On November 16, 1989 in El Salvador, liberation psychologist Ignacio Martin-Baró was murdered by a Salvadoran government’s “counter-insurgency unit” created at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas. This year, 25 years after his assassination, peace and justice activists around the world will honor Martin-Baró. Embarrassingly, the vast majority of U.S. psychologists and psychiatrists know nothing about Martin-Baró and liberation psychology. Why would mainstream mental health institutions keep U.S. psychologists and psychiatrists and the general public ignorant of the life and work of Martin-Baró?
The recent publicity surrounding the Justina Pelletier case has focused attention, not only on the spurious and arbitrary nature of psychiatric diagnoses, but also on the legitimacy and appropriateness of mental health commitments. It is being widely asserted that these archaic statutes are fundamentally incompatible with current civil rights standards, and the question "should mental health commitments be abolished?" is being raised in a variety of contexts.
I was honored to present a lecture to the Department of Psychiatry of which Dr. Thomas Szasz was a member. The department has been hosting a celebration of his prolific career. I spoke of David Rosenhan's 1973 "experiment," in which he pretended to hear voices in order to gain admission to psychiatric hospitals. I argue that a 2000-year old stage comedy anticipates Rosenhan's experiment in virtually identical form, but it goes beyond the problems of diagnosis and approaches Szasz's view that mental illness is not a medical matter.
"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.
Professor Sir Simon Wessely is a British psychiatrist who works at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London. He is also the new President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and in that capacity, he recently wrote his first blog, titled, appropriately enough, My First Blog (May 24, 2014). The article is essentially a perusal of, and commentary on, the program for the RCP's Annual Congress, about which Sir Simon expresses considerable enthusiasm. He also engages in a little cheerleading: " . . . We [the RCP] are the most democratic of colleges. We welcome the views of patients and carers . . . " This statement struck me as odd
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.
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.
(dictionary.com) Cult, n. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or...
So here we go again; another meeting with another young person who describes how he is in an acute crisis - you may call it - and is diagnosed and prescribed neuroleptics. He is told by the doctor that he suffers from a life-long illness and he will from now on be dependent on his “medication.” As long as people are met this way I see no alternative than showing that there are alternatives. If that means being "antipsychiatry," then I am more than happy to define myself and our work in that way.
Since I spoke at NAMI’s national convention last month, the writer Pete Earley has invited people who listened to my talk to send him their reports of the event. Earley wrote a book titled Crazy, which was both about his son’s struggles with mental illness and the criminalization of the mentally ill, and in his book and other writings, he has told of his frustration with laws that prevented his son from being forcibly medicated. Yesterday, on his website, he published a letter from a mom who attended my talk with her adult son, and she told of how, after returning from the meeting, her son apparently abruptly stopped taking his medication and has now gone missing.
I am not comfortable with an all-or-nothing insanity defense that is both legally and socially stigmatizing because it sets the person apart as someone who is legally determined to be incapable of being treated as a moral agent. This stigma spills over onto all people who are psychiatrized, and it is part of the conception of madness that also ends up serving as a justification for civil commitment, since we are perceived (incorrectly) as outside the reach of ordinary law.
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...
Part two of a Mad In America investigation into the expansion of psychological screening and electronic surveillance of children and youth. Experts point to mounting evidence that scientifically dubious mental health screening programs are just one part of an international governance shift towards creating all-pervasive surveillance systems for diagnosing 'pre-crime' and managing 'at-risk' children and youth. And not only is this not helping kids, critics argue, it’s demonstrably harming them.
The controversy surrounding Justina Pelletier and her family has expanded its scope in recent months, and has now become a general public scrutiny of Massachusetts’s Department of Children and Families. I think there’s a very real risk of confusing some issues here. Every state in the US has a social services department, one of whose statutory responsibilities is to investigate reports of abuse and/or neglect. The system isn’t perfect. But this I do know: the spotlight has been taken off psychiatry. This is critical, because without the “diagnosis” of somatic symptom disorder and the subsequent allegation of medical child abuse, none of what’s happened to Justina and her parents could even have gotten off the ground.
I have had doubts about the current medication oriented approach to psychiatry for some time. I clearly see that medications can help some folks ease their burden and support a process of recovery. Sadly, far too often medications create problems and even limit recovery. Perhaps the greatest drawback of psychiatric medications is that we lose sight that we have to do more: more assessment, more treatment, more education, more encouragement. Medication currently forms the central and pivotal focus of psychiatric hospitalization in this country. This needs to change.
