Monday, August 10, 2020

Comments by Sera Davidow

Showing 1528 of 1669 comments. Show all.

  • 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 🙂

    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 ( 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: 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.


  • Thanks for taking the time to comment here, Bob. As I mentioned in this piece itself, I am thankful for what Mad in America *is,* in many ways, but think – as with so many other things – we can do better, too. I appreciate that you do not shy away from anything that ventures in to the land of the critical. I certainly know what that can feel like as someone who has been in a leadership role for the Western Mass RLC for the duration of its existence (now 13 years not including its unfunded phase).

    I hear you on the reform pieces, and appreciate your acknowledgement of the lack of non-white representation, too. And, I imagine you already understand this, but I certainly never said that Mad in America *never* touches the the topic of racism. But – in this moment in time – I found the silence problematic, not on any single person’s part, but as a collective. I’m glad that silence is now broken, messy as it may be.

    I do worry about the name piece you mentioned (re: oldhead). I worry – on a site that intentionally includes so many people who’ve been harmed by systems – that there isn’t more room for pseudonyms. It necessitates a certain level of privilege to right under one’s own full name. Privilege to not be under threat from the system itself (or even have to worry about being)… Privilege to not be running from an abuser in the community… Privilege to not be vulnerable to power holders at work or in educational environments. Privilege to not have to fear losses among our family, friends, and neighbors should we speak too openly of our psychiatric histories. As you know, my parental status was threatened just a year ago when I shared a historical experience of seeing visions at a training. I know there are reasons of journalistic integrity that drive you, and that I also respect, but I hope that this can be something in the ‘food for thought’ category, as I worry that it may marginalize the voices of some of those folks who are most at risk. Anyway, food for thought.



  • I just want to take a moment right now to highlight power dynamics. I’m so curious – anomie – why you chose to call Bob Mr. Whitaker? I am actually not trying to chastise you, I’m just really genuinely curious. I just recently wrote to the Commissioner of Mental Health in our state pushing on the idea that they call everyone by their first name except for doctors and the most senior officials in their systems… A small point in some ways, yet so illustrative of power differentials. I’m curious if it is coming from that place, or from a different place for you? I wasn’t going to ask, but I just kept coming back to this place and wondering about it.


  • I am confused about your response re: black psychiatrists. My main point in the article was that the virtual silence on what’s happening in the world at this moment in time is troubling, and brings me back to times when I was told that my other articles centering systemic racism were not relevant to this space, and I fear we haven’t moved beyond that. Then I explained why it is important that we move beyond that. I’m unclear how that connects to black psychiatrists being more or less oppressive than white psychiatrists, honestly. And as I mentioned in a prior comment, I’ve never suggested that they *never* do. In fact, at the very start of the piece, I cited two other times when they posted pieces by me and centering racism, and I’m surely not the only examples. But this is about now. And how important it is that we not be silent.

    So, again, my points are that we can’t be silent on this topic right now, and that our liberations are intertwined, and well… all the other points I made in the article. If the article doesn’t land well for you, that is also okay, but I think I feel just as confused by your comment as you feel about the article itself.


  • Fair enough, You found a reference. My original point still stands. I never said that Mad in America has *never* addressed racism. I know it has. I’ve written *at least* four other pieces that were posted here and that centered that topic. Some of them I’d never write or would write very differently in current day, but they are there. That wasn’t the point. The point was that there has been almost complete silence on *this* moment in time, and no recent posts centering racism. And that we can’t remain silent because our “liberations are intertwined.”

  • Meremortal,

    If you look at the link you provided, only one appears to even be as recent as 2019. I do not think I ever suggested that there are *no* posts on racism ever. One of my points is simply that if psychiatry has been used so historically as a tool to oppress black and brown people, and if black and brown people are subjected to more force, harsher diagnoses, etc. within psychiatry… Then why aren’t the topic and black and brown voices better represented here? And even if George Floyd’s name weren’t mentioned here, why weren’t there even any mentions of the US currently basically being on fire? Part of my point here is that it *is* related. It is *all* interrelated, and it makes no sense to have the country be on fire and have there be such silence on a website that is addressing systemic oppression, particularly of a type that has swallowed so many black and brown people whole.

    One additional point: We can’t possibly keep opining about the lack of representation from non-white voices at this table, without considering whether or not that means a different table needs to be built… In other words, if we aren’t even willing to mention the issues most deeply impacting so many black and brown people today, why would they ever see us as relevant? And if you think that the endless systemic racism and white supremacy that people experience in this nation isn’t part of what ends up driving them to the distress that lands them in this system… Well, suffice to say, it is all interconnected. But I already said most of this in my piece above!


  • Richard,

    So, the meme that I posted is not my words. It is a meme circling the Internet, and that I have most explicitly seen posted by black people. They are not my words. I am supporting them.

    While I think I get your point about – as a white person – not being beholden to ideas that may be coming from internalized oppression or are simply harmful… And while I *have* fallen into debates at times with – for example – black people who argue in favor of the existence of “reverse racism”… I nonetheless do not think we are going to come to a point of agreement on this. It is just too important right now that white people follow the lead of black people… That they make space for black leaders to fight out the best approaches… That space is made for people to move in a particular direction through their own process, and not be forced and pushed, even if someone is simply pushing them in what they think is the ‘right’ direction (and even if I would personally agree it is the ‘right’ direction).

    I think white people *need* to have a place in the discussion, particularly when pushing back on other white people and using their privilege to push back on power in general. I think there is also space for us to ask questions that *could* support people to unpack and consider different ideas, or to share our own experiences at times. But systemic change has got to mean more black and brown leaders, not just more benevolent white people leading black and brown people in a different direction.

    I know that’s not carrying all the nuance of what you are saying, but it’s how it boils down for me. I’m afraid we just won’t likely reach a point of agreement here.

    As to the article you are referring to, I do not regret shutting that comments section down. Among the hundreds of comments remaining there, sure there’s some worthwhile stuff, and as we discussed earlier in this comments section, I have taken some commenter feedback to heart (e.g., not buying into the language of ‘loot’ and ‘riot’). However, that post was being flooded by horrible things, just like the Dear Man post was. Much of it has been moderated out, but it would not be fair to require me to have kept going with it and trying to keep up with the flood of awful, nor would it have been fair to others reading it.

    Richard, I have now written over 70 pieces on Mad in America. Those are the *only* two pieces for which the comments section was shut down. I am generally fine with feedback or disagreement in comments sections of my articles. Even when I feel irritated by some of it, I do not request that it be erased, and as a moderator, Steve could tell you that – since Mad in America switched its approach to ‘moderate first’ – pretty much whenever he comes to me asking if I’m okay with a particular comment going through (if it’s on the line) I am typically in favor of letting it through and just responding to it. I am also one of the few authors on here who generally takes the time to response to each commenter on each piece at least once. That said, I also want to be clear that I – like all non-employee authors here – receive no compensation for my time spent writing pieces or responding to comments, and I have a limit to how much time I have given I also have a full-time job that consumes often 80 hours of my week, and two children. It would not be fair of people to expect me to be obligated to respond indefinitely to all comments on every article. The comments section for those two pieces went well beyond ‘okay,’ and I am glad they were closed. I’m not sure what to say beyond that.


  • It is true, John. There is so much work to be done in so many communities, groups, and organizations. Hopefully, many were already doing the work to support more black and brown people to take on key leadership roles. It’s multi-layered work that requires not just inviting people in to the existing table, but re-evaluating the table altogether and building new ones. (My comment for some reason posted way above your comment, so just re-posting it here.)

  • oldhead,

    I don’t disagree (particularly in the way you framed seeking ‘black support for the Mad in America agenda”), but I also think that sometimes in transition a lot of stumbling steps are needed, and recruiting black and brown people (who have a legit interest and something to say) seems valid to me as one of many efforts. It’s pretty hard to go from 0 to 60 in one step.


  • Meremortal,

    That’s actually not consistent with my experience, or research I’m familiar with… It has actually appeared to me that black and brown people often end up even more deeply embedded in the system all too often, including heavier psych drug regimens, more force, harsher diagnoses, etc. And unfortunately, in many public sector hospitals and mental health service providers, they seem pretty heavily populated by non-white folks. Of course, not all black and brown people are the same, hold the same experiences, or respond in the same ways so that may very well be true for a number of non-white people… but certainly doesn’t seem true for all.

    There’s also the matter that so many black and brown people get routed into the foster care and prison systems rather than the mental health system, so I’m sure that has an impact. And I’ve heard many other perspectives too including:

    1. Black people (for example) already have a label that leads to systemic oppression (Black!) that has heavily impacted their lives, and they don’t really want to take on any psychiatric labels in a public sort of way.

    2. Many non-white people are deeply involved in spiritual communities that have very specific views on emotional distress and that do not necessarily align that may serve as barriers to identify as someone who’s been psychiatricaly labeled.

    I could keep going here, but I guess I’m just saying I think there’s a lot of complicated, layered issues here that include some of what you named, but a lot of others, too.



  • It is true, John. There is so much work to be done in so many communities, groups, and organizations. Hopefully, many were already doing the work to support more black and brown people to take on key leadership roles. It’s multi-layered work that requires not just inviting people in to the existing table, but re-evaluating the table altogether and building new ones.



  • anomie,

    I think it’s on everyone. Mad In America staff, Mad In America authors, Mad In America commenters… If you want an example of problematic contributions from commenters, check out the Facebook post for this article. And yes, I noted to Pat that I am asking the comments to stay on track because it’s extremely common – when racism is the topic – for people to move and shift the topic to something else. I have a responsibility to keep an eye on that.

    I think it’s a fair criticism of this piece that it wasn’t clear enough in its criticism of Mad in America oversight and their responsibility here. In truth, I didn’t name any specific group, and my point about the comments was more to say “I couldn’t even find a reference in the comments,” then to try and say it is the commenter’s responsibility to bring it up. I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer on that.

    In the end, I think we *ALL* hold a piece of the responsibility… but yes, as always, the greatest burden should be held by those with the most power and privilege in each space.



  • markps2,

    I am not sure it changes too much, though I’ve also heard they worked for the same business over the course of several years. I do not know that means it is any less an issue of racism and white supremacy… not only what Derek did, but the complicity of the other cops, and so on.

    I worry about your recommendation for a psychology test for a number of reasons including:

    1. We have all been socialized in a white supremacist culture. All of us. That means that pretty much all white people will sometimes do or say things rooted in systemic racism. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are doomed. But it does mean that we need to *all* stop with the defensiveness, and intentionally pay attention to that so that we can recognize it when it happens in ourselves and others around us and attempt to mitigate it, correct it, and apologize to those we’ve harmed along the way. (Etc.)

    2. Even “good cops” are embedded in a criminal (in)justice system that is fundamentally rooted in that white supremacist culture. Weeding out those cops (or prospective cops) who are invested in actively *maintaining* that seems valuable, but ignoring that the system will generally force even the “good cops” to become complicit in awful things is necessary to make real change.

    3. I am not interested in giving any more power or trust to the mental health system. Do we really believe that they’d be any more capable of psychologically evaluating for beliefs rooted in racism than much of anything else? Do we want to give them that power?

    Although I’m in disagreement with your proposal, I nonetheless appreciate your posting your thoughts here.

    Thank you,


  • Sam,

    I am not 100% sure I followed all the ins and outs of your comment, but to be clear, I am for sure not saying that racism is our only problem, or the only form of systemic oppression. Nor do I support those who are calling for social workers to replace police, as social workers/the mental health system are – as others have pointed out – is just another form of policing in so many instances and is quick to call in the actual police, too. I regard many of the people saying such things as well-intended, and harmfully ignorant. It is far too common that those who get topics like systemic racism simply have no clue about psychiatric oppression, and think the best answer is to incarcerate people in psychiatric facilities (aka “give them access to treatment”).

    I have heard non-white people say “All lives matter.” It’s not my job or place to figure out why, though I will say that the majority of times I’ve heard that it’s been to largely white groups, and it’s hard not to wonder how some non-white people have been trained, and pushed, and punished into finding ways to signal that they are not a threat, and support white people. But, while I *have* heard *some* black and brown people utter that phrase, I have heard *far more* black and brown people be hurt by it. For so many reasons. Including that it represents an absolutely fundamental misunderstanding of what it means.

    Here is a brief segment of what I wrote in a comment on Mad in America’s Facebook page post for this article. (Side note: One commenter noted that the comments section was like a “dumpster fire,” and I would not disagree.)

    In reality, Black Lives Matter is not the same as saying ONLY Black Lives Matter. Rather, it is a way of saying:

    * We must focus on those lives being treated as invisible or disposable *in order for* all lives to actually matter.

    * We must focus on those being routinely harmed in order to lift them up…. no, not above us, but no longer below.

    * We must recognize that – until we are able to find a place of equality, equity, and inclusion – it is essential that we keep naming that Black Lives Matter because that is not the message being sent or received at this time.

    In any case, there’s much more I could be responding to or better understanding here I suspect, but I’ll leave it at this for now.



  • Thanks for your comment, Richard. There are a number of things I would change about ‘Baltimore is Burning’ and other things I’ve written related to systemic racism and police brutality. That includes not using ‘rioting’ and ‘looting,’ and I believe you were one of the people that brought that to my attention five years ago, so thank you for that.

    And yes, I did not mention the role of capitalism and economic justice. My main point here was to draw attention to the silence on the topic at all, and while I certainly could have worked that in… well, I didn’t. But I do not disagree that economic justice and the systems that perpetuate it are central to the problem, and need to be central to the conversation about what to do about it.

    As far as the second half of your comment goes… I do not disagree with all of it exactly. However, there is a ton of nuance and tension wrapped up in what you are saying. It strikes me as absolutely essential that we make space to elevate, listen to, and follow the lead of those who’ve been most marginalized. That simply can’t happen when well-meaning allies are constantly telling those most directly impacted by systemic oppression what to do, even if they really, really feel they know better. It can’t happen when those who’ve had the privilege to study concepts and language in school (and similar) attempt to overrun and speak over those who’ve had to actually live and learn to survive that which the others have primarily only studied. It also can’t mean just following along without any critical thought, or deferring to any and everyone whether or not they’ve internalized oppression, learned to act in the image of oppressors for survival’s sake, or simply not been supported to unpack all the crap they’ve been fed along the way. Somewhere in there, there’s a way to at least try and hold both of those points, however messily and imperfectly.

    And yes, there’s also the matter of compounded oppressions, or even – as you noted – the central role of money and capitalism in all forms of oppression. I watched a film recently (The Uncomfortable Truth) in which one of the central people (a black man) speaks to how black people and poor white people should have been great allies. There is indeed much as play here that serves to keep so many of us “under.”

    So, yes… being born with privilege (white, male, etc.) shouldn’t totally silence people… And, no… sometimes knowing how much privilege we hold *should* lead us to take a step back, even if not permanently… Because otherwise we continue to monopolize the space that is there. When I facilitate trainings – actually when I and/or any of my co-workers facilitate trainings – we include in our meeting agreements the need to sometimes take a step back or count to ten before speaking if you are someone who knows that you often speak first. This is because so many others need a moment to gather their thoughts in order to step forward, and will sometimes remain silent if all that space keeps being filled. This may be because of how society has trained/socialized them to defer to others, how they’ve been slapped back when they have tried to speak up in the past, for lack of trust in the room, because they haven’t had access to the education that supports others to use all the ‘right’ words and speak in ways identified by society as ‘articulate,’ or even just because their way of thinking and pulling ideas together takes a bit more time. Regardless, it’s not about those of us with privilege silencing ourselves forever, or following along without any critical thought at all… But it is about us recognizing how much damn space we’ve taken up at times, about how many others have never even been afforded the space to stumble around a bit as they grow into leaders, and about how sometimes shutting up is actually an important act of revolution at times.

    What you’ve said is complex and important, and I don’t know that I’ve responded to it all, but this is what I’ve got for the moment.



  • Oldhead,

    My time is really limited at the moment, but what I will say is this: Yes, absolutely systemic racism and capitalism/the need for economic justice are deeply intertwined, and have been since the beginning. And I would fully support the ‘defund psychiatry’ initiative, and it is not the first time I have heard that phrase over the last few months. Psychiatry has been used as a tool of oppression with many forms of systemic oppression, and certainly racism.



  • Ooof, I’m just seeing this now, but yeah, that’s scary.

    It makes me think – unfortunately – of the guidance our own state is providing to hospitals on whether or not to *release* them from psych facilities to save them from danger of catching COVID through presence in a congregate living facility. They’re basically asking these facilities to consider whether or not someone is good about wearing a mask and doing 6-feet distancing… standards that NO ONE out in the world is actually being measured by as a reason to have their freedom taken away (well, unless they start following TAC apparently).


  • Sam,

    There are so many terrible stories out there of these sorts of things happening. I wish we could all do a better job of understanding and sharing with one another the laws around how to successfully evade this sort of force. For sure, it seems ridiculous that basically a nationwide search could be issued and sustained over years for someone who clearly didn’t want to be caught. The story is so vague that I’m not sure what on earth to make of it, but it’s frightening nonetheless.


  • I’m not sure that I’m entirely following your post, Jen. This article wasn’t about “solutions,” but about that particular question, its harms, and the reality that providers exhibit dangerousness to us on many occasions. I also disagree that resources need to mean solutions. It is this idea that supporting someone through suicidal thoughts necessarily means that our actions must be designed strictly to get rid of the suicidal thoughts. Sometimes, the best “solution” is just being willing to be with someone in the darkness because “solutions” aren’t really possible at that time. We don’t have housing or steady income to give. We can’t raise the dead when someone’s grieving. We can’t zap away emotional distress, and when we temporarily numb it sometimes it actually gets in the way of someone’s ability to move through. The approach we use encourages validation, curiosity, vulnerability (including sharing on the part of the supporter), and community (looking at ways of expanding connections that might tether someone to this world), etc. But we also do all this without the agenda of making someone not kill themselves. Rather, we are looking to support them in the moment, and suicide “prevention” is a common side effect of that. There’s no way to write out easy answers, because the context of people’s lives are unique to them. As to resources, if you’re asking what the infographic is referencing then what I’m proposing is that people who can’t discuss suicide with someone without resorting to force etc have lists of on-line Alternatives to Suicide (or similar) groups, peer support lines that do NOT call 911 (Trans Lifeline, RLC’s Peer Support Line, etc.) on hand so that the person at least has the space to talk about where they’re at without being under threat.


  • Sam,

    Hah, A co-worker (Sean) and I were just talking about what ‘safety’ means within the context of a film we’re working on (related to psychiatric oppression). It is indeed one of the trickiest questions they’ve got, especially as it relates to being a “risk to self or others.” So many words and all their special meanings in the system.. Oy.


  • Berzerk,

    I’m not sure what happened, but I can imagine several possible outcomes to that that could be really harmful. I’m sorry that they violated your trust however they did. Someone mentioned Open Dialogue above, and from what I at least understand of how it exists in Finland, one of the key differences is that many people actually *trust* their system and reach out for help early on in their distress. Can you imagine living somewhere where the system designed to “help” actually helps more frequently than it hurts, and can be trusted in that regard? I wish I could.


  • Thanks for your comment, Truth in Psychiatry. Open Dialogue is so interesting. I share about it often in trainings for a number of reasons, but – while I’m aware it’s happening – I’m not terribly familiar with the “Peer Supported” version, and I’ve heard real debates about how ethical it is to have peer supporters be involved. I’m not sure what to make of all that, but you’re absolutely right that the average “professional” is in a bind even if they want to do a good job of supporting someone through a really dark time based on what’s expected of them by their employer/the system overall.


  • dfk,

    That’s a really interesting idea, dfk, and absolutely..this all or nothing way of thinking about people and their distress is really bizarre and harmful. As is the idea that most “normal” people don’t ever think about suicide. The reality is that most of us do, but even the “suicide prevention trainings” like “ASIST” make that seem shameful.


  • I’m sorry that happened to that person (and so very many others). As I noted above, there are many times when answering the questions “right” can help someone stay out of the system… But, of course, one of the great foundational problems of why we’re even here on this site having these conversations is that – when the system has an agenda for you – they have the power to make it happen in far too many instances without their ethics or ‘rightness’ ever being questioned (at least in a way that requires them to respond).

  • ThereAreFourLights,

    You’re right that some providers are willing to twist and look for signs of whatever they want if they’ve got a particular agenda… On the other hand, I’ve seen people who’ve been dragged through the system quite successfully give each other advice on things like how to answer the questions so as to not end up in a psych facility, etc. It’s one of the more valuable forms of “peer support” that I’ve seen take place. 🙂


  • Contemplating one’s own life or death (such as Camps spoke of) is indeed an important question that far more people consider than those who will admit to it. It is a far cry from that contemplation coming from another person, often in the spirit of assessing how much control they should wrest from you. :p


  • Fiachra,

    Yep, that’s the issue… When I facilitate trainings on this topic I and my co-workers spend a fair amount of time zeroing in on the fact that loss of power and control is a major contributor to suicidal thoughts and feelings, and examining how the system that’s trying to stop someone from killing themselves nonetheless immediately resorts to things that take power and control away… It makes zero sense, and yet it happens all the time.



  • Boans,

    Ha, interesting question. Fortunately for you, were you to say that within the context of a risk assessment process, they’d probably rule you out for immediate use of force primarily because that’s a pretty long range plan, as opposed to an immediate risk. That said, I’ve seen providers who have an agenda to get someone in to a hospital use statements like “I have a plan” and simply write those down in their notes and leave out the broader details that make the risk seem minimal or at least not current.

    And yes, the whole point of this piece really is that these questions aren’t a bad idea because suicide is scary and shouldn’t be talked about, but rather they’re a bad idea because they’re canned questions that usually signal “I’m going to try and take control now.”



  • Berzerk,

    Well, for what it’s worth, I want to offer that I think it’s best to be really cautious about asking those sorts of questions, especially without asking for consent first. Even people who share pieces of their story publicly aren’t obligated to entertain questions that are intrusive or feel entitled to information that person isn’t up for sharing.

    That said, I have put myself in this public forum, and am pretty comfortable talking about suicide, so I feel okay going ahead and answering.

    I have wanted to kill myself for a number of different reasons that have ranged from:

    * Wanting my emotional pain to stop (moreso, if you will, wanting my pain to ‘die’ rather than my body… which is a way of thinking about things that I’ve learned through my co-worker, Caroline, and really resonates for me)

    * Wanting the endless drudgery that requires so much of my energy and feels so pointless to be over… The waking up, the brushing my hair, the showering, the dressing, etc. … Over and over and over, often for no discernible purpose.

    * Knowing that whatever pain I’m experiencing is temporary or will shift, and that all my fears of what people are saying about me/thinking about me are probably inaccurate should I only bother to ‘reality check’ them.. But also just being tired of that emotional roller coaster, and having to live in that place of worry/anxiety so much of the time.

    * Money. Feeling like my debt will never be resolved, and will only get worse and worse, and feeling like I have no way out.

    There are other reasons, but those come the easiest at the moment. And while I can apply ‘wanting to escape’ to each of those in their way… I also want to offer that when you ask, ‘What are you trying to escape from” it feels like you’re making an assumption or applying your own lens/meaning to my experience, and of all the things you said, that made me least want to respond. For whatever that’s worth.

    As to how it makes me better equipped… Well, as Oldhead said somewhere above, I really don’t paint myself as an ‘expert’ in general (Well, he was talking about my not painting myself as an expert on non-existent things which is certainly true, but also I generally try to avoid the language of ‘expert’ in general.) But I absolutely do think having ‘been there’ is a really useful tool. It helps me think of questions to ask that might support someone to come up with their own meaning. It makes me a less threatening person to someone else who’s struggling similarly, because I also know what it’s like to have someone step in and take all my power away because I said words like “suicide.” It makes it easier for me to validate other people’s feelings of this nature because I have internal experience to draw from, as well. And while I don’t know what will work for someone else, I’ve had enough experience trying different paths that I know something about at least some of them which can also be useful.

    Hope that helps.


  • It’s funny (loosely)… Until I read what Leah wrote, I hadn’t even absorbed that it was considered a “teaching hospital.” It’s a bizarre place in every possible way, including that it’s this awful gigantic building surrounded by a golf course, playground, and all sorts of other stuff and most people walking by and around it don’t even seem to know what it is. Actually, even a guard in a booth that led up to the hospital seemed unclear what the building contained when asked by one of our group.


  • NotCrazyAfterAllTheseYears,

    I totally agree. Jaffe is basically – in my experience – someone who discredits anything and everything that hasn’t been studied. Worse, he is someone who tends to discredit anything that hasn’t been studied in the ‘double blind’ blah blah blah supposed “gold standard” of research. The problems with that are many, including that even the supposedly ‘double blind’ research gets manipulated and misrepresented with frequency, and of course… some of those types of research are inaccessible to implement (way too much money, etc.) and simply not a match for treating everyone like actual human beings. It’s super frustrating in many regards, when the answer to his question would be answered pretty unequivocally by – as you suggest – simply asking people. But then, that would not fit his agenda either. :p


  • Hi registered,

    I’m not sure how to answer your question, primarily because I don’t know quite what the answer is. You’re right. This space is still very much in the minority, and its audience is limited. The accusations, insults, and attempts to discredit are common and it doesn’t matter that they’re baseless because the people who hurl them are backed by the majority. It can be extremely frustrating.

    What I can say is that I haven’t found it helpful to try and force people out of that other paradigm… Because force is force and so much of what drives so many of us in our distress is loss of power. However, if you have the energy for it, exposure to other materials and ideas and perspectives will eventually move some folks… Almost every person I know who is here having these conversations now was once in a very different place where they too would not have balked at a diagnostic and psych drug listing in their signatures… Some of them would even have argued vehemently that it was absolutely needed… Short of blowing up what is so as to force the system’s hand (as opposed to individuals) re: change, I think that’s about all we’ve got. But it can be a very lonely spot indeed. I’m sorry I don’t have a better answer, but for what it’s worth, I have seen many people move in that way over the years.

  • Don,

    It feels like you’re taking what I said a bit out of context and its actual meaning. I think it’s pretty clear that what I’m saying in that excerpt you’ve pulled out is that I do not think it’s okay to act as if what are often moreso inconveniences experienced by those who hold a significant amount of privilege to the deep and systemic losses of those who do not. But also, where you appear to be going with the rest of your comment isn’t a place I’m at all willing to go in this comments section. Perhaps others will be more available to that conversation, though!



  • Itsrey,

    Thanks so much for reading and sharing. I really appreciated it, and you totally made sense. 🙂 I absolutely agree with you … this idea that we need research to demonstrate what is so obviously true is absurd… And that – in the absence of research – some are powerful and/or privileged enough to simply deny its reality is completely infuriating. I’m sorry you’ve been harmed in the ways you have, and I wish that aspect of your story wasn’t so common. Thanks again. 🙂


  • Eh, neither term is how I would choose to identify myself, oldhead. Sorry. Given that they are used to describe people, they are still labels even if labels representative of ideologies. Particularly the anti-psychiatry one doesn’t even do a good job of describing exactly what i think it truly means, and is too easily misunderstood or used as a label by which to dismiss someone. The anti-capitalist one is much clearer, but still I’m not going to slap it on my forehead. I said already what I mean… The capitalist nature of our system kills people, and necessitates the maintenance of groups that are at the bottom in order to keep others at the top, and so on and so forth. I can’t support such a mess, and I can’t really see a way for it to be different while still maintaining its central elements… So, call that what you will. 🙂

  • Are you asking me that, oldhead? I mean, I’m typically not a big fan of so many labels or anti’s including ‘anti-psychiatry’ as I think you know… So, I don’t know if I’d be inclined to start labeling myself ‘anti-capitalist,’ but sure, yes, capitalism is a hugely problematic driver of what is destroying the lives of so many people, and the people who deny that are typically those who are most benefiting it *or* those who’ve gotten tangled up in fantasies that somehow, some day, they’ll be able to “show everyone” by becoming one of those ones, too..

  • Well, I think this is true to a point, but I think we have to also be cautious to not – say – equate the oppressive nature of the work of people in clinical roles with, say, the existence of people who get incarcerated in the system. Many of us do end being cogs in the system, and as was said in a preceding comment, much of psychiatric oppression isn’t about the obvious stuff, but the more subtle every day that many of us do somehow play a role in… But it’s not all equal exactly.

    Thanks for commenting!


  • Willoweed,

    Absolutely, I totally agree… As with most if not all types of systemic oppression, society tends to identify the most obvious, outrageous things and talk about stopping those (or at least hiding them better)… But the more insidious bits of oppression – especially the ones that are most effective at getting someone to internalize the oppression – can be what makes so damn hard to find one’s way back.


  • Thanks for reading and commenting, o.o. I’m not sure I’m following every sentence you wrote in this comment (the last couple of questions in particular), but I certainly agree that there’s a ton of issues in our own movement, including internalized psychiatric oppression that so many continue to spit back out onto others, as well as many other times of systemic oppression… And it seems that it is really, really hard for us to find a way out of that in said activist communities for a variety of reasons.


  • Michael,

    I hear you. It’s really hard to know who on earth to trust now – or most of the time – as so many different interests cloud it all, and drive dishonesty, force, marginalization, and so on. That said, I think that’s a whole nother topic unto itself that doesn’t really negate that this may be a learning opportunity re: psychiatric oppression as well. Though, of course, psychiatric oppression is rooted back to many interests, dishonesty, force, marginalization, too.


  • Berzerk,

    I’m a little unsure if I’m following what you’re meaning with the 9/11 video? In terms of my “expertise” on various experiences in the “mental health” system or with emotional distress… I’m someone who has struggled frequently with suicidal thoughts, been held in a psychiatric facility against my will, seen visions, had DCF called on me for vague worries that I’d be a danger to my kids because of sharing the experience of seeing visions in the past, etc. etc. I also have worked in different support roles, including for the last 13 years, as a part of the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community where we facilitate a number of groups related to suicide, hearing voices, and beyond, and also facilitate trainings on those and other topics. Don’t know if that helps?



  • Oh, and one other thing, KateL… DJ is definitely not a doctor. He’s really mostly just a guy with a family member who has struggled and is diagnosed, and who has a ton of time on his hands to get Op-eds published allllll over the place. In fact, looking at his website with its list of places he’s been published or interviewed is one of the most depressing things I’ve done in a while…

  • Thanks so much for sharing that story, KateL. Yes, I guess one of the things I wish for most is less than people fully “get it,” because that is just impossible when someone hasn’t been in it… and moreso that they get that they can’t and don’t get it. Asking you to go out and ask the people you’re desperately wanting to avoid coming to get you is kind of absurd, even if it makes some “logical” sense from the vantage point of one who already feels sure they weren’t there for you.

    That said, I *have* had some (minimal) luck using exercises that ask people to consider losses for *themselves* without first telling them that those losses would mirror incarceration in a psych facility. If there were any way to just get people to understand enough about how painful loss is for them, and how much smaller that loss is than what is experienced in a psych facility… maybe they could at least have a little more humility in that regard.

    However, often any humility found is fleeting for the sake of keeping things running… as another commenter suggested above. I continue to hang on to the fight that there must be some way, though…


  • Eh, Oldhead, I don’t really want to get into a conversation unpacking how much the media is or isn’t over blowing all this chaos. This piece doesn’t really attempt to take a stance on that, so much as a stance on how the response that is may have something to teach people about psychiatric oppression. I can at least agree that there is much to question in how the media and politicians have chosen to respond to all this in pretty much every direction, but what the truth is remains pretty obscured, I think. I can say, however, that I’m not aware of any other illness in recent history that has been killing people in institutions at the rate this one has. About a 50% transmission rate and at least 13 people dead in one of our MA psych facilities alone in the last month. I feel like some of the bigger picture stuff you’re referencing will be easier to assess a bit down the road, but I worry – as with so many things – it will remain hard to get at the full picture for a long time.


  • ThereAreFourLights,

    I spent some time in a hotel recently which also led to my seeing commercials for the first time in quite a long time… And in the matter of about a day, I became a serious risk of smashing the TV for all those ads saying “We are in this together” in so many different ways, when that’s clearly not true for huge swaths of our communities. No less infuriating is all the money that must be going into all those ridiculous advertisements that could be going to housing, food, and so much else that could actually help in real ways. Oy. Anyway, thanks for mentioning this!


  • Thanks, Sam. You mentioned ‘less nearness’ in units. I’m not sure that’s consistently true. COVID is spreading through psychiatric facilities just like nursing homes and jails, and some hospitals are leaving up to 5 people per bedroom. Others have mostly continued holding groups with people too close together. And so on. There are reports of doctors still on the unit and refusing to wear masks. And then we mix that with the reality that many people in the psych system are more vulnerable healthwise, often *because* of the debilitating nature the “treatment” can have… Oy.

    Anyway, yes, some have regarded this all as a vacation and won’t be impacted in the same way… but there are many, many others who have felt pretty impacted, so I hope there’s something to be done with that!


  • Hi Paige,

    Thanks for all you wrote. And yes, I was *just* talking with someone about the loss of Matt in particular just a week ago. But you’re right. So many losses. Deron Drumm, too, and I’m sure so many others we’re not thinking of in this moment. And you are absolutely right about people who are incarcerated in prisons, too… Honestly, everyone who was invisible is even moreso now. 🙁


  • Hi Boans,

    Ugh to that quote! I wish people were better at balance… At trying to understand how their own experiences make build understanding of others experiences, without ever thinking they can truly know or have somehow experienced the same thing. I sincerely do hope people can begin to make the connection between quarantine and what it might be like to be held against your will in a psych facility, but *never* in a “Now I know what this is like” sort of way… Moreso “If this felt this bad, imagine how much greater of a loss that would be…” It’s a stretch to expect this to happen in any reasonable way, I know, but somehow we need to find a way for people to better understand the impact of loss of power on humanity. Doesn’t sound like the person in that quote is finding that balance at all.

