Introducing Our New ‘Mad Studies’ Webinar Series

Emily Cutler

On July 6th, Mad in America Continuing Education will kick off its Mad Studies webinar series, which I had the honor of organizing. I think everyone undergoes a personal journey of sorts before they arrive at a point where they are interested in mad studies, and for me, organizing this course has been the culminating moment of a journey that began years ago, when I was a college student in Philadelphia.

My introduction to the field of mad studies was an accidental one. I was in my last semester of college. I needed one more course to complete my Hispanic Studies minor, and since I was writing a senior honors thesis, I wanted to take a course with as little additional writing as possible. A friend of mine recommended a Hispanic Studies course that only entailed three exams and a participation grade. I was in. The course was entitled, “Mad Women in Hispanic Literature and Film.”

Up until that point, my only exposure to the mental health field had been through mainstream campaigns and efforts. Having been diagnosed with a mental illness myself, and having been bullied throughout my life for being different, I eagerly joined my college’s chapter of Active Minds, an organization that aims to destigmatize mental health on university campuses. I assumed that the chapter’s initiatives and events would involve efforts to make emotional distress more accepted and people with mental differences more included. However, most of the chapter’s efforts focused on encouraging students to seek mental health treatment. Up until my last year of college, I had been growing increasingly frustrated with Active Minds, but I couldn’t quite put my frustration into words.

The “Mad Women in Hispanic Literature and Film” course I took introduced me to theories about the social construction of “mental illness” as well as conceptualizations of “mental illness” as a response to systemic issues including patriarchy and capitalism. We began the course by reading a chapter from Foucault’s Madness and Civilization to provide us with a broad framework for how “madness” has been conceptualized throughout history. Here, psychiatry and the medical model were presented as just one interpretation of “mental illness,” not absolute truth. Next we discussed “madness” as a result of patriarchy and capitalism in Beatriz Guido’s short story “La mano en la trampa” (“The Hand in the Trap”), as well as the construction of romantic love as madness in Del amor y otros demonios (Of Love and Other Demons) by Gabriel García Márquez. We also discussed the role of traditional gender-role stereotypes around motherhood in “madness” in “Como una buena madre” (“Like a Good Mother”) by Ana María Shua.

Suddenly, I had a framework, language, and academic theory to describe some of my frustrations with the conventional model of mental health. I had been exposed to the field of mad studies, a discipline that encompasses a variety of philosophical, social, and cultural perspectives on what we consider “madness” and that rejects the biomedical model of psychiatry. Through my studies, I had learned that in attributing all distress and extreme states to biological brain diseases, the conventional model of mental health overlooks the social and societal causes of “mental illness.” In encouraging students to seek mental health treatment, Active Minds was failing to address the systemic roots of distress on campus, such as student debt and competitive university climates.

As I have written about previously, at the end of the semester, I was involuntarily hospitalized the night before my college graduation. My family was disappointed in me for choosing to pursue a career in social work rather than law or medicine, and I felt like a complete failure. After expressing passive suicidal thoughts, I was secluded in a psychiatric emergency room for 10 hours before being transferred to a psychiatric hospital for 48 hours. These 58 hours were the most traumatic, terrifying hours of my life; never had I felt so alone and powerless.

The course I had taken in my final semester gave me the tools to understand that my involuntary commitment was an act of injustice. The passive suicidal thoughts I experienced were a natural reaction to familial rejection (and I later came to understand that my family’s response was, to some extent, a natural product of capitalism and a classist culture). Locking me up and violating my bodily autonomy was effectively punishing me and pathologizing for reacting to a systemic issue, which of course served to perpetuate that issue and maintain the status quo within my family. To this day, I still feel incredibly grateful that I happened upon that course and was able to arrive at this perspective soon after my hospitalization, rather than believing that I had a biological brain disease and deserved to be locked up.*

After my involuntary commitment, I started to get involved with the psychiatric survivors community. Just a year and a half later, I was hired at both Mad in America and the National Empowerment Center. My roles at these organizations gave me further exposure to a variety of understandings and approaches to “madness” that reject the medical model and are aligned with human rights.

One perspective that really spoke to me was Mad Pride, a movement that seeks to embrace and accept the traits and experiences categorized as madness. Mad Pride helped me celebrate my mental differences and embrace my distress. Many Mad Pride activists reference Martin Luther King, Jr.’s notion of “creative maladjustment,” i.e. the pride he took in not being well-adjusted to systemic inequalities including racism and economic injustice. I began to take pride in being maladjusted to the issues within my family, as well as to psychiatric abuse and forced treatment.

The field of mad studies has had a real, tangible effect on my life; I would even go so far as to say that in many ways, it has saved my life. There is not a whole lot I believe in more than creating opportunities for others to learn about the perspectives, theories, and ideas that mad studies encompasses.

A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to organize a mad studies webinar series for Mad in America Continuing Education. I was absolutely thrilled about the chance to introduce people to the work of academics and activists who are working to offer new understandings of “madness” and “mental illness.” I immediately began to brainstorm ideas for potential presenters and instructors.

One of the first people I thought of was Dr. Ginger Hoffman, someone who has been an important mentor and role model for me. Dr. Hoffman is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at St. Joseph’s University whose research examines philosophical defenses of Mad Pride. Dr. Hoffman was largely responsible for introducing me to academic Mad Pride, and I wanted to ensure that others would have the opportunity to learn from her work as well. She will be starting off our mad studies series in July by presenting two arguments defending the legitimacy of Mad Pride.

Dr. Hoffman recommended that I also reach out to Dr. Mohammed Rashed, a Research Fellow in philosophy and psychiatry at Birkbeck College and a psychiatrist, who has written extensively on Mad Pride and mad-positive activism. Dr. Rashed’s upcoming book Madness and the Demand for Recognition will examine the philosophy and politics of identity, culture, and recognition in light of contemporary mental health activism such as Mad Pride. Dr. Rashed will present our second webinar in August, which provides a unique opportunity for participants to hear about Mad Pride from a psychiatrist — a seemingly contradictory juxtaposition.

One very important part of the mad studies field is elevating and centering the voices of people with lived experience of emotional distress, trauma, extreme states, and/or mental differences. Our third webinar in the series will feature four people with lived experience who incorporate perspectives from mad studies into their identities and everyday lives. For this webinar, I selected four activists who personally inspire me and who have done incredible work to advance alternative understandings of “mental illness”: Luke Kudryashov, Kate DeWolfe, and Missy and Skylary Freels. Luke Kudryashov is a PhD student in English and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan who is actively engaged in both research and activism in the areas of Mad Pride, disability rights, and queer studies/LGBTQ rights. Kate DeWolfe is a genderqueer, mad, neurodivergent activist and the Communications Coordinator for Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, a civil rights advocacy organization run by and for psychiatric survivors. Missy and Skylar Freels are part of a multiple system — multiple people sharing one body. They are studying philosophy and political science at the University of Southern California and are intricately involved with activism in the queer and multiple communities. During this webinar, these four activists will share how they have incorporated mad studies perspectives into their identities and activism.

Our October webinar will feature two more scholars who have made outstanding contributions to the field of mad studies: social work professors Tomi Gomory and David Cohen. In their book Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis, and Drugs, Dr. Gomory and Dr. Cohen deconstruct the concept of “mental illness” and underlying assumptions of the medical model of mental health, and make the case that modern American psychiatry rests on misconceived claims, flawed science, and society’s need to control non-criminal but unwanted behavior outside the means of routine police power. Their webinar will introduce participants to the ideas in their book and give participants a working knowledge of how unsupported claims about mental illness-as-brain disease are used to justify coercion and human rights abuses.

An issue that I felt was especially important to include in this series was the topic of suicide. This is by far one of the most complex, controversial subjects in the field of mad studies; I felt that there was no one more qualified to tackle it than Lzz Johnk, a PhD student in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Oregon State University, and Kira Dallaire, a Women’s and Gender Studies student at Eastern Michigan University. Both Lzz and Kira have extensively studied critical perspectives on suicide, and their work on the topic is informed by critical disability studies, decolonial studies, indigenous studies, and feminisms of color. Lzz and Kira will present a webinar this November discussing suicide as a psychospiritual, individual/collective, and sociocultural phenomenon.

I also felt that it would be important for participants to hear about a perspective that is related to mad studies, and that has influenced mad studies a great deal, but that is outside of the field itself: antipsychiatry. And who could be more qualified to provide an introduction to antipsychiatry than Dr. Bonnie Burstow? In December, Dr. Burstow will explore antipsychiatry as both a theoretic position and a mode of activism, as well as its relationship with mad studies.

