In June 2018, we ran our first ever reader survey. The purpose of the survey was to gain feedback on what you, our readers, want to read and thus provide helpful suggestions for future content. The survey also gave us valuable information on technical aspects of the site, alongside areas to improve and concerns to address. Thank you to all who responded for taking the time to tell us how you feel about Mad in America.
This update provides a brief review of the results of the survey so far and outlines what actions we have taken or will take in response. The survey remains open and if you have not yet given us your feedback, please do so using this link.
The survey responses provide interesting information on the composition of our reader community which helps us in planning what content to provide and how often.
Specific Issues to Address
There was a great deal of feedback related to reader comments. Only 10% of respondents said that they “enjoyed participating in the lively discussions.” The remaining 90% either just observed the discussion, or actively avoided it. This is an issue of concern to us since we want to encourage as many readers as possible to comment and to share the broadest range of views and experiences.
To address this feedback, we are making some changes to the commenting section. We believe that reader comments are vital to MIA’s mission, and thus we need to create an environment that is friendlier to all readers and encourages more readers, with a diverse range of opinions and experiences, to add their voices and thoughts to the discussion.
First, you will be able to choose whether to view the comments. This way you will make an active choice to engage in the discussion. Second, we will implement a method where comments can be “liked.” This will give you, as community members, the chance to self-select the responses that you feel add value to the discussion. In addition, you will be able to view comments sorted by the oldest, newest, or highest rated.
We will also be updating our posting guidelines in order to further emphasize that we want to create a commenting environment that all of our readers will experience as welcoming and respectful. Here is the message we are striving to communicate:
Reader comments and discussions are important to MIA. We welcome your reflections, criticisms and insights that are on-topic and relevant to the article. Comments are moderated for civility and for adherence to our posting guidelines.
We hope that these commenting changes make for a better experience for all. An essential aspect of MIA’s mission is to nurture a community that can collectively rethink our current paradigm of psychiatric care, and the survey feedback is telling us that we need to get better at this task.
Some survey responses indicate a lack of understanding as to what Mad in America stands for and what particular positions we hold on a range of issues. The founder of Mad in America and its publisher, Robert Whitaker, responds:
As an organization, Mad in America aims to serve as a forum for rethinking the current paradigm of psychiatric care. We do so in multiple ways:
- By providing summaries of research articles that regularly go unnoticed in the general media because they challenge conventional wisdom.
- By hosting a community of writers with diverse experiences and backgrounds who share our belief that the current paradigm of psychiatric care has failed and needs to be rethought.
- By providing a forum for readers to add their thoughts and opinions to this discussion.
- By reporting in-depth pieces that deconstruct the conventional “evidence base” for psychiatric drugs and tell of alternatives to conventional treatments.
- By hosting radio podcasts that feature in-depth interviews on these issues.
- By hosting continuing education webinars on these subjects.
As you can see by our mission statement, beyond that starting point of belief that the current paradigm of care has failed (and in multiple ways), MIA does not have an “ideology” that constrains the information or the viewpoints it publishes. We are meant to serve as a source of information and discussion, and not as a promoter of particular solutions, or particular manner of rethinking psychiatry.
The MIA board and staff may have their own preferences and opinions on these topics and will sometimes publicly express their thoughts on these topics, in blogs or by commenting on articles. They do so as members of the larger MIA community, and not as representatives of MIA. Unless we publish an MIA editorial on a subject, the opinions and thoughts they express, when writing under their own names, are their own.
Regarding our writers, some of you said that you wanted to hear less from professionals, but more personal accounts and others preferred less of these but more from professionals. We take this as a sign that we are holding to our vision as a space for a range of views, experiences and perspectives to come together to enable discussion and debate. We intend to continue to cover a wide range of issues written by a diverse collection of writers.
Your feedback has given us a great deal of hugely valuable input to consider for creating future content. While we must live within our budget, which is quite constrained given the extent of our operations, we plan to redo our drug information section and expand our reporting. We are encouraged to hear that you would like more audio and video content, and we are considering what we can achieve in this regard.
You told us that our search function was unreliable and that you found it difficult to locate the content you wanted. We have taken steps to remedy this and have implemented a customized Google search which we believe is a substantial improvement.
Other feedback that we will address over the coming months will include the provision of a sitemap for easier location of content and the bringing together of content to serve as a “spotlight” on key issues.
We will be acting on other feedback from the survey over the coming months and we will update you as we introduce significant changes.
Mad in America is six years old and it has grown and developed hand-in-hand with you, our reader community. We are all overwhelmed with the many messages of support and thanks in your responses. It is clear that Mad in America means a great deal to you, as it does to us all behind the scenes.
We look forward now to the coming years and continuing to do what you would like us to be doing: providing a space for the community to come together to share, debate and discuss issues that we feel are amongst the most important in the world today.
If you would like to add your thoughts and feedback, then please do using this link.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
I wanted to cry after reading this. I am floored that MIA would turn the comments section into a popularity contest like Facebook with “likes” and ability to filter the “highest rated”. If your goal is to silence dissent, congratulations.
Hi kindredspirit, thanks for your comment. As noted in the blog, our aim is to encourage as many as possible to comment and discuss. After having looked at several online communities, it became clear that allowing readers to actively participate is a good way to encourage more commenters and to enliven discussions. Our intention is not to silence dissent, but encourage wider participation.
No way James Moore! Other online communities are full of popularity contests, hurt feelings, and bullying. Why imitate what they’re doing wrong, just because they’re doing it? The likes part about Facebook is one of the main reasons I quit.
I have been bullied on Facebook more than once, on the regular area and also in specialized areas (pages and various clubs on there).
MIA is the one place where I haven’t been bullied. MIA is the one place where I can say “this event happened” and I won’t be called dangerous or paranoid just for telling the truth, here and in my personal blog.
If you go forward with the likes plan, you are silencing those of us who need a place to talk about what happened.
Please stop this idea in its tracks. PLEASE!
I don’t like the idea of “likes” and filtering for “highest rated” either. I guess someone, in playing favorites here, seems set on silencing any and all “inconvenient truth”.
Also, I don’t entirely agree with the mission of MIA as I think the current paradigm of care is something that needs dethinking more than it needs rethinking. “Mental health” is a myth but, for many people, “consumers/users/patients” and “mental health” workers, it all too often represents a fanatical obsession. My view is that the entire system started with the locking up of innocent people and, as such, descends from coercive maltreatment. Rethinking is merely a matter of more medicalization pretending to be something other than medicalization whereas dethinking places us immediately in the vicinity of demedicalization. Demedicalization is more healthy to boot, as you can witness all the people who have been physically injured (and worse) through the use of what purports to be medicine, but what is, in fact, actually a very discriminatory and oppressive system of social control.
In a nutshell, I don’t think the system needs to be revised or re-envisioned so much as I think the system needs to be completely destroyed. We don’t need alternatives to incarceration and abuse under medical presences so much as we need an end to incarceration and abuse under medical pretenses. Psychiatric drugs only extend the methods of incarceration and control via chemical means, “house arrest” still being arrest. Tolerance of human difference is at the other end of the spectrum (i.e. liberation from bondage). As for our most vulnerable citizens, usually I think when somebody uses that expression they mean our most gullible citizens instead. Voila, vive la resistance!
I agree with Frank. Could we dismantle (or destroy) the current system of torture and oppression? Can we stop the lying and pretending? Let’s end the phony diagnoses and the very real drugging of unsuspecting, gullible scapegoats.
Could we bring back due process and restorative justice? I think RJ works in a few select places where people are brave enough to try it, like Hawaii.
I’m not sure I agree, Frank. It appears entirely possible that the “likes” would go toward those posts which do have an abolitionist slant. It’s also possible they’d go toward the ones which are most thoughtful, regardless of the position taken. I think it will be interesting to see how it pans out, but it also sounds like you don’t have to “filter” if you don’t want to. My guess is that it will bring more readers who don’t want to or have time to wade through every comment.
Of course, I agree with you that the system as it is has essentially no redeemable qualities. Forced drugs, locking people up, lying about “causes” to make money, creating permanent customers, creating “diagnoses” that have no basis in reality, blaming the resultant prejudice and discrimination that arises as “stigma” and asking for MORE money to continue to stigmatize their “customers,” ignoring trauma and social conditions… it’s hard to think of one thing “the system” does right. But I’m also very willing to listen to people who see it differently, not because I necessarily agree with them, but because their reality deserves to be heard, and also because anyone who is having problems with the current paradigm is a potential ally.
I actually align pretty well with your “free choice” concepts, which does allow for various kinds of services to be sold to people who feel they need them. Some of the “rethinkers” who post here are developing that kind of service, and I always find it interesting to see what people are finding helpful. My biggest objection of all to the system as it is would be that it assumes that we can classify people based on their behavior and emotions and somehow know that they all need the same “treatment” regardless of their individual circumstances. Anything that moves us in a direction AWAY from that concept and TOWARD an individualized and empowered approach is worth reading about in my book.
Yeah, but it would still be a matter of playing favorites. If the likes went towards an abolitionist stance, that’s something I would like to see, but I don’t expect it to happen. Many of them might, but if they did, it would still be a matter of playing favorites. The brown nosing popularity contest filter, in this instance, is sure to have it’s victims. What you wouldn’t be doing is encouraging people to make up their own minds apart from,,,What do they call it? Oh, yeah. “Peer” pressure.
Sure, regarding your agreement, and listening. Thing is, psychiatry, the system, and the drug industry, have grown and become more intractable over the last few years. Used to be, a lot more people were public in their condemnation of the therapeutic state. No more. Criticism is taken as “stigmatizing”, and politically incorrect, or “triggering”. I just think people are going to have to become more aggressive towards this sort of thing if they want to put a dent in it. Either that, or find a way to turn their back on the whole illusionist sham business.
Once you get rid of coercion, you will have free choice. We don’t have free choice with coercion. I’m not so crazy about an individualized and empowered approach as you put it. The presumption is that something is wrong, but that is presumption. It could be that the interventionists won’t leave a body alone. So long as coercion is the rule in some quarters so much for free choice. Get rid of coercion, and people will have the right to say “no”, as well as the right to say “yes”. Choices they don’t necessarily have at the moment.
If there is no coercion, the decision whether or not something is “wrong” would be up to the person seeking “treatment” or “help.” Of course, there are also ways of making one’s life better that don’t start off with the assumption there is something “wrong” with you to begin with. For instance, we know from research that so-called “ADHD” kids are virtually indistinguishable from “normal” kids in a less structured classroom where kids have choices about what they do and how long they do the activity. Such classrooms have been around since the 70s and before, but they fell out of political favor. Would it be too “revisionist” to create classrooms that these kids actually enjoy being in? This could “cure” most cases of “ADHD” without any diagnosis or force whatsoever. (Of course, there is also the much larger question of the use of force in the educational system, or with kids in general, but that’s a bit bigger than this moment’s discussion.)
There are all kinds of ways that people seek help, and some people find things helpful that I don’t. I think that should be up to the individual, but I also think that sharing these viewpoints and experiences is very valuable to many who read here. I think that’s the part of the discussion we lose out on if we insist on a strict “abolitionist” viewpoint. Besides which, a lot of people start out as “revisionists” and become more radical by reading stuff by folks like you. I don’t think we want to chase those people away because they are not “radical” enough yet, do you?
And as for “playing favorites,” we’ll have to see how it plays out, but I have trust enough in the MIA community to believe that well-articulated antipsychiatry comments that are truthful and compelling in their presentation will get plenty of “likes”. They’ll definitely get some from me!
I don’t know what you mean by a “strict abolitionist position”. I’m for the abolition of non-consensual coercive psychiatry. Non-consensual coercive sex has been outlawed in the main. Ditto, that other non-consensual coercive matter, slavery, ownership of one man by another. I think we need to do the same thing with “mental health” treatment.
The moderate position has always been expand the “mental health” system. The moderate would make a lifelong career of “patient” or “peer specialist”. I think, on the other hand, that people are more “mentally healthy”, or shall we say stable, who don’t make a career out of receiving or providing treatment. I had rather see fewer people labeled, drugged, and managed in the system than more.
If need be, take money and resources away from the people with a more moderate view, and they will begin to see the light as well. These 60-70 year extensions on childhood are blatantly insulting, debilitating, and just become encumbrances in the end.
I think there is a LOT of room between “expand the mental health system” and making career patients or “peer specialists” who support the system and the suggestion that some seem to make that any form of assistance offered to people experiencing mental or emotional distress from a professional source is de facto oppression. I guess that’s my definition of “strict abolitionist position” – no professional assistance may be offered for any form of mental/emotional distress. My understanding is that you have no objection to the latter when force is eliminated. I have absolutely agreed with you that the use of force as “treatment” (which includes manipulation, threats, lying, enforcing “diagnoses” to get insurance reimbursement, and so on) is wrong and needs to be eliminated.
What about my example of altering the system to meet the needs of kids (or adults), rather than “treating” those who don’t “adjust” to the authoritarian system that we’re supposed to all love?
A contagion of “mental illness” during the 19th century was created, or at least spurred on, by that wave of reform known as ‘moral management’. This reform increased the numbers of people residing in lunatic asylums 10 fold. The population of inmates in various countries at this time, between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 20th, went from thousands, or perhaps closer to hundreds, to tens of thousands.
Robert Whitaker and others have demonstrated how the introduction of psychiatric drugs, coupled with state welfare reforms, have created another epidemic on top of that epidemic starting with the latter half of the 20th century.
Many so-called “needs” exist because of clever marketing ploys. Sell an answer to distress and watch rates and levels of distress skyrocket. I’d like to see the rates of what is termed chronic “mental illness” decline, but this is not what is happening. If you could alter the system in a way that allowed people to graduate from it then that would be something. I just see too many repeat offenders in the system, and too few graduates from it. I’d like to see people (technically you could call it recovering or finding a cure) leaving that system for good instead.
