A Positive Understanding of How Our Minds Work

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Often it is a relief to get an understanding of how we have developed a psychological problem, and it is especially good if we can feel that there is a reason for the problem that it is understandable. When I suffered from a phobia, it was a relief to understand that I probably had linked fear to an insect when I was a child. And it was even more satisfying when I understood that there was nothing wrong with my brain — that the problem was in what I had experienced. It was in my “software.”

The “Mental Illness” Paradigm: An “Illness” That is out of Control

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In the New York Times’ recent autobiographical account of a “bipolar” woman’s struggle the main message is that the current mental health care system has some real problems but that the general paradigm from which this treatment model has emerged is not to be questioned. Anyone who knows my work knows that I have a real problem with this paradigm, believing that it generally causes much more harm than benefit. So, what is it then about this story that grabbed me? I recognized that if we read Linda’s story while holding a different paradigm, then this story reveals what I believe are some of the most fundamental issues at the heart of this epidemic of “mental illness” that so pervades our society.

We Have a Dream: Getting Engaged to a Doctor

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Patient engagement is one of the mantras of current healthcare improvement efforts. Medical students and junior doctors likely think they are doing it better than their elders ever did. They are after all taught communication skills, where an earlier generation wasn’t. In fact, they are taught that they are being taught communication skills. They are taught how to communicate bad news. They are not taught how to hear awkward or bad news. The younger generation are almost certainly worse than former generations of doctors at listening for or actually hearing “the treatment you put me on, doctor, has made me worse.”

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

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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.

“Psychiatric Prejudice” – A New Way of Silencing Criticism

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‘Psychiatric prejudice’ is a term being bandied about these days, mainly by aggrieved psychiatrists. Ordinary people, other doctors and medical students are all prejudiced, they say, because they do not appreciate that psychiatry is a proper medical activity, and critics of psychiatry are prejudiced because their analyses undermine this medical point of view. However, many people remain inclined to view the difficulties we label as mental disorders as understandable reactions to adverse life events or circumstances and, importantly, evidence suggests they are more, not less, tolerant of such situations. In my view, there is a role for medical expertise in helping people with mental health problems, but that does not mean we have to call those problems illnesses.

Wholesome Wave

In a recent blog, we talked about the fact that nutrition and poverty are linked, and how poor nutrition is likely a mediator variable in the relationship between poverty and illness. In other words, it is the suboptimal nutrition associated with low income which likely explains much of the vulnerability to mental and physical illness. Today we want to tell you about an amazing American program that is making great strides in addressing this issue.

Do You Still Need Your Psychiatric Diagnosis?

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Do you still need your psychiatric diagnosis? The answer for practical purposes is probably ‘Yes.’ In the current system, diagnosis is essential for accessing services and benefits and, particularly in the USA, for covering your treatment costs. But do you need to believe in your diagnosis? Do you have to accept this particular attempt to explain your difficulties, and to take it on as part of your identity by becoming one of the ‘mentally ill’? since psychiatric diagnoses have been admitted to be non-valid even by the people who drew them up, professionals should not be offering people the ‘choice’ of describing their difficulties in diagnostic terms in the first place. That would still leave people with the right to adopt whatever explanation suits them as private individuals.

Open Letter about BBC Coverage of Mental Health

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Following Richard Bentall’s inspired Open Letter to Stephen Fry, we – a group of people who have (and still do) use mental health services, who work in mental health, or who work as academics... or fall into more than one of those categories – have decided to write a parallel Open Letter to the BBC and other media organizations about their coverage of mental health issues. We need as many signatures as possible!

‘Angels and Demons’: the Politics of Psychoactive Drugs

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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’.

Causing a Stir: Launching “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia” in New York City

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Those of you who read the New York Times may have seen its coverage of the British Psychological Society’s recent report, ‘Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia: Why people sometimes hear voices, believe things that others find strange, or appear out of touch with reality, and what can help.’ The report has been widely welcomed and many have seen it as a marker of how our understanding of these experiences is changing. The report has not been without its critics. We (Editor Anne Cooke and co-author Peter Kinderman) are coming to New York this month to launch the report in America.

The Shameful Story that Runs and Runs: A Review of The Bitterest Pills

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If the blimp that is psychiatric treatment were a passenger aircraft, the authorities would have grounded it many years ago, but still it continues to inflict harm on countless thousands of people. I read Joanna Moncrieff's latest book with a growing sense of anger and shame. The roots of drug treatment in psychiatry are thoroughly rotten. They sustain the decaying trunk of psychiatric theory and practice through misrepresentations and untruths; it is snake oil peddled by quackery.

Limits to Medicine: Re-visiting Ivan Illich

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We have come to believe that technology can eradicate all human suffering and provide unblemished and everlasting happiness. We have paid for this irrational expectation with our autonomy, our dignity and our ability to endure.

