DOOCE: A Case Study on the Failure of Psychiatry

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Heather Armstrong died this week. If you’re not familiar with who she is, then you might not be a depressed single mother living in Utah.

In the early ’00s, when writers were bloggers (not the other way around), Heather Armstrong rose to fame as a Utah-based “mommy” blogger who wrote about parenting, life, and depression. Back then, blogging had become a hopeful entry point for writers (including this one). All you had to do was write about relatable things, and… “they will come.”

Armstrong’s blog, called “Dooce,” was a big deal in Utah because she was Utah-based and had been raised as a member of the LDS (aka “Mormon”) church. Based on the data, however, membership in the LDS Church is not a one-way ticket to paradise. In fact, Utah is one of the leaders in the country in antidepressant prescriptions, which is why Armstrong’s blog was so popular. Women were finally stepping out into the light, bringing with them the darkness they held inside.

A selfie of mommy blogger Heather Armstrong in 2019 (Facebook)

Back in the early ’00s, I was also a single mother trying to make it on my own as a writer. But unlike Armstrong, I was uncomfortable writing about mental health issues. I wanted my writing to stand on its own, not become a cultural fad-reaction to what every mother everywhere (no matter her status) feels—more often than we’d probably like to acknowledge.

With idealized images of the upcoming social ritual of “Mother’s Day” rapidly approaching, it’s both poignant and telling that the ultimate “mommy” blogger, who had revealed what most of us feel at one time or another, passed.

Truthfully, I never read her blog. I just knew, via whispers through the ethernet, that Armstrong had hit the motherlode: she got to stay home with her children, do what she loved (write), and make oodles of money. Living the dream. That, and she suffered from depression. But she spoke to people—so many who could relate to her that she became a writing/blogging rock star. She appeared on Oprah; she got a book deal. She voiced what so many people could only feel and suffer through. Again, living the dream.

My husband, Kent, and I met through the blogging world, but we’d never read Dooce. But it was he who told me this morning that Armstrong had passed.

“Guess who died? Dooce.”

It took me a moment to catch up with the familiarity of the name. “Dooce… the blogger? She was a few years older than me, wasn’t she?”

“No, she was a few years younger than you.”

I realized then that I didn’t need to ask him how she’d died. I already knew.

In 2019, in his unending search to try and find answers to help me, Kent came across Armstrong’s book, The Valedictorian of Being Dead, and wrote a conflicted review of it on Goodreads. He’d given me the gist of the book, and we were both horrified at what this woman had endured in the name of “treatment.” Based on all we had learned by then about the dangerous and damaging treatments for “mental illness,” Kent’s review, and takeaway from the book, was chillingly prescient.

In her book, Armstrong details the medicalized model of mental health “care” that could only portend her tragic, inevitable end. However, at the time, she hailed the treatments she received as miraculous and curative. From his review:

The author undergoes countless medical traumas to get out of her depression. She describes depression and suicidality in a way that feels all-too (and frighteningly) familiar. Her conversion is complete: She died, saw the light, and returned to the world of the living. The author believes and then, to my own personal shock and horror, she gobbles down a drug cocktail her psychiatrist gave her to sustain the “success.”

Kent sent me the whole review this morning and I winced because the review was written with brevity, skepticism, and with the knowledge that the author was very much alive. But he also pointed out that he believed she was under the thrall of a belief system that seemed to have replaced the religion of her upbringing (Mormonism) with psychiatry. Kent and I are no longer believers in our former religion, either, because, upon closer scrutiny, we saw gaping holes in the narrative that couldn’t be easily explained away by “just having faith.”

That is what science, especially medical science, is supposed to proffer: beliefs based on empirical evidence. There is one discipline, however, that falls drastically short of that mark, and that is psychiatry, the modern-day religion of the de-converted; more religion than medical science, and yet we’ve been spoon-fed and bathed in this belief system for over 75 years, and no one seems capable of questioning it.

Like being born into the LDS faith in Utah, it’s in the air and the water, it permeates everything and is naturally absorbed without much effort. But it takes more than a metaphorical red pill to free your mind—it takes a willingness to get comfortable with uncertainty and critical thought.

Another phenomenon that rose with the popularity of Dooce’s blog was a grotesque romance between trauma, tragedy, and mental illness. Americans embraced the idea of incurable emotional states with the same maudlin fascination as Victorians embraced ideas of female fragility, illness, hysteria, and death. And despite all historical evidence to the contrary, we continue to believe that these emotional states are hopeless, incurable illnesses. There is nothing romantic about death by suicide. It is all tragedy; it is all loss.

And so, every time news comes of a famous person’s suicide, we are told that they “lost their battle with [insert mental illness here],” and no one, not even the media, is willing to question that. No one will take that extra step and closely scrutinize whether these people were medicated, because medication as precipitating factor is not part of the narrative we’ve been spoon-fed, despite the cheerful, comforting voiceover on televised drug commercials.

If medications for anxiety, depression, schizoaffective, and other mood disorders can cause someone to get worse—suicidal, in fact—then why not use Occam’s razor to conclude the obvious: if they were on medications that cause suicide, the medications caused their suicide. Why can’t we reason within our collective mind that these people died because of the disclosed, declared, and acknowledged consequences of medication, not a “battle” with mental illness?

Being engaged in battle is active. There is hope and courage in battle. There is striving and ferocity. Conversely, suicide is surrender. No one dies in battle by surrendering. The surrender is the cause of death in suicide, not the fight.

Kent concluded his review with these discerning thoughts:

…those desperate to find a way out of suffering need hope like they need food and water. Those deaths are real. We are all Valedictorians of Mortality, all graduating with the same inevitable honor.

When dealing with life and death, belief can bring us solace and comfort. But desperation will force people to do desperate things, and while “belief” is inherent in human beings where you place those beliefs can be a matter of life or death. So go ahead and place your belief in those places that bring comfort and joy into your life, but as for me, I’m going to strive to become the Valedictorian of Doubt.

The tragedy of Heather Armstrong’s death is that no one really knows why she took her own life, but I believe I do, and the drug manufacturers agree with me. The same medications were given to me to create “hope,” but, instead, they perched me on that precarious “suicide” ledge more often than I care to remember. Armstrong’s book, The Valedictorian of Being Dead, stands, not as a postscript of the power of emotional states, but as a posthumous testimony of the total failure of American psychiatry.

Heather Armstrong’s life was taken by psychiatry, our society’s blind and mindless capitulation to psychiatry, and our unwillingness to scrutinize their methods of madness, which lead to worse mental health, worse physical health, worse outcomes, and loss. Tragedy and loss.

Our hearts and condolences go out to Heather’s children, family, and loved ones. My hope is that they learn the truth of why she felt compelled to raise that white flag before anyone else is trapped in the same morass as Heather was—the medicalized model of mental health “care.”

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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.

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250 COMMENTS

    • Thanks, James. Unfortunately, there were likely myriad reasons why Ms. Armstrong took her own life, just as the reasons people seek help for emotional states, such as depression, are also varied and numerous. My point is that when drug makers tell us their treatments can cause us to commit suicide, why would we argue with them? And why are the medications never mentioned, but alcohol use is? Thanks for reading. – JA

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      • The drugs don’t cause people to commit suicide. They give energy and alertness to the depressed so that *some* people who have suicidal ideation are then in a position to make plans, or actively behave in ways that will end their lives. That is expressly what drug companies have “admitted to” and that is in fact the related danger. That’s a big difference to what you are saying.

        People who really need medication — bipolar and schizophrenic patients in particular — often stop taking them and wreak utter havoc on the lives of their loved ones and on themselves. Being off of psychotropic meds is FAR more dangerous for most profoundly mentally ill people than being on them.

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        • Sorry, Jukia, but there is exactly zero evidence that the drugs increase suicidality by giving suicidal people the energy to commit suicide they were already planning. For one thing, almost all of these studies ELIMINATE anyone having any hint of suicidal ideation, so even if a few are being deceptive, the majority of these new cases of suicidality come from people who were NOT feeling suicidal before taking the drugs. The explanation you provide is a convenient one for drug companies and doctors who want to convince people that increased suicidality is not a concern, but Prozac in particular was kept off the market in Germany and I think also Italy initially back in the 80s because of increases in suicidal and aggressive behavior in those taking the drugs, so the claim has long been known to be false.

          I’m not disputing that some people report getting great benefits from taking these drugs. But it’s not ALL people, and a lot of folks report having little to no effect or becoming worse on the drugs. To claim that being off psychotropic drugs is “FAR more dangerous” than being on them for “most profoundly mentally ill people” is an opinion which is not based on scientific study. In fact, read up on the Wunderlink and Harrow studies, among others, which show that those diagnosed with “psychotic disorders” who don’t take psychotropics actually do better on the average than those who do. Again, not saying some don’t benefit, but generalizing from anecdotes to broad sweeping statements of “truth” is not how science works.

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        • I support your response–and anyone who rejects a simplistic, black-white notion of mental health, mental illness, and any interventions–including talk therapies, medication, or a combination of both.
          It’s useful to differentiate between psych meds prescribed by GPs and as part of psychiatric care: we expect too much of GPs in this (and other) areas. Too many SSRIs have been prescribed as a treatment plan, which they are not. That’s also true of meds for anxiety too.
          My first shrink in my mid 20s was a nice man who gave me enough care to stabilise me for the first time since primary school. I hit another rough patch–not as rough, but still very hard–and found one that could embrace and understand me as a young queer person. What they both said upfront was that anti-depressants will not cure depression, but if we find a treatment that will steady you enough, you can do the work in here that will help–a lot. But curing was never on the table.
          It’s 30 years now. I still take my (non-SSRI) anti-depressant. It has not made me happy. But with it comes a normal range of emotions and the ability to avoid tumbling into the abyss of despair. I am content. Often, I am happy.
          Armstrong’s website was great, until I realized she was not getting what she needed, in terms of mental health care. Then it just felt like awful social pr0n.

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    • Read more about Heather Armstrong in the last several years before you reach such a sweeping, unfounded conclusion. She recently admitted to having a two decade long addiction to alcohol that absolutely leveled her mind and life by the end. Statements like yours and the ones in this article are dangerous.

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      • Wholeheartedly agree, and often medication for treatment of mental health does not mix well with alcohol.

        Yes, medication can increase suicidal ideation – that is why it is imperative doctors have follow up appointments to continue to check in on how the medication is working (or not working). It is imperative for patients to share their emotional state with their doctor, including “I don’t think these meds are working, if anything, I feel worse” so the medications can be changed/adjusted.

        From my own experience, the worst part of antidepressants – there is no magic “one size fits all” antidepressant. What works great for one person may not work at all for another. And worse, sometimes the medication that worked well for *years* suddenly stops working as well. Zoloft worked really well for me…until it didn’t. I didn’t go straight to suicidal ideation, I just went from finding the joy in life, back to ‘everything is dull’ again.

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    • I agree. But why need information about any of that scientific b*******? You think if you had a broad understanding of neurotransmitters you’d be able to explain what happened? Lmfao The explanation you’re alluding to is just as culpably bad. Reality is none of us in this f****** comment section know enough to comment on why she died and this article is disgustingly presumptive.

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    • Thank you for your thoughts, Carmilla. ‘Psychiatry’ is an institution, not a metonym for individual practitioners. I have no doubt good folks go into psychiatry wanting to help people. However, psychiatry has failed to bear the burden of proof re: its treatments and far too much harm has been done and continues to be done.

      Biases abound and dogma has replaced empirical evidence. A good contrast would be between, say, religion and science. Science adjusts its views when new observations and data are presented. Religions demand the maintenance of belief in the face of conflicting data and cognitive dissonance. That said, the data shows, irrefutably, that long-term use of psychotropic medications portends worse clinical outcomes, yet psychiatry seems to have doubled down instead of reassessing its treatments and reevaluating prescribing practices for the sake of its patients and their families. The onus rests on prescribers to do their due diligence and learn of both the risks and benefits of these medications because, as Ms. Armstrong shows us, it is a life-and-death matter.

      That said, one doesn’t need to know about “brain circuits” et. al. to know when a medication side effect is happening. But please don’t take my word for any of this. Feel free to consult the boxed warnings included with the medications disclosed by the drug manufacturers. They tell you everything you need to know about “…worsening depression, suicidal thoughts and actions.” Another helpful text is Ms. Armstrong’s book. She details the failed treatments that ultimately led her to the ultimate failed clinical outcome.

      Finally, there are people here and elsewhere who are working “day and night” to recover from the harm that psychiatric medications, and the ignorance of prescribers, have inflicted on them. Unfortunately, that isn’t my opinion. Thanks for reading and take care. – JA

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      • “[L]ong-term use of psychotropic medications portends worse clinical outcomes…”

        This is akin to saying that diabetes drugs lead to amputations, or, as someone said earlier, sunblock causes skin cancer. You’ve got a correlation/causation problem here, and in your whole post, that any rational thinker will easily discern.

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        • There are actually plenty of hard scientific studies showing that psychotropic medications IN GENERAL tend to create worse clinical outcomes. Harrow et al for instance showed that people with poorer prognoses that took antipsychotics only briefly or not at all did BETTER than those who had better prognoses and took antipsychotics long term. So on the average, they were worse off taking psychotropic drugs.

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5661946/

          Studies on antidepressants and “ADHD” also show no average benefit or worse outcomes for those taking drugs over the long term.

          Multiple studies show an increase in suicidal thinking and acts in those taking antidepressants, especially when younger.

          Many studies show the “severely mentally ill” have shorter life spans than the average person, much of it due to heart and metabolic problems that are known to be caused by antipsychotic drugs (clearly, there are other contributing factors as well, but treatment is associated with reduced life span).

          Your analogies are completely inappropriate. Taking diabetic treatment does not INCREASE the number of amputations, it decreases them. The same can’t be said for psychosis and antipsychotics or suicide and antidepressants. Not to mention, diabetes is known to be caused by a lack of insulin in all cases. No one suffers from psychosis for a lack of antipsychotics.

          Perhaps a more open mind and some honest research will help you see that the situation is not as black and white as you currently believe. You might start by reading Whitaker’s book, “Anatomy of an Epidemic.” It could be quite enlightening.

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    • The self-proclaimed societal “experts” on the mind, brain and all things mental and emotional have stated, often, that they themselves have no idea what they’re doing. 100 years ago it was lobotomy, then insulin shock, then electroshock and now it’s chemicals. Each, including the last, debunked as not only ineffective, but criminally harmful.

      When those who have personally suffered — or who are awake enough to investigate and see the glaring lack of scientific methodology — have the audacity to question the psychiatric “authorities” in light of this ignorance – they are shouted down as not being “expert.”

      It’s the “don’t look over here, only we can understand this” method of argument.

      Let’s take personal experience and first-hand knowledge, as this author already stated she has.

      If someone takes an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug and gets worse, do they have to be an “expert” to speak of their experience? They don’t, unless one is a psychiatrist afraid of too many “non-experts” letting others know of the very real risks.

      But if that isn’t enough evidence, search for “chemical imbalance theory debunked” or “go directly to the article in psychology today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/side-effects/202207/decisive-blow-the-serotonin-hypothesis-depression

      Whether it’s chemical imbalance or “neurotransmitter” or whatever word of the week is used, psychiatrists enjoy these weighty terms that sound medical, infallible, unscrutable and therefore utterly out of the understanding of mere patients.

      From the link above: “Returning to the controversy in ‘Antidepressants and the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Depression’ (2015), Lacasse and Leo found that while the marketing had shifted emphasis from ‘correcting imbalances’ to ‘adjusting’ or ‘affecting’ neurotransmitter levels,’ leading psychiatrists were if anything, more wedded to the ‘chemical imbalance’ metaphor than before.

      So whether it’s chemical imbalance, neurotransmitters, dopamine, “brain circuits”, phrenology, or whatever topical pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo, rest assured psychiatrists will find something to try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes.

      Even as psychiatrists state “We don’t know how the medications actually work in the brain” they keep shoveling them down people’s throats.

      But hey, trust them when they say that the potential documented black-box warning side effects including mania, psychosis, suicidal and homicidal ideation are worth the gamble. You probably won’t be one of the ones that gets pushed over the edge and kills yourself, or someone else.

      Just because it’s happened in case after case…um…you see…because…well…we’re the experts? I mean, yes, harumph…YES we ARE the experts.

      But please, don’t look behind that curtain.

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    • With all due respect, neuroscientists have no idea what really causes depression and the main theory of “chemical imbalance” has little, if any clinical evidence. SSRI’s do cause suicidality, and not just in young people. Long term neurological side effects are very real and changing or weaning from psych meds is a nightmare for many. If you are an expert you should also know that there are zero, as in none, nada, zilch… clinical research trials on most of the “cocktails” that pass for treatment of severe mental illness. Chronically ill are the most lucrative target of the trustworthy and honest pharma industry, because if your drug makes them worse you can always blame the victim. Only in large independent outcomes studies can you make population level assertions about both effectiveness and side effects. Yet, these are exceedingly rare. Who will fund them? Who in the industry wants the real answers when the profits are coming in by the truck load? Finally, know that the average psychiatrist has very little understanding of childhood trauma, the true cause of mental illness. Inform yourself and read Bessel Van Dr Kolk and Stephen Porges. Don’t worry they are real doctors just like you.