As long as the numbers keep going up I have to shake my head. It is the business end of treating “mental illness” that has made the “mental illness” rate soar without relent. The question is how do you get those numbers to go down. There is, of course, when your industry is a waste of human life industry, more industry in doing something else entirely.
I agree Steve. I think anyone who frequents this site has valuable input to offer in the comments section. It’s set to be upvoted by other readers, not MIA, so I’m not anticipating any bias. Everyone gets a voice still, and this encourages meaningful dialogue. I am a social worker and as much disgust and outrage as I have for our current psychiatric and mental health systems, I personally cannot espouse abolishing it entirely. It is terribly flawed and based on little to no scientific evidence, but it has saved some of my clients lives. It needs a massive overhaul, and yes when human dignity and rights are taken away, this needs to stop. However, it depends on the individual and their current level of suffering. There are simply few if any alternatives right now. That is what I love about MIA. It’s a place to discuss this and find real world solutions and alternatives to a system that shows little to no signs right now of being legally or financially dismantled. But, if the system is circumvented, and practitioners have safe and effective alternatives to suggest to people seeking help, the status quo changes. If our current psychiatric system (medical-based but not medically sound or proven) doesn’t start to change it will lose its usage, credibility, and relevance. Ultimately it will lose its power to destroy, ruin, and traumatize people.
I would abolish forced “mental health” treatment. Unforced “mental health” treatment is no more a concern of mine than is tarot card, palm, or skull bump reading (phrenology), and I wouldn’t force those on people either. Non-consensual coercive fortune telling? Since when? Nope, I don’t think so. Same thing with forced “mental health” (mal)treatment. Sex, etc. It may be okay to man handle criminals, but please, wait until a law has been broken before you do so. Mental health law is a loophole in criminal law that needs to be closed. Repeal mental health law, and the only people forcing unwanted “mental health” treatment on other people would be criminals, and criminals subject to prosecution.
I am a social worker and as much disgust and outrage as I have for our current psychiatric and mental health systems, I personally cannot espouse abolishing it entirely. It is terribly flawed and based on little to no scientific evidence
This is your opinion, which many disagree with. Both sides are entitled to be expressed and evaluated on their merits, not because they won a popularity contest.
One of the problems is the need for alternatives. This has never been an issue for my famiy, but caring for a family member experiencing acute, ongoing distress can easily be beyond that capability and resources of the family. Also, the family might be the last thing the distressed person needs. It’s easy to say that the family should just let go and trust that person will find a way through, but there are often good reasons that the family might fear for the safety and well-being of that member. Also, often the member becomes distressed while they are still young, often living at home, or before they have established full independence.
One of the myths that psychiatry has successfully promulgated is that a person’s safety and well-being are being compassionately catered for within their systems of treatment, and that whatever the outcome of that treatment, it is the best that can be achieved or hoped for. Families very often cling to believing in psychiatry, partly because the results, no matter how negative for the individual, allow them to get on with their lives.
I do feel that both the individual and the family often need help, and there needs to be trustworthy and genuinely beneficial help available. The main point I’m trying to make is that it is seldom just the “patient” who is deeply affected.
We have no need for alternatives if by alternatives you mean alternatives to forced treatment. We need to get rid of forced (mal)treatment altogether instead. Get rid of forced treatment, and what you are calling alternative now would be standard practice. Any alternative to such standard practice however would mean restraints, confinement, court ordered drugging, etc., and we don’t need those sorts of alternatives at all.
It is my position that in some cases the individual neither wants nor requires what is euphemistically referred to as “help”, and in those cases, the individual’s wishes need to be respected.
Some people just can’t be as “patient” as all of that. There is a point after all, let it be said, at which even patience becomes a vice.
Cloudhead, the part of my response that you chose to quote was incomplete and has nothing to do with the new comment policy on this site. Licensed social worker’s are bound to a code of ethics which includes a client’s or individuals right to self-determination.
Maybe I should have clarified, and explained that portion of my response is not based on opinion, but hours of research in reading the DSM 5 field trial results which had very low kappa scores for inter-rater reliability. Also it is based on reading the entire RCT trials by drug companies for several psychotropic medications including SSRI’s and mood stabilizers, that never made it to the FDA yet were approved. The FDA only requires 50% efficacy over placebo, and does not require all RCT’s done by the pharma company for the drug. I also have read much of Robert Whitaker’s work, and watched several of his presentations which highlights even more research that he and others have done.
My client’s telling me that something saved their life, is not my opinion, but theirs, which is what is most important. Many client’s have told me quite different stories and were clearly suffering from being on cocktails of psychotropic medications or being psychiatrically hospitalized without their consent, and that is just as important. Each person has a right to decide how they choose to live, what medications they take, and our laws in the U.S. vary by states, in terms of how and when a person can be hospitalized without their personal consent.
The portion of my response that you did not quote and is based entirely on my opinion, is not entirely in disagreement with what you wrote about both sides being entitled to be expressed and based on their merits. I wrote at the beginning of my response:
“I think anyone who frequents this site has valuable input to offer in the comments section. It’s set to be upvoted by other readers, not MIA, so I’m not anticipating any bias. Everyone gets a voice still, and this encourages meaningful dialogue.”
The sad truth is that these toxins kill. And a great portion of those who take medication are convinced they are “better” due to the placebo effect. I don’t think we can get rid of involuntary commitment without getting rid of the drugs. The side effects cause that to be necessary. Mania turning a depression into bipolar. Akathesia or psychosis turning the patient into a schizophrenic.
Once you’ve worked in the system, you know how to “spot” what medication that person is on, it’s not hard. Follow the side effects. What would work? Who knows? But it’s not working now.
Watch a person ruin their life, see a psychiatrist (And I’m not talking about the ones here – they’re only a few and even they can’t see the whole picture) They’re rights destroyed. Their marriages in shambles. Child custody lost. Freedom taken away. Careers destroyed. And debt galore, when that hospitalization bill shows up. Just take a look at the Surviving Antidepressants website and take a look at the relationship thread, SSRI divorces. It’s hard for your heart not to break reading these stories.
It’s hard to justify not abolishing it, starting with the meds. But how do you do that?
We must get rid of involuntary commitment. The drugs are damaging and deadly, sure, but you’ve got duped people taking them voluntarily, too. Some people aren’t duped, and those that aren’t duped should have the freedom not to take brain numbing life destroying chemicals. Fools will be fools, but still that’s not a good reason for banishing wisdom (i.e. the right not to take brain damaging life destroying drugs). We respect peoples’ freedoms by not depriving people of that freedom, even if doing so supports the freedom to be foolhardy and to do stupid things.
Get rid of the medications and you get rid of the need to commit. Side effects causes most of the hospitalizations to occur begin with, never mind the withdrawal symptoms, which is another piece to the puzzle.
If you were to consider the crimes committed when on these psychotropics, they are a safety hazard for all concerned, included the person on them. Let’s not bring into this, the mass shooters, Columbine, Cruz, Michele Carter, Andrea Yates and all the rest of the news stories, in which, you know would otherwise be impossible to imagine unless the psychotropic drugs were involved. You know it as you read the story.
It this were a car, it would have been taken off the market or recalled immediately. Next take away the insanity plea. The lawyer hit the nail on the head. The legal system and psychiatry would then be separate and powerless. You have to tear it down to imagine something new.
I’m afraid the “mental health” authorities were locking people up before they were drugging people up. I was forced drugged in a so-called hospital in which I was imprisoned. Which came first? The so-called hospitalization.
Neuroleptics weren’t used on psych-wards until the 1950s. Does that mean people weren’t being confined to “mental hospitals” until 1950 something? Certainly not. In some instances some people, innocent people, had been forced to serve a life sentence.
Murder is a crime, and it should be treated as such. Although the drugs may have something to do with violent behavior, bad decisions have something to do with it, too. I don’t think we need be convicting anybody (or anything) of murder without a trial by jury.
Throw out the insanity defense, sure, I’m all for that. It paints the situation of all people confined to mental institutions (past, present, and future) with the same brush. It’s a little more difficult to throw out the pills though because some people think they are “medicine”, or “life savers”, or something along those lines, even if the evidence says otherwise.
Repeal “mental health” law, take away forced psychiatry, and then psychiatry would be unable to drug anybody against his or her express wishes. “Mental health” law gives psychiatrists the power to lock people up and drug them. Take that power away, and *poof*, you’ve just solved the problem.
Still the medications are a safety matter and should be dealt with and taken off the market. As far as locking anyone up, it’s not profitable and that’s why they don’t do it anymore. The public needs to be educated about what does to the brain and body, just like cigarettes. We have always had the “have” and the “have nots” and institutionalization was just a way to separate the two.
If it is exposed what the drugs do, the medical doctors get their comeuppance that is a long time coming. It takes away the “magic” curtain and their power. The chemical imbalance and even the genetic theory, which is much more dangerous. gets put to bed. And then our financial markets correct themselves from this “robbing” of our medical dollars.
If we want Medicare to still exist and be solvent 200 years from now, it needs to be done and this “snake oil mentality” stopped. Nevermind that we will have to compete with another world economy and it’s citizens, that doesn’t buy this “Mental Health System” and has it’s citizen’s in tact and without brain damage.
Perhaps we disagree, I don’t know, but I think the most important stance to take is that of opposition to any and all forced treatment, that is, I think it is more important to be pro-freedom than it is to be anti-drug of any sort.
Medicare 200 years from now occupies about 0 % of my thoughts.
I think we are in the same line of thought, just different ways to abolish it.
My contention is to get rid of the psychotropics and then you get rid of the side effects which will cause the 90 percent of the involuntary commitment. Then it will be easily abolished.
As far as freedom and rights, you need to get rid of the labels and the DSM and insurance codes. That gives us the right to segregate. If abolished we get rid of the main tool used to discard a person’s rights by diagnosis.
The benefits are endless. Rights are restored to these unfortunate individuals going through a hard time. And we get to put a magnifying glass for medications, giving us better health care.
Again, involuntary commitment came before, and long before, the introduction of neuroleptic drugs. I’m not arguing that the drugs are good for your health, I’m just saying that prohibiting them is more complicated and problematic than that. Get rid of the drugs, and as long as the law is such as it is, you will continue to have involuntary treatment.
Those rights you mention are what are taken away through the application of “mental health” law. The other side of the coin belongs to those people, perfectly healthy physically, who want to have something wrong with them. What is that old adage? Oh, yeah. Be careful what you wish for…
“Benefits” are, in this instance, an unfortunate term. Subsidizing childish adults doesn’t leave you with adult adults. It is not a drug that takes away people’s rights, it is the law. Change the law (get rid of bad law), and rights are restored…fully restored.
Steve McC, every time I’ve gone into tx and the tx place claims it’s “individualized,” it has not been. Not once.
Credibility: Three decades of that crap.
Most “treatment providers” have no idea what “individualized treatment” actually means. I think they believe it’s about choosing the drugs they give you on an individual basis rather than giving the same drugs to everyone. I’m not surprised you have not experienced anything that looks like it.
Actually, Steve, they thought “individualized treatment” meant giving everyone the precise same meal plan but allowing each person choices, say, a choice of type of cookies they wanted. Or a choice between cherry yogurt or vanilla. Huge variation and individualized treatment. Never mind a few of us might end up with an uncooked egg hard-boiled egg, just for variety’s sake. This, of course, led to some challenges since we were required to finish everything on our trays. What is the moral here? Everyone is different, right?
Mainstream psychiatrists tend to see themselves as Dirty Harry. We’re the disease and they’re the cure.
for the record: to me, “rethinking psychiatry” means asking “was psychiatry a good idea in the first place?” it was not, and still isn’t, and never will be.
Irit, this was my take on that as well. I certainly don’t read “rethinking psychiatry” in light of reform.
In the same light, abolishing psychiatry, to me, has only to do with doing away with the recognized medical discipline of psychiatry and has no bearing on other forms of socioemotional support – therapy or soteria house type places or social workers to help people in distress stay on their feet and connected to reality.
Irit & KS,
Hi, interesting take on “rethinking psychiatry,” thanks for bringing this up. It’s an ambiguous phrase I guess, huh? My interpretation has always been along the lines of “reformulating” psychiatry, which is why I impulsively respond along the lines of what is there to “rethink” at this point, the question is how to get rid of it. So it’s interesting that others read it differently, which sort of makes it one of those “wiggle” phrases.
The same with “abolition,” really; the word has at least two distinct dictionary definitions, only one of which involves any sort of legal decree. Nonetheless this “conflict” continues to divide those who are otherwise united in their anti-psychiatry views.
This is not really the correct forum for this discussion but I hope this “semantics” stuff can be discussed in more depth following some future blog.
kindredspirit and Frank are right. This is a disaster for MIA. If MIA is a “forum for rethinking the current paradigm of psychiatric care,” this new policy will drive the conversation even further into the “reform” echo chamber. Psychiatry cannot be “rethought” any more than slavery can be “rethought.” Most people don’t waste time trying to “rethink” the 3rd Reich.
As for the commenting policy, of course only 10% said that they “enjoyed participating in the lively discussions.” Most people know next to nothing about the inner workings or the history of psychiatry. Of course most people observe and read. Why would MIA be concerned about this? The pretense about representing the broadest range of views and experiences can hardly be understated. This new policy will greatly inhibit a broad range of views and it will narrow the discussion even more.
Thanks for your observations on the blog and the changes we would like to implement. The feedback we had from the survey was that people were feeling discouraged from commenting. I certainly wouldn’t presume to suggest what knowledge our community does or doesn’t have, but I would rather as many contribute to the discussions as possible. This revised commenting approach works well on other community sites, so we feel that it is time to make some changes to encourage more participation. I don’t agree that this will narrow the conversation, I believe it will broaden it, involve more voices and be more diverse and inclusive as a result. As for this being a disaster for MIA, I guess time will tell.
