When Mad Voices Are Locked Out of Academia

The voice of the mad in the literature on madness has long struggled to compete with the clamor of the “professional” voice. At least since 1908, when Clifford Whittingham Beers wrote A Mind That Found Itself,1 the consumer/survivor voice has been vetted, restricted and sanitized by the governors of the dominant academic paradigm. Even Beers’ book, widely praised at the time and still in print today, was accepted only because it was a certain type of consumer narrative, not at all representative of the broad diversity of experiences. In 1908, psychiatrist Adolf Meyer praised A Mind That Found Itself, writing that:

[…] it has nothing in common with the frequent attempts at revolutionary disclosures by ex-patients who carry a chip on their shoulder and have had the most detrimental effects on legislation and on the attitude of the legal profession and the public — detrimental to the great majority of patients while perhaps a protection for a few greedy for special rights.2

This blog, 110 years later, written by “ex-patients” with chips on their shoulders who are greedy for special rights, is an “attempt at revolutionary disclosure” to highlight how some things have not changed since then. There are, of course, many changes. The profile and credibility of the consumer/survivor movement has grown since the early days of the psychiatric survivor movement in the 1960s and 1970s. The clearest examples of this are legitimate and growing roles for consumers/survivors as service providers, academics, advisers and educators. Another important example is the growth of Mad Studies (LeFrancois, Menzies, and Reaume 20133), an emerging discipline rooted in lived experience conceptualizations.

Despite these advances, the consumer/survivor movement has not kept pace with other rights movements which emerged during the same counterculture period, such as LGBTIQ rights or women’s rights. Almost invariably, consumer roles sit at the lowest paid rungs of mental health, government and policy organisations. The issues at the heart of our work, such as equal rights and freedom from violence, are as distant as they have ever been. At the base of these ongoing issues of equity is the fact that power in mental health systems, including in academia, is held by a privileged few. The attitudes and beliefs of those in powerful roles continue to dominate, and to exclude critical voices or differing epistemologies.

This will not be new information to the readers of this blog and can be seen merely as a symptom of the way in which madness narratives are constructed by the psychiatric profession. Psychiatry is, as Ingram describes:

[…] remarkably closed, and indeed almost hermetically sealed. Psychiatry assumes it has a fundamental right to pronounce on just about everything: on law, on sexuality, on school shootings, and so on.4

This “hermetical seal” extends to the research arm of psychiatry, which has increasingly come under fire for how it consistently excludes people who do not fit the dominant narrative, or who do not support the dominant narrative, from discussions about psychiatric practice. The orientation of psychiatry is profoundly “professional,” a discipline which has settled comfortably into its claim to be able to determine the existence of an objective reality, and one which will tell a person, to their face, that their experience is not true, not real, and not valid. That this underlying sense of a superior grasp of truth extends to the gatekeepers of psychiatric literature is only to be expected.

As with the rise of the consumer/survivor movement in policy and practice, the “inclusion” of the consumer/survivor voice in research has been gradually increasing, albeit with significant resistance, tokenism and co-option.

Our recent experience of attempting to publish with Australasian Psychiatry highlights the barriers that still exist, with that esteemed publication refusing to publish our short letter unless the lived experience was shorn from it.

The Article We Were Responding to: “Hip Hip Hooray, ECT Turns 80!”

In February of 2019 we became aware of the article Hip Hip Hooray, ECT Turns 80! (Clarke, 20195). Clarke’s article aimed to provide a history of the use of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) in Australia.

We had several concerns about the article, including:

  • A lack of evidence provided throughout the article. These include claims of “social and political forces” restricting ECT, the “disastrous” “American experience” of restricting ECT, and Medicare data, all without references.
  • The quality of the article took a polemical tone. The language above demonstrates this, as did the fact that the author was able to introduce claims about the efficacy of ECT in the abstract, introduction and conclusion, but they were never addressed properly in the body of the article.
  • There were significant gaps in this history. For example, reference was made to an Australian Royal Commission (Australia’s highest form of investigation or inquiry) into the use of “Deep Sleep Therapy,” and how it led unnecessarily to the restriction of ECT use in Australia. The author failed to mention the profound human rights abuses, including patient deaths, and lack of oversight unearthed through this Royal Commission that motivated increased regulation (see more: Walton, 20136).
  • The article positions ECT almost as though it is a person, while ignoring the views of people who have experienced adverse effects. For example, Clarke describes “more restrictive ECT legislation” and goes on to claim that ECT is a “stigmatized treatment” that “will continue to come under attack.” These are highly subjective claims which illustrate a perspective that disrespects consumers, human rights, and the lessons of history. The legislative controls described, of course, do not exist to protect the (nonexistent) rights of medical technology—they are about the rights of human beings. The legislation aims to reduce restrictions on people’s liberty and increase the likelihood of people making informed consent about what happens to their own minds and bodies. It is concerning to us that the article appears to privilege a treatment over people, and, by implication, to privilege the freedom of psychiatrists to do what they wish over the rights and freedoms of their patients.
  • Most concerning to us was the lack of inclusion of lived-experience voices. While many may find ECT helpful and life-saving, there are as many who disagree and find the treatment invasive, injurious and traumatic. This trauma is exacerbated in the context of compulsory mental health treatment. We took issue with an account of ECT that had no people in it.

Our Commentary

We provided a commentary to the journal to promote academic debate. While we had several concerns, our commentary focused on the lack of lived experience voices in the article. Noting the mixed experiences of ECT, one author, Indigo Daya, offered a personal account:

I had a series of 12 ECT treatments in the early 2000s. My suicidality largely lifted, but within three months my depression and voices returned worse than ever—and many of my memories never came back.

If my psychiatrist had asked how I felt about the ECT in the weeks following treatment, I probably would have said ‘thank you’. But if he’d asked me after six months, I would have been furious, demanding to know how he could have put me through such a violation. But he didn’t ask.

My outrage about ECT continues today, almost twenty years later. Eventually I would experience recovery, but not because of ECT or other psychiatric treatment. I had to distance myself from the mental health system and then access talking therapy to process the childhood abuse that sat behind my distress (something no psychiatrist ever even asked me about).

We noted that this would be defined as a “clinical success” by many psychiatrists (and perhaps by Dr Clarke), highlighting the gap between lived experiences of ECT and the clinical aims by some psychiatrists.

The Reviewer’s Response

The journal’s reviewer provided the response a month later. There were some valuable points. However, there were several inappropriate comments. We quote them below:

The main point of the letter is to critique Dr Clarke for failing to give space to the anti-psychiatry movement, and the anti-ECT lobby in particular. This anti-ECT bias is disguised in this letter as being about providing a consumer-led or lived experience viewpoint about ECT

The expression of such opinions is perfectly reasonable in a website blog, and would likely gain publication by the Church of Scientology, but do not really have a place in a scientific peer reviewed journal.

We were shocked by this response. We each have lived experience and a range of perspectives on ECT and psychiatry. What we authors agreed on was the need to include the voice of people with lived experience.

Our Unsuccessful Attempts at Resolution

Despite being concerned by these comments, particularly given the disclosure of traumatic experiences, we were still keen to work towards a solution with Australasian Psychiatry. We contacted the editor to discuss these concerns, noting:

  • That we would still like to submit our commentary and were willing to discuss how to do so. In response the journal stated that it would only include the commentary if the first-person perspective was removed. The reason given was that it was opinion and not objective, like the original article.

  • That the reviewer’s comments were not appropriate or scholarly and they should have been vetted by the journal. In response the journal stated that, in their view, the reviewer’s comments were scholarly and communicating points of disagreement. There were no concerns with the reviewer’s comments.

  • That this could be an opportunity for the journal to learn and develop systems for respectful inclusion of lived experience voices. This included offering to meet with the reviewer and others. In response, the editor indicated that they would talk to the reviewer but that this was “dragging it out a bit.”

We agreed that our commentary would not be published at Australasian Psychiatry, given that our main aim was to elevate lived experiences of ECT. The whole process laid bare the unequal treatment between the original author and the lived-experience commentators. One person’s opinion (without references) was taken as authority, while the others weren’t. The only difference was that one person was a psychiatrist, and the others had lived experience. It highlighted that for consumers, people with lived experience, survivors, the mad, there are serious barriers to participating in academia, and that gatekeepers still hold significant power over the distinctions between experience, opinions and facts.

With few further options, we write on this platform to raise awareness, promote dialogue and find solutions. This is a valuable case study of the issues in academia. We want to discuss some ideas for finding a pathway forward.

Researchers Ceding Power

In academia, health systems and broader society, we are benefiting from an increasing awareness about the need to share power when it comes to gender. Recent debates about “manels,” discussion panels made up exclusively of white men, are an example of critical debate about power and exclusion.

The mental health system and its knowledge-power apparatus is like few others. No other health specialty has a human rights movement as large, organized and persistent as mental health. If nothing else, this is a clear message that all is not well. Yet any movement toward sharing power with lived experience is lagging far behind progress in power and gender.

We need to see this same level of debate and commitment about authentic inclusion of consumer/survivor voices. And for its benefit, the mental health system needs us. Together, we need epistemic justice.

We argue that the mental health system, including its academic disciplines, cannot advance without lived experience inclusion.

What would this look like? We argue that inclusion is never more than tokenism until power is ceded. That is more than rhetoric. It’s about more lived experience voices, more engagement with those voices, and more action on the basis of those voices.

Do We Want a Seat at This Table?

For many years, consumers have argued for a seat at the table of power. We have believed, falsely, that once our truths are heard they will be believed and respected, that systems will begin to change. Reality has not lived up to this dream. A seat at the table all too often means tokenism, not inclusion. A seat at the table has meant committees which have five clinicians, five policy makers and a single consumer. Or it has meant that only “agreeable” consumer views are invited.

In this instance, where the authors sought to publish a reasonable and balancing criticism of a heavily biased psychiatric paper, there was no seat at the table for us at all.

Perhaps, at least in part of our work, it is time to move beyond seeking consumer “representation” in the powerful places in mental health academia. Perhaps it is time to build more of our own tables: forums where people with lived experience set the agenda, and we invite others to join the agendas that we set. Mad Studies is one avenue that offers real potential for setting new and different agendas for change, with a very different balance of power.

Practical Changes

We issue a challenge to the editors of academic journals in mental health and related fields to not just welcome the voices of consumers, but to actively seek to change the power balance.

There are many ways to make this happen, such as naming consumers in calls for submissions and considering consumer authors in your author guidelines. The author guidelines for the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing provide a good example of this.

Other strategies are including consumer academics as peer reviewers and ensuring that your policies and practices are inclusive and welcoming of consumer voices, including the challenging ones. A simple approach would be to take this opinion paper about “manels” from the British Medical Journal (Black, 20187) and simply replace “women” with “consumers,” and “men” with “non-consumers.”

Examining our own experience with the journal Australian Psychiatry, we can also see the need for training and development for existing editors and peer reviewers to understand the validity and different epistemological bases for first-person narratives and lived experience perspectives, including critical views. Further, we can see an urgent need for journals to tackle structural barriers and unconscious bias. Our experience with Australian Psychiatry can easily be viewed as discriminatory: while it was acceptable for a psychiatrist to publish a subjective opinion, it was seen as unprofessional for consumers to do so. This is a clear double standard which functions only to exclude.