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  1. I’m sorry that your experience with medication was it making things worse, but that is not the case with everybody. I think this is a very dangerous thing to be saying, because people who are struggling will read this – for some people medication DOES improve their capacity to stay alive. Making black and white claims – psychiatry kills – is so potentially harmful as it just adds to the stigma of people trying to get help and suggests you should feel shame if you’re on them and so get off them and for somebody who needs them that could be the worst decision of their life.

    You may believe that is what killed her, but as you said yourself, nobody knows. But please if you write something on this topic again consider what black and white thinking can mean for somebody vulnerable.

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    • Thank you Jen! You’re a voice of reason. Suicidality MAY be a side-effect of medication for some. For myself, psychiatry, alongside sobriety and therapy saved my life. The author is entitled to her opinion but for myself and so many I know both personally and professionally as a social worker, I’ve seen the benefits.

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    • “I think this is a very dangerous thing to be saying, because people who are struggling will read this…”

      I am struggling, struggling with facing my life after 35 years of lies from psychiatry — lies that I believed, partly because there was no other narrative. I’m glad that at least now there is another narrative, so that people can read pro-psychiatry stances and anti-psychiatry stances and critical psychiatry stances, and then make their own decisions.

      “But please if you write something on this topic again consider what black and white thinking can mean for somebody vulnerable.”

      I’m vulnerable. 35 years of psychiatry-induced harm has left me sick, alone and disabled at 57. Do you have any idea how often I see the kind of black and white thinking that says psychiatry is a helping profession and anyone who doesn’t get well is just bad or beyond help, that people like me should be locked up forever, that people with my diagnosis shouldn’t procreate? That we should be force-drugged, that the abusive treatment patients are subjected to in psych wards is for their own good?

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      • Kate, thanks again for your comments. Your story is wrenching and all too familiar. I’ll say this again–if I can incorporate that medications have helped some people, why can’t it also be true that they harm others? This is the black-and-white thinking that psychiatry has cultivated. Take good care. – JA

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    • I agree with you Jen. Such a dangerous message to send to someone that may need help and detour from psychiatric help which may include meds that will actually save their life. The mind is so complex and you will never know what played into each person’s decision to end their life.

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      • https://youtu.be/AOwa7w3RpE8

        There are two manifestos, one pro psychiatry and the other anti psychiatry. And there are two trenches filled with wounded bodies from each side, pro psychiatry and anti psychiatry. Pro psychiatry peers into the abyss of the trench it is near and says…
        “Look what they did to these helpless hurt innocent people by denying them psychiatric treatment”.

        Anti psychiatry peers into the abyss of the trench it stands near to snd says …
        “Look what they did to these helpless hurt innocent people denied other forms of treatment like therapy”.

        Both “sides” care about “the people”.

        In defending “the people” each “side” bellows to the other “side”…

        “You are insane and cruel and stupid to want to help the people in that way, everyone knows it, the research proves it, experience proves it, the crystal ball proves it, the tarot cards prove it, the dusted fingerprints on the booze bottle proves it, the hair sample in the microscope proves it, the party streamer of the double helix proves it, genetics prove it, eating burgers proves it, a creepy uncle long ago that may have caused trauma proves it, brain scans prove it, enigmatic spokespersons prove it, gemini and taurus proves it, hypodermic depo injections prove it, graphs going up or down proves it, coma insulin proves it, paycheck woe proves it, politics proves it, religion proves it, all of it proves beyond doubt and with irrefutable certainty that human certainty harms everyone.

        Both “sides” have important perspectives.

        I cannot recall being so engrossed in a comment thread more, for its multiplicity of equally valid perspectives.

        I am not sure I like the tendency from both “sides” to bicker over the wounded. That bickering, that hissy snapping, seems to me quite different. Bickering is not the sharing of perspectives. It is the silencing of valid dyametrically opposed perspectives. We live in a time where we stuff our own ear drums the acoustic nullifying wadding of our own bickering because we cannot bear any more perspectives, we just want no more wounds or wounded or wounding or battle cries or trenches. We are helpless, helpless, helpless. The helplessness is our own wound. We too are in the trenches.

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    • Thank you for your comments, Jen.

      I have been on two medications (SSRIs) for seventeen years, and they were a tremendous help to me. Unfortunately, they have stopped helping me, as has everything else, including ketamine and esketamine. I’m on TMS now, but if that doesn’t help me, I’m not sure what’s going to become.of me. But whatever happens, I do not blame psychiatry or medications for my condition.

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      • The illness is the villian not the drugs intended to help. She might have discontinued the drugs nd alcohol might have made the situation worse. She dint commit suicide earlier or lets just frame it this way, medicines helped her live longer than what she wud have done earlier without them. Its like saying to a cancer patient, dont take anticancer drugs, it kills. Cancer , the deadly disease is to be feared nd similarly Its the disease or illness which kills nd not the medicines which helps..Dont spread stigma nd prevent people from seeking help by using the phrase ‘psychiatry kills’. It has healed many , is healing many nd will heal many..It may not eliminate suffering alltogether but it definitely ease them nd makes the symptoms manageable. You have no idea about the lives saved with medicines. Come sit in psychiatry op for months nd u will know what i mean. U wont understand it just by being an internet butterfly spreading false informations and stigmatizing minds. Be socially responsible and before making ur own judgements and conclusions nd spreading it , get to know things .

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        • Okay doctor. Stigma is only spread by big bad antipsychiatry people. It is not spread when you label people as bipolars (even for things like SSRIs and stimulants causing manic episodes in people with no such prior occurrences in their life), borderline personalities, with oppositional defiant disorder etc. It is not spread by anything you guys do. Only people on places like this are spreading stigma. Wonderful.

          People who find drugs useful should have them (and they do indeed help some whilst hurt others). But let’s not pretend that it’s people on this side who are creating stigma. Many people who have ended up here are here due to the stigma your psychiatry camp has created in their lives and because they have nowhere else, least of all the offices of psychiatrists, to express themselves. It’s interesting how you guys turn it around.

          No point comparing people’s psychological suffering to cancer. Cancer has nothing to do with a person’s character, conduct, personality and sanity.

          Sit in a psychiatry OP for what? See that people suffer (sometimes horribly) from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, intrusive thoughts, hallucinations, delusions, manic episodes, addictions of all sorts etc.? What makes you think people here don’t know that? You understand that there are people here who have suffered similar stuff for whatever reason and it is your camp’s methods of help that have landed them here? I pity people who are suffering to a point where in a moment of vulnerability they will end up in your offices only wanting to end their pain whilst knowing nothing about the down-the-line social, legal or medical implications of the sort of help you offer them.

          Yes, psychiatry has healed many, is healing many and will continue to heal many just like psychiatry has damaged many, is damaging many and will continue to damage many. They both exist in the same bin. It depends on what problems the person has, what his path through the system is like, what categorisations have been applied to him, what the effects of the drugs he’s on are, how his family is (whether they are using psychiatry and its concepts to gaslight them) etc.

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          • Here is one study showing how stigma is INCREASED by explaining “mental disorders” as biological problems.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9842491/

            Here is another:

            https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/biological-explanations-may-not-reduce-mental-health-stigma-0124181

            Considering there is absolutely NO evidence that any of the DSM “mental disorders” are fully or primarily caused by biological problems or issues, it’s mystifying why “anti-stigma” campaigns focus so much on convincing people that “mental disorders” are “illnesses like any other.” Unless the intent is not, in fact, to fight stigma, but to fight resistance to accepting drug therapy as the first line intervention for these ostensible “disorders.” Then and only then does this focus make any kind of sense. But then calling these “anti-stigma campaigns” isn’t very honest, is it?

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          • registeredforthissite,

            I agree with most of your points, except “psychiatry heals”. Psychiatry does not heal. The only thing psychiatry does is prescribe drugs that mask emotional pain, pain that needs to be processed (healed, worked through) in non-medical ways. And psychiatric drugs, like other powerful pain killers, can lead to more debilitating side/withdrawal effects that can occur immediately, in the near term, or over long periods of time.

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          • @Birdsong:

            Psychiatry does heal. Some people in some specific situations. For instance, a guy coming from a loving family, unable to concentrate at all, suddenly finds that his concentration has improved due to a stimulant, is healed (at least to a certain extent). The problem is that guy does not understand the damage part of psychiatry and will instead turn against people here.

            Psychiatry does just enough good to ameliorate the suffering of some people some of the time to generate a mass of followers who can overpower those who are hurt. That’s what keeps it going.

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          • I’m not sure I’d say the act of a stimulant improving concentration temporarily represents “healing” per se. Smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol reduces anxiety for many, but I’d not suggest they are “healed” by the process. There are no doubt some healing processes that are mediated by drugs, but I consider this to be more or less incidental to psychiatry’s intent. For instance, I know of a guy who took stimulants for a little while and said he discovered a mental state he could get to that way, then he STOPPED taking the stimulants and found other ways to achieve that same kind of mental state. I’d call that a kind of healing, and the stimulants were a part of it, but no psychiatrist would recommend or approve of the real healing part of that action.

            Anyway, that’s just my personal view on it. Some people find psychiatric drugs beneficial for whatever reason, and more power to them, but I don’t think it’s a form of “healing” to take a drug that makes you feel better temporarily. It might be the first step in healing, but psychiatry as a rule discourages any attempt at any further “steps,” in my experience. Healing tends to happen despite their interventions, not because of them.

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        • My dear Dr. Benjamin,

          It’s impossible to conclude with certainty what caused Ms. Armstrong’s suicide, and it’s also impossible to conclude with certainty if psychiatric drugs were soley (if at all) responsible for prolonging her life. But it is REASONABLE to conclude that psychiatry’s “medicines” were NOT the best option for Ms. Armstrong because a) these “medicines” lack definitive proof of any biologically verifiable mechanism other than anesthetizing the recipient, and b) Ms. Armstrong herself questioned the efficacy of these “medicines” for her, and c) she eventually took her own life.

          But here’s what IS certain: neither the “illness as villain” nor the “drugs as savior” dogma has been verified biologically. What’s more, NONE of psychiatry’s claims stand up to EITHER inductive OR deductive reasoning. Which leaves only ONE certainty: psychiatry is more religion than science, which makes comparing “mental illness” to cancer ALL THE MORE ASININE —

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        • Revathy,
          This is quite a comment! It’s taken me a moment to try and get to the heart of what I think you’re saying. First, just to clarify, an “internet butterfly” is someone who, I gather, moves from site to site to site touching down briefly on things about which they know very little, and then flits away. That’s an interesting take considering the comment you left and the site and article on which you commented.

          As for the rest of your comment, what I’m hearing you say is you believe that when someone suffers the worst clinical outcome (death) following treatments geared toward avoiding the worst outcome (again, death) of a non-fatal condition (mental health issues), we ought to “frame” the negative outcome in a narrative light that favors the clinician and their treatment rather than exploring all possible contributors to the fatality. Am I hearing you correctly?

          I also noticed you compared mental illness to cancer. Cancer is an observable disease. Medical providers order tests, scans, and other diagnostics to determine the location, type, stage, and severity of cancer. Now, if someone came in and said, “I think I have cancer,” and the doctor said, “Okay, I’ll take your word for it. Here are some pills I heard about on TV that might help,” and that person dies, is it cancer that killed them? How would we know if no biological markers for cancer were found, let alone tested for and observed? And is that how we ought to “frame” this total show of negligence on the part of the medical provider?

          By the way, the above scenario could be characterized as the SOP of psychiatry. No “illness,” no biological markers, no evidence, no tests, no facts, just flawed perceptions, and skewed opinions, and that just isn’t how medical science is supposed to work. That’s how blind belief works, and when you couple “blind belief” with a prescription pad, it can be a fatal combination. We need medical providers to prescribe based on facts, not flawed science and biases.

          I don’t know if you’ve taken the time to read the actual studies that were conducted on psychiatric medications (these are the only medications at issue here, not all medications), taking into account the studies and results that went unpublished or got buried due to lack of positive “framing,” and long-term outcomes that categorically show worse mental and physical health for medicated patients, or if you’ve ever been curious enough to do a deep dive into the results that were ultimately skewed by corrupting influences in the pharmaceutical industry, but I encourage you to get curious.

          The onus rests on medical professionals to have the most up-to-date, accurate evidence when they prescribe medications to patients, but when it comes to psychiatry, this profession has been under excessive influence for so long, you have to want to know how corrupt it is. Difficult when one’s livelihood depends on *not* knowing.

          All this seems like brand new information for you, so I do hope you can see past your own bias and financial incentives to seek out the truth. Once you have all the information, you’re free to “frame” it however you like. But you do need to have the information before you contribute in any meaningful way to the dialog. Take care. – JA

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        • Dr. Ben,
          I find myself wondering if you’d be willing to write me a list of the diagnostic tests for “mental illness” other than the DSM’s rudimentary checklists. I’m sure many people beside me would love to see it. Please let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in.

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    • Thanks, Jen. I appreciate your thoughtful response. It seems that people here are suggesting that my article could be the deciding factor re: whether someone chooses to get help for emotional pain or mental health struggles. This reminds me, once again, of my religious upbringing. As a child, my parents didn’t want me to play with children who didn’t believe as they believed because what if, by some chance, I lost my beliefs while playing Barbies with a non-believer?! That is not faith, that’s fear.

      Whether someone chooses to seek pharmacological intervention for their mental health struggles will not be determined by me or my negative experiences. In fact, I’m not sure how I could compete with a multi-billion-dollar industry that lulls us to sleep at night with its shiny ads and happy, smiling, functional people on TV who–thanks to their drug–are now A-OK.

      In fact, I hope people who are struggling with their mental health do land on Mad in America in their search for information about psychiatric medications. One afternoon reading the articles herein wouldn’t even make a dent in the 40+ year PR and ad campaigns implemented by the pharmaceutical industry. We need information, not silence.

      Finally, during my time reading and responding to comments yesterday, I was disturbed to learn that Ms. Armstrong expressed her own doubts about psychiatry on her blog, but the backlash was so severe, she took her post down. Let’s stop and take a moment to think about that. People who cared about her enough to read her and follow her writings… shouted down her lived experience, so much so, she had to remove her experience from the one place she felt she could share it: Her blog and the people who cared about her. It’s a little chilling to consider, isn’t it?

      Also, since this seems to be an oft-missed point of clarity for some folks, I wrote I didn’t know why Heather took her own life, but *I believe* I do. That’s not a claim of certainty.

      If you read my post carefully, without your own black-and-white filter, you’d notice that I don’t place the onus solely on psychiatry: “Heather Armstrong’s life was taken by psychiatry, *our society’s blind and mindless capitulation to psychiatry, and our unwillingness to scrutinize their methods of madness, which lead to worse mental health, worse physical health, worse outcomes, and loss.”*

      That is what I wrote. While parsing it out might feel easier for most folks, let’s stick to the facts of what I wrote. It takes a village. And there is nothing more black-and-white, Jen, than “life” and “death.” As for me, I will not be removing this blog–ever. And I will not stop advocating for the countless, unknown victims like Heather who no longer have voices. Take care. – JA

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      • I did not know Heather and never interacted with her or her communities. I have no dog in this hunt—other than that I read every word she wrote, for 20 years. She was a brilliant and talented and complicated person who had some serious, complex issues that she wrote about, openly, over a span of decades.

        So, with respect, the issue I have with your article is that that you’ve made some factually false suppositions to prove your point that someone’s life was “taken by psychiatry,” when you admittedly haven’t read anything about her life and have no idea if she’d been under the care of a psychiatrist for 6 years since that one thing happened that someone told you about, 4 years ago. This is not how we do Science.

        I could, perhaps understand your questioning the experimental therapy that Heather underwent in 2017. If your goal is to question the field of psychiatry, in general, or any particular aspect of Western medicine, then more power to you.

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    • You are right.I would not have a life worth living if not for medication for PTSD.I had panic attacks as many as 3 a day on and off for 25 years along with on and off depression.Medication helped me. I was able to travel the world solo! For many many years I was afraid to be alone in my own home , for fear of becoming overwhelming depressed or have a panic attack and being alone. I also have used talk therapy on and off to discuss my. Issues stemming from childhood abuse. I actually have a peaceful mind most of the time. I don’t feel like a zombie.I still feel all normal emotions.This stigma concerning mental health has to stop.People are dying and suffering trying to hide their illness.

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      • I always find it odd that defenders of the current psychiatric paradigm so frequently conflate criticisms of that paradigm with ‘stigma concerning mental health.’ The two have literally nothing to do with each other. There is, in fact, HUGE “stigma” for people suffering emotional pain who DON’T use psychiatric drugs as part of their treatment, and those who choose to discontinue such treatment are often attacked relentlessly by the very people who are supposed to be helping them.

        There is certainly general discrimination in the public sphere against people who qualify for or identify with a “mental health diagnosis.” On that point, I’m sure you will find no disagreement on this site whatsoever. However, it is actually shown by scientific research that teaching people to view “mental illness” as a brain disorder of some sort INCREASES “stigma” and discrimination by making it easier for people to emotionally distance themselves from those who are suffering, while a “trauma-based” framing increases empathy and DECREASES stigma.

