“How Long a Time”: Ten Cold Hard Truths For Ending Psychiatric Abuse

Richard D. Lewis

The song “How Long a Time,” posted below, tries to capture the emotional sentiments and righteous anger of millions of people around the world who have been harmed by psychiatry and an oppressive disease/drug-based “mental health” system. This is a system in which psychiatry, in collusion with Big Pharma, wields enormous power within our entire society. This is a power that seems to be growing stronger by the day, and shows little evidence that it is being weakened by a rising backlash of fact-based science and endless personal stories documenting abuse that have been published over the past several decades.

My song raises the vital question: “How Long a Time” will it take for human beings to be free from all forms of psychiatric abuse? Perhaps a more important question to ask would be: what specific changes have to take place in the world for it to be possible to fully eradicate all the harmful psychiatric labeling and drugging of people, and any form of forced hospitalization and/or so-called “treatment,” such as electroshock (ECT).

Take a few moments and listen to the song posted below, and then we will explore this important question.

Recent blogs at Mad in America have expressed strong feelings of frustration and anger at how few changes have taken place in the world that actually weaken the power and harm done by psychiatry and their medical model. Many people can’t understand why so little has changed despite an important growth in the number of legitimate scientific and political exposures of the various forms of psychiatric abuse. Many would say we have a significant base of expert witnesses who are well credentialed, combined with a growing number of articulate psychiatric survivors testifying to a horrible reality often confronted in today’s “mental health” system. Despite all this accumulating evidence, the so-called “house of cards” erected by psychiatry and Big Pharma shows no signs of eminent collapse. If anything, this oppressive medical model only seems to be growing in power and influence.

Some bloggers have discussed issues of activist “burnout” (see MIA blog “Painted Boxes: Death of an Activist” here), and many others are settling for a slow reformist approach to trying to change major human rights violations. Let’s take a cold hard look at the reality we face in our efforts to end all forms of psychiatric abuse. We CANNOT make any serious change, or develop a successful strategy moving in this direction, unless we know exactly what we are up against in our efforts to transform reality. This is especially true when examining the specific changes that have occurred in the evolution and growth of biological psychiatry over the past five decades.

Here are the Ten Cold Hard Truths we must ALL confront in our organizing efforts. If we fail to understand and grasp these truths we will ALL be susceptible to “burnout” and/or a slide into dead-end reformist type strategies that will only derail our efforts to reach the day when we can truly end all forms of psychiatric abuse.

1) Psychiatry and psychiatric abuse has evolved and changed over the past five decades. It’s always been oppressive, but it has grown exponentially in power and in the depth to which it has penetrated every pore of our society.

2) Psychiatry, and its collusion with Big Pharma, has become a highly profitable business, with the pharmaceutical industry achieving some of the highest rates of profit in the entire capitalist system, and it is now a critically important pillar of the entire U.S. economy.

3) Over the past five decades, with the growing numbers of people labeled and drugged within our society, the ruling class (defending and preserving the status quo by any means necessary) has learned to understand the valuable role that the psychiatric medical model can play in disabling (with labels and drugs) the most potentially volatile sections of society that have traditionally been more rebellious — minorities, prisoners, women, disenfranchised working class youth, and other system outliers.

4) Psychiatry and their medical model promote pseudoscience and “genetic theories of original sin” which are very useful for those wanting to desperately preserve the status quo. It refocuses people’s attention away from changing the inherent inequalities and daily traumas present within a class-based system, and makes people focus on individual, and/or so-called “genetic,” flaws in human nature.

5) In the post 9/11 world, the intensity of worldwide struggles and contradictions have increased the need for those in power to maintain control of any type of opposition forces or movements that are aimed at shaking up major institutions. Psychiatry (and its ability to incarcerate and drug someone with a mere signature of a pen) has the political and police power in society that only the executive branch of government can rival. In these intense times, allowing psychiatry to maintain this power is very useful to those resisting political upheaval and trying to preserve the status quo.

6) The economic, political, and social role of psychiatry (and their entire “mental health” paradigm) has now become INSEPARABLY BOUND to the future of the entire capitalist/imperialist system. In the final analysis, it does not fundamentally matter how much we expose the faulty science and oppressive forms of treatment and build resistance in numbers, psychiatry and their medical model has become TOO BIG AND IMPORTANT to be allowed to fail in the current order of things.

7) None of my above conclusions mean we should not build struggle and resistance AND/OR alternative forms of support 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 a profit-based system is replaced by a more humane form of socialism.

8) Therefore, we must find a way through ALL our organizing and transformative work to link the day-to-day struggles with the broader struggle to make bigger systemic and institutional change on a world scale. Anything short of this approach will ultimately lead to the types of demoralization and burnout described in numerous blogs published at MIA.

9) Fighting “the good fight” on the broader levels I have just described is NOT easy, and it can also lead to demoralization and burnout. But at least this strategic approach represents a more realistic and truer picture of what we are actually up against, AND what it will actually take to have a chance of reaching our goal of a world free of all forms of psychiatric oppression.

