New Book Takes Aim at the Mental Health Industrial Complex


I’ve been around the block a few times, so I was not shocked by the revelations in Art Levine’s absorbing and well-researched new book, Mental Health, Inc.: How Corruption, Lax Oversight and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens. But I was certainly appalled.

Planning to review the book, I started reading it with a pencil in hand so that I could make little check marks in the margins when I read anything that seemed worth noting. By the time I finished reading the book, there was a forest of check marks!

The story begins with the harrowing saga of 38-year-old army veteran Steve Tompkins (not his real name), who had spent the 10 years after returning from service in Iraq drugged to the gills with Seroquel, Depakote, lithium and other antipsychotic medications in an attempt to treat his PTSD. He had been trying to get into the 60-day PTSD unit at a local hospital in West Virginia, and his anger finally erupted into an event that led to hospitalization. But, more than a year later, he still had not gained admission to the special PTSD inpatient unit.

While Tompkins’ story is heartbreaking, it pales in comparison to what many of those profiled in Levine’s book have suffered—since at least Tompkins survived (as far as Levine reports). Even reading the book’s table of contents is horrifying. It includes “Drugging Our Seniors to Death,” “…the VA’s Tragedies” and “…the VA’s Scandals,” “Torture in Alabama,” “Florida: Free-Fire Zone for Killing, Abusing and Raping Kids?” and other chapter titles that are similarly terrifying.

The book’s “nut graf”—editorial slang for a paragraph that tells readers why the story matters—may be this one: “Indeed, a hunger for profits has corrupted just about every conceivable arena of mental health care, from the overdrugging of foster care kids and the elderly to abusive teen residential facilities. Not only that, it’s been abetted by what this book shows are indifferent professional associations, pharmaceutical-subsidized patient advocacy groups and government regulators that either push a drug-industry agenda or fail to halt what amounts to an epidemic of behavioral health malpractice.” As Levine quotes Philadelphia attorney Steve Sheller (interviewed in the Philadelphia Inquirer), “The industry is infected with greed. You can’t trust the approvals, you can’t trust the studies, and now you can’t trust the FDA.”

Much of the book focuses on the devastation wreaked by the dangerous “off-label” prescribing of antipsychotics. Levine also shines a damning spotlight on the “multibillion-dollar residential treatment industry.” He accuses it of “profiting off of the misery and suffering of all those mishandled by their communities’ outpatient programs,” and tells numerous stories that back up this claim.

The book has a companion website,, where some of the wrongful death lawsuits and state health reports can be viewed. In addition, there are 48 pages of endnotes that readers can access here.

It’s true that sometimes Levine gets it wrong, including in regard to the spurious link between mental health conditions and violence. While acknowledging that people with serious mental health conditions are 11 times more likely to be the victims of violence than its perpetrators, he nonetheless leans on a “meta-analysis” by an Oxford psychiatry professor to claim that people with untreated schizophrenia are up to five times more likely to commit violent acts, largely due to their higher rates of substance abuse. He also writes, “It’s likely, in fact, that most mass killers have some form of mental illness, even if many don’t meet the narrow legal definition of insanity: the inability to tell right from wrong at the time of the crime”—in spite of the fact that many experts, such as Vanderbilt University researchers, dispute this1—and refers to “crazed (emphasis added) gunmen like Adam Lanza and James Eagan Holmes.”

Levine also blindly accepts the conventional wisdom of The New York Times editorial page and a few other ill-informed pundits when he disparages the overturning of an Obama administration regulation that “required the Social Security Administration to report to the FBI background check system mentally impaired beneficiaries who were incompetent to manage their own finances”—even though this regulation was considered discriminatory by the ACLU and most of the mental health advocacy community. And, without irony, Levine calls the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act—legislation that many in the mental health advocacy community worked hard to defeat—a “reform” bill. (However, he is critical of the involuntary treatment mandated by this law.)

But while he does get a few things wrong, he gets much more right.

By the way, Levine briefly covers the movement for social change of individuals with psychiatric histories. While the movement gets short shrift, that isn’t the subject of this book. Art Levine is writing about the depredations of the mental health industrial complex, and that is enough to make this book disturbing and indispensable.

Full disclosure: The author names me—not the Susan Rogers quoted on page 47, who served on the board of the Texas Federation for Children’s Mental Health—in the Acknowledgements, and he includes the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse in his brief “Assistance, Advocacy and Information Resource Guide,” calling us “a tiny but dedicated group…” These acknowledgements did not influence me in writing this review.

Show 1 footnote

  1. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “…the U.S. firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.” “…around the world other countries also have people with unmet mental-health needs. And yet among 171 nations of the world, the United States is the clear leader in mass shootings. It’s the guns. Of course it’s the guns.”


  1. I think the title is, the subtitle really, a little long and clunky. Most specifically, I think he could have easily left off the Our Most Vulnerable Citizens tail end. First, it’s a cliche’, especially the vulnerable part. Second, I don’t see any sense in referring to people as citizens who don’t have full citizenship rights. Until we do have full citizenship rights, perhaps it would be better to call us something else. I believe the late ex-Beatle John Lennon advanced a place he called Nutopia once. How about legal aliens?

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  2. “Mental health” makes about as much sense as “mental illness,” which is to say, it makes no sense whatsoever. The myth of mental illness, and the corresponding myth of mental health, are the pretexts for a litany of horrible hoaxes and atrocities. Most Mad in America articles are hacking at the branches of the problem. The root of the problem pertains to modern American society’s wholesale embrace of the myths of mental illness and mental health. Until the truth about psychiatry comes to light, until the real history of psychiatry becomes common knowledge, efforts to “reform” or “criticize” the mental health industry will continue to prove ineffective. Discover the truth about psychiatry:

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  3. I agree with Dragon Slayer.

    Furthermore, using the term “mental health industrial complex” appropriates the term “prison industrial complex,” which has long been used by the prisoners’ movement, and, while maybe not outright racist, displays a lack of respect for the life and death struggles of political prisoners and those fighting on their behalf. As psychiatry is an extension of the prison system, we should adopt a term which reflects this, such as “prison/psychiatric industrial complex.”

    I’m familiar with Levine’s work, and, judging from this review, remain unimpressed.