        So please don’t blame “stigma” on those who question the accepted psychiatric paradigm. It is the accepted paradigm itself which is responsible for most of the stigma, according to their own research. There is nothing wrong with questioning the scientific validity of psychiatry’s unproven assumptions, nor does questioning those assumptions mean or imply that those finding psychiatric drugs helpful are wrong or need to be forbidden from using them. Again, the two issues have literally not a thing in common.

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        • I read that seeing emotional matters as biological brain disease evokes fear (i.e., stigma) because it makes people think those with emotional issues might fly uncontrollably into a psychotic rage. But that doesn’t happen in most cases. But what IS happening is people are finally learning the “medications” themselves are responsible for causing a lot of emotional lability both during “treatment” and withdrawal. Conversely, when people are told that someone’s problems are the result of experiencing abusive behavior, they’re able to react more compassionately. Perhaps that’s from relating more to hurt feelings than to someone’s bizarre sounding “illness”.

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      • Anne,
        I’m glad you believe medications helped you. I notice you don’t give any credit to the talk therapy you were in (on and off) nor to your own abilities to confront your fears and overcome them. That’s unfortunate because I think you deserve at least some of the credit.

        Anne, we know trauma can cause PTSD. But we have no evidence to support that the use of medication specifically targets PTSD receptors in the brain and corrects what went wrong in someone’s childhood. There are no such things as PTSD receptors, I should note.

        Personally, I see trauma as, not an event, but our reaction and ability to process the event. When we’re children, we simply don’t have the ability to process certain things, and it can create a lot of difficulties for us.

        That said, medications often perpetrate trauma upon trauma for many people. While you have been lucky and medications did not make your life more difficult, many of us here were not so lucky. If we can incorporate your beliefs (that medication helped you) then I think it’s a reasonable expectation that you and others who comment incorporate the lived experiences of the people here. Thanks for reading. – JA

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    • Demonizing medications is alarming. Medications are a tool. They target chemical processes. They aren’t inherently miracles, nor are they inherently evil.
      Yes, anti-depressants can “cause” suicide, because when you’ve been struggling under the burden of a chemical deficiency/imbalance/etc, when that burden is relieved it’s all too easy to feel like you have the wherewithal to put an end to the war. Medications “cause” suicide in the same fashion that gasoline can “cause” a car wreck. It is very difficult to crash a car that cannot move.
      Psychiatry is riddled with a long history of biases, injustices, and abhorrent practices – too many of which are still considered acceptable today because the field is also riddled with chronically neurotypical people who think they know better than the person living in their own skin. Is a botched surgery the fault of the scalpel or the surgeon? Should all surgery be demonized because in the past, surgeons killed as many or more than they saved? Psychiatry, as a field, is in its ugly teen phase, with lots of learning and growing pains going on – and there are people trying to make that growth good.
      A person’s life is more than their chemical makeup. Suicide is not a “surrender;” it’s a desperate attempt to escape what that person has come to the conclusion is an unlivable life. If one cannot live, then why should we continue suffering?
      Real hope takes more than medication.
      This is why advocating for education, acceptance, and accomodations are suicide prevention. Stable housing is suicide prevention. Safe food is suicide prevention. Compassion is suicide prevention. And, yes, access to effective medication that treats the appropriate root causes is also suicide prevention.
      Psychiatry as a field and medication as a tool cannot be saddled with the blames that should be laid at the doorstep of our culture, and how it treats vulnerable people like trash. Psychiatry needs more beneficial change espoused by those who can use their voice to do so.

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      • I think you pointed out very well that criticism of psychiatry as a whole is not a criticism of medication. I also agree that medications change chemicals in the brain, which would be helpful to more people if we actually knew what chemicals needed to be changed, but we don’t. You mentioned that psychiatry was in its ugly “teen” years. I’m guessing the Nobel Prize for lobotomies was its childhood? Yes, the history is troubled.

        I disagree with you on really only on one very important point. Medications can and do cause suicide. I know of too many incidents personally and it isn’t a gasoline and car analogy. The medications for some people can be car bombs and in those times medication should take the blame. The clinical trials on the medications show this when the only variable is the drug and the suicides increase, where do you place the blame? (Even more insidious is the withdrawal from the medications can be the bomb.) It is why medications have warning labels, because they can be deadly bombs. Also as shown in the clinical trials for some, the medications may indeed be the gasoline to get them on airplanes and living their lives, but for others it is deadly. People need to be better informed before they put the key in the ignition.

        I’ve said it elsewhere in the comment section, but Ms. Armstrong in her writing, particularly her book, publicized and glorified extreme psychiatric treatments. I really believe that both psychiatry and society should have been able to come up with a more compassionate method for Ms. Armstrong to quell her emotional pain.

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        • They also screen out suicidal people from the vast majority of these clinical trials, so these are not “suicidal people getting the energy to do it.” These are people who, for the most part, were not suicidal until they took the drugs. They most definitely can and do cause suicidal thinking. Hence, the black box warning. That warning ought to be enough for anyone to acknowledge the possibility.

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        • Kent says, “…criticism of psychiatry as a whole is not a criticism of medication”.

          Yes, but it’s important to remember that psychiatry is all about its so-called medication. And if there were none of these, there’d be no psychiatry.

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      • “Demonizing medications is alarming.”

        Right, let’s just keep demonizing the people who were disabled/nearly killed by psych drugs and now have things written in their medical chart that make it unsafe for them to see a doctor. Let’s just keep doing that and virtue signaling about “vulnerable people who are struggling.”

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    • Thanks for your thoughts, PK. While trauma plays a role in people’s health (mental and physical), I’m wondering why we’re given the message that a psychotropic medication would address that. I believe trauma can and often does negatively impact people. But what this means is that people who have suffered trauma are even more vulnerable, which makes the thoughtless and reckless medicating practices that continue to occur even more egregious. Thanks for reading. – JA

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    • Hi June, that is a possibility. Often when people change or stop a psychiatric drug, especially abruptly, it can amplify the effects of the adverse effects of the medication, specifically the “worsening depression, suicidal thoughts/actions,” and a side effect called “akathisia,” which may be the precipitating factor in suicide. The cultural narrative we’ve been sold, that these medications somehow “right” disturbed brain chemistry, is false. These medications disrupt normal brain function. And when the brain adapts after trying to recover its homeostasis, it can have catastrophic repercussions. Thanks for reading and take care. – JA

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    • She did. She hasn’t taken her meds in the years with her current boyfriend.

      She also detailed her recreational drug use and severe alcoholism on her blog. But it seems like no one here, including the author, bothered with any of these details.

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      • It is easy to move from “she wasn’t taking her meds” or “she engaged in recreational drug use” to “she killed herself because she stopped her meds” and/or “she killed herself because she’s an addict.” Neither of those premises has any more evidence backing them up than the “psychiatry killed her” idea. Any of those are possible, none are provable. But one thing we DO know for sure – this person had the best of available psychiatric care for decades, did not “resist” or “rebel” but in fact embraced the system for most of that time, and all of that “help” did not prevent her eventual suicide. It is certainly NOT valid to suggest that everything was going just fine before she “quit her meds!” It sounds from her blogs like she struggled the entire time she was “in treatment” and went another direction for whatever reason she chose. It would be EXTREMELY naïve to look at her situation and say, “if only she’d stayed on her meds…” Whether her suicide was caused by her engagement or disengagement with “the system” is not something we can determine, but I think it is more than fair to say that psychiatry failed her in many ways, and it’s never appropriate in my mind to blame the client for quitting services when the services have not been successful. If psychiatry were the answer for her, 20 or more years of committed engagement with the psychiatric system would have led to a different outcome. I think it’s more than fair to suggest that psychiatry AT BEST did not help the situation, despite her being fully committed to following their instructions for many years. Let’s not blame “not taking her meds” so easily, since we’re hearing we’re not supposed to be so “black and white” in our thinking as the author supposedly is.

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        • I agree, Steve. I think another point that gets lost is that a person who has been on a variety of psych drugs, in different combinations, might eventually reach a point where their physical health has suffered so much that they can’t continue afford to keep putting all of that toxin in their body.

          Over 35 years (beginning in 1983 with an elavil prescription because I was a “depressed” high school student, not functioning well in school because of an unaddressed home situation, and ending in 2020 when I stopped Cymbalta) I ingested prescribed psych drugs from every category: from antidepressants to antipsychotics, anti-anxiety, mood stabilizers, ADD drugs etc. I struggled physically throughput, having a long-term hypertensive crisis following a trial of parnate, a grand mal seizure while on Wellbutrin, serious weight gain leading to metabolic disorder from antipsychotics,…the list is very long.

          I’ve had other physical problems that I suspect resulted from psychiatric treatments, but can never prove. I’ve had severe tinnitus which seemed to get worse after TMS. I fractured three bones just by twisting my ankle a bit awkwardly, and now I’ve been hearing that antipsychotics weaken bones.

          There is not always help from the health care system in dealing with all of these physical problems that come up, if in fact the health care system even acknowledges that the problems were caused by the drugs, which in my experience, they usually denied it and blamed it on me or my genetics and suggested more drugs.

          This is a scary situation for anyone to be in and may factor into why someone, after being on psych drugs for a long period of time, would stop taking them.

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  2. My condolences to Heather’s family and friends. And thank you for pointing out the systemic, paternalistic harms of the “partnership” (confessed to by women of my former religion) between the paternalistic mainstream religions – and the can’t bill for covering up child abuse for the religions – paternalistic psychologic and psychiatric industries.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-child-does-not-have-bipolar-disorder/201402/dsm-5-and-child-neglect-and-abuse-1

    https://books.google.com/books?id=xI01AlxH1uAC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_
    r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

    My best to you, as well, J.A. Carter-Winward, in your healing journey.

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    • Thank you for the kind words. Yes, it’s hard to understand the disconnect in the psychiatric community sometimes. I know too many good folks in the field to believe they went in with writhing hands, saying “bwah hah hah.” This is an institutional problem. And once the APA teamed up with PR and advertising in the 1980s, an unholy alliance was made, creating a cultural wave that can’t be stopped by one, single person, let alone a lot of people. It’s going to take effort from every angle to stop the machinery of this lost discipline. My hope resides with the good people that can often be found within it. Take good care. – JA

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      • The damage you are doing is enormous. My psychiatrist did a neurological DNA test on me after many forms of treatment didn’t work. If it was a medication giving me bad side effects, he took me off them safely. I went through 7 full 6wk treatments of TMS (he covered the costs my insurance didn’t pay) treatments, and no changes. The DNA testing showed my multiple mental health issues are biologically inherited from my maternal line. After many discussions with my mom, she could point out that those in her maternal line suffered from many of those same conditions, but back then people, especially women, were given negative labels and ostracized. Knowing I’m medication resistant explained why I have come out of anesthesia during every surgery I’ve ever had. Not all mental health professionals recommend drugs as the first option, talk therapy has saved my life many times in the past 20 years, but when the depression lows hit, it’s hard to find the strength to get through it, knowing that it will come again without warning. Dooce was a popular blogger when she was single, living in LA, long before she met Jon, got married, and moved back to Utah. Long before the term Mommy Blogger was coined.

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        • “but back then people, especially women, were given negative labels and ostracized.”

          It’s no different today. Women are diagnosed with borderline personality and ostracized. I have the diagnosis. I’m speaking from experience. My maternal grandmother was told by doctors that her teeth were the reason for her anxiety. The recommendation was to have them pulled. She was in her 30s, went along with the recommendation and spent the rest of her life wearing dentures. Still had anxiety. For me it was ECT and polypharmacy and I was called non compliant when I wanted to stop antipsychotics that were destroying my health.
          Every person has his or her own experience and every person has the right to speak about it. “The damage you are doing is enormous” is a horrible thing to say to someone whose words you don’t agree with. I, for one, feel very validated and supported by people who speak up about the dangers of psychiatry.

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        • Lori, thanks for the comment. Words and ideas don’t do damage, but bad medical science does. Most people don’t have your experience. They suffer side effects and are told to “stick it out.” You were lucky. There are a lot of people who, based on the inability to properly metabolize medications, continue to suffer adverse drug effects long after medications are discontinued. These effects become chronic and are often called “tardive.” There are no tests for this, though, just like there has been no genome or allele that definitively links mental illness to genetic factors alone. I’m sorry, but you were misinformed. What they can test for genetically is your (in)ability to metabolize medications.

          Genetic predispositions are just that—they are not written in stone, and epigenetics give us hope that we can change some of the genetic hands we’re dealt. For example, genetic testing has shown why some people are drug-resistant, but they do not indicate the final word on why someone suffers from mental illness. When we look for specific things to confirm what we already believe to be true, this is called confirmation bias. This is what psychiatry hangs its hat on.

          Frankly, I was sold these same beliefs as you. My family tree was rife with nuts. I’m not sure there’s a family tree out there that isn’t.

          What I’m suggesting here, Lori is rethinking a system that has sold you the idea that your emotional struggles are inherent in you, inherited by you, and you are powerless to change them. But if you need to believe that’s true, that’s okay with me. I’m glad talk therapy saved your life, it saved mine, too. What continues to save me is the knowledge that the brain has the ability to change, heal, and overcome. I believe that because I’m still here. I wish you way more than luck. – JA

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        • “Not all mental health professionals recommend drugs as the first option,” of course they don’t. But there are good and bad psychologists, just like there are good and bad within all industries, religions, and people. I’m glad you were helped by good psychologists, Lori, and I personally know some good psychologists.

          But I also was personally attacked and harmed by evil, systemic, child abuse covering up psychologists.

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  3. I came across this blog searching for Heather Armstrong dooce bipolar disorder – thinking she might had that, not only depression. Is is refreshing to read someone dares to tell the truth about the failure of psychiatry – totally agree with that.
    We are always encouraged to reach out for professional help whenever a suicide occurs but they are not telling loud enough that those people already sought professional help and didn’t help.

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    • Thank you for your kind words. This site began with a book eponymously entitled “Mad in America” by Robert Whitaker. It’s a profound history of mental illness that opened my eyes. But, like the red pill, you can’t ever go back. But, as Morpheus asked in the first Matrix movie, “Would you want to?”

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    • Gradiva, thanks for your openness and willingness to hear another narrative. Your point is worthy of repetition here:
      “We are always encouraged to reach out for professional help whenever a suicide occurs but they are not telling loud enough that those people already sought professional help and didn’t help.”
      I don’t think I can emphasize the brilliance of this enough. Many, many thanks for this and your comments. – JA

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  4. I definitely agree that our current model of mental/behavioral health care is deeply flawed and misguided. There are several contributing factors, not the least of which certainly is our culture’s acceptance of “throw a pill at it” treatment. I’d say this mentality is inherently problematic and that it permeates all medical domains and disciplines. (Case and point: opioids)

    Another significant factor is widespread ignorance of the causes and conditions of mental/behavioral health (“good” or “bad,” “stable” or “unstable,” “healthy” or “unhealthy,” etc.); a natural consequence of the general unwillingness to honestly and openly talk about it, publicly or privately. While it certainly can be, and probably is with disgusting frequency*, I don’t think writing about it is necessarily exploiting a “cultural fad.” From the way I see it, especially in our culture of silence, making oneself vulnerable by honestly and publicly sharing the intimate and personal details of one’s internal suffering requires immense courage. This sure reads as if the author is suggesting Dooce’s success was merely a “cultural fad-reaction,” and that her writing didn’t “stand on its own.” I hope it wasn’t the author’s intent, though, considering they acknowledge never actually reading Dooce’s blog.

    The author seems to make broad statements uniformly and unequivocally casting a negative light on psychiatric medications, while only acknowledging their use in treating “emotional states.” Not only is it widely viewed that depression (and other conditions) transcends an “emotional state,” but there are also several neurological conditions that can cause neurotransmitter imbalances. Such cases provide a biological/anatomical basis for psychiatric medications like antidepressants not unlike diabetes and insulin. The author makes several unjustified, logically fallacious statements regarding the harm of these medications. While there have been reports that antidepressants may increase risk of suicide, the significance of this increase varies dramatically between different medications. For many, the increase is borderline statistically irrelevant. To suggest that the medication must have been the cause simply because the increased risk of suicide is a possible side effect is to mistake correlation as causation. To suggest this is a natural result of Occam’s razor is ludicrous. There are countless additional factors that could have contributed.

    It would be great if a “metaphorical red pill” did exist, and it was that easy to “free your mind.” It would help prevent the suffering experienced by so many people on a daily basis. The author is right, though, that there is no “magic pill” (paraphrasing). What’s more, I believe the author is spot on with their prescription: “a willingness to get comfortable with uncertainty and critical thought.” Unfortunately, however, both of these qualities/properties/states (I’m not sure which would be the right word) are often discouraged in our culture. Developing this sort of comfort is not an easy process. It is especially difficult when already in the grips of a severe episode of any mental/behavioral health condition; the energy it can require can be devastating. In many instances, depending on circumstance and severity, opening that proverbial can of worms can be crippling. In such instances, the already unrealistic daily demands just to stay afloat can become outright impossible. When 64% of us are living paycheck-to-paycheck, this is an insurmountable task for far too many of us.

    The American model of psychiatry is not a failure; it is incredibly successful at achieving its goal. Unfortunately, that goal is to provide just enough care for us to be able to go to and from work every day. The failure lies with our institutions.