Closing Reflections

It was not a surprise to us that the paper “Hip, Hip Hooray, ECT Turns 80!” was published. It is self-evident that psychiatry has been unwilling or unable to engage in critical debate about the disparity between systemic claims (“ECT is safe and effective”) and lived experience critiques (“ECT can be devastatingly injurious”) such as those proposed in the lived experience account in our letter, and by many others (Maddock, 2014;8 Burstow, 20069). However, this was a particularly glaring example of medical bias that seemed to care more about a treatment itself than the people that treatment is supposed to serve.

We are not concerned if “a treatment” feels stigmatized. We are concerned about the 47.1% of people, according to Clarke, who don’t experience “remission” (although we note that the concept of remission itself is disputable). We are concerned about the unknown number of people who experience devastating adverse effects from ECT (Read & Bentall, 201010), those who are never fully informed about the risks of ECT, those who cannot access services to respond to continuing adverse effects, and those who have no say in whether or not they were exposed to ECT, and live with the traumatic impacts of coercion.

It was a disappointment, but not a surprise to us that our letter was rejected by the journal Australian Psychiatry. Each of us authors have experienced many examples of psychiatric health systems being unwilling to hear critical views from lived experience. But this does not make it OK. It is of particular concern for an academic journal to be unwilling to welcome debate from the very people who are served by the practitioners who make up its readership.

It was, however, surprising to us that the journal responded in such a clearly offensive and unprofessional manner, and that they are wholly unwilling to consider first-person narratives. It was even more concerning to us that the journal’s editor could not appreciate the issues we raised.

We can see little reason for saying “Hip Hip Hooray.” Instead we draw attention to a paper published in that same journal, five years previously. Whereas Clarke reflects on the abuses and deaths at Chelmsford Private Hospital as a threat to ECT, Walton (2013) reminds us that the lessons of Chelmsford have not yet been learned. We are inclined to agree:

Patients generally and particularly those with mental illness are still not provided with complete information about the benefits and risks of drugs and treatments. Some still have the wrong treatment. Many therapies and treatments lack evidence of effectiveness. Many doctors are still reluctant to report colleagues who are unethical or unsafe. . . . Most of us associate systematic harm to patients as a thing of the past. Clearly, we are still learning the lessons from Chelmsford.

Show 10 footnotes

  1. Beers, C. W. (2004). A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography. (electronic resource). Project Gutenberg. Retrieved from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/11962/11962-h/11962-h.htm
  2. Meyer, A. (1908). Review of A Mind That Found Itself. Psychological Bulletin, 5(8), 283–284. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/10.1037/h0065273
  3. LeFrancois, B.A., Menzies, R. and Reaume, G. (2013). Mad Matters: A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc.
  4. Ingram, R. A. (2016). Doing Mad Studies: Making (Non)sense Together. Social Work, 5(3), 7.
  5. Clarke, P. (2019). Hip Hip Hooray, ECT turns 80! Australasian Psychiatry, 27(1), 53-55. http://dx.doi.org.ezp.lib.unimelb.edu.au/10.1177/1039856218815753 
  6. Walton, M. (2013). Deep sleep therapy and Chelmsford Private Hospital: have we learnt anything? Australasian Psychiatry 21(3), 206-212.
  7. Black, M. E. (2018). How to counter “manels.” BMJ: British Medical Journal, 363(8180), 430. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezp.lib.unimelb.edu.au/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edb&AN=133553995&site=eds-live&scope=site
  8. Maddock, M. (2014). Electroshock causes more harm than good. Mad in America. Retrieved from: https://www.madinamerica.com/2014/05/electroshock-causes-harm-good/ 24 September 2019.
  9. Burstow, B. (2006). Electroshock as a form of violence against women. Violence Against Women, 12(4), 372-392.
  10. Read, J. and Bentall, R. (2010). The effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy: A literature review. Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale, 19(4), 333-347.

124 COMMENTS

  1. The lack of patient representation is also a major issue in other disciplines that psychopathologize its patients such as the professional medical Lyme Disease community does. MyLymeData is a patient led and focused initiative to gather data directly from those with lived experience of Lyme Disease/TBD. I think a similar type of initiative will be necessary to change the discussion about “mental illness”.

    One thing to note about the groups of people that have extricated themselves (at least to some extent) from psychiatric pathologizing is that they formed mass campaigns to normalize gayness and feminism. That’s going to be harder for those who embrace the term “madness” and admit to experiencing altered states since that notion strikes fear into the population at large.

    Truthdig – a far left alternative news publication – just today published a hit piece on the “mentally ill”, homelessness, and the need to bring back institutions. The only thing this article proves is that psychiatric propaganda has no left or right bias. The Right wants to lock us up out of fear. The Left wants to lock us up in the name of social justice.

    I actually welcome the dire headlines about the massive increase in “mental illness”. They can’t target all of us. There is strength in numbers. That was the real winning tactic for those other groups too.

    • Thanks Kindred Spirit, so many important points. I often look to other rights movements, especially those which have had big gains, to inform my thinking about what we need in the psychiatric survivor space. Much to learn. I’m heartened by the growth in our movement, particularly more of us being employed in roles which ‘legitimise’ our voices to ‘some’ degree. However the risks of being co-opted or being silenced in tokenism are ever-present, as this blog tries to show. And, yes, the so-called ‘epidemic’ of ‘mental illness’ will have to eventually turn the tide.

      • I don’t know that it’s wise to view the need to implement international human rights for persons in the perceived or actual psychosocial disability space as being separate from ‘other movements’.

        Especially given that the existence of UNCRPD and recognition in the international torture space has largely been driven by *joining* the disability movement.

        I’m also concerned at terms like ‘our movement’ – whose movement? not mine, surely – it kicks me out to the sidelines along with everyone else who doesn’t want to collude with abuses or perceive themselves as neither ‘mad’ nor ‘mentally ill’ and/or expect to advocate for their international human rights obligations to be met in all domestic law, policy and practice – irrespective of whether or not this is currently popular with the government or other stakeholders.

        Co-option and refusal to answer criticism is not restricted to forces acting from inside psychiatric or other professional circles in my experience. The unilateral decisions made by ‘leaders’ in bodies that are supposed to provide a means for *all* persons affected to represent themselves without compromise are an appalling breach of human rights in themselves – as well as an obstacle to any meaningful action to get them.

        We’ve begun the Royal commission in to Violence abuse and exploitation of people with Disabilities in Australia – and at this point our ‘representative bodies’ are not even set up to understand rights or their implementation themselves- how can we expect them to do anything other than make unreasonable compromises in the ‘advice’ they provide on reporting to the commission – if indeed they provide any means for understanding the scope of the commission at all? Or get the word out that this *includes* all forms of discrimination and torture against persons in a psychiatric or psychosocial disability context?

        I can’t put it mildly – it needs to be said – what we currently have in the guise of organising bodies are essentially political parties that have failed as badly as (and in a similar fashion to) the Democrat’s promise to “keep the bastards honest”.

        We need real organising bodies that don’t ally themselves to ideology like “mental illness” or co-opt the opportunity to speak for their own biased agendas and indirect tactics of courting and playing games with economic stakeholders.

        There is space for economic stakeholders to speak – but only if they are willing to constrain this to an offer of rights-compliant support, that may be rejected or accepted – and to discuss what this means on reasonable grounds – not to co-opt the voices of first-person representation and the means to organise stakeholders to exert meaningful influence over laws that affect their own lives (and to do so in a way that does not prevent others from accessing their full and unadulterated human rights).

        It is not possible to follow an implementation plan for UNCRPD – that breaches UNCRPD rights itself. That is effectively trying to enter an abusive relationship, hoping that manipulation and concession on both sides will balance the equation out nicely.

        To know how to implement rights surely starts with understanding what they are and how to operate in a way that doesn’t breach them?

        I suggest we start there – and begin by contacting those organisations who can provide some rights information, including implementation guidance, and making sure they too haven’t been co-opted and distorted in their approach.

        • Incidentally the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse and Exploitation (RCViolence) specifically includes psychosocial disability *and* the UNCRPD and ample scope in the terms of reference for reporting *all* violence, abuse and exploitation – including that carried out in a psychiatric context, and permitted under current domestic laws. It is also not restricted to an institutional setting – and can include anything that the reporter would like to gain recognition for the consideration that what they are reporting is indeed: violence, abuse or exploitation. Framed within the terms of reference in any manner they think most fitting. There is supposed to be legal or other support available for those seeking to draft reports.

          Thankfully, these have not been farmed out to psychosocial disability bodies to my knowledge – but these bodies need to form an integral part of getting the word out that people *can* report the whole of their experience (in institutions and the wider community) to the commission – irrespective of current domestic law. And they need to be able to communicate that persons to not have to identify themselves as “mentally ill” or even having a “psychosocial disability” to have experienced abuse on psychosocial disability grounds – there is always an implication of “perceived or actual” in these situations, and UNCRPD inherently includes the right for persons to be respected in their full autonomy and diversity. Is it possible for our current organising structures to manage such a task without co-option or undue influence?

          https://www.dss.gov.au/disability-and-carers/disability-royal-commission-support-services

          This commission and it’s terms of reference were achieved in part via the input of persons with experience of psychosocial disability who joined or formed *general disability* organising bodies and then negotiated for over 10 years to bring the RC Violence into existence.

          Compare that to what we saw in The Victorian “royal commission” into ‘Mental Health’…

          I suggest reaching out to some of these people….. I’ll leave it up to you to find out who they are. The ‘hermetic seal’ on psychosocial organising bodies who don’t see themselves as a part of the disability rights movement has not led to anything good IME. It’s a lot like the boundaries between various branches of academia – talent, energy and what I genuinely believe is a desire for full human rights implementation (at least in some quarters) is going to waste.

          • If they can get their act together decent organising bodies may even be able to play a useful role in getting the legal and advocacy support to understand some of the more nuanced issues around what perceived or actual psychosocial disability is – and that it is *not* something that should be forced through the lens of “mental illness”. I don’t know what the state of legal advice is currently, but it is worth pointing out that the current bias in the legal profession is one way in which the terms of reference can be reduced in scope in practice – despite the spirit in which they were negotiated or the broad terms of their scope on paper.

            Sorry for the long rant, but this is serious stuff and I’m understandably concerned that our organising bodies have been operating in ways that are not set up to capitalise on the full scope of opportunity that RCViolence – or any accompanying discussion in he wider community – provides.

            Current gathering and discussion opportunities don’t include an online forum for open discussion amongst members of psychosocial organising bodies, and that would probably be the place I would put these comments if one existed….(that was purely for open discussion among members about any or all issues – not something that guided discussion into a particular agenda or ‘vision’ promoted by various persons employed or active within the organisation…)

          • Two points regarding the website you link to fnert77

            (1) it refers people to a “Blue Knot Foundation” for counselling services. For what? To be labelled and subjected to further abuses for complaining? I was told by a public officer that I would be ‘fuking destroyed’ for making a valid complaint. And let me tell you, she meant it.
            (2) It states in bold typeface that if you are suffering from any form of abuse or violence to contact police. Police do not have a copy of the Criminal Code when it comes to “patients”. How else could the rampant abuses continue? In fact you can be arrested for having documented proof of the abuse they tell me (and my daughter who was equally as flabbergasted as I). Which means that the laws relating to procurement or abuse of patients can be simply ignored, and quite possibly explains why these legal protections have never been prosecuted. One of the Commissioners should try calling police as a “patient” and see first hand where it gets them. I will post bail for them, but i’m not paying the medical bills lol

            I’m sure you saw the “Do you like that” video of police doing a ‘welfare check’ on a ‘mental patient’ attempting to withdraw from his drugs

            I would like to communicate further with you regarding some of your comments if at all possible.