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  4. I am appalled at the fact that he believes that mental illness is what made the infamous mass murderers do what they did. Does he not know of the effects of many of the SSRI’s, which seem to cause some people taking them to exhibit suicidal and homicidal behavior? He seems to not be well informed on some critical issues.

    And anyone who believes that the horrible Helping Families bill is any kind of reform needs to have their head examined. Murphy was nothing but a shill for the very drug companies that Levine seems to be calling out. It sounds like he needs to spend a little time here on MIA so that he can get his facts straight.

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    • Please read the book before jumping to conclusions. Also, while some of the mass shooters have taken SSRIs and other psychiatric drugs, that’s a correlation that’s not been proven to be causative of their actions. There are others who never took medication or stopped taking medications a long time before they engaged in violent act. Of course I’ve read closely Dr. Breggin’s work, cite it in my book, and in discussing the risks of antidepressants, I point out: In a situation similar to the wave of off-label prescribing of antipsychotics, many adults who probably could be helped by antidepressants aren’t getting them at all, while those who likely don’t need them are receiving them unnecessarily. Even as the use of antidepressants among those twelve and older has increased roughly 400 percent since the late 1990s, a remarkable August 2016 study in JAMA Internal Medicine and other reports have found that most people taking the drugs don’t have mental illnesses justifying their use. Meanwhile, remember, suicides have soared to a thirty-year high across most age groups. By analyzing recent patient survey data, a Columbia University team discovered that less than 30 percent of people with signs of depression were getting treatment, including antidepressants, while Columbia University and Johns Hopkins researchers concluded in separate studies that close to **seventy percent of those who received antidepressants never had major depression, generalized anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorders that could offer a rationale for the prescribing. Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, told NPR about the unnecessary prescribing, “There are simpler forms of psychological interventions that can be adapted for primary care,” including counseling and exercise—rather than turning to antidepressants first.
      Given this upsurge, it’s especially necessary to vigilantly track side effects, because as many as one out of every hundred patients may experience violent and homicidal thoughts, leading a few people to commit murder. In 2001, a jury awarded $6.4 million to the family of a man who killed his wife, his daughter, his granddaughter and then himself after taking the antidepressant Paxil made by GlaxoSmithKline. (Such lawsuits have sharply dropped since the FDA required black-box warnings about increased suicide risk for teens and young adults, starting in 2004, while adding other warnings on the risks of aggressiveness, mania and hallucinations.)

      But the dangers continue: British documentary filmmaker Katinka Blackford Newman in her recent book, The Pill That Steals Lives, profiled murderers without previous histories of mental illness who became delusional and violent after taking antidepressants. She began the book after she recovered from a psychotic decline that went on for a year after taking Cymbalta, which initially led to her hospitalization after stabbing herself with a knife and wanting to kill her own kids—even though she wasn’t even clinically depressed when she began using the medication.

      Whatever the final truth about the risks and benefits of using antidepressants, careful monitoring is especially vital with young people receiving these psych drugs. That’s precisely what is generally missing in busy public clinic settings. There’s rarely time, encouragement or rewards for careful prescribing in the real world of public mental health systems, whether funded by Medicaid or run by the VA and military.
      Does that sound like the writing of someone unfamiliar with the dangers of SSRIs or Dr. Breggin’s work — or just someone you don’t happen to agree with without even reading my book? Please read the book before assuming I’m unaware of the research. That’s why Susan Rogers’s review posted online, exculsively for Mad in America readers what’s only available in the Kindle edition, the full live URLs of all 48 pages of my endnotes. Search through it for references to the dangers of antidepressants, and the scientific debates over their efficacy: Thanks for your consideration, and I hope you give my book a fair reading.

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  5. My book is highly critical of a wave of “behavioral health malpractice” largely focused on the dangerous, off-label and deadly use of antipsychotics. Before dismissing my 15 years of reporting on these issues, I’d urge you to at least read the book itself or my excerpts in Newsweek which included critiques of overmedication with antipsychotics killing veterans: and Alternet, as here, attacking Trump’s war on people with what’s been known as mental illness: You may not agree with my terminology about mental illness in attempting to educate mainstream and progressive readers with readable articles free from jargon, but I’m hoping my book will raise awareness of the dangers of those medications and spur an alliance between the larger public and mainstream activist groups that should be appalled by their dangerous overuse, but have remained silent — and those readers and activists who share the general perspective of Mad in America that that psychiatric drugs in general do more harm than good, and should almost never be used.

    There’s nothing in my writing urging activists who favor a politically unlikely position — essentially seeking the banning through some means most or all uses of psychiatric drugs — from abandoning their position, just that they consider forming alliances with more influential mainstream organizations to attack what I view as the “low-hanging” fruit of psychiatric reform: ending off-label, dangerous and irresponsible use of antipsychotics and antidepressants, and fighting simplistic and harmful forced drugging initiatives. Concern about off-label, improper and deadly use of psychiatric medications is a common-sense agenda that can be shared even by people who may disagree about the merits of psychiatric diagnosis, the biological role, if any, in what’s been called mental illness and whether psychiatric drugs should ever be used. Refusing to consider even short-term alliances with anyone who doesn’t share your views 100% about psychiatric medications and biology’s role in mental illness doesn’t seem to me to be a sound strategy to achieve reform, but readers of this website and commentators on this book are welcome to disagree with me. From what I can tell, up to 90 or more percent of uses of antipsychotics, especially among children, is dangerous and deadly and should be barred; the best way to do that is to halt paying for those off-label use of medications, as Mad in America contributor and PsychRights founder Jim Gottstein argued in praising my reporting a while ago in Huffington Post: “Kudos to Art Levine for Exposing Government Complicity in Illegal Psychiatric Drugging of Children ”

    Even so, SOME portion of the people with the illness now known as schizophrenia — even if not generally acknowledged on this website — do benefit, at least in the short run, according to my interviewing and the data I reviewed. That’s not the position of most readers of this website or, as I understand it, the general thrust of Whitaker’s ground-breaking and important research and analysis in his early reporting for the Boston Globe, his pioneering books and his recent definitive paper on the case against antipsychotics . Even so, Robert Whitaker himself has praised my book: “In Mental Health Inc., Art Levine presents a convincing case that corruption and failed political policies have waylaid our mental health system and led to great harm. His reporting on successful programs point to a way out of this morass, if only we can find the societal will to pursue such change.” But I’m also a centrist about the use of these medications and have no pre-existing ideology in looking in an unvarnished way at the evidence around such hot-button issues as mental illness and violence. My challenge to the conventional thinking on all sides of the issue of mental illness and violence was based on this research and follow-up papers by Seena Fazel of Oxford and other researchers, as well as my own personal interviewing with people in recovery from bouts of disordered, threatening behavior that might have gotten them killed. Here’s the research slighted by rights-oriented reformers in their advocacy claiming there’s no connection whatsoever between untreated, severe, so-called “mental illness” and higher risks of being both perpetrators and victims of violence:;;; and . You’re free to disagree with me, as Susan Rogers does in her excellent, tough-minded and thoughtful review, but it’s that research — slighted by all sides in the debate over mental illness and violence — that shaped my think on these issues.

