Time for a Policy Against Psychiatric Bullying

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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?

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.”

Elephants and Flamingos

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I am walking through my local park in Copenhagen, Denmark, early in the morning breathing in the fresh smell of damp soil and late summer blooms. I am thinking about my thesis that I have just handed in and the fact that if it is passed I will be a certified psychologist! But, I will not be just any psychologist. I will be Denmark's first official 'Mad' psychologist, joining the ranks of others such as Rufus May, Eleanor Longden, Arnhild Lauveng, and Pat Deegan.

“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.

Medication and Spirituality

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In 2007 I returned to school to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I remember being confused by the over-emphasis on biological treatments for suffering which seemed to me much more spiritual and relational in nature. A few years earlier, my misgivings had been stirred as I sat on a California beach listening to a friend tell me about what it was like to be on Prozac. She told me that she couldn’t really cry anymore, or connect to her deeper feelings. She couldn’t orgasm. I recall my throat closing up, my thoughts running panicky and confused. I was so disturbed by the power of this drug to rob her of her tears and climaxes, experiences I associated with the more private, sacred parts of being human.

If Not Meds, Then WHAT?

A great deal of the information published on MadInAmerica is devoted to this very important question, so many constructive ideas are often presented. We think that nutrition and diet should always be part of the conversation.

Lullaby

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On Monday a new study was published with the finding that there is a three- to four-fold increase in the rates of Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Developmental Delay in children, especially boys, born to mothers who have been on antidepressants through pregnancy. There are further studies with comparable findings in the offing. Not only this but it looks as though the SSRIs may redefine what it means to be a teratogen. Other teratogens produce their effects in the first trimester of pregnancy when organs are first being formed. But it looks like antidepressants used in the third trimester can lead to autistic spectrum disorder and developmental delay.

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.

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.

The Power of the Written Word

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Since the invention of the printing press, community-controlled publications have enabled the voices of those with little power in society to be heard. Gandhi said that without a journal, a community could not be united. Asylum magazine is a printed magazine, in existence since 1986, which provides a place where alternative voices in mental health can be heard.

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.

Unwarranted Criticism of “Psychiatry Gone Astray”

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On 6 January 2014, I published the article “Psychiatry Gone Astray” in a major Danish newspaper (Politiken), which started an important debate about the use and abuse of psychiatric drugs. Numerous articles followed, some written by psychiatrists who agreed with my views. For more than a month, there wasn’t a single day without discussion of these issues on radio, TV or in newspapers, and there were also debates at departments of psychiatry. People in Norway and Sweden have thanked me for having started the discussion, saying that it’s impossible to have such public debates about psychiatry in their country, and I have received hundreds of emails from patients that have confirmed with their own stories that what I wrote in my article is true.

Pinball Wizards and the Doomed Project of Psychiatric Diagnosis

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The DSM claims to be a scientific system of classification. The validity of any system of scientific classification is the extent to which it can be shown to reflect the real world. Fifty years of study and investigation, and huge sums of money spent across the Western world on neuroscientific research institutes, on careers and equipment, has failed to establish the validity of a single psychiatric diagnosis.

The Inane Search for Magic Bullets to Treat Mental Illness

Those of you following our posts on Nutrition and Mental Health know that we ended the last one, on ‘history’, by saying that the two of us are essentially devoting our research lives to re-inventing the wheel. It is old knowledge that good nutrition is essential for mental health, and it is really old knowledge that improving nutrition can improve mental health. We are going to spend the next few blogs outlining the science and rationale that supports the role played by nutrition in wellness as well as the expression of mental illness. This information will provide modern scientific validation for the conclusions drawn by some of our ancestors, described in the previous blogs.

‘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’.

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.

May Your Psychache be Minimal

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Suicide needs to come 'out of the closet' as a public health issue. But this in turn requires a broad, ongoing community conversation rather than the current status quo of 'experts' talking about us without us. We also need to move beyond the excessive medicalisation of suicide that blames it on some notional 'mental illness'. This is my first post where I introduce myself, telling you a little of how I came to do a PhD in Suicidology. And an invitation to join me in a radically different conversation about suicide, here at Mad in America.

Study 329: Big Risk

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Study 329 seems to fit the classic picture: It has Big Pharma ghostwriting articles, hiding data, corrupting the scientific process and leaving a trail of death, disability and grieving relatives in its wake. But is it at fault alone? Both Big Pharma and Big Risk (the insurance industry) were once our allies in keeping our hopes alive – in keeping our children alive and well. They are now a threat. And of the two – Big Risk is the bigger threat.

Getting Our Anti/Critical Psychiatry Authors Read: A Case for Book Activism

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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.

Looking forward to the Good Ol’ Days

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One of the most remarkable aspects of Robert Whitaker’s (2010) outstanding book Anatomy of an Epidemic was his comparative data that contrasted outcomes for mental disorders prior to the introduction of pharmacological treatments with outcomes for mental disorders after pharmacological treatments became the main, and often only, course of action. I have asked people in workshops to estimate who might be better off – someone diagnosed with what we now call bipolar disorder prior to the introduction of lithium or someone diagnosed after lithium became a standard treatment. Almost without exception workshoppers estimate that the people diagnosed before lithium was available do much worse. Whitaker’s data indicate exactly the opposite. It’s a staggering finding.

GlaxoSmithKline’s Journey to Transparency

GSK's continued failure to provide true transparency flies in the face of what the overwhelming majority of people signing consent forms probably intend - which is to make their data available for scrutiny by independent experts. If those who participate in trials thought some remote risk of a breach of privacy were being used to prevent disclosure of details that would save someone else's life - but threaten GSK's profits - most of us would likely be horrified.

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.

Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia? What About Black People?

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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.

The Ubiquity of Unhappiness: An Introduction to Cultural Psychiatry

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Cultural psychiatry provides a robust critique of a biologically orientated psychiatry. All cultures divide the world up into normal and abnormal; all have some notion of madness, but the idioms used to describe these states and the causes behind them can only ever be understood in the full context of the culture where they take place. It suggests that the very categories which are assumed to be natural occurring forms, are in fact just social and cultural constructions.

Towards a Hermeneutic Shift in Psychiatry

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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.