Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Comments by Sera Davidow

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  • Sam,

    While you’re correct that I wasn’t watching this for quite a while, I am catching your comment now. I will add in response:

    I know it is very important to you to be seen as having a legitimate role in support of your wife, in your contributions to this movement, and so on. I don’t want to argue with you about that, and would never suggest that anything that you’ve offered in that regard is invalid, even if we do disagree in some other ways.

    That said, I think your comment here is nonetheless misplaced because the main point here was to not use ‘peer’ as an identity label that inextricably ties someone to a mental health system and boils them down to an object of sorts. We can debate about how much ‘peer’ means ‘commonality of experience’ or what have you in a different place.



  • Thanks so much, Irit. Absolutely to “We *are* the balance!” I actually mention Phoenix Rising in this piece. (See 5th paragraph down from the image.)

    I’m not sure I agree that 0% should be the answer we seek. I do think folks have used drugs since the beginning of time in so many different ways, and what even gets classed as a ‘drug’ (vs. a medication, vs. as neither) is hazy and often capitalistically and morally driven. I do think the actual number – if we factor in adequate supports of all other kinds – would be lower than 20%, but I don’t know about 0!



  • Thanks, dogworld! Yes, the comments that became the highest rated (by a relative landslide) were pretty disappointing. And while I think you’re right that the NYT could have done more to link the main ‘characters’ of the story to their work and bios, it doesn’t really seem like a lot of people would have looked. I’m not too sure a lot of people who commented actually read the article so much as responded to the title… Thank you for reading and commenting here and trying to push back in the comments section over at NYT yourself 🙂

  • Hey George cLoony,

    Thanks for your comment! I can’t imagine the NYT would ever consider this piece or some version of it, but it sure would be interesting if they did. I did connect with the author of the article that resulted in this comments section as I was writing this, but not folks at NYT proper. I should indeed at least send it along to them.

    And yes, they do just move the ‘goal posts’ or change the game when folks seem to ‘recover’ too much… The whole ‘oh you were just misdiagnosed’ or didn’t have ‘real mental illness’ (such as Inman and Lieberman in fact did in response to this article) response is basically a big admission even for those who pay lip service to the idea that people can ‘recover’ that they in fact don’t believe it and see any such example as nothing more than proof that those people weren’t one of the actually truly “sick” in the first place.

    And yes, the Hearing Voices movement chose intentionally to focus on one of the most scary-to-the-general-public “alien” seeming experiences and named itself for it with the intent to push on what people were most afraid of and bring it to light. It’s important to do that. But also important to find the more relatable experiences that less automatically put people in the us/them place to help hook them in to seeing some of this as *about them, too* whenever possible to build bridges and all. Of course, then we bump up against media and capitalism and what is sensational enough to sell…

  • registeredforthissite,

    Thanks for your comment. I think there’s also a whole nother category of families that is more prevalent than those who have actual ill-intentions… Where they are so desperate to ‘help,’ but so unwilling or unable to see themselves as a part of the problem that they do far more harm than good… I know Open Dialogue is imperfect as an approach, but I love that they see the ‘problem’ as existing in the spaces in between people even if it is most visibly represented by one person in that network. That idea just isn’t even a vague thought in most families or networks within the US.

  • Hey, cynical.nihilist. Thanks for your comment. It certainly seems to me that many family members are necessarily invested in silencing or heavily minimizing the fact that family often play such a role in someone’s distress. It’s certainly not the truth within all families, but we all know its a prominent issue for a number of people… And it would seem that acknowledging that too readily (as something more than a rare exception) feels like a direct threat and accusation for a lot of folks.

  • I don’t disagree with any of that, Ted. I think we’ve lost a lot of our critical fight energy for the employment/peer support side of things (among other reasons, I’m sure). I’m not saying there’s not value in the ‘peer support’ side of things (where it’s not super co-opted). I do think there is value in Jim Gottstein’s Transformation Triangle lay out of how real change happens (a mix of impacting public opinion, legal action, and creating real alternatives), for example. And I’ve seen first hand how peer support can lead to people building new lives, and sometimes getting invested in pushing back on these systems. But I also think SO much has been lost by folks getting too dependent on these systems for their material survival, and their voices getting quieter as a result. I have some of the old publications of Madness Network News, etc. on my wall, and it’s always a reminder of how much more fight (of the sort you speak of) there used to be, and it’s a real problem that end of things just isn’t really audible anymore.

  • Ted,

    I – for the most part – do not think rational argument can win this. (I think I say something to that effect in at least one spot in this piece.) That said, I do think us working to fine tune our own understanding of what’s going on with the other side, name it, find ways to pull it apart and make sense of it… is important to figuring out how we want to push back.

    I’d love to believe this piece might get through to all those people who couldn’t see the NYT article for what it was… Maybe it will be successful with a few who were already closer to the fence. I don’t think it will otherwise solve the problem on their end. It’s really more to give voice and make meaning on our end, I think.


  • Thanks, Marie! I appreciate that perspective. In some of our trainings we’ve increasingly been talking about what if ‘By any means necessary’ meant not locking someone up against their will, etc, but getting them housing, and other basic needs met. People getting so stuck in ‘more of the same’ being the answer rather than addressing basic needs or some of the other things you mention is so damaging.


  • Sam,

    I can’t help but think you may be doing essentially what I’m talking about throughout this article which is to apply your own lens and not read what’s actually there.

    I *do* acknowledge in the family section that an outside perspective (be it family or otherwise) can be useful, if they’re trusted and not too caught up in their own stuff. The problem is that far too many family members aren’t that either because they were a part of causing the trauma and/or too caught up in their own stuff in trying to respond to the other person’s distress… And yet, most of society typically does see the family member as having NOT *some* input worth hearing, NOT equal insight into what’s happening, but MORE, BETTER, etc.

    That’s my point there after reading so many people who wanted to know what Caroline’s family had to say, suggested in ways that honestly came across as suggesting the family would be able to overrule Caroline’s take and correct for the distortions they believe she’s offering…

    If you aren’t that family member whose insisting that your voice is MORE important and more accurate that your wife’s, etc. then that section really isn’t about you.

    I’ve never argued that family members are useless and have nothing to offer, and I’m fully aware they need their own support and can play a critical role in things.. Hence why I do fairly frequently talk about Open Dialogue, an why we do offer two Hearing Voices groups specifically for family/friends at my work…

    I don’t know you or your wife beyond this community so I can’t say anything definitive one way or another, but from most of what you’ve said, I just don’t think that section is really about you.

    Either way, thanks for reading.


  • Daiphanous,

    At least at first glance, the only thing I would clearly disagree with here is that all people with schizophrenia diagnoses know the potential problems with psych drugs. Unfortunately, that information is so intentionally withheld so much of the time that many people actually do NOT have accurate information either on the dangers or the lack of consistent efficacy.

    But in any case, just to reiterate… I’m still confused about your comments here… It’s not that they are bad comments. I just don’t see anyone saying that the drugs are uniformly bad and everyone should get off of them.. I’m certainly not saying that.


