Monday, March 25, 2019


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).

Conference at Vatican Holds Great Promise: You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

I am just back from a conference - or what was called a study meeting - at the Vatican, entitled, “The Child as a Person and as a Patient: Therapeutic Approaches Compared.” Held under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, the two-day meeting on Friday June 14 and Saturday June 15 in the Vatican’s Pope Pius X Hall drew some 250 participants from 30 countries. This has been 6 years in the making, mainly representing the hard work and perseverance of Marcia Barbacki. I have also participated for the duration because I thought it was, perhaps, the best opportunity ever to spread the word about the risks of psychotropics for youth given that Catholic Health Care represents 26% of the world’s healthcare and the Church’s ability to disseminate information to all corners of the globe.

From Self Care to Collective Caring

As a trauma survivor growing up in various adolescent mental health systems, I never learned any useful self-care tools or practices. I was taught that my current coping skills (self-injury, suicidal behavior, illicit drug use) were unacceptable, but not given any ideas as to what to replace them with. No one seemed to want to know much about the early childhood traumas that were driving these behaviors. Instead, I collected an assortment of diagnoses. I was told that I would be forever dependent on mediated relationships with professionals, and an ever-changing combination of pills. The message was that my troubles were chemical in nature and largely beyond my control.

Are There Gifts In and From Our Madness That Our Culture Needs to Not...

Do we bring gifts to our family and community that are born of suffering but infused with spirit? Has our madness been in vain,...

The Problems of Non-Consensual Reality

In a couple of weeks, I may see some of you at the MIA Film Festival. I am honored to be on a panel called “Re-Thinking Psychiatry” with two esteemed colleagues. In advance of the festival, I decided to write about what has been most central in my own “re-thinking”: my basic understanding of psychosis - when a person does not share consensual reality. It has been a fundamental re-think: how do we define it? how do we understand it? when do we intervene? how do we intervene?

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

TMS is a psychiatric treatment that uses a rapidly alternating magnetic field to induce electric currents in the brain. These currents stimulate neurons, causing them to "fire." When used repetitively, TMS is said to alter the excitability of the brain area that has been stimulated. In the psychiatric field, TMS is being used increasingly as a treatment for depression, particularly with so-called treatment-resistant clients. I Googled the string "TMS + depression" and got 1.35 million hits. So the idea is attracting attention.

Response to Fuller Torrey

Dr. Torrey accuses me of being ignorant and perhaps in this regard he is correct. Where he sees such clarity, I see profoundly difficult questions.

“That’s Just How It Is”

Those of us, the survivors, who speak from experience, with nothing to gain from sharing our stories and in fact a hell of a lot to lose, risk having them revised or repudiated at every turn by the very people who, and paradigm which, sickened us. I’m simply trying to tell my story as I lived it, because I know exactly what I went through and why, and I don’t think anyone else should have to suffer this way if they need not do so.
55 steps to informed consent

55 Steps to Informed Consent

55 Steps is a new film based on a true story that centers around two women: Collette, a lawyer with a tendency to work long hours, and Eleanor, who has spent far too much time incarcerated in hospitals. Over the course of five years, Collette fights for Eleanor’s right to choose whether or not she takes psychiatric drugs. This film is imperfect, but its importance can’t be ignored.

Towards Resolution of Distress: Thinking Outside the Bio-Psychiatric Paradigm

About a year ago I participated on a television panel which discussed the antipsychotic drugs and the massive settlements pharmaceutical companies paid out. A...

Allen Frances and the Spurious Medicalization of Everyday Problems

On April 5, Allen Frances MD, published an article on the Huffington Post blog.  The title is Can We Replace Misleading Terms Like 'Mental Illness,' 'Patient,' and 'Schizophrenia'.  It's an interesting piece, and it raises some fundamental issues. Dr. Frances' position in this and other recent papers appears to be that in general, psychiatric "diagnoses" and "treatment" are OK, but that they are being overused by unscrupulous practitioners with the encouragement of pharma, and perhaps other monied interests. But the central issue is the spurious medicalization of non-medical problems in the first place.

Could Your Doctor Be Mentally Ill or Suicidal?

At a time when psychiatrists are considering whether suicidal behavior constitutes a disorder rather than a symptom, there is strong evidence that physicians have far higher rates of suicide than the general population, with psychiatrists found to be at the highest risk of suicide. In light of this information, you may be asking yourself, as I am, whether it would be wise to conduct a brief mental state examination of any physician we consult (particularly any psychiatrist) as a way of ensuring our physical and emotional safety? To this end I have prepared a quick diagnostic test that you may carry in your pocket or purse for easy administration next time you are visiting a health professional.
full moral status for psychiatric clients

‘Full Moral Status’ Part II: How to Achieve Safety, Parity, and Change

If you want to leave the system and the drugs and get your diagnosis removed, the following guide might stimulate some effective action. Like with many of life's challenges, having excellent re$ources could potentially gain these results more quickly, but the most important elements are attitude, awareness and strategy.

