Sunday, July 12, 2020

Comments by kindredspirit

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  • Actually, anyone can have fears and emotional upset. What matters is that they don’t get expressed to people who will cause you harm or take away your freedom in order to assuage THEIR fears – it’s fine to fear for your professional license, for example, and to lock someone up in order to protect yourself. So, to be clear, only those of us not in positions of power need to be careful who we express ourselves to. This is why mutual aid will always be a better method of support than going to see any professional anywhere.

  • This right here, Rachel! I spent so many years beating myself up and lamenting why I couldn’t ever seem to *get better* from an “illness” that seemed beyond my control. Now when I’m feeling down, I can *always* ascribe it to circumstantial issues. Even the ones beyond my control (people are assholes) are easier to deal with because I can identify them. Simply knowing it’s not an internal flaw helps me shrug it off when life is stressful.

    I do think those of us who have spent so much effort and energy getting to this state of mind are having an easier time coping with COVID stress than those who don’t have our histories of struggle with the system.

  • I can’t disagree more with this perspective. A person can be physically ill and exhibit symptoms of mental distress but that does NOT make the condition a mental illness. Syphilis, Lyme Disease, and a host of other medically curable pathogens that can exhibit emotional manifestations are never going to be cured with improved living conditions, they are merely physical illnesses with mental effects. Likewise, altered mental states due to horrid living conditions are NOT a physical illness that can be cured with medicine. That these states get conflated is the real issue.

    Mental illness is a misnomer that hurts both physically ill people as well as the masses of emotionally distressed people whom are reacting to culturally created violent oppression.

  • Thank you for the kind words, madmother. I sure had a run of intense anger there for a while. I’ve mellowed in tandem with significantly improved physical health so I suppose I’ve had less spleen to vent. 🙂 Working on making the world a better place has been a more private affair, for now at least. I am still here reading regularly and appreciate catching your perspective on these issues.

  • I find this comment suggesting better training to “handle” “unruly” people with “moderate” physical force to be very disturbing in this milieu.

    There are many alternatives to force and coercion in care for distressed people which have been discussed ad nauseum in both articles and comments here. The most obvious alternative is prevention of these distressed states to begin with. Once you’re talking about any need for force, you’ve long since demonstrated you don’t understand the basic issues at the heart of the systemic oppression that leads to extreme states.

    Very disappointed this wasn’t moderated or at least better expressed.

  • What an incredible testimony about your experience. Thank you so much for sharing this. I especially appreciated your gentle description of other patients whose behavior was problematic, as well as your understandable resistance to medication which was used to further label you. I hope that when I do finally tell my story openly that I can be as eloquent as you have been here.

  • And when folks ask the question of what alternatives do we have to psychiatry, I’m going to point them to this answer, Susan. The alternative is, of course, to reinstate the social contract – we start by providing for the basic needs of every member of society. Poverty, homelessness, preventable illness, educational inequities – these are crimes perpetrated by the financial elites with the privileged wannabes acting as accomplices in their scramble to the top of the pile. Yes, the so-called “middle class” is complicit. The class system itself is what must be abolished. Police, prison, psychiatry, these are all just tools of the oppressor. But the oppressor is not just the Bezos and Gates and Kochs of the world. The oppressor is the comfortable middle class folks working from home in their safe neighborhoods having their groceries delivered and never having to think too hard about those who don’t have that privilege. They gave at the office, contributed to the food drive, put a twenty in the offering plate at church. We have to stop letting those folks off the hook for not fighting harder for the increasing number fighting for scraps at the bottom. With an ever shrinking middle class, I think more folks are starting to realize this. But it isn’t enough to criticize the super rich. They got to that position by the same tokenism to the poor that the comfortable have always given.

  • “Where the insurance for psychiatry never runs out.”

    This is precisely my fear under a Medicare for All scenario. Getting off Medicare was one of the best parts of marrying into a modicum of money and becoming ineligible for my SSI payments, which was 90% of my disability. Went off disability, finally got off Medicare. I have good private insurance but it’s still insurance. I go to the doctor only if I truly need it.

    I’d love for everyone to have the medical care they need but I fear for the day that we all have access to unlimited amounts of psychiatric “care”. It won’t come from psychiatrists for most people. There aren’t enough of them. It will come from primary doctors who will drug you into a stupor for being crazy enough to complain about your physical illnesses.

    O.O., your story could easily have been my journey with Lyme Disease, with ever worsening health to the point that I ended up with pericarditis before the various doctors finally believed there was something legitimately physically wrong.

  • Wow. I usually have a pretty knee-jerk response to most MHP, but I recognize the incredible humility in your story – your transformation from authoritarian treatment provider to student of human distress. Well done.

    I suspect you may get piled on for your promotion of alternatives to psychiatry, but I am in agreement with your assessment that alternatives are necessary. I’m only not convinced that more study on alternative *treatments* is what is needed. I believe what is truly needed – besides major systemic changes in our economic and justice systems – is the empathy you have expressed in this article. I consider that, truly caring about the welfare of others, the first step to creating the kind of environment where healing and growth flourish.

    I hope that you will also come to realize that more research on treatments are futile and join the activist community pushing for an end to the inhumane oppressions so many of us face. My own pursuit has been in creating intentional community, beginning with very intentional relationships. On it’s own it has nothing to do with psychiatry, but I’m working on a ground up approach that I hope will inspire others.

    Welcome to MIA, I hope you will write more.

  • “ (1) White people’s ‘mental health’–as judged by the psychiatric paradigm–is poorer than black people’s in general. In 2014, Whites’ suicide rate was three times that of Blacks and white Americans are twice as likely to take psychiatric drugs as other races.”

