The Sociological Study of Mental Illness: A Historical Perspective

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Mental illness, as the eminent historian of psychiatry Michael MacDonald once aptly remarked, “is the most solitary of afflictions to the people who experience it; but it is the most social of maladies to those who observe its effects.” It is precisely the many social and cultural dimensions of mental illness, of course, that have made the subject of such compelling interest to sociologists. How, for example, are we to define and draw boundaries around mental illness, and to distinguish it from eccentricity or mere idiosyncrasy, to draw the line between madness and malingering, mental disturbance and religious inspiration? Who has social warrant to make such decisions, and why?

Comments by Shock Survivors and Their Loved Ones

The #FDAStopTheShockDevice petition has received over 2,200 signatures and 800+ comments. A more thorough analysis of those comments is forthcoming, however, we wanted to offer a glimpse of what people shared. The sixth, seventh, and eighth most common words used in the comments submitted through the petition were "damage," "barbaric" and "torture." We must continue the fight to make sure that the FDA hears the people who will be adversely affected by the proposed rule if it becomes an order. There is still a small window of time for you to sign the petition and leave a comment to the FDA.

Register now for the UnDiagnosing UnPlanned UnConference

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Many advocates for a long time have been unhappy with federally funded conferences that have a budget in the six figure area that are only held at luxury hotels. I've tried to come up with an alternative to Alternatives. I'm partnering with Paul Komarek of Defying Mental Illness to host our very first event. We're calling this the UnDiagnosing UnPlanned UnConference series. Our first event is in Cincinnati next week, Feb. 15 - 17, and we'd love for you to come.

Starvation: What Does it Do to the Brain?

The Minnesota Starvation Experiment was conducted at the University of Minnesota during the Second World War. Prolonged semi-starvation produced significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis, and most participants experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression and grew increasingly irritable. It really should not be a surprise to this audience that the brain’s functioning is highly compromised when the body is being starved of food (and nutrients). What we wonder is whether eating a diet of primarily highly processed foods low in nutrients has similar effects.

Things Your Doctor Should Tell You About Antidepressants

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The conventional wisdom is that antidepressant medications are effective and safe. However, the scientific literature shows that the conventional wisdom is flawed. While all prescription medications have side effects, antidepressant medications appear to do more harm than good as treatments for depression.

No, There is no Such Thing as ADHD

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Somewhere along the line we have lost the understanding that kids come in all shapes and sizes. Some kids are active, some are quiet; some kids are dreamers, others are daring; some kids are dramatic, others are observers; some impulsive, others reserved; some leaders, others followers; some athletic, others thinkers. Where did we ever get the notion that kids should all be one way?

Setbacks

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Oddly enough, it had occurred to me over this past year as I’ve been writing these essays for Mad in America that maybe I was “too healthy” to speak to the withdrawal experience with authenticity, to have street cred. It’s now a moot point. I write this not to scare people, but to present a reality. This reality has been difficult to accept, but the fact remains that my nervous system is more sensitive than before and might always be so, at least to some degree.

Katharine Hepburn is Glamorous – Suicide is Not

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What do you do when the media reports stories of children who have killed themselves on SSRIs? Position the stories of these children, not the drugs they were taking, as a suicide risk. Warn that more children will die if mouthy parents are allowed to speak and upstart journalists are allowed to report. And then position psychiatrists as the only people who can talk about suicide without producing an epidemic of self inflicted deaths.

Reflections on a Psychiatric Indoctrination, or, How I Began to Free Myself from the...

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(dictionary.com) Cult, n. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or...

Suicidal Tendencies, Part I: I’m Suicidal Because I’m Mentally Ill Because I’m Suicidal

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I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard “Research has found that about 90% of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness.” Here’s what I believe it means in far too many instances: It’s an 'out.' It’s an easy answer that absolves us all of blame. If someone has a ‘sickness in the brain,’ then it doesn’t have to be our fault or even necessarily our concern.

A Not-So-Charmed Life

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If you looked at photos of Luke Montagu in the grounds of Mapperton, his stunning ancestral manor, you might well envy his lot. Look closer and you’ll sense that his story has not always been one of wine and roses, for the next Lord Sandwich has spent most of the last seven years in hell, thanks to the interventions of drug-obsessed psychiatrists. Yet, though his experience was heartbreaking, often terrifying, it is now becoming a story full of hope and resilience, of grace and grit, for he has co-founded the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry as his contribution to the information war on the false or misleading claims made about the benefits of psychotropic drugs.

Victim Blaming: Childhood Trauma, Mental Illness & Diagnostic Distractions?

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Why, despite the fact that the vast majority of people diagnosed with a mental illness have suffered from some form of childhood trauma, is it still so difficult to talk about? Why, despite the enormous amount of research about the impact of trauma on the brain and subsequent effect on behaviour, does there seem to be such an extraordinary refusal for the implication of this research to change attitudes towards those who are mentally ill? Why, when our program and others like it have shown people can heal from the effects of trauma, are so many people left with the self-blame and the feeling they will never get better that my colleague writes about below?

“Bewitching Science” Revisited: Tales of Reunited Twins and the Genetics of Behavior

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In this article I will attempt to debunk one of the great “scientific” smoke and mirrors shows of the past half century—the claim that stories of reunited separated MZ (monozygotic, identical) twin pairs indicate that heredity plays a major role in causing human behavioral differences. These stories, which are often used to sell the false ideology of genetic determinism, have entered the public imagination in a way that academic research results never could. Here I will show that these stories provide no evidence whatsoever that (as yet undiscovered) “genes for behavior” influence human behavioral development.