10) Similar to the conclusions drawn from the environmental movement, we CANNOT save the planet from inevitable worldwide catastrophe WITHOUT major systemic change happening eventually across the entire planet. The same holds true when looking at psychiatric oppression. It may all sound too big to some people reading this, but it is a “Long March” that is worth starting now. We can all do our part by marching forward with our heads and eyes FULLY raised and looking forward toward an achievable and worthwhile “prize” — a world free of all forms of human exploitation, including psychiatric abuse.

Support MIA

MIA relies on the support of its readers to exist. Please consider a donation to help us provide news, essays, podcasts and continuing education courses that explore alternatives to the current paradigm of psychiatric care. Your tax-deductible donation will help build a community devoted to creating such change.

Select Payment Method
Personal Info

Credit Card Info
This is a secure SSL encrypted payment.

Billing Details

Donation Total: $20


    • It is a powerful song. Too true that as soon as big pharma admits there is an issue with one type of medication, (paroxetine is now generally flagged up as a problem drug as it had such an extremely short half life), they work on ‘discovering’ more pharmaceutical answers. Congratulations for the Other Mrs Smith by the way. I’m reading it now and citing it in my PhD about trauma fiction.

  1. Psychiatry and big pHarma serve neoliberalism. Fight neoliberalism, and you are fighting the psychiatric social control system at the same time. Profiteer on people’s insecurities, and you’ve got the kind of system we’ve got going today. I don’t think they could do it without neoliberalism. Although we may disagree here and there, I think you’ve got the right idea, Richard. Thank you for this post.

  2. Capitalism is to blame? Is psychiatry better in communist China or formerly communist USSR? Or in the socialist European states?

    Psychiatry draws its power from government. And government draws its power from the people. True, some people, for example Pharma CEOs who have zillion$ to contribute to political campaigns, have more power than others. But on the whole the people believe in psychiatry.

    Preaching to the choir won’t work. We have to unite and raise our voices en masse. Unfortunately, politically so far we are failures.

    • Actually, how iI would put t, Mi, not that we are failure. It that we haven’t come close to succeeding yet;

      That said, for sure psychiatry was absolute horrific under Communist regimes. The capitalistic financialization and moneyed interest that we see today, however, make this in some way a whole new ball game–more formidable and deadly that ever.

  3. Very well said. Economics drives oppression in almost every case, and general opposition to psychiatry necessitates general opposition to oppression which necessitates economic reform. While the comments regarding psychiatry under communism are points very well taken, it illustrates my biggest stress, namely, that the enemy is not liberals or conservatives but AUTHORITARIANISM under any name. The idea that there are people “at the top” who deserve to run things and decide what’s OK for the rest of us is the core of oppression, and both capitalism and soviet-style communism are built upon that same bedrock oppressive assumption. Real democracy/equity is not possible when the power is hoarded by a few individuals who dictate to the rest of us. But it starts with economic power needing to be more evenly distributed. Lots of folks will say, “Oh, but wealth redistribution is bad!” Unfortunately, wealth redistribution is occurring every single day, but it’s not from the rich to the poor, it’s from the working people to the rich! If we want to ditch psychiatry and the victim-blaming philosophy that goes with it, we have to attack the problem of wealth redistribution to the wealthy, too.

    Thanks, Richard!

    • Great song and performance, Richard. I largely agree with you, Steve, the two party system is a farce, both parties are controlled by the “too big to fail” bankers. And I will point out, Richard, that the goal of those bankers is a socialist/communist type system, of course, with them at the top. And those bankers don’t even know that intelligent bankers don’t give out bad loans, because if they do, they’ll lose their banks. Our government decided to bail out those bankers instead, but that was bull, a little more insight if interested.



      The bottom line is we should be breaking up “the banks and corporations that will grow up around them,” like the big Pharma cartel, the oil cartel, the military/industrial war machine, and the medical/pharmaceutical industrial complex.


      We don’t have a fair market based capitalist system now, we have a grotesquely unjust crony capitalist system. I agree with Steve, “If we want to ditch psychiatry and the victim-blaming philosophy that goes with it, we have to attack the problem of wealth redistribution to the wealthy.” We need to break up the corporations and industries that are abusing their power and harming humans. “Trickle down economics” definitely didn’t work.

      • Oh, “Trickle down” worked just fine. The problem is that people didn’t realize what it was designed to do. The PLAN was to redistribute wealth upward, and it was very effective in doing that. What needs to change is that regular folk need to become aware of what is going on and insist that it come to an end. We need to start with “percolate up” economics, where regular folk prosper and those at the top can reap the benefits of the general prosperity, as sort of happened in the 60s. But I’m not holding my breath…

        • I agree, Steve. Billionaires gave millions to political campaigns and politicians that had incentives to act in their interest. Our current administration is full of former Goldman Sach executives. Ayn Rand, Russian-American author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead is the political philosophy that Trump and Paul Ryan espouse. We are no longer a republic but a plutocracy.

