On Spiritual Emergence and Other Extraordinary Experiences

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In a nutshell, I switched coasts and moved from Philadelphia to attend CIIS in San Francisco, because I couldn’t tell my story. In Philly I was known for my role as Storytelling Training Trainer, in which I facilitated a workshop to help people share their stories of mental health and substance abuse recovery. But I never felt I could tell my own real story, because the culture there wouldn’t allow it. The culture allowed me to be a person diagnosed with bipolar with psychotic episodes, who was living a meaningful life, but it did not allow me to be a person who is undergoing a very profound developmental process where my psyche was perceiving and processing my universe in ways that were shifting my paradigm of the potential of what reality can be, which for me, is a very spiritual process, and my true story.

A Tribute to Bonnie Nelson

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Activist Bonnie Nelson was a force of nature. She and I definitely had our differences. So why am I writing to commemorate her? Among many other reasons, because she would have done the same for me. Bonnie Nelson was a person of principle, and once she decided what was right, the rubber hit the road.

Seclusion & Restraint in Ohio

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The use of seclusion and restraint in mental health care in Ohio is legitimately subject to the assessment, criticisms and recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
World Mental Health Day

Seven Points to Ponder for World Mental Health Day

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Why do I inwardly cringe at the approach of things like “Mental Illness Awareness Week” and “World Mental Health Day”? Because I’m mentally preparing myself for the onslaught of societally-approved messages about human suffering, messages ranging from the ill-informed to the downright dangerous.

Response To Sandy Hook Report

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I do not claim to know how to heal the wounds from the tragedy that occurred in Newtown on December 14th, 2012. Nor do I claim to know how to prevent future tragedies of this sort. The intent of this post is to oppose ineffective and inhumane practices, prompted by reactions to the events in Newtown and other communities, that are falsely thought to be effective.

Thoughts on Psychiatric Incarceration When Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

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We are, more and more, as individuals with “mental health diagnoses,” living in a reality of senselessness, absurdity and and arbitrary outcomes. While I often believe that our movement simply calls itself a movement, but does not really move at all, it is in fact possible today to say that we are part of a post-Justina movement. The attention to her case highlights both the senselessness and the absurdity, but perhaps not the arbitrary nature of how the system functions for those it impacts.

How Canada’s Prisons Killed Ashley Smith: A National Crime and Shame

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Ashley Smith was a very troubled and rebellious teenager. By the time she was 13, she was getting into trouble in school. On one occasion, Ashley was charged with the crime - actually a childish prank - of “throwing crabapples at a postal worker.” Ashley was convicted and sentenced to detention in New Brunswick Youth Centre. Prison psychologists and psychiatrists labeled her defiant behavior a “mental health issue”; a thinly disguised term for “mental illness.” There is no record of any detention or prison staff or health professional trying to understand Ashley’s resistance to authority as youth rebellion.

Launch of the Council for Evidence-Based Psychiatry

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When I started working in the NHS in Britain I pretty much accepted the mainstream view – that psychiatric drugs work, that the categories of mental disorder have been established via solid scientific research, and that we are now on the cusp of understanding the biology of mental illness. I was wrong.

Legislator’s Rush to Implement Increased Mental Health Services Based on No Data from Shooting...

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The rush to institute increased mental health services in Connecticut, initiated in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, is troubling for a number of reasons. The most obvious problem with the rush to legislate costly mental health services, based on the horrific events at Newtown, is that there is no publicly available data to support the need for increased services. In fact, anyone reviewing the limited number of records available would agree that Adam Lanza was not a child who fell through the cracks of mental health services. On the contrary, it appears that Lanza received the best mental health treatment money could buy. The question that one cannot help but ask is, if Lanza received the best mental health could offer, did that mental health "treatment" contribute to Lanza's violent behavior? Let me explain.

After Seroquel

The topic of this article is Seroquel withdrawal: the process of withdrawal and the consequences of having taken this particular chemical for over ten...

Researching the Link Between SSRIs and Violence

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In 2010, my 25-year old son was prescribed Prozac for depression. After a psychiatrist doubled his dose, my son became acutely psychotic and had to be admitted to the hospital. Over the next twelve months, during which time he was treated with antidepressants and neuroleptics, my son had five further psychotic experiences. I thought it might be that my son was having difficulty metabolising the drugs.

Managing Spiritual Emergency: In Spiritist Psychiatric Hospitals and Community Centers In Brazil

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One of the most unusual ways of looking at mental health crises is that they are all “spiritual emergencies.” After volunteering within the Spiritual Emergency Network for 7 years, and dedicating much of my lifework as a therapist to facilitating a safe spiritual emergence process, I also spent six months of each year, from 2001-2012, in Brazil researching Spiritism and participating in the work of Spiritist community centers. I like the way the Spiritists step back from the focus on symptoms of mental disease as issues to be stopped; and prefer to first perceive upsets as steps on the path of evolution which require that the person be nurtured. It’s a change in perspective that has radical consequences for mental healthcare practices.

