escaping cage of mental illness

Towards the Re-politicization of “Mental Illness”

In the models of other social movements, I implore us to advance a multifaceted, structural, cultural, and political analysis of mental illness in America, to illuminate the reality and mechanisms of sanism, and to then envision and implement ways of organizing American life around it that do not limit our potential for flourishing so drastically.

The Cocktail Party

As a prescription drug and addiction expert for The O’Reilly Factor, Fox National News and many other news outlets, I am often called when a celebrity death occurs. While the loss of a talented actor or musician is tragic, I know from personal experience that the magnitude of devastation from legal drugs is happening to millions of innocent people – through psychoactive medications.

Greed Disguised as Science: How a Multitude of Factors Led to the Opioid Crisis

Opioids are now the leading cause of mortality from overdose, accounting for 91 deaths every day. The context and key players that created and contributed to the opioid epidemic must be brought into sharp focus if we are to have any hope of stemming the tide of this public health crisis.

Badgers Included

The story of "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" has a great deal of personal significance to me because it was the last book I can remember reading to my three young daughters before taking Prozac. These memories have taken on a newer and more relevant meaning since Gary Greenberg invoked the title of that children's book in his excellent article for the New Yorker, "The Rats of NIMH," following Thomas Insel's blog, "Transforming Diagnosis," in which for a brief moment, the director of the NIMH disavowed psychiatry's bible, the "DSM-5."

“Active Minds” — What Conversation Are We Changing?

Active Minds allows college students to start conversations on some of the most difficult struggles we face in life, but I urge the organization to lead the conversation away from bad science and towards the common struggles that we endure as human beings.

Physician, Heal Thyself (Luke 4:23)

Big Pharma has done their job so well that they no longer need to bribe doctors with cash to get them to tout the party line. Their neurobiological belief system — that complex mental states can be meaningfully reduced to neurological structures and biochemical processes — is now so well entrenched in our culture it is becoming more and more difficult to find folks who doubt it, especially in medical schools and in departments of psychiatry.
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A Call for Obligatory Diagnostic Reporting and Appeals Mechanisms

Psychiatric diagnoses are ballooning in scope and in numbers, many have dramatic and life-changing consequences, reliability levels are poor, co-morbidity levels are high, and the validity of many are doubtful. Despite all this, they have escaped any kind of regulation. It's time for that to change.

Discrimination in Higher Education: Users & Survivors in Academia Speak Out

Users & Survivors in Academia (USA) is a support, advocacy, and resource-sharing group for graduate students (both master’s and doctoral) with psychiatric disabilities or current/past experience in the behavioral health system. USA started primarily for us to reach our peers across the country and engage in mutual support and advocacy around issues we face in higher education settings. Over the past year, USA has grown to 30 members in states across the country, and has quickly evolved into a forum to organize individual and systems advocacy, and support one another in self-advocacy in our own academic institutions.

Rethinking the Validity of Schizophrenia on World Mental Health Day

An open letter launched on World Mental Health Day, supported by people with lived experience, friends, family members, workers and researchers, calls on Rethink Mental Illness, one of the major English mental health charities, to co-create a new conversation about the diagnosis “schizophrenia.”

Soldiers as Guinea Pigs: the Case of Mefloquine and Tafenoquine

Hundreds of Australian veterans have been diagnosed with serious neurological and psychiatric disorders, often mistaken for post-traumatic stress disorder, as a result of mefloquine, a neurotoxicant able to cause a “lasting or permanent” brain injury, and the experimental drug tafenoquine[.] Many maintain they were compelled to participate in trials of the drugs.

Neuroqueering Judaism: Reflections on Mad Passover

For our Haggadah, the reading material that guides the Seder activities, we included a list of the 10 modern plagues: psychiatric incarceration, forced drugging, electroshock therapy, restraint, seclusion, coercive behavior therapies, outpatient commitment, the pathology paradigm, sanism, and societal coercion to recover.

New Resources from the WHO’s QualityRights Initiative

The challenge to promote the rights of persons with psychosocial, intellectual and cognitive disabilities and to transform mental health services across the world is colossal. The QualityRights initiative seeks to provide actors everywhere with the tools that they need to become active agents for change.

America’s Sweetheart

Justina Pelletier, a fifteen-year-old girl from West Hartford, Connecticut, has captured the heart of the American public. Whether or not Justina Pelletier may survive her ordeal is yet to be determined. Thousands of people nationwide are praying. What is certain at this point, is that Justina is truly America's Sweetheart and she will never be forgotten.