    +1 While I don’t treat white or Black ppl as a monolith, I do think there is far more cohesiveness and community among Black ppl due to shared historical struggle. That struggle has been so severe that my impression is that many Black ppl don’t have time or space to fall apart. Indeed, this seems to be the basis for comments like white fragility and white women’s tears. It also seems to me that the oppression leveled at the Black community has conversely been a glue of sorts that fuels the struggle. In terms of community, white ppl seem far more atomized on the whole with the nuclear family structure and bootstrap mentality and increasingly the loss of social structures like church that still seems stronger among the Black community on the whole.

    I always love hearing your thoughts on these issues. You pull no punches. Keep it up.

  • I do believe this is the most radical article I’ve ever read on this website and I heartily approve. It comes very close to my own stance that we need to completely abolish the Carceral State including police, prisons, and psychiatry. Very well written, Will! Thank you!

    I used to joke that my donations were going to pay for Moderator Steve. Please feel free to earmark my contributions for more pieces like this!

  • This response reads like Patriarchy 101 and reaffirms my decision to stay as far away from the medical system (principally, doctors) as possible in order to best maintain my physical health and emotional wellbeing.

    Most of us get off meds without a doctor’s oversight for exactly these reasons.

    Psychiatric drugs are not medications. They do not treat any known conditions or disease state. They are sedatives. They make oppression easier to “cope” with. But they don’t help anyone to fight back and change systems of oppression.

  • I experienced five juvenile psychiatric hospitals and the best one hands down was the state hospital in Maryland that had a volleyball team and tournaments. We weren’t just exercising, we were cooperating, building team spirit and having a great time. We also had an ice cream parlor on campus that you could earn trips out to. Seems a lot more humane than what passes for treatment now. That was almost 30 years ago and I was one of the last patients on that unit as we were all transferred or released so it could be converted to a geriatric only campus.

  • Well, I have to point out that cannabis isn’t a single standardized product like a Pepsi or a prescription drug. I’m an unapologetic pothead, but I won’t go near most of what’s available in dispensaries. The higher THC products are especially dangerous for inducing paranoia and severe depression and I don’t understand why this isn’t better understood. Most of what you can get isn’t anything like our parent’s hippie pot. Cannabis with specific properties especially useful for sleep, pain and PTS symptoms but only at very low doses, high CBD (10% and up is great), very low THC (less than 5%).

    This isn’t in response to the original poster. Don’t want to do drugs, that’s your business. But I bristle when cannabis is described as if it’s a standardized product rather than many different plants with a range of effects depending on it’s chemical constituents.

  • Thanks. It’s always a balancing act. I think individual people who happened to be called to the field of therapy *can* do amazing work in helping others heal. But not when the task is approached by addressing “symptoms” with “treatments” – especially not the manualized versions. Even psychodynamic therapy approaches distress in the wrong ways.

    I wish there were greater progress toward humanizing distress and normalizing trauma-related behaviors and emotions so as to propel the effected to change the system rather than their response to it.

  • There are no manualized therapies that can overcome the constant existential threat the majority of us live under. It’s insulting to people’s intelligence that we keep getting these therapies repackaged as some sort of treatment when the cure is to dismantle the abusive power systems that keep folks oppressed and anxious.

    Let’s start with calling out campaigns that increase anxiety, such as those encouraging people to “say something when they see something”.

    Threat, and the fear response it provokes, is literally baked into the system.

  • “I am trying to track down the study that allegedly shows people avoid care for fear of involuntary commitment. I think it is one of those mental health propagated myths that has no basis in fact,”

    They won’t see us. Survival demands remaining invisible. A philosophical argument could be made that psychiatric survivors don’t truly exist in any meaningful way.

    Thank you, Sera. I appreciated the effort. You made some good points.

  • Therapy has been used to reinforce internalizing reactions to trauma and oppresion by promoting coping skills in leui of concrete personal and political action to change oppressive systems. Mutual aid between equals removes the disempowering professional/client dynamic so that folks can focus their energy on effective action to create change.

    Therapy is less than useless in this context.

  • I don’t want any more therapy. I want justice. I just don’t know how that could ever be achieved. No one can give me back the years of motherhood lost or the stigma from all directions from being a mental patient or the lost income from being shuffled onto the disability system. The mental health system piles additional harm onto already harmed individuals.

    This can’t be repaired by changing how we feel about it or being heard and validated. How do we get justice? That’s all I care about now.

  • I understand your son’s pain. Death would be a relief for me as well but the risk of forced psychiatry is too great, and that is this societies punishment for seeking to exit.

    Your eulogy to your son is beautiful and refreshing after the last several people I’ve known whose children have taken their own lives have said it was a relief they were gone. I know people grieve in their own ways but I can’t help but think my family would be very relieved by my final exit.

    Thank you for sharing this story and speaking out about the pain psychiatry inflicted on your son and how this kind of “treatment” is what is ultimately taking lives.

  • “As you know, Lieberman has slimed Bob as “a menace to society” for his excellent work on the dangers of the psychotropic drugs.”

    The saying “the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend” springs to mind. Leiberman’s tactics with Bob Whitaker do not invalidate his enforcement of the Goldwater Rule or validate Bandy Lee’s assertions about Trump. We can even agree that Leiberman is a bully without validating Bandy Lee.

    I don’t think anything about this piece proved anything whatsoever about the DSM framework. I wouldn’t even say that was within the scope of the subject of your article. If it was, I think it was misplaced. The two subjects aren’t related and disproving the validity of the DSM is and should be done on a scientific basis and not subject to popularity contests about who supports it or doesn’t.

    “it shows how he and his allies in the APA can get the NYT both to buy into his pseudoscience and his harassment of colleagues and to celebrate him as some kind of paragon of both integrity and wisdom”

    You know, I may be having an old folks moment here, and I think I have demonstrated a rather good grasp of the English language and reading comprehension, but I did NOT read this in what you wrote. This is conjecture, pure and simple. You can’t just say NYT won’t promote Bandy Lee’s smears against Trump and Leiberman is a bully, therefore NYT are celebrating Leiberman as a paragon of integrity and wisdom.

