Tuesday, June 15, 2021


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).

Dispatches from a Reluctant Guide on the Path to Disability

I graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. The attitude of my professors in the Psych Department was that the science of Psychology was coming to an end. The mysteries of the mind had been unraveled through the new neuroscience, and all that was left was some mopping up. It all seemed very convincing, and I believed it myself for many years.

Social Services and Psychiatry

The controversy surrounding Justina Pelletier and her family has expanded its scope in recent months, and has now become a general public scrutiny of Massachusetts’s Department of Children and Families. I think there’s a very real risk of confusing some issues here. Every state in the US has a social services department, one of whose statutory responsibilities is to investigate reports of abuse and/or neglect. The system isn’t perfect. But this I do know: the spotlight has been taken off psychiatry. This is critical, because without the “diagnosis” of somatic symptom disorder and the subsequent allegation of medical child abuse, none of what’s happened to Justina and her parents could even have gotten off the ground.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!

"I want to change the way we think about mental health care so that any child, whether they have a mental illness or simply need support through a difficult time, can get the right help at the right time." This was said by Care Minister Norman Lamb and quoted by the BBC on March 17th 2015. Mr. Lamb is known to have a son who has suffered mental health difficulties and it may well have come from the heart as much as it did from the election fever which is beginning to infect British politicians. However it says something worth picking up upon. I want to change the way we think about mental health care… and … simply need support through a difficult time. These are important shifts of language, and doubly important when they come from a government health minister.

Letters from the Front Lines

Bob-- An encounter from this week: I saw a 24 year-old theater actress who was started on Lexapro nine months ago for a one-time "panic attack"...

Recovering Myself

I have known altered states of consciousness since I was a child.  I clearly remember staring into the mirror in my mother’s bathroom and...

[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.

What is Love? An Ode to Motherhood on Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day this blog will not address the pressing issues of psychiatry today. Suffice it to say that the harm done by the twin traumas of deprivation and abuse generate all the psychiatric struggles we are all subject to. This is the other side of the story - in appreciation for what I have learned about love from my wife.

If I’d Known Then What I Know Now

If I'd known then what I think I know now about our overuse of psychiatric medications (and all the words we were using to dehumanize people and their experiences), what would I have done differently? Was my occasional reference to recovery hollow? Once I get beyond my increasing regrets and start trying to imagine steps I could have taken, here's what I would do.

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.

Listening for the Person within “Madness”

As we struggle to invent a humane approach to the extreme states that get called “psychosis” or “madness” or “schizophrenia,” it may be helpful to investigate some of the better approaches developed in the past. While these approaches are not without their flaws, they are often surprisingly insightful. (It can also of course be depressing to notice how truths once more widely known were so easily “forgotten” as compassionate approaches got ditched in favor of the latest coercive innovations.)
wilted flower

Language of Mental Illness “Others” People: It’s a Human Rights Violation

When separation and microaggressions are legitimized and put into public policy and discourse, we become second class citizens and subhumans. This is oppression and bigotry systemically supported and then denied by almost everyone, including those most seriously affected. We come to believe these lies.

Madness Radio: Toby Watson on Ethical Psychotherapy

It was a long haul from being a psychiatric patient in 1992 to graduating with a masters in counseling in 2011. I flunked out...

My APA protest speech: “Keeping the Channel Open”

If you haven't been labeled mentally ill by the American Psychiatric Association, you have to ask yourself what's wrong. Perhaps you were ahead of the game: you knew not to reveal yourself to them, you knew how to avoid them, you found other social support, and if so, a big congratulations. If not, what's wrong? Why have you conformed?

Personal Responsibility and Advance Directives

Thursday afternoon, June 21 from 2-3 Pm EST, I am presenting a free webinar, open to all, on the Advance Directive or Crisis Plan....

My Recovery from ‘Schizophrenia’ through Psychotherapy and Writing

I was never told directly that I had 'schizophrenia', and I am very glad about this. I know I was feeling bad, very bad, and was unsure of what to do, but I don’t see how a diagnosis could have helped me at that time. What could I have done with it? To be marked with a label like that would likely have caused me to rebel even more.

