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Treating “bipolar disorder” throughout this essay as though it were real is alarming!
Great article, Peter Simons! And I LOVE so many of the comments here from sam plover, lcostanzo, and steve mccrea, among others!
Removed for moderation.
Readers of this essay might find my latest one of interest. It is just up today at https://www.madintheuk.com/2021/01/dont-believe-everything-you-read-words-matter-desperately/
Steve McCrea, Sam Plover, and lcostanzo, I am so glad that you like the idea of the brochure. I have a lot on my plate right now, but if I did set up a gofundme page to raise the few thousand dollars that would be needed to create the brochure, write the text, get artwork created, and pay for a website and domain name to “house” the brochure, can each of you please write to me through my paulajcaplan.net website, sending me your email addresses if I don’t have them, and I will let you know once the link is up. It would be great if you could help spread the word, because I cannot do it through MIA, so if you know anyone else who might chip in (donations will be tax deductible), please ask them, too, to contact me and send me their email addresses. I will post about it on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, too. It’s so good to feel so supported. And I really think this little project could have considerable impact, because people can do a lot if they have the right information.
It is wonderful that in Peter Simons’ article he writes about the wonderful Power Threat Meaning framework (though he mistakenly described it as a diagnostic system) created by Dr. Lucy Johnstone.
However, please note the following:
Re the reference to people who are now criticizing the DSM as “major figures in psychiatry, such as Allen Frances, the chair of the fourth edition Task Force and a key figure in the creation of modern psychiatric diagnoses, and Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from 2002 to 2015,” and later to “two of the biggest names in psychiatry, Thomas Insel and Allen Frances.”
(1)Insel uttered not a peep against the DSM until years into his tenure at NIMH, after overseeing the giving of grants for research based on DSM categories. Did Insel suddenly realize how bad it was at that late moment? Insel’s credibility must be challenged, given that when trashing the DSM, he proposed the hugely expensive (and ultimately fruitless, as Insel admits now that it is too late) RDoC, which was based on the biological/medicalized model of so-called “mental illness.” Where is the heroism in that?
(2) Relevant to the mentions of Allen Frances, while royally trashing DSM-5, Frances has consistently and falsely claimed that HIS DSM-IV was “scrupulously scientific.” A great many people have shown that nothing could be farther from the truth about the DSM-IV. Readers would be helped by knowing to take whatever Frances says with a grain of salt (or a ton of salt), given that he so blatantly misrepresents what he did with DSM-IV (as documented, often with quotations directly from Frances himself, in https://www.amazon.com/They-Youre-Crazy-Paula-Caplan/dp/0201488329/ref=sr_1_1?crid=KTW5B3UVU8WU&dchild=1&keywords=they+say+you%27re+crazy&qid=1609862207&sprefix=They+Say+You%27re+Crazy%2Caps%2C157&sr=8-1
(3) Also relevant is that Gary Greenberg, in his excellent, The Book of Woe, as in his article in Wired magazine, reported his conversation with Frances in which Frances acknowledged freely that psychiatric diagnosis “is bullshit.” In light of this, it makes no sense to consider Frances as a reliable authority in the light of Frances both claiming that his DSM was scientific and admitting that psychiatric diagnosis is bullshit. (4)Further of relevance is Frances’s key role in the biggest conflict of interest scandal in the history of the modern mental health system, which has actually been written about here in MIA https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/10/diagnosisgate-a-major-media-blackout-mystery/ as well as initially in https://uottawa.scholarsportal.info/ottawa/index.php/aporia/article/view/3486 This scandal resulted in the pseudoscientific and clearly false but vigorous marketing campaign Frances and two colleagues designed — and were paid nearly $1 million for by Jansen (of Johnson & Johnson) — to sell the exceedingly dangerous drug Risperdal. This omission is all the more disturbing, given the extensive inclusion in this article of Frances daring to attack the APA for ITS conflict of interest in selling the DSM-5. (Simons writes: “Frances also called out a massive financial conflict of interest—the DSM is the APA’s biggest money-maker since every professional in the mental health field must purchase the expensive, massive manual each time it is updated in order to stay abreast of the newest diagnoses and criteria changes.”) Yet Frances breathes not a word about such a conflict of interest during the many years he was heading the DSM-IV Task Force. It’s not believable that Frances somehow evaded his own conflict of interest when he was in that role. Does anyone believe that Frances suddenly, as soon as DSM-5 was in the works, was struck by the realization that there was such a conflict of interest and that he had been in that very position as head of DSM-IV? And given Frances’s scandalous conduct with the Risperdal conflict of interest, he certainly should not be assumed to speak from expertise and from the integrity that warrants paying attention when he calls out someone else’s conflict of interest.
People who would like to read my future essays may want to friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, where I will be announcing my publications, or on my Authors Guild website, which is paulajcaplan.net, since I no longer write for MadInAmerica.
Lcostanzo, your kind words mean the world to me — and I am sure also to Peter and Steve. This is what we hope will happen increasingly if we (this includes you) all keep trying to get the truth out. What is so tragic is that most people who turn to the System for help don’t even have enough of the facts to know what questions to ask or how/when to challenge what some professional says. I have long wanted to get a small grant to put together a brochure that would summarize some of the crucial info and have a list of questions to ask/things to consider when seeing a mental health professional AND some alternatives to seeing professionals…and then make it available at no cost online for people to download.
Thank you for the kind words, Sam Plover! And you are so right to say the diagnosis itself constitutes iatrogenic harm!