    I suspect most guilds have professional rules of conduct and ethics. I would be just as upset if a neurologist diagnosed Joe Biden with dementia without personally examining him (even though we can hopefully ALL see it). There may be no precedent for this in the field of neurology, but there may become one if neurologists start taking to Fox News morning talk shows to influence the 2020 campaign. See, this works both ways.

    There are a lot of reasons to dislike and actively work against Jeffrey Leiberman and Psychiatry as a whole – of course we agree it is a pseudoscience, and a deeply harmful societal institution. However, I believe you chose the wrong cause to champion with this piece. The scope of the article was not narrow enough and is largely emotion rather than logic or reason based.

    I think one thing this article demonstrated very well is how extraordinarily difficult it is to remain objective and unbiased when the stakes are so high. I think most of us here in the comments can agree Trump is a slow moving train wreck and Leiberman (and many of his predecessors like Allen Francis, Thomas Insel, etc) have done extraordinary damage to society with the defamatory DSM. It makes arguing in their favor all the more difficult. But it’s incumbent upon reputable journalists such as yourself and Bob Whitaker to “stick to the facts, ma’am” – a phrase so many of us current and former patients have had drilled into our skulls by the psy-professions.

    I’ll exit with a quote from Ivanka Trump. “Perception is more important than reality. If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true.” With Psychiatry, Leiberman AND Bandy Lee, this is really what we’re up against.

  • You keep referring to the book when we are discussing their lack of ability to promote their book in The Times. The book was a bestseller on pre-order before it was even published. It has not been banned. Folks who are inclined to read it will, I’m sure. So I think to continue to refer to the book as if it were the main topic of this discussion is, again, disingenuous.

    What is being objected to is the use of a national news platform to promote their basic premise that Trump is dangerous – and using their positions as psychiatrists and self-described mental health ‘experts’ to do so. It is the appeal to their authority that they have been stopped from promoting, and rightly so.

    As for whether individuals have or are lacking personal agency, I would simply like to refer you to the massive increase in calls to poison control lines, and the number of deaths that have occurred from Trump’s suggestion that doctors try injecting disinfectants in patients to “see what happens”. The term ‘low information voter’ exists for a reason. 80% of news readers read the headline only. Those of us here having a robust debate about this are not the majority of the electorate.

    I don’t even read NYT – we can agree that it’s a corrupt institution. Most folks my age and under get their news from alternative sources already as we are aware of the wide scale corruption of the mainstream news media. Trump’s cries of “fake news” wouldn’t be nearly as effective if there weren’t a large degree of truth behind it. Trump exploits the systemic issues that were already there. He didn’t create them. Focusing on him as some clear and present danger is a large part of why we haven’t and seemingly can’t make any progress on the underlying and massive systemic oppression taking America down. The world was still burning under No Drama Obama. So, no, I’m not going to be sidetracked by fearmongering about Trump.

  • Fois gras, gestation crates, debeaking.

    Cows are stunned with a bolt between their eyes before being hung and having their throats cut. Thankfully, you don’t have to think about how your food was raised and killed, you can just buy ground beef at the grocery store in a convenient package for dinner.

    Humans possess a remarkable amount of cognitive dissonance. That we behave in these ways toward other humans as a matter of routine course is nothing new. If human (and civil) rights were obvious to everyone, we’d all have them.

  • I find this comment disingenuous. The American public are swayed by the news they absorb. They are swayed by the advertisements they see. If these avenues did not have an effect onthe vote, politicians (and companies) wouldn’t spend so much time trying to get press and publicity.

    Companies like Nielsen exist for the sole purpose of measuring what consumers have been exposed to, with algorithms developed to correlate consumer spending or other habits with such exposure. A great deal of effort is spent – billions and billions of dollars and much labor, in the attempt to predict and capitalize upon influencing consumer behavior, including their votes.

    To suggest that Bandy Lee, et al were not attempting to capitalize upon their credentials to influence the electorate is at best deliberately obtuse and at worst wholly ignorant. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if her book had been titled “27 Plumbers and Sanitation Experts Assess the President”.

    The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Asses the President is a book of slander intended to spread fear among the electorate because fear is a very powerful way of causing people to act – it’s the manipulators main weapon. It’s shameful and the basest form of political theatre. The authors should be facing inquiries from their state licensing boards, not whining that they’ve been prevented from writing in The Times. Maybe Barnes and Noble will have them for a book reading…

  • Sounds like how many young boys try out the scientific method…

    GWB was at least smart enough to not stick fireworks up his own bum. But for a good time, there are videos on Youtube as well as a What Could Go Wrong? subReddit for the folks that were not smart enough to blow up frogs. Some did indeed blow up their own derrière.

  • I certainly appreciate the efforts of activist psychiatrists fighting the system from within. Whistleblowers should largely be revered. What those doctors are doing – exposing corruption from within – is wholly different from what these psychiatrists are doing, which is using their professional status to influence the electorate.

    However, I still have no respect for any of their (Breggin’s, Moncrief’s) opinions about Donald Trump that are based on their professional expertise. I weigh all information presented based on its merits, not on the professional credentials of the presenters. I am, always have been and always will be an antiauthoritarian. I’m not sure why so many people let their own brains drip out of their ears and bow to the “knowledge” of experts. All I can say is that people give and receive bad advise and ignorant opinions all the time and one must be able to think for oneself – it’s quite possibly the most crucial skill a person can ever develop. You start by asking yourself “What do I believe?” And then you relentlessly pursue the answer to that question to your dying breath.

