Abolish Psychiatry and the Mental Health System: Really?


Many readers of Mad in America are furious. The mental health system has fundamentally mistreated them—and millions of others. On that I think most, if not all, readers of Mad in America would agree. Any discussion of “reform” to at least a small number of readers is anathema. Recent comments include these:

Slaying the Dragon of Psychiatry says:

What’s the point of reforming a rotten barrel? Get rid of the thing!

Frank Blankenship says:

We don’t reform the system, we abolish it.

Tireless Fighter says:

We would know if there was reform because the mental health system and the recovery movement would no longer exist. There would be zero licensed practitioners because the government would not be allowed to issue such licenses. People would not longer be talking about healing or getting better or about recovery or rehabilitation. Instead they would be talking about the ongoing Crimes Against Humanity trials of the former mental health practitioners. We would be punishing the perpetrators, rather than further abusing the survivors.

These kinds of comments, if taken literally, seem to reflect a form of “psychiatric nihilism”—a black and white view in which psychiatry is the dark side of nothingness. No good can possibly come from it, a blot of meaninglessness that is used only to inflict harm and traumatize anyone coming into its dark web.

Maybe this view represents just a philosophical perspective and shouldn’t be taken in any literal sense other than to abolish the influence of psychiatry. And maybe it’s unfair or beside the point to ask what it would look like in the real world. But, as Tireless Fighter’s comment shows, eliminating the entire mental health system and all licensed practitioners and punishing them is a goal for some. That sounds like an attempt to change the real world to me.

Since the whole point of my blogs is to reflect on policy and practice, and because my posts almost always bring these comments, I am going to pose the question: What would it take to go about abolishing psychiatry and the mental health system? My goal is to try to shed light on whether psychiatric nihilism can actually lead anywhere. Or is it mostly something that makes people who have been so terribly harmed feel better, calmer, more self-assured?

What follows here is a description of the kinds of steps that would have to be taken to abolish psychiatry and the mental health system. They are in no way steps that I think are remotely possible. I think it will become clear that I wouldn’t advise them either. I did not put them into any kind of logical sequence. I would point out that if anyone was actually serious about taking even one of the steps, a massive planning initiative taking many years would be required. And I can assure you from my experience, no government I can imagine would ever even start on this process.

Anyone who wants to be taken seriously with the goal of abolishing psychiatry and the mental health system should share their picture of how this would be accomplished. That would be an interesting plan. Maybe I am missing something.

Here are action steps that I think would be necessary—and not even remotely feasible.

1. Close all academic training programs in psychiatry at all medical schools. This would be necessary to stop the recruitment of any new medical students into the mental health field as well as abandoning those who are currently doing residencies and fellowships. It would mean abandoning any research already underway and saving any funds left over and re-investing them in other medical school training or research programs. Neurology might be one discipline that would welcome an infusion of funding. But the reality is that closing departments of psychiatry would itself cost far more than any hoped-for savings.

2. Give termination notices to all psychiatrists employed in all community mental health programs: outpatient, residential, day treatment, early intervention, prevention or any others. All patients currently prescribed psychotropic medications would have to be safely tapered and eventually withdrawn from these drugs. Or they would have to be maintained on them indefinitely. This process could take years and might have to be supervised medically by general practitioners, nurses, neurologists, and other medical specialists, all of whom would need to be given education in how to work with the dynamics of withdrawal. A recruitment process would have to be made in order to locate professionals or highly trained paraprofessionals who would be willing to handle and capable of handling this process. If such a recruitment was unable to be successfully accomplished, a very large number of individuals would have to rely on peer supports or withdraw without any guidance or support, which admittedly many do already. This change would force every person on psychiatric medications to make a very personal decision—to withdraw or not—whether there were supports or expertise available or not.

3. Cease operations of all psychiatric inpatient programs and discharge existing patients to the streets or to other medical units or to otherwise converted specialty units, very few of which even exist. Psychiatric patients would go back to communities which would no longer have psychiatrists—just as in all the other programs, whatever supports for short-term withdrawal would have to be assigned to other providers or peers or family members or to no one. Consideration at the state and local levels could be given to securing public funding for hundreds of Soteria House facilities and then to training staff to serve and support in this model. This would require a massive educational initiative to make state and local administrators and legislators aware of the Soteria model (a step in and of itself that would not be such a bad idea).

4. State laws would be changed to eliminate all references to psychiatrists or their current legally defined functions. This would be extremely contentious in the debate that would ensue regarding the legal issues surrounding civil and criminal court commitments. Legislators would have to be familiarized (in a way that most are not) with how people who are experiencing a mental health crisis should be handled if this process was radically altered. Decisions would have to be made around whether to abolish all civil and criminal commitment laws as well as finding alternative ways of protecting people and communities from potential harm to self or perceived threats to public safety.

5. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Community Psychiatrists would terminate themselves as organizations. Board certification procedures would be eliminated. All professional standards of care would be abolished. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would be abandoned along with all psychiatric diagnoses.

6. The FDA should make the prescription of psychoactive drugs (i.e., neuroleptics, “antidepressants,” “mood stabilizers,” ADHD drugs, and benzodiazepines) illegal and punishable by severe fines.

7. All academic and educational programs from undergraduate to graduate level would cease their training programs in which psychiatric treatment is any kind of a conceptual framework.

8. All psychiatric-related positions in all programs—inpatient, residential, outpatient, local jails and correctional facilities—would be terminated or otherwise restructured. Human resource departments would rewrite all position descriptions and other staff would need to be retrained to handle mental health challenges in the new non-system.

These changes are of such magnitude that a planning process, if it was taken seriously (and it would not be), would take many years and yield endless reports because this is obviously a complete re-conceptualization of how mental health challenges would be handled. It would require a complete overhaul of how any remaining supports and services would be funded, and how entirely new training programs would be created.

I can guarantee that this would bring lobbyists from every profession (not just psychiatry) and every pharmaceutical corporation out of the woodwork. No legislator would touch it with a one-hundred-foot pole.

As I stated earlier, if those who want to abolish psychiatry and the mental health system have better plans to accomplish this, I think it would be extremely interesting to see their alternatives to what I’ve outlined. In the meantime, it would seem fairly meaningless to talk about abolishing psychiatry or the mental health system. It may make some feel good in some way but fantasies of this nature have never led anywhere in the real world.

I for one will continue to seek ways to reform and not abolish the system.


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. Hmm…where are the comments? Am I really the first?

    I agree, on a practical level, I highly doubt it’ll happen as you have outlined.

    However, Bob, you seem to have missed something. The All-Holy Bible, the DSM! Diagnosis means some people are singled out as diseased and “requiring treatment.” This is what leads to drugging and marginalization. You also specified, in your outline of the abolition events, only one MH practice, psychiatry, leaving out the rest of the shebang. I suspect also you took the comments (all by survivors, notably) out of context. Do you know any of these folks personally? It was almost like you were saying “All survivors are extremist black and white thinkers” which is, sorry to say, another way to say just how diseased we are.

    Most of us who are angry are not permanently angry. Anger serves a useful purpose, to protect us against another psychiatric assault and to preserve our human rights. Anger also helps spread the word to others who may be in the “questioning” phase. Many find that the anger, which is really a necessary part of grieving, dissipates over time. Especially if we are heard.

    You didn’t mention psychotherapists going out of business. Maybe because some therapists might be reading here and (horrors!) be offended. I think in many ways, since some therapists are movement allies ($$$), MIA and other groups sell out and let the entire dubious practice of psychotherapy off the hook.

    As I see it, it is pointless to abolish psychiatry as if it were the Isolated Evil of the World, when there are so many abusive practitioners and institutions that are not psychiatrists.

    After all, many MIA readers are “therapists” who work outside the box, outside of diagnosing and “treating.” However, these are rare indeed, far more rare than many are willing to admit.

    I think very specific things need to happen. We need to disempower the practice of psychiatry and Western Med in general. Doctors are overpaid. The psychiatrist’s opinion should not be used as court evidence. Emotional and mental distress should not be viewed as a permanent condition, and should not turn into lifetime disability and marginalization. What is “normal” should not be determined by mental health professionals.

    The CRPD has wonderful guidelines and literature outlining how people should be treated and is demanding that all countries agree to be humane to its people.

    What would happen if we abolished psychiatric *diagnosis* as a mode of eugenics? I don’t personally care what happens to the drugs, they can go on the street or be sold in vending machines so they’ll harm people less.

    Abolishing the DSM would improve the practice of “therapy” also. Therapists wouldn’t be cornered into treating diseases, they’d consider the person and the circumstances. A person wouldn’t be incarcerated due to being seen as “ill.” Without the support of the DSM’s phony diagnoses, many of these drugs would disappear from the market or fall into disuse.

    If psych drugs were sold on the street (they likely are already) people would use them for what used to be thought of as the drug side effects. Helping them get to sleep, a few for weight loss (or the opposite), a few to enhance one’s sex life (likely, again, the opposite), and one or two as date rape drugs. I used to hear of people using a few of these to “come down” off of hallucinogens such as LSD.

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  2. The DSM should be gotten rid of, since it’s scientifically invalid.

    Forced or coerced treatments with the psychiatric drugs should be made illegal.

    We should start weaning people off the psychiatric drugs, if they so choose. And full and honest information about the adverse effects of the psychiatric drugs, and withdrawal from those drugs, should be legally required to be given to all patients.

    We should require a massive educational initiative to make state and local administrators and legislators aware of the Soteria model and Open Dialogue.

    Funding for research into the ‘invalid’ DSM disorders should have disappeared in 2013.

    Training in the universities should stop being based upon the DSM, and move towards education on drug withdrawal methods, various therapies, trauma informed care, Open Dialogue, and Soteria models.

    There should be a long run plan to eventually make prescribing the psychiatric drugs illegal.

    It should be made illegal for doctors to start people, who are not already on the psychiatric drugs, on them now.

    Since the number one most common trait amongst those called “mentally ill” is child abuse, which of course is not a brain disease, we need trauma informed care, we need to start believing the child abuse victims, and we need to start arresting the abusers and pedophiles again.

    And given the fact that huge percentages of the “mentally ill” are actually child abuse victims, and all doctors are mandatory reporters. All doctors who are drugging child abuse victims, rather than reporting the abuse, as is required by law, should be arrested.

    Change is imperative.

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    • Thank you for your constructive comment Someone Else.

      A paradigm shift to Open dialogue could achieve quadruple recovery rate, reduction of schizophrenia per year to one tenth and disability allowance/sickness is reduction to one third: http://wkeim.bplaced.net/files/recovery-en.html

      It seems a typical win-win situation: Patients can get recovery, psychatrists would be rewarded seeing more patients become healthy.

      Why is there so little interest for change?

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      • Hi Walter,
        I would suggest that the lack of interest in the “recovery” movement is that it continues to require people to uphold the DSM lie that they are “mentally diseased” with “s’ or some other imaginary disease to begin with. They have to pretend they were “MI” and get to pretend they “recovered’ from a disease they never had to begin with and they still have to live with the tainted “medical” docs and the “genetic” lie that follows their family around until the end of time. Good luck getting anyone that actually knows what’s going on to trade their real integrity for their fake “sanity.”

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        • Hi juidi,

          yes you are right that Open dialogue uses diagnoses when comparing there treatment results to standard treatment (TAU). (See: Scientific Symposium. Pharmaceuticals – risks and alternatives. The 15th of October 2016 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Jaakko Seikkula, Professor of Psychotherapy, Clinical Psychologist, Finland. Naturalistic study designs for developing the system to reduced medication http://extendedroom.org/en/scientific-symposium/ )

          However they descripe the basis of treatment as “accepting others unconditionally” http://wkeim.bplaced.net/files/Open_dialogue.png and are therefore not busy with diagnosis. Unlike TAU they can tell their pasients that more then 80% come back to study, work and family. I have heart from many survivors having been told to suffer from a lifelong disease and have to take drugs for the rest of their lifes. That’s true for TAU with 8.1 to 20% recovery only (Jaaskelainen et al., 2013).

          Open dialogue is the only psychiatry in Northern Finland. So there only “problem” is that they reduse diagonsis schizofrenia per year to one tenth. Therefore they have less patients. But they prioritise new cases and they can respond within 24 hours. The overall cost per inhabitant is less then TAU. So they employ fewer people.

          What I criticize is psychiatry in the rest of Finland and other countries. Both USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, UK and Irland have national stategies with recovery as aim, bur refuse to even look at what Open dialogue is doing and achieving. This is cynical.

          Do not get me wrong I have a statement in my official medical records that I be not examined, not diagnosed and not treated: http://home.broadpark.no/~wkeim/files/patverfue-en_anonym.html by TAU.

          My main objection to Robert Nikkel article is that he is professionally “promoting recovery”. But his is attacking antipsychiatry not the sick psychiatry he works for anly achieving approx. 20% recovery. Psychiatry is doing the opposite of what they tell.

          What we can learn her is that we should fight for common goals.

          I support peacefull revolution but consider antipsychiatry as allies in the fight against forced drugging. I hope that those who promote evolution join.

          Let us fight together forced and violent psychiatry and refuse to follow Roberts attempt to fight each other 🙂

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  3. The whole mental health system is the epitome of futility. The only successful outcome is to disable the patient for good so we should we consider abolishing it, I don’t see any other way. The same can be said about technology. We all move on and find our way in the new system. At some point you have to realize that what you’re doing isn’t working and you have to “just start over”. You’re not going to find a solution holding on for dear life to the system you have. It just doesn’t work.

    At some point you have to realize that the system we have is like a religion or a legal system. It’s just not based on science. The only thing that can come out of those kinds of systems that are not up to par, are atrocities and that’s exactly what’s going on in this area of commerce.

    You’re telling me doctor’s can’t find other jobs. You’re telling me that drug companies cannot redirect capital to other areas. You’re telling me that people are addicted and cannot be weaned off these medications.

    I think it’s not only possible but necessary. Too many human beings have been destroyed.

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  4. If antipsychiatry is psychiatric nihilism it is only because psychiatry is nihilism to begin with, and so it could be said to be anti-nihilism. In the same way in which you make your statement about nihilism, antipsychiatry is often accused of being extreme. While antipsychiatry is accused of being extreme, I see locking innocent people up in prisons called hospitals as extreme. I also see a treatment that involves maiming and killing people with toxic chemicals as extreme. The same criticism goes for seeing electrically induced epileptic seizures as therapy. It’s not therapy, it’s brain damage.

    Unlike many of those who call themselves antipsychiatry, I don’t single out psychiatry for attack. Psychiatry has been aided and assisted at every step by the allied fields of psychology and social work. If there are termination slips to be handed out, when it comes to these psychiatric nihilists and extremists, they must cover these allied fields as well.

