Thursday, December 8, 2022

Comments by Julie Leonovs

Showing 69 of 69 comments.

  • There are numerous current examples in the media and within mental health and GP services where this notion of the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory of depression continues to be spouted and believed. Terry’s book includes many of these examples. Even now I listen to media shows and media celebrities spreading this myth to the public. I also hear ongoing medical and psych doctors continuing to spread this misconception. It’s happening. Believe it. One of the aim of Terry’s book is to highlight how much this continues to occur in the public domain. The evidence is out there and thoroughly covered by Depression Delusion. This can no longer be denied.

  • Sounds like good research Ute in order to expose the  ‘chemical imbalance’ myth by taking in to account context/behaviour related research and focusing specifically on mind/body inter connectedness. I would hope this would expose the falseness of the artificial disease model and also discredit the areas within which these abnormality are claimed to exist. Of course chemical imbalances exist but I think we need to exercise great caution  when we hear researchers say this is the cause of mental distress. Correlation does not equal cause. Most psychiatrists fail to take in to account context/behavour relatedness, or if they do, the external factors are viewed as instigators for an already existing mental disorder, which lay dormant until  these precipitating external factors occurred.  I do not believe either that ‘chemical imbalances’ should be seen as playing a major role in trauma, fear or distress etc. Researchers are naively looking in the wrong direction here.

    Ok, the scientists may have  ‘expert” knowledge within their own field but the survivor movement includes ‘experts by experience’, which is a crucial factor to pay heed to. Consequently,  traumatised/distressed survivors should  not be ridiculed or considered ignorant because they may be viewed as deficient in scientific knowledge to discredit the ‘chemical imbalance’ notion. More so such researchers could be considered ignorant as they fail to address the external, contextual antecedents of distress as they may never have experienced such traumas.  Maybe if they had then they wouldn’t be looking down a microscope for the answers or viewing pretty coloured images of specific brain areas on a screen. Like I have always said – they need to broaden their horizons outwards, not inwards. This looking for unicorns has to stop.

  • Thank you for responding to this letter Joanna and for your support. I think the majority of the public still believe in the notion of the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory, so it does not surprise me at all by the reaction you got from these university academics. I not so long ago heard a psychologist spout this ‘chemical imbalance’ myth to me (wrong person) and I responded by saying there was no evidence to show this. To which he tried to quickly redeem himself by saying, “Oh, I meant the organic diseases such as epilepsy and alzheimers.” (!) And, if I hear the words ‘similar to diabetes’ one more time I shall scream!

    The marketing of the ‘chemical imbalance’ is something that is deeply ingrained within society and probably one of the most successful brainwashing campaigns ever! The fact that people are advised to take drugs only reinforces this belief that there is an internal biological abnormality at work here. Plus these so called ‘do good’ mental health campaigns such as the Mental Health Foundation and Rethink do more harm that good in propogating such myths of mental ‘illness’ etc. As you state, the majority of people who have no access to literature to dispel these myths are the ones who are most susceptible to believe this information. It also makes our job harder when many mental health professionals hold on to their belief of the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory. Let’s face it, if psychiatry doesn’t have this to grasp on to then where will that leave it as a ‘profession’? In a void with no direction to go and no backing from its greatest bed partner – the pharmaceutical companies.
    And when we have ignorant (or misinformed) TV producers who refuse to act on the broadcasting of these harmful messages, the general public hardly stands a chance!
    We can only but try. Thanks for your comments.

  • Couldn’t agree more Andrew. Misinformation via TV, movies, news reporting etc. It breaks my heart too but more so I am like a red rag to a bull when I hear this kind of information being spresd.
    I also think that mental health anti-stigma campaigns funded by governments, and with a vested interest from big pharma etc, generate far more harm that good. They help propagate the myths. We need anti-anti-stigma campaigns!

  • Thanks for this Fiachra. If the message can get through in a small way then I would be happy.
    So called ‘symptoms’ seen as a sign of ‘mental illness’, can often mask the external issues. That is the danger.
    Ivor Browne is great and very insightful. I would hope he would help individuals find the strength to move away from their ‘crazy making environments’.

  • No competition at all for me AgniYoga. I would choose option 3 all the time. We are all travellers on our own personal journey and we meet and interact with fellow travellers on their journey too. We affect each others journeys along the way. We have good times and bad times and it is how we accept and deal with these milestones that will hopefully guide us through safely. I believe life is a process and we have to learn from whatever happens to us. We can then impart that knowledge to others who may be struggling with their own journey. Above all else we can never lose sight of hope. My own personal opinion is that drug intervention can often take that long term hope away. The drug becomes the hope, which I think isn’t the best way to view how your
    life should be.

