The Angry Congressman: Tim Murphy’s Lack of Insight


In chalking up a mass shooting to mental illness, Trump is ripping pages from another Republican’s playbook. For years, before Trump was ever elected, no one wanted to draw a link between mental illness and capacity for violence in black Sharpie more than Pennsylvania congressman Tim Murphy did.

Thought leaders lambasted Murphy last month for his anti-choice voting record after it was revealed that he urged his mistress to consider abortion during a pregnancy scare. He voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the same week the country learned he would have preferred to eliminate his own unborn child.

But these pundits missed the most spectacular part of Rep. Murphy’s hypocrisy and it has nothing to do with abortion or reproductive rights.

Along with the fact that Murphy is not pro-life, more news spilled about the man who represents Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district and revealed that he’s unmoored. Murphy’s not unstable; he’s way more than that. His chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, in a memo about her boss, wrote that he was “hostile, erratic . . . angry, aggressive and abusive” as well.

The same memo describes the congressman driving in a downpour while texting and watching Youtube videos on his ipad. And, in petulance that seems excessive even for a politician, he pushed papers to the floor and then ragingly required his staff to pick them up. All these antics emanated from the expert author of the book The Angry Child.

Those allegations of dangerous behavior and the licensed psychologist’s lack of insight into his own actions are enough to commit him, involuntarily, to psychiatric treatment under the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. The bill was passed by the House last summer after being championed by Rep. Murphy for years as his signature legislation after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in December 2012.

The “Helping Families” bill — which effectively eliminated the old standard of being a “danger to others or self” in order to be involuntarily committed—was Murphy’s promise to the country that his profession could eliminate unfathomable massacres, despite scientific evidence that people diagnosed as mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violent crime than to perpetrate it.

But much like its original sponsor and author, the Helping Families in Mental Health Act appears more benign than it could ever be in reality. I would know—for three years, my parents periodically had me involuntarily hospitalized every time we argued. They would call 911 even though no one was in physical danger, and local police would cart me away in an ambulance.

When I would arrive at the Emergency Department, the attending psychiatrist had already spoken to my parents by telephone and apparently had no need to speak to me. He had already taken a clinical history from my parents, and from their accounts, he would hold me against my wishes. The anger I developed as a result of these traumatic events induced more psychiatric symptoms than anyone could have hoped for. I behaved almost as badly as Tim Murphy.

At the time, what happened to me was technically unlawful; the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act would have made it legal. Among other provisions, the law requires states to relax medical privacy laws, thus enabling family members and friends to provide medical histories and tales of allegedly squirrelly antics to psychiatrists, thus absolving the doctors of having to listen to the patient pursuant to Section VIII of the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics.

In essence, Mosychuk could describe Murphy’s behavior to a psychiatrist and a court and seek his commitment to outpatient treatment. If Murphy balked at having to sit with a shrink like I did, he could be involuntarily placed in an inpatient setting, based solely on his employee’s statements. Let that sink in: Tim Murphy — adulterer, distracted driver, toxic boss and mascot of federal wackiness — enabled anyone who’s pissed off at you to complain to a doctor and have you institutionalized. And, according to Murphy’s law, the doctor wouldn’t even need to talk to you to do it.

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is so violative of patients’ rights that the ACLU and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights opposed it, along with 108 other mental health and civil rights organizations. The bill incentivized institutionalization over community-based mental health treatment, and planned cuts in funding for legal advocacy for people with psychiatric disabilities by 85%. The “Helping Families” law would never help patients; it would help their associates who wanted to get rid of them for a little while.

It’s not as if these violations of patients’ rights were outweighed by the benefits of involuntary treatment. Regardless of its setting, any proof that institutionalizing someone against their will is effective treatment is countered by evidence that it isn’t.

That Murphy’s personality issues were exposed in the wake of the deadly massacre in Las Vegas — where no investigator seemed to find anything wrong enough with its perpetrator to explain his behavior, other than the behavior itself — is ironic to the point of camp, especially since Murphy voted earlier this year to rescind a rule that prevented certain mentally ill people from buying guns. The fact that the Sutherland Springs, Texas shooter escaped from what appears to be a forced admission to an inpatient psychiatric setting years before opening fire in a Baptist church makes Murphy’s recommendation of involuntary treatment even more hollow.

