Three Antipsychiatry Scholarships: The Revolution Continues

Bonnie Burstow, PhD
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How does one bestow credibility and legitimacy on an area or a perspective when in the public eye, it has almost none? How does one turn antipsychiatry into a respected area of study and practice in the face of psychiatric hegemony? How does one attract more and more students to this and related fields of study? How might one at the same time begin healing the rifts between Antipsychiatry and Mad Studies? And how does one ensure that what advances are made at one university spread to others?

There are a number of different ways, many of which I have personally pursued over the years. One way is to endow at different respected universities Antipsychiatry and Mad Studies scholarships. This is the story of three such scholarships—and the struggles and strategies involved.

An important context for this article are battles in which I partook from 2006 until a couple of years ago which led to the creation of the world’s first antipsychiatry scholarship, this at University of Toronto. What is likewise context is a previous article of mine, also published in Mad in America, called “Conferring Legitimacy on the Counterhegemonic” that theorizes in considerable detail what transpired during that period—the fight, the strategies, and the use of allies. A more immediate context is how the first awarding of this scholarship was actually accomplished and the groundwork laid to ensure that this scholarship does not go off course. The most recent context largely materialized in the last few months—arriving at agreements with two other universities, York and Ryerson: upon my death, and in accordance with agreed-on provisions in my new will, money from my estate will be used to establish Antipsychiatry and Mad Studies scholarships in each of these universities.

I will begin this discussion with the 2006 work and the formal creation of the Dr. Bonnie Burstow Scholarship in Antipsychiatry at University of Toronto, but this will not be the primary focus and so people who want further details on it are advised to read the article mentioned above. I will proceed to zero in on the various developments that have happened since then. I will end with an identification of lessons learned and with an invitation to others.

The Beginning

In 2006, I began what proved to be nine months of negotiations with OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) and U. of T. (University of Toronto) to establish an agreement for a clause in a will which I was drafting whereby my residual estate would go to creating a perpetual scholarship for OISE students doing theses in the areas of antipsychiatry and/or homelessness. To be clear, while homelessness is a pressing concern and research area of mine, my overriding intent was to fund students working in antipsychiatry. Nonetheless, I was keenly aware that the academics in question would welcome something in homelessness but not antipsychiatry. Hence, linking the two together was good strategy.

Indeed, while a scholarship in homelessness was objected to by no one, antipsychiatry proved to be a formidable stumbling block. There appeared to be no end of objections to it. For nine months I met with who was then the current dean of OISE, carefully addressing every objection she had. Examples of obstacles, together with responses that materialized were: She told me they could not mount a scholarship that gave priority to psychiatric survivors because psychiatric survivors themselves would never want such a thing, whereupon, I turned to the Mad Students Society, who went on record saying they very much wanted it. I was told that the endowment as described was a human rights violation—when it demonstrably was not. Correspondingly, I was told that OISE could not create such a scholarship because no program or department at OISE would feel qualified to oversee the giving of such an award, whereupon, I immediately mobilized and at my urging, two different departments at OISE passed resolutions stating definitively that they would be happy to oversee it.

And so the negotiations went. Nine months passed with me responding fastidiously to each and every objection raised. Finally, when it started to look as if this process would never end, I told U. of T. that unless they accepted the offer within the next seven days (and it had not yet cleared the Dean’s office, and there were two other levels that would have to approve), I would withdraw it and make a comparable offer to Carleton University. Three days later, with the dean’s help, the proposed endowment had been approved by all U. of T., with no further changes required.

Fast forward a few years—Shaindl Diamond, the executor of my will, got in touch with me, worried. She knew that when I died, the residual estate provisions in my will would have to go through the university again, and she feared that she would not be as good at negotiating as I was. Correspondingly, she asked if I could try to establish a small antipsychiatry scholarship at OISE/UT now, with the hope that this would pave the way for the larger scholarship articulated in my will. I quickly agreed.

Years of negotiations followed as I tried to bring into being the Dr. Bonnie Burstow Scholarship in Antipsychiatry at OISE/UT. Now this was to be a “matching scholarship,” that is, I was agreeing to personally match all amounts I could raise from the community. Additionally, I promised U. of T. that I would contribute whatever was needed so that at the bare minimum, the scholarship fund had $50,000 dollars in it. I got the approval of the new dean quickly. And with help from OISE, I immediately took to mobilizing the community to help fund-raise. In the process, stellar allies like Dr. Peter Breggin, Dr. Lauren Tenney, and Reverend Cheri DiNovo came aboard, publicly endorsing the scholarship. With these endorsements in hand, we reached out to potential donors; with students taking the primary role, in particular Efrat Gold, we created a video on the significance of the scholarship. Meanwhile I continued to negotiate with U. of T. around wording that we could both accept.

Did I run into problems? Yes, huge problems and legions of them. For example, throughout this process, every person assigned by OISE to help me steward the request though U. of T. or reach out to the press kept being “let go” unexpectedly, and when they disappeared, their correspondence with respect to the scholarship disappeared with them. My solution was to keep each and every email that transpired on the topic (and there were literally hundreds of them) and to forward relevant emails to new people as they surfaced. What was also distressing but in the end proved more amusing than serious, additionally, was that some Canadian psychiatrists spoke openly at international conferences telling those assembled they were hell-bent on stopping the “misguided” scholarship. This I basically ignored. What was far more serious was that one stall after another materialized. My institutional allies at OISE and I settled on a strategy that proved to be a winner. We argued that disallowing the scholarship was at odds with academic freedom.