    My name is Tim. I am autistic and have struggled with poly-substance use disorder (7 years in remission) and co-occurring psychiatric conditions. I was first medicated 7 years ago, after a failed suicide attempt. I was fortunate enough to not experience severe negative side effects from these medications; while I have never been “happy” with my psychiatric care, it did save my life.

    *Straight up, it’s disgustingly frequent if it happens once. These conditions can cause such a tremendous amount of suffering, and it’s just messed up to think about someone exploiting it

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    • Tim, I am in awe of your ability to so clearly and in layman’s terms give a 100% accurate and honest explanation of the experience some of us go through, and are rightfully offended by an uninformed “opinion” trying to be passed as facts. I’m 64, and I understand on a deep level the struggles Dooce and tWitch (Dec 13, 2022) went through before they made their own decisions.

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    • Tim, I’m glad the treatments worked for you and saved you. I also hope they continue to save you. I also understand the immense suffering that mental anguish can cause. The reality is, as we are so often told, that the United States in particular, is in a mental health crisis for many of the reasons you suggest. If psychiatry was as successful as you suggest, wouldn’t there be less mental health problems than there were previously? Yes, psychiatry is also another of those institutions that could be contributing to the problem. Capitalism works for a large percentage of the population, but not those living paycheck to paycheck. I’m not advocating, nor is J.A., for the abolition of Capitalism or psychiatry, but pointing out the silence in the media about significant contributing factors skews the conversation, which gratefully, this comment thread seems to be addressing.

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    • Tim, great comment and thoughtfully put. No, my intentions were not to disparage Heather’s writing at all. I can see how it might have come across that way, though. I did read Heather’s blog a few times. When I say “I didn’t read her,” what I meant was I wasn’t a regular or consistent reader. I wasn’t a part of her “audience.” Her subject matter simply didn’t speak to me.

      The comment that her writing was a cultural fad isn’t to suggest she wasn’t talented. For example, I finished writing a YA novel back in 2006 and my agent was very excited about it. One morning, I got an email from her asking me this: “Have you heard of ‘Twilight’?” You see, my YA novel was about vampires. We didn’t go forward with selling the book because the culture had been saturated by the “Twilight” books. So, a cultural fad is something that “hits” at just the right time and in just the right way. Heather’s blog did that. She was a gifted writer, and the world is less bright and interesting without her in it. Thanks for reading. – JA

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  5. I am critical of spoonfeeding psychiatric medicine, but then I have to remain as critical when reading this article. You didn’t read this poor person’s blog, you barely remembered their name. But then this:

    “I realized then that I didn’t need to ask him how she’d died. I already knew.”

    If this is supposed to be an argument against psychiatry (and there are plenty) this is not it and might I say it is in a very bad taste to publicly decide with an absolute certainty the cause of someone’s suicide.

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    • Totally agree, Sandra. I am not pro psychiatry, but using this poor woman’s tragic and public suicide to completely blame psychiatry while knowing nothing of her life or the circumstances of her death is careless and ignorant. Shame on MIA for publishing this, the main “research” for which is the author’s husband’s book review. This is a really lazy and unfair post.

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    • Sandra and Kent S,

      While J.A. hadn’t read the Dooce blog or her book, J.A. and I had had a lengthy discussion in 2019 after I finished reading book. It also appears to me that neither of you are familiar with her book. Ironically, I had read it searching for treatment options. We discussed the treatments Ms. Armstrong had undergone and the medicines she was placed on after the ten insulin induced comas. We were also very familiar with her from the blogging world of the early 2000s and she was local. When J.A. wrote “I already knew,” it was because she truly knew based on our previous discussions and our experiences, just like I unfortunately knew, when I saw the link in the New York Times the other morning.

      I also think it is clear, especially from J.A.’s comments that she isn’t saying psychiatry is solely the ultimate cause of Ms. Armstrong’s death, but it certainly didn’t help. The question and the reason this is important is at least so far, this is the only place that I’ve seen where her treatment by psychiatry has actually even been questioned.

      Finally, J.A., much like Ms. Armstrong, has extensively and publicly written about her interactions with psychiatry. Any author who has done this knows that their opinion and views are then open to public scrutiny. In her book, Ms. Armstrong “flat-out admits that she decided to write this book at the behest of her therapist to bring hope to the single moms who are worried they will lose custody due to a mental illness diagnosis or to those who are disenchanted with the medical community.” That quote was from my 2019 book review. It is also exactly why addressing the failure of the medical community for Ms. Armstrong is not only appropriate, but necessary, to prevent further unnecessary tragedies.

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    • Congratulations to you!!! You are a warrior. It is people like you who help others so much. You have had to become an expert to save yourself. Unless you have been through this type of health “care” you do not know the topic the same. A health professional who has not been subjected to medication simply cannot understand either. 8f it makes you worse, it’s not working! I was being very seriously abused and it was diagnosed as a mood disorder. I had the presence of mind to tell the Dr to p*** off. Ridiculous!!! Well done again, i know many people will be helped by your story (the diagnoses are totally bs and the practitioners are blind, or worse). Save yourselves.

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  6. Several of her recent posts were focused on skepticism of psychiatry and about how she had stopped taking her meds. She no longer “believed in” ADHD. She had also long made a point of refusing any intimation that she had either Borderline Personality Disorder or was Bipolar, instead pursuing fringe experimental therapies.

    To put it plainly, to say that she died as a result of psychiatry is to fail to note that a) she was no longer under psychiatric care and b) likely never had the psychiatric care that would have been appropriate for her potential condition.

    Her death is not an opportunity for your personal hobby horse. Even were the facts of her life in line with your theory (and they are not), it’s unseemly.

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    • SB, thanks for your thoughts. Unfortunately, one may be through with psychiatry, but psychiatry isn’t necessarily through with them, which is to say that the effects of psychiatric treatment often outlive the active treatments themselves, leaving people in worse condition than when they began treatment. I can understand how lost Heather might have felt. Once someone rejects the dogma of psychiatry, it feels isolating and frightening. With labels come certainty and a form of identity. The medical traumas Heather endured could not have helped. As for my hobby horse, it’s my job to connect the dots. Once someone has taken medications, unless they engage in the recovery process from those medications, their conditions usually do not improve with time. This is a sad fact that many here on MiA have lived. I see it as a privilege and a duty to share my lived experience, as Ms. Armstrong did, to prevent more unnecessary suffering and loss. Thanks for reading. – JA

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    • Personality disorders are the amongst the worst and most defamatory of psychiatry’s categorisations. A human being’s personality is one of the most fundamental aspects of their existence. Labelling that itself disordered becomes nothing more than a tool of incessant gaslighting. Whatever you can do by labelling a person as such, you can do without too. You can describe a person’s behaviour for what it is. This is one of the reasons I would never want to step into the office of a mental health worker again. These categorisations. I have been fortunate enough to escape most of them, and I would like it to be that way.

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  7. You seem to believe in the importance of empirical evidence, and bemoan its absence in psychiatry: “That is what science, especially medical science, is supposed to proffer: beliefs based on empirical evidence. There is one discipline, however, that falls drastically short of that mark, and that is psychiatry.” But you offer no empirical evidence — only rhetoric and shaky logic — to support your own claim that medication caused this particular death, or that people with mental illnesses would be better off, on average, without those medications. Rhetoric: “rather Armstrong’s life was taken by psychiatry, our society’s blind and mindless capitulation to psychiatry, and our unwillingness to scrutinize their methods of madness, which lead to worse mental health, worse physical health, worse outcomes, and loss. Tragedy and loss.” Shaky logic: “why not use Occam’s razor to conclude the obvious: if they were on medications that cause suicide, the medications caused their suicide” — this is not far from implying that correlation proves causation, even if we accept your claim that medications “cause” suicide in the first place. Very similar to: “If the person died with Covid, Covid caused their death” — possible, maybe even very possible, but not necessarily (and often not) true. I don’t see single data point or even allusion to empirical research on this (important) question. Pot, meet kettle.

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    • I didn’t need a single “data point” to know that psychiatric drugs were causing me unbearable difficulties. And neither did the psychiatrists I consulted at the time, because there were few (if any) “data points” available at the time, so all they had was scant knowledge of the side/withdrawal effects I was experiencing, which WAS their “empirical evidence”. And guess what? Two of them happened to be heads of psychiatry in two highly respected teaching hospitals in two different cities—but only ONE accurately identified what I was going through, and NEITHER had any “data points” to support their different conclusions.

      Psychiatry is more hit and miss than “data points”, which is fine if you do well, but hell if you don’t.

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      • An over-reliance on “data points” in “psychiatry” has led to more than a few nasty surprises for more than a few people. And you need only read a few of the numerous personal accounts at MIA to become well-apprised of this sad fact. Furthermore, there’s been NO longitudinal studies (i.e., “data points”) on the safety for long-term use of psychotropic drugs.

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        • And it’s ONLY because of the integrity and bravery of a very few people that we now know a substantial number of these “data points” were FUDGED in a drug’s favor by the pharmaceutical companies that happen to have FUNDED the “research”.

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    • Thanks, LI, that’s a great point. It’s true, I place my faith in empirical evidence when it comes to medical science. It’s also true that psychiatry, as a whole, lacks, empirical evidence to support its continued use of psychotropic medications in its current form. While most of the sciences use deductive reasoning behind their methods, psychiatry uses inductive reasoning, which is the shakiest logic imaginable, especially when people’s lives are at stake.

      Case in point: psychiatry uses medications that disrupt normal brain function—this fact is not disputed, not by the NIMH, the APA, nor by drug manufacturers. The route by which this disruption occurs is via certain neurotransmitters. In other words, these medications disrupt the brain’s chemistry.

      Studies dating as far back as 1979 conducted within the field of psychiatry—meaning the bias of the researchers was to prove the chemical imbalance theory, not disprove it—showed a total lack of evidence to support the chemical imbalance theory of mental illness.
      So, the brain-altering psychotropic medications being given to people every day here in the U.S. and in other developed countries were designed to treat biological illnesses that have no evident biological pathology or cause. And still, with no evidence to support a causal link between mental illness and imbalanced brain chemistry, medical professionals continue to prescribe medications that claim to correct brain chemistry due to some vague correlation hypothesized back in the 1960s. Can you account for this?

      Unless you’re suggesting that it’s all right for medicine to use inductive reasoning and correlative methods when medicating patients with dangerous, powerful drugs solely based on correlation, while as a writer and former patient of psychiatry, I am required to operate under a more rigorous standard?

      Yes, historically, people fared better without the intervention of psychiatry, and this is also borne out in several studies and meta-analyses conducted by the WHO and NICE, among other reputable organizations. You sound like a “true believer,” and so I understand how my rhetoric seems threatening. It might be difficult, as it was for me several years ago, to read books and research that run counter to the narrative. So, don’t take my word for it. The information is out there, and it’s not on the fringes, it can be found in reputable psychiatric, medical, and scientific publications. It can also be found in books by Robert Whitaker and others who risked their careers and reputations to speak out against a multi-billion-dollar industry.

      Finally, the reasons people choose to end their lives are myriad and complicated, much like mental health issues themselves. I didn’t read Ms. Armstrong’s book, but my husband’s takeaway was that Heather Armstrong believed in psychiatry. She promoted the most extreme psychiatric treatments as curative and helpful, leading untold numbers of people down a path that ultimately led the author herself to suicide.

      The fact that so many people are upset is telling. My takeaway is that when people are uncertain, they are reactionary because they are afraid. My piece advocates for our society as a whole to rethink how we see and understand psychiatry. Isn’t that worthy of a discussion? A system based on inductive reasoning and methodology will create inconsistent and unreliable outcomes. Psychiatry is one of those systems.

      Without question, psychiatry failed Heather Armstrong, and based on evidence and data provided by psychiatric research and drug makers, its treatments likely caused enough harm to tip her over the edge. Do I have the empirical evidence to prove that? I do not. Equally, neither do you. That said, yes, I demand a higher standard of knowledge, research, and care from the scientific medical community than I do from writers. Take care and thanks for reading. – JA

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      • “The fact that so many people are upset is telling. My takeaway is that when people are uncertain, they are reactionary because they are afraid.”

        No. People who are upset aren’t always afraid. We are sometimes passionate about dangerous misinformation based on empirical evidence that is not even your own. It’s your husband’s. To craft an entire article on this which reaches the conclusion that psychiatric medication caused a woman’s suicide is beyond irresponsible.

        As I have stated in other comments here, you need to do a lot more reading and research on Armstrong and other factors at play in her life and death before you reach the conclusion that ONE aspect in a myriad of co-morbidities was the reason for her death.

        It is lazy writing. And it’s a dangerous conclusion to reach and state in such black and white terms about a woman whose life you haven’t even researched properly.

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  8. To blame medications on why someone took their life is ignorant to say the least. You have no clue what that person is going through and why they were placed on medication to begin with. Many people have been testimony to medications life saving effects, and writing faulty information deters many from getting the help they need.

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  9. My twin sister was a on a full scholarship at Loyola University in Chicago. Smart, funny with a bright future. A bout of depression took her down the psychiatric rabbit hole. Doc enrolled her in a trial of an experimental schizophrenia drug (she was not schizophrenic). In six months she gained 100 pounds and become a shuffling catatonic. Her neurological symptoms (extra pyramidal) were so bad she could not walk on her own. She could no longer talk coherently. This doctor would not remove her from the trial, once she was hospitalized he had all the power. Her life was ruined, yet she was no longer depressed! The drug worked! This event started a spiral of pathologic and sadistic “mental health care.” It ended ten years later with her suicide following a new prescription of Prozac. My heart goes out to all the victims of abusive psychiatry.

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  10. This is eloquent but harmful misinformation. I am not a psychiatrist or a pharma rep, but I’ve been seeing the same psychiatrist for decades; I was prescribed bupropion early on for depression. It has been a life changer for me. And it’s not just my “belief” – several times I have either accidentally missed a day or tried to wean off the medicine. In the accidental cases, vivid symptoms of irritability and tiredness were what prompted me to even think about whether I remembered to take my medicine. In the weaning cases, I only made it a week before the irritability and tiredness were too much to bear. So you can consider me a “success story”.

    Why do I call your post misinformation? Because what you and your husband call “belief” in psychiatry, the medical profession calls the “placebo effect”. It is indeed very powerful. That’s why any medication that goes on the market must pass at least one double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial (RCT for short, which are literally the gold standard in all branches of medicine for proving efficacy). Passing an RCT means that it is reasonably safe and that it treats the intended disease significantly better than the placebo effect. So, as long as the RCT was conducted properly (without data fudging), any medicine a psychiatrist prescribes has been PROVEN to work better than placebo in the population at large. It has been PROVEN to be more effective than mere “belief”. So you and your husband’s writings are harmful if they convince any depressed reader to avoid seeing a psychiatrist because the medications that might be prescribed would cause more harm than good, or are only based on belief.

    Passing an RCT, of course, does not mean that any time a psychiatrist prescribes a medicine to an individual that it will work as intended, and “reasonably safe” does not mean “perfectly safe”. Many psychiatric drugs unfortunately can exacerbate suicidal feelings in some people. You’re supposed to tell your doctor if you have those feelings, and they will almost certainly take you off that medicine and possibly try to find another. Also, it’s obviously possible for patients to participate in the clinical trials (in every field of medicine). It should be obvious that participating in a clinical trial can have unknown adverse side effects and the efficacy has not been established.

    I don’t know much about non-pharmaceutical treatments for depression, but most of them should also be testable by RCT. The exceptions are when there is no practical placebo: you can’t RCT hypnosis therapy because it’s literally just suggestion. From a brief search, it seems the Propofol induced coma treatment did not undergo a proper RCT: there was no placebo treatment arm (the only way I could think of to placebo a coma would be a different anesthetic which presumably would not have an antidepressant effects). However, that Propofol treatment was supposedly only applied for people whose depression was resistant to many other mainstream depression medications.

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    • Hi, Kelli. Thank you for your thoughts, but I don’t claim this is Heather’s story. It’s the story the media seem unwilling, or incapable of writing, however. These are powerful medications. They should be approached and used with the utmost care, caution, and gravity. Unfortunately, in today’s medical model of care, the blind belief in their benefit is destroying lives and families. Thanks for reading. Take care. – JA

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  11. What is your empirical evidence that psychotropic medication caused her suicide? What do you know of all the individuals who did not complete suicide because they were started on an anti-depressant, myself included, and the medication was the only new variable. There are many variables involved when a person completes suicide and making myopic and biased conclusions about cause without evidence is irresponsible. It just promotes personal bias disguised as knowledge.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts, MH. I’m glad you feel medications helped you. As stated in my lengthy response above, I agree. The reasons people take their own lives are myriad and complicated. Some people are helped with medications while others are irrevocably harmed. That said, to state that medications saved you while discounting that they harm others suggests that you believe your lived experience is valid while mine and others’ experiences are not.

      The purpose of the conversation is to reconcile the disparate clinical outcomes. I have no trouble incorporating the narrative that medications have helped people. The more inclusive the narrative, the closer it is to the truth. Unfortunately, too many people can’t seem to incorporate the lived experiences of people who have been harmed by psychiatry. It’s why this dialogue is so vital. Thanks for reading. – JA

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  12. This is excellent and something many people ignore. We should also be talking about the role played by these medications in the all too many tragic mass shooting taking place. Many of those people seem to be under the care of a mental health professional and we know how that works these days.

