Dr. Noel Hunter and Brett Francis: Diagnosis, Empowerment and Equality


This week on MIA Radio we share the time between two interviewees; clinical psychologist Dr. Noel Hunter and entrepreneur and author Brett Francis.

Dr. Noel Hunter is a clinical psychologist in New York and an advocate for the rights of people diagnosed with mental disorders. She believes in a trauma-informed, humanistic, person-centred approach to understanding problems in living. She has trained in community mental health, state hospital, residential, and college counselling settings.

Dr. Hunter is on the board of directors for the Hearing Voices Network – USA, the International Society for Ethical Psychiatry & Psychology, and the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy. She is an Associate Editor for the peer-reviewed journal Ethical Human Psychology & Psychiatry and has been a guest editor for Asylum Magazine.

Brett Francis is a professional speaker, mental health advocate, author and entrepreneur.

Diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, severe ADHD, anxiety, OCD and panic disorder. Brett Francis is a professional speaker and mental health advocate, with a TV and radio show. – Her radio show, Not Broken® Radio has 1.8M+ online listeners alone and is heard on hundreds of stations throughout the globe! She’s also a best selling author and has a mental health clothing line, all aimed towards having open and honest discussion about mental health and disabilities and also to give confidence to those struggling.

In this episode we discuss:

Dr. Noel Hunter

  • How Dr. Hunter came to be involved with the mental healthcare system.
  • That these experiences made Noel want to fight back, offer people an alternative and become an advocate who took a different approach.
  • That Noel feels that building trust within the therapeutic relationship is a fundamental part of a therapists job.
  • That it is healthy to be sceptical of the mainstream system.
  • Whether there can ever be equality in the therapeutic relationship.

Brett Francis

  • How Brett came to be diagnosed and medicated at a very early age.
  • Her experiences taking the antipsychotic drug Haloperidol, and that she felt it disrupted her schooling.
  • How Brett decided not to be limited by her diagnoses but instead focused on tackling the stigma and misinformation prevalent in mental health care.
  • That we should support and encourage people to talk about their struggles and we should do that through education.
  • How creating communities and social connections can be enormously helpful in responding to emotional or psychological distress.

Relevant links:

Noel Hunter

Dear Mental Health professionals please stop defending yourselves and listen

Crazy or Wise? Learning From Those Who Have Transcended Psychological Crisis

Brett Francis

Not Broken Radio

To get in touch with us email: [email protected]

© Mad in America 2017


  1. Excellent interview. I was a bit startled to hear Dr. Hunter say ppl should take whatever drugs they find “helpful” (with fully informed consent) except for “SSRIs bc they are poisons”. I am not sure that neuroleptics are any less “poisons” than SSRI’s? And the benzos that seem to have helped” often turn into nightmare addictions and withdrawal trauma. Lithium destroys the the thyroid and kidneys, and so on. Articles have been written about the trauma the drugs can cause. Any feedback on this?

    • This is an understandable response and good question. I am particularly partial to the poisonous nature of SSRIs because while, yes, all drugs carry enormous risks and can create harm, especially with long-term use (hence what I mean by ‘fully informed consent’…people should really know this before deciding to take them), these drugs have little-to-no benefit whatsoever. They are all risk, no benefit. Also, unlike the other drugs they are frequently prescribed like candy and people are regularly told that they are harmless (I’ve never heard of a doctor claiming that lithium or benzos or neuroleptics are harmless). I do think drugs of all kinds can be helpful for some (I know I like my glass of wine or a nice pint in the evening) and people should not be judged for using what they will to get through tough times. Maybe I should re-word my statement to “except for SSRIs bc they are poison sugar pills. Hope this clears things a bit.

      • Thank-you for your response.
        Having been poisoned long term with Effexor (12 years) by my GP who issued no warnings and saw missed doses causing horrifying symptoms as “a return of depression and anxiety” rather than withdrawal syndrome and an indication of addiction, I understand what you are saying. My life has been destroyed by this drug which altered my brain function in a terrifying way.
        SSRIs and SNRI’s are truly the devil’s tic tacs.
        I really enjoy reading the pieces you have written for MIA. There need to be more people with the same honesty, humility, intelligence, and integrity working in this field.
        Wish we could clone you.

