Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Comments by Natan

Showing 200 of 200 comments.

  • 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.

  • Hi Monica!

    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:

    On the other hand, when people detox from heroin, everyone encourages them to go through it, no matter how extreme their behavior or how much pain they go through.

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • On the conflict in this thread: MIA really isn’t a place to be “getting into each others heads” so to speak. The internet is not an effective medium for therapy, conflict resolution, or debates that include personal attacks and assumptions.

    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.

  • This is quite counterproductive in my opinion. You call me out, “where is the moderator,” and initiate a conversation about tone. I am obviously going to drawn to this thread by your comments, but you won’t press the report button? Complaining and “backseat moderating” instead of just being in touch with me does not help me intervene any faster. Please use the systems we have set up to assist with moderation if you want moderation assistance. There is no record at all of who presses the “report” button. I can’t even tell without digging very deep into the logs.

    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]

  • 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.

  • This comment thread started off with a long string of off-topic posting. We have a responsibility to allow a space for substantive and relevant conversation to happen on blog articles. The content of the first several comments in particular has a significant impact on new readers of the article, so our standards are especially high. Please take off-topic comments to the forums, as per the site posting guidelines. I saved the whole conversation from this thread and imported it to a forum topic.

    Please click here to continue discussing Monica’s other article: https://www.madinamerica.com/forums/topic/are-psych-drug-users-addicts/

  • Importing private drama from another venue does not contribute to a feeling of safety and civility on our site. I really wish that you had started with addressing your specific arguments, rather than making this personal from Tina. There’s too much good conversation here for me to be comfortable removing anything retroactively. I do want to very clearly remind everyone that our community guidelines are meant to focus us on discussing ideas and actions, not peoples’ character or intentions.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hi folks,

    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 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!

  • 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.

  • Timothy,

    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.

  • 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.

  • Indeed. Hermes, you hit the nail on the head. I put the feature in place specifically so that very long posts do not dominate the screen real-estate for people who may want to scroll through the comments without the inconvenience of very long chunks of text. Intentionally circumventing this feature is an abuse of the way the site is setup. I hope nobody else gets the sense that this is a good idea from researcher’s example.
  • 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’ve decided not to remove this comment because there’s some extremely valuable conversation happening around the ad hominems. Altostrata’s final remarks do appear to be a personal attack against Anonymous. I want to ask that everyone make an effort to give the benefit of the doubt and remain civil as this conversation continues. Any further personal attacks will be removed.
  • 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.

  • Hi Donna,

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Morias,

    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 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.

  • 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:

    Refraining from removing posts that vilify or misrepresent others doesn’t make it a zone free of censorship; it leaves people in charge of making pronouncements about who is good and bad who have no accountability. They turn it into a free-fire zone. We feel obligated to the majority of readers, who do not want that, to maintain ourselves as the authorities over what is or isn’t acceptable speech, and to try to be transparent about it. Anyone who isn’t interested, is free to shop elsewhere.

    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.

  • 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.

  • Ted,

    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.

  • I’m not saying anything about who you must respect. Our standard is that people be civil on this site. I encourage you to feel whatever you feel in your heart, and do whatever you want elsewhere. If you are an activist elsewhere, as I am, then I personally applaud you.

    Where the nazi analogy breaks down is that this is the internet, not a concentration camp! I would not walk up to someone in a psych ward, or a local clinic, and tell them to be polite their doctors in their everyday life! We are an online discussion community that seeks to bring together anyone who wants to rethink psychiatry. Nobody is suggesting that you have to be here, and certainly nobody is imprisoning you to this website like a concentration camp. We acknowledge that these atrocities do happen out in the world, and the standard here is that we discuss them with civility — with just enough detachment to refrain from trying to shame and destroy those we disagree with.

    Bob isn’t MLK, and MIA does not set out to single-handedly solve the human rights problems in the mental health system. That is not our role, nor what we aspire to… with respect and acknowledgement that some of you would like it to be. I think there does need to be an online community totally focused on this as its core mission. Maybe MindFreedom or another existing organization could serve this purpose. Maybe there needs to be something brand new. I know I would happily build and help run such a site, if there’s a team and resources ready to make it happen!

    I think the reason a lot of people pressure us to be that way is because there’s nothing else out there even close.

    It might be helpful to check out the comment I just posted above about how one of our intersections is between modernist and postmodernist thinking about power, oppression, science, medicine, and so forth. Our scientist friends may not think about these things in the same way as you or I, but here we are, welcoming them to this dialogue, because a discussion of the science is relevant to our mission. As is a conversation about oppression and human rights. In my estimation, a fallacy of the aggressively activist view is when people claim that any inclusion of old-paradigm thinking in the discussion means a total dismissal of a sense of caring about justice and human rights.

    I fear this is what you are saying when you write “It appears that MIA doesn’t believe these issues are really important.” These issues are hugely important to me and to other members of the team. I wrote about them in this very blog post! These kinds of words make me wonder if I’m being called a liar. But I don’t think that is really what you meant.

    Our approach is to hold a civil dialogue in the heart of the conflict, which is something that I understand happened with other movements also, including civil rights and and abolition! I’ll admit that this isn’t always as exciting or heroic as the powerfully activist campaigns, and so it’s no surprise these conversations didn’t end up in many history books.

  • Thanks for chiming in Jill! I think we can all agree that the current paradigm of pharmaceutical use to treat human distress is massively failed.

    One part of this dynamic I see raised in your comment is that the primary epistemology of many of our community members is a postmodern one, where we are inclined to see a basic truth in the interplay of language, stories, experiences, and social systems. We look at the patterns and effects of cultural constructs like symbols, memes, and labels. We deconstruct power structures and point to data that sometimes lives in our own hearts, our sense of justice, and what it means to be human. This heuristic seems especially useful to me when talking about suffering, oppression, and imbalances of power. These problem don’t always show up in the data — and are sometimes even obfuscated by it! Sometimes claims to scientific epistemology is used to protect harmful imbalances of power, and I think many people here are therefore sensitive, and perhaps even fearful, about the ways psychiatric research is implemented and used.

