental spaces, training for activists, etc. We can’t achieve the conventional milestones of a social change movement on air and prayer.

      The professional therapist class is not making regular donations to the few independently funded organizations such as MindFreedom International and other independently funded organizations with a track record of launching international campaigns of any magnitude. And the psychiatric survivors, despite all the passion, cannot pick up the slack financially. Psychiatric survivors need meaningful employment, either wage employment or creative entrepreneurship to raise their boats, enabling them to make donations to sustain the organizations they trust to lead the movement. Corinna understands the economic development is the key.

      Many psychiatric survivors are struggling to get by on the crumbs of small disability incomes while stigma, lack of accommodation in the workplace, and other barriers keep psych survivors down. Some psych survivors have criminal histories or other histories that make it difficult to find employment in the first place. Giving psych survivors the technical skills and access to marketplaces that they need to establish their own businesses and the capital they need to help their businesses thrive is sorely needed. Vocational rehabilitation programs are under funded and many such programs train psych survivors to do meaningless, low paying work. Raising the incomes of psych survivors is one of the number one barriers to our movement’s success. No leaders and activists except Corinna seem to be raising this point regularly. Kudos to Corinna.

      • I think I have also mentioned this once or twice, but Corinna actually seems to have answers. Corinna, I will email you tonight. I have your e-address.

        Our movement could use more job/career coaches. The Voc Rehab ones stink; they always mocked me and called me delusional. I really annoyed them for being smart and college educated. No neat fit for an “uppity” crazy!

    • Sorry but capitalism IS the problem. Thing is, no one here agrees on what is meant by the term. Capitalism, like psychiatry, cannot be reformed and must be abolished. It represents the reduction of human needs and aspirations to meeting the corporate bottom line as the be all and end all of existence. We cannot discuss capitalism without a clear understanding of what is meant by the term.

      Likewise, what some people mean by “our movement” bears no resemblance to what is meant by others. Mr. Hall wants the “transformation” of the “mental health” system. My movement, as well as that of many others here, is the elimination of the “mental health” paradigm completely. So we are arguing about different things in many cases.

      • I agree. The only way to start this off would be to get rid of what doesn’t work. They don’t benefit the patient. Get these drugs off the shelves. Give them an elimination date (and give people time to get off these toxins) and let the chips fall where they may.

        Invention usually comes out of necessity.

    • I’m heartened by this blog. Yes, it is a much bigger issue. That medical care has become a big business has thwarted and limited physicians in having enough time to listen to patients and provide compassionate care. Meds become a time-saver. This will get worse as ObamaCare is getting dismantled. It does no good, really, to scapegoat psychiatrists when we are burning out due to our systems. We should be in this challenge together.

      Hey-Hey

      • Not sure how going money free and adopting very unusual fringe lifestyles will help either. We could go out to hide in national parks and live off the land. But most of us are pretty damaged. Living off the land as a rugged hermit is extremely difficult and might lead to more lock ups and druggings. It wouldn’t change the system.

        Anyhow, I doubt that was what Will is proposing.

      • Meaningful employment is not the same as capitalism. Everyone needs a purpose in life to thrive, regardless of what kind of economic system one lives in. The ability to receive a gift in kind or payment for services well rendered or a well crafted, useful product is one of the benefits of living in an interdependent society. Entrepreneurship is a great avenue for the disabled to work around the built in discrimination and/or barriers to the workplace.

    • I wish this could be the case but 1 out of 10 businesses fail and if any of your analysis in your business plan is flawed, it can go south really quickly, not only that but you NEED capital to start ANY kind of business. Not one bank is going to give you money without substantial proof and that means a long start up period, to prove it’s viable.

      That’s the main reason the rich stay rich. They are the one’s doing the loaning and the hurdles are high, which means usually bringing them into ownership of the business.

  1. As you write, money in politics is indeed our greatest obstacle.

    I had considered leaving the movement entirely a couple years ago, and actually did check out for a while, on the very same basis that you talk about: that the movement was a failure, although what I thought was that it would remain one because everyone was doing their own little thing with no unity between them, and unless someone went out and did the necessary work to change things on their own, nothing would ever actually change. My mind has since changed about that. My own specific way of looking at the problem was centered on different issues than the one that you present here, but I can see that without the kind of change you are talking about, even the changes that I was considering would stand very little chance of ever succeeding.

    Thanks for advocating for your point of view.

  2. Will,

    I suggest the production of a Document containing Fully Evidenced Accounts of 100 people that have made Complete Longterm Recovery from “Schizophrenia” —
    through non drug means.

    The word “Schizophrenia” is a killer. I
    suggest that People providing Evidenced Accounts could remain Anonymous.

  3. Funnily enough I was at a talk about strategy last night. It was given by George Lakey, who was promoting his new book Viking Economics, about how the 1% were beaten back in the 1930’s in the Nordic countries leading to social democracy.

    He said when loosing to the forces of reaction it is always tempting to go on the defensive to try to maintain what has already been won. He said this is a mistake. He said when under attack create a bigger vision and use that to draw in others and then go for it big time with well thought out tactics.

    I agree that money and corruption is a problem, esp in the USA. I agree with joining with other movements.

    I think the message is out there that Big Pharma is dangerous, that psychiatry is nasty, that profit driven healthcare is dishonest and not fair. Social Entrepunership and what is happening in Masschutus shows us what is possible but the 1% rules the rest of the country (and the world) and will do so until people fight back in well thought out campaigns.

    What is needed is organising this movement in some kind of structure and then a strategy that involves direct action.

    Mainly I think it is time to take the messages of Robert Whitaker and others and turn them into smart campaigns using direct action tactics: a hearing voices group at the AGM of some insurance company, die in’s at Big Pharma offices to protest the mass poisoning that is Prozac and ritalin and olanzapine, hammers to ECT machines in hospitals to stop shock, Open Dialogue meetings in the lobby’s of hospitals to get more less lock up and drugs and more social support.

    Without well thought out campaigns with some kind of dramatic actions and mass organisation this struggle will go nowhere. I say that because other struggles got successful when they too took that road.

    Here is a George Lakey piece on campaigns https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/election-campaigns-one-off-protests/

    • Yes, I agree with your suggestions, especially the hammers to shock machines. But what would that allow people to say? Look at those “crazy, violent mental people” destroying “medical equipment…

      There has been plenty of talk and little action. TV entities and other media bring in billions advertising poisonous toxic psychiatric drugs. They aren’t going to give up on the $.

      • There are plenty of whiners who cling to their Rx drugs and SMI labels. They have screaming hissy fits at us since they’re led to believe we will take their precious drugs away. Or, Heaven forbid, make them self identify as normal

        “I am SO depressed! How dare you tell me my brain isn’t broken and I’m not a sick, crazy nut-job!”

        Pathetic, malingering idiots who enjoy deriving attention from being “sick, crazy and evil.” And swallowing the mind altering drugs they rationalize. “My brain’s broken! I need to get high all the time. Doctors’ orders.”

  4. Will, I’m a big supporter of your work.

    My plan of attack for all your points is that I plan to vote for the 3rd party candidate as I always do now. I voted for Dr. Jill Stein in 2016 and do this for local as well.

    I voted for her because I figured our country has a sensuous woman that could unite all females. Also I was attracted to her intelligence and impressive background. I saw a candidate who could bring in votes from all backgrounds. Sa la vie.

    Also wanted to say it’s true that we have acquired larger numbers and fight for recovery and wellness services in our communities. That remains superbulous for me.