One question that arose for me when organizing this series was how to hold space for views that reject the medical/psychiatric model of “mental illness” but still recognize the profound suffering and distress that extreme states can sometimes cause. A common misconception about Mad Pride and antipsychiatry, for example, is that Mad Pride and antipsychiatry activists do not believe that emotional pain is real or that it can be disabling. This is one reason that I felt it was crucial to include Ron Unger, a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavior therapy for psychosis, in the series. I have always admired Mr. Unger’s balanced approach that both finds value in extreme states and “psychosis” while also acknowledging the need and desire of some people in extreme states to reduce their suffering. In January, Mr. Unger will instruct participants in this balanced approach to “madness.”

I decided to conclude the webinar series by introducing participants to yet another important perspective: neurodiversity. The neurodiversity paradigm views mental and neurological differences as forms of human diversity, rather than disorders that need to be cured. To discuss neurodiversity, I invited Dr. Sara Acevedo and Robin Roscigno, two incredible autistic scholar-activists and disability justice advocates. They will invite participants to dialogue about potential opportunities for collaboration between Mad activists/researchers and neurodiversity activists/researchers.

I feel incredibly appreciative to Mad in America for giving me the opportunity to organize the course. In so many ways, the course is truly revolutionary. Not only do the webinars provide radically new and innovative perspectives on mental health and “madness,” but the webinar series presents a radically new idea of what constitutes expertise on these topics. The majority of presenters have lived experience of emotional distress, extreme states, mental difference, and/or mental health treatment. I feel that these voices should be given tremendous weight in the conversation surrounding rethinking mental health care.

It is my hope that the course will serve a variety of purposes. First, I hope that the course will offer mental health providers the chance to learn new ways of thinking about distress and extreme states as well as new approaches to mental health care or therapy that are non-pathologizing or even mad-affirmative. I also hope that the course will offer mental health clients/consumers and psychiatric survivors a variety of new ways to re-conceptualize their own identities, if they so choose. Finally, I hope this course will help all participants — regardless of whether they have received a psychiatric diagnosis or not — become a bit more comfortable expressing and experiencing their own “madness.”

A huge thank you to everyone who has signed up so far. If you haven’t signed up yet but would like to, click here to register. I look forward to seeing you all at the start of the series!

*I wish to clarify that I do not believe that people with biological brain diseases should be locked up. My stance is that people who are not harming anyone else (i.e. violating another person’s bodily autonomy) should not be deprived of their liberty in any way.


  1. I hardly see antipsychiatry as “outside of the field of mad studies”. Nor do I see it as alien to the Mad Pride movement. I’m very glad that you’ve included Bonnie Burstow in your webinar series. To my way of looking at it, the antipsychiatry perspective is an essential part of both the Mad movement and mad studies. What do they say in the “disabilities movement”? Oh, yeah! Nothing about us without us!

    When madness is legalized (de-criminalized and de-medicalized), they won’t be locking people up for it. Nor will they be forcing treatment on people who don’t want such treatment.

  2. I wish you well in this endeavor, Emily.

    I’m not sure I saw anything about dissociation in your series. It’s the direct outcome of trauma and the earlier in life the trauma is experienced the more hardened the dissociation becomes…and the more it wreaks havoc on a person’s personality and mental states. Most people don’t get the chance to see it close up, not even many in the d.i.d. community because so many of them, imo, take the exact wrong approach and desperately do all they can to avoid the dissociation (only 6% allow their d.i.d. to become ‘florid’), whereas my wife and I fully embraced it, and I believe it made all the difference in her healing.

    Essentially it allowed me to see how so many extreme states (which aren’t chemically induced) are a direct result of the fracturing/dissociation caused by early childhood trauma. And just because someone doesn’t have d.i.d. doesn’t mean they haven’t been affected by dissociation. It’s a spectrum issue and we all are affected by it as we all suffer trauma to varying degrees.

    Anyway, maybe someday you would find that as key a concept to understand as I did when it comes to the entire concept of mental health, mental health states and even the formation of our personalities and include it in your studies.

  3. There is a lot of enthusiasm and well intentioned effort that exudes from this article. I am certainly optimistic that people are beginning to think a little more clearly about psychiatry and psychiatric force and oppression. I am also sympathetic towards anyone who has endured any kind of psychiatric abuse whatsoever.

    However, these kinds of initiatives simply have nothing to do with antipsychiatry properly understood. This article demonstrates why the left (cue oldhead’s response) has destroyed the psychiatric survivors movement and antipsychiatry in the past, and will continue to do so, unless and until some clear thinking leftists (cue oldhead’s reaction again) come forward to straighten things out.

    Although Foucault and others of his ilk raised some important questions, they have also generated a lot of confusion. The modern academy itself is a cesspool of intellectual confusion. Perhaps its victims are not to be blamed, just as the victims of psychiatry are not to be blamed. But please take a moment to consider the obvious:

    Psychiatry is a pseudo-scientific system of slavery that must be abolished. Psychiatric survivors are not mad. They are not crazy. It is psychiatry itself that is mad. It is psychiatry itself that is crazy. Psychiatric survivors don’t need to join forces with fanatical utopian schemers in order to reveal the truth about psychiatry. Furthermore, antipsychiatry really has nothing to do with anything that is even remotely connected to “mad studies” or any other such nonsense.

    Again, I understand why certain survivors or antipsychiatry activists might be drawn into such currents, and this well meaning enthusiasm is not the real problem. The real problem is that psychiatry is destroying the lives of millions of innocent people, including children, the homeless, and the elderly, and something must be done to stop it. All of this confusion about “mad studies” and “mad pride” and so forth plays right into the hands of psychiatry. When psychiatry comes along and labels everyone and their dog as “mentally ill” and therefore “mad,” the proper response is to resist such absurdities, not to embrace it as if psychiatry has any connection to some underlying biological or even metaphysical reality.

    No… antipsychiatry and the psychiatric survivors movement have nothing to do with “madness.” In fact, precisely the opposite is true. Truth, reason, common sense, and sound judgment are on the side of antipsychiatry and psychiatric survivors. All “madness” belongs within the realm of psychiatry itself.

    • Like crazy, man, only not crazy enough. As long as people are being locked up for being different, I see a place for Mad Pride. Cherish and celebrate our eccentricities, flamboyance, and quirkiness, perhaps you are too conservative for that, but I’m all for it. Mad. after all, meaning ‘changed’ predates the medical model in that it doesn’t mean “sick” or “ill”. Reason, sure, but reason within limits. Sometimes we just need to let everything go! How about doing so on a float for a change. Me, I’m all game.

  4. I don’t think MIA is qualified to be teaching “Mad Studies” — in fact, since it is largely directed towards “mental health” professionals, some of this borders on offensive. (This has nothing to do with Emily, who always tries to do the right thing but I believe is constrained by MIA’s “critical psychiatry” focus.)

    Anyway, I mentioned in another discussion group that the use of the word “mad” is not something I want “mental health” profiteers to be comfortable using; it reminds me of when white hipsters used to feel entitled to call Blacks “spades.” Haven’t read Dragon Slayer’s comment yet but I’m guessing we’ll be on the same page. Still I want to do this more justice than a sounds bite can, and will be more in depth about some of this later, particularly the notion of “mad pride,” which is highly controversial among anti-psych survivors.

  5. I appreciate especially that you are going to deal with the issue of suffering among those with unusual experiences. There is far too often an emphasis by writers that what they experienced was purely an uplifting experience. This is something that is simply and blatantly untrue for many of us, if not most of us. I hope you are able to explore it well and that people come to a better understanding that it is not one, but both.

    Good for you that you are so willing to do the work that needs to be done.

    Eric Coates

  6. Oldhead, MIA is not “teaching Mad Studies.” The people presenting the seminars are those who are involved in “Mad Studies” as academics, and as people with lived experience. We are simply hosting the webinar (and Emily organized it by recruiting the presenters.). MIA never “teaches” anything in its Continuing Ed courses; we simply host the courses and recruit the presenters.

    • I agree with oldhead on this point. With all due respect to Mr. Whitaker, and with immense gratitude for the work that he has already done, the illusion of neutrality won’t last very long. Of course we can all work to build bridges and to create as much unity as possible, but the fact that MIA hosts some things and rejects others manifests the unavoidable reality that there is no such thing as perfect objectivity. By hosting a “Mad Studies” webinar, MIA is teaching “Mad Studies.” Of course, MIA has every right to host whatever seminars or articles it wishes to host, and to reject whatever seminars and articles it wishes to reject. Oldhead’s assessment of MIA as a decidedly “critical psychiatry” website seems correct.

      Another point that needs to be made… the phrase “people with lived experience” is a really awful euphemism. I’m sure that Mr. Whitaker means well by it, and on its surface it is relatively innocuous, but it bears too much resemblance to the awful euphemisms of psychiatry, i.e. “hospitalization” instead of involuntary incarceration, “treatment” instead of torture, “medication” instead of drugging, “diagnosis” instead of labeling, and “emotional lability” instead of suicide. No survivor of psychiatry in his or her right mind would ever refer to him or herself as a “person with lived experience.” That’s the kind of rhetoric that might please “professionals.” But imagine if someone were to call an escaped slave a “person with lived experience,” or a holocaust survivor a “person with lived experience.” Why not just call things as they are? A “person with lived experience” is really a survivor of psychiatric abuse and coercion. It may seem like a quibble about semantics, but as Thomas Szasz and Karl Kraus before him so admirably demonstrated, a lot is at stake in the language that we use.