    Yet because of the reporting and essays of Robert Whitaker and, in later years, the many important contributors to this website, my views about the dangers of these medications have changed dramatically since I first began reporting on these issues for a South Florida weekly in 2001. The evolution of my thinking was described in this recent essay in Newsweek about the death of my mother in a psych ward in the mid-1990s due to apparent overdrugging: . So I urge readers to keep an open mind, and actually read the book before dismissing reporting that noted reformers and writers Robert Whitaker and Susan Rogers have in general — with some specific disagreements with me — praised.

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    • I’m having trouble uploading the full URL for law professor John Monhanan’s review of the evidence on mental illness and violence that I’m able retrieve in my own browser, but the presentation is widely cited: His arguments based on extensive research cited in this presentation are these, but were published before Fazel’s meta-analysis, which concluded: This systematic review of the risk of violence in schizophrenia and other psychoses identified 20 studies including 18,423 individuals with these disorders. There were four main findings. The first was that the risk of violent outcomes was increased in individuals with schizophrenia and other psychoses. The risk estimates, reported as ORs, were all above one indicating an increased risk of violence in those with schizophrenia and other psychoses compared with the general population controls, although the risk estimates varied between one and seven in men, and between four and 29 in women. A second finding was that comorbidity with substance use disorders substantially increased this risk, with increased ORs between three and 25. Although there was considerable variation in this estimate between studies, the pooled estimate was around four times higher compared with individuals without comorbidity.
      In addition, we found only five studies that compared risk of homicide in individuals with schizophrenia compared with the general population. Although the heterogeneity was large, the risk estimates were considerably higher than those for all violent outcomes. Although the risk of any individual with schizophrenia committing homicide was very small at 0.3% and similar in magnitude to the risk in individuals with substance abuse (which was also 0.3%), it does indicate a particularly strong association of psychosis and homicide. It may also reflect the better quality of these studies, including better ascertainment of cases. Apart from homicide, risk estimates do not appear to be elevated with the increasing severity of violent offence in individuals with psychosis.

      Monahan offers what appears to be a more balanced view, although many of his conclusions still don’t square with the perspective of most champions of rights of people diagnosed with mental illness conditions or readers of Mad in America:
      1: Mental Illness Plays a Very Small
      Role in American Violence
      According to the best research estimates,
      approximately 4% of violence toward others in
      American society is attributable to mental illness.
      That is, if we could somehow cure all mental
      illnesses overnight, we would be left in the morning
      with a rate of violence that is 96% of what it is now.

      2: But Mental Illness Does Play Some
      Role in American Violence
      Mental illness modestly but clearly increases the
      likelihood of violence to others. In the MacArthur
      Violence Risk Assessment Study, for example, during
      the first several months after discharge from shortterm
      psychiatric facilities, about 11% of people with
      a mental illness committed a violent act, compared
      to about 5% of their non-hospitalized neighbors.
      Two facts need to be appreciated to understand this
      2a: Co-Occurring Substance Abuse
      Mediates Violence by People with MI
      First, the violence committed by discharged patients was
      heavily mediated by substance abuse. Indeed, if the former
      patients were not abusing alcohol or other drugs after they
      were discharged from the hospital, their rate of violence to
      others was no different than the rate in their surrounding
      In fact, however, the discharged patients abused alcohol or
      other drugs twice as frequently as their non-disordered
      neighbors, and those who did engage in substance abuse had
      substantially elevated rates of violence to others.

      2b: Gun Violence Against Strangers by People
      with Mental Illness is Very Uncommon
      Second, the most frequent type of violence that the
      discharged patients commit is hitting someone—most often,
      hitting a family member. In the MacArthur Study, only 3% of
      the violence committed by former patients involved using a
      gun, or threatening to use a gun, on a stranger.

      2c: Homicide of Strangers by People with
      Mental Illness is Rare in the Extreme
      Nielssen et al, Schizophrenia Bulletin, 37, 572-579 (2009)
      Finding: 1 in every 140,000 people with schizophrenia will
      kill a stranger.
      “Measures that ensure earlier treatment of
      psychosis and continued treatment in the community
      would be likely to prevent homicides of both strangers
      and family members.
      However, the extreme rarity of these events means
      that identification of individual patients who might kill a
      stranger is not possible.”
      3: Suicide is Much More Common Than
      Homicide Among People with MI
      Suicide among people with mental illness is much more
      common than violence to others. According to CDC data,
      the age-adjusted suicide rate for the total population was
      approximately twice as high as the homicide rate. Over
      38,000 suicides occur in the U.S. each year, compared with
      roughly 16,000 homicides.
      The American Federation for Suicide Prevention estimates
      that 90% of all people who die by suicide have a
      diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
      4: Victimization is Much More Common
      Than Offending Among People with MI
      It is often unappreciated that people with serious
      mental illness are far more likely to be the victims
      than the perpetrators of violence. For example,
      women with mental illness have 5 times greater risk
      than other women of being the victims of domestic
      5: Be Careful What You Wish For
      Paul Appelbaum, JAMA Psychiatry (April 2013)
      “[M]ental health professionals and other advocates for improved
      mental health services must exercise caution in their endorsement
      of proposals for increased mental health funding. Such offers are
      often premised on the proposition that the problem of violence is
      largely a problem of untreated mental illness, and its corollary that
      better treatment will preclude a repetition of mass shootings such
      as Tucson and Newtown…
      However, tying the need for increased funding to public safety will
      lead to further demonization of people with mental disorders, as
      well as an inevitable backlash when it becomes clear that more
      mental health clinics or inpatient beds have not had a major
      impact on the prevalence of violence.”

