Professional Mental Health Leaders: Experts in Humanity or in Marketing?

Caroline Colwill
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The mental health professionals who make it as experts in mental health in mainstream media typically seem like kind, empathic, wise, insightful, good people.  The kind of people who seem as though they might be able to really help you, and offer good life guidance.  They sometimes encourage people to get “help” when they are experiencing difficulties in life.  This, in my experience, is deceptive advertising.  It’s the kind of promotion that can easily lure an unsuspecting public into an industry that has actually done and continues to do a lot of harm to some people.  What was done to me by the mental health industry entailed human rights abuses and flat out torture.  I am well aware that I am not the only one.

There is the potential for reward for the “mentally ill” who speak to the marketing agendas of the industry.  We must accept our inferior status, and praise, rather than criticize “treatments.”  You can become a low-wage peer counselor.  You can bring the authenticity of your experience to your professional mental health work, as Kay Redfield Jamison and Elyn Saks have done.  You can work for NAMI.

Professional mental health groups often co-opt the lives, stories, and perspectives of people who have come into contact with the mental health industry in order to serve their various agendas.  I once watched a video, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, of a woman who had been psychotic and did some things she shouldn’t have done.  She was rescued from jail by psychiatry and psychiatric drugs.  She was firmly convinced of all the benefits of the mental health industry, so much so that she wanted to start a mental health business.  I believe her video had over a million views.

While I appreciate that some people find mental health interventions helpful, the picture of a happy mentally ill person taking psychiatric drugs and getting loving, kind therapy doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story.  There is no room for critical voices within the industry.  When I started seeing a student psychologist and a psychiatrist who prescribed Zoloft for my “depression” in 2002, I felt the industry was helping, despite what it actually did to me.  This is how effective advertising campaigns have been.  While mental health professionals don’t take criticism, the “mentally ill” do virtually nothing but take criticism from our mental health “caregivers.”

Anyone can cite anyone’s published work to support their marketing purposes.  I discovered that one of my articles had been cited by this website.  It seems to be a counseling center based in the UK.  At first, I was very happy that they found my work worthy of citation.  My general knowledge of non-psychiatric mental health practitioners in the UK is that they are distancing themselves from psychiatry, psychiatric drugs, and the DSM.  So, I was still happy.  But then I became suspicious.  My experiences with the US mental health industry have been so horrific, and I’ve never had a good therapist, and I so disagree with the fundamental premise of the US mental health industry that I don’t generally trust it or anyone who works in it.  Is my impression that mental health care in the UK is generally a lot better than it is here accurate, or just a very successful advertising campaign, like it mostly is in the US?  Does the average therapist in the UK help, rather than hurt people?  Have I been co-opted by an industry I despise?

Anyone can cite any published work, but you can choose who you publish with.  I would never write for the drug-funded NAMI that insists that some people are mentally ill, while others are normal, according to the standards of the US mental health industry.  I cannot see myself ever again agreeing with their point of view, or mission.  I plan on remaining an independent voice.

My current psychiatrist has been helping me come off psychiatric drugs.  When I told him who I was writing for and what I was writing about, he practically accused me of being delusional, because I don’t buy into all that the mental health industry requires of patients, and he refused to further reduce my antipsychotic at that time.  He strongly encouraged me to become heavily involved with NAMI, and to write for them.  I guess doing so would prove my relative sanity, as much as a mentally ill person can claim to have.

It has been my experience that once you have experienced extreme states of mind, have come into contact with the mental health industry, been labeled with serious mental illness, and have been heavily medicated with psychiatric drugs, the industry never wants to let you go.  It’s an excellent business paradigm.  But if mental health services actually helped people, would you need to be forever dependent on them?  Sins can be forgiven, but too often, both in the eyes of the industry and the public, mental illness can never be forgiven.  It is a label that you are bound to for life.  How does this lead to the personal growth and self-direction that the industry says we lack?

Pretty much anyone could benefit from a little love and attention sometimes in order to deal with their problems.  This is the essential promise of the mental health industry.  At least in my own experience, this was a deeply empty and deceitful promise.  Once I am through with psychiatric drugs, I hope to permanently cut all ties to the industry as a patient, unless I am legally, forcibly made to do otherwise.  I much prefer the role of independent critic and analyst.  It is an industry that desperately needs such people.  Who is analyzing the analysts, after all?  It is an industry that is essentially self-regulating and holds enormous power.  When they occasionally lose civil suits after having completely destroyed one or more lives, they consider that the cost of doing business.  As long as they continue making so much more money than they lose, they will continue with their paradigm of “care.”