          • boans – it wouldn’t let me reply to your comment – too many indent’s I guess so I hope you get this.

            with regards to blue knot foundation, they are far from perfect but they *are* aware of labelling being a serious issue and have actually been one of the few registered charities getting abreast of the fact that nonconsensual labelling is abuse and other issues of institutional abuse in psychiatric settings/contexts though full disclosure some can be very annoying with regards to “trauma” ideology

            also calling the counselling service they tell you that it will be recorded but you can ask for recording to be turned off.

            With regards to the site and the general handling not being disability friendly or considering issues of safety in reporting – YUP

            Some examples of this have been noted here
            https://www.sbs.com.au/news/the-feed/this-advocate-redesigned-the-disability-royal-commission-website-so-people-with-a-disability-can-actually-use-it

            This is exactly why I am freaking out about our organising bodies not being set up properly to actually advocate for us on these issues – this is an example of how things can go when people have got decent representation, it’s far from perfect but imagine the difference if *all* the representative bodies got their acts together?

            It *is* important for these stories to be heard but also important for them to be heard safely – maybe worth asking someone like sam (in the article) if there are specific issues what you’re concerned about wanting to report but want to do so safely and don’t feel safe with the hotline? – her twitter is in the article.

            BTW the hotline and the counselling services aren’t the same thing. The hotline is something different. I’ve called the temporary hotline before the new official one was set up.

            It is important to be able to report safely but really hoping these issues won’t stop you being able to report

  2. When “mad voices” are locked out of academia, you are really at where we’ve always been at, relatively speaking, under lock down. I’ve ceased to consume mental health services myself, no longer being a mental patient, but seeing myself instead as a member of the general public. Too much patience is a vice. If the chosen people had as much patience as some so-called “consumers” have, they would have never entered the “promised land”. I don’t have that much patience. I guess you would call me impatient.

    I don’t think the psychiatric survivor movement has benefited, credibility-wise, from becoming a consumer/user, or, in other words, a mental health treatment bondage movement. Buying and selling diagnoses, and the treatments that go along with them, is its own best critique. At one time mental patients were expected to become non-mental patients, and as such, fully functioning citizens. That expectation is no longer with us. Mental patient as a career just took a big shot in the arm with the introduction of peer specialists and disability workers, and this subtle expansion of the service industry has to work against any aims we might have for full equality and human rights.

    As for ECT, how can they continue to lie about the practice so much? There isn’t that much difference between ECT and insulin shock or metrazol shock therapy, but each of those practices were tossed into the dustbin of history. Why? Because they were not so “safe and effective” as claimed, just like ECT. If we look at this history of damage, and the deceit that facilitated it, the lies of the industry become transparent. With more and more mental patients, oops, excuse me, consumer/users, how can anyone claim that the “mental health” of the nation is improving? More and more patients means your epidemic is letting up? I really don’t think so.

  3. “The orientation of psychiatry is profoundly ‘professional,’ a discipline which has settled comfortably into its claim to be able to determine the existence of an objective reality, and one which will tell a person, to their face, that their experience is not true, not real, and not valid.”

    So true, my psychiatrist very literally declared my entire life to be “a credible fictional story.” That’s when I had to walk away from that insane nutcase.

    ” … medical bias that seemed to care more about a treatment itself than the people that treatment is supposed to serve.” Spot on, again.

    Thank you for pointing out this clear desire to only portray one side of the information in the medical journals. No doubt this lack of adequate and balanced information is at least part of what is leading to the enormous numbers of psychiatric drug induced deaths, and extreme psychiatric drug and ETC harm of millions of other innocent other human beings.

    https://www.naturalnews.com/049860_psych_drugs_medical_holocaust_Big_Pharma.html

    But I don’t know what is “professional” about knowing nothing about the adverse effects of the drugs one prescribes, or killing 500,000 elderly people a year, due to that ignorance. That sounds like criminal negligence to me.

    • A fair question! I guess we were motivated by Desmond Tutu’s idea that “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” But there’s just as strong a case for Lorde’s argument that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

      Perhaps it is naive, but I believe there is value in calling out untruths, misleading information, bias and missing voices in psychiatric narratives – even if we are ignored when we try to do so. I don’t think we expected the journal to embrace our comments, but we did expect some degree of professionalism and courtesy.

      • Please consider addressing the mainstream, Indigo. They do not have an ax to grind in keeping the MI System intact.

        Since more people are experiencing emotional pain now–and pharma-psychiatry’s overwhelming appetite for more “consumers” knows no bounds–psychiatry is effecting us more than ever.

        It is everyone’s concern now. Not just a handful of unusual criminals, people who think they’re Napoleon, and catatonics.

        Anyone could get psychiatrized. People need to know the truth.

        • Rachael, I think the mainstream need to understand what our reality has been.

          If they don’t have an axe to grind in keeping the MI system intact, understanding why is important and difficult.

          But it shouldn’t stop us being able to speak out freely.

          We don’t have an “axe to grind” we’re trying to get free from violence, abuse and exploitation.

          The “MI” system is a system of abuse – even those people who don’t know they have been lied to, have still been lied to.

          There is a need to dismantle the “MI” system in order to facilitate human rights. What this means and how it is done is something that needs to take each persons choices (free from undue pressure and influence) and facilitate them.

          But it’s not about “fixing the mental health system”, “restoring the mental health system” or even “forming a new mental health system”. The way this has been fundamentally misunderstood (and misrepresented) is terrifying.

          Sometimes “consumer” voices are the absolute worst. There is a sense of “democracy” that is envisioned as a compromise. That is not what rights are about. It is not what a healthy democracy is about either.

          My concerns about this article are comments such as:
          “We need to see this same level of debate and commitment about authentic inclusion of consumer/survivor voices. And for its benefit, the mental health system needs us. Together, we need epistemic justice.”

          In this statement, human rights are fundamentally undermined.

          The “mental health system” needs to end. I don’t just mean the system that currently purports to provide support to persons in distress – but the entire system of quasi-objectively defining what is “normal” and what is not and indoctrinating an entire society to believe this.

          That a person would find their own experience – whatever it is and whatever causes it – so distressing they themselves choose to construe it as an illness is their fundamental human right. That another person should experience severe distress and/or behave in ways others find fundamentally incomprehensible and not construe it as an “illness” or “disorder” is equally their fundamental human right.

          Under international law, each person is entitled to full legal personhood. That is huge. It is difficult. Because the “mental health system” – not just the hospitals, the doctors offices, and the mental health acts – but everything, the education in the media, the common pervasive culture, the education in schools, the way that vested interests lobby and control information, they way they influence the courts, the way that they invade every home, every family and every life with an ideology falsely represented as “fact” – and a system of discrimination so complete that it is no less effective than (or materially different from) apartheid.

          This is the system that has to go – the narrative has to be introduced to clarify the fact, and it is a fact, that “mental illness” is an ideology – that underlying experience is very real but that it is entirely different for every person. That there is no such thing as “normal” or “abnormal” experience, except in ideology – all human experience has always existed and there is no reason why certain persons perceived by others as “incomprehensible”, who behave in ways that are not liked or understood, or even who are experiencing severe distress – should be seen to be objectively “mentally ill” and somehow set apart in any regard from the “general population”.

          To overcome this 300 year old (possibly older) prejudice is very difficult. At its heart there is a need to understand criminal responsibility, and responsibility in general. There is more attached to the notion of “mental disorder” or being “mentally ill” than the system of seeing a medical or allied health practitioner and getting a “diagnosis”. It is intricately tied to notions of responsibility, trustworthiness, predictability, believability and honesty. It is also tied to notions of “capacity”. By a complex network of prejudices and beliefs many different persons are being in a “different category” with regards to almost every legal and cultural practice in our society.

          There are very complex things to understand here, and they are not even being explored. They have been looked into very deeply in the legal literature written by such amazing people as Tina Minkowitz – and others who have looked deeply. But they are entirely absent from discussion in domestic circles – at least in the mainstream of psychosocial disability communities. Physical disability have made advancements. The Autistic community have made advancement too. But in psychosocial disability the “mad movement” allies itself with oppressors, ignores the law or the issues facing us in the overall social system – and complains that it has made less headway than other groups.

          In recent years this has escalated. Our peak organising bodies have occupied themselves with “consumer consulting” and “co-design” proudly becoming an intrinsic and legitimising part of the very system they sought to stop. While they have been busy doing this, the ideology of ‘mental health’ and ‘mental disorder’ has infiltrated every single aspect of life. Once, you could use a largely unknown thing to negotiate rights for yourself under domestic law that would make participation possible even when distressed – speaking for yourself you could negotiate fair “reasonable adjustments” required, at least in relatively equitable workplaces or places of education.

          Since “awareness raising”, “public education” and “anti-stigma” campaigns – the “mental health system” has expanded. Some workplaces now screen people for any signs of distress, and at least one university called on all its staff and students to watch and report on anyone they thought was experiencing “mental health issues”.

          Our representative bodies have colluded with and unwittingly presided over this advancement of the very thing we thought they were against – there is now no escape. And the only way out is to change things.

          The problem is that our representatives have not caught up. They are as determined as ever to work with oppressors and cement our fate. They have no idea what they say. And it is becoming downright dangerous.

          One of the biggest issues is “pleasing everyone” – there is no understanding that the idea behind discussions on how to implement rights is exactly the way to “please everyone”. Everyone does need to overcome the hurdle of understanding what rights mean: that everyone sets their own identity and goal and gets the right to be a full legal person with full rights and responsibilities.

          This means a different thing to every person. So the hard part is getting people to first understand that we are all different not just “consumers/survivours with diverse perspectives” but fundamentally different human beings, united only by the fact that we have come into circumstances in which we were deprived of the rights of being full legal persons.

          We have different philosophies, different outlooks and different goals, the idea of human rights is to consolidate them all. Not to make a decision for another person. So a statement such as “the mental health system needs us” is terrifying. The implication is that the aim is to preserve “the mental health system” the very thing that needs to be dismantled.

          Those who are happy with the way things are need to be facilitated to be able to live their lives in such a way as if things didn’t change, while it fundamentally changes. That sounds like a paradox, but it really isn’t.

          We can’t have any of these conversations if people keep being possessed with the “mental health system” and what they think the obstacles are in the way of it’s dismantling. Those obstacles will present themselves soon enough. Our “representatives” have no right to paternalistically decide that we wont embark on the very endeavour they claim to be all about: getting our international human rights out of the UN and into our lives.

          It is not acceptable to be exploited by anyone. Not those who think its “for our own good”. Whether they have been oppressed or not. When they start abrogating rights, they are unwittingly or otherwise passing on the oppression. Not ending it.

          These are hard things to say. But I feel they must be said. And will need to keep being said until they are heard and responded to. Not made to go away.

          • I agree that psychiatry has got to go. The system is inherently flawed–because it is built on the faulty foundation of social darwinism and views human beings solely through the lens of biodeterminism.

            Perhaps trying to eradicate psychiatry is unrealistic. But not as unrealistic is hoping psychiatrists will willingly forego their absolute authority just to be nice.

            As Jimmy Stewart said in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: The only causes worth fighting for are the lost ones.

      • I think, in one sense or another, you have to deal with the benefits to psychiatrists of giving shock treatments. This is to say, that they take home more money, and in that sense, are served by the treatments more than their captives and “clients” when they give them. ECT is a “most effective” treatment because there is an industry behind it, and it pays more than other treatments.