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      • So, what do you think about the Murphy bill? Do you really think it’s a reform bill? You do know Murphy’s background was totally connected to drug company backing. Forced treatment is a very slippery slope, not only for people who’ve been labeled as “mentally ill” but for everyone concerned as psychiatry and the drug companies try to open their nets wider and wider. They’ve pathologized normal in order to trap more people, so what happens when forced treatment is the norm?

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        • No, I personally don’t think its original intent was a “reform” bill and in practice I think the bill could be harmful. Please read my critique of the new head of SAMHSA in my book’s introduction and in my final chapters. It was widely reported as a “reform” bill and while I’m critical of it, as a journalist, I can’t refrain from calling it a reform bill just because its features are objected to by readers of Mad in America, or rights advocates who view it as dangerous. The notion of coordinating very uncoordinated programs and raising the importance of addressing the needs of people with what’s called “serious mental illness” seemed worth doing, even if many MIA readers view all diagnosis as oppressive and “mental illness” as a stigmatizing myth. BUT it was endorsed ultimately, after some complaints, by Mental Health America, and throughout the legislative debates ,by NAMI. They’re the two largest mental health groups in the country, and they backed it — and they’re reflecting the majority view of people who follow these issues, including some mental health peers/consumers/people with lived experience —
          that it was a “reform” bill. Nothing on the MIA comments page reflects the political reality that moderates like Sen. Chris Murphy, virtually every editorial page in the nation, President Obama, and the two largest and most influential mental health groups all backed the bill and hailed it as a reform. Even if I personally don’t like elements of the bill, and in particularl the incentivizing, now softened, of mandated outpatient treatment, I still see it as a reform bill, as does every other mainstream journalist. Here’s Debbie Plotnick of mental health america, writing about the bill for Peter Earley’s blog, a supporter of the bill — aimed at those in the mental health community who opposed it. To pretend as if there weren’t a) extremely sharp divisions within the mental health community, and that b) readers of Mad in America were not in fact, the majority view on this issue, along with your allies at the Bazelon Center and some disability rights groups , is to simply not accurately reflect the political line-up around this controversial bill. Perhaps all the FINAL, somewhat moderated bill’s supporters — a strong majority of Democrats, President Obama, and the nation’s two largest mental health groups with the largest membership — should have “their heads examined for calling it a reform bill” as one poster here says, but that’s the reality. Here’s MHA advocate Debbie Plotnicks’ explanation below of why opponents should find it acceptable, given all the changes made in the bill. Is it possible that some MIA readers didn’t follow the developments closely and weren’t aware that the original bill’s plan to cut off state SAMHSA/ mental health funding if AOT/mandated treatment wasn’t implemented had in fact been dropped?. Now it just funds some pilot projects, not my preference, but a far cry from Rep. Murphy and Dr. Torrey’s original intent. More here:

          Please note: My book is highly critical, if briefly, of the role of Big Pharma in influencing the policy decisions of both NAMI and Mental Health America, which may account for why the book — despite exposing the maltreatment and needless deaths of people with mental illnesses and addiction AND promoting “psychosocial” programs they support, such as “supported employment”– hasn’t been strongly embraced by those mental health advocacy groups.

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          • I’m not very clear on the use of double negatives: Here’s what I’m trying to convey in this sentence above:

            To pretend as if there weren’t a) extremely sharp divisions within the mental health community, and that b) readers of Mad in America were not [ERROR, SHOULD DELETE NOT ] in fact, the majority view on this issue, along with your allies at the Bazelon Center and some disability rights groups , is to simply INACCURATELY reflect the political line-up around this controversial bill.

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          • I mean, it’s hard to even know where to start. For one, Art, do you realize that just about everyone here considers NAMI to be one of our main enemies? That you would cite them as reason to support anything demonstrates how little you seem to know about the MIA community, which by true anti-psychiatry standards is very moderate.

            Plus I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Just because it’s legal don’t make it right” — why should the “political line-up” around the Murphy bills have anything to do with your conclusions? This is not a “mental health” site btw — it is primarily a “critical psychiatry” site, and even so many of us consider to it be overly sympathetic to notions of “reform,” rather than the abolition of psychiatry and the associated (and discredited) notions of “mental illness” AND “mental health.”

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      • 90% of all suicides have psychiatric diagnoses. Yep. Being treated like vermin and put on electroshock and drugs that cause seizures encourages suicidal behavior. Fancy that.

        And, according to drug commercials, these wonderful cures for all that ails humanity can cause suicidal behaviors. One minor side effect.

        Most of us here have gone off these drugs and are no longer suicidal. Like me. My IQ has gone up 10 points and people find me more likeable. I act normally and refuse to self identify as an “Evil Crazy” like NAMI and SAMHSA want me to. Frankly I don’t care if they cut off SAMHSA’s funding entirely. From what I hear they hurt folks in our positions more than they help.

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      • What decade did that occur? And what was the precise nature of the harm done her, and the claimed — even if wrong — diagnosis justifying their actions? Read my resource guide at the end of the book for an overview of reform organizations, information resources and activists you can join to promote reform and learn more about our horrific system — including some you may not agree with — but also includes Hearing Voices and Mad in America.

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        • 11 years ago a friend of mine died from a grand mal seizure caused by a neuroleptic at age 29.

          She was accused of Schizophrenia. She spent a lot of time in psych wards–not because she was dangerous or uncooperative–but the neuroleptics caused horrible reactions. She was unusually sensitive to them.

          I hold NAMI responsible for her death and countless others like her. They don’t care how many of us die as long as we are “meds compliant” and die with our rights off!

          There’s blood on your hands, NAMI.

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        • The system got their hands on my grandmother in the late 50’s. They labeled her as a schizophrenic, which is interesting because she was an older person when this happened. They shocked her and shocked her until she didn’t recognize me, her first grandchild. She didn’t remember growing a jungle of flowers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, nor being a very talented artist and woodcarver. She no longer went outside and lifted her hands so that the birds would light on the palms of her hands and curiously look at her.