  5. WEll said Will, Bravo! And, I believe the work we are doing at the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care could be a hub for everyone coming together as we try to make contact with the 1% philanthropists….and meanwhile we all must work on getting rid of the electoral college and bring our voting rights back to actually mean something!
    http://Www.mentalhealthexcellence.org
    Join us, spread the word, bring those with influence and resources to our community to actually implement the models of change. One step at a time? Yes, but it’s better than doing nothing.
    Sigh.

    • Could the Center for excellence step forward to buy a rural place for a community to be set up. A community where people can escape from forced treatment? A community where peers are the normal people, a community where kindness is the basis?
      People will come with their tents and campers and skills, to share with one another and success will spread as we all learn from each other and move back into other communities when we are ready..an intentional MindFreedom community.

  6. Will,
    I just don’t understand how this is going to effect the money flow. That’s what we’re talking about, isn’t it? So how does the “electing the president effect us?”. Money talks, [email protected]#$% walks, so I’ve been told. So how does your suggestion get us from A to B? I just don’t get it. And yes, I read the previous article on following the money. Electing a President does not effect the bottom line of “changing the system” He does not effect the oligarchy or the money that is fed into the system by way of lobbyists.

    If we effect the money going into the system, we can effectively change the system?

    Is this what you’re trying to say?


  7. If you think it’s not possible, if you think a real total transformation of our mental health system is not possible, then you have no business advocating for change in the first place. It’s hypocritical, and you should get out of the way of people who are taking real change seriously.

    The nerve. So unless someone is essentially delusional and willing to pursue pie in the sky they can stay out of your world. Sorry, but a “transformed mental health system” is a contradiction in terms and no, in your terms, it is not possible. And don’t try to pretend you’re more “serious” than those of us who have forever removed the rose garden-colored glasses. It’s really offensive. When your “strategy” has actually produced some actual victories you will more entitled to pontificate.

    A warm shout-out to Human Being. Abolish psychiatry!

    • We risk becoming a professional complainer class — funded and salaried ‘advocates’ calling for change who have no real incentive to switch strategies when the reforms fail, because the money and influence for being a professional complainer continue to flow.

      On the other hand, this is absolutely true. It seems to be the essence of the “peer” and “advocacy” rackets.

    • In defense of Will, maybe by transforming psychiatry he means eliminating all but consensual kinds. If people have been forewarned and stupidly believe commercials that promise them happiness in a bottle and take it willingly they only have themselves to blame when their brains rot and shrivel. “Let the buyer beware!” Especially where Big Pharma is concerned.

  8. Will you are one hundred percent right. I think, unfortunately, the only real thing that is going to reform the mental health system, or psychiatry in general, is time and research.

    The movement has failed because psych survivors are never going to be taken seriously if they declare psychiatry pseudoscience or for its abolition. The movement is digging its own grave. It is pure fantasy and will never occur so that is one problem. Thomas Szasz, everything the man said is fundamentally correct but aligning himself with the lunatic cult of scientology, he lost all credibility in basically everything he stood for and became quite the hypocrite in the process. I am sure most people here will disagree with me and call me out but that is the reality and I think we have to face up to that, regardless if the individual has been afflicted immensely.

    The problem lies within the limited knowledge of the brain itself and the biochemical differences in an individual. Not everyone is inflicted with iatrogenesis while taking psychiatric medication or coming off them unfortunately. If that were the case the correlation would be so strong it would be pretty obvious to psychiatrists and the public but it’s just not happening.

    The electoral college will be abolished in the future most likely but that takes time as well. Everyone knows the system is corrupt and bought, Donald Trump is the president. The man will more than likely get into a war with North Korea or Iran if he manages to stay in office for four years because he is an imbecile just like most neocons who don’t understand consequences of regime change.

    Not to mention in America, the opiate epidemic is so bad that everything else is being pushed to the side. Inform the FDA of negative withdrawal symptoms, I have done that, because what else can I do? We have to be our own advocates in this. Inform doctors and as many people as you can. Psychiatrists know there treatments are lousy and harmful but challenging the status quo really won’t advance anything.

    • I agree that Szazs’s alliance with Scientology was bad for his reputation and probably hypocritical. Maybe he was just desperate for a platform. Not everyone writing for CCHR is into L. Ron Hubbard, but the association is there and unfortunate.

      In Anatomy of an Epidemic Robert Whitaker makes the point that if the Scientology Cult did not exist, the Pharma-Psychiatrists would have needed to invent it. 🙂

      • I wouldn’t try to characterize everybody who has worked with scientologists, including some members of the Church of Scientology, as tainted by that association. There is a word for judging people without a trial, and that word is prejudice. I’ve seen articles questioning the credentials of Dr. Breggin because of his concern over harmful practices. Jeffry Lieberman, former APA president, called Robert Whitaker “a menace to society”. Criticizing the orthodoxy is heresy to the orthodoxy. Not only Szasz, but R. D. Laing, and many another errant doctor who disputed the alleged benefits of standard practice (i.e. drugs, drugs, drugs) has found themselves in hot water with the psychiatric establishment, and such dissident psychiatrists are likely to take much flak from some of their colleagues. This same Lieberman mentioned above, for example, has characterized all critics of psychiatry, including psychiatrists, as antipsychiatry. It just isn’t so, Jeffry. If there’s a fault in the science, one isn’t being scientific by ignoring it.

  9. Hey Will,

    I’ve been traveling and am super sleepy at the moment, but wanted to write a quick comment since you took the time to name us (Western Mass RLC) in your blog!

    I hear you on the fact that our movement hasn’t been nearly as successful as we want to be or should be or need to be in making real change… And I can totally support the idea of trying to re-evaluate strategies, and decide if we need to change direction a bit (or a lot) and how. This is actually not the first conversation I’ve had of this nature in the last sevenish days.

    However, I feel confused about your proposed strategy here… Not because I think capitalism hasn’t been harmful, but… because I’m not sure lack of capitalism has particularly led to success for individuals with psychiatric histories, and I certainly don’t feel more hopeful about our changing the tide of our political and economic systems than I do about changing the the mental health elements around us…

    I also feel confused about why you called out RLC specifically? I’ll just assume it’s because we’re such a good representation of what peer-to-peer support can actually look like 😉 … But bear in mind we aren’t just doing peer support and sitting around for others to change the world. We’re trying to work on all of it… but we’re definitely open to new ideas about how to move forward. 🙂

    Thanks,

    Sera

  10. Respectfully, Will,

    1) Electoral college…ummm no. Those of us in the Midwest have NO desire for our voice to be obliterated by the coastal elites. I am NOT a Trumpite, but even though I’m a moderate I still have ZERO desire to have my life run by Illinois, NewYork, and California. Thank you very much.

    2) Now to the real point of your blog. It’s easy to blame someone else for your own defeats. I spent the first 20 years of my marriage blaming my wife for our marriage problems. I finally realized the ONLY person I can change is ME. Once I began to work on my own issues, my wife took note and wanted to change for the better, too. But as long as I tried to change her first, she simply resisted.

    So if you’ve got a new boogey man to blame, good luck on that. Sure the 1% is a problem, but it’s not the main problem. The problem is systemic, and trying to pinpoint one little problem as the ‘key’ isn’t going to work. I see lots of areas where this movement could improve. MIA probably is tired of me advocating for a greater voice for SO’s, family members and such. But that’s where I’m at. Maybe once I get my wife completely thru the healing process, I’ll have time and energy to do more on that front. It’s a front I see sorely lacking as there are only a few of us out there advocating for the things that we alone can do since we alone are in the trenches 24/7 with the ones who are hurting.