    Institutional psychiatry, although it would not be referred to as such, let us call it incarceration of the insane, arose sometime during the latter half of the 17th century. It has done nothing except grow exponentially ever since. With it has grown the numbers of people killed and injured by its practices. If we are going to stop injuring people, we have to do something about the power of these psychiatrists, as well as psychologists and social workers, their partners in crime. Were it kaput, so much for the business, and very big business at that, of fabricating illness that you can turn by chemical and electrical means into real illnesses.

    What is at work when non-illnesses are taken for real illnesses? Medicalization. Right now the “mental health” cops accuse approaching 25 % of the population of having a “mental illness”. Okay. Nobody has a “mental illness”! Minds don’t get ill, bodily organs get ill. Right now psychiatric intervention (scapegoating) is a global response to social problems that only creates a bigger problem in the end, namely, this monstrosity of a bureaucracy that you, Robert Nikkel, are going out of your way to defend. With that kind of pork cut, we’d all be a lot better off.

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  5. So, I guess according to Robert Nikkel, those who believe in making revolutionary changes in this world as it pertains to ending ALL forms of psychiatric abuse, are advocating for nothing more than a form of “PSYCHIATRIC NIHILISM.”

    Definition of nihilism: “…the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless…”

    The tone and content of this blog quite often comes across as arrogant and reveals ignorance about the actual nature of many abolisionist positions relative to anti-psychiatry.

    Robert Nickel has presented the classic “straw man” characterization of an anti-psychiatry position and then proceeds to mock and ridicule it with this hysterical and ominous prediction of how the world would simply fall apart if efforts were made to abolish Psychiatry and the oppressive disease/drug based Medical Model it has spawned.

    Anti-psychiatry positions articulated at MIA and other places in this society are far more advanced, filled with morality and compassion, and nuanced than his completely simplistic and self serving characterization of “psychiatric nihilism.”

    Robert Nikkel says: “These changes are of such magnitude that a planning process, if it was taken seriously… would take many years and yield endless reports because this is obviously a complete re-conceptualization of how [mental health] challenges would be handled. It would require a complete overhaul of how any remaining supports and services would be funded, and how entirely new training programs would be created.”

    “I can guarantee that this would bring lobbyists from every profession (not just psychiatry) and every pharmaceutical corporation out of the woodwork. No legislator would touch it with a one-hundred-foot pole.”

    Robert’s above comment does contain some truths, and herein lies his HUGE error in ridiculing, misconceptualizing, and then characterizing ALL anti-psychiatry positions as being hopelessly monolithic.

    Some of us (I noticed he did not quote any of my writings) have linked the future of psychiatry (because of its critical role of social control and the profitability in the pharmaceutical industry) to the future of the entire capitalist system.

    Ending Psychiatry (based on the depths of its overall influence and power in society ) ultimately involves a complete overhaul of all major institutions in our society, including property relations, and the dominant role of profit in the economy, which corrupts almost all our science, and the functioning of every existing social service agency in our society.

    And Robert, even if you (and others) DO NOT believe such revolutionary changes are possible, I would still say that your analysis lacks an understanding of the overall depths of oppression that Psychiatry wreaks on millions of people today, because you forecast DOOM if somehow it were to suddenly disappear. I have FAR MORE faith in the compassion an ingenuity of the masses to find OTHER ways to help people in psychological distress than the current horror that Psychiatry and their sick system has to offer.


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  6. i want to know why the author didn’t quote Bonnie Burstow, who publicly calls herself an abolitionist. Mr. Nikkel did not call BB a nihilist nor an extremist nor an angry black-and-white thinker. Who would dare do so? No, it’s easier to call survivors “angry,” “extremist,” all those euphemisms for “personality disordered.”

    Here we see the class system at work. The socioeconomic tiers created by the “needy ill” and the unblemished wealthy who hold power over them. In my opinion, this class system is exactly what must be abolished.

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  7. This makes sense only if comments such as those made by Tireless Fighter, Frank, and StDoP actually reflect some kind of consensus anti-psychiatry agenda. They definitely do not. So as Richard pointed out, you are making a straw man argument.

    Also, abolishing psychiatry as a medical specialty and abolishing the “mental health” system are two separate issues that are conflated here. Though some people who consider themselves anti-psychiatry do call for the latter, that agenda is not inherent to anti-psychiatry. In fact, several prominent anti-psychiatry activists right here on MiA are therapists themselves.

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        • I agree with Uprising that we all take different positions essentially, and so there is no consensus, except perhaps in the most general sense. Also, and as an illustration of this very fact, I don’t think the idea of dismantling the “mental health” system is outside of the scope of antipsychiatry. I would argue for dismantling the system, and I guess that’s where I might take issue with a few other people here.

          I think the “mental health” movement needs to be opposed. It is not a “mental health” movement in reality, it is a “mental health” treatment movement. The first requisite for so called “mental health” treatment is a diagnostic label, and so it isn’t a “mental health” movement so much as it is a “mental illness” movement. People who are deemed “mentally healthy” don’t receive “mental health” treatment, or rather, people who have not been caught in some compromising situation, are not labeled, and don’t receive “treatment”. The way out of labeling, harmful treatments, etc., is, obviously, through ceasing to “consume” treatment.

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          • If you wanted a, perhaps, abbreviated history of the “mental health” movement you might try the MHA (Mental Health America) website. It is the movement begun by Clifford Beers way back in 1908 and then referred to as the “mental hygiene” movement. The MHA and NAMI are organizational examples of the “mental health” movement in action.

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          • I was thinking of this, from Bonnie Burstow’s writings:

            Myth: Antipsychiatry theorists oppose professional services.

            Fact. While antipsychiatry theorists reject psychiatry and commonly critique other disciplines, there is no uniform rejection of other disciplines (except in insofar as they have become colonized by psychiatry). More concretely, besides that antipsychiatry advocates have often joined forces with others in lobbying for more non-medical services (e.g., supportive house, drop-ins, befriending services), there are antipsychiatry activists who are themselves practicing social workers and practicing psychologists.


            I personally feel that anything beyond this is overreach and something other than anti-psychiatry.

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          • Bonnie does wonderful work of course, but has her own agenda as a professional which tends to minimize the contradictions between victims of psychiatry and professionals, however “progressive.” (This is why we need separate AP “survivor” groupings as well as AP coalitions.) But I still don’t think she would necessarily agree with you. Anything taking place under the aegis of “mental health” is fundamentally flawed and psychologically destructive. Also when I say the “mental health system,” I am referring to state-controlled systems, not independent counseling which takes place without medical pretensions.

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          • There are 36,000 plus psychiatrists in the APA. The media, psychiatrists, and others are incessantly complaining that new psychiatrists are not being trained quick enough, and that, in their view, we need more. There are, as you would imagine, going to be fewer top predators than anything lower on the totem pole. There are 117,500 psychologists in the other APA. Tell me when psychologists and social workers have ever done anything except collude with psychiatrists. I would call most of them predators, too. Black hat, white hat, gray hat. Okay, whatever? Beyond the “mental health” treatment system, you’ve got no hat. What do I mean? Well, we’ve got these ‘not ready for’ real life ‘players’, and we’ve got people who are into ‘real life’. The “mental health” game is pretty phony. I’m done with dress rehearsals myself.

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    • It’s just so easy to take a few random quotations out of context and to isolate them for your own purposes. This is essentially what Robert has done in his article. It demonstrates a very shallow understanding of both psychiatry and antipsychiatry. After psychiatry is abolished, I would like to read his articles about what happened.

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  8. Thanks for posting this. As someone who is aware of considerable deficiencies within the mental health “system” – if it can correctly be called that – in the USA, I follow Mad In America to round out my perspective. While I don’t agree with a lot of what is said here, there is valuable perspective and insight, and I’ve found MIA to be a good jumping off point to dig into research I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of, and so on.

    Unfortunately, I think some of the more wild-eyed frothing that’s posted here – and not solely in the comments – strays into counterproductive territory at times. Some of the posts, and many of the comments, may help a subset of writers and readers to vent their spleen or to feel vindicated, but they accomplish little toward the goal of reducing human suffering.

    There is a lot of work to be done to make things better in all areas of human endeavor, including how we care for those with mental illnesses and the non-neurotypical. The only way to “abolish” the mental health “system” is to make sure that all people are safe, secure, healthy, and have their human needs met. That’s a 10,000 year project, so we’d best get started.

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    • The only way to abolish the “mental health” system (i.e. the “mental illness” industry) is to abolish it. Life is a risk I’m quite willing to take.

      10,000 years is not progress. 10,000 years, if you were to follow a graph at the foot of a bed, would be a mountain range. Should any valley dip below a certain point, the patient has died.

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    • Yes too bad some have seen to make money off sociological issues and try to fix it by blaming it on the individual. For shame, trying to abolish a system that ignores the real reason people suffer.

      I take offense to the “wild eye frothing comment” also. To say that I am not without logic and ability to read the numbers that are apparent when reading drug trials, putting up with the data mining,witnessing the ignorance of the scientific method or any other unbiased method of analyzing results, I can’t help but take personally.

      Until you’ve seen family members enter this system one way and come out transformed, you’ll never be able to walk in my shoes. Let’s just agree to disagree, politely.

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    • If your eyes froth you need to see an opthamologist.

      I find the remark “how we care for the mentally ill” condescending and offensive. Even assuming MI to be a valid disability I don’t think Greensprouts would post such a remark on a website for–say quadraplegics–“how WE care for them!” All about Greensprouts and what benefactors like her/him will do for pathetic MI idiots. Doesn’t even address us in her comments. Most likely a social worker.

      And most of us don’t need to be taken care of–unless they want to undo the damage to our reputations from psychiatric slander (diagnoses) with public apologies and research into undoing the physical damage created by shocking and drugging innocent people. I don’t see that happening. Men like Torrey never apologize.

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      • You got that right! To apologise I would actually have to feel as if I were doing something wrong.
        Dream on! I love my work because I am a Sociopath! The power, the control, THE MONEY!!! Just like the pedophile who seeks employment where he has a steady supply of new victim’s, I’ll never run out of people to LEGALLY TORTURE TO DEATH!!

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      • Are you talking to Greensprouts, Oldhead?

        I have been in the mental system for years. At the receiving end.

        Yes, GS and those of like mind would dearly love to “help” me. Like a nasty parent in a story I read who carved up a child’s feet so she would remain bed-fast to be “taken care of.” Grrr!

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    • “The only way to “abolish” the mental health “system” is to make sure that all people are safe, secure, healthy, and have their human needs met.”

      You are out of touch.

      Name one time psychiatry was fully satisfied with the fruits of its labors and let a person go free with a clean bill of “fixed!” or “healed!” or “cured!” (in the name of health) as a result.

      /popcorn and ginger ale Friday nights at the local psych ward, old timer! (is this really your 11th time here?)

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  9. Robert,

    Thanks for the thoughtful article, which I largely agree with – with one big proviso: abolish involuntary commitment. That way, the whole “therapeutic” field would have to reform itself or else be without customers.

    Best regards,
    Mary Newton

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    • I believe eliminating involuntary “treatment” is the first step toward a more rational approach. The second is to eliminate the DSM, or to return it to it’s original role as an insurance billing document. The drugs will eventually sink under their own weight if the DSM/psychiatric mythology supporting their use is eliminated.

      The challenge inherent in Bob’s post here, though he does spin it in a very negative (dare I say nihilistic) way, is that in order to eliminate the entire “mental health” system, we’d have to create a world where folks could get their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs met in a more consistent and safe and rewarding fashion.

      It’s worth pointing out that mental/emotional struggles appear to be a part of human life, and that every culture in history has had both formal and informal ways of dealing with these challenges. So while abolition of coercive “treatment” and the DSM are very realistic goals, it does appear that something needs to be in place to assist people who are having difficulty figuring out how to respond to the stresses of ANY society, especially our bizarre Western post-industrial culture. I’m all for eliminating psychiatry, but there is a need to be met, and something needs to be in place to meet that need or our efforts will ultimately be fruitless.

      — Steve

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      • in order to eliminate the entire “mental health” system, we’d have to create a world where folks could get their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs met in a more consistent and safe and rewarding fashion.

        So wrong! This implies that people have these needs filled via psychiatry, albeit imperfectly. It also falls into the “alternatives” trap, i.e. you can’t abolish psychiatry until you have an alternative. Would you say the same about concentration camps?

        Psychiatry is a branch of the prison system, and every time people confuse it with medicine or social services they are making both a strategic and an analytical error.

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        • No! No!
          People did not walk into concentration camps thinking that it might be an answer to their problems.
          Please do not make such comparisons. Doing so belittles the Holocaust.
          Psychiatrists are misguided but I do not believe most are evil.
          They would not have such power if people did not give it to them.

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          • If you knew your history you would know that psychiatrists were responsible for engineering the Holocaust, and that there was testimony at Nuremberg that without psychiatric involvement it may never have taken place.

            I never voluntarily walked into a locked ward thinking it might be an answer to my problems, I assure you.

            They would not have such power if people did not give it to them.

            Not people, governments.

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          • I’m with Oldhead. The average street psychiatrist might not be “evil” per se, but those in charge KNOW they are using marketing and KNOW the DSM is invented and KNOW the drugs do long-term damage and don’t work very well, and that they make people die young, and intentionally hide these facts so they can make more money. That’s pretty evil in my book!

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          • julia26,

            As Oldhead pointed out, you need only a few pages of history to know what evil you are dealing with precisely.

            Psychiatry served both as the ideology and the infrastructure for what was recognized as the most evil enterprise in the history of mankind. “Without psychiatry, says Dr. Peter Breggin, the holocaust would probably not have taken place.”

            Gas chambers were built in psychiatric facilities prior to their implementation in Nazi extermination camps. Psychiatrists sterilized, euthanized, starved to death, walled up alive, thousands of patients for whom “lives were not worth living”. Psychiatrists had eugenic protocols before the Third Reich, and kept their agenda up for years after the fall of the Hitlerian regime, by their own initiative inside psychiatric institutions.

            Maybe you have heard of the theory of the multiverse proposing that the Universe might have up to ten or eleven dimensions, but no more. At this number, it appears like we have described all possible universes in all possible states in all conceivable space-time continua. Any additional dimension does not help figure out anything more than what was already described with ten dimensions. Another similar exercise would be to find out how many criteria it takes to define the absolute evil. One criterion would be that evil is more so when it deceives by showing itself as good, and indeed must do at least some good to deceive efficiently. The greatest evil is an optimum between maximum harm and total innocuity (think: 80/20 rule). If a serial killer made a new victim of every next comer, he could not carry on for long before being caught, so he needs to spare a lot of potential victims in order to avoid detection and to make the highest number of victims in the long run. Another condition: those who could stop this evil, who see it going first-hand, are the very ones who are deemed untrustworthy, insane, mentally ill, crazy. If we add up as many criteria as necessary so there is no more logical conditions we could think of to make it a tad worse, and look for a real-world example that comes closest to such definition, it shall be psychiatry.