    In any case, thanks for your comment and for reading. 🙂


  • Thanks, Ken. I sure wish I could believe that, but while more alternatives are developing I’m not sure how many of them are developing *with* integrity or in great enough/accessible enough numbers… and at the same time, as watch nonsense like the White House Mental Health Summit and the number of places Dj Jaffe is showing up, I think we’re simultaneously losing ground. I sure hope some real change happens, but I’ve seen *so* much injustice in both the psychiatric and legal systems in the last year alone… It is indeed exhausting. But I appreciate your hopefulness and some of the work you’ve done to impact both the public opinion and alternatives pieces!


  • Ah, yes, it’s funny how the very best cures to psychiatric diagnosis seem to include a mix of insurance running out and no longer being willing to pay and liability risk. I’m reminded of Jim Gottstein’s ‘transformation triangle’ through which he argues that it is creation of alternatives + shifting public opinion + legal pressure (I forget what language he uses precisely) that will lead us to real change overall. I so wish more of us could have gone on to be lawyers! I feel like serious money ought to be invested in sending folks who’ve been in the depths of the system and experienced psychiatric oppression directly through law school.


  • Thanks, Rosalee! Yeah, you know, I should be completely used to all the hypocrisy and injustice at this point… Like totally used to and numb to all of it at this point. And yet somehow the stuff like what happened with the Suicide Prevention Coalition absolutely pushes me over the edge at times. It’s far from the worst that happens in this system given the numbers of people incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals and how they’re being treated there on the regular… But it’s such a symbol to me of just how absurd it all is. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  • Thanks, Someone Else! Ultimately, of course, I don’t know what an ‘I’m sorry’ campaign would actually do, especially in the absence of change… But I do think it is relevant to change, personally. On a number of levels. I’d be so curious to see it play out… I hadn’t really made the connections to religious texts that you have here, though, so thanks for that.


  • Fair enough, Steve. And yet, many people find it quite relevant, myself included… And perhaps most importantly, I believe it’s shifts toward saying “I’m sorry” and so no that may help some folks realize what they’re a part of. The vast majority of people working in these systems are not people wanting to do harm or people who consciously seek out to just control and silence… They’re simply playing a role that they were taught to play, and perhaps if we could get back to some of these basic human ways of saying ‘i see you, and i see my impact on you, and i’m sorry for that,’ the rest would follow? Honestly, while I get that ‘sorry’ matters far less than actually stopping the harm, I’m pretty perplexed that people don’t think those two things are pretty intertwined.


  • Oh, goodness, Oldhead. Sometimes I think you quite intentionally step sideways of the point of things. Not that what you say here doesn’t have lots of validity… It does, and you don’t need me to tell you that… but it’s also not really the point of this piece, which I think you know.


  • Thanks, John! You remind me of the time when someone we were supporting who was incarcerated in a psych hospital got very hurt during a restraint, and when I asked the psychiatrist what he was going to do about the way this person was treated, he said he’d already done it… “changed his meds.” Ugh.


  • About the Love Story reference:


    I was reminded by a reader that in Love Story itself there is a deeper meaning to ‘Love Means Never Having to Say Sorry’ that is more about having no regrets than what I write about here. I acknowledge that the story itself had a deeper way of looking at this phrase and that there is truth to that meaning that resonates with many. However, this is a phrase that has lived louder and longer than the meaning from the story, and is nonetheless problematic at least for its superficial appearance and how it’s been used since that time… And perhaps most importantly, what it meant in ‘Love Story,’ just isn’t what this article is about, so hopefully you can look past that even if you are someone for whom the actual book or film was beloved.



  • Thanks, Anonymous17! You raise many important points here… there’s a couple that jump out most to me including how some people who are in traumatic, abusive, etc. situations are taught that they need to feel guilty/apologize for everything themselves… It’s a complete mind fuck! And some learn it from such a young age or such an abusive situation that they can’t see what’s happening… Others can see it but feel no choice but to go along with it (no matter how much it tears them apart)… and still others see it for what it is, refuse, and pay a price…and so on.

    The second is how much people in activist roles or who are inspired by ‘the fight’ can lose sight of how hard and dangerous the fight can be for people in certain situations, and how one of the most insidious aspects of the system is how it rewards people for silence and punishes them for speaking up… And that can truly be dangerous for someone in so many different ways (psych drug changes, force orders, physical abuse, isolation, threats of loss of basic needs being met, and so on!)… And that just can’t be seen as the fault of the person who is just trying to survive in awful, unfair, and unjust conditions.

    It sounds like you’ve been treated unfairly from many directions. Thank you for still showing up here, and taking time to share. 🙂


  • Hey Manyshev, Thanks for your comment! I’m not sure I totally follow, though… Do you mean neuroleptics help people contend with/stay calm when facing people in power? I suppose neuroleptics have different impacts on different people, but of course, I worry that for a lot of people (not all, but a lot!) the ‘help’ to not lose control actually comes in numbness and sedation rather than improved ability to navigate the world.

    On the other hand, I definitely see (and maybe you mean?) the system use neuroleptics to aid in *their* not losing control/maintaining power. I definitely, for example, have seen a change made to someone’s neuroleptic drugs to quiet them down when they want to make a complaint against a hospital. (It was very effective.)


  • Thanks, Sam Plover! Yes, there’s so much else that could have been said here… So many off shoots, including how power also equals credibility (and how power calls upon others in power to protect one another), and how even (especially) a genuine ‘sorry’ knows that forgiveness isn’t required, and so on. Thanks for raising some of that here!


  • Just seeing this now, Oldhead! Interestingly, I went to school with Meatloaf’s daughter (Pearl) briefly (but long enough to attend her birthday party one year… So, I’ve got a strange extra interest/nostalgia for anything he does! I will definitely have to check it out!


  • I am frankly horrified that Mad in America would choose to circulate *anything* positive about this film.

    The article above says: “But what the movie does quite brilliantly is make it clear that contrary to popular belief, anger and violence are not symptoms of any mental illness. Rather, they are normal reactions to a lifetime spent being treated like an outcast, ignored, taken advantage of, disbelieved, bullied and abused.”

    Are you kidding me?!?! Wouldn’t it be lovely were this were true. It’s not.

    Sure, people who are already familiar with trauma narratives will be able to pull this idea out of the muck. And yes, the film is well acted, and all that, bit let’s be serious here.

    You have a film where a guy talks about needing his psych drugs increased, only to be his psych services are being cut… Then he laments he won’t be able to get more psych drugs with his services cut. Then he exclaims how he’s off his ” meds” right before *murdering* someone for the first time on screen (goodness only knows why he was previously locked up), and then to top it all off, he explicitly refers to himself as “mentally ill” immediately before shooting another person to death.

    And you think the film doesn’t make connections between “mental illness” (particularly “untreated” by definition of the current mental health system) and violence?

    Forget the (somewhat) “woke” folks who will be able to recognize the trauma narrative… what do you think the average person will take away from it? And how can a site like Mad in America willingly participate in that?

    So disappointed.

  • I do see your name as attached, but yeah, it doesn’t seem to work if I were to search on your name, and I too only saw two of them. I don’t blame you for not feeling good about it. It seems like that section could use some work both for the sake of people who want to view the art, and those whose work is being viewed.

  • Thanks, Julie. Yeah, even people who focus on ‘alternatives’ often still have layers of internalized oppression (etc) to peel away… I’ve seen the ‘no graphic detail’ thing perpetuated in all sorts of communities, and few people ever seem to stop and ask ‘why?’ … And yeah, there’s still room to consider consent and environment when choosing what one will share and where, but that’s far from the overarching silencing we’ve got now in so many places.


  • Thanks, PacificDawn. I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment, even if I might not agree with everything you’ve said above. And, I do think some of what you offered above is tricky. For example, I’m not sure precisely what you mean by the Autism hoax… Many people have been forcibly diagnosed as autistic which is a huge problem.. But there are many neurodivergent people who also claim that label for themselves in quite well informed ways. They take that label with power, rather than in concession, and I do not feel it is my place to try and convince them they’re wrong. But again, I’m not sure what you were specifically reference.

    And, of course, you and I have talked about drugs before, if I’m recalling correctly. I can’t stand with the idea of ‘no drugs’ across the board. As I’ve said before, drugs have been around in one form or another since the beginning of time. They’ve never been the root of the issue. How they’ve been used by *others* to control certain groups, coerce and force different groups… That’s one of the biggest issues as I see it. I personally don’t use psych drugs, and wouldn’t argue that they’ve caused great harm to many people. That seems factual rather than debatable! But I have other drugs that I do enjoy, however, and I know many others in my life use or have used various drugs to good effect for them. What I want is to be free to choose. While I in no way see your request for ‘no drugs’ as equivalent to those who’ve previously tried to push drugs on me, I’m still not interested in replacing one dictate with another.

    Choice and power are where I believe the answers are to be found… Not abstinence.

    I also feel confused by your comment about ‘no recovery programs.’ I don’t consider where I work to be a “recovery program”… We don’t even like to use that word ‘recovery’… But I do think people sometimes really do need connection points and support, and that’s also okay.

    Anyway, I guess all this leaves me curious… What *do* you think should be available to help people who want support of some kind? And what would it look like to push back and seize reparations?



  • Thanks, Rosalee. It’s so frustratingly true that the systems bury the truth… All. The. Time. Yet, I guess what I’m really saying at the end of this piece is that the truth can set us free, *when its really aloud to be told, seen, and heard*… One of the most destructive things that power allows is the silencing and dismissal of that truth.

  • Hi Someone Else,

    Thanks for sharing so much and going piece by piece in your response… I don’t know that – until quite recently – I’d thought of the mental health system as being complicit in covering up childhood sexual abuse, but I don’t disagree at this point. I don’t know that it’s intentional on most people’s parts, but any system that helps center blame in the individual rather than on the people and/or conditions that hurt them does indeed become complicit in allowing such things to continue. Thank you for helping me get clearer on that point!


  • LavenderSage,

    Wow, that sounds intense… I don’t know if I could manage that level of … well… just the noise of all the pain feels like it’d be overwhelming to me. But, I feel like there are lots of people for whom that’d be powerful, and agree with you we need more space for it all. For me, the words are the key, but I know for many it is something different. Maybe I’d be better off if I could get to that level of rawness, but for now I at least don’t want anyone taking my words from me!

    Thanks for sharing this experience!


  • Jess,

    I was at the National Council conference in Orlando when he offered his Ebola spiel. I missed out on his hazmat suit laden performance piece on the topic at AAS. :p Thanks for using those articles. It’s always good to hear when that’s happening somewhere.

    And fair point re: AAS vs. other movement spaces… I agree that there are *tons* of issues within this world… I guess it’s just harder for me to personally take when we’re talking about a group that is always in the power position and perpetuating so many problematic things, including all that ‘safe messaging’ crap. :p

    Anyway, thanks once again for this piece! 🙂

  • Wait, you mean we shouldn’t all listen to David Covington when he compares Ebola contagion to suicide contagion? (And yes, I know his narrative around this is slightly more complex than I’m making it out to be, but really…)

    I appreciate your overall point here, and will add this article to our resource list of articles worth reading on the topic… I have an article in the queue that has a similar message (although I don’t zero in on suicide specifically) called ‘No Graphic Detail.’ It does make me wonder how you have been tolerating the AAS scene, though!

  • It will only continue to downgrade any quality and integrity of the peer role. We already know that CPS trainings are *HUGELY* problematic from states like New York. People *NEED* to gather in person and really grapple with the point of this work together. On-line simply doesn’t work.

    Failed local CPS systems is not an excuse to further the failure with a terrible on-line system.

    Also, you seem to misunderstand this national certification business. It’s only a test (that you have to pay a fair mount of money for). And if you don’t have any in-person training, you may not even qualify for it.

    This is a money making scheme that will continue to do harm to any value peer roles actually have.


  • Don,

    I was a little surprised by how much you said you liked the article on Facebook, and seem critical of it here, but fair enough! 🙂 I absolutely agree that the quote you pulled out is at the heart of what we are saying. Haven’t read what you linked to from Akiko (yet), but she does indeed offer many good contributions to these dialogues, and many contributions are needed as different ones will resonate with different people 🙂 !



  • Oldhead,

    I think we are on the same page even about getting rid of the phrase altogether, as per this part of the article above!:

    “1. Check your own ‘pill shaming’ narrative contributions: Stop writing “pill shaming” pushback posts. Stop ‘liking’ them. Stop sharing them on social media. Stop creating, buying, or wearing anti-pill shaming swag. Stop using the phrase entirely. Even if there’s some piece of the message you like, you’re contributing to a larger problem, so find a different way to address that piece and leave the rest behind. At best, the underpinnings of the ‘pill shaming’ accusation are misguided. At worst, they represent a concerted effort on the part of the current power structure to use us against ourselves, and they don’t need any more help. Seriously.”

  • Anonymous2016,

    Well, I’m pretty sure the point of the article is that the two sides are *NOT* equal, and that the ‘shame’ should be reserved for those who have the power and are doing the harm, etc. so there’s that…

    And I guess you can say that ‘all drugs are bad for everyone’, but I personally don’t think it’s a useful or accurate statement… but yes, you get to make it. And no, I don’t think when you make it that makes you equal to those doing systemic harm or forcing people on drugs… But, I guess I’d ask that you consider what else is caught up in making such a blanket statement… Do you believe that we are the true experts on ourselves? Do you believe that we should get to choose whatever we feel helps us get by and make the most of our lives, provided its done freely and in fully informed ways? There’s several other questions I could add in here about disability, freedom to make choices, and all that, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll just say: If yes to those things – any of them – again, I just don’t know how you can then say ‘all drugs are bad for everyone all the time’… I think that is a harmful statement…

    But in the end, the real point of this article was that the ‘pill shaming’ concept is a harmful one that is used by those in power to try and get us to undercut ourselves and each other.


  • Auntie Psychiatry,

    I guess we were talking about the people who go after *individuals* who have chosen to take psych drugs and not try to come off of them either because the coming off is too hard (at least for now), or because they feel the drugs help them. I *do* think there is an intent of sorts to push shame on people in those situations for making the choices that they’ve made.

    That said, while we wanted to recognize that that does happen and that it is harmful, I don’t think it’s any way equivalent to what is pushed on us by the system because it lacks power. And, frankly, I’d never actually use the term ‘pill shaming’ at all, because I do – as Oldhead said somewhere in this thread – see it as a term of the ‘enemy’ overall. That is a point we likely could have been clearer about, while still recognizing that it isn’t helpful and can be harmful to push ideas on people at the individual level or insisted that they are making the wrong choice for themselves.


  • Hi Annie,

    Thanks so much for sharing some of your story here. It can be *so* hard to get off these drugs, even after all the risks and truth are known. It’s not a pain I’ve personally known. (Effexor was the hardest for me to get off of, but not by any stretch as hard as what I’ve heard so many people go through.) However, even having not been through withdrawal as intense as that myself, I’ve seen so many others try to make their way through it – some successfully, and some not.. And I am so horrified by how many doctors just want to deny that it is a thing at all. (I recently had a conversation with a psych doctor who works at a hospital that was offended that I even used the word ‘withdrawal’ in connection to psych drugs, because in her mind, they simply aren’t addictive.) Of course, ‘denial’ is yet another word that the system uses on us freely, but that we’re prohibited from using back against them (at least in any widely accepted sort of way). Thanks again for sharing some of your experience.


  • Thank you, LavendarSage. I suppose it is indeed something like that, although without all the power to hurt me in the way the system has. 🙂 But it’s okay. We all misunderstand or read into each other’s words at times, and for any number of reasons. 🙂 Provided we don’t have the power to force our perspectives on each other in any substantive way (as the system does), that’s okay. 🙂


  • Oldhead,

    I’ve personally done away with referring to psychiatric drugs as ‘medication’ in standard practice, but the phrase that is used against is us is nonetheless “anti-medication” which is why we used it here. I agree it’s a distortion of reality and a marketing tactic, as well as one that attempts to enforce the system’s absurd differentiation between what they want to call us bad for taking (marijuana, heroin, etc.) and what they want to force on us (neuroleptics, and so on). It is – as you noted – in quotes here to suggest that it is not a term we buy into overall, but maybe you’re right that we need to be even more careful with it. I’m not sure, and will have to think about that.

    Also, I *think* we were pretty clear here that actual oppression requires power, and those stating the harms of these drugs don’t have it… So, I’d not personally use the word ‘oppressive’ in any serious manner against people who take that stance. However, as also stated above, I don’t think it is especially useful for people to claim they know all that is ‘right’ for other people. Doctors certainly don’t understand these drugs and their full scope or impact, and neither do we… I’d rather be honest about that. Which isn’t to say we can’t know for our own bodies (at least, certainly better than anyone else), or can’t and shouldn’t speak of the very real harms and lies we *are* aware of… But there is a line that gets crossed that involves individuals telling other individuals what is best for them that I simply don’t think is helpful in any regard. More over, at least some of the ‘I know what is best for you stuff’ is intertwined with privilege, ableism, and so on.

    However, none of that was the main point of this piece which is, simply(ish) put: There is no such thing as ‘pill shaming’ in the way it is described in the articles that circulate accusing people of it, because all the power lies on the other side (those who push people to *take* the drugs sometimes under threat of force or loss of liberty), and we have every right to be out there talking, yelling, and screaming about how we’ve been harmed and how the pill pushing – backed by capitalism and corporate interests and the desire to control – is full of lies.

    That we think – in offering up that message – that there needs to be nuance and effort to avoid erasure or denigration of those who (being the experts on themselves) knowingly and in well-informed ways decide that psych drugs should be a part of their lives seems to be what has tripped things up here for some, but I guess I’m okay with that.


  • Hi Olga,

    Good to see you pop up here. 🙂 Thanks for reading, and taking the time to comment! The actions that harm us in the psychiatric system are the ones that ultimately harm us most in the moment, but the system’s ability to control the words that are used to define and explain us and all that happens around and to us are what – I believe – really stick with us over time. It’s so painful.


  • Diana,

    I think that’s for sure true that people with a lot of privilege are sometimes the ones that are making this argument… I think others, though, have been at the depths of having no privilege at all and it’s just to painful to think that they got where they are because they were lied to… I’ve literally had people say (in trainings where I’m offering some of this info), “Are you saying that maybe my life didn’t need to be like this?” That’s really painful. It’s a sort of grieving. Sometimes people make their way out the other side, and sometimes it is just too much pain… or too much perceived risk (especially if their whole life – housing, income, etc. – revolves around that identity)… It’s comlicated, but I appreciate you bringing up the privilege end of that, because that’s definitely a part of the story!


  • rasselas.redux,

    Hmmm… An interesting point you’re bringing up. I wonder if that’s truly ‘power’ or more ‘learned helplessness’ that you’re talking about, though? Or learning how to play a system and meet needs based on how the system has played us? I’ll think about it more.

    Thanks for bringing it up. 🙂


  • Fortunately, it’s not the majority, kindredspirit!! Just a handful here, it would seem, and given so many others have found it to be clear, it’s hard not to imagine that at least some people are just skimming and making assumptions. Fierce debate is fine. It would just be good to be debating over what was actually said. In any case, I’m not going to keep arguing on this point. People are welcome to respond how they are… It’s just frustrating.


  • Hi all,

    I’m writing this comment separate from response to everyone’s individual comments just to try and make a point here that I find myself repeating through a number of the comment threads:

    No one is obligated to like or support this article. However, I do feel frustrated by the apparent misunderstanding of it through a handful of the comments being made, and I want to clarify.

    This article was written with a lot of intentional nuance and balance, but the fundamental underlying point here is that we find the ‘pill shaming’ concept to be highly problematic, which I hope is clear from the bolded quotes even if you don’t read anything else. In fact, we have buttons made up with some of those quotes that we take to conferences in an effort to push back on people who would claim ‘pill shaming’ when another person simply speaks to the harms they’ve suffered at the hands of the psychiatric system, or when they speak truth about what science *actually* tells us about psych drugs and their efficacy and potential harms.

    Where people seem to be getting lost – as best I can tell – is in our recognition that there *are* sometimes people who claim that no one should ever be on any kind of drug or that they know that anyone who says drugs help them is somehow misguided or “deluded”. People who push in this way are *NOT* equal to the system that pushes drugs because (as we say several times in the article) those people have no systemic power.

    However, my personal wish is that this movement will eventually get to the point where the focus *is* on power. Not on ‘recovery’… Not on what people should or shouldn’t be doing… but simply on their right to have real information, make real choices, be treated equally where their rights are concerned, and be the holder of power where their own lives are concerned. And along with that hope is one where once people’s power is restored, that we are clear to not tell them what they should do with that power, even if that means they make different choices than we would like. Because if we can’t let go of that agenda – even if we are for more right and more justified than others in what we believe – we just contribute to chipping away at that power once again… or at least don’t contribute to people really owning power for themselves.

    I’m sorry if some of my responses above have been snippy, but it is hard to put something out there and then have it not be heard for what it actually says… again, hearing does not need to mean agreeing… but it’s the lack of hearing that feels most bad. Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to truly take it in – whether you agree or not! 🙂


  • PacificDawn,

    You are welcome to oppose the article. That’s fine. People can speak their truth about anything, including this article, provided they are speaking to what it says. (And I guess even if they’re not, although that’s substantially more upsetting because it feels like we’re being used to make a point that’s not representative of what we worked hard to say and being misrepresented in the process.) I personally would and do feel quite denigrated by the idea that I don’t know myself well enough to know that the drugs I *do* use to numb out some time (not psych drugs, but alcohol for one), and that I’m somehow a ‘victim’ as a result of seeing the value in that for myself… It also feels hard to hear that I’m somehow also not able to do the work that I apparently need to do to process my feelings, etc, if I’m using such substances and am somehow – if I’m reading you right – lesser than for that.

    Drugs have been used since the beginning of time to bring about experiences or numb out from them. I do not think that is the issue. It’s the power that comes behind them, in a system that feels it should get to say ‘We force (or punish) you not to take this one that we’ve labeled as bad, and we force you to take this one that we’ve labeled as good and punish you if you try to resist’ while using that same power to lie about why… that’s the problem. The people who then come along and tell me that they also thing I’m bad or wrong for choosing what I do take even in the most well informed way don’t have the same power or cause the same harm in any way, but they surely don’t help.


  • Nijinsky,

    I didn’t accuse you of not reading. I said it was hard to tell where you were coming from, and hard to tell with most comments… But some of them – those that accuse *us* of shaming people for speaking truth – certainly indicate they didn’t read it at all. Which is – I would hope you understand – quite frustrating.

    The article doesn’t ask anyone to silence their own truth or the overall truth about psychiatric drugs or the system. Quite the opposite.


  • Njinsky,

    Yeah, I think that’s very true: That one can’t argue with someone on psych drugs. I’ve been incredibly frustrated many times by seeing people who are shaking, falling down, etc. and are just at least appearing to be regurgitating what they’ve been fed for so long that this is what ‘recovery’ looks like for them and they’re doing so well (because they’re not getting in trouble)… I regularly share in trainings that there is usually a small group of people that seem to do better on psych drugs longer term in most studies on psych drug efficacy, but that a) We don’t know why and if it is really all about the psych drugs or some other factor given the limited options available for alternatives and b) that small group is tiny compared to the number of people that are *told* in the US that they need to be on psych drugs… and so, if 20% do actually seem to do better, but 100% are being told that they are that 20% (if its even true about the 20%) … what do we do about that?

    Honestly, I believe wholeheartedly what we said in there about the most important thing being about people having their power back, and us not worrying so much what they then do with it. Even if we are far more “right” about what would be useful to them, taking people’s power away isn’t useful and often just results in a power struggle. I feel like when people find themselves arguing with someone about what would be right for that person for themselves we’ve lost our way. We have a job to put information out there based on our own experiences and based on science and truth and all that. We have a job to illuminate paths. But the moment we start pushing someone down a path, we are failing to do that most important thing… focus on them holding their own power. We can’t claim people know themselves best and then tack on ‘unless you’re on drugs… then we know better’ without invalidating so much of what we say (those of us who say/believe that anyway). I don’t think it’s comparable in any way to what the system does when we do choose to argue and push an individual person because we don’t have any systemic power… but I still think it means we’ve lost their way.

    I’ve seen *so* many people get mad at first when just presented with information… I’ve personally been attacked during trainings for unraveling the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory for people because – even though I’m speaking truth – it shakes their belief system about themselves too much. And while I do *NOT* owe it to them to stop sharing that… not ever… I *do* owe them the right to go through their own process with it…

    So yes, ultimately, “It’s their life”, as you said, and we’ve got to focus on illuminating life’s potential and psychiatry’s lies without getting too stuck on the idea that everyone therefore needs to come to the exact same conclusion for what that means they need or want to do.


  • Rachel,

    I don’t disagree with most of what people are saying in the comments section about ‘pill shaming’ (which includes pretty much anything that’s been said right up until it gets to the point where people start claiming that *every and anyone* who chooses to take them is wrong, deluded, and should be regarded as lesser than or what have you), and that was kind of why we wrote the article and have made buttons that we bring to conferences with the two of the three bolded quotes in the article (which were written by me, but inspired by conversations with Caroline). It’s just frustrating to see the finger pointed at us in these comments when there are so few articles pushing back on the ‘pill shaming’ concept and we worked pretty hard to write an article that pushed back on the silliness and harmfulness of ‘pill shaming’ in alignment with most of those comments and people aren’t taking the time to see that.


  • Nijinsky,

    I’ll be honest that I’m having a hell of a time figuring out whether a lot of these comments (not just yours) are misunderstanding our article and criticizing/attempting to educate us, or if they’re just riffing on their own take on things. In any case, as someone who has spent literal years, writing, training, and making films about the lack of real evidence of ‘chemical imbalance’ any any number of other elements to do with the psychiatric system, you’ll get no argument from me for most of what you say. And yet, I’m not going to argue with people who say that they want to be on psych drugs and that they’re somehow helpful to them. Pretending I know someone else’s truth – everyone else’s truth – is not something I’m willing to do. It’s a replication of the system that we fight against… I’d rather live in the ‘I don’t know’, so long as we also get to be really clear that the psychiatric system also clearly don’t know either and shouldn’t get to pretend that they do.


  • PacificDawn,

    I quite enjoy my altering drugs when I have them… They just aren’t psych drugs which I refuse to touch for a number of reasons. It’s hard to tell from your comment – as it is unfortunately hard to tell from many of the comments here – if you read through the entire article and saw that we very clearly took a position *against* ‘pill shaming’ being a legitimate thing. HOWEVER, at the same time, I’m not comfortable with speaking against people who take drugs (whatever drugs they choose) to numb feelings at times, as long as they do so knowingly (knowing that that’s the goal, knowing the risks of doing that, etc.). The problem isn’t that people sometimes want to numb out (frankly, I’d like to numb out after reading some of these comments that so blatantly speak to people not having read what we put quite a lot of effort into writing and fully intend to do so a bit later), it’s that those in power want to force, coerce, and trick them into doing so and in ways that come with dire consequences for those that would be numbed.


  • Kindred Spirit,

    Did you *actually* read the article? Your response suggests not. It’s primarily a push back *against* people who claim ‘pill shaming’ is a legitimate phenomenon. While we acknolwedge that it is largely unhelpful for people to say ‘all psych drugs are bad for all people’ and try to push people into getting off of them, I wonder how you could read lines like:

    “At best, the underpinnings of the ‘pill shaming’ accusation are misguided. At worst, they represent a concerted effort on the part of the current power structure to use us against ourselves, and they don’t need any more help. Seriously.”


    ““We’re not pill shaming you. We’re just sick of watching people fucking die.”


    “Speaking truth about bad science and psychiatric oppression does not equal ‘pill shaming.’”

    And see this article as one that is supporting the ‘pill shaming’ concept overall.

    Balance is important. So is actually reading what you seek to critique. :p


  • Thanks, Catalyzt.

    I do hope that you hear (and I can’t quite be sure from what you’ve written) that we ultimately really don’t want to create an environment where ‘pill shaming’ is lingo that is put upon people, or that the people who’ve been harmed, forced, etc., carry the burden of needing to worry too much about making people who do take psych drugs uncomfortable. Ultimately, we want an environment where all the truths are able to be spoken without any back pedaling… One where we stop short of blanket statements about all drugs being bad and all people who take them being bad, wrong, misguided, ignorant, etc (we need not diagnose each other any more!)… but where we speak truth and get to express our anger at all the bad science and pushing of drugs that come at us without anyone trying to undercut us by calling us ‘pill shamers’ because in the end pretty much all the force and power in this society is on the side of those who push the drugs on us. So, yeah, agendas and blanket statements and intentionally trying to tell other people they’re bad for not choosing the way you have chosen isn’t generally helpful (and, as you say, doesn’t typically move people toward where you’re actually trying to move them even if it *would* be useful to them to move in that way), but I hope you get to continue to speak your truth with all the passion and anger you hold and without needing to back pedal. 🙂


  • Johnnyb,

    I can appreciate what you’re saying, but I think it’s a bit more complex than that. I rarely here from people who feel they also haven’t been harmed in some ways, for example. That is actually a really interesting topic, I think, because sometimes (most of the time) when someone says ‘the hospital saved my life’ the system just says, “look what we did! hospitals are great!” But few really stop and say, “What exactly was it about your hospital experience that you feel helped, and were there other things that also hurt during that same experience that you wish hadn’t happened?” It’s weirdly all or nothing on a number of levels, and then when we offer any critique of that *we* are the ones painted in that way in an attempt to dismiss us.

    In any case, I think a lot of people *do* talk about shaming people who use drugs, cigarettes, etc… talk about AA/NA as very shaming at times, etc. etc… But yes, I think overall I get your point and your right that there’s a boat load of hypocrisy wrapped up in all this and how socially acceptable drugs are regarded and responded to vs those that are not socially acceptable (and socially acceptable has little to do with what is *actually* most harmful). And yes, if each person didn’t have to fight for the power (within or outside of themselves) to simply be who they are and be confident in that, so much would be better… but so much of that is wrapped up in the environmental conditions we all live within that it seems quite the challenge to get there!


  • Dmshanin,

    I am afraid I can’t agree with a lot of what you are saying here. I know people in my own life who are quite well informed, and hold quite a bit of power, who still choose to take some of the antidopmanergic drugs you are taking at least on an intermittent basis. I also know many many people who experience them and the reasons they ever took them in a way that aligns with what I understand to be your experience.

    Some of the point of this article is that it’s generally *not* helpful to put on other people blanket attitudes that assume everything is exactly the same for us all… including things like that psych drugs are uniformly bad and useless for everyone, or that everyone who agrees to them suffers from Stockholm syndrome. However, the larger point of the article is that even though being told something like “you take these drugs because you suffer from Stockholm syndrome” can be hurtful and lead someone to feel pressured, since *all* the real power is in the hands of those who *push* these (yes often harmful and ineffective) drugs, that it’s silly to suggest that making someone feel bad in that way is in anyway equal to actually hold all the power to force them to do anything or influence enough of society to even make the more subtle pressure consistent.

    Again, written from a treadmill so a bit more clumsy but hopefully still clarifying…


  • Nchurch,

    Thank you so much for your comment and for putting to words so well what it can feel like to feel so powerless that you need to hide your humanity and light in order to stay some approximation of free that isn’t really very free at all. That can be so painful, and so soul crushing. I’m sorry that that is your experience, but thank you for sharing a piece of it.


  • Eh, as we said, we have “intermittent respect” for the output of those outlets… not constant. But each of those has certainly sometimes put out useful things and I’d look there before I’d look many other places. But regardless, a critique of which media sources we each like is relatively irrelevant to this topic. Our point was simply that we are starting to see these “pill shaming”-type stories popping up from an array of sources.


  • Auntie Psychiatry,

    Do you mean the really small group of people who do seem to actually go after the people taking the pills in pretty relentless ways or do you mean something else?

    The main point of the article was that “pill shaming” isn’t really a thing, for the most part… that it’s often about something else in the little ways it does happen, and that mostly the term is a misunderstanding of or misuse of power because the very few people who actually criticize people for taking psych drugs still don’t actually hold any power over them, and the argument that “pill shaming” is this real and frightening thing that is somehow equal to the force and coercion out there that makes people think they have to *take* drugs is just off base.

    Sorry, I’m writing clumsily from the treadmill so that’s also a clumsy synopsis, but I guess I’m just trying to understand why you are asking Caroline and I for real examples when our emphasis is on pill shaming being an over blown often manufactured sort of thing?

    That said, I think if you look around Mad in America in some of the comments sections you will occasionally see the people that absolutely do think we should be telling every single person to get off their drugs and that any person who wants to take them … not just the people who – from a big picture perspective – think they do more harm than good or that we as a society are unable to ethically handle prescribing them without resorting to force and coercion – but those who think that anyone who says they truly benefit from them is just misguided or brainwashed and tells them so. It’s not common, but it happens every now and again.