As we got closer and closer to the goal, a historic meeting took place between several OISE administrators and me, during which we hammered out provisional details on how the yearly award would work. Alas, less than a month later, the OISE official in charge of the scholarship was let go, with the entire email exchange between the two of us likewise gone. And again, I began negotiating with new people. Frustrating? You betchya! But we soldiered on.

Eventually, a wording was accepted and the scholarship was approved by the University Board of Governors. Alas, however, once the press got wind of the scholarship, I was trashed in media around the world. Threats were made on my life. And one mainstream professional claimed to be one of many in the process of initiating lawsuits against me. Mostly I simply ignored the unfair treatment and threats—and my students and I concentrated on creating ever new consciousness-raising and fundraising events.  Essentially, we counted on the old adage that all press was good press. And so it was to prove.

What was the primary consequence of being trashed in the media around the world? Once in a while, I was able to convince the media to let me respond (e.g., after having been trashed in a student newspaper, The Varsity, I convinced those in charge to let me write an op-ed piece where instead of focusing of the unjust attacks on me, I availed myself of the opportunity to educate the public about psychiatry and antipsychiatry). In a totally unexpected and likewise thrilling turn of events, a billionaire in the US who otherwise would never have gotten wind of this Canadian development heard of the scholarship and made a very sizeable contribution to it, which I then proceeded to match. We now had a scholarship with a healthy amount of money behind it—something that may well never have happened otherwise. In other words the bad publicity helped us prevail beyond our wildest dreams!

Recent Developments Around the Scholarship

We now had a scholarship to which the university community was committed, and everyone acted accordingly. We met and accomplished what we needed to do to ensure that this was more than a “paper victory.” It was decided at OISE that we would pick the first recipient of the scholarship in early April of 2018; also, so as to ensure that the process would not go awry, I would be in charge of coordinating. At the urging of the administration, I handpicked the rest of the evaluation committee. I invited one person from each OISE department, and with the aid of helpful officials, I put processes in place to ensure that students knew how to apply. We mounted all relevant information on the OISE website. Applications began coming in, complete with thesis proposals and recommendations from supervisors. In April, the committee met to select who will soon be the very first recipient of the award. And what a glorious meeting it was!

Contrary to the worries of many that the scholarship would be a “non-starter” due to lack of interest among students, we received four exceptionally impressive applications. As all of us agreed, every single one of the applications was strong enough to be awarded the scholarship. I was granted the opportunity to clarify antipsychiatry to the selection committee and my colleagues were delighted to find out more. As we began discussing the applications, it was evident that everyone was committed to making the choice carefully, taking all relevant factors into consideration. Correspondingly, one hour later, with smiles flashing around the room, we had unanimously chosen a winner. Truly an inspiring beginning. And nothing could be clearer that that we had turned a corner.

Subsequent Scholarship Developments

With stories like this, the point reached at this juncture would generally be the end of the saga, for I had ostensibly accomplished what I set out to do. It is not the end! The point is I kept focused on the larger mission—both at University of Toronto and beyond. Correspondingly, I continued to use the scholarship to raise consciousness.

In addition to this, new stages of a more extensive endowment journey soon commenced. The initial impetus for these stages was that my will was eleven years old. So it was time to look at revisions more particularly, and more generally, to take stock of what I was leaving to posterity.

The first thing I noticed is that my residual estate (which I had scrimped and saved for and had ensured was sizeable as well as constituting the vast majority of my estate) was still going to a “compromise scholarship” in which the scholarship was divided between research into homelessness and antipsychiatry research. What that meant in essence is a huge amount of my money (moreover an amount about 15 times the size of the scholarship that I had just endowed) would be going into a scholarship where antipsychiatry research was only part of the focus. It soon dawned on me how easy it would be for the scholarship to almost always get awarded to theses in the other area, with antipsychiatry thereby pushed to the side. For a few seconds, this realization floored me. Then I remembered Wittgenstein’s ladder. For people who do not know what I mean, in his major tome Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus, the brilliant philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein articulated a theory of language that could successfully serve as a tool to arrive at a type of awareness. At the same time, he knew that the theory was incorrect. Toward the end of this impressive work, accordingly, he acknowledged as much. Correspondingly, he urged readers to think of the original formulation as a ladder that gets you to the roof top. It did its job in letting you get where you needed to go—now you needed to throw away the ladder.

Yes, I told myself, this is exactly what I need to do with the original scholarship that I negotiated back in 2006. It has gotten us where we needed to go; now it is important to throw it away. Why use a hypothetical scholarship that was barely okay, when I now have a fully existing scholarship that does the job brilliantly? Whereupon I revised my will, replacing the former residual clause provision with the following: “For the residue of my estate, I instruct my executor as follows: To pay the Governing Council at University of Toronto one hundred per cent (100%) of the residue of my estate to be used to augment the Dr. Bonnie Burstow Scholarship in Antipsychiatry at the University of Toronto at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.” And with that change, with that fortuitous use of the Wittgenstein ladder formula, a fuller revolution has just happened. And was this strategic about-turn the end of the process? As it happened, no.