  • “For nicotine addicts, for instance, the relapses that occur up to a year after quitting are often interpreted as psychological problems or a failure of will, but are really a sort of wig-out, a temporary physiological state in which the pleasure/pain center of the brain appears to be going haywire in an effort to reach balance. It’s a necessary step that is uncomfortable to tortuous— it can feel like mania or depression; but is really just a wild swing of the pendulum in its effort to reach homeostatic balance. It will pass, and efforts to analyze oneself psychologically during these times are a waste.”
    This is more or less what happens when someone goes on or comes off psychiatric drugs Wileywitch. Hyman in my reference above states this very process by which the brain needs to re-adjust to the chemical onslaught it has just been subjected too. The neurotransmitters can either go in to over-drive or decrease the levels of chemical in the synapses while trying to return to its natural homeostatic order. Such re-adjustments (or the ‘haywire effect’) as a result can be interpreted as the ‘distress’ or ‘illness’ returning, when in actual fact the brain is just trying to restore its natural balance. Of course the answer to this ‘haywire effect’ is to quickly place the individual back on the drug, often at a stronger dose or even worse a stronger drug altogether. Withdrawal was assumed to be a wrong move. But as you stated above, this compensatory adjustment is a necessary step that the individual’s brain has to go through. Sadly many individuals never get past the withdrawal stage due to the above reasons and so, get trapped on drugs for life.
    I think no one would dispute that we are individuals with a highly sensitive brain and will react to our environment at a physiological level. We only need to look at the ‘fight or flight’ response and our adrenalin kicking in ready to defend our self at a moments notice. I am also a great believer that children who have been subjected to long term family abuse will in fact become highly sensitised to their environments in order to be ‘one step ahead’ and ready for attack. No one can deny this wouldn’t have an effect on the physiology of the body, not to mention the emotional or mental effects. But I think it is how we address such issues. It seems wrong to suggest that such a person ‘is the pathology’ and so would need to be placed on drugs, or even diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder (not based on scientific fact). To do this is to say the problem lies with them. It is their internal biology that is at fault, it is their mind that is disordered. We need to start looking outwards and deal with the external problems, not detract from them by saying someone is ‘ill’ or ‘disordered’ and then rely on drugs as the solution. Perhaps as the external antecedents get sorted (if possible) who knows, the individual’s physiology may also become restored towards a healing balance. If you take the external stressors away then common sense would suggest both internal stress and anxiety may subside too. If you place a person on drugs, then we need to ask just what has really been sorted or restored?
    Yes, a clever tactic by the psychiatrists and big pharma to pathologise people and as a result can even divide families. Thanks for your comments!

  • Wileywitch, I think people may ask for a placebo (strange as it may seem), probably because even on this, it was shown to have a few weeks of benefit. It must have been mind over matter, therefore these people may have thought it would work again – or they could harness more of their mind/body power? And some of these people who agreed to the IBS placebo research were quite desperate over their condition – so would be happy to cling to anything. Plus, as you say the fact that it offered no unwanted side effects may have attracted them…although there appeared to be a craving developing for the ‘benefits of the placebo’. So much so that one lady raced around all her local pharmacy shops to see if she could acquire more of these ‘sugar pills’!
    As for placebos for emotional distress, depression etc again I would say the power behind them is the same for physical ailments. I think if you believe a drug will work – then it is more likley to have a postive effect. As many other things can do too such as walking, exercise, listening to music, even talking therapies. Which again highlights as you state the ineffectiveness of using AD’s really because placebos can produce similar benefits – but without the harmful effects.

  • Well thank you Ute! I do feel if people have taken the time to read and comment, then they deserve a reply back. As with much of the system of psychiatry though these issues need to be highlghted and discussed. We need debate, we can’t ignore such matters. Thankfully MIA allows all out voices to be heard, which I am grateful for. I shall endeavour to get around to everyone in time! Namaste.

  • Good point Someone Else. I have heard this many times before that a person going on AD’s has caused more mood disturbances that could be interpreted as ‘biploar’. Over time the boundary between the presenting distress and main effects of the drugs can become blurred. Also when withdrawing, withdrawal effects can be interpreted as a sign that the distress is returning, so the person is put back on the drug or even a stronger version. And so the vicious circle of a life time on drugs can continue.

  • In about a weeks time we will be writing another letter to the TV programme. They have not responded yet. We will also direct them to this MIA site to show them there are in actual fact important issues to debate here. How they respond is their choice. They already ignored one letter last year and now this. We shall see.

  • Hello upanddown. I am sorry you feel as you do.
    Can I just say that because there are those (e.g. academics, psychiatrists, psychiatric survivors, psychologists carers etc) who question the ‘chemical imbalance theory’; this is NOT meant to detract from an individual’s pain any less. What we are doing is questioning the lack of scientific evidence to support this, we are not saying the pain does not exist. And certainly I am not suggesting that because a ‘chemical imbalance’ may not exist that this means the pain is a normal way of living that you just have to accept. Quite the contrary! Depression is a very dibiltating condition but to just mask this off with drugs will not get to the root of a person’s pain or help them in the long term. I would prefer to ask, why is the depression there? What has instigated this? Why now? Was it physical, emotional, trauma, social issues etc? What can be done to ease the person’s pain and how can I help and support this person to help themselves? Granted there are those who would choose to take drugs and that is that person’s choice but in the long term, I would feel there are more effective ways to help an individual rather than give them a bottle of pills and send them on their way. I would want to support and help this person until they are in a position to independently help themselves – by whatever means they choose. If the option is drugs then that is their choice. I think though that if we can move away from the myth of the chemical imbalance, then that allows an individual to focus more on their situation and how this can be recified. In a way we are recognising and validating the pain and depression more by taking the ‘chemical imbalance’ out of the equation. So I am not stating we ignore the depression a person is going through, in actual fact I am focusing moreso on the soul damaging feelings. However, again some people may choose not to go there. Again that has to be respected.
    Can I just also say many academics, psychiatrists, psychologists are not immune to emotional distress and life’s traumas – it is because they have experienced such debilitating pain themselves that they chose to speak out and hopefully help others. ‘Experts by experience’. Take care.