Psychiatry is today generally considered a noble field of medicine in the US.  They care for the very worst of humanity—people no one else would touch.  This is an image that they have carefully cultivated over the years.  They have both propped themselves up with bad science and seeming compassion, and torn down people they have marginalized as mentally ill.  Patients have no right to a good reputation.  We can all be lumped in together as criminals, idiots, a drain on a good society.  If we weren’t already such people, psychiatric drugs and “treatments” may make it so.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five adults living in the US suffers from a mental illness.  While still a minority of people who can be effectively marginalized and discredited, it’s a huge potential pool of new and long-term customers.  Who hasn’t ever felt like they needed “help”?  This is what the mental health industry, politicians, and other believers in the system say that it offers.  Help is quite the opposite of what I received.  “Normal” people who find someone in distress may casually refer her to mental health services, thinking that it can’t but help someone who seems distressing.

The dehumanization of the “mentally ill” serves a lot of socioeconomic and political agendas.  It works sort of like racism.  Poor White people can be more easily exploited and manipulated if they feel they are superior to, and blame Black people for all of their problems.  In the same way, “normals” may not actually be being well-served by current socioeconomic and political structures, or even by the way they are living their lives, but at least they aren’t crazy.  They can rest assured knowing that they are safe, comfortable, good, superior, and that the mentally ill are being dealt with by authorities.  This satisfies the “normals,” but if it weren’t for this, they might realize that their lives have even more potential.  If we all recognized our common humanity, rather than scapegoating certain people and groups, we might create a world that better serves everyone’s well-being.

I find that I have to negotiate with my current clinic, and it’s a lot harder than negotiating a new contract with Verizon.  I have to consistently prove to them that I am essentially sane and good, and not defend myself against their dehumanizing presumptions about me too much.  It’s the only way I can ever hope that they will continue helping me off psychiatric drugs.  If there is something that is deeply troubling to me about myself, I save it for confession or prayer.  The mental health industry has trained me to intensely scrutinize myself for any fault or failing, even to the point of creating new inner faults and needing constant reassurance that I am not a bad person.  My hope is that once I am disentangled from the industry, my own sense of self will be fully restored.  Every breath, even your dreams, are suspect under the gaze of the mental health industry that I have experienced.

In order to deal with them mentally, I totally reject them in my mind, while being nice to them.  It’s like how one person, when dealing with an armed home invader, “ordered pizza” for him when dialing 911.  I save my criticisms for another time and place in order to deal with the significant problem of the fundamental hostility that the mental health industry that I have experienced has towards its patients, the “mentally ill.”

Unlike what the public has been led to believe, forced mental health care has virtually nothing to do with helping that person.  It is a criminal and/or social judgment against that person.  You thought or behaved strangely or badly, so you need to be reformed.  Why not call it what it is, rather than pretending it’s “help”?  It is punishment for socially unacceptable thoughts and/or behavior.  I actually took my incarceration and forced drugging in a mental hospital as a sign that I did indeed need to better myself and my life however I could.  This wasn’t the result of any therapeutic intervention, but being locked up and tortured that made me know that I never wanted to go there again.  It was my rock bottom.  Going to jail for a few weeks would have had the same effect on me.

Just as being an ex-con may follow you forever, so too might being labeled mentally ill.  More than others, you need to prove yourself and that you have value.  Somehow, you have to do something to earn a better reputation, if such a thing is possible for the “mentally ill.”  You almost need to become a saint.  While I would be very happy to be a saint, that’s a lot of pressure in light of the human failings that can afflict anyone.

That psychiatric drugs and therapy can fix all of humanity’s problems is a message that people want to hear.  A lot of people, perhaps especially Americans, like a quick fix.  It’s so much easier for the public at large to think that everything from homelessness and suicide to violence and crime can easily be resolved with early enough psychiatric intervention.  And when you’re actually in a position of needing help, no one wants to help you but the mental health industry–for a good profit, of course.  Unfortunately, for those of us who get their “help,” the results can be disastrous.

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

71 COMMENTS

  1. Antidepressants increase suicide by 250%. Veterans without a mental illness who get psychiatric “care” have 50% higher suicide rates compared to Veterens with a mental illness who don’t get psychiatric care. Antipsychotics increase psychosis by 300% and triple disability. Let that sink in.
    The mental health industry does more harm than all mental illnesses combined. They cause more suicides, deaths, and suffering.