In truth, though, Murphy’s mental health law was always unlikely to affect the congressman, no matter how bad his antics might have become. It’s usually women, minorities and the poor who are disproportionately overrepresented in involuntary treatment settings, not psychologists and lawmakers.

That’s why it was so easy for the House of Representatives to approve it so convincingly last year; the bill passed there by a vote of 422 to 2 but never made it to the Senate floor. Murphy resigned effective October 21, so it’s unclear whether the “Helping Families” bill will ever resurface. What is clear is that it can likely pass in both the House and Senate in his absence, especially with the president blaming unspeakable violence on mental illness.

But there’s a lesson in Murphy’s stunning insincerity for all members of Congress to heed, and it’s not just that they need to resign when they get exposed: when they vote for and pass bills that are contrary to the interests of the American people, those laws may eventually go against their own interests, too. It’s just a matter of time and transparency before that gets revealed to them — and the rest of us.


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


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  1. In Trump’s case supporting “mental health” could be attributed to ignorance. He admits to never reading after all and is glad to delegate to experts like Katz.

    In Tim Murphy’s case he knowingly skewed information and lied in reports he made supporting his legislation. No conscience or empathy and lies whenever convenient. My diagnosis: Pure evil. Maybe The Angry Child was a memoir of his own ego. Lol.

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  2. The problem with equating “mental illness” with “violence” is the old Venn Diagram problem. It requires a simple statistical analysis.

    The DSM4/5 contains 374 “disorders”.

    Let’s assume disorder 132, 226 and 331 are “associated with violence.” This is because these “disorders” have “violence” in the definition. Psychiatrists create these “disorders” by declaring them to exist. Then they make up a set of criteria to go along with it.

    The other 371 “disorders” don’t have “violence” in their definition.

    So you have 374 circles but only 3 intersect with “violence.”

    But then politicians reference “mental illness” which covers 374 “disorders.”

    So they are lumping the 3 disorders with the other 371 and in doing so, they infer that the other 371 are prone to violence when violence isn’t in the definition.

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  3. Excellent reporting. Murphy stinks and is openly on the side of big pharma interests. The story about your parents is infuriating. Similar to my experience with my parents and thier doctors. My brother is in prison and his health is declining due to his mismanaged diabetes, callous prison staff. He needs to be in a prison that can handle his needs.

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  4. In British Columbia, the standard for involuntary treatment can be as low as “has a mental disorder” and “is capable of deterioration.” If a more rubbery standard exists, I have not heard of it. We’re not entitled to a Court application, just the pathetic Review Panels which are infuriatingly biased and unfair. I’d feel much safer as an American citizen and sometimes consider getting dual citizenship (my mother is American) for this reason.

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  5. “Tim Murphy — adulterer, distracted driver, toxic boss and mascot of federal wackiness — enabled anyone who’s pissed off at you to complain to a doctor and have you institutionalized.”

    The “mental health practicers” have been taking lies and gossip from pedophiles, and using that information to drug up child abuse victims and their concerned parents en mass for decades, according to my family’s medical records, as well as the “mental health” industries own medical literature.

    Today, “the prevalence of childhood trauma exposure within borderline personality disorder patients has been evidenced to be as high as 92% (Yen et al., 2002). Within individuals diagnosed with psychotic or affective disorders, it reaches 82% (Larsson et al., 2012).”

    This is medical proof that huge percentages of those labelled as “mentally ill” are crime victims, as opposed to criminals. And Fiachra is correct, the psychiatric drugs do create the symptoms of the DSM “disorders.”

    The primary actual function of today’s “mental health” industry is, in fact, covering up child abuse by turning child abuse victims, and their concerned parents, into the “mentally ill” with the psychiatric drugs en mass.

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  6. > They would call 911 even though no one was in physical danger, and local police would cart me away in an ambulance.

    It works like that in France too. A friend was hospitalized 17 times by this way. But we phoned the psychiatrist and recorded the conversation. He confessed:

    _ acting at the mother’s instigation,
    _ never have met the patient,
    _ in violation of the medical confidentiality, obtaining a psychiatric hospital’s file, in order to give to his false certificate an appearance of authenticity.

    We also have:
    _ recorded the mother’s confession,
    _ prove the accusations of violence written by another psychiatrist were a lie by recording statements from the father and the mother that they had not been assaulted by their son. Lies, lies, only lies and accomplices psychiatrists.