The Proliferation and Elimination of Mental Illness: Clinging to the Slopes of Everest

A month ago, I published a critique of specific terminology of DSM-5.  Like countless others, I have serious concerns about the overpathologizing of normal behaviors that appears to be occurring over the past few decades.  The potential consequences of this trend have been widely articulated in many circles, and have raised a serious question, “What is normal?” But while this has been occurring in both psychiatric and lay arenas, another movement has been gaining significant support.  It is the idea that mental illness (or disease) is a fabrication, and as Sera Davidow quoted E. Fuller Torrey in her recent moving article, “Mental illness does not exist, and neither does mental health.”

Addressing the Mental Health Crisis:  What Really Matters

For those who actually believe that psychological problems are on the rise, serious inquiries must ensue. Many have rightly raised concerns about iatrogenic culprits, including drug-induced effects, but this too seems to fall short of accounting for the meteoric rise. Except for those forced to take psychiatric drugs, I would suggest that most seek out drugs in the hope of relieving iniquities caused by factors such as those I discuss below; unfortunately, this may not only lead to avoiding addressing the real issues, but may even lead to further complications of the drugs. Given this, I present five areas for further discussion, which I believe are causal agents for the mental health crisis.
a silhouette of four soliders

A Bill to Explore the Relationship Between Veteran Suicides and Prescription Medication

The objective of [these] bills is to combat suicide deaths by ensuring that accurate information is available on the relationship between suicides and prescription "medication". At the present time, 20 US veterans a day are dying by suicide.

Tweeting While Psychiatry Burns

Part one of a lecture given at a British Neuropsychiatric Association meeting on February 22 under the heading of Psychopharmacology: 1952–2017. In slide 2, you see Tokyo University on fire. The students have occupied the Department of Psychiatry and stay for ten years.
escaping cage of mental illness

Towards the Re-politicization of “Mental Illness”

In the models of other social movements, I implore us to advance a multifaceted, structural, cultural, and political analysis of mental illness in America, to illuminate the reality and mechanisms of sanism, and to then envision and implement ways of organizing American life around it that do not limit our potential for flourishing so drastically.

Why the Rise of Mental Illness? Pathologizing Normal, Adverse Drug Effects, and a Peculiar...

In just two decades, pointing out the pseudoscience of the DSM has gone from being an “extremist slur of radical anti-psychiatrists” to a mainstream proposition from the former chairs of both the DSM-3 and DSM-4 taskforces and the director of NIMH. In addition to the pathologizing of normal behaviors, another explanation for the epidemic — the adverse effects of psychiatric medications — is also evolving from radical to mainstream, thanks primarily to the efforts of Robert Whitaker and his book Anatomy of an Epidemic. While diagnostic expansionism and Big Pharma certainly deserve a large share of the blame for this epidemic, there is another reason.

Tuesday Dinner with the NAMI Mommies

Author's Warning:  If the word NAMI sends you into uncontrollable rage, spare yourself.  This is about NAMI people who are open to our movement....

North Carolina Police Shoot and Kill “Mentally Ill” Kid

On January 6th, 2014, a teenager with a diagnosis of schizophrenia died in North Carolina. He was shot and killed by the police that his parents called for help after he wanted to fight his mother. It is said that he was "having an episode."

Breaking Through the Wall of Schizophrenia

A good relationship can begin to puncture a hole through the wall of disconnection. The goal is to help a person break out of the isolation and private world that trauma has created and re-engage with a public world—culturally, emotionally and in a way that has personal meaning.

The Disease Loop – Mental Health Infographics

I have been creating graphics to explain some of the work we do. Infographics have a lot of power. This one is a rough...

The Boy in the Closet — How I Lost my Best Friend to a...

Lables such as schizophrenia mask all of the strengths, feelings and talents that individuals possess, The labels can make people's behavior appear aggressive, when in fact they are terrified. On the other hand, people in extreme states respond as all humans do to an approach that is calm, supportive, and allows them the space that they need at critical times. Individuals who have been abused, neglected, or suffered from traumatic experiences communicate these fears to those who have the patience and willingness to listen to them.

Who’s the “Menace to Society”? Robert Whitaker or Jeffrey Lieberman?

Jeffrey Lieberman, American Psychiatric Association through May 2014, recently called Robert Whitaker a “menace to society” because Whitaker had challenged the long-term effectiveness of psychiatric medication. But is it Whitaker or Lieberman who has been a menace to society? Lieberman, earlier in his career, conducted experiments in which patients diagnosed with schizophrenia were given a psychostimulant drug with Lieberman’s expectation that this drug would be “psychotogenic” (induce symptoms of psychosis), and this deterioration in fact occurred. How could the APA not feel guilt or shame about Lieberman and other psychiatrists conducting experiments that create psychotic symptoms and suffering? The answer to this question takes us to a very dark place.
UN meeting on human rights in mental health

UN Meeting on Human Rights in Mental Health: A Response

On May 14 and 15, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights held a meeting on human rights in mental health. The event represented tensions in the United Nations between the promotion of mental health and the promotion of the human rights of people with psychosocial disabilities under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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