        Not towing the mainstream line is heresy as far as some of these psychiatric professionals are concerned. They are very protective of the power that they’ve amassed, and they consider it impolite to be questioned about the science behind it, or lack thereof. I think that there may be ways into academia, I just doubt that those ways are going to be through the conventional psychiatric journal. Typically they are very much funded by big pHarma, and a matter of singing to the choir, that is, telling the converts (evangelicals of the mental illness faith) what they want to hear.

        • I think the point in writing to Australsian Psychiatry was to highlight all of that.
          We know it, sure but the public doesn’t.
          There’s a difference between knowing how messed up these people are being and letting them get away with it.
          I really applaud the authors for doing what they did.
          It was bold and necessary.
          I’d like to find out how it goes from here.
          There is a big shift in things – it’s pushing in to wider society the realisation that things are not right, on a great many levels.
          It’s important to realise the “world order” we’ve become accustomed to seeing as so fixed and unchangeable in this arena and in others is collapsing.
          Psychiatry is under fire. It’s being questioned in ways it hasn’t faced since Rosenhan.
          It’s doing it’s best to try and obsfucate, sweet talk and/or bully, distort or otherwise unduly influence it’s way out of international law – but the bottom line is – a higher authority than psychiatry has made it abundantly clear its stranglehold on life has got to go.

          Our governments may or may not give a fig, but countries are not their governments. Our country is slowly finding it’s feet and blinking in the sunlight – however falteringly. It’s dawning on at least some that the work of democracy is more than convincing incumbent governements or voting in elections. We are trying to come to terms with the fact we have to figure out how to avoid totalitarianism (not just in this arena – overall). The old battle between ‘left and right’ has dissipated and people are trying to negotiate a way through to working out how to be a people.

          In this circle of oppression we have got issues with representation and organisation and I think there’s a need to admit that the ‘consumer’ movement was a failure in many senses – in retrospect the idea of sitting on panels with our abusers and trying to change them was … a terrible one.
          It’s left a lot of people even more entrenched than before in this system & some even justifying it.
          But on the other hand, there is more energy than ever to speak about abuse.
          And end it.
          This past year has been important in Australia because most people hid, for a long time, it was too terrifying to try and speak to the general public when persecuting muslims and just about everyone else was the main order of business.

          There has been a big shift. I don’t think those ensconced in consumer work have quite grasped it yet in general.
          But there is nothing I can fault in this move – it’s calling out the abusers, plainly and clearly. It’s direct, straightforward and honest and I’d like to see where it ends up.
          I credit the authors – big time, what they did took serious guts and I hope it works out with a heartfelt apology. If not, I’d love to see what the results are either way because it is valuable information on the state of play.

          • I tend to disagree with what you are saying. I don’t think we’ve experienced any great shift in perspective basically. I think the numbers tell a different story. How do you increase the numbers of people “suffering from a mental illness”? Obviously, you make treatment a consumer product. If there aren’t then more people “suffering from mental illness”, there certainly are more people “suffering” from mental health treatment. Sure, there are some people that have a more health conscious approach to treating people for being caught up in unfortunate situations, but, generally, it’s a matter of the health conscious people striving to compete on the market with more mainstream, and blatantly harmful, approaches. In short, two wrongs don’t make a right, but eventually the wrongs have to add up to an even bigger wrong.

    • Too bad we don’t have any antipsychiatry journals publishing at this time. If we did, we could give…or not…psychiatry a space to address our objections to interpersonal interventions in the name of that abstraction, “mental health”.

      I think it great that Bonnie Burstow managed to launch an antipsychiatry scholarship. You want ‘mad studies’ in the classroom? Even, perhaps, a ‘mad studies’ scholarship? Then we could use more of that sort of thing.

      Expecting psychiatry (that academic discipline in particular) to listen to our concerns, ironically enough, is expecting a little bit too much.

      • Freedom Magazine still publishes online and also has a print edition.
        There should be more such publications. It deals with more than just the psychiatry problem, but it also takes the view that a lot of these societal upsets share a similar, if not identical, source.

      • I agree it’s not realistic to expect them to listen. But when was it ever a reasonable expectation that those with desire for and possession of complete power over others would listen?

        The process of offering an opportunity, in good faith, in a clear and academic fashion for psychiatry’s principle *peer-reviewed* journal – highly respected in mainstream circles – including the media and the general public – to engage in the necessary process of academic criticism is extremely important.

        Sadly, not because there is any expectation they will actually engage in good faith in the reflection such criticism is supposed to promote in healthy academia – but because the fact that they refuse to. In this case also important is that the shocking manner of refusal and the clear issues of danger and harm in refusing to include first person critique that the methodology by which they outline the purpose of, and assess “success” of their procedures is fundamentally flawed need to be brought into awareness of the general academic community, and the wider community.

        Entering into an evidenced, transparent attempt at good-faith resolution is obviously something that one would prefer leads to good-faith participation on the part of the person or organisation approached. However, in the real world when addressing entrenched injustice, there is always a need for a ‘plan B’ in recognition that persons may not engage in good faith and there will be a need to reflect on this problem in a wider context.

        This experience is among tools of legal stakeholdership and full legal personhood that many who move in privileged circles are accustomed to learning and applying. They should not be a privilege – as a healthy and genuine democratic process needs to involve means to resolve problems in ways that facilitate the needs of *all* stakeholders fairly and equitably. Available means or participating in society and discourse need to ensure a ‘stake’ is granted on a reasonable and equitable basis. For example: a reasonable ‘stake’ for psychiatry might be to *offer*, with honesty and integrity, a particular type of support to persons who choose to take it or leave it in an informed manner. It is not a reasonable ‘stake’ for psychiatry to be granted the means to control or distort information, present polemic or ideological beliefs as “The Truth” and childishly bully or repress all those who attempt to offer a very different point of view. It is, of course not reasonable for psychiatry to force its ideological beliefs violently or otherwise on persons seeking to decide what support or frameworks of understanding they might choose for negotiating difficult situations in life. This is among the reasons why forced psychiatric ‘interventions’ have been found to meet criteria for torture under international human rights law (1).

        Persons who have been deprived of the means to be full legal actors in society are done so by a number of different means. The UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (‘UNCRPD’) has been written to overcome some of these (2). However, implementation of the convention faces many of the same obstacles the convention itself was written to overcome. Unfamiliarity with strategies that are used successfully by those who do achieve the means to act as stakeholders in legal and organisational reform are in some ways the “low hanging fruit” for groups and individuals seeking a way to claim their fair and equitable ‘stake’ in the process of reform. In short: persons consigned to low socioeconomic status, and other conditions tow which experience of being a full legal actor is denied (3) never learn – by experience or by education – the means by which those who do have such experience (and connection) exert their ‘pull’ on society. Learning “how it is done”, without compromising integrity, might be more accessible than expecting integrity to spontaneously blossom among those who currently enjoy full legal personhood as a privilege – when it needs to be a fundamental human right.

        (1) For further discussion of torture see eg. https://www.academia.edu/27634155/A_response_to_the_report_by_Juan_E._M%C3%A9ndez_Special_Rapporteur_on_Torture_dealing_with_torture_in_the_context_of_healthcare_as_it_pertains_to_nonconsensual_psychiatric_interventions

        (2) For a discussion of the legal norms UNCRPD introduces into ratifying countries and some of the obstacles facing implementation of the convention see eg.
        https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2037452

        (3) for a discussion of the problematic nature of legal capacity from as it affects persons with perceived or actual psychosocial disability, and others see eg.
        https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272260968_Legal_Capacity_from_a_Psychosocial_Disability_Perspective_A_Discussion_Paper

        All three of the references above are written by Tina Minkowitz – an international human rights lawyer and psychiatric survivour who represented the World Network of Users and Survivours of Psychiatry (‘WNUSP’) (http://www.wnusp.net/) at the United Nations and was a principle drafter of the UNCRPD.

        The three academic sites linked above: Researchgate, Academia and SSRN abstracts are means by which academic thought and discussion can be shared in a wider context from the barriers imposed by access to publication in peer reviewed journals. Some sites also have AI that generates suggested papers which can be very useful in gaining the knowledge and the language that has long been an impediment to balanced participation in knowledge, discussion and ultimately – social change.

        Academia isn’t supposed to exist to dominate thought, but to explore it – collaboratively. As in many periods throughout history – education being the jealously guarded privilege of a few is a major obstacle in achieving a just and equitable society where diversity is embraced. But this is ultimately self-defeating. Systems of ‘knowledge’ based on power unbalance a system that responds to reality, no matter how hard vested interests try to control or distort the public’s perception. Breaking the segregation of marginalised perspectives is an important part of restoring sense and reason to a society of interdependence. It’s good for everyone – while a society based on forces of addiction to power and control is ultimately bad for everyone.

        I think that’s my nerdy way of reinterpreting the famous statement “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it tends towards justice”. It’s also been reflected in my experience of attempting to find ways to make that arc a damn sight shorter.

        Underneath all the hype, it’s not power or money but effective action that drives the outcome of any historical process – it’s wise to learn as much as possible about how things work – and how to bring about change that makes justice, equity and meaningful democracy change from an ideal of compromise and competitive ‘voting’ to one of discussion and facilitation of representing *everyone’s* subjective needs.

        Learning about obstacles and how to overcome them does not need to involve complicity, nor avoid the frank acknowledgement that dealing with unreasonable or dishonest actors will always be something that needs to be overcome.

    • Spot on. Lumping the terms “consumer” and “survivor” together as though they are peas in a pod demonstrates the extent to which the concerns of the authors are out of touch with the reality “on the ground.”

      There is no “consumers’ movement” that isn’t 100% pure astroturf. And MH professionals should not be using the term “mad” to makes themselves sound edgy and “woke”; this is a term that many if not most of us reject, and its use by professionals is akin to when “hip” white liberals felt entitled to call Black people “spades.”

        • Most haven’t been given any other choice.

          Most have been systematically deprived of any language or concept of their experience other than that presented by the dominant narratives of ‘mental health’ – and also deprived of the means to explore from first-hand experience to evolve subjective language and understanding of their lives.

          Those with limited access to such things are still trapped in a world that is as ‘hermetically sealed’ as that of psychiatry itself. A world where complicity is not seen as a pitfall to avoid – but a “necessity” for survival and being heard. That is the only means by which the overt and obvious opportunities for advancement or participation have been provided. Those who didn’t follow this ‘mainstream’ work without the fanfare – where it’s quieter and easier to get things done. This, however is an arena well within the sites and frequently exploited by all those vested interests who know how the (currently unbalanced) democratic process works. While the ‘consumer’ movement and the voices proclaiming themselves as ‘mad’ are distracted by the overwhelming obstacles in a rudimentary view of what drives social change – those who know how to talk to decision makers without being seen as ‘mad’ have merrily exploited every possible avenue to extend their ownership of whomever they point the finger at – particularly easy when those under your power have no means to represent their own perspective convincingly and believably in a way that evokes dignity and respect (without paying tribute to some ‘higher power’ who ‘knows’ more about one’s own inner process of thinking and learning than one is able to comprehend oneself).

          Being completely pragmatic: how can a person or group who doesn’t understand their own experience be expected to be trusted in an equal transaction? I don’t like it – and I’m acutely aware that most (if not all) people in society don’t genuinely understand their own experiences. But those who claim they have a master who does, need to be aware of the fact that they have made themselves the chattels of that master. While those who have not done so – have not.

          This takes place in a society where such tributes are becoming more widespread.