  • Hi Daiphanous Weeping,

    I’m a little confused by your comment. My piece has nothing to do with who should and shouldn’t attempt to withdraw from psychiatric drugs, or how easy it will be if they try… The reality is that many people with privilege fail, and many people with little privilege succeed… But privilege (especially when one doesn’t need to work, raise kids, etc.) certainly does open up a world of possibilities that increase one’s chances. Neither I nor the NY Times piece would or do disagree with those points…


  • I truly do not want to be disrespectful, but I find myself confused by this piece.

    If people hired as peer supporters are being plunked down into case manager or receptionist roles (etc) then… They aren’t actually in peer roles at all. And I worry about any writing that suggests that that is even vaguely acceptable..

    And as much as I appreciate Intentional Peer Support, its not seen as the “general model” for peer support, although wed probably be way better off if it was rather than some of the persistenty medicalized and co-opted nonsense that is…

    I guess I’m just not quite following where you are heading here, or what you are arguing for and I worry that some of it will confuse or appear to be validating discriminatory or otherwise problematic practices…

  • Well, here’s the thing… You can’t decide what it is for me, and I can’t decide what it is for you. What it is for me is decidedly not about me giving power to anyone else… and that’s fact, not opinion.

    One of the greatest harms perpetuated by the system is putting one person’s beliefs onto another as if the former holds all the rights to the truth even for another person. Hopefully we can not perpetuate that here! 🙂


  • Rebel, You can for sure hold this view *for you.* However, it is not a global truth, and we need only look at the words of so many others who self-injure or have in the past to know that.

    As I said in my longer comment here, so much of what drives so many people’s pain in this world is loss of power and control in all its forms. And having other people step in and make meaning of one’s own experiences and actions is a profound example of that loss. For some of us, maybe we *want* someone else to take that power – at least temporarily – because we are too tired or scared or overwhelmed to feel like we can hold it all or make sense of it ourselves. But many if not most of us will want or benefit from taking that meaning making power back at some point even if we don’t hang onto it right from the start.

    For you it sounds like self-injury did mean a giving up of power. If I understand you correctly – allowing other people’s words or actions to drive you to harm yourself felt like giving them control. I can understand that perspective. It is your truth. It simply isn’t truth for so many others, though. For me, self-injury has absolutely felt like taking power back.

    Not dissimilarly, for you, making a contract to not self-injure worked. I’m sure thats true for some others, too. However, for me and so many people, the contracts felt like a weird, infantalizing way to perpetuate shame and guilt. It’s an okay strategy to propose as an option, but should always be explored with the person rather than dictated.

    I am not sure I entirely follow the moralizing piece you write about at the end…. I can only say that for many folks, moralizing about our wants, needs, and choices has also been a pathway to additional shame and guilt… And that is rarely helpful.

    So, again, your truth is yours. Your experience is valid. For you. But certainly not for everyone. Surely, you are right that it can take courage to recognize something isn’t working and make real change. But it *also* can take courage to stand up against moralizing and theorizing and social norms and counter, “No matter what you say, no matter what you assume, no matter how many people may try to forcefully dissuade me, this is still my truth.”

  • I am having a difficult time formulating a comprehensive response to this article. On the one hand, it includes bits and pieces of a deeply personal story, and I hate to try and counter that because… Well, it’s the author’s story, and their truth. It’s not my business to counter or tell them that they are wrong about them.

    However, the reality is that this piece lost me at the title: Why Do People Self-Harm, and HOW CAN WE STOP IT?

    Operating from a place of ‘we must stop this’ is a fundamentally harmful and flawed place to begin. When self-injury was most prominent in my life, the people who approached me with a ‘How can we stop this’ attitude were threats in my eyes. They were people who generally didn’t care WHY I was hurting myself in the way that I was. They simply sought to define my problem as ‘self-injury’ and the solution as ‘stopping’ it, while ignoring everything else along the way.

    In a world where I’d already lost so much power and control over my own life, they were there to take even more away. And, overall, loss of power and control (in the form of sexual and physical abuse and so many other things) was precisely what my problem was. Efforts to take more of it away only caused additional harm, even if it might have made others around me more comfortable or feel like they were somehow doing their job.

    I’m particularly puzzled – in this article so focused on the problems with medicalization of distress (a point with which I certainly align) – why there’s so little insight on the author’s part into how identifying self-injury as a “problem to be stopped” is just another form of that very same phenomenon. Along similar lines, I’m also curious as to why there continues to be so little understanding of just how many people actually self-injure in ‘socially acceptable’ sorts of ways with drugs, alcohol, food, exercise, work, and so on. As I’ve said in my own writing on this topic, I certainly posed more risk to myself with some of the ‘socially acceptable’ ways that I was hurting myself, then by a (non-socially acceptable) burn or cut on my arm.

    To that end, I’m also puzzled – and very worried – about the alarmist thread throughout this piece that suggests that so many people are spiraling toward their own inevitable demise if they continue to self-injure. While self-harm certainly can cross a line into dangerousness, the vast majority of folks who self-injure don’t do so in life threatening ways. And, in fact, one of the risk factors for self-injury moving in a more dangerous direction is precisely when someone else swoops in to take more power and control away and force them to stop (which this article may – in some ways – encourage them to try to do).

    For so very many people, self-injury is a way in which they stave off death or even urges in that direction. It can be an adaptation born of trauma and other challenges that serves so many purposes. And so this ‘how do we stop it’ focus can become even more dangerous for all that.

    In stead of asking ‘how do we stop it,’ and feeding into the idea that self-injury is among the worst or most dangerous things anyone could do, why not instead ask:

    * How is this working for you?
    * Is it something you want to change or stop?
    * How has it helped you in the past, and is it still serving that purpose?
    * Have you experienced negative consequences as a result?
    * What does self-injury mean to you/in your life?
    * If it’s something you want to continue, do you want support to explore ways to do it in the safest manner possible?

    Approaching the topic as if it’s something already understood and simply to be controlled is a mistake, and a dangerous one at that. We’ll get much further by being willing to sit in the muck with people who are struggling, and being willing to support them to explore and making meaning for themselves. Having other people tell you what is ‘wrong’ with you and what you need to do about it is a profound loss of power and control. The sitting in the muck and partnering to explore is the place where some ground can be regained in that regard, and where we can find points of collaboration in supporting people to live their lives to the fullest.

  • I find this article troubling, and this line gets at why:

    “Peer specialists are defined as those who self-identify as having a mental illness or receiving mental health services and combine their personal experience with training to support others.”

    Defined by *who*? That’s just wildly inaccurate, and yet seems to be getting offered here not by the research, but by you, Gavin, as a factual definition.

    People in peer roles neither need self-identify as having a ‘mental illness,’ nor be receiving mental health services. To suggest otherwise is to contribute to the worst, most oppressive aspects of this work… those that involve buying into a one-size-fits-all medicalized perspective, and the idea that we all need to be put in these awful little boxes.

    There are certain elements of ‘peer support’ that are really problematic as currently (and likely ever to be) employed by the ‘system.’ But there are certain aspects of it that are also quite powerful, particularly when offered outside of a conventional clinical environment. In those spaces where there is power, people get to come with whatever experiences have interrupted their lives or led society to ‘other’ and ostracize them… They often do come with experiences with system responses (many of them – though not all – harmful), and some identify as ‘survivors’ of that system… But there is neither a requirement to be *in* services, nor to regard any current or past history with those services as a necessary thing.