            “I believe psychiatry epitomizes what’s evil.”
            “You have no idea how cruel psychiatry is.”
            “This is really a battle between good and evil.”
            (Peter Breggin, a.k.a the conscience of psychiatry)

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          • That’s a bizarre reading of history. Yes, the Nazis also wanted to eliminate the “mentally ill.” But their hatred of the Jews was unrelated to that, and the Jews were their primary target. You only have to read Mein Kampf to get that. Maybe I am missing something, but anti-Semitism does somewhat predate psychiatry and it is ridiculous to say that the Nazis would not have exterminated Jews without psychiatry.
            I’m not a Holocaust survivor, but if I were, I would find the comparison deeply disturbing. Making such statements doesn’t do the anti-psychiatry movement any favors and will alienate many, imho.
            Peter Breggin does much wonderful work. You may want to call him “the conscience of psychiatry” but that is just your personal opinion. “Psychiatry” is not evil or good. It is only a tool in people’s hands, which, like any tool, can be used for good or evil. There are (admittedly very few, but they exist) times when drugs have their uses, just like so many people on MIA support legalizing cannabis for its potential benefits.

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          • I’m not a Holocaust survivor, but if I were, I would find the comparison deeply disturbing

            Again, it is not a “comparison,” psychiatric genocide was an integral part of the Holocaust. Jews were not the only victims, and in fact after the kamps were liberated psychiatrists were found still “euthanizing” psychiatric inmates.

            You seem to want to ignore history that makes you uncomfortable, which is very dangerous.

            PS Cannabis is not a drug, it is an herb.

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          • No, psychiatric genocide was a part of the Holocaust, which was about getting rid of “undesirables” of whom Jews were the primary category. But you didn’t find “schizophrenics” confined to ghettos, forbidden to enter public parks, deprived of all their legal rights, informed on by their neighbors, killed in pogroms even after the war ended, hunted with no place to go, their children also targeted…
            Your comments are not merely contrary to actual history, they are an insult to Jews who suffered – sorry to say it for you – much more than psychiatric survivors suffer today, on average. If you really want to dispute that, go do so with David Irving. I have nothing more to say to you.

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          • Regarding “it is ridiculous to say that the Nazis would not have exterminated Jews without psychiatry.”

            You will have to tell several authors who think differently.
            Alessandra Colaianni,” A long shadow: Nazi doctors, moral vulnerability and contemporary medical culture”

            “No one wanted to admit to what extent they profited under the system and how none of this could have happened without the direct complicity of the German medical establishment,” Dr. Pross said in a telephone interview. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/10/technology/exhibition-examines-scientists-complicity-in-nazi-era-atrocities.html?pagewanted=all

            Rael D. Strous, M.D. “Psychiatric euthanasia institutions served as training centers for the Schutzstaffel (SS) who used the experience to construct larger killing centers (Auschwitz, Treblinka, etc.). The psychiatrist Dr. Imfried Eberl, Treblinka’s first commandant and the only physician to command a death camp, established the facility following his experience as superintendent of Brandenburg Psychiatry Hospital (2).” https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.163.1.27

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          • Your points are interesting but hardly conclusive.
            The Holocaust for the vast majority of those targeted was not dependent on psychiatrists or those who trained in psychiatric centers. Mengele was a “regular doctor.” The mobile killing squads who murdered hundreds of thousands if not more in Eastern Europe were not trained by psychiatrists or even informed by them.
            I fail to understand what you think you are achieving by trying to score points on the back of the Holocaust. If you want to say, “Some psychiatrists in the past have used their profession to rid the world of people they saw as undesirable,” okay. But why do you have to push your argument to ridiculous proportions?
            And to the person who wrote that “some things are worse than death,” I couldn’t agree more. I think that if I had the choice between watching my children starve to death in a ghetto, and taking Zyprexa at high doses, I would take the drugs. But Holocaust victims weren’t given that choice.

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          • But you didn’t find “schizophrenics” confined to ghettos, forbidden to enter public parks, deprived of all their legal rights, informed on by their neighbors, killed in pogroms even after the war ended

            Only because there is no such thing as a “schizophrenic”…meanwhile as those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it, here’s a link to Dr. Breggin’s thorough expose of psychiatric complicity in the Holocaust: http://breggin.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/psychiatrysrole.pbreggin.1993.pdf

            While we’re at it you can also check out the philosophical complicity of the APA:

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          • Technical correction — the article on AMERICAN psychiatric support for murdering psychiatric inmates described above appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry, which may not officially represent the APA. Like I said, a technicality.

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        • Why would people seek out psychiatric “treatment” if they didn’t have a need to meet? Most psychiatric “patients” are voluntary, and most psych drugs are handed out by regular doctors, not psychiatrists. There is a need there, and it’s being manipulated, but if we banned all psychiatric drugs tomorrow and the DSM the day after, there would still be people saying, “I hate myself, I don’t have any friends, I have no idea what to do, why don’t I just kill myself because my life is meaningless.” Our society is abusive in many ways, and people need some pathway to figure out what to do about it. I don’t know what that pathway is, and I know it’s not taking drugs to numb out your feelings, nor is it categorizing different kinds of difficulties into “diagnoses” and blaming the victims. But there IS a need there and it will still exist even if there is no psychiatry.

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          • I am only saying that such needs will have to be addressed, in essence, that the presence of psychiatry in its current form is a consequence of the disturbed and disturbing society we inhabit, and that some means to address these needs has to be developed. It seems we agree on that point. The disagreement is whether psychiatry meets a need. I contend that it does, or no one would voluntarily get involved. Of course, drugs and alcohol, prostitution, and other heinous things meet a need as well. They do need to be addressed, but to eliminate drug abuse without addressing why people crave these drugs in the first place would not work. Same thing with psychiatry, IMHO. So yes, it needs to go, but just saying “get rid of it” I don’t think is enough. There needs to be another path, or preferably MANY other paths, for people to follow to get those needs met along with the drive to eliminate the coercive, corrupt and evil practice of “modern psychiatry.”

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          • The disagreement is whether psychiatry meets a need. I contend that it does, or no one would voluntarily get involved.

            Can’t believe you believe that. With the power of the state, and the ideological/propaganda support given to psychiatry at all levels of society as the place to go for emotional suffering, and the opposition to any rational understanding of such problems, some people understandably seek out psychiatry, just as they seek out other forms of snake oil. That doesn’t mean it fills any needs, other than self-destructive ones.

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          • Perhaps it’s more correct to say that psychiatry proposes to meet a need that is real, but does it in a very destructive way. People are LOOKING for something, and psychiatry purports to provide it, just as drugs purport to meet a need and end up being destructive. I’m making no argument that psychiatry actually does anything helpful, but that folks are genuinely attempting to get help with real problems, and that’s what leads them to psychiatry’s doorstep. Failing to provide or create some way for those needs to be met will allow psychiatry to be “replaced” with something just as destructive or worse (if that is even possible).

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          • People are LOOKING for something, and psychiatry purports to provide it

            Which is evidence of fraud but not much else. So are you agreeing with Richard & Susan that the end of psychiatry must wait for the end of capitalism? Or do you have something up your sleeve that will meet these needs in the interim?

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          • I think it needs to be worked together. In other words, eliminating psychiatry goes along with making other changes. I don’t think either psychiatry or capitalism is going down without a fight, and both are going to be undermined step by step. But just as we can’t eliminate capitalism without another means of people having a medium of exchange, people will have to have some way of dealing with challenges in operating in our weird society.

            I was thinking about this last night: here is a short list of “needs” psychiatry fills: 1) gives people an explanation (however poor) for why some people act or think or feel in ways that are outside the “status quo.” This is a real need for people and it will have to be filled in some other way. For instance, trauma, nutrition, social stress are all potential explanations that can be substituted for psychiatry’s “chemical imbalance.” But people need a way of thinking about psychological/spiritual issues.

            2) Psychiatry provides an excuse/justification for avoiding revising or examining current institutions. Naturally, avoiding these things is not healthy for a society, so in order to eliminate psychiatry, we need to create some ways to deal with institutional problems that require accountability and responsible change. Eliminating psychiatry won’t handle this need, because our social system will come up with new ways to justify the continuation of the status quo and the blaming of the victims of their shortcomings.

            3) Psychiatry provides an “authoritative” view on what’s “wrong with people,” allowing rank and file proletarians like you and me to avoid having to think about the issue. Clearly, this is also not healthy, but authoritarianism is rampant in our culture and we need to start addressing this and encouraging people to think independently. This would involve revising schools, at the minimum, as well as many other authoritarian institutions.

            I could go on. You see where I’m going with this? There are reasons why psychiatry has been able to be so successful in today’s society. It fulfills certain niches that our current system demands, and unless that system changes, removing psychiatry will simply open the door for some other charlatans to move into that role.

            Hope that’s a little more articulate.

            — Steve

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        • People think they are getting their needs met, but they aren’t. People who walk into a psychiatrist’s office don’t go because they lead happy lives with fulfilling relatinships, Oldhead. The unhappiness is real for them. But lying that they have a physical brain disease and can fix it with disabling drugs makes the problem 10 x worse.

          Would they have been better off not going?I would agree with that. I should have just dropped out of college; they kicked me out anyhow.

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      • “It’s worth pointing out that mental/emotional struggles … a part of human life, … something needs to be in place to assist people who are having difficulty … there is a need to be met, and something needs to be in place to meet that need or our efforts will ultimately be fruitless.”

        Why are people incapable or unwilling to just invest their time in individuals, paying attention and caring, and doing whatever work needs to be done? Instead, we endure subjugation to “programs” and systems of worldly design that do little to nothing to acknowledge the sensitive, deeply personal matters a person brings to another for support and assistance. Ah, people resist the bond-making and the dependency, and the selflessness that comes with serving. It is easier, and requires less human material, to route the troubled soul to a machine that will strip him or her of their sentience and substance, making life easier for these care and treatment providers to fulfill *their* existential priorities.

        What can I do to help? I see that you’re growing, in a world that is especially difficult these days. I see that many of your needs are unmet. I hear you crying. I see you are hurt. I care, and I will be glad to support and assist you in any way that I can. We all have limits. I have limits. There are some things I might not be able to help with, though I do have the desire. Life is a journey. Some things will take time. Some immediate unmet needs will teach you, if you can find the space inside to allow. Life can be painful, you have my compassionate sisterhood / brotherhood. Life is painful for me, too.

        See? We don’t genuinely relate (to strangers, least of all strangers in offensive distress). We do not genuinely want to SERVE. We want to temporarily patch or secure and then send people off to someone else.

        Nobody wants their primary relationships to be with therapists, counselors, social workers, doctors. We want our caring, supportive relationships with family and friends. We want roots, belonging, community, harmony. We cannot have that in mechanical systems of surrogates who are “just doing their jobs” of subjugating, indoctrinating, brainwashing – all the while gravely ignoring the treasure box that is each person’s soul (treasure boxes which may have been under attack by pirates we thought were friends or lovers, ouch! We were betrayed, we got hurt).

        “Secrets stolen, from deep inside” ~ Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper

        So, you see, I’m just too personal and I need to get rid of me to become somebody else’s vision and version of me, so they will be gratified. Kill the self in me, turn me into something and someone I’m not, and who is happy?

        I believe I have fully become all the things people told me I was. They cast me into my role. They hammered and pounded me into the shape they want me in. I fought, I protested, I burned, I screamed, I resisted. I no longer exist, what has become of me? What have they done to me?!

        There was nobody to help me and the bad guys got away with it all.

        Show me the new system, Steve. Does it look like a court room and a criminal trial?! Lol.

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        • It may not be a “system” per se. As I said in another comment, it may simply mean rebuilding communities along collaborative lines. It may mean creating sub-communities and support networks of folks who are interested in and capable of supporting each other, much as has happened in the domestic abuse survivor movement. My point is only that being against psychiatry will not be effective if people ask, “Well, what do we do to help people with these difficulties if we don’t lock them up and drug them?” We do need an answer to that question, or panic will ensue.

          Perhaps I might reframe this to say that psychiatry meets a SOCIETAL need in our modern neoliberal corporate capitalist society. Some big changes need to happen in the system or there will continue to be people rebelling against or collapsing under the pressure of this system. That has to be part of our approach. Just screaming “lock up the psychiatrists” doesn’t get us there.

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          • You keep writing a lot of sense, but your voice is drowned out here on MIA by people who seem to be more interested in sowing hate and promoting revolution – and, as history shows, revolutions are usually violent and tend to hand power to the people with the least scruples about using violent means, and not the people most devoted to the ideology of the cause.
            Some people write about a tipping point when there are less than 2000 people even reading this article.
            Few of the commenters have even answered the questions posed by the author of the article.
            And several seem to be determined to make sure that everyone “knows that psychiatric survivors have a monopoly on suffering.”
            Frankly, I think it’s become a waste of time to read or comment on articles here. It’s become a place to vent, blame, and vilify. I wish the few people here who want to do something productive would start up their own website – and not just a website, but a real program for action.

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          • Thanks, Julia and Frank. I agree, moving beyond writing information and comments is needed, some form of political action. I really think we need to get the “left” activated around this as a human rights issue. I also agree with Julia that simply saying how bad it is doesn’t accomplish much. It has been seen over and over again that revolutions that don’t address the underlying social issues end up replacing one oppressor with a new one. “Meet the new boss – same as the old boss…”

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          • Julia wrote “become a waste of time to read or comment on articles here” It is as if flies , butterflies, and grasshoppers are caught in a spiders web and are complaining about the web. To break free of the web is most wanted. Some want to transform into a spider like the one that caught them. Some assist the spiders in catching and keeping the various life forms in subservience to the spider.

            You know what all the other living creatures are doing on the planet are doing? They are having offspring. Ducks are making baby ducks, geese making baby geese, beaver making baby beaver etc. Who is having offspring?
            Psychiatry is a slow motion “euthanasia” instead of a fast and quick death.

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          • Well bitching is all fine and dandy, but between that and making babies maybe we need to find something else we can do. I don’t really imagine many of us will be devolving into arachnids any time soon. If we want to do something about psychiatry, I and I and I don’t make it happen until they are a we.

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          • I never screamed “lock up the psychiatrists,” that’s the straw man evoked by Robert N when he quoted “Tireless Fighter” as a spokesperson for anti-psychiatry.

            I might reframe this to say that psychiatry meets a SOCIETAL need in our modern neoliberal corporate capitalist society

            Closer. Why not just say it meets a CORPORATE need to mystify the sources of people’s suffering?

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          • “Meet the new boss – same as the old boss…”

            I like you Steve but that’s so…lame. Or if you prefer, superficial. Would you also apply that Peter Townshend line retroactively to the American Revolution (the 1st one)?

            I can’t fathom why you would fall prey to such negativity as expressed by “Julie,” who chooses to disregard historical facts she finds uncomfortable, as I know you are beyond flattery. You just repeated some of the most predictable and stereotypical mischaracterizations of anti-psychiatry out there.

