The suicide crisis is real. The pain is real. The deaths are real. None of us can afford to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that this isn't happening. But the helplessness and confusion about what to do about it are also real. And that's why peer relationships and peer-developed modalities can be so helpful. Many of us have been there and are still alive to talk about it. We know what ways of relating gave us hope and helped us to continue on.
My purpose in writing this case study is not to suggest that creativity is a mere byproduct of trauma, or to deny the role of so-called mental illness in suicide, but to situate these phenomena within the context of human lives. To render them humanly (rather than medically) intelligible. With his mind and body disintegrating, Robin Williams took his life to thwart the eradication of self.
The “good” suicide attempt survivor wakes up in a hospital bed bathed in beautiful natural light, surrounded by the people who love them most, and they realize that their thinking was flawed and all those unsolvable problems can actually be solved if they are just compliant with medication and therapy. And then there's the “bad” suicide attempter who is angry that they lived, who challenges the status quo.
What if the key to saving someone is to admit you are powerless to save anyone at all? What would that beckon us to change? A few years ago, I spent a substantial amount of time talking with a man who entered my life because someone in the mental health system told him I might be the one who could save him (or at least, that’s how he heard it). His name was David.
As a longtime participant in the conversations here on Mad in America, I’m very excited about taking on the role of moderator for the MIA discussion boards. MIA considers the community discussions to be integral to its mission to serve as a forum for “rethinking psychiatry,” and I am assuming this role at a time that the organization, in response to the reader survey we conducted, is striving to make the discussions more welcoming to all.
In June 2018, we ran our first ever reader survey. The purpose of the survey was to gain feedback on what you, our readers, want to read and thus provide helpful suggestions for future content. This update provides a brief review of the results of the survey so far and outlines what actions we will take in response. Thank you to all who responded for taking the time to tell us how you feel about Mad in America.
When I was training to be a child psychiatrist in the mid-1990s, childhood depression was considered to be rare, related to adversity, and generally unresponsive to pharmaceutical treatment. Since then much has changed. The psychiatrization of the pain and struggles involved in growing up has caused considerably more harm to young people than good. I believe the science is on my side in this conclusion.
It is important to distinguish, and not simply pathologize, experiences that are manic-like because they are time-honored states of mind associated with aspiration, ambition, and goal-achievement. The need to generate boundless energy, overtalk the issues to sustain single-minded focus and motivation, and have a somewhat grandiose vision of what can be accomplished, combined, can eventuate in a manic mix of tendencies necessary to bring higher-order goals to fruition.
After seeing the family for two sessions I came to the conclusion that what Adam was suffering from was inconsistent discipline, temper tantrums and misbehavior that were inadvertently encouraged by his parents. The correct prescription for Adam was not an antipsychotic medication that might cause him harm, but family therapy to help the parents implement a behavioral program that would fit Adam’s needs.
Dan Markingson was a 26-year-old mentally ill young man who violently killed himself in 2004 while enrolled in a drug-sponsored study of atypical antipsychotics among persons experiencing psychosis for the first time. Highly vulnerable individuals like Markingson should not be taken advantage of in the name of scientific research, and inability to protect such vulnerable subjects compromises the integrity of research.
I care deeply about the mental and physical health of children, including my own son’s. I don’t want students to suffer in silence and shame. But I am very concerned about just how this topic will be taught in schools. Adults need to get honest about the harm our systems and institutions cause to students every day, often in the name of “help.”
As a clinical psychologist and someone who was herself “diagnosed” and “treated” for “serious mental illness,” Noël Hunter has a unique vantage point to view the mental health profession. I spoke with her about her new book, which offers an insightful critique of mental health’s diagnostic and treatment irrationalities.
To the judge presiding over my upcoming AOT hearing: I would like a better way to take care of my own health care than the choices currently being imposed on me by community mental health centers, which involve forcibly injecting me with a drug that I do not want and making me take a daily pill that I do not want to take. There is no reason that anyone should make my own health care choices for me.
I believe this is what happened: The people responsible for this travesty looked at the truth (that psychiatrists hardly ever tell the truth about their drugs) and realised they didn't like what would flow from that fact getting loose. So they removed it and substituted a falsehood (only ever) whose consequences they could live with.
One of the issues we face in mental health is that everyone knows the system is broken, but there is no replacement yet. So the question is, what are the mental health design principles to build a replacement? How do you build a functional mental health system that isn't disease-based? How do you make it robust, scalable and spreadable?
An e-zine with the mission to contribute to changing the narrative about madness and mental distress in the Asia region has launched. Mad in Asia hopes to showcase narratives that are contextually relevant to the Asia region, with a focus on the human rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities.
Every day, we as a movement accomplish something truly incredible. Every day, we create a space where each person can freely express their own truth. Without an overarching structure or unifying platform, each individual can stand on their own. Each voice within the community is wholly unique and distinct from any other; each person is their own universe.
As a service user of the REST project at Mind in Camden, I want to celebrate World Benzodiazepine Day 2018 by telling the world a little bit about what REST has done for me. I’m now 18 months off benzos, but I still attend REST regularly to process the anger and grief I feel about what I went through, and to support those who are still tapering.
With the increasing medicalization of depression, and as more and more physicians see the treatment of depression as falling under their purview, it is imperative to distinguish between actual clinical depression and "healthy depression" — the adaptive and expectable responses to distressing life events that signal a need for rethinking one's life and recalibrating one's self-perceptions and emotions.
It is time for a new strategy. Rather than try to get adults to question their entrenched beliefs, why not reach out directly to not-yet-fully-indoctrinated kids? This could be done by creating psychiatrized versions of their favorite films that show how ridiculous and harmful the medical model is. Scene 1: Annoyed by Simba's exuberance, Mufasa takes him to Rafiki, the monkey psychiatrist.
Part of what we mean when we say something is socially constructed is that the existence of an entity, in this case a specific medical condition, partly or wholly depends on certain social attitudes, beliefs, or reactions towards that entity. In this particular case, a mental illness exists if and only if it causes certain types of distress that we get to define.
Judgments of the so-called ‘angry consumer’ deeply reinforce divisions within mental health policy and services. The only way we can engage in meaningful co-production is not to gloss over histories of collective exclusion and disempowerment and all the pain and anger that goes with it, but rather to validate and work through difficult emotions.
Isolation, demeaning behaviors on the part of staff, forced injections and tranquilization — former patients of detention and residential facilities have been describing this inhumanity as the norm for decades. It is our acceptance of this as a norm that allows for abusive situations to arise so easily.
A psych hospital is like any other institution of total control. You have locked doors around you, there are guard-like mental health workers, and you only have so many ways to get by. Some people choose to sleep all the time. Some people choose to pace. And some people choose, given the right time and the right opportunity, to learn to steal or to get by in other ways.
The treatment of mental disorders with drugs is not the same sort of activity as the use of drugs in medicine. The ethical implications of the two situations are different. Insisting on equating the two obscures these differences and presents the use of drugs for mental distress as less controversial than it actually is.