    We filed a complaint, it was accepted, there is a police investigation currently. With such solid evidences, we are certain to get all these bastards sentenced.

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  7. If Congressman Tim Murphy is a qualified Psychologist then he definitely lacks insight:-

    “…An overview of the current state of knowledge in the field, concluding that psychosis can be understood and treated in the same way as other psychological problems such as anxiety or shyness…”

    Of Course:-

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  8. Although I did not support that bill, and am displeased with the Congressman’s hypocrisy, your article is not really helpful for furthering the cause of making the world a safer and better place for most people. Please try to think of ways we could have avoided the massacre in Texas or the recent shooting in California. The California shooter had an incident in January in which he stabbed someone. His mother paid his bail and got him out. She probably shouldn’t have done it. The Attorney General is launching an investigation on how Kelley, the Texas shooter, was able to purchase guns. Kelley escaped a psych ward a few years ago. It is not so simple. We have to compromise between human rights and victims’ rights, and the public has a right to be safe.

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  9. POINT OF INFORMATION (don’t know how this got missed) —

    The “Murphy Bill” following its passage was basically merged with the Democratic version of same last fall when no one was looking, and incorporated into the “2oth Century Cures Act,” which was passed by Congress and signed by Obama with his blessing. This was before Trump took office, so there goes any illusion that this is a Democrat-Republican thing. Both parties have us squarely in their sights.

    Good article though, thanks. Time for psychiatry to go!

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  10. I believe that the majority of homicides are committed by people when under the influence of alcohol. Irish people have a reputation for consuming alcohol so maybe they should be closely monitored in society for precautionary reasons.

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  11. POINT OF INFORMATION: This time last year when no one was looking the “Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act” was incorporated into the “21st Century Cures Act,” which was passed by Congress and enthusiastically signed by Obama late in 2016. I, along with Lauren Tenney and others, tried to generate some last minute opposition among MIA readers at that time to no avail. This is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue by any means; both parties have us squarely in their sights.

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  12. You guys missed the FOX news article on Kelley. He was drugged from sixth grade on. And this was apparently instigated by his parents. As a child, he spoke out against the drugging. FOX interviewed friends from junior high who described it as “he was heavily medicated.” This suggests a cocktail. As a child. It was psych drugs, the article said so. This information was suppressed and the nuthouse escape made central.

    By the end of high school he had already been mass unfriended by his peers. He had chosen atheism, but he lived in a community that frowned upon atheists. He was socially othered and even then, seen in a very bad way.

    Mass unfriending gives you a pessimistic view on the world. It makes you suspicious and for a while you truly hate your life. You feel like you can never, ever trust again.

    I am lucky that after I was also mass unfriended, some very kind people out there decided, even though it was the unpopular view, to give me a chance. So it turned around and I was never violent nor resorted to suicide.

    Yes he got the bad end of the stick. It didn’t get any better for him, and it looks like his capture in the nuthouse, escape of not, only furthered his feelings of distrust and fear, and other people;s distrust in him. I suspect that by the time he married he was way out of control, and something other than marriage was needed to help him trust others again.

    This happens to people and I feel for anyone in such a situation.

    And thanks for the humor on Murphy!!! Hypocrite!!

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  13. Murphy promoted that bill with false written statements about the life circumstances of four mass shooters, all of whom had psychiatrists and psych drugs in their lives when they committed senseless mass shootings. He offered no references for the claim, which he made at the top of a document stored on his official government Web site, which he called a “One-pager.” This is it in its entirety, augmented by common sense [contained in square brackets]:

    Filename: MHOnePager2.18.15.pdf

    (Fancy Governmental Seal)
    Tim Murphy
    [FORMER] US Congressman for the 18th District of Pennsylvania

    The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act
    [The Helping Families that Cruelly Effed Up their Most Vulnerable Member (the Kind, Smart, Honest One) Have that Person Discredited and Drugged into Demoralized Silence Act”]

    Untreated serious mental illness in recent acts of mass violence – Adam Lanza (Newtown, CT), James Holmes (Aurora, CO), Jared Loughner (Tucson, AZ), Aaron Alexis (Washington, DC), Elliot Rodger (Santa Barbara, CA) – demands action.