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    • Tony, yes. Thank you for these comments. The hyper-focus on the mental illness of mass shooters leaves out a large portion of the picture. The systemic harms can only be addressed when people stop taking things at face value and begin the hard work of questioning the status quo. Thanks for reading. – JA

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  13. After a diagnosis I left an abusive husband by checking in a hospital for a medical study. I finished college and secured a job at a social based center for mental illness. Tired of meds not working and doctors I had one doctor that helped me off meds.
    The center helped me see what college classes were saying different from what real world psychiatry is doing. Often over meditation and augmented regimens and failure with weight gain, thyroid and diabetes.
    The place I worked was social based and connected to mental health department. The supervisor felt 8 had to much influence and after iwas let go the center closed because the supervisor, ironically not college educated didn’t realize clients wouldn’t come if wasn’t there.
    I am glad recovery innovations was able to open with a new contract but prior employees were not offered the positions.
    I never did get another interview based on a year of experience and ba in psychology. Probably my age too.
    I’ve never touched another psych med again. The damage to my health lingers but I did loose a hundred pounds over time and I would rather go for walk, bike ride, garden, kayak or see a movie instead of a psychiatric doctor for a m I d adjustment.

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    • Mary, you’ve been through the meat grinder, and I’m so sorry for that. I’m glad you’re life is back on track and you’ve been able to create meaning despite the lingering challenges. I am writing a series on Mad in America about how I came to the road of recovery after being mired for over 25 years in the medical system, specifically due to psychiatry. I hope what I have to offer can give people new avenues to regain more functionality in their lives. Take good care and thanks for reading. – JA

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  14. I have to strongly disagree with you here . Yes, it may very well be true that a solely medical model to treat mental Illness is far less than ideal. And it also may be true that some of those medications can cause suicidal ideation in some people. To say the meds caused her death is speculative, you who did not and cannot know the inner workings of her hormonal, chemical, physical, mental and emotional make-up at the time of her suicide. Is it Possible. Absolutely. Likely? Ok maybe even so. But certain? No.

    I Myself take medications for breast cancer with potential irritable bowel side effects. If I’m doing just fine GI wise and then all of the sudden develop terrible diarrhea, do I know the medications caused it ? Or might it have been the stomach virus my kids brought home ? Or maybe in lingers for weeks . Can I be certain it’s the meds ? No. Turns out it was a flare up of my chron’s disease which was caused by stress at my job.

    That’s a physical example but the same holds true with psych meds. Many people take those meds and are helped . Others, for reasons more complex than your article would suggest continue or even begin to have suicide ideation.

    Do we need a more wholistic way to care for those with mental illnesses ? Yes. But let’s not throw out a very useful tool in our mental health care toolbox.

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    • Erin, thank you for your thoughtful comment. Yes, the line “psychiatry killed her” is reductive, but that was purposeful. When it comes to the disease model of mental health, what we’ve been told and sold is just as reductive: psychiatry and its medications treat mental illness, and that’s just not the case for too many people.

      Are there useful applications for the many psychiatric medications on the market today? Research has yet to find them. In fact, most psychiatric medications were brought to market for their side effects, not for the purposes they were originally intended and developed.

      However, anecdotal stories abound of medications saving lives, despite the lack of clinical evidence showing their efficacy, despite the lack of veracity of the DSMs, and despite the categorically poor long-term outcomes across the board for every single psychotropic drug.

      So, what I’m hearing you say is “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Agreed. But we need to take a look at that baby and see what it’s really made of–bad science, poor outcomes, treatment bias, and PR mythology spun by drug companies who, in the ultimate display of sunk-cost fallacy, seem determined to make money from medications that have shown to not only be clinically ineffective, but harmful.

      We do need a more holistic treatment model for mental health issues. The only tool in psychiatry’s toolbox seems to be a hammer. And while some folks survive the blow, others do not. Thanks and take good care. – JA

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  15. I can’t disagree more with this irresponsible “analysis.” You’ve never even read her blog, by your own admission. You know next to nothing about Heather. And yet you’re willing to use her to further your view that the entire field of psychiatry is dangerous? I have no problem with you having your viewpoint about this or anything else. By all means, we all have our viewpoints. Just don’t use a complete stranger to you as an object lesson that in the end demonstrates little more than the power of confirmation bias.

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  16. I wouldn’t listen to this article. If medication causes suicide, then what causes people not taking medication to commit suicide? Occam’s razor isn’t saying that medication caused her suicide…it’s that she suffered from suicidal ideation and unfortunately the treatments she tried did not work. That’s the risk we all take when we seek help for any ailment, that it might not get better, but the article has the wrong answer. Psychiatry is not 100% effective, but what is? That has never stopped us from getting treatment for our illnesses, and it shouldn’t stop us from getting treated for mental illness, whether that’s medication or other alternatives.

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    • Concerned, thanks for your concern. There are a lot of reasons why people choose to take their own lives. The point of the piece was to address the fact that “medication side effects” are not part of the conversation. If a medication side effect is hives and a person develops hives, the logical conclusion is the medication caused the hives. Now, if that individual went outside and rolled around on the grass, could that have caused hives? It could have. But a more reasonable conclusion would be that the person might not recall whether touching grass has caused hives before and whether they’re right or wrong, it’s safe to conclude that the medication contributed to the individual’s hive outbreak. Either way, they will need an epinephrine shot, won’t they?

      I agree, all medical treatments come with risks. I disagree that people take those risks lightly. Many people, if they know all the risks, will and often do rethink whether they want treatment. This is called “informed consent.” When the average person doesn’t know the inherent risks of psychiatric medications and is told the drug will help without learning how side effects can present, that is not informed consent.

      Finally, mental illnesses are not biological illnesses. This does not make them less valid or less serious. That is a false dichotomy presented to the public by psychiatry: it’s either real and biological, or it’s all in your head. Since we don’t know the pathophysiology of mental illness, we can’t claim to know how to treat it. This is very different from going in for a biopsy or being seen for a sinus infection. Thanks for reading. – JA

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  17. If someone is suicidal and goes on meds with suicide as a potential reaction, how are you deciphering what caused the suicide again?

    If you have cancer treatment, including radiation, the treatment fails and the patient dies, who killed the patient?

    Your leg is crushed under a car for exactly 4 hours, the team amputates, and the patient dies, who killed the patient?

    You get COVID in the first month it spread throughout the US. THE hospital does everything it knows to do and you still die. Who killed the patient?

    Perhaps… Perhaps there’s something you and this culture find particularly disposable about Dooce that she, and others who die by suicide, gets to be debated, not mourned, after her death.

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    • Hello, Jessica.

      If someone suffers from an aggressive form of cancer and the treatments don’t work, the medical providers will observe and test whether the cancer spread, which then determines the cause of death as “cancer.”

      If someone is in a car accident and the loss of blood is extensive due to a 4-hour wait, then an amputation, the cause of death would be listed as due to “injuries sustained in a car accident.”

      If someone died from COVID during the first month, the likely culprit is COVID unless there were other comorbidities that contributed to the death such as pulmonary disease due to heavy tobacco use/smoking. Then, the cause of death would still be COVID, but the death might have been preventable absent the comorbid variables.

      If someone is suicidal and goes on medications with the potentiality of even more suicidality, the only variable in that scenario is the medications, therefore the death might have been preventable absent the variable of suicide-inducing medications.

      Your inference that Heather Armstrong’s life was disposable is troubling. Would Heather still be alive had she not undergone the brutal treatments she details in her book and other writings? I don’t know and neither do you. But, unfortunately, no one seems the least bit curious about the role medications played in her eventual demise.

      I hope we can agree that the best way to honor Heather Armstrong is to do all we can to ensure that what happened to her doesn’t happen to others. However, if we continue to dodge these important questions about medications, we’re essentially sitting back, throwing up our hands, and saying, “How sad and mysterious. Yet another puzzling tragedy.”

      Personally, I’ve lost too many people I love and care about to suicide to ignore the role medications play in this alarming epidemic. Take care. – JA

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  18. What a load of garbage. You have no knowledge whatsoever that her meds contributed to her death. Just because meds made you feel bad doesn’t mean they don’t work for millions of people. Discouraging people from seeking medical treatment for mental illness based on some unfounded theory that psychiatric medications cause people to commit suicide is irresponsible. Has it ever happened? Probably. But the likelihood that medication will HELP someone suffering from deep depression is much, much higher than that it will hurt them. Science IS real.

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    • Hi Deborah,

      Medications for depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and schizophrenia, among other diagnoses, all carry the warnings of increased or worsening depression, increased or worsening suicidality, and suicidal ideation and actions. All of them also have the side effect of akathisia, which, in its mildest form can be described as “restlessness,” but at its most extreme, akathisia has been linked to medication-induced suicides. Unfortunately, because we’re not having the conversation, we don’t have the data linking suicide to medication use because it’s not yet mandatory for physicians to report patient suicides to the FDA if they were on medications when they died. This is important information we absolutely need to have.

      The information you’re requesting can be found through the drug manufacturer’s boxed warnings on specific medications and the FDA. Good luck and take care. -JA

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  19. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) at age 22. Were it not for the prescription my then psychiatrist wrote for the MAOI called NARDIL I might not have made to age 65 today. It changed my life for the FAR BETTER. That was until Pfizer took over manufacture of the medicine and removed key elements of the drug. They told no one…and if you research old vs. new Nardil you should find a rash of reports concerning subsequent suicides. I was in my early 40s when it happened and I mistakenly thought it was menopause. Doctors put me on a parade of SSRIs, none of which worked. I went back on NARDIL at a triple dose. It has never worked as well, but better than anything else.
    My psychiatrist originally told me he suspected a chemical imbalance in my brain enzymes caused by genetics or repeated trauma or illicit drug use such as LSD in my teens. Whatever caused it the MDD has never gone away which I discover when I go off my meds. I agree with Dr. Andrews. Your commentary is haphazard and unscientific and possibly dangerous.

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    • Arionna thanks for sharing your story. Several things struck me about your comment. First, you say you might not have survived without Nardil, but you can’t know for certain. I was also diagnosed with MDD at 17 and talk therapy and time resolved it. Had I been given Nardil, would I have survived? That’s also an unknown and all that’s about as unscientific as it can get.

      I also noticed that you stated Pfizer changed the drug without notifying you—or did the doctor not notify you? In either case, this is a dangerous, but all too familiar tactic of drug makers and the medical profession. Your life was changed for the better, and then, they played with “key elements” in the drug that caused “…a rash of suicides.” In a way, you’re making my point for me.

      You state that the drug you’re on is better than anything else, but by your own admission, you’ve never tried to deal with MDD in any other way except through pharmacological intervention. This is important and underscores why these issues must be brought to light. Coming off your medications will make all the symptoms of MDD come back with a vengeance, giving the illusion that the medication is the only thing holding it at bay. There are countless stories that run contrary to this narrative. One of my favorite writers, David Foster Wallace, was also on Nardil, and he took his own life during a medication change. Psychiatry also failed him, but the underlying mental illness is too easily blamed. And so this is a story we often hear time and again yet no one seems to be grasping how incredibly dangerous these medications are. I’m not sure how my words and ideas are more dangerous than brain-altering chemicals.

      To be clear, I don’t advocate for people discontinuing their drugs, and I don’t invalidate their lived experiences. I’m glad Nardil has continued to work for you these many years. I also don’t begrudge anyone their religious beliefs, yet I seem to be bumping up against beliefs and faith and personal testimony, not facts. The ideas I present here are based on fact but are being taken personally due, perhaps, to uncertainty and fear.

      Finally, you may very well have a chemical imbalance in your brain due to some or all the factors above, including your lifelong use of Nardil, but MDD and other mental health issues are not caused by a chemical imbalance—we, including the scientific community, don’t know what causes MDD et. al. One thing we do know with certainty, however, is that the medications that are given to treat these conditions DO cause chemical imbalances in the brain. It’s a noodle baker, but it’s the truth. Take care, and thanks for reading. – JA

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  20. Well, if you are a “dr”, then in fact you must be checking people’s “neurotransmittors”, “seratonin” etc etc etc, to establish if they are needy for more. 🙂 But then again, you have not established that there is any chemical “imbalance”, in fact you are repeating old rubbish from many years ago. Did anything psychiatry ever stated actually have merit? It is not only a villain, but to knowingly harm people with drugs that are known to harm, should be criminal by now.

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  21. As a therapist, who also happens to struggle with depression and anxiety, I have seen many a life saved by psychotropic medications, my own included (in addition to an effective working relationship with my doctors and therapists). Still, meds were never supposed to be the answer. They are a tool in the toolbox. Working closely with ones providers can help a client know which tools are working and which aren’t. Given you cannot report on her relationship with meds or her providers, I think this is a pretty risky article.

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    • I agree with you on almost all points, as I’m sure that J.A. does. Medicine is a tool, not a panacea. Close working relationships with qualified and proficient doctors and therapists are vital and it sounds like you are indeed one of those therapists.

      The disagreement comes from why this isn’t a risky article, but an important counterbalance to what is already out there in the public sphere, published by Ms. Armstrong prior to her death. She wrote a book touting extreme psychiatric treatments and psychotropic drug cocktails. In the book she portrayed her psychiatrist as caring and qualified, a fact I don’t dispute. The doctor also put her in ten insulin induced comas, taking her to the edge of death and bringing her back, a procedure he stated had a clinical efficacy of 30%. She was writing this to her fan base of struggling mothers. This to me feels far more irresponsible than J.A.’s article reminding everyone that these treatments and drugs are matters of life and death.

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    • Thanks, Stacey. You work in a field that relied, for a long time, on belief and subjective experience. It’s only been in the last few decades that we’ve been able to see how talk therapy (a huge fan, btw) can actually change brain function and behavior. Medications also change brain function and behavior, but longevity studies by the WHO and NICE, among others, show serious physical health consequences from long-term medication use that often lead to loss of quality of life and worsening of mental health overall.

      I had a neuropsychologist tell me once that medications “kept him from doing his job,” meaning patients who took them didn’t change, couldn’t change. Now, he knew more about the brain than anyone I’ve ever met. Whether he was right or not is uncertain, but like you, he had clients (patients in his case) who were both on and off medications, so I think his experience can be taken into account, here. He was around just as these drugs were getting their PR push from pharmaceutical money, and he was discouraged by the misleading information being spread out to the public. As a mental health professional, the onus rests on you to learn about the risks of these drugs for the sake of your clients. How do you know if it’s anxiety or akathisia? Learning the difference could be life or death.

      I’ve heard personal testimony from therapists along the same lines as you. My question to them is this: “Where are they now?” Just because a medication helps someone initially doesn’t mean the medications will continue to help, and in fact, the data suggests just the opposite. So while a person you might have known 15 years ago did great on their medication, where are they now? How are they now? This lack of follow-up by folks in the field (mental health, psychiatry, et. al.) tends to solidify the belief that medications work long-term, when in fact, the science doesn’t support that.

      The thing is, I don’t have any skin in this game. My career and life wouldn’t be impacted if suddenly someone found psychiatric medications to be indispensable and necessary treatment.

      The scientific method demands consistency and replicable outcomes which are lacking in this branch of medicine. Going on subjective experience and belief when it comes to these medications—now that seems risky. Keep fighting the good fight. – JA

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  22. Greetings J.A.
    Indeed, after my wife of 37 years passed, followed by 1 of my two autistic stepsons,, and then my dog, I was telling myself WTH . Doc offered some kind of meds.. I refused.
    ( I had also been on hydrocodone for 3 years due to herniated lumbar discs and had to push wife in wheel chair). I had stepped off into a deep dark hole,, but never realized that I had. I was there for a long while. But I told the doc. That I got myself into this fix, and I was going to crawl and claw my way out. I cold turkeyed off the hydro ( interesting week), and slowly slowly began crawling up. I had called God every name in the book and then some. I just got really pissed at myself, sold our house as is except for my tools and just walked away. Started some volunteer work, and re-engaged heavily with other autistic stepson who I was still responsible for anyway, and started to do more fishing ( although my lumbars made be more creative to water access) it still psycho hurts like heck,, but glad to see the daylight. Joe

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    • Joe, thanks for your story. Your story reflects the power, resilience, and beauty of the human spirit. I don’t know why we’ve been sold the idea that we can’t recover from loss, trauma, illness, or injury. I think that, out of all the lies we’ve been sold, is probably the most destructive. Thanks for reading. – JA

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  23. It seems as though you are using Heather and your interpretation of her experiences as a way to launch into your perspective on psychiatry and psych meds and how meds are the problem and that was Heather’s problem….yet you note we don’t know what played a role in her deciding to end her life. We know only that she relapsed on alcohol, not drugs.

    “The tragedy of Heather Armstrong’s death is that no one really knows why she took her own life, but I believe I do, and the drug manufacturers agree with me. The same medications were given to me to create “hope,” but, instead, they perched me on that precarious “suicide” ledge more often than I care to remember. Armstrong’s book, The Valedictorian of Being Dead, stands, not as a postscript of the power of emotional states, but as a posthumous testimony of the total failure of American psychiatry.

    Heather Armstrong’s life was taken by psychiatry, our society’s blind and mindless capitulation to psychiatry, and our unwillingness to scrutinize their methods of madness, which lead to worse mental health, worse physical health, worse outcomes, and loss. Tragedy and loss.”