James Moore, the “likes” system wrecks other community sites. Ask anyone who has been through bullying on Facebook. Facebook is junk because it turned into a popularity contest. It is not a safe place to say much of anything anymore except to show off a pic of your pet.
Can you say which other sites use the “likes” system and it’s great and wonderful, adding to the site in some fashion?
As a professional writer, I can say with confidence that boiling down your opinion to a black-and-white like or dislike can’t possibly reflect with any accuracy your real thoughts on the piece. Even a “rating” via number of stars is too much of a generalization.
This is what’s going to happen. People will “like” the comments made by people they like or people they’re friends with. The comments made by people who just so happen to have writing ability (based on education…which many are deprived of…). Comments written by those who do not have access to a full-size keyboard, or are at a library or in a facility where time is limited and comments are written fast with no chance to edit or proofread will get fewer likes. This is not fair!
And i’m sitting here writing from home on a full-sized keyboard….so I realize this.
Why is MIA marginalizing those who are already marginalized? Ahhh…the segregation and stratification continues…..
Julie Greene, among the sites we considered was The New York Times, who made changes to their commenting which are far wider in scope than those we would like to make. All NYT comments, for example, are pre moderated. On top of this, not only readers can like, the NYT moderators can also select comments as picks. The NYT report that their community engagement improved as a result of the changes they made which, in comparison to ours, are draconian. So I disagree that liking comments damages community cohesion to the level that you believe it will. You seem to be quite happy for those that told us what an objectionable place they found the commenting being marginalised. That, to me, is what is not fair about all this.
James Moore, how can you say I’m being unfair? Who is in power here? Who has the power to delete comments or ban someone? Ahem!
I have not commented in the NYT. I commented once, an antipsych stance in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and my comments have been held for moderation ever since.
Now talk about marginalization! How many of us have been banned from online communities because we stated the FACT that we were harmed by psych? Just saying that will cause you to lose friends, be called dangerous, called delusional and paranoid in online communities. I have lost so, so many friends who decided I was too delusional to deal with, or too disordered, or “off meds…” Whatever. Marginalized, blocked, silenced. Banned from speaking at a conference after I’d already been accepted. Kicked out, refused a blogging job that I was well-qualified for because they were “afraid the writing would cause people to avoid treatment.” And yet…this for telling the truth, nothing more. Banned because I choose to not have a therapist. You wanna hear about years and years of that? I can keep writing, you know.
Another thing. How can you compare to the NYT? That has a wider circulation and the chances of commenters knowing each other is very slim. Here, many of us know each other, or ran into one another in some other context outside of MIA. Those that stuck around a while know this well. You cannot compare. This is not just a forum where people voice their opinions, it is a community as well.
The way I read the objections is about the potential for increasing different kinds of elitism in commenting. One kind is about the privilege of writing skills but another is about the risk of stepping outside of an accepted “party line” decided by the most dominant voices.
I admit there are opinions I wouldn’t write because of the second kind. It’s not about being disagreed with but subjected to aggression and pressure, rather than being able to discuss different points of view.
There is also another issue about sensitivity to how deeply people have suffered and been harmed. Sometimes it can seem that alternative views about the merits of particular aspects of psychiatry or treatments can feel like they negate that reality and be triggering as a result.
That makes a lot of sense to me. It appears you see both sides of the dilemma very clearly.
The “privilege” of writing skills? Are you saying economically advantaged people write more skillfully, or that such skills are automatically conferred on anyone without their engaging in discipline, practice and study? Should we all write like 3rd graders to give others a “safe space”? Most of your comments are pretty spot on but I think you’re drinking the neoliberal Kool-Aid here. (Or maybe you’re just summarizing what others are saying, if so my apologies.)
Back to the main subject, I think the fact that the New York Times would be being used by MIA as a model for anything speaks volumes.
Oldhead, To address what you said, I could add that my mom paid thousands of dollars for my education, my bachelor’s degree and masters from esteemed colleges, that is, a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing (which I earned with high honors), and an MFA in Creative Writing. My masters degree was published not long after I graduated. These creative writing fields are not the same as journalism, rarely appreciated and pay so little we often lose money just to get published. However, it’s a skill, one I highly value, one that I have used over, first to keep me alive while incarcerated, then, to describe in my blog what happened, then, to blow the whistle when I didn’t know what else to do. Then, of course, I used the same skill to work through the trauma that resulted from the human rights abuses done to me. Now I keep writing to tell others to stay away from psych, and because to me it is a moral duty to keep writing and telling anyone whom I can reach. Why? Because I can.
It does have a lot to do with education. That got paid for. I am even embarrassed to say so. But I love my mom, too.
I personally didn’t learn a thing about writing from anyone but maybe for a few high school English teachers, and from reading others’ writing. The most significant writer in the U.S. in my estimation, Mumia Abu-Jamal, grew up in the ghetto and learned his trade as a child prodigy with the Black Panthers. All his books have been written in prison, some with only the inner shell of a ballpoint pen.
Oldhead, Mumia went to Goddard! That is where I went to grad school. He spoke at one of our graduations. I remember that. It was after I graduated that he was invited to speak. He spoke remotely from prison.
Yeah, he eventually went to Goddard Cambridge, or maybe Vermont, after the Black Panthers had been decimated by the early ’70’s. But he was already a renowned revolutionary journalist at that point, having written extensively for the Black Panther newspaper, which had a worldwide circulation. Eventually he became a radio journalist, locally and with NPR, before being framed for killing a cop and spending his life since in prison, most of that time with a death sentence hanging over his head. He is truly America’s Mandela, which is why most people in the U.S. haven’t heard of him; not so in the rest of the world, where children study him in school and streets are named after him.
I regretted those words. they were wrong.
I’m not suggesting anyone guilt-trip themselves over word choices. Just a impulsive reaction on my part. “Wrong” is a little strong too, something to be reserved for things like forced psychiatry. But there I go again…feel free to take me with a grain of salt, at your discretion. 🙂
Not feeling guilty. Just that I thought the same thing at the time.
I take everyone, including myself with a grain of salt, and at my discretion. 🙂
Wrote “slaying the dragon..” “Most people know next to nothing about the inner workings or the history of psychiatry.”
Maybe this kind of attitude is what keeps people away? The attitude that implies, or directly states, “Who are you to be commenting? You never read Szasz (or whoever) and what do you know about psychiatry? Your opinions are based on ignorance. Shut up and stay away.” Which is what I usually do.
But you know what? Nobody is an expert outside of his little field. If you think you know more than the next person, then you just degraded him as “less than” and you’ll never learn from anyone else. So, if MIA is a place for learning, I think you’re the one who should stay away.
Personally, I am so sick of reading comments that basically say nothing more than, “Psychiatry should be abolished! It should never have been created! It makes problems and doesn’t solve them!” Just hysteria with no concrete suggestions whatsoever. If you have some good ideas and a way to implement them, great. But so far, I’ve seen nothing here.
The attitude that implies, or directly states, “Who are you to be commenting? You never read Szasz (or whoever) and what do you know about psychiatry? Your opinions are based on ignorance. Shut up and stay away.”
That you would react this way might say more about your own attitude, namely projecting such negative implications when DS said nothing of the sort; he just made a simple statement of fact — that most survivors, like most people in general, know little about the history of psychiatry. The logical response would be something like, “well, if that’s true maybe there are things I need to learn, maybe I’ll ask him to elaborate,” not to denounce the very thought as somehow personally insulting.
Can’t speak for others, but your stereotypical generalizations about anti-psychiatry so far don’t inspire me to argue too hard with your apparently predetermined conclusions.
My point is that everyone has things to learn, including from people who supposedly don’t know anything about the history of psychiatry (and since when is that a qualification for being able to comment on current experience?). If people are being shut up and being accused of being too ignorant to have a valid viewpoint (which does happen here quite frequently) then I see that as a problem.
Perhaps let DS answer for himself and explain why he thought it was relevant to include a judgement call on how ignorant or informed people are on the history of psychiatry, instead of making assumptions on what he intended with his words.
Perhaps you would like to write the comments guidelines yourself?
Kindred, I agree. I am less likely to comment here if it turns into a popularity contest a la Facebook. Disgusting! Terrible!
Say what? Ranked? Oh, like some people are naturally superior to others….Really? Then what is that saying about anyone else? Isn’t that exactly what dx does? Those who don’t win the popularity contest are going to be thus silenced, because they lose visibilty. This is bullshit.
If any survivors (or those that love them) reading this want to have their voices heard regarding the use of forced psychiatry (this includes “hospitalization,” drugging, anything one was deceptively coerced into, shock, etc) please submit to the anthology, Forced Psychiatry. I am taking submissions now.
I do not take research papers. There are plenty of those to go around. I am looking for vivid details and description. Does not have to have a “happy ending.”
Check out the site: http://forcedpsychiatry.com
Works that are accepted will be compiled into a published book.
No outside funding! No grants, no paid publicists, no hidden agenda, etc. Just me trying to do good in the world and give people a voice.
“…others preferred less of these [personal accounts] but more from professionals.”
This is interesting. So this is a place where at least some people (gosh, I wonder who) do not want to hear the survivor’s voice. I had already pretty much gotten that feeling, and to see it spelled out like this is actually validating my feeling. It is a very oppressive feeling to have one’s voice dismissed and disregarded. It’s what we come here to talk about, where change is needed most.
I do appreciate knowing this with certainty now, seeing it spelled out in writing.
Ok, thank you for letting me know! All the best in your crusade for “change.”
“There are very fine people on both sides.” Donald J. Trump, re Supremacists vs. Protestors
Hi Alex, thanks for taking the time to comment. The feedback from the survey was balanced in this regard, so, as is written in the blog, “We take this as a sign that we are holding to our vision as a space for a range of views, experiences and perspectives to come together to enable discussion and debate. We intend to continue to cover a wide range of issues written by a diverse collection of writers.”
Hi James. I appreciate what you are saying here via that quote, but I think this is missing the point of “change” in this regard, at least the way I’m seeing it.
I put that quote by DJT for a reason, because I think it is the same thing. We’re talking about oppression here, severe power imbalance. I believe MIA continues to perpetuate this, rather than to remedy it.
I’ve been posting here for 6 years and have had many interactions with staff over the years, including several exchanges with Mr. Whitaker, to whom I voiced my concerns repeatedly. I experienced a lot of stonewalling and dismissiveness, in the exact same fashion I experienced going through the “mental health” system over a decade ago. Still, I continued to participate here because there was value for me in doing so, and at least some others seemed to appreciate it, from what I’ve heard.
The systemic dynamic on MIA has been my greatest concern, and when I saw that at least some readers want to hear less from survivors and more from professionals, that was enough to convince me with certainty MIA is not really the agent of social change I am seeking because I do not believe it is an example of it. For me, this is where MIA is limited, and eventually runs out of credibility.
I have gotten value from interacting here, but at the same time, it’s been stressful in the exact same way the system was stressful for me. So you see? No change here. I know where I feel freedom and I know where I feel oppression. These are easy to discern if I am feeling my feelings. Best regards.
I have experienced the same thing that Alex describes in the above comment. I have been reading and commenting here five years and I think that’s long enough to realize that favoritism leading to marginalization of some is real and alive here.
I am marginalized in some ways here, in other ways, not. This isn’t a yes or no issue.
MIA is a forum for exchange of ideas – that’s why R. Whitaker set it up, if you read what he writes. If you want “an agent for social change,” Alex, then why don’t you do it yourself instead of criticizing others for not doing what YOU think THEY should be doing?
Um, it’s not your website. If you don’t like it, who are you to tell the people who set it up that they’re doing it wrong?
I am doing just that, vanilla. I do have a group which is exactly about that, and we’re doing it. I’ve been doing this work for a long time, and I’ve been succeeding at it little by little, changing myself, my life, helping others around me make changes within themselves and in their own lives. Not changes *I* think they should make, these are people who have the courage to make change in their own lives, not expect others around them to change on their behalf. I work with people looking to grow, the way I grow and change as I go.
It all started with healing from what I went through in the system, and it’s rippling outward.
As far as this not being my website, therefore who am I to have voice here regarding how things are run? Well, MIA put out a survey and then made this post, and I think the idea was for everyone to voice their perspective so that MIA can take the feedback and process it so that they can grow. That seems ok to me.
My feedback to MIA is that I feel they are, in essence, preserving the status quo, despite the rhetoric. That’s what I think, and I wanted to put it on the table while they’re looking at the direction of MIA.
My perspective and belief is that the only real and true agents of social change are the individuals who change and transform themselves. That is what healing is all about– change, by example. I agree with you–in what I remember reading in another post by you, I believe–that we needn’t be victims. Instead, we can use our experience to create change.
I also agree with you that we should tend to our own gardens before throwing manure onto the garden of others. Although I have to say, you seem to be extremely critical of others. I hope you find your peace.
Oh yeah–and the main way in which it is preserving the status quo, from my perspective, is by mimicking its systemic bullying practices. I believe I’ve seen other pubic grievances about this, although admittedly, this would be from my personal perspective and experience. I’ve complained about it directly to staff in the past, and in this public forum–not just on my own behalf, but because I believe I’ve witnessed this repeatedly in response to others. Naturally, I get a lot of resistance to this claim, but that is par for the course in activism. I still have the right to use my voice to speak my truth, and I believe I am being reasonable about it.
Still, how to measure the accuracy of such a statement is not something I’d know how to do, and whether or not others would agree or argue with me about this is up for grabs, although in the past, I have been at odds with this community in regards to this issue . And I think it is kind of a public consensus type thing, because I believe that this kind of measure is often based on cultural norms, and this is a multi-cultural website in many respects.
But given that this is a website of and for activists, I’d say it is a reasonable issue to at least bring up, and most relevant to “rethinking psychiatry.” And then let the truth, whatever it be, reveal itself. To me, that is sound and fair activism.