  • Thank you for this, Mitzy. Deron has always been one of my favorite people. We drifted a bit, because – I think – he found his inner peace and actively pursued that path, and I’ve stayed more angry. But I’ve still always so appreciated his existence, and his work, and knowing he was just a (relatively) short drive away pushing for similar things, even if in different ways!

    I’m going to do my best to remember lots of moments with him… at protests and rallies, driving along the California coast and sharing the terror of being so close to the cliffs, and staying up late (for Deron!) talking about silliness and seriousness in equal measures.

    Thanks again,


  • Hey FreeDom,

    I could have sworn I replied previously, yet my reply seems not to be here, so trying again…

    I particularly appreciate your last paragraph about just how hard it is to get people to believe any of the truths, once they’ve bought into the myths… Because giving up the myth means so much more than just believing the one truth that with which they might be presented in that moment.



  • Well, yeah, I mean, overall I agree with you.

    But, for example, the Informed Consent laws I’m aware of require:

    * Doc to inform someone of the potential risks and benefits of the proposed treatment
    * Doc to inform someone of the potential risks and benefits of any *alternative* treatments of which they are reasonably aware
    * Doc to inform someone of the potential risks and benefits of doing nothing

    So, even if they stop short of calling “bullshit” or saying “I really have no idea what I’m doing, but this is what the latest pharma rep suggested when they stopped by my office”… the above sure would be a nice change. But most doctors don’t come even close.


  • Alex,

    Yeah, I get what you’re saying and how my comment could be read. In my mind, I was thinking of a particular group of people including Kevin Hines who are basically just going around and telling their stories to make everyone feel good, but kind of supporting the systems way of being at the same time.

    And yeah, I think you could rightly accuse me of being invalidating of that specific group of people, I suppose. But I frankly had a *huge* reaction to hearing Kevin for the first time in person… His story no longer sounded like his story. It sounded dramatized, like a one-person show… and a one-person show that supported many of the things that so many of us are trying to rail against. And I don’t know if I’ve *EVER* received so many e-mails as I received in promotion of his film (which, in fairness, I have not yet seen).

    So, I suppose you could say I’m being unfair to him, and maybe I am. I’ll just have to accept that as one of my many flaws. But it just feels so very far away from genuine sharing to me, and he has such a big platform.


  • Hi CatNight,

    Thanks for sharing what you’ve seen. Ah, truth in advertising laws… Unfortunately, of course, there *are* some laws (e.g., Informed Consent laws) that *do* suggest there should be ‘truth in advertising’ (at least a lot more truth than there is now), and yet those laws are wholeheartedly ignored without any negative consequence (for the folks responsible for upholding them, yet who are not). So many broken systems complicit with one another in making things what they are these days.


  • rasselas.redux,

    As Steve already pointed out, what I’ve written is about the way stories are handled, restricted, and used and often *not* about the stories themselves. In the case of AAS, I’m not referring to the specific stories at all. I haven’t read most of them. And I don’t think of the authors as “victims”, even if I wish they wouldn’t have participated. For example, I know Leah Harris reasonably well, and I certainly don’t think of her as a hapless victim fallen into a system’s trap. And I’m sure some – maybe even all – of the “winning” stories have value. I do personally take issue with some of the folks who’ve kind of made their careers off this struggle, and go around endlessly telling their stories *without* being clear about what needs to change, or having much experiencing in supporting others to move toward that change because I do feel like I see them getting used. And, I did get pretty uncomfortable with Des’rae’s partner commenting that they’re riding her “suicide star” to fame (I don’t remember quite exactly how it was phrased, but it was something like that) in the ‘S’ word, but all of those things are at least somewhat different topics, even if overlapping.

    So, yeah, I am speaking about the contest itself. What it calls upon people to do. How it uses competition between people for these limited amount of funds, yet fails ENTIRELY to actually value their voice beyond the perceived value (often *entertainment* value, in my experience) of their story by not making the conference ITSELF accessible, and so on. As I already said in the article.

    As to the Legislative Breakfast, that’s a whole ‘nother example of this phenomenon where they tend to take people who have very little experience sharing their stories and (as I’ve heard with my own ears) sometimes give *very specific* instructions about not saying anything too negative about any mental health service, and then stick them up there to succeed or flounder (often the latter) and ultimately ask for no real change. It’s PAINFUL to watch. And different than the AAS contest. But under the same umbrella.

    In any case, I stand by everything I’ve said in the article above.


  • Mecarlym,

    Thanks for reading and for your comment. And yes, you’re right. It is so hard to figure out how to navigate challenging the way this works, when we are ultimately talking about people’s personal stories and sharing. Yet, it is indeed often fairly apparent when people are being used or shoved in one direction or the other as to how they tell it… And when that story becomes something else other than entirely theirs.



  • Fiachra,

    Well, I don’t know if I’d go quite as far as saying it only exists outside of the “medical” system, because I think there are few absolutes and I don’t want to rule out anyone’s valid stories… But, I will say that both research and my own experience resonate with what you have to say in that the medical system sure does seem to do a LOT of *getting in the way* of people actually moving forward and beyond such struggle.



  • Thank you, Rosalee! I’m going to be headed to a “Legislative Breakfast” at the end of this week that is inevitably going to include stories that fit the format you, I, and so many others are pushing back against. I wonder if I might ever reach a point where the screaming in my head while I’m attending will start to come out of my mouth. :p


  • Icagee,

    Thanks so much for what you shared. How the legal system functions and intersects with the psychiatric system is so infuriating. I see horrific examples of it all the time, and most people don’t bat an eye because they – once again – think it’s all “for our own good”. It’s really terrible. I’m sorry for what you’ve had to go through.


  • Thanks, Anonymous2016!

    Can you just clarify… I’m not sure what you mean here:

    But here’s the thing. How do you you learn anything from it if it’s not the truth and the bare and brutal truth. The fact is, we will never learn by sugar coating anything. It’s just not done that way and we’ll never change anything. The truth is uncomfortable and so is making change, one cannot be done without the other.

    You write that as if I had said things should be watered down… I can’t tell if I’m misunderstanding you, or you misunderstood me? But, regardless, I’ll just say nothing I wrote above was meant to suggest we should have to water ourselves down, although I did talk about how people often ask us to do that either “for our own good” or to prevent them from feeling uncomfortable… Neither of which I agree with…

    Anyway, thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂


  • Wishing I’d read the WHOLE “participant guide” for the AAS story contest before finishing this story…

    Some highlights include:

    * There’s a $10 fee to submit your story to the competition
    * There’s a “guide” on “safe” writing about suicide
    * There’s a warning that writers’ submissions will be evaluated by judges who are mental health professionals, and that they may be “contacted” if they are believed to be at imminent risk


  • Thanks, Bricew. It’s always interesting to me how important language is, and how we hear words differently. I do often challenge people re: “Committed suicide” when I’m in training environments. I do *not* ever tell people they “can’t” or “shouldn’t” use it, but just offer food for thought which is this: “Committed suicide” comes from a time when suicide was being painted overtly as illegal (as in “committed a crime”). Based on that, I personally try not to use that frame… but nor am I fond of “completed suicide” or ever telling people *what* precisely they need to say.

    In my experience, telling others (and especially others who have first-hand experience with something) precisely what words they’re supposed to use comes from a special brand of ignorance and insensitivity.

    Thanks for sharing some of your mother’s story as it intersects with your own. I too struggle with this idea that we should get to put our own priorities of people living as long as possible on other people who may genuinely just not want to be here. I’ve heard there are other countries where there are supports set up for people who want to die… Even heard at one point of a place of that nature where people could go to get support in killing themselves that supposedly ended up not having people actually go through with it, because it provided such a valuable space for people to talk openly about their struggles and death and everything else. I actually don’t know if that place actually fully exists as it was described to be… But it sounds really interesting if it does.


  • Thanks, Catnight! The taboo you speak of … the reality that a lot of this comes from a fear of talking about death at all… is definitely one of the things we try to address and bring to the surface with our Alternatives to Suicide work. And it was so weird to watch the ASIST folks twist themselves around the idea that we should be able to talk about suicide, while still sending such a strong message that it should also be really hard and upsetting whenever we talk about death. And yes, it definitely doesn’t have to be like this. There are certainly cultures where talking about death in all its forms is so much more normalized. The issues – being able to talk about death at all and being able to talk about suicide – are absolutely intertwined.


  • Thanks so much, Richard. And you’re absolutely right.. I shouldn’t have gone alone (from any other than a financial standpoint). Even before some of the worst things happened, it was still painful to be the lone voice in a sea of providers who were all on the same page with the terrible things they were saying. And it made my credibility much lower in a lot of ways.

    And good question… Massachusetts doesn’t seem to do much with ASIST right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it moved in that direction. We’ll certainly be watching for it 🙂


  • Thanks, Alex. Yes, mandated reporter is a serious issue, *especially* since so many people claim that it has anything to do with the topic of suicide which it most assuredly does not. But in general as well… It is a real issue. And what I think many people don’t realize is that once DCF is called in, it’s kind of like getting a diagnosis… I was thinking about my house after DCF was called on me. My kids aren’t getting abused. They’ve got pretty well supported, good lives… but how would DCF interpret my house not being so clean a lot of the time, and all sorts of other things that are just fine when you don’t have DCF looking at you through a particular lens…. Oy.


  • Fiachra,

    I think the drugs – and their largely unacknowledged contributions to *increasing* emotional ups and downs, disconnections, etc. – definitely have a role. However, I hesitate to say they’re all to blame. The hopelessness that comes with being given some of these diagnoses, the “prognosis” people are given, the hospital environments and how powerless people can feel… All of it also has a role.

    Iatrogenic effects are bit… and with more than just the psych drugs.


  • Oldhead,

    Yes, I know you’re largely right, and I can’t help but try. And no, not a word… although I e-mailed them *ALL* (Office of Mental Health and Northern Rivers leadership and Board members) again yesterday with a link to this article, and telling them that I am *formally* asking for information on how to file a complaint which I believe they should be legally compelled to provide to me… But nope, nothing.


  • Hey The_cat,

    Yeah, I’ve been in similar situations, too and had to make some really difficult situations. Ultimately, I so appreciate where you landed. It’s where I’ve landed, too. People *need* to be able to say some of those things to other humans and not get locked up for it. That said, there have been occasions when I’ve also said to people, “Hey, it was super unfair when you said that and then disappeared, and I’m feeling angry about that right now.” That (treating them as not so fragile that they can’t handle hearing how what they did impacted me) also turned out to be good for our relationship, though.



  • Hi Rachel,

    Yes, during and following hospitalization is when suicide “risk” is actually the highest according to research, and hospitalization seems to have long-term impact on suicide rates even for people who were hospitalized for reasons other than wanting to kill themselves. It’s pretty staggering and largely ignored data.


  • Julie,

    I hear you, and you’re not the person to suggest I make it about someone else. However, it loses a lot of power when I can’t say “that was me”. Being able to say “that was me” is a huge chunk of the power of sharing these sorts of stories at all. It’s where we get to challenge people’s assumptions in how they might conjure up an image of the person about whom that story is true… I know it’s a risk to me. But in spite of all this, it’s a risk I continue to be willing to take … most of the time. 🙂


  • I don’t disagree with you that people don’t want to deal with the politics and just want help. *HOWEVER*, part of the point here is that often they think they’re getting help and they end up getting hurt. Or, if they get legit help at the individual level, it may still contribute to hurt at the systemic level by sustaining the illusion of need for NAMI. None of that ultimately changes anything I’m saying here…

    Anyway, I think we’re ultimately basically saying the same thing underneath it all…


  • Lenora,

    You said: “Places like this, or your doctor, or mental heath professional, etc take things like this seriously and follow protocol because if they don’t, they might get hit was a malpractice suit.”

    Yes to a certain extent, however:

    1) That’s really misguided, and not at all supported by research evidence that says that both assessment of need and the most common interventions used are wildly ineffective.
    2) Even the fear of lawsuit is misguided, as successful lawsuits blaming providers for suicide deaths is actually incredibly rare, and especially in situations where there wasn’t egregious neglect (such as there wouldn’t be should want simply *talk* to someone rather than immediately shipping them off for “help”).
    3) I don’t even think that’s *truly* the motivation for a lot of people… Having *just* been subjected to a “wellness” check by a provider this past Friday myself, I strongly believe that some of these things are motivated by power and control, and excused under the cover of liability.

    I don’t disagree with most of the rest of what you said, but I’m not – and never have – blamed people for falling into NAMI’s clutches. I blame the broader systems (including NAMI) that make that so damn hard to avoid. So, ultimately, I agree with oldhead… if NAMI were gone, we wouldn’t have keep worrying about all this… but that’s certainly not to say that people don’t really struggle or need support. Just not the NAMI trap brand of it.


  • Systemic oppression and privilege do not preclude the success of members of those groups, but it does speak to the default design of society. For example, our holidays and workweek and how many people are afforded time off are structured around a Christian perspective. When kids are forced to stand and say the Pledge in school or people are asked to swear to tell the truth in courts, a Christian perspective on god works its way in. Presidential candidates suspected of not being Christian have had to go out of their way to prove that they are. These are just small examples, and don’t predict the outcome or impact for each individual which will vary significantly… but it seems strange to me to suggest that folks who follow a Christian practice aren’t privileged in this society in ways that make their way of life at least a bit easier.

    It doesn’t seem as if we will come to agreement on this. I believe that the insistence on seeing this as insult rather than a reality of the fabric of our society is a part of what keeps these things in place, and that seems really sad to me. But I don’t really know what else to say about it, and I don’t think it’s worthwhile to get into an extensive argument about it here.


  • I have to be honest, Oldhead, that sometimes I really do wish you’d give it a rest. You seem like you have so much time to spend in these comment sections actively derailing things, and it can be exhausting to even try to keep up.

    Her main point was that she felt I’d insulted white people, and discounted her experience. I did my best to illustrate how that is a misunderstanding of what I said which isn’t an insult toward white people at all.

    *You* are the one bent on dismissing that in the name of naming capitalism. Of course capitalism has a role in all this, including the fact that it is capitalism that drives big pharma to use groups like NAMI as they do. And that’s not the whole picture, and none of this – not even the white privilege part – was central to the actual point of this article… although overal features of systemic oppression certainly are.


  • Marie,

    I can’t be sorry that I included reference to white privilege in the article, because it’s real and it’s important to keep recognizing that fact. But, I am sorry that you received it as an attack, because it surely isn’t one at all. I know it can feel awful, however, to feel as if someone isn’t seeing your own suffering. I believe that you and your family have really struggled, and faced lots of adversity.

    I don’t think that that changes that you’ve received from benefit from your whiteness, but I believe that that’s been much harder to see or feel because of all the other benefits you haven’t received.

    In the end, privilege really isn’t about the person who possesses it being bad, or not having earned much of what they’ve gained. Rather, it’s about the reality that our society has been built and sustained by people who’ve had their own needs and wants and beliefs most in mind… That means that society centers and prioritizes mostly white, male, cisgender, christian, heterosexual, able-bodied folks with some wealth and education. And for each of those (and other relevant) qualities that one does not possess, there are at least a few more barriers in their way to the success… and people from the dominant groups blaming them for having a tougher time because many from those dominant groups can’t even *see* the barriers the marginalized group might be tripping over… because that’s how privilege works.

    Anyway, here’s a couple of samples of what’s out there about white privilege if it’s of interest:

    Joy Degruy presentation on Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome:

    Joy Degruy clip on white privilege:

    Article on white privilege:


  • Oldhead,

    Whoever said that to you was also being silly. The reasons why black and other non-white people aren’t more present here runs deep, and is reflected throughout any movement closely associated with pushing back on the psychiatric system. The reasons run from the fact that people of different backgrounds and privileges are shuffled into different systems, to how the psychiatric system and racism already intersect to even further marginalize non-white people, to how shitty white people are at making space and centering voices other than their own or hearing and respecting people other than those they see as representing their own image, and beyond. Whether you call people asking folks here not to use the term “psychiatric slavery” as appropriation or simply a show of lack of respect for the multiple black voices who’ve come here and said it doesn’t sit well with them… it doesn’t really matter. If becoming less white were more important to folks around here, they’ve be willing to give on these points even if they don’t fully agree.

    But regardless… I’m not going to continue arguing about this. We’ve been round this circle before.

  • Will spent a fair amount of lines on ‘peer respite, Frank. It wasn’t just one casual mention. And I think it was out of place. I actually think Will fairly frequently has include off handed lines in several of his blogs here that are targeted at particular people or groups in ways that don’t feel honest to me. This is but one example.

    That aside, your reference to “adult babysitting” just tells me you don’t know much about what peer respites are actually intended to be or what the ones done with integrity have to offer, and you are missing my point entirely. I also think it’s strangely naive to suggest that creating alternative supports is a waste of time… that echoes of the criticism many of us often receive about pretending nothing is wrong when we argue against the medical model. Mostly, people who hurl that criticism aren’t actually paying attention… because often many of us *are* acknowledging fully that something may be wrong for lots of people… that their pain and struggles are legit and that they deserve support. Just not within the framework the system has to offer.

    I also think you are giving Will way too much credit in what you ascribe to what he was saying there.

  • Sam,

    I would frame what I’m doing here largely as offering food for thought, and material to counter those who continue to argue in favor of these large entities like NAMI, MHA, etc without unpacking what’s really going on.

    That’s neither as personal as venting, nor as productive as offering a solution… but I do see it as being on the road to the latter… or at least a necessary part of ever getting there.


  • Will,

    I’m not too sure what to make of this article. It seems a little all over the place. I *think* I appreciate the challenge to using the “creative maladjustment” term as its always struck me as appropriative rather than unifying in any way. But, overall, I’m finding myself a little lost in your point.

    I’m also a little perplexed as to why you zeroed in on “peer respite” here. I’m not super fond of that terminology because of the word “peer” and how strangely it’s come to be understood and used within the mental health system. However, your focus on it here suggests to me you have some deeper issue against peer respite (or the people connected to them) than anything else. Ultimately, “hospital alternative” strikes me as no solution, although it’s often a piece of the explanation as to what “peer respite” is. Certainly, I’d see little to no improvement in automatic understanding if I began using that terminology instead of “peer respite” , and may actually see an *increase* in people who *think* they understand what I’m talking about but don’t.

    I’m all for looking deeply at the power of language, and I’m not at all against looking for an alternative to “peer respite” , but I question the reason for your focus here.


  • That’s pretty reductive, Oldhead. I don’t think anyone believes that “psychiatric slavery” is what has chase black and other people of color away from here. In general, non-white people weren’t here to begin with. But weirdly appropriative stuff like the insistence on clinging to that particular phrase, along with appropriation related to MLK and so on certainly doesn’t help.

  • Thanks, yeah_I_survived.. .For reading and sharing some of your own experience. I missed that Mother Jones article (ugh), but yeah, I wish the “liberal” ends of our media and society in general weren’t so hell bent on keeping their head in the sand where psychiatric oppression is concerned. I actually wrote an article about that at one point, too… :p

    In case anyone’s curious about that one:


  • Seltz6912,

    I’m not sure who this comment is directed at? Did you take my article to be suggesting that only the “sunny side” of voice hearing, etc be shared? That’s certainly not what I was saying… not even close… and I don’t think anyone else was saying that either, tho maybe I missed something?

    If that is what you took away from this article at first glance, I hope you’ll read through it again, as it’s just not what it actually says.



  • Steve,

    There’s one that supposedly Pat Deegan put together, but I’m skeptical of *all* the pre-recorded nonsense for all the reasons I already named. I *will* say, though, that the reason I titled the article “almost” is because there are trainings – such as the ones offered through the western mass rlc – that offer live simulations. That means that people – often including many people who have heard or do hear voices – provided a live simulation experience. We have found some value in that because a) it is offered contextually and b) it is debriefed after the simulation at length and most importantly c) it’s embedded in a broader training that talks about all the other pieces of the experience including how different it can look from person to person and moment to moment.

    AND as also noted in the article above, the exercise *still* runs the risk of encouraging people to take away sensationalized ideas and/or generalize… but that is at least also discussed in the debriefing process.

    Ultimately, I don’t think even the recorded simulation exercises constructed by people who hear voices could ever not be hugely problematic.


  • Hey Sam,

    I tend to believe you aren’t replicating the NAMI stuff I speak of. However, my believing that doesn’t mean that I suddenly think it’s a good idea to confuse the language, as that opens the door for further issues with others. I believe you that you and your wife have played the meaningful healing roles for one another that you describe, but I do think It’s much more useful when you use that language as opposed to language that’s been claimed in other ways. (Although, iin general, I hate the ‘peer’ language in the way it’s used today almost entirely across the board._

  • Sam,

    Thanks for your comment, and I certainly remember you from other posts. You are welcome to come visit, btw!

    I think where I remember us diverging most is around what ‘peer’ and the role of family is specifically… that said, I’m not sure we diverge all that much. I *do* think it’s essential to *not* confuse family members with ‘peer supporter’ not because family can’t be key, but because NAMI, the whole ‘family partner’ peer scene, etc have had truly dangerous and damaging implications in how they’ve confused those things… and centered family voices *over* the voices of those most directly impacted.

    I also do believe that ‘peer’ is more about how two people interact and the nature of their connection, and I remember you resonating with that… but I just think that needs to work in concert with having key experiences (being in the system, etc) in common or else it drifts too quickly into nami land. Although, as I say that, I can also say that our community takes a pretty broad perspective on what ‘peer’ means, too… So, it’s gray.

    But somehow, I think we need to continue to hold the tension that exists between family (especially chosen family like significant others) having really important roles *and* recognizing that very often they still come with power dynamics and other complexities and historical trends that mean differentiating is also important.

    I fear I’m rambling… perhaps due to being in a vacation state of mind… but ultimately, I’d be all for more trainings, supports, and opportunities for patterns and other family to have positive impact in someone’s struggles… just not to the point of confusing that with the expectation that someone can typically be in that role *and* be in a ‘peer supporter’ role such as we are usually talking about It here.


  • Thanks for sharing your experience, rachel777. I think everyone’s experiences are different/unique in some way, but what you described sounds similar to many I’ve heard… especially how the voices connect to something in the environment and self-blame somehow, as well as how the psych drugs didn’t actually make the voices go away. So true for so many people. In any case, thank you for sharing a piece of your experience here.

  • Thanks, Mark. I think for me, the art has a lot to do with how it’s conveyed… if it’s an art display expressly by “crazy” people – like what nami periodically offers and basically just saying “hey crazy people make good pictures too” – then yeah, not a fan. However, if it’s an art installation respecting people’s experiences, or the difference and brilliance that brings that art forth… I can certainly respect that!

  • It’s absolutely true, Kindredspirit. And, in fact, there is research at this point I believe that suggests that people’s sense of having control and understanding over what’s happening means they’ll be less negatively impacted by it.

    How something impacts us and our lives really *is* the key point… although the mental health system doesn’t necessarily see it that way, and the simulations certainly don’t convey that point at all. For example, I used to have visions telling me to hurt or kill my daughter when she was a baby. I eventually figure out why… they were a message to me about how I was blaming my body for the babies that died by miscarriage before she was born. Once I figured that out, they lost a lot of their power over me. Before that, I at least knew better than to tell anyone about them… I don’t think the system would have cared at all what the visions meant…

  • Madmom,

    I wouldn’t suggest IPS for hearing voices at all, actually. I think the 5 day IPS core training is useful for lots of things, but not that.

    However, there are alternatives already established. I struggle with not being too self-promoting, so I left out some of the work we do at my workplace but perhaps I shouldn’t have, so let me offer it here now:

    We offer three day trainings intended primarily for current and future hearing voices facilitators and sometimes others join those trainings, as well… but they are long.

    My co-worker, Caroline Mazel-Carlton coordinated a webinar specifically geared toward family, and I’m sure she’ll do that again in the future.

    She and another co-worker of mine, Marty Hadge, fairly regularly offer three-hour trainings on trauma-informed strategies for working with voice hearing like this one:

    Caroline, Marty and several others on our team also do a variety of other hearing voices trainings. Everyone who trains on this topic either currently hears voices (true of the majority of our trainers), or has had experiences that fit under the Hearing Voices umbrella.

    And we certainly arent the only ones. We have brought out Peter Bullimore and company from England several times, and will have them out again in April. in fact, if you look at our January newsletter, you’ll find information about what Peter and Shaun Hunt will be offering in MA and FL in the spring.

    There is no excuse for the simulations as they are offered. I understand what you are saying, but there *are* better options that simply don’t have the backing of the simulations so people don’t hear about them. That is the result of NAMI and all the other marketing behemoths (see the next article I hope to publish for more on this point). But the options *do* exist. And often they are low cost or free, offered by people who have that experience, and far more meaningful.

  • Nik,

    We aim to make things accessible. Typically, getting the fee waived is just about e-mailing us to say you want it waived. Although the fees are helpful to sustainability of our work, we don’t count on them. In general, we only say no to someone who’s asked for a fee to be waived when we also just don’t have enough space to offer them a spot.

    If you don’t already get it, sign up for our e-newsletter at our website (, so you’ll get notified when the next trainings are coming around. 🙂

    Thanks for your input on the name! I imagine we will be putting out some thoughts on the choices we come up with in December!! 🙂



  • CryAngerNow,

    Soooo, it’s Community not Center, but yes to the rest! But most begrudgingly for the majority of us who work here. Along those lines, you may want to check this out:

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, and feel free to give feedback on our name via that survey! 🙂 In terms of trainings we offer, the vast majority of our trainings are free to in-state folks. There’s a $100 fee for out-of-state people, but it can be waived if it’s cost prohibitive. 🙂

    Thank you! 🙂


  • Out,

    A good point. I’ve certainly been in a *LOT* of settings where making those in power/in the roles with the power ‘uncomfortable’ sure was frowned upon… and the sensitivity of those folks in power was NOT seen as *their* issue but mine or the others making them uncomfortable.


  • Thanks so much, Irit. Yes, sometimes people who speak loudly and firmly may lose some people, but also act as an important ‘beacon’ of sorts for those who’ve had similar thoughts and haven’t known what to do with them. It can be so important. 🙂

    Admittedly, I do use the term ‘provider’ a bunch because I haven’t felt moved to worry too much about the impact of that one-word label on folks working in the system… but it’s a good point that I should probably think harder about the term and what it conveys to everyone about that role.



  • Don,

    I find that referring to things as ‘politically correct’ is a way to devalue or cut off the conversation. It communicates that someone is “just doing it to seem cool” or “in the know” or “woke” enough. I’m not saying that that is how you intended that term to come across, but it is how it is very often used (as something derisive in some way) and I can’t help be hear it that way.

    The RLC dropped the term ‘peer’ from job titles some years ago, and moved to Advocate. That’s also an imperfect word, but at least moves away from the idea that our job titles need be inextricably linked to something some people will see as part of our identities. I’m sure there are other options, all flawed in some way, but what I also say in this article is that it is less about a list of good and bad words than understanding values and aims.

    So, if we know that it’s one of our values to not lock people into mental health-system attached identities, then using *ANY* single word to routinely always refer to ‘them’ probably isn’t consistent with what we are working toward. Not client, not participant, not peer, not individual, not acorn. It’s the institutinalization of the language and the person right along with it that is the problem above all else.

    So, I’d be leading people astray if I listed out a bunch of words that are ‘okay’. That’s not the point. The point is figuring out what we are actually trying to accomplish in all this?


  • Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for reading. 🙂 Unfortunately, in my experience, any time a word starts to become a ‘buzz word’ for SAMHSA, the mental health system, etc., it just starts to become hollow. Perhaps there’s something about words uttered by oppressors cannot simultaneously hold value for the oppressed… I think there is sometimes an impossible tension for some folks (particularly those focused on reform rather than abolition, but who still hold some pretty clear lines) who fight for providers to let them define the language, but then should the provider finally listen and use the language as requested by those who’ve until then been ignored or marginalized… it’s anticlimactic because then the language stops sounding so good. So, sure, some of that.

    However, some of that is driven by something deeper… So, for example, most providers who use ‘recovery’ language haven’t actually changed a damn thing about the potential they see for people in the system. They consider an acceptable or even *normal* version of ‘recovery’ to be (as I think I mentioned somewhere above in one of the other comments) sitting on the couch, zombified, and just ‘staying out of trouble’. It would *never* be good enough for themselves, but somehow it’s ‘success’ when looking as those in the system. One of the state hospitals in Massachusetts changed its name (when it wasted millions on rebuilding) to a ‘Recovery Center and Hospital’. So, now they’re using ‘recovery’ in relation to forced incarceration. Great.

    Additionally, sometimes better language simply gets used to win grants and look good. So, for example, not too long ago, we had to re-bid for our primary contract that funds the RLC and we found ourselves up against a clinical provider…. And it happened to be a clinical provider who’d invested a *LOT* of time learning our language and approach. And they essentially used our own work and words to try and take it from us.

    Words are meaningful, but they can also be rendered hollow when they are wielded by people who don’t understand more than their most basic definition, or who then believe that superficial ‘goodness’ is still good when it becomes forced or made hollow by overuse in under informed hands…

    Does that make sense? I think there’s probably a lot more to be said on this topic, but hopefully that helps some. 🙂


  • Thanks for reading, J! I do think that a lot of people do find liberty when they just completely reject what they’ve been told! Not always an easy journey, and I’m never going to personally be one who tells people which journey is right for them (because, at the very least, benevolent force is still force), but I know I personally felt an important shift when I moved from somewhat rebellious to just “fuck off”. 🙂


  • Ron,

    That’s not my experience… that it’s easy to repurpose or reframe words in conversation within the mental health system. Rather, my experience is that routine use of words leads to routine ways of thinking and routine ways of responding to people… And that sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to change the language to signal that people need to change the way they’re thinking and doing things.

    In other words, everyone – on every side – gets institutionalized to some degree.

    But I do hear what you are saying, and I think that will work some of the time.



  • Ron,

    Fair enough on the broader potential for ‘recover’, but I do believe that the reality is that when it is used within the mental health system the vast majority of people are referring to ‘recovering’ from an ‘illness’, and I think it’s important to not lose sight of that even if it means something different (just like ‘peer’, etc does) outside of the system.



  • yeah_i_survived,

    You make an excellent point. Some of the people with whom I’ve intersected and who refer to themselves as ‘in recovery’ are shaking from psych drugs, unable to work (in spite of wanting to), etc. I’ve heard stories from others now living full lives who were told they were doing ‘great’ when they were unable to get off their couch or do more than smoke and drink coffee because of how sedated they were. It’s painful to see. Although who am I to say what someone *should* look like, it’s awful to see that so many have been sold this particular ‘recovery’ bill of goods.



  • Judi,

    I don’t disagree with most of what you write as I understand it, but I guess I think there are different layers to the conversation. Even though I agree that the medical system has lied to people in ways that *should* have legal consequences, I don’t believe in forcing folks on the receiving end of that to give up words they find meaningful. I don’t find force helpful in general. If I am to regard at least some people who’ve been lied to in these ways as – say – trapped in a cave, I believe it’s my role to go in and shine a light on the pathways out that were previously in shadow and thus invisible. I don’t, however, believe it’s my role to grab them by their arm and drag them down the path I’ve chosen for them. That – more often than not – results in their pulling back and struggling with me, *or* in their coming along because they feel they have no choice, but not really feeling committed to that path themselves and so not really even knowing why they’re there (or necessarily staying). In order to be the best support, I believe I need to accept that people may choose to stay, even if they got their because of lies. It’s only by letting go of that agenda that I believe I make space for people *also* to decide differently and go down the path I was hoping they’d find.

    Hope that makes some sense.



  • Alex,

    I agree it can be a tricky balance, and that different communication styles match different intentions. For example, wanting to get media and general public’s attention may perfectly reasonably involve yelling at a building housing an org you’re protesting while carrying signs with catchy but ‘inflammatory’ slogans. On the other hand, if you actually want to have a conversation with someone, that’s probably not the best place to start.

    However, not bending on honest words and realities seems critical in either place. Thank you for not being willing to bend on words like ‘discrimination’, etc.



  • Thanks, out.

    I have mixed feelings about ‘content warnings’, but I do agree they are a vast improvement and potentially useful in some contexts… The best thing about them as compared to ‘trigger’ warnings is that they say ‘I want you to know what is included here’ vs. ‘This content may be harmful to you.’ Content warnings certainly don’t suggest in quite the same way that ‘trigger warnings’ do that we are all fragile folks that can’t handle certain topics. Yet, I still remain mixed about them, because I still see the heavy use of them resulting in some similar outcomes. Not quite sure where the ‘right’ balance is.

    And I hear you on the not wanting to forget, but not wanting to be paralyzed by anger (my own words, not sure if they resonate for you) forever. I can very much relate to that.



  • HH,

    Apologies for my delay in responding. I was mostly out of reach of a computer yesterday.

    In any case, rarely do I advocate for correcting people on their individual word choices for themselves. While I would, for example, correct a fellow team member in my work place (because I think it’s *ESSENTIAL* that they not be reinforcing negative stuff in their language choices, and that they be using words that leave space for other people to self-define), I wouldn’t typically correct someone speaking about themselves (nor advocate that anyone else do so). One of the most important things in many people’s own healing process is to be able to have the space to choose their own path, including the language they use to describe it. If someone came in using a word for themselves that felt really problematic to me or that I at least wanted to explore with them further, I’d simply ask what that word means to them (or similar). For example: “I’m bipolar.” “I’ve known a lot of people who’ve been given that diagnosis, and they and their experiences are so different. What does that look like for or mean to you?” Sometimes people really need to think through that answer because they’ve been given so much systems language that they just haven’t really thought about what it truly means to them. In other words, as you referenced, some people are just ‘parroting’ ideas, and that phenomenon can become dangerous and inhibit growth and progress and healing and freedom on many levels.