To l_e_cox, I want to say a couple of things. One is that the diagnosis is THE FOUNDATION STONE of everything bad in the mental health system. It is getting someone labeled “mentally ill” that makes it possible for the professionals to do almost anything to the person in the name of “treatment.” And although some of the professionals may be guilty of intent to harm, in a way what I find more disturbing is that the vast majority actually think they are helping…and are so invested in seeing themselves as helpful and caring that they are not open to seeing when the truth is that they are causing harm (so they think things like, “She just needs to be on a higher dose of meds” or “Maybe I gave her the wrong label, and she is not bipolar but is schizoaffective, and thus I should stop doing X and do Y instead).
Incidentally, for those who want to keep up with my essays in the future, I will not be writing for MadInAmerica, but I will announce and/or post my work at paulajcaplan.net and on my Facebook and Twitter and Instagram pages.
I cannot see where to reply to jonathanledlarsen’s last comment, so I will do it here. I was not saying that I had tried to find out where to file complaints about harm from psych drugs. That is totally different. I was saying that I had tried to find out from the ICD people where to file complaints about harm from PSYCH DIAGNOSIS! Everything bad in the mental health system starts with diagnosis, since the diagnoses have no scientific validity, and they so often cause vast harm. But neither the WHO (re ICD) nor the APA (re DSM) has the least concern about the damage that their diagnoses cause. They have made that very clear. I think it is crucial not to write as though the only harm that comes from psych diagnosis is what psych drugs do. If you go to psychdiagnosis.weebly.com, you can see a number of very brief videos that are about various kinds of harm that all started with psych diagnoses. They are devastating. Please help spread the word. In addition, this might possibly be of some interest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qIQqRl94_Y It is a lecture about this with some performance.
Jonathanledlarsen, Steve McCrea is right when he says (below) that the ICD people try very hard to coordinate with the DSM people, and the ICD psychiatry section differs very little from the DSM. However, when you say that the ICD is not commercial, well, I tried to find out what they do with their profits from sale of the ICD, and they would not even reply to the question. I also asked them what is the route for people to file claims when they have been harmed by use of the psych labels in the ICD, and they did not reply to that either. We do know that Allen Frances’s DSM-IV brought in more than $100 million in sales, and there is no evidence that they spent a single penny of that money to redress any of the harm done by the labels in their manual. In fact, they dismissed with no attention to the merits the nine ethics complaints we filed about that harm. Not surprising.
Glad you wrote this essay, Megan! A few notes:
(1)My first book was about the importance of women’s friendships with each other and what a misogynist society does to try to set us up against each other. It is https://www.amazon.com/Between-women-Lowering-Paula-Caplan/dp/0920510205/ref=as_li_ss_il?keywords=Between+women:+Lowering+the+barriers&qid=1554487600&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull&linkCode=li1&tag=whejohandja0d-20&linkId=15dcf99d1d073ab58bfe4dd940563396&language=en_US
(2)My most recent book is about military veterans and how isolated they often are from their wider communities. https://www.amazon.com/When-Johnny-Jane-Come-Marching/dp/150403676X/ref=as_li_ss_il?crid=1QTVHBGHEWJI&keywords=when+johnny+and+jane+come+marching+home&qid=1554480516&s=gateway&sprefix=When+johnny+and,aps,220&sr=8-1-fkmrnull&linkCode=li1&tag=whejohandja0d-20&linkId=1dbd7dedc192a717801d8a2ccc9ed082&language=en_US A major point of that book is that instead of sending vets to therapists who DIAGNOSE them as mentally ill with “PTSD” (which is, yes, in the DSM) and put them on drugs and say they will never get “well,” we should be telling them that the traumas of war, military rape, racism and homophobia in the military, etc., are upsetting, and that is a deeply human reaction, not a disorder, and I hosted a conference at Harvard in 2011 at which the more than two dozen NONPATHOLOGIZING, EFFECTIVE ways to help reduce their suffering were presented. Each of these is shown at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL51E99E866B9D735E in a video a few minutes long. They may seem too “easy” and ineffective because they are not part of the medical model of reducing suffering. But they work powerfully!
(3)It is helpful to have a brief list of guidelines that tell how to distinguish someone from “just being angry” to actually being emotionally/psychologically abusive. That list is in the preface of this version of another book, which is https://amzn.to/3apBeTR
Finally, I have been touched to receive many messages from readers of Mad In America saying kind things about my essays, so I want to mention that I will no longer be writing essays for MIA. People interested in keeping up with my essays can go to the home page of paulajcaplan.net, where I will post links to new essays I write, and to the blog page of that same site, where I will post many of my essays. I am invited to publish on two other wonderful sites, and if I do that, I will post that information at paulajcaplan.net also.
I was supposed to write a series of articles for MadInAmerica but will not now be doing that. I appreciate your interest in my essays. The closest I got to a series was the two-part essay about suicidal thoughts and behavior being pathologized and what to do instead, so both of those were published on MIA. If you are asking if one can sign up for my blog on my Authors Guild website at paulajcaplan.net, I actually don’t know the answer to that. It is so recently that the matter of publishing primarily on my own website (and I am exploring the possibility of publishing on a couple of other sites whose editors have kindly invited me) that I will need to check with the Authors Guild to see if there is a way for people to sign up to be notified when I post a new essay. Again, it is kind of you to care about this work. If you want to send me an email through my website, I will have your email address and can let you know what I find out.