          I do have optimism stemming from my conversations from many adolescents and young adults who want change. More people are getting politically active and running for office. Perhaps some MIA readers will see office. In Massachusetts we have organizations like Emerge which help to train people to run for office.

          • Actually, I think even Ayn Rand would find Trump’s version of crony capitalism objectionable. She at least recognized that monopolization of markets is incompatible with a true free market economy.

            I do see the pendulum swinging back. I just hope the young folks don’t get discouraged. We really need a full-scale revolt!

    • People constantly refer to “communist” countries. There has never been a communist country, the highest that has been achieved so far has been a nascent socialism in some places for short periods, which has then been overthrown, most significantly in the USSR and China. As soon as a country has overthrown bourgeois rule it has been targeted by the entire capitalist world and the revolution subverted. This is why international solidarity among oppressed populations is vital.

  4. Great song Richard! Thank you. I appreciate your music and your creative endeavors, as well as your implacable opposition to psychiatry. I also oppose the hegemony of the therapeutic state, psychiatry and Big Pharma, and I can understand the justifiable concerns regarding the love of filthy lucre that is the root of all evil. Frank and mi raise the right questions in response. Socialism and communism are not the answer. But I greatly appreciate the work that went into the song and this article. Well done.

  5. Richard

    How long a time? Good question! You say…

    Psychiatry has “always been oppressive, but it has grown exponentially in power and in the depth to which it has penetrated every pore of our society.”

    But I’m starting to see how this will be its Achilles heel. In the UK, eminent professors of Psychiatry are all over the mainstream media making outlandish claims about “antidepressants” such as…

    – Under-treated depression is a huge problem. Only one in six people with depression receive effective treatment with GPs “squeamish” to prescribe medication for mental health conditions.

    – At least one million more people per year should have access to effective treatment for depression


    – ‘We know that in the vast majority of patients, any unpleasant symptoms experienced on discontinuing antidepressants have resolved within two weeks of stopping treatment’

    The more they dominate the press with this stuff, the more ridiculous they sound. People know when they are being given the hard sell – they can smell the bullshit, and their own experiences tell them something different. The more people Psychiatry tries to ensnare, the bigger the backlash will be. Sooner or later, Psychiatry’s own PR machine will bring the whole rotten facade tumbling down.

    Love the song! “Damn all their lies. God Damn Psychiatry.” Thank you so much for that – you made my day!

  6. Dear Richard, thank you for sharing your talent and your thought-provoking article. Economic justice is very tied to social justice. I agree that psychiatry with the government’s backing has been successful at dis-powering marginalized groups in order to quell rebellion. It is a different beast then something like we saw in other countries like communist China or Russia with ethnic cleansing but still oppression. Capitalism as it is today is deadly and the continued treating of humans as commodities will eventually end our world. Humans are capable of destruction but also of great compassion and love for one another.

    As Robert Reich’s book, The Common Good, states, we need to get back to thinking not in the selfish manner that capitalism and economic inequality promotes but thinking of the good of all. There is a lack of trust in society of all our institutions due to the dominance of the one percent who are controlling our society. Trickle down economics does not work. We need power from the bottom up and a more fair and just economy.

  7. Yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. Psychobabble and gobbledygook waving a hammer-and-sickle flag. *YAWN*. Can you guess I have a DISSENTING opinion, Richard?
    First, “capitalism” certainly *allows*, even “facilitates” the authoritarian excesses you decry. But it does NOT *require* them. I believe that capitalism is slowly becoming more humanized, even as it becomes more un-equal. Remember, capitalism is an ECONOMIC system, not a political one. As to the “exponential” growth of psychiatry’s “power”, I’d say that’s your own confirmation bias talking, Richard. Or have you not noticed that there has been effectively NO COMMENT from psychiatry these past few weeks, after the latest Florida mass-casualty school shooting? And NO mention of psych drugs. The shooters medical records have been sealed. If psychiatry had the power you delusionally believe it to have, why are the psychs biting their tongues so hard? There are “shortages” of psychiatrists. How can that be, if psychiatry is as powerful as you claim. You’re free to believe that psychiatry and capitalism are “inextricably linked”, but that only YOUR OPINION. It’s not a *FACT*. I can easily see capitalism jettisoning the dead weight of psychiatry. And soon. Your attitude and beliefs are too negative, and defeatist. You give psychiatry more power than I believe it deserves. You seem to justify your beliefs based on your decades of radicalism. Well, Richard, I say minds, diapers, politicians, and beliefs should be changed often, and for the SAME REASON!…. Relax. I’m NOT following you. I’d rather see victory. To you, the end of psychiatry is the vision of a distant future. To me, psychiatry is eroding day by day. I really like you, Richard, but I still think you’re just a tired old crank stuck in the 1960’s. Never hurts to have a few of those around. Remember, Richard, I’m one of psychiatry’s surviving victims. It’s been over 20 years, but I still remember the special hell of psych drugs. I’m glad you don’t. I’m disappointed, though, that you don’t even call for the closing of the APA to new members, or for them to issue a firm “NO DSM-6” statement. Oh yeah, those are MY ideas…. See what I mean? You spout alarmist clap-trap, and I posit actual possibilities…. Maybe you should toke a doobie or something, before you reply….
    Sincerely fondly,
    (c)2018, Tom Clancy, Jr., *NON-fiction