As I quickly realized as I continued reviewing my will, I could further adjust my will so that the revolution in process could be bigger still. Why limit myself to a scholarship at one university only when we could accomplish more?, I asked myself. Now to be clear, I had only enough savings for one huge scholarship—and huge it certainly will become upon my passing. However, why not try to endow smaller scholarships in a similar vein at other universities—would this not create synergy and bestow exponentially more legitimacy on the area? I immediately thought of the other universities in the Toronto area. Could I not to some extent cover all three universities in Toronto so that wherever any student went in the city, they could access a scholarship of this ilk? And might not this in the fullness of time even culminate in like-minded counterhegemonic scholars at different universities working together?

So asking myself and so reasoning, I reached out to a few of my allies at Ryerson University and York University who also teach in the general area. Thrilled, they immediately committed themselves to helping both now and after my demise. Noticing myself that both of these universities had strengths in Mad Studies, which itself could act as a bridge, and conjecturing that here additionally was an opportunity to bring Mad Studies and Antipsychiatry closer together, I decided to work at creating scholarships in both universities for students doing theses in either of these areas.

Knowing from experience that the first objections that would be raised would likely be that there were few courses and little or no faculty in the area, with help, I first created a list of faculty in these areas at each university as well as lists of the relevant courses that were taught. And with this information in hand, I got in touch with the relevant university administrators, prepared to make the case, beginning with Ryerson. With Ryerson, the issue of faculty and relevant course was checked out with record speed, and the only real complication that I came across is what is called the “variance clause.”

A variance clause is a standard clause which is always included in endowment agreements.  It gives the institution in question the right to use the money for something somewhat different than what is spelled out. If you are trying to endow anything, you can never get around having to negotiate a variance clause. And if the scholarship intended is highly counter-hegemonic, here is a key place where you are likely to be faced with seemingly insurmountable problems. Indeed, it is one of the principle factors that held up the University of Toronto scholarship for years. What in essence you have to do is rein in the degree of discretionary power that officials want granted to the university even while negotiating a variance clause that takes into consideration the organization’s needs (and changing needs), all while ensuring that your intention will actually be honoured not only now but long after your demise. And it is with this last part that a benefactor has to be especially careful.

Now by this time, I had become adept at finding solutions, and it also helped that I was dealing with a much more nimble university, as well as staff who were both surprised and delighted that someone who had been neither faculty nor student at their university actually wanted to give them money. Hence, while we were forced into some tricky back-and-forths with wording, within four days we had come to an agreement. Three weeks later, an agreement had likewise been reached with York University. After that, I revised my new will accordingly. And I sent the additions to my lawyer.

The upshot? About a week ago (April 26, 2018) my new will was officially signed and witnessed. If I might be allowed an exclamation here—halleluiah!

Lesson to be Gleaned from the Foregoing:

  • Piece by piece a person can mount a revolutionary change even when it seems impossible.
  • Be strategic, not reactive.
  • Take every setback as a time to reflect, every obstacle as a learning opportunity.
  • Gather your forces around you—psych survivors, students, colleagues, on-side administrators.
  • Leverage the espoused values of the institution that you are trying to influence (e.g., note, in this story, the strategic use of the value of academic freedom).
  • Do not worry about personal attacks and bad publicity—all publicity is good publicity.
  • Know that you can seldom just accept the university’s standard variance clause. Figure out what is needed to safeguard what you are trying to achieve and act accordingly—even when doing so adds years to the process.
  • Keep your eyes on the “big picture,” and when you have ostensibly won, just take this as a time to expand your horizons.
  • Be at once 100% visionary, 100% principled, and 100% pragmatic.
  • Use every conceivable moment as a cherished opportunity to educate and organize.
  • As with Wittgenstein’s ladder, use as tools what helps you reach your goal, while being prepared to cast away formulations and achievements no longer helpful.

Closing Remarks and an Invitation

A quiet revolution has just happened—a formidable piece of counter-hegemony. We now have antipsychiatry scholarships ensconced at all three universities in a major international city. And with this, antipsychiatry has made sizeable inroads into academia. We have not only laid down infrastructure and built in safeguards—human and other—we have altered the discourse.

To be clear, this is just one aspect of the gargantuan job that has to be done to make universities work for us, and more generally and more importantly, to make society as a whole work for us. And it is absolutely critical that people concentrate on other and, in many respects, more important parts of the struggle. To keep with the focus of this particular article, however, in ending, let me ask: If we can have antipsychiatry and/or Mad Studies scholarships embedded in every Toronto university, why can’t we “decolonize” other cities similarly? How about New York? How about Tokyo?

Roughly speaking, I have provided, as it were, a road map to be followed, used for inspiration, varied, as the case may be. And in whatever way feels right to you, I invite others able and interested to take up the challenge. Please note, we already know that the fight to create such counter-hegemonic scholarships is not only a meaningful one but a fight that we can actually win. Correspondingly, it can but contribute to the winning of other battles. Who is to say what this might lead to down the road with respect to individual freedom? Valuing of difference? The way society understands and responds to “personal troubles”? Societal recognition of hidden racism, sexism, poverty, etc? The very existence of psychiatry?