          Sadness and torment were once normal parts of life – not too long ago the mainstream media response to learning about growing prescriptions of ‘Prozac’ was to immediately worry that a pill to negate sadness or misery would prevent the necessary processes of understanding what was wrong and addressing the situation.

          Even ‘madness’ – that vague and nebulous term applied to all experiences that defied the comprehension of the speaker who applied it – was routinely explored in philosophy art and literature (indeed even some branches of psychiatry), both from a perspective of the deep personal meanings it conveyed where no direct words could be spoken (famously in Shakespeare’s character Ophelia, for example) and from that of the political pressures and distortions that dominated mainstream epistemology (famously by Michael Foucault, for example).

          All this has been replaced by a system of pat-pedagogical “training” and “information” that would make the Leading forces of George Orwell’s Ingsoc proud. The methods, whether deliberate or incidental, have been almost identical to those offering control over language, and hence over thought, to the ambitious leaders in the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

          I have no problem with anyone using any word to explore or describe their own experience – provided they employ a clear and obvious disclaimer that this *is* their own ideological point of view and don’t behave in a manner that breaches the very norms the human rights they purport to stand up for outlines: That each person needs to be respected in their subjective understanding of their own life and experience, set their own identity and agenda and the purpose of discussion is to figure out how to implement a means of making that become an accessible human right in the real, everyday world.

          I share the reservations expressed by many here that announcing oneself as “mad” or “mentally ill” are equally unlikely to pave the way to a respected and equal seat at the table – and that these are both terms that are incensing and nonsensical to me in understanding what has occurred in my own life.

          But part of the rights won in UNCRPD are those of taking risks and making mistakes on an equal basis with others. So long as “madness” and “mental illness” are reduced to interesting, or even quizzical, philosophical or ideological belief systems that some people choose to apply to themselves – not ‘facts’ given the power to dictate ‘risk assessments’ for the full and unreserved participation in every aspect of life. I have no trouble with them. But sadly I have found few belonging to either philosophy have even attempted with the need to struggle with representing their own philosophy or ideology as nothing but their chosen school of thought – not a dogma to be forcibly applied to others or conflated unquestioningly with the “reality” of life.

          In short: its making a fool out of everyone, young and old irrespective of their position in society.

          Thanks for your patience with my long rants. This is a topic that has been ignored for so long I don’t see a way to break that seal in only a few words most of the time. The context has been removed from the conversation.

        • Most haven’t been given any other choice.

          Most have been systematically deprived of any language or concept of their experience other than that presented by the dominant narratives of ‘mental health’ – and also deprived of the means to explore from first-hand experience to evolve subjective language and understanding of their lives.

          Those with limited access to such things are still trapped in a world that is as ‘hermetically sealed’ as that of psychiatry itself. A world where complicity is not seen as a pitfall to avoid – but a “necessity” for survival and being heard. That is the only means by which the overt and obvious opportunities for advancement or participation have been provided.

          Those who didn’t follow this ‘mainstream’ work without the fanfare – where it’s quieter and easier to get things done. This, however is an arena well within the sights of and frequently exploited by all those vested interests who know how the (currently unbalanced) democratic process works.

          While the ‘consumer’ movement and the voices proclaiming themselves as ‘mad’ seem distracted by the overwhelming obstacles apparent in a rudimentary view of what drives social change – those who know how to talk to decision makers and others without being seen as ‘mad’ have merrily exploited every possible avenue to extend their ownership of whomever they point the finger at – particularly easy when those under your power have no means to represent their own perspective convincingly and believably in a way that evokes dignity and respect (without paying tribute to some ‘higher power’ who ‘knows’ more about one’s own inner process of thinking and learning than one is able to comprehend oneself).

          Being completely pragmatic: how can a person or group who don’t understand their own experience be expected to be trusted in an equal transaction? This is not a rhetorical question but a genuine obstacle to overcome in negotiation of what should be ‘risk assessment’ in policy and law. I don’t like it – and I’m acutely aware that most (if not all) people in society don’t genuinely understand their own experiences. But those who claim they have a master who does, need to be aware of the fact that they have made themselves the chattels of that master. While those who have not done so – have not.

          This takes place in a society where such tributes have become more widespread – even rampant.

          Sadness and torment were once normal parts of life – not too long ago the mainstream media response to learning about growing prescriptions of ‘Prozac’ was to immediately worry that a pill to negate sadness or misery would prevent the necessary processes of understanding what was wrong and addressing the situation.

          Even ‘madness’ – that vague and nebulous term applied to all experiences that defied the comprehension of the speaker who applied it – was routinely explored in philosophy art and literature (indeed even some branches of psychiatry), both from a perspective of the deep personal meanings it conveyed where no direct words could be spoken (famously in Shakespeare’s character Ophelia, for example) and from that of the political pressures and distortions that dominated mainstream epistemology (famously by Michael Foucault, for example).

          All this has been replaced by a system of pat, pedagogical “training” and “information” that would make the Leading forces of George Orwell’s Ingsoc proud. The methods, whether deliberate or incidental, have been almost identical to those offering control over language, and hence over thought, to the ambitious leaders in the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

          I have no problem with anyone using any word to explore or describe their own experience – provided they employ a clear and obvious disclaimer that this *is* their own ideological point of view and don’t behave in a manner that breaches the very norms the human rights convention they purport to stand up for outlines: That each person needs to be respected in their subjective understanding of their own life and experience, set their own identity and agenda and the purpose of discussion is to figure out how to implement a means of making that become an accessible human right in the real, everyday world.

          I share the reservations expressed by many here that announcing oneself as “mad” or “mentally ill” are equally unlikely to pave the way to a respected and equal seat at the table – these are both terms that are incensing and nonsensical to me in understanding what has occurred in my own life. But part of the rights won in UNCRPD are those of taking risks and making mistakes on an equal basis with others.

          So long as “madness” and “mental illness” are reduced to interesting, or even quizzical, philosophical or ideological belief systems that some people choose to apply to themselves – not ‘facts’ given the power to dictate ‘risk assessments’ for the full and unreserved participation in every aspect of life. I have no trouble with them. But sadly I have found few belonging to either philosophy have even attempted recognising the need to struggle with representing their own philosophy or ideology as nothing but their chosen school of thought – not a dogma to be forcibly applied to others or conflated unquestioningly with the “reality” of life.

          I’m also acutely aware I may frequently fall into such a trap myself.

          In short: the increasing inability to separate group ideology from raw subjective experience of reality and the possibility of forming one’s own unique and personal understanding is making a fool out of almost everyone, young and old irrespective of their position in society.

          Thanks for your patience with my long rants. This is a topic that has been ignored for so long I don’t see a way to break that seal in only a few words most of the time. The context has been removed from the conversation.

          • Seriously. How does a phd = self awareness?

            The stability it takes to get a degree is detrimental to understanding what is called mental illness

            Are you an academic?

            I know people hate reductionist explanations of human behavior and my certainty is taken as naivety but take a gander. Its both incredibly basic and based on well accepted assumptions, and completely unique and controversial af. its a very quick read. Its also over a year old and I’ve figured out alot more since then.

            https://medium.com/@bothandneither33/algorithm-of-survival-189d2cb0035

  4. Nicely written and referenced response to the article in Australasian Psychiatry. Unfortunately, these major psychiatric journals are not just biased, they have deep conflicts of interest and can not be seriously expected to show much sympathy to survivors of the traumas and other iatrogenic harms caused by ECT or other psychiatric interventions that make big money and have cult-like worship.

    Next time, it would probably be better to submit a critique in a more friendly journal, even if less high profile and even if it does not register a response from the original journal.

    Please also see this archived article I wrote of cases of violence and death associated with ECT. Note the Trigger Warning.

    Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and violence, death, suicide, and homicide

    archive.fo/4xkW9

  5. I’ve seen a number of self-accounts in copies of the Journals of Orthomolecular Psychiatry and of Orthomolecular Medicine. Maybe that was one reason they’re blackballed by the psychiatric community, and probably now also by the orthodox medical community (in addition to publishing stuff about nutritional treatments for fatal diseases like HIV/AIDS) except in British Columbia.

      • I am sure BCHarris has had plenty of experience.

        In the memoir I wrote and published, I have a section on my experience with an orthomolecular doctor. The memoir did not sell and I have taken it off the market, but it’s still available FOR FREE at my blog, if you are interested.

        I also did not have a very good experience. My parents had pushed me into it and they had driven me all the way to Princeton hoping for a miracle. I never found out how much they paid for the appointment, but it was a waste.

        If he had been the great miracle worker he was claimed to be, he would have told me that lithium causes kidney disease and to get off of it as soon I could. (Getting off that stuff is not that hard.)

        I hear that a long time ago when Dr. Breggin was taking patients, that’s what he would tell them. He saved many people’s lives that way.

        My new book, by the way, is coming out very soon and it’s about surviving after lithium damages your body. It is not about “lithium withdrawal” since really the only withdrawal is the scare tactics and lies commonly used in nuthouses. It’s about how to get away from the mental health system and how to deal with kidney disease naturally.

        • When did this take place? If it was back in the 1980’s or earlier, you might have run afoul of Carl Pfeiffer and his Brain Bio Center. I’ve read his stuff, and he tended to be heavy on initial drugging while he sorted out his patients’ chemistry. He had a background as a Professor of Pharmacology at Emory U. at Atlanta (among other things). I don’t think he ever did LSD and adrenochrome like Hoffer and Osmond did.

          • Yes, I believe it was 1985. And it was Carl Pfeiffer and the Brain Bio Center. I can’t believe my parents drove me there and suckered into it. He poked fun at me, I recall. It’s in my memoir. I didn’t know how to react. I remember telling my mother that we needed to listen to the real doctors, the psychiatrists.

            Years later, I had forgotten about Pfeiffer totally. In 2014 I dug up the paper he had given me. I was fairly sure the dietary recommendations he gave me were the carbon copy of what he told everyone else, but there it was.

          • bcharris. It was in the late 80’s and the Orthomolecular Psychiatrist had nothing to do with the Brain Bio Center.

            But he did believe in extremely large doses of vitamins, and hair testing for mineral levels and other tests. None of which were covered by insurance.

            I investigated these techniques as a later PhD trained in research Biopsychology and found no scientific proof of any Orthomolecular Psychiatry methods, either then, or now.

      • Yes, helpstillneeded. I had a couple of conversations with a gent moving north from the Oakland County area in my state. He was an old internist who became interested in therapeutic fasting, studying under Theron Randolph. He wanted to move to a less-polluted in our state, where he could supervise fasts (Randolph had him fast as part of his own instruction). As he was moving in, I got free instructions for adjusting my B3 (he was a shock doc downstate and probably started using B3 to help save his patients’ long term memories).
        Curiously, the hospital he was moving to wouldn’t let him fast patients because “it might be too dangerous”, but saw nothing wrong with his shock doc past (he did them all at his former hospital- thousands of them), an interesting observation on the psychiatric mentality.
        I found out about him at a monthly meeting of a group of former patients. One of the regulars was a guy who’d had 200 (plus or minus) zaps from assorted inept MD’s, who saw nothing wrong with the doc in question.

  6. You mention in your article Clifford Beers, the guy who helped turn moral management’s asylum building movement into a mental hygiene/mental health movement. Few people take note of the fact that he died in an asylum.

    “In 1939 Beers’s symptoms of mental illness returned, and he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, where he later died.”

    https://www.britannica.com/biography/Clifford-Whittingham-Beers

    John Thomas Perceval in Great Britain, too, another actor in the field of sorts, more to my liking, suffered a similar fate.