      • Mad studies is like minority studies, black studies, queer studies, women’s studies, working class history, etc., after 300 years of abusive mis”treatment”, at least, you can point to the fact. If you couldn’t do that, you’d really be at a disadvantage. 300 years of ignorance (psychiatric prisons/the psychiatric plantation system)? Maybe it’s time for a change.

        As for MIA being critical of psychiatry, duh. As for MIA not being opposed to psychiatry, double duh. I have to hand to MIA for giving people with an antipsychiatry perspective a voice on their website, but, let’s say, most of the voices at MIA are not THAT critical. Perhaps antipsychiatry could find it’s own space on the web, what do you think? Expecting MIA to be that space (as I pointed out, it does provide space) is really expecting too much.

        I think the “people with lived experience” expression comes from people who have to contend with people who have pieces of paper offered by institutions of higher education that would then allow those people having them to discount everything said by another party because they didn’t have a piece of paper offered by an institution of higher education. Everybody has “lived experience” but then some people have a piece of paper offered by an institution of higher education. What would the wizard of Oz do? Perhaps offer diplomas in “lived experience”.

    • SDP,

      Mad Studies is anything BUT critical psychiatry as Emily and I have been going round and round about it’s uncritical acceptance of all things ‘mad.’ As much as I am happy for Emily that she feels it saved her life, simply normalizing ALL experiences isn’t helpful to those of us who realize that some ways work better than others in our daily lives. And I’m pretty sure this all goes back to the Left’s uncritical acceptance of ‘diversity’ as that concept seems to pop up over and over and over on this site, and so we are right back to the intractable culture wars, sigh, which on this site have been won by the Left.

      Ironically, I’m the one who struggles more with my wife’s healing and the natural integration that is occurring between the 8 girls in her group, than they are. 2 of the girls have assumed more and more of the ‘fronting’ duties for the others. And so despite what Emily probably thinks, I actually miss the days when the 8 acted more individualistically than now when they act more as a group. They are all still there. I can call any of them out when I want and they can jump out any time they want, but when one heals the trauma and removes the dissociation, it would seem, at least in my wife’s case, that the personality moves toward integration and not remaining separate.

      • “And I’m pretty sure this all goes back to the Left’s uncritical acceptance of ‘diversity’ ”


        “…and so we are right back to the intractable culture wars, sigh, which on this site have been won by the Left.”

        However, I disagree with this defeatist comment. Truth and common sense will win out in the end, and there is no reason to concede victory to ignorance.

        • The world is diverse, Samruck & DS, and american white guys such as ourselves are one small chunk of that diversity, so get over it if that’s really your beef.

          However if you are trying to express a perception of hypocrisy in tokenistic liberal tactics — such as showcasing a parade of “diverse” faces to deceive well-meaning people into supporting them — you won’t get much argument from me.

          • Oldhead,

            I have no problem with diversity. I’ve been fairly immersed in the LGBT world ever since my wife was diagnosed with d.i.d. as many of my fellow bloggers are from that community. And our closest ‘couple’ friends are a trans couple. I don’t get much chance to be culturally inclusive as I live in small town Ohio, but I try to live the golden rule no matter what and no matter who.

            My problem is the indiscriminate acceptance of diversity when at least some of it is based on the mind’s attempt to cope with pain and dissociation. In my opinion, Mad Pride, Neuro-diversity movement, Hearing Voices and a host of other movements exacerbate this problem in their attempts to affirm the people whom society discriminates against. So, imo, they are addressing one problem (discrimination, public shaming and coercion) while they still leave the pain from the trauma and the dysfunction from the dissociation unaddressed. And though it is a step forward, since I don’t believe most of psychiatry or psychology’s tactics work, it still leaves these people engulfed in the aftermath of whatever trauma they have suffered.

          • Oldhead,

            After I made my first comment to you, I began to wonder if my approach to these various movements has been all wrong. For the first 20 years of my marriage, my wife and I were in a slow death spiral. I would give to get, like most of us do. But she was so engulfed in her pain, that she wasn’t able to respond in kind. So then I would be in a huff…until I would try again…over and over and over…until I finally broke the cycle and began to love her unconditionally. And it was ONLY when I began to love her unconditionally that she began to open to the fact that she wasn’t able to do the same….and maybe that’s how I should view these various movements. These are the cries of people who simply want to be loved unconditionally, and until that happens they will never feel safe to open themselves to pulling back the curtain to address whatever trauma might be there…

    • [Response to Bob W. many posts above.]

      Hi Bob, hope you’re well — as I mentioned to Steve M, my concerns here go beyond MIA specifically, and I realize that for many people this “webinar” represents something positive, and to a degree that’s true. But my self-appointed role here is being the Simon Cowell of anti-psychiatry, critiquing the entire milieu of “anti-psychiatry studies.” 🙂 Nothing personal, just that I think anti-psychiatry and “mad studies” should be the same thing, and focused on some sort of action, not just questions on an exam for aspiring MSWs. (And while MIA is not “teaching” the course, it surely influences the general perspective with its choice of “experts.”) The entire concept of “Mad” anything is highly suspect in my view and needs to be reexamined by those who either identify or have been labeled as such.

      (P.S. I guess while I’m posting I would echo Slaying the Dragon’s discomfort regarding “people with lived experience.”)

  7. Think if you use the word course the natural inference is that you are teaching something. Personally I do not intend to allow any ‘MH professional’ any where near me ever again.

    Use to think oldheads position was extreme and naively thought there was some justice out there. There isn’t. ‘Doctors’ who coerce and force the neurotoxic drugs are well and truly protected because they are the ones who are the ultimate regulators, they are allowed to regulate themselves and anonymously. This is what my factual experience has informed me of. If you have memory loss or any other issue and can not engage the socalled complaints procedures on their terms it just gets used against you. This is all part of the neoliberal corruption. Education is important to combate this, but ultimately vulnerable people need to be protected .

  8. OMG, wish I had actually read Dragon Slayer’s comment before tacitly endorsing it.

    This article demonstrates why the left (cue oldhead’s response) has destroyed the psychiatric survivors movement and antipsychiatry in the past

    Dragon Slayer, this is totally off-base, though the purely anti-psychiatry part remains viable.

    First you’re doing exactly what I’ve been railing against lately with your mention of “the left,” which means nothing if undefined. I do not consider Democrats and “mainstream” liberals to be “left,” if left is to be construed as anti-capitalist; they are right of center if these terms are to have any relevance in the present day.

    Second, the amalgam of liberals, “progressive,” “intersectionalists,” social-democrats, socialists and anarchists is often considered “the left” had nothing to do with the destruction of the original anti-psychiatry movement. The latter I define as the approximately 10-15 years burst of anti-psychiatry activity which culminated each year with the North American Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression, and which firmly stated in its principles that “the psychiatric system cannot be reformed and must be abolished.”

    The original movement reached it’s apex around the time of the 1982 Toronto conference. At that point in time the true left, which still had a direct line to the revolutionary struggles of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements, strongly supported our efforts, as can be seen from the list of endorsers of the movement-wide boycott of Smith, Kline & French, developers and distributors of Thorazine. (I will post a list of these if anyone’s interested.)

    The movement was destroyed by COINTELPRO-type tactics where the psychiatric establishment hand-picked the most compliant and opportunistic members of the movement coalition, gave them “official” respect, tokenistic jobs within the liberal (not leftist) “mental health” establishment, and started using their desire for public recognition to using them as front men (and women) for their new line — that we were “consumers of mental health services” who just wanted a fair shake, unlike those creepy negative anti-psychiatry people who couldn’t be bought off.

    That said, many of the offenders here were liberals, and much of the quagmire we currently face is populated by liberal “reformers.” But there are overtly right-wing elements behind this as well, and as I said previously, many liberals ARE right-wingers by any realistic definition. Which is why we need to get beyond these labels and into what people really believe.

    All this before I even get to any posts from later yesterday afternoon. Happy Saturday everyone.

    • Oldhead, as you can see, my comment is not totally off base. It is spot on. Feel free to define the various nuances of the left as you see fit. It may be helpful. My main point is that the more that the psychiatric survivors movement or antipsychiatry aligns itself with liberal, progressive, Marxist ideology, the more it is destined to fail. The more that antipsychiatry and psychiatric survivors reject Szasz’ mostly sound thinking regarding the connection between liberty and responsibility, the more that it will end up like most intellectual fads… defunct, relegated to the ash-bin of history.

      • No, I don’t see anything off base. I’m not talking about nuances, I’m talking about what is “left” and what is not. For you to lump liberalism and Marxism together when they are diametrically opposed, and have even fought the other in wars, reveals something threadbare in your argument. But “isms” are easy to trash when they don’t have definitions.

