Of course one wishes for an easy answer, but the things that conspire to drive a person over the edge are too numerous and varied ever to point and say, it was this one; one can never really be so certain. No one can say it wasn’t that one, or that it wasn’t really all of those together, or that, when it came my own turn for “insanity,” I wasn’t standing halfway over the edge already, waiting for gravity to kick in and for me to fall.
Let us go back to 1975: psychoanalytic psychiatry was then quasi-hegemonic, and psychopathological models were accepted and used by most practitioners; other behaviourist practices were of minor importance and psychoanalysts had learned to make use of the advances of pharmacology. And yet a shadow was already looming over the picture.
Disturbingly, our study and others reveal that the black box warning is now ignored in many countries, since antidepressant prescriptions for children are on the rise again. Despite increasing certainty that antidepressants are ineffective and likely cause suicidal behavior in young people, psychiatry continues to claim that they reduce suicide risk.
I increasingly think we can only reach greater understanding by working through our own experiences first, and then, if we can, alongside survivors. That will help us become more open to survivor knowledge. For example, we may need to work through our own need for control and understanding. It’s helpful to consider our own reactions to distress or madness — in ourselves and others.
The only way out of the epidemic of feeling-people-turned-medicated-psychiatric-patients is to rebrand and reframe feeling as a cultural collective. And I believe it starts with our messaging as parents and our orientation toward shadow elements like anger and sadness. We have to model a conscious relationship to our own dark parts, and we have to show our children what it looks like to move through these spaces. Feelings can be messy, wild, and sometimes ugly to our constrained sensibilities.
Psychiatric meds can shut down the emotions and consciousness enough to make it possible to tolerate dynamics that would inspire rage or surges of empowered activity without the meds. It can be helpful to look closely at these blocks and start to create a map to freedom, understanding that it is a complex process that involves not only the physiology of the body of the individual taking meds, but the architecture of the social system around that person.
I have spent much of the past few years compiling and editing Resistance Matters: An Antipsychiatry Activist Speaks Out, which will document the long and rich activist career of Don Weitz, the grandpappy of Canadian antipsychiatry. Before I met Don in 1986, I thought I was the only person in the world who didn’t believe in “schizophrenia” (with which I had been diagnosed), and who realized that psychiatry was completely bogus.
The primary factor protecting psychiatry’s unwarranted power and authority is that it is perceived as shielding society from folks who are believed to be dangerous. It would seem, then, that one logical step toward reducing society’s trust in biological psychiatry would be to reveal the evidence of a significant correlation between the use of prescribed psychoactive drugs and the commission of violent acts against oneself or others.
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.