  8. Dear Richard,
    Thanks for sharing your gift and talent.. I was always told to mouth the words when singing in class by the nuns. I did have one friend who allowed me to sing during a trip. It was joyful- so kudos for using your voice in a good cause.
    It reminds me of the old songs – from Joe Hill to Little Boxes – to Biko- to Whose Garden Was This and so many others. There should be a list. We need more songs and creative endeavors- may yours lead the way.
    I enjoy your thinking though I come from a slightly different perspective in terms of my life as it is was and who knows what is next.
    My ongoing concern seeding this from many many sides is the system is broken and has been but how to help everyone deal with life when there are the range of OMG and WTF issues that come up like flotsam in our lives and some issues are most definitely systemic and ah the current political wave we all are forced into riding willing or not.
    I also try hard not to lead forward in anger and resentment though I know my anger was justified by the awful so called treatment I received made worse because though I was in the system I tried very hard to be aware and help. Not sure if this approach ever worked despite my own best intentions. And I also know there are always some good apples in the bin the trohble is having the ability to find them admits so many bad ones. That takes time, money, luck and a modicum at the very least of societal privelege.
    If one does not know who what how to look for help and those answers are quashed then how can one ever triumph? The fact that people have and do is amazing to me.
    I would love to have restorative justice for the stems survivors some day. We may not be able to talk directly to the abusive charlatans who creased, maintained, treated us or others but some sort of legal, societal reckoning would be great.
    I also would imagine some of the professionals in system were somewhat harmed or compromised as well and there issue at the right time needs to be addressed some where along the spectrum.

  9. I am not very hopeful about our species….psychiatry is sick…
    our country is sick….our world is sick…most people are not
    motivated for significant change….change would involve a
    massive change in human behavior…I don’t think that will happen…
    but I am just an old guy with mood problems….

  10. Loved the song.

    Also my deep, deep appreciation to you for including harmed families in your dedication.

    I believe they are so many family members out there who will become much more vocal advocates when they either fully understand how they have been misled, or when they no longer need to ‘fly under the radar’ to avoid coercive treatment for their loved one.

  11. Ah, bullet points! They make things so much easier to pick apart and discuss.

    I think I would pretty much uphold the essence of most of these points, though I would probably attribute different significance to some of them and draw somewhat different conclusions. Here are some thoughts about particulars (I haven’t read any other comments yet):

    it does not fundamentally matter how much we expose the faulty science and oppressive forms of treatment and build resistance in numbers, psychiatry and their medical model has become TOO BIG AND IMPORTANT to be allowed to fail in the current order of things.

    The way this is stated seems to imply some sort of inherent impotence on the part of the people. “Allowed” to fail? We have to make sure it’s not up to them. Exposing the truth constantly matters a great deal, as it is a prerequisite for acting on it when we reach critical mass.

    None of my above conclusions mean we should not build struggle and resistance AND/OR alternative forms of support systems for those who need help.

    I hope you will recognize that talking about “alternative systems of support” implies that psychiatry is a system of support, in fact that it is the prevailing standard of “support” and we’re just looking for better ones. But you acknowledge the falsity of this assumption when you say Psychiatry…has the political and police power in society that only the executive branch of government can rival (a good point). So which is it? Is psychiatry a failed system of support or a police force? How this is analyzed determines the strategic and tactical approaches we take towards dismantling it.

    But at least this strategic approach represents a more realistic and truer picture of what we are actually up against

    More realistic than what?

    The last few points sound a little more idealistic and abstract than the others. I would say that, for those who have a viable analysis of psychiatry as cultural imperialism and a tool of capitalism, this can only help in forming a winning strategy for defeating it. But just as every last Bolshevik didn’t need an academic understanding of Marxism to recognize the enemy, it is still possible for people to fight psychiatry effectively solely from a civil/human rights perspective; we need to “attack” on all fronts and on all levels.

    I will stress again, primarily to Richard, that a big problem with insisting that the anti-psych movement adopt an advanced and sophisticated revolutionary analysis is that nowhere on the spectrum of left thought, including any organization or party that I’m aware of, is there any sort of anti-psychiatry analysis WHATEVER — the “revolutionaries” are talking about “more money for mental health,” “stigma” and dismissing anti-psychiatry as “junk science.” So how do we deal with that? Right now if survivors tried to “join the revolution” there would lots of half-ass “revolutionaries” who would boot us out on our asses along with climate change deniers and the like.

    Now I guess I’ll see what others have to say.