  • Much appreciated Ute for broadening the debate here. I am all for reciprocal learning and a holistic approach to emotional distress. I would say I come from a person-centred perspective where we need to consider all aspects of an individual’s life and their experiences from the psychological, social, emotional, physical and spiritual etc. In a way resorting to drugs does not address anything for the helper or the one going through a process of healing. And it is often a misconception that the ‘professional’ knows best. In a way individuals are ‘experts by experience’ and I think this is where the strength of peer support can be very effective. If an individual has gone through trauma, emotional/distressing experiences then this can help open up dialogue between people going through similar experiences. I would say peer support initiatives are now only starting to be recognised, especially in the UK but as you say to date – not much research has been established yet in to how effective these ‘encounters’ will prove to be. I would say though, that in all therapeutic encounters it has been shown just how important the relationship itself is. Forget the theory; forget the goals or aims etc, if the relationship itself is flawed then little beneficial progress will be made. I suspect this would also apply to peer support groups too? We are relational/social beings so it would make sense that the relationship above all else would prove a crucial factor in all aspects of support and ‘recovery’.

    In terms of the ‘brain imbalance’ you are right, it isn’t as straight forward as saying just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ there is chemical deficiency here. And yes, it is true that our external environments can have an effect on our physiological makeup. But I would say until ongoing research is conducted to show just where there is a ‘chemical imbalance’ in the brain and by how much of a deficiency exists; then psychiatrists and big pharma should hold off making such claims of an internal cause. Plus stating they have specific drugs to target such internal chemical abnormalities is not only irresponsible, but unhelpful and can be lethal too. In the meantime we have individuals taking drugs not to correct an ‘imbalance’ but rather to numb them from themselves and their life! Oh, and probably keeps them quiet so others can move on and live their life too (the scapegoat effect). As you state, the individual is left open to possible neuroleptic over-dosing of the whole living organ-cns-brain leading to extreme physiological, emotional and psychological harm. You only need to look at cognitive impairments, emotional blunting and physical tremors to see the damage long term use of psych drugs can instigate.
    Again I am with you on the alternatives to drug use and the move away from the detached, reductionist paradigm. We need to focus more on community and social support/interactions, creativity, the arts, complimentary therapies, physical activity, empathic healing, healthy living etc. At the end of the day we are all embodied, emotional and interactional beings and as you say, these areas in terms of healing have been badly neglected to date. Thanks for you comments.

  • Hi Fiachra, the video does seem somewhat contrived doesn’t it. He promotes quite a great deal of medicines for physical health too, which makes me think…just who is paying him? I know he says he takes anti-depressants himself (for life – sad), so I think he believes he needs these – for life. Either that or he is using himself in a very clever marketing/advertising ploy (allegedly). I am a medical doctor and I take all of these drugs, including psych drugs – so trust me they are fine (££$$).

  • Thanks Unravel for you kind comments. As regards the placebo effect I think many factors can contribute as to how they may be effective, and likewise with ‘genuine’ drugs too. I also think in both cases above the doctor/patient relationship can be a significant factor (e.g. good and bad relationships). Obviously settings, hierarchy, information given, personal desire for a drug to work, the amount of distress a person is under etc, can also have a powerful influence on the belief that a drug will work.
    I am aware of Professor Ted Kaptchuk from Harvard Uni who does research on placebo effects. I don’t know a great deal about his work but believe he conducted a study on people with IBS telling them they would be given a placebo to help, so as not to dupe them. He found the placebo effect still worked but wore off affer a few week and people naturally sought more of these sugar pills. It would seem placebos certainly do work but much better if people are duped. But obviously, moral and ethical issues arise here. Clearly more research is needed here but under the umbrella word of ‘placebo’ many factors can play a part in this as mentioned above.
    I would like to think of other healing factors too such as good friends, family, support, healthy eating, exercise, fun activities, creativity, music, hobbies etc!

  • Very profound Agniyoga. You ask some soul searching questions. Sadly, by taking drugs though such as antidepressants, these ‘ownership’ questions may never arise. The drugs can take away feelings of ‘who I really am’. They can blur and numb those profound questions you may need to explore. Your autonomy and ownership can be stripped away.

  • Shawn, I am pleased you asked. I intended to keep those interested informed of the outcome but regret to say, to date, we have heard nothing back from This Morning (TM) producers at all. Not one word. Our letter was forwarded to TM from the ITV company itself. But the producers of the TV programme have ignored two emails from me requesting any kind of response at all from them.I wrote about a week ago to them and they never replied back. I did threaten OFCOM to them, which is our English TV and media standards watchdog. I have to say if TM do not reply then OFCOM may be our next move. Failing that, then to write back to the ITV company themselves stating we have heard nothing from TM.

    To be honest Shawn since our letter, coincidence or not (?), the show itself seems to have got worse. They have had more features on mental distress and yet seem to have ignored any points we raised in the letter. It is obvious they are stuck in the bio-psychiatry/medical model ethos and supported by mental health professional from many disciplines who still believe this. So very sad to see.

    However, we won’t give up eh? I will keep people who have been so kind to reply to my article informed, be it good or bad news. Pessimistic as I am, I fear the latter 🙁

    Thanks for asking Shawn.

  • Hi John

    Glad you liked the links. I think the least said about DrKeon the better to be honest. He is so self-assured and seems to think he has it all sewn up. I liked how he said about no x-rays can prove what he is saying but ‘lets just pretend’! Isn’t that just the ethos of psychiatry anyway? Also, yes he did admit he may be talking a whole load of BS. Ok, I say no more and leave that last sentence to DrKeon ;o)

    Yep, there are many who can talk a good game and can be quite charismatic while doing it. As you say, I think Laing’s private life has kind of obscured many of the valid points he raised. However, he is still quoted quite a bit so his name is never far from this movement. But I don’t feel he did himself any favours and it is always his private life which tends to creep out from the woodwork first, especially from our opposition anyway.

