Thanks so much for writing this article exposing the paternalism and commitment to eugenics of Autism $peaks!
Thanks so much for writing this article exposing the paternalism and commitment to eugenics of Autism $peaks!
As Sera said, discussing history and intersections is great, and not at all the same thing as saying “Psychiatry is slavery.”
It is not my role as a white person to explain to black people that white people they experience as being racist are not really being racist. I wonder how exactly you imagine that conversation working. I’m pretty sure that person would never want to speak to any of us again 99% of the time. And, not that it matters as to whether I engage in whitesplaining, but the folks I’ve talked to are well aware of this history already!
In my imagination, that would be something vaguely like the friends and family of a psychiatrist explaining to me what system language is and is not harmful to me.
I have heard, and it seems true to me, that holding white peoples need to be right about things, including racism, over POC’s own experiences and analysis of racism is a significant factor in maintaining a system of white supremacy in our society.
If a substantial number of black people tell me something is racist, I’m gonna err on the side of not offending and alienating all of those people. I don’t see any use pushing a narrative that they must not be not well-versed, which both seems factually wrong to me and stinks of further racism. Even if I have some thought that goes in a different direction from theirs (in this case, I do not), I’m not willing to argue with POC’s lived experience or the realty that they understand racism better than I ever will.
If there is disagreement among black folks about this, that’s something for them to discuss on their own, without me taking a stance that, when white people promote it, clearly makes many POC stay far away from our spaces. I say “we” and “our” because the “movement” spaces I travel in, including this website, are disproportionately white and led almost entirely by white folks. “We” are not creating spaces for everybody. We are holding spaces primarily for white people that many POC say are awful to be around. I agree it should be different, but us thinking that does not make it so. To make a “we” that includes everybody, white people would need to stop marginalizing and disrespecting POC. One step in that direction being for white people to stop saying anti-racist POC activists are wrong about what is and isn’t racist.
This isn’t something I came up with on my own in any way. Everything here is what I’ve learned from POC anti-racist activists, several of whom have told me they either won’t go anywhere near “movement” spaces anymore, or that they do, and experience them as extremely racist, this topic in particular.
I really want to ask other white folks: Which is more important? Not having racist impact that keeps POC away from you and your struggle in this very moment? Or having the “right” to use an rhetorical analogy to racism?
While I can see something in where you are coming from, I also know that enslaved Africans were kidnapped from half a world away, and had their entire lives, including their reproductive abilities and family connections, controlled by horrible violence for generations, all in service of unprecedented economic gain for white settlers. I am aware that black Americans, whether or not their ancestors were enslaved, have faced continual conditions of oppression and genocide up until the present living in a racist society that targets them based solely on perceptions of race.
Modern day extensions of state-sponsored American slavery, have existed and do exist, including prison labor, convict leasing, and endless solitary confinement. All of which are uniquely awful practices that are incomparable to the harmful things that happen to non-black people in the psychiatric system.
Psychiatry is a big money-making business that relies on state-sponsored violence, but it is not the same as the recent and ongoing history of enslaving people of African descent in the United States. Claiming that it is is actually really offensive to many black people, especially, I have heard, to those who have to deal with both the ongoing legacy of enslavement AND wind up in the psychiatric system.
I really want to see this community pinpoint the horrible impacts of the psychiatric system, including its contributions to, and perpetuation of rape culture, as Sera has pointed out here, without making comparisons to a lived experience that is not ours. Comments like this, whether intentionally or not, contribute to a climate of anti-blackness — of claiming and therefore marginalizing actual black experiences — that plays a major part in how white this space and our “movements” are. 🙁
I am guessing from knowing the people who run the site that they would be happy to give me the opportunity, though I’m not super clear it’s worth my while or that I will find energy for that.
It does take a lot of energy to speak up in a space that is actively marginalizing you, which in my understanding is why the writing community on this site remains disproportionately white, male, wealthy, cisgender, heterosexual, and normatively-abled.
Mad In America is centered one particular kind of oppression we all have faced but is not a very intersectional space. It perpetuates a lot of other kinds of oppression in its structure.
I think the leadership really ought to really be doing a lot more to create a welcoming environment for folx whose experiences are particularly vulnerable and not being centered.
As an actually autistic person, I feel really offended and frustrated that Mad In America has publisehd at least two ableist pieces recently that invoke fear of autism to hype fear of psychiatric drugs – which we have plenty of reason to be concerned about anyway.
There is a perfectly obvious and reasonable explanation for why children born to mothers taking SSRIs might be more likely to be diagnosed as autistic, which is that people with neurodivergant traits themselves are more likely to suffer in ways that are labeled as “depression” and be prescribed SSRIs than the general population.
Regardless of the actual source of these children’s autistic traits, treating being born autistic like some kind of injury to be avoided is ableist and extremely harmful to autistic people, who suffer a tremendous amount of systemic abuse in our society already without the additional fear-mongering from gross, speculative, unscientific anti-psych and anti-vaccine imaginings. I hope MIA will reconsider telling these kinds of stories in the future.
Racism is a grave matter of life and death! Racism kills tens of thousands of people a year and harmfully disrupts many lives both within psychiatry and in many other ways. Reducing the impact of racism and other forms of oppression to to “quality of life” has the unfortunate impact marginalizing the lived experience of people of color.
And, after all, these are interlocking issues, not separate ones. The harms of psychiatry disproportionately impact poor people and people of color.
I read your comment as mainly discussing non-drug issues, but not particularly the ones that Timothy brought up. Obviously, the great work you do exploring trauma, spirituality, and alternative treatments should also be a part of the conversation as well, and I think they are already a part of the conversation much more than the factors that Timothy is challenging us with.
After all, one of the most subtle and most effective ways that racism perpetuates itself is that white people simply do not have honest dialogues about it. The same dynamic is true for ablism, sexism, and other structural ways of centering power. Those of us not directly affected either are not willing, don’t know how, are too scared, or for some other reason won’t talk about these socioeconomic factors in our own communities.
I know that you are someone who is willing to engage with this issues. And, I’m just naming that the same dynamic is playing out in this group where Timothy brought up race, religion, poverty, and other vectors of power and identify formation that we appear to not be really grappling with as a community, yet.
I appreciate him helping to open up those doors!