      • https://www.madinamerica.com/2019/11/screening-drug-treatment-increase-veteran-suicides/

        I’ll give you a warning Pro-psychiatry people are in a constant state of denial. I’ve had multiple people respond with a variation of “mentally ill people commit more suicide”. They don’t ever actually read any research they just make up lies about how the research is wrong and they are right. This wouldn’t work very well but corporations and psychiatrists making money off the drugs easily produce fraudulent research.

        • You’d have to be in denial to take up the sword for psychiatry. The “mentally ill people commit more suicide” trope is easily debunked, because most every trial ever done removes suicidal people from the pool before starting the trials. So there should actually be FEWER suicidal people in the trial than the general population, and an increase in suicide rates is even MORE condemning of the drugs. Besides, that’s the whole point of the control group. They are “mentally ill” too, and commit suicide at a lower rate. That’s all you need to know, except if you don’t WANT to know.

  2. I must agree with your approach to getting weaned from the psych drugs. Tell your psychiatrist how wonderful your life is, don’t complain about how ungodly sick the drugs make you, and sweetly and politely just keep encouraging him to wean you from the neurotoxins. But, of course, don’t call his “wonder drugs” that to his face.

    Best wishes escaping the “system,” Caroline. And do be forewarned that withdrawal from the neuroleptics can result in a drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity manic psychosis. Which will get misdiagnosed as a “return of the disease” if you are unable to avoid a hospital. God bless, and you can do it.

  3. Hi Caroline and thank you for writing. I hope you get disentangled real soon. You don’t have to “prove” yourself, because you never will. They just get bored with you. If breaking you does not work, they move onto the next victim.

    “experts” is not even CLOSE to what they are, except in their snowing ability. Even their gaslighting tactics suck. Their gaslighting works on some who are too nice to see it, but the tactics are badd.

    Their very small minded DSM is not just for the homeless, or those who “behave” differently. THAT IS EXACTLY what psychiatry likes us to repeat, since in the general population we love to hear that the guy over there is the weird one.
    No, shrinks finds mental illness in anyone and everyone that they do not like. So people kiss butt to get them to like them. Shrinks are suspicious of this. It’s a rare thing that a shrink does not give you a branding, but most people thought they were like priests of days gone by. When priests were discovered not to hold the keys to heaven, psychiatry took over. To watch over their flock.
    I can tell you that they have HUGE problems and do in fact need subjects. It is how they hide what is going on inside of them, or might we think that they hold the key and example to something akin to “normal”.

    If indeed anyone is “sick”, it’s psychiatry. It’s going away. It’s just not that lucrative for the tax payers to pay such high prices to sheisters.

  4. Heh, there’s a wonderful site https://www.mygoodhabits.com/ and its helped me.
    He would let you join without paying anything, have you no money, or just for $29.95 for three months, or $14.95 for one. That’s American dollars. He has a section called Emotional Healing where he shares a technique, and also has people who have followed the technique or he helps to follow it. It helped me incredibly finding out how I was disassociating from feelings that I never had been allowed to express in my youth, and those feelings were trying to give me guidance. You know, just a different way than the norm. But the discomfort when the feelings would reemerge when I needed them, when everything came into play, in how to deal with this “society,” with how to actually say anything in it (which you have gone into quite fully regarding knowing how to deal with what you describe). It might be like whatever you went to the psychiatrist for just needed a bit more space to NOT fit into society, or what another part of the mind controlled by fear thought was how things should be.

    We become scared of stuff that would help us, because of how it had been accepted, and the electric shock to our system when the whole arena of memories kicks in can be quite severe.

    I really don’t think you’re going to go into another psychosis, you seem too grounded for that, I think you will find that quiet inner voice, and even though it seems like there’s some great loss to stop responding to everything that’s what we’re supposed to believe life is about, it wouldn’t at all be a loss, and the peace there is resonant gentle and soothing instead of it being a loss or that it’s scary.