Hello, Someone Else,
I have greatly appreciated your comments on essays I have written here and on other people’s essays. I don’t know who you are, but I wanted to invite you to contact me (anonymously if you wish) via my Authors Guild website, which is paulajcaplan.net I will no longer be writing essays for MadInAmerica but will from time to time be posting my essays on my own website (there is a Blog section) and have been invited to post them elsewhere. I would love to continue to learn from you.
This is such important work … and beautifully reported by Peter Simons. Thank you, Peter.
What a shame that even in the context of doing such important work, the authors (according to Peter) wrote that outcomes for people with “severe mental illness” have worsened over the last 50 years and that people with schizophrenia continue to die up to 25 years younger than do their peers.
So they are trying to make some important steps forward, yet even they erroneously use the terms “severe mental illness” and “schizophrenia” as though they were clearly defined, scientifically supported, and innocuous constructs. They most definitely are not! I continue to marvel at how so many otherwise progressive thinkers in this field either actively use such terms in ways that reify them, present them as though they were valid and as though they were not damaging terms that have destroyed people’s lives. Why do people think that is the case?
THANK YOU for writing this! Decades ago when I wrote the book, The Myth of Women’s Masochism, this was just the kind of reason I wrote it! And as you show, it is still all too relevant. It still sickens me when I hear an abuse victim described as having “brought it on herself, because she needs to suffer.” And if she says she hates the suffering and the fear, the traditional mental health professional (and too often, family and friends who are misguided) reply, “Well, if she doesn’t consciously enjoy it, then obviously UNCONSCIOUSLY she does, or it wouldn’t happen.” So the abuser is totally absolved of responsibility. If you haven’t read Dr. Lenore Walker’s classic book, The Battered Woman, do not miss it! And in my most recent edition of The Myth of Women’s Masochism, I have a section in the new preface about emotional/psychological/verbal abuse and how it is even more insidious than physical abuse because it doesn’t leave visible evidence and because it is too easily dismissed as “He was just kidding” and “You are way too sensitive,” so I include guidelines about how to recognize this kind of abuse.
Patrick, some important writing you’ve done in this article! Just a few comments:
(1)Biederman was massively helped in his diagnosing and drugging of children by Johnson & Johnson working with Allen Frances. See https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/10/diagnosisgate-a-major-media-blackout-mystery/
(2)You mention women taking hormone “replacement therapy” as though it were a healthy thing. You seem not to be aware that taking that kind of hormone has been extremely dangerous for huge numbers of women. I hope you can perhaps edit out that bit of your article so as not to mislead women.
(3)I wish you had addressed the fact that “ADHD” — see the brilliant work especially by Dr. David Cohen — is an utterly unscientific entity. So all these people who say they studied treatments for “ADHD” are talking about an entity that has no validity.
Sam Plover, you are so right!
Just want to mention these things: (1)I have heard from a huge number of people (including but not limited to military veterans) who have been “informed” by therapists: “You have PTSD. And you always will.” When people have — as someone suggested in a comment — given themselves that label, it is usually because (A)They are misinformed and believe it is a synonym for “I have been traumatized,” and no one has explained to them that they are calling themselves “mentally ill” and all the dangers that can follow from that….or (B)There are benefits or “services” (some of which are actually harmful to them, but they don’t know that until they try) that they want and deserve but cannot get unless they agree to accept a psychiatric label. For people in the latter group, I usually say, “I wish I could change the system so it wouldn’t be necessary to accept a label to get what you want. But at the very least, I want you to understand the huge array of risks of harm to which you may or will be exposed once you get just about any psychiatric label. However, I understand that you want the benefits or services that accepting the label will get you. So it’s your decision, but if you decide to accept a psychiatric label, just know deep in your heart that you are not ‘mentally ill,’ not ‘crazy.'”
I have gotten rather lost in the extremely lengthy comments about who makes laws, and I have no expertise about laws outside the U.S. But a major reason I have been pushing for Congressional Hearing about psych diagnosis for decades is that that would help expose why FEDERAL legislation for oversight is needed.
Please everyone go to this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qIQqRl94_Y&t=21s and sign and share the petition calling for Congressional hearings about psych diagnosis.
Then please everyone go to this link https://www.change.org/p/boycott-the-dsm-a-human-rights-issue/dashboard?source_location=user_profile_started and sign and share the petition calling for a boycott of the DSM.
To everyone! One thing you can do is go to http://www.psychdiagnosis.weebly.com and watch the videos there and read the various entries under Solutions.
Sam Plover, which of my videos did you send to your sons? I hope they are helpful. Have you seen this one? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qIQqRl94_Y&t=21s I love what you aid to your sons about your grandchildren! So important to make these efforts!
Lametamor, I hope you will make happen what you say should happen. I have been working on this in a rather exhausting variety of ways since the late 1980s and am working on other things IN ADDITION now and have MAJOR family responsibilities. So I can only do so much, and that includes responding to comments.
Lametamor, sorry if I don’t respond as often as you post here. But perhaps you missed what I posted about the various solutions suggested at psychdiagnosis.weebly.com and the request I made about the two petitions. Hope you will have a look.
To Someone Else, I thank you for your comment and totally agree that reducing the massive drugging of trauma survivors — and it doesn’t happen only at the VA but in many other places! — would reduce suicides.
Sam Plover, I am very touched by your kind words. Thank you.