    Please don’t contribute to boxing us in. Some of us are doing our very best to come at all this from an anti-oppression, rooted-in-community sort of way and this frame doesn’t help.


  • Oof. I am having a really hard time with this article being posted in this space. It does not align with the ‘Science, psychiatry, social justice’ tagline at all. Well, maybe the middle (psychiatry) part… Nor does it align with my understanding of the mission of Mad in America overall.

    That aside… Max… You literally refer to people in this article as ‘V-SPMI’… And you write it out so that the acronym is OUTside of the parenthesis and the actual explanation of what it stands for IN the parenthesis. In other words, you use V-SPMI as if it is a legitimate word and thing to be boiling human beings down into.

    It is NOT a legitimate thing to boil people down into. It’s just not. It’s frightening, and unnecessary to speak about human beings as these objectified, dangerous things. Now, this isn’t to say that this is the biggest problem with what you’ve written here. But that that is your starting point is very telling, and it makes me want to talk to you about internalized oppression, and the dangers of painting a whole group of people who can be so subjectively diagnosed as ‘dangerous,’ and so much else.

    This piece is SO problematic. I hope there are people in your life who can help you unpack all of this at some point, and hopefully come to a different place. I’m not talking about trying to take away what you feel is helpful for you. That’s for you to decide… But this message you are putting out to the world is dangerous.


  • rasselas,

    Eh, my point wasn’t so much how great Open Dialogue is, as it was that there are some fundamental differences in power imbalances there between Dr. and non-Dr that I think are interesting and worth exploring. I do talk about Open Dialogue a fair amount because it has good examples of a lot of principles and values… Such as seeing the problem as existing in the space *between* people even if its most visible in *one* person. I love that simply because it is about not automatically medicalizing every bit of distress and knowing that it is often a product of relationships and environments. There’s also the reality that people are available right away rather than after a wait, and that the structure of their system (which is the whole system and not just a hard-to-access alternative to the system in that particular part of Finland) engenders enough trust that many people reach out at the start of their struggles rather than trying everything to avoid it until things get worse and worse. There’s also the approach to psych drugs which leads to no automatic assumption that everyone needs to be on them at all, or that – if they do use them – that it can be just short-term (and short-term can be defined as as short as a few weeks rather than a year or two)… as well as the fact that sleep meds are among those most commonly prescribed because there is a fundamental understanding there about how much meeting basic needs (like sleep, etc.) can lead to distress in a way that is pretty absent here. There’s also the principle about having discussions *in front of someone* rather than in a back room behind their back, and that two clinicians take part in the support rather than just one to facilitate that process… And that – because its recognized that problems lie in the spaces ‘between people’ – the presence a family network (with ‘family’ defined by the person and including whoever they think makes sense including employers, neighbors, whoever) to work through things.

    In essence, it’s less a magical thing you ‘do’ to anyone, and more a process of building trust and recognizing that someone’s distress is often the product of what is going on outside of them rather than within. But I am not intensively trained… I’m mainly relaying what I’ve come to understand from other sources, and what I usually highlight when facilitating trainings myself because it represents so many fundamental shifts from how most places respond to people.

    AND I’m absolutely not someone who says ‘Open Dialogue’ is the answer to all… It has its downsides, too, and is nearly impossible to replicate in many other areas no matter how hard people try because the trust that has been built by constructing a system that holds these principles is a totally different experience than an alternative offering that represents a little pin drop within a system that runs counter to them (among other challenges around differences in liability issues and perceptions related to psych drug prescriptions and so on).

    But again, I really mainly brought it up because the massive power imbalance that exists between those called Dr. and those not isn’t true in every area, even where medical systems still exist (most of Open Dialogue is facilitated by nurses after all). And I think we’d do well to look at how to begin reducing those massive power differentials with the tools available to us as a sort of harm reduction approach. Looking at the honorific system is but one way, but I think it’s an important one because its free, and because training people every single day to call a certain set of people ‘Dr.’ absolutely and totally influences how automatically reverent they may be to them. I see this playing out all the time even where a Dr. is considered an employee of an organization that technically has more power (hire/fire, etc.) but still bends to the Dr. on a daily basis and without question even when what the Dr. is doing is blatantly abusive and/or misguided.


  • rasselas.redux,

    Thanks for your post. And yes, there is a power imbalance. However, in many regards, it is a misplaced one. As I noted in the piece above, the medical doctors (and frankly, doctors of other types as well) often spend the least time with someone, and yet have the most power over them.

    I am curious if you’ve seen Daniel Mackler’s Open Dialogue film? In it, one of the things they emphasize is how the medical doctors do NOT function with such a power imbalance over others on the team. I’m actually uncertain whether or not they are referred to as Dr. Last-name while everyone else is referred to by their first name… But I’m going to find out.

    My point in bringing it up, though, is that the power imbalance needn’t be so great, and we needn’t be complicit in it. I do hear you on the added confusion of so many people getting to call themselves Dr. Last-name above and beyond medical doctors… But I think it’s an issue across the board.



  • Whatuser,

    I’m not sure if you’ve read any of my other writing on here. I certainly don’t expect you to necessarily have! I just wonder because I have certainly focused at length on the misplaced medicalization and oppressive nature of the psychiatric system in many different ways. That said, the honorific system and the power imbalances that it makes visible play a role in that, and so I don’t think this is irrelevant. Rather, I would say that this is one of the quickest, easiest ways we could begin to dismantle those power imbalances and show our commitment to undoing the larger problems. I would also echo what Steve has said above.



  • Whatuser,

    I’m honestly perplexed by how stuck on wanting to ‘honor’ the efforts of a particular sub-set of people you and others seem to be. No one – myself included – has suggested that there isn’t a lot of work involved in getting through a particular degree program. However, do you really believe that that effort is consistently greater than, say, the effort put in by so many people doing so many things? Ableist ideals about basing our worth in what we can ‘do’ aside, are there not many people working very hard in this world? Perhaps even more importantly, does the salary afforded to many people with the honorific of Dr. not suffice in terms of recognition and honor? I realize that salaries will vary among the doctorate crowd, but really… So many of them (according to research) come from money and go no to careers that earn them much higher salaries than most of us… Is that not enough?

    Let me put it this way: Let’s say I’m wrong, or at least exaggerating the impact of a system that elevates the title (not just in work but across all areas of life) of someone who has earned the honorific of Dr. in terms of power imbalances and the systemic oppression of others… What on earth harm would be doing by getting rid of that system? At worst, the action would be neutral. (No one has been able to provide an even vaguely convincing argument that the actual earning of the degree, the salary that tends to follow, and one’s ability to hold an actual doctor-related role is not enough to ‘honor’ and ‘recognize’ their efforts, with the exception of those who’ve argued its important *within the current context* for people from marginalized groups to claim their titles as an anti-racist, anti-sexist, etc. act… But again, that’s within the context of the existence of the honorific system, and not its having been dismantled…) At best, it would be a concretely attainable step toward undoing oppressive power imbalances that elevate the voices of those who’ve completed academic learning so far over and above those who actually work more directly/frequently with the humans over whom that power is most regularly wielded, etc.