            Also wondering why Frank would attend a conference sponsored by MIA in its current state.

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          • I’m an anti-authoritarian myself, OldHead, so we’re not talking bosses.

            What conference?

            I’m saying we need something beyond and outside of MIA otherwise you’ve either got that or NOTHING.

            I was agreeing with Julia26 who was acknowledging the limits of talking rather than doing, and with Steve on the same subject. This agreeing doesn’t have anything to do with any other comment made by her or anybody else.

            It’s not enough to talk antipsychiatry, people must do antipsychiatry, too. Otherwise, what have you got? Obviously, all talk and no action.

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          • I was agreeing with Julia26 who was acknowledging the limits of talking rather than doing, and with Steve on the same subject.It’s not enough to talk antipsychiatry, people must do antipsychiatry.

            But they weren’t talking about “doing anti-psychiatry,” they were opposing doing anti-psychiatry, especially Julie, who won’t even accept the historical reality that psychiatrists engineered the Holocaust.

            Anyway I thought you were suggesting MIA hosting a conference, maybe I was misreading you.

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          • I was agreeing with Julia26 when she said…

            “I wish the few people here who want to do something productive would start up their own website – and not just a website, but a real program for action.”

            Is there ANYTHING about that sentence that you find difficult to understand!?

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          • What sort of action?
            Something that can reach 10s of 1000s of people. I’ve written before about Bonnie Burstow’s new book against ECT – that’s an example of something that can reach many in an easy-to-swallow format, for people who won’t read scholarly articles (or even non-fiction blogs) but will read a story.

            The thing is, there have always been options people used for an easy way out instead of dealing with their issues in a productive way. In the past it was alcohol, or opium, or kava-kava etc. All those things had their nasty side effects, though nothing like modern psych drugs. Even when communities were more supportive, families were intact and even extended, there were still people who felt things were too much to cope with either once in a while, or all the time. And going the route of “Drop the Zoloft – drink a few glasses of wine instead” is probably not going to work.

            Wow, I really thought that someone, finally, might suggest something productive – that’s pretty disheartening that nobody so far has had anything to offer.

            We could print leaflets to hand out to college freshmen that outline the kind of issues they might face, and what non-drug solutions they might consider, and the real issues with using drugs instead. That’s one suggestion.
            We could fundraise to put out ads on TV or whatever people do these days.
            We could organize groups of people damaged by drugs and start up class-action lawsuits, and find lawyers who will represent us pro bono.

            I’m not so much in the loop as I live in the Middle East so there are people who know much better than me. But all I hear is silence… so, keep on waiting for that tipping point, and meanwhile how many more people are going to die?
            I at least never got myself on drugs despite my own “mental health” issues, and got my spouse off drugs, and talk to anyone I know who will listen. That’s about all I can do. But I don’t count commenting on MIA as positive action. Sorry…

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      • Psychiatry is the CAUSE of the very “needs” that it addresses. Psychiatry, as a pseudo-science, supplies itself with the “needs” that it wishes to meet in order to sustain the illusion that it is a field of medicine. I suppose that one could also argue that slavery fills a need, or that Nazi experimentation filled a need. People have needs, it is true, but psychiatry creates “needs” that people would never have in the first place were it not for psychiatry. There is no reasonable sense in which psychiatry fills a need, unless we consider that there is a need for involuntary incarceration, drugging, and torture in order to maintain the power of the therapeutic state, or unless we consider that pharmaceutical companies need psychiatry in order to create and to maintain a market for neurotoxins.

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        • Slaying_the_Dragon_of_Psychiatry,

          You are speaking properly.

          Psychiatry, as enantiology, does something and its opposite. It creates real illnesses while treating fictitious ones. It attempts to cure victims of alienation and oppression by subjecting them to a system of downright oppression. It combats stigma while creating it from scratch. It lacks insight into its own anti-dialectical schizophrenia condition. Mental illness exists: it is the one inside the heads of psychiatrists (double entendre). And so on and so forth.

          Psychiatry, as a reflection of our social organization, fills the need of the wider society, not their enslaved patients. (Anti)psychiatric survivors are psychiatry’s, and society’s, scapegoats. The mad of us have the prophetic burden of helping the common of mortals to come out of Plato’s cave and realize their insane normality.

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        • Perhaps psychiatrists should join the medical profession and first do no harm. I had a 50 year career as a physician who wanted to help people understand themselves, and drugging people to do it never occurred to me. But I thought it was wonderful that chlorpromazine could save an acutely psychotic person from a possible lifetime of mental illness.
          By great good fortune I accidentally got a patient,in my psychoanalytic training, who became psychotic, and my mentor suggested I listen . This I did until I began to be able to understand. This eventually led to the most satisfying part of my career: understanding psychotic patients and helping them to work through the traumata , sometimes from birth, that had driven them crazy.

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    • Absolutely I believe that the focus should be on eliminating forced treatment, and that this is a realistic goal.

      I personally would like to see articles and initiatives that focused on the perspective of eliminating forced treatment (legal actions, establishing humane sanctuaries, exploring issues of ‘forced safety’ for those in extreme distress etc.).

      Without meaning to sound disrespectful to you Robert, (and acknowledging that I think you do so much that is positive, practical work such as your work with the education series and other work you have talked about in other articles); this particular piece seems to me to be unnecessary and unhelpful, and I can see why some see it as disrespectful to survivors.

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      • HI again Robert,

        To be more clear, like others commenting here, I didn’t like that you used quotes from survivors (and not also from professionals and others who support ‘abolishing psychiatry’) to make your arguments. (Hopefully, you contacted the survivors ahead of time and asked if you could quote them.)

        My experience of many different discussion forums has been that survivors, as a group, are usually the ones held responsible for all negative comments and ‘anti-mental health’ views. This is despite the fact that there are many others, (professionals, support people, family members etc.), who take an ‘anti-psychiatry’ position, and despite the fact that are many survivors who support reform ideas. This often feels like a more subliminal form of scapegoating to me. If anyone deserves understanding, rather than criticism , for an anti-psychiatry position, then it is the people who have been badly hurt from the system. I believe that people who want to reform the system need to listen carefully to survivors and find the common ground where they can work together……For many this is the area of forced treatment.

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          • Hi oldhead,

            I believe focusing on the lack of evidence -based research for treatment that is forced, IS the way to de-legitimize coercive psychiatry in the eyes of the general population. One does not even have to ‘prove’ that drugs are harmful, simply that the evidence is inconclusive, and therefore, even for that reason alone, people must have informed choice of treatment.

            Talking about the need for establishing respite houses, discussing issues surrounding ‘forced safety’, discussing issues surrounding the use of trusted advocates for those at the severe end of extreme states who are truly incapacitated, highlighting abuses that occur in coercive care; all of these discussions send the message that the seriousness, importance and difficulties of supporting people in extreme states, is well understood. These discussions prevent the establishment from ‘writing off’ arguments against forced treatment as solutions for the ‘worried well’.

            Although I an aware of the links between abuse and
            extreme states and the importance that the person in the extreme state has control in terms of their support network (such as in the Open Dialogue model) , I also know that there are families who would go to any measures to try and support their loved ones. It is my personal opinion that there is likely many, many families who truly believe that coercive psychiatry is the best way to help their loved one. (The ‘cognitive dissonance’ that may be helping them buy in so completely to mainstream psychiatry is the lack of other options to support their loved one in a safe manner.) If the lack of evidence -based research could get wider ‘legitimacy’, and if people had more viable options for helping their loved one keep safe, I think that families and loved ones could become a huge force both for supporting the changing of rules around forced treatment, and for developing solutions for respite, safe houses and other supportive environments.

            I believe the tide is already turning for ‘antidepressants’, in terms of the average person no longer necessarily believing that antidepressants are the answer for anxiety and depression. However, I believe the average person still believes that for many people in extreme states, the only way out of their extreme state, and their only hope for a productive life is through psychiatric drugs. I think focusing on changing this narrative (in the wider population) could have a huge impact on abolishing forced treatment.

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          • Nothing to disagree with there, as I don’t think it’s an either/or thing. Psychiatry should be confronted on as many fronts as possible. However I think the forefront of the educactional struggle needs to be based on exposing the fraudulent underpinnings of the entire house of cards. In the end it will be the combined effects of many varied challenges that will take us to the “tipping point” in public consciousness we talk about. Once we have the consciousness we can move on to how to best dismantle the whole shebang as soon as possible and with as little collective pain as possible.

            I would say, though, beware that little phrase “evidence based medicine.” Think about it — shouldn’t this go without saying? Does that mean that except for this “specialty” form of medicine the rest is based on speculation and superstition? There are endless bogus “studies” which are used as the “evidence” for all sorts of atrocities committed under the rationale of being “evidence-based.” Plus, “evidence” is not proof, and the interpretation of evidence is what matters.

            This reminds me of a friend who often recounts his reaction in the 70’s to the advent of “health food” stores: “If this is a ‘health food’ store, what the fuck are they selling in the regular food stores?”

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          • LOL!!!! I get your point about evidence -based treatment. I have to tell you though, I use that phrase quite purposefully because it is the phrase I see all the time quoted by mainstream psychiatry when they are refuting ‘alternative’ approaches They are always arguing that ‘alternative’ treatments are not ‘evidenced based’ , and then argue that their treatments ARE ‘evidenced-based’, so I always like to make the point that this is not so.

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  10. Nonconsensual psychiatry cannot be reformed. Psychiatric slavery cannot be reformed, just like chattel slavery could not be reformed. Civil commitment and the insanity defense form the foundation of psychiatric slavery. Consensual psychiatry should remain legal.

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  11. I just want to comment on the tone of this article. It comes across as condescending. I get the impression that the people who you mentioned have experienced real suffering and have gathered wisdom through those experiences. To dismiss what they’ve said as a “black and white view” sounds shallow.

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  12. Robert, thank you for this provocative article. If the entire mental health system is to be abolished, to the steps you listed, one would have to similar steps for the other mental health professions beyond psychiatry. This would mean closing all training programs, de-registering all practitioners, abolishing all organisations, etc. in fields such as psychology, social work, counselling, marriage and family therapy, and even (paid) peer support work. If it seems likely such steps would not happen with psychiatry, it is even more likely they would not happen with all mental health professions combined. I understand how those who wish to abolish the entire mental health system might react negatively to the tone of Robert’s article. At the same time, I think his analysis can provide some insight into how those with a different agenda might react to calls for the abolition of the entire mental health system and all who practice within it (such as the quote Robert listed by Tireless Fighter), even those whose work does not follow psychiatry’s biomedical paradigm.

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    • “I understand how those who wish to abolish the entire mental health system might react negatively to the tone of Robert’s article.”

      This is missing the point. I commented on his tone, not because I have an opinion about the future of psychiatry, but rather because his article was overly simplistic and disempowering towards survivors. He sounded like he was trying to shut certain people up rather than create dialogue with them. My internal power radar started beeping.

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    • If we abolish their Bible, the DSM, the entire System and its pros will shift to a more helpful and honest profession. The UN has asked also that no person be declared mentally incompetent, that each human is an authority on his/her experience. What determines incompetence? A diagnosis! Get rid of those harmful and hurtful diagnoses and any pseudo-diagnosis such as “Black and White Thinking” and we are looking at more compassion, less categorizing.

      I found out the name for what happens when a person fits him/herself into a diagnostic category post-diagnosis. This is known as the “looping effect.” I know it is very common. I have witnessed this multiple times on “units.” People receive their awaited dxes, handed to them like awards, then, these unfortunate patients rise to their “bipolar” (or whatever) role in life, often for decades. This is hugely harmful, never mind the dx-based claims of dangerousness, claims of lacking insight, and justification for incarceration and more forced tx.

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    • I think quoting survivors is fine, they made their statements publicly — but doing so without an understanding of which survivors’ statements represent a consensus and which are purely personal can obfuscate the issue. Quoting “Tireless Fighter” as an example of the mindset of the AP movement is either ignorant or manipulative.

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  13. I agree with Robert Nikkel that, realistically, the abolishment of psychiatry is a self-indulgent fantasy, but would add that those on here that mostly go in for that self-indulgence, leap-frog over the vast chasm that separates the real world from the fantasy world. They have no idea at all really about how to get to their desired ideal. They have no viable alternative plan, other than, seemingly, leave people to do what they will, if they perish or cause others to perish, let that be the point people intervene, to clean up the mess.

    But libertarians are pretty much fantasists. Not that dreaming the dream is a terrible thing to do. But eventually Dorothy has to wake up.

    The system will not change from within, significantly. It will be changed from without, by reformed legal frameworks. As time passes, the human rights status of the mad and the deranged, the dangerous and non-dangerous, will improve, and all those routine human rights abuses will lessen, and perhaps even fade out entirely. All self-proclaimed reformers operating within the system really achieve is rearranging the chairs, as well as making career for themselves, and keeping their paternal keepers happy and safe. While the number of chairs are constantly cut-back.

    Psychiatry will survive these reforms. It has won over the majority of people. There are generations of people wedded tight to their neurochemical tinkerings, and as technology is gradually marrying man and machine, psychiatry will increasingly play the role of legitimiser of this process, offering new and exciting fusions of computer-controlled technology and the human body. There are currently no human rights laws that adequately cover the marrying of man and machine. And that is how psychiatry will save its neck, and prosper.

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    • I remember the self-indulgent fantasy of abolitionists during the Civil War. They didn’t understand the real world. Frederick Douglass, Lincoln, and the rest were living in a fantasy world. It’s a good thing that Dorothy finally woke up and that the fine institution of slavery was preserved. I also remember the self-indulgent fantasy of Winston Churchill and the allied forces. They didn’t understand the real world either. Fortunately Dorothy woke up, and the Nazis prevailed. Like the Wizard of Oz, Robert Nikkel makes excellent points. We should follow that yellow brick road toward the Emerald City where psychiatry reigns supreme. C’mon toto! If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why o why can’t I?

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      • If If I were to make a rallying cry, for people to gather, to march against the offices of psychiatry in London, and protest for its abolition, I’d be lucky to gather a dozen people. I’d be marching through the streets past people who had compelling stories of how psychiatry had saved their lives. We’d be marching past people on antidespressants, anticonvulsants, uppers, downers. None of whom were under compulsion, and most of whom would feel mostly positive about their experiences.

        In other words, to the majority of people, we’d appear like a bunch of cranks.

        I had dreadful experiences too with psychiatry. I was tortured by them. Similarly, there are people that have had terrible experiences with police. Should they too be marching and calling for the end of policing?

        The law is the best we have. To end forced ‘treatment’. For human rights to be upheld and protected.

        “I also remember the self-indulgent fantasy of Winston Churchill and the allied forces. They didn’t understand the real world either. Fortunately Dorothy woke up, and the Nazis prevailed.”