CAN YOU HELP? I had long ago posted two petitions on change.org I cannot find the links and want to post them here. One is called Call for Congressional Hearings about Psychiatric Diagnosis. The other is Boycott the DSM or Boycott Psychiatric Diagnosis. If anyone can find these and figure out why I cannot find them, please let me know! And if you can post the links here, I hope everyone will sign and share them!
Thank you for the kind words, Rosalee Dr.
Lametamor, people are busy, and it can be very hard to follow and try to keep up with extremely lengthy and complicated comments. I do the best I can, given the commitments I have.
Lametamor, which issues are you asking about pushing in Congress? Do you mean my long-standing attempts (see psychdiagnosis.weebly.com) to get Congressional hearings about psych diagnosis or something else? I don’t know of anyone else trying to get such hearings.
Audrey, the VAST majority of people who hear you (as you CAREFULLY say) remark that you “were given diagnosis X” will hear it as “Audrey HAS X mental illness.” What I urge you to do is to say instead, “I was given Diagnosis X, which has absolutely NO scientific basis or validity, that is, it doesn’t actually exist, and then I want you to hear the details of the hell I went through, all of which was “justified” on the basis of that diagnosis. And let me tell you in ordinary and accurate words what was REALLY happening to me at that time.” It is a way for you not just to speak your truth but to make sure people hear it instead of horribly misconstruing it and thus not seeing YOU. It is also a way to make them stop and think when they hear other such labels. Warmly, Paula
Krista Hartmann, you are too kind! Thank you. I hope you are doing well, and I wish you all the best.
Lametamor, for suggestions about forms of activism about psych diagnosis, please see psychdiagnosis.weebly.com
Thank you so much, Magdalene! I agree it is great they are doing this!
The press release was sent to me in an email, so I suggest you write to the APA’s press office and request a copy. Would love to hear the results of your research when it is completed. So glad you are doing this!
Sadie and Lucy, my earlier article in MIA, “Is COVID-19 Making Everybody Crazy?” https://www.madinamerica.com/2020/07/covid-19-making-everybody-crazy/ (of course, the answer is “Upset, yes, but mentally ill, no”) is a good pair with this one. One of the points I made was that calling people’s upset “mental health problems” is WRONG and DANGEROUS precisely because it conveys to many people that “mental health problems=psych disorders.” Instead, we should use old-fashioned, accurate terms for these feelings, like “scared,” “angry,” “disoriented,” “hopeless,” “grieving,” etc.
https://www.madinamerica.com/2020/07/covid-19-making-everybody-crazy/ Guess you missed this.
CODA to my essay:
The American Psychiatric Association issued a press release on Wednesday, in which they crowed about the House of Representatives’ Veterans Committee removing from its Veteran Suicide Prevention legislation the permission for psychologists at the VA to prescribe psychiatric drugs. They tried to make this seem like a good move on the grounds that so many veterans kill themselves and need excellent mental health care, which, they believe, comes from psychiatrists but not from psychologists being able to prescribe drugs. Though I personally am in favor of having the smallest number of people in ANY discipline prescribe psychiatric drugs — including because so many such drugs increase suicide rates — it is important to note that psychiatrists have no evidence that their drug prescriptions are any more responsible than those of psychologists, nor that they do more careful follow-up of patients they put on drugs than would psychologists.
Nijinsky, what a nightmare was your encounter with those people! I wonder if contacting a warm line would have been more helpful — I am guessing it would!
Rebel, I am so sorry to hear what you went through. That never should have been done to you.
Someone Else, good for you for refusing to stigmatize people!
Here is a link to some of what the APA is spouting about Black people — and other people of color “needing” more “mental health care.” https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/cultural-competency/education/mental-health-facts
Sam, you are so right about the importance of these various forms of connection. They mean the world.
Beokay, your point is excellent. My heart goes out to you.
I appreciate your comment, Sam Plover! I, too, wish you had known then what you know now. That is why we need to keep working to spread the word!
Robert Nikkel, thank you so much for your kind words!
Boans, you can find the references you asked for in this article: Caplan, Paula J. (2005) Sex bias in psychiatric diagnosis and the courts. In Wendy Chan, Dorothy Chunn, & Robert Menzies (Eds.), Women, mental disorder, and the law. London: Cavendish, pp. 115-26. I don’t have the chapter in my computer, but your local library can no doubt order it via interlibrary loan if they don’t have the book itself.
Sam Ruck, I will reply to your email when I get enough time, I assure you.
Dear “Someone Else”:
You can contact me directly and send me your email address through paulajcaplan.net When I get some time, I am wanting to do a zoom call for people interested in this issue to see what kinds of action to take. Fiddling a bit with the DSM will do no good — the book must be thrown out, which begins with all of us making the truth about it known.
Also, you might be interested in the annual “Battered Mothers Custody” conference, which you can learn about at https://www.batteredmotherscustodyconference.org
Dear Mr. Ruck,
Your message is heartbreaking. Since I know nothing about you except what you wrote here, I was trying to think of what kinds of things people who said similar things were feeling was preventing them from having hope for a better life…or a better life, and two that come to mind right away are people who were in miserable or even abusive marriages but whose religion forbid divorce and people whose sexual orientation or gender identity led their religions to cast them out and call them sinners. Many of the latter found a film called “For the Bible Tells Me So” to be immensely helpful. There are people in most religious denominations who are helpful for people who want to get a divorce or who have sexual orientations or gender identities that are condemned by the religion’s leadership. It may be that religion is not what is preventing you from doing what would make your life better. If you are inclined to say more, please do, and I will see if I can think of anything that might be of use to you.
