There’s a very common, pop-psychology, new-age misconception that conflates being empathic with being caring and compassionate. But some of the most highly empathic people I’ve ever known have been con artists, grifters, unrepentant thieves, cynically manipulative fearmongering politicians, and heartless predators of every kind.
For nearly a century, Danvers was a model asylum in the humanistic treatment of the insane, hosting visitors from all over the world. Patients and their families regarded a stay at Danvers as a positive, healing experience. But after the psychopharmaceutical "revolution," the hospital became a snake pit where the mentally ill went to languish and often die.
Why is this scholarship important? Because it will fund, create recognition for, and promote research into violence against Indigenous women. It includes not only what is conventionally seen as violence such as murder, rape, and battery, but also violence perpetrated by institutions, including psychiatry.
For many people, the current political situation around the world is intensely frightening and not without cause. Depression and anxiety are on the rise, but we need a social model revolution in order to look at why this is happening. Labels like Trump Anxiety Disorder are merely a way to put people’s concerns in a box and leave them unaddressed.
How many other scientists like me are going to be flagged, publicly reprimanded by TED, for challenging current ways of thinking? Is it even possible to be innovative and follow conventional thinking at the same time? If there are scientists out there with great new ideas, the TED stage may not be the optimal place to state them.
Antipsychotics are big business, professionals are often at a loss as to how to help people going through disturbing experiences, the voices of patients are crowded out of the equation — there are many reasons for the lack of real education and informed consent around antipsychotics. To address this gap in knowledge, we launched a world study on antipsychotic medication withdrawal.
The transformation of normal, unavoidable aspects of life into Medically Treatable Diseases made it not only justifiable, but a moral obligation for potentially everyone to come get euphoria-giving pills. Upstanding, responsible people obey doctor’s orders and do whatever’s medically needed to cure serious illnesses. It was a business model that worked well.
Today is the 10th anniversary of David Foster Wallace’s suicide. While it’s not fair to build an entire theory on an incredibly complicated issue like suicide around one person, Wallace’s death should challenge the common narratives around suicide — that “mental illness” causes it and that “we can’t ever know why people do it.” Both of these are self-serving platitudes that are simply not true.
For years I had hoped that psychiatry would free itself from the psychoanalytic doctrine, and when my wish finally came true, my profession went from the frying pan to the fire. My main goal, currently, is to convince professionals as well as the public that most child psychiatric problems can be handled effectively without medication.
When John Herold went to see a Process Work counselor, they talked about how his experience of extreme states had been disruptive in his life, but how these states also had value. The counselor compared John's experience with drinking an entire bottle of Tabasco sauce all at once. Why not instead, the counselor suggested, "try being just a little psychotic all the time?"
Today sees the culmination of many months of effort with the launch of Mad in the UK. Acting in concert with MIA, Mad in the UK will carry UK-specific content and provide a voice for UK professionals, service users/survivors, peer activists, carers, researchers, teachers, journalists and others who are working for change in the field of what is usually referred to as ‘mental health’.
I'm excited to be doing a new video project, called Brainsplain, in collaboration with MIA. In these videos, end-users of mental health resources critique the latest psychiatry research. I summarize new mental health investigations, and patients evaluate the significance. They share their hopes for future therapies and for changes to culture, and assess ethical issues raised by the research.
In the instant I perceive that I’ve succeeded in inducing fear and shame in you, I can feel a palpable relief from my own fear and shame. This process is called projective identification. I gradually learned as a therapist to be aware of when a person seemed to be mysteriously able to create distressful emotional states in me — states that they were themselves subjectively feeling, but weren’t fully aware of.
Why is it that members of the community who have no formal education in psychology or counseling or therapy like myself are receiving more training in compassion and effective responses to the public health crisis that is suicide than “professionals?” My coworkers at the crisis center are far less pathologizing, cold and judgmental than those with licenses to “help.”
STAT recently published an opinion piece arguing that the black box warning on antidepressants has led to an increase in adolescent suicide. It is easily debunked, and reveals once again how our society is regularly misled about research findings related to psychiatric drugs. STAT has lent its good name to a false story that, unfortunately, will resonate loudly with the public.
As stories wove together, Ron turned to the son and said, “You know, I don’t think you were ever schizophrenic at all.” There was an extended silence as this statement sunk in and the group drew closer to hear what came next. But the rain fell harder until all sound was drowned out. We sat together, feeling the rain soak into our ears, our bodies, the ground; words were unnecessary.
Psychiatry offers medication that can only be tolerated by the extremely able bodied. Those who are already physically ill or disabled will be made more and more ill by psychiatry over time, and the field of medicine marginalizes disabled folks by not addressing these issues. Many differently abled people are not aware of how vulnerable their bodies may be to these drugs, and doctors are unlikely to tell them.
Of course one wishes for an easy answer, but the things that conspire to drive a person over the edge are too numerous and varied ever to point and say, it was this one; one can never really be so certain. No one can say it wasn’t that one, or that it wasn’t really all of those together, or that, when it came my own turn for “insanity,” I wasn’t standing halfway over the edge already, waiting for gravity to kick in and for me to fall.
Let us go back to 1975: psychoanalytic psychiatry was then quasi-hegemonic, and psychopathological models were accepted and used by most practitioners; other behaviourist practices were of minor importance and psychoanalysts had learned to make use of the advances of pharmacology. And yet a shadow was already looming over the picture.
Disturbingly, our study and others reveal that the black box warning is now ignored in many countries, since antidepressant prescriptions for children are on the rise again. Despite increasing certainty that antidepressants are ineffective and likely cause suicidal behavior in young people, psychiatry continues to claim that they reduce suicide risk.
I increasingly think we can only reach greater understanding by working through our own experiences first, and then, if we can, alongside survivors. That will help us become more open to survivor knowledge. For example, we may need to work through our own need for control and understanding. It’s helpful to consider our own reactions to distress or madness — in ourselves and others.
The only way out of the epidemic of feeling-people-turned-medicated-psychiatric-patients is to rebrand and reframe feeling as a cultural collective. And I believe it starts with our messaging as parents and our orientation toward shadow elements like anger and sadness. We have to model a conscious relationship to our own dark parts, and we have to show our children what it looks like to move through these spaces. Feelings can be messy, wild, and sometimes ugly to our constrained sensibilities.
Psychiatric meds can shut down the emotions and consciousness enough to make it possible to tolerate dynamics that would inspire rage or surges of empowered activity without the meds. It can be helpful to look closely at these blocks and start to create a map to freedom, understanding that it is a complex process that involves not only the physiology of the body of the individual taking meds, but the architecture of the social system around that person.
I have spent much of the past few years compiling and editing Resistance Matters: An Antipsychiatry Activist Speaks Out, which will document the long and rich activist career of Don Weitz, the grandpappy of Canadian antipsychiatry. Before I met Don in 1986, I thought I was the only person in the world who didn’t believe in “schizophrenia” (with which I had been diagnosed), and who realized that psychiatry was completely bogus.
The primary factor protecting psychiatry’s unwarranted power and authority is that it is perceived as shielding society from folks who are believed to be dangerous. It would seem, then, that one logical step toward reducing society’s trust in biological psychiatry would be to reveal the evidence of a significant correlation between the use of prescribed psychoactive drugs and the commission of violent acts against oneself or others.