    “He died in Munster House asylum in 1876 aged 73 and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Thomas_Perceval

    Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard, the exception, because she was able to sell subscriptions to the articles advocating change she wrote. was able to stay afloat to the end of her life. One of her daughters, once her mother had passed away, was not so lucky, and died in an institution.

    I see a need for more paying gigs outside of the “mental health” sickness system itself. If you’re going to pack people off to your institutions because they don’t have a paying gig, creating this “trustee” system of “mental health” paid patient/ex-patients paraprofessional employees, becomes a problem in its own right. Surely, there are more ways to make a living besides making your career a matter of compounding the initial problem. IN the “mental health” system is not OUTSIDE of the “mental health” system, and as such, not so securely “healthy”, or supportive of an independent lifestyle, as it might be.

    • I agree! Why work for them? I know some people who call themselves “peers” and when I have talked to them, they actually say they can’t get a job doing anything else.

      That, I suppose, may very well be true if they walk into their next job interview saying they are ex-patients. I can’t believe they’d devalue themselves that way. YES, you can do other things. You just have to give it a try. And…just omit a few things from the backstory.

      If you train to do something new, you are just as valuable as any other trainee. The playing field is even if you keep some stuff to yourself.

      • There wouldn’t be any need to even do that if the system of structural discrimination ended.

        There actually *is* a lot of work that needs to be done that it’s vital gets done by people who have understand first person experience of these issues.

        But it’s not working for “the system” but how to end structural discrimination.

        So that people don’t see others as “ex mental patients” and all the imagery that entails.

        Of course, for the few that get paid gigs in it they have to do it all themselves, set up an NGO and get grants for it.

        Then it’s run on a shoestring.

  7. The Reviewer’s remark tying the matter to “the Church of Scientology” is a cheap shot. Totally without integrity or scruples, shows the persistent narcissistic control of psychiatry.

    “Or it has meant that only “agreeable” consumer views are invited.”

    Yes, the token lay person on any Complaint Committee is only to make it look good. The lay person wouldn’t be in that position long if they didn’t side with the Committees. Complaints Committees are kangaroo court, aka doctors investigating themselves.

    “Perhaps it is time to build more of our own tables: forums where people with lived experience set the agenda, and we invite others to join the agendas that we set.”
    Yes!
    Thanks for this report Dr. Maylea and Indigo.

  8. The authors’ experience is not in the least bit surprising, and they properly identify the privilege and power of the academic elite who don’t want their authority challenged. I would have liked to hear more of a connection made between that power and the money flowing to institutions from psychiatry, from equipment makers, and from the pharmaceutical industry. Academia has been largely corrupted when the door was opened to big corporations essentially buying research that promotes their product, including the right to not publish research which is critical. This ethos permeates the entire academic world (not just in psychiatry) to the extent that it is almost invisible to those who swim in that particular water. We don’t bite the hand that feeds us, especially when the owner of the hand can now bite back so painfully. We have to get big corporations disconnected from academic research!

    • Corporate influence has grown in the last few years making an uncorrupted presence, in academia or elsewhere, that much harder to come by. I imagine that in order to keep things less than tainted we will have to get the ‘money out of politics’. When corporations, like mob bosses, buy politicians it has a negative effect on the system as a whole from top to bottom. Changing academia will probably require a changing of the guard in politics as well. I’m a little chagrined that we could elect a president such as Obama just to have him appoint a corporate drug lord head of the FDA. We really need a better grade of statesmen to keep the level of such travesty down.

    • Steve, I think you fundamentally missed the point.
      And it frightens me.
      The article is about how human beings who have been treated as property (for over 300 years)
      and who have finally worked and achieve a binding international human rights agreement and a strong and mounting pressure to implement those rights are being abused for speaking – about their own experience.

      To you this might be “an exciting industry”

      To us, its a hideous system of oppression.

      You need to try and put yourself into the shoes of being a person without legal rights.

      Can you even imagine what that is like?

      You need to try and put yourself in the shoes of a person who everyone with a shingle thinks they can call themselves an “expert” on

      Can you imagine what that is like?

      Most people I speak to, who don’t have any direct first hand experience with oppression – can not.

      Those I speak to who have been oppressed in other ways seem to understand and relate to almost everything I”m saying – and then suddenly use the term “mental illness” to describe people behaving in ways they don’t like (such as being manipulative, grabbing power etc).

      There is nothing quite like this oppression that I can think of except perhaps what has been done to indigenous peoples – which is even more extreme.

      Everything you are – your very thoughts and feelings – is controlled, is appropriated. That isn’t even a fraction of it – but for a start, maybe reflect on that.

      If you can’t read that article, and understand what it says – you have fundamentally missed the entire point.

      There are more corrupt industries in this world than anyone can poke a stick at and most of them have some kind of fundamental messed up torture of human beings at their heart. But there are some that are supported by a wider society, not just implicitly but in the very way they look at the world and others in it.

      If you want to hear about the actions of the people doing the bad stuff, and aren’t remotely interested in the fact that the people having it done to are being treated like cattle and would like everyone to please take their hands off so they can get on with the business of enjoying the rights that everyone else takes for granted.

      Well – what can I say it’s a lot like watching “roots” and reflecting “I would have liked to hear more about the economic forces and the corrupt games the slavers were playing with each other”.

      Do you not understand that underneath all the fun and games – there are large group of human beings struggling to get out from under oppression and *own their own experience*?

      I am perturbed.

      I’d also like to point out that although it may (or may not) have changed recently – this blog is also one in which the first person voices of those it purports to be all about have been denigrated and under represented in the past.

      Not only that there has been abuse and gas-lighting on this very site. This is a problem that goes much deeper than the corruption of industries, it is deeply related to a fundamental segregation of human beings.

      The issue was about voices being missing from sight – missing from academia, missing from the “general population” – even the fact that there is use of such a term.

      This is an issue that can not be stressed enough and really will only be overcome when people stopped being spoken about, and start being represented, by themselves, in their own words.

        • If what you meant by your original comment was on the order of

          “Any mention of international human rights law and international inquiries into torture in a psychiatric context or a range of other important reasoning and evidence that highlight the need for increased regulation of ECT and of psychiatry in general were notably absent from both the peer reviewed article and the blog. However, Mad Voices provides only a summary of the commentary submitted to Australasian Psychiatry and the full commentary remains, as yet, unpublished.”

          (quoting myself in work I’m preparing for submission in a university assignment)

          then I agree with you and apologise, but sadly that wasn’t the way your original comment came across to me 🙁 mia culpa.

        • Sadly true. They also balk at any overtures to discuss some of the more subtle issues of indoctrination that they are unwittingly spreading in the hope of ‘overcoming stigma’ – unless these are painstakingly crafted so as they can’t be perceived as criticism. That’s a near impossible task IME – if anyone has any tips for how to deal with persons who do unpaid (or sometimes paid) advertising of the very dogma that keeps them trapped in discrimination and being owned – desperately hoping it will free them from this same problem, I would love to sit at your feet and learn. But not unquestioningly…. :-/

  9. I don’t think Dr. Josef Mengele would have taken kindly to his former patients’ complaints if he had been offered tenure for his scientific endeavors.

    While he was never punished for his crimes against humanity at least he was forced to quit hurting people. 🙁

  10. Dear Chris Maylea and Indigo Daya,

    Thank you for this very worthwhile Article.

    I believe the Facts On The Ground should indicate what works, and should be followed – not Academia.

    I’ve been. “Diagnosed” as “Schizophrenic” “Chronically Schizophrenic” and “Schizo Affective”, but have many, many years of proven Wellness behind me, as a result of leaving the Mainstream Psychiatric system.

    My “Severe Mental Illness Disability” the Hallmark of “Severe Mental Illness”, also left me very quickly when I left the Mainstream Psychiatric System.

    Had I remained “Severely Mentally Ill” for the past 40 years I would have cost the Irish Taxpayer about €3.5 Million (€80,000/Yr X 40yrs);

    I cost the Irish Taxpayer about €0.35 Million (€80,000 X 4Yrs), prior to taking charge of things myself.

  11. “…and one which will tell a person, to their face, that their experience is not true, not real, and not valid.”

    In my case Yes and No, the Academics and Neuro Scientists that looked after me completely omitted my recent historical experience in the summer of 1980. I had spent several months in Amsterdam prior to returning to London and ending up in the Maudsley Hospital for 2 months, and then returning to the Galway Ireland Regional Hospital.

    But there was no mention of Amsterdam where I had worked and lived for several months and had been socially acquainted with a young Northern Irish “Born Again Christian” man who matches the description of the person below..

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_McGrady

    (he had been concerned about a conversation we were supposed to have had, but that I couldn’t place)
    .

    The Maudsley Psychiatrist in 1980 though vague on nearly everything else had placed a strong emphasis on “street drug abuse”. Which I repeatedly denied.

    (Retrospectively I would deny knowingly or willingly taking street drugs).

    When I was transferred to Ireland in November of 1980 the Mental Health “History and Formulation” (without Amsterdam) was quoted by the UK accompanying Doctor and written and signed for by the Admitting doctor, rendering the information IMO, Unreliable.

    This Standard was accepted by my 1980 Consultant Psychiatrist and Academic Researcher at Galway Ireland.

    The UK accompanying Doctor from 1980 (I believe) ‘committed suicide’ around 2000; and the Admitting Doctor at Ireland from 1980 (based in the UK in 2000) was barred from practising medicine.

  12. First of all, our complaints are dismissed because they claim we’re crazy and don’t know what we are talking about.

    Some have gained a little bit of a voice by joining the opposition and becoming providers themselves.

    This leaves the rest of us. Many of us have other areas of expertise. But whatever that is, it counts for nothing. We don’t matter. Frankly, I’m so tired of being treated like a lowlife (in regular life and also in survivor circles) I am ready to scream. But…on the other hand, I can join the Lowlife Pride movement or some such thing. Might not have much choice. Or….maybe I get looked down on because I’m shorter than most of you.

    • I’ve been vaguely thinking about starting a new organising body – specifically for implementation of international human rights law, no affiliation with the “mental health system”
      But unsure of whether it is wise to start a psycho-social only body for a range of different reasons, the risk of co-option among them.
      But you aren’t alone, and it’s really good to hear that other people have been feeling this way.
      I’m fed up with the co-option. I’m fed up with those who are part of it not being able to see it.
      We aren’t having any conversations about all the many different things that are needed to be done to implement human rights – and far from facilitating everyone’s voice the consumer/user movement is just funnelling everyone’s energy into the same system of oppression that we’re supposed to be completely doing away with.

      Thanks for speaking up. If you’re interested in doing something with rights implementation outside of the services sector particularly (there’s no limit on what needs to be done). Please let me know. Be good to connect with others.

  13. The group I’m currently a part of is working on a project to get ECT banned in California. It looks like we will start with a ban on ECT on minors. Similar projects are being worked on in several other states in the U.S.
    With actions directed towards getting governments to act to protect human rights, we have a strategy that we hope will slow down the rate of abuse.
    But there have been LOTS of laws written to protect human rights. Yet human rights continue to be violated. So it is clear that this strategy alone cannot succeed, if what we want is a planet where all people act sanely and ethically towards each other.
    Assuming that we can (and we can!) understand this problem sufficiently to know exactly what needs to be done to achieve this higher goal, the work needed to make that happen still remains very daunting.
    But we have found that educational activities are a broad fundamental. These include informing people of what their rights are, which “answers” being pushed at them are criminal and which are sane, and various non-violent actions they can take to protect themselves from the criminal elements that exist at every strata of our society.
    In time we expect to be able to render those criminal elements harmless, for the most part.
    But that work requires more than mere education, and is obviously very far from complete.
    It would be helpful if we could get the academic community to “let us in.” There are already many dissident voices, even a few psychiatrists. So we should not assume that academia is totally in the criminals’ pocket, nor should we assume that about any agency or business, although in some cases the facts are pretty damning. I think if we see it as a problem with criminality in all the strata of society, then we can work in the direction of weeding that out rather than trying to totally replace those institutions just to get them to start acting sanely.