That said, I cannot “sign off” without thanking all the people who contributed to this glorious breakthrough (students, psych survivors, radical practitioners, movement people, faculty, administrators, donors, etc.)—to name just a few: Sim Kapoor,  Dr. Sona Kazemi, Efrat Gold (and family), Dr. Simon Adam, Sharry Taylor,  Dr. Peter Breggin, Dr. Lauren Tenney, Dr. Shaindl Diamond, Julie Wood, Reverend Cheri DiNovo, Dr. Charles Pascal, Dr. Jennifer Poole, Dr. Chris Chapman, Inna Hupponen, Mark Riczu, Dr. Jane Gaskell, Dr. Jack Quarter, Vesna Bajic, Dr. Nina Bascia, Don Weitz, Dr. Glen Jones, Dr. Ian Macleod, Lise Watson, Dr. Tanya Titchkosky, Dr. Linda Muzzin, Oriel Vargas, Nichole Schott, Rebecca Ballen, Dr. Mark Federman, Margaret Brennan, Dr. Jeanne Watson, Lara Cartmale, Michael Hill, lawyer Christine Davidson—and to add two highly helpful staff from Ryerson and York, Mira Claxton and Marisa Barias.

Individually and collectively, you helped pave the way for the dawning of a new era. My heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you.

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93 COMMENTS

  1. Money opens all doors …

    The trouble is that the money of the opponent opens even more easily these doors.

    It is a problem that money can guide research, because even if you have successfully lobbied (good for antipsychiatry), the psychiatric industry is doing the same thing and has more money than you.

    This illustrates a fundamental problem.

  2. Congratulations Bonnie on an incredible victory. Sylvain brought up a similar fear that I deal with on a near daily basis in my own little activism here in Oregon, “They have more power” and “They have more money!” “We are so powerless” and “We are so penniless”. In every other movement for social justice (or the environment) in which I have been active, I have never been so consumed by such fear of failure, as I have with this movement for human rights in the mental health system. Your victory ignites me and gives me inspiration I need to carry on in my own little universe to continue to knock on doors and speak truth to power, and write letters, and go to town hall meetings and challenge the prevailing authorities that have spread lies for far too long.

    The insidious means by which a big cartel of pharma companies, colluding with the APA and pseudo consumer organizations like NAMI could shape our entire culture’s view of human distress and twist it to their advantage, is nothing short of breathtaking.

    In your work, to educate people in institutions in which not only the institutions themselves have become corrupted, but whose academic programs cater to millions of otherwise bright students who routinely suspend their intellectual capacities in the promise of a ‘magic bullet’ solutions to human distress, is a gargantuan task. I tip my hat to you for your steel will power, vision, and clarity of purpose as you forded through very dangerous waters and came out the other side.

  3. I would suggest the following: Establish a scholarship whereby self-directed students who able to work without close supervision can apply for a low-residency type academic study such I did at Goddard College where I did my graduate work. The low-residency setting allows students to remain living wherever they are, and travel twice a year to a conference where they work intensively together for about ten days. This way, students are not required to relocate.

    The other suggestion I would make would be to set up such a program in a university that is located in an area that is affordable to live. Of course, trends cannot be predicted, but as of now, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, etc, are insanely expensive compared to, say, the Appalachian region or parts of the South.

    Psych survivors are invariably so poor they/we cannot afford to live in any other locale than the most impoverished of areas. Because my current area is affordable, I am delighted with the people, the culture, the way of life, and the welcome I have received here.

    Why not set up an antipsych department at a junior college? As of now, I am currently planning out an antipsych class, likely an overview of principles, to teach at my local junior college. I plan to apply to do this for the Continuing Ed department. It’s my understanding that if the class is well-received I will be invited to run it again.

    Many continuing education centers independent of universities will welcome teachers willing to teach this subject with open arms. And variations thereof! “Writing by Psychiatric Survivors.” “Mad Poets Strike Again!” And so on.

  4. First off, WOW! Amazing work, and thanks for the wonderful guide/pathway for others to create similar successes!

    Second, WOW! It is amazing the lengths to which the industry and its beneficiaries will go to snuff out anything that threatens their domination of the field. Your persistence is incredible in the face of such systematic direct and indirect attempts to derail your intentions. You really have exposed the incredible fear these people have of being exposed, and now created a means of furthering their exposure. They must be terrified of you!

  5. Just spent 12 days in a hospital watching my father die. Spoke to some student nurses who were required to write a project on a controversioal subject by their university. Asked if they had heard of Bonnie Burtsow, Heather Ashton, Peter Breggin, Joanna Moncrieff and David Healy. None of them had, all of them made a note of the names and I informed them of the topic at hand and of your scholarship.

    Brilliant and tenacious work ! People need to know about the horror !

  6. The following was a comment by a certain Brennan on your Now Toronto article.

    Brennan comments: “Without SSRIs and other modern mental health medications, which are methodically prescribed to me by my psychiatrist, I would be a complete burden on society. No one (medical professional or layman) has even questioned my need for pharmaceuticals for my physical ailment but, very few understand the importance of my need for my other medication.