A CALL TO ACTION: The Murphy Bill Passed the E&C Committee but the Fight Is...

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As you read this, people with lived experience all around the country are mobilizing to educate our federal legislators about why the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) should be defeated. Education is the key. As executive director of the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, I am issuing a call to action. We need to ramp up our efforts before this backward piece of legislation becomes law. We need to get in touch with our legislators and their staffs, contact the media, make some noise! We need to exercise the proverbial strength in numbers. And we need all of this now!

An Open Letter to the Colorado House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee RE: HB1386

I ask you to vote against HB1386. I write with a moral obligation to inform you of research findings which were recently defended through the PhD Program in Environmental Psychology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Throughout this research process, I repeatedly gave examples of people who participated who were silenced and retaliated against for expressing their expert perspectives about the public psychiatric service delivery system. Of grave concern is that this silencing extended to people who were reporting abuse of people who were involved with the public psychiatric service delivery system.

Who Is Isaiah Rider???

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Our children are not safe. Not because of terrorists, but because it is becoming dangerous to advocate for their medical care without fear of losing them. A new charge, "Medical Child Abuse,” is now used by hospitals to remove inconvenient parents from the role of advocating for their children.

The Real Benzo Hysteria

On June 12th, Psychology Today published an article entitled, "Benzo Hysteria: the Chilling Effects of the 'Addictive' label," by Ed Shorter, PhD. A dangerous and unfounded claim was made in its final paragraph, which reads as follows: "The benzos are among the safest and most effective drug classes in the history of psychopharmacology." Benzodiazepines are in fact highly addictive and many people suffer for years from protracted withdrawal syndromes that are disabling.

NAMI and Robert Whitaker

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Fireworks and heated debate were expected by many when Robert Whitaker recently addressed a group at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) annual convention in San Antonio, Texas. So why was Whitaker invited to the national NAMI convention and how did it turn out?

Adam Maier-Clayton: Assisted Suicide and Mental Illness

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If we describe “death with dignity” as a benefit, a good thing, a release and relief and a mercy for people with chronic unbearable and unmanageable pain, why do we also describe exclusions from assisted suicide for people with mental illness as a protection rather than discrimination?

Open Letter Re: This Morning‘s Feature on Depression

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Recently, This Morning featured a story on depression, in which Dr. Chris Steele advised participants that their depression was due to a 'chemical imbalance' (despite obvious environmental explanations) and that antidepressants - possibly for life - were the solution. However both the 'chemical imbalance' notion and the medical solutions it implies, for which there has never been any evidence, are outdated and now known to be harmful. Our letter asks Dr. Steele to refrain from using information that cannot be scientifically substantiated, as doing so has serious implications for the health and well-being of the viewing audience - which may be in violation of broadcasting legislation.

Current Research on Outpatient Commitment Laws (“Laura’s Law” in California)‎

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Outpatient commitment laws, passed by a number of states, permit forced commitment to ‎treatment of those whom a psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental ‎health official deems in need of treatment. The majority of this “treatment,” while not ‎specifically written in the law, results in coercive tactics to pressure agreement to take ‎pharmaceutical preparations of limited-to-no effectiveness but - as shown in early research - with ‎massive effects on cognitive functions and subsequent decision-making ability, not to ‎mention a long-term or lifelong diminished quality of life and ability to function as a productive ‎member of society.

Some Thoughts About Conferences

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Without judging the motivation of people presenting and speaking at conferences, I’d like to ask the question: can we achieve more with these conferences than generating knowledge and touching people's hearts? Are we preparing the ground for change or are we marking time?

What if the Folly is in Us, Too?

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Faced with behavior different from our own or from our expectations, all of us feel that urge to “do something”—an act that is one of the beginnings of prejudice, a malignant virus that all of us have trouble shaking free of. We doctors, especially, want to do something: It’s what we’ve been trained to do.

The Power of Words: What the Wall Street Journal Didn’t Tell You

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Two weeks ago there was an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that basically eviscerated the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) while at the same time calling for support of HR 3717 – The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. HR 3717 has elements that we agree with as well as elements we don’t. In addition, there are elements that are just plain confusing to us. In this post I want to address three of the most popular sound bites (two of which found their way into the WSJ editorial) that continue to come up again and again.

“Open Access” for the Activist Community

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As many MiA readers are aware, a substantial percentage of mental health-related research reports — hundreds of thousands of articles, including many of direct relevance to community-based activists, advocates and clinicians — are currently held behind paywalls. While there are now a growing number of initiatives intended to promote (free) “open access,” many important publications remain inaccessible. Many activists and scholars believe open access is a significant social justice issue. We have put together a shareable Dropbox folder with thematically grouped research articles, measures and evaluation resources.

“Prisons Without Bars” – Forced Institutionalization of People with Disabilities

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In the wake of deinstitutionalization, we no longer have the vast asylum system we once did. Instead, something more insidious has taken root — for-profit institutions that call themselves neurorehabilitation centers, group homes, and other official-sounding names.