  12. I don’t know Oldhead. If you go back decades there was Ken Kersey and other artistic efforts that if not upsetting the applecart at least had a tint or shade of resistence.I have been amazed at how folks on the whole nine yards of the political spectrum have been actively blinded sided to the psychiatric system’s brokeness and abuses.
    Family Therapy was started by professionals in the system who saw there were big problems.
    They flourished for several years in various areas and now seem to have a very small voice and impact.
    So any help from inside the system is few and far between.
    The Roman Catholic Church in the fifties had social action cells that convened in different areas in the States. That would be one way. I don’t know how it worked just that once it did exist.
    I think the young folks might be the key. They just need to be mentored.They at least have a huge stake in the game.
    The hundredth monkey idea- if they could see as in the shootings there is a deep and more complex story as in gender. racism, and sexism- I think they could get behind the movement.

      • Oh, I don’t know. Seems 2 B *PLENTY* of room for *LOTS* of yada,yada,yada,blah,blah,blah, about delusional “left/right” politics, so called “capitalism”, “socialism”, etc…. To quote Bob Marley, “I’m sick and tired of your ISM SCHISM…..”….
        1.No new A.P.A. memberships. As older members die, the A.P.A. does too.
        2.No DSM-6. Ever.

        • Political philosophy is going to continue to frame much of the debate as capitalism is intrinsically unjust and authoritarianism often sabotages the other more equitable schemes for redistribution of wealth and power.

          The APA began as the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane back in 1844 with 13 members. Instead of the Association ending with the dying off of those 13 members, the American Psychiatric Association that it evolved into now has some 37,800 members. It would take an awful lot of die off to kill it, and as you will note, the Association is going in the opposite direction.

          If there is to be no DSM-6, you can be certain there will be something else. They have their bible and nut-job field guide with the DSM now. Call it something else, and you don’t call it DSM-6. I’m not saying there should be a DSM-6. I’m saying that to think the APA won’t continue with more of the same shenanigans is to engage in wishful thinking.

          I would fill in your number 3 blank with continue the resistance to psychiatric oppression and social control (i.e. oppose human rights violations and forced treatment) with renewed vigor and inspiration. We will win in the end because we must.

  13. WOW! Richard, you made my day. Your song is brilliant, and your article is spot on. Exactly what we need. Clear-headed and courageous.

    I’m currently at a labor conference in Chicago along with 2,800 rank and file union members – trouble makers, the lot of us.

    There are multiple workshops on how to combat racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression in the workplace and in the labor movement. What’s missing is the fight against psychiatric oppression. We can remedy this at the next conference in 2020.

    We need to join this fight against oppression, bring our experience to the table, gain strength and power from our solidarity.

    The time is now. Judi Chamberlin called on us to come out of the shadows. It won’t be easy, because the ‘mentally ill’ have been cast as society’s lepers. And yet my pamphlet on psychiatric oppression is selling better than any other publication on my lit table.

    There are a lot more of us out there than anyone realizes.

    As s first step, I invite any of you who are union members to contact me – [email protected].

    In the words of Chelsea Manning, WE GOT THIS.

  14. Hi Richard,
    Really good to see this. It is not about which government/party gets in left right etc. There is a saying “It doesn’t matter who wins the election the government always gets in” This is because our governments around the world are totally influenced by the cartels…..that’s bigger than a corporation in our world. The cartels are: oil, banks, big food eg Monsanto. Big pharma is now one of them too.
    Politicians who don’t bend to be in with these people just do not last as politicians.
    Keeping the people oppressed has always been the way rich people stay rich.

  15. Here’s my problem: I hear a lot of talk about the bankruptcy of the “medical model,” but nothing about what Lewis would replace that model with. My understanding is that the general debate is between seeing psychological distress as originating in biochemistry and/or genetics, and seeing it as originating in trauma. (I understand that epigenetics holds both somewhat responsible.) Where does Lewis actually fall on this spectrum? Where does Whitaker fall?

    My general bias is toward nurture, as I was chronically abandoned by my parents and severely medically neglected as a pre-teen and a teen, leading me to be suicidally depressed in my mid-20s. I took Desipramine for a short time (2-3 months or so) during that hellish time (it helped quite a bit), then stopped and continued abusing alcohol and being in despair. Then I met the man who would become my husband. He had been raised in a large, loving family in Mexico, and he came at me with more affection in a month than I had received in a lifetime. It was hard to accept it at first (and I didn’t know how to reciprocate), but after about a year I had come around, I was drinking much less, and I had gotten off my emotional roller coaster. The sun had finally broken through. This was my cure, as I have never had to go through the nightmare of depression again.

    The thing is that I don’t see my experience reflected in any of the talk here. I know what Lewis and Whitaker are against, but I don’t know what they think is the proper way to view depression, et al. (I am in the middle of “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” and have not read Whitaker’s other stuff, though I did a little research on the web.) I hear from Lewis a lot of talk about oppression, but NONE of it refers to the disastrous experiences many children have at the hands of their parents and how this might launch them into depression, addiction, etc. NONE. And this is consistent with my experience of the left: Extremely acute at diagnosing injustice against various groups of adults, but utterly silent on the plight of the most blatantly and tragically disenfranchised class of people throughout human history, children.