    You make many assumptions but state them as fact. While your experience taking psych meds may have taken you to the edge how can you not acknowledge that for some of us it is the meds that have actually kept us from the edge.

    You’re using Heather and her book as a catalyst to express your dissatisfaction with our mental health care system, yet you present no facts only conjecture. Your opinions would have been better received in the form of a review of the book as your husband did.

    Right now the only thing there is space for is grief and sadness. Because it ultimately doesn’t matter WHY or WHAT prompted Heather to feel as though she had only one option left-what matters is that in the wake of it there is only tragedy. For her and most especially her girls and her loved ones.

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    • Cate, thanks for the thoughts. The burden of proof does not rest on me to provide evidence as to why Heather Armstrong took her own life. I can only state what I believe, which I do, and I don’t just indicate psychiatry, but the culture’s blind belief in it as well. If Heather had died of opioid abuse and overdose, would we still be comfortable with saying, “…it ultimately doesn’t matter WHY or WHAT prompted Heather to feel as though she had only one option left…” It doesn’t it matter?

      The reason it should matter is that, of all the afflictions we as humans can perish from, suicide is quite literally the most preventable one, and yet the uptick in suicides over the past 40 years doesn’t seem to be ringing any bells as it coincides with the uptick in prescription medications that cause it. I am interested in preventing more tragedy. Thanks for reading. -JA

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      • It is true that we don’t ever know what prompted a particular person’s suicide. What we DO know in this case is that decades of psychiatric treatment did not prevent it. Whether it contributed substantially to the event or not will always be speculative, but it’s equally speculative to say, “Antidepressants save lives,” when we don’t know how people would have acted under differing circumstances.

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  24. It’s good you brought this situation to light. There needs to be more focus on this particular issue.

    I see you are not saying Psychiatry is unhelpful. I think it needs to be reformed and then a greater understanding from practitioners of what exactly each medication does or doesn’t do. Pharmacist know more about medication than the Physicians do . What also needs to be taken into consideration is one medicine does not react the same for all people. Side effects are varying and sometimes as you said life threatening.

    One of the most critical and vulnerable times can be when one decides to abruptly stop the medications. There has been talk of genetic testing as of means to prescribe more helpful medications. But this is in its infancy.

    The past 16 months for me personally has been hell on Earth when I decided to stop taking Effexor. I had previously been suicidal prior to taking any medication however tapering off of this particular medication completely destroyed my life. I was unable to act in any capacity as a functioning human being or make sound rational decisions regarding my life. I have been medication free for 7 months and I still am trying to scrape together the remnants of my life. I do feel suicidal at times but I believe Effexor ruined my life.
    In addition there are other medications that are not psychiatric for example beta blockers which can actually cause Suicidal Thoughts. And this is not well known or spoke about within the medical community to my knowledge.

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    • Danielle, thanks for sharing and I’m so sorry. Effexor was one drug I thankfully managed to not be prescribed. I’m so sorry, I know how damaging SNRIs are. I’ve been writing articles on MiA that discuss recovery from drug harm. I hope you’ll stay posted as I come at it from very different angles and perspectives that have helped me on the road to recovering my health and well-being after over a quarter of a century of being poly-drugged. I wish you way more than luck–I wish you peace. – JA

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  25. Thank you for saying what so many are afraid to say! I’ve also dealt with depression and through many Avenues have come out the other side. In a group of friends the ones with the most anxiety and depression are the ones who have been on medication for long-term… it begs the question what is the medication doing for them?! If nothing else at least needs to be a discussion it needs to be a more normalized conversation.

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    • Thank you, Heather. As you can see, people have every right to be fearful. Even Ms. Armstrong couldn’t express her doubts about her treatment, according to many who read her blog. It begs the question… what are we all so afraid of? A divergent narrative that might run counter to our own? Is that so terrible? Thanks again and take care. – JA

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  26. J.A.,
    Thank you for writing publicly about something that stirs up a lot of dissension. Your insights speak volumes to and for those who have no one who understands their struggles with psychiatry and it’s purported “treatments”. And I’ll never understand why people who’ve been helped by psychiatric drugs have a hard time accepting that psychiatric drugs are responsible for causing others a lot of needless harm.

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  27. We have to look at both sides of the coin and that there is so much trial and error when it comes to treating mental health- whether it’s therapy, medication, family or other support. Obviously, even if psychiatric meds work for someone it doesn’t mean that any or all of them will. It’s very individual. I’ve been both a patient (over 25 years) and a provider in the field (almost 10), so I’ve been uniquely positioned to see different aspects of the issue.

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    • Katie, thanks for your comments. If you’re ‘in the field’ then it’s important you look at both sides of the coin, not from a treatment perspective, but from a historical and data-driven perspective. Being a patient does not make you an expert, sadly, and neither does being a provider. It does make you immersed in a biased environment that can siphon off life-saving information that you and your patients must know before beginning any treatments. I’d suggest reading “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” by Robert Whitaker to start.

      Katie, the drug makers state in their boxed warnings that they don’t know the mechanisms of the drugs in terms of why or how they actually address whatever “illness” they claim they treat. They don’t know. But we do know what these drugs DO to the brain and how they impair its normal function. So, while medications are all “very individual,” what you’re suggesting with this trial and error is a guessing game that easily falls into treatment biases and other non-scientific outcomes.

      Example: We know how antibiotics and antivirals work. There’s no mystery there. If we imagine that a bacteria is a target on a wall, we target the medication arrow toward the center, hoping it resolves the issue. Yes? What psychiatry does is throw multiple drugs at the wall, and when one *seems* to stick, temporarily solving the problem, they draw a bull’s eye around the arrow after the fact. That’s not the story of medical science, that’s a story of guessing games.

      Finally, during my time as an addictions counselor, I often talked to clients about temporary, external fixes to inside problems. You’re familiar with this? You don’t trade what you want the most for what you want right now. And if you do, the tradeoff could kill you. Good luck and thanks for reading. – JA

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  28. Ben Ditto, from the YouTube channel Ditto Nation, recently did a video kinda on this topic of being critical on mental health culture. In the video he interviews the psychologist Joanna Moncrieff; In it she describes how the current model is something to be examined and that this notion of solving a person’s depression/mental illness with a drug is necessarily not going to make them “better”. Moncrieff has contributed to research “in showing that there is no proven link between depression and brain chemistry”, and it seems this model was basically started by Pfizer as a means to get doctors to funnel their patients to a pill; She also states that these medications anesthetize people regardless if they are sad or not in patient trials, giving the patient a feeling of being emotionally numb to the world, and also a feeling of the medication is working. She also states, it’s thought that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but there is no scientific data that is supported by evidence that depression is caused by an actual chemical imbalance in the brain of those with depression/mental illness. Psychologists are firmly convinced that it is a brain problem with serotonin or something similar, even though that is not proven by any actual evidence. There is a bunch of stuff that I’m probably leaving out, like health industry whistleblower, that is also in the video, but you might as well just watch it yourself. A link to the video: https://youtu.be/vAFcBynbkW4

    *And no, I don’t work for Ben, I’m just a fan who’s drawing a link between these two different internet things. Honest!

    If anything it’s the algorithm that’s driving me to these internet corners, I recently had an uncle who committed suicide due to, more than likely, being medicated. My heart goes out to her family and everyone who’s heart she touched.

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  29. Have you researched anything about Heather Armstrong in her last few years? She admitted in both her blog and instagram posts to being an alcoholic for over 20 years. She’s been working on her sobriety for about 2 years with varying success and then a massive recent relapse.

    Do you know what drastically interferes with the efficacy of psychiatric medication? Alcohol.

    And further, in a recent rambling post that she removed after the backlash last august, she stated that “antidepressants don’t work” which has led people to believe she may have gone off her medication. Which would make one wonder if going OFF her medication might have led to her suicide.

    My point is that much has happened since your husband read that book or the Heather Armstrong whom you heard “whispers” about in relation to her success was at her blog helm.

    It is HIGHLY irresponsible to state in such an unequivocal way that psychiatric medication caused Heather’s death. It saves so many people’s lives (mine included for the last 12 years) and Heather certainly seemed to find patches of stability from the different medications prescribed over her life. But chronic depression and anxiety are shapeshifters and insidious. Especially if someone is self medicating with recreational drugs like she has admitted.

    This article makes me livid in its arrogant lack of research and irresponsible, blanket claims. The cause of her death is a very tangled, dark web that will never fully be known. And you most certainly don’t know.

    Be more cautious in your words for the vulnerable out there to whom medication could be a Godsend. Please.

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    • “And further, in a recent rambling post that she removed after the backlash last august, she stated that “antidepressants don’t work” which has led people to believe she may have gone off her medication. Which would make one wonder if going OFF her medication might have led to her suicide.”

      So, Heather herself stated that antidepressants don’t work” and she was attacked for saying so?

      I’m sorry but the complete absence of logic in some of these comments is *astounding*. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or scream. I don’t understand why, as a survivor of psychiatry, I am constantly being questioned and moderated while people can make statements like this one above without any concern for reality.

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      • It does feel more than a little ironic to hear that she was attacked for questioning the efficacy of antidepressants, and yet failure to take antidepressants is assumed to be the cause of her suicide. As I said earlier, wherever you come down on the “cause” of her suicide, which of course, we will never really know, it is VERY clear to me that psychiatry did NOT get her to a place where she achieved “good mental health.” She clearly eventually gave up on psychiatry because it failed her. It is more than a little disingenuous to imply that her abandoning a practice that never really worked for her is somehow responsible for her despair.

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  30. J.A. Thank you for writing a compelling piece to bring attention to this tragedy. Some may be helped by psych drugs, at least short term, but psychiatry overall can be very harmful and deadly.

    My brother died at 40 due to psychiatry’s ‘help’ for grief. He was an electrical engineer, musician, athletic and healthy, but after a divorce was dealing with grief. He was referred to a psychiatrist and put on psych drugs. Instead of getting better he slowly went downhill physically and cognitively. He was given ECT which made things worse. He had two young sons and did not want to die and did not die by suicide. His autopsy states “blood levels of the drugs were consistent with therapeutic doses but liver concentrations of 2 drugs were extremely high.” As all his medications were accounted for it was suggested in the autopsy the chronic and fatal accumulation in his liver was due to poor metabolism of the drugs. A psychiatrist watches someone slowly disintegrating during once-a-month 15 minute med checks but they just keep prescribing without any concerns.

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    • Rosalee, your heartbreaking story is a familiar one. I’m so sorry for your loss. Once we learn these medications can have lifelong or life-threatening impacts, it’s often too late. All we can do is share our experiences to create a more open dialogue about the potential harms. Take good care and thanks for reading. – JA

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  31. I believe the author of blog post is doing the same things in terms of jumping to overly simplistic and unfounded (and dangerous) conclusions that result in potentially harmful health outcomes that the author says those in the field of psychiatry do.

    Yes: we over medicate. There are capitalist, consumerist, patriarchal, racial, generational trauma etc etc pick-your-poison systems we live under that cause us harm that are treated with chemicals instead of helping to fix the root of people’s pain.

    Yes: pharmaceuticals have side effects.

    Yes: pharmaceutical side effects are not always discussed enough.

    Yes: there are financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies to push their products and doctors to push those products.

    BUT suicide and mental illness existed before pharmaceuticals.

    And: pharmaceuticals have saved lives. There are people who rely on them to augment brain chemistry that without the drugs make existing very difficult.

    The side effects the blog author mentions in comments here as proof the pharmaceutical companies are just pushing dangerous substances is reductive and unfair. Too much sunshine kills as well. So we carefully exist in sunshine taking necessary precautions to get its benefits and live our lives. We should neither live completely in the sun nor completely stay inside.

    In a world where we desperately need to move away from black and white thinking and partisanship and siloed communities, and instead need nuance and to embrace complexity and multiple truths WHY must people like this blog author take problems caused by black and white thinking and lack of nuance, then do exactly the same thing themselves with their analysis and critique?

    The author claims she knows why someone killed themselves. That is horrendous. And another issue with the type of internet consumption that harmed Heather. Heather’s own partner has said she relapsed into alcohol abuse and took her life while intoxicated. Does the author of this post presume to know more than Heather’s own loved ones? Heather has said herself she has had substance abuse issues for over twenty years. I do not know if they predate psychiatric medications. So I will not draw conclusions.

    We must not armchair diagnose people. We must not attach our own agendas onto online personalities. Heather faced massive online bullying as well as people co-opting her story and engaging in uninformed and unfair public analysis and her partner has spoken about how heavily that affected her.

    I am sorry the author of this post has been hurt by pharmaceuticals, that’s horrible, and we definitely need to be able to talk about the issues in psychiatry. It is an imperfect and flawed practice and field. But it is still young. It needs fixing not outright rejection. I’m also sorry my friend who never tried pharmaceutical drugs took his own life when he was in his twenties. I am sorry Heather struggled so much and couldn’t keep living. I am sorry my grandparents suffered so much from undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues that if they lived today could have been helped. I am both grateful and sorry for the role psychiatry has had in my own mental health challenges. It is complex.

    We need to exist in complexity and not give into the seductive desire to come to black and white solutions even if they make us feel more secure. That is one of the problems with religion that this blog post author and her husband have written about. Heather was complex. Her issues were complex. I am complex. My healing is complex. My treatment is complex. Life is complex. Let’s be mature and intellectually brave enough to engage in the complexities.

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    • “Life is complex. Let’s be mature and intellectually brave enough to engage in the complexities.”

      Are you not aware that most traditional mental health practitioners are taught to automatically rely on corrupted pharmaceutical research and an admittedly invalid “DSM”, both of which succeed in producing enormous physical, emotional, and psychological complexities for patients that most practitioners conveniently deny, not to mention the stigma caused by using pathologizing labels.

      Nuance and bravery are EXACTLY what’s lacking in traditional mental health training and practice.

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    • Katey,

      You seemed to have missed the nuance in my article as did many here. For those who think this article addresses the complexity of suicide in reductive or black-and-white terms, I’ll restate again: “If you read my post carefully, without your own black-and-white filter, you’d notice that I don’t place the onus solely on psychiatry: ‘Heather Armstrong’s life was taken by psychiatry, *our society’s blind and mindless capitulation to psychiatry, and our unwillingness to scrutinize their methods of madness, which lead to worse mental health, worse physical health, worse outcomes, and loss.'”*

      That is what I wrote. While parsing it out as “black and white” might feel easier for you and others, and while noting the reductive nature of the piece, sadly, I do have a word limit, so my ability to do a deep-dive into every possible factor, both known and unknown, is limited. Further, this site is dedicated to questioning psychiatry, not eating disorders or substance abuse. Marshall McLuhan’s “The medium is the message” applies here.

      Finally, as a writer, my job is to address the complexities and that’s what this piece does–unanswered questions, and newly-posed questions that started an important dialogue of which you are now a part.

      That said, feel free to continue your own research, particularly into the history of mental illness and suicide. Your understanding of the historical underpinnings of both is inaccurate and if you’re interested in all the complexities, as you indicate in your comment, I’d suggest “Mad in America,” the eponymously titled book by Robert Whitaker. Take care. – JA

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  32. This article is a case study in confirmation bias. You know only two things for sure — she utilized medication as a tool for dealing with chronic depression, and ultimately she took her own life. And you exploit that for your own purposes.

    Your experience is valid. But please, don’t speak assuredly about what you don’t, and can’t possibly know.

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    • Diana,

      There are things we know about Ms. Armstrong that we do not know about other suicide victims. It is also why this isn’t a post about confirmation bias. We know she took the medications because she told us. We know that she was treated by psychiatry, including extreme near death inducing treatments because she told us. We know that she promoted these treatments to the people who followed her writing. We also know that almost no discussion is taking place on the efficacy of these treatments for the long term treatment of people suffering from psychological pain. We know Ms. Armstrong had the worst clinical outcome. The assuredness you captured from J.A.’s writing is the assurance of these facts, nothing more.

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  33. Amy,

    I read your post with some interest. I did not follow Ms. Armstrong’s blog, but I did read her book. One difference between books and blogs is books tend to stick around longer and be referred to more than internet postings. You can’t easily pull a book off everyone’s shelf if there is a public outcry. For better or worse, Ms. Armstrong’s book encouraging submission to extreme psychiatric treatments is out there and given the tragic recent events, that book’s premise deserves to be questioned publicly. This isn’t dangerous or focusing on a vulnerable population, in fact it is the opposite. This is also an article on a website specifically focused on questioning psychiatric drugs and urging caution on drugs whose own manufacturers label them as causing suicidal thoughts and actions.

    I know that for both myself and J.A. the lack of disclosure and understanding about how difficult and dangerous withdrawal can be from psychiatric drugs is possibly the largest part of the psychiatric drug problem. Your recounting of the post made on Ms. Armstrong’s blog about the inefficacy of antidepressants actually misses a fine, but important point about psychiatric meds–going off the meds, especially abruptly, can be deadly. It was also exactly why both J.A. and I “knew” the cause of death from the headline before actually reading it in the New York Times. There is something disturbing about a system that can put those in pain on medication who, if they ever withdraw or withdraw improperly, could die.