    Plus all the other things I’ve said in my other comment responses…


  • Jancarol,

    This isn’t a “zero sum game” as some like to say. We can care about things like hunger and housing, and *also* care about how deep the power imbalances run in some of these systems. Of course doing away with honorifics isn’t nearly so important as doing away with lack of food and housing resources. But why would that preclude us from talking about honorifics? It kind of feels like a strawman argument to me… this suggestion that that is any kind of counter argument to what I’ve offered, rather than a different argument altogether.

    Some questions for you:

    1. Is there really no other way to communicate who has completed a type of education or holds a license for a particular role beyond honorifics? This also seems like a strawman to me… I never said people should deny or hide their roles… just not be referred to in all aspects of life by that role (even when they’re not doing anything even a bit related to it!).

    2. Do you truly believe that any honorific is actually needed, and if so why? What do you think the honorifics really accomplish?

    3. Do you know of any other completely free and widely accessible way to begin to chip away at the power imbalance between ‘Dr’ and the rest of us?

    4. Maybe you think that the power imbalance the honorifics represent (both in access to education and in credibility/power in the moment)… but then, what harm would it cause to do away with them nonetheless? If they do no harm, still no harm done by not having them…

    Your stories are valid, but I’m unclear how they support an argument to continue the use of honorifics. Much of what you talk about references the inequity to access to education, and as I said in the piece above and in the comments section, within the context that currently exists it may indeed be extra important for people who overcame marginalization to get their degrees and thus represent that by use of honorifics. But would it be important to have a different title if the honorific system was not what it currently was? Because *that* is my argument. That the honorific system is a part of an oppressive system and should be done away with, which would change a lot of the other pieces. People could still get their ‘pieces of paper,’ and have and speak about their jobs… no honorifics would not change that. But it would immediately change how elevated they are above so many others who have also worked very hard in their lives.

    I said this in the comments section over on Mad in America’s Facebook page, and I’ll repeat it here:

    Oh what a world we would have if we could manage to find ways to recognize and celebrate each other’s accomplishments without needing to step on others to do so…


  • Willowweed,

    “Evidence, data and logic should be the basis of an opinion not the perceived “authority of the speaker””

    I certainly agree with this… though I’d also argue that ‘evidence’ itself is so often manipulated and/or rooted in a system that privileges those with a lot of money (to pay to gather and interpret the evidence) that I feel cautious about that piece as well!

    Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂


  • Bippyone,

    At least in part, I would respond by saying much of what I already wrote out to Marie… Just because it has not impacted you, does not negate the issue at a systemic level. I guess I also find myself reacting to the idea of ‘politeness’ in this context. As someone who has watched quite up close and personal hospital staff (for example) bowing to the ones with Dr. titles at the expense of some of the most vulnerable held on those units I feel really clear that the power imbalance tipping so strongly in their direction is incredibly harmful. I do not owe them any extra reverence or politeness over and above what I would offer anyone else. I would also point to the paragraph where I wrote about people with Dr. Last-name titles often being the ones who don’t show up for new learning and whose power over people is most inversely related to their knowledge of them as an example of how off kilter it all can get. And while – as I’ve said in other comments – the use of the honorific is not responsible for all that, it is a really visible symbol of it and the easiest starting point for things to change. Honestly, I find it bizarre that so many people are resistant to the idea that doctors deserve no more reverence than so many others in our world, and that it is essential that we begin to chip away at the imbalances.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!


  • Rebel,

    I would certainly agree with you that the whole educational system creates a great deal of inequity. As far as I’ve understood, countries that have free ‘higher’ education have significantly less class differences throughout their culture and that seems like a good thing… but it’s certainly not where we’re at in the US.

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. 🙂


  • Caroline,

    It’s interesting that you bring religion into this. Honestly, what that brought up for me is this: I don’t know much about religion. I’ve pretty much always steered clear. But when ever I’ve heard from people who believe in a brand of religion that talks about ‘fearing’ their god or their god punishing them for not believing and being faithful, I find myself wondering what kind of god would be so angry toward people simply because they weren’t referent toward that god as much as that god would like? It certainly didn’t make me any more interested in being connected to at least that religion, and I surely hope – if there is a god of any kind – that that god has far more compassion and kindness than that. I guess I feel similarly about doctors. If they are so attached to their honorifics that they feel the need to be called by them or not let go of them for a greater good… Well, then, that’s not a doctor I’d want to follow, either.

    In turn, I’m also reminded by someone with whom I’ve worked a fair amount over the years. He was speaking on a stage to a room full of people who have the experience of hearing voices, as well a to clinicians and various other providers, family members, and even a commissioner of a particular state’s department of mental health when he decided to tell a joke… The joke went something like: What’s the difference between God and a psychiatrist? Answer: God knows he’s not a psychiatrist… I was a little nervous as to how some of the doctors and DMH officials in the audience might react, but people seemed to receive it well. :p


  • Bill,

    Semantical arguments over words like ‘trainer’ vs. ‘educator’ may capture my or other people’s interests, but have little bearing on this particular conversation. We all have an array of roles and/or jobs in our lives, and while we could get into conversation as well about the inequities in that arena it’s not quite the same as talking about roles that are only accessible to a relative few (due to classism, ableism, racism, sexism, etc.) and that give people elevated titles like ‘Dr.’ as well as elevated reverence and credibility that is all too often unearned. Moreover, Dr. – at least in the psychiatric realm – also comes with a whole other layer of power over others beyond simple credibility. In fact – it is Dr. (both medical and non-medical) who typically also has the power to order us incarcerated in a psychiatric facility against our will. And while it is not the honorific alone that allows them that level of control, its all tied in.

    I’m not sure what to say about your question in regards to ‘aunt,’ ‘uncle,’ and so on. It honestly seems a strange direction to go in here. Regardless, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!



  • “The last time I used the prefix https://wikidiff.com/prefix/title “Doctor” it was to exemplify how someone goes and gets a badge because they really can’t support their “teachings” without it”…

    I think you’re referring here to how credibility is sometimes much more about power and social capital than it is about being in possession of real quality information, and with that I couldn’t agree more.

    Thanks for reading! 🙂


  • Marie,

    I gotta be honest that your response here seems really strange to me. One of the links I included in the article above is to research specifically about how much more frequently women are *not* called by their Dr. honorific than men. In other words, there’s a pretty solid and documented history about how this is rooted in sexism. You can deny that – even in the face of this man calling Jill ‘kiddo’ (her husband calling her ‘kiddo’ is a little odd sounding to me, but nonetheless exists within the context of an intimate relationship and is totally different than a stranger taking such a liberty) – but it doesn’t make it less a real thing.

    As to the rest… it reminds me of this: There are many people who say ‘just because the system was oppressive to you,’ doesn’t mean it was ‘oppressive to me.’ And what I say back to them pretty routinely is, ‘Just because you didn’t feel directly impacted by systemic oppression, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.’ In other words, systems either are or are not oppressive… How people are individually impacted by that doesn’t really change things.

    I also don’t really get the leftist vs. rightist argument you’re making, but that’s okay. I’ll leave my response at this for now! Regardless, thanks for taking the time to read even if it did not resonate.


