Monday, May 27, 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).

Ernst Rüdin: The Founding Father of Psychiatric Genetics

In a 2013 edition of the Journal of the History of Biology, Norbert Wetzel and I published an article on the Swiss-German psychiatric geneticist Ernst Rüdin (1874-1952) and his close colleagues, and how their work and crimes in the Nazi era have been discussed or ignored by contemporary psychiatric genetic writers and researchers. Here I would like to summarize the main points we raised in that article, and to make several additional observations. Whether Rüdin reluctantly aided and helped implement the “euthanasia” killing program in support of the war effort, or more likely, that he saw it as the crowning achievement of his decades of psychiatric genetic research based on racial hygienic (eugenic) principles, is an issue that may be decided in the future.

My Story and My Fight Against Antidepressants

I’d like to share a bit about what happened to me after being placed on these medications, and how I successfully got off. Until recently, I was embarrassed to talk about my personal experiences publicly, as I’m a professional who specializes in anxiety and depression. Today, medication free, I feel better than ever before, and I am now on a mission to help my current clients get off medications, and to inform others through my writing about the dangers and pitfalls of starting antidepressants.

The Salvation of Psychiatry

Hope lies in psychotherapy. It is a purely human practice, based on the development of real trust and genuine responsiveness. It is not an analytic process, but a feeling one. We need to return to a psychiatry that respects the complexity of human nature. We need to go beyond ‘do no harm’ and promote genuine healing.

What’s Wrong With You? Nothing.What Has Happened to You? Something.

Licensed Mental Heath professionals are trained and are required to find out what is wrong with people. Unfortunately, 90 percent of the people who could benefit from professional mental health services, in my opinion, are suffering from feeling something is wrong with them. They already feel bad about themselves, like they are failing in life. Enter the totally well-intentioned mental health professional.

Chapter Twenty-Six: Reaching the End, and Making a Start

A deep blue blanketing of 1AM sky envelops my car as I sit in my parents’ driveway in February 2010, pondering my next, last...

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...

On “Schizophrenia”

The first time I heard someone labeled schizophrenic I was about 10 years old. A man was talking to himself and appeared to be house-less and perhaps on drugs. My mom, a very good teacher and explainer of things to me, said, “That man is schizophrenic. That means he can't tell the difference between what's inside of himself and what's outside.” In retrospect this seems like a relatively sophisticated and sensitive explanation; Falling in love, hearing music that enters our heart, having children/giving birth, connecting powerfully with another person in a meeting of the minds, feeling empathy, deeply caring about something, experiencing oneness with nature, are all examples of times when the line between inner and outer reality is blurred.

The Worst Case Scenario for Global Warming — “Normalgeddon” — is Bad for...

For four decades I have been an activist challenging the mental health industry. More and more I feel that the climate crisis should be one of the highest priorities for social change led by people who have personally experienced psychiatric abuse, and our allies. I affectionately call us The Mad Movement. It seems that almost every speaker against global warming ends their message the same way, that we can stop this catastrophe if society has the “will.” I believe that participants in The Mad Movement have an important insight into real sickness in society. As a psychiatric survivor, I have seen too much labeling of creative maladjustment as ill. We need to shake off our world’s complacency and numbness, also known as “normality.”

Turning Patients into Numbers

I felt persecuted from the moment I was given a psychosomatic label. I found myself hostage to a diagnosis that I hadn’t even known existed: “conversion disorder.” Even though the diagnosis was hidden deep within my medical file under piles of negative test results, it seemed to reveal itself at each new doctors appointment or ER visit. This diagnostic code was now part of me as if it were a scarlet letter on my forehead.

The Future of Mental Health Interview Series, Part II

The Future of Mental Health interview series continues with interviews this past week with James Maddux (on positive clinical psychology), Lucy Johnstone (on critical psychiatry and psychological formulation), Michael Cornwall (on being present to “madness”), Monica Cassani (on beyond meds: everything matters), Tim Carey (on parenting skills and family mental health) and Sharna Olfman (on the science and pseudoscience of children’s mental health. Here some highlights...

Public Petition: Support for People Affected by Prescribed Drug Dependence

People from any country can sign our petition until May 10th, then it will be lodged for consideration and further action by the Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee. This promises to be an interesting process — one which we hope will have a much wider impact.