          She didn’t literally die at that point but she may as well have been dead. When they released her and we brought her home all she did was sit at the kitchen table looking at the floor. She spent about 20 years like this. I hate the system that took my beloved grandmother away from me when I was a child. Oh, she was also a Wise Woman among the indigenous people of the area where she lived, using plants and herbs to heal their minor ailments. She was revered among the tribes that were settled around her. I will never forget when they brought her out from the back ward of the state hospital so that we could take her home. The stupid psychiatrist patted her on the back and said, “How much better you’re doing Mrs. Jones from when you first came to us!”, as she shuffled out the door with drool on her chin. I knew then that the system was dumb and corrupt and I’ve never been disabused of that belief over the years that have passed since then.

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          • Sounds like my great-aunt. She had her brained fried numerous times along with insulin comas before her early twenties.

            My folks marveled that her mind didn’t deteriorate over the years. It seemed to get better. She lived to 87. Uh, no, she wasn’t on psych “medicine.” Grandpa strongly supported her staying away from the quacks who had abused her. He warned my folks and me about psychiatric institutes and all the drugs I took. You were right, Grandpa! 🙂

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  6. “Susan Rogers is inspired by Angela Davis’s response to the Serenity Prayer: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I can’t accept.” She writes in hopes of speaking truth to power. ”

    An awesome response to the Uncle Tomism which is the Recovery Movement! Thank you Susan. And than you Angela Davis.

    Susan, I say we have to get people to absolutely reject all Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and the Recovery Movement, and then we need to start putting some of the practitioners of each of these horrors out of business.

    Really not that difficult as I see it. What do you think?

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    • I question whether Angela Davis would appreciate being quoted in this context, since the change she advocates is revolutionary change, something which gets short shrift around these parts.

      The anti-psych movement is quietly awaiting the sort of consciousness shift people are slowly undergoing one by one, which includes the recognition that a system which is based on false assumptions from the start cannot be “reformed” so as to turn it into its opposite; it can only be done away with.

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          • Anyone who knows history however (which tends to be not too many leftists in my experience) knows that mental health movements predate eugenics and aren’t simply continuations of it (no matter how “provocative” [and therefore politically useful for certain objectives] such an assertion may sound to some).

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          • Truth, are you suggesting that more “rightists” that “leftists” are knowledgeable about history? My experience is that, at least here in the USA, most people speak freely without any comprehension of history at all, regardless of which end of the so-called political spectrum they choose to occupy. Most people who actually DO study history agree with progressives on some issues and conservatives on some issues and don’t agree with either on other issues. It’s called being a rational person – a person of reason doesn’t simply agree with a point of view because it’s convenient or his/her friends believe it or because it feels good. Any real analysis would show that both liberal and conservative viewpoints are needed but neither is sufficient to understand history or current events.

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          • I said what I said, that in my experience lefties (by which I meant more people who say that politics is the answer to every question, in my experience this assertion tends to come from the left much more often than the right) often have no sense of history (in fact I’ve had many discussions with such people who argue that studying history is simply a valueless distraction from political engagement).

            But you’re right there’s also a deep kind of historical ignorance often found on the right as well.

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          • My experience is that, at least here in the USA, most people speak freely without any comprehension of history at all, regardless of which end of the so-called political spectrum they choose to occupy.

            Check THAT out. In 3rd World countries the working class can discuss working class politics and engage in class analysis on a more sophisticated level than a sociology/political science student in the average U.S. university.

            As to the question at hand, the so-called self-described “left” — actually composed of liberals who support capitalism — is probably a bigger obstacle for us to overcome, as the corporate structure has decided that neoliberalism is the best way to keep the people pacified. And psychiatry is the best way to keep the masses mystified as to the sources of their misery.

            It wasn’t always this way; in the 60’s and 70’s the (true) left did support us and our analysis of psychiatry as social control. Though even then the most enlightened response they offered was, largely, “radical therapy.”

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    • Come to think of it, I have some Angela Davis quotes of my own to offer. Actually this is from an article written by her and Mumia Abu-Jamal entitled “Alternatives to the Present System of Capitalist Injustice.”

      People at MIA who are in touch with the true struggle against racism in the US should know that yesterday was the 36th anniversary of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s arrest and frame-up for the killing of a Philadelphia cop. So this is an excellent time to quote him and Angela on the subject of prisons and mass incarceration. Those who understand that psychiatry is an extension of the prison system would do well to take to heart their revolutionary analysis, and their understanding that slavery continues today in different forms.

      Those of us who have lived in, worked in, and studied history know that social change is no short-term or ready-made process. We know that social movements play a decisive role in that process, for they move nations from one seemingly settled place to quite other places over time.

      As repression continues, so too must resistance. Abolition democracy is one vision of how to deepen and extend that resistance. A central tenet of it is building (or, perhaps, rebuilding) movements of prisoners and against mass incarceration.

      The movement to abolish slavery, which many activists cite today in the prison context, was a bold and daring project. Those bold men and women transformed America by fighting for social change—and refusing to submit to a slavocracy.

      The great abolitionist (and ex-slave) Frederick Douglass captured this theme brilliantly when he said: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

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  7. FeelinDiscouraged, are you replying to me?

    Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Recovery are simply ways of further abusing survivors, turning us into Uncle Toms.

    It all starts with the legitimate experience of injustice, and then it turns that into a medical problem and a self improvement project. Its all an expression of the religions concept of Original Sin.

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    • I guess we’re defining recovery differently, I would categorize recognizing the truths you speak as part of recovery as well.

      (I agree there’s a simple formula of defining extreme distress biomedically and then turning it into a “project” as you say of personal development, but it can be broader than that.)

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      • Truth793810, but the recovery movement does not work like that. Ever spent time around AA, Alanon, Coda? Know about the programs they have in the jails and prisons?

        It is all predicated on the idea that the client suffers from a moral defect.

        Maybe this does not rise to the level of ~mental illness~, but it is opposed to political consciousness. The primary attack is to get people to believe that the problem starts with them.

        A rape victim goes to a police station to report the crime. What she hears is, “You came the right place. We have programs to help you recover from your problem.”

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      • TruthisBest,
        The mental health system and the recovery movement are nothing but gaslighting. They are able to make people believe that it is they themselves who are the source of their problems.

        And the middle-class family is behind this, and it also is nothing but gaslighting, trying to get people to believe in an ideology of sentimentalism, and to exonerate adults who do not live up to their own values, but instead have children so they can hide behind them.