        Both the allied forces and the Nazis had institionalised psychiatry as part of their state apparatus. Psychiatry is given a mandate by the state. It’s the nation state that ultimately decides who gets human rights and who doesn’t and what those rights amount to. In fact, every one of a state’s institutions is guided by the state in terms of how it operates.

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    • Why is it a fantasy? People have worked long and hard throughout history to abolish legal systems that have caused widespread harm before.

      Institutionalized theocracy while sadly still present in some parts of the world, has been abolished and guarded against in many others.

      While slavery still persists underground, it is no longer legally sanctioned and there are organizations doing as much as possible to rescue people.

      Forced marriage and child marriage only exist in pockets of the world.

      Workers rights to safety, compensation, and anti-discrimination have been vastly improved upon.

      So complete abolition of a dangerous and senseless system is very doable. As is complete reform by creating a model of voluntary only therapy, eliminating coercive inpatient torture and drugging, and supplanting them with support groups, and outreach programs. Where shrinks every action are held under microscopic scrutiny and severely punished for abuse, gaslighting, neglect, scamming, and malpractice.

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  14. “And I can assure you from my experience, no government I can imagine would ever even start on this process.”

    A revolutionary dictatorship can do that. During the revolution, all the services of the bourgeois state are stopped brutally, and the revolutionary state sets up only the services which are immediately useful to it. Naturally, setting up psychiatric hospitals is the least of the worries of a revolutionary state.

    “But the reality is that closing departments of psychiatry would itself cost far more than any hoped-for savings.”

    Closing departments of psychiatry is free. Repressing psychiatry costs a little money. Psychiatry is weak without the support of the police: they have no weapons. Block totally bank accounts of the psychiatry, and see those “coming out of the woodwork”. Put them under arrest.

    On the weaning:

    The revolution will provoke an economic crash such that the question of weaning will be very secondary. At best, two to six months of psychotropic drugs will be given, dependent on patients and doctors to do the weaning. In any case, the industrial production of psychotropic drugs will be stopped because the whole economy will be oriented towards the civil war.

    You can not conceptualize the abolition of psychiatry because your mind is not brutal enough. Abolishing psychiatry is like take the Bastille.

    I do not feel that Robert Nikkel caricatures my vision, but rather that he does not go to the end of his thought.

    I thank Robert Nikkel for frankly asking that kind of questions.

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  15. The key problem with psychiatric abuse is that drugs are the most common denominator. Whether or not it comes from mental hospitals, or domestic abuse at home it is my view that drugs and mental modification are to inherently dangerous not just because of how effective it can be, but how easily the methods can be tampered with. The human soul is fragile… and I’ll explain why I look at it that way.

    One is that every prescription drug has a street equivalent. Crystal Meth relates to Adderall. Clonazepam has similar effects to Peyote. Heroine isn’t too far from Fentanyl. Those examples have either the same active ingredients, or similar effects. Two, all psychotropics play with dopamine by either changing methods of acting, neutralizing it, or in extreme cases preventing it’s synthesis. When I was a child I remember talking to a brain surgeon and thinking the same things about repairing things around the house. If it wiggles and it’s not supposed to, you apply duct tape. If it needs lube, you apply WD40. If it does not need to be fixed, you do not screw with it. The brain is certainly far more serious than a squeaky hinge, or a leaky faucet. And yet we are just as careless with it.

    And yet the ability to unhinge the human mind is accessible by everyone in America, as well as the tools to do so. Psychiatric records are accessible via the Dark Web. Back before deinstitutionalization in 1963, mental hospitals knew how to deal with lack of self care and other issues caused by family members who acted kind and loving while poisoning someone in the closet. The closing of that hospital system eliminated a major filter against psychopathy in American society, and the reduction of prisons and jail diversions is removing a societal safeguard on the other side of it. We keep asking for less criminal penalties, while simultaneously crime rates increase. You do not get less crime by pretending crime doesn’t exist – be it by changing the definition or by not looking for it. But only in the mind of psychiatrists would reality be something that is tangibly alterable for the sake of emotional comfort.

    It was the Nuremberg Trials and dissimilation of the Nazi eugenics programs of the mid 1930’s in the late 1940’s that establishes that genetics do not cause mental disorders. They are caused by stress, and the altering of perceptions. Yet, our modern society continues to remove burdens of proof by lumping people together based on socioeconomic status, genetic relation, and psychiatric histories; this has only limited validity. We might as well go in with both feet and declare it a genetic cause at this point and just drug everybody.

    Insanity is certainly a legal defense, but it has become a hammock for criminals – easily induced before a crime and corrected later via access to medication and more easily corrected the sooner than later. It is also a sad way for victems and witnesses to crime to be discredited and declared delusional. The only people who can now access the legal system are those who either have no known history of drugs, or have control of them. What is society to do with this power vacuum filled in by criminals where law enforcement continues to close prisons and reduces the number of Police?

    It’s only a matter of time before more and more of America goes “open season”. As it is, in places like the Phillipines drug activity and unchecked criminal behavior lead to the election of a man willing to declare martial law. In that climate, 1/3 of all drug dealers and users are being eliminated by vigilanties, supported by millions of people who are so disgusted that no one even bats an eye at the death of a drug user. In the late 1860’s the Chinese rebelled against the British Empire for forcibly drugging their population for forcive labor. Nazi Germany was both at once – where there was an outcry against prostitutes, drug use, and it lead to the criminalization of the mentally ill and their elimination as Hitler lumped in descenders with the genuinely degenerate.

    Give it time… and enough people angry enough. America will sooner or later follow suit.

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  16. Before I got Lyme I used to think psychiatry was not really helpful. I now realize if it wasn’t for psychiatry I would not have made it through my Lyme. It was articles written by psychiatrist that helped me understand what I was going through and how to deal with it. It even prepared me for how others would react. My question is why do psychiatrist know more about how illness effects the body then medical doctors do?

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    • All psychiatrists have medical degrees, they ARE medical doctors. The psychiatric side of their medical experience is mostly ju-ju beans though. They may be helpful when it comes to the experience some people have dealing with the psychological effects of having a medical condition better than a general practitioner I imagine.

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      • Frank I agree, a friend was helped by a psych who explained the aftereffects of seizures.

        Psychiatrists should do this more often instead of making up their own diseases. I think there’s a need for psychs to help elderly sort out the negative effects of the drugs they are given, such as blood pressure and heart drugs. Also many of these drugs interact and we need people to identify these bad reactions. God bless the psych who tests for physical problems before jumping to conclusions, but very few do. I wish psychs did more real medicine, since they are indeed trained in this, instead of doing hocus-pocus diagnosis.

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    • Dear Torchburner,
      Are you suggesting that Lyme, a real disease is a “psychiatric disease?”
      Lyme is but one of some 60 real biological diseases whose symptoms and sequalea are at high risk of being “misdiagnoses” as a “mental illness” and “mistreated’ by psychiatry for profit. This is medical malpractice and insurance fraud.

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  17. It’s great that you brought up the example of Bonnie Burstow, Julie. She’s actually doing something that potentially could achieve something big for the anti-psych movement, namely, publishing a book that can reach thousands of people in an easily accessible way. Breggin and Whitaker have also put out books that people read, but a novel is likely to attract many more readers who would not pick up a non-fictional work.
    We can abolish psychiatry (probably only via a bloody revolution, and we don’t have enough supporters to push that through, but never mind that for now) but if there isn’t something better instead, society’s fear of “madness” will just find another way to make us “other,” as we see throughout history. Once we were called witches, or demons, or devils, or possessed, or evil, or immoral, or lazy… Few are the examples where we were treated with compassion and helped to heal. Especially in the developed world.
    “Realistically” speaking it’s hopeless, but we can still try for changes via educating people at the grassroots level and getting them to reject the psych paradigm. Yes, there is a problem of forced treatment. But, many people want treatment because they don’t see an alternative. Can we provide it? Can we tell them what they can do instead? And can we get the message out in an effective way? Commenters and bloggers here have a lot of passion but it just doesn’t seem like they are channeling it effectively.

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  18. Psychiatry is so woven into the fabric of capitalism that one cannot be abolished without abolishing the other. As I see it, this can only be done from the bottom up.

    When society goes into revolutionary crisis, every institution splits along class lines, with employers and managers on the one side and workers and service users on the other side. A great many will waffle in the middle, shifting back and forth as the struggle develops.

    As workers take collective control of their workplaces, they will change how the work is done, for their own benefit and for the benefit of those they serve. This will generate much discussion about what is needed, what is effective, and what should no longer be done. Everyone will be involved in this discussion, including service users.

    Out of this genuinely democratic process will develop systems of meeting people’s needs that are completely different from what we have today. And in the process of transforming society from the bottom up, human beings will also be transformed in ways we cannot imagine.

    Critics will say that this is an impossible pipe dream, but I think it is far more achievable than the impossible task of convincing the powers-that-be to abolish psychiatry.

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    • Who said anything about “convincing the powers that be”? — I agree, that’s a futile strategy, as you can’t talk people out of their power. We need to educate the people about the fraud and repression undergirding the psychiatric myth, and work towards a tipping point. Eradicating psychiatry and capitalism are part of the same struggle, but I believe it’s needless to argue over which comes first; we’ll find out when it happens. At any rate it’s a symbiotic process, and those working from a libertarian or other perspective are part of it. It doesn’t much matter who comprises that critical mass, or their ideology, as long as they’re human beings.

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      • Oldhead

        Susan made a good comment. Her point about “convincing the powers that be” is consistent with her statement that the future of Psychiatry is inseparably bound to the future of capitalism. If you believe Psychiatry can end BEFORE the end of capitalism, then in essence your strategy would involve “convincing” the ruling class to let go of Psychiatry. Psychiatry has become too important and too big to be allowed (by the “powers that be”) to fail.


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          • I wasn’t challenging the essence of her comment, just the “first this, then that” framing of what is necessarily a symbiotic process. Plus there’s lots of groundwork to be laid leading up to a revolutionary moment, not all of which takes place based on consciously revolutionary intent.

            As for the power of the ruling class, it is formidable but not invincible. Maybe you don’t exaggerate it, but you may under-emphasize the power of the people. I’m sure you’ve experienced at least once or twice, however temporarily, significant streets and even neighborhoods being rendered cop-free zones by concerted and organized direct action, and the empowered, liberating feeling that ensues. People need to understand and trust the potential of their own power.

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    • Fiaschra, Maybe they don’t want certain populations to increase in life expectancy. Psychiatry is handy for keeping these inconvenient populations in check. Which I suspect is its ultimate purpose. To suppress our voices, keep us out of the workforce, and ensure we die young.

      If seen this way maybe the “resistance” is SPEAK LOUDLY, LIVE LONG, and contribute to society in some meaningful way. Yes I know the suppression is very fundamental…..

      Susan R I like your ideas. Although having seen an oppressive workplace first hand recently, I can see that any worker solidarity is going to be difficult. People fear retaliation. The scare tactics in the workplace ensured worker silence.

      As on the wards, when they discouraged friendships and alliances among us, even to the point of separating roommates who got “too close,” or breaking up hallway conversations.

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  19. Psychiatry can not continue as it is now:

    Peter C Gøtzsche concludes 10 January 2018 (BMJ 2018;360:k9): «Psychiatry is a disaster area in healthcare that we need to focus on» (15):

    Firstly, the effects of psychiatric drugs are not specific.

    Secondly, the research in support of the paradigm is flawed

    Thirdly, the widespread use of psychiatric drugs has been harmful for the patients.

    Fourthly, all attempts at showing that psychiatric disorders cause brain damage that can be seen on brain scans have failed.

    There are four main problems with psychiatric drug trials:

    1)Almost all placebo-controlled trials are flawed due to their cold turkey design

    2)The trials are insufficiently blinded

    3)Psychiatrists assess the effect using rating scales, the relevance of which for the patients is often uncertain

    4)Selective reporting of outcomes is very common and can be very serious

    Psychiatry needs a revolution. Reforms are not enough. We need to focus on psychotherapy and to hardly use any psychiatric drugs at all.


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    • Walter I am not 100% sure, but remembering back over a decade ago, I was kept on Seroquel way too long, even when my weight had doubled (literally). I have no clue why my therapist was mum on this, but she continued to defer to the psychiatrist who was blind to my appearance even though I complained bitterly.

      It seemed like this psychiatrist pushed the Seroquel to the point of her being delusional or possibly pushing me to say certain things and then, writing these in her notes. She claimed, years later, that I said, “I feel good on Seroquel.” I may have said this but she quoted me out of context. She quoted me in similar manner multiple times and during those sessions wanted to know a number (1-10) for how “good” I felt.

      Years later when she read her notes to me (trying to prove something) I could see that she had pushed me to say how great that drug was. She only wrote down that stuff, and didn’t record my complaints about weight gain, nor the person she saw before her, or about writers block that also plagued me, and lack of motivation. So here was an example of biased recording of patient outcomes.

      When I questioned friends who knew me they said I was “out of it” on the stuff.

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    • Yes littleturtle, most of us are not psychic as regards getting out of a rut.

      Non profit is better than profit, but completely free help is better still from someone that really wants another person to get back together again.

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      • Fiashra after all those years looking to doctors for the answers, I more quickly found those answers within myself. And they were there all along, all those years but I stubbornly turned outside of myself because they insisted on their expertise. I believed them. I no longer do.

        I find the idea of seeing to it that psychiatry and the entire MH System loses its customer base is a great idea. Many of my neighbors refuse to see Western Med doctors and are extremely skeptical.

        There are two things. 1. Share our own experiences, and 2. offer compassion to those leaving or contemplating leaving the clutches of the System. And to me, the System means dependency on a therapist, too. I don’t see a person as free of psychiatry unless they can break the therapy addiction.

        I also think we need more venues (media) for story-sharing, getting these stories to the public.

        I personally joined Toastmasters and nearly every speech I give (about once a month at least) is anti-psych, or has antipsych overtones. I am competing in the International Speech Contest this year, and also trying out for TED Talks, likely 2019. If I get anywhere with this it’ll all be widely broadcast on YouTube etc. I’ve been working hard at public speaking and I find it comes naturally to me.

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    • There are causes to be had for such things. It’s called life is messy. Some can grow stronger and better from it. Some will struggle. Others will unfortunately be crushed by it. But what good is saying that to people who refuse to listen or who lack any compassion whatsoever?.

      It’s like complaining about a bullied child to a teacher, who shrugs it off and says kids will be kids. Or it’ll toughen em up! Instead of actually taking responsibility for their apathy and inability to keep order in the classroom. At least until it’s your kid who does the punching and gets suspended for being a problem child.

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  20. “Instead they would be talking about the ongoing Crimes Against Humanity trials of the former mental health practitioners.”

    I think it will be just that. What psychiatry is doing is criminial and will be treated as criminal. These medicine are poison and administering them is a crime – https://echa.europa.eu/substance-information/-/substanceinfo/100.000.142 (haldol)

    The result is not an abolishment of psychiatry but a psychiatry that is not allowed to be criminal, see the first attempts to have a psychiatry without the use of poisonous substances in Norway.