    Purposely using atrocious abuses and ignorance of the medical system as meaningful examples from decades ago to justify her current stance is pretty low (and I do mean building a wall low). Just because she shamelessly cites examples of a system that targeted and forced treatment upon on “gays” and “women” is reason enough to kick the soap box from under her. Personally, I do not see how her stance on mental health is the least bit progressive. She is, at best akin to Ann Coulter participating in an open panel discussion on Bill Maher’s show. If she can teach antipsychiartry, why can’t Eugenics be brought back; calipers and all.”

    One of the things some of these people are afraid of is that you’ll take away their pills from them. Funny. Considering that even in the hypothetical scenario where professional psychiatry is gone, drugs could still be bought directly from a drug store (except that the law currently makes it impossible in most countries) for those who wish to use them. It’s very easy to enter into psychiatry to take drugs. It’s a lot harder to be rid of psychiatry so as to not be forced to.

    There was also a lot of the standard psychiatric junk about brain imaging and the false association with Scientology.

    Out of curiosity, Ms. Burstow; what kind of courses are you looking to teach in these antipsychiatry programs?

    Also, congrats.

    • Most people on psych drugs are dependent on disability. They crippled me; I still can’t work full time.

      My guess is Brennan lives off government hand outs and goes to “clubhouse” or “day treatment” in lieu of a job. Why she thinks her Fix makes her less of a burden is beyond me!

      None of these “Proud Bipolars and Schizos” ever reads a word of those they disagree with. Or even the APA journal articles written by the gods they fawn over. Why bother when drug brochures and TV give us all the facts we need?

      Bipolar Burbler brags about how ignorant she is, posting that she refuses to read Anatomy of an Epidemic. One finds this mind set in cult members’ fear over reading contraband literature.

      Btw, I’m not a Flat Earther but I’m not afraid to read what they publish (good for yucks) or trying to ban it. If I were afraid what they said was true I would be!

    • What discourages me most are the lazy, stupid people like Brennan. Semi-literate sheeple who enjoy loafing in front of TV and whining about the “mental illnesses” they promote for self dramatizing. Like Kay Redfield Jamison and Patty Duke to name a couple.

      If they admitted they weren’t hopelessly incompetent and crazy they would have to grow up and take responsibility. Scary! Let the Nanny State supply the bottles, change their diapers and burp them.

      My biggest beef is, like the fable of the crabs caught in a trap, these adult infants want to tear down those of us who wish to recover. Not enough to ruin their own lives but ours as well. Catty, spiteful, jealous so-and-so.

      Had one troll on Dr. Healy’s site tell us to go to Hell, cause she had a “happy, productive life.” I told her most likely her “awesome” life was a dumbed down, numbed out state–unable to work, go to school, or do much of anything like housework or talking to others–in a ghetto of other mental patients since no one else wanted to be near her. Ms. Troll never responded. I guessed correctly. Ha.

      I never aspired to be a mental patient. Apparently many LOVE the role.

        • I hate it! But his site offers alternative perspectives. At least Healy is more honest than most shrinks who claim they know the exact cause of madness and have magic bullets or life saving medicines that will fix everything.

          Everyone I know offline believes this crap too.

          • Healy is a hypocrite who administers and promotes ECT, which causes more damage than psych drugs.
            He believes the horror stories of people harmed by psych drugs or drug withdrawal.
            At the same time he questions the veracity of victims of ECT, ridiculously babbling about their memory
            problems being caused by benzos or the anesthetic or just about anything else but electrical trauma and seizure injuries from ECT.
            He ignores the Janis studies and other research, preferring studies done by ppl like Chucky Kellner, who make their living off ECT.
            Any good he has done on the drugs front is wiped out by his role in promoting a human rights violation that is simply torture.

          • I still consider his website a useful resource. Glad I’m not one of his victims though!

            Not all the writers/readers of his blog support ECT.

            His support of random brain damage by electrocuting an innocent person like a death row murderer is of course vile an STOOPID!

  7. “For the residue of my estate, I instruct my executor as follows: To pay the Governing Council at University of Toronto one hundred per cent (100%) of the residue of my estate to be used to augment the Dr. Bonnie Burstow Scholarship in Antipsychiatry at the University of Toronto at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.”

    Amazing. This is incredible. Thank you.

    “How does one bestow credibility and legitimacy on an area or a perspective when in the public eye, it has almost none?”

    Your books and your scholarship and will are as good a start as anything that I have observed in recent years. Truth should already have credibility and legitimacy, but sadly, so few people understand the truth about psychiatry. The wonder is that psychiatry has any credibility and legitimacy in the public eye, when precisely the opposite should be the case.

    “How does one turn antipsychiatry into a respected area of study and practice in the face of psychiatric hegemony?”

    That is an excellent question, and I’m grateful for the great work that you have already done. The rest of the questions and answers are also excellent. Thank you.

    I’m ready to teach courses in antipsychiatry 101 all the way up to graduate level courses in antipsychiatry. I certainly have enough material for an excellent dissertation right now.