    I kept on getting “psychotic” when I drank too much coffee, realized that, but then somehow had a switch that I would start with too much coffee again (also because the “psychosis,” was expressing something of what I was trying to push away, and that needed to be expressed). That was when I really needed to just stop disassociating from feelings I had a reflex to push to the side, because they never had been accepted, it was like there was suddenly a blank space. I just hadn’t learned to trust those feelings, to let go like that. And it really is like what Jesus taught, because you just let go to something more gentle. And THAT was what balanced me out, NOT just trying to discipline myself to not drink coffee, because it wasn’t really about that, it was about seeing that there was something else, that I didn’t have to push those thoughts away.

    And so, it could just be that when you allow those feelings, even letting go of thinking you need to respond to the psychiatrist etc. that that’s what it’s about, not whether you need the drugs to not have whatever it’s called because of the withdrawal.

    And it sounds like the psychiatrist might be gaslighting you. There also are pill splitters, would you want to reduce your dose, and he wouldn’t find out. There would be nothing wrong with not telling him, even lying would he ask. It might be much more just a stage of relaxing to get off of the drugs than what you’re scared of. But above everything I would suggest you give yourself the time for some peace of your own, whatever calms you down. Without any guilt. When you get really upset don’t feel like you have to respond to the system at all, they only use that against you anyhow.

    Does this help to think that really the fear of getting off the drugs has to do with how it might bring up feelings you’re used to pushing away, and it’s more about accepting those feelings, to just feel them (whether they are good or bad), and then you can process them, and also let go of them? Everyone has this from their past, whether it’s family or society, that they weren’t allowed to express certain things, and so push those feeling to the side. And it could just be allowing yourself the space to just go into a space where you’re not trying to rationalize, but just not push the involuntary part that feelings move through away, like mindfulness or meditation. But it’s maybe more a conscious way of responding to reflexes at the moment…..

    I’m writing quite hurried right now, and will look back with more “time.” Or at least when I don’t feel so rushed with a number of things going on…..

    • I’m sorry, this: “We become scared of stuff that would help us, because of how it had been accepted, and the electric shock to our system when the whole arena of memories kicks in can be quite severe.”

      I meant to say we become scared of stuff that would help us, because of how it had NOT been accepted in our environment, whether socially or family or institutional of whatever. Stuff we tried to express and was met with weird discrimination. And it causes a lot of anxiety when those feelings come back, the electricity behind all the memories even. But you can learn to actually feel those feelings and feel safe in your own space, who you are, not how you’re supposed to respond.

      And it’s really hard when you just try to communicate something, and get the strange response from others that don’t want to accept the simplest thing. Caroline, you seem really positive, and it sounds like you wanted to simply share that you had found a place you feel at home at, this to the psychiatrist, but his response was truly bizarre, and truly paranoid and psychotic. And then psychotic becomes a strange word, because those who are labeled “psychotic,” actually really have been dis-inhibited from continuing to fit into a programming that doesn’t really work for them (or work for someone to be true to their humanity), but those labeling them are the ones that really would show the symptoms they are seeing in another. Fundamentalism is the real problem regarding anything that’s not reality based. It just makes no sense to deny what really statistically has lead to healing, the rest is all indoctrination, brainwashing. He’s the one that has a riff with reality, he needs to perhaps be deprogrammed. Getting rewards from the economic system doesn’t mean that your beliefs are reality based. But don’t you compromise the rest of your life trying to say things to him he would discriminate against, how you said you deal with it is great.

      But psychotic becomes a strange word, I don’t see it myself as something that has the properties of how it’s defined by the mental health system. And how they define it shows mostly more signs of what they call an illness than is the case in who they are diagnosing. And so I don’t really like to call them psychotic (the one’s doing the diagnosing) as non reality based as their thinking might be, because psychosis is something more sensitive, and reaches out into someone’s soul; the brainwashing that’s non reality based doesn’t do that, doesn’t have such sensitivity and doesn’t reach into someone’s soul, and it doesn’t give emotional wounds legroom to express themselves, neither does it give alternative insights that are necessary such legroom. It’s all backwards.

  5. So much of your insightful article resonates with me!! I have personally found that it is absolutely true that “Unlike what the public has been led to believe, forced mental health care has virtually nothing to do with helping that person. It is a criminal and/or social judgment against that person.” Like you, I am attempting to be an “independent critic and analyst.” In my case, I am deeply concerned that people–especially youngsters–will suffer as my son and I did. For that reason, I wrote “Broken: How the Broken Mental Health Care System Leads to Broken Hearts and Broken Lives.” It is available on Amazon and part of the proceeds go to COPE, a bereaved parents’ support group.

