About a year ago, my partner Ron Coleman said to me "let's have a recovery camp." I said "what’s one of those?" and he said "I'm not sure, but let's invent it." And so, from June 7th to 12th 2015, we created a community of recovery for a week. The next step is to create communities of recovery around the world — not just as temporary camps, but long-lasting oases within our communities.
This is a study of psychiatry. It is a study of an area officially a branch of medicine and overwhelmingly seen as legitimate, benign, progressive, and effective. But what if society had it wrong? What if this were not legitimate medicine? Dare we imagine a world where helping is not professionalized, where caring is not commodified. Where, in the spirit of community, we go about the business of life together?
The area of politics that counts most for most of us is healthcare. Big Healthcare is now the biggest business in the United States and in the Western World. We desperately need a new compact between we the people and those who govern our healthcare – or at least a new compact between the doctors who make money for pharma by putting pills in our mouths and the pharmas of this world. Instead, we are told that to question the judgments of the scientific literature is to engage in an irrational War on Science itself.
Dutch peer support education has changed dramatically over time since its inception. Peer support education has evolved over time from empowered and independent peer support education to institutionalized peer support education. In effect the (future) peer support workers in the Netherlands could become clinician-friendly peer support workers who merely represent peer support work in name but not in practice.
It was May 19, 2003, in San Francisco; the first-ever (we think) symposium on micronutrient treatment to be on the schedule for the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. There was moderate interest. This year, the two of us (both psychologists) presented many, many studies on the use of micronutrients to treat anxiety, stress, depressive symptoms, ADHD, aggression, mood, and addictions. The amount of data differed dramatically from 12 years ago, but the biggest difference was the response from psychiatrists!
I just attended my first American Psychiatric Association (APA) meeting even though it has been going for 168 years. I was invited to join a symposium on vitamin-mineral combinations as primary treatment of psychiatric symptoms. There was one talk I decided to attend, not because I was particularly interested in the topic, but because it would give me an opportunity to ask Jeffrey Lieberman a question.
It would be a shame if Andrew Scull’s Madness in Civilization did no more than draw well deserved applause for his authorship and historical expertise, and a prominent place in the bibliography of madness. My own copy of Madness in Civilization arrived last week, and it is great; comprehensive, brilliantly written, lots of colourful and many disturbing illustrations. Madness’ continuing story, “From the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine” is told as never before, but there seems to be something missing...
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.
This column is partly a report on the marketing of Abilify, the atypical antipsychotic that has become America’s best-selling drug. It’s also an appeal for advice and feedback from the RxISK and Mad in America communities, and a call for some brainstorming about strategy. The plans laid out by drugmakers Otsuka and Lundbeck for Abilify’s future, and the cooperation they’re getting from leading universities, are alarming enough to me that reporting on them seems inadequate. We need action, although I’m not sure exactly what kind.
Our success as a movement depends on our ability to sway the general public—and if the mainstream press and media never afford our books their due—not even the blatantly cutting edge ones (and if anything, these are treated worse) and the general public, as a consequence, remains largely unaware of their existence, the likelihood of succeeding in our primary mission(s) is substantially reduced.
The serotonin reuptake inhibiting (SSRI) group of drugs came on stream in the late 1980s, nearly two decades after first being mooted. The delay centred on finding an indication. They did not have hoped-for lucrative antihypertensive or antiobesity profiles. Even though a 1960s idea that serotonin concentrations might be lowered in depression had been rejected, drug companies marketed SSRIs for depression even though they were weaker than older tricyclic antidepressants. They sold the idea that depression was the deeper illness behind the superficial manifestations of anxiety. The approach was an astonishing success, central to which was the notion that SSRIs restored serotonin levels to normal, a notion that later transmuted into the idea that they remedied a chemical imbalance.
I think I have underestimated just how hard it can be for people to approach mental health problems from a psychological and social perspective. The longer I work with people who are experiencing severe psychological distress, the more they teach me about the difficulties involved in breaking away from an “illness” mindset. Medications, by and large, are still the mainstay of helping people with psychological troubles despite an increasingly widespread acceptance that psychological problems are not medical problems. Mental illness is an “illness” only in the same way that love-sickness is an illness.