I am very glad to see this article posted here. Over the years of doing anti-oppression organizing and advocacy, I have seen many times the resistance that arises when a community is challenged to broaden and strengthen its analysis with a more complicated understanding of how power and identity impact peoples’ lives. I feel unsurprised, but maybe a little disheartened, to see many comments so far jumping to the defense of a drug-centered conversation while seeing few engage with the important thoughts raised here.
The “too academic” critique is particularly sad for me to read. After all, this is a site that regularly publishes highly academic and well-cited articles on pharmacology and psychology without such a response. I wonder if the issue is more pointedly that this article makesa use of vocabulary and references less familiar to the audience here, because these critical perspectives have been under-explored in our community. I am not an academic person at all, but I do have a lay-organizer’s understanding of analyses of systems of power. I had no trouble parsing this article at all.
While I have no doubt that the (often coercive) overuse of psychiatric drugs is a factor in many individual’s disability, I also appreciate that racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, moral training, mass incarceration, and class exploitation are major forces of power and domination in our society. These forces, when mingeld with a flagging economy, influence many individual’s stories as much, or far more as, their particular psychiatric drug regimen.
Why is it, after all, that certain groups of people I run into seem to do better on certain amounts of psychiatric drugs than others? Why are some groups so hungry for them, while others so wary? Why is the representation of the anti-psychiatry movement disproportionately white compared to society at large, and even compared to other movements struggling against institutional violence, such as those vying to end mass incarceration?
This certainly is a strongly drug-centered conversation. When we do talk about poverty, about foster care, about jails, prisons, and schools, we mainly come back around to talking about the drugs over and over again. Without leaving behind our concern about the impact of drugs and diagnoses on peoples’ lives, I think that we are overdue for a more comprehensive conversation about all the factors that influence madness and psychosocial disability.
Lauren, I appreciate your bringing attention to racism at Mad In America. The fact that we are having these conversations in any form is so much better than not having them at all, which is what happens in most white-centered spaces! I appreciate that you have thought and struggled a lot with your experience of Racism, and I agree this is something we ought to be looking at closely.
I want to express some confusion and concern about your repeated suggestion that we “imagine a world without racism and live your life that way.”
To my eyes, this could be taken as support for liberal “colorblindness” where we pretend racism does not exist and think that merely by working to treat people of color with respect on an individual basis, we are contributing to ending racism.
My understanding is that racism is endemic in our institutions, our culture, our power structures, our economy. Racism does exist in this country, in its particular form of white supremacy. It is a pattern that is killing people and destroying lives every day. I would suggest that to end racism, we first need to openly acknowledge this fact, rather than live as though it were not true. I can imagine my friends who are anti-racist activists and people of color feeling very marginalized and hurt hearing a white person telling other white people to live as though racism does not exist in a “Racism 101” article.
From what I hear, I think they want, above all:
*Accomplices and support in direct action
*White people to initiate dialogues with other white people. (Thank you, again!)
*Our willingness to take leadership and direction from people of color who are organizing for change.
*A commitment from white people to do whatever we can to change systems (with direct accountability to what people of color in those systems actually want).
Here is a related article that I think might shine some further light:
“12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision”
Well if we are counting, I have spent somewhat more than a week studying oppression.
I think we are talking here about the history and present impact of psychiatry and racism in the United States, which is framed, at its crux, by the paradigm of white male supremacy.
I agree that dominator cultures have cropped up in other times and places as well, although none has been as successfully genocidal and oppressive as White European Supremacy, and none of the others are responsible for American Racism or Biological Psychiatry.
I would invite readers to examine this national vision and list of demands made by Ferguson activists, with an eye for how much these same demands would help the lives of those in our own movements. In fact, I think that with only a few additional specific words added, this list would cover all of our issues as well as the many others specifieid.
Having spent time working with people in jail recently, I am particularly appalled to see how much overlap there is between forced psychiatry and the prison industrial complex. On the “therapeutic” pod for incarcerated men at my local jail, approximately 90% of the men are on some kind of psych drug!
Sera thank you so much for raising this point on Mad In America! This is a great beginning to what I hope will be an ongoing conversation. I am in the process discussing this topic with others in the Western Mass RLC recently, especially others who are anti-racist activists, and I think there is so much to explore here. I don’t have my thoughts completely put together yet, nor is a comment the best place to share them, but I’ll just offer a few brief thoughts:
I agree that we need to broaden our perspective to a wider human rights movement. Although, sometimes when I hear “human rights” within our communities I am actually saddened because it’s still spoken of as just something having to do mainly with people who experience psychiatric oppression. Racism and the ongoing genocide of the indigenous people in the United States is rarely mentioned, even though these systematic forms of human rights violations frankly have hurt far more people than psychiatry has.
I hope what we can come to understand better together is that it is not merely happenstance that these various groups are targeted with violence and oppression. There is a historical and systemic connection between the logic of domination that drives racist systems and the psychiatric system, as well as sexism, homophobia, transphobia, income inequality, mass incarceration, and other forms of injustice.
This logic of domination is what this country and other colonial projects were founded on, not that long ago. Straight, cis, able bodied white men committed genocide, slavery, rape, and other crimes against humanity at will on the land where we currently live, especially against darker skinned and indigenous people, but also against the misfits, women, religious minorities, and “witches” among their own.
My understanding is that this legacy of white, male, colonial supremacy still lives with us today, and is a driving force behind our economy, our politics, and all the systems of world. For me, the more I grasp this truth, the more I see that fighting against oppression can never go very far as a local or single-issue struggle. I believe we need to put a finger directly on the heart of the matter: The very idea that some people – specifically socially-adjusted white men, but also others who are assigned privileges and power by the institutions that are run by those white men – are “better” than others and get to choose what is “best” for those beneath them – or to ignore their needs entirely.
I think that to end oppression we need vibrant communities where individuals come together around best meeting their own needs mutually and respectfully. I am very happy to have recently become a part of the Western Mass RLC for this reason!
Thanks again for posting.
This article is my favorite thing I have read here in a long time. Almost everything in it resonates with what I have been learning and discussing with others.
I am not sure I agree that being a human experience specialist is different than friendship. I acknowledge that surely being in that role professionally would be different than an informal friendship.