    Anyway, I wish you well, but you are misguided. We can ONLY change ourselves, period.
    Sam

    • “We can ONLY change ourselves, period.” Thanks for the CAPS-ON. You are so right about this. No-one in the history of humankind has ever been changed by an OTHER intentionally.

      As we all know, Knowledge is a constant.

      By awakening, we self-actualize. Today, science tells us that the essence of nature is learning.

      Joy is the nature of choice, and of us. Transformation is the driver of flow. The goal of atomic ionization is to plant the seeds of passion rather than stagnation.

      Consciousness consists of sonar energy of quantum energy. “Quantum” means a condensing of the Vedic. We exist as supercharged waveforms. Curiosity requires exploration.

      Have you found your vision quest? If you have never experienced this wellspring at the speed of light, it can be difficult to reflect. How should you navigate this unified universe?

      And yet… we are at a crossroads of growth and illusion.

      Reality has always been aglow with entities whose brains are transformed into stardust. Throughout history, humans have been interacting with the galaxy via electromagnetic resonance. Who are we? Where on the great journey will we be reborn?

      Our conversations with other pilgrims have led to an ennobling of pseudo-non-dual consciousness. Humankind has nothing to lose. We are in the midst of a higher maturing of choice that will let us access the multiverse itself.

  11. “Has the leadership of mental health reform organizations become a leadership class of professional complainers? Getting the grants and donations, stirring hopes and making promises, but really focused on fulfilling contracts and job descriptions and keeping the money and influence flowing? Is our leadership actually presenting a winnable strategy? Or are we setting ourselves up for more failures as a movement?”

    An emphatic and caps-on YES! to each question. Oops. Other than the third one.

  12. Problem might be that “our leadership” are not democratically elected. For the most part, they are self-chosen leaders or leaders chosen by the self-chosen cabal.

    One must tidy one’s garden before demanding others tidy theres.

    If to become a leader one must simply be tenacious, are we encouraging despotism or democratic values?

  13. Sam, this is not true in your case, but for many of us our SO’s are part of the problem.

    My own controlling, emotionally abusive mom has fits when I date–assuring me in between that no man could ever love a “bipolar” like me, plus I’m too fat and ugly. Been doing that since I was twenty.

    Mommy Dearest is trying to contact my shrink to get me institutionalized. Lucky for me she is not my guardian. I am not communicating with her right now and am planning on relocating far, far away. 45 miles is not enough distance.

    Ironically Mom has been such a control freak, many folks in the mental “health” system used to tell me to leave her. I’m sure most of you reading this can see the humor.

    • YAA,

      I understand that many SO’s and families are a HUGE problem, but that doesn’t negate the fact that many others are NOT, and IF we are going to produce real alternatives to the mental health incarceration system, it’s going to HAVE to include those of us who are willing to be part of the solution. I don’t know the numbers, but even if it’s only 30-40% of families willing to help, that’s still a huge number that could be a part of the change. But I have fought against the naysayers from day one who told me what I could and couldn’t do…and proved most of them wrong. I can do things NO therapist can do because I have complete access to my wife’s d.i.d. system in all of life, not just once or twice a week in a clinical setting. I had to earn her trust when we started this journey together, but now I can help her in ways no one else can.

        • Yes, there simply are NO places for people like me. Even here at MIA I’ve been told I’m not allowed to have a real voice without my wife present, sigh, so I do what I can and hope that someday she’ll have a change of heart and join me so others can hear the pretty amazing things that can be done when the healing journey is taken together.

          • Madmother and some others can see where you’re coming from. I know your struggles are real and wish you all well. The way things are I empathize with survivors more because I am one. But I know you’re lives aren’t all skittles and beer either.

            Homer Simpson: Lisa honey, just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.

            Only, for me, it’s the other way around.

  14. At this point it makes sense to me that we should turn the lies psychiatry and pharma tell everybody, against them.This will unite huge numbers of people including us ,demanding and expanding basic fundamental human rights which are necessary for everyone’s survival . For example take the lie that psycho – pharma, is part of some kind of real health care ,when it is obvious it is part of a coercive behavioral population control alternating open air /institution complex .I propose since they’ve put so much effort to create this hoax we can turn it back on them by adding ourselves to the ranks of the Health Freedom Movement and helping it grow , if we feel it is truly for the benefit of humanity. See below — World Health Freedom Assembly 2006 –was adopted Sept. 29th & 30th–2006 St. Paul Minnesota–International Declaration of Health Freedom
    We Declare That
    Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.
    Among the inalienable rights are not only the right to life , liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but also the right to health, well being, and survival.
    Health is a state of physical, mental, spiritual, and personal social well-being, and not the absence of disease or infirmity.
    In order to secure the right to health, a human being must be able to exercise his/her fundamental right to privacy and self-determination and the right to make personal choices in pursuit of health,healing, well-being and survival.
    The right to choose requires that every individual holds the right to ultimately decide whether to obtain or reject any health treatment, research, or advice.
    In order to fully exercise the fundamental, right of privacy and self-determination, full access to health care practitioners, healers, researchers, treatments, services, products, devices, substances and information sources of their choice must be protected and preserved for each member of the human family.
    Full access to health care practitioners, healers, researchers,treatments,services,products,devices,substances and truthful information is an inherent and fundamental right and is independent of the actions of any government or other regulatory public or private bodies.
    There exist world-wide diverse healing arts theories, practices, treatments, substances,and modalities that are deemed by people to contribute to their health and well being,whether by one human or by many and they need to be protected and available to all members of the human family.
    The global adoption of these principals will strengthen the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.

    I’ll put up some links later. Seems to me this could sit well with most everybody .

  15. Corruption is, indeed, the key to why things keep staying the same. We have to develop incentives for people to do the right thing, and penalties for doing the wrong thing that are much larger than the profits gained by doing it. It is a very complex process to accomplish this, however. In the meanwhile, people are being hurt TODAY and I believe providing and promoting alternatives is essential to minimize the harm that’s being done, as well as providing a direction for our incentives to push people once we gain control of the wheels of power.

    The real problem is that “power corrupts,” and it is always possible, maybe even likely, that if people within this movement gained control, they would perpetrate similar oppression on those without. So the ultimate goal, I think, is shared power, and that CAN be promoted both locally/immediately to those in need, as well as politically, as we work to get money sidelined in political matters. But that will not happen without a big fight, and we need to join together with other anti-oppression/human rights movements on some shared goals and strategies.

    So I don’t agree 100% with the “failure” assessment – every movement has to have a base, and again, we can’t forget those who are suffering today in pursuing larger goals. But you are absolutely correct – financial incentives drive the current system, and it won’t change without changing the incentives, no matter how much data or stories we present.

    • How can something be described as a “movement” when those who consider themselves part of that “movement” have, in many cases, opposite goals?

      How can one “advocate for mental health” and be part of a movement which others consider to be dedicated to opposing psychiatry entirely?

      • Part of the larger issue of corruption and propagandizing by the power elite. If the focus is freedom to make one’s own decisions without lies and force, I think there isn’t as much room between you and the “reformers” than you might imagine. It is for the most part only the hopeful and perhaps delusional belief that these guys will listen to reason that differentiates the two groups, IMHO.

  16. In a way, the fact that any of us are alive and able to think straight is a success of some magnitude. The problem is our army is composed largely of maimed people whom our society has been taught to fear and hate.