Robert Whitaker: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

On March 5, Bruce Levine, PhD, published an interesting article on Mad in America  titled Psychiatry Now Admits It's Been Wrong in Big Ways – But Can It Change? Bruce had interviewed Robert Whitaker, and notes that Robert, in his book Mad in America, had challenged some fundamental tenets of psychiatry, including the validity of its "diagnoses" and the efficacy (especially the long-term efficacy) of its treatments. Bruce reminds us that Robert initially incurred a good deal of psychiatric wrath in this regard, but also points out that some members of the psychiatric establishment are beginning to express a measure of agreement with these deviations from long-held psychiatric orthodoxy.

Diagnosing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

What can we say about the DSM that hasn’t already been said? Quite a lot, actually. The manual (full title: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), produced by the American Psychiatric Association, is incredibly powerful. It shapes research agendas, clinical practices, social care, economic decision-making and individual experiences internationally. As Rachel Cooper notes in her excellent new book, Diagnosing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, changes to it impact ‘the lives of as many people as changes in the policies of most countries’ (p. 2). The DSM needs to be talked about.

Announcing the Mad in America Continuing Education Project

The Mad in America Continuing Education Project is preparing for takeoff after months of planning. The project will provide on-line classes on the full range of psychiatric medications, and the ways in which they affect the neurology, physiology and outcomes for people taking them. The overarching goal is to change the standard of practice so that it becomes consistent with well-designed research.

Of FEP’s, DUP’s and BS

First episode psychosis (FEP) and duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) remain the foci of great numbers of early intervention programs in Western countries. “Untreated” in DUP-anese is synonymous with unmedicated, which often creates a sense of urgency and a myopic fixation on getting these youth started on anti-psychotics and keeping them on. What is the impact of this medical model and its accompanying chemical imbalance narrative on these emerging adults? How often does it set them on a course of regained functioning and restored hope, or does it serve as a gateway into a lifetime of disability and discouragement?

Talking Over Fences: Why I Am Helping to Organize Community Dialogues on Mental Health

I understand that some people are staunchly opposed to public mental health services, and I understand why. However, millions of people reach out to these organizations and agencies for assistance in getting through difficult times. It is common knowledge that the “help” they get is not always helpful, but I have known a few people who found the support they were looking for and, let’s face it, until there are widely available and accessible alternatives that people are able to turn to, many people who are struggling reach out to public and private providers for help. Some people call me naïve because I have faith in the human capacity to make good choices, when given the opportunity and presented with evidence that supports a decision that is informed not only by data, but by recognition of their potential to be a force of healing and justice in the world.

“Open Access” for the Activist Community

As many MiA readers are aware, a substantial percentage of mental health-related research reports — hundreds of thousands of articles, including many of direct relevance to community-based activists, advocates and clinicians — are currently held behind paywalls. While there are now a growing number of initiatives intended to promote (free) “open access,” many important publications remain inaccessible. Many activists and scholars believe open access is a significant social justice issue. We have put together a shareable Dropbox folder with thematically grouped research articles, measures and evaluation resources.

ADHD: More of It, Better Diagnosis, or Both?

Psychiatry, at large, is coming under correction after decades of collusion with industry and media. Yes, those “healers of the soul” (can you believe that’s what the original meaning of psychiatrist actually derives from?) have to begin to take responsibility for their part in overdiagnosis and overtreatment of vast swaths of the population. What has been less explored is the collusive role of the media in generating public beliefs about mental illness and its best treatment.

So You Say You Want a Revolution Part Two

Establishing a comprehensive drug review map will make possible a complete assessment of the expenditures on psychiatric drugs. I predict that these expenditures are going to surprise and concern anyone responsible for managing these costs.

Mad In America Forums and Other Updates

Today we are launching discussion forums on Mad in America. We intend for these forums to serve three broad purposes. 1) Furthering discussion of the issues raised here. 2) Sharing personal experiences with psychiatric drugs, and 3) Providing a platform for personal networking and activism.

Legislators: Don’t try to sneak this through as an amendment. (HB1386)

Your next move will be an amendment to another measure. Do not attempt. You've pulled bogus crap with this since the beginning. You've lied about task force recommendations. You've pulled suprise buttsex scheduling, when proponents somehow got the message, and opponents were left scrambling to get there. Twice. You basically filibustered us on Wednesday, which was also scheduled without notice.

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