Sunday, July 12, 2020


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).

Taking down the Giant: A Call for Increased Community Outreach

I think it’s helpful to see the psychiatric/pharmaceutical complex as being somewhat analogous to one of those large inflatable giants that you sometimes see hovering over car lot sales. Sure, it looks big and powerful, and it really is so long as “we the people” buy its propaganda and its drugs and continue feeding it billions of dollars and continue “bowing down” to its “almighty wisdom.” But its entire foundation consists of a model that simply doesn’t fit the research evidence at all, and quite frankly is propped up by many outright lies.

Future of Mental Health Series: Oryx Cohen on his film “Healing Voices”

The Future of Mental Health interview series continued this past week with some very interesting interviews, among them Sara Tai on inner city mental health, Russell Razzaque on psychiatry and mindfulness, and Jane Linsley on Gould Farm. Here is my interview with Oryx Cohen on his new film “Healing Voices” which will be premiering soon.

‘It WAS NOT your fault this happened’

Before my own suicide attempt, I would raise my voice in agreement when others chose suicide. “Yes, how selfish! How could they? I am so angry!” In fact, I had been fighting my own urges to do the same for years. But I felt somewhat superior because, so far, I had managed to avoid acting on it. So I was NOT selfish. Or, at least, I hadn’t been caught.

The Denial of Pain and Mortality: Or, the Art of Self-Prescribing and the Philosopher’s...

“Don’t look at me! Save yourself!” Andrew* was a 25 year old with an imposing build that was mollified only by his despair and terror. Andrew was losing his mind. I didn’t have to see Andrew and I somewhat wish I never did. I had received a call late at night from Andrew’s nurse. “You gotta give him something man, I mean, he’s freaking out and I feel really bad.”

Conspiracy Theories Fill a Need

While some people find their lives ruined by belief in imagined conspiracies that affect them personally - they may isolate from, or even attack, friends and family, and get diagnosed with psychosis - many other people believe in conspiracies on the basis of little evidence, yet have prominent places in society or even bodies like the US Senate. Yet it seems clear to me that the same dynamics are often involved in both.

Should Our Tax Dollars Be Spent on Promoting Drugs?

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has made a commitment to integrate behavioral health with physical medicine. Physicians have saddled America with addiction to antidepressants, antipsychotics, and benzodiazpines. If the federal government decides that opiate addiction is ok, as they seem to have conceded, shouldn’t the question be “what is the cheapest and the safest opiate?” In Europe, heroin is an option right along with buprenorphine and methadone. It seems to me that the “back-door” legalization of opiates under the guise of “treatment” ought to at least be debated out in the open.

Our Collective Stories Have Power

Now is the time to harness our individual stories, our collective stories, to counter the negative and hateful stories painted about us in the media. We need to push back with stories of our own. Stories that give people hope. We will be filming, for the Obama administration's campaign to encourage discussion of mental health issues, as many people as possible telling their stories of how they built a life of meaning and purpose; what helped, what hurt, and what they see as promising policy directions.

Why I am Going to the APA Protest in NYC on May 4, 2014

I am one of the few lucky ones to have survived this long after being forcibly locked up in four different mental institutions over 50 years ago. I feel a responsibility to the memory of those who died and to the millions around the world who are still subjected to the inhumane, torturous "treatments" of the mental health system. With a heavy heart and fire in my voice and spirit, this is what I plan to say on May 4.

Sick‘s Wild Ride – From Treatment to TEDMED

Earlier this year, I was invited to speak at TEDMED 2014 and John Kazanjian and I worked hard to come up with a 13-ish minute version of my play Sick. The video of the talk/performance got released today on and YouTube. It’s been a wild ride sharing the big play with small audiences around the country these last couple of years, and I am excited and humbled by the potential audience this abbreviated version can have online. I hope you have a chance to watch it.

Chapter Two: Opening Pandora’s Box

Soon after awakening to my crisis of ‘self’, I was sent to my first therapist. My social circles had changed, and I’d begun to...

Guiding Voices, Trauma-Induced Voices

I have facilitated support groups and worked one-on-one with those who hear voices for nearly 10 years.. The insights I've come to from my own experience have often facilitated understanding for others. Here is what I have learned from my experience of hearing voices.

Markingson Case Supporters: Please Join Our Call-In Campaign

Patient advocates and bioethicists have launched a call-in campaign demanding action on psychiatric research abuse at the University of Minnesota.

Chapter Twenty: Russian Roulette

After I left my research position on the acute inpatient psychiatric unit of a Boston hospital towards the end of 2006, my life started...

