Comments by David Webb

Showing 10 of 10 comments.

  • Tina, this is a vast and complex and important set of questions that you raise. And I see that the article you reference has also been picked up by other survivors (Mary O’Hagan). I congratulate you for daring to venture into this territory. But I also caution you (and Mary) on the hazards of bringing our western mindset to the interpreting (making sense) of ancient spiritual traditions of the East.

    First, I thought the article itself fell into this trap. In particular, that it viewed eastern spiritual traditions from the perspective of western psychological understandings. Which could perhaps be called a “category error” (yes, I suffer the same western mindset) in that the spiritual traditions are not at all oriented towards the “therapeutic” orientation of western psychology. Rather, they are concerned with spiritual awareness and awakening, not psychological (mental) healing. Furthermore, what we in the west now call “mindfulness” is in some ways very different to where this practice sits within the collection of practices that constitute the whole if the spiritual teachings. Indeed, mindfulness in the west is often little more than the deliberate relaxation of the mind, whereas in the eastern traditions it is but one of many elements/components (techniques, understandings) in the process of spiritual awareness/awakening. Etc etc etc … so great care is required to not take “mindfulness” in isolation from (a) its larger context and (b) its role/purpose within that context. Otherwise, it becomes simplistic and naive, which is typically the case in the west’s response to eastern spiritual traditions.

    I don’t want to valorise eastern spirituality here (wonderful though it is in many ways) because it also frequently comes with serious flaws, including in the human rights area, which is very much a western, legal space. For instance, the eastern spiritual traditions frequently require devoted subservience to the “master”, which includes all the human rights abuses that are now finally being exposed in the Catholic church (amongst others).

    Your question of legal versus(?) spiritual authority intrigues me. At one level, for me personally, the moral authority that I try to observe comes very much from a spiritual sense of who I am, what the world is, and my place in that world. This is inevitably very personal and therefore cannot be generalised for any population – or society. So alongside my personal (spiritual) morality, and as someone born and raised on western (libertarian) values, I do believe in “the rule of law”. In principle. Except that law, of course, is frequently an ass. Plus it’s also usually the laws of the victors so that they’re often created out of self-interest, prejudice and discrimination.

    So although I believe in the principle I also see the need for laws to evolve to more closely reflect the spiritual morality that I most deeply believe in. Which is what your efforts do so magnificently. Though still a long way to go …

    I think I’ve gone off-track …

    But what’s prompted me to write (and rant) is to urge caution when viewing eastern, spiritual ways of understanding ourselves and the world’s we love in through the lens of western, psychological eyes. They’re very different. Both are valid. Neither is superior or better, so that neither is in a position to judge the other. And neither contains the complete answer to what we’re looking for. Rather, I believe that the hope for the future is to embrace both – as-well-as rather than instead-of – and to integrate both kinds of wisdom into a greater understanding.

    Yeah, wishful thinking, I know. But that’s my hope. And I think the questions you raise help us in that inquiry.

    Just my $0.02 worth …

    Continued blessings on your great work, Tina.

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  • Bob Whitaker recently wrote a piece here titled “The Fat Lady Has Sung”, which pointed out that the evidence is now overwhelming that the long-term use of so-called anti-psychotic drugs does more harm than good. Tina, you could have titled your announcement here “The Fat Lady Sings Again”. With the passage of the General Comment on Article 12, a new international human rights standard has been established that psychiatric force is unequivocally a breach of our fundamental human rights. This is a major breakthrough, even for countries that have not ratified the CRPD or those that have ratified it but violate it in their domestic laws – which is most countries, including Australia where I live.

    Our opposition to psychiatric force now occupies the moral high ground. No longer must we beg for justice in our advocacy, we can demand it. During my advocacy efforts here in Australia, one of the most disheartening obstacles I encountered was the various human rights organisations that endorsed psychiatric force. These are the organisations that should have been powerful allies in our advocacy but who betrayed us when they betrayed their own human rights principles by choosing to read Article 12 as permitting psychiatric force. I’m tempted to name names here but instead call upon these organisations to observe the General Comment and join us in the campaign to abolish psychiatric force.

    Similarly, this General Comment gives great strength to our advocacy in individual cases as they come before courts and tribunals, whether our country has ratified the CRPD or not. No doubt many ugly fights will have to be fought to establish all the precedents required to finally achieve our goal of the total abolition of all psychiatric force. But this day is coming. With this General Comment, and all the incredible work that has been done to achieve it, this goal is now inevitable.The fat lady has sung (again).