However, I like to think that a great deal of suffering could be, and already is, abated by the presence of friends who have shared similar human experiences, those who can resonate with what we are going through. Many people who live in the oppressive circumstances you describe do so with some joy thanks in large part to the quality of relationships in their lives.
If this is true, then in addition to developing a professional class of human experience specialists, we ought to have a class (or perhaps classes, as in school) that teaches lay people about their own inherent human experience specialty. Society would benefit greatly from our existing communities of mutual aid (i.e. churches, markets, households, families, and community groups) learning to listen more closely, and draw on the many possible ways of making meaning that helps us through hard times.
Additionally, I suspect that increasing our communities skills in empathy, trauma-awareness, and the multi-faceted gem of human meaning-making would go a long way toward shifting the systems that cause war and oppression.
Thanks Michael. This is a good argument, and I agree with everything you write, except this:
Increasingly the medical community is viewing opiate addiction as intractable and the pain of full withdrawal and abstinence as too much to bear. Instead, we have a huge number of people hooked on the pharmaceutical opiates suboxone and methadone, which keeps cravings and withdrawal symptoms at bay without the same “high.”
Many people are put on these drugs instead of being supported through full detox, especially if they have withdrawn and then relapsed in the passed. Some people are, like with psych drugs, encouraged and supported to be on suboxone indefinitely.
These trends are obviously related. As our society comes to see the body’s chemistry as something to be managed externally rather than through the body’s inherent healing processes, the habit of indefinite drug use of all kinds increases, to the point where even highly addictive and dangerous substances like opiates are considered okay to be addicted to for life, as long as the person can function.
I do not mean to put down anybody who benefits from suboxone treatment. The pros and cons of that approach are another conversation. I do want to offer that it would be a misrepresentation to suggest that full withdrawal from opiate addiction is universally encouraged.
Love this! Thanks for continuing to tell it like it is, Sera, and for the suggestions on how to further awareness about what I will call, for this moment, “stigma stigma.”
I look forward to implementing some of these ideas in Boston soon!
Consider me available for a nomination. 🙂
I appreciate this Chrys. It is not that we are weak, but that we are powerless, when facing psychiatry. When informed and compassionate communities rally together, they have more power.
My focus is to educate communities so that they can learn to better listen to one another when in distress and provide organic person-centered care without requiring outside intervention.
I am glad to hear that you are going to the Open Dialogue seminars in the UK! I hope to read reports on how that goes here.
Thank you, Duane!
Hi Chrys! In this article I am addressing established community groups who want to be allies to our cause. Standing up to police and psychiatric violence alone is very dangerous.
I have seen here in Massachusetts that when an entire community rallies around somebody, the police, doctors, and judges are much more likely to not detain that person, or to release them much more swiftly.
There are also intermediary ways to push back against police and psychiatric violence, such as encouraging those who are less aware of the issues to not call in the authorities in the first place.
Individually we are currently very weak in the face of psychiatry. As households, faith communities, neighborhood associations, local activist networks, and so forth, I think that we can become much stronger.
I agree madmom! I think this is an excellent point. Part of developing a mutual aid network ought to include financial support and patronage among those affected by psychiatric oppression.
I think that those of us who have been through extreme states actually can have a lot to offer the world in terms of empathic communication, leadership, conflict resolution, and supporting others through their own crises. I would love to help build a market presence specifically for people with lived experience that bypasses the mental health system entirely.
I agree! I think that both the Hearing Voices Network and the Icarus Project are both great examples of moving toward the sort of cellular mutual aid model that 12-step groups use.
This is a bit off-topic to what you were suggesting, but it got me thinking about why we don’t really have 12-step groups for “mental illness.” I notice that among psych patients, especially those who identify as survivors of psychiatric abuse and oppression, the healing journey is focused less on submitting to a higher power, and more on reclaiming one’s own power and story.
Personally, I find the dichotomy very interesting. Certain people at certain moments seem to benefit by ceasing to blame others and taking more responsibility on themselves, and others benefit from a radical step of not taking responsibility for everyone else, and reclaiming the reality that they were, in fact, bullied, abused, manipulated, or whatever it may be.
It seems to me there is a tremendous amount of overlap. Many, including myself, go through a lot of both. And, sometimes people rub up against (or are forced into) either model at the wrong time, when it’s not really what they need.
The most we can do here, which is actually a lot in my opinion, is to discuss facts, arguments, ideas, strategies, and so forth. Let’s please continue to refrain from using this as a venue for personal conflict.
I have not read this whole thread yet but I’m inclined to trust our regular commenters that there’s nothing in it that constitutes a personal attack. If anyone sees something that is an attack, please send me an email or press the report button. You can contact me via the Contact page or at: [email protected]
Yes. It’s on the list, but I cannot give a definitive timeline. Happy holidays!
Thank you Sera for sharing this fantastically thorough and thoughtful treatise on “the gap” in our approach to alternatives in mental health care. It’s such a gift when articles come out like this with potential to move the whole conversation forward into greater nuance and clarity. I’m looking forward to witnessing your continued leadership on this topic.
Please click here to continue discussing Monica’s other article: http://www.madinamerica.com/forums/topic/are-psych-drug-users-addicts/
It continually confuses me why the health problems caused by giving children drugs similar to cocaine and methamphetamine are “paradoxical” when the very same problems are known to be caused by such drugs when taken by adults. It seems to have something to do with the moral line between “treatment” and “abuse,” that doesn’t seem to actually play out in the data.
Completely agree with this. I still ignore responsibilities sometimes and spend hours in front of a screen instead, or eat things i know that make me feel well because some part of me wants to not feel well. We all have our “outs,” (or are they “ins”?) and our wellness culture, even alternative systems I’ve been involved with like Buddhist psychology, pathologizes this behavior in such a way that it becomes shameful to even talk about it. Thank you so much for speaking up, Sera.
I appreciate how this post breaks down the difference between the disease centered approach and the drug centered approach. It’s always seemed to me, from my earliest moments researching drugs for my own experimentation, that it makes sense to consider the person holistically, the drug holistically, and all the interactions between the two. To say that any psych drug treats a specific disorder and everything else is a “side effect” seems to ignore the vast majority of what’s happening when I take a drug.
