Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Essays by a diverse group of writers, in the United States and abroad, engaged in rethinking psychiatry. (The directory of personal stories can be found here, and initiatives here).

Making Sense of Being Crazy in a Crazy World: A Community Poll

Hey Mad in America Community! Happy New Year! I want to share an exciting project with you that's going on at The Icarus Project. Members of The Icarus project have been imagining maps and roads and labyrinths that would lead us in our journey and ground us in the moment. These have been called “wellness maps” or “mad maps” – reminder documents we create for ourselves and the people around us about our wellness goals, warning signs, strategies for health and who we trust to look out for our best interests when we’re not at our best. As I've been saying for years, “The act of figuring out what it means personally to be healthy is about learning to leave a trail back to how we want to be. The clearer we articulate it, the easier it is to get back there.”
childhood bipolar

Childhood Bipolar Disorder, Deconstructed

Diagnosing children with juvenile or pediatric bipolar disorder is largely an American phenomenon. Do we actually have more “bipolar” children in the United States—or are we simply labeling more of them as such? If it is ever fair to call a child “manic,” isn’t the child’s environment the direction in which we should look?

If You Don’t Have a Brain…

When we force people to take psychiatric drugs, or lie to get them to take the drugs, we are not only harming the organ of their body called the brain—we are harming their capacity to think and to feel and to know themselves. We are limiting their personality and identity, and the expression of their soul.

Violence Caused by Antidepressants: An Update after Munich  

The media is now reporting details about the 18-year-old who shot and killed nine and wounded many others before killing himself on July 22 in Munich. My clinical and forensic experience leads to a distinction among people who murder under the influence of psychiatric drugs. Those who kill only one or two people, or close family members, often have little or no history of mental disturbance and violent tendencies. The drug itself seems like the sole cause of the violent outburst. On the other hand, most of those who commit mass violence while taking psychiatric drugs often have a long history of mental disturbance and sometimes violence. For these people, the mental health system seems to have provoked increasing violence without recognizing the danger.

Thinking Upstream: Winning Real Mental Health Reform By Joining the Anti-Corruption Movement

At the end of my talk at the American Psychiatric Association Institute on Psychiatric Services , a psychiatrist in the crowded lecture room put his hand up and posed a surprising challenge: Why was I so concerned about reforming psychiatry and ending iatrogenic harm from medications, diagnosis, and forced treatment when there are so many other issues in society to worry about?

Thinking about Alternatives to Psychiatric Diagnosis

I want to follow up my first post by outlining the principles of possible alternatives to psychiatric diagnosis – that is, alternatives in addition to the most obvious one, which is simply to stop diagnosing people.

Cognitive Therapy Found Effective in Unmedicated Psychotic Patients . . . And Other News

For a long time, psychotherapy has been seen as providing little benefit to patients with schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. However, two recent studies,...

Robin Williams or Patch Adams? Watch a Brief Message from David Oaks to the...

You may watch a little eight-minute video message, below, that I sent this past Sunday, October 12, 2014, especially created to be shown during the gala dinner for the Mad In America International Film Festival. The festival brought together many movies that challenge the mental health industry. I wish I could have been there physically because this certainly was one of the main Mad Culture events of the season and many activists, film makers, and other creative folks were in attendance.

A Time for Heretics

One of the amazing things about my new life and new career is the people I have met. I have become part of a movement that is filled with heretics. I am constantly inspired by the people that have the courage to write in this and other forums. I am inspired by the people that protest and refuse to accept a broken paradigm.

Fighting for Our Most Basic of Human Rights– The Right to be Human

Standing up for what I believe in with a determined voice is a new experience for me, and I sometimes find myself riddled with self-doubt and insecurity. But the beauty in this is that I know with firm resolve that my feelings, my thoughts, and my unique experience of reality will never again be violated by psychiatry, and that my purpose here is to help others gain the same freedom.