My feeling is that people are still being shamed and harassed by the government, by their families, by their former friends. Unfortunately, even
MIA will do the same thing to people who have been branded as “offensive” .
This happens, despite the fact that the person in question has never had due process, restorative justice, or any opportunity to defend himself.
I agree with Alex that this kind of status quo attitude seems to exist at MIA.
This includes public shaming and punishment such as nightly home invasion and torture for 6 plus years. This should be condemned by MIA; but MIA knows that this kind of shaming and punishment is happening, and yet seems to be giving a wink and nod to allow it to continue.
That is wrong and MIA should be ashamed of not standing up strongly for civil rights and due process. MIA has said very little about restorative justice, which could / should be a very good alternative to draconian punishment for nuisance crimes.
I share some of Alex’s concerns. I rarely comment, but I read here daily, and am writing now because seeing that half of the respondents wanted to hear less from survivors was a little crushing. MIA is one of the few places where I can read and feel respected as a survivor. Almost every other place values professional opinion above all.
I very much believe in unbiased research with useful outcomes, and professionals would be really helpful with that; however, that is rare stuff. Professionals can also be really valuable to shed light on injustices, and to raise interest among other professionals, which would be great. Either way, they will still need input from survivors.
The problem is that it’s so unbalanced in the world right now that the simple opinion of a professional has the power to ruin the life of a psychiatric patient. We can’t assume that the imbalance disappears in MIA internet discussions with ex-patients, although I think we should keep trying.
What I want to ask you is to please not let this just become another place where professionals come to boost themselves. I have seen it happen and it’s really off-putting and unhelpful. Could you please keep in mind: who is the mental health system supposed to be serving anyway?
Hi Red Squirrel.
I’m a survivor not a professional. I don’t use the word survivor usually but I want to make the distinction.
One thing I wanted to mention is that I often start but don’t finish,survivor stories. I get horribly triggered, they take me back to horrible places and feelings of utter powerlessness, terror, violence and rejection. I’m not saying it is the whole reason that readers might prefer to read professionals. I take your point and its a valid one.
I also feel it is hard to not crave validation from a similar source to that from which we were so terribly harmed and invalidated I still live with the effects of the unfounded opinions you speak of. In the world, my word, my truth still means nothing compared to these people. My truth feels erased and replaced with self-serving bullshit from people of very low integrity. Ironically, some measure of public vindication can only come via the opinion of another professional. Even that can’t undo the damage, just mitigate it.
Every day I work on validating myself, but it is hard. Being abused in this context is a double assault on my ife in many ways and also on my spirit.If I try to tell my own story I marginalise myself.
Hi Red Squirrel
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on this blog and on content writers. I agree with you that survivor voices are crucial and want to reassure you that we are not changing our approach on this point. While it is true that roughly half of those who commented wanted to read more professional blogs, an equal number, based on this sample anyway, want more survivor stories and personal accounts and less professional blogs. I also want to stress that nowhere in the feedback did I read “we want you to stop publishing personal stories”. Survivor stories and personal accounts are a unique, compelling and powerful part of MIA and we want to keep it that way.
Okay, then, my solution is as follows. I will stop commenting here. Instead, I’ll comment in my own blog where I don’t have to worry about moderation and a popularity contest. I may, or may not, provide a link here. I am not leaving a comment knowing it will be liked or not liked, where it will stacked up with other comments and ranked, no matter where it ends up in the pile. I don’t want that. Yet I will still be able to comment if I wish. I would suggest anyone can do this via their Facebook or other pages they have.
Thank you, James and MIA editors, for all you do. I respect that Robert Whitaker describes MIA as “a forum” for information and discussion about the current problems and defects of the current mental health “dysfunctional system” as I call it, rather than MIA taking a definitive stand. I like this neutral stance and respect his integrity as a journalist and MIA publisher for this. There are several organizations that take definitive stands that MIA readers can join and participate.
I love diversity of opinions and hope that more readers out there feel comfortable in joining discussions. Certainly many feel very strongly about issues presented in MIA and healthy debates are useful. Respecting each other’s views as well as understanding that individuals come from different perspectives and at different points of understanding is essential. Disagreeing without being “disagreeable” is a skill set that we all can be better at developing. Kindness always and respect that there are fellow human beings on the other side of a computer is helpful to remember. I hope more can feel welcome in this “community” that is growing and maturing. I hope the “quieter” readers will feel safe and comfortable to share.
Thank you knowledgeispower, you have encapsulated very nicely much of what we are aiming to achieve by seeking reader feedback and using it to try and improve what we do.
The problem with sorting comments by best is an early so called best comment gets stuck on top and gets seen by more people therefor artificially gets more likes. If someone makes a much better comment later on it never has a chance because it is pushed down out of sight.
I see this on YouTube and Disqus all the time when sort by best is the default setting. The “best” comment is good enough to get upvotes but really is not the best, its not even that good, it just had the advantage of getting more views because it rose to the top early on.
I think sort by newest as default encourages the longest discussions because I feel like if my comment has 100 above it few people are going to read down that far so why bother.
Hi The_cat, thanks for this, we hope to be able to offer the reader the chance to sort comments or not to sort them, so each person can choose as they wish. It depends on what we find in our testing but it may be possible to set a default sorting, which would be in date order as it is now.
The_cat, also, if it ends up like Facebook, time of day that you comment matters and will get you more likes. What does this do to people posting from various time zones around the world?
I would have liked to see the commentary from the survey shown perhaps without names used.
My thoughts are several. Maybe the voices of each movement need their own website or stream. We as survivors should not be beholden to anyone even friendly and supportive professionals of all stripes. True empowerment would mean a global based site with voices of those that have been in country.
However this should not preclude interaction – which various streams with bridges for dialogue and debate.
There also needs to be voices of professionals who have been in country after years in the system and also one for those in the system who came from the system. I am not sure how the Abolitionists worked out the slave voice Harriet Tubman, Sijourner Truth andmany others who spoke or wrote accounts, versus the priveleged but awoke white make voice and those white males not as priveledged as in President Lincoln , with Lucy Stone and the Seneca Falls Convention white females who realized Woah we have some common ground here.And the whole Disability movement in the late 1950’s into the 1960’s. Initially started as a parents group and then growth not a mirror image of NAMI why?
Model U.N. programs teach debate somewhat elitist but so essential to these times. We all need to think and research and dialogue facts not just react. This is a hard burden for survivors because not only do we have righteous anger we also are in a recovery ladder sometimes greased by us ir sometimes Inswaer poured in by others who do not want us to be heard.
All vets are survivors. That does not preclude official office or government work. Why those and not others?
Fred Freese just died. A big friend of E Fuller Torrey. He was a survivor bought or played into the hands of those who used his life story and fo some reason he let them. Not sure why.
The trouble with complete destruction is what to do with those in crisis? There will be more and more as the migrant crisis is not solved and even so with things as they are generations of new hopefully better help.
There is a time for every thing. My question is what time is it now? And how can we all work together and in subgroups?
One of my relatives was DD. Her parents would say she could do- normal- for so long and then start getting stressed. She had both DD life activities and “Normal.”
That should be some sort of template.
Your comments question didn’t present me with an option that I felt was quite suitable for me. I read and observe and only comment when I feel I have something to add to an article or when I believe I have a legitimate criticism.
I was utterly surprised to discover readers, generally speaking, wanted more personal stories. I never would have known given the manner my personal story was rejected, save woefully responded to ( I had to email it three times, make several inquiries to its status and, in the end-weeks later, given a one sentence explanation for its rejection. Moreover, the reason given (too long-3500 words) seemed a bit arbitrary per-several other personal stories. The fact that I wrote such a difficult and still painful story that bespoke of my eight year childhood on psychiatric drugs and two institutions-with the second institution removing me from all drugs and my parental home, seemed a relevant story for this site; however clinically written (done to avert some of the dialectical sand traps, etc. ) . So… my point is that, maybe when it comes to personal stories, a more robust (by which I man rigorously honest!) relationship between the editor and the writer might foster good personal story’s which need space and literary license to convey the very complexity psychiatry (especially childhood psychiatry!) dumps upon its subjects.
Pleb, That has been my experience submitting to MIA also. You are not alone. I have sent articles that sat unresponded to for a month, then, when I inquired, somehow, interestingly, whatever I sent was mysterious “lost.” Really? Once or twice is believable but the number of times this happened makes me wonder. So I resent. That happened more often than not.
Now if I were a MH professional, or ran some well-known organization, or was lucky enough to win some huge grant….Then of course things would be different.
I think MIA should have a blind submissions policy. This is the best way to be non-discriminatory. Blind submissions means that the editors do not know the name of the person who sent the piece in when they receive it. They will not know the social rank (ahem!) either. Almost all online mags have this policy, and in fact, they tend to be rather strict about that. I agree with whoever said there’s an elite crowd here. I don’t think it’s right at all.
Some will comment more than others. Also, some are more expressive at the keyboard than others. Some have only cellular phones to type on, and this will limit their ability to comment. Some access this site from libraries, where, sometimes, computer time is limited. A few access it from facilities, with staff glaring at them the whole time (Hey, what site is that?…).
I happen to write a lot. This is just the way I am, and also, I type very fast. I wish I could type faster so I could get more words out every day. If I could spend a weekend not sleeping and only writing, I would do that, gladly, but it’s not practically feasible. Working full-time now at a job doesn’t stop me from writing, thank goodness! Hope my ex-shrink isn’t reading this!
I’m really grateful that MIA exists – it has helped make a positive difference to my situation by educating me. Like real change has occurred.
For what it’s worth , I think you are on the right lines. “Likes” are helpful because you get feedback on your post. The dissenting voices here seem to come from people who don’t want open minded discussion because they are purely abolitionist, their mind is made up and they don’t want any nuanced debate.
Good luck, total respect to them, but some of us are on a journey or, like me, in real life situations were I need debate, contra views , and most importantly evidence. I don’t think I care about critical or anti, I want evidence about what works and what’s going to ruin your life, and I want those that stand in the way of honesty exposed and shamed. My mind is pretty much made up, psychiatry in it’s current form IS bullshit, but I still need information and debate.
I think a private message system would be good too. I realise this is serious work. I even thought of setting up a ‘questioning psychiatry’ forum where everyone can vent off and discuss evidence, but actually we do that here so no need to try and reinvent the wheel!
Thanks again for your honest efforts and rest assured for folk like me it really makes a difference.
Hi ConcernedCarer thank you so much for reading this blog and for your comments. You use the word ‘journey’ which I think is so apt here, we are on different journeys, we often don’t travel together or in the same way or at the same speed and it is that spirit of accepting and welcoming diverse views and experiences that we want to foster. I hope that the changes we make will lead to a more open and inviting space for reader comment. Thanks for your feedback.
My disdain for likes has nothing to do with my abolitionist stance and everything to do with the dopamine feedback addiction loop that’s pretty well known part of social media and is why I don’t participate in that kind of environment. If I wanted to use a Facebook-like platform to interact with MIA, I’d join Facebook and comment on MIAs Facebook group.
Others have adequately explained how the best comments can easily end up buried simply due to them being newer than ones who’ve been around longer to receive more likes.
This strikes me as an effort to get more people participating regardless of the quality of the conversation. Perhaps to appear more mainstream to add legitimacy?
I’m not sure of their reasoning but as one of the people who answered that I rarely comment (because I don’t comment on most articles I read even though I do get caught up in some discussions) I feel like I’ve taken a test without knowing what the outcome of my answers would be. I wish I hadn’t participated in the survey and I won’t be participating here in the future.
I’ve absolutely had it with this joke of a site that feeds survivors drive and drabs of quality content to string us along all while propping up the status quo among practitioners. It’s been in the comment section where survivors have been able to push back on this two faced behavior from MIA and dissent on articles from professionals that practice and promote mainstream psychiatry.
Centrism is BS in politics and it doesn’t work when it comes to human rights either.
My sentiments exactly. Remember the old cartoon Bloom County with “Bill the Cat for President”?
“He has been a handicapped, union, minority worker. He has been a pro-choice, Southern Baptist, vegan, anti-nukes gun nut. He has been a pro-life, Methodist, animal rights activist who supports business.
“Bill the Cat for President. He has been one of us.”
I guess this site wants to be Bill the Cat. Why would the pro-psych crowd WANT to come here anyhow? Wouldn’t they prefer NAMI, Healthy Place, the APA website, Psychology Today, New York Times, Huffington Post or any of those other 1,000,000,000,000 sites and forums where they can tout their view unopposed and shut US up?
If MIA wants to compete with the pro-psych crowd and get fans from NAMI, etc. by sacrificing their regulars they can blame themselves if MIA goes belly up from attempting to be all things to all men. This is not a threat but a prediction–one I don’t want to come true.
I’m just writing as myself here. I’m a little confused as to where there was a desire expressed to court NAMI or “the pro-psych crowd” to become “fans” of MIA. I’ve seen what happens to anyone who comes here to post with a pro-NAMI or pro-medical model viewpoint – they are properly put in their place in short order, and I don’t see anything suggesting that will stop happening. I’m honestly asking this question – where do you see that position put forward?
No Steve. No one on this site has said, “Hey, we need to team up with NAMI, SAHMSA, (fill in psych group) for Mental Health awareness week and go stigma busting together by wearing T-shirts enscribed with our diagnoses at the park.”
But we have had folks who work for these places writing here.
I’m not just referring to Corinna or Sera Davidow who make uneasy alliances in the hopes of helping those who can’t escape or are scared to right now.
Here’s an example.
There was a snarky article by a “mental health” professional–not a psychiatrist–pointing out how unreasonable anti-psychiatry folks were by quoting the most over the top statements made mostly by the most annoying and eccentric members. Not technically a Strawman argument but not representative of our movement.
I get it. He and the others hold all the cards. Without some miracle we will never be free from our oppressors. Not very classy to rub our noses in it though! And it doesn’t make it right or just.