    I see in every discipline that when the postmodern views butts up against a scientific epistemology, the two parties can have a lot of difficulty understanding and working with one another. The folks interested in analysis of personal experiences, motivations, and systematic forces get angry at the more science- and data- oriented thinkers for not experiencing the same paradigm.

    I believe there is a lot of value to both views, and the thing we cannot do is say “this is just a science blog,” or “this is just a rights/anti-oppression/advocacy blog.” Every blogger and every post is going to potentially face both of these basic epistemologies in the discussion. I hope that we can find better ways to include all of this in our discussion in an integrated way, and would be curious to hear any of your thoughts, as a blogger, about how to prepare other scientists for entering into a milieu where this other paradigm is very active.

    Personally, I’ll say that I do suspect there are quite possibly biological correlates/mechanisms to all behavior, but that these are endlessly overdetermined by, and intertwined with, our interactions with other people. Therefore, the mechanism of an individual brain is only one part of the picture. I believe we have the power to radically change our own and each other’s brains through human relationship, such as what we are doing right here!

  • It’s not only the professionals who take a “drubbing,” and much friendlier professionals than Moffic, like Steingard and Littrell most recently, have also been subject to a severe abuse and misrepresentations.

    I realize that one problem is I remove these comments and you never see them again, so people don’t understand how uncivil some remarks are. From now on all moderated comments (except spam and zero-content posts) will be copied and saved in the moderation forum so you’ll be able to see for yourself what happens and whether this guidelines make sense to you.

  • This is not particularly about Moffic. There are many much more recent examples of people attacking each other, people who are already much closer to being in agreement than Moffic and his detractors. Now that I’m beginning to catalog these instances in the Moderation forum, you will be able to review them yourself and make up your own mind about the usefulness of this policy.

    I agree that Moffic’s attitude toward the community was unhelpful and often befuddling. Kermit, our editor, and I are teaming up to work more intentionally with the doctors who write here to try to manage this issue from both ends. I have no problem moderating blog authors who make misrepresentations or uncivil remarks toward commenters. If I had been more involved as community manager when Moffic was active… well it’s hard to imagine. I don’t want to rely on the past for making assumptions about how this stuff will go in the future. I hope that the clarity and sincerity of what I’m proposing here is sufficient for most of you. If it’s not, then we’ll have to prove it with our actions, and all I can do is invite you to stay in touch and see what happens for yourself.

    Just today I was accused by a prolific commenter here of lying about all of this and really wanted to sneak in more psychiatrists to better uphold the status quo. It was suggested that going down this road we would start taking money from big pharma. All I can say is that this line of thinking is nonsense, and truly feels like an insult to everything we’ve been trying to do here.

  • This avenue is not open for you to fight your fight if it means violating these guidelines. There is no judgment here about anyone’s personal views or what you want to do elsewhere. These are simply the standards by which this community is able to achieve its mission. This isn’t actually a request — it’s an invitation. I’m inviting everyone who reads this site to be a part of a civil dialogue. If you don’t want to I, sympathize with that and wish you well on whatever path works for you.

  • In the new editorial guidelines for authors that will be sending out soon we include explicit encouragement for bloggers to participate in the comment discussion. Blogging is a weird intersection itself between old-media publishing and a discussion forum.

    It doesn’t seem fair to require bloggers to respond. Sometimes people just have no good response, and forcing them to speak is another form of violence. As someone who has been depressed, confused and anxious I can speak to this from personal experience. I know I’ve also been called out on being flat-out wrong, and it can take me more than “a reasonable amount of time” to fully understand and speak about the issue without being defensive or aggressive about it. Sometimes returning to original context where I was called out can take a very long time. So, in my understanding, being required to speak by a group in a heated discussion is itself a form of shaming in many cases. That practice, while it might push some conversations forward, would be in danger of doing more harm than good in other cases.

    As much as I’d like to, I don’t know that we can do anything to enforce a highly enlightened or sophisticated conversation here. What we can do is protect the space from that which brings the quality down. The rest is up to our individual empathy and skill in conversation. Alas, (and I say this for myself, not you) there may be no community management magic bullet to make sure the right or best things (in any one person’s opinion) happen in a dialogue.

  • I am a firm advocate for educating our less rights-oriented bloggers about how their language might be oppressive and triggering for our survivor readers. I’ve been talking about this for a while with the rest of the team and I hope we are getting better at it.

    My personal experience has been significantly less traumatic than yours, so yes, it’s easier. I’m not asking everyone to communicate like a saint. If something somebody is writing is too upsetting, you might choose to not participate in that part of the conversation at all. I have a lot of sympathy for being triggered when reading things online. It happens to me in other conversations and I have to walk away a lot.

    I appreciate what you’re saying about sometimes being attacked when working as a civil rights worker. For one thing, on an internet forum the whole conversation is a lot more tenuous than at a meeting or a rally. I think it needs more protection to have a healthy dialogue. Secondly, not everyone who takes part here is fully seeing this as a civil- or human-rights conversation. I know I certainly do! But fundamentally the one thing that brings us together is rethinking psychiatry, particularly its problematic conceptions of mental disorders and the failure of drug treatment to have good results. Many of us see this as an issue of rights, oppression, stigma, and so forth, but some are coming here from a clinical framework, and we’d like to allow them to be part of the conversation.

    When those of us who are able to gently explain the human rights issues at stake, we may find ourselves with powerful new allies!

  • I do understand that they are professionals with a job. I also believe that throwing every member of an oppressive class into prison is not a kind, effective, or practical goal. I think that kind of revolution breeds further resentment, discord, and danger. It stymies healing. It encourages violence, aggression, and further “othering.” One of my own favorite things is witnessing people change in this lifetime, and I’m actually skeptical of most incarceration for many of the same reason I’m skeptical of biological psychiatry: I believe change and healing are always possible, and that ones prior behavior, no matter how disruptive or harmful, does not define one’s character.