  • I do think we largely agree on many points. We’ll have to agree to disagree on the subject of COVID-19.

    For the record, I’m NOT a Democrat, nor a “progressive”. I’m a Libertarian Socialist (Left Libertarian on the Political Compass –, and an anarchist ( My views are generally in line with Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Emma Goldman, and Chris Hedges.

  • With all due respect, Bob, I think you erroneously conflate public debate with a group of professionals attempting to use their professional position to influence the electorate.

    The public debate has raged on in social media platforms and living rooms and debate halls and college classrooms ever since Trump threw his hat in the ring for President. The public has not been silenced. What is being silenced, rightly in my opinion, is a group of professionals with a political agenda who’ve been told they can’t use their professional positions to influence politics. I agree with this wholeheartedly. I am sorry that it seems that I support the tactics of Lieberman, et al. But in this case, I believe that it is the right thing to suppress a group of individuals from being given a national platform to promote an opinion of Trump’s fitness for office, or lack thereof, using again, their professional positions to create an air of legitimacy regarding those personal opinions.

    As has been noted in the article, Lee has not been silenced in using Twitter to promote her personal opinion of the president. But the news media, as the unfortunately woefully uneducated public believes, is supposed to disseminate unbiased facts to educate the public. Unfortunately, there is already WAY too much in the way of opinion pieces treated as factual news.

    As I said privately to a friend, you don’t side with one set of tyrants over another and call it justice. Bandy Lee has not been suppressed from disseminating her personal opinion. She has now published two books on the topic and has a large Twitter following. The public debate rages on. Her professional opinion is irrelevant and the Times is correct to not give her a platform to promote what amounts to libelous opinion about Trump’s mental fitness. How about instead of demanding she be given equal time, we instead simply criticize the Times for publishing Leiberman’s opinion that Trump is a jerk? This is also not news.

  • I also feel obliged to point out the elephant in the room and that is that any reasoned discussion of ethics – which is the domain of philosophy, not psychiatry – would immediately dismiss the appeal to expertise (authority) on the grounds that it is a logical fallacy. The arguments need to be made on the basis of their merit and not because a set of “experts” told you so.

  • A personal opinion is different from giving someone a national platform based on their professional expertise. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. We aren’t all entitled to a national news platform amplifying that opinion. Psychiatry remains a pseudoscience and amplifying the voices of some psychiatrists because it fits in with a particular agenda is still wrong.

  • Let me clarify my position. The DNC, in collusion with the large media outlets like NYT and WaPo, promoted the “pied piper” candidate in 2016 in order to attempt to guarantee Clinton’s win in the general election. Their attempts to promote Trump as the Republican candidate the Democratic nominee would face was based on the belief that there was no way Trump could win. They also tipped the scales in favor of Clinton during the primary and admitted in the DNC lawsuit (which was brought in Federal Court in Florida) that they felt no obligation to elect the candidate with the most votes in the primary, thus perpetuating the harms of the electoral college and superdelegates.

    Unfortunately, due to the nature of the US Election system with it’s combination of decades of gerrymandering and it’s electoral college, we ended up in a situation where the two most unpopular presidential candidates in history faced off against each other and despite Clinton having 3 million more votes, Trump won the election. This is an indictment of the dysfunction in the US electoral system, and not a suggestion that either candidate was fit for office.

    As for COVID-19, I think the evidence is fairly robust that we are dealing with a unique situation that is wholly unlike the seasonal flu. I think Dr Fauci has done a remarkable job of promoting the known risks and that social distancing and shutdown measures have indeed worked to flatten the curve. My criticism is of Congress doing nothing to protect the American people from the devastating effects of poverty in the face of a severe economic collapse. We already knew that the majority of Americans could not afford a $400 emergency. Now there are millions out of work, tens of thousands facing eviction, looming food shortages, and seemingly no political will to do more than prop up corporations – the exact failed response of the 2008 bailouts. These failures are across the political spectrum and occurring in CONGRESS. Our president is not a king, nor a dictator, by any reasonable definition. We must hold CONGRESS to account for this inaction.

  • Hey Bob, this isn’t the first time we’ve disagreed about Trump. May not be the last. And we’re probably never going to get beyond an agreement to disagree.

    I think Steve made a very good point in that there is no objective measure (beyond the crimes already discussed) to prove one way or the other, this supposed dangerousness of Trump.

    I do indeed believe that psychiatrists should NOT be allowed to weigh in on anything when they’re using their supposed psychiatric expertise, which many of us commenters have for years rightly called a pseudoscience. The ethics of psychiatry itself are fundamentally flawed. The rigors of the “science” are a joke. This article and indeed, Bandy Lee, have offered little more than conjecture and supposition about why they were silenced. The Goldwater Rule is there for a reason and it’s protection of public figures aside, it also protects the rest of us from armchair psychiatry. Suggesting that it should be altered or stricken is for convenience to remove Trump at the peril of the rest of us.

    We could have a robust debate over the actual dangerous acts by beloved presidents that have severely damaged the United States and its citizenry. We could discuss the enormous social and environmental toll of Bush’s wars. We could discuss Biden’s career-long racist agenda that culminated with the 1994 Crime Bill. Let’s talk about the trauma of the millions of black children whose fathers have been incarcerated over small amounts of drugs or three strikes rules. Let’s talk about the last form of legalized slavery, which keeps the private prison industrial complex so profitable. Let’s talk about the children and families plunged into abject poverty by Clinton’s Welfare Reform. Let’s talk about Wall Street running away with greater and greater shares of the American economy while millions are lined up in bread lines right now. Let’s talk about how people are desperate to reopen the economy because there is no political will to institute a more socialized (and humane) distribution of the American Pie. Let’s talk about the ritualistic dumbing down of the American Public School System. Let’s talk about our faux meritocracy and constant competition between the classes perpetuated by nearly ALL across the political spectrum.