    Another discussion point you raise is the use of alcohol and self-medication. Ms. Armstrong’s alcohol use was prominent in the news articles. You may also miss the strong religious and moral condemnation connotations that we catch here in Utah – “Ms. Armstrong was a sinner drinking alcohol and who left the Church.” Alcohol use is always up for discussion in the media as a scapegoat or contributing factor (especially in Utah), psychiatric drugs are not. If indeed psychiatry is as good as everyone claims, why do so many people feel the need to self-medicate? Something isn’t working. Psychiatry is touted as the secular way people can deal with, as you described, the “insidious shape shifters” of chronic depression and anxiety, but no one is allowed to even question that blind belief, as evidenced by the outcry that forced Ms. Armstrong to take down her post critical of antidepressants. Her followers didn’t want to hear her experience.

    I think I understand why the article made you livid. It was a direct challenge to medications that you deeply feel are responsible for your well-being. Neither myself or J.A. would argue with you about that, nor do we want to take them away, but the danger from these medications remains real and remaining silent won’t change that fact. Please know that we are writing and addressing this issue from the perspective of former believers, who lost faith when the drugs acted exactly as stated on the manufacturers’ warning labels.

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  34. There’s many sides to this issue and the topic is inherently emotionally charged. I have seen both sides from personal experience, as well as being close to and interviewing those who have gone through the psychiatric system with tragic results.

    For those critical of this article, and anyone wanting to make an informed decision, I would challenge them to review all literature. Not just glossy ad campaigns and billion-dollar-backed promises.

    See the recent admission by mental health professionals that the long-espoused “chemical imbalance” in people’s brains doesn’t exist. A 60+ year marketing campaign that convinced people they needed drugs to “balance” their brains was used to get more Americans to accept the idea and take psychiatric drugs. It worked quite well. Who doesn’t want a magic pill?

    Check out the admissions by psychiatrists that they don’t know what factually causes mental suffering, nor do they know how the “treatments” work.

    Even critics above mention other issues the subject of the article may have been dealing with. Adding psychiatric drugs on top of those issues did not help, and the documented side effects surely played a role in exacerbating existing conditions.

    Antidepressants and other drugs were required years ago to put black-box warnings on their labels that they can increase the risk of suicide (and agitation and irritability and psychosis, hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, homicidal ideation, hostility and and…).

    Why is that link so often ignored or dismissed after the fact? The psychiatric/pharmaceutical industry makes billions – multiple billions – each year pushing the idea that a pill is a panacea. Mainstream media eagerly accept millions in advertising fees from that industry. That leaves the majority of Americans in the dark and intentionally misinformed.

    They aren’t told about the risks. They aren’t told to get searching medical (non-psychiatric) analysis or tests for other medical problems. People have been drugged, to death, for things like brain tumors, hormones, allergies, sleeplessness, addictions, etc.

    Ultimately people are responsible for their own health and decisions. They deserve to know the real risks and make that choice for themselves with all information to hand.

    Irresponsibility doesn’t lie with an author informing authors of documented facts. It does lie in vehemently opposing that information and insisting people don’t have the right to look and decide for themselves.

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    • Mike, thanks for the thoughtful and informed response. It’s nice to read something that makes so much sense. It’s been interesting to note the knee-jerk reactions here. I often like to say that psychiatry is the fast food of medicine. Sure, it will do in a pinch, and some nutritional value can be tortured out of the ingredients, but it should be a very brief stop in an otherwise healthy, rounded diet. Of course, if we look at the incidence of obesity in the US and the use of psychiatric medications together, note how people seem to be just fine with the consequences of overusing both long-term. And when things go south, no one takes responsibility, no one blames the food. Take care and thanks for reading. – JA

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  35. I’m really not sure I understand this article. Are u saying a specific med, or just in general? Because mental health meds SAVED my son’s life. He wen t on them for the purpose of helping him fight his way through anxiety, and panic disorder. Also went to regular therapy, then after succeeding to be able to live a fairly “normal” life again ,he weaned off them. They did what they were supposed to. They were only part of an arsenal. So I think it should also be mentioned that some people use mental health meds very successfully.

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    • Beth,

      You describe with your son, what I would characterize as what is (or at least should be) the current best practices for psychiatry — therapy with minimal, if any drug intervention, and if drugs are used, only for the short term and then a gradual taper. I’m so happy that it worked out for both you and your son.

      Understanding the article easily comes with a little more understanding of what Ms. Armstrong wrote prior to committing suicide. Based on the book that she wrote about her experiences with psychiatry, she did not get the type of treatment you described for your son. Her treatments were heavy on the drug and medical interventions. This was a treatment regime that resulted in the worst clinical outcome. It is an outcome that Ms. Armstrong did not deserve, nor does any family deserve to have that kind of suffering.

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  36. Why do some people get so defensive when others talk about the negative effects of mental health treatments? Why do different opinions and experiences threaten them, especially when the positive narrative is dominant? What are they so afraid of?

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  37. My daughter died weeks ago and she at 29 had 23 years of drugs and therapy and they all failed her. Her depression and suicidal desire was never helped or understood fully. She begged me, her father to kill her every day for over 20 years. She saw only more suffering in her future, never hope.
    My daughters death broke my fragile shell I tried to maintain after a terrible unloved childhood. I tried to kill myself three times at 13 and 16 and 28. I am going to therapy. I was told it will be a long process and very painful. So far they have been right. I feel broken beyond repair, and question if anything or anyone can save me. I am now on wellbutrin and lexipro and several other drugs supposed to help me and make things better. I agree with the author, i am trying the only options that I see. So far they have made me feel in a darker place with less options. I dont see myself surviving. Its not the desire for death that drives suicide, its the desire to end suffering and pain.
    The only function that the psych drugs offer someone like me suffering is the 8 to 12 weeks of hope that maybe they will help. A short delay in a lifetime filled with pain and loss of hope.

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    • Scott,
      There are no words that can soothe the pain you’re in. Your loss is profound and wrenching—I’m so very sorry. I haven’t lost a child, so I can’t imagine it.

      What you’re experiencing is a natural human response to loss, grief, trauma, and tragedy. It is not illness or pathology. Grief can be a terribly isolating process, especially surrounding suicide because, as is evidenced by the responses here, as a society, we don’t know what to do with death by suicide. You’d think, having suffered so many losses of this kind, we would be better at it, but we’re not. I think that’s because we can’t fully understand it. What happens to an individual that creates in them a fatal loss of hope? What happens from one day to the next that causes them to suddenly see their lives as completely meaningless or no longer worth the struggle? I wish I knew.

      You have a unique perspective, one I also have, of knowing how it feels to be on both sides of this—feeling suicidal and being the one on the outside, looking in on someone else’s suicidality. You know both horrors intimately. I do think it’s safe to conclude that one reason for taking one’s own life comes from a desire to end pain and suffering. Suffering can be cumulative, causing many to believe there are no options, no alternatives, and no hope. I also believe that when people finally decide to end their lives, they do so because they feel monumentally and interminably alone. As you might already know, one can feel totally isolated in a room that’s filled with people.

      You wrote that you had a “terrible, unloved childhood,” and a “lifetime filled with pain and loss of hope.” You also wrote that your daughter begged you to “kill her every day for over 20 years.” Scott, that is probably the most horrific, unimaginable thing I can imagine. The amount of suffering you’ve experienced seems to square with how you’ve been impacted emotionally. It seems you are exactly where anyone would be had all this been their lives for so long.

      As you’ve read here, some people credit medications with pulling them out of a dark place. Others claim medications nearly tipped them over the edge and into the dark, and there’s a continuum of other experiences in between these two extremes. That said, Scott, if the medications are drawing you down and into a darker place, no matter how long you’ve been on them, please tell your doctor that they are impacting you this way.

      I don’t know the highlights and lowlights of your life, Scott, but I do know that you took the time, through your own pain, to reach out into the void and share this incredible loss and tragedy with us. It’s a sobering reminder of how fragile everything is. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability.

      In closing, I hope with everything in me that you fight for your right to be here. That you can find and then see all the good you are and all the good you can be. I can also tell you, unequivocally, there are people suffering all around us who feel alone and without hope just like you. You are not alone. I can’t tell you how it will get better or when. All I can do is offer you my words here, my deepest condolences, and the hope that you’re able to find a semblance of peace, however brief, within this struggle. Take good care. – JA

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    • Eddie, the “take” was on her book, which I did read. There was no conjecture, it was based on Ms. Armstrong’s words. J.A. wrote the article because I was too busy to repurpose my review in a manner that would be appropriate when someone takes their own life. My review, in full, was a little too glib for such a serious matter. As I said in the review that J.A. quoted, I prefer to be skeptical rather than dogmatic, whether that be about religion or psychiatry.

      The ultimate take away is the life that is lost, from which the natural human response is to search for reasons. For much of her life, Ms. Armstrong touted psychiatry as her savior. To point out that this faith may very well have been misplaced is not pathetic, but rather empathetic and compassionate to those who might still be suffering.

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  38. One of the biggest problems with case studies in psychiatry is that psychiatry isn’t held to the same standards of disclosure and accountability as are other branches of medicine, the outcome being psychiatry continues getting away with relying more on faith than hard facts, meaning psychiatry lacks evidence to prove its inarguably unscientific claims, namely its INSANELY large and ever-growing list of invented “illnesses/diseases/disorders” or the safety and efficacy for long-term use of its terminally dubious “treatments”.

    I think people owe it to themselves to be suspicious of something that has historically arrived and continues arriving at its conclusions solely from votes behind closed doors and “data points”, a significant number that have been found to be manipulated by the pharmaceutical companies that FUND THE RESEARCH.

    And the statements I’ve made are not merely rhetoric, they are facts that have been on public record for a significant amount of time, which should make ONE thing ABUNTANTLY clear: psychiatry will continue being the cat who swallowed the canary, which is one rhetorical phrase that definitely applies to psychiatry.

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  39. Hello JA,
    I enjoyed reading your story. I am a retired trauma therapist, and also a contributor to madinamerica, in report titled “A Self Help Version of EMDR Could Make Healing from Trauma Easier”, published July 2, 2021
    Suicides are tough on everyone, therapists included. Preventing them was the inspiration behind the development of the self-help EMDR not-for-profit program called Se-REM. (Self effective – Rapid Eye Movement). Please accept my gift to you of a free download. Many people have written to say it is the only thing that has helped them. I know it may be the most anti-suicidal program in existence. It has saved lives. If you agree you can recommend it to others, and help restore their hope.
    If you write to me at: [email protected] I will reply with the free link.
    Best regards, David Busch, LCSW (retired trauma therapist)

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  40. Everyone wants to have a reason to jump on this story, I guess.

    Heather was NOT, in fact taking any psychiatric medications the last few years, during the time w her boyfriend.

    She did however, use Kratom, psychedelics, and 20+ years of drinking. (She also drank heavily during the years she was on psych meds.)

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    • KC, I made it clear in the comments and it is actually clear in the original article as well — this was based off of Ms. Armstrong’s book and her touting of the psychiatric cure, a cure she said worked for her in the book and that she wrote at the behest of a therapist for other people in need.

      As many of the comment thread have stated, including the author of the article, we aren’t in a position to say what would push someone over the edge into suicide. There is probably a myriad of causes, but one you didn’t mention are the tardive (late appearing and chronic) impact of psychiatric medications — tardive effects that often lead people to seek out something to quell the pain.

      J.A. and I know this well. We had Kratom that sat unused in our nightstand for a couple of years as we tried to deal with tardive akathisia caused by psychiatric drugs. The withdrawal effects from the psychotropics were so severe, we looked everywhere. J.A. decided not to try Kratom, not for any moral reason, but we already felt like we had been playing Russian Roulette with pills and drugs. The psychiatric model is the same model as substance abuse — ingest something to make you feel better. Following that model leads to tragedy.

      The one thing we know is Ms. Armstrong at one point touted extreme psychiatric treatments and took many psychotropic medications and that it did not work. The extreme steps she took with substances weren’t socially sanctioned, psychiatry was.

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      • Kent says, “The psychiatric model is the same model as substance abuse — ingest something to make you feel better. Following that model leads to tragedy.”

        More people should realize THERE’S NO DIFFERNCE between ingesting psychiatric drugs and illegal substances — medically speaking, that is.

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        • Birdsong–agreed. However, I would say physiologically and psychologically speaking there’s no difference.

          “Medical” often becomes a metonym for the system and the people in it–and I include here insurance companies, society as it relates to the medical establishment and system, as well as the system itself. The schools of thought in medicine preach that ingesting a substance–as long as it’s a sanctioned substance–is perfectly OK.

          For example, drinking alcohol alone is considered problematic by society and medical/mental health providers. But popping a Xanax while solo is just fine. I know you see the absurd hypocrisy as I do.

          An example of our innate ability to parse things out to justify behavior is people who want to believe they are of a more healthy mindset, so they decide to quit consuming sugar, and instead choose alternatives such as turbinado sugar, agave syrup, or honey. What they fail to realize is their body processes (and reacts) to honey et. al. the same way as it reacts to refined sugar. Physiologically, sugar is sugar is sugar. Psychologically, they feel better about it, so they parse and justify it.

          I think this speaks to the power of marketing. We’ve been sold the idea that extrinsic forces (chemicals) have the power to undo anything that ails us. And they may, for a time.

          But by that logic, if we’re only looking at temporary relief, why not choose substances that work for almost everyone, like opioids, sugar, alcohol, et. al.? We don’t use them because we know the long-term consequences of using these things for emotional pain lead to poorer outcomes. And until the APA and NIMH, NAMI, etc. start telling the truth about clinical outcomes and longevity studies, too many end up trading what they want the most for what might help them in the short term, leaving many of them worse off than before they were medicated. Thanks again for your thoughts and for reading. – JA

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          • J.A.,
            I see what you’re saying, but for me the word ‘medically’ implies the physiological. So the point I was trying to make is that psychotropic substances obtained through a doctor are no safer than ones obtained through other means, because chemically and effectively there’s little difference. And I also think the majority of people, including me, haven’t the training, time or inclination to notice, much less parse out, the words we use every day, even though this can lead to unhealthy choices. But I entirely agree with you that marketing uses words to unfairly influence people psychologically, which is the basis of my argument against psychiatry.

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    • Are you not aware that all psychoactive substances (psychiatric drugs, psychedelics, alcohol and other recreational drugs) are all psychoactive substances?

      Which begs the question: HOW AND WHY are psychiatric drugs exempt from the same kind of criticism as other psychoactive substances?

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  41. Just as a general comment, but the damage that comes through psychiatry is not simply medications (I am not for or against medication in principle. People who find them helpful should have them). It is also the labels (or “diagnoses” to others) that they put on people. “Borderline Personality Disorder”, “Bipolar Disorder”, “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” etc.

    I know for some “psychiatric diagnoses” are a convenient shorthand to justify their suffering (be it depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, mania, hallucinations, delusions or whatever else it is) to others and for some it’s because they want a name for what they have.

    But to others, they become nothing more than nooses around their necks; terms of brutal gaslighting, invalidation and harassment. Not all psychiatric categorisations are equally stigmatising either. The first group (okay with psychiatric “diagnoses”) doesn’t have the experiences of the second group (damaged by psychiatric “diagnoses”), so they’re fine with it.

    A person’s suffering can be stated for what it is without being categorised with any categorisation. The nonsensical notion that “they (i.e. mental health workers) need it” is just that….nonsense. Does it make their life easier? Sure. But they don’t need it and it doesn’t necessarily make the life of the person on the other side of the table easier.

    We have people who are being labelled as “bipolar” due to mania caused by stimulants and SSRIs (granted that they cause “mania” only in a subset of people they’re prescribed to) and when I read about it, there’s a lot of “antidepressants in bipolar disorder” and “antidepressants should not be given to bipolar people” rather than the fact that they’ve been labelled bipolar due to the mania inducing effect of the drugs in the first place.

    Also, “personality disorders”. Wow. One just has to visit the wonderful vault of questions and comments at Quora.

    There is no point comparing these terms to syndromal diagnosis in physical medicine. Those have nothing to do with a person’s character, conduct, personality and sanity. Their implications on a person’s life are not the same.

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    • “Also, “personality disorders”. Wow. One just has to visit the wonderful vault of questions and comments at Quora.”

      Yes, I agree absolutely. Why would I support/follow the advice of a pseudoscientific entity that unquestionably invites abuse toward people who have experienced trauma while also denying/dismissing the trauma.

      People who believe that the worst thing about psychiatry is that “it’s not perfect” or that it “can’t help everyone” must be fortunate enough to have never witnessed it’s most harmful and destructive practices and beliefs.

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    • Registered, thank you for that insight. I couldn’t agree more, actually. Though I will say that I see a similar dynamic between labels and the pills–both are used to expedite extraordinarily complex processes and, after they’re issued, tend to end the conversation.

      While I agree, all are entitled to both their labels and pills, I think it’s important, once again, to look at the cost vs. benefit. We know diagnostic labels are used for insurance purposes, or so that’s my understanding. So we must ask, as a society, do these labels give vital information that will help someone get well and navigate through the world, or do they give them permission to limp through it? If labels are empowering and validating, where does the impetus lie for change and growth?