    My idea? The best defense is a strong offense. Society fears and hates us yet they also are nervous about the shrinks even as they pay lip service to their “scientific” claims. Just like people got nervous hanging around Abigail Pyncheon during the Salem Witch Trials. We need to do some honest-to-gosh psychiatry bashing and make Sir Giles Wessinghouse’s worst nightmares come true. Destroy psychiatric credibility and people will quit believing the lies they tell. Including those about us.

  17. Anecdotally “one” of the richest countries in world has individuals of all creeds vying the path of America citizenship.

    I Love it because I see it and they have the drive and mentality to Strive for the American dream.

    So many of you here as well as many American people have forgotten that mindset.

    I see it daily. Americans are working and busting chops of a foreign born national working as peer. They don’t let others see them sweat though cuz they got it!

    Although after working as peer he/she goes to second job. Later they increase their education.

    And then also you have those not working that much going on about America this and that. Somebody should have told you America will eat you alive if you think that way.

    Just s sidebar on the conversation.

  18. Will Hall wrote:
    Our movement is brimming with great ideas . . . Open Dialogue . . . medication withdrawal . . . the Hearing Voices Movement . . . peer supports, nutrition, and trauma informed care . . . . And we’re going to fail unless we completely change our strategy.

    Will,

    This is just my opinion, but having experienced “madness” myself and learning to interpret it as spiritual emergence, I think “our movement” is going to continue to fail until we put more emphasis on the potentially beneficial aspects of altered states of consciousness. Where would you and I be now without the madness we endured and learned from? What was the source of your courage and wisdom? If you had your life to live over, would you choose to skip the madness?

    Right now we’re just playing into the hands of the bio-bio-bio medical model contingent by harping on “recovery.” We need to aim far higher than that — to “weller than well.” Something worth living and working for. Something to hope for! And if you think I’m just trying to romanticize mental illness, think again. Old Joseph Campbell said it best: the mystic and the madman enter the same waters; the difference is that the mystic has learned to swim, but the madman doesn’t know how and is drowning. The duty of the therapist is to give swimming lessons – not to extinguish the experience that can make us truly human.

    Go back and read Jung, Assagiolli, Viktor Frankl, Maslow, Loren Mosher, Stan Grof, Ken Wilber, Paris Williams, and then design your new strategy. From the ground up.

    Best regards and much admiration,
    Mary Newton

  19. Honest and interesting article and comments! But, to me, I think our first step to winning is NOT to get “played”, in the first place. We can’t become psychiatrized, let alone stay psychiatrized, unless we’re willing to seek approval, guidance, permission, and love from our abusers. Somehow, each of us must become staunchly rejecting of our families’ and society’s destrictivity and pathogenesis.

  20. Will, I agree with your analysis that our movement has failed. But any movement that tried to change the corrupted democratic system has failed too. I feel you are proposing more of the same.

    I wish I had any good idea how we could succeed – I do not.

    cu in Berlin

    • I don’t think ‘our movement’ failed. It was a movement torn and beset by factionalism from the beginning. The wrong guys won in the battle between factions, and then they failed.

      ‘Our movement’ was destroyed in this battle between factions, but this failure of a faction might allow ‘our movement’ a rebirth.

      Such is my view anyway.

      I just don’t think the best course of action for the oppressed is to betray your comrades and become a turncoat oppressor.

      I see reason for optimism in the present situation.

      Surmounting this impasse may allow for ‘our movement’ to become a liberation movement once again rather than a non-liberation [There is another word that I could have used here that probably wouldn’t have gotten past the monitors.] reform movement.

    • Macron’s approval rating was 30% at 100 days in office. The reason for this is that he is a centrist neoliberal, and began attacking the French working class as soon as he was elected. He ran as an independent because he is an opportunist and could not successfully run on the “Socialist” ticket (The French Socialist party being ‘socialist” in name only) because they are wildly unpopular for having just implemented the same sort of neoliberal policies (e.g., cut social spending, undermine worker rights, try to privatize everything) that Macron is implementing now.

        • The fun part of this all for me is that, while the ruling class and its Democrat/Republican mouthpieces support in principle everything Trump is trying to do, Trump is making the strategically unforgivable mistake of talking about his motives and goals, rather than masking his actions behind a curtain of pretense and claims of goodwill. In doing so he’s exposing their agenda big time, which will be a liability for the .1% even after Trump is replaced as the figurehead.

          • Trump is way too open and transparent. I reject the idea of “sociopathy” as a biological condition. But most politicians adopt the roles of “sociopaths” by searing their consciences, ignoring the rights of others, and lying all the time. As an outsider Trump is annoying those career demagogues because of his lack of “sociopathic” skills. These remorseless creeps threaten our movement from both sides of the political aisle. Sometimes I doubt the two parties even exist.

  21. I have an idea. Let’s all join the NRA (survivors and their relatives) and make a public vow not to buy guns. That’s what they are afraid of. They think we’ll all go nuts and buy a gun when the data shows otherwise. No matter how much data we show them that the pharmaceuticals cause brain damage and anesthesia, they’ll never listen. And that the percentage of violence is lower than the public at large.

    The elite want to take guns out of the public’s hands. Let’s join their cause.

    And as far as Will’s idea, I mean no disrespect but I just don’t understand. Yes, we need to balance income disparity and solve sociological aspects of what causes human stress. A third party candidate would have just as much issue as the current president and the republicans getting things done in Congress and the Senate and they have all the power.

  22. I think it is important for a movement to both celebrate its successes as well as notice its failures, and I think it’s way overgeneralizing to say simply that we have so far failed.

    There are lots of people who have regained control of their lives due to help from our movement and the messages that we have promoted. These are real people with real success. That success should be counted, even though we know it is only a small minority that have been helped so far, and in many ways the oppression we fight is just spreading.

    I would agree that the bigger changes will require political change as Will indicates. But while I think we should see and work with how our movement links up with larger ones, like the one to get big money out of politics, I don’t think we should just give up all our mental health reform organizing to, say, focus exclusively on the money issue! A better approach I think is to present our issues as being just one of many where corruption is leading to bad outcomes.

    Getting the big money out of politics is also something that people have been working on for a long time, also not with great success! But if these efforts ever do succeed, it will be because the public notices the vast areas of corruption and the damage it is causing. Activists in our field can help by increasing awareness of corruption in our field, while also doing our best to bring a better approach wherever we can.

    • Yes; I think “we lost” risks demeaning those for whom there has been benefit, and the value of those benefits more generally. Best to look at the ways in which we’ve both lost, and won.

      And to do that requires a level of humility that is at the root of what we are asking for more generally. I believe that the trouble starts whenever someone makes assertions that are meant to be true throughout the universe and for all time. Such statements have a pleasant feeling of reassurance, such as the pleasant feeling one gets when someone says “believe me,” or “trust me.” These phrases themselves elicit a desire to do just that, because belief and trust are in themselves desirable.

      The problem is that all truth is necessarily local; between the people who are present with each other in that truth. Efforts to extrapolate to universal principles form a given observation (such as “because someone behaves themselves when medicated, then all psychosis is genetic, and can and should be treated with medication”) result in harm.

      The enemy, in other words, is economies of scale; the hope of promulgating general truth from specific instances, therefore relieving ourselves of the burden of being fully present for each instance, each person, each crisis, but affording ourselves the pleasant sensation of having solved the problem. I think that what we are called to do is exactly what those we would influence or oppose are not; reconcile and commit ourselves to ongoing vigilance, ongoing presence, in each arising moment with those we do or would care for.