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  21. if those who want to abolish psychiatry and the mental health system have better plans to accomplish this, I think it would be extremely interesting to see their alternatives to what I’ve outlined

    I like the various steps outlined; the devil is in the implementation.

    For the record the anti-psychiatry movement to the degree that it exists is working to expose the fraudulence of psychiatry and the absurdity of trying to “reform” something that is based on false premises; this is contrary to the meaning of the word “reform.”

    PS The term “nihilism” as applied to anti-psychiatry is an immediate indication of a biased “exploration.”

    P.P.S. I don’t think anyone here considers “Tireless Fighter’s” comments to necessarily represent the anti-psychiatry movement, especially his mantra about the “middle class family,” etc.

    Now to the comments…this should be interesting.

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    • It’s not Tireless that rants about the supposedly abusive middle class family, it’s another person. Tireless talks about the “recovery” movement.

      I know people think that about me, too, that I “rant,” but honestly if the general public started listening there would be no need for it. Where are the journalists? Where are the attorneys to take up our cases (thank you JG and a few others)? Many of us have lost friends and family too.

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      • So, you agree that the general public is not listening. Doesn’t anyone have any good ideas for what to do about that?
        Without that, the journalism and legal aid doesn’t help. I once wrote and saw published a series of anti-drug articles. Reader response was negative. People are brainwashed. They are scared.
        My in-laws would rather my husband divorced me than he got off medication at my persuasion (they don’t know that he is currently off). They are scared at what he might look like when not drugged, because of what happened in the past in withdrawal (gradual). It is scary. How many people know how to deal with it? How many people can take “time out” of life to deal with all the suppressed stuff? Most people are just keeping their heads above water as it is. If you have kids, then you can’t just disappear to detox for a half year or however long. So people are trapped in this. Let’s see someone with a viable solution – waiting, waiting, waiting…

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        • I think the work rules and “time off” rules need to allow for time off and no incentive should be there to move people from the welfare system (state, temporary) to the permanent SSDI system (or SSI). Once moved to this federal aid, fewer than 0.5% make it off disability.

          I call for more allowances for time off and fewer incentives to put people on permanent disability. I don’t think any psych condition is grounds for putting a person permanently out of the workforce. I do see conditions created by psych such as TD, brain damage, some organ damage as grounds for a disability claim.

          As substitute for psychiatry, which is practiced in a secluded office, I suggest more compassionate and caring communities.

          I notice slight differences between locales in terms of community caring. Watertown MA was cold and hostile, cars beeping at pedestrians just for being slow, a lot of road rage, and hostile and unfriendly neighbors.

          I found South America friendlier, but you did run into a lot of inappropriate behavior due to too much alcohol use.

          Where I live now, in one of the communities, within one month I was offered a ride by a passing motorist (just uphill a block or two) when they saw me struggling with my bags. Not only once, but four times in one month! This is totally unheard of where I lived in MA. I was so touched when the drivers stopped and asked.

          Also, at my workplace, workers were noticing that New Yorkers were more hostile and, as the word goes, irate. I am wondering if it’s a matter of population density, that too many squished together is going to produce hostility anyway, because it’s unnatural to live like that. People need privacy and space.

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          • Obviously squishing people into a psych ward is going to produce violent behavior because confinement itself causes it.

            Also, when it comes to schiz, the drugs given for that supposed “illness” tend to make you pace and could lead to violence from akathesia. That is why I spent my first and only night in restraints. I couldn’t stop pacing.

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      • Julie, I’m almost sure they’re the same person. He uses the exact same rhetoric, and his solution is prosecuting individual practitioners and putting them out of business as opposed to a systemic or revolutionary approach (again, despite the rhetoric). At any rate, it’s hardly representative.

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        • yes, either way you are right.

          I think we need to go back to basic principles. I can think of things people here probably agree on, such as forced drugging and ECT. However we are divided on “therapy” and even divided on what parts of the System should be abolished. All, or some?

          I know many therapists try to silence me about therapy abuse and claim that my telling my story is counterproductive. I have had to drop my membership in groups where there were too many self-righteous therapists claiming their practice was practically flawless and only an “exception” would be abusive. Not true.

          I refuse to take on the mentality that all non-drug approaches are humane. In therapy, all you have to do is to tell a patient she is psychotic or delusional when she’s telling the truth, and you have the recipe for very bad abuse.

          Many therapists do rely on the DSM and many believe in their diagnoses, too. Ever try seeing a therapist who saw you as schizophrenic or other psychotic diagnosis? You are never ever believed. You can try all you want but they won’t believe a word you say. Everything you say is denied.

          You can tell them anything. Like that you were sexually assaulted. They ignore you. I told my psychiatrist that a therapist asked me out on a date so I fired him. She claimed I was delusional.

          I have had nurses roll their eyes at me when I was in kidney failure, and discuss me like I’m a thing. I hope they are reading this right now. #mountauburnhospital

          This can happen with, or without the use of drugs. I believe the term is gaslighting.

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          • Hi Julie,
            Isn’t there still a common goal of ‘abolishing forced treatment’, even if people differ in their experience of therapy? I am not trying to minimize the harm that can happen when there is a power difference between service provider and client, but we could at least try to ensure that people were not forced to have treatment (including therapy) that they did not want.

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      • Tireless has said some negative things about the “middle class” family too. I pointed out how dysfunctional families exist at all social levels and he made the “no true Scotsman” case that all (abusive) families are middle class at heart.
        He also has complained about inheritance laws leaving the bulk of the estate to the eldest son. I have read about that myself–in novels from the Victorian era.

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  22. Here are my solutions to psychiatry. I strongly agree with Robert that psychiatry fills a void and even legitimate needs in people’s lives. I didn’t stumble into Dr. M’s office in the spring of 1992 because I was overwhelmingly happy, surrounded by friends and achieving my dreams. However meth can also be used to fill a void or meet needs in the lives of unhappy people. There are alternatives to meth, and psychiatry as well.

    Abolishing psychiatry would require either a collapse of our economic system in which case the government will be to busy fighting all of its citizenry to worry about programs like TAC and other crap. The other scenario would be some dictator coming in and killing massive quantities of people including shrinks. But many dictators like shrinks if they toe the party line. Neither scenario is desirable since I don’t want people to die.

    Here are three suggestions to restrict the powers of psychiatry and offer alternatives to its intended victims.

    1. Educate the public. Force Big Pharma to remove the lie about the chemical imbalance from their commercials. Widely publicize articles/admissions by Dr.Pies and other psychiatric bigwigs. Tell people that folks go nuts not because they’re monsters or evolutionary throwbacks but because they get stressed out. Tell everyone that NAMI is not just a front for Big Pharma but abusive parents and partners. Many who know the former don’t know the latter.
    2. Provide alternatives to psychiatry. Temporary respites where people can “come back” from journeys into non-mainstream reality or whatever you call it. Coaching for eccentrics who want to tone down odd behaviors and pass. More groups like Hearing Voices. In Indiana there is nothing but mainstream psychiatry and NAMI. If TF and others find the notion of these things offensive they can stay away. Only people who wanted them would even be allowed in. “Counseling” someone against their wishes is pointless AND traumatizing. Everyone would benefit from more community activities as well. Our society is too isolating.

    3. This should be a no-brainer. Flop houses for psychiatric drug addicts to dry out. This would also help make the point that the”meds” forced on us are really mind altering drugs.

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    • That’s the thing – people are “stumbling into” psych offices because they don’t have some other place to stumble into. In the past, it might have been a pastor, a spouse… today, marriage is usually a disaster, religion has been dumped, friends believe in drugs, so what’s left?
      So, we’ll abolish psychiatry. And then people will just stumble around? And? End up in jail?

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      • Stumble into a great relationship or maybe have a pet stumble into your life. Stumble into church or a really cool meetup group, or, a gym. Friends of mine have found a lot of solace in the older self-help books such as How to Win Friends and Influence People. I personally liked When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

        I really have to give my dog Puzzle a lot of credit for being the awesome doggie she is.

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      • My church believes in the drugs sadly, though a few individual friends don’t. I have my own theory as to why evangelicals have embraced psychiatry–and it isn’t about showing the love of Jesus! 🙁

        I go to a pretty nice little church. As long as they don’t know the “truth” about me they treat me okay. Pretending to have a fiance far away helps too.

        Because wearing a mask is draining I seek out emotional support at a writer’s group and meet ups. Personal enrichment classes seem like a good idea and maybe EA.

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  23. This article must get the record for getting the most posts, and long posts, the fastest.

    Yes, abolish the mental health system, and incarcerate the practitioners. If someone is giving mood alteration drugs to a minor, then prosecute them for Crimes Against Humanity in the International Court.

    Stop our government from giving out psychotherapy licenses.

    The entire edifice is much like Social Darwinism. It take those who are marginalized and hence vulnerable, and then further marginalizes them by taking advantage of them.

    If parents are taking a child to a psychotherapist, and that child is not already being represented in court by an attorney, then the therapist is being hired to help to exploit the child. That should be prosecuted as felony violation of mandatory reporting.

    The entire edifice is simply converting the experience of injustice into a medical problem and self improvement project.

    But I will admit, that most people in the Mental Health – Recovery System are in such voluntarily. They are just being duped.

    So we have to work with such duped and raise their political consciousness so that they are willing to strike back. Can’t solve the problem from the top down.


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  24. When people begin to stop paying for psychiatrist/mental health visits and “medications” because the truth becomes known, the revolution will gain momentum. No one ever gives weight to the consumer law of supply and demand in this.

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  25. We live in a society where force is a way to wield power. Children are forced to go to school and if parents keep them home, it is considered truancy. In some societies woman are forced to obey their husbands, I daresay right here in the USA. Workplaces can be forceful. A boss or manager may threaten employees with “dismissal” should they act out of line. Employees are threatened with background checks and drug screenings. The atmosphere is oppressive in some of these workplaces, with much division between workers and those up top.

    We have normalized force, we shrug off the use of it, and that is not right.

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  26. Great blog, Bob! The strength of people’s feelings about this confirm that you are speaking about a key issue. For me, when I am dealing with the effects of abuse (similar to what I am understanding many here to be saying they have experienced in the mental “health” system), one strong initial response of mine is to fight back, and to not particularly care too much if the one who has hurt me feels some of the same pain. At that point, I don’t really care; and in fact, there is a part of me which wishes I could make it so. It just hurts, and just talking doesn’t make it disappear. Yet, good friends who have made it down the path of recovery a bit further fortunately don’t leave me when I want to do to others what has been done to me, and I gradually can begin to focus on what principles I truly want to live by; one being that I want to hold people responsible for their actions, and I truly don’t want to become a vengeful abuser myself. But finding the path to that balance, where I am staunchly unrelenting in my boundary setting, yet open to finding common values even with my “enemies,” is very challenging for me. I try to distinguish the abuse from the abusive person caught themselves in such tragedies. I hope to make even further gains in that as I continue in my life.

    Thank you for stimulating such important discussion.

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  27. The comments here are really great. Steve McC I saw your comment in my email but I can’t find it now.

    Yes people do feel terrible sometimes, to the point of considering suicide. If you feel that conflicted, is that a “need”? Well it’s a need for something but not for psychiatry, lockup, and labeling.

    Yes, people suffer and yes they need something. They need to be heard, first and foremost. Most mental health modalities focus on symptoms and bullshit illnesses, not on real life problem-solving and issues such as poverty. Therapy doesn’t address it because therapy milks the poorest of the population (now, as this wasn’t always the case), so it’s an embarrassment.

    I have personally known people and read many stories about people who were in some kind of “treatment” for ages with therapists and during all those years the real thing bugging them was never spoken about.

    Then, something happens or some new person nudges their consciousness a bit. Then it all spills out. A sexual assault, abuse, bullying, these kinds of things that don’t get discussed in therapy if they don’t fit the therapist’s idea of what might bring patients to their offices. And some therapy patients never ever talk about what is really on their minds.

    Here is an example and this is public knowledge, a story I found online. A young person was suffering for a long time, and her therapists kept trying to hound her about her “abusive parents.” She knew her parents hadn’t been abusive and staunchly defended her upbringing.

    Finally, she was able to unearth it and tell someone. No it wasn’t her parents, but she had indeed been abused. By her grandmother.

    Yet this story doesn’t fit the stereotype. Nor does my own. I was abused while in high school but not by a family member nor relative. I was abused by my “best friend.” Trust me no therapist wanted to touch this one. They mostly insisted on defaulting to “abusive parents.” It was so harmful to me and harmful to my siblings (ripple effect).

    I did need to talk to someone. I found people sometimes, not therapists, usually some person older than myself I could look up to as role model, or mentor. Back then folks didn’t go to therapists very much.

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    • This is a great example. It’s quite possible that the professionalization of therapy has prevented other more natural means of resolving conflicts and traumatic events. Perhaps at the core it’s about the loss of community and the psychiatric profession is an attempt to redirect the sense of loss and disconnection that the loss of community entails. Perhaps the answer is creating more intimate communities where people actually care about each other. But there’s definitely something needed that our society is not providing.

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  28. Wow, every time I visit this website I get discouraged by the narrowness of the discussion about abolishing psychiatry. The black or white, all or nothing approach. Kill psychiatry, punish psychiatrists… Are people here so fortunate that they’ve never had to experience abusive treatment by physicians in other fields of medicine? Do people who post here believe that psychiatric medications are the only ones that are toxic and kill people? that only psychiatric diagnoses and treatments can be considered bogus and nonscientific? that psychiatrists and the mental health industry are the only ones hyper-motivated by profit in the overall health “care” industry?

    As someone who has suffered permanent physical (and emotional and cognitive) harm as a result of being poisoned by my metal hip prosthesis, I find it very difficult to have such a narrow view. Abuse and corruption have infiltrated all fields of medicine, not just psychiatry.

    Just for the record, I’ve experienced the whole range of abusive, damaging psychiatric “treatment”, so I could be right at home with all the rage-filled vengeful anti-psychiatry people.

    Personally, though, I have to say that I’ve had extremely competent, caring and compassionate doctors in all fields of medicine, including psychiatry and psychology. I’ve also had extremely abusive, incompetent, practically criminal doctors in all fields of medicine, including psychiatry and psychology.

    Well, for that matter, I’ve met competent, caring, compassionate human beings, as well as incompetent, abusive, hate-filled human beings, in all walks of life.

    So where does that lead me to in this whole discussion?? If I were to take the argument to its extreme, maybe I would conclude that all of Homo sapiens should be obliterated to remove the “bad” ones. Well, I admit, sometimes I do think a good sized asteroid on a collision course with earth is way past due. However, that doesn’t provide a solution to anything going on in real time.