    Frankly, if Trump’s followers are stupid enough to drink/inject bleach after his idiotic press conference, can we but hope they will win a Darwin Award and take themselves out before reproducing?

    I am an unapologetic antipsychiatry activist. I do not recognize the expertise this group of psychiatrists present nor do I care if they get a professional platform on the New York Times – a rag so in bed with the CIA and American Government, and that so strongly suppresses the voices of the actual Left in this country that they shouldn’t be given the time of day. This would be the same NYT that published Judith Miller’s false accounts of Weapons of Mass Destruction that convinced the American public to support the Iraq War – a national crime that every president since has continued and that no one has yet been held accountable for.

  • The Goldwater Rule is not the problem. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to criticize Donald Trump on his supposed dangerousness. Donald Trump has committed crimes in office that would get an ordinary man arrested. His crimes include incitement to violence at his rallies and against journalists, encouraging citizens to break public quarantine orders they disagree with, repeatedly lying during presidential addresses, repeatedly violating the emoluments clause, and many more actionable offenses.

    Donald Trump is narcissistic but he is not crazy and this is not a version of “dangerousness” that should ever become precedent in removing someone from office. Try him for the crimes he’s committed.

    Remember once upon a time when Mad In America published articles criticizing the biases and inconsistencies in violence prediction? Remember when Mad In America rejected the narrative myth of the violent mental patient? Now we’re supposed to embrace two violence prediction “experts” because it fits the narrative against a man we don’t like?

    This is low, MIA. Donald Trump is a criminal. Demand that your leaders follow the law and try him for his crimes. Please don’t support the setting of bad precedent for convenience.

    And please remember that our choices in the 2020 election now boil down to President Pussygrabber and Former Vice President Just a Little Rapey. I believe Tara Reade. I voted for Bernie Sanders. I will never vote for Trump or Biden. The DNC did this.

  • I found this article to be one of the clearest written to date about why we should all be wearing masks – to protect others. Maybe you will find it helpful in understanding this issue as well.

    Of course, your underwear does not stop a fart, it does however offer some protection to your outerwear from a shart. Likewise, with masks and COVID-19, we’re not talking about stopping microtized vapors but rather liquid droplets. Hopefully, you can see the association between these a little more clearly now.

  • I’m compelled to comment because both the article and the comments are misleading. The idea that the body (and hence the brain) needs adequate nutrition to function aught to be patently obvious to all. The criticisms of processed food are absolutely legitimate. Those who can afford the time and money to shop the perimeter of their grocery stores are privileged, full stop.

    The problem is not that people don’t know how to eat properly but that processed foods are largely made from heavily subsidized cheap cereals, grains and sugars. Large swaths of Americans can neither afford the money nor time it takes to prepare nutritious meals at home. The American Academy of Dietician’s All Foods Fit approach is utter horse shit meant to make people feel better about their lack of choices when it comes to nutrition. It follows the same nonsensical line of thinking as the “Healthy at every size” movement, which is similarly about making people feel better about unhealthy body size, and the lengthy list of diseases and drugs required to treat them, that go along with obesity.

    It’s a bit of a cruel joke that the current epidemic is hitting exactly the populations that can least afford to change their lifestyle factors that would massively increase their overall health – including their mental functioning. Obesity appears to be the greatest risk factor to those under 50.

    We need to stop reassuring people that their poor diets are sufficient, stop telling them they’re going to be fine with just sufficient calories, and get them fired up and angry at how US Government politicians and agencies, and the revolving door of corporate influence heading these agencies, have royally screwed them, from cheap crop subsidies to dairy/meat industry subsidies to SNAP benefits to food pyramids. We absolutely DO know how to help folks improve their health, we DO know it begins with nutrition and that nutrition effects every cellular process in the body, and we know what happens when cells aren’t adequately nourished. We’ve got very robust, long-term data from the China Study, The Cornish Study, The Nurse’s Study, etc, that show over and over again that processed foods are bad (in particular ultra-processed foods) and that a whole foods plant based diet with minimal animal products and a great deal of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds vastly improves health.

    This is very much a political issue and neither harping on people about what they SHOULD be eating, not reassuring those who can’t that they’ll be just fine anyway is the way to fix these problems. Like most issues with American life, these are systemic issues that will take POLITICAL ACTION to fix.

    Beyond all of that, the water, energy and oil it takes to create all the processed crap Americans eat is directly contributing to climate change. The American lifestyle is not just killing us, it’s killing the planet. It’s time we have a political discussion that doesn’t aim to make anyone feel better emotionally, but instead aims to repair the harms we’re doing to ourselves and to our home. There is no Planet B and the body you have is the only one you’re going to get. It’s time to truly care for both and address the underlying factors destroying both.

  • I completely agree that this is very prevalent on social media. I called it ‘positivity bullying’ and it’s one reason I don’t operate in those spaces.

    However, when someone is describing in detail how desperate their situation really is, you offer them concrete help – the kind of help you wish someone might have offered you once upon a time – and they refuse because it doesn’t come in the exact form they envision, you have to wonder if homelessness and starvation are better options for them? In that case, I choose to remove myself from the drama go round because that is all I can control and remaining engaged in that dynamic causes me harm.

    I DO think there is some use to telling people to try to let go of the things they can’t control. But I can’t imagine saying that in the context of job loss, hunger and homelessness. I think this is best saved for interpersonal dynamics. Context matters.

  • I decided to revisit this after having a gander through my genome. I have only one SNP associated with the development of PTSD, and at that only one allele, conferring but a “mildly increased risk of PTSD”. This confirms to me that one’s actual environment plays a much greater role in one’s mental responses than one’s genome does.