    Thanks John

  • Maria
    I certainly haven’t lost the faith that is for sure. I feel the movement is growing not weakening, which only adds to my fight and faith.

    I believe no matter how small a person is, they still have a right to speak – no matter what giants are around. You can’t be silent just because there are many people of great influence and power out there. So what if NAMI and it’s members do not like the alternative argument? That should not stop the likes of Bob or anyone else having their say. We are led to believe we live in a democracy.

    Rather timely, I have just read a piece by Ron Leifer…

    where he states about those in power silencing the dissenters.(Question 1 in the link above) He raises a valuable question…”Who controls the discourse.”

    “A question raised by the repression of the critics of medical model is: “Who controls the discourse?” Who determines which paradigms shall be used for understanding human behavior? How we see the world shapes how we act in it. How we see people shapes how we act towards them. If we see people as machines we will fix them with physical interventions when we think they are broken. If we see people as active agents we will treat them with respect, regard them as responsible, and accept their choices. Classical sociologists recognized that knowledge is a commodity. It has (social) value, either in support of prevailing interests or against them. Paradigms arise in a social context, in relation to the interests and resistance of competing powers. Each society has its own fabric of discourses which establish and preserve its identity and functions. The critique of a prevailing discourse can rent the fabric of society and generate unsettling social change. The repression of critics serves the stability of the prevailing order. At present, there are two principle competing paradigms for understanding human behavior. the deterministic paradigm, of which the medical model is the driving example, and the moral paradigm. The deterministic paradigm explains human behavior in terms of causes. The moral paradigm refers not to any particular morality but to the person as moral agent who desires, intends, plans, acts and experiences the consequences of those actions, for better or for worse. It explains and judges human behavior in terms of desires, intentions, motives, purposes, ideals, actions, values, ethics, context, contracts, and laws.” (Ron Leifer)

    We need to bear this in mind Maria. Do we give in to the majority controlling the discourse or speak out as a lone voice and unsettle those in power controlling the mainstream discourse? Yes, it is always good to have some people on your side for when the giants surface, but not everyone has that. This shouldn’t stop them speaking out though.

    Also you raise a question by Jeff in who has a right to claim themselves as a mental health advocate? Bearing in mind many people who hold themselves up to be mental health advocates have actually experienced the psychiatric system first hand be they professionals who have suffered emotional distress, psych survivors, carers whose loved ones have died as a result of the system, academics etc. The list goes on and I would say these people have a right to speak out and advocate for change because they know by experience that the system is wrong as it stands. Who are we to silence these people? And who are we to silence those who willingly speak out for others because they are too vulnerable to speak out for themselves? I for one would rather people speak out and suffer the wrath rather than allow the prevailing climate to remain, where people are being harmed and the majority control the discourse and say what goes.

  • Maria
    I’m confused as to where some of your comments are coming from. Where did I say I wasn’t an advocate for change or wasn’t fighting the system? All I recall saying to Duane was that we were trying to win for a change over all of those spreading misinformation and the wrongs of the psychiatric system. Maria, I have been an advocate in this movement for a long time now, so don’t believe I need to find my advocate within as she is always by my side fighting the system . Even my voluntary work at a local psych unit involves advocacy and fighting for people’s rights. Not to mention personal experiences causing me to speak out too. I work from both a bottom up and top down approach, using personal experiences (including my own) but also providing research evidence too. Did you see my recent article on MIA? Is this not speaking out and challenging the system as it stands?


  • Forgot to add…if you read this quote from the mother:

    “In my heart, I wish I could hold [Whitaker] and NAMI legally responsible for what is happening.”

    I think in her heart, deep down she knows she cannot hold Bob and NAMI legally responsible (even if she would love too) because somewhere in her own psych…she knows the truth, and it probably lies closer to home.

  • Seems to me as if there was a great deal of scapegoating going on here from the mother.

    “In her letter to Earley, she blamed both me and NAMI (for inviting me) for this bad turn in her son’s life. “In my heart, I wish I could hold [Whitaker] and NAMI legally responsible for what is happening. They gave an alcoholic a bottle of whiskey for Christmas and asked him to join in a toast . . . I damn them (NAMI and me) and if my son ends up dead, I believe his blood should be on their hands.”

    I don’t doubt she cares for her son but maybe she should look closer to her own backyard for responsibility here. She appears to be projecting outwards, laying the problems at other peoples doors because she can’t seem to accept that maybe, just maybe somewhere in there she could be one of those people responsible for how her son is and how he reacted recently. I guess if something had happened to her son she would project outwards even more and blame anyone in sight other than considering she and her immediate family could be the ones who have ‘blood on their hands’. Seems her son may have been the intial early scapgoat in the family – hence him wanting to ‘e’scape after Bob provided him with that ‘eureka moment’- “Yes! Someone finally understands me! Me! Bob a lone voice in a very long, enduring and painful wilderness for this young man it seems.

    You have nothing here to blame yourself for Bob

  • John, Seth
    Well it seems we have some common ground in that we all support Laing in some way. He was certainly a charismatic, eccentric and radical character. Of the series I watched about him in the 1980’s as he stated his views he used to sit and smoke (never allowed on TV today) and I am sure he was drunk too. Clearly he did himself no favours here in getting his valid messages across.

    Must look up this guy Masson.

    And yes, John I do remember the dog, cat and mouse video ;o)

    Here it is I think?

