All in the Brain? An Open Letter Re: Stephen Fry’s Assumptions About Mental Illness

Stephen Fry’s exploration of manic depression (in the current BBC series on mental health, ‘In the Mind‘) has drawn both praise (because of his attempts to destigmatize mental illness) and criticism (because he appears to have a very narrow biomedical understanding of mental illness).  I have sent an open letter to the actor which challenges some of his assumptions about mental illness, and offers a very different understanding to that promoted in his recent television programme.

Long-Term Antipsychotics: Making Sense of the Evidence in the Light of the Dutch Follow-Up...

In the 1950s, when the drugs we now call ‘antipsychotics’ first came along, psychiatrists recognised that they were toxic substances that happened to have the ability to suppress thoughts and emotions without simply putting people to sleep in the way the old sedatives did. The mental restriction the drugs produced was noted to be part of a general state of physical and mental inhibition that at extremes resembled Parkinson’s disease. Early psychiatrists didn’t doubt that this state of neurological suppression was potentially damaging to the brain.

“Decolonizing Global Mental Health: The Psychiatrization of the Majority World” (Book Review)

The Movement for Global Mental Health's objective is to ensure that people living in low- and middle-income countries have access to the best and most effective modern psychiatric drugs and therapies. In pursuing these objectives it assumes that to do so is a neutral project beyond political concerns. China Mills’ book Decolonizing Global Mental Health challenges this view.

Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia? What About Black People?

In many respects it is difficult to fault the report Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, recently published by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP)[i]; indeed, as recent posts on Mad in America have observed, there is much to admire in it. Whilst not overtly attacking biomedical interpretations of psychosis, it rightly draws attention to the limitations and problems of this model, and points instead to the importance of contexts of adversity, oppression and abuse in understanding psychosis. But the report makes only scant, fleeting references to the role of cultural differences and the complex relationships that are apparent between such differences and individual experiences of psychosis.

RxISK Stories: Gambling on the Side Effects of Antidepressants

In June last year, three months into a prescription for anti-depressant drug Efexor, former financial analyst Tim Hillier left his hotel to wander the empty streets of Alice Springs in an attempt to clear his head. An hour earlier, he had wagered $80,000 -- almost the entirety of his life-savings -- on a first-round Wimbledon tennis match featuring Aussie hope Sam Stosur.

Insight Forty Years Later: A Dream of Progress

In the 40 years since I was wrongly - and catastrophically - "diagnosed" and "treated," I've seen one after another announcement of supposed "progress" in the "science" of understanding and treating "mental illness" come and go — first trumpeted, then with nary a mention, failing to hold their ground and falling away to the mists of time along with the people and the lives they'd ruined. People will continue to suffer and die if the public do not wake up and have the courage to act as a caring community, and stop regarding human problems as "diseases" to be "cured," rather than as challenges that we share.

DSM-5 Statement by the Critical Psychiatry Network

The Critical Psychiatry Network is concerned with the way the controversy over the publication of DSM-5 is being portrayed in the media and by some academic psychiatrists. The issues raised by the DSM are complex and require careful and studied consideration. There are two aspects in particular that concern us. These relate to the portrayal of the controversy as a guild dispute, and the polarisation of the debate as one of nurture versus nature.

Thinking about Alternatives to Psychiatric Diagnosis

I want to follow up my first post by outlining the principles of possible alternatives to psychiatric diagnosis – that is, alternatives in addition to the most obvious one, which is simply to stop diagnosing people.

All Real Living is Meeting

In recent weeks I have taken part in some very powerful meetings at my work place, the Family Care Foundation. By "powerful" I mean that they have been both moving and demanding, Many people who did not know about us before seeing Daniel Mackler´s movie, Healing Homes, have contacted the Family Care Foundation looking for a place where it is possible to get off pharmaceuticals, and to be supported. Even more importantly, they are longing for a place where they are met as a human being, amongst other human beings.

At War With Ourselves

If we call someone mentally ill, in some ways we may be recognising their predicament as a powerful one, and their need for support. However, we may also be judging their state of mind as faulty. But what if what seems a faulty mind is much more than that? We can go deeper than trying to say what is wrong with someone, how ill they are, or what category they fit into. We can instead ask: How do parts of them feel? What might different parts of them need? And what are the contexts in which these experiences have emerged?

Something Rotten in the State of British Psychiatry?

Delegates attending the International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists at London’s Barbican Centre in June this year will almost certainly not hear about the results of the seven-year outcome of the Dutch First Episode (FE) study widely discussed on Mad in America in recent months.

The Price is Wrong

Today I paid a visit to the Managing Director of Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Lloyd Price. Mylan is the company that manufactured the antidepressant Fluox1 which, according to the NZ government, is the most likely cause of my son's suicide. My dealings with Mylan in the time since Toran died have not been entirely fruitful.