    Regardless of my personal beliefs, what we are striving for here is to hold a civil dialogue, which is at odds with the sentiment you are expressing. Perhaps some of my other responses here might help explain that further, but maybe not. So if what you need from a community is full support in issuing shame, then I do humbly and respectfully acknowledge that this isn’t that place.

  • It’s not okay to say you were badly harmed and severely wounded by being a compliant patient?

    I certainly didn’t say this.

    It does seem to take practice and intention to speak kindly, or at least politely, about things that we’re really pissed off about. I’ll write more about my own experience with this in another blog. What I’m saying here can be mostly boiled down to “Please don’t attack or misrepresent people.” Simply sharing what happened to you doesn’t do either of these things. I believe that simply sharing our experience is one of the most powerful forms of communication there is.

  • It’s a psycho-physical equivalence perhaps, or an unkindness equivalence to speak abstractly. I’m not judging morality on some scale of one to ten. I will suggest that it takes a similar attitude, perhaps even a similar physiological state that we can notice in our bodies, to abuse someone else in any context. These attacks, of any intensity, cause stress and shut down dialogue. I don’t care about measuring it, about arguing over the merits of trading small stabs and blows for the bigger ones we received. Any attacks between members of this community are not welcome. That is the standard that we believe this dialogue merits.

    We do not all agree “that many, if not most, psychiatrists are fine with the abuses because they only care about their own gain…” which is precisely the point.

    We are here to rethink the situation, shift the paradigm, and maybe even heal along the way. If psychiatry and rape were equivalent, which I cannot agree with, we could be having the same conversation about rape culture. I understand that what I’m getting at sounds completely mad to some of you. I’ve actually seen rapists, yes even rapists, change their mind about their behavior when confronted with gentle and patient first-hand accounts of how rape affects victims lives. This kind of non-violent intervention is much more likely to turn the former rapist into an ally than shaming and excluding them.

    There is a choice to make here for violent communication or against it. Do we want to make room to include people or do we want to shut them out and shame them? This is a pragmatic issue, not a moral one. Our mission can only be effective if we choose the former, and so that’s what we’re doing here.

  • When they are presented with evidence that their drugs are causing brain damage and worsening peoples lives and future and respond with denial or rationalized arguments, they are not simply just unconsciously being ignorant albeit well intentioned.

    Maybe in some cases. But not every psychiatrist has yet had a really full view of the evidence, and even the ones who have, we cannot always be sure they are acting maliciously. See my post below about it being better to be wrong part of the time in assuming good faith than unkind all of the time in assuming bad faith.

    They are defending these drugs IN SPITE of science and the well being of their patients.

    To include them in our dialogue and expect them to be reasonable and willing to change their opinions is akin to asking them to give up their careers and cut ties with the medical community and their sources of funding. It’s never going to happen.

    If you are certain of this. If the only way you are able to think about this is by using the word “never,” then yes, this may not be the discussion community for you. We do believe that dialogue can effect changing paradigms. As far as I know it may be the only thing that ever really has.

    On the other hand, it may be a possibility that this is not a “never” situation — that there are in fact people who read post here who change their minds, such as Dr. Sandy Steingard. I know of many other psychiatrists and mental health workers we have talked to who have been seriously moved and swayed by Bob’s work and the writing on this site, but are unwilling to come “out” publicly so far – sometimes due explicitly to the past viscousness of comments in this community. But we cannot possibly ever know of their existence if we have already decided on “never.” We become just as blind as them. If it’s us against them, then they are always wrong and we are always right and they will never change. Sound familiar? I’ve heard psychiatrists talk about patients this way. What a trip!

  • I want to say that I sympathize tremendously with this sentiment. For me, it goes a lot bigger than psychiatry. I think a great many of our core social institutions are oppressive, corrupt, discriminatory, and in some “ultimate” sense, criminal.

    At the same time I am very sensitive to the fact that everyone is at a different points on the spectrum of clearly seeing these paradigms and understanding them. I feel it is violent to meet ignorance with abuse.

    You say that the only reason you see for some people to act as they do is personal gain… I think this view might miss what I see as a great deal of confusion, misinformation, lack of education, limiting beliefs, emotional manipulation, and other forms ignorance that sometimes go very deep in peoples’ hearts. Very few people conceptualize themselves as evil or self-centered. Often folks seem to end up doing things I would consider really harmful, while holding beliefs and self-conceptions that are fundamentally positive and well-intentioned. It seems crazy, I know! I suggest it could be that environmental forces and the behavioral training we receive from our experiences are very much at work in harmful behavior, perhaps more so than any intentional, well-thought-out choices.

    And if these choices and behaviors are unconscious, then perhaps they can be brought to clarity and consciousness, effecting a paradigm shift, through inclusive dialogue.

  • I want to thank you for jumping right into the heart of this with me.

    Intentional discrimination, in all its forms, is not allowed on this site. It isn’t allowed in the blogs or the comments. Where this gets confusing is on occasion when individuals do not realize that their speech may, in certain contexts, be discriminatory and oppressive. Once upon a time, people fundamentally did not understand that the n-word was problematic. Someone had to explain it to them. A lot of this explaining happened in angry, shaming ways in public. But actually a whole lot of it happened in gentle, patient ways as those who came to understand racism (and sexism, and heterosexism) educated their friends, families, and communities. We are in the same position now.

    When we disagree with someone’s speech, we can take a stand by politely, and generously explaining the problem when we see it. We can assume in good faith that anyone writing here is fundamentally kind and well-meaning. Even if it turns out we are wrong 1% of the time, that’s a whole lot better than dumping abuse on these people 100% of the time.

  • David, maybe this is something you or another of our bloggers could write about? Registering a deconstruction of a show like this into the Google-sphere would be a very interesting experiment. We do pretty good trade in SEO these days and such an article could easily show up right alongside the show itself in search results.

  • So why not acknowledge the healing that has occurred when it’s not seen as a biological phenomenon? Why is that relegated to “I wish it could,” and good intentions?