  • Well if 47 going on 48 makes me young I will take it. Clearly, I am still wet behind the ears! (And somewhere there is also dead horse ready to flog). Seth I could be wrong but I don’t believe the anti-Freudian movement was as rife in England as in America during the 80’s and 90’s. Perhaps in London maybe? I know the Tavistock Clinic came in for quite a bit of criticism at that time. I believe they were strong followers of psychoanalytical theory and still are I think. I do recall when I was about 18 discovering R D Laing for the first time (a series about him on TV) and his criticisms of those who believed ‘ ‘schizophrenia’ was an illness. His portrayal of ‘Knots’ and the DIvided Self had a significant impact on me, long, long before I ever started or knew about this movement. I recall in his book the DIvided Self (going off my memory) how he always saw things from the clients point of view and how events in their lives were interpreted wrongly by professionals – always seeing the sufferer as the one with the problem. I believe Laing’s belief was that it was the professionals with the problem not the diagnosed ‘schizophrenic’. The ‘schizophrenic’ was viewed by Laing to be acting absolutely rationally to events he was subjected to in his world. However, as we know Laing himself came in for crticism not just with his theories but his lifestyle too. Anyway, that was may take on the 80’s regarding the mental health system at that time in England. Clearly, more dead horse to flog!

  • Seth it seems clear you have a loathing of Freud (and psychoanalysis) and you give some of your reasons for this, which I appreciate and thank you for informing me of these.
    In answer to your questions a few comments back which I haven’t had time to reply to – no I wasn’t part of the Freudian movement in the 70’s and 80’s (I was in my early teens at that time) and no I haven’t worked with people following Freud’s theories. Clearly you have and so have an inside knowledge of this. I graduated with my degree about 9 years ago and my MSc about 2 years ago. So I guess you could class me as a latecomer to the field here.
    I wasn’t being flippant when I said ‘casting these critcisms aside’ and take such criticisms on board seriously. I said I was a fan of Freud not someone fanatical about him. I too do not agree with all that he ‘discovered’ or how he interpreted his findings. And I do not like the fact that he was clearly biased against women. But that does not mean to say I cannot disregard all the work he did. I believe he has value and so has his work. Freud is not my main influence to be honest as you clearly state yourself Carl Rogers contributed a great deal to the client-centred, humanistic approach. I would say I am more of a humanist and experientialist. I agree more with Rogers than Freud, but that is not to say I can discount Freud’s contributions. Again, I am also influenced by Adler and particularly Jung. I also agree with some of the pioneering work that Skinner did, but that does not mean I am a behaviourist or agreed with all that Skinner did, because I don’t (far from it). I am influenced by many theorists of the past, who are all pioneers in their own way. I don’t single Freud out as the main man (not forgetting women here). And I never said that Freud was the pioneer for all that was good about psychotherapy because he wasn’t. I feel Roger’s had a postive influence here (at least the therapy I would agree to) amongst many others.
    Also you state that Freudians believed that ‘schizophrenia’ was an ‘illness’ and that individuals would never recover from this. I don’t believe this is unique to Freudians. ‘Schizophrenia’ has always been considered an illness of the brain by many theorists and approaches.

    I am vaguely aware of Minuchin and his family orientated therapy and so believe this has value too. I am not discounting what you are saying. Anything that offers an alternative to drugs and biopsyhiatry I am in favour of. I have an open mind here. I would have thought my open letter states clearly how I feel over these issues.
    As for your references to Christianity, Augustine and how that reflects on the human psyche etc. Cleary again you have researched this. So I will give you this. My work and advocacy around this movement has not involved researching religion or Christianity. Although ironically my MSc dissertation was about the role of spirituality in the work of mental health professionals. So maybe your book The Spiritual Gift of Madness is one I should clearly read.
    That’s all for now. Julie

  • Rossa, sorry I havent replied earlier. I was going to look at your links first. Unfortunately, as John states I cannot access the links. You don’t have a full text article of the Fatina work do you? I can’t access this from my academic research sites. All I can get is the Abstract and would like to read the full version.

    I remember when Glenn Close posed for that photo with her sister. I was appalled when I saw this too. Another celebrity spreading the myth of mental ‘illness’ , and yet, they feel they are doing good. Yes, if you wish to maintain the myth then all is well and good. I do not believe this eradicates stigma though only increases it, as the wrong message continues to be spread. I take your point that stigma can increase with a belief someone has a ‘mental illness’ . The words ‘mental illness’ don’t help as these carry years of negative history with them.
    The thing that got me with the guest speakers on our TV programme was that they categorically seemed to state that a ‘chemical imbalance’ was justified in not stigmatising people in distress. Therefore two issues I felt were wrong here, first the notion of a ‘chemical imbalance’ and secondly, their assumtion that it was ok to stigmatise peolple who are subjected to external trauma etc. Hence my desire to redress the balance. But either way stigma surrounds anyone in emotional distress and the media do nothing to counter this.

