Monday, July 23, 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).

Cracked Open – Installment 3

I’ve been working steadily on Cracked Open, a book that chronicles my experience being a mother suffering terrible insomnia to a mother desperately dependent on benzodiazepines. I am not alone. I live in a state that ranks at the top for anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds and we love to give them to women. But I’m not writing this book simply for mothers or for women. I’m writing it for anyone who has gone into a doctor’s office, desperate and sick, and come out with a prescription that led them down a path to illness and/or disability. It happens so often.

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Psychiatrist: Redefining the Profession for...

A few days ago, I was sitting next to my wife on the couch reading Spark: The Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain written by John Ratey, a professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University. As the title states, it goes well beyond the adage that exercise is good for you, and takes a much deeper, and more scientific look at how research in this area can be (and is in certain places) used to address all kinds of everyday needs. I found myself saying out loud, “Now this what psychiatry should be doing.”
Marci Webber

A Mother’s Worst Nightmare Continues

Marci Webber is a single mom who experienced a medication-induced psychotic episode, during which she killed her daughter, believing it would "save" her, and then tried to kill herself. For over seven years now, Marci and I have been trying unsuccessfully to get the mental health system and judicial system to acknowledge the true cause of her crime and let her go.

Cured Meat: an Underground Art Take on Mental Healthcare

There was a time when I, as a young woman, had not yet been a prostitute, a heroin addict, a homeless bum, and all that. I was, at that time, a literature student, at a famous school, and things were going well. But an eerie stampede of social workers and mental hospital stays were overshadowing it all. The tentacular reach of psychiatric drugs into the deepest recess of my being was performing a nasty assault on me from within the bloodstream. In order for my life not to be wasted, it became imperative that I get away. So I said goodbye, America. Goodbye, everybody that I used to know.

Re-examining the Biochemical Model after Newtown: The Effects of Stigma and the Need for...

The media discussions around the horrific event that unfolded in Newtown, Connecticut just before Christmas once again focus the world's attention on the nation's...

Psychiatry and Crime

I have made the point many times that the DSM definition of a mental disorder can be accurately paraphrased as: any significant problem of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving. It is important to note that the APA's definition of a mental disorder/illness is entirely arbitrary, in that there is no objective reality to which it must conform. A mental disorder is what the APA says it is, and there is no way to argue that a particular problem is not a mental disorder, because there is no reality against which this kind of labeling can be checked.

Are the Olympics Harder than Mental Health Recovery?

I competed in the 1996 Olympics in Judo before I got sucked into the mental health system. I got sucked in due to a...

Psychiatric Diagnoses:  Labels, Not Explanations

It has long been my contention that psychiatric "diagnoses" have no explanatory value, and in fact constitute nothing more than vague, unreliable re-labeling of the presenting problems. The only evidence for the so-called illness is the very behavior that it purports to explain. There is nothing more to it than that. Psychiatry consistently fails to respond to this particular criticism, and with equal consistency presents these labels as if they did have explanatory value.
mental health inc

New Book Takes Aim at the Mental Health Industrial Complex

I’ve been around the block a few times, so I was not shocked by the revelations in Art Levine’s absorbing and well-researched new book, Mental Health, Inc.: How Corruption, Lax Oversight and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens. But I was certainly appalled.

Antidepressant-Induced Mania

It is generally recognized in antipsychiatry circles that antidepressant drugs induce manic or hypomanic episodes in some of the individuals who take them. Psychiatry's usual response to this is to assert that the individual must have had an underlying latent bipolar disorder that has "emerged" in response to the improvement in mood. The problem with such a notion is that it is fundamentally unverifiable.

Proposal From Italy: An International Collection of Recovery Stories

We want to start an international initiative to promote the writing of recovery stories in every country, with the ultimate goal of sharing at an international level the most compelling ones from each country. Our proposal is born from an awareness that recovery stories are necessary today in order to give back to mental sufferance its meaning and transparency, to fight the biographical opacity of biological theories (the broken brain) and to guarantee decisional power to those who are offered (or imposed) mono-dimensional or dehumanizing treatments.

Things Your Doctor Should Tell You About Antidepressants

The conventional wisdom is that antidepressant medications are effective and safe. However, the scientific literature shows that the conventional wisdom is flawed. While all prescription medications have side effects, antidepressant medications appear to do more harm than good as treatments for depression.

Rejuvenating Abolitionism of Psychiatric Labels — Even Some Establishment Psychiatrists Embarrassed by New DSM-5

When even some establishment psychiatrists are delegitimizing DSM-5, it becomes far easier to delegitimize psychiatric labels.