  • It is certainly your choice to write off this and the other NAMI articles I have written. Someone else pointed out to me that the League of Legends reference was incorrect some time ago. It is true that my Google search linked that image and LOL, and that I did not double check it because it was just a sidenote and not a central point to the article. However, I assure you, I have cross checked most everything that is a serious part of this and other articles I publish.

    I have to be honest that your inclination to write it all off for that reason strikes me as if you are looking for an excuse to remain in denial of certain very well known realities. That’s your call. But rather than write off what I’ve written *or* trust it entirely, I’d suggest you simply check out some of what I’ve said here yourself. If you were to do so, I believe you’d find it’s quite an accurate portrayal. And, really, I’m not sure how you – or anyone (except NAMI) – are served by choosing not to do that.



  • Thanks so much, o.o. I think for me, it’s just that I was clearly taking the ‘Can’t Breathe’ frame that became so well known after Eric Garner’s death that has been in my head as a point of unease for a long time. But, I hear you, too. So many of us are being crushed by different types of power and oppression, and they all mean something and are all worth hearing. 🙂



  • I wrote this piece about five years ago, and I have been meaning to come back and comment on it as a sort of update/clarification.

    My primary message to be added on at this time is as follows:

    I wish I hadn’t written this, at least not in the way I did… It is not something I would write today. Why? There are actually lots of this piece that I *do* like. I wish I could pull all those pieces out and reform them without the problematic parts. However, as a white woman, I really have no business appropriating ‘Can’t breathe’ for my won use or coming as close as I did to comparing what I have been through to what Eric Garner and so many others (George Floyd, and so many more) have experienced as black people in this country.

    In some ways it is true… Oppressive systems are crushing the air out of all of us. But how I approached this went too far in pulling from what is happening in the world to black and brown people and pulling it into my own frame.

    I am sorry for doing that, and will do better moving forward.

  • Eh, many of my pieces really land with some, and really don’t with others. I’ve seen people saying I really “knocked it out of the park” with this one, and then there’s feedback like yours, as well. I can’t say which is ‘right’ because I’m not sure it’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ matter. This isn’t my favorite piece I’ve ever written, and yet I feel good about it nonetheless. And, perhaps most of all, I feel confident that Harvard guy doesn’t need any defenders. 😉 In any case, thanks for your comment! 🙂


  • Bradford,

    I do not know that it will be helpful for me to go back and forth with you here, but I do want to offer one clarification:

    I am *for sure* not saying that I do not walk with any privilege. I experience plenty of skin color privilege, as well as socioeconomic privilege particularly in regards to where I grew up, the educational systems to which I had access as a kid, and so on. I make a point to name my privilege in these ways pretty much every time I speak publicly and share some of my story. I also have benefited from my privilege in the form of it paving the way for me to access and speak from platforms such as Mad in America. Perhaps that is some of what you mean. And, I experience other privilege, as well… linked to my being cisgender, in primarily heterosexual relationships at least at this time, and son on.

    That said, I feel like none of that is quite what you’re speaking about here, and I’m getting lost in that. I do not subscribe to concepts like ‘female privilege.’ And, as someone who can’t even claim a GED as far as degrees go, and who is out as and works basically from the framework of being someone whose job is linked closely to their own psychiatric history and needing to be very public about it, I am not quite sure where the privilege lies there? I mean, yes, I have privilege within certain contexts (for example, the community where I work and for which I serve as Director and hold the power associated with Director), but I just don’t get the suggestion that this is a position of privilege in the systemic scheme of the world.

    I hear that this all landed as very rude to you. I am not going to dispute that that is a valid interpretation, and one that you have every right to hold. And yet, I still find myself in a place of feeling that I do not owe much of any reverence to someone who uses their quite extensive power and privilege to first acknowledge the ways in which systems fail and harm us, and then encourage them to keep on going just like that.



  • dfk,

    Yes, we can come up with ‘better’ approaches to support people through thoughts of killing themselves, but you’re certainly right that until we address income disparities and housing (and the impacts of capitalism overall), various forms of systemic oppression, child abuse, and so much else… We’re just going to keep facing the same problems over and over. Thank you for stating that.


  • Bradford,

    That’s a great strategy to get yourself out. I wonder how often it would work!

    I’m sorry you find the ‘Harvard guy’ references problematic. I’m not sure I understand how I am using my privilege in the same way he is. He published statements saying that assessments are completely ineffective, and yet continued to promote them as standard practice without acknowledging not only their inefficacy but there actual harm as well. While certainly my response to that has a tone, I’m largely just consistently pointing out the status he holds that allows him to do that with relative impunity.

    I can appreciate that that tone doesn’t land well with you and (I’m sure) others, but I think that may be a stylistic difference rather than an issue of privilege. I am, after all, female, carry no degrees, and am writing on platforms that have significantly less reach. I’m not sure how that gives me any power over a white, conventionally attractive, man with advanced degrees and a position at an ivy league school. But maybe I’m missing something?


  • 30-watt-lightbulb,

    I totally agree. Those hotlines get promoted on so many websites, TV shows, provider phones, etc. Not a one of them provides informed consent about the risks of calling, or anything else. It’s basically a way of just checking a box and saying, “See, we offered a resource! We’re good!” Very frustrating. Thanks for mentioning the Reddit thread!


  • John,

    Absolutely. A lot of the decision to continue to use them is a protection from legal liability. However, I’ve also had clinicians say that ‘legal liability’ is the cover for wanting to avoid ’emotional liability’ (simply *feeling* responsible and afraid of scrutiny of co-workers who may look at them as responsible). This makes sense to me, as well. It can be very painful to know you were seen as “responsible” for helping someone else who ended up killing themself. I get that pain. And it is nonetheless our own to work through and not put on others.

    Yes, so many people ask just to check off the box that they asked, so they can’t be blamed for not asking, and no one really ever bothers to then look at *how* they asked or anything like that. Asked that question? Did your job. The end. Sigh.

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to comment and share your experience!


  • dengster,

    Thank you for your comment!! I agree, that so many in the general public have a much different imagined idea of what is happening behind all those psychiatric walls than what is actually going on. Not only do they have a much different idea, but I think many of them really want to *retain* that different idea, because it is of comfort to them to think the “wise” people behind the wall have it covered and will make things be okay.

    I wish it weren’t all such a game that required knowing the key words, etc. to get ‘in’ or ‘out,’ based on your wishes and what’s at stake in that moment.


  • furies,

    Not sure what else to say about this, so I’ll bow out for now. As to ego, I do often wonder the same thing… What leads to people who receive such minimal benefit from speaking in certain ways to want to invest in writing whole articles about why they should get to even if it hurts others very often makes me wonder what is going on for them underneath that… Like, why are so many people who couldn’t care less about the confederate flag and “All Lives Matter” *really* so invested in making the arguments about why they should get to say/show both? What’s really behind that? I think you and I might come to different conclusions, but I do agree that ego is in there for some of them. Anyway, like I said, I’m going to bow out. 🙂



  • Ah, okay. That makes more sense, as I otherwise found your comment a little confusing given the overall nature of the site. When I get these notifications on my phone, it just looks like a sea of links, so I hadn’t actually realized there was a link to something specific at all. I started to watch that video on my own, but decided after the first few seconds that it probably wasn’t of interest so didn’t pursue it. Just went in and watched the whole thing at your urging… And yeah, it is that very typical “progressive” perspective that the problem isn’t the medical model, it’s the “stigma” preventing people from feeling okay about accessing it… Totally agree that it is super problematic.