Children, Youth and Mental Health in British Columbia: A Presentation to the Legislature

"From years of personal and professional experience, I must tell you my biggest fear is that we’re massively misunderstanding the emotional and mental suffering of children and teens. We’ve taken their feelings, thoughts and suffering and transformed them into symptoms, diagnoses, reductive theories and then prescribing them an array of psychiatric drugs with dire short- and long-term consequences. We’re drugging their emotions, their thinking and their quest for meaning into disabling silence."

Can Co-production Really Transform UK Mental Health Services?

Is "co-production" public service citizen involvement? Is it individual, ‘responsibilised’ health and social care consumerism? Is it power shifting to communities through participatory governance? Perhaps it’s the ultimate post-modern policy concept. But can it work for mental health?

What Kind of Forced Treatment Would You Prefer?

The new Danish psychiatric law which has been under development for a while has just been passed by the government and is due to be implemented on 1st June 2015. However the road to this new law, ostentatiously to improve the rights of the patients, has had an interesting history. Denmark was on its way to achieving the dubious title of European champion in the number of people subjected to physical restraints according to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

Out of my Mind. Driven to Drink.

This is an article written by a woman named Anne-Marie. I am publishing it here because it epitomizes what, a company I have founded, is all about. It tells of one woman extraordinarily getting to grips with a problem she has on treatment. My hope is that when is up and running we will be able to make it easier for people like Anne-Marie to engage with their doctors to solve problems like this.

What it Means to be a Human, With all the Beauty and Complexity That...

If not every week, then very often, we receive requests from people not living in Sweden asking if it would be possible to come to the Family Care Foundation and take part in our shared work. I often day-dream that I have a list of different places in different countries where it was obvious that the main task for the organization and everyone involved was to meet those we call clients and their families in a relational and dialogical way, where it was NOT important at all to define people in terms of diagnosis and where it was NO big deal to support people to get off medication. Where the big deal was about something else: to try to create a safe place and to make sense of experiences and to try to share the very hard things with each other.

Towards a Hermeneutic Shift in Psychiatry

I know that this might sound odd coming from a critical psychiatrist, but I believe that psychiatry has a future. Furthermore, I maintain that a good deal of psychiatry as practised now is helpful and that many psychiatrists manage to play a positive and therapeutic role in the lives of their patients. However, I also believe that we are at our most helpful when we depart from the current biomedical ideology that has come to dominate in our profession. As a first step, we need to get beyond the reductionism that currently guides most psychiatric research and education.

Odysseus Come Home

Odysseus was in his 70s. Coming up to the 50th anniversary of a very happy marriage. He had formerly been a respected professional, a...

Based on a True Story Filled with Lies

Danish psychiatry has been besieged by scandals. Or perhaps it is better to say 'exposed', as many of the scandals - like massive overmedication, deaths etc. - have been an ongoing problem for years. 2014 has started off with a bang. Two deaths due to psychiatric drugs acknowledged as being the cause of death. This is the first time this has happened.

Time to Abolish Psychiatric Diagnosis?

‘Diagnosing’ someone with a devastating label such as ‘schizophrenia’ or ‘personality disorder’ is one of the most damaging things one human being can do to another. Re-defining someone’s reality for them is the most insidious and the most devastating form of power we can use. It may be done with the best of intentions, but it is wrong - scientifically, professionally, and ethically. The DSM debate presents us with a unique opportunity to put some of this right, by working with service users towards a more helpful understanding of how and why they come to experience extreme forms of emotional distress.

Time for a Policy Against Psychiatric Bullying

Sometimes regarded as “treatment,” psychiatric bullying and harassment can no longer be considered as such. During the past two decades, the often devastating effects of psychiatric bullying and harassment have evidenced themselves on the wellbeing of consumers, and the climate of mental health facilities.The advent of mandatory anti-bullying policies in schools and workplaces has shifted thinking towards an acceptance that bullying occurs, causes harm and should not be tolerated. Could the development of anti-psychiatric bullying policies in mental health institutions make psychiatric abuse visible and create a zero tolerance culture?

Why I Have (Mostly) Given Up on Diagnosis

Every year about this time I review my template file for new client notes. It has blank sections for name, presenting concern, history, plan, and a number of other categories. This year I found myself staring at it, considering whether a revision was in order. And the category that leapt out at me was “Diagnosis.” The truth is, I seldom use it any more.

Shire Pharmaceuticals & the MEP – A Case Study in Manipulation?

My last blog raised issues about the involvement of Shire Pharmaceuticals in lobbying for the inclusion of mandatory screening of children for ADHD in...

One Script to Rule Them All

The marketing departments of pharmaceutical companies focus in on the ring-bearers just as the Eye of Sauron focused in on Gollum and later Frodo. Once the Eye fixes on a ring-bearer, it hypnotizes him into submission. If any demur, it directs its Black Riders (Medical Academics) to enforce compliance with its Will.