      And that this movement – along with many other similarly spirited movements – can and has done. Many have benefitted. Many of them have benefitted directly (and/or indirectly) from your work, Will, as well as the work of so many of your colleagues. It’s an injustice to yourself, your colleagues, and those people who have benefitted to sweepingly dismiss the movement as a failure. To say it can only succeed by “winning” is, perhaps, just a self-fulfilling prophesy. Given the choice between a self-fulfilling prophecy (of doom) and a Sisyphean task, perhaps it’s best to grit our teeth, put our shoulder to the wheel, and start rolling that rock uphill again.

      Because it’s really about what it has always been about; the daily work of dissolving the barriers between selves and others. Every day that this occurs, we have not lost; no matter what happens or doesn’t at any other time or place..

  23. Reading this again, there are so many contradictions, many of which are endemic in US society so I don’t hold Will Hall responsible for the confusion.

    Will’s article is interpreted by Sera and maybe others as “anti-capitalist,” maybe because he mentions the “1%.” However, the essence of this article is not “anti-capitalist,” as it addresses “corruption.” By labeling a problem as due to “corruption” one implies that it is not the system itself that is to blame, but a flaw or abuse of an otherwise acceptable system. This is similar to talking about “rethinking” or “reforming” psychiatry as opposed to dismantling it. But the true problem in both cases is that the system is inherently oppressive, by design. Will says, correctly, “We have a money-driven circus posing as democracy” ; however he doesn’t seem to understand that this has been the case since long before he was born.

    It doesn’t really matter in the end how one tinkers with the electoral machinery via regulations concerning funding, etc.; if it interferes with business as usual the system will find a way to outlaw or neutralize it.

    Capitalism must be abolished. Psychiatry must be abolished. No coincidence.

    • The corruption is an intended part of the system. Here’s James Madison, architect of the US Constitution:

      The government we mean to erect is intended to last for ages. The landed interest, at present, is prevalent; but in process of time, when we approximate to the states and kingdoms of Europe; when the number of landholders shall be comparatively small, through the various means of trade and manufactures, will not the landed interest be overbalanced in future elections, and unless wisely provided against, what will become of your government? In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability.

      https://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field([email protected](fr001127))

  24. “Skepticism about forced treatment has deep roots in the US since One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest broke the taboo about psychiatric violence.”

    Did that novel (or film) really do that?

    McMurphy was an anti-authoritarian, a crook. He had himself admitted to the institution to avoid punishment for his crime (sex with an underage girl). The first death in the narrative is Billy Bibbit. Billy has an overbearing mother. Nurse Ratched’s group therapy talking sessions are depicted as mean-spirited and passive-aggressive. McMurphy arranges for Billy (a deeply neurotic virgin) to drink alcohol and have sex with one of the prostitutes he has smuggled in to the asylum. He is later shamed by Nurse Ratched, who threatens to tell his mother. He kills himself. There is no psychiatry involved. As McMurphy later discovers, pretty much everyone cognisant other than himself are voluntary patients. All the male characters are in some way emasculated by society, and they have given themselves willingly over to that process.

    There are lots of deeply misogynistic undertones to the text.

    McMurphy suffers two deaths. The first is the annihilation of his free (and criminal) spirit by psychiatry. This ultimately comes about because he punches Nurse Rached in the face.

    His second death is being suffocated by the Chief. A native American Indian that has no identity, is utterly dispossessed.

    To free himself he kills the criminal/misogynist, and escapes from the institution. The message there is again somewhat convoluted. Only a criminal on the run that has rejected all societal values other than a masculinised libertarian ideal can consider themselves to be truly free. Only a life lived in direct opposition to power and control is considered to be worth living. Any social conformity (and particularly conforming to the sharing of power with women) is considered to be actively self-emasculating and a fate worse than death.

    It’s not an antipsychiatry text. It’s more of a libertarian/misogynistic text. Although I concede that many people would have been first made aware of how ECT could be used as a weapon.

    The narrative is more about the emasculation of men through institutionalisation, the family, the law and so on. But particularly the emasculation of men by women, who in some way are depicted as the instruments of a man’s downfall. And beyond anything it lambasts psychotherapy more than it lambasts psychiatry. Depicting psychotherapy as feminising and a conduit of female violence upon men and masculinity.

    There are of course multiple readings. And it is a very enjoyable film, even if few people seem willing to discuss why they enjoyed it, what exactly it was that it stirred within them.

    It would have been fun to watch with Dr Ewen Cameron.

    • Hmmm. The misogyny of “Big Nurse” being blamed for everything, rather than her male superiors, has been noted for some time, and the “emasculation” theme certainly runs through the movie (didn’t read the book).
      Still, I think there are many aspects of the film that ring true and qualify as anti-psychiatry.

      The Chief didn’t suffocate Murphy to “free himself,” btw, but because he didn’t want the post-lobotomy McMurphy to have to live like that.

      • Yep. To free himself the Chief had to transform into the spirit and rebellion that the institution had killed. He had to become McMurphy. He had to take on his spirit. To do that he had to become a criminal forever on the run from authority. In other words, there is no final rebellion. It is endless. But without rebellion there is only self-negation, and a death-in-life.

      • Actually within any mental hospital I found myself in ,involuntary or otherwise the rebellious nature of McMurphy like anti-authoritarian/ anti-psychiatry definitely made a showing . I and others made sure of it .And that was even years before the movie came out or any awareness by me of any book or that any movements existed .With half a dozen escapes under my belt , from 3 different mental institutions . Ridgeway Hospital at least once, Reed Zone Center at least 3 times, both in Illinois, and from a former prison mental institution in Akko , Israel 2 times, the second time after they tortured and experimented on me after recapturing me. I tried to organize everyone for a mass escape , One inmate called me Castro . Also was involved in covering up 3 escapes by others including aiding one woman in her escape, one in each of the 3 “institutions” I mentioned.
        Within this year I visited someone very close to me locked up against her will behind 2 locked doors on a psych floor of a hospital here on the Oregon Coast. Women have that brave McMurphy spirit to, even more so . In a group headed by a nurse , the inmate ( Miss McMurphy we’ll call her ,to protect the innocent)(heres what happened as she told me later) brought up in discussion,” Why do you force medications on children? Nurse, “We’re doing that to keep them from killing themselves.” Miss retorted ” They’re killing themselves to get away from you , Nurse Ratched !.” . The other inmates in the group started laughing and Miss had her arm wrenched back by a psychiatrist . As she was drinking some cool water out of a styrofoam cup, it poured onto the psychiatrist. On a different day she came out of her room naked and announced “It’s the Emperor’s new clothes .”
        Well , they brought her to “trial” ( I saw it all , in the hallway and sitting in the peanut gallery, up until I spoke out and they “escorted” me out of the “court room” ) in Roseburg Oregon ,her commitment hearing, in blue uniform ,a 2 guard escort , in Hannibal Lector full waist, hand and foot shackles . The only thing missing was the hockey mask. They had pre -arrangements, kangaroo court style ,and were dead set on committing her for at least 6 months into the State Insane Asylum where I believe the movie Cuckoo’s Nest was actually filmed . I believe it used to be called Dammasch Insane Asylum.
        Miss had a public defender in on the Kangaroo, testimony was by live amplified telephone calls by cop, social worker, and psychiatrist. All Lied, the psychiatrist testified under oath by telephone that Miss had poured hot coffee on him. A cop testified she only hung out with other mentally ill people and smoked pot ( which is legal in Oregon). The judge asked the social worker whether and where Miss was going in for counseling . The social worker said she was not. That’s when I yelled out loudly from the peanut gallery, yes she was ,the phone number and name of a different social worker in an adjoining county she was seeing.I even called the judge “your Honor”. He had me escorted from the gallery by 2 officers. Once in the hallway I told the guards I had to speak out . One smiled at at me and said “I know you did.”
        Today Miss and I are safe taking things day by day. I have Miss’s permission to post this .