    Again, perhaps she hasn’t seen it herself, or doesn’t understand what this even looks like. Someone who spends a long time thinking of everything as a biological phenomena may not have the linguistic or conceptual framework to adequately hold another paradigm. This is not a failure on their part, it’s just how minds work. However, the truth remains that we do not know. Implying that she’s stubborn, or a dunce, or intentionally dismissive is certainly not the way to find out.

    I also find it dismissive, for whatever reason.

    To turn this around your own argument, you are judging that it dismissive because you didn’t experience her acknowledging you. In another context where she isn’t being ganged up on by a series of, as deleted comment said, “devastating critiques,” Jill may, for all we know, be much more amiable about discussing alternative paradigms that she’s less familiar with.

    All I’m saying, and I’m saying it strongly, is that it’s possible to disagree and offer an alternative paradigm without going extra out of our way to try to make the other person look wrong, stubborn, dismissive, hateful, stupid, ignorant, etc. The fact remains that we do not know what they think and feel beyond the words they choose to use here. As the posting guidelines state, we give everybody the benefit of the doubt, because we believe that’s what allows the most insight and good dialogue to flourish.

  • Third time’s the charm, I guess? Thank you for making these points while — mostly — not accusing Jill of saying or believing things that you cannot know for sure. Your points about existing “cures” for “schizophrenia” are spot on and a very useful part of this conversation.

    There is still an issue with your characterization of Jill as “dismissing things that don’t fit in her ideology,” which was a similar theme in the two posts I removed. We cannot absolutely know whether an omission is out of dismissiveness, hatred, ignorance, non-chalance, or several other motivations unless we ask someone directly about it. Nothing that Jill wrote explicitly tells me that she is dismissive of other paradigms of understanding voices. Perhaps she is simply particularly focused in her thinking on the biological paradigm. To use an analogy, some people are really amazing technical dancers or musicians, but don’t improvise or perform with others. Some people are really good at fixing cars but mediocre drivers. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, some people are inclined toward a holding a holistic or relational view and others tend toward diving deeply into one narrow way of understanding things. Regardless of whether we ultimately agree with her conclusions, Jill is offering insight into details of brain science that could be interesting and relevant for all of us. It is not necessary that she change her conclusion to match what anyone else believes in order to have a civil dialogue.

    Thus, this post could be a tad more polite in expressing some curiosity and asking the question about what she believes rather than asserting that you know why Jill chooses the words she chooses. Truly, we cannot know that.

    Thanks for everyone’s contribution here. Remaining polite and supportive of each other is, in my mind, the most important way we can embody a healthy response to the problems with the psychiatric paradigm.

  • Let us please be generous in addressing those with whom we disagree. I’m getting a very worried by the “lack of response,” callouts I’m seeing in the comments here.

    Nobody is ever obligated to respond on anyone else’s timeline on this site. Perhaps Jill needs time to reflect on what was written. Perhaps she doesn’t care. This is her business, not ours. Some bloggers and commenters don’t respond at all. We do not, as a community, hold an expectation that individuals must complete a dialogue to our satisfaction. And even in a world where such an expectation existed, does sixteen hours over a Saturday night since the last comment really constitute “disappearing”? Or could we be jumping to conclusions? Might it not be fair and appropriate to pause for a couple days before making sweeping assertions about a person’s behavior being avoidant?

    I think there’s some wonderful dialogue happening here. Important arguments are being made with attention to detail and civility. Let us not cross beyond the pale into shaming or judging someone whose statements are being strongly criticized by a choir of detractors. We are not here to do war with one another. Please state your disagreement with the ideas being offered, not your dislike of the person offering them.

    I like to bear in mind that it requires great courage and integrity to engage effectively in any conversation where I am the one with the unpopular view.

  • This is an excellent point and I think your experience is very reflective of how things work today. I don’t mean to dismiss it at all or oversimplify things. I think society’s relationship with mad people has grown into this arrangement as psychiatry as become medicalized.

    I suspect that the social pressure from family and friends in particular of those in treatment has been a factory in psychiatry building up its “professional” credentials, partly as a passive and active defense against criticism from those loved ones and the occasional concerned citizen. As Bob’s books indicate, it seems that madness was engaged with (and resolved) much more readily by families and local communities prior to the late 20th century surge of the drug-oriented psychiatric system.

    Today the general populations isolation from, and fear of, madness makes it much harder for people to relate and connect than might have been true in the past. I’ve read accounts from indigenous tribes where instances of madness were seen as beneficial lessons for the community and everyone would gather around and listen and dialogue until the group learned what it needed to know from the situation.

  • One of the most powerful ways to interrupt ( and correct ) and bullies and abusers is simply to sidle up to the victim and publicly display sincere rapport with them. This triggers basic social signals about who’s behavior and existence is worthy of love and attention. The perpetrator is almost always shocked, like Stephan’s colleagues.

    I speculate that this is why so much of psychiatry has to take place behind locked doors. Good-hearted Samaritans would be swarming to the sides of patients otherwise. More public criticism results in more isolation from public view to protect the professionals from scrutiny and shame.

  • I’m certainly not condemning your point of view or your choice to take a strong activist position. The fifty years question is an important conversation to have. It’s also important to talk about the one year plan, the one month plan, and the one day plan. To my mind, every person who is diverted from a violent system is a victory, with benefits for that person and society a whole that resonate into the future because one less persons life has been horribly muddled by trauma in the psychiatric mill. In order for most people who find themselves stuck in this all-encompassing system to find freedom from it this year, somebody inside needs to offer some leadership. One day when the majority sees the issues at stake clearly, coercive psychiatry will be shunned like the gay-therapy programs recently in the news again, and staff will be hard to come by outside of a small group of ideologues.

    Until that time they can always fill their ranks with fresh young oppressors who have been Indoctrinated by schools and senior staff that this is a good system. I’m saying: bless the hidden and not so hidden rebels who are on the ground daily in effort to divert people from many of the worse offenses of the psychiatric system.

    I see your clear and accurate criticism of coercion, and I want to celebrate that some people are avoiding a much worse fate thanks to insight and intervention with teeth from folks like Sandy.

    I realize the torture theme of the day is a hugely triggering one that’s gets everyone’s righteous anger on the rise, including me!