As a moderator, I absolutely see your point, and I encourage you to keep that viewpoint in the editors’ minds. We are all human here, too, and it’s sometimes difficult to anticipate the impact a particular piece might have on the readers. All I can personally assure you is that I have no intention of creating an special protections for anyone based on their role as MH providers. They are here on the same terms as the rest of us. And my experience so far is that my colleagues here are very open to feedback regarding what articles are posted, so I encourage you strongly to let one of the editors know if you feel an article that’s posted is or has been offensive to you or to the survivor community in general. It’s very easy for those who have not been there to misunderstand why some subjects or comments or attitudes might be hurtful to those already hurt by the system.
Let’s keep talking!
As one harmed and not a MH professional, FeelinDiscouraged I share your concerns about further marginalising our voices.
But I once read an article here which purported to report about a drug study, and one I had already read because I have a particular interest in the subject drug, and I was shocked that it seriously, and I do mean seriously, misrepresented that study. It wasn’t just a different interpretation of the results. The writer linked, and I had to check it was the same study.
Despite my not being a professional, it led me to feel sceptical about the accuracy of reporting here. Since then I have read a lot more, but that kind of biased reporting can lead even survivors to feel wary of the site.
pointing out how unreasonable anti-psychiatry folks were by quoting the most over the top statements made mostly by the most annoying and eccentric members.
Watch out for this line of reasoning, as it gives people an opening to divide the so-called “reasonable” (more compliant?) anti-psychiatry people from the so-called “unreasonable” (more abolitionist?) anti-psychiatry people. This should remain an internal discussion among survivors, if anything; bottom line, if you’re anti-psychiatry you are more reasonable than those who defend it, regardless of how “annoying” other survivors may consider you.
Ditto about MIA. it has been a lifeline for me.
There are some things I wish I could be more open about, but can’t right now.
I think there is nuanced debate here. It might be that like me, some might be hindered in commenting by either themselves or close others being still caught up in the system, or by the ramifications of having been in it.
If there is a sense of imbalance of perpectives in the comments it might be partly about differences between those who feel able to speak freely and those who don’t.
As an attorney who has practiced, since passing the bar in 2001, exclusively in connection with “mental health” issues (and actually finished college and went to law school for no other purpose), I will offer a suggestion that may seem simplistic, but isn’t.
The only necessary projects are: 1. outlaw forced “hospitalization” and “treatment”; and 2. eliminate the insanity “defense”.
All else will follow automatically. Psychiatry as we know it will wither away. This was the most practical insight of Thomas Szasz, which people tend to overlook in favor of (or in opposition to) his philosophy, which is far more entertaining.
Fascinating insight. In the spirit of “one step at a time” and “pick your battles that you can win”, how would it be if you just drastically reduced or eliminated forced medication. In other words, you would need special dispensation on grounds of ‘immediate danger to others’ in order to force medication. I know it seems a cop-out and a minor step forward, but doesn’t fake bio-psychiatry start to unravel at this point? Because the threat of hospitalisation has less coercive power, because it loses the bogus presumption that medication is necessarily good, and because for once there would be a population of unmedicated patients, something we haven’t had in decades.
In the UK they are reviewing mental health law under instruction from the PM, and this small step seems totally reasonable and in line with human rights legislation and WHO.
Thanks, s_randolph, for sharing your good point especially coming from legal perspective. If no Section 12 then, there is no bite to psychiatry and psychiatric hospitalizations which rely on Section 12s to exist and be funded. I work mostly on an acute medical/surgical unit as well as other units like the ED. I am just trying to imagine what would happen if person came in psychotic, possibly violent and not wanting to go voluntarily on a Section 10/11 to an inpatient psychiatric unit. The hospital would just discharge to the street and patient given community resources. I do see more legal charges and police and court involvement. Psychiatric hospitalizations as they are now are certainly not healing environments. I want to see more peer run respites that provide a place for those with emotional distress to safely go to though so can avoid jail. There is a need.
I agree that the insanity defense needs to go. A judge can use discretion in sentencing if mitigating circumstances that factored into the crime. Thanks for sharing your expertise.
knowledge I witnessed a man being sent away, right in front of me, who said over and over he was “going to kill himself” right away, he said. The man was begging to be hospitalized. They told him he wasn’t sick enough. This was total bullshit, of course.
I don’t know the real reason. Was he a frequent flyer and maybe they had stopped listening a while back? Was this insurance? I actually don’t think insurance was the issue. I suspect it was the fact that he was a wheelchair user. That presented a challenge for local “units” as many, as I recall back in Boston, were not wheelchair accessible at all or presented a safety risk…for the unit, of course. Or maybe they were afraid of an ADA-style legal issue. This poor guy was literally bawling on his way out. Shit.
I don’t think such places are good for anyone, including the staff, but as it was his only option (that he could ascertain) they should have honored his request. The options, out of their grab bag of traditional “treatment,” (such as weekly therapy with a brand new T he had never met before, and that appt wasn’t for a number of days…) were not going to work, which he pointed out, due to the immediacy of the situation. Back then, there were no peer respites around, either. He just didn’t know what to do.
Likely he really needed someone to listen, which occasionally happens in lockup, not often, though. That instead of the degrading treatment he got at that ER. Boston Medical. 2011, July. Saw it all.
My fear at that time was that he would kill himself just to prove what assholes they were, or to prove them wrong. I wonder if he is reading here. I hope he is. Hello, dude!
Absolutely, s_randolph. How does one define force? If you lie to a person, which I saw more often than not, deceive them into conceding to hospitalization, is that force? I think so! I have heard professionals say to patients, “Only a few days,” or heard patients tell me their therapists or doctors said that. This was not usually the case. Some stayed a month or longer. I knew many who planned for those “few days” and ended up forced out of work and out of their homes.
What about the deceptive advertising these places spew out. The pictures of the “compassionate” nurses and people being listened to. This rarely pans out as the ads state. Why don’t these ads say something like….
Don’t worry, we will keep you so long as we profit. If we decide we don’t like you, we don’t discriminate here…you get the same restraints, isolation, and needles as anyone else. You can be assured that even though you are not a cookie, you will get cookie-cutter treatment that is state-of-the-art. Even our shock machines are state-of-the-art, the authentic replica of machines they had decades ago, like an old antique car. Makes us lots of money (but HIPAA keeps us from revealing just how much). You may or may not have diabetes, but we’ll continue to compare you to a diabetic even though it’s totally illogical. No fear, you will get diabetes anyway from our drugs…so it’s all logical…sorta…and cozy here. Check out our lovely grounds here…these are to impress the visitors, as you’re not likely to see daylight for a long time. Maybe you can get a window view…if you can see between the thick bars we put there to keep the place secure…after all, psych doesn’t want you getting out and revealing to the world that you’re better off without us.
Eliminate the insanity defense and psychiatrists will lose their civil clout. No other doctors have these powers. Nor should MDs have powers granted only to judges and elected officials.
That would also severely diminish if not end “stigma” too since an SMI label would cease to mean dangerous criminal in the public’s perception.
This is insane. I didn’t originally realize what was in this article and skipped it. I agree it will be a disaster for MIA and free speech in general, and heartily agree with Dragon Slayer, Frank and Kindred Spirit.
This reminds me of how the corporate media takes polls to see what kind of “news” people prefer to read.
People have the right to know as well whether Facebook technology is being used to power this “filtering” and “liking” process. If so this would prevent a serious security risk to every person here who ever clicks a “like” or “dislike.”
We have taken steps to remedy this and have implemented a customized Google search which we believe is a substantial improvement.
What are the security and privacy implications of this? Isn’t Google part of the Facebook/YouTube/Twitter tracking & surveillance monolith?
Google is in bed with NAMi and other psychiatric organizations to drum up more results to “help” depressed people. If they offer their help beware!
“Second, we will implement a method where comments can be “liked.” This will give you, as community members, the chance to self-select the responses that you feel add value to the discussion. In addition, you will be able to view comments sorted by the oldest, newest, or highest rated.”
I’m not sure if I’m the first to say it, but this is a very bad idea. It’s going to lead to mob-rule. Wherein the clique of users on this site that comment the most can essentially take over the comment section by liking each others and outnumbering the dissenters. Most people, on any site, select “highest rated” for anything anywhere even if to just get an idea of what the “community” is like. Before this is implemented I think it should at least be given much more thought.
Perhaps a better, and perhaps revolutionary system would be to just categorize comments along the lines of those who liked the article, those who didn’t, putting comments in sections of “approval”, “disapproval”, “correction / addition”, whatever.
This way instead of the dissenters to whatever the popular view is at the time and place getting buried into oblivion, they just appear in their own section, and people would curiously browse them separately.
JeffreyC, I like your idea of categorizing comments by approval, disapproval, correction/addition. I think that is an excellent way to avoid mob rule.
One of the reasons I have chosen not to comment in the past is precisely what you are describing, in that there seems to be a clique that always comments. If I express my thoughts and the collective experiences from my clients, several commenters give me the impression that if it doesn’t follow or embrace their views entirely, my comments are not seen as valid and they don’t want to hear it.
It should go without saying that the experiences and views of ALL my clients, is something I value, honor and take very seriously. I also have the experiences of my mother and myself in dealing with psychiatrists (in my mother’s situation beginning in the 1980’s), but I won’t detail that here.
I think you posited a great solution, which would allow people to choose what types of comments they want read.
The collective experience of your “clients” as YOU perceive it. They are the ones who should be speaking for themselves.
So because her clients aren’t on MIA, she’s not allowed to report her findings? This is taking things way too far.
I have exactly the same experience as Amy – feeling attacked by this clique.
Here we go again with the assumptions about people’s motives — Julie understandably asked about the situation of a professional speaking for “her” clients, which is a valid concern. I don’t see anyone being “attacked by a clique,” unless you define that as two or more people disagreeing with you.
Well, oldhead doesn’t see it, therefore it doesn’t exist!
Thanks for invalidating my feelings (just the way some psychiatrists invalidate people’s feelings and decide that they are pathological and need to be medicated…)
Here we go again with the standard way of shutting people down on MIA: Julie “understandably” asked and has “valid concerns” but people who challenge your beliefs are talked down to: “here we go again with…”
I think you learned a lot from the people you like to criticize namely those psychiatrists who like to decide which feelings are valid and which are beyond the pale.
And I’m waiting for a moderator to weigh in on this… (and not holding my breath)
I think you posited a great solution, which would allow people to choose what types of comments they want read.
So may I assume that you also have no issues with people choosing what types of news they choose to read (and the news media obliging)?
Yes! It’s called free choice. Ever heard of that?
OK — Maybe you can find some “news” source somewhere that says the Vietnam War and Holocaust never happened, and maybe Charlottesville. I’d choose to read that for sure.
so you prefer censorship? good to know
Why don’t you ask your patients to come online Amy? They could explain their experiences first hand rather than second hand through you.
I don’t think comments should be categorized at all. I don’t “like” or “dislike” an article. My opinion, or, perhaps, reaction, can’t be boiled down to what is essentially black-and-white thinking.
Check THAT out.
Totally agree here Julie. Comments. The algorithms that online communities use to manipulate what people see is a slippery slope.
I’m a little shocked and dismayed by the desire to emulate NYT. Their comments section sucks, and marginalized views aren’t published. And they’ve implemented their policies for their own protection and growth, not to provide a forum for robust discussion. So not only is MIA punching way above their weight, they will effectively kill discussion if they copy NYT’s format.
You made a huge leap of assumptions when coming to a conclusion that the comments section is somehow negative or not going well and that’s why 10% aren’t commenting and a 57% reads/observes but doesn’t comment. MIA increasingly gives carte blanche publishing ability to any shrink or theRapist who comes across the least bit progressive regardless of the highly profitable harm they still cause. The articles stuffed full of psychobabble jargon and the ones basically pushing stockholm syndrome and abuse apologism through gaslighting such as the phrase “psychiatric care” make me angry and I would never put my own personal information or opinions out in the open to be further devoured by these profiteering human rights abusers and their supporters. I read and watch without commenting because I am this close to never reading here again. Even in your own wording James, you say “Regarding our writers, some of you said that you wanted to hear less from professionals, but more personal accounts and others preferred less of these but more from professionals. We take this as a sign that we are holding to our vision as a space for a range of views, experiences and perspectives to come together to enable discussion and debate.”
Psychiatry being fake science is settled- so MIA’s vision is to throw the victims of this abusive scam under the bus by allowing the perps to publish their drivel as if we didn’t get enough of that while they were abusing us? And then we’re supposed to somehow want to “engage in debate” with them?!?!? That’s like if this was a blog for rape survivors and you allowed “rapists who are thinking about changing” a platform, and the platform encouraged rape victims to “dialogue” with the rapists. Think how violating that is. You really need to question your assumption about why more of us are never commenting. It has nothing to do with “diversity of viewpoints”, which by the way should never be conflated with giving predatory scams, abuse-apologism, and dehumanization further platform. I’ve officially lost hope that Mad in America stands for victims and survivors because you clearly don’t.
Thanks for speaking up. There seems to be this implication that many people are too intimidated by the nasty & thuggish anti-psychiatry people to express their belief that psychiatry should be “reformed but not abolished.” Your post shows that the reverse may actually be true.
I love that. Nasty and thuggish. Never mind that, paranoid and delusional and dangerous. I need more name-calling. Too funny.
Well, you’re not likely to ever be on the wrong end of the stick, so please don’t try to step into my shoes.
Yes, comments here can be very nasty. But that’s just my pathetic, uninformed, probably fascist, old-fashioned, anti-liberal, anti-progress, and anti-women opinion, so I’m sure it will be disregarded.
Thank you! Well put and exactly what I was trying to say but more precise.
To you professionals I’m sorry for all the incivility you experience here. Though some comments may be hurtful, perhaps such incivility should not be surprising in light of the treatment many of us who have been labeled as “disordered” have received at the hands of your colleagues and your profession.
To quote Shakespeare: If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?