          • Thanks R. R, Thought people should hear about it.
            The court system for commitment hearings is basically literally a classic kangaroo court. I talked once to a former prosecutor turned defence attorney that at first denied this and later admitted knowing it was . I tried to hire them to get some false police testimony taken out of the record . She said , “I’ve done all the pro bono work i’m going to do this year.” “It will cost you $5000 in advance to correct the record and $10,000 more in advance to to bring charges against the police officer, with no guarantees.” Another lawyer on the same issues said,” let her go to the state institution they’ll help her there.” Yeah. Right.
            F.A.

      • I don’t think misogyny was really a concern of the novel, or movie for that matter, and Randal Patrick McMurphy certainly wasn’t being punished for it by Big Chief, although the mental institute may have been trying to punish McMurphy for being McMurphy.

        Are we talking McMurphy antiauthoritarian? Perhaps, but Ken Kesey had his own “daddy issues”, and, in a sense, if we were being Freudian about the matter, Randal Patrick McMurphy might have been said to have represented something of a ‘father figure’ for some of the patients.

        • Close, but no cigar. Big Chief is the narrator. I already called him the protagonist, I don’t know about primary protagonist, but I guess you can give that role to McMurphy if need be. He is certainly one of the leading players. Nurse Ratched is definitely an antagonist. Who is on first.

          Misogyny is a common charge made against certain cultural artifacts. Misandry, not so much. Women know the game has traditionally been rigged against them, and this charge, after a fashion, represents a way for them to offset that very real power disparity. Anything that can be done, can be overdone. Misandry though is also a reality.

          I really don’t think Ken Kesey felt himself, or was trying to present himself, as a person who disliked women. He did recognize, after the fact, that the times had changed, and what seemed appropriate at the time of writing, might no longer seem so years later.

    • I think you can read Cuckoo’s Nest as an antipsychiatry text, too. Big Chief, in the end, walks away from the institution. He is the protagonist, and the perpetuater of the second death, a mercy killing of the already essentially dead McMurphy. His delusion is a critique of society that embodies a critique of the mental hospital that would try to make people fit into that society.

      Misogyny could be seen as a problem, easily correctable. Any woman want to tackle the institution from a female, if not feminist, perspective. There it is, Kesey’s tale doesn’t have to be any sort of be all, end all, of the matter. The good thing there is that Kesey was a novelist, not a moralist. McMurphy, hero/antihero, is the kind of a character a lot of people are able to relate to. I’ve seen people in similar situations. Catch them if you can, or sweep it under the rug. No matter. Shit happens.

      • Yes. There are multiple readings.

        The Chief basically adopts the rebellious persona of McMurphy in a kind of murderous rebirth. But he doesn’t free himself from his dispossession. He can only perpetuate the “white man’s” rebellion. Which is quite profound, in that there is no true emancipation for him.

        • I think it interesting the way Cuckoo’s Nest resembles, if you should read it that way, Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher.

          Chief Bromden walks away from the institution in the end, and that would have to be seen as some kind of emancipation, or if emancipation is too strong a word, escape anyway, and an escape from the institution which would try to adjust him to the “white man’s” world, that is, make him another automaton in, and of, The Combine. .

          • When animals escape from captivity they hunt them down too. But when they have them cornered they tranquilise them, put them to sleep. Very carefully and conscientiously they transport them back to captivity. And there the animals awakens, and great care is taken to ensure that they return again to their natural state of captive boredom and hair-trigger agitation.

          • That’s reading a whole lot into the situation that, frankly, isn’t there. Kesey ends the novel with Chief Bromden’s escape, with his self-made release back into the free world. Any recapture thereafter must remain a matter of pure speculation.

          • One of the things in life that might last forever is the everlasting joy of having broken free from psychiatry’s and pharma’s death grip . It’s been 10 years so far . The key is understanding your enemy better than they understand themselves, growing stronger,and zapping back , by doing your best to free others from their clutches even if it’s only one person at a time .

  25. How willing/able are you to shelter/ hide a friend pursued by psychiatry if they show up at your door in search of sanctuary ? How do we stop psychiatry in real time from picking people off one by one ? Whether there is immediate success or not, many of us that understand Psychiatry from experience “at the point of the spear” know beyond any doubt we will fight them , to the best of our ability and understanding , whether there is unity or not , because we know beyond words that psychiatry is worse than death and it represents the enslavement of humanity . Psychiatry’s falseness is so profound and such a horrible coercive tool as it serves oppressors, that it is natural as rain , for the sake of human life , to vigorously oppose psychiatry unto it’s demise , by all who love freedom.

  26. Great article. I agree that we need to address the underlying cause, unrestrained capitalism which is now running our so-called democracy. I would hesitate to criticize teacher’s unions, although I agree that any human institution, even the PTA can be corrupted, but this does not mean that unions don’t add some counter-balance for workers to our out of control corporate power. (None of us will benefit from the weakening of unions).

    So, where do we start? Overturn the 2010 Citizens’ United Supreme Court ruling giving money the same rights as free speech. (The more money you have the more influence you have over elections.) I would also do what you’ve done here, bring up the elephant in the room, unrestricted capitalism. I need help figuring out the actual next steps, but voting, running for office, joining together to support each other in these efforts and NOT becoming a professional complainer within the system are all important. Thanks for a very good article!

    • What about restricted capitalism with agreed limits on income so a few can’t run off with the whole monopoly game?
      I lived on a kibbutz in Israel for 11 months starting 2 months after the 6 day war in 1967 when I was 21 years old, was a voting member. My suggestion for the new name of the kibbutz was voted for . We had under 50 members . We voted on everything. Best system to live in I ever experienced. Still ended up in the loony bin . What can I say. People don’t listen to each other and don’t have time to hear each other out anywhere I’ve been. Anyways had mercury poisoning but was unaware of it . That will get you in some kind of a loony bin under any system in the world and in any country most likely. Finally got it taken care of fully by the time I was 60 years old. I’m 70 years old now . 10 years removed from all pseudo scientific psychiatric “treatments ” or Pseudo scientific dental treatments, also free of AMA pseudo scientific medical treatments
      Corina and mad mom are right about individuals starting their own business . Saez may be a wise man in many ways but his and other peoples malingerer rants are for the most part bullshit . No one knows everything . Anyways how do you super anti- capitalists support yourselves ? Live off Mommy ? We all know we have a better chance of driving a semi truck through the eye of a needle then of ending capitalism in the USA.Yeah ,I know about the federal Reserve and Jekyll Island. What happens to the psychiatrically oppressed meanwhile and others also. Maybe the young people have the right idea . google 4 non blondes what’s up live

      • Anyways how do you super anti- capitalists support yourselves ?

        Yeah, Fred, I think you missed the part where I said I would start my own business in a heartbeat if I could, if there was a remote chance of getting myself out of poverty. But I’m not going to pretend that “entrepreneurship” is a viable solution for the majority of people. I’m not going to pretend that “entrepreneurship” is anything other than an individualist solution to a problem that is collective and systemic. I’m not going to pretend that capitalism is anything other than a dismal failure for the vast majority of human beings and the rest of the planet.

