For those of you who follow me, there have been some changes in my life and circumstances that are relevant to some things going on in the movement and the world, and also some new documents coming out of the UN that I haven't reported yet to the survivor community and our allies. I will try to wrap up everything in a kind of end-of-year update, and hope to also make myself available for a phone/internet dialogue at some point.
Tension mounts across the ideological divide as D-Day (DSM-5 Day) approaches. The APA has powerful allies on its side. President Obama has just launched Decade of the Brain 2 with the announcement two weeks ago that heralds the arrival of BRAIN ( Brain Research through Advances in Innovative Neurotechnologies). If that’s not enough, those who believe that science will ultimately explain madness can always rely on the media to fawn at their feet.
A little ways back, a close family member of mine saw an orthopedist for chronic hip/knee issues. He described it as a positive experience. He was very pleased with the time spent and thoroughness of the physician and staff, both through conversation and scans done to determine what was wrong. He went in expecting the worst — a joint replacement recommendation — but instead came out with a prescription for advanced pain relief and reassurance that his joints looked much better than expected. As we talked further, though, he admitted being surprised that there was little conversation around lifestyle issues or other treatment options.
When I started working in the NHS in Britain I pretty much accepted the mainstream view – that psychiatric drugs work, that the categories of mental disorder have been established via solid scientific research, and that we are now on the cusp of understanding the biology of mental illness. I was wrong.
I have Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS). It has no treatment, cure, known cause, or hope. Acceptance is the key to my serenity. good attitude, and great quality of life. I live one day at a time to the fullest, still write, and work with Corinna West, Wellness Wordworks and my faith community. I have wonderful friends and supporters, and I'm just fine.
We live in a culture bombarded by media and sped up by rapid-fire social interactions. It's definitely useful to grab hold of a simple, short, sound-bite term, to quickly describe what we are feeling or suffering. "Depression" is such a word - it evokes and encapsulates, conjures the images of that ugly pit of despair that can drive so many to madness and suicide. Yet at the same time the words we use, strangely, become like those pens deposited in medical offices and waiting rooms around the world: ready at hand, easily found, familiar -- and tied to associations, marketing and meanings we were only dimly aware were shaping how we think.
This week, Dr. Insel announced new guidelines for NIMH-funded research that will require clinical studies to link to an underlying brain mechanism. This is a response to psychiatry's poor track record thus far. I do not think this will solve the problem.
A few weeks ago I saw for the first time the powerful movie “12 Years A Slave,” based on the memoir by Solomon Northup, a free black man in the 1840’s who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. It is a hard film to experience. But as I watched the scenes of unending brutality and humiliation, somehow I felt calm and almost comforted. I identified with the men and women who were treated as animals and property, to be abused and tortured just as I was as a child. But I knew that eventually the atrocity in the movie ended, and slavery was abolished.
My friend Jake, in his words, experienced two decades of intense declining psychosis, terrifying and agonizing beyond comprehension. These states were triggered when he was in college and tried out a simple chakra meditation every day for one year. He describes the states of consciousness he couldn't understand that resulted from it as possibly kundalini energy and/or psychic attack.
It was an awesome experience to give a TEDx Talk at my old school, because, frankly, it was an acknowledgement by an elite institution that I've done something in my life worth listening to. I hope you appreciate my talk and share it with others. So many people who are affected by the mental health system in North America today have no idea how much the rise of the DSM and biopsychiatry has to do with the Reagan era and neoliberal economic policies that reshaped the whole language and culture of mental health. It's like a bulldozed neighborhood with shiny new buildings, after a while people forget how they got there and they just seem "normal."
Depressed, anxious, and substance-abusing people can beat themselves up for being defective. And psychiatrists and psychologists routinely validate and intensify their sense of defectiveness by telling them that they have, for example, a chemical-imbalance defect, a genetic defect, or a cognitive-behavioral defect. For some of these people, it feels better to believe that they are essentially defective. But the “defect/medical model of mental illness” is counterproductive for many other people—especially those “untalented” in denial and self-deception—for whom there is another model and path that works much better.
Anoiksis (the Dutch association of and for people with a psychotic vulnerability) has introduced a new name for the disease schizophrenia: Psychosis Susceptibility Syndrome (PSS). Together with the old name, its attached prejudices, misleading significance and stigma can be thrown overboard.
I am one of the few lucky ones to have survived this long after being forcibly locked up in four different mental institutions over 50 years ago. I feel a responsibility to the memory of those who died and to the millions around the world who are still subjected to the inhumane, torturous "treatments" of the mental health system. With a heavy heart and fire in my voice and spirit, this is what I plan to say on May 4.