Peter Simons, I am a HUGE admirer of your work, and there is so much of great interest in this article. I would like to point out some things I wish had been included — any chance it could be added?. It goes like this: Nowhere in the article is it mentioned that, like all DSM diagnoses, “Autism” has no scientific validation, so it should simply never be used. Instead, people trying to help a child or adult who is struggling (or who has been identified as “a problem”) should carefully try to get to know as much as possible about the person, who considers the person problematic, does the person consider themselves to need help and if so, what kind of help, what HAS been helpful (if anything) and what HAS made things worse, etc. etc.
Another thing is about something you wrote, which was, “for every 100 toddlers who screen positive for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), only about 18 of them will go on to receive a diagnosis. The other 82 toddlers will be referred out for further assessment, told that they “may” have ASD, and potentially be exposed to drugs such as antipsychotics (often used for behavioral control in children with autism), all without even meeting the criteria for an ASD diagnosis.” That helps reify “Autism Spectrum Disorder,” which also is not a scientifically supported category. That quotation does, however, go a long way toward showing how pointless the whole endeavor is — that is, most of the toddlers who appear to have “Autism Spectrum Disorder” on the screening instrument never even get the ASD diagnosis, but the whole endeavor is also dangerous, because it greases the skids, getting huge numbers of kids into the traditional mental health system, where they may miraculously get a helpful therapist and not get put on harmful drugs but most likely will suffer great harm.
I just now read some of the later comments and find it frightening that people are saying Fauci is lying or just wants to control people! I hope you will look at the GOOD science that proves that wearing masks and social distancing really do reduce the spread. Have a look, PLEASE, at the areas where covid increased when masks and social distancing were NOT used and the areas where covid decreased when they were used. I don’t want people reading comments after my article to end up believing that covid is all a hoax and a plot! People are dying at a scary rate from this. We cannot render them and their loved ones invisible, please!
Audrey, I am happy for you that you found your way so well without the mental health system. However, I am saddened that you continue to use psychiatric terms like “Bipolar Disorder” and “Complex PTSD” instead of using this essay as a chance to teach others that psychiatric diagnoses have NO scientific basis and cause massive harm of a vast array of types. I guess someone told you that you “have” “Complex PTSD,” but what you really “have” is your own way of having reacted to and tried to cope with the trauma you experienced. You do not need to use such a damaging system’s language to refer to yourself. I urge you to use ordinary words that will help you stop pathologizing yourself and others who have been traumatized. I wish you well.
Peter, like so much of your work, this is an important article. I agree with Oldhead, though, that to report the 0.5% statistic is a good start, but then to continue on to say what the rest of a totally in-valid entity called “schizophrenia” consists of undercuts the quotation marks used around the term in the headline. It makes it seem suddenly as though “schizophrenia” were a real entity BUT that only a tiny bit of it is accounted for by genetics. In fact, NO PERCENT can be accounted for by anything, since it has no scientific basis supporting the claim that it is a real entity…I hope people will read Robert Whitaker’s book, Mad In America, and Jeffrey Poland’s chapter called “Bias and schizophrenia” in the book Bias in Psychiatric Diagnosis. These make it clear that the category itself is a godawful mess. And we know it does massive harm.
I am so sorry that you were given a psychiatric label instead of being responded to with understanding that you OF COURSE were suffering because of racist treatment and because of your not having a “typical” style of acting or coping. And I HOPE you will stop thinking of yourself as “mentally ill,” since the effects of trauma like racist treatment should NOT be considered mental illness, nor should being an introvert or otherwise different. In any case, even the American Psychiatric Association repeatedly acknowledges that it has never been able to come up with a halfway decent definition of “mental illness.” And it’s proven that the psychiatric categories are not scientific and cause enormous harm. The last thing you need is to accept other people’s pathologizing of you. I wish you all the best.
Peter, this is SUCH an important article and should make everyone stop and think before accepting claims to “prove” connections between emotions or thoughts and the brain! In our book, my co-author (an HONEST neuroscientist!) and I have a whole chapter about this! The book is short and very accessibly written, by the way. https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Critically-about-Research-Gender/dp/0205579884/ref=as_li_ss_il?crid=53MOHQIZFIJ&keywords=thinking+critically+about+research+on+sex+and+gender&qid=1554487275&s=gateway&sprefix=Thinking+Critically+about+Research,aps,115&sr=8-1-fkmrnull&linkCode=li1&tag=whejohandja0d-20&linkId=f7e069369609c5b0095adc0c20cf1c49&language=en_US
This is about a post way up the line. I wanted to respond to Steve McCrea’s comment that terms like “narcissistic” are different from “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” I TOTALLY agree! Nearly every head of every DSM Task Force and nearly every president of its publisher, the American Psychiatric Association, which is officially registered as a lobby group, has either said nothing publicly about the DSM or has proclaimed that psych diagnosis is scientific! Nothing could be further from the truth. Steve is right that terms like “narcissistic” have long been used by the novelists, the poets, and ordinary people to describe people who are totally self-absorbed, etc. But to use a term like “NPD” that comes from the DSM is to become complicit with the DSM authors and marketers and profiteers who benefit from the false claim that such labels represent scientifically validated entities…and from further false claims that, because they “are” scientific, therefore whatever “treatments” they recommend inevitably follow from the diagnostic label.
Thank you so much, Rosalee and madmother13!