        What about restricted capitalism with agreed limits on income so a few can’t run off with the whole monopoly game?

        That would be an improvement (in a ‘harm reduction’ sense), but the thing is that the wealthy and corporations will not let it happen. What you are looking for is called “social demoocracy,” and it is currently being dismantled everywhere that it exists. The problem is that even under regulated capitalism, wealth and power still collect in fewer and fewer hands. Monopoly is the inevitable outcome of capitalism, and anyone who has played the Monopoly board game knows how this works.

        • Thanks for replying so clearly uprising . Did you ever notice how hard the elite work to keep the people isolated from each other ? Maybe it means communes need to be started maybe supported by organic farming. Who has the funds for that ?
          Anyways as far as our issues go it seems clear to me , how anti- psychiatry and Health Freedom can both work together to possibly ,remove coercive psychiatry from existence and prevent another entity from picking up their activities.That is if enough people get active about it. That is our best realistic chance I believe. I am also concerned about ruthless big pharma developing even deadlier poisons to force on the population . They make the tobacco cartel seem like charitable organization.

          • oldhead,
            Whatever restrictions, would need to be discussed and voted on by the people, and other issues as well , rather than being imposed from above by the people who have stolen everything or anyone else. The people will have to decide how to get there from here through discussions and voting . If discussions and voting are not seen as important and people don’t care enough about mutually guaranteed survival, the “elite” will only accelerate culling operations by many various means. Meanwhile we still have to chop wood and carry water.
            What do you think of the idea’s in the Health Freedom declaration , that particular organization, and if they could protect people from forced psychiatry the way they are written or with some modification ? I think they are important enough to give them more than a casual look. It’s up above in my oct. 13 comment with the link just below that. Thanks,
            Fred

          • The problems are so severe that here in the USA the military would have to arrest the oligarchs and Crimes Against Humanity Trials would be needed to return power to the people .The law placed in the constitution by stealth that corporations are people needs to be revoked. Too big to fail cartels need to be dealt with including the federal reserve. Power has to be returned to the people nationally and locally in a democratic way. Probably many things have to be done by trial and error with the first do no harm to the people principal at the forefront. Real checks and balances , nobody above fair laws, need to arrive at fairness and justice and human rights, no absolute power junkies dictating anything to anyone . Bottom line if people can’t even live the simple principal live and let live, any system is bound to fail. How can they live in peace among each other and not harm each other and still live in a way like the declaration of independence talks about if so many don’t even have the basic necessities of life and while fanatical united oligarchs are actively exploiting and culling the population by a multitude of strategies via the cartels they control with poisons and countless other deprivations increasingly delivered and mandated by law literally into the people.
            I don’t have even close to all the answers . Do You ? Have you ever heard of the Georgia Guidestones ? Probably financed by Ted Turner somehow .They want to reduce the planet’s population ideally to 500,000,000 people . A manageable amount for the fanatical oligarchs to rule over. They are getting bolder and bolder . But they are afraid of the people waking up while they count on us being too afraid to do anything. I believe the psych drugs and other chemicals they distribute, target the parts of the brain that ordinarily have to do with people working together toward a common goal , and tend instead by other means as well to turn naturally social human beings into oppressed , deprived , isolated , human beings thereby making us more easily targeted by the oligarch’s fanatical think tank aided agenda ,which is so over the top that few can see it and so far oligarchs seem to be gaining momentum . No I don’t know the answer as many tilt at windmills and many others hide . In these times growing an organic garden may be the most revolutionary thing we can get away with doing.

    • Thank you very much for pointing out Will’s horrible aside about teachers’ unions. I missed it the first time I read the article.

      (Ask anyone serious about educational reform, for example, about the role of teacher’s unions blocking any initiative from the Democrats)

      Teachers’ unions oppose Democratic initiatives because the Democrats are all about privatizing schools and commodifying education. The Democratic Party is thoroughly committed to neoliberalism.

  27. I think the reason systems change is complex and I guess unpredictable. I agree critical psychiatry hasn’t had much impact. Essentially because it’s been ignored. Maybe one day people will listen but maybe they won’t. The system is stacked against us but I don’t think that’s why we should give up.

  28. Great article Will. I wish it was easier to tweet out & post on FB- I will work on doing that after I post this. I am, after 8 years with the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery working for MH reform on the federal, state & local level, rethinking how to best use my resources/my life. I agree, our efforts as a national MH “movement” are largely failing and cooptation and not working at a deeper and more fundamental level of change is leading to massive destruction of minds/lives, of the possibility of an inclusive culture that respects all forms of life.

    My community building work in FL is expanding and in large part, has taken a deep dive. I am looking for the “right” movement – for me – to commit to. For now I am doing more quality meditation and opening up to how I can best bring light to community. I will be training the local police force in Emotional CPR (Spring 2018) which is a significant step forward but more to come! Please keep writing, keep leading. You are such a gift to the world.

    • Lauren I appreciate that you are trying to help. Sadly I find the term mental health to be an oxymoron–since everyone I have known in the system got worse instead of better.

      I appreciate your efforts to prevent police shootings. (We hope this training works.) It’s commendable you are exploring treatments other than drugs. (I hate mindfulness myself and find it a trigger because of how it was conducted. Make SURE the meditation gurus know what they’re doing!)

      Eventually I had to leave the Mental “Health” System to preserve my own sanity. I’m not the only one, as you can see from comments below.

      • One of the biggest problems I see with this entire movement is the tendency of the survivors of the ABUSIVE mental health system to then act as if mental health issues are somehow ‘made up’ almost as if out of thin air by the ‘devious’ mental health experts to keep the masses in their place. Moreover, your lack of familiarity with those who have gotten healing and help from their traumatic childhoods does NOT therefore mean that no one has.

        People who are traumatized during childhood or otherwise, do indeed, suffer from it and often adopt very poor coping mechanisms. All of us may need help working thru that trauma if it is substantial enough. I wouldn’t haven’t spent the last 10 years of my life helping my wife thru her d.i.d. issues if I thought she was making it up. Moreover, she is MUCH BETTER now than when we started this journey, and at this point I would say in many respects she is more balanced than I am or most other people I know for that matter.

        People don’t seek out help for ‘imaginary’ issues. It’s the quality (or lack thereof) of the help that is at issue.

  29. “Mental health” is a myth. It is nothing more than a figure of speech, just like “mental illness”. Putting more and more money into a system of illusion and oppression is the height of absurdity. I want to stay uninvested in the “mental illness” manufacture business. The idea that a person is gaining by going from patient/inmate to “healer”/warden is not a good one, especially when it creates a lifelong attachment to the “mental health” system. I imagine there is still life outside the mental health system, and that’s why I’m staying there. When everything is mental health system, excuse me, brother, sister, I seek solitude and wilderness instead.

    Medicalization is a real problem, as far as I’m concerned, but it starts with people calling people diseased who are not diseased. Where does it end? It doesn’t. If you aren’t for reversing it, you are for advancing it. Capitalizing on it is a way of advancing it. I’m for putting on the brakes, and shifting into reverse myself.