In my last post, I argued that the single most damaging effect of psychiatric diagnosis is loss of meaning. By ruthlessly divesting experiences of their personal, social and cultural significance, diagnosis turns ‘people with problems’ into ‘patients with illnesses.’ Horrifying stories of trauma, abuse, discrimination and deprivation are sealed off behind a pseudo-medical label as the individual is launched on what is often a lifelong journey of disability, exclusion and despair.
In his Alternatives Conference 2012 Address, Will Hall called attention to the ongoing phenomena of “medicalizing poverty and calling it mental illness.” Mental health systems and practitioners often tend to perceive and identify the myriad ways that impoverished people cope and adapt to adverse environments (such as food and housing insecurity) as pathological indicators of mental illness. A poor child who does not pay attention to the day’s lessons at school may be diagnosed with ADHD, yet focuses intense attention on how he will return home safely, take care of his siblings and get a meal. A young woman may be labeled as Oppositional/Defiant who bravely copes with an erratic mother and her abusive boyfriend. Behaviors that can make sense in one context (home, neighborhood), are flagged as dysfunctional and impaired in another (school & work).
A kind of epidemic is occurring in the field of psychotherapy and psychology, with its increasing use of disparate approaches, methods, manual-based formulas and different theoretical schools, each having their own understanding and different treatments. Psychotherapy has come to mean everything and at the same time nothing.
Prescription drugs like antidepressants, antipsychotics and so-called ‘mood stabilisers’ are widely promoted as good for your health. But the history of prescription and recreational drug use is more intimately intertwined than most people recognise. Attempts to disentangle the two have created a false dichotomy – with prescription drugs, at least some of them, set up as the ‘angels’ that can do no wrong, and recreational drugs cast as the ‘demons’.
When a woman has a history of severe and relapsing mental illness, but is stable on her current treatment, and is planning a pregnancy or is postpartum, what is the best course of action for her and her baby?
Toppmøte is Norwegian for ‘summit,’ and Toppmøte2015 is the second of two very successful seminars bringing together professionals, academics, and policymakers with citizens, voters and users of services – under the aegis of the Norwegian ‘Nasjonalt senter for erfaringskompetanse innen psykisk helse’ or “National Centre for Knowledge through Experience in Mental Health.” That’s a rather wonderful organisation, funded by the Norwegian government, which ensures that the experience of people who have used mental health services is reflected in the commissioning, design, management and evaluation of those services.
I think a better term to use is "medical harm aware advocate." It is a much better explanation of both the problem and the solution that we are working for. I've updated my graphic that explains why Allen Frances and mainstream mental health is using the word "anti-psychiatry" to avoid dialogue with our community.
Very few public opinion polls on mental health issues have been conducted, and those that do exist are "forced choice" and presuppose an illness model. We at the East Side Institute wanted people to get the opportunity to reflect on and socialize their thoughts about the medical-mental illness-diagnostic model and its impact on their lives. And that is what they did!
The psychiatric genetics literature contains few references to specific environmental factors that cause psychiatric disorders, and while researchers acknowledge a role for these factors, they usually claim that environmental causes are mysterious or unknown. As a leading group of psychiatric genetic researchers recently put it, while claiming that schizophrenia “has a substantial genetic contribution,” the “underlying causes and pathogenesis of the disorder remains unknown.” But research suggests otherwise.
Until recently the history of psychiatry was a neglected backwater whose murky depths were explored largely by psychiatrist. The impression conveyed by books such as Tuke’s Chapters in the History of the Insane in the British Isles, Macalpine and Hunter's Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry: 1535 - 1860, Berrios and Freemen's 150 Years of British Psychiatry 1841 - 1991, or Fuller Torrey and Miller's The Invisible Plague, is one that sees psychiatry and modern systems of mental health care as the inevitable outcome of progress through scientific thought, a (white European male-led) narrative from darkness and ignorance to enlightenment and knowledge.
First, let me tell you that I was once a typical doctor, not to mention a typical American who loved pizza, soda, birth control, and ibuprofen. I believed in the science that I was taught to believe in. I felt that medication was the answer. And that symptoms were problems that needed to be fixed, suppressed, eradicated. That every patient was just one chemical prescription away from functioning “normally.” It wasn’t until my fellowship specialized in medicating pregnant and breastfeeding women, at a time when I was also pregnant, that I began to feel into a voice inside me that said, “I’m writing prescriptions that no amount of reported ‘safety data’ could convince me to take."
The following sermon, delivered on the first Sunday of 2016 at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, explores the principles and practices of book repair — values and techniques that may resonate deeply with the readers of Mad in America. Can we approach another body, and our own, with the consideration and respect a book conservator uses to approach a distressed book?