      As for me, when someone says “personality disorder,” my brain automatically transposes that term into “trauma.” The problem is this: trauma is a psychic injury that must be addressed, just like a broken leg must be addressed. Imagine if doctors treated an injury such as a broken leg as they do disorders in the mental health model. We would live in a world of invalids–but the wheelchair and crutch industries would be booming. Thanks for reading and for your insight. Take good care. – JA

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      • J.A.,
        Saying someone is “broken” is just as insulting as saying someone has a “personality disorder”. And automatically assuming emotional trauma is behind someone’s behavior is jumping to another conclusion which can open up an even worse can of worms.

        The term “personality disorder” only means this:
        a) someone doesn’t like someone, or
        b) someone doesn’t understand someone, or
        c) someone wants someone to shut up and go away. And usually, it’s all three.

        At the end of the day, people are people, so why not leave it at that?

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        • Birdsong,
          I think we’re in agreement. The DSM’s “personality disorders” are ridiculous, reductive, and often weaponized. In fact, I think PDs are even more fallacious than the mental illnesses it (the DSM) purports to define.

          What I’m hearing you say is that you would like a more accepting and inclusive society where people are simply allowed to be people. I agree with you 100%.

          However, whether we like it or not, trauma has neurological, biological, and psychological consequences that mostly occur outside our conscious awareness and often impact behavior whether we want it to or not. We are often unaware of our own triggers.

          For example, I didn’t use the word “broken” in relation to human beings, nor did I automatically assume or indicate that I think trauma was an excuse for, or behind, behavior of any kind. In your reply, you presented me with a false dichotomy: either human beings are “broken” (according to me), or they are just “people.” It seemed a bit reactive and that’s perfectly okay. My guess is you came by your feelings/thoughts about this issue in honest (likely painful) ways. I don’t want to assume, so I’ll say here that I have deep resentments concerning diagnostic labels, and it seems from your reply you share my sentiments.

          No one likes to be misunderstood, and I think being labeled with a PD is the ultimate form of misunderstanding, reducing our humanity into a fictionalized set of criteria of perceived negative traits that are subjectively assessed by someone usually unqualified to assess us.

          That said, I felt misunderstood when I read your reply. So, I took a beat to really try and hear what you were saying, and I think we’re on the same page and share the same desire: we want to be seen through a lens of our humanity, not a lens of pathology. Keep fighting the good fight and thanks for being here. – JA

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          • “However, whether we like it or not, trauma has neurological, biological, and psychological consequences that mostly occur outside our conscious awareness and often impact our behavior whether we want it too or not. We are often unaware of our own triggers.”

            J.A., you write as though I need to be told these things, which I can assure you I don’t.

            You then say you didn’t use the term broken “in relation to human beings”. Then what are you referring to, cars?

            And why did you say, “…my brain automatically transposes that term [personality disorder] into “trauma”…[that] trauma is a psychic injury that must be addressed…such as a broken leg…”? I think using such an analogy is seeing things, to use your words, “through the lens of pathology.”

            And did you know that using the phrase “people are people” automatically implies complexity? So, I find your characterizing my use of that phrase as “a bit reactive” a bit reactive yourself.

            Then you say, “My guess is you came about your feelings/thoughts about this issue in honest (likely painful) ways.” If you’re assuming I’ve been given a diagnosis for “personality disorder”, let me assure you that I have not.

            You finish by saying, “No one likes to be misunderstood.” Well, that’s how a lot of people feel, including me, when they feel they’ve been lectured to inappropriately.

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          • I’m always intrigued by how words and tone can be misconstrued in the comment “medium.” As someone who writes, I always found the comment section as a place to clarify and outline my thoughts and try and clear up any misunderstanding.

            A reply isn’t even necessarily for the person being replied to, but rather all the readers that come and read the comment thread. If one reader feels strongly enough to make a comment, other, more silent readers may have felt or thought the same thing. No matter how hard you try there are times when the message can get lost over a misunderstood metaphor or word choice.

            J.A. used the word “broken” in her original post, not to refer to broken humans, but to a “broken leg” in a metaphor on the current treatment for mental health in the United States and how that treatment is leading to more, not less incapacity overall.

            I read this reply to Birdsong as what it was, knowing J.A. so well, not a lecture, but an attempt to clarify, find common ground, and explain those areas where she felt her original comment had been misconstrued.

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          • What is amazing to me is, so many psychiatrists and their patient supporters talk about “vulnerable people” being prevented from “seeking help”. Well, aren’t people being made vulnerable as a result of the terms they’re being stamped with? Isn’t it psychiatrists’ job to deal with the medical, social and legal consequences of the terms they stamp people with and the gaslighting they comes due to it? How can they say they care about your mental health whilst doing exactly that which will ruin it? Why don’t they come out publicly and talk about that? They publish paper after paper about drug treatments, give speeches on how “mental health should not be stigmatised”, while stigmatising people like hypocrites. When the damage takes place, they are not there. And then all these hypocrites in the comment section are talking about stigma and that we’re the ones spreading it! Astonishing. It’s like the thief blaming the victim for him robbing his house.

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      • It isn’t that there aren’t people with horrible personalities. There are. There are intolerable individuals, compulsive liars who destroy other people’s lives and reputations, unempathetic individuals who feel no remorse when they unwarrantedly hurt others. Some of them land in jails whilst others work as successful doctors and lawyers and are even liked and supported by people which makes their victims even more hurt. Sometimes the environment also makes people that way.

        We can describe their behaviour for what it is. Doesn’t have quite the effect of saying “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”, but it’s enough. People (or others around them) can be helped based on behaviour as it is.

        Even in myself I’ve noticed, my parents and psychiatrists bring out a horrible, abusive side of my personality that I never knew I had in me. It disgusts me sometimes. But I become that way due to fear of them, self-defense and frustration. Not because I enjoy hurting anyone or enjoy screaming. I’ve moved away from people who bring out that aspect of me. Last thing I would want is that to be medicalised and perma-stamped by another shrink. I feel afraid to even write this. But that’s what psychiatry’s terror does.

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        • I agree, registeredforthissite. There are indeed difficult people in all walks of life. And I also agree that describing someone’s upsetting behavior is more than enough, for reasons I’m assuming you already know.

          And I totally relate to the uniquely unpleasant experience of having people bring out the worst in you for reasons that have nothing to do with any so-called “pathology”. And I’ve no doubt that many others have experienced the same thing.

          And just as an aside, when I eventually learned of the absurdly long list of so-called “personality disorders” I was sure I qualified for almost all of them and was amazed I hadn’t ever been “diagnosed” with any of them, so much so that I brought it up to the psychiatrist and therapist I was seeing at the time, (both of whom I’d been seeing for well over a year) and requested I be given one. But thankfully, neither gave into my unenlightened request.

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          • To J.A. and Kent,

            Using a “broken leg” analogy to describe someone’s psychic state, due to trauma or not, can be just as damaging as a “personality disorder” label because it implies that someone’s reaction to distressing events are pathological, rather than what they actually are, which are normal reactions to distressing situations.

            And while there’s a world of difference between a “broken leg” and a “broken person”, I think it wise when referring to someone’s psychic state to refrain from using metaphors that evoke images of physical illness or injury because this is exactly how psychiatry has succeeded in getting people to believe that there’s something physiologically as well as implicity wrong within them, which has not been proven physiologically.

            And as much as emotional trauma affects one’s entire being, I’m beginning to think it important to refrain from using the term “trauma” at all, because no matter how it’s intended, it can stigmatize as much as any other psychiatric label, all of which ultimately separate people, even if initially seen as a helpful self-identifier. And since you are writers, I’m hoping you both can appreciate these subtle but profound distinctions.

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          • And while some people have a pattern of behaving abusively towards others, this does not, imo, justify labeling someone with a so-called “personality disorder”, or any other “psychiatric disorder” for that matter, because doing so essentially demonizes people, which not only harms the person being labeled, but society at large, as it creates an “us vs them” mentality. And I say this as a so-called “survivor” of so-called “narcissistic” abuse, which I believe explains a lot of my so-called “reactivity”.

            If society ever learns anything, it should be that the words people use break not only people, but entire societies.

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        • And just because someone’s got a horrible personality doesn’t mean they’re “narcissistic”, borderline, or any other medically nasty term. All it means is they’ve got a horrible personality. And I’ve learned it’s much better being myself, even if that makes people think I have a horrible personality, because being a people-pleaser is the living death, online or anywhere else.

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          • J.A. said: “The problem is this: trauma is a psychic injury, that must be addressed, just like a broken leg must be addressed. Imagine if doctors treated an injury such as a broken leg as they do they do disorders in the mental health model. We would live in a world of invalids-but the wheelchair and crutch industries would be booming.”

            I finally see how I misinterpreted J.A.’s “broken leg” metaphor. However, misinterpreting it was easy enough to do. At least it was for me. But perhaps my misinterpretation can serve as an example as to why using a “broken leg” metaphor is such a terrible choice of metaphor. But that’s just my opinion. And it’s also my opinion that using the words invalid, wheelchair and crutches are just as insensitive. But that’s also just my opinion. However, it’s why I make no apology for my misinterpretation. And aside from all that, I stand by the rest of my criticisms of J.A.’s response.

            But here’s what I hope is everyone’s takeaway: it just might be a good idea to stay away from using any medical metaphor/analogy/reference when discussing the so-called “mental health”.

            And that’s just my opinion.

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        • “It’s like the thief blaming the victim for him robbing his house.”
          Great metaphor, registeredforthissite.

          People telling others how to interpret their own impressions/feelings/thoughts/experiences is called “mental health care”, which these days is more commonly known as gaslighting.

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          • Correction: “People telling others how to interpret their own impressions/feelings/thoughts/experiences is called ‘gaslighting’, which these days is more commonly known as “mental health care”.

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  42. We are prescribed these medications without any thought as to how we might fare coming off of them and stopping altogether. Suicide is ALSO a side effect of the process of weaning off of meds. Psychiatry’s only solution to a diagnosis of mental illness is medication. And we are left to deal with the consequences of adjusting to the pills (possible suicidality), taking the pills (possible suicidality), and getting off the damn pills (possible suicidality).

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    • Amanda, I hear your frustration and pain. It is monumentally unfair, and so like most underrepresented and marginalized people throughout history, we must fight to bring awareness to these important facts. Thank you for your part in the struggle. Take good care. -JA

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  43. I was told by a GI doctor’s office not to take my meds for bipolar disorder order for a colonoscopy prep. I was off my meds for 24 hours. I went into a two-month tailspin of a mixed episode before my meds got back to a therapeutic level. Never again will I not take my meds. Once was enough.

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    • Thank you for your thoughts, Julie. That sounds like a terrifying experience. I can’t speak to your diagnosis, but I can tell you that if someone–anyone, whether bipolar or not–were to discontinue their medications cold turkey as you did, they, too, would go into a “tailspin.” You called it a “mixed episode”; others might call it “acute drug withdrawal.” Your GI doctor should have known better–I’m sorry you had to go through that. Thanks for reading and take care. – JA

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  44. Psychiatry has failed because its therapies (which make people think about and analyze their past suffering) and psychiatric medications (which condition people to believe they are sick now) cause people to innocently misuse their gift/power of thought against themselves. The Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought (uncovered by Sydney Banks in 1973) explain how our minds work to create our moment-to-moment reality. This understanding was used to develop 3P therapy, which has literally been CURING mental illnesses since 1976. But mainstream psychiatry and the psychopharmaceutical industry refuse to reinvent themselves because there’s no long-term money in curing people. We all have innate mental health AND the power to think that we don’t. For 40+ years of proof all over the world, search for: Sydney Banks, George Pransky, Roger Mills, William Pettit, Judy Sedgeman, Christine Heath, Jack Pransky, Michael Neill, Mavis Karn, and the Three Principles Global Community. And the podcast “Psychology Has It Backwards” explains a LOT!

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    • I could not find information on Banks’ 3P teachings without searching on his name. Banks is promoted as having an “enlightenment experience” in 1973. Thus he falls into the group of healers who could be considered New Age or mystical.

      I follow Hubbard who first published the results of his research in 1950 and continued his work until about 1980. His students have also helped many people and solved many cases. His work is likewise ignored, if not derided, by Psychiatry.

      Hubbard proved through his research the reality of reincarnation. This has since been confirmed by academic work led by Ian Stevenson. Mainstream psychiatry totally rejects this reality, even making fun of it. For me this is one measure of how off-base they are.

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    • Thanks for reading Beth. The article was my truth as I see it from my sphere and field of experience. I’m aware that I don’t have the intimate details of Ms. Armstrong’s life. I do, however, know how the medications she took impact and damage brain function. If more people familiarized themselves with that, fewer people be eager to medicate their emotional states and would possibly find other alternatives before taking a pill. Take care. – JA

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  45. I might note that the American Psychiatric Association is meeting at the Moscone Center in San Francisco this weekend.

    My group will be marching outside. Our emphasis will be on ECT, which is one of the most harmful practices that psychiatrists continue to insist is “safe and effective.”

    But of course their use and misuse of dangerous drugs is much more common today, and probably causing more death and suffering than brain shock. It’s just more difficult these days to attack them for using drugs, as drugs are so popular and so widely used by doctors for everything.

    I wish we could expose more clearly and pointedly how ignorant psychiatry remains of its subject – the human psyche. That ignorance – which can now be considered self-enforced – is at the bottom of why so many of their treatments are ineffective or harmful.

    My group will be assembling at the Embarcadero starting at 11AM on the 20th of May and marching up to the Moscone Center. We welcome unaffiliated individuals and groups to join us. The larger the crowd, the more impactful will be our message.

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  46. I have been following all the comments everyday! Thanks to J.A.! Thanks to Kent Winward! Thanks to Steve, the moderator! Also thanks for all the regular commentors. All of your responses are wonderful and make a lot of sense to me!

    Today I type in “May 17” in the search box, hit the “return” key on my computer keyboard, and all the new comments from today quickly show up to me. I feel great about it! I learned how to find the new comments everyday after an initial struggle.

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  47. I think feelings are not problems to be solved, but if we can successfully share them, that builds connections, and that is what we need to improve how we feel. The dark dreadful feelings I have come from being unknown. There is no way to share such that it feels right. If you look at this woman’s problems, maybe that is something to consider about why. She wrote a lot, but did she really feel heard? Have we lost how to give this very essential human need?

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    • I agree, David. Apparently, according to a comment above, Heather did post about feeling let down by psychiatry/psychiatric drugs, but she was bullied by the “pro psychiatry” contingent into removing her post.

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    • David, thank you for your insight. I agree with you re: connection. I read an excellent book recently about the history of the drug war (“Chasing the Scream,” by Johann Hari), and in it, an addict said that “Addiction is a disease of loneliness.” I would posit that any mental health struggle, no matter the severity or type, is a condition of loneliness. And so the opposite of addiction, depression, or other isolative mental health conditions, is connection.

      We’ve been taught that uncomfortable, unpleasant feelings are pathological. This is where I advocate for literature, because the more we learn about the human experience, the more we feel connected to the world around us.

      I don’t know where you are in the technology age, but I was around pre-internet, pre-social media, and I remember the “dark, dreadful feelings” of being unknown and unheard. A type of isolation that seems to reflect on our sense of worth—but it’s untrue. Our value does not rest within or through the eyes and minds of others. Our value is inherent. However, without others, humans do not thrive. We need one another; if the pandemic taught us anything, it taught us that.

      Technology promises us connection in the way consumption promises fulfillment. The feelings these generate are fleeting at best and often leave us feeling emptier and more alone than ever.

      Author David Foster Wallace once said that writing was “a way out of loneliness.” I know that’s true for me. I think for Heather Armstrong, it was also true. As a writer, I also know the demands that come with success. One feels an obligation to continue giving one’s audience whatever they want so they’ll keep reading. But there comes a point in every writer’s career when they must decide what kind of writer they want to be. Our audiences are onlookers who connect through consumption.

      That said, even when writers are read, we are still often not often heard. But for us, connection comes from the act of writing itself, keeping in mind that connection isn’t necessarily a physical state of being. It’s a result of our experiences in and of the world and how we choose to interact with them. So, I don’t think we’ve lost our ability to truly hear others, but I do wonder if we’ve been distracted by the technological medium. My hope is, we’ll sort it out eventually. Thanks for hearing me and take good care. – JA

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  48. I’d like to see the Hoffer-Osmond Diagnostic test scores of some of these individuals to see if their shrinks actually got it right, having correctly treated some other depressed individuals for schizophrenia syndrome back in my early megavitamin days.

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  49. Kent,

    TO CLARIFY: I’m always intrigued by commenters who seem to think it’s their place to tell others how to interpret, make, or respond to comments. And J.A.’s comment, which was addressed to me, seemed like a lecture to me, and I don’t appreciate another from you.

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  50. So…….you admit you never read her blog. Why write this friggen’ article? Heather Hamilton Armstrong had major problems throughout her life: addiction, OCD, anxiety, depression, hypochondria, anorexia, etc. She went through periods where she tried to get off meds and had major problems (her first visit to a psych hospital). The meds did not kill her. She struggled throughout her life, she fought for her life. She was always trying to better herself and/or find the answer.

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  51. Maybe we don’t need psychiatric meds but actually mentally and emotionally health inducing lives. Nutritious, whole, and real foods, clean water and air, deep and life giving communities and relationships, deeper meaning, systems that don’t cause us endless stress and fear, time to really relax, exercise, etc. In short, things direly lacking in most of our modern lives and something no pharmaceutical or medical industry can benefit off.

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