To all my fellow survivors I urge you to take the moral high road. Ignore any sneers and put downs you may encounter here. Perhaps the professional isn’t even aware of the tone he/she is taking. If you can’t say something nice don’t comment. Scroll past the hurtful comments or avoid the commenting section altogether.
And only “professionals” are guilty of sneering and hurtful tones and comments?
Just more of “them and us” and it’s no wonder why anti-psychiatry has achieved precious little (anything?) in its years of so-called organization.
Avoid the comment section altogether? What purpose would that serve?
News Flash — There’s really no problem to be solved here, and nothing broken to fix. So don’t preemptively “moderate” yourself from pointing out things you consider important. A lot of “professionally”-identified people here love to deflect spot-on criticism by characterizing it as a “personal attack.” But don’t let that make you pull any punches if this is not your intent. Steve will be sure to step in if he considers it to be a serious problem, which is not the end of the world.
One issue I responded about that was not addressed is the lack of scientific understanding by those who link to studies. I have posted links to various mental health groups and then get torn apart because of the hyperbolic headlines or editorialized conclusions that aren’t quite correct. I love MIA and what it stands for. But this has become a credibility problem in my eyes and the eyes of many other mental health professionals.
I want to thank MIA for improving the search function, as I would agree that it doesn’t pull up the articles I need even though I know they are there!
I already have the ability to not read comments! We all do! It’s called x-ing out the tab entirely, or just scrolling to the bottom of the comments and adding my own. I do this when there are a hundred comments and I cannot, realistically, read every single one! I tend to avoid those with too many ALL CAPS, or ones that just go on and on, which there aren’t too many.
I enjoy comments that talk about dark subjects, or, in other forums, might be labeled “negative.” Negativity-bashing is bullshit, because most of the bare, naked truth about psych and lockup certainly stinks. Much of our best and most powerful literature is dark and wry, or doesn’t end happily. I love humorous comments, too. I also love hearing how people escape or turn their lives around post-psych.
Positive PSYCHOtherapists drive me bonkers.
Coming into the dark windowless psych ward sipping their latte while we’re suffering caffeine headaches.
“Hello kiddies! Is my luscious latte half full or half empty? We need to appreciate how suuny and wonderful our lives are. My own life is full of blessings. Tee hee.
“My hubby wubby just got a big promotion at the company he manages. Money had been a little tight since we bought that brand new house in the gated community, but now our darling angel Jessica can continue her ballet lessons.”
You sit in silence. All you have awaiting your release is a roach infested HUD efficiency you would be ashamed to invite friends to. But that’s okay cause you don’t have any friends but the other designated losers segregated from society too. Also living in squalid poverty with no spouse or kids and rejected by their families of origin.
You sit as Perky Pam the therapist lectures you on your negative attitudes. You wonder if the extra days you would get for throwing Perky Pam’s latte in her insensitive, smiling face would be worth it.
Why y’all so negative? Must be cause you’re crazy!
And of course all professionals are like the stereotypes you describe, right?
Can a moderator please wake up and stop all this “them and us” stuff once and for all? What on earth do you think it’s achieving?
There’s a war going on here, which by definition involves some “us” and “them.” The most a moderator can do is hide it from view.
People do tend to generalize from their personal experience however.
I liked when we started being able to edit our comments. Like my last one where I used the wrong pronoun…which I fixed for clarity.
Another thing….Many simply do not have time to comment. Was this taken into account? If you have two jobs and three kids will you be addicted to MIA the way some people seem to be? If you are stuck in day treatment all day, do you have time to comment? What about those who never learned to type, or find typing, or writing itself, too difficult to deal with?
As one who is keyboard-verbose I am well aware that not everyone is.
That is a good point, Julie. The ones I fear who never get a voice are the ones who do not know how to use a computer or have little to or no access to one, perhaps lack education and skills. People in group homes, nursing homes, foster homes, state hospitals… Many on MIA, myself included, are educated, skilled and probably have had more privileges and just sheer luck than others. Let’s not forget that there are others out there that have not been able to develop a voice due to abuse in their peraonal lives and in the dysfunctional mental health system, and have never been heard. Let’s not forget them.
Many do not, never had the chance to learn, or were told they were incapable or were discouraged in some way.
When I was at a clubhouse back in fall of 1997, which lasted all of maybe three days, I asked if I could use the computer and teach myself. They told me I wasn’t “ready.”
In December of that same year, I managed to get a computer that could get online, that had Win95. I taught myself everything I know about computers. Now I have a job working as independent contractor that requires extensive computer skills. Not ready? Geez.
Good points, all. Access and time are huge factors in who chooses to post or is able to even consider it.
There are many factors that go into whether someone comments or not. A lot of people are reluctant to pile on, or “me too”, if someone has already said what they were going to say. Some people start many comments but only hit submit on a few. Some people have very agreeable personality types and would rather say nothing than assert their own beliefs or experiences. Some barely have time to read the articles much less formulate a cohesive response. Some of us are reading on mobile devices and would comment more often if it weren’t so difficult on a tiny screen. Some may be wary of jumping into an active discussion among the more regular commenters.
The biggest problem I see between the survey questions and the action taken based on the answers is that the folks in charge made absolutely zero effort to understand why people weren’t commenting more, instead making wild assumptions about the reasons people don’t comment more. They also didn’t attempt to understand what people meant by the very subjective answers allowed. What do people mean by rarely or frequently commenting? This is subjective!
The answers to the comments question are also not very cohesive. The four answers ranged from “I read and observe but don’t join in.”, “I don’t read the comments.”, “I would like to comment but don’t.”, and “I enjoy the lively discussion.”
These four answers aren’t mutually exclusive. For example, a person could very well have had a hard time choosing one if they fall into two categories. They might enjoy the lively discussions but never personally comment because they don’t have anything to add. They might enjoy the discussions but not comment because they don’t have additional time to write and edit a cohesive response. They might comment frequently but not actually enjoy the lively discussions. They might not read comments at all, have no interest in the comments, and nothing will change that. Some built-in assumptions are that 1) only frequent commenters enjoy the discussions, 2) frequent commenters actually DO enjoy the discussions, 3) those not participating are not doing so solely because it’s an unfriendly place, 4) making the comments section less lively (or less controversial and passionate) means more people will comment. These assumptions don’t logically follow from the limited information collected in the survey and it doesn’t take a PhD in English comprehension to grasp that logical disconnect.
The survey itself should have been given more thought and worded in a much less ambiguous way so as to get a more accurate picture of who is commenting and why. The only logical conclusion to why those in charge came to this conclusion could be that in the feedback section of the survey, lots of people said they found the comments section to be problematic. In that case, the authors of the survey would have done better to share some of that feedback in this post rather than use the limited survey answers to justify the changes to the comments section.
Posting as moderator here. I would have to say that I have no intention of making the comments section “less controversial or passionate” or even “less lively.” I think if you read through my blog, you’ll see that there is still plenty of room for controversy and passion without being insulting or attacking.
You make a good point regarding more specific details of the feedback perhaps being shared. As for the survey questions, also legitimate points worthy of careful thought for future surveys. Crafting survey questions is an art form that I certainly have not mastered by any stretch of the imagination!
Thanks for your observations on the survey. I can assure you that were no wild assumptions made or conclusions leapt to. We took time to carefully consider the responses and what may have been driving the feedback we collected. Much of what prompted our action, as you noted, was contained within the written feedback rather than us merely relying on tick box selection. We asked questions of our readers experiences and the responses we got often were not comfortable for us to read.
We won’t be providing examples of that feedback here, because we ran the survey anonymously and it may be possible to identify who left a particular comment, especially for those of you who are familiar with each others writing style. Suffice to say, there was enough concern expressed for us to want to take action and the overwhelming majority expressed the view that commenting was problematic. The survey had its limitations, many of these approaches are crude instruments, but we believe it was necessary to check how a cross-section of readers feel about MIA. I think we can all benefit from some self-reflection from time to time.
James, it would have behooved you to make that distinction in your post rather than present your conclusions as a logical following from the limited survey answers provided.
It will be interesting to see how this evolves and whether making it more difficult for the louder more insistent voices to be heard will truly advance your aims. My takeaway ultimately is that MIA would like people like Oldhead, Myself, Frank, Dragon, Julie and others to be less vocal and that calling for more civility is a convenient way to do that. I wonder how civility works for other marginalized groups…
Speaking as the moderator here, I wanted you to notice that I never used the term “civility” in my blog, and that was a very purposeful decision. I don’t want us to ever convey that it’s not OK to express anger and rage toward those who are in a position to harm us. There is, in fact, no actual shift in what will and won’t be allowed – I was being very specific in stating that the main issue is PERSONALIZATION, not the position being expressed. If you will re-read my blog, you’ll see that I was very clear about stating that any position on the spectrum is welcome to be stated and supported, from “psychiatry saved my life” to “psychiatry should be abolished.” I had hoped that would provide some reassurance that there is no intent to censor or discourage any viewpoint here. I’ve seen some legitimate concern expressed that professional voices have felt more protected in the past, and I specifically addressed that too, by suggesting that we be very cautious about attacking people’s personal experiences, while counseling professional commenters to develop a thicker skin.
It is hard to see how else to conduct a discussion forum without some expectation of decent treatment of posters. Otherwise, we get de facto censorship, as people with certain views will be too intimidated to ever post. Like I said in the blog, I’m sure this happens anyway with “mainstream” folks – 5 minutes reading comments or even half the articles would drive most of such committed pro-DSM folks running from the building! But I want people to be able to post whatever content they feel is relevant, and I want a principled discussion of facts and experiences to be the way issues are resolved, rather than by ad hominem attacks or resorts to degrees or other authority or humiliation and condescension. I have faith that the truth will win out in any such discussion, and it seems to me that sinking to personal attacks actually undermines the power of the truth to break through the mythology that passes for “mental health care” these days.
What’s the other solution? “Moderating” anyone who is not sufficiently ‘antipsychiatry’ or who expresses a view that people here don’t like? It seems to me that allowing an open expression of viewpoints to compete in the “marketplace of ideas” is the best way to boil down the truth and break through the psychiatric religion’s dogma. While I don’t relish the idea that folks with pro-psychiatry views come and post here, I think enforcing the commenting policies on everyone will in the end empower those who can be most easily shouted down, namely those who have directly experienced the massive power of the psychiatric juggernaut aimed at their bodies and their persons.
I’m seriously asking, though. What do you think would be the best moderation policy? What could we put in place that is better than saying, “You get to say anything you want, but you can’t attack people in a personal way?”
Steve and James
By not debating the “Psychiatry saved me” ideology us going to make you into another “NYT” comment section where they have thousands of comments and one or two dissenters yelling from the top of the rafters “that you need to look at this” and the data doesn’t suggest that and it is the “placebo” effect that you feel mostly.
That and a select amount of MDs that say we’re all nuts and that they are absolutely no “withdrawal effects” from psychotropic medication and it is “life saving”. Just reading the comments section, I would be hesitant to even comment.
And James, I think you might want to reread the comment section that article about “getting off antidepressants again from NYT and take it in. I’m pretty surprised you even mentioned NYT with your recent involvement in the RSC debate. I would have least expected from you, given your experiences.
And so this becomes the Pharma party line?
Steve my comment wasn’t addressed toward you or any of the points you make. Of course I’m not advocating for personal attacks, though twice I have been moderated unfairly (once for making a comparison to a literary allegory and once for saying a specific position was ridiculous) and it has deeply effected what and how often I write. Neither was a personal attack against the person writing.
I don’t have a problem with you, in fact I’ve had nothing but good things to say about you to others. But the job of moderator has changed the people who take it on so it will be interesting to see how it changes you and your writing.
Surely you all at MIA know that many of us commenting are connected outside of MIA and so it won’t surprise you that I have received multiple emails in the last 24 hours from folks thanking me for speaking up on this thread. People who have the same concerns I have brought up.
Has it ever occurred to the editorial staff the effect it might have on someone who takes the time and drums up the courage to share something deeply personal to then have to worry about whether or not anyone likes it? The topics discussed here aren’t like regular news. This isn’t the NYT or Gaurdian or WaPo. A lot of stuff that gets shared shouldn’t be up for debate or subject to being liked, it’s descriptions of everyday torture in homes and institutions and people are taking huge personal risks to their own mental integrity to speak up. There is a large contingent of us who feel that MIA is increasingly courting professionals and pushing a standard medical narrative and silencing or at least discouraging survivors from sharing or participating in the debate.
You have to have a really thick skin to keep coming back here and it’s not the survivors who are causing this atmosphere for the most part.
Again, speaking with my moderator hat on.
Thanks again for sharing this. It only just occurred to me yesterday how sensitive this issue with “likes” could be for many people. You have stated it very clearly here, and I appreciate this. Again, if you ever feel that I am discouraging certain voices because of their position rather than the tone of their presentation, PLEASE tell me right away.
I will add that I intend to always communicate directly with the writer about their intent in writing anything I feel needs to be moderated, unless it’s really blatant and obvious. I want to make sure no one is feeling they are having posts removed without any opportunity for feedback. It’s kind of a big deal to me to remove someone’s post, and I know I’d want to be fully in the loop about the whys and wherefores if it happened to me. Which it has, BTW.
Again, thanks for letting us know so clearly what your concerns are. I’m sure it will be a further topic of conversation among the staff.
Right — Many people are simply too timid in general (or internet-wary) to comment, it has nothing to do with who says what in their posts.
kindredspirit I am really struggling to understand how anything in this blog could be construed as ‘making it more difficult for the louder voices to be heard’. The aim of commenting changes and reviewing our moderation approach is to add more voices, not silence anyone. As for the technical changes to commenting, it is simply to allow users to choose how comments are presented to them, there is no ulterior motive. In my opinion, the proposed changes won’t silence anyone nor will they preclude anyone from writing what they wish. Perhaps the reality is that the marginalized group are the ones that don’t feel they can currently join in for whatever reason.
