Centering Lived Experience

Lately, after a number of discussions, we have been changing our practices around the issue of labels. No longer do we give a diagnosis at presentations. We place the young person’s story, as told to us, front and center. People listening rarely ask, “What is their diagnosis?” now that lived experiences are central. We are providing a sense of their struggles. We are trying.

Why Mental Health Organizations Should Endorse the Movement for Black Lives

The psychiatric survivor movement, which then became the consumer movement and recovery movement and now the peer movement, was born in a time of civil rights and Black organizing in the US. It was Black people in the civil rights movement who inspired all of us to make social change real, and psychiatric patients and progressive professionals took up that inspiration. In a very real way, Black protest made psychiatric protest possible, which then led to the modern consumer/peer/recovery movement.

Dear Boston Globe, Part III: We Came. We Protested. You Still Didn’t Listen.

On Monday, August 1, over 140 people arrived on the Globe's door step asking for change. They came as a part of a Vigil entitled, ‘The People’s Spotlight.’ The event was in direct response to your ‘Spotlight on Mental Health’ series (still, painfully) called ‘The Desperate and the Dead’ (in case you didn’t catch the play on titles yourself). The demands were relatively simple.

It’s Time for a Revolution Within the Revolution: Coming Out of the Closet on...

If we are to demand justice for our brothers and sisters in hospitals, jails and community-based programs, then we must demand justice for women, Blacks and other POC who are being discriminated against. We cannot continue to be silent while 50% of us are regulated to the back, and not allowed space at the table. Our fellow community members are wounded by the silence. We expect and are now demanding to be treated better.

Did I Choose the Wrong Profession? 

The sickening realization that had been creeping up out of my gut–the one that I kept trying to hide from my brain and my heart–could be repressed no longer. We are all familiar with the arguments that companies spend billions of dollars to bring a drug to market, that it takes at least a decade of research, and that thousands of entities never even make it to human testing. All of these points are used to justify skyrocketing drug costs in the name of altruistic endeavors such as “Working for a Healthier World” or “Where Patients Come First.” (These are actual company slogans.) What I’ve seen and participated in during my time in the industry is that patients really don’t come first.

What Do the DSM, Elvis Presley, and Dionysus Have in Common?

To a classicist, the psychotic illnesses detailed in the pages of the DSM look like nothing but the main characters of the classical tragedies of ancient Greece, only born anew under medicalized names. And since the ancient tragedians do their utmost to make us sympathize with these characters, reading a tragedy or two—such as Euripides’ Bacchae—might go a long way toward helping us understand—truly understand, on existential grounds—when and why an individual elects to engage in odd behaviors.

The Struggle, and the Challenge: Young Adults in Crisis and the Use of Medication

I face the daily challenge at my urban center in Hartford, Connecticut of working with young adults (18-25) coming out of the juvenile system into adult outpatient care. Most of these youngsters come to us on multiple medications of all classes. Almost all have stories of trauma, abuse and neglect going back some generations. Almost all carry psychiatric labels of bipolar or schizoaffective or personality or behavioral disorders. Very few of them have ever been told of the long-term effects of the medications they have been prescribed.

Six Lessons on Open Dialogue From the Collaborative Pathway Experiment

The Collaborative Pathway is a replication and adaptation of Open Dialogue at Advocates, Inc., a human services agency in Framingham, Massachusetts where I serve as Medical Director. Last week, our team published an article in the Best Practices column of the journal Psychiatric Services, describing the program and our results from the first cohort of young people and families experiencing a psychotic crisis. This is the first published adaptation of Open Dialogue in the U.S. and represents the culmination of several years of planning, training, and direct service.

​I Will Not Abandon You

My tipping point came last week after learning about the killing of 3 police officers in New Orleans, which had followed very shortly after the murder of five police officers in Dallas. I felt a deep and ancient fear and anxiety rumbling within. I wondered if others felt this tremblement de terre - this inner earthquake. My heart aches from the pain inflicted on others, as well as experienced by the individuals who acted out their fear in a murderous rampage.

You Can Have Any Kind of Treatment You Want, Providing it’s Our Kind

Mental health nurse education supports institutional psychiatric practice in an insufficiently questioning way. Its formal curricula in universities are often undermined by the informal curricula of practice environments. As an institution, mental health nursing pays insufficient attention to both these issues because it is an arguably un-reflexive and rule-following discipline.

Drug Choice, Scientology, Ego Needs & Other Divides: Real Politics 101, Part Three

Abolishing First-Order Psychiatry—which includes the American Psychiatric Association and its Big Pharma partners—as a legitimate authority in determining “mental illness” as well as abolishing First-Order Psychiatry’s “treatment” and control dominion are primarily political struggles. In Part One, I discussed the Rehumanizing Resistance’s political naivety; and in Part Two, I offered strategies and tactics. In Part Three, I will focus on how the Resistance can overcome frustration and disunity and gain greater strength.

They Call This “Help”

“Won’t they know I’m lying?” I asked. “Won’t they know I’m an impostor?” “No,” he said, “not at all. You can tell them you’re suffering from delusions and they’ll believe it almost without question. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any history of psychiatric illness or hospitalization, just make up some nonsense about hearing voices and they’ll swallow the whole thing hook, line and sinker.”