    • You mention having a strategy — can you share it?

      Academia is not generally a good vehicle for educating the masses, so you needn’t worry about having their approval. There are many ways to reach the people, who in the end will be the only ones to stop not just ECT but psychiatry en toto.

      • I don’t expect academia to educate the masses. I just don’t want to write them off as totally worthless. I have heard that government officials and other “professional” people listen to academia. That’s why I want to see criminality stripped out of that sector. People in academia are supposed to act ethically, and they really should, as should all of us.
        We educate the masses with real grassroots programs. There are many out there already.

          • It’s also associated with the actual church of scientology. Not attempting to introduce religious discrimination – but it’s a point that is worth mentioning, as they may or may not have other agendas

            If you’re looking for a psychosocial-specific worldwide organisation, without any religious ties, might I recommend taking a look at WNUSP?
            http://www.wnusp.net/

          • As far as Scientology goes, I think it’s high time those who avoided the subject in the past but want to see positive change on the planet take another look at this group, what they teach, and what they are trying to achieve. We all know that psychiatry is one of the biggest enemies of this group. Why? Informing yourself is now even easier since they now have a TV channel and streaming video website. This subject is a perfect example of how criminal psychiatrists have kept like-minded persons from working together with outrageous and untruthful accusations against one of the strongest groups opposing them. Who really wants that divide to continue?

          • People and institutions which claim to be “anti-psychiatry” but in fact want to replace it with their own brand of programming should always be suspect. Many people have collaborated with CCHR over the years due to their being the only game in town with their Scientology funds backing them, which must be recognized in retrospect as a tactical choice. However the general consciousness is higher now and we should be relying more on our own resources again so as to be free of such entanglements.

            Scientology/CCHR does have some excellent AP videos but it’s hard to see them as much more than a Trojan Horse. If they took all references to themselves off these videos, even in the small credits, let us plagiarize them without concern for copyrights, and distributed them for free we might have a basis for some kind of cooperation, but I won’t be holding my breath. And I said “might” so don’t (mis)quote me.

          • Again, I urge readers to look for themselves. Don’t rely on old misconceptions put in place with the help of (guess who?) psychiatry. I don’t see it as an “entanglement” to ally myself with a group that is working for a world without war, crime and insanity. Check out their streaming video site and decide for yourself. Don’t trust your enemies to tell you who you shouldn’t trust!

          • I take it as an insult when you imply that my distaste for Scientology has to be put in my head by psychiatrists, any more than our belief that grass is green is a reflections of a psychiatrist saying so, and I would bet others feel the same way.

        • I don’t know easy ways to reach the people – except by the irritating process of forming or joining an official organising body, and I wouldn’t call these ‘easy’.

          Starting online groups used to be relatively easy but Google’s ‘medic update’ makes that difficult to navigate, and I can’t see how they are really much use without an organising presence to at least associate with..

          The difficulty in accessing open communication and discussion from diverse perspectives (free from undue influence or pressure) and providing or finding a space for others to do so also is a major, major obstacle at this point.

          As are the means to roll out unadulterated but accessible education on international human rights…

          • If you’re looking for “easy” you’re on the wrong website! THEY reach the people with expensive marketing campaigns including appearances by “experts” on news shows and relentless advertising. We don’t have those kinds of resources, but we have some good and very informative material on the internet, and on DVDs. It’s a matter of contacting people and getting the material into their hands. I wouldn’t describe it as “easy.” But for something really worth doing, we might have to put aside “easy” and just keep working at it.

      • One strategy is to find allies, people we can work with, and one place to find them is in academia. I don’t think we want to shortchange ourselves in the tactic department. Not having people to work with is less conducive to change than having people to work with. We find people to work with, in the process of resisting harm. and fighting for change in the system. The “alternative” is more oppression, and with it, more injury, that is, non-action, or passively ‘aiding and abetting’ the enemy.

        • I agree about not shortchanging tactics.
          But I do want to highlight that some have taken to aligning themselves with academics that expect them to pay “a price”.
          I’d also like to point out that many of those active in many circles have come to equate the word “strategy” with the tacit assumption of ‘strategy of appeasement’
          I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out that not making unreasonable concessions to aggressive powers is *not* short changing oneself in the tactics department – but that following a strategy of appeasement *IS*.

          • Resistance to the unfair power disparity we face is the only strategy that we can take to the “aggressive powers” you mention. The system imposes these unfair power relations on people. As “appeasement” supports the system, a system based on this power disparity, no appeasement is possible. (In other words, appeasement supports the status quo, an unfair, oppressive status quo for many, and the only past the status quo is in opposition to appeasement.)

      • Academia has influence
        It’s not about getting “their approval”.
        That’s fundamentally missing the point.

        Academia influences “the masses” a lot more than it rightly should.

        “The masses” now can not access information on Google for example so well as they could before the “medic update”.

        “The masses” are swayed by “expertise” and might scream ‘antiscience!’, ‘anisychiatry!’ or “Scientology conspiracy!” without any sense of irony when led by unchallenged academic voices.

        Academics from other disciplines may swoop in and declare their “discovery” that paranoia occurs in the “general population” as well as those with “mental disorder” – again avoiding the opportunity to see the cracks in the logic of this unchallenged construct. Publishing in science’s most reputable journal, they may then influence “the masses” further in a new ideology that keeps them “normal” and less fortunate community members “disordered” no matter how obvious it ought to become that all those inscrutable things we used to call ‘madness’ are an entirely normal & understandable part of the general weirdness of being human.

        Unchallenged academics make things up with impunity. If you want to see how that affects “the masses” – look around.

        • Ironically, bizarre ideas like Flat Earthism are flourishing. Why? Because people are growing skeptical of the media…including SCIENCE driven sites.

          This dogmatism–refusing to even discuss the opposing viewpoint–shows intellectual laziness at best. Lack of evidence at worse.

          This is why the anti-vaxxer movement is growing. Not despite–but because of the militant censorship. I’m for vaccines myself (except maybe the flu kind) but the means the medical establishment has taken to silence the voices has backfired. Even some of them are admitting it.

          I agree with the anti-vaxxers that the bureaucrats running the medical system do NOT have our best interests at heart. Something a lot of people know or suspect to be true.

          • Anti-vaxx may genuinely have started among wealthy persons with influence and a strange inscrutable agenda I don’t purport to understand (but would hazard a wild guess it had more to do with Libertarianism than Scientology).

            Nowadays it’s a shrug with a taxi-driver as the radio blares some nonsense about the terrifying threat from resistance to widespread vaccination against measles – in common knowledge that we all grew up in times when measles was a regular and expected childhood disease that produced it’s own immunity and needed to be managed from a public health perspective – but not necessarily through vaccination.

            The taxi driver shrugs at the blaring BBC voice stating the “dangerous spread of anti-vaccination movement” and says simply “it’s because people can tell they aren’t being honest”.

            Branches of science that genuinely strive to be scientific, acknowledge the genuine uncertainty of knowledge sought under a sceientific philosophy have come under fire too. Climate scientists cringe when journalists use words like “unequivocal” and “proof” and strive to use phrases like “the best evidence available to date strongly indicates”. The focus is on attempting to break down the reasoning behind findings and conclusions into terms that allow laypersons to follow and engage with them. Not to bang a metaphorical fist on the table and shout about “expertise” and “authority” or creating wild conspiracy theories and screaming names at everyone who tries to raise a different view.

            There clearly is collusion to misrepresent science in that field – but leaders in science recognised that the solution to this was to make information and reasonable discourse accessible, not to shout at all those expressing distrust. It was not their fault that information was not being made accessible to layperson understanding. Climate scientists have worked to try and make it so, so discussion can be widened and based on points of reason. Sadly this hasn’t yet stopped devotees making the distinction about tribalism and authority – but it does at least hold the seeds to making such things unnecessary in the public discourse of scientific thought…

          • fnert, it’s hard to tell, are you criticizing pro-VAX forces for their manipulation of information and suppression of informed public debate, or those who accuse them of such? Do you think Twitter & the like should be suppressing info on natural healing? (I also challenge Rachel to articulate why she supports “vaccination,” since we’re on the subject, and wonder what information she bases this on.)

            More important, do or don’t you believe psychiatry should be abolished? Because this is starting to get pretty abstract.

        • These are all good points. Those commonly referred to as “opinion leaders” normally rise to their positions through the institutions of academia.
          It is not even that “ordinary people” are stupid or are totally barred from access to good data. It’s just that they expect people working in academia to help them sort out these issues and make them understandable. In a big and complex society it is not unreasonable to expect that some people in the group would specialize in this function. But of course that means that if those people are successfully misled, then all who depend on them for this purpose will also be misled. And so in the absence of a fully ethical academic community, we find the need for the ability to observe, think and act independently of the opinions of others. And while some may find it difficult or impossible to acquire that ability, it certainly is a valuable ability to have.

          • Very well said I_e_cox

            Academia needs to be accessible to everyone – there is a need for what is stated in academia to be made clear – and to enter into in discussion and criticism from outside academia itself, that feeds back to academia on an equal basis. Not being part of a particular discipline of inquiry does not in any way limit a person’s ability to understand or have insight into the topic that discipline is enquiring into.

            On the contrary, the norms and common methodological practices of particular disciplines can provide lenses of distortion that wise teachers in science try to train their students to recognise. I remember many of mine insisting that ecology students needed to get familiar with “muddy boots ecology” – spending time in the natural world to get a sense of how it works NOT reifying the constructs invented by ecologists. (I won’t comment on the irony of the absence of First Nations perspectives from that course – oops too late)

            It’s also important to recognise that academia does *not* necessarily mean data – the use of data, as well as other unchecked and unrecognised assumptions, can distort and occlude the genuine issues under enquiry. This can not be stated enough.

  14. We just need irrefutable obvious arguments. Well, I think this is one. I have tons though.

    If you told a parent that you knew exactly what it was like to have a child because you read alot of books, took a lot of tests, and questioned 100s of parents about raising a child, what would they say?

    obviously, no you don’t.

    soooooooo why is ‘mental illness’ any different?

    ————————

    I’m sure you’ve heard that many CEO’s and politicians are ‘psychopaths’ right? This is because they have suffered some sort of trauma ( everyone on the planet has suffered from trauma when you define it as ‘anything that makes you hate yourself’ ) but they need attention and validation just like every single other human that exists so they get it by being in control of it.

    On a stage, there is physical distance between you and your audience. They listen to you intently. There is no risk that comes with emotional intimacy. Total power over your form of social sustenance.

    Psychs (psychiatrists/psychologists) get this same thing in much more direct way. They can get off on the power difference between the ‘weak patient’ and the ‘social accepted highly credentialed doctor’. They have lots of power over the patient especially if the have a script pad. They can make recommendations that change their lives. And if a patient thinks there is something fishy going on, who are others gonna believe? the doctor or the crazy person?

    Not all psychs are like this. I’m guessing 75%ish are. Because they are insecure and thats what drives the need to dominate.