Why Paul Steinberg Has It All Wrong (and Should Stop Seeing Patients)

(This commentary originally ran on Beyond Meds) In his New York Times op-ed entitled “Our Failed Approach to Schizophrenia“ Paul Steinberg, a psychiatrist in private practice, proposes we...

The Great Turning

When I first heard of the proposed “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013” (H.R. 3717)”, I felt relieved and thought “maybe somebody has finally got it!” However, as I read and processed the words I realized just how much Tim Murphy didn’t get it. Is this mental health system broke? Yes it is. Can it be fixed? Yes it can. But we must do it collectively and with the experience and voices of those with true lived experiences including their families and allies. I stand with millions of others who have shown through our resiliency that our movement is real, has saved lives and most of all we have people that can give voice to what really needs to be changed within the system. If only people will listen.

The Ghost of Research Future

Two facts about Robert Califf are beyond question. He is an expert on clinical trials, who is already seen as a leading architect of the future of medical research. And as the New York Times put it, he has “deeper ties to the pharmaceutical industry than any FDA commissioner in recent memory”. A lot of senior figures in medicine support Califf in spite of his ties to Pharma. The guy is just so bright, and understands the nuts and bolts of drug research so well! Surely a person like this is more useful than some outsider who offers only a squeaky-clean resume, they argue.

Dogs and Serotonin

Lilly’s SSRI fluoxetine (more widely known as Prozac) was approved for canine use by the FDA and repackaged as ‘Reconcile’ for separation anxiety. The pharmaceutical industry has clear motives in targeting the lucrative pet market, with sales of pet meds expected to grow to $10.2 billion by 2018.

Reviving the Myth of Mental Illness

What do we mean when we say someone has a mental illness? If we are to take the phrase literally, we mean that someone’s...

World Mental Health Day 2017: Challenging the Messages – A Call to Action

If we can have a presence and visibility, this could be life-changing for individuals with no current access to the bigger truths about psychiatric theory and practice. So let's infiltrate and disrupt the hashtags #WMHD2017 #worldmentalhealthday and share messages of hope, healing, validation and solidarity!

Flibanserin: The Female Viagra is a Failed Me-too Antidepressant

Since a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee, on June 4, recommended approval of flibanserin (AddyiTM) in June, there have been numerous editorials and news stories about the controversies surrounding the first “pink Viagra” to hit the market. We have sought to understand the process and financial incentives that led the advisory committee to recommend its approval, with Sprout Pharmaceuticals prepared to market it as a treatment for a new disorder in DSM 5: Female sexual interest/arousal disorder.

Don’t Harm Them Twice: When the Language Surrounding Benzodiazepines Adds Insult to Injury (Part...

Language is important. And when language dictates specific treatment protocols, it should be used with extreme scrutiny. Using the wrong words can put vulnerable people at risk—not only to their sense of self-worth, their sense of self-knowledge, and they way they are treated, but also to their health.

Why the Fuss Over the DSM-5, When Did the DSM Start to Matter, &...

Why all the fuss over DSM-5? Why did Robert Spitzer, the editor of DSM-III, begin to protest about the “secrecy” surrounding its production as early as 2007? Why did Allen Frances, editor of DSM-IV, begin in 2009 to challenge the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) announced goal that when making DSM-5 “everything is on the table”? Why did he dispute the APA’s position that there had been enough progress in neuroscience to call for a “paradigm shift”, and why did Frances and others go on to protest repeatedly what they viewed as DSM-5’s “medicalization of normality?”

Mental Illness & Violence

America’s answer to questions, demonstrations, and other countries is - increasingly - to don riot gear and show up with big guns no matter the issue. Today, April 3, 2014 the Murphy Bill will be debated by a House subcommittee. It appears to ask for dollars to help those diagnosed with mental illness, but it is Orwellian doublespeak for taking rights away, forcing treatment, and placing blame on the people who are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. Why not address violence as the cause of violence?

Final Lecture

On May 16, 2014, I retired from a 35-year career as a professor of clinical psychology at Miami University. As a part of my retirement celebration, I gave a Final Lecture to my Department. These Final Lectures give retiring faculty members the opportunity to talk about anything they think is important for their colleagues and the attending students to hear. I focused on the changes I have witnessed in the profession of clinical psychology over my career; changes that were not for the better.

Responding to Claims that the Benefits of Antipsychotics Outweigh the Risks

For my doctorate research, I talked with 144 people who take or have taken antipsychotics and a third reported overall positive experiences. Another third said quite the opposite, and I can hear them yelling at me to share their side of the story.