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

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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.

Dietary Patterns and Mental Health

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We are constantly hearing that ‘how we eat’ affects our health. The vast majority of studies showing the associations between diet and mental health have emerged in only the last decade, at best. So any professional who graduated over 10 years ago could potentially be completely unfamiliar with this body of research. We are encouraged by the number of professionals starting to pay attention to diet, but we have a long way to go.

The Tragedy of Lou Lasagna

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In 1956, Lou Lasagna was on his way to being the most famous doctor in the United States; an advocate for controlled clinical trials of both the safety and effectiveness of medication, as well as for a revision to the Hippocratic Oath to include a holistic and compassionate approach to medicine. Then, caught in the nexus of reason, regulation, and the pharmaceutical machine, his star fell.

Witty A: Report to the President

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Faced with questions about the $3 Billion fine imposed on GSK – is it just the cost of doing business? - Andrew Witty snapped back: “Although corporate malfeasance cases end up looking very big, they often have their origin in just… one or two people who didn’t quite do the right thing. It’s not about the big piece. The 100,000 people who work for GSK are just like you, right? I’m sure everybody who reads the BMJ has friends who work for drug companies. They’re normal people… Many of them are doctors."

Symptom or Experience: Does Language Matter?

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Of all the beliefs that I have had about my experiences, the belief that I was ‘schizophrenic’ was the most damaging. In adopting the story that others told about me, and abandoning my own sense-making process, I held on to a belief that both hid my traumatic life experiences and rendered them irrelevant. Does it matter if we sometimes slip into the language of illness when we all agree that these experiences are meaningful, personal and have value? Yes. It does.

Study 329 in Japan

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By 2002 GlaxoSmithKline had done 3 studies in children who were depressed and described all three to FDA as negative.  As an old post on Bob Fiddaman’s blog reproduced here outlines, several years later they undertook another study in children in Japan. (Editor's note: This is a re-print, by David Healy, of a post by Bob Fiddaman)

How I’ve Found Nonviolent Communication Helpful

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I want to tell you about a magical tool I use particularly for navigating challenging situations. It's called Non violent communication (NVC). It's a way of understanding and communicating that I've found particularly useful in situations of conflict. I've hyped it up in the first sentence as a magical tool but like all useful things, it's got its limitations too. I guess the key is how and when to use it. So what am I talking about?

Breaking The Silence – Supporting Young People who Hear Voices in the US

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In the last few years I’ve developed a sincere admiration for those youth workers who specialise in working with young people pushed out onto the edge of society. I’ve witnessed, first hand, the ease with which they can broach topics that would leave many of us feeling uncomfortable. The best of them can speak about sex, violence, drugs and exploitation in a real and pragmatic way that signals a deep acceptance and understanding of the dilemmas young people face – with no blame or judgement. This ability to transform the taboo into the ordinary is something I’ve tried to develop in my own work. Through Voice Collective, a project supporting children and young people who hear voices in London, I specialise in training youth workers to do the one thing that can push them far outside of their comfort zone – talking with young people about hearing voices.

From Psychiatric Coercion to Libertarianism: A Personal Journey

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My name is Tristano Ajmone. I’m Italian and 42 years old. I consider myself a “psychiatric survivor” — a term by which I don’t merely mean that I’ve been through the psychiatric system and got out of it; I really mean that I’ve survived a psychiatric journey in which some of my comrades weren’t as fortunate as me, and they simply died along the way.

What Disability Benefit Trends Tell Us About Psychiatric Treatments and the Economy

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If antidepressants are effective, and people with depression are more likely to be prescribed them, then you would expect the consequences of depression to start to lessen. One of those consequences, according to government statistics, is being out of work. But what we see is quite the opposite: Increasing use of antidepressants correlates with increased numbers of people with depression who are out of work and claiming benefits, and increasingly on a long-term basis. And this is at a time when disability due to other medical conditions has fallen.

Retreat From the Social: a Review of Hegel’s Theory of Madness

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

It’s Not Easy Being “Clean”

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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.

Questions About Jeffrey Lieberman’s “Notorious Past and Bright Future of Psychiatry”

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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.

Winning Friends and Influencing People

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Some readers of Mad in America may be aware that Scientific American published a short blog by me on 17th November 2014 - Why We Need to Abandon the Disease-Model of Mental Health Care. This blog was rather wonderfully (and slightly embarrassingly) described by Phil Hickey on his website, Behaviorism and Mental Health, as “an important milestone.” My blog attempts to summarise many of the key points of a perspective widely shared on Mad in America: 

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.

What’s Really Behind GSK’s New Business Model?

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GSK has recently announced that it will cease paying doctors for promoting its drugs and sponsoring them to attend conferences and sever the link between pay for its sales representatives and the numbers of prescriptions physicians write. My reading of GSK’s annual report leaves me in no doubt that they are changing their business model because it is likely to increase their profitability – not because they are being forced to. There is a niche in the market for a pharmaceutical company to become the leader in ethical practice. It is not necessary for GSK to be ethical in reality but to create the perception of being so.

Why Neuroscience Cannot Explain Madness

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The decision by the National Institute of Mental Health to part company with the APA’s forthcoming DSM-5 should not be taken as evidence that biological psychiatry is entering a terminal decline. Far from it, as the Director of NIMH Thomas Insel’s blog of 29th April 2013 makes clear, the reason NIMH has opted for its own Research Diagnostic Criteria (RDoC) is because they believe psychiatric patients deserve something better.

Rethinking Therapy: Making Our Worlds as We Would Like Them to Be

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It’s funny how things turn out. I would never have anticipated becoming interested in the way in which psychological treatment is provided to people. A benign comment by a manager at the beginning of my clinical psychology career, however, piqued my interest and things have never been the same since.

Mad Economy: Let’s Change the World!

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Everyone in the world is either touched by their own mental health issues or have had a family member affected. What if they directed their buying power to an organization that would use the profits to fund exciting mental health & recovery projects both in the developing world and in their own countries; projects that would be ethical, non-coercive, personal recovery-based, and were aimed at creating recovery communities? What if they could buy products, crafts, services, art, music, books from people who had experienced mental health issues, enabling them to set up their own businesses or buy from social co-operatives that enabled distressed people to work and earn a living wage?

Driving Us Crazy: A Festival About Madness in Society, and in All of Us

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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.

How Reliable is the DSM-5?

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More than a year on from the release of DSM-5, a Medscape survey found that just under half of clinicians had switched to using the new manual. Most non-users cited practical reasons, typically explaining that the health care system where they work has not yet changed over to the DSM-5. Many, however, said that they had concerns about the reliability of the DSM, which at least partially accounted for their non-use. Throughout the controversies that surrounded the development and launch of the DSM-5 reliability has been a contested issue: the APA has insisted that the DSM-5 is very reliable, others have expressed doubts. Here I reconsider the issues: What is reliability? Does it matter? What did the DSM-5 field trials show?