    I oppose biospsychiatry for its utter neglect of this massive and critically important ball of wax, but as far as I can tell, most of its opponents do no better.

    • Perhaps you may need to read more over time. Many people (including myself) have written about the damage done by social institutions, including and perhaps especially the nuclear family, to people’s ability to thrive. Child abuse, neglect, and even thoughtless parenting have lasting impacts on people’s view of themselves. Kelly Brogan just put out an article today that directly addresses both REAL physiological problems (like nutritional deficiencies, lack of sleep, etc.) as well as exploring traumatic origins of habitual coping measures in one’s family of origin.

      I, for one, believe that nurture makes the most sense to focus on, not only because the VAST majority of those diagnosed with “mental illnesses” have experienced family and social trauma to high degrees, but also because even if there are genetic contributors to our “mental illnesses,” it’s the one area we can’t do a damned thing about! And with the new research on brain plasticity and epigenetics, the idea that “biology is destiny” should be dead in the water. Unfortunately, financial incentives and political ambitions as well as guild interests don’t support applying this concept, which I think is why we see so much energy focused on these perverse incentives and evil intentions. The question of “what replaces it” is a much more challenging one, and in the end, perhaps is only answerable by the person needing assistance.

    • Here’s my problem: I hear a lot of talk about the bankruptcy of the “medical model,” but nothing about what Lewis would replace that model with.

      Model of what? And why would you replace it with anything?

      All psychiatry is “biopsychiatry,” otherwise it’s something else.

  16. Steve McCrea, I never said that the left is “racist” toward white or privileged people. I did not want to extend my comment even further, so did not go into this, but the idea that white affluent children are ineligible for real problems arises in large part from the view of black and white expounded upon by Eldridge Cleaver in Soul on Ice, that is, that the black man is the heart (earthy and crude) and the white man is the head (intellectual and antiseptic). This is a dichotomy deeply held by Americans of all stripes to this day, those of leftist persuasion being no exception. It pervasively informs attitudes toward child abuse, education, and much besides.

    “uprising,” please be more specific when you say “In fact most (all?) of the premises in your comment are flawed.” Presumably this means you disbelieve that all children are vulnerable, as well as the notion that babies and children suffer at the hands of callous and self-absorbed caregivers. How about this one: “Like traumatic experiences being sufficient to psychologically disorder a person, with or without any organic predisposition, abusive or neglectful treatment at the hands of those they are DEPENDENT UPON is more than enough to disorder the child of wealthy parents without the addition of racial or class disadvantage.” Is that “flawed” too? And if so, how?

    “oldhead,” I did not “negate the validity of class analysis and class struggle in general.” I do not object to class struggle in any way, which is why I did not even mention that phrase. What I do object to is advocating for certain groups of children but not others based largely if not entirely on a class analysis (the increasingly popular “privilege” argument), as those I consider to comprise the left do. Is “the left” a group that’s hard to pin down, as you claim? Well, it is a pluralistic bunch, so let me put it this way: there are many Americans whose politics warrant describing them as being on the left end of the political spectrum. Though this is a big and diverse demographic, if you will, it generally has in common support for strong government efforts to help those in material need, attention to racism, sexism, and LBGQT issues, or at least a desire that the nation make progress toward economic and social equality. What this group also has in common, in my experience, is a perverse disinclination to apply the word “oppressed” to children and to see children as universally disadvantaged, relative to adults. (Of course, the right doesn’t this, but then the right doesn’t go on and on about “justice” and “oppression.”)

    If “uprising” wants to educate me about class analysis, fine, but I stand by my observation that those of leftist persuasion are extremely comfortable with the idea that various groups of people are oppressed because they are poor, of color, female or gay (a readily defended idea). What they do not appear to have come to in any way is an analysis of ageism or the profound vulnerability that all children of every demographic have in common. Consequently, certain subjects are absent from leftist commentary, the attachment needs of children being top of the list, with the critical concept of shame being close behind. (To discuss addiction without bringing up shame is ridiculous.) I do not believe Richard’s essays represent any kind of exception to this, but if you would like to prove me wrong, using specific statements of his, I would certainly consider them. So far, having read two of his pieces, I haven’t seen any.

    This expansion of the parameters for who is considered vulnerable which I propound should dovetail nicely with a movement in opposition to the medical model for understanding psychological suffering. Alas, that movement appears to me, like psychiatry, to be squeamish about discussing the universal indignities, and often dangers, of childhood in this world.

    • Okay, you’re right in that I shouldn’t have said all your premises are flawed. Due to the lack of paragraph breaks, I must have missed the points you just repeated to me. I actually agree with them. What I meant to say earlier is that your take on “leftism” is flawed and your rage against “leftists” is misguided.