    While I find genetics and epigenetics in particular fascinating, it sure seem like we’re barking up the wrong tree by trying to identify vulnerable genes rather than trying to identify and eliminate traumatic circumstances.

  • I agree with this, Madmom. This scenario is a perfect illustration for why a UBI is necessary. I still believe that it should be means tested and that upper income bracket folks should NOT receive it. But it just boggles my mind that the right wingers are determined to reopen the country because saving the “economy” is more important than saving lives. A true UBI at this time would eliminate these issues.

    We need not just a UBI but for housing to be a human right and Medical care, not insurance, for all. Our current economic system is immoral – sustained on the backs of the poor, the incarcerated and other marginalized and oppressed groups for the benefit of the rich. It pits the classes against each other as the poor are clawing for scraps and the middle class is desperately trying to maintain what little wealth it has managed to accumulate, but slowly slipping further down. It’s sustained on brutal competition and judgements of who is worthy and who isn’t.

  • “But the lessons need to go a good deal further. There is a danger of “individualising” a crisis as well as a person’s reactions to it, even though all the evidence suggests that COVID-19 is not just a random disaster. It has been predicted for years, based on the known impact of destruction of animal habitats, which increases the likelihood of viruses being transmitted to humans. This environmental destruction is, in turn, a consequence of the exploitation of the natural world driven by the demands of industrialisation. Truly, the planet is fighting back. One day, unless we take drastic collective action to change the whole economic and value base of our Western industrialised way of life, there will be a virus we cannot beat.”

    Thank you. It’s important to keep making the connections between human behavior and natural disasters, and to keep pointing out why so many of us recognize this as the existential threat it is.

  • What utter horseshit. Yes, people want to do meaningful work which is why SO MANY are disillusioned with their pointless jobs. And it turns out the jobs that really do matter pay shit and we look down on those people.

    Of course there’s going to be a mental health fallout from mass unemployment because we all basically know there’s nothing and no one left to catch you. That lack of a safety net started with Clinton’s “welfare reform” and it continues through now to these constant messages about this nebulous concept called “work” which we have defined in this country to really mean hustling for scraps for anyone who finds themselves at the lower eschelons of society.

    My daughter is very happy to be home taking care of her baby instead of continuing to slave away at Waffle House for a pittance. What she’s not happy about is the whole underclass of people like her who have been virtually forgotten in all the complaining about how terrible it is for the middle class to be stuck at home working remotely in secure jobs that will provide unemployment benefits if they are lost. Fuck the maids and waitresses and janitors and Uber drivers and long term temp workers in factories and undocumented planting and picking the fields. Some of us are worried about the cost of basic necessities going up. Others are worried about starving and evictions.

    When we talk about mental health disparities and effects of unemployment, let’s be clear that some people have EVERYTHING to lose. Shame on and how dare those with privileged positions talk about how what’s really wrong is that people actually want to be doing these shitty jobs for shitty pay and stigma of being considered “uneducated”.

    What this crisis SHOULD be teaching us is the incredible service that SERVICE WORKERS contribute to society and how deeply shameful it should be that they often live in abject poverty with very little security. And then when life becomes too much, we call them mental ill. It makes me sick to my stomach. SHAME ON THIS CULTURE!!!!

    How wonderful it would be if our grocery workers and delivery workers and Amazon warehouse workers were to walk out en masse until they received their rightful share of the damn pie….

  • Miranda, I question the premise of some of the genetic studies to start with. Just because someone’s genes may predispose them to certain kinds of responses to harm doesn’t say anything about the validity of the harm being perpetrated against them. Gene studies, therefore, do more to further pathologize the victims of trauma than they do to explain or help them. In other words, I don’t want to be better adjusted to a profoundly harmful culture, thank you very much! 🙂

  • Thank you, Dr Caplan, for your thoughtful and measured reply. I did miss your reference to moral anguish. I suppose I do think the metaphor of a moral injury is useful. The effects on service members (and the greater population) are far more than anguish could possibly describe. But that’s just my opinion.

    I will add your book on this subject to the reading list. I am not familiar with your work outside of ‘They Say You’re Crazy’, but I am glad to know you are aware of the bigger issues at stake here.

    Of course, sexual assault in the military is a direct effect of the hierarchical power structures the military is based upon. And I think most of us know that rape is about power and not sex. It’s unfortunately quite logical that when all power is removed from a person that many will seek to regain some semblance of control, and that those desperate efforts manifest in often deeply harmful ways. I’m sure we can agree that women are not the only victims of sexual assault in the military and that male on male rape is all too common under the conditions our troops are subject to.

    What I don’t understand is why the masses remain so willfully blinkered. I thought #MeToo was going to bring a social reckoning with these issues out in the spotlight. But, we have, collectively, seemed to respond with “meh” while continuing to argue our political sides as if we can vote our way out of this mess. Where are the protests? Where are the yellow vests? Why are Americans so passive? And now we’re all distracted and trying not to die from a pandemic we were warned was coming. When will we mobilize and rise up against this? Though our collective distress has been pathologized, these aren’t at heart psychiatric issues.

    Please tell me what you think. I’m listening.

  • No, war in the US has nothing to do with keeping citizens safe. We are a propagandized nation. The US goes to war to protect it’s economic interests. We destroy countries when they threaten to stop trading in the petro dollar, which is the only thing giving our currency value since it is no longer based on the gold standard. The US Government is the world’s largest terrorist/mafia organization, and we have a well coordinated media propaganda operation constantly telling the citizenry what to think. It’s not about one nutjob starting a crusade. It is a very finely tuned and massive machine operating to maintain dominance over the rest of the world at a VERY high cost to ALL, at home and abroad.