    That said, in order for people to be able to truly see possibilities beyond the crap the system feeds us, they need to be exposed to it and have opportunity to unpack what it all means to them personally… So, that still brings me back to how important it is that we not be unnecessarily perpetuating all this stuff.

    Also, you said?: “When I was trying to educate the Vermont legislature about the problems with forced drugging in institutional situations, I used the term “forced drugging” rather than “involuntary medication” because I thought it was more accurate. But some people who I really wanted to get to understand my ideas, were alienated and stopped listening because they found my language inflammatory and they saw me as not sympathetic to their point of view and not respectful of… yada yada.”

    In my experience, people who are in that place at that time will find something to disagree with no matter what you say. Because you are threatening a paradigm with which they are intertwined either through years of work/education, or through years of institutionalization. I also use psychiatric drugs instead of medication. Rarely do people respond to that in any way in either direction. However, I get called inflammatory, and difficult, and all sorts of things all the time. That includes before I was ever writing on Mad in America. Before I’d put out publicly some of the more controversial things I’ve said. Before we made any films. Etc. Simply because I was challenging a paradigm. I used to believe that if I just tried hard enough, I’d be able to find the right words to reach people who are in that place, and that that was my job. But after years of trying and still getting the same ‘you’re too radical’ or inflammatory or whatever, I’ve stopped trying so hard. Because it’s not about me. It’s about them. They are *INVESTED* in hearing me that way, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about that, unless I water down what I say so much that I’m basically just supporting them and have lost all of what I truly believe.

    That is a feature of co-optation and systemic oppression. It is not our job to make people comfortable all the time, and they are attempting to trick us into stopping altogether when they put in effort to convince that if ‘only we were nicer about it’ we’d get further. While I’m not suggesting screaming at people is effective in many instances, I’ve not found that watering down is either.


  • Thanks, Stephen. Yeah, I’ve had my share of experiences with the standard medical world, too. Both for myself, and with my kids. I’ve picked up the attitude (that I apply to most parts of my life at this point :p), that if you can’t tell me why (or if your ‘why’ is some stupid bureaucratic reason that has little to do with me), I’m probably not going to do it…

  • The_Cat,

    Hmmm, I flipped through a few reviews of the film before I wrote my own, but I’m not sure I looked at that one. Not surprisingly, some of them were pretty insulting in the way they talked about people who’ve been diagnosed, honestly, and I got tired of that. Ugh.


  • Hey, yeah_i_survived,

    It’s a good question. We focus here primarily on the psych industry, but there are issues all around with the medical field… starting with how much power we hand over to them simply by calling them ‘Dr. Whatevertheirlastnameis’ when we are all our first names…


  • It’s a good point. There was an awful situation (but much less unusual than they’re making it out to be) at this place in Connecticut where they finally saw on video footage someone hospitalized there being tortured and it became a big news story… but somewhere in there, I believe they also had to admit that most of the time they don’t look at the footage.

  • So, for those interested, here’s one document from the actual case decision:

    Here’s an interview with Helena on the film:

    And, I embedded the link to the film on Amazon, but some people don’t seem to realize it’s there, so here is the link to actually watch the film online:

  • Frank,

    It’s not about status. Even if involuntarily incarcerated, I believe the ruling prohibited forced drugging unless it was defined as an ’emergency’ in some way (and yes, I know that how ’emergencies’ are defined gets pretty sketchy, too). The film doesn’t really get too deeply into what happens between hospitalizations and forced drugging, or the Involuntary Outpatient Commitment laws and all that.

    However, like I said in the piece above, I think the film’s true significance is less about that ruling in California, and more about having a film circulating with mainstream actors that says some of these things, and puts it right out there that these drugs have killed people. (As well as some of the statements and fairly accurate representations of things like restraints that are offered along the way.)



  • CatNight,

    I think getting the courts to believe that harm was being caused was a long road. They didn’t win at first. In fact, they were barely given a chance to be heard. Eventually, they found some doctors willing to sign on and support their argument which helped. Collette’s having been a nurse and being willing to devote a ton of time to explaining the details of the harms caused was big, too. And then, even in spite of all that, I think people are still so often ignored. So, I’m just not sure beyond that, and I think there’s for sure a risk of any progress they made there being undone.


  • God. This is *so* incredibly frustrating. Perhaps most frustrating of all is I can’t get the website to stop sending me notifications so it’s easy to check out of this incredibly frustrating conversation.

    Somehow I can’t manage to not respond to this, so as briefly as I can…

    You said: “as long as we continue to use race as the sole or major theme to describe who is oppressed and who isn’t, or who is appropriating what, we lose sight of those pulling the strings at the top.” But I didnt say race is the sole theme.

    You said: “People of color do not own the term slavery and slavery as a general term refers to much more than the enslavement of African and Caribbean people of color by early Americans.” I didn’t say people of color own it or that that type of slavery is the only type of slavery. But it *sure* would be nice if white Americans would be willing to attend to the fact that it *sure* is that kind of slavery that is most relevant to our recent history and that it might be nice if we could respect that fact when some people of color express that it’s offensive… especially when there are *plenty* of other words to choose from.

    You said, “But when we get into the weeds over who is oppressed and who isn’t” but that has literally nothing to do with what I said. However, when we are talking about race it is okay to just talk about race. And when we are talking about sexism it is okay to make space to just talk about sexism. That doesn’t mean the others don’t count. I wonder why you hear it that way?

    You said “fashion.

    But when we get into the weeds over who is oppressed and who isn’t, I’m supposed to be greatful it isn’t worse” … again, nope. Didn’t say any of that.

    No one is nullifying anyone’s suffering. But it is super important that we ask ourselves why these conversations about one type of systemic oppression so often get lost in people wanting to say ‘not all white people’ or ‘not all men’ or ‘not all psychiatrist’ etc etc etc… or why a conversation about one type of systemic oppression suddenly becomes about taking care of someone else’s needs because talking about that systemic oppression somehow made them feel bad.

    Good goodness sake.

    Yes, sure, capitalism is a tool in strengthening or driving all these forms of oppression, and they all intersect, and psychiatry has also been used as a tool (as driven by capitalism and control from the ruling class) with all types of oppression. Yes, yes, and yes,

    And we still need to take a serious look at each piece on its own. Cause we continue to be super white, and we continue to ignore feedback from some of the very few people of color who have tried to speak up, and we continue to be *incredibly* defensive about the issue of racism pops up, and we continue to have enormous holes in what we know/think we know.

    Steve, As new moderator, could you make one of your first acts helping me find out why the “manage your subscriptions’ feature isn’t working so I can stop getting notifications about this thread!!



  • There is literally nothing… and I mean nothing… no past history, no commitment to anti-racist ideology or actions… that exempts one from being party to/unable to see their own contributions to racist and white supremacist structures, Oldhead.

    Elitism in my assumptions? First of all, I didn’t make the assumption that Richard ‘has no understanding or privilege’… I believe that suggesting that I said such a thing is what ‘they’ call a ‘straw man’ argument… Second, I wonder if you’re able to see the difference between what I said and your own commentary which is rather accusatory and skewing toward name calling.

    But really, what is your point here? As far as I can tell, the vast majority of the time, your point is simply to argue. Enjoy that.

    I’m going to unfollow this post at this point.

  • Richard,

    I can’t give you the apology you seek. What I can say is that I’m sorry it felt so personal to you. However, I am of the opinion that *all* white (and generally speaking, white passing) people have ways of being and moving through society that are based on benefiting from racism and white supremacy. And, I think that we *all* have blind spots as a result. And, my own experience and learning suggests that the more we have in common with the individual for whom this society was designed (the white, educated, male, cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class, able bodied, etc. individual), the harder it is to see all that and to not have those blind spots.

    So, I may be forgetting something (though I did skim back through the comment section of the blog to which you refer), but I don’t think I intended to ever say that *you* as an individual are especially racist. Simply put: Although I can see very clearly that you have invested a great deal of time in being good and moral and aware of oppression and the impact of capitalism, etc., that you – like most of us – have your blind spots made of the privilege you’ve experienced in moving through this world and/or the fact that you haven’t had to experience so many of these issues first hand. And that I do believe that at least some of the ways in which you seem to be using the terminology of ‘identity politics’ and denying the importance of hearing people of color when they ask people to not use terms like ‘psychiatric slavery’ and so on is born of some of that. But certainly not you alone. You alongside so many others, and in spite of that fact that I don’t think that’s how you mean any of it at all.

    You can call that divisive. But I look around here… Around this movement… This white, white movement… And I wonder why we can’t just do everything in a power to try and make space for that to change. Even if none of us have all the answers or are quite sure what will make the most difference.

    Anyway. I’m not going to be able to rehash most of this here. I’m about to start week two of being away from home facilitating Alternatives to Suicide trainings in Maine. I just really couldn’t avoid at least saying what I said about the ‘identity politics’ piece feeling dismissive. And I can appreciate why you wanted to reply back.



  • Shaun,

    I’d be silly, naive and whatever else if I claimed you were wrong when you said ‘Second, there are people who will do better after being sent to the hospital.’ We know it’s true because people’s responses vary, and all that.


    1. Why is it true? What about hospital *actually* helped the person? And what did they need to ignore/avoid/not be impacted by that was negative in order to achieve that positive?

    2. How are we defining ‘doing better’? Inevitably, we’d define that in different ways. (Not just you and I… but so many of us…) Some people have been trained to say ‘doing better’ when all they mean is ‘under control’? Some people have been trained to say ‘doing better’ when all that means is ‘numbed out’… Some people have been trained to say ‘doing better’ when what they mean is ‘right in this moment things look better, and to hell with how what we did to get this short-term result may impact things long-term…’

    3. Let’s assume we can find people we’d *ALL* agree are ‘doing better’ *after* hospitalization… There inevitably are such people. BUT, there are also people who appear to be ‘doing better’ after being tortured. (See the Judge Rotenberg Center as an example of a place that tortures people with painful electric shocks because some of them seem to ‘do better’ and stop serious and life threatening self injury after being so tortured.) How far are we willing to go with justifying torture because it seems to ‘help’ some people? What if something is just morally wrong even if it sometimes has some desirable outcome with a set of people? And what if it still hurts FAR more people than it helps? At what point does that intervention become unacceptable for *all* because it is morally wrong and/or hurts far more people than it helps?

    If we can agree that forced hospitalization is morally wrong and if we can agree (i.e., accept the growing body of research and wide array of individual reports) that it is causing FAR more harm than good… then whether or not it may occasionally ‘help’ some people simply becomes irrelevant.


  • Yes, as I noted in my comment, where people aren’t in the same org and there are tensions or a lack of sense of comraderie between the two orgs it can function quite differently. But, in my experience (not just personal, but decades of experience supporting people in different environments who are going through their own experience with the system), the assumption on the part of those with that power that they can and should just do what whichever clinician contacting them says that they should is absolutely pervasive.

    (There’s a typo in my above comment btw… It should say that it’s not at all UNcommon that psych nurses get to just tell doctors what to do, etc.).


  • Although I realize this will take us right back to where we most went to head-to-head, Richard, I can’t help but state how troubling I find your comment here. There has been – and continues to be – lots that you bring to this site and to the world in general, but i find this ‘identity politics’ business to be incredibly dismissive.

    This continues to be a largely white-dominated site, and I for one would be *thrilled* if Mad in America could find a way to take a clearer stand on some of the language that re-enforces some of the white supremacist pieces that creep in here just as much as anywhere else… Including appropriation of terminology like ‘psychiatric slavery’. I’m not interested in re-hashing that particular debate again, so I’m not going to engage even if others comment to say how wrong I am…

    But I needed to say *something*. This isn’t just ‘identity politics’… I find that term just as dismissive as people who get irritated when someone else offers a correction that they feel is “politically correct”… Both suggest that the suggestions – usually based in actually being respectful and not replicating/changing the oppressive ways of the broader world – are trivial, and that honoring or truly hearing them are nothing more than appeasing some silly person. It’s a real problem.


  • Hi Steve,

    So, I know it’s already been head as I saw it come up in my skim of other comments, but I just wanted to echo that I also find the ‘sheriff’ reference to be problematic. Though, admittedly, it simultaneously made me less and more inclined to want to read the piece.

    I also wanted to push back against the don’t generalize piece… I don’t think it’s okay to equate generalizing experienced by groups of people as a feature of systemic oppression (such as people of color, etc.) with generalizing about groups of people who’ve been a part of the oppressive structure itself (e.g., psychiatrists). Sure, generalizations will never be entirely accurate, BUT one is coming out of ignorance and/or a desire to keep systemic oppression in place… The other is coming out of justified anger at the experience of systemic oppression, and even if each INDIVIDUAL doesn’t fit the stereotype or what have you, the point is that the generalization is much more accurate because it speaks to the realities of the *system* and what it charges those with keeping the system rolling to do, etc.

    I generally (to generalize) have appreciate your comments on Mad in America, so I suspect you’ll do a good job here, but I really hope you’ll give particularly this latter piece some thought as you move forward.



  • Thanks for this, Jess. I crossed paths with Kevin Hines at the Alternatives Conference in 2017 in Boston. I was pretty horrified. I don’t mean to draw into question the basics of his story, but he presents it in such a theatrical manner that it comes across more as one-many show than genuine sharing. And some of the ideas he promotes and/or re-enforces are just awful and damaging. Watching him ride that story to the level he has without question and with such … rockstarish admiration from others in the movement (and beyond) … has been so frustrating. But I appreciate your drawing out the reasons behind that. What he offers is not only incredibly theatrical and appealing in that story porn sort of way, but also doesn’t challenge the conventional paradigm. In the end, it is a part of what silences so many of the stories out there that are much more rooted in the things people need to hear to make the changes that are needed to stop hurting people.


  • Oldhead,

    Hopefully you picked up from what I wrote in the original piece that I *also* don’t think someone’s right to kill themselves is equal to their right to do so in front of me. And, I’d be hard pressed to stand by and do nothing if that’s the choice they made. But whatever I did… I’d do as a *human* and certainly not as any sort of ‘treatment’.

    Also, this piece isn’t about not calling the cops at all. If someone was in my home and refused to leave, I’d call the cops, for example. that said, I also think it’s true that all the white folk calling cops on black people for doing things like barbecuing in the park (etc.) *IS* atrocious and a threat of violence.

    We always bring a ton of intersectional buttons to give away whenever we go to a conference. At the last conference we attended, we premiered several new buttons. The most popular one asid, ‘Fuck your help. My cat saved my life’ But not far behind that were buttons that said ‘Calling the cops on a person of color = a threat of violence’ and ‘Calling the cops on a person in emotional distress – a threat of violence’. This wasn’t intended to mean that calling the cops on people who are literally threatening to/are taking steps to harm someone else is wrong… But I think people got the point, and those also flew of the table.

    I don’t think of that as ‘police shaming.’ I think of it as reality. Speaking of shaming, another couple of our buttons said ‘I’m not trying to pill shame you. I’m just sick of of watching people fucking die’ and ‘Speaking truth about bad science & psychiatric oppression does not equal pill shaming.’



  • Thanks, Richard. I agree with everything you say here.

    And for the record, I’m technically taking not entirely dissimilar risks in my work, which is still largely funded by the state mental health system. In fact, in some ways, the risks to us are even greater because if *one* bad thing happens in the ‘peer support’ world people are more likely to discredit *everything* we do than is likely to happen in the conventional system But we also know that if we don’t take those risks we defeat our own purpose. In fact, there is risk even in posting this piece and this particular story. Who knows how folks from our funder will interpret (and I do know that they read my posts here).

    I only wish more people were willing to choose integrity over risk management, and understand that the risk taking not only is absolutely necessary to do their job well, but also often comes with far less actual risk than they fear should something go wrong (as you also point out).

    My one misgiving about your post is the use of the term ‘mandated reporter’… I realize you put it in quotes… But I feel compelled to nonetheless say that that term is wildly used in the system. ‘Mandated reporter’ of course has nothing to do with suicide. Mandated Reporters are required to report when they suspect or become aware of abuse or neglect of a child, someone labeled with a disability, or someone considered elderly by a caretaker. That so many organizations refer to that as ‘mandated reporting’ is a way of silencing the conversation and making people feel forced to behave in certain ways. Because, of course, if it’s a mandate that exists beyond the organization that suggests much less potential to change things than if it’s simply an organization policy.



  • Ken and Shaun,

    I appreciate the truth of what you’re saying… that only doctors often have the right to sign off on papers, etc. to force someone into a psychiatric hold/forced hospitalization.

    HOWEVER, it nonetheless feels disingenuous to me to focus on this in most instances. Because doctors often just take clinicians at their word, and do whatever they suggest is the right thing. Because I’ve heard of situations where doctors have left blank forms with their signature on them for clinicians to use whenever needed. Because it’s not at all common for nurses to be able to go to doctors even in psych hospitals and tell them what is needed with someone incarcerated there and have the doctor just do it (force them into a ‘room plan’ that leaves them in isolation, make a change to their psych drug regiment, etc. etc.).

    The truth is that clinicians often have a TREMENDOUS amount of power when they say what is needed, even if they’re technically not able to sign off on the related paperwork. I realize there are exceptions or places where individuals aren’t int he same organization and if there’s tensions between the organizations that they may be less likely to listen to one another… but it’s true more often than not.



  • Hi Shaun,

    I can appreciate the realities that clinicians working in the system face, even when they truly want to practice differently. I guess I have several thoughts on this…

    1. Read Bruce Levine’s comment. At the most basic, if you could at least be real about *why* you are doing what you are doing, that’s a step in the right direction. Don’t get me wrong. It *still* can be devastatingly harmful to send someone to the hospital against their will, BUT… If you’re real about the reasons then at least you a) Can avoid contributing to the dehumanizing and disabling affects of telling someone that *they* are the problem in such a screwed up system and b) You can perhaps still partner with them to figure out how to minimize the damage. This might even include things like connecting them with folks who can coach them on what to say to get themselves the heck out of there as soon as possible, etc.

    2. Read ‘Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws: Examining Current Approaches to Suicide in Policy and Law’ by Susan Stefan. Susan is an Attorney in Massachusetts who has reviewed case law, etc. on suicide across the country. One of the realities that she has been able to identify along the way is that a clinician being successfully held liable for someone’s suicide is about as likely as being struck by lightning. Reading this book may give you some useful information as to your options and realities of your and others’ fears.

    3. Be upfront *before* someone comes to you and says they’re suicidal. *Tell* them what that would look like, and what you’d be obligated to do. Perhaps give every person you work with an informational sheet that explains all of your limits on privacy and what you’d be required to do if they said certain things. Be as specific as possible. But, don’t stop there. After you’re done being specific about all that, also give them resources for places where that’s NOT true… even if just a phone support line they can call. (But, be careful which one because many phone lines are also set up to call the cops if they perceive someone to be in imminent danger. But, there are SOME out there where that’s not true. The Western Mass RLC’s peer support line is an example of a place that simply won’t call the cops on someone talking about killing themselves, though it’s hours and funding are limited to 7pm to 9pm from Monday through Thursday and 7pm to 10pm from Friday through Sunday. (The number is 888.407.4515.) There are other options out there, too, but you really need to do your research to be able to be confident that they won’t call the cops, because most lines (including those most frequently promoted) will.

    4. Connect with others in your field who are trying to do things differently. Folks in England (for example) have done a much better job of forming ‘critical’ networks where they can get together and talk about how to do their jobs differently, and support one another to know they’re not alone in trying to do so.

    5. Also be honest about your fear and regret, and be willing to say you’re sorry. These things don’t make up for the worst of it, BUT being willing to talk about your own fears, regrets, worries, etc. *is* a big deal. Being willing to say you’re sorry when you cause harm is also huge. It almost never happens in the system.

    Those are my best ideas for now.



  • Bruce,

    Thanks, Bruce. Your point is an important one… If folks in professional roles could at least be more honest (with themselves and those around them) about why they’re doing what they’re doing, that’d be a huge step forward. At the very least, if someone was honest about doing something to cover themselves, at least the person they’re doing it to might be a little less likely to internalize the idea that they’re bad/the problem/hopeless/etc. It is so much of that latter issue that drives people getting stuck in these systems.


  • Hi Danzig, I’m not totally sure I followed all of your comment, but I hope you didn’t think that this piece was suggesting a connection between biology and people’s emotional distress. While I think there are some situations where we might not know exactly what’s at the root for some people and I would never want to presume to know what causes people’s distress other than my own, I do think that so much of it is environmentally based.



  • Thanks, John. I can appreciate feeling so desperate about someone potentially being in medical distress that you call for help. I also really appreciate that it’s not what you jump to.

    Unfortunately, overall, I don’t think policies that put it as ‘only in extreme situations’ go far enough because… Well, it still leaves it as an option and we’ve seen through history time and time again that what happens is providers tend to define more and more situations as extreme.

    If we could *at least* get to the point within the provider system that it’s not see as ‘okay’ and is seen as a failure of the system to provide useful options and mandates a review of practices (including an interview with the person themselves)… Well, that would sure be a step in the right direction!

    To come back around what I appreciated about what you offered… That you’ve been able to hold that line and had so few instances where you did resort to calling the police… is really useful toward demonstrating that that level of reduction is possible to folks who believe that ‘extreme situations requiring extreme measures’ are commonplace.


  • Thanks, J! 🙂

    Yes, problems in families are often a part of what drives people to feel so alienated in the world. Along with poverty, racism, bullying, and so much other violence and hatefulness.

    One of the concepts we talk a lot about in Alternatives to Suicide is that suicide isnt the problem… it’s a solution to so many other problems, albeit a desperate one.

  • I’d encourage you to watch it, Oldhead. I think you’re right, we don’t need to keep asking… And in fairness to the film, it doesn’t overtly ask. It’s pretty smartly constructed. But it does put the viewer – many of whom will not have come to the same conclusions as you already – to give thought to those points.

  • The thing is that acknowledging racism does *not* mean we can’t also acknowledge collective fights. It also doesn’t need to mean that it’s ‘race against race’. In fact, the Hamiltons said many times while they were here that we’re all in this. We’re all being affected.

    It’s also possible to acknowledge racism in a way that isn’t all about blame. I benefit from white privilege. I benefit from white supremacy. That doesn’t mean it’s me vs. black people, or that I’m operating with intent with any of that. Often there’s power to be found in acknowledging these issues honestly.


  • (I should add that – as aforementioned – I know zero about Roseanne’s politics, and have never seen the new version of her show so I have literally no opinion on any of it. I’m simply responding to her comment, and the subsequent effort to excuse it as ‘mental illness’.)

  • Fair enough, meremortal. I would have balked less had Oldhead not begun his entire commentary by stating flatly that he hadn’t read anything I’d actually written… 🙂 As an author here, it can be very frustrating to have people come in and immediately go off topic. It can, unfortunately, change the whole energy of the piece.


  • Just one last quick note:
    When you say this “There’s also something deeply bizarre with the idea that “the Blood is at” Roseanne’s “doorstep.” You may, as a white woman, feel that this extreme stance is really putting your weight behing the noble cause of supporting POC. As a POC, I can tell you that I find it profoundly weird that you would compare one comedian’s offhand, ambien-fuelled comment on Twatter to things like redlining, slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, police brutality, etc. ”

    It really makes me wonder if you’re misunderstanding how the phrase is getting used? As I understood it when Dameion stood at one of the screenings and told the audience the blood is now at all of our doorsteps, it was more about not being able to ignore what’s happening in the world… Not an accusation that we are each responsible or any sort of direct cause so much as a call to action, to not look away, to face the challenge of making change… Again, I’m not sure you’ve taken the time to understand what I offered here, but I at least wanted to be clear about that point.

  • Rachel,

    As I understand it, Dontre was *not* homeless. He was simply resting in a park in the middle of the day. I believe there was a report that went out stating he was homeless, but I believe that that was an erroneous assumption (and likely an assumption worth examining the roots of).

    I don’t actually know if Christopher Manney knew of Dontre’s diagnosis when he interacted with him. But I do know that how they painted Dontre afterward was skewed by that fact… (Check out the film if you have a chance.)

  • Make of it what you will, meremortal. Oldhead came in here, openly acknowledged not reading this article, and then proceeded to make the whole thing about Trump verses liberals which has absolutely nothing to do with anything I wrote. I know what happens around here when people do that. It has the potential to throw the entire comments section off track, and, yes, I find that disrespectful.

    It also seems to me that you’ve misunderstood much of what I’ve said here. I certainly didn’t compare her commentary to those things. What I actually said was:

    A) It is ridiculous that people are trying to excuse her behavior under the defense of ‘mental illness’.

    B) That, yes, there is a history of ties between psychiatry and racism, but that it is of a very different nature.

    C) That while, yes, Roseanne’s behavior shines a light on a much deeper and more serious issue of racism in this country, our focus would be much better served on the people and stories worth hearing about… That focus on a famous person’s offensive comments aren’t where to put our attention.

    So, while you seem to have read what I wrote, I’m not sure you’ve taken time to understand. That’s fine. At least you read it. Thank you for that.

  • I called everyone in the article by their first name, as best I recall. Yes, I referred to Trump as Trump… That’s just habit, I guess. But typically, I go for first names.

    And no, I will not be changing my lead in. It is what it is. I don’t know if you’ve actually taken the time to *read* the article at this point, but one of my points is that racism is *systemic* and Roseanne’s comment is merely illuminating that fact. She’s not so different than many people in the country, and as you know very well, I’m someone who believes that all white or white-presenting people have benefited from racism and white supremacy in this country, so it’s far more complicated than Roseanne being any sort of villain. However, I do absolutely believe that consequences for such overt racism are merited and necessary to initiate any sort of real change…

    MOST importantly, though, the point of the article is that it’s *absurd* to try and excuse her behavior as a symptom of ‘mental illness…’ That that’s wrong on many levels. And that the rush to focus on her while we’re still ignoring the voices and stories that deserve to be heard is a problem.

    This is the last time I’m replying to you on this. I find it disrespectful to come onto articles – especially articles that expressly make the point about how important it is that we shine the line on the people who deserve to be lifted up – and attempt to derail things in this way.

  • I do hope you’ll take this elsewhere, Oldhead. I didn’t know that Roseanne was a Trump supporter at the time I first heard about her Tweet, and I certainly didn’t have to have that in my head to hear her comment as pretty blatant bigtory. I don’t care if she is or isn’t a Trump supporter. It’s irrelevant. And.. If she didn’t realize that Valerie was black… Well, I don’t even know what to say about that. I find it hard to believe, even if she’s now claiming it.

    More than anything, I really don’t appreciate this article being turned into a ground for strange political arguments and insults. This isn’t what all this is about. It’s more important than that.

  • Fiachra,

    It means they were given a diagnosis. I quite intentionally use that language when stating a diagnosis that is relevant to a story or circumstance because being given a diagnosis is a fact (if someone in fact was given one by a doctor, psychologist, etc.), but what that means or why is left open.

    For example, I was personally given a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Can’t deny that. I sat before a therapist. They wrote it in my chart. But that still leaves space for me to say ‘and it was bullshit, and means nothing to me beyond the pain it caused me in the system.’ It’s fundamentally different than saying someone ‘has’ or ‘is’ a diagnosis in that way. It was relevant to mention here because the fact that Dontre was so diagnosed influenced how people, including the police, saw, interacted with, and spoke about him. It makes no claim about who he was or why.

    I certainly hope that is not all that you got out of this. I quite intentionally didn’t make this yet another article that goes on about the injustice of the labels themselves because I believe it’s clear in what I did write (for example, in the paragraph where I name some of the relationships that have existed between racism and diagnosis) that there is a problem. The main focus deserves to not be lost.


  • Thanks, Jan! 🙂

    So, we did do a facilitator training in Melbourne, and the e-mail address for folks in that area who are getting things up and running is this: [email protected]

    We just did some broader events in Sydney and hope to go back to do a facilitator training at some point, but the contact e-mail publicly listed for that area in relation to the events we did do or bringing a facilitator training to that area is listed as [email protected]

    In Perth, there’s a committee managing getting things up and running (we’ve done the largest number of events/trainings in Perth) and their e-mail is: [email protected]

    It’s all still quite in the early stages, but hoping things develop soon. 🙂 🙂


  • Hi Jan,

    Yes, Caroline and I arrived on March 1 and begin our flight home late on the 24th. We started in Melbourne where we offered an Alternatives to Suicide facilitator training. We then went to Sydney and did a couple of related events with hopes to return in the future for more. We’ve been in Perth for a week now, and between last week and this one up we will have done several events and both a When the Conversation Turns to Suicide and an Alternatives to Suicide Facilitator training. 🙂

    We didn’t get to Brisbane, unfortunately, but would love to in the future! 🙂


  • Jasna,

    Challenging feedback is hard, and I’ve certainly been subject to it myself when I’ve written here. However, I feel confused by your feedback which seems to be largely referring to my comment (though maybe I’m wrong about that?). I wasn’t simply looking for the fine points with which to argue for the sake of argument… I found pretty substantial issues with what was offered here that I think either confuse or take away from what was good, and I guess I don’t see the value in ignoring that. Endless fighting over irrelevancies won’t take us forward – you’re right about that… But neither will silence.


  • Hey there,

    Well, you named Alternatives to Suicide so inevitably, I’m sure you knew, I’d pop up at some point. 🙂

    There is plenty I agree with in what you wrote, but I guess I have a lot to say about the things I question or disagree with… I want to start with the opening paragraph:

    “The radicalness of the anti-psychiatry movement has unfortunately become one of its greatest hurdles to overcome. Even in otherwise radical spaces like prison abolition, neurodiversity, or intersectional feminism, the most common reaction to anti-psychiatry ideas is to dismiss them as so intuitively ridiculous they need not be engaged with. Sanism, behaviorism, drugs and force have permeated our culture to the point many people literally can’t imagine life without them.”

    I see others already disagreeing with your first sentence. I guess I do want to say a few things about the paragraph as a whole, though. I still think that ‘anti-psychiatry’ falls way short as a term. It implies focus on psychiatry rather than a whole system, and distracts from the actual arguments for being a term so often used as an attack or diagnosis against someone others wish to dismiss.

    Meanwhile, I’m concerned about terms like ‘sanism,’ as well. I don’t get it. These terms seem to be raining down on us from leftist intellectual land, but I guess I don’t really appreciate what this one seems to suggest. If racism is a systemic oppression that centers whiteness and assumes it as society’s ‘default,’ and heterosexism does the same where heterosexuality is concerned… Are we saying that society society is centering those who are sane and setting that as society’s ‘default’ as opposed to those who are insane? I don’t get it. And I really, really do not accept the idea that I am ‘insane’ (or mad, etc. etc. etc.).

    This language seems to fly in the face of the idea that we all have (or have the potential to have) deep distress, extreme states, etc. at various points, and that those experiences often make a ton of sense in relationship to our environments. It also flies in the face of the idea that experiences like hearing voices or seeing visions are the norm within some cultures, and can be a variation from the norm that does not mean anything is actually ‘wrong’ in our own. So, not only do I not really get that terminology… it actually seems actively harmful to me.

    So, on to your second paragraph:

    “On a good day, our leaders pontificate about “reforms” that would somehow fix a system whose deepest foundation is a bed of violence, oppression, and at best pseudoscience. They ask for cultural awareness training, yoga classes, art therapy, and healthier food options in psychiatric facilities, without ever questioning the confinement that made those things unavailable in the first place (let alone the coercion involved when participation in such activities becomes a condition of obtaining release).”

    Wait, who are you thinking of as our ‘leaders’? And who on earth among our ‘leaders’ isn’t questioning the confinement and coercion? Myself and most (if not all) of my co-workers fall in the middle of the ‘reform’ vs. ‘abolition’ debate… Many of us believe abolition would be best and is a noble goal, but also that it is naive and harmful and unfair to desert those individuals still stuck in the system… And so we spend time working on making the conditions more tolerable, too. But we *NEVER* lose sight while engaged in our efforts in the latter of the force and coercion that occurs. We write articles about it, we talk to providers about it, we offer trainings that incorporate awareness of it, and – most importantly – we take action to push back against it wherever we can both in individual situations and overall.

    I think there are some people who fit the description you offer, but it’s completely inaccurate to suggest that any and everyone who hasn’t invested all their time in abolition talk fits the definition you’ve provided here.

    Another section I want to quote directly: “Mad and neurodivergent people would be managers, not “peer specialists…The essential function of a “peer specialist” is to appear non-threatening, earn people’s trust, and convince them to stay on their meds. Hiring managers know that these positions only exist because others don’t, that there are far more job-seekers than jobs to fill, and thus that anyone they hire is easily replaceable.”

    Again, this seems misinformed to me. I certainly agree that a *huge* number of ‘peer’ roles are co-opted, poorly designed, and harmful. But the definition you offer defines the co-opted lot, and not what these roles are truly meant to be. And what they’re truly meant to be *does* exist in at least some peer-to-peer *and* provider settings. It also suggests to me that you’re unfamiliar with the true landscape of things when you say that there are far more job-seekers than jobs to fill. In many areas, people are struggling deeply to find qualified individuals to fill peer roles.

    Also, there are a number of places where people who you might define as part of the ‘mad’ movement do hold managerial roles. I know many in my state alone. Although, what precisely are you suggesting they should be managers of, if the system will no longer exist?