  • I think a tough question, that I appreciate Sandy and other psychiatrists are in a place to help address, is how to best work with people who are in the system right now. How to respond effectively to truly difficult situations given the current legal and social structure around forced treatment. Situations where, say, if one encourages use the of the criminal justice system, the person will very likely end up forcibly drugged in a “prison” rather than a “hospital,” because in fact the systems are so deeply intertwined. It’s impossible to talk about jail vs. forced drugging as if these were actually discrete options.

    I suspect that people “on the ground” like Sandy are very interested in the most effective way to practice harm reduction NOW, rather than focusing on 50-years-down-the-line, which I’m grateful for. The more people are sucked up in the system today, the more fall-out there is later. Something I notice is that those who stay in the system of forced and coerced treatment longer seem to experience a spiral of trauma and powerlessness that makes their behaviors increasingly difficult for others, to which the system responds with even more forced treatment. I hope Sandy and others can help promote gentle ways of extricating people from an oppressive system.

    I do agree that the quote about “whether the patient feels respected,” seems naive in the face of the life-altering imbalance of power often at stake between the patient and the therapist/psychiatrist. So many people have told me how terrifying it is to say the wrong thing to a “trusted helper” (or even to a friend, who then reports on you) and end up forcibly carted off to a hospital. This is one of the first things that absolutely needs to change. Ironically, if we changed the system to listen to better and stopped criminalizing the very common occurrence of suicidal or violent thinking, far fewer people would actually end up taking their lives.

  • I am aware that people do not use the forums very much and I would like to see them be a place where exactly this sort of conversation can be happening. Thanks for bringing it up here!

    I want to encourage you to also make this post in the forums. The discussion will not pick up there unless someone starts new topics! Since the blog posts are so ephemeral, this question may drop off the map soon. In the forums it will stay present for others to engage in.

    In my personal experience the strain that major life changes and personal development can have on relationships is a common issue. I know people who who have similar trouble with their partners after going through therapy, attending a meditation retreat, or having some other transformative experience.

    Good luck working it out together! To me it seems like a mixed blessing, but very much a blessing, when the parameters of an intimate relationship change and both people have to grow into the new reality.

  • Basic html actually is accepted in the comment form. You can bold or italicize chunks of text. The blockquote tag might work too, though I haven’t tested it for users.

    This instruction is written below the comment box and has been for some time. (This is a blockquote)

    I had a plugin that enabled bbcode, which is a little more friendly and familiar to forum users, but it broke something else that I’ve since upgraded. I will go back and see if that works. I don’t want a WYSIWYG editor in the comments for a few reasons, but there’s no reason you can’t use basic html/bbcode formatting to make your comments more readable. Try it!

  • As a moderator I want to point out that this post is pushing an edge. To write (I paraphrase for concision, but do not mean to negate the full content of your comment) “you’re ignorant and I’m disappointed in you but I can’t be bothered to tell you exactly why right now,” is not a civil form discourse. I know I would feel pretty perturbed reading something like this directed toward me, because this kind of language is often used in personal attacks. This is not to delegitimize your family issues, which I’m sure are serious and genuinely keeping you from spending more time on this comment!

    To me, an amazing benefit of online communication is that it can span across time and space so we have the freedom to only post when we are at our best. I think I should add something about this to the posting guidelines.

    It my mind it is better to simply delay response until I am am able to do so thoroughly. That being said, I don’t want to get into judging subtle intricacies of peoples’ communication style, so please take take this as a suggestion, and not as a new rule being invoked.

  • I think it’s likely that most people who commit major crimes have some history of trauma, neglect, or being failed by social systems. Many do benefit from efforts toward psychological and emotional rehabilitation when they are (rarely) offered in prisons. What you’e raising is a good point that ought to involve an overhaul of the entire criminal justice system, not only the “prision or hospital” double-bind.

  • The only appearances of the phrase “anti-catholic” on the page — twelve of them — were written by you. It appears you have a personal problem with Duane. This is not the venue for that. If you see a post that constitutes a personal attack, the proper course of action is report it or send me a note, and I will remove it — perhaps I missed the reference you are referring to. It does not serve our readers to draw out perceived slights in post after post as some people have done on this thread.
  • Friends,

    This is a whole lot of interesting but also very off-topic conversation on this news post. I want to encourage you all to please use the forums section, which has seen some more activity lately, that you all could contribute to further. You could start at thread about Christianity there and discuss this topic in as much depth as you like.

    These very long off-topic posts make the comments impregnable to anybody but the participants. Look back at the thread here. Pages and pages of comments by only five or six people, out of the one thousand or so who have viewed this article.

    As for all the comments that were reported, I will say this: We remove comments that constitute personal attacks and other forms of incivility explicitly stated in the guidelines. We do not censor because somebody finds an idea or an interpretation offensive or incorrect. We have dialogue about it.

    I’m glad to see that Seth and David and others could come to some greater mutual understanding here. I do believe that empathy, listening, and acknowledging the needs and concerns of others are some of the best tools for effective dialogue and creating change.

  • I want there to be more like you all! I will proudly be a pusher of addictive, informative, civil dialogue about issues of oppression. Ring me up when this site starts to do more harm than good and I’ll fall on my sword with a smile knowing it was all worthwhile.

  • Sure thing Donna. Here is what I submitted to the Scientific American website:

    The shocking thing about Mr. Lieberman’s apology for his profession is the fact that he ignores the pressing concerns for human rights and empowerment that come directly from survivors of lies, coercion, and other offenses in the psychiatric system. This talk of “self-promoters” and people who are “anti-mental-health-care” are strawmen that apply to perhaps 1% of those who would describe themselves as anti-psychiatry (I wouldn’t accept that label on myself, but I advocate for many people who would).

    I can only hope that Mr. Lieberman and his colleagues will take time away from profusely defending their ideology to read and listen to the many first-hand accounts of those who experienced their lives being taken away from them by psychiatry’s labels, authoritarian power structure, and so-called “medical” treatments. Last I checked very few individuals experience patterns of psychological and physical duress, dehumanization, and stark disempowerment at the hands of cardiologists or gynecologists. One obvious reason being that high-handed enforcement of normative behavior with drugs is not the purview of these respectable disciplines.