PsychRights’ Letter to the President’s Task Force on Gun Violence

I am flattered and pleased to have been asked by MadInAmerica to post here the letter PsychRights wrote Monday to Vice President Biden regarding the misguided, counterproductive and very dangerous focus on identifying and forcing "treatment" on people diagnosed with mental illness as any part of the solution to gun violence in the United States.

“Active Minds” — What Conversation Are We Changing?

Active Minds allows college students to start conversations on some of the most difficult struggles we face in life, but I urge the organization to lead the conversation away from bad science and towards the common struggles that we endure as human beings.

In Search of a Hundred Miles of Gratitude

I woke up to the sound of steady rain. Outside, four inches of snow still lay on the ground from the previous weekend. The temperatures had remained just above freezing, and the rain that was scheduled to come would likely only be intensifying as the morning wore on. But I had committed to the long run, knowing that my training was as much about being prepared for anything as it was for preparing my body for the actual number of miles to come.

DSM-5 Boycott Enters 2nd Phase: A Primer for the NO-DSM Diagnosis Campaign

Yes, the boycott of the DSM-5 continues. I can’t tell you how many fewer DSMs have so far been purchased as a result of the boycott; and conversations I have had with professionals in New York’s public mental health system lead me to believe that the great majority continue to accept the validity of the biomedical model and the centrality of psychoactive medications in the treatment of persons caught up in the public system. Perhaps that’s the most important argument in support of the boycott’s continuation – we have so many more folks to reach.
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.

‘I’d Rather Die Than Go Back to Hospital’: Why We Need a Non-medical Crisis...

It was exciting going back to my old stamping ground. Years ago I’d worked in one of the local community mental health teams and had referred many women to the Drayton Park Crisis House. Walking up the steps of the house brought back memories of standing there with desperate and suicidal clients, some of whom had told me that they would rather die than go back into hospital. As you can imagine, to say I had been glad that there was an alternative would have been an understatement.

Why Evidence-based Practices Might not Actually Help People

Mental Health First Aid is designated as an evidence-based practice, but what does that really mean? All it means is that the program has gotten enough grant money to get some research that proves it meets its designated outcome criteria. This does not mean the real-life outcomes for the people involved, or for society, are desirable or helpful.

French and American Approaches to “ADHD”

It now looks as if the U.S. approach to mental health is fast gaining purchase in a country that formerly boasted a great, perhaps too sophisticated (Lacan et al.) psychoanalytic tradition, but also a holistic psychosocial tradition when dealing with psychological disturbance in children.

Keeping Tabs on the Serotonin Theory of Depression

In 2008, Philip Cowen published an essay in Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. His essay leads off with the provocative question, “Serotonin and Depression: Pathological...

Power to Communities, Healing Through Social Justice: INTAR 2014 in Liverpool, England

Mental health services today are almost completely dominated by the view that extreme distress such as psychoses are biological disorders that require treatment with drugs or other medical interventions. This is despite the absence of evidence that such conditions have a biological basis. In addition to this, recent work within the evidence-based medicine paradigm casts doubt on the effectiveness of most forms of physical treatment in psychiatry. At the same time the evidence accumulates that many physical treatments, such as the long-term use of neuroleptic drugs, are fraught with risks and danger.

How the “Brain Defect” Theory of Depression Stigmatizes Depression Sufferers

Viewing depression as a “brain defect” rather than a “character defect” is supposed to reduce the stigma of depression, according to the American Psychiatric...

Optimal Use of Neuroleptics, Pt. II; The Monkeys Were Not Psychotic

A major research group mentions in a paper published in an academically rigorous psychiatric journal (and I get it that some readers consider that an oxymoron) the possible influence of super-sensitivity on increasing the risk of relapse when neuroleptic drugs are stopped. Yet those of us who raise this as a reason to moderate our use of these drugs are considered biased or scientifically naive.

Incarcerated, “Delusional,” and Sentenced to Abuse  

One cannot be with other individuals without encountering their belief systems at some point. My work with individuals in locked in patient units, mental health clinics and the Los Angeles Jails has brought me into close contact with people who had diverse belief systems, some of which were cultural and life-long, others were trauma-induced or influenced by drugs and alcohol. These experiences taught me to approach belief systems without prejudice and with open receptivity to their meaning and importance to the person.

Understanding Extreme States: An Interview with Lloyd Ross

In this interview, Lloyd Ross of ISEPP and I discuss how to help people experiencing delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, and other problems commonly associated with a diagnosis of “schizophrenia.” We discuss the problems with the biological model of “mental illness” as contrasted with a more psychosocial, contextual model of distress.

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