Reflections on Being a Therapist

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Three-and-a-half years ago I quit my career as a psychotherapist. I’d done it for ten years in New York City and had given it my all. It was a career that chose me, loudly, when I was 27 years old. I learned a huge amount from it and I believe I was helpful to a lot of people. It also represented a vital stage in my life. But then the time came to leave. That also came as a sort of revelation.

Herbs, Supplements, Foods That Can Aid in Withdrawal Symptoms

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When one is coming off of psychiatric pharmaceuticals, it's common to experience withdrawal induced anxiety, panic and psychosis. Here are some tips to help calm your body.

What is a Warm Line and What Should I Expect When I Call One?

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A warm line is an alternative to a crisis line that is run by “peers,” generally those who have had their own experiences of trauma that they are willing to speak of and acknowledge. Unlike a crisis line, a warm line operator is unlikely to call the police or have someone locked up if they talk about suicidal or self-harming thoughts or behaviors. Most warm line operators have been through extreme challenges themselves and are there primarily to listen.

On Religious and Psychiatric Atheism: The Success of Epicurus, the Failure of Thomas Szasz

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When the American psychiatrist Thomas Szasz killed himself a year and a half ago at the age of 92, I thought there would be a global outpouring in psychiatric circles of sympathy or scorn. Instead, his death was largely met with silence, a silence as deafening as the one that attended the second half of his long, prolific, and polemical career. Szasz’ name didn’t show up at all in the APA program last year, and this presentation of mine is apparently the only one to mention him this year. This silent treatment has, ironically enough, and surely against his will, forced him to fulfill the ancient Epicurean ambition to live and die unnoticed.

Forced “Treatment” is Torture

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I have opposed involuntary treatment for my entire career and first began criticizing it in the medical literature in 1964.  As Thomas Szasz originally taught, involuntary psychiatric treatment is unconstitutional and an assault on basic human rights.   I am also against it on scientific grounds, because after hundreds of years, this violation of human rights has generated no scientific studies to show that it benefits its victims. I am encouraged by the excellent blog by Peter C. Gøtzsche on MadinAmerica.com, which inspired me to put a new section, Psychiatric Coercion and Involuntary Treatment, on my website, and to compose these further observations of my own.

My Story and My Fight Against Antidepressants

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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.

Playing the Odds: Antidepressant ‘Withdrawal’ and the Problem of Informed Consent

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If I thought that it was possible, I would have opened a string of clinics all over the country to help get people off of antidepressants.  Unfortunately, the problems that sometimes occur when people try to stop an SSRI antidepressant are much more severe and long-lasting than the medical profession acknowledges, and there is no antidote to these problems. The truth is, giving people information about taking antidepressants is like giving information to people who are enroute to a casino; they go because they hear that some people win (at least for a time), but the losers are the ones who ultimately pay for it all — and the odds are not in their favor.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Does Not Exist

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Since the 1980s, a type of psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has become dominant. Like it or loathe it, CBT is now so ubiquitous it is often the only talking therapy available in both public and voluntary health settings. It is increasingly spoken about in the media and in living rooms across the country. Yet when we speak about CBT, what are we talking of? For CBT only exists - as we will see - as a political convenience.

Psychiatric Diagnosis is a Fraud: The Destructive and Damaging Fiction of Biological ‘Diseases’

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Everywhere you turn, you see “OCD, ASD, MDD, ADD, ADHD, BPD, GAD, PD, SAD, PTSD, NPD," etc. The problem is not limited to this acronym soup, but the pseudo diagnoses they represent. Patients today get stained by the specious medical diagnoses of biological psychiatry. And furthermore they are brainwashed to believe that these fictitious brain ‘diseases’ are genetic. Biological psychiatry treats people like they are mechanical objects, renaming them almost as they are re-branding products. The one I like the best is the renaming of ‘manic-depressive’ to ‘bipolar.’ Instead of a name which accurately describes the states of suffering, it was turned into something mechanical — a battery with two poles. We’ve gone from something human to something Frankensteinian.

Not So Rare But Rarely Diagnosed: From Demonic Possession to Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis

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Throughout the ages, convulsions, contortions of the body and face, including the tongue, super-human strength, catatonic periods, long periods of wakefulness or sleep, insensitivity to pain, speaking in tongues, and a predilection for self-injurious behaviours have all been offered as physical evidence of possession. The modern day interpretation, however, comes with a plot twist befitting a media spectacle. There is growing consensus in the medical community that many prior accounts of “demonic possession” may have represented original accounts of what is now broadly known as autoimmune encephalitis.

The Trouble with Twin Studies

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As most readers are aware, it is widely believed that both within and without of psychiatry genetic factors play an important role in causing major psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, ADHD, autism, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Twin studies provide the main pillar of support for this belief which is often, though mistakenly, presented as a scientific fact.

Reasons Not to Believe in Lithium

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I Don’t Believe in God, But I Believe in Lithium’ is the title of Jamie Lowe’s moving account of her manic depression in the New York Times. The piece reminds us how devastating and frightening this condition can be, so it is understandable that the author put her faith in the miracle cure psychiatrists have been recommending since the 1950s: lithium. The main problem is that there is no study in which people who have been started on lithium have been compared with people who haven’t.