    These personal stories, offered by struggling survivors, can be found all over, including on our website: https://madinamerica.com and now in the form of hopeful video testimonials at http://openparadigmproject.com

  • Friends,

    When it comes to the material that most aggravates us, it is important in terms of the mission of this site that we take special care to maintain civility in our comments, as per the posting guidelines. The idea here is that we make this space more accessible to those who are “on the fence,” and also provide a more effective critique, when we avoid vitriol and disparaging others in our comments.

  • So aghast I was when I read this that I couldn’t help but to make an attempt at a civil but critical comment on the SA site. I invite others to chime in, with as much politeness as you can muster. They seem to publish comments immediately.

    The words of someone like him can all too easily invalidate passionate responses if they appear “irrational,” “self-promoting” or whatever other dismissive turn of phrase he might come up with to ignore addressing the content of the critique. Best, I think, to engage as coldly and directly on-the-point as possible in these settings.

    I left a great deal of his argument unaddressed so as to keep my piece short. I hope others will be motivated to offer their own point of view.

  • Good point! I appreciate the feedback.

    That was actually a temporary measure to help me narrow down and block the bad traffic. I’ve set it to throttle (not block!) traffic from users who make more than 15 views-per-minute, and if that’s still a problem for any readers I can certainly put it a little higher. This helps me identify malicious bots when they come around, which they are still doing.

    I’m also working on a way to better serve cached files to logged in users. Right now they are all generated dynamically and that’s where a lot of our server load comes from.

    Feel free to be in touch with me directly about whatever problem you perceive in our firewall: [email protected]

    I agree that hiring a security consultant will be a good idea.

  • I don’t like the world “progressive.” I do personally hold a very inclusive stance and would like to see proponents of other anti-oppression causes become more aware of the issues we are raising here. There’s a great deal of commonality among all people who have been harmed and dehumanized by unjust power structures, and allies are important in creating change.

    However, MIA as an institution is strictly a site for rethinking psychiatry. Whatever solidarity might happen in the activist movement, we have no reason to deviate from our basic mission to hold a space for this community.

  • Thanks ATC. I think you make some good points here. As a long time internet geek a have a certain sympathy for the “hactivist” crowd. Our message is a hard one to broach with that community, and I think you are right that this is partly because of the aggressive forms of Atheism insistent on reductive understandings of the world.

    I do suspect that a force at work is the wide, disempowering prevalence of accepted mental illness diagnoses among this population. I’m speaking from experience, as someone who has found myself feeling both extremely disenfranchised and at home spending long stretches of time alone on the internet with others like myself. Individuals in America in this position are very likely, in my experience, to have been handed diagnoses of aspergers, ADHD, depression, anxiety. Most importantly, we seem particularly prone to resign ourselves to the belief that there is something deeply wrong with us, and then take out on the world in various ways. In my case I was skeptical of prescribed drugs and only took them in brief spurts, but I kept that belief in my brokenness for a long time.

    When I feel like something must be wrong with me, it’s easy to go to pretty extreme measures intellectually and socially to justify that feeling and make sense of it. I will even go so far as to zealously try to convince other people that there’s something wrong with them too, and perhaps that they should be taking their “meds” as the doctor orders. I have seen this play out many sites that cater to technically inclined atheists.

    Personally, I’m not too concerned “the forces that seek to destroy consumer dissent” getting in here. I think your analysis of this trend is excellent. In our case, we are an intimate team committed to this site remaining an independent entity serving the community that is interested in critically rethinking psychiatry. Your concern about lack of scope may be more to the point, and I’m curious what you’ll think about the new features and reports we have in store for the coming year.

    Thanks for your input.

  • To be clear, the records in Google Analytics show the large gap in visits vs. visitors on the front page as far back as February 23rd, so that’s when this botnet started pestering the site. The hits grew during April and early May. It just wasn’t a big problem for our server until it co-incided with a massive upswing in traffic.

    The numbers did surge considerably during the traffic spike, but that may have been caused by various other bots and aggregators picking up on our site due to its social heat.

    On the other hand, it could have been a deliberate attack with limited resources waiting for the right moment to go all in. I really have no idea.

  • Hey folks there is now a link to Pay with Paypal at the top of the individual subscription pages! This will take you to another page with a similar form that will send you to Paypal to complete payment.

    Thank you so much for all the generous donations so far. We have seen more than $1,000 in new annual subscriptions this week and several one-time donations on top of that.

    We do still need more help to keep the site running!

  • PC,

    I think the non-profit vs. for-profit choice is an interesting one. All the non-profits I’ve worked with have had to expend a significant amount of resources gaining and maintaining that status. You actually end up needing more money and time to run a non-profit than a break-even business.

    I wouldn’t put it totally out of the question, but we do not currently have any plans to pursue non-profit status.

    Thanks for your friendly support!

  • Scott, our mission statement can be found on our About Page.

    Personally, I tell people on a work on a media site that promotes human rights for people with psychiatric diagnoses.

    If I understand you correctly what you’re speaking to is a desire for greater solidarity and activism among the groups represented on this site, which I agree is a good goal. I hope we’re able to help facilitate that more this year, and I’m very open to suggestions on how to help make that happen.

  • Anonymous, you offer an eloquent and measured argument here for the avoidance of biological reductionism. You and I have gone back and forth about this a little in the past, and I want to warmly offer one small critique of your thesis for review and reflection.

    “Anymore than I would buy someone claiming that painkillers cause pain, to extend the former NIMH guy’s quote.”

    I want to ask you to buy it! Opiate use is well documented in humans and animals to correlate with increased sensitivity to pain and new experiences of pain in response to previously unpainful stimuli. We might also consider the intense experiences of flu-like pain commonly associated with opiate withdrawal.

