On Aug. 10, Mad in the Family hosted an online panel on how to support children in crisis — and teens, and young adults — that was profoundly inspirational and important, and attended by roughly 130 people around the world. But not everyone who wanted to join us could make it.
Fortunately, the event was recorded, and the video is now posted and available for free. In addition, it will be released as a Mad in America podcast episode — reaching, we hope, yet more ears.
The upshot: Anyone and everyone can hear the astonishing and authentic stories shared by Morna Murray, who supported her son through his distress, diagnoses, treatment, and harms; Ciara Fanlo, an adolescent mental-health coach who endured her own crises and multiple diagnoses as a teen; and Sami Timimi, child/adolescent psychiatrist and author of Insane Medicine: How the Mental Health Industry Creates Damaging Treatment Traps and How you can Escape Them.
All three were generous with their time and their willingness to speak on topics too often ignored — or, even worse, shushed — in a wider narrative fixated on psychiatry’s biomedical paradigm of mental and emotional distress.
How rarely the culture at large hears testimonies of trauma, pain, treatment harms, recovery, and emergence into fulfilling lives from the people who made it through and those who cared and advocated for them. How rarely, too, it hears the perspective of a practitioner who helps teens without pathologizing them and questions the labeling and medicalization of normal human emotion.
As I asked questions and listened, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and admiration, even awe, at the courage it takes to speak out. I was also moved by the utter humanity and plainspoken logic of everything being said. This was authenticity and lived experience on display. This was truth.
Murray described her efforts to support “the sweetest kid in the world” through a cascade of diagnoses, drugs, side effects, more diagnoses, more drugs — and, finally, help into a better place. Fanlo described her transformation from a teen overwhelmed by her emotions and an urge to “press the exit button” into a mentor who guides other kids forward. Timimi addressed the “war on emotions” in a psychiatric profession dominated by pharma and the need to reassure adolescents that they’ll make it through this intense stage in life. “Every kid has within them,” he said, “something that makes them fantastic.”
It all made so much sense. It was all so blazingly clear — obvious, even.
Shouldn’t kids going through difficulties be allowed to experience, to feel, to be, without slapping them with diagnoses and shuttling them into the psychiatric system, with all its harms? Shouldn’t adolescents be allowed to be adolescents, processing charged emotions and learning to navigate their inner and outer worlds? Shouldn’t our conceptions of “normal” and “ordinary” cast a wider net? Shouldn’t teens and parents be heard? Seen for who they are, celebrated for their strengths and gifts?
Across the board, yes.
I urge everyone to watch the panel video or listen to the podcast when it drops. I also urge you to subscribe to the weekly Mad in America and monthly Mad in the Family newsletters, if you don’t already, as both are a great way to keep up with MIA’s broad span of content — including many articles on the critical topics covered by the panel. You can also subscribe to online event alerts on the same sign-up page.
And then, please, email me your thoughts. Let me know if you have a story of your own you’d like to tell that people need to hear, and I can help you shape it, edit it, and get it onto MIA.
Because voices of truth, hope, and authenticity deserve a platform. They need to be heard.
—Amy Biancolli, Family Editor
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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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