    Exciting news. Thank you. 🙂

  8. Bravo Bonnie! Three cheers for three scholarships! Just when psychiatry and its ilk would most like to consign antipsychiatry to the dustbin of history, turns out it is very much alive and kicking. You’ve been the sole source of antipsychiatry news of late, and all the news is, as far as I’m concerned, good. Antipsychiatry is in the universities. Antipsychiatry has a future. Antipsychiatry is here to stay.

    I was talking to someone recently, in the context of the recent APA convention in NYC, about why we should (if we should) be talking to psychiatrists. He mentioned the movie, Schindler’s List, and said something about saving lives, that even one life was worth saving. I told him that if he was really interested in saving lives, 36,000 (the number of present members of the APA) pink slips would be in order. When psychiatric treatment is often deadly, firing psychiatrists can literally be life saving.

    • This is a wonderful idea. Psychiatry, evil, corrupt, dangerous faux science pretending to be a “medical specialty”. What a joke. These bloated, ignorant toads neurotoxic poisoning ppl and electrocuting them in the name of “treatment” is horrifying.
      The maim, cripple, poison, disable, and drive people to suicide.
      Real doctors, neurologists should lobby to have their “licenses” revoked.
      They should be give n jobs cleaning up toxic spills at nuclear sites, no gloves supplied.

      • And they LIE! ALL. THE. TIME.

        They deceive trusting people coming for help with crippling emotional pain. They deceive the public. And they commit libelous slander against those they first deceived by bad-mouthing them on national television.

        Shame!

  9. Thanks for this article Dr. Burstow. I am a novice researcher desirous of submitting an anti-antidepressant article to a journal:
    https://www.earthmedresearch.org/antidepressants-fraudulent/
    In debating these issues online, man do people pile the **** on you. Your reminder of “all publicity is good publicity” is a timely reminder that I’m never gonna shutup. Not quite ready for the death threats yet, but I hope to have your level of resilience in time!

  10. From Frank:

    AS I KEEP POINTING OUT, should you abolish psychiatry without abolishing forced treatment, you will have accomplished very little. The problem is not that psychiatry exists

    If psychiatry were abolished no “treatment” of any sort would exist, including coercive, so you wouldn’t have to worry about that, but that’s not what I’m advocating anyway; I think ending coercive “treatment” is necessarily the FIRST step towards eliminating psychiatry as a whole.

    I wish you would settle on a position, however — do you or don’t you support the goal of abolition, in whatever form it would end up taking?

    • I support the goal of abolishing forced psychiatry. I support the goal of abolishing the psychiatric plantation system, or that which Thomas Szasz referred to as psychiatric slavery. I don’t support the goal of abolishing psychiatry. If it wasn’t psychiatry, it would be another “mental health” profession giving us the business, the business that is sanctioned by law. Bad, very bad law. I don’t support the goal of abolishing consensual psychiatry. I am indifferent to consensual psychiatry. I think non-consensual psychiatry is a human wrong, and I stand staunchly in opposition to it.

      Beyond that, I’m not going to be bullied into changing my position because someone would try to be the voice of “peer” pressure. I have absolutely no qualms when it comes to adopting unpopular positions. I would prefer, for the moment, to be truthful rather than to lie (i.e be dishonest).

      • Change your position? I’m still trying to pin down what your position is.

        I don’t know how you differentiate what you call “psychiatric slavery” from psychiatry per se. But your current position as stated seems to be based more in anti-authoritarianism or Constitutional law than anti-psychiatry. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it would be helpful to define.

        There of course remains the question of whether “consensual non-coercive psychiatry” is even possible as long as forced psychiatry exists.

          • All psychiatry is not coercive. As long as psychiatrists have the power granted by legislators to do what other people can’t, legally, to their fellow citizens, under a medical pretext, some of them are likely to use that power. Take away that loophole in the law, specifically mental health law, that allows them to do so, and then, once more, you reestablish equality among us.

          • You seem to have a generous view of the efficacy of civil rights law in the U.S. Eliminating that “loophole” would be equivalent to eliminating the prison system in terms of the blow it would deliver to the system’s ability to maintain itself. I agree in this sense with Richard L. that psychiatry is “too big to fail,” except for the implied negativity regarding our chances of defeating it, which are at least fair. But before defeating it people need to recognize it for what it is and what it isn’t (such as an errant field of medicine).

          • By civil rights law I presume you mean the US constitution and the bill of rights, and no, I think as racial (and psychiatric) relations tell us, we still have a long way to go on that score. Eliminating that loophole would allow the US constitution to trump mental health law, the law that allows people to be locked up without due process in psychiatric prisons who have committed no crimes.

            To use a biblical parable, Goliath was “too big to fail”, and yet David smote him.

            “Errant field of medicine” or “errant field of correction”, how much do you think people actually care? They see a person who seems to them “out of control”, and they want that person “controlled”, or “healed” as some people would put it. I’m saying the very idea is an infringement of his or her liberties, and, in that sense, a threat to the freedom of everybody.

          • You are confusing psychiatry with law. “Mental health law” is a loophole in criminal law that allows the “mental health” authorities to lock up noncriminals under medical pretenses. This law is also unconstitutional, in the same way in which slavery is unconstitutional, and that makes it, in my view, of questionable legality. If one is to defend civil rights and civil liberties, one must rely on the constitution, the very thing that forced treatment, just like slavery and other forms of prejudicial mistreatment, so often violates.