The Power of Words: What the Wall Street Journal Didn’t Tell You

Two weeks ago there was an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that basically eviscerated the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) while at the same time calling for support of HR 3717 – The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. HR 3717 has elements that we agree with as well as elements we don’t. In addition, there are elements that are just plain confusing to us. In this post I want to address three of the most popular sound bites (two of which found their way into the WSJ editorial) that continue to come up again and again.

Occam’s Razor and the Elusive Pursuit of Social Justice

I have devoted more than 40 years to the study of extreme mental states – my own and others. I have witnessed the extraordinary ability of people to survive and thrive after living through horrendous experiences. Remarkable feats of resilience attest to our untapped potential. I am acutely aware of an immense responsibility to communicate and use what I have learned so that others may have a somewhat easier task navigating the difficult and diverse states we call madness.

House of Cards: Bad Science Creates False and Dangerous Beliefs

What is used to justify psychiatry today, if it is science at all, is bad science. Both the pharmaceutical industry and many of today’s psychological theories including those that support CBT employ the hoax of evidence-based psychiatry. We need to blow their cover.

Sir Robin Murray and Our Collective Mea Culpa

Sir Robin Murray, a distinguished British professor of psychiatry, recently published a paper in Schizophrenia Bulletin titled, “Mistakes I Have Made in My Research Career.” I wonder what leads Robin Murray to acknowledge his mistakes when others seem to hunker down. I also wonder how I can know when I am misled in my assumptions.

How Quantitative Mental Health Turns Oppression Into “Depression”

What are the philosophical underpinnings for what constitutes evidence and how have quantitative approaches so effectively trumped qualitative approaches in applied psychiatry, psychology, and the like? Furthermore, is it possible that quantitative ways of studying human experience may actually promote constricted, myopic views that hurt or oppress human beings? And how does this contribute to a global biopharmaceutical research enterprise reframing the understandable reactions to oppression as being the deficiencies and impairments of its victims?

Why the Medical Model Won’t Go Away, Part Two

The short answer is that “health” has supplanted virtue or righteousness or sanctity as our culture’s prime normative ideal in personal behavior. “Mental health” is just a subsidiary of the lust after healthiness; mental illness seems, on the face of it, simply its corollary

Better Broadband

So many treatment colleagues have shared that prior to finding an approach that really works to turn a child’s intensity to greatness, they felt no recourse other that to look for ways to moderate the accelerating poor choices that children they worked with were making. Most relevant here is, that in retrospect, they felt that it boiled down to simply being faithful to their training, which it turns out so often is a set up to fail with difficult children.

The University of Minnesota was not Involved? Some Further Thoughts on the “Corrective...

The suicide of Dan Markingson at the University of Minnesota has brought notoriety to the CAFÉ study and its site investigators, Stephen Olson and Charles Schulz. But the “corrective action” recently issued by the Minnesota Board of Social Work against the CAFÉ study coordinator, Jean Kenney, has raised another disturbing question.

Psychiatry & Suicide Prevention: A 30-year Failed Experiment

It takes courage and integrity to make changes to your beliefs and approach. In 2008 Professor Roger Mulder, head of psychiatry at Otago University, published research in which he concluded “Antidepressant treatment is associated with a rapid and significant reduction in suicidal behaviours. The rate of emergent suicidal behaviour was low and the risk/benefit ratio for antidepressants appears to favour their use.” In Dr. Mulder's conference presentations last week, he stated that the medical/psychiatric paradigm that has dominated approaches to suicide since WWII has largely failed to influence suicide rates. In Dr. Mulder’s view “New approaches are required – possibly public health, sociological, community or combinations in addition to, or instead of, medical approaches.”

The Hallucination in the Room

I recently read Rachel Waddingham’s excellent post (Me & the Meds: The Story of a Dysfunctional Relationship) on how she eventually managed to get off meds and take control of her hallucinations. This particular piece struck home with me because it illustrates that the biggest problem with the direction psychiatry has taken in the past fifty years is not the meds (acknowledging that meds are a big problem) but the refusal to deal with the obvious: Hallucinations.

Dear Boston Globe, Part VI: Congratulations. Bad Things Happen.

Yes, people are dying, but not typically in the manner you so salaciously describe in every blood-lusting Globe article you write. They're entering the system when they’re younger, getting stuck in that service, and then dying early (or transferring to nursing homes), unseen by the public eye.

A Tale of Two Cousins

Last fall, I was invited by Psychiatric Times to write an article from a mother's perspective about what is needed to "fix a broken health system." As part of my essay, I told the story of my son Jake, who was robbed of all hope by the mental health system and died a homeless man. I also told the story of his cousin Kimmy, who escaped from the mental health system and is now doing well. Psychiatric Times declined to publish my essay.

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