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  • Thanks, Maria, for drawing attention to psychological autopsies, another myth masquerading as science. As well as stigmatising our dead loved ones, this phoney science is the foundation of the widespread PR spin of Suicidology that 70-90% (depending on which spin doctor you speak to) of people who suicide have a mental illness.

    And as a survivor activist (though somewhat retired these days), I welcome your request for our organisations to support your call to cease and desist this shameful practice of labelling those who have died. Anyone from WNUSP reading? Anyone else from other organisations? Please heed Maria’s call for our support.

    Thanks again. An important but mostly overlooked issue.

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  • Hi Laura,

    Another fantastic piece of precious story-telling. Thank you. You know, the very first tentative title for my book was “The Caterpillar Screams”. Some people didn’t seem to get it but those who did had usually been through a similar metamorphosis to mine and recognised that yes, it hurt like hell. But it also says that becoming the butterfly was worth the pain. Like you, I’m grateful these days for my suicidal crisis because I can’t imagine being who I am today without it. And I’m so glad to be me these days (though I could do without the auto-immune illness that’s arrived recently). But I also say that spiritual growth should be possible without such intense crises – and certainly without the violence of our mental health systems. Thanks to you and MIA and many others, we’re finally seeing the beginning of the end of such brutal treatment of those going through such noble struggles. Keep up the great work.

    Big Down Under hugs to you – David

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  • Brett, I commend your work in our prisons, especially drawing attention to the mental health issues. And I commend you taking this advocacy to our forensic psychiatric facilities.

    But like ‘anonymous’, I cannot support your ‘Mad in Australia’ report that endorses involuntary psychiatric treatment “when a patient is a clear danger to themselves, or other individuals”.

    First of all, despite your careful analysis of human rights principles elsewhere, you offer no analysis to justify your support for the violation of this human right. Indeed you seem to fall into the status quo assumption that forced drugging is OK, indeed necessary at times, to “calm” and subdue people who are deemed “dangerous”. Furthermore, you seem happy to leave this judgement to “medical practitioner discretion”, which is hardly in line with human rights principles.

    Second, you regard the other two criteria for involuntary treatment under our mental health laws – i.e. (a) incompetence due to “mental illness” that (b) requires medical treatment – as invalid and not justifiable. I agree, but then following your logic, I presume you must therefore also support forced drugging to calm and subdue all dangerous people, which is currently NOT permitted in our criminal justice system (with the exception perhaps of capsicum spray).

    Another fundamental human rights principle is that a human right should never be “limited” (i.e. ignored, neglected or denied) unless it can be demonstrably shown to be reasonable, necessary, justified and proportionate. I don’t know of anywhere in the world where such a justification has been made for forced psychiatric drugging. Instead, all we have are the same old status quo assumptions which, in my view, don’t stand up to scrutiny.

    I was deeply saddened to see these same old assumptions in your otherwise excellent and important report. Please re-think your position on this extremely important issue.

    Cheers – David

    PS I have quite a lot of material on this – my focus is on suicide prevention and how psych force contributes to, rather than reduces, the suicide toll. But the argument’s the same, I reckon. Happy to share what I have if you’re interested. Can’t find your email address yet, but you can email me either through the MIA contacts page here, or through my website at

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  • Thanks, Bruce. I’m especially concerned about two other new disorders in DSM5 that are getting very little attention. Feeling suicidal is no longer a “symptom” but has acquired the status of a disorder called Suicidal Behavior Disorder. And ditto with self-harm, which has now been declared to be Non-Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI). The task of medicalising suicide and self-harm is now effectively complete, a giant step backwards for suicide prevention.

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  • Even from faraway Down Under I’ve noticed that this study is getting a lot of media attention. Here’s one from Reuters where the lead author, Matthew Nock, is quoted as saying:

    “… we don’t have any evidence-based treatments for suicidal behavior.”

    And one of the experts interviewed by PBS, psychologist Brian Daly, made the following comment on the study:

    “And I think we’re seeing some new evidence that suggests even though we’re able to reduce some of these symptoms of depression, it doesn’t necessarily mean that thoughts of suicide or suicide plans are going to drop as well.”

    The experts seem bewildered, and the media understandably concerned, that treatments for depression that are promoted as “safe and effective” don’t seem to help prevent suicide and suicidal thoughts. And then, of course, there is the question of whether these treatments might trigger suicidal feelings.

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