  • Thanks Donna,
    Many people with a ‘PD’ diagnosis in England are also on drugs. So even though this diagnosis may be classed as behavioural, this doesn’t stop psychiatrists giving them drugs for their depression, low moods or anxiety. And if you want my honest opinion on why ‘bi-polar’ switches to ‘PD’ it is because these professionals haven’t a clue what they are doing! They are literally shooting in the dark when they are presented with someone with ‘complex needs’. So they start off with reading their mood (hence ‘bi-polar’) and then when the person is seen as difficult or treatment resistant (hate that term) they are then given a ‘PD’ diagnosis on top of the ‘bi-polar’. Plus the very fact that the DSM and ICD categories cast such a confusing wide net, allows a psychiatrist freedom of choice on where to place a client on this diagnosing continuum. Many people are given multiple diagnoses not just ‘PD’ or ‘bi-polar’. Such is the absolute farce of the DSM and ICD’s! Plus a diagnosis of ‘PD’ is increasing in England. This is usually given to women but now it appears they are running out of the female population so are moving on to males! It is on the increase almost in epidemic proportions, which just can’t be right. I believe it is the hip and buzz word around psychiatry right now and funding is being piled in to services for this in specific areas. ‘PD’ is now just as popular as ‘bi-polar’ and ADHD etc. When a person presents with ‘complex’ symptoms or is proving difficult (as they are viewed to be) low and behold a label of ‘PD’ surfaces. It concerns me gravely the increase in the use of a ‘PD’ diagnosis, especially when we know how damaging such a label can be but also again there is no substantive evidence for such a diagnosis!

    As for people getting removed from social welfare, yes this is true. But that is just our pathetic government not recognising that people are genuinely suffering with long- term, debilitating, emotional distress. The money saved is going to the rich not the vulnerable in society. No matter what you are diagnosed with the government aims to take away all social welfare from the weakest, poorest and most vulnerable. The government is creating its own stigma by scapegoating those who are suffering, in order to cover up for their own political misdemeanours. But that is another political story!

  • Seth, I agree with what you say about Freud and how he was viewed in terms of his biased views against women etc. Casting these criticisms aside, I just feel that he was one of the main pioneers in his field to recognise and address the internal, dynamic workings of an individual’s world and how they can be affected by external influences. I feel this was a far better approach than the psych drug culture we have now. Which is another reason why I am a strong advocate of psychotherapy, exploration and communication where emotional distress is involved. I too support soteria houses, open dialogue and exploration of hearing voices etc.

    When I talk of therapy I also include art, drama, music therapies, anything that allows an individual to express how they are feeling and explore the dynamics surrounding their origins of distress. I also believe John is correct in saying you don’t need a trained therapist to ‘do therapy’ but that this can also include talking to a good,understanding and supportive friend. Unfortunately, in this day and age finding someone to talk to isn’t always possible, which is why people turn to therapists. When I think of Freud and his couch (although I have read his use of a couch was a myth), to me it is a classic, symbolic reminder that we need to keep talking and move away from seeing distress as pathological in nature. Freud may have his critics but his basic principle of allowing a person to talk their distress out was one his major contributions to the world of mental health. Sadly, many professionals do not recognise this and just see ‘ illness’ and therefore administer drugs because it ‘appears’ more cost effective and quicker to deal with.

  • Hi Donna
    In England most people diagnosed with ‘personality disorder’ specifically ‘borderline’ have often had a label of ‘bi-polar’ first. They graduate to ‘PD’ after this. Seems it is already happening over here. I haven’t had time to check out Dr Ghaemi yet on Psychology Today. When I get the time I will. And try to respond to my other post are here too. Including Rossa Forbes!

  • Thanks John! Must admit I am trying to respond to all comments. It is taking me a while to get around to them all. If I haven’t replied back to respondents yet I will do!

    Have to admit I have always been fan of Freud, but haven’t always agreed with what he proposed. In my younger days (in my early twenties) he was the first person I became aware of who was prepared to explore and analyse the workings of the mind and shall we say ‘soul’? I guess he was the first person I encounted who had ever even attemped this. So I have always admired him for his pioneering work and how I believe he led the way to what we have now in terms of psychotherapy over psychiatry. As I believe. I am a strong supporter of psychotherapy (not all schools of thought) and welcome the fact that individuals are allowed time to explore their own world view and experiences so that they may gain greater insight into their lives. Used in the right way psychotherapy can be a very powerful and enlightening process to enable individuals to move on in their life, unlike drugs which I would say stifles the soul (if we wish to talk of soul here).

    Sorry to say I am somewhat in the dark with the discussion both you and Seth are generating here, as I have not really read around christianity, Augustine, Chesterten etc, but I will chip in where I can.

  • Donna, again you raise a crucial point. I think we need to be very careful in the language we use. You are right that bio-psychiatry (the medical model) has hijacked human emotions and made them medical in nature. I try to be very careful with the language I use now and don’t bow down to ‘medical’ jargon if I can help it. You just need to first look at the language used in the DSM and ICD such as ‘disorders’, ‘illness’, ‘pathology’, ‘disease’ etc. But also we have words such as ‘cure’, ‘treatment’, ‘recovery’ etc. I think if we use the langauge of medicine then we only continue to promote and pathologise emotional distress. If we are wanting a paradigm shift then we can assist in this right away by addressing how we express ourselves and communicate our message to others. It isn’t always easy and we can often slip up but it is all a learning process and is doable.

  • Donna, I appreciate you calling me and ‘expert’ (I wish I was) but I just see myself as maybe an ‘expert by experience’ not to mention my reliance on common sense and just inbuilt intuition that all is not well in the world of psychiatry and the mental health system. To me as a great Irish activist John Mc Carthy once said “This is not rocket science!” And boy was he right!
    Yep, I know of the terrible duo Spitzer and Frances and their lead in the creation of previous DSM editions and Spitzer’s grave mistake in defining homosexuality as a ‘disorder’. As for Allen Frances as Dr Caplan says herself his DSM IV has done great harm to many and yet he now claims to speak out against DSM-5! Sorry, but that is too hypocritcal in my eyes. He claims DSM-5 is full of flaws and yet he hasn’t considered just how flawed and unscientific his own manual was, although I do recall he now acknowledges he too made msitakes with so called ADHD etc. By the very nature that he speaks out against DSM-5 creates a smokescreen from the harm his own manual has caused to others. It implies DSM IV was fine but not DSM-5. Frances is in support of his beloved psychiatry and he believes in diagnosis. He speaks out to save his profession not the lives of those diagnosed. All DSM manuals are bad as is all psychiatric diagnosis. (We cannot omit the ICD-10 either which generates just as much pseudoscience).