        And Psychiatry and Pschotherapy and the Recovery Movement are predicated on being able to make every social issue into a survivor’s personal failings, just as you are trying to do to me.

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    • Actually that aphorism was in response to Levine’s plea that we work out a compromise. Even if we were willing, Psychiatry is not. Did Hitler compromise with his intended victims? Did the KKK offer to compromise with the Freedom Riders? Abusive husbands will offer to compromise–if the battered wife returns, but this never works out well.

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      • Thank you for expressing this. This is just like Kelly saying that the North was not willing to compromise with the South and so we had to have the Civil War. How do you compromise with slavery? The slave owners were certainly not willing to free their slaves and so had to be forced to do so. As you stated, there is no way to compromise with the system and psychiatry because the system and psychiatry are not willing to even consider our explanations for anything.

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  8. There has been a new attack on children launched by the APA and covered on tonight’s evening news throughout the U.S. It has been officially declared that 20% of young people, from toddlers through age 17, HAVE A MENTAL ILLNESS and MOST ARE GOING UNTREATED. You know what that means — better keep your kids closer than ever, folks, and NEVER consent to a “screening” for “anxiety and depression” when you take them for a check-up. You don’t want to risk having them snatched when you refuse to give them their “medically necessary” Paxil.

    If Art L is still around I wonder how he views this declaration, as I do believe he means well.

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    • I taught high school for 15 years. This is simply a totally ridiculous statement. And where are they getting their stats from to prove this statement? I suspect it’s from the drug companies, where they get all the rest of the stupid things that they claim.

      Unfortunately, many people sitting in front of the televisions yesterday evening probably sat their believing everything that they heard. How do we combat this kind of stupidity?

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    • When most are going untreated, no problem. “Mental health”, so-called. IS literally not being treated for “mental illness”. Voila, good salesmanship equals stirring up social panic in the name of job security. In other words, deceit. This is way up there with all those sexual harassment allegations breaking out everywhere. Boys will be boys unless they want to go into politics or the media, then they better be girls. Girls now have a more effective form of leverage, ratting out boys. He harassed me, mommy. That’s boys for you, yuck. Mommy, mommy, he is not Prince Charming, and he had the nerve to ask me out. Somebody call a cop. The puritans on the look out for another witch hunt, have one. Well, two, and then some.

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        • Actually, sexual harassment is incredibly common and it’s not surprising that this stuff comes out in bunches. When someone makes it safe to disclose, lots of disclosures often come out. I am sure that there are some “copycats” who want attention, but based on the stats on sexual harassment and abuse, the odds are that most of these allegations are true. This is especially the case when one person has multiple accusers who don’t know each other at all. Unless the person has some specific motivation for making something up, why would a bunch of people decide to gang up on a Roy Moore or Harvey Weinstein? Especially when we look at the character of both of these people, it would hardly be surprising if multiple people were in fact harassed and/or abused by them, and once one person makes it public, it seems not at all surprising that others now feel safe to tell their stories as well.

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          • I’m not out to convict anybody without a trial and, what’s more, there is a big gulf between mere harassment and assault. Sex can be a highly competitive matter, and as the stakes can be so high, some people are going to go out of bounds so-to-speak. If this was not so, then you’ve got people flogging themselves for not trying hard enough, metaphorically speaking, of course. I’m not ready for the idea that everybody should “indulge” in a life of complete sexual abstinence, but if that’s where we’re headed…I dunno. The ball is in your court.

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          • Frank, I have chosen a life of complete abstinence. The Mental Illness System has severely restricted my potential boyfriends.

            My therapists told me I should only date other “bipolars” since only we could understand each other. I found this extremely offensive. Even assuming these “mental illnesses” were real, they have no business trying to segregate us. Should blind people not be allowed to date seeing folks?

            She told me I needed to join NAMI to meet men. I was a member for some years. Btw, all the guys I met were dumb as posts and manly as sheep. “Mental health” will do that. Not sure how (or even if) I managed to escape becoming a mindless sheeple.

            A lot of women who enjoy crying wolf may be surprised and unhappy when no men want to date them though. There’s a MGOW movement for a reason.

            Oh, I am out of the MI System now, but live in isolation with an iotragenic disease a lot like chronic fatigue syndrome. 44 and in extreme poverty. Not a lot of matrimonial prospects.

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    • And this is being bolstered by Rick Warren and his Hope For Mental Health ministry, and very likely by white coats at UC Irvine, and to be extended with their new building and their “Integrative Psychiatry” program.

      We must organize and act, and stop debating with those in therapy or recovery, and with those who take advantage of them.

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      • I’m angry at Rick Warren, but I pity him too. It’s hard losing a loved one to suicide.

        Part of it is, admitting Matt Warren chose suicide freely–unhappy as he was–would force Rick to wonder about where Matt will spend eternity. Traditionally suicides go to Hell. (Fear of Hell often prevented suicide in the past; more effectively than shrinks.)

        By claiming his son had no real role in killing himself–some neuro-troll took over–Rick can absolve his son of moral responsibility/guilt. Unfortunately he believes it’s his God-given duty to “help” others like Matt. While claiming we have no moral responsibility sounds great at first, basically Rick Warren’s “ministry” claims the “mentally ill” are irrational and amoral beings.

        Do the “severely mentally ill” have souls? is what someone should ask him. If so, why do you act as though they’re trained animals with no sense of right or wrong?

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  9. There is no compromise when women who were verbally and psychologically abused, then drugged to remain under it, are gaslighted straight to mental health. How many people does it take to accomplish this? It’s not just this system that has misplaced priorities.

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    • No, absolutely, “its not must that this system has misplaced priorities.”

      It is all the continuation of the eugenics movement and a justification for social Darwinism.

      We must eradicate the entire edifice of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and the Recovery Movement.

      So it is just a matter of identifying the attack points and the methods.

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  10. Following Foucault, the idea of mental health has always been just like Original Sin, and cures were always similar to religious conversion. Eugenics did come later, but what we have today in Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Recovery, are the continuation of eugenics and social Darwinism, and they are used to get people to accept extreme economic stratification and familial child scapegoating.

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      • People who have done nothing wrong do not need to Recover. Instead they need restorative justice.

        Rape victim goes to a police station to report the crime. What she hears is, “You come to the right place, we have therapist and support groups on call 24-7, to help you with your recovery, so that you don’t have to go around carrying resentment.”