I agree it is amazing to hear this is happening, and I can feel from your telling how much the kids were touched. I appreciate your sharing of the response to the question about short term effectiveness of drugs. Also thanks for Tom Jones to point out the growing trend of bucking labels all together. This seems like a very relevant approach to mention in raising awareness about our issues, especially with youth.
What a beautiful and vivid piece.
I only passingly flirted with psych meds myself but I did a fair and regular share of weed, coffee, alcohol, psychedelics, and the occasional benzo, opiate, and even friends’ neuroleptics (to help me sleep off binges) for several years. The overall effect that had on my system feels similar to what I hear many describe about their psych drug withdrawal. I’ve become hyper-sensitive to many things. I’ve had to cut out caffeine and sugar from my diet, along with gluten, dairy, and anything else remotely irritating. Most of the time, I truly feel better than ever, but even the minor slip-ups, especially any kind of multi-day binge on sugar or alcohol or whatever, leaves me a train wreck of emotional and physical setbacks.
I do not mean to compare my pain to yours or anyone else’s. In a lot of ways I have it easier than many in this community! I only mean to agree that we all have to deal with our deteriorating bodies and work to nurture them as best we can. In a ways, my burnt-out organs and nervous system have been a blessing of helping me to find balance — my own “one version of the truth,” of how to live a virtuous life and feel good in my body.
This is a stirring and descriptive story. Thank you for sharing in such vivid detail what you experienced with these drugs. So glad to see others sharing their stories with the world!
Thank you Chaya for sharing this moving and all-too-common story. None of my friends who were tied up in the system at an early age have yet successfully committed suicide. None of them seem to be to be particularly thriving either. Perhaps this story and the thousands of others like it will help people see that a bigger view than the “medical” model is needed.
I want to offer a warm reminder that this is not a place to diagnose or come to conclusions about other peoples’ experience for them. We believe in allowing folks to speak for themselves and avoiding personal attacks or judgments about their character. Please feel free to talk about your own personal experiences, aspirations, musings, and general thoughts in reaction to Ms. O’Connor’s statements.
This is not a clinical forum. Any comments that asserts conclusions about her character or authority about what she “needs” are not welcome here. I imagine that few, if any, of us would welcome such statements from strangers on the internet upon sharing our own story.
I don’t post the news stories.
I understand that it may feel “galling” to interact with people who are “on the fence,” and I’d also suggest that these are the very people who are among closest of any psychiatrists to fulling grokking the issues that we talk about here. We could choose to be pessimistic and speculate that he may want it both ways, or we could choose to respond with enthusiasm that more people want ethical reform at all. After all, it can be a truly difficult process to shed beliefs developed over years of training in a faith-based system like psychiatry, and this man appears to be going much further than most.
I find it reassuring to know another psychiatrist beginning to take on the full ethical and medical implications of prescribing these drugs. Published right next to our own Sandy Steingard no less!
Hey folks I just want to encourage everybody to share this blog especially as well as the others about the 60 Minutes segment on the CBS website, on Facebook, and on Twitter using the hashtag #60Minutes. Let’s make this voice heard in the public sphere!
Thanks for sharing this stirring article Deron. May many more heretics and misfits stand up and fight.
I appreciate your way of teasing out that issues of mental illness are really issues of how society handles “misfits” in general. The creatively maladjusted are one such cohort. Perhaps we all have the capacity to fit in the category. There are so many who simply cannot contribute to the traditional work force because they are very young, very old, developmentally unusual, or disabled/disempowered by poverty, racism, and other forms of oppression.
In order to speak holistically to questions of how to deal with “mental illness,” it helps to include all the ways that our society marginalizes and fails to support anyone who is different than the “abled” norm. Well done, and cheers to using SSI to effectively and beautifully pursue your path as a healer, artist, and educator!
The edit button was broken during an update and is temporarily disabled.
I agree that we shouldn’t be assumed to hold views we posted publicly a year or two or three ago. Information available and our own intellectual development seems to move far too quickly these days. I know personally my view on most things has evolved tremendously over the years, and what I would have posted on these issues a few years ago would appear misinformed from my current stance. Of course we can look at each other’s history and ask honest questions about what transpired in the past, but at the same time it’s important to give each other the benefit of the doubt in order to have a constructive conversation. It is also essential that we notice when we are taking opposing views as personal attacks, and to temper those responses with extra attention, or there is little room for dialogue at all.
We do moderate. I remove comments on a regular basis, including several last night and this morning. I think people often just don’t notice. It’s not something you really “see happening.”
I tried to setup a system that cataloged the comments I removed as a demonstration of what moderation is happening and why, but that instantly had to go on the grounds of being too shaming and triggering for the people whose comments were being removed.
For what it’s worth, in my experience what Nev describes – shaming willing drug users who don’t want to get off their drugs – is something that I’ve seen in the survivor movement and heard in personal conversations with people. Like any anti-oppression group, some of us at some times are prone toward fanaticism about the cause that might miss out on opportunities for total kindness and clarity. However, I do not see that we do this in any way as an institution, or that we encourage it on Mad In America.
Well said Nev, thanks for chiming in. For what it’s worth, we agree that the conversation needs to move beyond just a scientific framework. We are particularly interested in living examples of what works for people: Sharing alternative stories about what happens that leads to healing and fulfillment, how, and why.
In this process, we seem to run the risk of marginalizing people who don’t agree with us, which as you point out, is itself a kind of oppression. I hope we can all be careful about this as we co-create this dialogue.
I want to thank you for engaging with us here. While this thread does go a bit off-topic, it’s engaging a very important core conversation about who “we” are and what we’re doing with this website. I appreciate your contributions and those of others participating in this thread. This is a work in progress, and progress happens through engaging each other directly on the sticky issues.
Thanks for posting this comment here Jonah. I think its really important that we are willing to criticize and expand on the limitations of Anatomy in order to move the dialogue forward. In a way, that’s what this website is all about. Taking the next steps.
You can create a paypal account with an Australian address. You may need to create the account first, and then come back to our page and click the orange Donate button, since our donate link defaults to the US version of Paypal. If you login with your Australian account from the donate page, that should work fine. I’d like it if you would like me know.
We had some initial investments so we’re not in any debt, but we do need to be moving toward a self-sustaining revenue model. Reader donations are one part of that — the only part right now.