        • Actually, oldhead, even though I agree with you on most antipsychiatry essentials, I would push back against your argument a little bit more by suggesting that even most “conservatives” today are unknowing leftists. Real conservatives, or classical liberals, are mostly a thing of the past. Modern liberalism and Marxism go hand in hand. But I’m open to hearing you out on your definitions of “left” and “right” and how liberalism and Marxism are diametrically opposed. I don’t imagine that I’ll agree, but I’m still open to civil discourse.

          • put “attitudes to capitalism” and “attitudes to hierarchy” at the center of that analysis and you will see how conservatives are not at all like leftists.

            That said, these endless labels can sometimes become cumbersome and obfuscate important connections between different groups. One connection I suspect you are getting at is that mainstream culture in the US right now has become very “identitarian” , a phenomenon which does show up in liberal culture as well as conservative culture…

      • Yes but all real leftists are anti-capitalist, otherwise they’re liberals, i.e. supporters of capitalism. The word is used too loosely; when you hear either Clinton being referred to as a “leftist” it should be regarded either as an obfuscation or an insult to leftists.

  9. This has certainly been a fascinating discussion, and I’ve mostly just watched so far. I have to say, I’m a little puzzled by the critique of MIA for hosting such a seminar. If Bonnie Burstow is endowing a “Chair for Mad Studies,” then I feel comfortable assuming that “Mad Studies” has a distinctly rebellious intent. That being said, MIA has a mission and part of that mission is to show a wide range of views and information on the topic. That this information is slanted away from supporting the status quo can not be doubted, but MIA doesn’t appear to have some “litmus test” regarding who is ideologically pure enough to post here, and I’m glad they don’t. Some of the blogs that are closer to mainstream views generate fascinating and important discussions, as do some of the clearly antipsychiatry blogs. I personally prefer to have a wide range of information and views available rather than being limited only to the “acceptable” range of opinions on the topic. My assumption would be that
    “Mad Studies” would similarly look at a whole range of data and opinions and experiences and encourage students to draw their own conclusions, which I personally think is how education should work. If the administrators decide ahead of time what you’re allowed to read or hear, then it’s indoctrination, not education.

    That’s my two cents’ worth!

    • This assumes that the administration hasn’t decided ahead of time what is published. It does, and it has. MIA is decidedly a “critical psychiatry” website that doesn’t really host antipsychiatry articles. It is better to be honest and upfront about its position than to feign neutrality. The closest that MIA has come to hosting antipsychiatry blog posts or articles is Bonnie Burstow, Phil Hickey, and sometimes Lawrence. But even these opponents of psychiatry have not fully reasoned out the best cases for antipsychiatry. Were it not for the comments section (for which I am grateful), MIA would still lean mostly towards indoctrination, and not education.

      • You should pay more attention to some of your forum posts sometime. This is from Organizing for Social Change, Calling all serious antipsychiatrists and abolitionists:

        “Greetings one and all. I was wondering if we could gather together everyone who considers himself or herself to be a serious antipsychiatrist and everyone who is also serious about working toward the abolition of psychiatry. Thank you. I’m not sure if this request has already been made, but clearly it is time to develop a website specifically for serious antipsychiatrists and abolitionists. Thank you.”

        “On board, SD. What we need is a group of people that could serve as the basis for an organization (even loose association) and, in the context of gathering this group, we could throw up a website. Count me in anyway.”
        ~Frank Blankenship

          • I reject the simplistic formula you employ. The formula that runs something like the following. Blame everything on psychiatry. See the solution in a rosy future achieved through getting rid of psychiatry. I don’t think the formula in reality will ever work. I think if you don’t take on those who support and assist psychiatry, you are always going to be missing the mark. Psychiatry could do nothing without those folks who have granted it the power to do what it does. Psychiatry is not to blame for everything. Psychiatry has a lot of assistance from it’s friends and allies.

            You are correct in saying I’m not for the abolition of psychiatry. You would be incorrect if you said I was not for the abolition of institutional psychiatry. I don’t see every psychiatrist who is engaged in private practice as a problem. Further, I say the problem is not psychiatry so much as the power psychiatry has been granted by law. Get rid of that power, and psychiatrists couldn’t legally do what it is illegal for other people to do. I am for the abolition of forced treatment (non-consensual coercive psychiatry). I’m not against any sort of fortune teller, putting up a sign, and telling peoples’ futures. People are going to buy the kind of crap people buy regardless.

          • Frank, you are quite right.

            Psychiatric power is rooted in politics,
            in the LAWS based on skewed evidence from
            Big Pharma of the medicinal effects of drug
            “treatments” which have later been shown to have
            little or no value.

            There is absolutely no evidence that
            “mental disorders” are CAUSED by “chemical
            imbalances” in the brain. There are no
            biomarkers for DSM “diagnoses”.

            The serotonin hypothesis of depression was
            refuted years ago.
            The dopamine hypothesis of psychosis is more nuanced,
            since there appears to be a correlation between
            psychosis and high dopamine.

            It is a basic fact that correlation is not causation.
            High dopamine may well affect salience and cognition
            but there is NO evidence to show that the primary
            cause of psychosis is a permanently dysfunctional
            dopamine system.

            Instead, the most recent models of the
            dopamine hypothesis of psychosis show the picture
            is one of dopamine expression being the
            Final Common Pathway of a cascade of neurochemical
            events triggered by a wide range of social,
            environmental and psychological stressors:
            childhood trauma, poverty,loss, grief, shock,
            stress, drug abuse, torture, warfare etc.

            In other words, the most sensible explanation
            is that TRAUMA causes psychosis, triggering
            unusual activity and the release of dopamine.
            This is NOT a “permanent imbalance”.

            The primary cause of mental distress is not
            found in biological and genetic determinism,
            but in the specific social and environmental
            conditions of human life.

            The so-called “antipsychotic” drugs which affect
            dopamine receptors in neural synapses in the brain
            and many other neural receptors as well,
            are simply chemical straitjackets and cure nothing,
            despite minor changes in psychological scoresheets
            attributed to a sedating action.

            Long-term drug treatments have metabolic effects
            which are at the least debilitating,
            and at the worst lethal.

            There is no scientific justification for the
            forced and coerced involuntary drug treatment
            which is currently sanctioned and mandated by law
            for any person detained by the system.

            Institutional psychiatry has shown no sign of
            reforming itself despite the weight of evidence.

            Legislators must step up to the mark.
            The laws have to be changed.
            Forced drugging is a harmful violation
            of medical ethics and basic human rights.

            Where are the scientifically enlightened
            politicians brave enough to tackle this?

          • Psychiatry could do nothing without those folks who have granted it the power to do what it does.

            Yes of course — but this takes you from being an anti-psychiatry activist to someone who wants to overthrow governmental power. A lot to bite off.

        • This is your interpretation, OldHead. I certainly see myself as an antipsychiatry activist. As for governmental power, the government isn’t the sole force behind psychiatric power either. There are all those “investors” people in human services keep talking about. A lot for you to bite off, perhaps, but we see things differently. Without that power, the psychiatrist is just another mortal, and at the same level as any other citizen. He wouldn’t be able to lord it about over others with his precious DSM, and his mind numbing pharmaceuticals. Not, anyway, without their collision and consent.

          • Are you talking about the power of money? Because what that really means is the power of the guns needed to back it up. And who do they belong to?

          • No, I’m talking about the power invested in them by law, by legislation, and legislation you don’t get without some form of “public” support. Yes, money and guns back this legislation up, but we’re not all traveling in private jets brandishing our AK 47s. Many families are absolutely fine with throwing family members to the “mental health” coppers. Their expertise, however bogus, is accepted by law courts. The same law courts that reinforce the invalidation people receive at the hands of their families, school systems, places of work, and society at large.

          • I agree that power is the real issue, and that eliminating psychiatry might very well lead to some other “profession” taking their place in exercising the same kind of power and control. I will note, however, that money is absolutely power in our society, and that Big Pharma and the psychiatric “profession” have used finances to sell the “broken brain” story, and that a large degree of psychiatry’s accepted authority comes from marketing. It seems to me that even if psychiatrists are unable to force “treatment” on the unwilling (which I agree 100% is Job #1), their use of massive funds to manipulate people’s perception of reality also needs to be address.

        • Meaning actually reading and understanding Szasz, Kraus, etc. I reject many of Szasz’ ideas, but I’ve read enough of Szasz to know that he knew more, and argued more clearly, than almost anyone writing today. We would do well to learn from Szasz for other reasons as well. If we better understood why Kraus was rejected during the era of Freud, and why Szasz was rejected during the era of Laing, we would be better prepared to further the cause of abolition. I don’t embrace Szasz as a reigning deity, but he was an intelligent man who argued persuasively for the abolition of psychiatry. I don’t embrace Marx as a reigning deity either, but we can also learn from him, mostly what not to think.