I think it’s disingenuous (can I use that word without being accused of saying someone’s lying?) for MIA to contend that none of these changes is related to MIA’s desire to distance itself from anti-psychiatry comments without actually forbidding them. MIA’s official aim, spelled out by Bob W, is to be “critical” of and “rethink” psychiatry, rather than advocate its demise. According to this reasoning, being anti-psychiatry “sounds crazy” and drives people away. Given this belief it is not unreasonable for MIA to want to “guide” discussions in directions which allow them to deny accusations of being anti-psychiatry — which to some people is a bad thing. So MIA would be more credible to simply acknowledge this. Personally I think I think that forcing people to “click” if they even want to see those scary, possibly “triggering ” comments is a commentary in itself.
I have rarely or never seen a known “survivor” hounded off MIA simply for expressing an unpopular defense of their shrink, psychiatry in general, or anything else (and coming up with one or two exceptions would tend to confirm the general accuracy of this). I have seen any number of “professionals,” when their pronouncements have not been accepted based on the mere fact that they as “professionals” had made them, start to cry that they were being “disrespected” and “personally attacked” when it was clear that they simply unable to defend their positions in a logical or informed way. And it has been in such situations that suddenly it becomes a concern for MIA that these folks — who unlike survivors are being paid for what they do — might find this pushback against their “helpful” comments so disturbing that they “have to” leave MIA. My question here would be if these people are so insecure, and their egos so fragile, why are they acting as counselors to OTHER people?
Many people are content to read without commenting, which is fine; commenting is a step in the direction of personal involvement that most are not keen to take — just as, out of those who do comment, only a small percentage will want to become actively involved in any sort of project. Plus many people are reading to educate themselves on various issues, and not compelled to impose their as yet unformed opinions on others. This is just how people are; one might complain about people being “sheep,” but that doesn’t change anything. For MIA to continually imply that this alleged reticence to comment is because potential posters have been “intimidated” by those who are more clear and/or passionate about their beliefs is simply incorrect.
To repeat, this is what the corporate media do when they poll viewers about what sort of “news” they prefer to see. Is it really the road MIA wants to choose?
Posting as moderator here. If you re-read my blog, you will see very clearly that no one will be moderated for posting antipsychiatry comments (or pro-psychiatry comments, either). You can also see my lean toward protecting survivor voices even if they are perceived as expressing anger toward the psychiatric profession, and advising professionals to develop a bit thicker skin. I’m not sure how this can be characterized as protecting professional voices at the expense of survivors. It seems rather to lean a bit in the other direction. Am I missing something here?
My comments are more directed at nuance than claiming to be a “smoking gun.” Also less directed at individuals than at the “institutional” message that I get from all this. But I just think it’s obvious that favoring “popular” opinions — even anti-psych ones — is a form of mob rule.
I think there might be more of an argument for deemphasizing comments which clearly have nothing to do with the discussion at hand — but that would be another tricky moderator call.
According to the pie graph, people come here for the personal stories. So what does this say? Or is the pie graph being ignored because a lot of professionals, many who may be potential big donors, want to write for MIA?
Recommenting because it has yet to be addressed and is of the utmost important for changing hearts and minds in this struggle:
One issue I responded about that was not addressed is the lack of scientific understanding by those who link to studies. I have posted links to various mental health groups and then get torn apart because of the hyperbolic headlines or editorialized conclusions that aren’t quite correct. love MIA and what it stands for. But this has become a credibility problem in my eyes and the eyes of many other mental health professionals to the point where many will dismiss something completely if it comes from MIA. Some of that is ideological but a lot of that skepticism was earned honestly by misrepresenting articles.
Hi jspsych, thanks for your comment. I wanted to assure you that we are not ignoring the issue you raise. The difficulty here is that MIA has always been a space for both scientific discussion/exploration and personal experience, reflection, survivor voices, activism, call it what you will. I personally feel that MIA is made much stronger by this combination of views and experiences but I wondered if you had any suggestions as to how we might, as a community, address the issue you raise? Thanks.
I think when linking to a study or reporting something scientific, there should be someone to provide editorial guindace, either on staff, or volunteer.
I have never been afraid to post any comments that I wanted to here on MIA even though not everyone agrees with me. And I certainly don’t agree with everyone who posts. And I must admit that at times I’m taken aback by something that someone’s told me about my post and it makes me think about things more deeply. I’m not sure that I like this “new and better MIA”. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m not comfortable with it but my gut says that something is not right about all this.
And I certainly don’t want to “dialogue” with more professionals here since I get to do that all day long where I work and it gets me absolutely nowhere. They always win no matter what.
Hi Stephen, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m pleased to hear that you and many others don’t have issues joining the discussion, but surely that doesn’t mean we should discount the views of those who told us that their experience was very different. As for “new and better MIA” we are talking specifically about small changes intended to improve inclusivity and put more choice in the hands of commenters. MIA has changed, improved and grown over the years and is quite different now to when it was founded. To stand still is to stagnate in this age where information is available on demand, 24 hours a day at the click of a mouse. I’m very sorry that these proposed changes don’t feel right to you, time will tell if this survey was of value, or a complete waste of all our time.
“They always win no matter what.”
Well stated and to the point. Many of those who work in this field have mastered the art of “intellectual bullying,” which is insidious. It’s also dizzying, draining, quite maddening, and leads to nowhere but discouragement, frustration, and feelings of hopelessness that mutually respectful communication can ever take place here.
Too much of that is crazy-making, and why I now feel reform of the “mental health industry” is, without a doubt, impossible. Rigid, rigid, rigid–with occasional pretenses of change, which are, in reality, merely thinly disguised infusions of more status quo. That’s its failure.
Amen! The reason many psychiatrists hate this site is it threatens their absolute power, prestige, and lucrative careers. Anything that challenges their power and might will have a “bad reputation” with them.
I bet slave owners in the 19th century hated abolitionist magazines for that reason. And the periodicals didn’t try to win them over as I recall.
You were there?
I will stop commenting on MIA as soon as the “likes” policy is in effect. I would suggest that anyone else do this, too. Please do continue to speak out as much as always, but do this outside of MIA commentary. Do it in your own blogs and on your own pages. You can always post a link to your commentary here. If it is your page, MIA can’t edit it, ban it, or try to moderate you. Do follow legal protocol…don’t plagiarize and don’t commit what would be legally considered defamation (but DO tell the truth!). I have been blogging unabashedly and rather prolifically for ages…now I will voicing my opinions and thoughts exclusively off MIA.
And that’s that. Goodbye.
Am the only one here that honestly doesnt think the ‘Likes’ thing is a big deal?
Blimey, if it upsets people, then don’t do it. I thought it was a mildly interesting idea, but it really doesn’t matter to me, or I expect, to most other folk.
My suggestions would be
(a) Private messaging system, because you do kind of get to know people on here that you might like to contact privately.
(b) Make the “threads” under each topic a bit easier to control and navigate, mainly visual stuff although it seems a bit hit and miss whether your comment goes on the end of a thread or at the bottom of the comments.
(c) Someone has made a point about comments that misrepresent a scientific paper, I’m not sure about the context, but accurate evidence should be at the core of what MIA is about. Don’t know what you could do.
Concerned, that is what I am doing. You said…if it bothers you, don’t do it. Mainly, I am not commenting. Because the proposed system does bother me. So yes, doing exactly what you said. Let’s see how many others follow.
Perhaps MIA should give equal time to ‘dislikes’.
Hmm. Maybe not.
I don’t think it any better to suggest what people should think (or read) than it is to suggest what they shouldn’t think (or read). That comes with being adults. Of course, if people are easily manipulable, that’s not a good argument for having such a popularity contest filter either.
The “like” and similar buttons are one of the ways that Facebook has made its platform so addictive. They’re attached to software algorithms that control what you see. They are emotionally manipulative, giving the content creator a boost of dopamine when they get a notification that their comment or post has been interacted with and creates an addictive feedback loop to keep people coming back to interact with the platform. Now I’m not saying this is exactly what MIA is doing – at least not to start with – but given how other platforms have evolved, I’m expecting a slippery slope, and not necessarily one that we’re informed of in advance.
Personal boycotting until the “likes” policy ends. Anyone want to join me?
You’re savvy with computers, Julie. The LIKE script is likely to be a third party add-on which you can then block with a decent blocker-app for your browser. For extremely granular control of scripts I recommend UMatrix. But there are many others. You should also be using a Cookie Manager if you aren’t already.
Some sites are playing catchy monkey with add-ons in your browser that blocks ads, trackers and unwanted scripts. It’s your machine after all and you get the final say on what runs on it. The information industries are generally opposed to that freedom.
In that case, look into changing your DNS provider to one that blocks many ads and trackers before they even reach your machine. These are very effective and cannot be detected in your browser.
The LIKE button plays many roles. Clearly it also distills a lot of anxiety. One unforseen consequence is that it can become a tool of passive aggression. In that some people compulsively use it as a weapon, liking just about anything their clique post. I suppose that can perform the function of cementing associations.
From a forsensic analysis vantage, LIKEs deepen the profile of the data subject. Algorithms can group people and machine learning enables quite accurate predictions, after a period of time.
And I have noted before now, there is a third party behavioural analysis script that runs here, watching your every move.
In short, if you don’t want the LIKE function to be a part of your madinamerica experience, block it.
I should have weighed in on this before. (I also posted this comment on Steve McRea’s blog.)
First off, since its inception six years ago,MIA has provided a forum for psychiatric survivors to tell their personal stories in blog posts that are featured on the front page, and thus get read by a larger audience. This has been one of the goals of MIA from the start, and the way you can make it possible for that survivor voice to be heard more widely is to create a site that isn’t hostile in tone and kind. So it rather irks me when I read of how we are somehow silencing the psychiatric survivor voice, etc. If you just want psychiatric survivors telling their stories to each other, that’s fine and understandable. But our goal was to give that voice a place in a wider societal discussion, and to reach beyond the choir.
However, if we have a commenting section that is seen as hostile and always ready to attack those who have different views, that becomes a force that is helping to silence the survivor voice, because it diminishes the audience that is going to hear it and consider it.
Moreover, we have lost any number of bloggers, including those who identify as psychiatric survivors, who stopped writing for us because of some of the responses by commenters (they felt personally attacked in some way or another.)
And so what really are the changes we are proposing?
One, we are trying to re-emphasize the need to be civil–both in tone and thought. We understand that there are many people who have been hurt by psychiatry as an institution, had their liberty taken away, and have felt betrayed by the stories that psychiatry has told the public. There should be a place for people to voice their rage, their anger, and so forth on the web. But because of what we are trying to do here, which is be a forum for a wider discussion about how to “rethink psychiatry” — and by the way, we have writers who are abolitionists, read Bonnie Burstow, for example–we are trying to say to all, park that emotional rage at the door, and engage in an intellectual fashion, and with a civility in tone and in thought.
And the second change really is this: We are going to set up the comments section–as nearly all web sites have done–where readers will click on the comments and make a choice to enter that world of commentary. That will create a sense of choice by readers, and thus when readers complain that they have stopped coming because of the comments, we can say that it is up to them to decide whether to engage with the comments. The changes to the comments section also make it more user friendly, and accessible . . . these changes should invite more readers to engage with the discussions.
One of the things we realized from the survey is that so many people just avoid the comments altogether because of a sense that it can be a hostile place. We are TRYING TO ENLARGE THE AUDIENCE for those contributing through their comments, not diminish the audience. We are just asking everyone to engage in a way that help create an environment where people can listen to each other.
And please, if you want to voice your displeasure, tell it to me. You can even write me at [email protected]. I am the one driving these changes, and so if you have a complaint, you don’t need to get mad at James Moore or Steve McRea.
I think until MIA figures out how to appropriately deal with the family members who are actually in the trenches with their loved ones, dealing with the fallout 24/7 of mental distress, keeping them off the drugs and not allowing forced hospitalizations, providing the attachments and safe haven and everything else that goes with helping someone heal from severe childhood trauma…this website will continue to cater to only 2 of the 3 legs in this equation. If you look back over this entire discussion it’s all about either the ‘professionals’ or the ‘survivors’. The only mention of family was derisively about NAMI. You may not remember the private email conversation we had with some of the other staff and founders, but in the end I was told point blank that my perspective was NOT desired on the website unless my wife validated it…doesn’t matter what I’ve done, accomplished, sacrificed to make her experience so radically different than most here who got sucked up into the system. But most family members feel lost and overwhelmed at the thought of doing what I did…I know I did the first few years until I learned that I really did have more ability and knowledge and power to help my wife heal than ANY professional who would see my wife an hour or two each week…in some ways I wish we hadn’t had that conversation as my attitude was never quite the same here…knowing I wasn’t really welcome here…the proverbial unwelcome third wheel in a discussion that I feel I have so much to offer…but not here…and so mostly I’ve moved on…and part of me is loathe to even make this comment as I, too, am tired of getting attacked…
And what’s even worse than being attacked is being totally ignored. I’m sorry about this – it’s my experience too.
And I am openly inviting attack by writing the following:
If “psychiatric survivors” think that the experiences, feelings, efforts of those close to them are too unimportant to be considered and addressed, and that we “just don’t get it,” then they have a long way to go as far as healing is concerned. There is a time and place for being self-absorbed and focusing on getting to a good place etc., but if “survivors” prefer to remain mired in a survivor (victim) identity and disregard the – yes – suffering they – just like everyone else – inflict on others because they think they have some kind of privilege that we don’t, then they will just remain forever victims, unproductive, whinging, complaining, blaming the whole world without one single constructive solution.
You’re right, Sam, none of the regulars on MIA are remotely interested in the 3rd wheel. Maybe that’s partly because they’ve bought into the modern idea that man is an essentially independent being and should be able to make it alone. Although that’s patently laughable because their own experiences should have already made it abundantly clear that we need each other in order to survive.