    I read a line in WaPo the other day about how the pictures of empty shelves in stores would remind you of what you imagine communist Cuba or Venezuela might look like. THIS IS PROPAGANDA. Cuba just sent medical aid to Italy. Cubans are not lacking toilet paper, unlike most Americans. Venezuela has been the target of a US backed coup for years now. Please read about the recent court success of the embassy protectors.

    War is not about protecting anyone. US wars are about maintaining US dominance over the rest of the world. And it comes at an incredible cost to Americans, who are constantly messaged about US exceptionalism and drowning in patriotism. We are told constantly about what a prosperous country we are and yet most of us are struggling. You know who isn’t struggling? The CEOs of the major defense industrial contractors. Half of whom are women! So now we can measure gender equity in how many women participate in the dominance game. This is sickening.

    Soldiers are cannon fodder. The whole purpose of boot camp is to destroy the individual and create a cohesive killing machine out of the unit. Worker bees, soldier ants who will take orders and obey without questioning. Of course they return totally fucked in the head!!

    And if anyone gave two shits about service members, they’d be marching in the streets to protest the terrible economic conditions so many of them and their families live in. Why are so many of them on food stamps? Why are they so poor? Why do most Americans bury their heads in the sand and refuse to take off their blinders?

    Psychiatry is similarly not about nutjobs. Neither the psychiatrists nor the patients are crazy. It’s about power and control. It’s about maintaining the status quo and suppressing anyone who rebels or rejects or crumbles under the oppressive actions of the powerful. Victims of abuse and trauma are thus marginalized because otherwise the harmful conditions that so many of us live under and are subject to would have to be examined in the light.

  • As usual, MIA’s coverage of veterans issues deftly avoids mentioning the largest trauma facing veterans and that is their disillusionment with the US war machine. Service members become traumatized by the knowledge that a large number of civilians are killed in war, that our wars are driven by many factors unrelated to actually protecting the homeland, and that their comrades are dying FOR NO GOOD REASON. When soldiers wake up to the realities of war, of course they are overwhelmed with conflicting feelings. And of course the VA and US Military are heavily invested in keeping the war machine and all its propaganda going. We have massive industries in the US whose profits depend on the US being in a constant state of war. You can’t expect bright eyed 17 and 18 year old recruits to know all this but they return from the front line knowing in many cases that they are essentially mercenaries for the US elite.

    Veterans for Peace has support groups and activism available for those who are ready to face what they’ve done and fight back against the policies that keep sending our young men and women to kill foreign citizens. The VA is going to continue to pathologize anyone who experiences emotional harm from their military service because they have an image to uphold and that image is of the brave selfless service member fighting an “enemy”. They don’t want you to see that the real enemy are the leaders who keep sending our youth to die and be traumatized by what amount to war crimes.

    It’s time to end the wars and bring our soldiers home!! Right now, we should be thanking doctors and nurses for their service, not soldiers.

  • Thank you, Dr Maisel. I’ve been contemplating the futility of it all a lot lately and this was definitely what I needed to read. In particular, I like the suggestion of actively making meaning rather than seeking it out as if it’s something one might accidentally trip upon. I also like the suggestion to daily ask oneself what are the important things. When I ask that several things and people instantly come to mind. Thanks for the reminder.

    I have bookmarked this page for future reference and will visit your website.

  • I think what I fail to understand about this issue is: if the reason “mentally ill” folks are on the streets is because there was never sufficient funding for community resources, why isn’t there a push to FUND THAT? Why would the leaders just throw up their hands and say well, we didn’t fund the community resources disabled folks need so let’s just lock em up again? It’s not even remotely cost effective to warehouse people for decades upon decades. Supported housing, supported employment, teaching folks how to eat right and making sure they have access to healthy food and good healthcare is all combined FAR cheaper than building new asylums.

    Could it be that our Supreme Racist Slumlord in Chief and his room of white male supporters really just wants to get the poor black and Latino folk out of sight and out of mind at whatever the cost? They can’t just throw em in prison anymore so let’s bring back the asylums.

    The good news is that the ways these games are playing out among racial and class lines makes it easier to fight back. It’s makes it very clear what’s actually going on underneath the rhetoric.

    2016’s The Rent Is Too Damn High Party would be a good org to consult about what’s driving homelessness.

    Medicare For All would also stop people losing their life savings to pay for medical bills. (Not that Medicare isn’t driving a lot of other problems, too, the way it’s been mismanaged.)

    The real problem at its base is that a capitalist society run for profit is inherently antisocial. We are trained to compete instead of cooperate from birth. We are taught to avert our eyes and walk on by when we see others suffering. After all, we worked for what we have, so why shouldn’t they have to also? We will not truly move beyond to real solutions until we realize we are all in this together and we are all better off when we are all better off.

  • The real problem is not that the inflammation theory is totally bogus. The real problem is that when there IS a physical illness contributing to someone’s mental suffering, the psychiatrists have ZERO interest in finding it. I continue to recover from Lyme Disease. I am a thousand times better than I was a year ago after having had a month of antibiotic treatment. I mourn for the time lost to psychiatry when what I mostly needed was an understanding empathetic ear (for my traumas) and a long course of antibiotics for Lyme Disease. Psychiatry greatly hindered my ability to recover by providing brain damaging “treatments” and shrugging it’s shoulders as I slowly deteriorated.

  • As far as helping suicidal folks, I think what Steve says in this comment is paramount:

    What I need when I’m feeling suicidal is not for someone to “treat” me or fix my problems, but just to say “shit, I feel that way sometimes, too”, or, “it’s really hard to survive the unnatural demands of this modern world”, or really any statement that validates and makes clear that the person’s feelings are normal and okay (and also transient.) Resiliency is built from connection and knowing you aren’t all alone in the dark.

    It seems like Chris Hansen’s webinar might go in that direction.