  • Yes, certainly, Richard. I do not think they need to be mutually exclusive. The hope would be to become better versed in both directions. For example, we held an action against psychiatric oppression during COVID times in Western Mass today.

    We left presents for our Dept. of Mental Health area office 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/serad27/posts/10223134635539815

    And as part of the action, my co-worker Sean and others worked to include an organizer for a recent Black Lives Matter rally in the action today, and two of our crew also stood on the streets of Northampton handing out flyers about psychiatric oppression and our action while we drove through in a protest caravan. 🙂

    And you’ll find other articles from me both here and elsewhere (https://truthout.org/articles/amid-covid-people-involuntarily-confined-in-psych-hospitals-must-be-released/) on psychiatric oppression.

    I am not a fan of changing topics when talking about racism, because it just happens all too often… But I am absolutely a fan of trying to cross and eliminate barriers between our respective causes. 🙂


  • Sam,

    I guess I’m not quite sure what you mean about me seeing your situation through my experience. Honestly, I defintiely dealt with abuse and toxicity in my family, but they weren’t especially involved in my psychiatry experiences because I’d already left home, so what I described isn’t really want I have experienced much at all. Rather, what I am saying is that there are some basic principles that are driven by systemic experiences and dynamics and those rare exceptions that may exist can’t really change the overall history, and so we ask that even those people who are rare exceptions honor that? Something like that. But again, it doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a real, strong place for family.

    But no matter what I think about all this for the most part… It sounds like you and your wife have something going that really works for you, and there is value in that.


  • Sam,

    I had started a reply earlier, but I do not think it went through, so I’m starting again. If this is a duplicate, apologies!

    I do remember hearing much of this from you in the past. I think I was thinking your comment here meant going deeper in making spaces for family and friends. I’m sorry that – as much effort as you’ve put in to really, genuinely being there for your wife and her alters – that you’ve nonetheless felt othered here and in other spaces.

    I think I’ve said most of this to you before, but i think the challenge is that there are *so* many power dynamics embedded in so many familial relationships, and so many family members who’ve been a part of someone’s trauma… And then there’s also the legacy of pharmaceutical companies using the desperation of family members to get help for their loved ones as a way to market their products a la places like NAMI and similar… And leading to communities that speak for us, over us, about us as the norm.

    For those reasons, I can’t personally support the idea that family members should be centered equally as people who’ve been diagnosed, and psychiatrized. I think it’s so much less about you than it is about that broader history, and the need to hold some lines so as to have the best shot at ensuring people really get to speak for themselves, and so on.

    That said, I’m in full support of supports *for* families, especially to create an alternative to NAMI and its ilk, and because family members do certainly have valid experiences to share, and need support themselves. I know that Hearing Voices USA and the Western Mass RLC have both worked at trying to expand efforts to recognize that importance. Hearing Voices USA, for example, is currently working on amending the existing charter to include a section on family groups.

    You have a ton of valuable experience as a family member, and I’m glad you’re here. I do not want you to feel invisible, and yet I think grappling with some of the tensions I described above are pretty important. I hope you’ll stick around and grapple along with us.



  • Sam,

    I am sorry you found it hurtful, but I just can’t take it back. I believe in naming things what they are, and I have heard many speak to how hurtful it is when that doesn’t happen. Racism is a systemic issue. It’s not as simple as just treating people badly, and even when black and brown people rise to places of power and abuse that power, it is sometimes still related to systemic racism. I also hear very, very often from black and brown people (not all, but many with whom I’ve crossed paths) how hurtful it is that people so often want to change the topic, or turn anti-racism conversations into “let’s talk about all oppressions’ conversations. That is another reason why I find it important to sometimes talk about racism, and really just talk about that.

    And no, it would not be my place to go to an anti-racism website out of the blue and post about psychiatric oppression. However, I’ve had many, many conversations about how to educate in *both directions* across those lines because I do believe our voices will be stronger together. Typically, where I find the most room to have those sorts of conversations is among, for example, the prison abolition community, and so on. I do indeed think it is important for many more people – including those focused on anti-racism efforts – to understand our central issues, too. Hell, one of the Black Lives Matters founders (Patrisse Cullors) has a brother diagnosed with schizoaffective and absolutely seems to have bought into the Treatment Advocacy Center-type arguments. I’d *LOVE* to see those conversations happen. But this is where I have an established publishing relationship, and this is where I see myself as having a responsibility to push things a bit, so here I am.


  • furies,

    I get what is being said. And I absolutely do not agree with it. The whole concept of “political correctness” is pretty offensive, honestly. It is just one of many tactics used in efforts to silence people who’ve been marginalized and are asking for change. Sure, there are some “saviors” that swoop in and get over zealoused at times, but what a way to shut down a conversation … this calling someone the “PC” police… and what a way to invalidate the ways in which they’re saying they’re being disrespected to call their request to not be called a particular label (or similar) by ascribing motives to being “politically correct.” I don’t buy it when I get told it when I am asking people not to call me “client,” or “mentally ill,” and I do not buy it as it shows up in this article, either.

    White media has a long history of co-opting, appropriating, misrepresenting, and even finding members of marginalized groups who will say what white media wants to hear and/or whose words can be taken out of context enough to support white-driven agendas. There are lines that get crossed, especially with the aforementioned savior complexes afoot… but those lines are often far less harmful than the lines being crossed by those who show disregard.

    Headlines like “Buildings Matter” and all the other appropriative stuff that flies around are worthy of negative attention in my eyes. So, I guess you can continue to see me as just not “getting it.” That’s okay. I did read the article you attached, but it just didn’t move me or resonate with me the way it does you.

    Thanks nonetheless for taking the time to comment 🙂


  • Thanks for speaking up here, Morgan. You are definitely not the first black person I have heard say that psychiatric oppression has impacted you far more deeply than racism ever did. I know you do not need my validation or confirmation of your message, but I am sorry that not only psychiatry has hurt you so much, but that the people who at least theoretically should have had your back have instead acted like your pain and oppression simply does not exist.

    This is such a strange time… when so many people who couldn’t be bothered with these conversations of Black Lives Matter are now suddenly all about it. It feels like it is absurd that they weren’t there for the conversation before, but would be even more absurd to continue to ignore it now. And how to measure the level of disingenuous and posturing and just wanting to be seen that is involved i do not know, but I can imagine why it would all feel overwhelming, especially in the face of continuing to have the source of your pain and oppression being ignored.

    Black people working and using force in these systems is such an important topic, too. It is one that I do not personally feel like it is my business to be the one to speak on for the most part, but I have been working on this film project with some co-workers that is a bit complicated to explain, but has led to a black man who has experienced force in the system challenging a black man working in a psych facility very directly on how he reconciles being a part of that environment given oppressive histories.

    I think maybe with some of your comment, you are responding to my question re: why are there not more black and brown people’s voices being centered here? I can definitely understand it must be too much energy or too painful to even think about wanting to invest the time (not to mention expose one’s self to criticism and backlash). That makes sense.