Yes, if you are responding to specific comments or posting on different topics then it makes sense to submit them separately. When you have one very long response/essay to submit then I ask that you keep it to one post.
I think of it like our front page. We don’t just post everything in full on the front page, we offer a headline and a teaser so you can then decide what you want to read more about. The idea here is that it’s fine for comments to take up to a page or so of text, but any longer than can dishearten people who are just trying to skim through and get a general sense of the tone of the comments. I understand that this may be an inconvenience for our most engaged readers who want to read everything. It’s here more for the benefit of our many casual readers and lurkers who want to skim, rather than read every word.
I will add figuring out an “expand all” button to my to-do list. I think that’s a great idea.
The moderation question seems like a non-issue to me. Here’s why: If something is removed, we save a copy. If it was just for on sentence then you resubmit a revised version without the one sentence. The whole thing can be removed for review and then returned in a very short time. This is, again, much like the way we work with front page authors. We don’t just remove the parts that don’t meet our editorial guidelines. We work on the whole piece until it meets the standards of the site.
It’s a bug. I removed the red from the code after an update but it’s still showing up that way. I figured it would just go away once whatever was sticking in the cache died off and the plugin reloaded for real. It’ll be gone soon.
I agree with you that state-supported forced drugging is a travesty. However, I think it would be interesting to look at the actual numbers here. I imagine that 80%-90% of psych drugs are taken on a voluntary basis – voluntary in the sense that they are not administered by physical force. Psychosocial forms of coercion, advertising, and the application of mistruths are very often at play even when physical coercion is not.
I wonder how much forced recipients really affect the bottom line. I’m wondering instead if the existence of forced treatment provides a sort of cognitive feedback loop which justifies these drugs’ prolific use in more “mild” cases because “we use these drugs on the really tough cases and we know they work.”
One perspective is that “mutually beneficial trade” is always exploiting someone or something to be making its profits. The suicidal workers in Chinese factories might not be so cheery about their manager’s dishwashers. The managers with dishwashers might not be so excited about the highly toxic air they have to breathe. I’m not a socialist or a capitalist, I think a healthy system that is not systemically exploiting or committing violence requires a whole new level of thinking.
Joanna, I completely agree that this is a minority phenomena. Isn’t that what Bruce Levine writes? I suppose it could be taken in a number of ways, and maybe more clearly stated that his “some people” is a very small number.
I think there’s something to what Anonymous says about big corporations, government contractors, etc. If all these hugely wealthy people and organizations are unfairly extorting the system, then why shouldn’t I get mine too? At one time I thought about doing this myself, but I agree with Anonymous that, if possible, I’d rather be interdependent with people and social systems I actually respect than receive payouts from a government that I do not.
I’ve read Mate’s book and have had a draft blog sitting on the site for the past couple months about Capitalism, Oppression, and Psychiatry including a link to that interview! I hope to come back around to finish and publish it sometime this month.
I agree that there is a hugely under-explored intersection between diet, addictions, physical wellness, capitalism, and social relationships. Do we see ourselves as an object to be used, exploited, and abused, or do we see ourselves as a whole-hearted person with a purpose for being in this world and a connection to something greater than ourselves? This seems to be a defining difference between people who thrive and people who don’t. I’m reminded of this wonderful article I just read about meaning vs. happiness.
Thanks for your wonderful and wise contributions here.
Sent you an email. I think I need a little more information.
It’s a real hot-button issue for me as well! Bless my mother who encouraged me not to go on Ritalin when I was diagnosed at eight-years-old. I had enough trouble just being so different from my peers, and later developed a penchant for self-medication. Who knows what an early addiction to stimulants would have done to my life! From what I’ve seen in others, and in the data, I think the results would have been ruinous.
I’m really sorry you’re having trouble. I will look into this.
There are over 1000 user accounts on the site, almost all of which are real people. We have around 2000 unique visitors a day, and 30,000-40,000 unique visitors per month.
I have personally met people in the states who have done this. They call it, with a twinkle in their eye, “crazy pay.” Many I know also work a bit under the table to make ends meet and spend a lot of the rest of their time on creative pursuits. Doesn’t sound all that bad to me, actually. Not that I think our society should be structured this way, but I do think Bruce’s assessment is right, having seen it in action.
Duane, Anonymous, Chrys, you guys are all brilliant in my estimation. Thank you for these spot-on and elegant comments.
Thank you for writing about the important issue of the lack of scientific validity of the prescription of stimulants to children.
As far as I am aware, there is not evidence that there’s anything physiologically different about those of us diagnosed with ADHD, despite the long-running and pretty absurd myth that “stimulants affect ADHD brains differently.” I find it interesting to see this article posted in juxtaposition to Bruce Levine’s latest.
In that article Dr. Levine posits that the real culprit of ADHD may be boring and alienating schools, rather than anything wrong with the child. I know my personal experience reflected exactly what he describes from the research: That when I was interested in what was going on I was as strong (actually, often much stronger) of a student than the “normal” kids. And when I wasn’t interested in what was going on then I was prone to daydreaming and self-stimming to keep my mind active, nimble, engaged, and growing: Things I still do today with exercise, movement practice, prayer, and meditation in order to maintain my mental and emotional facilities.
Marvin Ross’s blog post (link here), quoting Torrey’s disingenuous critique of Anatomy of an Epidemic seems like a low-blow take-down piece. He does little to address the ideas you present, instead choosing to criticize your station and your identity, as if these should automatically preclude you from having an educated, well-delivered thought about an important public issue. This same sort of language has been used for ages to shut down dissident thinkers, women, non-whites, and so forth. His article could just as well be an attack on Socrates, for “corrupting the youth.”
I see Ross expressing no issue with the journalists who mindlessly parrot the heavy-drugging, brain-disease paradigm without convincing data to back up this view. While it’s certainly sad to see something like this published, the paper-thin quality of these attacks against you, and the relatively small audience they garner, should be seen as a reflection of the strength and resilience of your work.
Marian, I generally really like your posting here. In this case I’m feeling a little confused, and wondering about the assumptions underlying your comment. It appears to me that African Americans have been just as much a part of the development of modern western culture as white people. The vast majority of them have family lines in America that go back to well before modernity. In fact, there have been far more non-western caucasian immigrants to the United States since the cessation of the slave trade than African ones. Your formulation of African Americans as either premodern or non-western seems very strange to me.