Again and again I am told the ‘severely mentally ill’ are impaired and incapable, not quite human. I am told the “high utilizers” and “frequent flyers” burden services because they are different than the rest of us. And when I finally do meet the people carrying that terrible, stigmatizing label of schizophrenia, what do I find? I find – a human being. A human who responds to the same listening and curiosity that I, or anyone, responds to. I find a human who is above all terrified, absolutely terrified, by some horrible trauma we may not see or understand.
Yoga helped me explore and reconnect with the body I’d abandoned and abused for years. My pain and sadness had me living exclusively in my mind, my body nothing more than a battleground for my inner wars. Through yoga and meditation, I slowly began to love myself again, learning to treat myself with care and respect. I felt a greater sense of self-awareness, and a sense of connection to something greater. This was a drastic contrast to the days when I felt as if god had forgotten about me, or like I was a mistake not meant for this world.
This week a commentary, written by members of the University of Pennsylvania Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy and titled “Improving Long-term Psychiatric Care: Bring Back the Asylum” was published in JAMA Online. The authors recommend a return to asylum care, albeit not as a replacement for but as an addition to improved community services and only for those who have “severe and treatment-resistant psychotic disorders, who are too unstable or unsafe for community based treatment.” The authors seem to accept the notion of transinstitutionalization (TI) which suggests that people who in another generation would have lived in state hospitals are now incarcerated in jails and prisons. While I do not agree, I do find there is a need for a safe place for people to stay while they work through their crisis.
Even the most level-headed individual can be rendered insufferable by taking an introductory psychology class. Suddenly the neophyte student will become an arrogant expert, deriding the ignorance of friends, family, and dinner companions. The use of the term “nervous breakdown” is a case in point. Uttering the words is a bit like blowing a dog whistle: Intro Psychology graduates will converge from miles around to clarify that there is no such thing . . . In this case, however, the phenomenon is not restricted to sophomores.
In order to explore the current political context of mental health services, as I will be doing in some upcoming blogs, it is necessary to establish what the modern mental health system actually consists of and what function it serves. It is only by tracing the historical development of mental health services, and analysing how and why the system arose, that we are able to fully comprehend its actual purpose.
Just so we are clear, on page 61 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the "creators" of the diagnosis for ADHD admit there is no test sensitive or specific enough to actually diagnose ADHD. Given that the Drug Company-funded "experts" in charge of writing the ADHD diagnosis for the APA admit there is no test capable of diagnosing ADHD, nor are there any biological markers or brain scans capable of serving as a diagnostic, how can they diagnose 6.5 million kids with ADHD?
Somewhere along the line we have lost the understanding that kids come in all shapes and sizes. Some kids are active, some are quiet; some kids are dreamers, others are daring; some kids are dramatic, others are observers; some impulsive, others reserved; some leaders, others followers; some athletic, others thinkers. Where did we ever get the notion that kids should all be one way?
So now we know Soderbergh’s movie Side Effects is not so Black/Noir after all – more Fifty Shades of Grey. Emily Hawkins (Rooney Mara) is put on Ablixa by her psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) and while on it kills her husband. She apparently murders him while sleep-walking triggered by Ablixa and sleep walking being a perfect defense against murder she is acquitted.
Science and Pseudoscience in Psychiatric Training: What Psychiatrists Don’t Learn and What Psychiatrists Should...
Evidence based care is supposed to drive up standards, ensure uniformity, establish best practice, guide clinicians and protect patients. This should be celebrated. Instead, evidence-based mental health is openly disparaged, and when psychiatrists don’t get the results they want, they ignore them, suppress them, or denounce them. These attitudes have repercussions on the training of psychiatrists.
Recent years have seen an influx of numerous studies providing an undeniable link between childhood/ chronic trauma and psychotic states. Although many researchers (i.e., Richard Bentall, Anthony Morrison, John Read) have been publishing and speaking at events around the world discussing the implications of this link, they are still largely ignored by mainstream practitioners, researchers, and even those with lived experience. While this may be partially due to an understandable (but not necessarily defensible) tendency to deny the existence of trauma, in general, there are also certainly many political, ideological, and financial reasons for this as well.