          • Sounds like you’re leaving a little crack open for debate, which is always positive.

            It’s a fine line I know but, keeping our “eyes on the prize” of psychiatry’s demise (hey, I think I have a new slogan!), what we should be looking for is an anti-psych analysis which encompasses or transcends “traditional” left-right dialectics in a way adherents of otherwise conflicting philosophies can embrace. A personal philosophy of the sort to which you allude, or any other, might be attractive to one segment of survivors or another but, as discussed endlessly, we need a set of basic AP principles with a bottom line that unites diverse groups of people.

          • There was a Laing era in which Szasz was rejected. I’m not going to call that serious nonsense, I’m just going to call it nonsense. It’s like saying we’ve arrived at a Szasz era in which Laing is rejected.

            I think Antipsychiatry; Quackery Squared was really misdirected, that is to say, I think those bio-psychiatrists overlords in charge of the APA are a lot worse than any psychiatrist who, like Laing, Szasz, and a number of others, bucks the trend.

            I don’t happen to share the right wing, or, at least, classically liberal sympathies of a Thomas Szasz. Nor am I averse to what made up the counter culture to which Szasz played little part, and to which he was averse.

            Szasz was setting himself up to bed the devil, and perhaps he did. Imagine one of those most associated in public mind with antipsychiatry writes the book most useful in trashing it. The very people (the psychiatric establishment) Szasz was expelling by the front door he was letting in through the side door. I guess they had a laugh to share. Go figure.

          • Imagine one of those most associated in public mind with antipsychiatry writes the book most useful in trashing it.

            Sounds like your basic paradox. Also what happens when people mean two different things by the terms they employ. In my lexicon I still consider Szasz anti-psychiatry, but not a proponent of “antipsychiatry,” nor, as a libertarian, of outlawing psychiatry.

          • Don’t completely follow you. I still consider the late Thomas Szasz a psychiatrist. I consider Szasz a great influence and inspiration to antipsychiatry, with or without the absolutely meaningless hyphen. Szasz, as a libertarian, was against non-consensual coercive psychiatry. Here is where we part company. Szasz and I go in one direction, and you go in another.

            I consider the slogan Abolish Psychiatry devoid of meaning because in my view you’re only talking language, not substance. Psychiatry in itself is not the problem. This power disparity between psychiatrists and other people is the problem. I’m for doing something about the power that psychiatrists have to force themselves on other people. Get rid of psychiatry, and some other sort of ologist will rush in to fill the power vacuum left by psychiatry. The problem is not one of philosophy, the problem is one of power and control, whatever word is used, and there have been several in the past…mad doctor, alienist, etc. There are also those related fields, psychology, sociology, etc., that under the right circumstances would be as bad as psychiatry if given the chance. You have to do something about the power certain people have been granted over other people, or, essentially, another professional will come along and take over the role formerly given to psychiatry.

          • Oldhead

            You said: “…we should be looking for is an anti-psych analysis which encompasses or transcends “traditional” left-right dialectics in a way adherents of otherwise conflicting philosophies can embrace.”

            There is NOTHING in the world today, including any type of liberating ideology, that can (or should attempt to) “transcend” left-right dialectics.”

            Oldhead, using your own prior definitions where “Left” is defined as “anti-capitalist” and NOT as “liberal democrat” etc., why would anyone seeking a better world want to escape the “dialectic” you describe above?

            This is especially true when a profit based capitalist system is THE major historical roadblock to the advance of human progress seeking an end to ALL forms of human exploitation and oppression.

            Psychiatry and today’s ‘mental health” system is intimately interwoven within the overall capitalist/imperialist framework. For you to somehow suggest that a current day liberation movement can develop a theoretical or organizational presence that “transcends the left-right dialectic” is a utopian dream at best, and as a strategy, it can only lead toward “reformism” and liberal compromise.


          • Where’s uprising when we need him?

            For the record, I prefer not to be gendered. Up until now, I’ve had a policy of ignoring pronouns, but now I am asking people to use “they/them” for me. Thanks.

          • @Richard

            “…we should be looking for is an anti-psych analysis which encompasses or transcends “traditional” left-right dialectics in a way adherents of otherwise conflicting philosophies can embrace.”

            Though I didn’t make this clear, when I said “we” it was in reference to a specific project geared towards identifying aspects of psychiatric oppression which cross ideological boundaries. It did not mean “all people” or refer to a general strategy for revolution; that’s above my pay grade.

          • Oldhead

            You said: “Though I didn’t make this clear, when I said “we” it was in reference to a specific project geared towards identifying aspects of psychiatric oppression which cross ideological boundaries.”

            Psychiatric oppression is pervasive throughout all of our society. ALL psychiatric oppression cuts across ideological boundaries.

            The key question here is: why would a revolutionary activist want to create ANY advanced political organization OF ANY KIND (including an anti-psychiatry organization) in this historical era, that was NOT clearly delineated as Left (anti-capitalist)???


        • So much for uprising’s rap song. Oh well.

          I’m glad that people are starting to consider Szasz more closely. I agree, in part, with some of the assessments, because he was too libertarian for my taste. But he was right about Laing. He was a psychiatrist, but only in the best way, which is to say, he saw through the deception of psychiatry and opposed psychiatry from within. He was also an abolitionist (see, for example, “Psychiatric Slavery” and “Liberation by Oppression”) In some of his early works he attempted to reconcile his profession with his commitment to liberty and responsibility, but as is clear in his later works, his commitment to liberty and responsibility won out in the end. It may be that Szasz ideological commitments pushed him too far to the left.

          • He was right to chastise Laing for not coming out in opposition to nonconsensual coercive psychiatry. He was also right to go after Laing for his hypocrisy, on that, and other issues. He was wrong to imply an ad hominem argument applicable in Laing or anyone’s case. Thomas Szasz also compared R. D. Laing to Maximilien Robespierre, the architect of the french reign of terror, which is absolute hogwash.

          • Frank,

            Just watched a movie on Hulu starring David Tennant about Laing. It was interesting, though if it was accurate, I feel Laing failed because he had a savior complex. He was trying to be a ‘safe haven’ for too many people. It takes a ton out of me to do that for just my wife, and he tried to do it for all those in his care at his Kingsley house or whatever it was called. It was an interesting movie, but a little sad by the outcome.

          • I would imagine the Tennant film flawed in some respects. They did this thing of pretending to be people taking LSD. Okay. At one time it wouldn’t have been pretense. You want to see another experimental residence, housing some of the same people as were living at Kingsley Hall? Watch the movie Asylum. I watched the entire movie on YouTube once. I think it’s been taken down, but many clips from it still remain there if you’re interested. The Kingsley Hall experiment never really died. It was rebirthed as the Soteria project, in one instance, by one of Laing’s followers, Loren Mosher.

    • Steve, my argument is only secondarily with this particular event; it is more with the entire concept of anti-psychiatry being primarily a field of study rather than a vehicle for action. The focus of anti-psychiatry should be how to defeat psychiatry, not why or if.

        • As I see it, “critical psychiatry” discussions should focus on the “why” and “whether”; then, once people’s AP consciousness has been sufficiently nurtured, they are ready to “graduate” into anti-psychiatry, which deals with the “how.”

          Self-taught course, no charge. 🙂

      • Well, I can’t really argue with that, though the same can be said for many academic disciplines. I believe all education should lead to action. What I would object to is setting up a course of study that did not allow a range of viewpoints and honest discussion of potential strategies, or even a questioning of the goal itself. I detest anything that even vaguely smells of propaganda and/or dogma, even if it’s something I tend to agree with. I don’t want to replace one set of dogma with a new one!

          • LGBTQ is not exactly a monolithic term either, even among those who so identify. Since you fit into none of those categories, at least as far as I know, these aren’t the right buttons to be pushing if the aim is unity, as gay people have always been among psychiatry’s most prominent victims.

          • Nope. Dogma is dogma. This doesn’t mean we don’t have values that drive our decision making. The point is whether other people are bent on defining my values for me. I get to make my own decisions regarding what is a priority for me, just as you do. I have plenty of issues with folks in groups claiming to be “social justice” oriented groups using hostile language toward people deemed to be “less than.” I also am not afraid to point out when a person is being inconsistent or irrational, whether they are “left” or “right” leaning or lean some other direction. Not saying I don’t have my own biases and “dogma,” but they are MINE and not foisted on me by some outside group demanding I comply in order to belong.

            But you dodged the point a bit, didn’t you?

        • @Steve: Problem is, anti-psychiatry survivors — who must by definition lead any legitimate anti-psychiatry movement — have not reached the historical point where there are universally accepted principles (other than opposing force) which can be legitimately claimed to represent us. Therefore, for MIA as a non-survivor led organization to be pushing a “mad studies” approach reflects its own perspectives, not those of any organized survivor movement, and the latter should not be implied.

          • I think that is an excellent clarification, and I believe I truly understand where you’re coming from now. Never really thought of it that way, but it makes total sense. Thanks for the enlightenment!