      • Dear Dr. Hunter,
        My family and I had a mobile crisis team come over to my home last Wednesday to meet with my daughter who has been struggling for about 2 years. She was brought to hospital in CT which was very difficult for all. She has a hearing this Thursday trying to be released from hospital. I have read Mad in America and have been visiting this website now for about 8 months. I believe what I am reading about poison medication and no benefit but at a loss as to next steps. My daughter is very determined to be released by judge and she is so disappointed in us as we “ambushed her” that she will not communicate with us or let us visit. While she was home she would not talk to any of us and just pulled blankets over her head when we entered the room. She was not eating well and lost a lot of weight and she has never had any medication for these symptoms. Has always fought it.
        Any help would be greatly appreciated. Looking for a place to turn into the light not darkness.
        With love,

        • Hello FJ
          I’m sorry to hear of your family’s struggle. There are some forums on this site where you might have some discussion with other family members that could be helpful. There is a place called Advocacy Unlimited (http://toivocenter.org/) that is an excellent resource in CT, though I’m not sure they can help with crisis situations. It might be worth reaching out to them, though, to see if they have any suggestions or possible referrals. Unfortunately, I do not know of any other resources in CT. You might also look at ISEPP’s website (psychintegrity.org) for clinicians in your area.
          Best of luck to you,

  2. Noel, I hear the humility and the fight against, and also the balance in that everyone is on their own journey. As refreshing as this is, and inclusive to those who want a safe open space now who find themselves here (them being ME mostly), being off SSRI’s for 6 years, but still not being allowed my anger for the 20 years being led to believe I am NOTHING without diagnosis and medication and the reassurance from the person doing the prescribing— IS A LOT OF ANGER. I have been sober 23 1/2 years, but AA isn’t a safe place to talk about THIS ANGER, and there’s no one at the meetings in my small college town to EXPRESS this, family does not accept this as well. So, where is there a safe office space with love an openness for THIS ANGER? I haven’t found it, and I’ve tried for the last 6 years with different counselors who take my insurance and are trauma based (the last wanted me back on medication, been stuck in trauma spirals with the others, just talk, talk, talk…for years, existence and survival). If my neurons are irreparably damaged from the 20 years of medications and then the psychological and emotional trauma of BELIEF that I NEEDED psychology’s help in order to NOT take my own life or end up back in an institution (which is STILL my terror) where do I go in poverty, confidence and self esteem at an all time low? Your voice is comforting. Where do we go from here? Too much, I know. Just thought I’d give it a shot with you.

    • I hear your pain CryAngerNow. There are definitely some discussion forums here and on Facebook where you at least can communicate in solidarity with others who know your struggle all too well. It is difficult to find a safe space where your anger can be tolerated, and even more difficult within mental health services. You are more likely to find such tolerance with a psychodynamically inclined clinician, but it sounds like perhaps what you need is anything BUT another clinician. Another option, too, is EMDR, since there is less talking or relying on the person but rather a technique that many find helpful. My suggestion, though, would be to find comrades either in person or online that share your pain. There is much healing in shared experiences and comradery. Perhaps not the most helpful response, but, then, that’s the problem isn’t it? There are so few answers.

      • I am going back to EMDR as soon as I can, I did before, but this was stopped abruptly because I was being more triggered and it effected my ability to not react in the world even more. I want to continue moving forward with it though.

        I will try to find the discussion forums here for more camaraderie , don’t do FB.

        I appreciate your voice sincerely, your clarity.

        Yes, I am swamped in the emotional despair I find myself (accountable for or not, depends who is the critic at the moment inside or outside of me). Thank you for acknowledging my pain.

  3. “If you’re trying to help me – no thanks. If your liberation is bound up with mine – okay.” This was from Earl at the World Hearing Voices Congress in Boston in August, and perhaps why authentic “peer” support is welcome while other support is not. Be careful of being a Helper, whose role is there to Help. Every other thing I’ve heard from Noel rings true.