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        • Do people need to recover from being hit by a car, even if it’s not their own fault? I think you’re conflating two disrelated ideas: recovering from injury and acknowledging the political underpinnings of oppression that support those injuries and deny their effects. It is very possible, and in my view ultimately essential, for part of the recovery process to involve becoming aware of the forces of oppression behind one’s injuries. A long-term domestic abuse victim, for instance, seldom moves beyond self-hatred and self-blame without recognizing that their “loving” partner was in fact taking advantage of his situation and using threats and manipulation to keep her “in her place.” The process of moving responsibility off of her own shoulders and onto the person it belongs to is often a great relief, though it is often accompanied by a lot of grief at the lost dream of the abuser somehow “reforming” himself. In many cases, survivors become the next generation of advocates for safe relationships and become politically active as part of their “healing.”

          If you perhaps redefined “healing” in a broader way, this conflict could be resolved without anyone being “wrong.”

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          • Being an advocate ABSOLUTELY involves holding the system accountable! What exactly do you think advocacy IS? Advocates support their clients in speaking up, in organizing together, in proposing legislation and testifying at the legislature, and all sorts of other political activities. I worked with a group called Oregon Foster Youth Connection, composed of current and former foster youth, which did speaking engagements about what it’s REALLY like to be a foster kid, and which proposed new legislation to the Oregon State Legislature every session (and they have never yet failed to get a bill they wrote passed). They very much needed and benefited from adults helping them with planning and organizing their activities, as well as helping them sort out the feelings that commonly come up when a kid used to being totally disempowered starts “speaking truth to power.” It would never have happened without the adult supporters (the first of whom was the founder, who was herself a survivor of the foster care system). Advocates also appear in court and in other meetings with their clients and make sure their rights are protected. Advocacy is all about holding the system accountable.

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        • Interesting that you didn’t say you respect other people’s right to pursue change as they see fit, just that you can’t change them (all?).

          In any case I can’t help shake the feeling that you’re (deliberately?) defining the concept of recovery as unnaturally narrow in order to posit it as a kind of strawman-lightning rod that enables you to call for revolution (which is your real agenda, not to help those diagnosed with psychiatric labels).

          (Increasing political awareness is itself part of recovery, for me.)

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          • “Interesting that you didn’t say you respect other people’s right to pursue change as they see fit, just that you can’t change them (all?).”

            Well we have all sorts of people pursuing various things. Much of it is reactionary. We have Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and its Tea Party Movement. I am opposed to all of these things.

            And we have people promoting Psychotherapy, Healing, and Recovery. These also are reactionary. They put stigma on survivors while letting the perpetrators get of off scot-free. They make it seem like it is the survivor who really was wrong in the first place.

            Survivors can restore their honor when they can fight some battles and win. if they are not even trying to do this, then they are still trying to live by seeking pity.

            Oldhead wrote:
            ““recovery” paradigm for articulating the dynamics of personal and political growth”


            Obviously “recovery” is not a paradigm for personal and political growth, because it casts the fault back onto the survivor, it is designed to make people submit to the idea of innate personal defect.

            The way one grows is by learning how to fight back against the practices of psychotherapy, healing, and recovery.

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  11. Steve wrote, “Do people need to recover from being hit by a car, even if it’s not their own fault?”

    But that is still turning it back on the survivor, making it their fault for not “just getting over it”. The idea is an adaptation of the religious emphasis on forgiveness, and necessitated by original sin.

    That people experience personal distress and that this is caused by abuses from long ago, is one of the ~~LIES~~ on which psychotherapy is based.

    If someone is abused, that means like violence, or bullying, or being dumped on or manipulated. Well what that does is it trashes their social and civil standing. They may feel worthless. But what is far more important is that it establishes that they actually are worthless, because such abuses can be repeated at any time.

    But to say that they need healing is just another layer of abuse.

    A rape survivor goes into a police station to report the crime, and what she hears is, “Yes we are here to help with your recovery and healing. We don’t want you to have to carry these issues around with you and be a burden to the society.”

    No, what the survivor needs is that chance to fight back, because this is the ONLY WAY ANYONE EVER RESTORES THEIR HONOR.

    Psychiatry says it is about the pain from long ago of the abuse. But this is a LIE. It is about the lack of honor and social and civil standing in the present. Talk about healing and recovery is just more abuse, more ways to deny the survivor honor.

    Living without honor is always painful, because you know that you are worthless and expendable. Feeling distress is a very important evolutionary response. We feel it when we know that the we are marginalized, because we know that our survival is being threatened.

    But how then to fight back? Well, in a civilized society, and when fighting against societally sanctioned kinds of abuses, it is hard. Civilization exists in order to inflict certain types of abuses and prohibit reprisals. Sometimes you can fight off abusers in real time. But when there are historical abuses, and abuses of a common nature which deny you social and civil standing, you must have comrades.

    But to have comrades their has to be political consciousness. Psychotherapy and the Recovery Movement attack political consciousness directly, via their lies.

    Once people see that they can organize and that they are needed in order to achieve political change, then they are no longer worthless.

    Their willingness to believe this lie of psychological healing will evaporate.

    A non-threaded forum, the standard type of message board, would be easier.

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    • Actually the police don’t talk that way. You are confusing police stations with rape trauma centers. And rape victims need help–usually physical as well. Then later they have to deal with flashbacks.

      Telling rape victims they don’t need help–just to turn vigilante–would offend many rape survivors. It’s obvious you’re more into your grandiose Cause than helping the suffering.

      If someone’s back was broken in a hit and run, you would be yelling at them to ignore their broken back and chase the car. Nothing wrong with them of course.

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    • Sorry, but I think you’re missing the point here. If a person is injured, we are not BLAMING them by helping them heal from the physical injury. You are interpreting the desire to help as meaning blaming the victim. I can assure you that plenty of supportive environments exist where such blaming doesn’t happen. I would present a “hearing voices” group as an example. Do you think it’s “blaming the victim” to let folks know that other people also hear voices and that you can meet with them and talk about what it’s like to live in a society where you’re treated like a pariah, and talk about different approaches to dealing with both the voices themselves and society (and especially the psych system) treating them like less than human?