Yes, attachment theory has made ALL the difference in our experience. For those who watched United States of Tara, that series was produced with guidance from one of the top d.i.d. specialists in the world…and as I watched it I thought how sad it was if THIS is what the top specialist in the world considered ‘normal’ experience for a family touched by d.i.d.
Ours has been completely different. I did a review of the differences in the show and our experience a few years back, but our experience is even MORE different at this point as ALL the girls (8 ‘alters’ it total) are securely attached to me and 2 asked to become pre-engaged to me, and one of those is ready to become fully engaged with me. But beyond that our family, my wife, our son and I have become closer as we journeyed thru this together, not torn apart like the family in the series…
Most people don’t have good enough insurance to afford good therapy, and even those who afford it, can’t find good options like Soteria. But in the end it’s the families, friends and SO’s who are in the trenches 24/7, NOT the professionals. And we can make ALL the difference if we know how to support our loved ones, but also connect the entire family and not make it ONLY about the survivor. It still takes me and my wife a LOT of work to make sure our 27-year old son still feels connected and attached to us and not like his mother’s issues are the only ones that count.
Sadly MIA seems unable to comprehend that if they really want to change the equation in the mental health arena, then we, the family, SO’s and friends are where to start, NOT the ones in mental distress because… they are in distress. When someone is drowning, it’s the ones around them that have to learn how to rescue them while we refute and reject the bizarre independence of this culture that would suggest ’empowering’ someone who is currently overwhelmed and drowning. But instead family and friends have been brainwshed into thinking you call the ‘professionals’ or God forbid the police, when someone is in distress and it goes down hill from there. There is a place for the professionals, I believe, but it is as a collaborator with the family as I believe Soteria believes. I wish my wife’s counselor understood that, but since she didn’t, I had to learn it on my own.
The only rudeness I have encountered is from arrogant moderators and I do think you fawn in a pathetic way over certain of your favourite professionals . You need to apply some rigour too many of your moderators are ‘professionals.. Which is an inbalance in itself. likes is a bit more populist crap.
I did not comment on the proposed changes because I was not sure how these changes would positively or negatively impact MIA and its overall mission.
HOWEVER, I already have a big problem with one of your VERY FIRST changes you’ve made here. Why should I, or anyone else, have to click on the COMMENT BAR in order to see and participate in the comment section. Respectfully, this is totally ass backwards and cuts against any, and all, of the proposed efforts to promote discussion of published blogs.
We should definitely WANT people to clearly see that there IS a comment section and hopefully be intrigued enough to at least start reading the comments. It should be up to those who definitely DON’T WANT to participate and/or EVEN SEE (God forbid!) the comment section, to HAVE TO make the effort to make a click in order to totally avoid this process. I cannot possibly see ANY justification for this particular change. Just because there are other websites that do it this way should have no influence what so ever on the direction and choices of MIA.
I am willing to give the other proposed changes a chance over the course of the coming period, but I must say that I was immediately put off and offended by this first change.
OK so I guess I wasn’t paranoid for saying the same thing.
If MIA won’t let us blog, at least they will allow us to comment, and then the comments become more and more depreciated (under appreciated). Yeah, I get it. MIA is about compliant mental patients and offbeat mental health professionals–the caste you cater to. (It is, in other words, a part of the world conquering “mental health” movement.) All the same, sometimes I wish MIA would get it.
I believe it was Dragon Slayer who spoke of the comments section as being what appealed most to some people about MIA. Keep going. I’m sure some way can be found to change that.
Hi Richard, thank you for your careful and thoughtful consideration of the issues we are wrestling with. I am very sorry to hear that our first change is problematic for you. I can see that this could appear to be counter to our aim of engaging more people in commenting, but what we aim to do with all of our changes here is enable more choice for the reader/commenter. The choice to read comments or not, the choice to interact more, the choice to be part of the discussion even if not writing themselves for example. Many parts of MIA require making that choice; clicking an external link, listening to a podcast or watching a video, so we feel that this change brings commenting in line with other parts of MIA.
I also want reassure you that all of us behind the scenes are trying to thoughtfully consider how best to balance the many views and strong feelings about how commenting works on MIA. Your feedback on this, as with all the feedback so far, is not falling on deaf ears. We want to make a change, step back for a week or two and then assess the impact on commenting; is there less/more activity for example. I know many commenters would like things to stay just as they were, but we did ask for reader feedback and we are aware that we had equally strong messages from people who will no longer visit MIA if we continue as we had been. This is not to value any group or individual above anyone else, but finding a balance here is a big challenge for us.
If nothing else, the survey and Steve McCrea’s excellent blog have resulted in a very valuable discussion and I am sure that many of us are thinking about commenting and what could be done better both on MIA and how we, as individuals, approach commenting.
I just beg that you are patient with us while we try these changes and review what we find. What we wish to do could well be the wrong direction, but we would like to try and see what happens, that is our intention. We know we won’t please everyone, that is not possible with such a large, active and diverse community. The reader survey told us that there was dissatisfaction, it seems wrong to ask people to tell us about their experiences of commenting if all along we planned to do nothing about it. That goes equally for all the comments made on this blog and Steve’s too.
I really do appreciate your feedback Richard and I have heard and taken in every message that has been left on this subject. The decisions are made by a collective, not just me, so we want to make a change, observe for a while and then review. I hope that explains what we are doing, even if it doesn’t directly address your specific concerns on the ability to hide or show comments.
Thanks for your response.
I still stand strongly with my above comment.
Any MIA policy promoting MORE commenting and discussion would definitely WANT the comment section to be visibly part of the reader’s experience right from the git go. Something that appears in their face (if you will) at the end of every blog. And I use the phrase “in your face” with some humor associated to it, because in the grand scheme of things this is hardly an example of ANY kind of internet pressure or “force.”
Yes, I believe that there are some people that have certain issues and strong reactions to how the comment section at MIA is conducted. HOWEVER, I cannot believe that there was a SINGLE PERSON responding to the survey that complained that somehow they were FORCED to look at comments “against their will” because their was no COMMENT BAR to click in order to give them some sort of so-called CHOICE! to face the “unwashed hoard of demon commenters.” I hope you can appreciate and understand a little use of sarcasm here to make this very important point about “choice.”
You said: “… what we aim to do with all of our changes here is enable more choice for the reader/commenter…”
This kind of so-called “choice” (involving how MIA situates the comment section) cuts right to the heart of MIA’s mission in the world, and how it evolved out of the historical struggle against various forms of psychiatric abuse in the world. This “choice” is completely different than when someone chooses (by clicking) to see a podcast or read some scientific article circulating on the internet.
MIA does NOT give its readers a “choice” of what the titles of the blogs will be, or where on the webpage certain articles will be featured. Both writers and MIA editors/staff make these very important AND very political decisions AND choices on these journalistic issues of design. Many of these titles are, by themselves, provocative, politically charged, “triggering,” intriguing etc. etc.. as they should be, on any important and socially relevant webzine.
After all, MIA and most of those people regularly active on the website, are not JUST interested in understanding the world better (important as that is), we also very much WANT the world to change for the better. And we are looking for every opportunity and means for this to happen, including the very necessary need for more dialogue and discussion in the world. AND yes, including sometimes very contentious and cognitively dissonant discussions that at times makes us, and others, uncomfortable. AND yes, I believe in the importance of “civility” in those discussions.
To now somehow say that the mere positioning of the comment section at MIA must conform to the “wishes” (which again, I believe no single reader complained they were “forced” to view comments “against their will”) of the most sensitive of its readers, is both gratuitous and very misguided. It clearly comes across as appealing to the “lowest common denominator” and giving in on very critical issues of political principle.
This new approach (on the comment bar) is NOT going to achieve the desired result of increasing readership AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, bringing more people into the type of activism that could potentially weaken the very oppressive Medical Model and hopefully change the world for the better.
Those of us who might find this first change very off putting and misguided, are NOT somehow stuck in an old routine and afraid of change. We have very real concerns about the very essence of the intent and ultimate result of these changes.
You said: ” The reader survey told us that there was dissatisfaction, it seems wrong to ask people to tell us about their experiences of commenting if all along we planned to do nothing about it.”
I am NOT saying, nor do I believe others who have raised concerns, that changes should NEVER be made OR that we should not listen to readers thoughts and feelings. I support the moderation policies and I support the efforts to increase readership AND participation, BUT NOT at the expense of very important political principles. Political principles that have been tested over many centuries of important social upheaval that has pushed the world towards a trajectory of more freedom and social justice.
This is a very BAD start to a possibly necessary process. Please, please think again and reconsider this initial comment bar change. Yes, do all your other changes and THEN come back to this at a later date after further discussion and consideration; AFTER we have had time to digest these other changes.
I don’t think Richard needs or even necessarily wants my support here, but he has it anyway, and more.
The reality is, MIA has never claimed to be a democracy, nor should it be expected to be. But its theoretical purpose, I would like to believe, is to further the spirit of democracy, and provide a structure via which democratic discussions are encouraged.
These Facebook-style changes do exactly the opposite. It would be easy to propose that the entire MIA readership somehow be polled on these changes following weeks or months of debate, but this is not realistic. (Though I do cherish the old saying, “Be realistic, demand the impossible!”) And I imagine there are far more career-minded folk at MIA who are of the “baby & bath water” mindset than there are truly anti-psychiatry survivors, so this could even have a negative effect.
Still maybe MIA should consider putting this project on hold pending further public discussion.
One thing this has shown I that MIA is important to people who are a part of it. I think there is something unique in how it has come together.
I agree 100%. For whatever flaws it has, MIA appears to be the only site where survivors of the system and people who think the system is nuts rather than the people it claims to help can have this big a national voice. It is also kind of unique it the attempt, however awkward, to bring dissident professionals and survivors as well as their friends/family that support them together in one place. Not an easy task!
Steve and ALL
Everything you say is true. So why mess with some fundamental principles and a particular format that got us here? Once again, I am NOT against changes that improve things, but there is simply NO reasonable justification to suddenly hide the comment section from readers, and create a COMMENT BAR that readers must click on to see other readers comments.
Since you still have an independent voice here, please give me one good reason that makes any sense for making THIS particular change at this time. Again, I am not talking about all the other proposed changes.
At first I was NOT inclined to think (as some of the other people’s criticisms have suggested) that some of the other proposed changes were meant to diminish and/or limit certain more radical perspectives here at MIA. Now I am not so sure.
What reason (please tell me, some one out there) could there be for having a COMMENT BAR, other than to have readers avoid seeing the very first (or first few) comments in the comment section?
Now since there are a certain relatively small number of regular readers and commenters that are more often on the anti-psychiatry (or close to that perspective) side of things, AND they often can be very politically incisive (IMHO, usually very insightful), and that includes their ability to point out problematic formulations and ideas, there is a higher probability that they might end up being the first, or one of the first commenters under a blog.
This is really a random phenomena, and I am often surprised when it happens that I end up having the first opportunity to be the very first to comment under a blog. I try to take full advantage of this opportunity, but I approach EACH AND EVERY COMMENT the same.
Which means, I always point out things that are positive in the blog and that I agree with, BEFORE I move onto any particular criticisms. But I can sometimes be harsh on what I view as very harmful or arrogant perspectives. However, in all this I believe I am quite civil in my discourse and dialogue.
My comments number well over a thousand, and I believe I have only been moderated maybe three times in 7 years or so, and this involved some form of sarcasm. And even though I am politically on the anti-psychiatry side of things, one of my moderated comments was actually directed towards another anti-psychiatry commenter (that’s a whole other story).
So my major point here is that there is a higher probability that a more radical perspective may end up in the very first comment under any particular blog. This raises the question: is this policy meant to avoid having “sensitive” people see these very first few comments for fear that it may somehow “drive them away” from MIA.
I say then , WHAT ABOUT all those people who read a mediocre, boring, or politically “bad” blog, and want to leave (or give up on) the MIA website, but are suddenly intrigued, then impressed, and then highly stimulated to become a regular reader after seeing the very HIGH LEVEL of critically thinking commenters that can break down concepts and politically dissect ideas that help lead to a higher understanding of psychiatric oppression, and then use that new understanding to help work towards changing the world into a better place.
Yes, let’s ALL be more civil here, but let’s not forget about what’s at stake here, and exactly what kind of political discourse and struggle is truly necessary to bring about genuine change in the world.
Think about about the decisive times in your life when you went through very profound changes in your world outlook. Did these changes come about without some personal discomfort and/or cognitive dissonance?
Think about those individuals who challenged and inspired you to reconsider your viewpoints? Were these people always gentle, patient, overly civil, NAMBI PAMBI with you. OR were these kinds of conversations often contentious, and even sometimes outright argumentative, that set in motion the kind of political groundwork necessary for seismic shifts in your overall thinking.
Again, please reconsider this very first backward direction change.
The issue here is that MIA is trying to fix what isn’t broken. I won’t try to explore further their motivation for doing so.
Though the issue about the comment bar has Richard most riled up, and I agree about this, I think the issue with the “likes” goes beyond which comments get seen first. I think I’m agreeing with Kindred Spirit here in saying it demeans and cheapens any discussion to turn it into a popularity contest, having more to do with egotism and personalities than the fine points of the subject at hand.
Thank you all for these comments. It’s clear many feel quite passionate about MIA, even those who write with some disparagement toward us. We’ll take all of this into consideration as we move ahead as an organization.
One note on now having to click the comments button. Frankly, this just makes the whole page cleaner in appearance, and that means the comments page displays in a cleaner fashion too. Virtually every site does this. And I don’t think it takes too much effort to click on the comments button. We should have done this long ago for aesthetics reasons. And it doesn’t do anything negative in terms of limiting discussions, comments or so forth. In my opinion, it actually highlights them better, because they no longer appear stretched out at the bottom of the article.
We are going to close this commentary now, as I think everyone has had their say and we have heard your feedback.
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