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.
On several occasions I have written about the complexities of antipsychiatry politics, exploring more specifically, how to “do our politics” in a way that moves society squarely in the direction of the abolitionist goal. In this article, I am once again theorizing the “how” of activism—for understanding this territory is critical to maximizing effectiveness. However, this time round, I am approaching it from an angle at once more general and more practical. That is, I am investigating the tools or approaches at our disposal as activists.
For decades the gold standard for medical evidence was the review article - an essay looking at most or (hopefully) all of the research on a particular question and trying to divine a general trend in the data toward some conclusion ("therapy X seems to be good for condition Y," for example). More recently, the format of review articles has shifted - at least where the questions addressed have leant themselves to the new style. The idea has been to look at the original data for all of the studies available, and in effect reanalyze them as though the research participants were all taking part in one gigantic study. By increasing the number of data points and averaging across the vagaries of different studies, a clearer finding might emerge. The meta-analysis has gone on to be revered as a strategy for advancing healthcare. It has vulnerabilities.
I thought I would make a small contribution to the discussion about how coverage of the recent airline tragedy focuses so much on the supposed ‘mental illness’ of the pilot and not so much on the possible role of antidepressants. Of course we will never know the answer to these questions but it is important, I think, to combat the simplistic nonsense wheeled out after most such tragedies, the nonsense that says the person had an illness that made them do awful things. So, just to confirm what many recipients of antidepressants, clinicians and researchers have been saying for a long time, here are some findings from our recent New Zealand survey of over 1,800 people taking anti-depressants, which we think is the largest survey to date.
Right now in Britain there is a controversy shaping up between the commercial and financial interests of big managed-care corporations and the need to care for vulnerable people in the community, people with conditions like dementia and long-term psychoses. Conflicts of interest are nothing new in the contested field of mental health, but this one threatens not only quality of care, but the well-being of low paid workers, mainly women, who are employed as support workers.
Recently the problem of publication bias has been shaking the foundations of much of psychology and medicine. In the field of pharmacology, the problem is worse, because the majority of outcome trials (on which medication approval and physician information is based) are conducted by pharmaceutical firms that stand to benefit enormously from positive results, and run the risk of enormous financial loss from negative ones. Numerous studies have found that positive results tend to be published, while negative ones are quietly tucked under the rug.
"I want to change the way we think about mental health care so that any child, whether they have a mental illness or simply need support through a difficult time, can get the right help at the right time." This was said by Care Minister Norman Lamb and quoted by the BBC on March 17th 2015. Mr. Lamb is known to have a son who has suffered mental health difficulties and it may well have come from the heart as much as it did from the election fever which is beginning to infect British politicians. However it says something worth picking up upon. I want to change the way we think about mental health care… and … simply need support through a difficult time. These are important shifts of language, and doubly important when they come from a government health minister.
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.
I read some Hegel in a reading group a few years ago and was bowled over by it. So I was excited to find a book that analyses Hegel’s ideas about the nature of madness, and wanted to review it even though it was written 20 years ago. Hegel may not have been the first to have made this point, but for me his writing brings home, more clearly than any other thinker, the intrinsically social nature of human thought and existence.
I am proud and happy to announce that our webpage DrivingUsCrazy was launched today. It will help us to get the word out about the international film festival taking place in Gothenburg, 16-18 October, 2015, and also to highlight the issue of madness every day until then — and hopefully for many days afterwards.
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.
I’ve spent much of my professional life studying psychological aspects of mental health problems. Inevitably, this has also meant discussing the role of biology. That’s my academic day-job. But it’s not just academic for me. I’m probably not untypical of most people reading this; I can see clear examples of how my experiences may have affected my own mental health, but I can also see reasons to suspect biological, heritable, traits. As in all aspects of human behaviour, both nature and nurture are involved and they have been intimately entwined in a complex interactive dance throughout my childhood and adult life.
Academia has long been the official search engine for knowledge. Here supposedly are the ivory towers where seekers after truth, men and women intellectuals, teach new generations and carry out learned research, to add to the sum of human wisdom. It also has a longstanding history of questionable relationships; from those with the arms trade, to continuing over-reliance on big pharma psychiatric research funding.