          • Oldhead

            You said: “Therefore, for MIA as a non-survivor led organization to be pushing a “mad studies” approach reflects its own perspectives, not those of any organized survivor movement, and the latter should not be implied.”

            I am sure that MIA like any organization, has different and sometimes conflicting ideologies and perspectives that are reflected in its public presentation. There IS clearly a representative current of psychiatric survivors at MIA who are involved in the overall workings of the webzine, and it IS very much reflected in the content of the blog articles and other postings.

            Since, as you say, there is no clearly defined organized anti-psychiatry movement or organization, what is so wrong with there being a “mad studies” course promoted on the website where these issues can be discussed?

            Doesn’t this type of educational series provide a forum for an anti-psychiatry position to be delineated, and for contending viewpoints to be debated?

            If some of us don’t like the fact that there is no defined anti-psychiatry theoretical and organized presence in the current political landscape, then let’s stop complaining and do something about it!


          • We’re working on it. What I said is that there is currently no survivor-led anti-psychiatry organization or other such public grouping; there are lots of people who use the term.

          • I’m not holding my breath on any “universally accepted principles”. I value life too much. I think it better if someone were not trying to bully everybody into some sort of myopic ‘group think’. Sorry, my bad.

    • See my response to Steve, which I stand by. This MIA project is not something I would actively oppose given the current state of general confusion about psychiatry and psychiatric oppression; still it is the job of survivors alone to determine whether concepts such as “mad pride” should be supported or rejected.

          • My sociology professor said something of the sort when I was in college. I’m not sure of the exact words he might have used, however, I’ve modified it to suit my own purposes, and basically adopted it.

            I think it must be way up there with what Ted Chabasinski suggested for a button, “Antipsychiatry and proud of it!”

            You like slinging the word meaningless around a lot, don’t you? Having endured an institution, I know the night, and if day is all the rest, it certainly is not devoid of meaning.

          • Sometimes a word gets caught in my head and I start using it repeatedly till I catch myself.

            Anyway, that’s pretty much what I said, you identify the day as special only because you something to compare it to.

          • Special? I don’t know. I see us as bringing meaning to a world that otherwise would be without meaning. I don’t think the term ‘mad’ becomes meaningless because somebody has the term ‘sane’ to contrast it with, any more than I think the term ‘sane’ becomes meaningless because somebody has the term ‘mad’ to contrast it with. Or normal, or whatever…

            Honesty, it seems, can get you locked up while deceit can keep you out of trouble. That’s a fact of life. We can either admit it, or keep it under our hats.

            I’m grateful that I don’t have to spend the rest of my life in a nuthouse, and I intend to keep it that way. Once upon a time…”major mental illness” labels often meant a life sentence. Today, well, the likelihood is less, but there are still those with an magnetic attraction, for lack of a better word, to “chronic care”, or the “provision of services”. I’m not one of those.

          • I don’t, OldHead, say with you that the problem is psychiatry, and the solution is it’s abolition. I don’t think the problem is psychiatry, I think the problem is psychiatric power, and the abuse of that power. I think the solution lays in taking that power away. I say abolish forced (mis)treatment (coercion and human rights violations), and I mean it. I don’t say abolish psychiatry because I don’t equate psychiatry with forced (mis)treatment. If I did, my position would be different. I am antipsychiatry regardless. Promoting psychiatry is not something I ever intend to do. I will resist psychiatry until the end. I’m not attracted to “mental health” torture, and for some time now, I have not been receiving any. The difference between you and me is that you think zero psychiatrists would mean no forced torture, and I know better. The problem is not, again, psychiatrists, the problem is the torture. End the torture (and with it the power disparity that excuses and permits it), and a psychiatrist is merely another man or woman, the same as any other. I think if you don’t deal with these matters, even with the abolition of that profession, we will merely have changed the wording, and the tortures will persist as they have for the last few hundred years. I can live with psychiatrists, I just can’t live with the “mental health” tortures.

          • You confuse my efforts to identify the current state of consensus among anti-psychiatry survivors with my personal beliefs, which don’t always necessarily mesh.

            I would have to know what problem you refer to before saying whether or not I consider psychiatry to be the root cause.

          • Whatever.

            You have a simplistic formula. Okay. It is not a formula I find useful.

            Psychiatry would be the root cause of nothing if psychiatrists didn’t weigh heavily on the power end of any spectrum between them and their client/prisoner/victim/casualties. ‘Sticks and stones’, and so forth. Psychiatric power is not the result of magic, and we’re not going to magically make it go away, whether it belongs to the psychiatric profession, or a related profession of social controllers. If you see the root cause in the word, even in the philosophy, I don’t. I see it in that power disparity I’ve been going on about.

          • As if I hadn’t been reading your comments for sometime now.

            Okay. You want to posit an anti-psychiatry in opposition to mad pride while I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. You want a consensus. On what, anti-psychiatry opposing mad pride? If so, I have to come to mad pride’s defense in opposing your position and your opinion, and this consensus that you would be working at achieving against use of the word mad, and the use of the word mad in conjunction with the word pride. I’m not opposed to using the word mad. I’m not opposed to using it in conjunction with the word pride, and I’m not opposed to mad pride celebrations of our differences and diversity, and I don’t see those celebrations as opposed to anti-psychiatry.

            Uh, anti-psychiatry, the consensus on universal principles or whatever that OldHead wants to arrive at. That’s something different, isn’t it?

  10. ‘MH professionals’ everybody :

    “Dr Punukollu, 41, allegedly said: ‘Believe me, I loved it. I used to send quite a few people to Life Works and they’d pay me £80 or £90 a day, which worked very well because we didn’t have to see the patients. ”

    “Charlie Massey, the GMC chief executive, said: ‘These are serious allegations. Patients must be able to trust their doctor.’

    That’s utterly laughable isn’t it. When I put it to the GMC that the ‘doctors’ had actually written the reply to my complaint and not a health trust director (a nurse, they only signed it) Proven by my complaint to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, And in that reply they lied stating that I was not subject to polypharmacy when the health trusts own discharge letters proved otherwise, listing all the drugs to be taken at the same time. What did the GMC do : NOTHING and it took them over a year to reply that they were going to do NOTHING.

  11. It looks like my work is done here. Thanks everyone for a good discussion, and thanks especially to those who understand what psychiatry is and why it must be abolished. In spite of our differences of opinion, or maybe even because of them, I wish you all the best, and good luck in your future endeavors, including any endeavors to slay the dragon of psychiatry. For any who are still confused, and are seeking to understand the truth about psychiatry, I recommend the following:

    • If you see a psychiatrist in private practice, you are equally free not to see that psychiatrist if you don’t want to do so. You just stop doing so. My point, yes, those doors are locked, and we need to get rid of them, however, those doors aren’t locked. and there is no such need.

  12. I agree that many survivors need to publish under a pseudonym, for obvious reasons. I do not, but that’s only because there are five of me in every major city. So I am easily mixed up with others who have my same name, and whose to say if it’s the real me? I was well aware of this when I published in MIA under my real name, but if my name were something else, something less common-sounding, I would not want to use it.

    • Yes, Julie, your name allows you to blend in easily. I have an incredibly unique name (both first and last), so leaving a trail is something I always have to give a thought to. I do intend to write my story, and I hope that MIA would be willing to publish it without insisting I out myself to do so. I haven’t carved out the time to do so yet, but it is on my Want To list.

        • Would love to Julie! Writing is good for me, but I pretty much stopped when my job situation dried up and I had to come up with other means of supporting myself. I’m trying to love myself better by devoting more (any, depending) time to pursuits that feed my inner well. Your invite has provided motivation for me to spend some time and attention on myself in the form of writing. So thank you! on many levels. I need this.

          • Lavender, I see writing as communication, though the process is also a personal journey, but the point is, you are bringing the reader along for the ride. That, to me, is the focus, the ride. I don’t write for myself. I write to communicate what happened so that it might be prevented from reoccurring. This is my goal. I am always focused on helping others see the truth about the MH system, and helping others understand that they, too, might be better off if they walk away.

  13. @ Frank

    ” don’t think the problem is psychiatry, I think the problem is psychiatric power, and the abuse of that power. I think the solution lays in taking that power away. I say abolish forced (mis)treatment (coercion and human rights violations), and I mean it. I don’t say abolish psychiatry because I don’t equate psychiatry with forced (mis)treatment. If I did, my position would be different. I am antipsychiatry regardless. Promoting psychiatry is not something I ever intend to do. I will resist psychiatry until the end. I’m not attracted to “mental health” torture, and for some time now, I have not been receiving any. The difference between you and me is that you think zero psychiatrists would mean no forced torture, and I know better. The problem is not, again, psychiatrists, the problem is the torture. End the torture (and with it the power disparity that excuses and permits it), and a psychiatrist is merely another man or woman, the same as any other. I think if you don’t deal with these matters, even with the abolition of that profession, we will merely have changed the wording, and the tortures will persist as they have for the last few hundred years. I can live with psychiatrists, I just can’t live with the “mental health” tortures.”