    Frankly, I could care less about the providers and their liability. Fear for their own asses keeps so many of the “helpers” from actually helping. How is the client supposed to feel safe discussing such thoughts when they know the treatment provider cares only about covering their own ass? In this instance, I want to point to all of the Lyme doctors who have risked their licenses to treat chronic Lyme patients. Dr Joseph Jemsek is one such provider who lost his privileges in North Carolina in 2006, and just sent out an email this morning thanking all of his supporters and announcing that the medical board’s censure had been rescinded! It’s too bad so many providers in the “mental health” industry don’t have the same kind of personal bravery to take on the system and do what’s right for their clients.

  • As a survivor of high ACEs, I’m appalled and deeply saddened for California’s children and families who will be targeted by this program. After decades of continual assaults of welfare programs, the government is now going to directly target families and children for “interventions” which will likely greatly expand the number of children who are removed from their homes. This is the most backwards way to “help” and is completely consistent with the current harmful ways we “help” children, individuals and families.

    I grow ever more ashamed to call myself an American.

  • But we’re also treating screening for trauma as if it were a preventative, but identifying children experiencing or that have experienced trauma is an intervention – the very first step. This intervention does not prevent trauma and interventions often do more harm than good with little ability to predict ahead of time who might benefit and who won’t.

    Preventing trauma, if we’re indeed serious about it, will require a much more complex conversation about many other facets of our current societal structures, values and norms.

  • This is so sad. The LA Times article, written by her personal friend, gave a fitting tribute to her.

    “With her words, Elizabeth had in fact expressed the paralysis — and trauma — she’d experienced watching the World Trade Center being emulsified from the building next door. Two years later, her dog Augusta was trained as a PTSD service dog, and went with her everywhere; when Augusta died, her beautiful dog Alistair had the same training. Elizabeth with her dogs was a whole Elizabeth.”

    Of course, I can relate to this so much.

  • It’s funny that at the same time I was being fed these same lies, Rachel, I was an honors student, a voting representative for my school’s PTK chapter, volunteering for multiple organizations, traveling with friends and family – even internationally. It seems the only place I’m not allowed, indeed expected not to be CAPABLE of thinking for myself is where it concerns psychiatric drugs. How convenient…

  • Would that be the treatment process that causes one to pile on the pounds or the treatment process that psychiatrizes Lyme symptoms (for many the first major symptom is a swollen arthritic knee). My arthritis knee was chalked up to an “athletic injury” when I was trying to run off the pounds caused by the drugs, so I got the “benefits” of “treatment” coming and going!

  • Well, I can testify that neither SSRIs, nor McMindfulness are effective for depression associated with Lyme infection. It’s possible an anti-inflammatory that crossed the blood brain barrier might “work” to reduce depression associated with cerebral inflammation but it still wouldn’t cure the underlying disease. “Working” in this sense is relative.

  • I agree with Fiachra! Alex, there is so much wisdom in this one comment I’ve had to come back and read it several times to let it all sink in. We are definitely on the same page here and, although I think my light has been flickering an S.O.S. pattern for a while now, I very much appreciate your encouragement!

  • I’m sorry to butt in here but, Dr Cornwall, I have come to realize I need very similar things, not to be a therapist, but to simply be whole and happy and not to be torn apart by this modern world we live in.

    “For me, feeling merciful love for myself without negating that crucial love with toxic guilt and shame for my human failings and limitations, is needed. I also need to risk pursuing deep connection with people who can really love me. I need to reach out to every source of sacred, benevolent, loving and healing energy that I can find to sustain me”

  • I respectfully disagree. I read the blog and see a young woman trying to spread love and light in what seems like a very dark world these days. While such efforts might seem disingenuous when not accompanied by a clear understanding of very complex sociopplitical issues, I think these fledgling efforts should still be encouraged. Nobody wins a Nobel on their first attempt at anything but criticism of a genuine effort threatens to extinguish the spark that created it.

    Maybe this kind of outreach isn’t up your alley or “enough” for your expectations, but it’s a pretty good start with clearly the best of intentions. If we could all let our light shine just a little brighter, imagine the possibilities…

  • You are true guiding light here, Alex. Keep preaching that radical self love and connection with others!

    I am finding that the more time I spend loving myself and others, the less time I spend in fear or anxious or despairing. It’s definitely a shift in perspective.

  • “Previous research has also found associations between children who have a secure attachment style (their early interactions with parents were loving and made them feel safe) and adult psychological well-being. Other studies point to an association between psychosis and avoidant and anxious attachment style. The causes of anxious, insecure, avoidant, or disorganized attachment styles are believed to be uncaring, neglectful, controlling, or threatening parenting. These styles are believed to define people’s relationships into adulthood.”

    It’s very tempting to respond sarcastically to this because it’s hard to understand how this isn’t understood to be a universal truth. Without secure attachments, you cannot learn to trust. Without trust, you can’t feel safe in the world. Without safety, you can’t form a cohesive narrative and stable sense of who you are. In these cases, there is no solid ground to leave footprints upon and to retrace your steps to safety.

    “Drowning typically occurs silently, with only a few people able to wave their hands or call for help.”

  • “It is akin to finding someone as marriage/partnership material.”

    Actually, I think you have made a very good point. Finding someone you’re compatible enough with to like their company and trust their judgements/wisdom is a monumental task, and not one that can be accomplished with just a phone screening aside from weeding out the truly bad apples.

    But in our insurance based system, finding someone you can afford to see and whom you mesh well enough with to really form a therapeutic relationship is Herculean, and rather unlikely.

    The people who have helped me most were not involved directly with the mental health system. When I was younger, the actual helpers included a catholic priest (I’m not even catholic!) and an art therapist.

    The idea that most people in need of help are also able to effectively shop around for that help is a very privileged concept!