    I understand where you’re coming from with the following: “If the “peer specialist” has more power than the patient, then they’re not a peer, and if they have the same or less power, then they’re not needed.” Yet, it also seems a little misinformed to me. There’s still a tremendous need to have someone – even who has no more power than the individual stuck in the system – to be by their side, bear witness, help them strategize about how to get heard, help them learn about ways out, etc. There’s tremendous power in these things. Though, I’ll also add that of course people in peer roles don’t have exactly equal power as the person they’re trying to support.. They’re getting paid. They get to leave locked environments. They’ll be seen as more credible because they’re an employee. Etc. Etc. Etc. But if they’re well trained and supported, their role will be designed to reduce and avoid power imbalances as much as possible.

    This is also inaccurate: “Currently, all hotlines train their staff as mandated reporters, to listen for key phrases and if the caller utters one of them, secretly send people with guns and a history of recklessly using them, directly to the caller’s location. The sole exception is Trans Lifeline, which is of course exclusively for trans people, only a fraction of everyone who might want to call a crisis hotline.”

    Unless you’re not counting ‘peer support lines?’ The Western Mass RLC operates a Peer Support Line and we absolutely do not track calls or notify 911 no matter what someone says. I agree with you that what you describe is a huge issue among such lines, but please be careful about misrepresenting these points. I’m pretty sure there are at least a few others who do not track calls, too.

    Meanwhile, I’m also concerned about your use of the language of ‘mandated reporter.’ While some employees within the system are misinformed that mandated reporter is generally connected to reporting people who are suicidal, this is not what it means in most places. Rather, ‘mandated reporter’ most commonly means that people are required to report known or suspected abuse or neglect of children, elders, or individuals labeled disabled by care givers. It’s important that we not further contribute to that common misunderstanding.

    And there’s this: “In a post-psychiatry world, both would be regularly, sternly reminded of their humility. Moreover, they would be taught when not to intervene, and they would not need to have basic respect packaged as just another proprietary methodology, with a sexy name like “Open Dialogue,” “Intentional Peer Support,” “Emotional CPR,” or even “Alternatives to Suicide.” You follow this up with the following in the comments section: “Essentially they boil down to “don’t do Mental Health First Aid” or “don’t call the police” and the rest is just fluff to make them sound more like something social workers might accept into their existing paradigm. IPS, eCPR and Alternatives to Suicide are good tools for mitigating a big problem, but I long for the day they become unnecessary.”

    So, first of all, I wasn’t aware that “Alternatives to Suicide” was a ‘sexy’ name, but… thanks? I will say that the rest of what you say about it here, though, is both confusing and offensive, if I’m honest. I’m not aware that you’ve been through the Alternatives to Suicide training… Have you? Am I mistaken about that? Caroline and I are currently traveling around Australia offering a variety of presentations and trainings on just that approach right now, and while I’ll agree with you that some of each training and presentation focuses on the research about how current approaches are harmful… There’s a heck of a lock more to the approach than ‘don’t funnel people into the system’ or ‘don’t call 911.’

    We talk an awful lot in these trainings about what *to* do… How to respond… questions that can be really useful to ask… fears that can arise for the listener and how to work through or learn to sit with them… This is only the briefest of summaries. But the point is, it’s not ‘fluff.’ I also don’t experience Intentional Peer Support in the way that you describe.

    And I wonder about the society where you feel these sorts of supports would have no use? Do you really mean to suggest that its only the mental health system that’s seen death and suicide as taboo? Cause I’m pretty sure religions that long preceded the mess we’re in now have had issue with it… And that families and communities have struggled in various ways since basically the beginning of time.

    Are you really meaning to suggest that the absence of the mental health system trap would mean a lack of need for healthy supports for people who are struggling? Cause I can’t quite help but hear some of that in what you’re saying right now.

    I’m going to stop going through your article point by point because it’s just so long and I don’t want to basically write a blog of my own in your comments section… I do agree (as I said at the start) with many of your points including the problems with the idea of rebranding (although I think there’s value in referencing psych diagnoses as opposed to most of the other terms as it’s simply a fact that one’s been diagnosed and said nothing about what’s *actually* going on), with the need to dispose of the diagnostic system, and with some of the overarching points about the problems with in and need to do away with the mental health system.

    But I keep getting lost in what feels like a lack of full understanding, contradictions, and what feels like a disregard of how the mental health system and its functions and perspectives are rather inextricably linked to school systems, prison systems, capitalism, and so much else…


  • Bradford, Sounds like you may have spent even more time in at than I did! I missed the angel bit. :p Thanks for sharing some of your experience. It is strange (but true) how both the absolute fear to talk about death and the hyperfocus on preventing on death at all costs can co-exist. In a way I guess it make sense… because if you talk and act only to prevent it, then you don’t need to actually talk about it in any depth? It’s definitely a symptom of how messed up society is.

    I’m sorry about your friend. I’ve lost a few people to suicide. It’s hard, and only gets harder when no one will actually talk about what happened.


  • Richard,

    I’ve come back to your comment a few times, and I’m not really sure how to respond. I guess I agree with a lot – maybe almost all – of what you’re saying. And yet, I do find the message paralyzing, as much as you say you don’t mean it to be. I’m also not totally sure I agree that the *only* way to shift some of this is to undo capitalism. Even with capitalism in place, I think I’m going to have to at least hope that there are other ways to adjust its focus or what feeds it… Somehow it feels more attainable to me to *use* capitalism’s tools to undo its capitalist appeal than to undo capitalism. Perhaps that’s foolish, but I’d be interested in a conversation about what *that* could look like.


  • Eh, I see some of what you’re talking about, Julie… I personally support people to use *any* drugs they want in whatever way works for them, and without needing to post about it. People always have used drugs. It’s not inherently bad. What’s bad is the system that pushes a particular set of drugs as the ‘cure,’ while demonizing people who use the other set.

    I personally do talk about not using psych drugs at this point in my life… because it’s important to have some people (and not just some, but a critical mass of people) out there challenging the perception that psych drugs and psych diagnosis are a meaningful and consistent link in any sort of way…


  • Rasselas,

    Thanks for your comment… Although, I don’t think this is accurate:

    “Some people, I accept, such as Sera, work hard at bringing people together. Other people, such as myself, encourage people to break free and go it alone.”

    I think part of the challenge of the community in which I work, myself, etc, is that we do both things… We offer talks and trainings to providers, attempt to develop better ways for people who might be more succeptible/willing to ‘get it’ to begin to think about things in a different way… While *also* making films like the ‘Virtues of Non-Compliance’ that is basically all about how being so-called ‘non-compliant,’ ignoring what we were told in the system and getting on with life, in fact, saved our lives… Or a project we’re working on right now that is all about gathering information from people who’ve survived the system to share their wisdom about how they navigated the system’s unwritten rules and were able to ‘play the game’ well enough to get out, etc.

    We do both, and we don’t apologize for it. That makes us pretty hard to tolerate for a lot of people… And that’s fine.


  • Thanks so much for your reply, Susan.

    I love what you wrote here:

    “I came to the conclusion that many people who say they to want to hear ‘the other side’ actually don’t. They want to feel smug in their ‘open-mindedness,’ but they are threatened by any hint of real change.

    It’s called cooptation – they pretend that you have a place with them, but that place is only to make them look better than they are.”

    I think it is exactly true… Please stick around only so long as you make us look/feel good about ourselves.


  • I genuinely am not sure why you are posting this here. This blog isn’t about ‘recovery.’ I’ve been pretty clear for many years that I don’t support the concept. And I am a part of a community that rejects most conventional ideas about psychiatric diagnosis and ‘help,’ and takes many pretty concrete actions toward change.

    Feel free to not like what I do or say, but arguing with me about something that has nothing to do with me because you – for some reason – need to believe that that’s part of my message is… not too much better than how the system treats me at the moment.

    I’m not going to respond anymore. 🙂



  • Yes, I believe you are being presumptuous… You responded to a blog that has nothing to do with recovery with what feels like an attack on what I do based on the concept of recovery. And when I say you are being presumptuous it is because there is nothing that I write about that indicates support of the concept ‘recovery,’ and in fact, what I write about specifically speaks to my rejection of the term. Because there’s nothing on our website that speaks to ‘recovery’ beyond our name. And so on. We didn’t come up with our name, and while we’ve talked about changing it, frankly, we’ve been too busy with the ‘doing.’

    If you’re curious to see what happens with our work, just take a look… at our films, at our materials, etc… We’ve been around for over ten years. There’s already plenty to see in terms of where we come from.

  • Nope. What you’re saying is presumptuous and sort of empty. Our name has the word ‘recovered’ in it because it was chosen 15 years ago and we didn’t have control over it. We’ve talked about changing it more recently and are working on that. But I don’t think there is a single person on our leadership team that would say they are invested in the concept of ‘recovery.’ We talk about our lack of belief in that, ‘mental illness’ ‘suicide prevention’ and many other such concepts all the time. So, please stop making assumptions and look at our actual work. 🙂

  • Thanks, Deena. Unfortunately, I just haven’t experienced most folks in the system *truly* hearing too much, even when watered down. Sure, they are less angry, more entertained, more thankful. But not necessarily more changed. not saying it never happens, but the overall trend…. I dunno.

  • Thanks, Brett. I appreciate your reading and kind words. I know it can also be difficult to be in a more clinical role and oppose the current paradigm. In fact, in one of our current film projects, there are three groups – individuals who’ve been ‘in’ the system, clinicians/direct support works, and administrators… And truth be told, Group 3 (administrators) was FAR angrier with Group 2 (clinical providers) when they said critical things about the system than they were with Group 1 (people who’d been ‘in’ the system). I imagine the reasons for that could be interpreted in at least a few different ways, but nonetheless, there it was.


  • I have to admit this comment makes me angry, so I’m going to do my best to respond as best I can without falling into that.

    I am not ‘in bed’ with anyone in the sense that you speak. The community with which I work has done more to support people to get out of the system, to push back against the system, to challenge psychiatry, etc. In the last ten years than most other communities and groups and activists I know. We work hard beyond our limits and take risks all the time to have that be true. I would suggest you check out our work first hand before assigning it to any category.

    I do not ‘want to be.’ I am. And at least half the folks I know who disparage what we do as being somehow ‘in the system’ are spending most of their time saying those things, not actually doing themselves.

    By the way, my blog says nothing about change ‘needing to come from the inside.’ And frankly, it’s more than a little insulting that you suggest I have such a childish view that lacks any real nuance.

    This blog was about how hard it is to hold the lines I’ve held and do the work I do and the cost that comes with that… the cost to me as a human being who can only take so much poor treatment, even if it is expected.

    Perhaps my next blog should be the predictable way in which people in this movement tear each other down, too.

    Thanks for reading,


  • Pat,

    I continue to be perplexed by your portrayal of things. I’m sorry that you didn’t feel welcomed with Hearing Voices USA. And yet, I repeatedly hear you misrepresent what people have said, what Hearing Voices USA or the charter stands for, what I’m saying here, etc. You’re also conflating Hearing Voices USA and the RLC. The RLC is the group that brought Rufus May and Elisabeth Svanholmer to the US to offer some training on Voice Dialoguing. We don’t expect others to do what we are doing. We choose our own priorities, and I think many people have benefited from many of the choices we have made. I’m sure they also disagree with some of them, or wish we’d prioritize other things. We do the best we can.

    My experiences with you in person have always been pleasant, but I’m pretty baffled by the parts of yourself that you bring to this forum. Ultimately, I guess it’s your choice how you show up here, but I do want to ask that you do your best not to misrepresent other people/groups wherever possible.



  • Oh for goodness sake. You’re over hear arguing semantics, and Pat is down below ignoring the problems that paid peer roles have created. Perhaps the two of you could argue together?

    I’m done and holding out hope that people may show up here who want to actually talk about the blog, and not these arguments that are getting us nowhere.

  • Oldhead,

    I guess part of my point is that it’s (largely) impossible to not eventually feel beaten down by the constant abuse, disregard, dismissal, etc… It doesn’t have to be about approaching them as lesser than or needing their approval. That I don’t is, I imagine, part of the problem. And yet, I am human. And it gets exhausting.

    I very much disagree with your ‘black power’ analogy, although I get your point. As I’ve already stated, I don’t care for the term ‘anti-psychiatry’ and it’s not really about try to soothe anyone’s fears. I simply don’t relate to it, and the fact that that’s actually my *truth* and people *still* want to use it to dismiss makes the whole thing all the more maddening.

    Yes, I realize that a large part of the downfall of the strength of this movement came with paid ‘peer’ roles and such. I talk about that with a great deal of frequency. And yet, expecting people to network, gain strength, and have a voice long-term with*out* any funding to support that is part of what made what was also not sustainable, I believe. Kind of a lose:lose…


  • It’s funny. My post feels so clear to me, and seems to be connecting with several others to whom it also feels very clear. But, I guess we all see things through our own lenses and experiences, and so I can’t fault you for feeling otherwise.

    Perhaps it comes down to my simply not liking the word. I do not think that the term ‘anti-psychiatry’ conveys the things that you say above very well at all. I also feel that many people who talk about ‘anti-psychiatry’ as their primary perspective tend to over simplify things, but as you’ll see above some people feel that over-simplification is a bonus.

    It doesn’t work for me. That’s kind of all there is to it. It’s like arguing about what the word ‘bipolar’ means. Even for those who accept that label, it actually *looks* a thousand different ways, let alone if you factor in those who do not. It is not a way I choose to identify myself, and I think the term misses the mark, at the very least, in being a way to accurately convey what (some) people mean by it. I don’t really see the point in arguing about it, honestly.


  • Criticism is fair, and there’s already a good amount of it in this comments section if you missed it! But I’m often troubled by your comments, as they seem to misrepresent what I say and what I do more often than not. I’m also confused by your capitalization in the above, but that’s also fine. And, you’re welcome to continue to e-mail me or the RLC for resources… My point was that you seem to tend toward attack here, and yet you clearly must see *some* value in what we do.

  • Yes, I like to call like to call it activism with integrity, and you’re right, it’s hard to do that sort of activism without burning out. 🙂 It’s hard to imagine that you’re actually trying to argue with our push back against the Boston Globe for their deeply offensive ‘mental health spotlight’ series, or the way our school systems are failing our kids… Is that really what you’re doing? Also, my ‘getting along/synthesizing’ comment wasn’t about my blogs. I say what I want here. I was talking about my ability to navigate my daily work. 🙂 And speaking of my daily work, didn’t I – at your request – just send you a book I wrote on developing peer respite? It escapes me a bit why you keep coming on these blogs and intentionally misrepresenting or disparaging what I have to say. 🙂 But that’s okay. I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. 🙂


  • I absolutely refuse to have the slavery compared to psychiatry argument again. This blog was deeply personal for me and took me a long time to write, and I simply won’t participate in having it hijacked in that way.

    As to the rest… The whole argument misses the mark for me. Almost any perspective that is completely one-sided is usually missing something in my eyes. That is how ‘anti-psychiatry’ feels to me. It a) misses that humans have used drugs for an eternity to manage their feelings, experiences, etc, and I’m not entirely sure that’s wrong in the most fundamental sense b) misses the fact that iatrogenic harm and dehumanization happen in the system for many reasons that include but extend beyond psychiatric drugs… At a minimum it misses those things.

    In any case, I’m done arguing about this, too, but thank you for reading the blog.

  • mecarlym,

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting, as much as you’re not so generally inclined. 🙂 There seems to be a real push/pull for so many of us when it comes to staying in this work and fighting vs. walking away to do something else, or at least not get paid within the system. Touch choices all around, but you sound like someone I’m happy is still connected. 🙂


  • I suspect we will continue to disagree on elements of this, Frank. I’m mostly going to look past your first paragraph (which feels a little insulting) and say this:

    As I said in one of my comments above, I agree that wiping the slate clean and starting over in terms of what we regard as ‘helping’ people and why and how to go about all that in our society is the ideal.

    Where we most strenuously disagree, I believe, is where I feel you have over simplified things. It’s not *just* about people being ‘different,’ as much as that’s a huge part of it. It may, in fact, be the most motivating part of it for the roots of this system… And yet, there are also people who are really struggling and want help, etc. Additionally, whenever I hear people get so fixed on abolition rather than change, it feels like it comes from a place of privilege to me. (Not privilege as in wealth or lack of hardship or whatever, but privilege nonetheless…. The privilege of not so much being at risk anymore of ending up in one of these places. The people I work with go in to institutions every day to try and help people get on their feet and get out… Abolitionist talk misses that. I realize that if we were truly successful in abolition, those people would also get out… Except, it wouldn’t be those people… They would have been lost and died off long ago. And I’m just not comfortable with sacrificing people in the now for what we might achieve somewhere far down the road.

  • I hear you, feelindiscouraged. Most of this blog was directed as those who hold power and aren’t at any particular risk, not people who are trying to avoid incarceration. I’ve definitely experienced marginalization, but fortunately haven’t faced any real threat of incarceration in a long time for which I am very thankful. -Sera

  • Mark,

    Eh, there are lots of ‘smart’ reasons why people leave those of us who are speaking up on our own, yes. It’d probably be smarter for me to shut up, too… Maybe follow my brother’s path, and work in the field of computers. And yet, here we are.


  • Thanks, J. In the best of worlds, I think abolition is indeed where it’s at. I’m not sure how we fix something that is being driven by so many interests that just aren’t helpful or healthy. What keeps me chasing reform is knowing how many people are stuck in there if we stop tending to that, and the numerous successes many of us have seen of helping people move beyond stuckness to a full life. I don’t feel great about getting too black and white about abolition goals primarily for that reason… But, yes, we need something totally different than what we have now.


  • Not totally sure how to interpret some of your comment, but thanks for reading, either way.

    I disagree with your link between ‘critical psychiatry’ and ‘moderate,’ but perhaps that does – as you say – depend on who you’re asking. I only know that the only place I ever get called a ‘moderate’ is around here, and only by a pretty small group of folks. :p

    Personally, I’m not backing away from ‘antipsychiatry’ to justify anything. I’ve never cared for the term. It’s too black and white. I prefer to be critical of anything and everything. 🙂


  • Hey Will,

    I’ve been traveling and am super sleepy at the moment, but wanted to write a quick comment since you took the time to name us (Western Mass RLC) in your blog!

    I hear you on the fact that our movement hasn’t been nearly as successful as we want to be or should be or need to be in making real change… And I can totally support the idea of trying to re-evaluate strategies, and decide if we need to change direction a bit (or a lot) and how. This is actually not the first conversation I’ve had of this nature in the last sevenish days.

    However, I feel confused about your proposed strategy here… Not because I think capitalism hasn’t been harmful, but… because I’m not sure lack of capitalism has particularly led to success for individuals with psychiatric histories, and I certainly don’t feel more hopeful about our changing the tide of our political and economic systems than I do about changing the the mental health elements around us…

    I also feel confused about why you called out RLC specifically? I’ll just assume it’s because we’re such a good representation of what peer-to-peer support can actually look like 😉 … But bear in mind we aren’t just doing peer support and sitting around for others to change the world. We’re trying to work on all of it… but we’re definitely open to new ideas about how to move forward. 🙂



  • Hi Patrick,

    I’m finally back. I hope you’ll bear with me in my more detailed response to your piece. It’s going to be long, although it’s late and so I’m afraid it won’t be quite as thorough or well thought out as I would have liked.

    First of all, let me begin by saying (once again) thank you. In order to respond to your blog, I needed to go back and read my own. I forgot how much I liked that particularly blog, so thanks for making me take another look! 🙂

    Okay, but, let’s get down to business. For starters, no, I am totally not kidding you. Do I mean to suggest that this certification has taken a completely healthy ‘peer support’ industry and knocked it off its perch onto the ground? No. ‘Peer support’ was suffering for being an ‘industry’ at all, and it was already deeply in trouble. But, Mental Health America certainly ain’t helping the situation.

    My complaints about Mental Health America (MHA) date back well before this last blog. In fact, the very first blog I ever wrote for Mad in America (back in December of 2012) was about MHA’s disappointing connection to mental health screening tools. See here, for more:

    I followed that up with others, including ‘Dear NAMI: My apologies. I’ve been unfair’ ( in 2014 (in which I detail MHA and a few other organization’s heavy connections to the pharmaceutical industry), and ‘Do NAMI and MHA suffer from Anosognosia’ ( back in 2015, where I discuss (among other things) Gionfriddo’s testimony in support of the Murphy Bill. So, you see, the problematic roots of MHA run deep.

    But, that aside, let’s look at what you wrote.

    So, the bell. I think you missed quoting what the bell *actually* said, or accurately representing my concerns with it at all. It’s not the ‘mental illness’ language. As harsh as that is on my ears, I understand the language of the era and all that. It’s the actual message. A refresher: Here’s what the bell’s inscription says in full:

    “Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”

    It doesn’t say that the bell shall ring out hope for the ‘mentally ill’ and victory over the system, the abuses they have suffered, the discrimination, the maltreatment, or whatever words might have been most commonly used to describe these phenomenon in that year. No, it suggests the bell ‘ring out hope’ for ‘victory over mental illness.’ That’s a *completely* different message, isn’t it? In fact, it sounds exactly like NAMI’s message, and every other organization that seeks to increase treatment to ward off and conquer these destructive ‘diseases’ without any real critical eye on the system itself (except perhaps to say it doesn’t offer enough beds or access for the “seriously mentally ill”). So, either you have re-interpreted what was written to what you wish it said (or what serves you in this moment), or the author(s) was a really poor writer. Either way, I’m sticking with my assertion that it is tone deaf and gross.

    You continue with several other points (I particularly appreciate the details on who makes what per each certification, so thank you for that), but also misrepresent another point I made here:

    “On a side note, I have no qualms about saying that all of the peers, including me, involved directly in the creation of this credential have just as much right to claim membership in the peer community as anyone else. When other people, particularly those with large audiences, try to disparage our “peerness” I have visions of a so-called recovery center I once visited which required proof of diagnosis before people were allowed access to the facility. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”

    Not a single time did I question anybody’s ‘peerness.’ Anyone who knows me or has read much of what I written will know that anything that links me to any place that would ask people for their diagnosis (or any other such thing) isn’t taking the time to understand what I’m saying at all.

    This is what is called a straw man argument, Patrick. You are responding to an argument I never made in order to (intentionally or not) distract from the points I actually made. I have *never* questioned the experiences of anyone who claims to have a psychiatric history or to have faced enough life-interrupting challenges to work in a peer role. What I *actually* said was that many organizations eat up the people who have internalized oppression, or who are prone to be silenced and changed when their paycheck comes from those they’ve previously sought to change.

    This is an important argument. It does not seek to diminish one’s experience or identity (and certainly doesn’t seek to ‘prove’ whether or not they qualify for membership to the ‘club’), but rather it questions whether or not they have had or currently have the support to not be swallowed up whole, co-opted and used by the system. And, it further questions the nature of a system that would prefer to hire people in this position than those who have gone through a fuller process of self and system realization.

    Based on what you say here, I’d also go several steps further and question your use of the word ‘peer’ in at least two other ways. First, you seem to be using it to mean an identity. Thus, right from the start, you are using the word in a co-opted manner. ‘Peer’ is not an identity you get to claim because you have some particular life experience. ‘Peer’ is a way of relating to other people. It’s an approach. A way of being. You serve to do the work of co-optation of the role simply by changing it to mean something else. (See my blog, ‘Cheers for Peers’ for more on this:

    Meanwhile, by claiming doctors and licensors and all that can be ‘peers’ you also go a step or two deeper into dangerous territory by not only claiming ‘peer’ as a singular identity, but by also ignoring that peer supports and peer-to-peer relationships are fundamentally built on minimizing power imbalances. So, while doctors, licensors, and all sorts of other people may have psychiatric histories and legitimate wisdom to share from those experiences, they are full of power.

    Is this what you mean when I say I’m questioning people’s ‘peerness,’ Patrick? Because, if so, then I guess you’re right on. I do not question anyone’s right to claim a psychiatric history, or to choose to work in peer support. I do not think someone needs to share a diagnosis, take a qualifying test, prove they’ve been hospitalized, or anything else in order to play this game. But, yes, I sure as hell reject that I am a ‘peer’ (I am a human) or that doctors who have psychiatric histories are able to participate in offering peer support for all the power they hold.

    On to the clinical dance: You say, ” What is not said, through no fault of Ms. Davidow, is that in the initial interview I accentuated that individuals choosing to participate in DBT do so voluntarily and arrive at treatment goals and methods in concert with their therapist.”

    Now it’s my turn to say, ‘Are you kidding me!?’ Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced into DBT-inspired programs. If they’re given a choice at all, sometimes it goes something like this, “So, you could live in this here DBT-based residential program, or… you could be homeless. What do you choose?”

    Additionally, some people who ‘choose’ DBT do so under coercion or misinformation. And, once they’ve ‘chosen,’ and they realize it’s not working for them, they can’t easily or immediately undo their ‘choice.’ So, yeah, what you offer here changes nothing, and simply re-enforces my impression that you’re not paying attention to what’s actually happening to so many people in the mental health system.

    By insisting that peer supporters deviate from listening to the person they’re supporting over all other influences, you are diminishing the most very basic point of this all. At the very least, if a person participating in DBT chose it voluntarily, then surely THEY know that. If, knowing that, they still choose to reach out to a peer supporter and ask them to advocate or help with something that clinicians may seen as ‘interfering,’ they do so also knowing that. Are you suggesting that the peer supporter nonetheless treat that person as a child who can’t knowingly decide to act outside of the DBT framework, and that the peer supporter needs to take on that responsibility?

    In my world of peer support, we practice responsibility *to* one another, not for. The system has already done far too much harm being responsible ‘for.’ If a peer supporter has a question (so much of our work is about questions and curiosity), then they can *ask* the person with whom they’re connecting. After all, this is all so much more about understanding THAT person’s worldview and NOT someone else’s (and certainly not Marsha Linehan’s). I reject this idea entirely, and continue to assert that such beliefs will contribute to further destruction of whatever good and potential may be left. So, yes, ‘clinical, I do think so.’

    You go on to offer that, “Ms. Davidow’s comments on the Code of Ethics are her opinion… They are the same as the majority of codes of ethical behavior that any certified professionals agree to.”

    Well, okay, but this isn’t the “majority” of work. It’s an employment structure for people who have faced silencing and discrimination. It’s already been severely co-opted and misunderstood. While I don’t agree with everyone here who says its pointless altogether, I do seriously question whether there’s any way to have it exist and hold it on track as anything else than what people here accuse it of being. Peer support is also already something that people like Tim Murphy, Susan Inman, Elinore McCance-Katz, E Fuller Torrey, and DJ Jaffe have sought to control or destroy. The language of not practicing beyond one’s expertise is precisely what was put into the Murphy Bill in an effort to control peer roles in really limiting ways.

    Saying this is all ‘just the same’ as any other license is just silliness as far as I can tell. Don’t you at least think the level of potential for discrimination is worth considering before people start signing off on this thing? Has it not occurred to you that various Anosognosia disciples might lodge complaints simply to push these issues? Are you ignoring national news of the Murphy Bill passing under the 21st Century Cures Act or McCance-Katz making her way into SAMHSA with destroying peer support on her mind? Might you not be handing them just the tools they need?

    I just recently received an e-mail from someone wishing we’d get ‘shut down’ simply for hosting a Coming Off Psych Drugs event. You seem to be very naïve about the potential dangers here, and that is terrifying given you are constructing a framework in which so many other people may get caught.

    You close with this: “Ms. Davidow is writing this in a blog about Mental Health America, so the clear implication is that MHA is shrouding itself in “so-called peers” and “party liners.” The comments about not being able to see through their own medicated haze and tokenism are even more revolting.”

    Are you denying that organizations across the country are hiring up “party liners” and people who haven’t made their way out from under the weight of over prescriptions and other varieties of disabling treatments enough to think about their role? If you’re truly suggesting that’s not a thing, then you’re not paying any attention at all. None of that is meant to disparage the people working in peer support who get caught up in that trend, as it’s usually not really their fault. But, to ignore the phenomenon is just as dangerous as everything else you suggest.

    But you seem really wed to ignoring all this. For example, when you say “The individual who “confessed” to feeling beholden to their employer was not referring to us since they are not an employee of our office,” you’re missing the point entirely. Is it intentional?

    It doesn’t matter if they were talking about Mental Health America when they told me how silenced they felt at times. They were saying it in regard to a presentation they were offering, and in general. They were explaining how they felt that – whenever they acted in a professional capacity relating to their role in any way – they felt they needed to watch what they say, and tow at least some part of the party line. Your unwillingness to understand how that connects to MHA’s work is baffling to me.

    Patrick, this national certification is not a good thing. (And neither, I suspect, is Canada’s, though I know much less about it.) None of this is news to you. People have spoken up at your presentation at iNaps, at Alternatives, and more. Your blog really doesn’t present a convincing argument otherwise. I hope you’ll consider this further, but it seems clear you won’t.

  • Hi Patrick,

    I don’t have time to respond to this right now (but, boy is there a lot to respond to)! However, I just wanted to say thank you! I’ve been cited in blogs and articles before, and even been the focus of an article outside of the Mad in America world.. But this is totally my first Sera-focused Mad in America blog written by another party. 🙂 It’s kind of like when I got my first ever hate mail following a letter to the editor that got published in the New York Times. Pretty exciting stuff.

    I look forward to having the time to respond.


  • Eh, I see you are poking at another argument underneath your main points here, oldhead. I don’t disagree with much of what you say – that he is recklessly exposing what others don’t want to have seen.. .But much of this is also about him, specifically.

  • Thanks, Fiachra. Neither one is my gig, but I hear ya… The discrimination they put out there and the assumptions inherent in it are obnoxious! Not only is there that statement, but they ask you in your application form about your psychiatric history.

  • Hi CatNight, Very true indeed. I almost included some of that history in the blog, but decided not to go off on another thread… However, it’s nonetheless a valid point. This is not the first time we’ve had a president who is potentially ‘diagnosable’, but that means little for each president and certainly nothing for them as a group compared to one another.

  • Thanks, Eric. 🙂 You bring up an important point that I’ve also argued at times… Not only is there a low prevalence of violence among people with psych diagnoses, but the fact that someone who commits violence has a psych diagnosis does not necessarily mean there’s a causal relationship. Far fewer people recognize the latter, than the former. And, of course, when we *do* start to look at what qualities and characteristics are most common in people who commit violence, it points us in another direction entirely…


  • Thanks, littleturtle. I agree, looking at the bigger picture and how we got here/where on earth we’re headed is much more important… and much more productive than the same old routine of putting the weight of the blame on those who are already marginalized.

  • Thanks, Stephen. I’ve heard the comparison to Hitler before, certainly, and the first part of it seems apt (in terms of people thinking the idea that he’d end up in office is absurd and thus nothing to worry about, etc.). Hoping that’s as far as it goes!!

  • Thanks for your thoughts, Anonymous!

    This is an interesting and good point: In some respects, I hope they do succeed with getting the president with a diagnosis. I would love to see a congressional hearing on it for all the world to see. How annoyed do you think he might become then? Can you see his lawyers pick apart the basis for psychiatry and diagnosis?

    However, the likelihood of that success is super low, and the likelihood of harm done (or at least perpetuated) is high (and already happening).

    In some ways, this article is a bit of an experiment. I’ve intentionally NOT challenged the basic psychiatric paradigm (though I’ve equally as intentionally not supported it), because I’m not sure it’s necessary (and in fact may be detrimental) to use that as a starting point with people in the liberal/progressive camp. It’s such a leap from where they sit now, but trying to win understanding by focusing more on the basic human rights violations and injustices is less of a leap…

    Perhaps, if the conversation starts there, rather than with something that is SUCH a leap for people to take, they might listen a bit more… And then, if they do, they might be more open to the next push..

    We’ll see. 🙂


  • Hi BigPicture,

    Thanks for your lengthy and eloquent response. 🙂 I certainly want to believe by ‘doing’, we are leading the way to something different, and in many ways, we see the evidence that we are… And yet, it is all so easily co-opted and then the ‘doing’ can also lead us astray.


  • epthe,

    The Hearing Voices movement definitely isn’t about telling people that it’s safe to come out about hearing voices! It’s definitely understood that that’s a risk for a lot of people. And, at the same time, when people are willing to come out, hopefully they make it a little safer for others to be able to do the same eventually. Totally respect your position, though. 🙂


  • JanCarol,

    Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I’ve noticed more and more the weird little recommendation buttons popping up in my chatboxes on Facebook… or ads that correspond to some element of what I’m saying! :p It is disconcerting to say the least… Though in fairness to Joy, what I’ve seen in her responses suggests a total lack of attention, rather than too much. But, I hear you and your fears on this count seem totally valid to me!


  • John, I do see you last comment got removed for moderation! I can’t quite remember what it said. :p Joy does seem fair game, though, all things considered… Someone recently e-mailed me to let me know there’s a new bot on the Facebook scene called ‘Woebot’, too…

    That one is… I don’t know. Different. It gets around Joy’s biggest issues by simply providing pre-determined bubbles one can choose for response. :p

  • Thanks, Stephen. I agree he doesn’t have too much understanding at all… Precisely what I meant to convey with these lines:

    “This isn’t your world. You don’t belong here, at least not without some humility and a guide.”

    “Joy basically is Danny. All his good intentions, hopes and dreams, naivete, ignorance, arrogance, and blind spots are there in equal measure.”