    [It is absolutely false to call four of those cases untreated. (The exception, Loughner, was made visible to the system but ignored by it. He’s the system’s failure, not his or his parents’, and he was a drug users, just not a prescription drug user like the others. And there’s this: “Agents pursued tips that Loughner had undergone mental-health treatment. While those leads were not substantiated…” which is not the same as proven false. See Where did he get that so-called information? One has to wonder, but more to the point, how many votes in the House and the Senate were influenced by this false propaganda? Why is there not one single human being in the federal government who could identify this as false and have Murphy charged with fraud? I’ll write a few letters and update this page if anything comes of it. Now that he’s lost his luster, there might be some open minds.]

    The federal government spends $130 billion annually on mental health. Yet, over the last 20 years the rates of violence, suicide, homelessness, victimization, and incarceration among the mentally have increased.

    [Among the “mentally”? Who are they? That’s a forgot-to-finish typo, which is always suggestive of BS. The author struggled to say something technically true that would advance a BS position. Nothing comes to mind. He eventually wanders off in search of something of that nature in pubmed, fails to find it, and forgets to come back and sew up the sentence with something suitably vague. In this unusual case, the statement under construction happens to go against what Murphy is promoting, but he’s too stupid to realize it. Just substitute “and” for “yet.” Like so:

    “The federal government spends $130 billion annually on mental health and over the last 20 years the rates of violence, suicide, homelessness, victimization, and incarceration among the mentally have increased.”

    Yes, they have increased. So has “mental illness” per se, in particular that “serious mental illness” you call “bipolar disorder,” which I call “exposure to psychiatry syndrome.” So have the incomes of those employed in attempts to prevent and deal with violence, suicide, homelessness, victimization, and incarceration. Shares in CXW, the ticker symbol for Corrections Corporation of America, recently rebranded as “CoreCivic,” have risen from a low of $1.25 in October 2000 to their current price of $23, an 18-fold increase. Indexes like the Dow Industrials, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 have not made such gains, merely lolling around in the doubling to 5-fold zone if you generously track them from their lowest points around 20 years ago]

    The House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations revealed that those who need help the most have been getting it the least. An astounding forty percent of Americans with a serious mental illness (SMI) are not receiving treatment. [So what? What percent of that 40 percent wants it? What harm does non-treatment do compared to the harm to those you cal seriously mentally ill and others when your brand of “treatment is forced on them?]

    Despite this record of failure, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has not been reauthorized since the Clinton Administration. More than half of the programs for those with serious mental illness at SAMHSA have never been evaluated for effectiveness or quality. [You should thank your lucky stars because your profession would be dead if they were.]

    That is why I will reintroduce the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717, 113th) to refocus programs and resources to families and patients with the most challenging cases of serious mental illnesses and bring accountability to federal programs.

    The legislation:

    Reforms the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
    –For the first time, brings accountability to how mental health dollars are spent.
    –Requires grant recipients to follow evidence-based standards, eliminates unauthorized programs, and mandates congressional oversight of all federal behavioral health grants.
    –Prohibits taxpayer dollars from going to legal advocates and antipsychiatry activists working to stop medical care.

    [Hang on just a minute.”Prohibits taxpayer dollars from going to legal advocates…” Good gracious! Did that remain in the bill?]

    [“…antipsychiatry activists working to stop medical care.” That’s fraudulent, too, implying that that is what antipsychiatry activism is all about. There are antipsychiatry positions that do not exclude “medical care” or would not exclude it if it were voluntary and if there were evidence that it helped and caused no harm.

    • Empowers Parents and Caregivers
    Breaks down barriers to allow families to work with doctors and mental health professionals to be part of the front-line care delivery team
    [Violates the privacy, civil rights and human rights of adults and children]

    • Fixes Shortage of Inpatient Beds
    Provides more psychiatric hospital beds, instead of expensive emergency rooms, for those experiencing a mental health crisis and in need of immediate inpatient care. [Whether they want it or not. Includes physical restraints, injected Haldol, and video-monitoring. What better way to improve one’s emotional well-being and ability to think?]

    • Reaching Underserved and Rural Populations
    Advances tele-psychiatry to link pediatricians and primary care doctors with psychiatrists and psychologists in areas where patients don’t have access to mental health professionals. [Maybe we can treat their conservatism, too. These lunatics voted for Trump.]