    The entire field of psychology is trying to be something its not. A hard science. But they can’t actually run any actual experiments because they cannot treat their subject like an object. Furthermore, they are the subject, yet they are supposed to be objective.

    What other science was necessary for survival over the past 70 million years? Didn’t need to know anything, except for how others behaved. 1/3 of our brain is dedicated to understanding others, and its somehow a restricted field of inquiry?

    The arrogance boils my blood.

    why is no one pissed off about histrionic personality disorder? its the most misogynistic diagnosis you could come up with. they may as well call it ‘on the rag disorder’

    • well said – on all fronts.

      I don’t know that I agree with any certainty about the theory re: trauma and CEO’s being the only possible perspective on what drives their behaviour (since this would be making psychology into something even more objective than a ‘hard science’) but I do like it.

      These are the kind of working beliefs that I recall people used to hold lightly about others in order to functionally negotiate the world – knowing they were ultimately just opinions and being OK with that.

      Now we have stereotypes about those in powerless positions being made “real” and systematically taught to people through official training programs, while those in powerful positions go notably un-examined.

      The old adage of “if you’re rich – you’re eccentric, if you’re poor, you’re insane” is alive and well and codified into a very boring ideology of lists and names for what is essentially nothing more than formally entrenched stereotyping.

      Incidentally, on many fronts the opportunity to change education to being a rights-based understanding of diversity and everyone owning their own perspective is *there* but the access to communication and organising among stakeholders who need their rights met with regards to perceived or actual psychosocial disability has been co-opted by groups who don’t get these principles themselves, and see complicity with the status quo as the only way.

      It’s a major frustration…

      • Is there a madinamerica discord or iirc? If not, I can make one.

        Would you believe that there is a physiological system in the brain that hides aspects of the way it works because it thinks we will die if we find out?

        I realize that is an insane sounding statement, but I derived it from very very basic assumptions.

        What happens when you become afraid of something necessary for survival?

        • I don’t know what the discord or iirc is about sorry don’t know those things

          doesn’t sound so insane at all denial is a pretty everyday thing, most things turn out to be involving input from various different areas in the brain that adapt in various ways as we learn and do various things

          but it’s about as meaningful to me as a physiological system in the brain that processes mathematics or the finer points of cutting hair.

          It’s interesting enough from a nerdy point of view, but not helpful to me – personally – in making sense of the weird or otherwise things people do in life like denial. But everyone’s different with what they find helpful in making sense of things…

          It’s also true though that people hide things from others that they are well aware of themselves – because they believe they will be discredited or lose something they are deeply attached to (like power and status) if they don’t

          so it can be hard to tell which is going on sometimes 🙁

        • sorry – I don’t think it should be “abolished” purely because that would be an abuse of the human rights of those who do actually choose it and find it helpful.

          I do believe that it should be constrained to a guild of persons providing a particular form of CRPD compliant support (ie free from undue influence or pressure – including completely honest that what it is offering is an *ideology* not ‘fact’) and that it should not be a power exerting undue influence politically and economically in terms of constraining the available information, marketing in ways that amount to undue influence or pressure, putting pressure on governments to abrogate and abuse human rights etc.

          It’s one thing for someone to believe in horoscopes and choose to consult an astrologer about their own life, it’s entirely another for astrologers to be able to set government policy and force everyone to be limited by their horoscope or believe it is a ‘fact’ – if you like

          whether or not there need to be other constraints put on psychiatry to safeguard the human rights of its clients and others I don’t yet know, it’s hard enough to even talk about rights because they are constantly manouvering to get the conversation buried.

          • fnert, Abolishing psychiatry does not impose on the rights of those who choose it. Right to psychiatry is not a human right that I know of. Do I have the right to astrology? Not really. I have the choice to go to an astrologer…or maybe not. The freedom to choose for oneself, that’s a human right. I also have the choice to become a drug dealer, but if I chose that,I would be breaking the law and I might get in trouble. Still, I have the right to choose. I hope I choose wisely.

            Even if psychiatry is banned, people will have the right to choose it. It will be an unwise choice, but come to think of it, many people, myself included, make bad choices.

    • Psychology is a very soft science if not a branch of the humanities like history or anthropology.

      Psychiatry is a pseudo science. Psychology has been poisoned by buying into its unduly pessimistic, brutal view of “defective criminal types.” AKA social Darwinism.

  15. bothandneither33. I assume you are referring to me since I have a PhD in Biopsychology and am a male.

    I tried to reply directly to your comment but there was no “reply” option after your comment as there was for other comments.

    Please don’t judge my book by it’s cover.

    I am also a college dropout, a licensed massage therapist, and have been/am a factory worker, construction worker, jazz flutist, potter, teacher in medical school, advocate of both female and male rights, sexual abuse victim, 8 time psychiatric patient in a hospital I worked in, “mental patient”, writer for many corrupt pharmaceutical companies, volunteer investigating a rare genetic disorder ( Lowe Syndrome), experienced scientific researcher, co-creator and leader of an eclectic dance group (www.hcdance.org), a potter, a jazz flute player, someone who taught himself to play guitar and saxophone, and someone who attempted suicide.

    So I have a varied background especially with our US mental health system.

    I read (took a gander at) your piece on medium.com and feel it is a good start, but hope you will “finish” what you began at least a year ago adding additional material which you have learned.

    As a PhD my “cover” does not represent “myself” Does yours?

    Take good care bothandneither33.

    • Sorry I didn’t mean you specifically. I unfortunately talked about my theory to psychology students and degree holders online and they were very very very mean. I gotta get over that somehow.

      But the point still stands overall, a PhD does not guarantee self-awareness. It’s something the system needs to recognize. But then they need to recognize alot of stuff.

      • Oh my goodness the academic snobbery of PhD and MD holders is over the top! Even in some “alternatives to psychiatry” circles, you’re considered a higher class if you have an MH degree, which is seriously contradictory if you think about it. If you have another type of degree, or no degree, you’re a piece of garbage.

  16. There is something to be said for higher education. I’m not sure what though. Right now you’ve got a professional caste lording it over everybody else. This professionalism, in fact, ends up being more important to some people than the truth. Go to school and get a 5 or 6 digit salary, your other option is complete and utter failure, relatively or socially speaking.

    Aw, I dunno. If it’s alright with you, I’m just going to forgo the blue collar thing. Thanks anyway.

    ….On the other hand, I think there is a place for mad studies and the like in academia. Getting there, if anybody has the strength, stamina and patience to do so, certainly wouldn’t be a matter of falling on your face.

      • The mass of college grads think in more practical terms than to major in art history. If you go there, of course, it’s the old college adage of “publish or perish”. Either one writes or one teaches or…one flips burgers, changes tires, what have you…

        I imagine the blue pill comment is in reference to so-called sex “workers”, and I’m not going there. Blue pill manufacturers, on the other hand, are part of the problem. All sorts of people are getting rich selling drugs of one sort or another while only so many people are saying, whoa, maybe drugs are not the solution.

        • Frank, I just read an article by people in the economics field who make six-figure salaries. All of them stated that we need more of the humanities in the colleges, not less. Many stated that in the employment world, and especially if one is a CEO of a company, the most important skill they learned in college was communication. The article further stated that people who major in the arts (music, writing, fine arts, dance, etc) end up making equal salaries to those who majored in a STEM field. The difference is right after college, where STEM grads are more likely to get a good job. After a decade, it evens out. (When you die it won’t matter anyway.)

          • Which is what our fearless “consumer groups” are doing. Here too, I wonder how many have the ability to recognise that this issue is not about “mental health” and that the very idea of “mental health” is an ideology people need to be free not to live under?

            People seem to think it’s all about “changing the way we look at mental health”. Can anyone even remember we didn’t used to have “mental health” imposed on us as a lens through which we all had to see the world?

            It wasn’t even that long ago.

          • But it was that long ago. The “sanity” coppers have been imposing treatment on people for a few centuries now (torture, drugging, confinement). “Mental health” is supposed to be an outcome of this treatment. Who buys “mental health” treatment? The so-called “mentally ill”. Why? Because the so-called “mentally healthy” don’t need it.

            “Mental health” is not an ideology as far as I’m concerned. It’s the heaven of the “mental illness” religion. As long as people don’t “get well”, er, ‘act regular’, we’re going to have “consumers”, that is, “mental illness” religion converts. We can’t “fix ’em”, say the would be “sanity” repair people. No. That would bring business to a standstill. As long as people buy “mental health”, the obverse of “mental illness”, somebody is raking in the cash. For what, you might ask, and the answer is basically for doing one’s small part in supporting human misery.

    • I personally loved college. I learned a lot and thrived in that environment. I felt like I mattered, even though in many ways it was totally fake. When you get out you realize this. You might matter while you’re a student. After all, students generate income for the colleges. Students make the college look great.

      Is anyone else out there disgusted that once you finish college the only time the college EVER contacts you again is to ask for money? That’s when you realize you’re not useful to them anymore. Your money is useful. You aren’t.

      Years ago, I remember one day when I was starving and out of it, one of my former colleges called me up for that yearly plea for donations. When I saw the college in my caller ID, I told myself that they were inviting me to do a reading or give a talk, that they finally recognized that I had written and published a book and they actually remembered what a good student I was. I can see why I continued to starve after I found out what the real agenda was, and what most people’s real agenda is.

      • Frank: lol I kind of love your reasoning.
        But I would say that at this stage in development (or any stage) “mental health” is an ideology – by which I mean a religion without gods. Like IngSoc was an ideology. All encompassing, indoctrinated, enforced.Or a religion or cult or whatever.

        In Australia the 5 tier stepped care model called everyone something. In the entire population. If a person went through a relationship breakup, (given as an actual example) or any other upheaval, they were labelled “at risk of developing mental illness”. This was estimated to be 43% of the population. Everyone else was ranked mild, moderate or severe “mental illness”. Or “in good mental health”. A minority of the population.

        So what is “good mental health”? It is apparently not experiencing anything remotely distressing and not being remotely distressed or emotionally affected by anything.

        If it is not a religion, or ideology to consider that to be “good mental health” or indeed to go around categorising or labelling any experience in life as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, in some kind of linear, quasi-objective sense I will eat my hat.

        Mental health is a religion/ideology/cult whatever you call it. That if you ask me I would personally say is utterly off its rocker.

        Life is complex and infinitely diverse and I do not want to experience a life without nuance or emotions. Personally I think that is “unhealthy”.

        It’s stark raving nuts and out of touch with reality. But that’s because that’s a pejorative. When I was processing in a way so as to sort out my inner reality, I was not nuts, I was processing my own inner reality, that was more important to me at that time than the usual conventions of interpreting things in line with some kind of common & agreed interpretation. I needed to sort things out that I had blocked for a long time and walking around in an interactive projection of my subconscious was a good way to do it. Nothing “nuts about it”.
        Maybe if someone could explain *why* they think it’s “healthy” to never be distressed and “unhealthy” to have any distress or nuance in their lives, and I could understand why they thought that way, it wouldn’t seem so nuts and I could respect it as their ideology or religion or whatever.

        But since the general community isn’t willing to understand my experience, without me doing a hell of a lot of soul searching until I can explain what it meant and why I did it in a way that hopefully leads to them accepting it. Buggered if I’m not going to make them work just as hard.

        • I think you hit it on the head. “Mentally healthy” in these circles seems to mean not experiencing any strong emotion of any type. Like Stepford Wives or Invasion of the Body Snatchers. “Once you do the transformation, you’ll understand.” If those pea pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers really existed, the psychiatric profession would be very excited about them.