            My issue is with this thing of laying all the blame on psychiatry when clearly so many other people are equally guilty of promoting, supporting, and investing in this system of oppression. The psychiatric profession would be absolutely nowhere without all these other partners in crime. You can’t take down psychiatry without taking down them with it, and if you ignore them, you don’t manage to take down psychiatry anyway. There are family members, associated “mental health” professions, working grunts, law enforcement, politicians, courts of law, researchers, bureaucrats, etc., etc., etc. Let them off the hook, and psychiatry, or no psychiatry, the system of oppression continues.

        • I think you have a simplistic formula that will prove unworkable ultimately. The formula is to blame everything (regarding abusive treatment in the mental health system and field) on psychiatry, and to see the solution to this abuse in the abolition of psychiatry. I, to repeat ad nauseum, don’t think the problem is psychiatry, nor do I think the solution is it’s abolition. Forced treatment is law. Psychiatry isn’t law. I see the problem as forced treatment. Forced treatment incorporating, as it does, human rights violations. Repeal mental health law, abolish forced treatment, and what does psychiatry matter? You just stripped the psychiatrist of his inordinate power advantage. Abolish psychiatry, without repealing mental health law (abolishing forced treatment), and another associated specialty will take over the role assumed by psychiatry. (It’s the law after all.)

          Psychiatry is not the problem. The power given to psychiatrists by legislators, supposedly acting in the public interest, and by courts of law, is the problem. Take away that power, and psychiatry is a shrug.

          • I agree with that, Frank. And it may not be so far away. As we review the Mental Health Act in the UK, can they defend forced treatment? Patients to enjoy less human rights than prisoners and violent criminals? I don’t think so. And can the NHS defend the unique compulsion to use the psychiatrist you are given rather than having choice? No. And, without these power bases backing them up, can psychiatrists, especially in the age of the internet, defend the preposterous statements they come out with? No – especially not in the face of the evidence this site shines a light on. I know I am rather new to all this, but even I have quickly seen though the sham and many others are starting to too.

          • Frank — OK I think you’ve clarified your position that you do NOT support the abolition of psychiatry, just making sure. To clarify my own question, the issue is whether any psychiatric “treatment” can be a truly voluntary choice when the specter of coercion looms should one make the “wrong” choice.

            CC — Very naïve. You seem to believe that because something doesn’t “make sense” in terms of human rights or “quality treatment” all that remains is to convince the govt. of that and they’ll change it. But the govt. doesn’t have to “defend” its actions; it’s the government, for chrissake! It will do what is in its interest, which in this case is keeping people in line.

            The mistake again is in believing psychiatry is a field of medicine rather than a branch of the prison system.

          • I don’t think abolish psychiatry can ever be anything but a pretty stinking bad slogan. What have you got to abolish? A ten letter word? A century ago we had what were called alienists, that’s an eight letter word. When you say psychiatrist, do you mean what used to be called alienists and mad doctors, or not? How far are any of them from today’s psychologists? In reality, things are not so simple as your formula would presume. It would take a lot to get many other people to take psychiatrists for the personifications of pure evil that you apparently take them for.

            There is voluntary treatment now when we’re not talking about institutional settings. Any treatment can be voluntary where people are free to leave it whenever they so choose. Court orders and “civil” commitments are another thing altogether.

          • Frank

            I cannot believe you stand by these statements:

            “I am indifferent to consensual psychiatry.”

            “Psychiatry is not the problem.”

            You say you are against “non-consensual psychiatry” because it takes away people’s rights and harms and oppresses people, but you are “indifferent to consensual psychiatry” and do not believe it is “the problem.”

            What if I could prove to you that “consensual psychiatry” throughout the entire world actually causes overall (in terms of numbers and degree of harm to human beings) FAR MORE harm and FAR MORE damage than “coercive psychiatry”? Then what would you have to say to justify such twisted logic where you are “indifferent” to “consensual psychiatry.”

            Of course, “coercive psychiatry” cause enormous harm; this is well documented. However, it is safe to say that exponentially FAR MORE people worldwide are exposed to “non-coercive psychiatry,” and it also WELL DOCUMENTED how much harm this causes to human beings.

            Frank, you are correct to say that merely abolishing psychiatry will not stop the harm perpetrated by this oppressive “mental health” system. And yes, the power structure running this profit based capitalist system would find other ways to carry out all the labeling, drugging, and incarcerating of people.

            I do get where you are coming from on that part of your position, but to make the other statement I’ve highlighted above defies all moral and political logic.

            As you know from my prior blogs and comments, I do not believe it is possible to eliminate either “consensual” or “non-consensual” psychiatry under the current capitalist/imperialist system.

            Psychiatry’s power and control of dissident sections of the population, along with the enormous profit margins of Big Pharma, makes the Psychiatric/Pharmaceutical/Industrial/Complex now an indispensable component of the entire System. Each is now interdependent on the other’s existence and their future together are permanently linked.