I in fact wrote exactly about why it is wrong/bad to call Trump “mentally ill” and why the whole enterprise of psych diagnosis is unscientific and harmful in the article (which I guess Sera missed) I wrote about this for Huffington Post well over three years ago. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-truth-about-trump-and-psychiatric-diagnosis-the_b_58abb3b0e4b0417c4066c22b?guccounter=2
Diana, Michael Enright interviewed me when I lived in Canada (I am a Canadian and a U.S, citizen), and if you write to him, please let him know I would be happy to speak with him again if he wishes.
Anyone who believes Trump is not dangerous can start by reading about his history, which is available online in many reliable places. And of course there’s the Access Hollywood tape of him describing his sexual assaults, but I thought everyone already knew about that.
Berserk, I hope you will cease imputing things to me that I did not write and that are offensive.
I had stopped reading the comments to this post when it looked like they were slowing down, so I was surprised to check in just now and see how many more were posted. I haven’t yet read them all and am also surprised to see how many veer WAY away from the subject of my article but will try at least to read the relevant ones. However, I need to point out a libelous statement I noticed by someone who won’t use their real name but signs on as “Berserk.” That person alleged, among other offensive and totally uninformed comments, that I was paid to be a consultant on DSM-IV. That is completely untrue, and the idea that I did it for money is libelous. If “Berserk” or anyone else is genuinely interested in why I agreed to be a consultant and stayed for two years (I hoped to have a role in encouraging their Task Force to be honest about the relevant research and to take steps to prevent harm from psychiatric diagnosis, and I resigned when it became clear that both were hopeless), as well as learning about how the DSM process looks from the inside, it’s all described in https://www.amazon.com/They-Youre-Crazy-Paula-Caplan/dp/0201488329/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1AQJEHVRUMWX6&dchild=1&keywords=they+say+you%27re+crazy&qid=1592498360&sprefix=They+Say+You%27re%2Caps%2C127&sr=8-1
Will, thank you for this extremely important article!
I have been terrified by discussion by media people and politicians who think it’s a good solution to replace police with “mental health professionals,” given the oppressive and even violent ways that the latter have treated people who are suffering. And Will, I agree that NONPATHOLOGIZING, NONCOERCIVE approaches are needed, but how do you think, in a practical way, anything can be done to make sure that groups calling themselves “mental health advocates” and such but that are Big Pharma-funded and focus on labeling don’t increase their access to and power over those who are suffering? What steps can be taken to make sure that the compassionate groups and individuals are the ones who are called when someone is frightened and/or menacing?
Thank you for this important article, which I hope people will read with Dr. Lauren Tenney’s recent, devastating article about electroshock that was also published in MadInAmerica!
I do wish that EVERYONE would stop calling it ECT, as the late Leonard Roy Frank — himself a victim of electroshock — used to plead with people to do, because, as he pointed out, the “T” stands for “therapy,” which is dead wrong for something that wipes out people’s memories, as they did to him. Also, to say “ECT” means not coming right out and saying “electroshock.” Even the “C” in “ECT” is a bit of whitewashing, since it stands for “convulsive,” which sounds more clinical and less horrible than “shock” or “seizures.” We can all help educate people about what this involves, and one of the ways to do this is always to call it “electroshock.” Make people hear those words and know what it is.
Steve McCrea, I cannot see a way to REPLY to your comment, which was this:
Of course, that begs the question of how any person could be determined to “have a mental illness” when these “illnesses” are clearly subjective judgments about a person’s behavior or character, without any objective way to determine who does and doesn’t “have” these spurious “disorders.”
But I want to note that the term “beg the question” (which is a term of rhetoric) doesn’t mean “raises the question” (despite its mistaken use frequently) but actually means “avoids the point.” So I know what you mean is that this RAISES the question, and then I totally agree with your comment. 🙂
So many lawyers who work within the Protection and Advocacy domains are goodhearted people. However, I have gotten NOWHERE when I have said to individual lawyers and to the heads of major organizations who try to protect the rights of people who are diagnosed with mental illness that “EVERYTHING bad begins with psych diagnosis, so instead of saying that your client ‘with mental illness’ deserves to have rights, you could save vastly more people if you filed a lawsuit about the false advertising of psych labels as scientific and failure of the APA and its DSM honchos to warn of the huge array of kinds of harm that all start with the diagnosis.”
Right on, oldhead! Do I know you? I wish you and others would use your names, especially those of you who post such important things!
So glad you wrote this, Jim Gottstein, and so glad that Evan has you trying so hard to help him. Is there no legal clinic (Harvard Law, for instance) that will take his case?
One other point — you said that you feel lucky that mistreatment by the system did not end up making you “mentally ill,” but I don’t know what that means, since that term is meaningless and so misused by the very system we despise. I assume you mean that mistreatment by the system can intensify and multiply the manifestations of a person’s suffering, yes? 🙂
Very good list in this article, but I wish you had added that psychiatric diagnosis is utterly unscientific, rarely helpful (except for requirements for “services” the person might want and need), and appallingly harmful. https://www.amazon.com/They-Say-Youre-Crazy-Psychiatrists/dp/0201407582/ref=as_li_ss_il?keywords=They+Say+You%27re+Crazy&qid=1554486859&s=gateway&sr=8-1&linkCode=li1&tag=whejohandja0d-20&linkId=9114cba73496ff5f388235a3586c6299&language=en_US
Dr. Lauren Tenney, thank you for another extremely important initiative that shows your usual brave, brilliant, scrupulously documented approach!