    I also agree we constantly need validation in order to recharge our batteries when being surrounded by so much misinformation, ignorance and negativity. So I am pleased to be able to help you with this Donna!

    I don’t think we need to concern ourselves with what happens when the great activists ‘retire’ as there are many new people who will carry the torch forward and their names. I won’t forget the great work they have done. We cannot allow this to happen. And I don’t believe for one moment the great Tom Szasz will ever be forgotten. He has left a legacy that we can’t put back in the box. I feel this movement is growing not decreasing. Global networks are being established – just look at this site.

  • Thanks Seth for the rundown of the medical model before bio- psychiatry. I get what you mean about the belief in illness based around this model and I know Freudianism and the psychoanalytical movement was rife in the 1970’s. – 80’s. Well all I can say is psychoanalytical psychotherapy is still very popular in the UK, especially when professionals believe they are ‘treating personality disorders’. Object relations is the main theory used, especially around the work of Melanie Klein with projection, projective identification, transference, good breast – bad breast, splitting etc. These theories with influence of Freud, Kernberg, Fairbairn etc as you state are still going strong. The theories based around these individuals are what drives psychoanalytical therapy within the NHS here. I agree, as I believe ‘personality disorder’ was seen as incurable even a few years back in England and only now am I hearing professionals starting to say it is about behaviour and bad coping mechanisms rather than a ‘disease’ of the brain. Unfortunately, the labels still stand and even many therapists still think PD is a genuine disorder of the brain and can be treated by drugs. The new buzz therapy just surfacing is dialectic behaviour therapy again specifically geared towards these ‘disorders’ (to rectify faulty emotional reactions and thoughts). I don’t have a problem with therapy as such but I do take issue that many professionals still see these individuals in terms of having an ‘illness’ and that the faults lie with them. Also I often find that the theories take precedence over the individual themselves. They are what drives the therapist rather then the individual driving the therapeutic situation. The majority of people who seek help for emotional distress in the UK get help from the NHS, which is based around bio- psychiatry. So ultimately they either see a psychiatrist or NHS therapist where labels remain. In fact the majority of individuals who seek help have to be given a diagnosis before they can get help. No diagnosis, no help. And the stigma surrounding so called PD still exists among professions be it a belief in ‘disease’ or ‘behaviour’ related. I take issue with this as I know such labels lack validity. People are being stigmatised for conditions that don’t even exist in reality and that is dire. Once labelled, even some professionals are conditioned see the label first or ‘treat’ the label rather than the individual. The individual can’t escape the label because every move they make is assigned to this. And the fact that so called PD casts such a wide net makes it easier for professionals to put everything down to the ‘diagnosis’! So the individual is caught in a catch 22 position! Again I feel this constrains, stifles and prevents true healing.

  • Thanks again Duane. There are some great activists (professionals, psych survivors, carers etc) based both in the UK and Ireland and these are increasing daily, thank goodness! I have been involved in this movement for a number of years now so I know who the main players are in the UK, Ireland and Internationally! There is a strong community developing and linking up.

  • SageSilk, don’t even get me started on the appalling labels of ‘personality disorders’!. These labels alone like all psychiatric diagnosis are not based on scientific fact and yet to suggest the individual’s personality is at fault is atrocious and incredibly stigmatising. I would ask, what part of the personality is disordered and can this be measured in some way? What are the traits that are considered disordered when compared to ‘the norm’? What is the norm in terms of how someone should behave when having suffered trauma, abuse, rape etc? Everyone is an individual and will react in different ways to cope, but on top of that they now have to live with the fact that their personality is at fault. A double whammy! Forget the abuse someone has suffered, forget a possible abuser, forget their pain lets just say they are disorders instead. And yet, their reactions and behaviours are perfectly understandable when we consider the antecedents. Oh and on top of that let’s give them drugs to stabilise this ‘disorder’ even though it is now considered behavioural in nature. Your probably aware to that many individuals are given more than one ‘personality disorder’? So they may be bordeline, avoidant and narcisstic in one breadth. In reality means that the PDQ assessments cast the net so widely, that everyone would be considered to have ‘PD’ traits in some way. This is not scientific, it is fundamentally flawed and yet people are branded with the label of PD, because often professionals don’t know what other diagnosis to give them. It’s also well know that many people are initially given a diagnosis of ‘bi-polar’ before ‘graduating’ to a personality disorder. The psychiatric system is clutching at straws and eager to diagnose with something and yet people are being harmed in the process by such awful labelling. Which like all diagnosis affects how individuals are viewed and are enabled to move towards healing. In fact, it’s very hard to heal when your entire personality is considered flawed!

  • Fantastic reply Donna! We are on the same page here.

    “Therefore, my personal experience with loved ones was with those suffering great distress from domestic/work/school/community abuse related trauma who were in NO WAY PSYCHOTIC, CRAZY, MANIC, DELUSIONAL or exhibiting any of the usual symptoms that psychiatry falsely accuses those they wish to target with their life destroying stigmas like bipolar and toxic drugs to create another permanent patient…”

    In my experience people branded with a psychiatric label/s have always got some significant and tragic life experience to account for their distress. And again…it seems clear to me Mr Fry has too. Yet, it seems these significant aspects are all too often dismissed or ignored.