The Hearing Voices Movement: Beyond Critiquing the Status Quo

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We have just celebrated the anniversary of the rapidly expanding global Hearing Voices Movement which was founded more than twenty-five years ago following the ground-breaking research of Professor Marius Romme and Dr Sandra Escher. Romme and Escher have advocated for a radical shift in the way we understand the phenomenon of Hearing Voices; in contrast to traditional, biomedical psychiatry which views voices as an aberrant by-product of genetic, brain and cognitive faults, their research has firmly established that voices make sense when taking into account the traumatic circumstances that frequently provoke them.

UK Clinical Psychologists Call for the Abandonment of Psychiatric Diagnosis and the ‘Disease’ Model

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In a bold and unprecedented move for any professional body, the UK Division of Clinical Psychology, a sub-division of the British Psychological Society, issued a Position Statement today calling for the end of the unevidenced biomedical model implied by psychiatric diagnosis. In brief, the argument is that the so-called ‘functional’ diagnoses – schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, ADHD and so on - are not scientifically valid categories and are often damaging in practice.

Not so Black: Ablixa and Homicidal Side Effects

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So now we know Soderbergh’s movie Side Effects is not so Black/Noir after all – more Fifty Shades of Grey. Emily Hawkins (Rooney Mara) is put on Ablixa by her psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) and while on it kills her husband. She apparently murders him while sleep-walking triggered by Ablixa and sleep walking being a perfect defense against murder she is acquitted.

Study 329: Conflicts of Interest

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The BMJ states that it takes on average eight weeks from submission of an article to publication. The review process for Restoring Study 329 took a year, with a three-month review process involving six reviewers to begin with, and then a further four reviews in a four-month process, leading to a provisional acceptance in March that was withdrawn.

What is a Simple Way to Prevent the Onset of Physical Disease?

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One thing that amazes us is that even though information linking nutrition to physical health is quite advanced, and generally very prominent in the media as well as in public awareness, people seem to be surprised when told that nutrients are essential for brain function. It may be silly to remind everyone of this, but we need to begin with this simple fact: the brain is part of the body. But to add some heft to this point, let us also recall that the brain is the organ of the body with the greatest metabolic demands (the heart is second).

Antipsychiatry Revisited: Toward Greater Clarity

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Over the last decade, people have commonly made statements to me of the ilk — “What bugs me about antipsychiatry people is they only care about tearing down; there is no commitment to actually helping people” — Which suggests that there is a serious dearth of awareness about antipsychiatry.

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

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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.

The Truth About Antidepressant Research: An Invitation to Dialogue

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The Finnish Psychological Association held a meeting in Helsinki on 1 Sept 2014 titled “Mental Health and Medicalization.” I spoke at the meeting and four days later I sent a letter to another speaker, psychiatrist Erkki Isometsä. Professor Isometsä replied: “I will respond to it in detail within a few days..." As "Open Dialogue" is essential in science, I have published my letter to Isometsä here as well as on my own website, although I didn’t succeed in starting a dialogue.

Colonization or Postpsychiatry?

I believe the video ‘Voices Matter’ has, quite apart from capturing the spirit of the Hearing Voices movement, filmed the first signs, the first moments of professional interest, hinting at the dangers that inevitably are present when a movement threatens the established order of things.

Madness and the Family, Part III: Practical Methods for Transforming Troubled Family Systems

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We are profoundly social beings living not as isolated individuals but as integral members of interdependent social systems—our nuclear family system, and the broader social systems of extended family, peers, our community and the broader society. Therefore, psychosis and other forms of human distress often deemed “mental illness” are best seen not so much as something intrinsically “wrong” or “diseased” within the particular individual who is most exhibiting that distress, but rather as systemic problems that are merely being channeled through this individual.

Julia’s TEDx Talk: Time to Get Serious About Nutrition

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Based on any data from any country it is clear that we have a problem. Mental illness is on the rise. Researchers in the emerging field of nutritional psychiatry have documented the benefits of micronutrients to treat mental illness, showing that micronutrients help treat depression, stress, anxiety and autism and ADHD. Not a single study shows that the Western diet is good for our mental health. Many questions remain to be answered, but we can make some recommendations.

How to Parent a Dead Child

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Being the parent of a dead child is hard. Being the parent of a child who died from suicide may be even harder. I love my son and am proud of him and work to make sure that his having lived makes the world a better place.

A Critique of Genetic Research on Schizophrenia – Expensive Castles in the Air

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In the light of the much trumpeted claims that recent research has identified genes for schizophrenia, it is important to review the track record of this type of endeavor. Despite thousands of studies costing millions of dollars, and endless predictions that the genetics of schizophrenia would shortly be revealed, the field has so far failed to identify any genes that substantially increase the risk of developing schizophrenia.