            Richard

          • Consensual non-coercive psychiatry is not a problem for me. It would not impose itself upon me, or anybody else the way non-consensual coercive psychiatry has done. Locking innocent people up in psychiatric prisons under medical pretenses, that’s what I object to. Get rid of the psychiatric prisons, and you’re my friend. Rationalize them, and you’re my foe.

            We’ve had this discussion before, and I don’t see any reason to continue it. I don’t think forced mental health treatment is connected to capitalism, nor do I think you need to end capitalism to abolish forced psychiatry. I’m not pro-capital anymore than I am pro-psychiatry (Jeffry Lieberman’s word), but I wouldn’t use either anti-psychiatry nor anti-capitalism as an excuse not to achieve the aims of the other.

          • Richard, I pretty much concur but for this:

            Frank, you are correct to say that merely abolishing psychiatry will not stop the harm perpetrated by this oppressive “mental health” system. And yes, the power structure running this profit based capitalist system would find other ways to carry out all the labeling, drugging, and incarcerating of people.

            Maybe this is just semantics or phraseology, but if there were no psychiatry there would be no “mental health” system, as the notion of “mental health” would have been discredited. Although it’s possible as you say that incarceration and drugging might then continue under another justification than “mental health,” I don’t think that’s what Frank means here, as he has stated in the past that he doesn’t consider capitalism to be “the problem” either. I’m not sure what he means.

            I agree of course that the damage done by psychiatry far exceeds the toll taken by incarceration and drugging. Probably a substantial majority of “survivors” at MIA have never been court committed or forcibly drugged, but here they are anyway; that in itself says something. The function psychiatry serves in a totalitarian system is to convince people that they NEED their handcuffs and to demand them. Saves a lot of police time.

          • Yes, and we have co-ops and other forms of social ownership even in the midst of capitalism.

            What I mean is that if you are going to wait for world revolution to abolish psychiatric imprisonment and oppression, you are going to have a long wait. However, if you actively work for the abolition of psychiatric oppression, you are much closer to your goal already. Ditto, socialism. I certainly don’t think world revolution is going to abolish forced treatment for me as it has done so nowhere in the world yet. It is probably more of a goal on the right wing agenda, at the present time, than it is on the left wing agenda. We can work on that, but I’m not holding my breath in lieu of a miracle either.

            I agree that there is way too much psychiatry, way too much medicalization, and this ties it to capitalism, but that is a different struggle that requires different tactics. I would discourage people from “consuming/using” it. I would encourage them to boycott it. Why be another 1 in 5, going on 2 in 5, etc. The “mental illness” industry is huge. De-bunking it though is easy because so much of it is, exactly that, bunk.

  11. I fully respect the rightfully enraged calls to “abolish psychiatry”. But I just can’t agree. If you don’t have psychiatry you don’t have the revolutionary insights of the critical psychiatrists and researchers who are pointing out, with evidence, whats wrong. You need experts who can tell you honestly and scientifically what not to do. You wouldn’t have that huge body of research which proves pretty conclusively that you cannot chemically or surgically alleviate problems of the mind, even if the elite pretend not to see it. I cannot imagine what would actually exist in psychiatry’s place.

    The biological psychiatrists that hold positions of power and influence should be called to account by the democratic bodies that sanction and in many cases employ them. So in the UK, Professor Pariante should answer to parliament why he told them that “all the clear evidence in studies and meta-analyses over the last 20 years confirm that antidepressants reduce the number of suicides”, and Professor Taylor should be asked why he stated on the SMC that “antidepressants are much more effective than placebo”. Their statements should be held alongside the evidence to reveal the inevitable conclusion of corruption and denial. Then you get change.

    And Sir Simon Wessely should be asking , and have his answer tested, as part of his review into the MHA: “why should antipsychotics be coercively prescribed in a detention setting? Surely not because some flakey claim to therapeutic efficacy? Really? And antidepressants? Whats your evidence?”

    • There is a huge body of research that would speciously suggest a bio-genetic and physical component to “disorders” of the “mind”. The so-called experts are hunting for what they call bio-markers. Newgenics glides seamlessly into the position once held by the, at one time, very popular “science” of eugenics. The first problem you’ve got is that “mental illness” is a myth making “mental health” management basically a matter of social control. The psychiatric establishment has long given it’s dissident professionals a hard time, and that because it isn’t about “mental health”, another myth, it’s about social control, not “health” at all.

      As for your Wessely comment, “Why should antipsychotics be coercively prescribed in a detention setting?” Think, detention? Coercively? The drugs have been described as chemical restraints, and for good reason. One could also refer to what they do as a “chemical detention”, in effect, or say that they were detention enhancers. They make life easier for the “detention” staff (guards) while keeping the patient/prisoners subdued. Any harm that occurs to the patient/prisoner is simply marked off to the cost of that subjugation. Something that is easily confused with the myth of “mental health” “provision”.

    • If you don’t have psychiatry you don’t have the revolutionary insights of the critical psychiatrists and researchers who are pointing out, with evidence, whats wrong. You need experts who can tell you honestly and scientifically what not to do.

      Wow. You must have gone through a lot of Kool-Aid.

      I’m an expert on concussions — I know honestly and scientifically NOT to make sharp corner turns on your bike in the rain. Anyone know where I can get a job advising people on that?