    • High Quality Behavioral Health Clinics
    Improves quality, accountability, and access to integrated medical and mental healthcare at community mental health providers.
    [I hope this improves accountability. However, the measure of success will be drug and “treatment” compliance, not health and happiness.]

    •Alternatives to Institutionalization
    Helps those with serious mental illness get into treatment when they are unable to understand the gravity of their condition and cannot voluntarily seek out care, thereby reducing rates of imprisonment, homelessness, substance abuse, and costly ER visits.

    •Advances Critical Medical Research
    Increases funding for brain research to better understand the underlying causes of neurological and psychiatric conditions. Advances successful NIMH early intervention programs like Recovery After Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE), which reduces suicide rates & helps patients recover through a combination of low-dose medication and support services.

    [Hey, You said “brain.” BAD BOY! In any case, the RAISE Web site lists THIRTY publications based on the study. Here:

    The most recent was published September, 2017. There are no mentions of suicide in any of the titles. Even those that that look promising in terms of covering suicide outcomes do not mention suicide in their abstracts. This, the most recent, is typical:

    “In the present study, the authors compared NAVIGATE [which is the RAISE protocol] and community care [which is?] on the psychotropic medications prescribed, side effects experienced, metabolic outcomes, and scores on the Adherence Estimator scale, which assesses beliefs related to nonadherence.”

    That’s not a study of outcomes for the so-called patients…

    •Criminal Justice Reforms
    Expands Crisis Intervention Team training for law enforcement, so patients are treated in the healthcare system and not warehoused in the criminal justice system.

    [More cops = more getting shot. This training lacks one thing: A real, intelligent, unpredictable person, terrified already, more so by the presence of armed brutes with a reputation for murder, who does something that doesn’t fit the training protocol. They encounter one of those in real life and the bullets fly, training notwithstanding.]

    Integrates Primary & Behavioral Care
    Extends health IT laws, so mental health providers can coordinate care with primary care doctors using electronic medical records.
    [Violates privacy]

    [The End. Followed by:]

    Organizations & Media Outlets Supporting the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

    Organizations American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
    American Academy of Emergency Medicine
    American Academy of Forensic Sciences
    American College of Emergency Physicians
    American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.
    American Psychiatric Association
    American Psychological Association
    California Psychiatric Association
    Center for Substance Abuse Research
    College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists
    Developmental Disabilities Area Board 10
    LA Mental Health Association of Essex County, NJ
    Mental Illness FACTS
    Mental Illness Policy Organization
    Nat. Assoc. for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis
    Nat. Assoc. of Psychiatric Health Systems
    National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)NAMI Kentucky NAMI Los Angeles County NAMI New York State NAMI Ohio NAMI San Francisco NAMI West Side Los Angeles
    Nat. Council for Behavioral Health
    National Sheriffs’ Association
    No Health Without Mental Health
    Pennsylvania Medical Society
    St. Paulus Lutheran Church (San Francisco)
    Sheppard Pratt Hospital
    Treatment Advocacy Center
    Treatment Before Tragedy
    U. of Pittsburgh, Department of Psychiatry
    Washington Psychiatric Society
    NY State Assoc. of Chiefs of Police
    Media The Wall Street Journal
    The Washington Post
    National Review Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    The Sacramento Bee
    The Arizona Republic
    The Orange County Register
    The Toledo Blade
    Houston Chronicle
    Raleigh News & Observer
    Bradenton Herald
    The Cecil Whig (MD)
    Express-Times (Lehigh Valley, PA)
    Fresno Bee
    Mansfield News Journal
    Ocala Star-Banner (FL)
    San Mateo Journal (CA)
    Sarasota Herald-Tribune
    Seattle Times
    Washington Observer-Reporter (PA)
    Tampa Tribune

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    • To Betterlife (above) brilliant analysis. To all the writers and commenters on this website, this is one of the most intelligent and insightful websites I’ve ever read. It’s like the story of the Emperors New Clothes. At the end of the story there is a kid who sees the Emperor is naked and tells everyone. Psychiatry is the emperor and the contributors of MIA are the kid. I learn a lot from you all.

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  14. Good post BL, brings back memories. People should also keep in mind that the Dems had their own “Murphy Bill” (as in Chris) which, rather than highlighting forced outmate “treatment,” focused on “early intervention” with toddlers to “screen” them for signs of future “mental illness.” I.e., good cop/bad cop.

    Check your email now & then!

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