Hearing Voices, Living Fully: Living with the Voices in My Head

My memoir, Hearing Voices, Living Fully: Living with the Voices in My Head, chronicles my journey through depression, psychosis, and an unmedicated recovery, and describes how I learned to challenge my demons and negotiate the conditions that allowed me to regain control over my mind and my life. Although I thought my story was very unusual, I thought it possible that many who have manifested the symptoms associated with schizophrenia could achieve a greater degree of recovery than is currently the norm. When I became involved with the Hearing Voices Network, I learned that my experience is not uncommon and that there are literally millions of people in the world who are living full lives, even while hearing voices.

The Case Against Antipsychotics

This review of the scientific literature, stretching across six decades, makes the case that antipsychotics, over the long-term, do more harm than good. The drugs lower recovery rates and worsen functional outcomes over longer periods of time.

Mental Health Advocacy in California: Perspectives of Advocates and Decision-Makers

In partnership with the California Association of Mental Health Peer-Run Organizations (CAMHPRO), Live & Learn, Inc. conducted a survey on the impact of stakeholder advocacy on decisions affecting public mental health systems in California. The objective was to pilot an approach to help CAMHPRO evaluate the impact of consumer advocacy in the state and to document the activities that advocates engage in (e.g., legislative testimony, demonstrations, campaigns).

Violence Caused by Antidepressants: An Update after Munich  

The media is now reporting details about the 18-year-old who shot and killed nine and wounded many others before killing himself on July 22 in Munich. My clinical and forensic experience leads to a distinction among people who murder under the influence of psychiatric drugs. Those who kill only one or two people, or close family members, often have little or no history of mental disturbance and violent tendencies. The drug itself seems like the sole cause of the violent outburst. On the other hand, most of those who commit mass violence while taking psychiatric drugs often have a long history of mental disturbance and sometimes violence. For these people, the mental health system seems to have provoked increasing violence without recognizing the danger.

Psychiatry is Edging Dangerously Close to Eugenics

In psychiatry, there has always been a swing between the two poles of nature and nurture. Unfortunately, psychiatry is firmly back in the nature camp. Lip service is paid to the emotional environment and trauma. But that is as far as it goes. The accepted (and dangerous) belief is that psychiatry deals with brain diseases – inherited brain diseases. We are back to absolute genetic determinism.

The Sociological Study of Mental Illness: A Historical Perspective

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?

Foster Youths Meet Psychiatry: First – Do No pHarm

When a foster youth encounters a Psychiatrist, chances are high that s/he will get medicated. Traumatized foster youth are often prescribed powerful psychotropics due to exhibiting a wide variety of “normal reactions to abnormal events,” such as despair, agitation, anxiety and self-harm. The practice has been well documented; foster children are prescribed psychotropics at a 2.7 to 4.5 times higher rate than non-foster youth. The National Center for Youth Law aptly summarizes the problem as; too many (25% of foster youth medicated), too soon (300 children under the age of 5 in California are given psychotropics annually) too much (adult dosages) and for too long (no planning or reviews for possible discontinuation).

Falling Through the Cracks

I am an award-winning singer/songwriter with a number one record to my credit. I also owned several small businesses and founded a 501c3 non-profit for women's health. I ate healthy, swam and cycled every day and had a very active lifestyle. This was before benzos came into my life.

“Invisible” Resistance: Taking Charge in the Face of Difficulty and Institutional Rule

The context in which this article is penned is rule by institutions which are functions of the state, in particular those deemed services; the ways in which these interconnect to create a veritable trap; contrary to current hegemony, the ease with which they can substantially harm those that they “serve.” Pivotal in this article is the “mental health system” and the psychiatric dangers that it presents. At the centre of the discussion are two stories, each involving individuals competently attending to their own needs and/or the needs of their loved ones precisely by keeping one or more of these institutions at bay.

‘We’re Not Buying It!” — Survey on Emotional Distress and Diagnosis Reveals Mistrust of...

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!

Schizophrenia Twin Research as Reported in The Gene: An Intimate History — Getting the...

In his 2016 book The Gene: An Intimate History, cancer physician and researcher Siddhartha Mukherjee chronicled the initial idea of the gene, taking readers through the history of genetics up to the current “post-genome” period by interweaving science, social history, and his own personal narrative. In the process he documented some of the crimes of the eugenics movement and the monstrous atrocities committed by German National Socialism in the name of eugenics and biology, while noting the Nazi’s promotion of twin research. He also criticized aspects of intelligence testing and genetic theories of racial inferiority based on IQ tests. At the same time, Mukherjee supported and promoted many contemporary behavioral genetics positions.

Dear Boston Globe, Part II: You Forgot the Facts

Dear Boston Globe: So many terrible things have happened in the last 48-hours or so. On Tuesday, July 5, Alton Sterling was brutally executed by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On Wednesday, July 6, another black man, Philando Castile also lost his life at the hands of the police in Minnesota as he sat in his car and reached for his wallet. That same day, the Murphy Bill passed the House, and you released your second 'Spotlight on Mental Health Care' Globe article, this time called  ‘The Desperate and the Dead: Police Confrontations.

My Fixed Delusion

I haven’t been a true believer in the psychiatric standard of care for a long time; at some point I became a skeptic. However, I never stopped to consider that my suspicions could be evidence of a "serious mental illness" until it was suggested by my supervisor in a “counseling” meeting. I am not the only one. Many other people have come to the same conclusions I have. Many are articulate and offer compelling evidence.