    I responded to a lot of pieces that I heard in what you said. But underneath it all, I am sorry you have felt so unseen in all this. It is *so* hard to get most people to see and understand psychiatric oppression. It is as if it doesn’t exist in most people’s eyes. And where does that leave all of us whove been so consumed by that which is invisible, if not invisible ourselves? It is very painful.


  • Oh, oldhead. I want you to know that I keep being asked if your and a few other people’s comments should be moderated out. I have said no, but my energy is really waning for this.

    Several things:

    1. Your comment led me to go back and read ‘A Racist Movement’ again. There is a lot of good stuff in there. I do not regret it. There *was* a piece I did regret. A reference to Tourettes Syndrome that was less than respectful. A moderator helped me remove it once I realized our error, so it is no longer there. There is also another racism article that I *do* regret for its appropriative nature. It is this one: https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/01/cant-breathe/ I am embarrassed that I used “Can’t Breathe’ for anything, and centered so much of my own story. If I could take *anything* down, it would be that one. However, Mad in America has a policy against removing past articles, and so I’ve never asked. Additionally, living with the embarrassment of my own mistakes is okay. Necessary in some ways. I recently decided that I would go through some of my old pieces on racism and offer some corrections and apology for the things I see as wrong in them now. I do not see doing that on ‘A Racist Movement Cannot Move,’ for several reasons including that I co-wrote it with two black people.

    2. I am wondering about your definition of ‘reasonably well off.’ Certainly, I was born into some wealth as a kid. And I’ve benefited from that somewhat as an adult to when I had parents to fall back on to help me – say when I got very unexpectedly pregnant in my 20s. I was lucky and have privilege in that regard, and I mention that every single time I share my story publicly. However, I haven’t had access to any “family” money in a very long time. I am severely in debt, and go further in debt every single month because my single-income household does not have enough to cover basic expenses. I’m hardly living in poverty, but we will struggle to figure out how to pay for the least inexpensive Community College for my son when he leaves highschool next year. I guess I do not define that as “reasonably well off,” but it is better than many people who don’t have enough to cover their basic expenses and also don’t have access to the credit that I have to survive for a while longer, so interpret it how you will, I guess. This is irrelevant to most things here, but it’s hard – when I am struggling so much with money – to read such assumptions.

    3. I cycled through the comments on the other article (Racist Movement). I keep thinking it is funny that people say the comments section hadn’t gotten out of control, when they have no idea how many comments were being moderated out (i.e., that are no longer visible now), or how much labor it was requiring on my part and moderators’ parts to try and keep up.

    4. In flipping through old comments, I looked for where you are getting this idea that I called Richard a “racist old white man.” It doesn’t sound like something I say, and I didn’t remember saying it. And, as best as I can tell, I didn’t say it. I did, however, find a comment where I referred to the “mostly older white men” group that was responding to my comments. What I guess I was trying to get at is that I find that you, Richard, and some others do have what I receive as a very – at times – condescending way of speaking to me, replete with periodic references to how much longer you all have been at this and how much more you all know than me. It may not be intentional, and you/others may find me equally condescending. Fine, but it does get tiresome. The comments are so long, and I’ve actually been chastised at times for not writing a long enough comment representative of enough of what was said back. As if this is my job, and I’m being paid to do it. As if I owe endless amounts of my emotional labor. All this even in spite of the fact that I’m one of the few authors who actually takes the time to consistently respond at all. So, when I said that, that is what I had in mind. But I could have phrased it better, and without using the word “older,” so I am sorry for that. Regardless of my intent or what I was trying to say, I can understand why it landed as ageist, and I could have done better.

    5. a) I’m pretty sure I’ve said at various points that when it comes to systemic racism I am talking about *all* the systems.

    6. b) I *have* said that capitalism and economic justice are inextricably intertwined with racism. Multiple times in multiple places. Just because I don’t want to don the labels that you deem most appropriate for me to don in order to pledge my allegiance to your philosophy (aka “anti-capitalism,” and “anti-psychiatry”) doesn’t mean I have not acknowledged this point. I have.

    oldhead, I do not see a point in continuing to go back and forth here. Maybe you still have an axe to grind with me, but for my part, I am doing my best to create change. Sometimes that looks like words on a page. Other times it looks like direct action. And still other times it looks like a zillion other things. And, I am really, really tired. I do not feel any differently about what I wrote here than when I started, so if that was your goal, you haven’t been successful. I just feel more tired. It’d be nice if you’d direct your energies elsewhere for a while. I hope you can find something else to do with your time here. I don’t know that I’m giong to keep responding.


  • Bob,

    I want to reiterate that I have never said that Mad in America has never mentioned racism. I have to be honest that this effort to dig back in Mad in America’s history feels odd and misguided to me. What I said was that there had been no *recent* mention of racism. If I was not clear enough, what I meant was that this site was almost entirely devoid of any mention of what is happening *now*, and what is happening *now* is historic and potentially revolutionary.

    Just for the sake of doing, I did go and search racism and 2020 and I got around 10 articles. Four of them were from this week. Earlier ones were prior to this current period we are in.

    I feel a bit like we’ve tread into territory where we’re just preparing for a research article or something. But all of it misses the point I was actually making in this piece… This is an important time. It wasn’t represented on Mad in America by writers, staff, or commenters at least not in any noticeable way. It is important that we be present and paying attention in these times because our liberations are bound up in one another, and for all the other reasons I said above. That’s really it.

    Bob, You do good work. But like so many of us, I think you may be taking this too personally, and that is getting you off on the wrong track. It felt important to me to name the silence here. It is even more important that everyone work together to change that silence. Going back and forth about what percentage of articles prior to this moment in history represented racism or not just wasn’t ever the point. Let’s move forward together.


  • anomie,

    I find it really odd that you are accusing me of not talking *with* you. I have done my very best here to stay present and respond, and even hear (some) criticisms when offered. Blaming me for a “difficult atmosphere” feels pretty frustrating, honestly. Your seeing me as “lecturing” when so many people have also been “lecturing” me here seems uneven.

    I also would offer that your post *is* impacted by gender, whether you meant it to be or not.

    I think it is fair that we both disengage from this as I would agree it is not especially productive. Thank you for taking the time here, nonetheless.


  • anomie,

    I am going to admit upfront that your post here pushes my buttons in a BIG way, so take that for what it is worth.

    I know nothing about your gender, but I can say that the level of sexism I have experienced in this movement has been staggering. I have had white men steal my work in blatant ways. I have had white men who are getting paid wayyyyyyy more than me ask me to help them with their work behind the scenes, and then have had to fight to see that help credited. I have had white men say things in MUCH more controversial ways than I do in in person meetings (where I tend to be far more diplomatic than when I am writing an article), and yet I have been perceived as the stand out “bitch.” I have literally had people write on training evaluations for trainings I’ve done with another female co-worker, “You two were both wonderful trainers, but you must have a man who is a good trainer and that you could have sent.” And on and on and on.

    So, I am *not* going to respond well to being told that I need to defer to two white men to learn how I should speak, even if they also have valuable things to say. It’s just not the way this is going to go.