I am so sorry about what you went through. You deserved to have people make you comfortable telling about your suffering a long, long time ago. It is tragic that that failed to happen. It is also tragic that people have given you psychiatric labels, and I hope you have not accepted them as either scientific (NO psych diagnostic label is scientific) or helpful or safe for you to have attached to your name. In fact, I know there are people who will read your brave article and be dismissive on the grounds that you “have” these various “disorders.” You don’t really “have” these made-up, unscientific entities. You have suffered in a number of ways and have coped in a number of ways, and finding out what is helpful in alleviating your suffering is what really matters. Diagnoses tend to get in the way of that. And they expose everyone who is diagnosed to a vast array of kinds of harm. Wishing you all the best. You might want to have a look at https://www.amazon.com/They-Say-Youre-Crazy-Psychiatrists/dp/0201407582/ref=as_li_ss_il?keywords=They+Say+You%27re+Crazy&qid=1554486859&s=gateway&sr=8-1&linkCode=li1&tag=whejohandja0d-20&linkId=9114cba73496ff5f388235a3586c6299&language=en_US which you might find of some help.
Thank you for this scrupulous study of the effects of neuroleptic or “antipsychotic” drugs on death rates. This is so important to have all this work carefully described and critiqued.
Happily, I note that you refer to people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder rather than to “schizophrenics” and “people with bipolar disorder.”
Since I know you and I and many others agree that there are all sorts of horrible and dangerous reasons that people are given psychiatric diagnoses, I want to reread your article, considering what other thoughts would have come to mind if instead of calling people “seriously mentally ill” some other kinds of terms had been used.
Dr. Hickey, thank you once again for your scrupulous, incisive, brilliant presentations of the important truths in this whole, horrid field!
Psychiatric diagnosis is the First Cause of EVERYTHING bad that ever happens in the mental health system. If they don’t diagnose you, they are not supposed to “treat” you, but once they give you any diagnosis, they can justify almost anything and be held blameless, on the grounds that it is “treatment.” More about that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qIQqRl94_Y&t=24s
Magdalene, since it appears that you are an attorney and are asking why the law and legal systems have failed to scrutinize and curb the damage caused by the DSM, please contact me at paulajcaplan.net, because as a psychologist who has done a great deal of work in the legal system, I have been working and writing extensively on that very thing for decades. I assume you are not in the U.S. (you use the spelling “scrutinise”), and wherever you are located, I hope to hear from you.
Miranda, this is a terrific article! I would like to add a few things.
(1)Even saying lots of people are experiencing “anxiety” and “depression” (whether psychiatrically labeled or not) can impede the path to feeling better. This is because both words are so vague and give little guidance toward how to cope. If anyone tells me they feel either of those, I ask what words they would use if they were NOT going to use those. The answers are far more helpful. What’s called “anxiety” is usually “fear,” and calling it that helps the person identify the fear’s source and set about figuring out how realistic the fear is and how to protect oneself. What’s called “depression” is used in a staggering array of ways, as David Cohen’s and David Jacob’s classic article about tests of “anti-depressants” shows, and it helps if one can recognize that they are feeling loneliness and isolation or helplessness or hopelessness or nostalgia or fearfulness.
(2)I urge EVERYONE to put quotation marks around every term ever used to pathologizes people. It’s a very important form of educating others and reminding ourselves that they have no scientific basis and therefore are usually useless and often VERY harmful.
(3)Since suicidal thoughts were mentioned, I want to say that I addressed this in my MIA webinar last week (which people can sign up to watch, including Bob Whitaker’s brilliant opening webinar and the ones that will follow), and good heavens, what could be more natural than thinking about suicide when death feels close to us (in our death-phobic and death-denying society) than in a long time?
(4)Miranda included this from some media coverage:“difficulty sleeping, changes in eating patterns, rapid changes in mood, inability to carry out required or necessary tasks, [and] self-medication using alcohol.” These were being used to signal “mental illness.” So somebody tell me, do we really want to believe that in the face of this pandemic and all the unknowns about it and the fact that death is its ultimate outcome, we should have NO new difficulties in eating, sleeping, emotions, carrying out tasks, and trying to find ways to help us calm down? So what IS the “normal” way we should all be coping?
Finally, I don’t think the word “grief” was mentioned here, but grief is something so many of us are feeling — grief that we cannot hug loved ones or help them in person, grief that we cannot go to the grocery store for potato chips even WITH a mask and gloves and not feel tense and watchful, grief about so much that is unavailable to us now, and perhaps grief that we are not handling this with as much serenity and resourcefulness as we would have hoped.
Great essay! You are way ahead of your time! Since most people STILL don’t recognize that psych diagnosis is the first cause of everything bad in the mental health system https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qIQqRl94_Y&t=24s I wonder how many people will grasp the great importance of what you are saying…but I hope many will!
Anthony Murray, I know that good lawyers for this kind of situation are few and far between. I urge you to read Jim Gottstein’s new, brilliant book, The Zyprexa Papers, because one thing he does is to lay out exactly how he tried to prevent a client from being forcibly drugged. And a lot of this applies also to being committed against one’s will. It might be helpful to you in trying to work with a lawyer who might do better by seeing what Jim Gottstein did. He is a great role model! Good luck to you.
I second that, l_e_cox!!!!
Thank you for the kind words, Sam Plover! And the points you make are right on the mark!