    • Thank you for the clarification. I agree that children in general are the least powerful and most oppressed group on the planet, and that their oppression is often ignored or minimized by all folks across the political spectrum. It’s kind of sad, because it is the one kind of oppression that most of us can deeply share and relate to, regardless of what race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or national origin label may apply to us. I think it’s crucial that we come together on the point of the oppression of children, because that’s where all the other forms of oppression have their birth, IMHO. But sadly, children don’t vote and have no real social power at all, so it falls to us who used to be children to speak for them, and for the most part, we have failed them miserably.

      I’m interested in your views on what I said above, namely, the difficulty or unwillingness of those leaning left on the political spectrum to find a way to see the oppression of the psychiatric system and work it into their “intersectionality” analysis.

  17. With all due respect, Richard, for a person ostensibly concerned with acute emotional and mental suffering and psychiatric abuse of the sufferers, you appear to be awfully preoccupied with the abstractions of class and political systems. I can assure you that people on the edge of the will to live give not a single fuck who owns the means of production. For the millions of us in this world who were gravely damaged by our parents (vast numbers of them liberals like mine, radicals and hippies), this preoccupation is just more earnest nonsense, ESPECIALLY those of us whose stories violate the conventional wisdom that you, too, appear disinclined to subvert: that “disadvantaged child” means black, brown, and poor white, period.

    Despite my strident tone, I don’t mean to undercut your work fighting the abusive psychiatric establishment, but I despair that even here, where Alice Miller’s name should be frequently invoked and where the topic of shame should be commonplace, people are pontificating about capitalism versus other systems, blah, blah, blah. From where I stand, this is very much a part of the problem and very much a symptom of the blind compulsion to uphold a much greater taboo than advocating for socialism: admitting that adults oppress, exploit and betray children as a matter of course, and that folks from every socioeconomic level do this to their children, not because they are cogs in a patriarchal system, but because they themselves were betrayed, abandoned and traumatized by their parents at an exquisitely vulnerable and dependent stage of their lives.

    Having lost all the years of my pre-adolescence and adolescence to medical neglect, I am not in a position to debate history or political science with most people. What I am in a position to do is tell you how terribly dangerous and deeply alienating it was for me to never see any validation whatsoever of my suffering or desperate need for advocacy in the world at large once I left my negligent family. (In fact, the self-righteous and ridiculous insistence on assigning me to a “privileged” childhood because of the zip code where I grew up is even more pronounced today than it was then, and my heart breaks for the children, like me, that this hangs out to dry. Some number of them will take their lives at some point, as I almost did, for total lack of validation and empathy.)

    Because of that vacuum, I have needed decades to deconstruct what I endured, when it really should have taken just a few years. This is appalling and tragic, on a personal level, of course, but also because that American group that talks the most about the need to dismantle oppression is genuinely uninterested in focusing this passion for “justice” on the most disenfranchised, the most vulnerable, and the most abused part of humanity of all, children. All of them.

  18. Steve McCrea, I’m going to respond to you first, and I’m going to be nit-picky (big shock). You say the oppression of children is “the one kind of oppression that most of us can deeply share and relate to, regardless of what race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or national origin label may apply to us.” You omit social class from that list. Perhaps it was an oversight, but I think it’s a telling and reflexive omission. It certainly reflects American liberal and left conventional wisdom that “disadvantage” (at least in childhood) is defined by material comforts and nothing more. I could go, at length, into why people think this way, but I will spare you, though it’s interesting stuff and very much tied up with the answer to your question….The gist of your comment is one I virtually never hear, in the media, in personal conversation, etc. It simply isn’t out there, so I’m gratified that you get it, and I wholly agree with your sentiments.

    As for your question about the left’s failure to call out psychiatric abuse, I would need you to elaborate on the intersectionality part, but I can comment on that failure in general.

    I believe that one of the big problems is that the left is overcompensating for the tradition of blaming the victims of psychological suffering; you know, “It’s all in your head,” “You’re making this up,” “You have the devil in you,” etc. It’s very keen to embrace a tangible, equal opportunity culprit in cases of depression, schizophrenia, etc. If it has to be in league with the devil to do so, apparently that’s a price the left is willing to pay. So that’s part of it.

    I think, in general, that the left’s failure in this regard tells us much more about what it doesn’t want to face than about the reality of emotional suffering. It doesn’t want to face that child abuse is a vast, unwieldy, uncomfortable fact of life that defies simple understanding and easy solutions. It doesn’t want to face that child abuse defies most of its cherished explanations for how the world works, especially that of class privilege and disadvantage as the key to quality of life.

    It’s also my experience that middle-class leftists are extremely disinclined to believe that their parents could have been sadists, which contradicts the racist conventional wisdom about who is and is not capable of depravity in this country, and which is generally a miserable and very challenging reality to come to terms with.