    I am not convinced that “abolishing” anything is the answer. Human beings create institutions that are reflections of themselves, and human beings are inherently flawed. I guarantee that abolishing anything will leave a vacuum that will end up being filled with the same exact thing with a different label on it. Until the discussion changes from “let’s destroy this” to “let’s figure out why we keep creating these abusive systems”, nothing will improve.

    Over the long term Homo sapiens needs to make an evolutionary leap so that we don’t keep creating abusive institutions. However, I think (or hope) that we do now have the ability to make a conscious choice in how we act and what we create. Although it may feel good to blow something up, obliterate it, I think we are much more likely to have lasting positive effects by making small incremental changes over a longer term. Often, those small incremental changes set the stage for a quantum leap in evolution, but you can’t force that quantum leap if you haven’t built the base. So whoever it was above who suggested a 10,000 year time frame for change was probably quite accurate. Sorry, it won’t happen in our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean that our suffering and activism are without value in contributing to overall progress.

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    • Sure, abolishing anything will “leave a vacuum that will end up being filled with the same exact thing with a different label on it,” but does that mean that abolition is not worthwhile? Not in my view.

      When people ponder whether the Civil War, in which slavery was abolished, was “worth it”–well, the only people who ponder that question are WHITE people. Black people don’t ask whether abolition was worth it, despite the fact that black scholars and black people know better than anyone that racism itself was not abolished. After the abolition of slavery there have been Jim Crow, lynching, redlining, assassination of Black leaders, mass incarceration, and many other forms of racism. But No One would say that taking an abolitionist stance about slavery is narrow or simplistic. No one would say, “i had bad experiences in wage labor, and bad experiences in slavery, so where does that leave me?” It’s absurd to suggest such a thing.

      Sure, change can happen through “evolution” or “small, incremental” change… but sometimes it happens through faster and intentionally planned means. I’m not picking on you because I thought your post was insightful, but for many I suspect that there’s a certain brand of wet-noodle-ism at play in people who refuse to countenance STANDING UP for something.

      Why is it so wrong to stand up proudly and say, yes, we should speak seriously about abolishing psychiatry-as-we-know-it, which is abusive, illegal, and suppresses the other cultural resources we have (or once had) to deal with difficult emotions.

      Ethically, saying all that is the same as standing up proudly and saying, yes, we should abolish slavery, because it is abusive, because enslaving people is contrary to the stated values of a democracy, and morally abhorrent.

      Just because there is corruption in other branches of medicine … so what? It has nothing to do with encountering “goodp people” with “good intentions” or “evil people” with “evil intentions.” This stuff is institutionalized, not personal. Actual medicine has a totally different philosophical, economic, and logical relationship to reality than psychiatry.

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        • Abolishing the institutionalization of slavery did not change the institutionalization of racism, which is a large part of what drives slavery. And we really haven’t “abolished” slavery. It still exists, even in this country. It is just more hidden and it has a different label.

          This is exactly what I mean. The inherent defect that allows humans to abuse and exploit other humans (and other species) is what needs to be addressed. That doesn’t mean that we wait until we can figure that out before we take action to protect those who are vulnerable. But the desire to destroy an institution and the practitioners or members within that institution just because we’ve decided that the entire thing is evil is no different from the desire to destroy a religion because we decide it’s dangerous (Islam, for example), or the desire to destroy people who have a certain skin color/speak a different language/have a different culture because some members of those groups do bad things (immigrants, for example).

          Becoming a member of a group that claims victimization by another group is the way that we humans justify punishing or destroying others. Those attitudes play out in every day life for every one of us. How can we claim to be different from those who want to destroy/control/change us, ie., “mentally ill individuals”, when we are saying we want to do exactly the same thing to them?????
          Sorry, I see that as blatant hypocracy.

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          • It’s not hypocrisy, because these two things have totally different moral/ethical statuses:

            (i) coming together as community members to abolishing a contingent human practice, which currently is a common practice in our communities and which we see causes harm. Read: “Organizing for change within our communities according to our values.”

            (ii) killing, murdering, exterminating, working-to-death, physically harming, or coersing actual people for our own ends—largely monetary gain—despite that fact that doing so harms them physically and mentally. This is what slavery did and what psychiatry does, in a way that is different in degree but not really kind. Read: “Physically harming people for profit.”

            Both employ the concept of “ending” something, but how can you not see that they are miles apart?? Ending someone’s grip around my neck is not “controlling them.” Ending someone’s life for profit is.

            By the way, slavery most definitely was abolished. It’s absurd to pretend otherwise. Racism and white supremacy were not abolished, but antebellum racial slavery—the economic engine that founded this country—most definitely was. That is not insignificant to me. It took a war that killed one out of every 10 men who were of military age to abolish it.

            Yes, other forms of slavery—e.g. human trafficking— still exist. They are also violent and for-profit, but they are not identical to antebellum racial slavery.

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    • Are people here so fortunate that they’ve never had to experience abusive treatment by physicians in other fields of medicine?

      The difference is a) Psychiatry is not medicine; and b) Psychiatry, unlike real medicine, is abusive by definition, the abuse is not an aberration, but inherent in the underlying ideology.

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    • I see nothing wrong with legally punishing unethical mental health staff, for the same reason I see nothing wrong with punishing other doctors who have scammed, molested, or inflicted abusive malpractice or neglect on their patients. It’s the fact that they’ve been able to get away with it for several hundred years that’s sickening.

      They should be stripped of their licenses and forbidden from practicing. Those that took a stand for ethical and compassionate treatment of their patients, have nothing to worry about.

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  29. I would like to present a point of view from natural medicine perspective.

    This article suggests the abolishment of psychiatry by a political force. However, I think that the market itself could do the job, or at least lower the dominance of the psychiatry.

    My idea is to provide western countries with the “equilateral triangle” (or other possibly neverending geometric pattern), present in some parts of India. There, a patient and his family have the free choice to which kind of medical system they want and the public insurance pays the bill. So if a person become troubled with psychosis or any other mental distress, he choose whether he wants psychiatric hospital, ayurveda, chinesse medicine, soteria program, unani medicine etc. – or any combination. In such context, what must be abolished is a coercive treatment – of course and thats the only more legally demanding change in such a model.
    As per my research in those areas, this has the effect that psychiatrists themselfs treat patient with much more dignity and sensitivity, because they are aware that the patient can leave his hospital and therefore profit in any moment. And, the lies and corruption in research is less dominant, because the public itself make the decision about what is true and what is not.
    In such a system, psychiatry loose its power and maybe, its existence in the future, by the force of market.

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    • I like your general line of thoughts here, but my one quibble is that as long as capitalism remains intact, people will be operating in their lives under the pressures it puts on them: the need to make money to survive; the need to function on less sleep than is healthy; the need to work “flexible” or whatever hours your job demands; the need to pay attention to truly mind-numbingly boring or, contrariwise, mind-frazzlingly stressful tasks for long periods of time; the need to ensure above all that one can do whatever “work” demands because otherwise healthcare and housing go bye-bye and people are left to die or suffer. That is a reality.

      People seeking drugs from pychiatrists are often actually seeking those things, the material things that sustain a basic physical or emotional survival. The drugs just paste these people together long enough so that they can perform inhuman feats like staying up all night as a doctor/security guard/ whatever… or “focusing” on schoolwork for 13-20 years straight… or distracting oneself from the part inside that just wants to freaking CRY at work or grieve… we can’t do these things because work is survival, and that has to be our #1 priority.. above TRUE mental health.

      In other words, the pressures of the market itself are what promotes many people seeking a “quick fix” rather than a “deep fix.”

      The values of neoliberalism are totally opposite those of anti-psychiatry. Neoliberalism does not value intact community, human health and happiness, environmental justice, the human need for deeper meaning than making money, eldership, spiritualisty, or anything else we here all (presumably) care about as the foundations for our anti-psychiatry stances.

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      • I agree. But people need to be healthy, strong, vigilant, too. The working class in 19th century did a lot to improve their working conditions and they succeed. But they had to be really strong and even risk their lives. They made street wars to attain this goal!
        And yes, capitalism not only cause bad working conditions, it also destroys our capacity to healthy connect to the nature. So people are in unnatural bad condition preventing them to fight unnatural working conditions.
        There must be some change in individual as well as in collective and institutional behaviour. But if the collective and institutional behaviour is not changing (as is the case of mental health system including its legal framework), we as individuals have some choice and must choose wise and fight for our health inspite of those criminals.

        Our professor of social policy said: “you will be no more able to choose between right and left policy opinions, because you see now the partiality of each of it.” yes, neoliberalism is causing these troubles, but on the other hand, we do have some power, we always have..

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      • You aren’t wrong.

        I knew psycotherapists who thought “Eminent threat” was a valid way of thinking. What makes you think they don’t use that for their own purposes from time to time?

        Worse one though is when I was forced into therapy due to family coercion and when I told the Psychiatrist I was angry about it I was declared a threat to the Doctors while declared “delusional” about being forcibly drugged at home.

        And how do you know the doctors reality from your own delusions? You don’t. You only know what he has written on the paperwork and his ability to alter you conscious mind. The only one in the end who looks more and more dangerous is you.

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    • I think this kind of thing would create it’s own civil liberty issues. I’m not sure prohibition, outlawing, would work, especially since we’re dealing with religion, not legitimate science.

      Abolish forced treatment, and the kind of things psychiatrists (and their mental health treatment lackeys) do today become criminal, the way they are with any other private citizen.

      If you don’t take on the community mental health system, you don’t accomplish much. I think we need to get rid of the community mental health system as it is only an extension of the state hospital system, when it isn’t somebody’s excuse for why we can’t completely abolish that system, and an impediment to deinstitutionalization, as in my view, it is a form of re or transinstitutionalization.

      The public mental health system is the problem. Psychiatrists in private practice? I don’t see a problem there.

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  30. I see a lot of people blaming medication, blaming big pharma, and blaming capitalism. You have a point here, but there is a bigger one you are missing: it is not about capitalism. The Phillipines is not a capitalistic society, nor was China. It is not about socio-economic status though it does come more towards the bottom. Rogue Psychiatry and medicine comes from all walks of life.

    The common denominator for all situations where drugs are an issue is lack of regulation and law enforcement. It has everything to do with people not watching for when the unscrupulous would get into the system. Sadly, this can include doctors, drug dealers, or anyone else, and the fact that such methods as psychiatry and drugging can be used by anyone.

    The only thing that weeds out domestic violence and forced drugging is law enforcement. The prisons are getting smaller, and the Police are getting smaller while people avoid punishment and beg for a system where people can confess their crimes, be forgiven, and forget them without any further consequence… except perhaps for the person who turned them in in the first place. So then people won’t want to report crimes.

    No, it isn’t just an issue of corruption. It is that moral apathy is taking over and the system is failing because the individual is no longer standing for his freedom. We’ve grown too soft on criminal activity and people are being forced into tolerance for anarchy. The only people who win that are those that have the resources to survive.

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    • It’s funny that you would say we’ve become “too soft on criminal activity.” The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and has since 2002. It inarcerates a larger percentage of its population than did Stalinist Russia at the height of the Gulag system. “Law and order” is not the answer.

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  31. Another thing that stands in the way of reform/revolution is the quasi-religious reverence that laypeople have for psychiatry.
    Psychiatry, as a political institution, has taken on many of the roles previously filled by the church; especially the roles regarding religion as a means of social control.
    It only has as much power as people give it.
    De-mystify it, and people will (finally) begin to see it as flawed and unworthy of such deference.

    And we can start right now by STOP calling DSM “The Bible of Psychiatry”!
    That epithet alone betrays the way some view psychiatry, even if they claim to be critical of it.
    Every time someone says this, remind all those present that it’s nothing more than a billing guide.
    Start with that.


    Here’s the article I wrote on this very issue.


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  32. Mental health system is now greed, but some of us benefit.

    System has an appetite it needs to feed, but some of us couldn’t do without.

    There’s no glory in eliminating for the sickest of the sick.

    Within dire call for their head above water.

    The levy breaks and all fury follows like flies out of the mire.

    A good counter is to find a balance in a bellow.

    Responds to the need for greed

    Recoils the metal teeth in pain ratchet for the champion to be.

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  33. It’s worth pointing out that mental/emotional struggles appear to be a part of human life, and that every culture in history has had both formal and informal ways of dealing with these challenges. So while abolition of coercive “treatment” and the DSM are very realistic goals, it does appear that something needs to be in place to assist people who are having difficulty figuring out how to respond to the stresses of ANY society, especially our bizarre Western post-industrial culture.

    I think that Steve McCrea is making a very important point here.

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    • Yes, and why can’t it just be normal life of community members serving one another? This does not have to be an organization or agency. Just normal community. I will give you an example.

      I am alone. I am isolated, except for the internet. I have endured many years of complex sufferings so severe that basic, routine health care was not an option. In late 2015 I was struck significantly physically ill. I needed an ambulance. Receiving substandard care at the emergency room was a problem in itself but the greater agony was that each time they sent me home, I was still gravely ill and in desperate, urgent need of somebody. Anybody. It took a tremendous amount of courage, and strength which I did not have, to knock on my neighbor’s front door. We had never met before.

      I was so lucky but I’d wisely insist that I wasn’t lucky at all. I was pure blessed. These people, husband and wife in their 70’s, did not hesitate to immediately take me in and help me. They went above and beyond, taking me to doctor’s appointments and calling to check in on me. The care and support they offered did not contribute to correct diagnosis or medical treatment (I provided those for myself over the next year and a half) but without them, I probably would have thrown myself into oncoming traffic.

      They later moved out and a single, middle-aged woman moved in. In the summer of 2016 I was again struck gravely ill. Once again, I practically crawled to the front door and knocked.

      People simply have to be willing to care, to serve, to give, to support, to assist, to do the work.

      I’ve done it. Kelly. She needed someone. I just happened to be there. She couldn’t ask but I saw her need. I successfully helped her. For THAT crisis.

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      • I agree. Ultimately, real community is the answer. So how to go about rebuilding communities in a system that is designed to destroy them? How to dismantle that system in a way that allows communities to be reborn and to flourish? That’s the truly big question at hand. “Therapy” almost by definition assumes a society that fails to meet the needs of a large percentage of its members.

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        • I know that this sounds strange to say, but perhaps community gardens might be one step in the direction of creating and building viable communities again. The urban farm movement is having some really interesting results in the city where I live. People from many different backgrounds are coming together to grow good food in large gardens in the city. They’ve networked with the food banks to provide fresh produce for people to add to their diets. Small businesses have developed as offshoots from the garden movement, such as a company that collects peoples’ vegetable garbage to make compost, which people receive at the beginning of spring to do with as they wish. These gardens are raising issues about health and nutrition and wellness and creating ways for people to change their lives for the better. Just the fact that these gardens and the movement bring people together for a common goal is a good thing. Perhaps we could go on to build from there.