If by “modern western culture” you mean “white culture” or “the privileged class” then I think I understand you, and it seems likely that both you and berit are correct. Present-day marginalized groups, whether black, gay, immigrant, psych-survivor, or whatever, may tend to form tighter community bonds and a lot of justified wariness than privileged whites. They may also tend to be more wary of the practices and standards of the privileged group. In this way, white, male, middle-to-upper-class privilege is a sword that cuts both ways. The oppressor class can become trapped by its own need for control and power in the form of harmful practices like coercive psychiatry.
Lots of interesting comments here. I don’t think any of us can claim to know with certainty what causes the behavior that get labeled psychoses. This certainty is one of the primary fallacies of the whole psychiatric experiment. It seems to me that one of the most fundamentally kind and honest things we can do is acknowledge that we just don’t know, and be willing to find out together, without jumping hastily to any conclusions.
Kathy, I greatly appreciate you sharing your stories here. And I agree with you that focusing on stories of hope and positivity is an important part of this ongoing conversation. Thanks for being here!
Yes, I am reevaluating many things based on reader feedback. I will either reply in more depth here or post a new blog in the next few days. I really appreciate everything you all are saying, and this absolutely is a community process that includes your voice.
Thanks to Chrys for your comment today.
Yes, these “Community Updates” blog posts are a fine place to discuss moderation as a community, as it says in the guidelines.
Sorry I missed taking you off the moderation list. You’re all set now.
Thanks for the apology Jonah. I did actually restore Chrys’ comment this morning.
I do have a volunteer who agreed to look after things in the forums, but leadership really has to come from peoples’ hearts. I strongly encourage anyone who wants to start a topic there to just go ahead and do it. Once a bit of regular traffic starts up again I’m confident the discussion will grow.
Referring to forum threads in the blog comments would also help. And I’ll soon put up a little widget listing recent forum posts on the front page.
It just draws my attention to the comment in question. It’s been useful on occasion when fights break out deep in threads. I also want readers to be empowered to be able to contact me easily if they see something particularly problematic.
Often I think it just gets pressed by accident, or because someone disagrees with the content of what’s being said.
This is going to continue to be a subjective thing. I think that forms of “gaslighting” including “strawmen attacks” are a form of emotional abuse and as such, truly violent. I don’t think there’s any reasonable or non-violent reason to misrepresent others views. I know I only seem to do it when I am enraged and want them to be wrong, and know how wrong and stupid they are. And I also know that being on the receiving end of these attacks can be nearly as hurtful or confusing as being called a son-of-a-bitch or whatever.
edit: They also can confuse and mislead other readers tremendously, which we’d rather not have happening here.
Chrys, I have restored your comment. My intention was to begin absolute consistency so I wouldn’t be accusing of singling out certain attacks while allowing others, but I can see that such a “hard line” policy feels like an affront to people I’ve already built relationships with, such as yourself.
I will continue to experiment with joining the conversation and pointing out when things are uncivil before placing people on moderation or removing comments.
What I hope for from you all is some sense of camaraderie and patience as we make this happen. I don’t think we can allow the comments to be a total free-for-all for all the reasons I mentioned. It is a problem when the majority of people who would read our site don’t want to read it anymore, or don’t want to submit their own comments, because the comments are swamped with bullying, lies, and abuse. Personally, I don’t touch the comments on most other sites for exactly this reason.
So I am going to keep removing direct personal attacks and working with people who appear to be making baseless representations of others in order to protect the discussion for those who are moving the conversation about the ideas forward.
There are standards here, like in other private gatherings with public entrances. If you start bullying someone or being disruptive in a restaurant, you will be asked to leave. I do not judge anyone. Nor do I ask anyone to leave, except in rare, extreme cases. All we are going to do is remove specific units of speech that are highly disruptive and ask that they be reconsidered and resubmitted. This is not a decree on the person making the statement or the content of the ideas they are promoting.
I appreciate that because this is an authoritative stance, it can be compared to psychiatry, or other forms of oppressive authority. I do think that because everyone is here by free association, is made aware of the guidelines and moderation, and is reminded of them in the grey box every time you post, that informed consent and choice are fully available to readers. We also have no control or input on peoples’ lives, only specific artifacts of speech they submit for publication on this website. In this way, what I am doing is nothing like psychiatry at all.
We will have to play with the off-topic thing. I will try to gather consent before moving comments to the forum. I actually think it is in the best interest of readers to start using the forums more. Much more fulfilling conversation can be had that way because these threaded comments get confusing and the conversation always ends after a couple weeks, whereas in the forums it can go on for months or years!
Let’s keep exploring this. I appreciate all the feedback from folks who care about Mad In America.
I’m wearing flip-flops.
You guys are welcome to start topics in our Community Forum about this if you like! That’s why I built them, really.
If you do start a Google Group, feel free to sign me up!
I’m getting a lot of feedback on this and one thing that has developed is I won’t be moving all strawmen off the page. I will try chiming in and pointing out when I see what appears to be a baseless representation, before beginning to remove comments.
In response to the other comments: I knew nothing about Bob speaking at NAMI or inviting those two women to blog when I proposed and wrote up this blog post. The fact that they appeared on the front page on the same day is a coincidence.
I can definitely see how this would look bad. It’s a reasonable suspicion and now rumors appear to be stirring. I have never communicated with anybody involved with NAMI in my life, nor was I instructed to change the policy by Bob. This shift in approach is based on my direct experience trying to work with the attacks and strawmen commonly posted on this site.
I added an additional section to the guidelines that I hope will clear something up. When I moderate comments, people often wonder if I am trying to censor the position being taken, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I love it when people modify their comments and resubmit the same argument. Often I personally agree whole-heartedly with what’s being said, other than the parts which are attacks or straw men.
What should I do if my comment was moderated?
We encourage thoughtful comments that move the conversation forward to be resubmitted without the personal attacks or misrepresentations that caused it to raise concern. You may contact the community manager if you would like to discuss why your comment was considered an attack, misrepresentation, off-topic, or otherwise uncivil. We never intervene based on the positions being argued.
I agree with all of this. I brought up the issue of bloggers not responding to readers very early on with the team, and it’s a conversation we’ve had again and again, including just recently. So if it’s any reassurance, we are definitely aware of this and working on it.