    I am in agreement that these phenomena, too, are uniquely determined by the fullness of a person’s life. How much drugs it takes for this to happen to me, how much pain changes for me, what kind of pain, and how I respond to the pain have to do with factors completely unrelated to taking opiates – but the existence of a mechanism there does seem well evidenced.

    The reason I bring this up, is simply to suggest a refinement to your argument — that drug-altered mental processes are more than just “moods.” Like Rutherford, above, I submit that changes to the homeostasis of chemicals in the body may have certain common qualities based on what drug is being taken and whether the use is an isolated ingestion, maintaining a tolerance, or withdrawing. From my exchanges with you I do not think you fundamentally disagree with this. Perhaps you would agree that LSD had a particular effect on the Beatles that contributed to a very different album than, say, if their LSD had been swapped out with methamphetamine or neuroleptics – or sand.

    I personally believe that labeling people “mentally ill” or “manic” or “psychotic” is demeaning and destructive, regardless of the cause of their presentation. I mean only to suggest a minor tempering of you anti-reductionist viewpoint to include, without compromising the integrity of the very good points you make, acknowledgement of the significant, and in some broad ways predictable, impact that drug-use has on peoples behavior and reported experiences.

  • I like the point you make that you’d like to see more action being taken toward changing the system. There is a great deal of agreement about that here!

    Building a human rights movement in the face of a force as powerful and entrenched as psychiatry takes among other things patience, skill, and solidarity. I see our work contributing to this happening. We provide tools, resources, networking, and a database of research and articles for anybody to use to in the effort to raise awareness and implement programmatic action.

    I do think you are partly wrong about the level of engagement of this community. I am seeing, first hand, dialogues and projects happening between people who have connected through this site that I believe could make significant impact in the world. This process is only a little more than a year along — I think we’ll be seeing much more of the fruits of this network in the coming year or two.

    If you think we’re not doing enough to earn your support, please let us know what you’d like to see more of from the organization.

    Thanks Scott.

  • Sera, if the opportunity arises, please relate to Mr. Pies know that while I personally regret that our first several months saw a period of inconsistent moderation, we now have a strict posting policy, responsive moderation, and a “report comment” button. His fear of being subject to unmoderated personal abuse should he choose to join the discussion on Mad In America is unfounded. That behavior is neither welcome nor long tolerated here, as the several people I have moderated and banned can attest.
  • There is a lot of interesting conversation going on in this thread by two of our readers who unfortunately are posting personal insults and bold misrepresentations of each others statements along with their own interesting arguments. This is a note that at Mad In America it is our policy to value civility first.
  • Thank you Donna. I absolutely did not mean to negate the full force of your post, or imply that you really thought people shouldn’t change their minds in general. My intention was to be playful with the turn of phrase. Thank you for your insightful comments.

    It is in our power to – at best – gently speculate about other peoples’ motives unless we have some special insight into the situation. We might deduce that Torrey’s motivation is greed, or power, or any number of things. We can accusing him of being uncaring, of refusing to consider the facts, but the reality is that we do not know for sure. His experience and description of what’s going on may be different. Many people in history have done grossly harmful things with good intentions.

    Pointing out Torrey’s mistruths, which, as you point out, Bob has done here, is in this way a step removed from declaring we know why he is lying. We can make some very good guesses, but that’s still all they are. The purpose of the guidelines here is based in the shared understanding that we would not like an authority to make misplaced guesses and conclusions about our own character and motivations, as often happens in psychiatric treatment. We offer the same basic respect to others, no matter how fiercely we might suspect them of “faults,” or “disorders.” That’s the present standard for being a part of this community.

  • Yes, PC. My point is that it seems unhelpful to perjoratively label someone for having changed their mind, when changing minds is exactly what we’re trying to do here.

    I wouldn’t hope to change anyone’s mind toward most of Torrey’s assertions, but the act of being able to change our minds is something that I celebrate.

  • Usually I remove follow-up threads about moderation, but I think there are good points here I want to address. Parody and satire do play an important role in any subculture or social movement. For a little frame of reference, I’m a big fan of Stewart/Colbert and in a previous life in online community I was a moderator on the bitingly satirical somethingawful.com.

    I want to invite this kind of playful posting, but I think it goes best in our community forums rather than comments on our articles.

    The forums I know have been a virtual graveyard for a while, but maybe the more lively posters among us can make an effort to bring energy there, especially light-heartedness and new ideas. A post in the forums, clearly marked as tongue-in-cheek, could even be linked to in a comment here, but let’s keep satirical remarks off the front area of the site.

    The comments are very public and give newcomers, as well as critics, a first impression of our community. It is particularly important to the mission of this site that we embody the utmost civility in our style of interacting here. The forums offer more leeway for people to interact socially and discuss more radical and potentially offensive beliefs without the same liability in terms of community integrity and reputation.

    In regards to Torrey, seriously dehumanizing anybody is not acceptable in our community. It is a core value of our approach to dialogue that we respect individuals and all they have gone through. I agree with much criticism of Torrey’s work, but that does not make it acceptable to attack his humanness here.

    In response to Donna’s assertion that Torrey is a “big hypocrite” because he changed his mind about his belief in mental illness I say this: May we create many more hypocrites with the work we are doing here.

  • We do not attack or diminish an individual’s character or intentions. Everyone has come a very long way and been through trials the rest of us could hardly imagine to be a part of this conversation. We offer them this basic respect as human beings.

    We are here to discuss ideas and beliefs. For many good reasons, we have our territorial emotions about what we believe, which are considered here to be a matter of personal responsibility. The message of the guidelines is to please not allow the upsetness at having one’s ideas challenged manifest as lashing out against the other person.

    These matters are not up for discussion on blog posts because it results in long derails of discussion on the article. I’d prefer if no one even replies to this post. Please feel free to email me directly or start a thread in the forums if there is interest in having further discussion about the posting guidelines.

    As always, please email me directly with any concerning comments. While I skim new comments regularly, I cannot read them all and miss problematic ones as often as I catch them.