    • Frank,
      Isn’t supporting the Health Freedom declaration from 2006 a way to go into reverse on the medicalization or at least the coercive medicalization? Also if enough people did support it wouldn’t it help realize the anti-psychiatry goal of abolishing at least coercive psychiatry ? I would be interested in your thoughts on this . Also the thoughts of other commenters.
      Thanks , Fred
      The declaration is printed out above in my Oct.13 comment.

      • Just browsed the Health Freedom Declaration from 2006, and I think it’s more about access to treatment than it is about rights protection. This declaration would protect resources while I’d be more concerned about protecting people from unwanted and forced interventions. It doesn’t, in my view; go far enough when it comes to opposition to involuntary treatment.

        Health care should indeed be perceived as a right, but there is always a question, in some instances, as to whether we’re talking health care or something else. I see it as more important to stress the protections than the ‘supports’ and resources. Right now, for instance, we’ve got a situation where the call for an end to forced treatment has been sacrificed for alternative resources due to the practicalities of the matter. Creating alternatives can mean compromise and collusion, often for practical reasons, with the mainstream system of coercion and control, and I don’t think there should be any room for misunderstanding.

        If the declaration can be read as a trade off of rights protection for more options, I’d have to express my opposition. I just don’t think, as written, that it is clear enough. My feeling is that the present alternatives movement has sacrificed human rights to the creation of alternative therapies, and that’s just something I can’t stomach.

        Again, I’d be stressing the right to say no to unwanted treatments over the right to say yes to care provision. Who wants unwanted “care” provision to be part of the bargain? I don’t. In a 1984 Newspeak type of world, it’s so easy for one thing to be implied when the opposite is supplied.

        • Thanks Frank, I value your opinion , maybe the declaration needs to be modified . I thought it had our issues covered . I wish you had the time to look at the declaration and into that particular organization more deeply as I believe they could be a great aid in ridding us of forced psychiatry as well as any other forced treatments in the guise of any kind of medical care by strengthening free choice. I know we agree that psychiatry is a deadly hoax. Take care,
          Fred

  30. I was astounded to see that you included, auspiciously,
    many references in your work that I have as well, Will,
    in my own literary works.

    The most obvious was a reference to one important
    aspect of the multiple meanings to why I rally around
    the name “WIN” as a group identity, with my allies.
    You did seem to capture it “well” there. WIN is
    an acronym and the win-win; a steady stream
    of successes is so valuable in our shared Life.
    “Wellness Initiative Network,” is harnessing
    the force of realizing Sustainable Wellness
    as a Way of Life in our communities…
    interesting ’tis, that SAMHSA has
    a Wellness Initiative also…one of
    the best things they’ve offered us.

    In the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery
    Googlegroup listserve, we’ve been discussing this
    topic often. I pronounced the thread of exploration
    an extension of the production that came out of NCMHR
    for presenting a set of 10 points as alternatives to H.R. 2646
    “The Helping Families is Mental Health Crisis Act.”

    The thread of exploration that elaborates upon the 10 Points
    I refer to as “Peering Beyond,” and the extension for
    the Realizing Wellness as a Way of Life point, I call…
    .. : * : .. “The Way Forward” .. : * : …

    I live in Portland, Oregon, and have been
    attempting connection with you for
    a good many years, off and on…
    I daresay it has not been easy
    to make your acquaintance yet.
    >chuckles<

    Perhaps this comment will be welcomed…?

    ( (( When a bell is rung )) )
    …others nearby resonate…
    …with the same vibration…

  31. (apparently, my first reply shown below did not go through -good thing I made a copy)

    So I’m watching Dr. Sheldon Solomon’s lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17oXQnIVO_Q
    Titled “Election 2016 Fatal Attraction 092216” and he has a lot to say about the problems we are facing today. Whether it’s climate change, crony capitalism, immigration, and mental health. In his lecture, he quotes from Erich Hoffer’s book “The True Believers” and Hoffer’s description of a leader fits Trump to a T:

    “Charismatic leaders, need not be exceptionally intelligent, noble, or original. Audacity and a joy in defiance; an iron will; a fanatical conviction that he is in possession of the one and only truth; faith in his destiny and luck; a capacity for passionate hatred; contempt for the present; a cunning estimate of human nature; a delight in symbols (spectacles and ceremonials)…the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world [and] some deliberate misrepresentation of facts”

    Here are Trump’s blind followers

    “faith in the future via identification; the process by which the individual ceases to be himself and becomes part of something eternal. The primary impetus for all populist movements is a critical mass of frustrated and disaffected citizens subject to grave economic and/or psychological insecurity “in desperate need of something…to live for.” Such citizens are thus prone to unwavering dedication and loyalty to a leader who confidently espouses a cause that infuses their lives with a sense of “worth and meaning”

    “Mass movements also require an external enemy to enable the charismatic leader to direct/deflect the rage and righteous indignation of the frustrated and disaffected followers toward a tangible scapegoat, an individual or group of individuals designated as an all-encompassing-repository of evil who must be subdued or eradicated”

    “All active mass movements strive…to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside of it…It is the true believer’s ability to “shut his eyes and stop his ears” to facts…which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger nor disheartened by obstacles nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence”

    As far as I’m concerned, the above quotes are the definitive diagnosis to one of our many major social ills that makes all social movements for change near impossible. The vast majority of the masses are vulnerable to credulity and are willing to believe anything especially in troubled economic times.
    The 24/7 propaganda machines in politics, advertising, education, and religious organizations are keeping the masses dumb and stupid -to put it bluntly- and the worst part that they are clueless of their conditioning. It is the very ideas and beliefs that they internalized that prevents them from realizing they are being royally duped. So how do you wake them up from their delusions and fears? This is not so much about the changes need in our mental health field, what we actually need is a transformation in consciousness that can then change everything for the better. But we can’t do it if the masses continue think, feel, and believe in things that keep them programmed -literally- to behave like automatons.

    • If we turn this into a contest of ‘stupid’ I can point out silliness on both sides. I realize this site likes to lean Left and there is a lot of angst over capitalism and other things cherished on the Right, but as with most things, the extremes of both sides are unbalanced, and it’s unhelpful that both sides argue against the extremes, thus essentially creating strawmen and therefore we never are able to find that common, middleground where the majority of us tend to live…

  32. In my opinion we have been far too reliant on both a ‘peer’ and ‘education’ angle. Age- old Burstowian question: is it better to reform the system from within or demolish it from without? I’ll probably take some heat for this, but I have some deep issues with too heavy reliance on peer initiatives being some panacea either in reform or renew. (Save them for another piece and time). But one thing I will say in regards to the peer push is that I do think we need traditional “professionals” but we need them on our side. The system is never going to be ‘flat’; human nature is hierarchal– let’s get the ‘authority’ figures thinking correctly and as uncorrupted as possible. Peer efforts are a good ‘tool in the tool box’ (so sorry to use a mental health system cliche there, I’m tired), but stop stealing all the energy and attention.

    Policy is a huge missing key. Less energy directed to peer and education angles and more to policy. And yes we live in a sad corporatocracy. The idea is that capitalism is suppose to correct itself right? With the best rising to the top? Well, guess what- that self correcting process is (if it is indeed even doing that) is obviously excruciatingly slow with inconceivable amounts of death and suffering as collateral damage.

    We will see if policy can be changed by the little woman/man by this February in the case of ‘The MA. Benzo Bill’. Stay tuned for an upcoming article on it. People have said to me the way to go is education, also just a tool– policy is where it’s at. The psychiatrists testifying against us will never change their minds and they disseminate their “education” at Harvard and Tufts University. Whichever way The Bill goes, I believe it will make a systems statement.