Chapter Fourteen: Crossing the Threshold

Although the drive to the psychiatric hospital in White Plains, New York, in September 2004 was a mere fifteen minutes from home, the trip...

Balancing Our Recovery Ecosystem

I have some trepidation as a social worker venturing into the world of ecology and biodiversity but during my recent visit to Hawaii, I began to realize there are some parallels in that world and ours. Could psychiatric medications be considered an invasive species in the world of mental health?

Kudos to Art Levine for Exposing Government Complicity in Illegal Psychiatric Drugging of Children

In a well-researched, comprehensive article in today's Huffington Post Art Levine has brought to the attention of the mainstream media the government's complicity in the illegal psychiatric drugging of poor children, especially foster children, through Medicaid.  The article, Feds Pay for Drug Fraud: 92 Percent of Foster Care, Poor Kids Prescribed Antipsychotics Get Them for Unaccepted Uses is the only mainstream article I know about that has really pressed the federal government over its refusal to enforce Medicaid's coverage restrictions to "medically accepted indications."

Challenging the Ongoing ICD 10 Revision: How You Can Help

Mental health policy does not sound exciting. It is - you’ll just have to take my word for it-, but even if you don’t, you might agree with me that it’s crucial. Mental health policy shapes mental health legislation, and mental health legislation shapes issues such as consent, access, equal opportunities and de-institutionalisation, to name but a few. Influencing policy is key to reframing the debate around mental health, and changing the reality on the ground for people with lived experience. With this in mind, here is an introduction to Mental Health Europe’s work on the revisions to ICD 10, and a call to action, for you to get directly involved in this international debate.

Female Peer Specialists Paid Less than Males, Study Finds

In a recent national study by The College for Behavioral Health Leadership, female peer specialists made an average of $2 less than their male counterparts at $14.70 per hour compared to $16.76, respectively. For those of us who don’t live in New York, the gender pay gap is something that affects our lives whether or not we realize it.

How Much can a Psychiatrist Charge to Visit With a Dead Research Subject?

At the University of Minnesota, the answer is apparently $1,446. If harmless clerical errors were to blame for oddities like this, that fact should be easy to clarify simply by looking at the relevant documents.  But if there are systematic issues with the administration of clinical trials that makes it possible to bill for a visit with a dead subject, those issues would be important for other universities and private trial sites as well. 

Chapter Seven: Becoming Bipolar, Becoming Empowered

A newfound acceptance of my bipolar diagnosis during the winter of my freshman year at Harvard filled me to the brim with a sense...

[Un]Settling In for the Long Haul: The Interplay of Complacency, Stagnation, and Psychotropic...

By the time most of us have gotten into our 30’s and 40’s, a certain order has started to take place. We look for ways to increase convenience and amusement in the midst of our busy lives. We often purge those practices that don’t seem necessary to get through the day. We tend to avoid areas that unnecessarily challenge us to think differently, remain flexible, and push the envelope. We start settling in for the long haul. When complacency and stagnation set in, our human nature, especially of today, seeks immediate promises of relief. And marketers know this. This is where psychotropic drugs, among other artificial endeavors, enter the equation.

Racism 102:  It Is Not About Colorblindness

How do we genuinely heal from the damage of racism and internalized racism, as well as mental health oppression, adultism and all form of oppression? We can change all the laws in the land – and we have changed many laws (civil rights laws, employment laws via the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Americans with Disability Act laws) but that doesn’t change attitudes.

The Can Collector’s Club: Clarifying Where Mental Health Begins

In 1980, my father started the Can Collector’s Club (CCC). I was 2 years old. As the story goes, it was my mother’s brainchild, but dad quickly took ahold of the idea with his entrepreneurial spirit. Some people thought he had lost his mind. Some still do. But the purpose of the CCC was simple. Convince family and friends to turn aluminum cans into him so that he could use the money from recycling to support our college fund. And clean up the environment.

Conversations About Death . . . in Pursuit of Life

For most parents, addressing the topic of death is an uncomfortable proposition. Yet, it may be one of the most important discussions we have with our children.  Our lifelong response to death often affects our mental and physical health.  We must teach our children practices from an early age that can buffer the unavoidable distress that would come if the worst occurs.

What Will Cause Psychiatry to Change?

I've been on hiatus for a few months now, and I decided that an informal entry would be most fitting at this time. I have had one question on my mind lately: what would motivate Psychiatry to drastically change its mission and practices in a way that is most consistent with contemporary evidence and moral responsibility?

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