      Are you suggesting that the ONLY thing that will help a rape survivor or domestic abuse survivor is sponsoring political action? Would a friend listening to a person telling his/her story be victimizing the person by supporting the idea that they need compassionate listening to help them work through the traumatic event that happened to them?

      I totally get that organized “mental health treatment” is by and large focused on eliminating difficult people from our midst, and that the DSM was created to shift the blame from social conditions onto the victims of them. However, I think it’s going way too far to suggest that someone who is psychologically/spiritually injured by violent or oppressive actions can’t “heal” without being blamed. The kid who got hit by the car isn’t blamed for the car hitting him. Why would it automatically imply blame to let someone know that being abused is painful and that it’s possible to feel better through reconnecting with others who understand and have worked through the kind of pain you are experiencing? Or even through just talking to someone who cares about you?

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  12. “Recovery” is a concept designed to shift the fault back onto the survivor. It may have started with substance addiction, but even there it is completely wrong.

    I work with community groups, trying to compensate for the damage done to the political consciousness of the poor and homeless by the evangelical Christian outreaches. Their position is, “Jesus loves you so much that he wants to give you a second chance. All he asks in return is that you submit and admit that it is your fault for screwing up the first chance.”

    It is impossible to compete with the recruiting power of a submission and pie in the sky religion.

    But I still keep telling all of them, “If someone has been treated with dignity and respect, and given the chance to develop and apply their abilities, then it is very unlikely that they would ever develop a problem with drugs or alcohol.”

    And also, “Movie stars get into trouble with drugs and alcohol all the time. But they still have access to independent and high income careers. So their difficulties are treated as medical problems, not moral problems. It only becomes a moral problem when people are not willing to try and live on garbage jobs.”

    Excellent Book:

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  13. Steve wrote, “Sorry, but I think you’re missing the point here. If a person is injured, we are not BLAMING them by helping them heal from the physical injury.”

    Totally untrue, totally. Anytime you say someone needs healing you are 1. Offering them pity in the hope that they will take it and accept the status of being an object of pity. 2. Building a basis for denying their experience, after all, they need healing, they are injured. So you can’t accept what they say, and they shouldn’t be trusting their own instincts.

    Mental illness, Psycholgically injured, these are always 100% moral issues, ground to futher deligitimate survivors. And anytime survivors, like MindFreedom, talk about therapy and recovery, they are stabbing survivors in the back.

    We must take a zero tolerance, any means necessary for defense, approach to psychiatry, psychotherapy, and recovery.

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      • Perhaps no one has offered him either. 🙁

        I wish him well, or would. But he might twist that into something to take offense at.

        Sometimes rapists die unpunished by human courts. The victim still needs help. So no, just hurting the bad guys won’t automatically undo the damage they’ve done.

        If I could choose between getting my life back OR wreaking bloody vengeance on all in the MI System who have harmed me I would choose the former. No question. Revenge is only sexy on the silver screen.

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        • In Fighter’s defense there is an irreducible quality to the interpersonal nature of reality, as well as power being at the heart of all relations (in my opinion), so that public/political actions can be an incredibly powerful (and healing) response to injustice, however dismissing everything else as simply “reactionary” or “part of the problem” goes too far (to me s/he sounds like a undergraduate Marxian who has discovered [and fallen in love with] a metaphorical hammer with which to diagnose all human ills.)

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          • No doubt he has been deeply hurt though he refuses to talk about it. It seems there are two doors into the 21st Century Madhouse. Some of us come in pain, desperate for some sort of help. What we get is stigmatized by a damning moral judgment called a “diagnosis.” And lots of drugs and perhaps ECT.

            Others are dragged in kicking and screaming for flamboyant behavior or partying too hard. Since they are more apt to escape early they tend to be judgmental toward those of us deceived into staying in the MI System for years.

            Here’s my opinion about the link between Pharma-psychiatry and government. Decoupling government and big business would help us immensely. Big Pharma has Washington in its pocket. Were it not for that, the Murphy Bill would not have gone through so easily. We need to end bribery in the form of “campaign contributions” from amoral lobbyists. Easier said than done!

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      • truth793810, when it comes from a therapist, sympathy and empathy are both just pity. The therapist did not hang up their shingle because they want to redress wrongs. Their shingle says that their role is to convince survivors that they should learn to live in an unjust world without complaint.

        FeelingDiscouraged, if someone has been raped, then the first thing that they need to know is that that is not an isolated rape. Usually, unless it is someone else’s mother, wife, or daughter, then there still most always is no penalty for rape. You might as well say there is no crime.

        If someone has been raped, their social and civil standing have been trashed because their biography has been nullified. If they try to tell anyone what happened, these persons will not side with them, they will offer pity and tell them that they just have to learn to live without justice. This is the best response they will get.

        So the last thing they need is some therapist telling them about healing. That is just more abuse, what is generally called ‘second rape’, because the party lecturing to them does not understand the severity of it and how it nullifies their person hood.

        So a therapist is just a second rapist. Rather, what is needed is justice, avenging the rape, as a civilized society does.

        Do you think Kings and Presidents cared that much about their subjects that they outlawed rape, robbery and murder in order to protect them?

        Of course not, they outlawed such things because otherwise people would take their own vengeance, and then the government would have zero credibility or power.

        So when a rape victim sees that no one stands with her and therapists lecture to her about healing, then she should know that it is the society and the government itself who are the real rapists.

        And when it comes to a child standing up to the testimony of adults, then it is always like this, it is the government who prevents redress and tries to force victims to turn into Uncle Tom’s.

        And when such children grow into adults, they can know that they will always be getting lectures about healing, but very very few people will want to stop the ongoing abuses.

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        • You make a lot of generalizations about therapists. Not all therapists are the same. Many have been taken in and are participating in the psychiatric mainstream effort to pathologize anything but being mildly happy regardless of circumstances. But some (a minority, I acknowledge) really are there to help their clients sort out the meaning of their experiences and move on to take meaningful action, as I explained in another of my posts. It just doesn’t work to label “therapists” and to say they all do the same things. It has a haunting similarity to the kind of labeling we all agree we hate when it happens to us. Therapists are people, too. Some are empowering, some are power tripping. Some haven’t dealt with their own issues, and some have dealt with them quite well and are in a good position to help others find their way.

          Or as I like to say, “Generalizations are ALWAYS wrong!”

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