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    • something needs to be in place to assist people who are having difficulty figuring out how to respond to the stresses of ANY society, especially our bizarre Western post-industrial culture.

      Lots of things would be nice, but there’s in fact NO ANSWER to such misery other than dismantling that dehumanizing “culture” and defeating both the mentality behind it AND the power of those who have their guns literally pointed at our heads 24-7. That’s why this is so urgent for those who just can’t take it anymore, there’s no comfortable or convenient way to deal with genocide, and no partial solutions.

      So once more, should we put abolishing psychiatry on hold until this entire toxic culture is history?

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      • I feel that there should be an organized social system of support for people in crisis. I don’t understand the tendency of some of the anti-psych comments to insist that nothing can be done for people. That’s not true, and though I hate to use the word “privilege,” I feel like it is unavoidable in describing the position of those who don’t need any help with anything who are calling for no social supports until after the revolution. Not to mention that this is a horrible political strategy.

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        • I remember talking to the head of psychiatric department at a University about how many people took their emotional crises to the emergency room of the University hospital a year. The figure he gave me was something like 2500. I don’t know how to resolve this situation, but I don’t think the emergency room is the right place to take your non-medical emergencies. My feeling is that if it weren’t for forced treatment we wouldn’t be there in the first place but, who knows, maybe I’m wrong.

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          • Universities are actually a great place to start focusing attention, as for many people, it’s their first time without a support system around them. So, where could they go when they’re in emotional crisis, other than the ER? Some will go to a religious figure. Others to a trusted friend. And the rest? Can we print leaflets with helpful advice? Set up a hotline with volunteers to give support? Other ideas?

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          • How about making a study of what sends people for the first time to psych services? Maybe such a study already exists?
            Or, a study of the key differences between our culture and another culture that has a lot more success dealing with emotional crises, and seeing what we can learn and implement.
            My guess is that one key issue is going to be the breakdown of the two-parent family. Another would be a lack of outside support for the nuclear family, meaning that even spouses that stay together make demands on one another that in more traditional societies would devolve onto outside helpers.
            My sense from so many blogs and comments on MIA is that a lot of people here have good, even devoted friends, but that it’s just not the same as being in a committed relationship, of having family around.
            And of course part of having family is having them even when you think you don’t want to have them – of dealing with them because they’re family rather than withdrawing from a friend who has become too needy/irritable/whatever else.
            Of course friends can and often do come through in a crisis, but life is made up of more than crises and not having a day-in-day-out relationship adds a lot of stress to life that people may not even be aware of, because it has become normal today. Historically, it’s not normal for people to live alone, to not marry at all or only in their 30s, to have only a one or two children.

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        • We can support one another in the struggle against the system that oppresses, and, to some extent, make the pain less unbearable. But there are no individual solutions and unless people take part in fighting their oppression alongside everyone else they become a “case” rather than a comrade. Personally I don’t feel obligated to support or nurture just anyone, there has to be a reason closer to home other than they’re “upset” or “depressed”; for all I know maybe they should be. Which is why I don’t respond to generic questions of “what do you do for a person who…”?

          It is always a mistake to conflate “supporting people in pain” and abolishing psychiatry. They are both vital but they are objectively separate endeavors even if they have “points of intersection” (yuk). The latter should not be contingent on the former. This is a common and deceptive argument promoted by the system to trip us up and create internal confusion, hence division.

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          • Look, OldHead, there are a heck of a lot of careerists out there in the “disability” or “peer support” field. Careerism is NOT about abolishing the system. Careerism is about making it more entrenched and expanding it. One thing this careerism doesn’t do any better than the system it is a part of is get people out of that system. Realistically, any 24/7 job in the system serves the system more than it serves fighting that system. Certainly that is the case until the system stops expanding, this phony “mental illness” pandemic we’ve got going on today, and starts contracting. It doesn’t contract as long as corrupt “peers” want to go into the “mental illness” selling business.

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        • Uprising

          I agree with you and Steve on this question. The following quote is from my long comment on Sera Davidow’s recent blog:

          “…NONE of my above conclusions means we should not build struggle and resistance AND/OR alternative forms of systems for those who need help. These are all important ways to expose these forms of human oppression, educate broader numbers of people, bring more people into resistance against the status quo, and save some people along the way. BUT there will be no FUNDAMENTAL type of change in what we all abhor until we grasp the necessity of moving on to a new historical era where capitalism is replaced by a more humane form of socialism.”


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  34. Robert, in a professional article you ought to cite your sources.

    “These kinds of comments, if taken literally, seem to reflect a form of ‘psychiatric nihilism’—a black and white view in which psychiatry is the dark side of nothingness. No good can possibly come from it, a blot of meaninglessness that is used only to inflict harm and traumatize anyone coming into its dark web.”

    As Frank rightly pointed out, psychiatry and nihilism go hand in hand, so antipsychiatry is also anti-nihilism. Moreover, there is a good that will come from psychiatry, and it is this: when it is finally abolished, future history books will contain a chapter on psychiatry that will be read by students alongside chapters on chattel slavery and the holocaust. It will provide future students of history greater perspectives on the nature and scope of tyranny and oppression.

    Robert, I like your analogy about the dark web. That is a wonderfully creative description of psychiatry that I can incorporate into future writing. Thank you.

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  35. I wonder what “compromise” Robert favors? By Oldhead’s definition I’m not anti-psychiatry but I am anti-coercion. I no longer “consume” any crap the mental illness racket sells.

    Maybe “bend over, hold your ankles, I may not paddle you too hard this time”?

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  36. Generating peer run and owned alternatives that actually meet needs and relieve suffering would do the trick. The psychiatric industry will collapse under the weight of its crimes. Meanwhile people will be meeting their needs and freeing each other from suffering autonomously. Mutual Aid and Solidarity Economics. Sweep the legs.

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    • The radical economist, or meta-economist, Manfred Max-Neef developed many of his ideas while working on development projects among disenfranchised people in South America. He noticed a tendency among the people he was working with to reflexively look vertically, toward established power, for answers, and to remedy this fostered more horizontal communication, cooperation and needs assessment. This resulted in radical and rapid positive changes. I think psych survivors can benefit from doing the same things. To the extent we understand our needs, we can go about meeting them in spite of psychiatry’s failure.
      I think it’s a mistake to try to understand the suffering using psychoiatry’s language, which even psychiatrists themselves acknowledge is speculative at best. Psychiatry is a great noxious smog of propaganda and obscurantism. Don’t abolish psychiatry, or endeavor to abolish it if you want, but I think replacing it is a much more valuable and readily achievable goal.
      There’s a growing consensus and ample research that demonstrates that trauma and adversity have much more power to explain the range of experiences that psychiatry exploits with its cynical confidence racket. There is also understanding of what factors ameliorate the effects of adversity and trauma. These are safety, choices, and empowerment. There are means of generating this that are entirely within the capacity of peers to generate and sustain cooperatively. I think the first step is to reject the whole medical paradigm and start thinking in terms of basic human needs and values, and then create autonomous, cooperative systems for meeting and exercising these. We don’t need to recover because we aren’t sick. We’re toxically stressed from living in a toxically stressful and traumatizing economy that’s hostile to human fllourishing. If we want relief and well being I think it’s on us to stop looking for psychiatry to see the error of its ways and save us. We need to look to each other and meet out own needs cooperatively.

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    • I see a need to protect people from unwanted treatment, I don’t see a need to “provide” it. As for alternative treatment, would there be an alternative treatment if it wasn’t for “standard practice” or sheer force, that is, state sanctioned violence directed against scapegoats labeled “mentally ill”? Not wanting treatment myself I don’t know what your talking about. Anyway, no treatment works for me.

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    • This is what I think of that newspaper article.

      Handsome home by Pat

      Looking into the void with a pessimistic lense is to simulate defeat.

      Truly to be blue is bitterness but it can see right through.

      To cast doubt about little things or this and that.

      The future can seem to be an infinite design.

      Where to go and what to be is but in the heart.

      If ye live alone or if thy have a handsome home.

      Whomever thy shall be the heart will live on in eternity.

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  37. I don’t think it should necessarily be totally shut down, either.

    But most of the reasons the author has given are for the benefit of the psychiatrists, rather than the patients.

    It worries me that he seems to lack the self-awareness to realise this and the knowledge that every medical system should have the sole purpose of helping its patients.

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    • Robert Nikkel means well (I think) but he’s obviously blinded. As a member of the elite providers he has no idea how things appear to those at the receiving end of psychiatry.

      When an African-American friend tells me a police man took her aside and demanded what she was doing while trying to unlock her own car one evening I don’t laugh at her, say she imagined it, or tell her she’s overreacting.

      I wish Robert Nikkel and others like him would extend us the same courtesy.

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    • Well, actually ‘shutting down’ isn’t such a bad idea when you consider that we’re doing nothing but going in the opposite direction, that is, expanding the “mental health” system, and “mental health” system expansion equals an epidemic of “mental illness” so-called. My feeling is that less is more in so many ways where “mental health” is concerned. The real problem is economic dependence, and it is hardly being addressed, however, accompanying the problem of economic dependence are all the careers that have developed to accommodate such economic dependence. We’re better off with less accommodating, that is, we’d be better off with more economic independence.

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  38. I understand the dilemma here. The system is broken, but eliminating the system in totality creates room for more dangerous practices, limits the freedom of others to choose their own methods of treatment (just as many want the right to refuse all methods), it closes doors to better practices that could lead to well informed understanding, it would create devastation to unknown numbers of human lives…
    The DSM and it’s labels are more dangerous than they are beneficial. At the least, it can only be recognized as opinion. The APA must be dismantled because it is a corrupt and corrosive regime that serves only to make itself money at all costs. Forced treatment of any kind must end, and those once deemed mentally ill must be afforded the same rights and protections as everyone else. Research and treatment findings must be made transparent. Medications, if any, must comply with the same standards as those of other branches of medicine.

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    • If there were fewer adult babies in the world there would be less of a need for adult baby sitters. I think an adult baby sitting system and industry, what we’ve got, is something we don’t need. As far as I see it, it is a threat to human rights as it is, that is, treating adults like children only encourages more treating adults like children, and one thing children don’t have are the civil liberties of adults. Not only do I think the adult baby sitting business is not good for adults, but I don’t think it is particularly good for children either as it encourages parents to maintain a hold over their children longer than is necessary in many cases.

      The psychiatric survivor movement, at least at the beginning, had two primary goals: 1. ending forced treatment and protecting human rights, and 2. creating alternatives to the system that employed force and violated those rights. The problem in time has become that in the realization of goal # 2 goal # 1 has become compromised, and practically suppressed. In the necessity of working with the conventional mental health system in order to establish alternatives people have grown increasingly dismissive of the demand for ending force that they once had. I think # 1 the more important of the two goals, and I have little regard for, and see little need of, goal # 2, especially if it’s going to, as it has done in the past and as it is doing a present, cancel out goal # 1.

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  39. I’m all for dismantling the “mental health system”, just call me a black and white thinker. But how are we going to go about doing this when this system has gotten into bed with the legal system? That’s an unholy alliance if there ever was one. We even have a court of our very own less than a block from the “hospital” where only cases dealing with the “mentally ill” are brought before the judge. Now the courts can mandate “treatment” for people. I’ve even seen a particularly gross and arrogant judge who mandates “treatment” even though the psychiatrist doesn’t ask for it. Talk about destroying a person’s human and civil rights, and the judge gets away with it because everyone is scared of this particular judge.

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    • We’ve got mental health court, so-called, here in Florida, too, and I absolutely agree with you. Thomas Szasz talked about a need to separate medicine from government, however that doesn’t resolve the problem, so pressing of late, of non-affordable health care. I don’t have all the answers. I think we do have to do something about this governmental intrusion into all aspects of the lives of private citizens, something the mental health system does majorly.

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    • Religion was in bed with the legal system too. Alot of places in the world replaced it with freedom of and from religion.

      Forced marriages and limitations on sexual freedom were in bed with the law, but were replaced with letting people choose their own spouses for better and worse, women’s rights to reproductive freedom, and eventually divorce, or having a child out of wedlock was no longer a thing to be ashamed of.

      It can be done. Maybe within our lifetimes. Maybe not.

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  40. Suggest Robert Nikkel, you get yourself on the other end of forced drug induced akathisia, preferably benzo withdrawal, then came back and talk to us. That’s if you haven’t killed yourself or anyone else, which I promise you, is very possible .

    I want to place this video in the comments :




    But it seems I’m not allowed to do so, with reference to silentum excubitor correct statement, of psychiatry being a drug racket. If anyone can do it for me, it would be appreciated.

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  41. This is one of the most disgusting interviews – yet everyone should listen and reference it – I have every heard. There are two things I find disgusting: At the beginning the interviewer is flogging his service in Harley Street London in the context of the genocide of his profession. Then he seems to want to find an opening of rational thinking to present the inference that what they were doing spared them a life of suffering. This just brought the full horror of truth from the psychiatrist, Dr Michael Von Cranach being interviewed. For example when they killed the children, they had to find a way to legitemise it on the death certificate, so instead of killing them within hours they did it over days giving them pneumonia just so they could write that on the death certificate.



    Raj Persaud asks if it could happen again. Someone needs to inform Persaud, it’s already happening and has been happening for some time.

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  42. Dear Robert you’re missing the point
    Before slavery became illegal it was unthinkable that the world could exist without it, most people believed the economy would collapse as so many jobs depended upon the slave trade. Before women won the right to vote most people believed that women’s brains could not understand politics and their brains would collapse.
    My personal view is that we need to disentangle medicine from mental health as medicine looks at what’s inside a person, it looks at their biology whereas what is needed is a discipline that looks outside, at the culture, values and beliefs that are prevalent. A degree in medicine is about as useful as a bull in a China shop when it comes to navigating human experience.
    We need a catalogue of abuse, not a catalogue of ancient bullshit.

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  43. We must just discourage people from having any dealings with Psychiatrists, Psychoanalysts, or Psychotherapists. What these people attempt to do, get the angry and alienated to accept society the way it is, and tell them that their health and wellbeing depend upon this, is just wrong.

    And then stop our government from being able to license it. Until this happens, these violators will continue to have power. Angry persons will always be dismissed by telling them that they ‘need therapy’.

    The only exception would be a Psychologist trying to aide someone, adult or juvenile, who is currently be represented by an attorney in court.

    And then some will get something like psychotherapy from clergy. And really, psychotherapy only exists because of the abject failings of western religion anyway. So let them deal with their clergy. Sure, it is just as much non-sense as psychotherapy, but at least the government is not licensing it and making it normative.

    The alternative to all these therapies is political consciousness raising and political activism. These things change people because the people are focusing themselves on making social change, and because they do this by finding comrades.

    Your therapist is not your comrade.


    “A degree in medicine is about as useful as a bull in a China shop when it comes to navigating human experience.
    We need a catalogue of abuse, not a catalogue of ancient bullshit”

    ^^^^^ YES!

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