    Thanks for articulating this so lucidly.

  14. The issue among many is the word “mad,” which some romanticize but others, myself included, see as an acceptance of “othering” definitions applied to the psychiatrized. As for “mad studies,” what does this mean if “madness” is a universal human characteristic applicable to everyone? And who presumes to speak for the “mad”? In this case it’s people with letters after their names, for the most part, with a few “survivor” perspectives but sans a political, i.e. anti-psychiatry or anti-corporate, context. At least from what I can see.

    Maybe you’d find my reply to Steve (way way above this post) helpful:

    • I’m more open to Mad Pride than I am to Mad Humility (or humble pie), but that’s me. Mad studies I don’t have a problem with either. “Mentally ill” studies, or mental patient studies, those would give me a problem.

      People are always presuming to speak for the “mentally ill”, and our *cough cough* most vulnerable, and third or fourth class, citizens. I imagine the mad can speak for themselves, if they have any Mad backbone anyway. No need for an official mouth piece.

      • I also think it would be profoundly disrespectful of me not to acknowledge this movement, and play my own part in it, but, hey, that’s me. If you think a hole in the wall preferable, go right ahead. Between free speech and politically correct or sanitized speech, I still say free speech is for me.

        Pardon the Wikipedia piece, but some people, conceivably, might need enlightening. This enlightenment comes with the understanding that a world without a little nonsense would be a dull world indeed.

        • That’s why, if you can read, it’s a good thing that you can read.

          Analysis: Something stinks in Denmark, Boston, Rio, etc.

          Goals: reduce prejudice. abolish force, and have fun, that is, celebrate difference (er, increased tolerance).

          Position: “reclaim terms such as “mad”, “nutter”, and “psycho” from misuse”.

          Position: “re-educate the general public on such subjects as the causes of mental disabilities, the experiences of those using the mental health system, and the global suicide pandemic.”

          Events: “spawned recurring cultural events in Toronto, London, Paris and other cities around the world. These events often include music, poetry readings, film screenings, and street theatre, such as “bed push” protests, which aim to raise awareness about the poor levels of choice of treatments and the widespread use of force in psychiatric hospitals.”

          Hmmm. Apparently not the “can’t do” people.

          People unconnected with Wikipedia: Pete Shaughnessy, Mark Roberts, Robert Dellar, Simon Barnet, Bath Mad Hatters, etc.

          As for words….”Call it what you like.” Nobody owns the language.

          • Yeah, we’ve really made progress with these things, huh? This is what you consider a movement? Sounds more like a collection of individuals with no clear consensus or analysis. And I’m not sure why you stick RW in the middle of this.

          • Did I stick RW in the middle of whatever? I don’t think so. You object to those people who are connected with the mad movement, Okay. You object to Mad Studies. Again, okay. You do say you’re with the survivor movement, or is it the inmate movement? Okay. You say you are with the anti-psychiatry movement that you think is, or should be, “survivor”, or it is inmate?, led. Everybody, of course, doesn’t share your feelings. So, what does that have to do with RW? Is he part of your would-be consensus? Or not? As I tried to say, I think it disrespectful to all those hard working and struggling people involved in the Mad Pride movement to dismiss it out of hand. Okay. You apparently feel differently. All I can say is I disagree with you, but I think that’s okay, too. Disagreements happen, and dis-consensus can be a very good thing indeed. If you really want everybody to agree with you, OldHead, you are going about things the wrong way. I’m not sure what to say to you though. I don’t give a frig about everybody agreeing with me. What should we do about this situation, OldHead, and when is ‘nothing’ not your usual answer? You also say ‘hunger strikes’ are not the thing to have, and I hear another one is in the works over shock treatments. You wouldn’t become involved in a hunger strike, or would you? Okay. I would.

          • Rather than dis-consensus, dissensus is the word I should have used above. It means ‘difference of opinion’. Is there anything wrong with having differences of opinion? You want a consensus, among whom, some little clique you would presume to lead? I prefer to take a broader view of matters, OldHead. I don’t have to be a member of any clique that you would be forming. Thanks anyway.

          • I think we need a hiatus Frank. Your interpretations of just about anything I say are constantly distorted by your own projections and assumptions, and rarely are your criticisms even related to my actual statements. In addition to making me your straw man, you’re constantly setting me up as some sort of “leader,” a designation which is the last thing I want or need, and something I have never claimed to be. Still, I’m not going to apologize if people follow my logic or my analyses resonate with them.

            If I help people make connections I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to do. If not, I hearken back to Abbie Hoffman’s advice “if people don’t understand what you’re doing fuck ’em, maybe they’ll get it the next time around.” I don’t want reporters calling me up, or people expecting me to solve their problems and sort out their contradictions, and getting mad if I don’t or can’t. The purpose of “leaders” is for the system to have someone for the public to identify with a cause, so they can destroy them and send everyone else a message of “don’t fuck with us unless you want the same.” Or as John Lennon said, “if you want to be a hero then just follow me.”

            So please stop with the “your movement” (etc.) stuff. The positions I enunciate when I talk about “the movement” do pretty accurately represent the current state of consensus among anti-psychiatry survivors who want to abolish psychiatry — not just to avoid personal victimization but to end the medicalization of everyone’s reactions to systemic oppression, and the collective turning inward of rage, expressed in self-destructive acts, when the energy should be directed outward into fighting the system itself. These are the folks to whom my comments are primarily directed.

            But you’re not going to appreciate any of that, because you’re too busy formulating your responses to what you’re assuming I’m saying to waste your time actually listening. So I think I’ll stop trying, as this inability or unwillingness to comprehend what I say (whether they agree with it or not) is not something I experience with most people. A few “parting” notations:

            As I tried to say, I think it disrespectful to all those hard working and struggling people involved in the Mad Pride movement to dismiss it out of hand

            Sounds noble but I have yet to identify any such movement as actually existing other than in people’s heads (occasionally manifesting in an event of some sort). Does this “movement” have an address, or a website that’s not someone’s personal domain, or even a binding set of principles? (Other than what someone says on “Wikipedia”?)

            You also say ‘hunger strikes’ are not the thing to have, and I hear another one is in the works over shock treatments. You wouldn’t become involved in a hunger strike, or would you?

            This is an example of what I was just saying, in this case a generalization made based on my strong criticism of the hunger strike that was conducted a number of years ago with the goal of getting the APA to essentially denounce itself as a fraud.

            While this is not a blanket position (no pun intended), I can’t imagine personally getting involved in a hunger strike. Often it’s just an expression of desperation by those who have been unsuccessful in their efforts to mobilize people. If I’m going to put my life on the line someone else is going to have to take me out, no one gets anything on a silver platter. Not that there are never revolutionary suicides, but rarely do they involve actual movements (the IRA/INLF hungers strikers were one exception). In general I consider hunger strikes to be masochistic, and justifiable as a tactic only when there is literally no other option left for people to express their resistance.

            That said, I know nothing about the one you’re talking about, and my position on any tactic is never say never, and is dependent on the particular situation. But I’m naturally suspicious of such activities. Maybe some people see it as an empowerment exercise. For others it’s like going to church, or a test of one’s own purity or integrity measured by the amount of suffering one is willing to endure. It’s still a violent act, however, even if the violence is self-directed. So one should be very clear about his or her own motivation and not be railroaded into joining something like this based on, essentially, ego considerations or not wanting to be seen as cowardly or uncommitted, because those are all bullshit reasons for self-harm.

            Realistically I can’t see such an action having a major positive effect, especially in lieu of a unified movement, that would be worth sacrificing people’s lives or health. But I’m also not a soothsayer, and if some people decide to engage in a hunger strike and out a message I can get behind (which would not be reformist in any way) I will of course support them the best I can, especially while it’s ongoing.

          • It’s okay to agree to disagree, OldHead. You keep calling for consensus, and I’m not going to be a part of your consensus as long as you attack people in the Mad Pride movement. As you are the one seeking consensus, I don’t see that I am making you a straw man anymore than you are making a straw man of me, which in actuality may be the case. Am I setting you up as a leader? I don’t know. You want consensus, and I am not taking the bait.

            I admire Abbie Hoffman and John Lennon, too, OldHead, and I will work with anyone who will work with me. I’m for making connections, too, although possibly with a different and more diverse range of people than those you are talking about. I think differences of opinion can be a good thing, and that they can add to the discussion and our understanding of it. As for following John Lennon into martyrdom, what did you just say about “not wanting to be set up as a leader”. Fine and dandy, to paraphrase H.D. Thoreau, I’m stepping to a different drum beat then.

            You’re one to talk with this stuff about stopping with the “your movement” talk. I have no problem with antipsychiatry. I also have no problem with seeing it in a little broader terms than you do. You keep calling that a movement. Well, is it, or isn’t it? And is it “your” movement? You want to knock me for using the word movement? Okay. I will look for another term then. I’m saying I don’t think your simplistic formula will work, and most people don’t have anything to do with it anyway.