    I wish he’d recognize that.


  • Hi Bradford,

    Actually, just for your reference (and anyone else’s), if you go to ‘About’ in the Mad in America drop down menus, and then go to ‘Contact Us’, there’s a drop down menu from which you can choose any Mad in America employee or author and send an e-mail.

    People have definitely contacted me that way! I also don’t mind giving people my e-mail, but I’m reluctant to post it here for spam purposes.

    I’ll also be upfront that while I do my best to respond to all e-mails I do sometimes read something and then lose track of it, if I can’t respond right away, and so sometimes it may require people to ‘nudge’ me to bring me back around…

    I heard someone else talking about that film, but I at least *thought* they responded more positively to it.. I don’t know much about it myself at all.

    In any case, I’m realllly overwhelmed in work life right now, and am headed out of town for three weeks mid-summer, but I’m willing to give it a go, if you think I can somehow be useful up there!


  • Matt,

    Yes, it does seem invisible to many who are on the inside of it! I think even of commenters here who are simultaneously challenging the validity of this article’s claims, while unknowingly pointing out some of the fundamental pieces of exactly what the article says makes the whole system tick along. It does all end up feeling a bit like asking the organization to change is like asking a human being to learn to not only live but prosper without food…

    Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting!


  • Thanks, messenger48! I tried submitting one article to Counterpunch, and didn’t get through. (I think the first time is always the hardest!) I’ll have to try more. I’m certainly interested in reaching a broader audience. 🙂 Thank you for the reminder to give it a go.


  • Hi epthe,

    Thanks so much for sharing some of your experience. The involuntary outpatient commitment stuff is *so* short-sighted… So limited. So harmful. I’m glad you had the support you needed to find a way out… I wish more people have access to what you did to help push for more options!


  • Thanks, CCHR. Unfortunately, I worry your posting here under that name and promoting that website will suggest to people that this article is somehow related to Scientology, given that CCHR does seem to be linked. I do, at least, want to be clear that what I’ve shared here in this article is actually independent of any CCHR research, and includes sources like Mother Jones, New York Times, and even some very conservative sources like Pete Earley and DJ Jaffe. I don’t mean to suggest, either, that CCHR doesn’t include some valid and independently findable research, as well… But I do worry about the motives that are at the roots.

  • Michael,

    Unfortunately, part of NAMI’s gig is to suck up all the air so no other ‘gas station’ is able to grow. It’s not as if they just benignly offer supports that people can take or leave… They are a part of a machine that conveys *one* way of thinking about such distress (intertwined with capitalistic interests), that lobbies for force and money to be taken *away* from alternatives and put into more ‘clinical treatments’ (that’s, after all, part of what the Murphy Bill aims to do…), etc. etc. etc.


  • Thanks, Catnight, for all your thoughts.

    You mentioned a church you thought was progressive… I think one of the things we’re up against, is that people who are generally ‘progressive’ see ‘reducing stigma’ and increasing ‘treatment accessibility’ *as* the progressive things to do, without ever really stopping to understand that all the ideas that underlie those things are decidedly *not* progressive at all. It’s a huge part of the struggle.

    Sometimes theater pieces help, and there’s been the occasional good media piece (this for example!, but *so much* that is geared toward making people think is just going out to the same audience as always.. So, part of the challenge is not just how to construct those pieces, but to find a way to expose people beyond our own bubble to them and *then* have those dialogues. Such a complex web to sort out…


  • Carrieb, I am definitely no expert when it comes to search optimization, but I’d like to become one… I think it’d be good for our community to learn far more about that. As far as Mad in America goes, in the background they are paying attention to ‘SEO’ ratings which help articles rank higher… I always make sure my SEO rating is ‘green’ (good to go!) before I submit it for consideration, and I know there are Mad in America staff that will help with that if the author isn’t familiar with the process. And yet, that’s certainly not nearly enough to compete with NAMI just yet!

  • Pat,

    I spent some time trying to figure out what you mean about ‘Split’, since I never actually refer to anyone as a “good boy”…I think you must mean this passage:

    First you have the goodhearted soul loved by all (or at least most), but who inevitably slips up every now and again, falls off their drug regimen and gets at least a tad out of control… Perhaps all in effort to provide a sort of ‘Public Service Announcement’ about just how bad it can get when one is so ‘non-compliant.’

    Maybe not? I’m not sure. I guess, if you mean that passage, I think you may be misinterpreting the point. The point wasn’t to put down people who actually have that experience, which is valid, but to put down the use of that experience as a boiled down stereotype used to scare everyone else into never trying to withdraw from their psychiatric drugs.

    I feel like there are a lot of times when you are misunderstanding what is being said, or reading a lot more into it… Not just here – where admittedly my sarcasm and ‘snark’ are turned on high a lot of the time – but in other settings and with documents and conversations that aren’t mine. I think you have a lot to offer from both your own experiences and your work, but I’m left wondering why there’s such a barrier to simply understanding what’s being said…

  • Steve,

    Fair enough. This whole science conversation is an interesting one… How easy it is to discredit actual science as anti-science when it simply doesn’t fit with the power structures and dominant beliefs…And how hard it is to get people to listen to the *actual* holes in the ‘science’ that supports them.


  • Thanks, Truth. I don’t blame you for wanting to make change from within, and if it were merely a matter of opening people’s eyes to different information (rather than getting powerful entities to give up a lot of power), I might be more hopeful about it. I hope your alternative efforts are successful!


  • Steve,

    I agree with your comment.. .AND, I would add a point which I also tried to make in this blog (as well as – perhaps more strongly – in my Autism Speaks blog): While local chapters may sometimes be miles better than the national NAMI, at least part of what that accomplishes is to give national NAMI an opportunity to say ‘see, we’re not so bad!’ and distract people from a very serious problem. In other words, it’s great when local NAMIs are better… great for those local people… but still, in some ways, potentially harmful to the bigger picture.

  • Hi BillDare,

    Thanks for reading and for your comment. Yes, there’s lots of articles and fear circulating with Elinore, with the potential new appointments to the NAMI national board, and with so much else. Not too sure where it means we’re headed, or what conversations we might be having in a year, or two, or five as a result…


  • Hi Christopherj,

    I really appreciate your sharing your experience! What you say makes a lot of sense… about individuals verses groups. It’s frightening in its way, but if we look at history (of all sorts of things, not just NAMI), it makes all the sense in the world.


  • Michael,

    NAMI has never pushed drugs? Hmmm… Aren’t they essentially doing that by pushing the Murphy Bill and Involuntary Outpatient Commitment?

    They have also pushed ideas like that psych diagnoses are unquestionably brain diseases, chemical imbalances, and/or ‘just like diabetes’…

    And, if you disagree, well, they’ve got that great little ‘anosognosia’ section on their website..

    These are all pushing drugs in one way or another… In fact, they’re much more effective ways of pushing drugs, then if they literally pushed drugs in the ways you seem to be imagining we mean…


  • Hi Michael,

    So, I can appreciate you have felt helped by NAMI, and won’t attempt to take that away from you. However, when you say this:

    “aside from helping me come to terms with an illness and encouraging that I listen to recommendations by a psychiatrist, NAMI has done nothing to sell me or feed me drug information.”

    I say THAT is exactly what I – and the pharmaceutical rep I quoted above – am talking about. NAMI *does* engage in overall advocate and lobbying that help drug companies directly, but more notably they push people into the paradigm that *leads* them to take the drugs…

    The pharma rep’s point above was exactly that. That direct pushes toward specific drugs are NOT the most helpful approach. But that the more indirect approach of just convincing people they *need* drugs via advocacy to regard one’s self in a particular way… that’s proven quite effective.

    So, I’m not surprised what you say… in fact, it fits well within what I’d expect.

  • Thanks for your post and thoughts. 🙂 I fear that we have a longgggg way to go before we can really say that it’s mainly just the politicians/1% that are pushing in the psych drug direction…. BUT I do think there’s nonetheless validity in what you say, and we should definitely be paying attention. It makes sense that it would be that way when we think of the ways in which systemic oppression works.

  • Steve,

    Yes, I think you’re on track and are understanding what I’m getting at very well. I *would* ditch the world ‘client’ (as you seemed to realize during your post) as I’ve seen too many people internalize that they are ‘client’ into their identity and that *alone* can keep them stuck in a system that often isn’t truly helping them. But the rest of what you say is great.

    Kurt, I don’t think anyone here (myself included) are trying to say that you are ‘bad’, but I am saying that you haven’t hit the mark yet… You and co-workers may be miles better than the average clinician who hasn’t considered some of the things you have… But you *and* your co-workers and students still seem to be missing a huge piece of the puzzle.

    If, as you indicate below and Steve says above, you’re only here because you care about Bob’s work and the problems with the pharma industry, you’re missing how deep some of the system’s problems run. I don’t mean the occasional time when it got so big that you were able to see it again (as you’ve named a few exceptional examples above), but when it just stayed at that sort of day-to-day level of bad and power-ridden and oppressive so that it was mostly invisible to those who weren’t looking for it.

    This is the nature of most systemic oppression. The big and obvious examples are able to seen by *most*. But the system actually runs on the more insidious, harder to see stuff… Harder to see because you’re on the power end of it, and so it just looks like business as usual to you. And by you, I don’t mean *you*, but really anyone who is living on the privilege end of the stick (so, also you).

    It’s the *same* phenomenon that means the average white person *can* easily see the really egregious examples of racism, but has a much harder time pulling out the conditions or microagressions that are truly what sets up the environment for those bigger things to happen… Same with sexism… and homophobia… and all of it.

    I hope you’ll spend some more time trying to see.


  • Yes, I misapplied *one* statement (about people being ultimately happy to be in hospital). Everything else has been a response to you. Nothing I said in my last comment – and only one bit of my first comment – had anything to do with what I misapplied.

    Kurt, You’ve come here to this site for the first time… a site full of people who’ve lived these things (though that’s certainly not representative of all bloggers here or the site’s full point), but you don’t seem to have a lot of respect for that. Or, at least, that’s how you come across to me.

    No, I don’t know who you are. But, I do know that what you’re conveying – as I believe someone else said – comes across as feeling tone deaf to me. You’re talking about what you believe to work in the world of ‘suicide prevention’ (a problematic concept at its very roots), but you are speaking in some of the least human-sounding language about what is the most human of matters: life and death.

    I don’t think you can fully see it, which is why I brought up privilege. I hope something makes it all more visible to you at some point.


  • Okay. I was trying to be reasonably polite. This might be somewhat less so.

    Your response – and much of your blog – comes across as pretty pretentious and … well, I’ll leave it at that.

    In fairness to you, I did mix up some of my notes and was attributing some of what Dickson said above to you…So, apologies for that much.

    However, the rest is for you. Your overly academic way of speaking, assumptions about what people (including myself) do and don’t know, and globalized way of speaking about *all* of your students and virtually *all* of your co-workers as somehow different and more special than almost every other clinical worker in the country is extremely off putting.

    And sure, you can’t vouch for an entire website of tools… The problem is, if you’re going to blindly direct people to such a thing, you might want to offer *some* information about just how much drek they might have to sort through. It’s not just that some will work better culturally for some groups than others, and vice versa. Some of it is actually dangerous. Some of it is primarily a marketing tool to get kids into ‘treatment’.

    It’s interesting that you defaulted to your whiteness and maleness when referencing my comment about privilege. It is true, you are privileged in that way, and I share the privilege of whiteness with you. However, what I was specifically referring to is your privilege of power in your role. You’ve never been – at least as far as I can tell – on the opposite end of the ‘suicide prevention’ stick. I have. Almost everyone I work with has. The privilege of not having ever been there – and not living on that cusp now – is big, and I do not think that you recognize it.

    You’re all theory and acronyms. I’m familiar with CAMS (and if I wasn’t, I luckily say through the aforementioned extraordinarily painful and offensive suicide training on Tuesday where it was reviewed). I’m also familiar with the BS that is ‘Zero Suicide’, I’m intensively trained in DBT by Charlie Swenson and Cindy Sanderson. Blah blah blah. I *know* what you’re talking about.

    And I disagree with most of it.

  • Kurt,

    I have admittedly only read through your blog and then skimmed the comments, so I may be missing something already said in the subsequent dialogue, but I would like to point out that you have linked to a ‘suicide prevention’ resource that promotes products that are – in some cases – pharmaceutically funded. For example, it includes the SOS program about which I wrote a blog ( when they tried to peddle it to my son at his middle school.

    While I understand what you’re getting at with some of what you write, I found myself reacting with concern to a number of points. For example, this emphasis on restriction of means… It reminds me of a suicide and self-injury training I attended earlier this week.. One (of many of) the most disturbing moments was when the trainer said that – after a particular suicide – he restricted anyone receiving services at the org where he worked from living in an apartment that was any higher than the second floor. Great. (Not really.)

    I’m also having trouble getting past your statements about people basically being happy to be locked up and become powerless… I mean, sure, some people experience an *element* of that, but if that’s your main takeaway on most occasions, I fear for what you’re missing.

    On the whole, I hope you realize that when you live the privilege of as much power as you hold, it’s almost *inevitable* that you’ll be missing several elements of what it is like to live on the other side of that power split. I hope you’ll hold that in mind and consider it deeply as you move forward.


  • Steve, I appreciate your comments here. I really don’t see autistic people telling other autistic people that they *must* be happy to be autistic, or that points of struggle that may somehow be connected to being autistic aren’t actually struggles… Same for people with various psychiatric diagnoses.

    What I *DO* see is people with those experiences saying ‘let me decide for myself what is ‘struggle’ and why, and stop trying to speak for me, or force your ideas on me based on your perspectives’…


  • Strandra,

    If you haven’t heard people say ‘I want it back’ or, more commonly, ‘I wouldn’t want to lose it’ in regards to some of the experiences that have led to their psychiatric diagnoses, than you surely haven’t been listening. I have heard *lots* of people say they wouldn’t want to lose their voices, especially once they’ve learned to navigate them. I’ve heard many people say they appreciate the benefits their various sensitivities bring, especially once they’ve learned to balance them and navigate the world. And so on and so forth

    As to polio and who was or wasn’t ‘born this way’… Many people certainly do have the experiencing of having been born autistic, or neruodivergent and coming to appreciate many of the benefits that have come with that for them.

    Your excuse that many people who are autistic have difficulty with communicate is immediately belied by hundreds of thousands of autistic voices, several of which are found in the links I have included in this blog. Sure, there are people who would choose otherwise… Many of us would choose something different than what we have, the intensity and variances of our why or why nots are based on many different variables. I’d not take away from someone their desire to be different… but you’re ignoring and discounting MANY people with your extremely simplistic response.

    Perhaps even more importantly, whether or not you think of autism as an example of born neurodiversity, there are many points in this blog that hold either way. And there are many voices that I include that you might benefit from hearing.


  • John,

    Sami is great. I’ve met and interviewed him for a film I’m working on.

    However, I don’t feel like it’s my place to argue against such a diagnosis, when people who are quite empowered and educated about their experiences say otherwise.

    What’s clear to me is that the approach of Autism Speaks and NAMI are abusive and damaging, and that can certainly drive a diagnostic process that is dehumanizing (such as the one that led to my own pscyh diagnoses, which I’ve since discarded). And, I’ve certainly heard from people who’ve been given autistic diagnoses that oppose or feel harmed by them.

    But, I don’t think it’s necessary to buy into a ‘autism diagnoses’ are inherently bad or wrong framework in order to see that was Autism Speaks has to offer is terrible!


  • Hmmm… Looking at the 990s for the overall orgs is interesting. Have you checked them out?

    Here’s what I find for Autism Speaks on the contributions/grants line:

    (2012) 53,245,999.
    (2013) 63,725,069.
    (2014) 57,552,851.
    (2015) 58,085,859.

    Unfortunately, that shows an overall upward trend, albeit gradual/small.

    For NAMI, I find:

    (2012) 8,375,875
    (2013) 8,605,802
    (2014) 11,226,125
    (2015) 7,934,069

    So, they each have a bump year where things were substantially higher and that seems not particularly reflective of the overall trend… NAMI seems less clearly going up, but not exactly consistently headed down either…

    And *holy crap*, I didn’t realize that Autism Speaks was that much bigger than NAMI overall.

    Interesting stuff.

  • The_Cat,

    I don’t know if there’s an easy way to truly measure that… When I personally just googled ‘NAMI criticisms’ two of the articles that popped up on the very first page were:

    I myself have also written about NAMI on more than one occasion:

    (Though I’m certainly not making the front page of any google searches)…

    And while I wouldn’t choose to promote anything from CCHR (being the Scientology front group that they are), all four of the above links note the NAMI/Pharma link.

    And, as I said at the top, I’m just not sure how to measure the success in fighting back. It doesn’t seem we’re too successful as of yet on either front. Hoping we can change that somehow!


  • Thanks, Feelingdiscoruaged.

    I should clarify that the woman’s org analogy was from an autistic blogger who goes by codeman38.

    I intentionally quoted and referenced a number of autistic people here, because I did not want to be just another non-autistic person speaking about autistic experiences, without actually including those voices. Though I recognize the risk in doing so under my name is still that their words could be attributed to me, so I want to be careful about clarifying that when I can, too.

    I really appreciate this point: “Normal people are allowed to be assertive, independent and have good self esteem. For the “mentally ill” these are no no’s.”

    I’m glad it feels like your voice and awareness are coming back.


  • Pat,

    I’m not sure I’m totally following what you mean? I love to write and stir things up, but as you know, I also work in a world where many of us are out there doing the work in person, too.

    I really don’t think there’s agreement on this national certification business, including that it needed to exist at all. Thus, I don’t know that the answer is to simply offer MHA some competition.


  • Julie, I hear you. I think the only challenge with *no* training if we’re going to do this whole ‘peer’ thing is that *so* many people go through some of those life experiences and come out the other end all full of internalized oppression. I have to admit that I do find *some* training helpful on top of all that personal life experience to help work through some of that, think through what it really means to ‘be’ with people, be curious, support, etc. But overall, I appreciate your post a lot. 🙂

  • Stephen,

    If I had more time on my hands, I’d be fascinated to do some research that involves not only comparing licensure requirements between these various professions and the peer role, but *also* the logistics involved in meeting those requirements as they differ for each, *AND* how they’re applied… For example, I imagine a requirement that one put their licensure on ‘hold’ as a dentist is *likely* to bear many fewer actual risks and lower likelihood of abuse than for a peer role. Oy. What a mess.


  • Frank,

    Overall, I agree with you the idea that everyone who goes into the system should come out as its employee. However, there are many people for him that has been a really important path. Many of my co-workers have seen the depths of the system, and now get much satisfaction out of fighting against it in the way that they do. Of course, most of them also work with the RLC which is much less direct than working for a traditional provider. Working in a traditional provider in a peer role is a terribly hard position to sustain and not lose sight of one’s self again.

  • Hi The_cat. Comparing some of what happens in this world with Munchausen Syndrome is interesting… There does seem to be a bit of a common element in terms of somehow getting emotional gratification via public attention associated with one’s child’s struggles… Although, I’d stop short of the idea that most of these parents don’t also really care about their kids and wouldn’t find it much more important for their kids to be in a happier, better place.

    Thank you for the story! I look forward to checking it out.

  • Laysha,

    It is a really good question, and not one to which I have the answer. Of course, my fantasy is that articles like this one and word of mouth will prevent so any people from taking the damn thing – or organizations from being willing to pay for it – that it will fall apart for lack of funding. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely, but it won’t keep me from trying!!

    Do you have any other suggestions?


  • Dan,

    It’s all needed. As you know, I spend most of my day focused on creating. This recent Sun Magazine article speaks to much of what I’m doing with my day job 🙂

    But speaking out against the Globe… and hoping others are listening (both those who might join in the speaking out, and those who might be swayed by the speaking), whether or not the Globe folks themselves are… It’s all important.


  • Hi Julie,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, as always. 🙂 I know it’s true that the Globe is not alone… though it’s beyond my capacity to poke at them at all. :p But almost everything I write could be lifted and applied to these other outlets as well. Though I worry that the Globe’s Spotlight Team has more capital and credibility than most. I mean, they’re saying the same stuff everyone else is, but already seem to have been lauded more than most for doing so… as if they’re saying something new.

    Anyway, I’m sorry about your CBFS experience. 🙁 I wish it were more surprising…


  • I fail to see how you’re interpreting me as having said much of anything about Hilary Clinton, let alone that she would have been some sort of savoir? This blog is quite clearly primarily about the problem of diagnosing Trump. While I do express some negative feelings toward him on occasion, that doesn’t change the primary focus and has next to nothing to do with what I do or don’t think about Hilary or how she would have treated people who’ve been psychiatrically labeled… That seems like quite a leap…


  • Thanks, Zippy. I appreciate you’re mansplaining… Though, I’m not 100% sure you’re a man? Are you? An, thanks for your mansplaining explanation… It’s always good – as someone who has experienced a particular type of oppression – to be told by someone who hasn’t when and when not to be offended!

    Thank you 🙂


  • Zippy,

    You’re treading in territory where many of experienced systemic oppression that has crushed their lives and spirits. You’re speaking from a place of privilege when you tell those who’ve experience oppression that you have not that they’re trying to curtail your speech and thinking. What I’m telling you is that that terminology has been used to harm people. It has done harm. It continues to do harm.

    I suspect you could find another way to express your meaning. Kind of like you could express your concern for Trump’s behavior without using the non-science of psychiatric labels that have also harmed people.


  • “We shouldn’t be squeamish about applying DSM criteria upon the powerful. Otherwise it remains only a way of manipulating the less powerful in this society.”

    That’s an interesting point, lizadeeza. You seem to both be acknowledging that it’s a manipulation, *and* wanting to see groups across classes more equally ‘manipulated’? I’m not sure I get that.

    Certainly, many of us see that he’s a danger to this country. I maintain that I don’t need the DSM to see that.


  • It is not my fear. It is a reality. One I see *every* day for hundreds of thousands of people.

    No one is suggesting we ignore people are struggling. What we are suggesting is that these experiences of struggle are very human, and often environmentally related in some way… And that we need not segregate out those who are struggling with diagnosis. This medicalized manner of regarding people’s human suffering came about for many reasons… To make psychiatrists feel more legitimate… For the purpose of billing. As an effort to to reduce what you keep calling ‘stigma’ (and I would call prejudice and discrimination).

    It has succeeded only at those first two causes, ant not to anyone’s betterment.


  • I am suggesting that people struggle. Sometimes deeply. And that it leads us far down the wrong path to understand those *human* struggles by lumping them all into *medicalized* groupings that are largely artificial.

    Sure, *sometimes* people will speak to benefits… Helped them better connect with others with similar struggles and hear what’s worked for them, etc. But the benefits are far outweighed by the negative impacts, many of which I’ve already mentioned.

    We’d be far better off seeing struggle as struggle, and then being able to pick and choose from the array of supports that people have used to make their way through such struggles… Lumping the struggle into a man made category that does not objectively exist, narrows our view and our options and does harm to many of us.


  • I do not ‘have’ a ‘personality disorder’. I have a diagnosis that was the subjective opinion of other human beings, based on the subjective process of man made creation of that diagnosis for which there is no test and cannot be a test because it is literally only a way of trying to boil down what is going on with someone.

    And, if that way of boiling down an explanation didn’t lead to poor assumptions about what to ‘do’ with them, and/or lead to discrimination against them in all matters of life (including child rearing, employment, housing and basic freedom), that wouldn’t be the end of the world. But that’s not how it works.

  • I was diagnosed with a ‘Personality Disorder’ at one point in my life. What it did most effectively was give those who hurt and traumatized me a pass, because the diagnosis suggested it was a ‘mental illness’. The best thing I did to ‘cure’ my ‘mental illness’ was get *away* from the system and all the ‘help’ they were trying to provide me. Whether or not the various things I was doing then or since then had any relation to any sort of diagnosis is completely subjective opinion. But, somehow, I’ve managed to be a successful mother and leader of a fairly complex organization.

    Your ‘perspective’ is *exactly* the sort of thing that leads people to lose their kids because of a psychiatric diagnosis, or not be hired into complex and stressful jobs… Your ‘perspective’ would serve to ruin my life, and it has ruined the lives of many others.

    Look at what someone is doing, not some subjective, man made diagnosis.

  • Yes, it sure is discrimination… It is making assumptions and limitings someone potential based strictly on some sort of label… and, in this instance, it’s a label that has no objective proof as to its existence. What about having been diagnosed makes someone unqualified to act as president? Having been formally diagnosed does not necessarily make someone unreliable or dangerous, nor does NOT qualifying for a diagnosis render someone reliable or ‘safe’. Additionally, having a diagnosis and doing something strange or dangerous doesn’t necessarily mean that one did the later *because* of the former.

    The primary benefit you are offering to diagnosing this man is based on playing on the country’s fears and prejudice about ‘mental illness’ itself to your own advantage. I get that, but it is harmful to do so, because it feeds into erroneous and damaging beliefs that already act as the basis for this system of oppression where psychiatric diagnosis is concerned.

    This is not ‘political correctness’. That’s just an insulting way to shut down the conversation. This is people’s lives. We don’t need diagnosis to see that what he is doing is wrong and dangerous.


  • Let me give a quick summary of the point of the article:

    1. Why is whether or not he qualifies for a psychiatric diagnosis relevant to whether or not he is president? It actually doesn’t matter. What matters is what he’s *doing* as president, and whether or not he is demonstrating that he is fit to serve.

    2. He could have or not have a formal diagnosis, and that wouldn’t tell us anything, and to suggest it would is discriminatory and misguided.

    3. Pointing the finger at some ‘disorder’ in his brain does little to help us examine how we got to the point where we were willing to elect someone who demonstrates the characteristics you describe above.

    4. Arguing about this legitimizes that which is not legitimate… Psychiatric diagnosis is a system heavily influenced by privilege, racism, sexism, and various other biases. Diagnoses can’t be objectively ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ because they’re not objective. This is a distraction, and harmful to those of us who have experienced societal oppression due to the legitimization of such things.


  • Eh, systemic racism refers to all of the systems that we live entangled within. Every last bit of it, as it is an overall system that was designed by white, christian, (etc. etc.) men. In general, systems are racist and people’s actions and words are bigoted. Since racism and sexism etc. are systemic issues, referring to one person *as* that thing doesn’t make a ton of sense. It makes much more sense to say they are a part of it, or have somehow perpetuated or supported it, etc. In some ways this is just semantics, but overall, I think it’s critical that these issues be recognized as systemic and so I think it’s important at that level to try and use the words properly.

    In any case, I don’t really think that argument is particularly helpful here. I get to share some of my political perspective in my blogs. You get to disagree. My overall point about Trump and psychiatric diagnosis remains the same. I’m going to stop responding to this thread now. 🙂


  • Eh, I don’t particularly agree with the frame of ‘everyone is racist/sexist/etc.’ However, I *do* agree with the frame that all white people benefit from white privilege and have participated in systemic racism, and ditto all men re: male privilege/systemic sexism, and so on.

    You can keep putting words in my mouth because … well… this is the comments section and you get to comment… But I didn’t say ‘gotcha’… I pointed out both those who did vote for him and those who didn’t for different reasons. And I *do* think it’s a sign of a real problem that so many voted for him when he was behaving like such an overt bigot and they thought that wasn’t important enough to not vote for him. And, frankly, I’ve heard so many non-white people speak to how that has felt for them to know so many people saw that and didn’t think it was enough to not vote for him…

    So, I stand by what I say. Thanks for trying to talk me out of it, though!


  • Don,

    Thanks! I guess I just really feel differently about looking at things *other* than people as being ‘sick’ in their way. ‘Societal ills’ means something very different than ‘mental ills’. The former quite specifically leads to examining (and hopefully undoing) that which is oppressive, while the latter does just the opposite. They seem quite fundamentally different to me.

    But, there’s never anything wrong with explaining precisely what is going on, so I won’t argue that that would be valuable!


  • oldhead,

    I don’t know that I’d frame it as ‘attacking’. I *do* question both those who voted for him, and those who failed to have a strong enough alternative to prevent that. I do come from the position of thinking Trump is a bad choice for this country. I do also personally – although it’s not particularly represented here – come from a place where to vote for him isn’t necessarily to be a racist/sexist/etc. but *is* basically saying one is *okay* with those things…

    I feel okay about having an opinion, and I also feel okay about expressing that opinion in what I write.


  • oldhead, Where precisely am I treating what he says as his imagination? As I said in my response to him, Mad in America *does* allow for inclusion of opinion from its writers. I never said that the blog doesn’t express negative opinions about Trump. However, they are fairly low key, and none of it changes the fact that – love him or hate him – diagnosing him is harmful to all of us.


  • Read as you choose, of course. Mad in America does leave room for author opinions provided they don’t overrun the overall point, and so you will indeed find my thoughts and feelings on a number of issues throughout many of my posts. For example, surely you would be able to tell from my blog on ‘Split’ that I didn’t like the film, etc.

    If you feel so strongly about Trump, that one blog that expresses negative feelings about him within a much broader context of diagnosing him being harmful to us all is enough for you to write off the entire site… well, that seems unfortunate to me, but who am I to argue. I hope you find what you seek!

  • Thanks for your comment! Reading and being reminded of some of these historical perceptions and realities was interesting! I did try to raise a similar point at the start of my article as you probably saw… that this whole idea that it’s all worse for a few diagnosis or that diagnosis makes for a bad president makes no sense!


  • Uprising,

    I’m not so sure I agree… But, of course, I wrote it so that’s no surprise!

    But I think it’s complicated. Some people absolutely like his attitudes and approaches and I think that’s a sign of a societal ill. Others were indifferent to them. And I think that’s a sign of a societal ill. Others were desperate to believe his promises because of how terrible things already were. And that’s a sign of a societal ill. And nobody on any side was really able to produce a solid candidate or come together to ward off what’s befallen us. And that’s a sign of a societal ill. All of it.

    While I’m not down with the idea of ‘mental illness’ I am absolutely down with the idea that people use ‘mental illness’ as a way to try and cover or deflect blame for ‘societal illness’…

    Beyond that, though, I don’t really want to get involved in a Democrats vs. Republicans debate, here… It feels too important to stick to the idea that – no matter where you’re coming from politically – it’s a problem to be calling Trump ‘mentally ill.’


  • AntiP,

    I certainly wasn’t suggesting Frances is *any* sort of solution… But I did think what he said in his own ‘Trump is not mentally ill’ article was revealing and of value (in a way totally different than how he meant it), nonetheless!

    I think you make an important and valid point here:
    “the further requirement that is crucial in defining all mental disorders — the behaviors also must cause clinically significant distress or impairment”.

    NOOOOOOT TRUE. Where i live (DSM criteria applies), you get get locked in a mental hospital (for months), by just refusing to take psychiatric drugs. Allen Frances knows that. Every psychiatric nurse knows that.”

    And, I too considered pointing out that his statement about needing to be suffering/impaired was actually not accurate… HOWEVER, there *is* something accurate about it all the same… That privilege that keeps a certain group from being labeled and losing power in the same way as most of the rest… And that’s where Id ecided to focus. Both are true.


  • Thanks for your comments, Tina. I appreciate your bringing in more of the legal context of using diagnosis to prove Trump unfit… I also agree that crisis can serve to bring us together. I hope we end up looking back at all this as a time that drove us toward meaningful and long lasting *positive* change somehow.


  • Frank, I kind of lumped all the terms together in this article… In part, because whatever you call it, I do think that who gets labeled as ‘mad’ or ‘mentally ill’ or ‘crazy’ is subject to essentially the same power dynamics and societal structure… But overall, I agree with you that ‘mentally ill’ is the worse of the three because it not only labels, but also attempts to explain *why* in a way that I find particularly damaging and not based in much objective reality.

  • Thanks for reading, John. I agree that the current fragmentation between our communities, and that many of us (including those who’ve been most marginalized) have been taught to turn on one another rather than looking at those in power, has been a significant part of what’s made space for this phenomenon.

  • Eh, I’m going to steer clear of giving *anyone* a psych diagnosis, bcharris.. But I hear what you’re saying. I definitely thing our citizens need to take a look around at themselves to better understand how we got here… And not necessarily entirely in blame, but we do need to figure out how on earth we got here so that we can, perhaps, have a shot and digging ourselves out!


  • Hi Kallena,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I checked out my language (I’d originally used the term ‘alter’ and got feedback that that was not ideal and that ‘personality’ and ‘part’ were better), so I apologize if I got that piece wrong. And thank you for sharing additional layers in terms of how parts might work together and influence one another, etc.

    I’m also saddened here (and wherever) I see people trying to force frameworks on each other, even when it’s a non medical one. It just seems to be a way of being that misses a large part of the point of what we’re fighting for…


  • Nomadic,

    I know you don’t know me in person, but I’m the one who says that none of the system stuff – not therapy, not the diagnoses, not the drugs, none of it – worked for me. That ‘non-compliance’ saved my life. That getting away from the system when I did saved my life. Also, whenever I share my story, I share how problematic the word ‘recovery’ is and how it’s just another part of the ‘mental health/illness’ box that I don’t want to be in. So, you’ll get no argument from me on much of what you say.

    And at the same time, I just don’t find myself wanting to be another person who tells someone else how to live or what they need to do to find their own way. In fact, sometimes, I think doing that actually pushes people *more* into the system, rather than helping them be open to at least considering if there’s another way.