Hi, Kindred Spirit,
I agree with you. In the article I wrote here, I didn’t spend much time on the kinds of things you are describing, because I have written so extensively about that elsewhere so many times, and this article was intended specifically to be a critique of a couple of pieces of research that function to cover up exactly the kinds of things you mention. So at one point I listed some of the real causes of veterans’ trauma, and I think you missed my mention of moral anguish in the above article (as just one of many causes of their trauma), but that is the term that came to me when I was writing my book https://www.amazon.com/When-Johnny-Jane-Come-Marching/dp/150403676X/ref=as_li_ss_il?crid=1QTVHBGHEWJI&keywords=when+johnny+and+jane+come+marching+home&qid=1554480516&s=gateway&sprefix=When+johnny+and,aps,220&sr=8-1-fkmrnull&linkCode=li1&tag=whejohandja0d-20&linkId=1dbd7dedc192a717801d8a2ccc9ed082&language=en_US about veterans, before I had heard Jonathan Shay’s term “moral injury.” I like that he highlights the importance of the kinds of things you describe in your comment, but I continue to use my term “moral anguish,” because anguish is a less neat-and-clean term than injury, and anguish is what veterans themselves told me about.
I am glad you mentioned Veterans for Peace. I am a longtime Associate member of Veterans for Peace and winner of a Friend to Veterans Award from them, at least in part because I have for more than a decade been calling out the entities and individuals who keep trying to conceal the real causes of servicemembers’ and veterans’ trauma, including being in a war and being sexually assaulted in the military.
Thank you for writing.
Hello, Someone Else,
If you will listen to the podcast again and look at the website at listentoaveteran.org you will see that we do NOT have veterans as listeners. Please note that the project is called Listen to a Veteran! We have nonveterans who are not therapists listen to veterans.
As for having listeners for people who were abused as children or adults, I hope you will set up listening sessions for them. My approach as described on the above website is easily used for listening to anyone who is suffering. I don’t arrange for listening sessions for anyone other than veterans or servicemembers or their loved ones, because I have no staff, no assistance of any kind, and no funding. But I encourage you to do as you suggest.
And yes, I certainly agree that all sorts of nonpathologizing approaches are the right things to use for people who are suffering in any way. The more than two dozen examples of such approaches can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL51E99E866B9D735E from a conference I organized that is for veterans, but the approaches are useful for everyone. And I beg people, as noted in the podcast, to stop using terms like “art THERAPY” and “music THERAPY” and just call them art and music, etc.
Thank you for your comment.
1Wayfarer, you are so right!
Hello, Someone Else,
Thank you for the kind words. The link should be listentoaveteran.org I will ask that it be corrected in the above. Thank you for catching that.
So glad to see the topic of this article. Dr. Phyllis Chesler indeed deserves massive praise and respect, and her book — which is not mentioned in Lucas’s article — WOMEN AND MADNESS — is THE pioneering classic of feminist critique of the mental health system and remains all too true today. So do her MANY other courageous books (do google her and see the vast array of important subjects).
And Chesler was one of the dynamic founders of the Association for Women in Psychology, which was an intensely activist organization whose activist roots are currently being revived — see awpsych.org and especially the information about its Activism Caucus.
The recently deceased Dr. Bonnie Burstow has also been a tireless and inventive critic of the traditional mental health system and deserves mention.
This is a brilliant and courageous article! I so admire how bravely you are putting yourself out there and how skillfully you have pulled together so much relevant information! I will be amazed if you even hear back from Wilkie. He has ignored the letter I sent to him, even though I met him, he gave me his card, and he said to write to him.
Amy Smith, thank you so much for pointing out this other cause of eating problems and so courageously doing it by telling your nightmare of a story!
Thanks, too, for pointing out that Jo’s name as co-author of this essay disappears when you go to print it! She MUST get credit!
So glad to see this article. It’s something that’s been close to my heart for more than a decade. In my book,When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans, which was published in 2011 and won three top national awards for nonfiction. https://www.amazon.com/When-Johnny-Jane-Come-Marching/dp/150403676X/ref=as_li_ss_il?crid=1QTVHBGHEWJI&keywords=when+johnny+and+jane+come+marching+home&qid=1554480516&s=gateway&sprefix=When+johnny+and,aps,220&sr=8-1-fkmrnull&linkCode=li1&tag=whejohandja0d-20&linkId=1dbd7dedc192a717801d8a2ccc9ed082&language=en_US
there is an entire chapter about “What the VA Is Doing and Why It’s Not Enough,” and Chapter 6 (much different in the revised version and more up-to-date) is all about the importance of JUST LISTENING to veterans and how anyone can do it. Readers might also want to check out listentoaveteran.org, especially the very brief video at the top of the page, where I describe what the listening sessions are, why/how I conceived of them, and a bit about outcomes. We have a lot of data on outcomes in addition to that. It would be great if the VA were to bring Listen to a Veteran! which is extremely simple and nonpathologizing and helpful to the VA. And it costs nothing. But so far, no VA people have been willing to bring this to their facility.
Our film about this, “Is Anybody Listening?” isanybodylisteningmovie.org was screened on Capitol Hill in D.C. and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, had 140 showings on PBS stations across the U.S., had many endorsements from highly respected veterans’ entities and veterans, and has won numerous awards.
Veterans interested in having a nonveteran (NOT a therapist, just a person!) listener or in learning more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via listentoaveteran.org
Totally agree with you, Sam Plover!
Irit Shimrat, I appreciate your kind words!
How kind of you, Jim! It was a joy to read Jim Gottstein’s book and to write about it. I hope you will read it. It is remarkable and so powerful. And please do help spread the word! Thank you.