            I’m not formulating responses to what I’m assuming you’re saying, I’m responding to what you’re actually saying. Do I think you will stop doing what? Striving to reach a consensus, that is, getting everybody to agree on something. Sorry, I think there is plenty of room for diversity of opinion.

            I get it, OldHead, you say you generally disapprove of hunger strikes. As in sit down strikes, facing police dogs, and other tactics, I’m not of the same mind. Non-violent civil disobedience, of course, is not violence, but it is one response to violence, and it has been used successfully on occasion in the past. I’m not against non-violent resistance in whatever form it should take.

            If you’re following up by saying you could approve of some kind active resistance in the future. Great. No hunger strikes though. We’ve crossed that one off the list until you indicate otherwise. I guess there are a few other things we might be able to do. Hopefully, you’re not going to cross them of your list of available tactics, too.

            Realistically, OldHead, about the only action that I disapprove of is inaction. I know what a big business, how immense, our opposition has become, and I’m ready to do my part to bring it down. Of course, that’s much easier said than done. When it comes down to it, that’s what I think we need, less talk and more action. Maybe we can get there someday. Anyways, here’s to, no, not hoping, here’s to taking action.

          • As I said I’m not going to argue with your endless assumptions and projections, as I think I have stated my position clearly enough for most to understand; agreement or disagreement is secondary.

            Two things do I want to clarify:

            The quote from John Lennon is an ironic statement about leadership and heroism, not a paean to martyrdom.


            I get it, OldHead, you say you generally disapprove of hunger strikes. As in sit down strikes, facing police dogs, and other tactics, I’m not of the same mind.

            These are not the same. Facing police dogs (which is no big deal if the cop is in control) and accepting the possibility of being injured during a confrontation is different than deliberately harming oneself. Again, I consider the latter to masochistic and submissive to the phony “morality” of the system unless, as with the IRA/INLA hunger strike, there is literally no alternative.

          • I read what you write, OldHead, and I respond to it in kind. I don’t know where this assumption projection jive that you imagine could possibly be coming from. I will continue to do so. I don’t mind being argumentative. After all, some of the things we are speaking about have to be highly debatable.

            Right, about the Lennon statement. It’s kind of after the fact. He certainly didn’t see Chapman coming.

            When it comes to getting media attention and educating the public, it can be so hard to do so, that I see a hunger strike as very useful in that regard. Were anybody to get injured then the hunger strike serves it’s purpose, and the story gets out. I don’t know that there is ever literally no alternative to a hunger strike, or any other kind of political action and statement. One can act, or one can refrain from acting; not having a strike, of one sort or another, is a way of refraining from acting.

          • Injured as in starving themselves into death or disability as a publicity stunt? Jumping through hoops for the media? For one, people sitting around not eating hardly makes for exciting footage. And when was the last time you got educated about anything by the corporate media rather than misled? What would the demands be, and to whom would they be addressed? How would people know when they had won and could start eating again?

            For all I know there really is someone out there with a well thought out, strategic action in mind, though I doubt it. I’ll keep my eyes & ears peeled, but won’t hold my breath. It’s possible that such a thing could have an overall positive effect if specifically addressed to ECT, though without an overall analysis of psychiatry it would be forgotten quickly. But who knows, it could spark a discussion if nothing else. 🙂

          • If you are locked up, doing a hunger strike makes sense. If you are not, no one’s going to care. Especially three-day hunger strikes. You will survive three days of not eating if you’re healthy. A month-long hunger strike would raise eyebrows, and also, get you incarcerated with a tube up your nose. I think, though, there are laws protecting prisoners who do hunger strikes. I’m not sure if they can be force-fed under law if they’re striking. Isn’t there an international ruling on that?

            Now if you aren’t healthy, say, if you are diabetic or have other serious condition, or are underweight, not eating will kill you and again, unless the hunger strike is organized you’re likely to be accused of suicidality, and your cause disregarded.

          • I don’t think anybody can afford to think too long about the issues before acting on them. This medicalization on a massive scale has been going on for some time, and the absurd system, with the drug companies that fuel it, just keeps on growing. Get a little distance from it, and you can see how laughable it is. Don’t do anything about it, and it can only grow some more. The perfect plan, haha, who wouldn’t want to see that one, but we all know better than that. It’s not magic that gets things done, it’s blood, sweat, and plain grunt work that eventually gets us where we need to go.

          • I’m not sure, Julie, but I think a judge could order a person force fed who was being held in an institution, psychiatric or correctional. It’s been done in the past, and as for international laws, other countries have to sign on, or, at least, observe them. Not always the case.

            Outside of the institution, as a sign of support, no problem, however, in a psychiatric prison the authorities are likely to take a hunger strike for suicidality, if a person (or persons) is locked up, and the law on the inside is not what it is on the outside (we’re dealing with what Erving Goffman referred to as a ‘total institution’).

            Organization always help, yes, it would require people, many people working together, otherwise, there would be little point, would there? Not to be discouraging, people still do these things because there is a point that has to be made.

          • What if thousands of people just stopped going to doctors? How often do we REALLY need a doc? How often do we have bones that need setting? How often does a person need a bullet removed, or get into a car accident? These are times you need a doctor. Not for scrapes, bruises, colds, and mostly if you get the flu a doc can do nothing anyway, nothing helpful.

            Our insurance system, especially ‘Care/’Caid, pays for everything with no copay. You can see a doctor for the stupidest things. ‘Caid covers ER trips and ambulance rides whether they were necessary or not. Just call and they come.

            I am speaking of my past self here. I went to them for anything. They were free, after all. Invariably, they never gave me decent care, never satisfied me in any way, never addressed the issues I came to them for. Once, I went to the ER after I’d been raped and I ended up with a dx of “common cold.” They even wasted tax dollars giving me an unnecessary, wasteful “breathing treatment.” Stupidity! Every time I went in there saying “Help me, I can’t seem to eat” they just sent me away with a dx of “anxiety.” Useless.

            I was force weighed at the doctor about once a week for about a year per order my abusive therapist, and every time, the PCP charged my insurance. I never had to pay a cent and wouldn’t have! I never understood the high charges for operating a doc office scale. $45. $60 even a few times. Why did it have to be a doc? Why not a nurse? Wouldn’t that be less burden to society? I’d love to total up the dollars and cents.

            I do not see them now. Never. I had the flu, and because I didn’t see them, I got over the flu very fast. I hurt my foot when I dropped something on it, and that ended up hurting very badly but it would have been misdiagnosed had I seen a doc. Two days later I was fine.

            Seeing doctors is hugely wasteful. They do nothing productive. They aren’t gods.

            So thousands of people could just stop going without consequence to them, but much consequence to the medicos and their institutions.

          • Especially three-day hunger strikes. You will survive three days of not eating if you’re healthy.

            Three days??? Some people would consider that a diet.

          • P.S.

            Right, about the Lennon statement. It’s kind of after the fact. He certainly didn’t see Chapman coming.

            I personally think the irony was deliberate, and that the part of his consciousness that whispered his lyrics to him knew that Chapman would be celebrating his own version of mad pride.

          • There was no inkling of a Mark Chapman when John Lennon wrote Working Class Hero, the song from which the line you quoted was extracted, and there certainly was some irony embodied in the lyrics. Lennon, rightly or wrongly, felt persecuted in some regards, witness the lyrics to The Ballad of John and Yoko, in which he says, “Christ, the way things are going, they’re going to crucify me,” and this persecution complex found it’s consummation at the hands of Mark Chapman. Sort of one of those self-fulfilling prophesies you wish hadn’t been made. I believe some bible belt fanatics suggested offing John Lennon way back when he said the Beatles had become more popular than Jesus, and he took the public reaction to that comment to heart. People do, after all, get emotional, and take things personally that aren’t personal. I imagine there was a bit of irony in the Jesus statement, too, as they would have made even more money had they Jesus’s long lasting “charisma”, and the comment itself wasn’t exactly the best career promotion and PR.

          • Most everything you say makes sense and is true on a factual, “rational” level. And he certainly was persecuted. But for me JL has always been a mystical figure as well, and his lyrics often resonate on multiple levels — some of which he may not have “consciously” grasped when he wrote them.

  15. Law on the inside: You have no rights. Even if they have “patient rights” laws as they do in Massachusetts, these laws are totally disregarded. All states have “treat the patient with respect” as that one is national. Bullshit, they will treat you however they feel like treating you. If you complain that it’s not respectful, they’ll gaslight you by saying, “So, how have we not been respectful, didn’t we do___ for you?” Then they go off on a list of how great they’ve been, how much they’ve bent over backwards for you, which they know is baloney, then call you ungrateful. Say what? Offered to change the TV channel? What about letting me pee and change my clothes without staring, eh?