    • “Forced” and “help” in the case of mental/emotional issues are contradictory. The presence of force belies any purported intention to “help.” At best, you are stopping someone from doing something that you don’t think they should do. But many other and worse things happen as soon as you decide that you get to decide what “help” another person should get. There is no such thing as “involuntary treatment.”

      • “There is no such thing as ‘involuntary treatment.’” I usually see eye to eye with you, Steve. But as one who was “treated” against my will, by a now FBI convicted doctor, who illegally had my signature forged on voluntary commitment forms, according to expunged court documents.

        Are you claiming that there is no such thing as “involuntary treatment,” because when doctors voluntarily choose to “treat” people who don’t want “treatment,” that is “voluntary treatment,” merely because a doctor says so? And therefore there is no such thing as “involuntary treatment?”

        Pardon me for not following your logic, Steve, I still believe “involuntary treatment” occurs. What did you mean when you said, “There is no such thing as ‘involuntary treatment?’”

          • In other words, they CLAIM they are providing “involuntary treatment,” but in fact, they are imprisoning people and forcing them to comply with the psychiatrists’ authority, and there is nothing “therapeutic” about it in either intent or in effect.

          • I’ve just been copying some documents for distribution, one of them a prescription for benzodiazepines administered to a person who has never taken them, was given them by a bus driver without their knowledge, and then the prescription written for them 20 hours AFTER the person was subjected to interrogation by police and a Community Nurse, thrown into a police van and kidnapped to get them to a doctor who could make it all right by signing off on the torture.

            Can these people do this? Sign prescriptions for drugs administered before they even met the “referred person” (not even a “patient”?). Not a psychiatrist mind you but a Senior Medical Officer.

            I mean what if he wanted to sign a prescription for the local nite club rapist? Is that all good too? Maybe one of his colleagues as an Ordained Minister might find the use of ‘spikings’ a means of reducing trauma in some of their victims?

            Personally I would have thought a doctor signing off on ‘spikings’ of citizens (and he knew I wasn’t a “patient” as he was examining me BEFORE the psychiatrist examined me, and thus I was a “referred person” by status).

            Basically do the spiking before police interrogate (and of course they have the ‘soft tortures’ [psychological] available here) and this doctor will sign a prescription for police to conceal the drugging without knowledge which ‘enhances’ the effect of the torture. Highly effective let me tell you. I’m still suffering from the trauma of it 9 years later.

            But is it lawful?

            Forced? I guess like the victim of the rapist, I really didn’t have the ability to consent as a result of the spiking. And it’s a great way to enable the release of confidential documents that were court sealed. That’s where the doctor who diagnosed me with mental illnesses after three minutes got his diagnosis from, not from his hard work of examining me. All he asked me was if I lived with my wife, and where I went to college, slam dunk three major mental illnesses all received from confidential files as a result of me being spiked (and a ‘chemical restraint’ authorised to silence the victim of torture and kidnapping by police and his Community Nurse), and therefore not in a position to consent to the release of my personal information. I would have thought the commission of a criminal offence would make such conduct unlawful, but not when the people concerned can have police assist in having you killed apparently.

  6. I was hooked on the “caring”, “empathy”, and “validation” that I got from therapists, off and on, for more than 50 years. I thought that I would get “well” and then could be an OK person, that my not functioning well socially was, of course, my fault or that of my “issues”. And I certainly wanted to do better!

    My mental health problems weren’t those for which drugs were deemed necessary, although antidepressants were recommended sometimes and I used them on several different occasions, without much improvement. So I got off and didn’t have anybody insisting that I take them.

    But getting hooked on the idea that therapy would help did its own kind of damage to my life.

    So, I’m with you, Caroline. Thanks for the article. Very well stated.

    • Mhmm, that can happen. It’s ironically all about thinking that the feelings or reactions are a state of sickness. It’s kind of hard to get a discussion around addictions when it comes to “MI”.
      How many will see a therapist because of Covid? Because the feelings they might have are discussed as being “sick”. But that is old, it started way back as wondering whether one had sinned and suffered guilt, then proceeded to confess.

  7. “Good question, boans! I cannot think of any other medical decisions that people are not allowed to make for themselves.”

    That is because it is not medicine, nor medical.
    In fact a lot of docs are becoming fed up with the real medical field. It is going astray also. Correction, it has gone astray. We thought it was “good medicine”, we really had no clue what goes on in labs or people’s minds on how to make a buck.

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