    To be clear, this in *no way* amounts to me encouraging people into system stuff. I spend the bulk of my time trying to build alternative choices to all that, and sharing information about things beyond the medical model, etc. But I don’t want to be just another person in someone’s life saying, ‘Hey, I know better than you.’

    It’s a tricky balance.


  • Hmmm… I replied to this yesterday, but it seems it didn’t show up, so let’s try again:

    Thanks, Steve! 🙂 I particularly appreciate your sharing about the woman who used her ‘teenager’ personality (that she used against people she found threatening) against the psychiatrist. It says a ton about the dynamic we have going in this country with the system that is supposed to ‘help’!


  • Vortex,

    I quite disagree with the idea that ‘Alternative Facts’ are what we offer here, as noted in a previous response to a commenter. I see ‘Alternative Facts’ (as they’re currently being offered up in the media) as NOT facts. People in this world all too often confuse what is opinion with what is fact, and in many instances those ‘Alternative Facts’ are just. not. facts. 🙂 As we get accused of being ‘anti-science’ and all that, I often find we’re being so accused by people who refuse to look at the actual science. I find people I’ve met from this website, on the other hand, to be particularly interested in what research has to say.

    Meanwhile, it is an error in evaluation to simply count up what the majority of villains *look* like. What I spoke to was the *ratio* of representation… Number of characters represented positively who are from a particular group verses number of characters represented in some negative way. Totally different reference point.

    I find it really unfortunate that you are making the assertions you are about race (mostly irrelevant in the 2010s? Really?), and that it is actually your apparent need to diminish the relevance and prevalence of racism, sexism, homophobia, and so on as it very clearly exists in today’s pop culture. My comment on that point amount to one sentence in the actual blog. At this point, it is you and other commenters who feel they must argue about it that are actually diverting the focus away from what this blog was actually about.

    I am hoping that most commenters will be interested in talking about the actual blog and its points. I’m going to do my best to resist the urge to respond to further comments on this point. 🙂



  • Thanks for all your thoughts, CatNight. I remember the ‘Caps for Sale’ book from my son’s childhood (somehow we missed it with my daughter several years later). I’m actually not familiar with the pieces you mentioned (King of Hearts and Madwoman of Chaillot), but curious to look them up! Somehow, I think we need something of … Harry Potter… status or something… that really takes hold in pop culture, but gets at all these issues!


  • Matt,

    I say what I say because it’s cis, white, heterosexual men who are most frequently portrayed on TV and in movies as strong, smart, non-criminals and non-sex objects, etc. I say what I say because the ‘default’ role for the portrayal of a white, heterosexual man in pop culture is *not* as the disposable sidekick for comic relief or who is most easily expendable when someone needs to be killed off. I say that because the majority of big Hollywood (etc.) directors and producers are white men who so commonly create starring roles in their own ‘default’ way of thinking (also influenced by what they think will ‘sell’)… which is basically in their image. This doesn’t make them (necessarily) ‘bad’ or ‘evil’, not does it make the average man so. It’s simply more evidence of our container, and how we’ve been taught to think and prioritize and skew. Media is no different than any other part of our culture in that way.

    What you say – that more people of color experience poverty, and so on – is certainly also accurate. But, this is not what is at the root of this phenomenon, even if it’s one influencing factor.

    Race (and gender, etc.) are *always* a relevant issue. Because ‘systemic oppression’ means just that. *Systemic*.

    Thanks for your comment, and for giving me the opportunity to explain. 🙂


  • Thanks, Matt. Yes, at some point, the Globe agreed to publish an editorial I wrote, and I made a point to highlight some of the bad in the current system that they’re ignoring and some of the good (like Open Dialogue) potential they’re overlooking. They published it, but it doesn’t seem to have actually impacted them at all…

    And yeah, it seems so incredibly disingenuous for any of the Globe crew to be hanging on to claims that they’re not pro force (or paternalism). They are terribly clear where they stand in the excerpts such as the ones you cited above.

  • Dear all,

    I am writing just to let you know that I am headed out of town and away from Internet connectivity for most of the next week.

    My general policy as a writer is to respond at least once to each commenter, but I just won’t be able to do that much after today and until the 27th or so.

    I apologize in advance for my silence, and thank you all for reading this blog and any comments you might make. 🙂


  • Steve,

    So true that logic clearly fails here. And it fails so terribly, that the most logical, fact based speakers among us are looked upon as anti-scientific jokes a solid amount of the time. I wish I knew what to do with that, as well. Because I myself feel like I’m stuck in a loop of trying to present logic (albeit with a healthy dose of sarcasm alongside it), and it’s obviously just not enough.

  • Hey Anonymous,

    Thanks for your comment and appreciation of my writing style. I know it sometimes gets a little too sarcastic for some. 😉

    I did honestly flag a bit in my energy to cover this series, hence this blog covering four Globe articles at once… However, when Kelly (whose story is featured here) reached out to me and I read the awful San Antonio piece, it was just the kick I needed to not let the whole thing close with at least one more response!

    I just wish we could figure out how to get heard (and get those stories like what you mention here about psych drugs heard) in a much, much broader way.

  • Thanks, Frank. You’re absolutely right that sensationalism was the ‘wind beneath the wings’ of Murphy and his ilk. There are so many powerful societal forces (sensationalism, greed, etc.) at work here that it feels terribly hard to effectively interrupt it here. Hoping these articles have at least served to put a bit more doubt in some people’s minds.

  • Icagee,

    Thanks so much for your comment. I absolutely think there are many of us here who would be able to design supports that would be far more helpful than anything currently offered. And, thank you for some of your own ideas.

    The discrimination one is also huge. Unfortunately, there seems to be an underlying perception among many that when it comes to psych diagnoses many instances of discrimination aren’t actual discrimination, because they’re just ‘truth’.


  • Bcharris,

    I feel a little confused by your comment. Peer-to-peer support is really about coming at supporting one another with as little power differential and as much mutuality as possible. So, being responsible for sending police out on certain situations or being trained in martial arts for use on the job feels confusing to me?

    There’s several other things I feel inclined to say, but since I’m overall not sure I understand exactly your vision, I don’t want to jump into many directions trying to guess.

    Let me know if you want to clarify!


  • Actually, they took up over two hours of the two hours and fifteen minutes just letting the panel members talk and not letting the audience speak at all… but when I did finally get ahold of the mic, I did make mention how far more people are dying every day from the ‘treatments’ the Globe series is urging for more of… oy.

    But you make a very good point of who exactly gets to decide who is villainized…

  • Thanks for your comment, Deena. They do approach this series as if it is a noble mission for which we should all be thankful.

    In fact, I saw two members of the Spotlight team (Scott Allen and Jenna Russell) on a panel Wednesday night, and they were quite self congratulatory about the whole thing… and Jenna (who I’ve actually liked and appreciated during individual conversations in the past) basically said that while she acknowledged that they’d perhaps contributed to ‘stigma’, that the real ‘stigma’ causer was that we (people with psych diagnoses) keep killing people. Oy. It was something else.

  • Thanks so much, Alex. I appreciate your taking the time to really explore what we’ve offered and beyond.

    I want to be upfront that the video I linked you to and to which you refer in your comment here is one I only watched for the first time *after* the blog was written (it was actually already waiting on the Mad in America system for moderators to post when someone shared it with me), and I have no idea if Earl and Iden have seen it. So, our blog isn’t really based on that video, but there are many points that do resonate with it.

    I appreciate that you’re spending so much time looking for the connection points between what you’re hearing and learning and your own experience. Relating is *so* different than taking as one’s own, and is an important part of how we can build understanding and connection.

    Again, thank you for your time and comment.

    (A quick note to others: We decided to let these comments through because Alex’s conversation got cut off mid-way when we closed the comments, and it seemed to make sense to let it be completed!)

  • Although things have quieted down a bit in here, we have collectively decided that closing the comments section makes the most sense at this time. But, before we do, we just wanted to offer some closing comments from each of us:

    EARL: Whoa! I am always hesitant to discuss race. It is kind of half the point of a racist society, the idea of making oppression such a quagmire to discuss that it isn’t worth it. However, if our thesis was that racism exists in dramatic ways in our movement, boy, were we right!

    The comments section has felt like quicksand and every time I thought of commenting, I remembered that I don’t want to fight you guys. This has felt terrible and unfortunately, this is what has been put out to people of color. This visceral response has been noted and I am in agreement that ending it now makes sense.

    IDEN: One of the things I find most fascinating about the comments section is that it appears that mostly older White men populate the comments. They argue incessantly about liberals and the usage of particular language and whose voice should not be ‘that of millions’ yet they use their two or three as if they are ‘the voice for millions’ themselves.

    Making space for others in between the MIA pages is crucial to ensuring diverse voices are heard. There is nothing to be gained by listening to the few. There are many lessons to be learned in the MIA space around access, privilege, the use of writing as a privilege, and oppression, but most importantly using it as connecting. I wish to use it more for connecting.

    SERA: It seems relevant to note that this is only the second blog (of 55) that I have been a part of where the decision was made to close down the comments. The first was ‘Dear Man: Sexism, Misogyny, and the ‘Movement,’ published almost exactly one year ago. Comments were closed at 200 because of the level of vitriol that the topic drew out. This one made it over 350, but the response has felt very similar.

    A lot could probably be said in comparing the two blogs, but the basics are clear: Each directly asked our ‘movement(s)’ to take a hard look at the realities of how we’re treating particular groups of people, and how we’re perpetuating specific ‘isms’ whilst claiming to fight systemic oppression. I feel sad about this blog – which ultimately (simply and straightforwardly) asked people to consider the images and words they use, and to center the feelings and voices of people of color, particularly when it comes to the experience of being non-white in this world.

    Regardless of how people felt about the ‘tone’ of what we had to say, it was offered honestly and because we see a serious problem – this absence of people of color in our movement(s). The comments section helped illustrate *why* that is the case. The question continues to be what do we do about it.

  • The timing, oldhead, is that the blog was finally read to go. Nothing more nefarious than that! I took a quick look through the comments on Noel’s blog because I was interested in her blog. Didn’t even see your comparison. This blog was written because all the points above are serious issues… it’s not about you. 🙂

  • Nah, it’s totally not ‘no MLK’ quotes. A co-worker of mine, Caroline, took me on a lengthy walking tour of DC, and one of my favorite parts was the MLK monument and looking at all the quotes. He’s said *lots* of *great* things.

    The *problem* isn’t quoting him overall… It’s that Paolo (in the example in the blog) took his quote and warped it into something it was never meant to say… Or that David Oaks used his words to apply to mostly white groups and than suggested those mostly white groups were what MLK envisioned which again seemed at least a bit appropriative…

    In addition to that, there is a certain trend to almost only and ever quote MLK when one wants a quotable black person (which seems either representative of substantial lack of exposure to black history and the many people of color who’ve said important things and/or that MLK said things in ways that are more palatable to white people than some others might have), so it does feel important to broaden our knowledge and exploration of quotable people… But I don’t think anyone’s saying MLK is off limits entirely if you’re white.

  • Humanbeing,

    I wonder where we’d be able to get if we did the following:

    If a black person or other person of color says, “Hey, it hurts in a deeply personal way when you say that” [e.g., psychiatric slavery] or “it feels like you don’t see me when you say that,” [e.g., color blind] or “that’s a misuse of my (or another person of color’s) words or culture” [e.g., appropriation of MLK’s quotes, etc.], and a white person simply said, “Okay. Thank you for letting me know. I won’t do that again.”

    And if people who are not female-identified could similarly listen to those who are, and respond similarly when it comes to what it’s like to be a woman in this world…

    And if people who haven’t experienced psychiatric oppression could similarly listen to those who have, and respond similarly when it comes to what it’s like to be psychiatrized in this world…

    And so on. Where would we be then? Because that’s one of the central, underlying points of this blog, and the railing of so many white people against it is kind of exactly the opposite.

  • I don’t recall the nature of your (or oldhead’s) participation, Richard, so I personally was not attempting to make any references to it (or any specific person). When I speak about that blog, it is primarily to point out that it followed a very similar course to this one in the comments section overall.

  • humanbeing,

    There is a common trap left to lie for those of us who are speaking of systemic oppression from the vantage point of first-hand experience. I have been called out more than once for speaking out about misogyny and sexism in this movement, and *I* have been painted as the problem… Not the man about whom I was speaking (and I wasn’t swearing, or calling names… simply stating clearly that I would not work with a certain person and why, in one situation that comes to mind) who has explicitly done things that have hurt women. But, me for calling them out. Because I didn’t do it in a way that was most palatable for some in the group who was hearing it. (And, honestly, I’m not sure anything would have been palatable other than silence.)

    I have also been the person who was told that I spoke up in a way that couldn’t be heard by providers about psychiatric oppression… That maybe even that term is too harsh for their ears. That it’s great when I tell my story, but that it might be too much ( at least too much too fast) to actually expect them to effect some sort of change after I share some of the most intimate details of painful periods of my life.

    And – on the other side of things – at times, I’ve *been* the person who looked at some of the chalk drawings on my college campus’s walkways written out by the local LGBTQQI* community and said, ‘That seems a little too extreme They’re never going to get their message across if they say it like that.’ And, I’ve felt similarly in the past about some of the anti-racism actions I’ve witnessed. ‘Is inconveniencing people really the best way to get heard?’

    So, yeah, I’ve been on *both* sides, including the side you seem to currently be sitting on – where you’re telling Iden that he’s (we all are) being too angry to deserve to get heard. I can tell you, though, that I don’t feel proud about the examples of myself that I offered above. Because – while I do think there’s different best approaches for different situations – I also think it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. And, perhaps, more over, I think it makes sense that people *ARE* angry!

    Hell, Iden is the *only* black person who’s been responding consistently on a thread that now has over 300 comments, many of them being ones that reportedly feel quiet upsetting and offensive to several people of color (and others!). How long is he expected to tolerate that and not sound at least a little bit upset or irritated? What about all the other people who’ve sounded a little upset or irritated on this thread? Has that not bothered you?

    We simply *can’t* say, hey, come, non-white person, into this white world we’ve created here, offer up your thoughts, let us tell you how wrong you are, share your experiences and feelings openly, but could you do it *perfectly* (as defined by us)… and, please, don’t get upset, keep your voice down, stay calm(er than we’re expected to)… Or else we’ll have *another* way to discredit you.

    Well, I guess we can… But where it gets us certainly isn’t change.

  • humanbeing,

    I wonder why you think that all the steps toward unification must *look* like unification along the way? Doesn’t every such process – if there’s any honesty to it – also require a painful process of naming what’s wrong, what’s been hurtful, what needs to change first? And when that happens, how often is that not – at least at first – met with defensiveness and anger?

    I went into this with absolutely no expectation that everyone would be happy and unified at the end. I went into it because these problems aren’t being openly named, and our movement is not just ignoring but perpetuating them. I went into this with the hope that at least we might play some role in bringing that more to light. It would have been great if it had gone better, but this is a necessary step and I feel like we have successfully been a part of taking it.

  • Richard,

    I can see that you are very upset with me at the moment. For what it’s worth, my initial thoughts about you weren’t made up or simply to appease you. I’ve seen you challenge yourself and the approach the work you do with great seriousness and care.

    But, I’m also not going to cave here. I think your insistent focus on ‘identity politics’ is a problem that comes across as a dismissal, much like the ‘political correctness’ accusation. But, I’ve said this before.

    One thing I perhaps haven’t said before – or at least in this particular way is this: People in this comments section seem to be taking some of this very personally, and hearing me and some others as if we are saying ‘YOU ARE A RACIST.’ And, that’s not quite exactly what’s being said. At least by me.

    Racism is about systems… Systems that are developed and defined by and for those in power, which results in some of us having privilege that others don’t have because we fit (or are closer to) the image of those by whom the system was designed. I imagine I’m not saying anything you haven’t heard before, and I could go deeper into it, but instead let me say this:

    While I *am* absolutely saying this movement is just as racist as any other that exists within this nation, that’s a bit different than calling particular people out as ‘racist’. I’ve heard others frame it as ‘every white person is racist,’ but I guess I would tend instead to say ‘every white person has benefited somehow from the privilege that comes with being white, and has participated in some way in perpetuating that structure, even if only by not acknowledging or working to change it.’

    But not saying that straight out allows for space for it to all continue on unchecked. I pointed out the same dynamics in relation to sexism and the movement with my ‘Dear Man’ blog. I can’t recall if you commented on that one. Did you read it and have the same reaction?

    You are pointing the finger and me, Iden and Earl for ‘identity politics’ and behaving poorly throughout this whole comment thread. I am pointing the finger at how we have all been together, at the reality that this movement *is* extremely white and that that doesn’t seem to be changing.

    You seem to be blaming me and my co-authors for setting up the dynamic that has shut down this conversation, but it just seems so strange to me that you’d feel in a position to place that blame when everyone I’m aware of that is a person of color that has had a reaction to this blog (certainly more than Earl and Iden at this point) is reacting to what is being posted in the comments section by a series of white men.

    Does that mean you are ‘racist’ for disagreeing? No. Not exactly. It’s not that simple. But I do think that you and others here have substantially contributed to the perpetuation of keeping this a space that feels most comfortable to white people.


  • There have been several comments here and on Facebook from people who are saying there is no ‘movement’ or that there are multiple movements. I’ve said the latter, at times, myself… but I wanted to take a moment to say overall that this feels a disingenuous argument, at least here.

    Iden and I do – I think – disagree on language to some extent. I don’t use language such as ‘mental health movement’ (or ‘peer movement,’ or ‘recovery movement,’ etc.), and if I do speak about movements, it’s usually without any specific title, or ‘human rights movement,’ or (occasionally) ‘psych survivor movement’…

    However, I think it’s disingenuous to go too far down that path here for two reasons.

    1. It strikes me as silly to say that there is not a movement… When many of us are on the same email lists and list servs, when many of us go to conferences and see the same people (or know the same people who aren’t there because they disagree with the conference’s existence or what have you), when so many of us recognize each other’s names even though no one outside of this ‘movement’ would and even though we’re on opposite sides of the spectrum, when – whether or not we agree – so many of us are familiar with the same ‘in’ language and warring perspectives and common points made within each…

    I don’t want to be associated with a movement that promotes ‘peer’ roles over understanding and undoing psychiatric oppression, or talks about ‘mental illness’ as a global truth, or wastes time on ‘stigma’ campaigns… My personal perspective tends to resonate most strongly with those of you who are talking almost entirely from an oppression/liberation point-of-view. AND, I know there’s still a movement. It’s a movement (or smaller, fractured, somewhat interconnected movements, if you prefer) that has dark and co-opted pieces to it… A movement that I think is largely failing. And many people with whom I *refuse* to unify because unity strictly for the sake of numbers, and with no attention to integrity seems like a failure all on its own…

    But, to say there is nothing… just seems so strange to me.

    2. This feels like a point of distraction to me. So often, when the topic of racism comes up, people look for other topics to bring in… And this feels like an example of that to me. A way to be talking about something else. And whether that’s the intent or not (unconscious or not), it is the impact. I understand why it might be important for people to name that they do not see Alternatives as ‘the movement’ or that it is a co-optation of the movement… Fine. I see it as a broken, co-opted piece myself, but also one where I might be able to go in and share information with people stuck there who don’t know there’s anything else. We can argue another time whether I’m wasting my time, and whether that’s good or bad.

    But meanwhile, that very same section that talks about Alternatives *also* talks about a blog by David Oaks, co-founder of Mindfreedom who is engaged in pretty much the same practice. And, Frank, that’s actually where I met you. At a Mindfreedom conference. So, presumably you don’t dismiss them as at least connected to the movement you’re a part of?

    So, in the end, I think there’s value to piecing out some aspect of this ‘what movement’ conversation, but this is a blog about racism… and how it has been maintained throughout *all* pieces of *all* movements connected in any way to this issue, and how we’ve really failed at making spaces and conversations that are accessible to people of color.

    I’m hoping that people can put this ‘movement’ conversation aside for the most part, while we talk about that.

  • Matt,

    Fair enough that you don’t want to take my statements about Facebook at face value. However, this isn’t a legal case. I was intentionally vague because what I read was from people who were *VERY CLEAR* that they did not want to be dragged into all this for the reasons that I stated.

    To call them out by name or point you to that Facebook page so you can go argue with them kind of… completely defeats that purpose and would be incredibly disrespectful on my part. So, you’ll have to live in wonder.

    And, you’re right… People on *my* Facebook page who are discussing this are mostly white.. But I’d just like to point out that many of them are women (sexism is also rampant in this movement… see my ‘Dear Man’ blog for more on that!), and the person who came into that thread on my own page and was very upset and argued with it is (shockingly) also a white man. Meanwhile, if you look at Mad in America’s Facebook page, you can also see that the people who are most vehemently disagreeing with the blog are… also white men… and then there is a person who at least appears to be a person of color who had this to say over there:

    “Scarlett Alejandra Salvo Gutiérrez Thank you, Mad in America. The refusal of all the “mental health professionals” I’ve come across to even acknowledge the huge role that racism plays in the mental issues I have is so beyond exasperating. unfortunately, the comments here are pretty exasperating, too. So things go. Thanks for putting this out there.”

    Yet, you are here continuing to say things like “if we can’t dialogue with these people from the mysterious group, it’s a dead end – if they think we’re unwelcoming (without having ever talked to us, I should add), and we don’t know how to contact them – then there is no way of interacting or changing perceptions. Thus things will remain a closed system…”

    So, you know. I guess I’m left with the fact that you really seem so ready to argue and look for any loophole that lets you out of needing to take a hard look at this topics from a *much* more open, much less ‘I’m the expert’ kind of place. A *HUGE* central point of this blog was that we are not creating spaces as a movement that leave room for people of color to even want to come into them. Your insistence that people should just ‘give it a go,’ ignores a lifetime of hurt that so many of people of color have experienced in this country, *and* for many, what they have also already experienced in this movement. You’re also ignoring the fact that some of the people I referenced may not have spoken, but they sure did *look*… And they saw people like you, oldhead, Frank and others doing exactly what they were concerned would be going on…

    You mention that Earl hasn’t commented here, and I can tell you that he will be speaking for himself on this point shortly, so I will leave it at that.


  • Matt,

    This is not about a popularity contest. It shouldn’t be surprising that this comments section has played out the way that it has, given that it’s a fairly common result when the topic of racism is brought up.

    What I am attempting to point out, however, is that while I and at least a few others in this comments section are trying to raise issues and point out ways of being that allow for racism to continue so unhindered, you are often speaking in a way that illustrates that for us.

    If you are unable to see yourself in the article that Iden linked you to, or even attempt to hear the problems with a white man speaking to a black man in the way that you have about race… then I just don’t think you’re ready to hear it. But, I hope that someday you are…


  • Thanks, Jordan.

    The inclusion of that term in such a public forum was my fault (I wrote in that part), and it had occurred to me even before your comment that I probably shouldn’t have… Although I think that it was a reflection of several people’s experiences at the time that Paolo Del Vecchio was just kind of randomly and without care throwing out the names of several black people in his speech in a way that felt chaotic and problematic, I also get that it comes across as making light of something real (Tourette’s) and using it as a joke (which is how I think it is already commonly portrayed in the media) especially when written in to such a more permanent document.

  • Matt,

    I think that you’re trying hard here to get your point across, and I don’t think you mean for your point to be harmful.

    Yet, I continue to find most of your posts to contain extremely problematic statements. Like the one above.

    You have essentially just suggest that the primary thing stopping more people of color from posting here is their *fear* of bad response.

    Well, gosh. One of my co-authors is a black man, and this is his first blog post here… I wonder how you think he might feel about the mess that constitutes the ‘response’ in this comments section?

    Did you see my post from last night where I pointed out some of the Facebook comments I’m seeing from people of color who don’t want to come here *not* because of their fear of how people *might* respond, but because they’ve seen how people *have* responded and how white this community is and they simply do not want to do it.

    You can disagree with the blog all you want, but part of what we were getting at is how to create environments that feel even remotely welcoming and safe and open to sharing space with people of color… A bunch of white men fighting back on those suggestions, or a white man saying ‘we’ve invited them, and they chose not to come’ do nothing to create environments where that is even vaguely likely to happen.

  • No, Oldhead, I’m not quite saying that if you ‘quote a black survivor who disagrees with Iden or [Earl] that [you’re] being racist.’ It’s not *quite* that simple.

    What I’m saying is that – in these sorts of conversations – many people have a tendency to use the ‘going out and finding the disagreeing representative(s) of a group’ as a tactic to avoid self-examination. And that *that* does often have an awful lot to do with keeping the dominant paradigm or belief system intact, and commonly avoids also looking at some of the reasons it might be easy for one to find what they seek.

    More importantly, I’m also saying that *of course* there’s disagreement within large groups of *individuals*. And that *still* doesn’t negate the fact that – when you’re hearing from someone of color on issues related specifically to the experience of people of color or the undoing of racism, etc…. that the voice of any person of color will reflect more experience on these issues than any white person could ever have…

    That doesn’t mean that each black person is equally well informed or had equal opportunity to think through the implications of all that has transpired around them or what might be required to address it or that (even if they have) that they’ll always come to the same conclusion, but one black person still can’t give you what you need to negate the experience of another black person… because *you* are still white.

    Ultimately, it’s the *drive* to hold on to one’s own views in the face of several realities (that there are people who are being hurt by it, that Mad in America and so many other arenas in which psychiatric oppression is discussed, fought, etc. are so white), etc. that ends up looking like its playing into the perpetuation of a culture where white needs and voice are the priority.

  • AA,

    I think there has been a great deal of good in what you’ve said. I’m sorry that I haven’t recognized that.

    It’s not so much that I see it as an ‘either/or’ situation… As in, either you’re totally racist or you’re totally not (if that’s what you mean?)… Rather, I think it’s important to *assume* that we’ve *all* been impacted by racism the prioritization of white people’s needs, beliefs, image, etc… And that it does require a lot of attention and openness to see all the ways that that shows up in ourselves and others around us. And that being ‘good’ on one issue, doesn’t negate the possibility (the inevitably, really), that there are still other issues that need more dialogue and more openness for us to uncover…

  • Richard,

    Yes, there is *absolutely* an attempt here to get people who are white and who have no heritage that includes slavery such as it has existed n this country… to stop using that term. To call that ‘silencing’ – although technically accurate – sounds an awful lot like an attempt to keep white concerns centered and some how equate the generalized desire for free speech and to use whatever word one wants to use with the impact of racism and our country’s history of enslaving black people.

    No one – and I mean no one – attached to this blog or comments section (at least that I’m aware) is suggesting that laws be changed to make any words we’ve noted here illegal. Thus, this has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It has to do with respect, basic social justice principles, and efforts to undo racism.

    Which brings me to my second point. Yes, there is *absolutely* an attempt to attach the persistent use of this term in the face of all that to perpetuating a racist culture. It’s not so much that reasonable arguments can’t be made for why the term makes some sense… But that white people have historically had control over the way language and environments are shaped, and have been able to do so without having to consider the feelings or beliefs of non-white people, and that the insistence to use this term basically ‘no matter what’ is a perpetuation of the centering of white priorities. Interpret that how you will.

    As to your question about ‘wage slavery’… I’m not going to argue that there isn’t some sense I can make of what you have detailed about Marx’s use of the term. BUT, I am going to repeat what I’ve said when people have attempted to use Szasz to defend the term ‘psychiatric slavery.’ I would not expect dead white men to be sensitive to why such terminology is problematic. And while their statements may have some value (or even great value), I am *not* going to look to them to guide my current day language choices.

  • No one has *ever* pretended that one voice, two voices, three voices, four… represent a whole group, oldhead. But, there are a few basic things you and others seem to be missing here…

    1. In addressing issues related to racism and white privilege in this country (I focus on this country only because I feel much less well versed in what it looks like in others, although I do believe and see that it is similar in many places), a few voices should be enough to *at the very least* listen hard, because they will *ALWAYS* know more what it is like to experience racism in this world than you… What it looks like, the overt and covert ways it takes form, what it *feels* like… Always. Even in places where one believes that internalized racism may be playing a part that is easier to see from the outside then within, there is still truth in that.

    2. The *absence* of other black voices is extremely significant. It says more – perhaps – that the voices of black people who are here ever could, and certainly supports the messages we’ve heard thus far in this blog and from people of color directly. So, these are not just a random ‘two voices’ speaking within a group that is equally equipped to have an opinion all set within a neutral environment.

  • Absolutely, John. (I’ve really appreciated your comments here, btw.) The image we pulled re: veganism was kind of to that point. We pulled that image from an article written by a woman who’s in Scotland.

    The point certainly isn’t that this movement is the only one that has this issue.. It’s more that we aren’t at all immune to this issue. There are signs of racism and white privilege all over our movement, and we *should* and need to be better, especially if we want to access our full power as a movement.

  • Sooooooo… I took tonight off from this blog’s comment section… I’ll come back to it tomorrow.

    In the mean time, I just want to share this:

    The absolute most telling thing I’ve seen in the last 48 or so hours since this blog was released was looking at the page of someone of color on Facebook where they posted this blog, tagged many people of color, and asked them if they’d consider coming to read the comments section here and speaking up with their own thoughts and reactions. (In doing so, btw, that person did not otherwise express an opinion or ask them to say anything in particular.)

    One of them said – without (as far as I can tell) looking at the blog itself – that they’d pretty much never come to a white-led, self-absorbed (not quite the words they used, but that was the general gist) place like Mad in America, and to never ask them to do so again.

    The other person that I saw comment thus far said that they came here, started looking through the comments, and had to give up long before they got to the point of commenting because it was just too upsetting.

    Just two more voices… But, ya know. I thought it was pretty damn telling.

    See you tomorrow.

  • AA,

    Sorry for misapplying my response to another person… However, I don’t think it’s useful to refer to ‘color blindness’ or ‘not seeing color’ in *any* context that I can reasonably think of at the moment.

    Seeing color does *not* mean treating people differently, or not being present for their struggles, fights, hurts, etc. in the same way… It doesn’t mean color has to be the focus or topic of conversation just because you’re seeing it…

    But, is there ever really a time when it’s a *positive* to disregard or ‘not see’ an aspect of who someone is? When is it not a positive to see the whole person? It just doesn’t make sense to me…


  • Richard,

    Surely you can’t be suggesting that white men (and others) are being unfairly silenced because black men (and others) have said that psychiatric slavery is an unacceptable, hurtful, and disrespectful appropriation of their experience that constitutes a perpetuation of the disregard and marginalization of the feelings and needs of people of color in favor of the feelings and needs of white people as is consistent in a racist/white supremacist culture…

    That feels really bizarre to me, and if you aren’t able to see that… I at least hope others can.

    Still interested to know why this term is so important to the white people in the room that it’s worth the continued marginalization and hurt of others.. That they feel it’s ‘true’ or a ‘valid’ comparison (or however on earth you want to frame it) isn’t an answer. LOTS of things are true that we don’t push, cling to and argue for in the way that people are arguing for this… There’s something more, here.


  • Richard,

    I have read and re-read your comment at this point. I see how you are defining ‘identity politics’, but no matter what you explain on or how it does or doesn’t agree with other people’s definitions of that term, your frame ultimately comes across as a dismissal. It comes across very similarly to how people’s attempt to discredit the discussion by making accusations of ‘political correctness’ comes across.

    The other thing I find strange about your definition of ‘identity politics’ is that this is a movement of people working against psychiatric oppression who very commonly say, ‘Hey, I get to make meaning of my story.’ In fact, it tends to be one of this movement’s most fundamental underpinnings.

    Yet, you seem to completely contradict that when you say: “Identity politics” promotes a view that only if you identify with a certain group (race, sexual identity etc.) then, and only then, can you speak with authority (or with some aspect of the truth) on this issue or political struggle.

    Sure. There are complexities to all this, and nothing is 100% black and white (as noted in the blog in, for example, the ‘internalized racism’ section)… But, you’re not going to get very far with me – someone who absolutely doesn’t want someone who’s not been forcibly locked up speaking with authority about what precisely that’s like, and who absolutely has looked to black people and others of color to tell me what living black or brown is like in this nation – if you’re trying to convince me that people who’ve ‘been there’ shouldn’t primarily be the ones saying what it’s like.

    Yet, with your ‘identity politics’ attempt to discredit… you not only seem to be saying that people who’ve ‘been there’ aren’t the holders of the truth, but that they apparently have approximately equal say or room to decide what that truth is as you do… Someone who’s white, not (as far as I know) been locked up against your will, etc.

    As I said in my first response, I know you to be a good and genuine person. But, I believe it is you who’s missing the mark here… And, btw, we didn’t make ‘psychiatric slavery’ the proof or ‘PRIME’ example of problems within the movement. It was one of *several*.

    In all this, I’m still wondering if you have read my comment below that begins with: “So, there’s only so long I can keep up this back and forth with some of you.. I’m going to go back and respond more specifically to some comments, but not all. Iden or Earl may choose to do differently. I just know I’m hitting both a time and energy limit here.”

    It asks some questions I’d be curious to hear your answer to… Some questions that only grow for me as I see Iden getting dismissed left and right here by white people telling him how wrong he is about being black in this world and how he should feel about what… And how – as more people join the conversation – they appear to continue to be white men.

    (And being a white man isn’t a terrible thing, btw… Unless we’re talking about racism, and your voice is just about the only one getting heard… and you’re using it to drown out what’s being said by the only person of color in the room…)

  • humanbeing,

    All that’s being asked of you is *precisely* to ‘listen and learn’ as you put it.. No one’s expecting you to ‘get it right’ without making any mistakes. But this blog exists because when people have spoken up, historically they are *not* listened to in this movement. Or because environments have been constructed in ways that never really gave access for them to speak up in the first place.