Replacing Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists

During World War II 2.5% of the world’s population died. Imagine a German youth of 18, A Russian youth of 18, a British youth of 18, an American Jewish youth of 18, a French youth of 18, a Japanese youth of 18. Think of the parents of each of these young men. Think of their grandparents. Think of their sisters, their younger brothers — think about everyone affected by that calamity. To say that the “mental health” of all of these people was affected by the fact of a world conflagration is to make a bad joke.

Upon the U.K. Launch of Psychiatry and the Business of Madness: A Reflection

This is a study of psychiatry. It is a study of an area officially a branch of medicine and overwhelmingly seen as legitimate, benign, progressive, and effective. But what if society had it wrong? What if this were not legitimate medicine? Dare we imagine a world where helping is not professionalized, where caring is not commodified. Where, in the spirit of community, we go about the business of life together?

How Following the Trail of “Cutting Edge” and “Convenient” Can Distort Reality

In the late 1990’s, the NIMH set out to provide the most extensive review ever conducted of the effectiveness of ADHD medications in children. It was known as the Multisite Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD (MTA study). In 1999, NIMH announced that after 14 months, well-constructed medication management programs provided better results than other treatments, including behavioral therapy. But the study was not over, and the tables started to turn. By the end of three years, medication not only provided no more benefits over other options, it actually predicted greater deterioration of symptoms.

In ‘Peer’ We Trust

We’re in scary times. For so many reasons. Perhaps the industrialization of ‘peer work’ should rank fairly low on the scale of scary, but - at least for me - it’s up there.

2017: A Wake-up Call on Mental Health and Human Rights

At Mental Health Europe, we see 2017 as having been a crossroads for mental health and human rights. Let’s ensure that this yields concrete change in 2018 with the support of like-minded communities ready to take the discussion to the next level and truly enact this as a civil rights movement.

At the Door of the Sausage Factory

Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, has provoked all manner of responses.  Some outraged, dismissive, but many supportive and relieved to hear the...

Why Should Suicide (Or Voluntary Death) Be a Civil Right?

Regardless of what one's moral stance is on the value of life, or the meaning of death, it is time to recognize that there are people whose views differ from ours, and that we do not have the right to force them to live (and die) the way we want to. We all die; it's the journey that matters, not the destination.

#Diversity? — What “Solidarity” Really Looks Like

What would it look like if national peer-run mental health organizations and other national leaders came out with statements in support of other movements' struggle for freedom from oppression? What would it look like if we were truly unified in solidarity? We would have community-based centers providing intentional support, open 24 hours a day, instead of crowded jail cells holding people in pain. It wouldn't be easy, but we have to do it.

“You Can’t Go Home Again: New York’s Medicaid Health Homes”

Shortly after I posted a two-part blog on this site back in February about New York’s just-approved Medicaid Health Homes, I got this crazy,...

Mental Health Homes Open Their Proverbial Doors in New York: A Look into the...

The first of New York State's "mental health homes," which are intended to serve as the bedrock for a reformed public mental health system, are now open. Will this reform deliver improved care for those with "serious and persistent mental illness?"

Situational Schizophrenia

The label of schizophrenia has a chilling ring. It carries with it the suggestion of a wrecked and wretched life. It is also a diagnosis that is notoriously difficult to shed. For this reason, the diagnosis of schizophrenia should not be applied lightly and not without a thorough understanding of the patient’s family and wider circumstances.

Chapter Twelve: A Gift of Desperation

By January of my junior year in college, I had reached my first true emotional bottom. Though surrounded by people on a daily basis...

On the Urge to Take My Life, and My Decision to Take It Back...

I am alive today in the most intense, sometimes painful, always beautiful of ways, and one of the many reasons I credit for my life is this: I am a failed product of ‘Suicide Prevention.’ For this, I am eternally grateful. While this statement may sound like a confusing paradox, I’d like to explain what I mean.

Transformations to Liberation

My goal was to change my relationship with my voices from one that was adversarial to one in which I experienced them as allies. I was successful in that I now look at my voices, visions and other experiences as teachers, as gifts. It has not been an easy journey.

Mad in the Spanish-Speaking World

Locomún, a collective group in Spain, has launched MIA-Hispanohablante, an affiliated web magazine for the 400 million people who share Spanish as their first language.

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