Now, managing incivility-by-omission practically is something I don’t really know how to do. I find it challenging that folks are accusing us of being too subjective and heavy handed when it comes to attacks, and on the other hand I’m being asked to judge when somebody is being passive-agressive or dismissive and find a way to do something about that (you’re certainly not the first to bring it up with me). It’s a lot harder to moderate a comment for not acknowledging something than it is to identify an attack or a misrepresentation.
The new guide for authors going out soon does touch on this issue, and strongly encourages authors to interact with readers. Also, Kermit and I have agreed to reach out more preemptively to potentially triggering authors about acknowledging readers’ predictable concerns, both in their posts and their followup comments. I hope we see a difference. It may not be obvious, or with as much fanfare, as what we’re talking about in this thread.
Oh good! Thanks for letting me know Duane. I’m glad you are around! Guess I might have been a little edgy after two days of pretty fierce discussion here.
Thanks for understanding John. I think this is exactly the point.
I do occasionally see spontaneous conflict resolution happen here in the comments, and seeing it warms my heart. But, in the vast majority of cases where I don’t intervene, the rage and confusion escalates until somebody disengages, usually to never return to the site. Nobody is satisfied, and other readers write me upset that we allow such nasty things in our comments.
That all makes sense to me. It’s quite possible to deconstruct an institution or power dynamic, and declare them invalid from somebody’s point of view. We all have differing opinions… How one person, or one group, tries to make order out of the infinite complications of human relationship will never suit everybody. I honor your point of view here at the same time as being content with how we are doing things. The way I see it there are quantitative differences in different kinds of stifling. These sorts of attacks stifle vast swaths of participants – hundreds or thousands of readers. The bullying of rageful comments effectively censors everybody who isn’t inclined to rage back. The way I address them stifles a small handful of people. I wish it didn’t have to be any, but I’d rather it be this way than the other!
My colleague Kermit just put it this way:
One idea I’ve toyed with, but that we haven’t tried yet, is to open a true free-fire zone somewhere in the forums. Move the comments there and let people post absolutely anything that isn’t strictly illegal. I personally like this idea because I love freedom, perhaps just like you. However I imagine we’d suffer this same criticism about what gets sent there and what doesn’t, and nobody would use it.
As is written in the guidelines, I welcome people questioning and discussing the policy on these “Community Update” blog posts, or in private messages to us. I suppose you could also post questions in the Feedback forum.
Duane, are you referring to me as one of those folks? In case you are, I just want to point out that I do not equate holding an unequivocal stance with making personal attacks or misrepresenting statements. I consider these two completely separate qualities. A single comment might include one, both, or neither. I’m very much in favor of unequivocal stances regarding oppression, and not very excited about the other things.
This whole idea, that I’ve now heard many times, that we want to censor people because they have convictions, is itself a strawman, unconnected to what we are actually talking about with these guidelines. If people with convictions are making attacks, then I’m asking that they not make the attacks, not that they don’t have convictions. If someone’s convictions are inextricably bonded to making speech that attacks or misrepresents others, then in that case you would be right, I don’t think I want those people around at all.
That’s fine with me. I understand and deeply respect that we have different values. Mad In America primarily values inclusion and welcoming mainstream readers, other people value total freedom. From what I gather, you might primarily value never censoring people, we value never hurting or misrepresenting people. These are compromises that need to be made in any online community, and I hope we’ve been very clear where we stand.
Our invitation is that everyone who posts here meets a certain standard. It’s not as high as the standard we ask our bloggers to meet, but it’s somewhere halfway there. That is our editorial process with offering the ability to comment to the public. The institutional comparison to psychiatry is bogus because no one is forcing you to be here. Every site on the internet has its guidelines. Some are looser and some are stricter. These are ours. You are here by free association. If you don’t like what we’re offering, you might go talk about these things somewhere else. You might even start your own website. This is a completely different situation than the authoritarian and coercive role psychiatry plays in our culture, because we aren’t making anybody do anything. Everyone agrees to the same guidelines when they come here.
You might find it interesting to review the history of how we’ve developed this approach, from Bob’s original post on the matter, to my introduction of the guidelines last year, to now.
We have, since the beginning, considered that we are impacting peoples’ freedom of expression. This issue touches our hearts deeply. When the site launched, the message I got was that Bob didn’t want me doing moderation at all, for precisely this reason. You are in completely sympathetic company. We’ve chosen a certain path for all the reasons laid out here, in the guidelines themselves, and in those previous articles – mainly because, as we experienced, not managing comments means they becomes an assemblage of abuse and negativity bullied around by a handful of the loudest voices. Most people have no interest in reading, let alone participating in that kind of “dialogue”. We aspire to something kinder, and more effective at reaching readers. If you’d like to go join one of these other places, which I’d compare to an online versions of a mosh pit, they do exist and I hope they would welcome you.
The guidelines are as arbitrary as any other social interaction I can imagine. I’ve gone to lengths to try to define them and practice consistency, so that this can feel like a safe and inclusive space. I think that’s about the limit of my human capability in this matter. Most moderators on most sites will never even have this conversation. You just get banned if they don’t like you, and that’s it.
I appreciate your good humor, and your relaxed viewpoint. We’ve tried “sticks and stones”, and if it worked for the mission of this site as a general rule, I’d much rather approach things that way myself. So much less work for me! This is not how I’d first choose to be spending my time if it didn’t seem to be serving an essential purpose in fulfilling our mission. We are admittedly striking out in trying to up the bar on what a blog can be. The fact is that words do hurt. They hurt a lot. The words psychiatrist use hurt patients. The words racists use hurt people of color. The words abusers of all kinds use hurt their victims. If we were all as thick-skinned as you claim to be, then we might have an easier time. Now would be a moment to celebrate that we are not all the same!
I’m pretty indifferent to humor and attacks at the expense of myself or the other staff. We can all handle it. My main concern is the atmosphere of negativity that occurs when other people are attacked, and the confusion, harm and discord that occurs when people are misrepresented.
Interesting point. I use the word because it’s the one people are most familiar with regarding this sort of role on a website. I think of it more as protecting the stated intention of the site. Maybe we should change it to something like that.