  • I think it’s excellent news that the idea of worsening outcomes for drug-treated patients are being explored in a major journal, although the focus on dopamine supersensitivity seems to me a disappointing demonstration of continuing to wield the neuro-biological hammer with a firm grip.

    What if the experience of being treated with antipsychotics makes people do worse for less esoteric reasons? These drugs cause feelings of physiological weirdness and dysphoria, as well as emotional numbing and difficulty thinking. Combined with the relatively hopeless diagnosis given to psychotic patients, we have a several obvious human factors for why a person’s overall sense of well-being may diminish during treatment, making them more likely to enter further states of extreme distress.

  • The 9300 unique views refers to views by discrete IP addresses, so it doesn’t count reloading the page to read comments from the same location.

    You are among the very few I mention. There are only a few dozen people who regularly comment and track comments on our articles out of tens of thousands of unique visitors.

  • I just want to say I like this post and the comment above. This kind of discussion is exactly why I’m glad we post such findings.

    Please bear in mind that while you may find everything about psychiatric research stupid, that is not the point of view of the mission of this site. Bob’s books are riddled with important psych research findings. The data may contribute to ones understanding whether or not s/he agrees with the researcher’s conclusion.

  • This is ever an ongoing process. I don’t think there is going to be a day when we can say, “a healthy community is now established.” It’s something we all build and rebuild with every post.

    I have enforced the posting policies on several occasions to protect the conversation from the most egregiously disruptive and off-topic posting. We have all worked behind the scenes with people who were having a hard time relating to some of the things posted on the site. This work has demonstrably helped to nourish a space where people from a variety of backgrounds feel safe to contribute. I do not want to give personal examples without the permission of the people involved.

    The forums are allowing for a broader range of conversation and I’m happy to see that happen. Laura and I are talking about how to be more engaged as moderators to help focus the conversations in the forums without stifling anybody’s genuine inspirations to share. This is a delicate process and not something we’re willing to rush into – we do not want to cause anyone harm by moving or editing content, but we do want some areas where the conversation can flow in a way that is free from major tangents. You can look for some posts by us about this in the next month or so.

  • First of all, please report posts you feel an inappropriate to me directly, rather than in a comment.

    David’s posts, while lengthy, do not contain incivility or personal attacks that I have noticed. You have been moderated for repeated posting for the purpose of changing/challenging/influencing a specific individual. His 6000 words are part of a general dialogue and not directed AT anybody here.

  • I haven’t noticed any trolling. If that were occurring we would certainly moderate the offending posts. Please feel free to contact me if you feel that any posts contain an intention to disrupt or troll the conversation.

    For the most part, I have seen the conversation on this site as being remarkably civil since we have created the posting guidelines and required account registration. I think once we start believing in “irreconcilable differences” then we may as well set aside the mission of this community. We are specifically in the business of hashing out certain beliefs and facts that have been long dominated by a view that one way is correct in its understanding of reality and others must submit to that belief.

    I have not included an ignore feature because part of our intention is to facilitate a free and open dialogue within the reasonable guidelines of civility we have established. I think that cutting each other out of our experience of that dialogue would be contrary to this intention. Setting up an ignore button would tacitly encourage users to not respectfully listen to each other. Of course you are under no obligation to read or respond to anybody’s posts if you don’t want to.

  • I think it’s a good question! I’ll see about getting something published on the about page.

    The editorial staff is who you see on the Contact Page: Bob Whitaker, Kermit Cole, Laura Delano, and myself.

    We all play different roles. Bob manages everything, Kermit does the lion’s share of the work, editing the blogs, news resources, media, posting to social networks, and more. Laura edits the Recovery Stories and is working on plans for the forums and future community building features. I help manage the community & social media, and do the web development.

    We all work together and communicate as a team about many things. We are accountable to each other and ultimately to you, in that we are passionate about creating a site worth reading and capable of being a community platform for rethinking the culture of mental health care.

    As you say many people have played some role in influencing the direction of the site. Reader and writer feedback has been one of the primary influences in the direction of the site.

  • There will inevitably be conversations on this site that are uncomfortable for certain people.

    It is true that in many cases discussion of religion does not prove to be productive on the internet. In other places, such discussion thrives and supports people. Here, we are in the business of exploring many marginalized and uncomfortable territories of human experience. We invite civil discussion of whatever topics are raised. As always, we will be responsive to any comments that constitute personal attacks or otherwise shut down the dialogue. If there turns out to be a trend of disruptive and uncivil comments, then we would look at what to do about that.

    In general, I’m not sure that placing topics off-limits is the answer. Failure to communicate and listen to one another is a major cause of the problems this community seeks to address. Here we strive to keep the dialogue as open as possible, only intervening to protect the intention of civil conversation.

  • Hey Ted,

    Please see my comment above. Your previous comment was deleted because there was a problem with the whole comment thread caused by the deletion of the comment you were replying to. There was nothing wrong with your post. Apologies for the confusion.


  • Thanks for this response. I think something significant is occurring every time these feelings and views are stated in an honest and peaceful way. I really liked your statement to me that, for you, “[linking to a biological research lab targeting schizophrenia] is like someone going into an LGBT forum linking approvingly to a reparative therapy website.” I hope I’m not crossing any lines by quoting a private communication. If so, I will remove this post.

    These tender issues of how we understand and define ourselves – and how eagerly some adherents of the medical model presume others are brain-damaged – are at the heart of the conversation on Mad in America. I often think of this environment as a place to practice refining and clarifying the personal, moral, and political ramifications of the medical model, so that we can best communicate with the mainstream world. It is not possible accurately hone our minds and language in an echo chamber where everyone generally agrees with each other. So one important facet of this community is to create space for civil dialogue between parties who disagree. As you note, Bob Fancher does state clear that his views may run contrary to the majority wisdom on this site. Therefore he is taking a risk. He could possibly feel very much in a defensive position by posting here at all. The degree to which we can all civilly and articulately communicate is precisely the degree to which we can learn from each other.

  • I am removing several comments from this thread which cross the line from sharing personal opinion to a personal attack on the author’s character and reputation. Please remember to keep comments civil and review the posting guidelines if necessary.