    We need to understand that left wingers are no less apt to embrace their politics as a means of avoiding personal demons than right wingers are. I was one of these people projecting my anger onto the state and our corporate masters instead of onto my parents, but I don’t do that anymore. Although I am still a leftist, I reject orthodoxy of any kind, departing as I do from many sacred lefty beliefs, and I refuse to take people’s professed motivations at face value.

    So there are lots of incentives for lefties to embrace the medical model, perverse as doing so is. They are clearly not above being fooled by Big Pharma, sadly, though they would never admit that that’s what is going on. (Mental gymnastics, par excellence.)

    Does that help to answer your question?

  19. Another point, Steve McCrea: the left is happy to embrace the medical model instead of looking for the source of depression in family experiences because, as I indicate above, that would require them to question their own families (especially as more and more middle-class and educated people have been “coming out of the closet” as suffering from depression and anxiety).

    But doing this, in addition to challenging their worldview, is also a very lonely road to travel. Examining one’s own family and how it damaged one, even if you have a good therapist, is a long, lonely project. How much more enjoyable is it to jump on a bandwagon where one’s own (leftist) tribe is already assembled, waiting for you? (As I’ve made clear here, I believe that’s something Richard is doing, only he’s railing against patriarchy instead of abusive families and the disenfranchisement of children; I say this even though I agree with him about the medical model, unlike the larger proportion of leftists.)

    So this is a case where left-leaning Americans are following their desire to be among a large group of their fellow travelers instead of joining a smaller tribe like the one here or undertaking the deconstruction of their childhood traumas at the hands of their parents and other adults.

    • Thanks for your thorough answer. I agree that, in essence, most of us are projecting our rage/powerlessness either on those who appear to have the most social power (left) or those who have the least (right). Dealing with our own disappointment/rage/grief regarding our own upbringing and the adults who were supposed to care with us but failed is the first job of anyone trying to be helpful to others or to society at large. Unfortunately, few people do this, and once a person has ripped open this veil, other people’s motivations seem all to obvious and yet often impossible to discuss. It is, indeed, a lonely experience. Thanks for sharing it with me!

      • Oh, and vis-a-vis social class, of course, it does belong on that list, and it is one of the easiest ones to leave off. Rich kids get abused as well as poor and middle class kids, and there are some unique difficulties for privileged people to get in touch with historical feelings of powerlessness. Thanks for reminding me to include that.

  20. And now for my response to Richard.

    You say “I would like to hear what solutions you would propose for political activists in today’s world.” Here’s my suggestion: Get your own house in order first. Don’t go ranting about outside sources of oppression and trauma until you are very clear on the oppression you yourself suffered in your own family and likely at the hands of adults outside it as well. It’s very disingenuous for people to point the finger at other sources of oppression when they cannot speak authoritatively about how they themselves were damaged and then blamed for that damage by a group whose privilege is so deep and so invisible that even the left wing cannot see it: adults. As if that is not systemic injustice!!

    You want systemic change? Do something radical and help dismantle the practices that make child abuse and neglect so likely: the disenfranchisement of the family through institutionalized schooling and the medical-industrial complex. In other words, birth your babies at home, homeschool them, and don’t run off to the doctor for every little problem. Encourage mamas to breastfeed instead of feeding Nestle, because breastfed babies are more likely to be spaced more like Mother Nature intended than a year apart, a disastrous crowding that makes abuse inevitable. (And of course, we have to dump religion. My parents were Catholic and slaves to 1950s and 60s detachment parenting, which is why they had five children in seven years, and my mother had four C-sections in four and a half years. If she had been black and/or poor, someone would have realized she was in way over her head on that basis alone. Alas, we were white and middle-class.)

    Why is the American family such a basket case, where neglect and horrible judgement are so likely? Because big institutions (which certainly exist outside of capitalist societies) have taken all authority away from it. The school system took over the family’s job of educating its kids. The medical system decimated folk and holistic medicine, and on and on. An institution (the family) with no more responsibility than to house people at night will not act any better than a hotel! And this discourages bonding and attachment (which medical birth and scientific parenting led the way on), making abuse and neglect inevitable. (I don’t suggest that child abuse can be eliminated from human societies, but it is clear that the circumstances I am describing to you are much more conducive to it than traditional societies are. Fortunately, we can take back some of the features of those societies.)

    The most radical thing an American can do, from where I stand, is to gather together into multi-generational homes again, with biological or non-biological family. Take back the children from the school and take back the elderly from the nursing home, where the young and the old are systematically drugged. We can strengthen our families and communities in this way and lessen our dependence upon the industrial school system, corporate America, and other homogenizing and uncaring behemoths. Nothing would do more to frighten the establishment, while discouraging the development of depression and anxiety, than this. It’s not only a wonderful end run around the oligarchicization of the United States but the very best thing we can do for children, who are as necessary and important an object of political activism as anyone.

    When you humanize the way children are raised, you create lifelong environmentalists and humanitarians. These people will transform not only their own prospects under the tyranny of Big Pharma, but the world.