Thanks for your kind and insightful remarks. I didn’t notice any rambling.
I’m not sure what rule you broke that requires moderation. Would you let me know if I missed it?
I hope I’ve been very clear about how I propose to be the arbiter of this stuff. I’ve gone to great lengths to explain what I will moderate and why: Most importantly personal attacks and misrepresentations of others statements. I think you guys deserve this clarity.
If I am stupid, insincere, acting in bad faith, lack integrity, confused, naive, stubborn, arrogant, or unwilling to listen to feedback then this community may not thrive. What do you think? How can we find out? I’m trying my best to offer everything I can to this. I respond to questions or concerns, including admitting when I make mistakes. I carry on open, transparent ongoing email relationships with passionate readers, including Jonah and Anonymous. That seems like a good way to go, for me. I don’t expect anybody to trust this process on faith. I’d prefer you have to look at it for yourself, with an open mind, and see how it goes.
If you notice any of the problems you’re scared of, let me know. I’d like to talk about it. Please, a little while from now, if you are right, point out to me whee the dialogue is being dominated by the namby pamby, and what you think we might do about it.
I think I’ve addressed all four of your questions elsewhere in this comments thread already. Have you read all that I’ve written? I don’t mean to be dismissive, but I also do not want to spend a lot of time retyping what I’ve already said here, which is quite a lot, if what already exists satisfies any of your questions.
You are welcome here.
Let’s be very careful about representation of others arguments. Your comments state what Jill’s words “seem to suggest” to you, which are not things she explicitly said. I hope we can assume, as per my recent blog post, that we don’t know what she truly means or thinks until she says it.
One nuance I might add here is that the scenario you describe, which I agree with, of personal and social circumstances gradually colluding to create an episode that gets called, “mania.” This scenario does in fact include major shifts in a person’s physiology and brain activity. Not sleeping or eating, being shut-in for a time, and so forth make changes in our brain states. It seems from the research and my personal experience that any state of mind a person gets into, especially the very stressful ones, we then have a sort of template for, and can fall into it more easily than other possible states. This includes more common intense states like anger and anxiety.
That is, my sense is that the chances of someone who has experienced a single “manic episode” having a second one are higher, due to both physiological and social forces, than somebody who has never experienced this style of extreme state. Thus creating the presentation or pattern that gets called a “brain disorder.” I don’t think there’s truly anything disordered about this, like you, I see it as a normal capacity of any brain. All I’m suggesting is that once we extreme extreme depression, or mania, or confusion, etc. we seem to become more entrained to those states, and it often takes some healing work to train ourselves to avoid them in the future.
I personally believe that the emotional and embodied aspects of healing and group communication are very underdeveloped in our culture in general, and to some extend in the conversation here. I hope to write more, as much as it might be helpful, about how I’ve learned to feel emotionally safe and capable of genuine kindness, especially in regards to internet communication.
I don’t really know where we go from here. This whole idea of having a truly civil online conversation about such deep and painful issues seems like a very strange and unlikely experiment to me. I hope that you and all the others stick around to help make it something none of us have ever seen before.
In the year since I’ve been closely moderating this site, 99% of attacks the, shaming, and and misrepresentations have been from a very small group of staunch survivors, maybe 10-15 individuals, with very few other violations of the guidelines scattered around. Most of the attacks have been addressed toward others who don’t demonstrate understanding of the survivor point of view, although a lot of it has been members of this small group attacking each other for various reasons. If not for our desire to include this group, I wouldn’t even be bringing this up. The other readers on this site remains civil virtually all the time. I think it’s easier when you don’t have so much in your personal experience to be pissed off about! This small group is also responsible for all of the backlash against moderation, including, at times, a veritable deluge of emotional attacks, profanity, and straight-up personal abuse in my email inbox.
Yes, there are other problem comments on rare occasions. If we banned or did not welcome this small demographic of very angry survivors, then all we’d have left are intermittent infractions could be addressed in an impromptu, low-key, zero-fanfare way. Until this post I’ve been waking up every morning reasonably concerned that I’m going to find shaming, attacks, abuse, and misrepresentations from one of these 10-15 people, or maybe a new reader following their example.
This entire situation: My posts, the guidelines, the moderation forum, exist only to try to uphold a space where those who have been most deeply affected by the oppression of psychiatry can participate without shutting down the conversation for everyone else with abuse and misrepresentations. Sometimes this seems like a crazy and impossible goal, but we’ve never thought for a moment about having it any other way.
I am so very sorry this looks like replicating oppression to you. My only intention has been heartfelt advocacy and allyship with survivors to the fullest extent possible while remaining true to the mission of this website. If you see that I have failed to address any “upper class forms of aggression” which violate our guidelines, please let me know and I’ll attend to it promptly. If we start to notice any sort of patterns or grey areas around other kinds of uncivil communication, I will gladly adjust the guidelines to address it.
Well said Jill! I think it’s very helpful to look at intense states as physiological in nature with a social etiology. I agree that we are talking about the same idea, even though my own training is more from meditation and alternative therapies than scientific studies. I think that’s neat! It’s interesting to know there is science that is helping to demonstrate this.
A big problem in history of the research seems to be the baseless faith that the physiological differences in bodies experiencing these extreme states are caused primarily by genes or otherwise stuck in one individual, and also that they are not recoverable.
Laura Delano and I have been talking about this as a project we are both interested in for the past year. We even talked as a board about whether Mad In America could host such a second site, and we saw that the basic missions of these two projects would be too out of sync. They would end up compromising each other by association. Bob Whitaker’s work/role is as a journalist and educator, not a leader of direct activism.
I mean, look how angry some activists and some psychiatrists already are with us! If we tried to do everything the movement might want in one organization, we would end up torn apart, with nothing.
So yes, if the circumstances align, I would be eager to assist in building a specifically human-rights and activism oriented community.
I gotta say I’m a bit confused by some of the turns in this conversation. Nowhere am I trying to suggest what a movement should look like or what anyone should do out in the world. These parameters are strictly for discussion on the Mad In America website. We are not a hospital. We are not nazi Germany. We are a discussion site on the Internet with all the freedoms, transparency, and flexibility through space and time that a website allows.
So I do not know why people are taking these standards to have anything to do with direct activism, or any other thing under the sun besides posting on this particular website.