    Meanwhile, a few things about Will… I have known Will in person for about 15 years now. I am not going to criticize him in any way. I think he has brought valuable things to the conversation both here and via Madness Radio, etc. However, please note that Will neither has children nor a permanent full-time job with many moving pieces that requires his constant basically 24/7 attention. Yet, in spite of that, and while I haven’t looked at all his articles, I have noticed that he often responds to reader comments either minimally or not all.

    I’m not going to critique him for that. It’s a personal choice. I choose to respond to comments because a) I think it’s disrespectful and a power move not to in a forum such as this (not a specific dig at Will, just how I feel across the board in this forum), and b) When the author responds, it tends to lead to more comments and deeper dialogue within them. But I also wonder what element our gender socialization has played into whether or not we each choose to respond. And I want to emphasize that responding in the way that I do requires a TON of emotional labor.

    So, when you tell me to look at the comments section of Will Hall’s latest article and how much better it is going over there, I want to point out to you how that that article was posted over 24 hours ago, and its comments section has a grand total of 9 comments. None of them are from Will. He hasn’t shown up ther eat all.

    The article itself is also not directly about racism, although I’m glad it unites the issues. I am not going to say anything bad about it. I am glad it exists and was posted here. I never suggested my article should be both the first *and* the last, but I reject completely and entirely that his article is the only “right” way to bring the conversation here. And I ask you to question why you would even suggest that I should defer to how to white men have chosen to do things.

    They have their way. I have mine. That is okay. It requires many people speaking up to move things. And it will always be messy and imperfect along the way.


  • Okay, Richard. I hear you on my misunderstanding. I gotta be honest, it is *really* hard to have lengthy dialogues in this manner. I work *a lot* of hours, and even more hours right now during this ‘COVID’ mess. I feel a responsibility and obligation to respond to each commenter at least once whether they right something supportive or in disagreement, but you and oldhead in particular write very lengthy posts with a lot of complex ideas in them, and usually not just one of them per article. I am trying to keep up here, but the reality is that I am reading very quickly a lot of the time in an effort to keep up with my obligation to things I write and not just be so arrogant as to write and run… but it is really, really hard to pull the full meaning from every long post I receive when so pressed from time and pulled in multiple directions. If I listed out all the things that have been going on in the last 24 hours in my work world (never mind my kid world) while also trying to answer comments here… well, it would be a long list.

    I’m not sure it’s helpful – or at least I’m not sure I’m *capable* logistically speaking of continuing to go back and forth here, but if you want to e-mail me to talk about things further, I am willing to do that.


  • meremortal,

    I am certainly not going to argue with you that I’m making assumptions about race at times, but after spending a lot of time here over the last 8 years.. which has included getting to know several of the commenters both based on what they’ve shared in comments, and what they’ve e-mailed me, etc, and looking at who is *writing* for Mad in America, and how that has developed over the years, and after talking to various Mad in America employees over the years… Well, that’s what’s informed my take not that there are *no* black and brown people showing up here, but that there are comparatively very few. But yes, like I said, I am not going to argue that I’m not making assumptions, and that those assumptions are sometimes wrong.

  • Meremortal,

    The older piece was a moderation nightmare. Many of the worst were moderated out. Ditto the ‘Dear Man’ post on sexism and misogyny.

    I will take your words here into consideration. I do think that these pieces are designed to be ‘opinion’ pieces, not dialogues, and so many of them contain strong opinions, strongly phrased… not just mine, though I can certainly appreciate if you feel that my pieces in particular have that tone and will bear it in mind.

    For now, I will offer that when writing an article, etc. I do not think it is generally the time for a ton of uncertainty. I regard it as a time to state one one believes/has experienced – often with certainty and a clear perspective. That – in those moments, it can be time to “teach” or at least clearly impart wisdom one feels that they have to offer… And that the mutuality comes from us each taking turns in that, not in necessarily avoiding ever speaking strongly and clearly from a particular perspective.

    I really don’t know that I can promise to change my writing style or the importance I see in wording things strongly at times. But, I will consider your words.



  • anomie,

    Well, a couple of things… I try my best to respond to most comments, but the reality is that I’m often reading quickly in the middle of work tasks, and sometimes my efforts to pick up something I can respond to in someone’s comment may miss the mark. That is certainly true. The first half felt mostly like the correction that I responded to above.

    As to your second and more central point, maybe I am not quite getting what you most want me to take away from what your saying… But I’m not looking for there to be articles on here devoid of *any* connections being made, and I agree that connecting psychiatry and policing both as a way of controlling people is an important point… though I do not agree that it has to be made strictly within an anti-psychiatry framework… For better or worse, I think that can be talked about even within a reformist perspective.

    In the end, I think there are lots of connections to be made… some of which I at leats attempted to make in this piece… and moving forward, I just hope there continues to be less and less silence when something so potentially revolutionary is going on in one realm, especially as it is the case that all these threads are so impactful of one another. But I know I’m just repeating myself at this point!


  • Okay, thanks for being willing to answer! it feels hard for me to separate out using a last name as respect vs deference that i see so often in our systems, and so it always jumps out at me when i see last names or titles being used. but i can totally hear that it is gratitude when you do it here. i am sorry if this was too weird or invasive of a question. it is just a topic that has really been on my mind lately!


  • Sam,

    i am curious what would help this site feel like that place for you? i am not disagreeing with you that it isnt, i am sincerely curious. we are trying to develop more and more family support and opportunities to share where i work, and via hearing voices usa, and i know miranda and likely others have been working hard here to do the same. alternatives are so needed. i would love to see them drown nami out!


  • meremortal,

    it is true that -based on how few black and brown people appear here- i tend to make that assumption, sometimes erroneously. i am sorry if i have done that to you. Also, if i have rewritten your same points, then i do not think i understood your points, as i was thinking they were not exactly in disagreement with your points, but in disagreement with them as the full picture. the points i did offer are ones i have been offered directly from non-white people during conversations of this nature. i will go back tomorrow and relook at your points so i can perhaps better understand them and how i may have restated them in my own.

  • Richard,

    “Sera, I would never expect you or anyone else to defer to someone merely because of their age or political experience in political movements. But there are some people writing in this comment section with literally decades of radical activism, and some have been in the forefront with other Black radicals in some of the most significant struggles in this country’s history against systemic racial oppression. I’m in my fifth decade, and I know of others who equal that experience ,or come close.”

    You basically just did. You’re just not going to convince me here. And while I think there are things to be learned from the elders in any movement, they do not hold all the truths.

    “While your intent here is to combat various forms of racism, and some of your particular examples you used (in the past blog) to highlight your intent were exactly that – crude forms of appropriation that do come off as racist, and just plain stupid.”

    Richard, Can we be done with this? You are still at me over an article from no less than *four* years ago. Although, in fairness to you, I would absolutely still stand by the idea that white people have no business using terms like “psychiatric slavery,” but I have *zero* interest or willingness in continue to volley that discussion back and forth.

    Rather, in fairness to me, I will offer to you a hope that you might consider why you have spent so much time holding on to that four-year-old conversation. There are many aspects of what I know of you and your work that I have respect for, but I’m not obligated to respond to every comment at length nor work out these differences in perspective. At some point, you may just need to accept we see some of these pieces differently.