    Most people having these conversations (at least that I’ve heard) aren’t getting mad because people didn’t know some of these things by osmosis… They’re getting (justifiably) angry because when they’ve offered their voice, concerns, hurts… they’re getting ignored. Or they’re getting responses like so many people on this blog are offering that are basically discounting everything said…

    There’s plenty of room for not knowing. You just have to know that you don’t know and be willing to own it (including, yes, with pronouns which should be hugely important to us as a movement given the abuse of trans* people in the mental health system and beyond, and the super high suicide rates that have been documented).


  • Matt,

    Did you look at Iden’s link about ‘Whitesplaining’? Because I can tell you that everyone who has contacted me privately about this blog has had something to say specifically about *your* posts, and the ‘whitesplaining’ tone present in them… If you didn’t follow Iden’s link, I really hope you will.

    That you call his references to your whitesplaining a ‘straw man’ argument suggests if you did look, then you didn’t understand…

  • Oldhead,

    Iden’s response is much more important than mine, but I do want to at least draw you back to an excerpt of the blog… Perhaps you missed it in your first go:

    “And beware the urge to go in search of another non-white person to contradict the first (generally done in effort to somehow vindicate one’s self). Certainly, there are many times when people of color will disagree on such points. There are many groups, after all, that fit within the term ‘people of color,’ and even if you narrow it down to just one – Black, for example – there is no obligation to be any less varied or diverse than any other group in what individuals within those groups think, feel or say. However, our time would be far better spent examining our own motives and why it feels so important to hang on to something if we’ve been told so clearly that it’s hurting a fellow human being, especially when that fellow human comes from a group that has already lived a lifetime of being silenced and devalued.”

  • I haven’t backed myself into any corner, oldhead. No matter how nasty and loud you get, or how much you stomp your feet, you don’t get any more right.

    We shouldn’t talk about psychiatry as if it were like the Jewish Holocaust because it *hurts* people. Because it divides us. And because there are different ways we can speak to make our point that wouldn’t hurt people. Oh, and because it *hurts* people. (Yes, I know I said that twice.)

  • Human Being,

    Your comment confuses me. I haven’t seen *anyone* ask *anyone* to deny or play ‘who has the worst oppression story’ games… *No one* would ever expect or suggest that you would tell your friend that her pain or fight was any less real or important because it has to do with psychiatric oppression.

    Honestly, when I read those sorts of things, it feels like an effort (even if totally unintentional) to distract from the issue of racism. No one wants to *take* anything away from people who’ve experienced psychiatric oppression. We’re simply asking them to be more self-aware, and to *give* respect to people who – often in *addition* to psychiatric oppression – have also lived through a great deal of racism.

  • Thank you, squirrel. It’s so nice to come across a few supportive and thoughtful responses in this particular sea right now. 😉

    I agree with you that when the threat goes up, so does the defensiveness… It’s hard to watch or know what to do.


  • Richard,

    I think you are a very kind human being who does his best to operate with a great deal of integrity. I have watched you grapple with a number of issues in the time I’ve known you related to the work in which you’ve been engaged at times.

    I recognize you put a great deal of time into your response. However, I am not going to respond to it point by point. Perhaps Iden, Earl or someone else will.

    What I will say is this:

    Identity politics is defined as: “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.”

    That strikes me as a strange way to attempt to discredit this blog, given much of the *point* is to draw to the surface the *problem* with this movement not making space for people of color with its manner of speaking and the environments it creates.

    It seems absurd to me that asking people for basic respect, and to truly *hear* the voices of black people and others of color in this movement… To let go of some of their own attachments because they are *getting in the way* of making that space… To hear and take for truth some of the ways people have felt marginalized and not welcomed here.

    Responses to this blog have ranged from short and swear-filled to ‘whitesplaining’ like you wouldn’t believe (well, hopefully you would, ’cause it’s there for all to see…) to your response which comes across as a heavily intellectualized way of essentially doing the exact same thing: Dismissing and denouncing other voices – many of whom already feel unwelcomed here – and defending your own perspective to the death.

    I’d refer you to the post I made just below this one… The one where I ask what you and others think a black person might think if they walked into this room and saw so many white men fighting to hang on to some of these pieces… I hope you will continuing to think about this all.

  • So, there’s only so long I can keep up this back and forth with some of you.. I’m going to go back and respond more specifically to some comments, but not all. Iden or Earl may choose to do differently. I just know I’m hitting both a time and energy limit here.

    But, several things before that…:

    1. The commenters above who are responding *negatively* are (mostly) older, (mostly… maybe all?) white, (mostly) men… Some of them have said they don’t have much time for this discussion, and then proceeded to invest an *enormous* amount of time in this discussion.

    2. The commenters above (and in my Facebook and personal world) who are responding *positively* are (mostly) women and/or queer and/or people of color… Do I think that *all* people from each of those groups will respond the same? Absolutely not. In fact, we wrote that reality right into the blog above. But… at the same time… It seems awful notable to me.

    3. I wonder what this incredible mess of a comments section would look like to a black person who just randomly wandered in here. Earl and Iden have chosen to be here in their way, and all three of us *knew* the comments section would be rough. (In fact, we did talk with the Mad in America crew before the article was published about whether or not it wouldn’t be a good idea to have *all* comments automatically set to moderate because we *all* knew it would be rough.) I *do know* that the last time I engaged in a conversation of this nature in a comments section, a black person did speak up and voice that they felt alienated by the idea of psychiatric slavery. Their concerns were basically ignored or dismissed. Haven’t seen that commenter round these parts any time recently, I don’t think.

    So, yeah, if a black person wandered in here and saw a bunch of mostly older white men feeling *so invested* in terms like ‘psychiatric slavery’ and disagreeing so vehemently (and often nastily) with the people who challenged that, and said it was not okay…

    Well, this is not to say that every black person would react or think the same about it, but is it any wonder why this movement is so damn white?

    Before you post another response about how you should get to say whatever you want, or how the black (and white) people in the room who are challenging you have no idea what they’re talking about… Just take a look around at *WHO* is posting. Especially who is posting over, and over, and over.

    Who are they? And who aren’t they making space for?

    No. No. Wait! Seriously. Give it a minute before you tell me I’m playing ‘identity politics’ or just dividing us up further. LOOK around. Who’s taking up all the space? Who are you so invested in shouting down? And who isn’t talking at all?


  • This is just silly, Oldhead.

    *No one* is denying the history. In fact, we’ve quite well acknowledged at various points, including in this comments section, that psychiatry has been used as a tool of oppression with any number of groups including black people (during the era of slavery and beyond), Jewish people (certainly, yes, during the Holocaust, etc.), women, etc.

    I also wouldn’t deny (and have acknowledged) that systemic oppression itself has many common components that we can point to, and then identify within the experiences of groups who’ve experienced oppression. (One example [of many] is that a common component is that it’s a common component of systemic oppression that – at least at some points – the dominant group is willing to accept members of a marginalized group as their entertainment, provided they aren’t being asked to seriously give them a legitimate voice and spot at the same table where they sit… I think of this every time groups of providers are excited to hear me share some part of my story, and enjoy how ‘powerful’ it is, while not actually giving a damn about the implications in my story about how *they* should change or wanting to hear much out of me beyond that point.)

    This is all so fundamentally different than saying x is like x (e.g., psychiatry is like slavery), or x is x (e.g., psychiatry is slavery). So, so, SO different. And that you are so vehemently tied to not hearing that is concerning to me. That both here and on my Facebook page, the dominant group of people who are objecting to this concept – and who are objecting most strongly to this blog – are older white presenting men *is* significant to me. That they feel like their life experience and vantage point qualifies them to trample the experiences and voice of people who’ve actually directly lived through racism *is* a problem.

    We’re not fighting here to decide which systemic oppression we should pay attention to. We’re not fighting here to say psychiatric oppression should now be ignored. So, ya know, maybe people could take a breath and… just stop.

  • Oh, Oldhead. I was going to go to bed without responding to you, but I just couldn’t quite make myself do it…

    Frankly, I’ve grown weary of this whole ‘what movement are you talking about’ line. I mean, I’ve recognized in many a blog that there are different movements or at least different fragments of movements associated with one another and psychiatric oppression in some way… And we attempted to give a nod to that throughout this blog by saying things like movement(s)… But, it surely feels a bit disingenuous in the end to suggest there is *no* ‘movement’… I mean, this site plays home base to any number of ‘usual suspects’ at this point… And we all can think of who is likely to show up to speak at various conferences… Or whose writing we follow… Or some of the historical documents and publications that have been produced… Many of us who’ve been around here long enough could name more people fighting some aspect of psychiatric oppression than we have fingers or toes… So, yeah, there’s a movement. It’s a mess of a movement.. One that’s become seriously inhibited by the ‘peer’ industry and all sorts of other things, but it seems silly to pretend it doesn’t exist at the same time you’re participating in it.

    In any case, I was certainly anticipating a negative response from you… But I do think it’s interesting that you suggest such a straight forward piece is manipulative. But never mind… As you and I have discussed before, it’s entirely different to say that psychiatry has been used as a *tool* of many different sorts of oppression then to use the term ‘psychiatric slavery.’ If you can continue to relentlessly use such a term, and think it’s just fine to explain to a host of black people why *they* are wrong to be upset by it – or historically ignorant (that feels particularly painful to me, honestly) – then you’re a part of the problem. No matter how good you might be on other aspects of this topic in the present or past, dismissing the experiences, feelings, and asks of people who’ve experienced racism directly *is* a part of the problem.

    To date, *no one* has given me a satisfactory answer to *why* is use of this term more important than working against racism and creating a movement that is welcoming to more than mostly just why people? The closest I’ve seen to a good answer has mostly amounted to, “Cause psychiatric oppression hurt *me* more, so if I have to hurt someone else with the language I use to make that point, oh well.” And, really, that kind of sucks as an answer… Because, psychiatric oppression is horrible, but it’s not slavery and hurting people who’ve been hurt by racism isn’t necessary in order to talk about just how horrible psychiatric oppression is…

    As to the Murphy Bill… I’ve printed out notices about it and urged people to call. This blog need not detract from that. However, I was struck by a Facebook post I saw from Sharon Cretsinger in the last day or so that basically said, “Uh, yeah… let’s put out another ‘call to action’ to call our representatives… because that’s really worked for us before.” (I’m paraphrasing here.) I mean, I’m not suggesting people do nothing or that people not call.. But she kind of has a point. Clearly, what we *are* doing isn’t even close to effective, and yet asking people to keep doing it is draining energy and morale.

    I wonder how we might re-evaluate all that. But, you know, meanwhile *this blog* is about racism. There is totally enough room in the world and on Mad in America for these dialogues on racism without stepping on the Murphy Bill Opposition’s toes…

    BUT, there really isn’t room in this comments section for the Murphy Bill talk. Because this blog is about racism.

    Thanks. 🙂

  • Wow… You, like, just… basically defined systemic racism… A system designed with white people’s needs and wants in mind – often to the detriment or exclusion of others, and where they have the power to keep themselves at the front of the priority line. Well, actually, technically, that may more precisely be the definition of white supremacy, but ya know, they’re pretty closely tied.

    I guess, really, the only ‘benefit’ to following some of our suggestions would be to… you know… work toward undoing racism. But, you’re totally right… White people lack incentive to change all that… (See! We can agree on something!)

    Because, well, that’s kind of the fundamental underpinning of what keeps systemic racism intact.

  • Matt,

    I have three pages of blogs. Maybe four of them focus on race, including this blog that I’ve co-written with two other people who – like me – spend a great deal of our time focusing on psychiatric oppression.

    However, when we write about racism, it should stay about racism, and not become some bizarre competition or diversion onto other topics. Although, that is extremely common – that people are uncomfortable talking about rape and so simply try to change the subject.

    It’s quite self evident to me why you and some others are hanging on to the phrase ‘psychiatric slavery.’ You are prioritizing your own needs and beliefs over people who have experienced a kind of oppression that you have not… You are operating in a mostly white movement, and you don’t have a life experience that allows you to understand why this is a problem… Some commenters have even explicitly said that they think that *that* is not a problem.

    We went into this knowing people would be making terrible comments, and be really invested in remaining unmoved. This comments section has been painful, but it has also done a wonderful job of illustrating why this blog exists, and why we need to keep pushing.

    Thank you for that.

  • Matt,

    You seem *super* invested in proving that there are other kinds of slavery in existence. No one has denied that at any point. This blog simply states that using such arguments as a way to justify the use of the term ‘psychiatric slavery’ in a whitesplaining sort of way, even in the face of black people saying it’s not okay… Is… not okay.

  • Sure, many spaces (on-line and in person) are voluntary and anyone could participate in them if they so choose. AND in a society and a movement that is guided largely by white people, are those spaces always talking about issues that are relevant to everyone? Will people see faces like their own if they go? Will they have to navigate people saying subtle (or overtly) racist things? Will they be spoken over or treated differently? Will they be able to have faith that that won’t be an issue, if the room is mostly white?

    In other words, it’s just more complicated than whether or not someone could reasonably just show up and leaving it all to who does…

  • I’m about to leave the space where I am, so I’m going to take a break from the blog altogether for a little bit.

    Buttttt… Take a look at the faces you see writing for Mad in America. Then take a look at the faces you see representing or speaking for any other movement-related blog or website you can find. Then visit a variety of peer-to-peer or other movement related organizations across the country and see who you see. Then go to movement related events and conferences and see who you see. Then join on-line committees and Facebook groups related to the movement and see who you see. Then look at the leadership of many of the national organizations that do work within this movement and see who you see (Hearing Voices USA, most of the technical assistance centers, etc. etc. etc.)

    If you can’t do all or any of these things, then talk to people who have and ask what they have seen.

    Then get back to me about this point.

  • No one has said there needs to be exactly x number of people of x color or background. But, the representation is very clearly skewed, and not in accordance with the actual make up of the community who are or have been stuck in the psychiatric system.

    This blog is not about dismissing the systemic oppression experienced by people in the psychiatric system (who are white or have any other quality). It is about not playing out the same systemic issues around racism in our own movement as happens everywhere else… It’s about our being stronger in fighting psychiatric oppression if we make space for everyone. It’s about being self-aware of our ‘default settings’ and listening for what we can’t see because it’s not our experience. It’s about not falling into the trap of fighting one oppression while perpetuating another.

    It’s about doing the right thing.

  • Eh, it seems to me that we’re missing the point if we get stuck on this particular debate. My overall point is that our movement may not intend to hurt, but it has absolutely failed at becoming self-aware enough to adequately address (and avoid perpetuating) systemic racism and even begin to share power, space, and voice.

  • I’m not seeing this blog as shutting down dialogue. In fact, several people have had something to say about it between here and Facebook… nasty and nice.

    But we may be defining ‘shutting down’ differently, as well. I think it’s absolutely okay (and even necessary) to be very clear about what is and isn’t okay in some circumstances. I do not think that all matters are matter of opinion, and the idea that opinions of white people on things they haven’t experienced being equal to those of black people on systemic oppressions they have lived doesn’t make a lot of sense. (Not saying YOU are precisely saying that, but it does seem to be a theme from at least some people who are upset with this blog.)

    I think there can be *lots* of dialogue about that.. or how to shift the balance of space and power in this movement… or so many things… but I don’t think there needs to be room for white people to keep telling black people they’re wrong about what is and isn’t racist.

    So, anyway, it seems like you feel bad about this blog and our conversation. So, I’m going to give a rest to responding, and give you some space to decide whether or not you really want to be engaged in this back and forth.

  • What I’ve been attempting to convey is that I do not believe it is the place of people who’ve experienced the privilege side of a particular type of oppression to challenge people who’ve experience the oppression side.

    I’m white. I’m not comfortable with the term psychiatric slavery, and that was what rose up for me the moment I first heard it. BUT, that’s not what I think makes it a topic that white people need to drop. It was hearing from black people (including my co-authors) that it is an offensive and alienating term is what I am suggesting – what the blog is suggesting – makes it just not the place of white people to question… EVEN if they find other black people who are okay with it.

    It is knowing that the principles of social justice teach us to listen to those who have the first hand experience of oppression to learn what it is like and what we can’t ‘see’ or understand for not having experienced it ourselves. Because doing so perpetuates the silencing of those who have been oppressed in favor of those who are already in the dominant group.

    That’s what I have meant.

  • I’m not sure how we could even know how our experiences, wants, needs and even ways of making meaning of some of our experiences differ entirely because white people are the ones who take up most of the air space in places like Mad in America, at movement-related conferences, in many peer-to-peer communities, etc…

    I’m honestly not sure quite how to proceed when I reach the line where you say, “I don’t see why this movement being majority white is such a problem in and of itself.”

    How could it *not* be a problem? Even if psychiatry treated white and non-white people equally, how could it not be a problem that there’s such unequal representation and holding of power within this movement? And, given that psychiatry does NOT treat people equally… given that psychiatry has long been used as a *tool* of oppression against people of color (and women, and Jewish people, and queer people, trans* people, etc. etc. etc.)… Given that black people are more likely to be subjected to orders of force, restraints, injuries in the mental health system… HOW could it NOT be a problem that there’s such unequal representation of voices?


  • I simply said that I hope that whatever you find that you like better challenges you to think about these issues. Like I want to be challenged to think about these issues. Like I want *everyone* to be challenged to think about these issues.

    That I think our community needs to be challenged to think about these issues is why I co-wrote this blog.

  • Well, admittedly (as I did say above), I’ve had difficulty trying to understand what some of your points have been. I’m sorry that you’re not feeling heard, and I’m sorry that you don’t connect with the blog.

    But, I only say that from a place of ‘Oh, I wish everyone liked me and everything I was a part of producing, and I was a part of co-writing this, so I wish everyone liked it…’

    But, then, Earl, Iden and I all knew that everyone wasn’t going to like this… But it sure still felt important to say. I feel good about it, and I feel good about the fact that so much of its content has been written by, approved of, contributed to, etc., by people of color who’ve attempted to be a part of this movement and/or have first-hand experience of what this blog speaks about.

    I hope you find something you like better… But I hope that it still challenges you to think more about these issues.

  • Alex,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m not entirely sure I get where you’re aiming your later comments, but sometimes I do worry that people accuse someone of coming across as too angry or ‘whacking’ them or ‘shaming’ them as a way to avoid conversation on a topic altogether… And that, in truth, many people feel similar amounts of shame n o matter how nicely something is said… but accusing someone else of not saying it nicely enough is a good way to just shut it down.

    Again, I’m not sure I quite know if I’m agreeing or disagreeing with you. You certainly have experiences with types of oppression that I do not, and so I’m certainly not going to argue with you on any of those points!


  • That all seem so strange to me, Kayla. Because you don’t like the tone of people speaking up, it at least *sounds* like you’re equating that with the oppression they’ve experienced?

    When I hear that, I think of so many clinicians and psychiatrists and others in the mental health system who expect us to always be nice, calm, friendly, and do our best to make them comfortable when we state what is wrong. *That* feels like a common component of all sorts of systemic oppressions. This idea that we can ask for change as long as we don’t make people too uncomfortable along the way… It feels bad to me when I hear that from people in the mental health system, and I’m very aware that I’ve heard that that feels bad to many black people and others of color when they hear that from white people. (I’m not saying as a whole group, but it is a common theme that I have heard, nonetheless, and it makes a lot of sense to me.)

    I suppose if you don’t like the conversation you certainly aren’t required to stick around for it… But I want to challenge the idea that every push back or talk about racism has to come from a place of not wanting to ruffle any feathers.

  • Kayla,

    Okay, still not so clear on what you mean at the top there… Do you have an example?

    But regardless, what I am saying is that people who hold one sort of privilege aren’t in a place to fully understand the systemic oppression that corresponds to the other side of that privilege.

    So, as the blog says, Suman is not someone we should go to to understand psychiatric oppression, because he holds the *privilege* end of that particular stick. But he *does* know what it’s like to live black in this world, and has made his career around trying to share, educate, and understand that within the psychiatric system, as well.

    *I* am on the privilege end of the stick when it comes to race in this country, as are (as best as I can tell) *most* of the people speaking up on this thread. So, I defer to him and many others of color, and work hard consistently to be aware of my impact on this movement as a white person who doesn’t want this movement to stay so white or feel alienating or not relevant to black people and other non-white people. I would expect him to defer to me when it comes to the topic of psychiatric oppression. By (hopefully) respecting each other’s experiences of systemic oppression and trying to make what is invisible to each one of us for not having experienced it first hand by *listening* to the other and accepting what they say largely as the truth.. THAT is how we come together.

    As a side note: I reached out to Suman in particular because in a previous conversation about ‘psychiatric slavery’ on these Mad in America boards, someone attempted to cite Suman’s work as evidence in *favor* of use of the term. So, I e-mailed him and asked him. That is what I got back.


  • Kayla,

    I generally don’t understand what you mean either at the start or the end of your comment.

    Can you say more? How am I not saying what I mean? How is quoting Suman related to what we are saying is a problem in the movement?


  • Bingram,

    I wonder what you (and others) hear when we talk about racism? I wonder how you or others might explain how white this movement has always tended to be?

    What we are talking about is – frankly – represented by a lot of the comments here. Much of what we’re talking about are *environments* where the tacitly agreed upon ‘default’ is based on the needs, ideas, vision, and voices of white people. And because that’s true and because so many people aren’t aware of that or the privilege they’re carrying or how inaccessible these environments are to others is what we’re talking about (at least in large part).

    There are – as we’ve all said – many different types of systemic oppression, and the closer you are to the white, male, Christian, educated, cis, heterosexual, non-diagnosed, able-bodied, person of (at least reasonable) means, the more these environments tend to be made with you in mind. The farther away from that, the less environments tend to be made with you in mind. This is similarly true in most environments within our movement, as it is beyond our movement.

    If we don’t get willing to take a look at that, we remain stuck.

  • Kayla,

    I’d just like to note once again that it would appear that the people who are saying that ‘psychiatric slavery’ is okay or not racist or that it’s okay that people have different opinions about it (and that those different opinions are essentially all equal) at least appear to be white. (I don’t know this for sure, but the people who I *do* know are certainly at least white presenting.)

    So, why are the opinions of white people equal to the opinions of black people on matters that are related so directly to our country’s history of slavery and racism? How strongly would we argue against the idea that a psychiatrist’s opinion should NOT be seen as equal to the opinion of someone who’s survived the system on matters of psychiatric oppression?

    I’m not worried about alienating people, Kayla. Discussions of racism almost always bring up defensiveness, push back, and poor responses especially by white people. I *am* admittedly a white person, but I also see it as my job to get very okay with this sort of ‘alienation’ you speak of.

    Over on the Mad in America Facebook page one of the things I said I will repeat here: When people push back against these conversations in this movement, the expectation seems to be that everyone stop ‘fighting,’ but that they do so in a way that is consistent with the ‘default’ … And the default is almost always the expectations that have been set by the dominant group. In this movement, that dominant group is (like in so many other realms) white people.

    The way *together* – as far as I can tell – is to stop expecting people be okay with the default, to speak honestly about these issues that are very real in this movement, to work *through* the feelings of alienation and defensiveness, and to work toward getting to a point where we *respect* each oppressed groups voice, value, and experience in real and intentional ways.

    I can’t imagine going in any other direction. In the end I just keep wondering why more people aren’t concerned about how white this movement is… why we keep coming back to this same place.


  • Thanks for your comment, Stephen. I always appreciate when you speak up. 🙂

    I have to admit myself feeling ignorant to what to call First Nations people (adopting your language here). I visited a reservation in Oregon in October and was directed to use the language of American Indian (for the most part) while there, and so I’ve largely adopted that.. But I haven’t felt at all confident in my knowledge.

    I really appreciate you sharing your experience here, including the complicated experience of passing and claiming identities.


  • I also just keep finding myself wondering this:

    Each and every time someone speaks out *against* a conversation like this by saying it’s an example of the movement turning on itself, I wonder why the default leaning generally seems to be toward people of color being asked to give up their feelings/wants/asks/etc. rather than white people?

    This relates back to my question above. Why does this rank high enough that white people feel so compelled to fight for it, even in the fact of the fractures and damages that it causes?

  • That seems a really strange place to land, kayla, given where you started your comment.

    I wonder:

    1. Do you really see more people who don’t see psychiatry as a human rights issue coming around to understanding that point *because* of the use of the term ‘psychiatric slavery’? I.E., Is it effective?

    2. Do you really not believe there’s *any* alternate phrase that could instead be used toward that goal?

    3. Unless you believe 100% yes to #1 and 100% no to #2, why would use of that phrase be worth the alienation and hurt to black people who feel harmed by this phrase (especially given this movement has demonstrated itself to be largely white already)?

  • You’re not answering my question, Frank.

    We already addressed in the blog the issue of ‘slavery’ meaning several different things…

    What I’m asking *you* is why the comparison is so important… So essential.. .That it’s worth hurting and alienating people in this country who are descendants of those of African descent who were enslaved… ?

  • Frank,

    I’m not surprised to see you here saying this, and I’m expecting Oldhead shortly. 🙂

    However, even if you believe – without a doubt – that psychiatry *is* slavery, I continue to be left wondering why it’s such an important concept to you that you’d be willing to alienate and hurt so many people of color just in order to hang on to it?


  • This ‘dialogue’ strikes me as pointless, so I’m going to bow out of it here. If I’m honest, I’m not even sure I follow some of your commentary. It seems very unfortunate that you’ve gotten to such a place where you seem to think that acknowledging, seeing, respecting and valuing people’s different ways of being in this world is a ‘sham’, though.

  • CatNight,

    Thanks for chiming in! 🙂 I’m not personally familiar with the Tom Hanks SNL skit. I’ll have to look it up! It can indeed be a hard call when to speak up and when not to, but, of course, if our whole culture started shifting to speaking up being the norm, the personal risks would start to (I’d hope!) go down…


  • Matt,

    You seem very invested in your perspective, even though it is hurtful and dismissive toward many people of color. I wonder why you feel your opinions on this matter – as a white presenting person – are equal to those who have lived black or brown in this world? I’m not speaking from a legal perspective… I’m speaking from a social justice, and a just ‘what’s right and decent’ one.

    Your thoughts?


  • The_cat,

    You left this comment on Noel’s post, too. I responded there, but will offer something similar here.

    The suggestion that racism was ‘dying if not dead,’ seems strange and incredibly untrue to me. What you are speaking of is cultural appropriation… the ability to take what we like, without having had to live through any the terribleness that was a part of birthing the art.

    I do not know you, and do not know anything about the color of your skin or your ethnicity. But, when I read what you write – particularly at the end there – I just want to refer you back up to the ‘color blind’ piece in the blog.

  • The_cat,

    I guess the question is at whose feet should it most rest to make concessions for the sake of cooperation? The unspoken expectation in answer to that question – at least in this context – is most typically that people of color must be the ones to let some of this go.

    This blog, on the other hand, would suggest the reverse… Which feels most consistent with overall social justice principles in my eyes. Shouldn’t we almost always look to the group who has been most marginalized within the context of which we speak to teach us and tell us what is being asked? And shouldn’t we do our best to listen, even in advance of fully understanding?


  • Nomadic,

    While I do think that many families have a role in what happens to their family members, I think it’s a vast over simplification to suggest that all bad things of this nature happen to people because their families are bad or abusive.

    Suggesting that people’s distress must either be rooted in biology or family is a false binary that doesn’t particularly do us all that much good in a world full of complexities.

    As to the rest, perhaps you should consider writing your own pieces? It seems you feel similarly about just about everything I put out there, and while it’s certainly you’re right to leave comments that are essentially the same from blog to blog and I’ve generally done my best to respond to them, I’m just not sure I have too much steam left in me for your interpretations of what I write.


  • oldhead,

    I raise that question myself when I say the following in my blog:

    (This begs the question of whether or not there’s even such thing as fixing what has never been ‘unbroke.’)

    However, lots of people create things with an intent, vision or plan that are never successfully brought to life for any number of reasons… So, while it’s an interesting philosophical question, I don’t believe it’s entirely accurate to say that something needs to be fully realized in order for it to ‘break,’ at least in the sense that we are speaking. It seems a bit too literal of an interpretation of ‘break’ and I’m not sure what good that is doing us in this particular conversation.

    In any case, the system is harming people it at least claims to want to help and – even if it is accurate to say that it was intended not to ‘help’ but as a social control right from the beginning – it seems to be a machine of social control that has nonetheless run a bit amok and is swallowing up people I’m not sure its originators would have necessarily seen among those ‘to be controlled,’ and missing those it surely would have wished to grab up.

    For my part, while I think it’s an important point to call out that in *what way* it is broken *does* depend on its original (and current) intent… it is hurting people in every direction at this point.


  • Lu,

    Thank you for sharing. The complaint process is SO frustrating, and most complaints – as I’m sure you know – never get filed at all either because it feels useless to do so or people are (justifiably) afraid to speak up.

    I’m glad that you did, no matter what the outcome, but I am curious to hear if you get any satisfaction out of it. Right now, DMH is proposing changes to its complaint and investigation process that have the potential to make it all even more ineffective.

    People have the opportunity to give feedback on the proposed changes until September 16.

    More about that is available here:


  • Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Tara has mentioned you, I believe. : )

    I can only imagine what your experiences at Laurel Ridge must have looked like. I’m sorry you ended up there, though I imagine your experiences back then may help inform your contributions now.

    I hope your move goes smoothly! I imagine our paths will cross once you’re up here, so I’ll look forward to meeting you in person. Tara will be a good ‘partner in crime’ to show you around and opportunities to get involved. 🙂


  • Rachel,

    Eh, I agree it’s not as bad as the first two… *AND* it continues to use faked statistics, terribly dramatized stories designed to shock and scare, and seems to be supporting force and mocking Massachusetts for not ‘getting with the program.’

    I tried to be clear above that they make a valid point about loss of funds in the system… but beyond that I still think they fail to understand what that means, what should be done about it, and how they are *adding* to the hurt.

    Nonetheless, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. : )


  • Thank you, Surviving and Thriving.

    I sent the article link – as I always do – directly to the Spotlight team, so we shall see… but my hopes aren’t high.

    I’m happy to be able to provide some sort of counterpoint to the Globe’s mess, at least for others to take in and I also hope that it might reach some people outside of our own crowd here.


  • BPDTransformation,

    Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, I fear your message of ‘doom’ is correct unless people/the ‘system’ are really willing to change directions. And, unfortunately, I think we sometimes find ourselves pitted against those who believe all of what they’re told about psychiatric diagnosis because they’re often coming from a desperate place and need to believe that they’ll find the answer in something so concrete as the system appears to be…

    I, for one, am not interested in taking ways of making meaning away from people, but it’s hard to feel hope for a system that takes meaning away (or forces meaning on) so many people so much of the time.


  • Thanks for your impassioned reply, Stephen. I hope it was clear in what I wrote that I see the ‘slow death’ (to which both you and I referred) as quite commonplace… I know the job you hold to be a painful one, as I’ve found myself in a similar place at times (watching spirits be crushed). I share your fear that we’re not winning this battle, but I appreciate your willingness to stay in the fight.


  • s1w2f3,

    I agree with you that part of the problem is that people are starting from the wrong assumptions! For better or worse, there are a number of people out there who will say that the system saved their lives… But if we were able to explore the elements of internalized oppression involved in those feelings, and weed out people who are answering slanted questions (like ‘which would you have preferred… prison or hospital’…) those numbers reduce dramatically. More than anything, and regardless of whether or not the Globe can find people who credit psychiatry with their success, I wish they were open to the full volume of people who have been harmed (or at least, not helped)… Or even the people who went to the system in desperation and found some little piece helpful, but had to weed through lots of pain to get there.


  • Thanks for linking to that article, 5parts2ahorse.

    Suicide is such a complicated issue, and I wish hospitals would become more interested in what it is they’re doing (or not doing) that seems to make the time directly after hospitalization such a likely time for people to kill themselves.

    There truly is so much wrong, and so many people being lost in it.


  • Hey Iden,

    Just got a chance to read this. 🙂 Thanks for calling out the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community. We are *for sure* still trying to figure out how to ‘show up’ better, but I continue to feel baffled by people who seem to think these are all totally ‘separate’ issues that shouldn’t be addressed together. I remember the comments I got of that nature when I blogged here about Michael Brown, and Baltimore, etc. It’s so incredibly discouraging.

    Looking forward to working with you more in this direction 🙂


  • Hi Michael,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    I’m also stunned by how obvious it all seems, and how people bent on defending the conventional paradigm are so vehement and likely to accuse us of anti-science ‘crazy’ talk, in spite of so much science actually being on our side.

    There was just an article about the Western Mass RLC and Hearing Voices work published in the New York Times on Tuesday, and the comments section is as shocking in this way as it is not surprising, given it reflects the ‘normal’ response in society whenever this comes up.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. 🙂


  • Nomadic,

    I honestly grow weary of these posts that accuse me of asking people to identify as ‘mentally ill.’ I’m pretty sure my perspective is clear, and that if not as much in this one, than other blogs have surely made it evident that I do not think in that manner.

    When I speak of ‘us,’ I’m often speaking of those of us who the Globe and others *believe* they’re speaking for… Calling us ‘the mentally ill’ and accepting that paradigm on our behalf, is but one of their many affronts.