    I suspect you probably have heard of former psychologist Paula J Caplan a long time activist who speaks out about the harm of psychiatric diagnosis. Also her book They Say You’re Crazy gives a unique insight into the corrupt world of the DSM creation and just how unscientific their methods were and still are. And yet, people are bradnded with these labels! Worth a read.

  • Thanks John. In fairness to Mr Fry, he did not actually make an appearance on the TV show or comment either. In fact he probably has no idea this debate is going on! I asked the editors of MIA to amend their introduction to our letter, which they did so accordingly. But Mr Fry did speak out in the newspapers about his ‘bi-polar’ and recent suicide attempt etc. And yes, he does have a great deal to say on this matter. Sadly, I wish what he had to say was more informed.

    Both Nick and I also copied this letter to 3 British national mental health charities MIND being the one Mr Fry is president of. Also Time to Change and The Mental Health Foundation. It may interest readers here to view what MIND’s reply was. What we expected of course!

    Dear Julie and Nick,

    Many thanks for your email and for attaching your letter of complaint to ITV, which I read with interest. I am sorry that you felt the interview on This Morning on bipolar disorder was misleading and inaccurate. We welcome feedback on programmes such as these so many thanks for highlighting your concerns.

    As I’m sure you are aware, Stephen Fry is Mind’s President and we applaud him for speaking out about his diagnosis. Being so open and honest about his experiences recently and disclosing that he had made an attempt on his own life prompted a huge surge of support and many kind messages aimed at Stephen and other people with mental health problems. Mind experienced an increase in calls to our Infoline on the back of this, with many more people seeking information and support about their own mental health or that of someone they knew. Having a celebrity ambassador is valuable in normalising mental health problems and reducing stigma; and also for reinforcing the message that people with mental health problems can and do lead fulfilling lives, hold down successful careers, and so forth.

    In terms of our position on bipolar disorder, we appreciate that not everybody with this diagnosis likes or uses this particular term, but given Stephen Fry refers to his own condition as such we would think it’s acceptable that this was what it was referred to throughout the ‘This Morning’ programme. In terms of the ‘chemical imbalance’ that is frequently cited, Mind’s position is that the exact causes of bipolar are not yet known and that it’s likely to be due to a number of factors (see our information booklet for further details: Whilst the exact causes are still to be determined, our main focus is on helping people access the support, information and services they need.

    It is regrettable that we still see some irresponsible and inaccurate reporting of mental health within the media but we are working hard to change this. Mind’s joint anti-stigma campaign with Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change, provides a Media Advisory Service and produces media guidelines. Please see for further details.

    I hope this information is useful and all the best with your complaint to ITV.

  • Thanks travailler-vous. I think you are correct in saying stigma has always been there. The question is, who is generating this stigma? On the surface it does come across as ignorance by the media and general public but I would say the roots of stigma dig far deeper than that. If we did not have a long established system that generates so much misinformation surrounding the origins of emotional distress, the rush to single out and label people with unfounded diagnosis that lead people to ultimately believe they are ‘ill’ (and incapable), that will often make them the scapegoat (or black sheep) within their own environment or wider society, then I am sure stigma would decrease radically.
    Yes, it is vital we inform the wider public of these misconceptions and keep plodding away but underneath a far greater change is needed and desperately over due. I think we can work from a top down approach and tease out the weeds but we also need to target the roots too, or else the weeds will keep popping back up. As they do! It is a massive task in trying to change public perception let alone the latter issues. I think we are always going to encounter opposition and criticism. It’s par for the course.

    As the saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and step by step…

  • Good article Donna. It describes well the dynamics of how some people may learn to survive under extreme trauma etc. I haven’t got around to reading the others posts yet! I think the thing is, the brain is a highly complex organ which we just do not fully understand yet. When a person is subjected to what could amount to a lifetime of abuse or extreme circumstances, the only place they may feel able to retreat is inside their head. They will develop coping strategies (often subconsciously) in order to escape and survive, as this quote from the article states.

    ” There’s a saying that “necessity is the mother of invention.” Pushed beyond normal limits, people have discovered extraordinary abilities. These abilities are in evidence by survivors who used their powers of the mind to survive.”

    What concerns me is that the psychiatric system considers such coping strategies to be ‘diseases of the brain’ or ‘disorders’ in the physical sense of the word. I personally see these ‘techniques’ as brave attempts to make the best out of a very bad situation These individuals need to be congratulated for ‘creatively surviving’ not be given mythical labels such as ‘personality disorder’, ‘schizophrenia’ or any other mythical disorder for that matter! Such individuals need time to tease out and explore all of these mixed up thoughts, feelings, emotions etc. Administering a lifetime of drugs won’t help them understand the complexities of themselves or their background histories. And implying they are at fault can be soul destroying. Allowing a person the opportunity to explore and talk about their feelings is one of the most valuable gifts you can offer someone in extreme distress. And for them to gain insight and understanding of themselves is a very powerful enabling tool towards healing. Sadly, in this ‘quick fix’ culture, talking is often last on the agenda and drugs are suggested instead. Ironically, in this day and age psych drugs are ten a penny and talking is too expensive for many services to consider!

  • Larmac, I am sorry to hear of your loss which should never have happened. All too often people say, ‘if only I had known what I know now’. Hopefully, the word is spreading with great sites like these where people are able to voice their concerns and tell of their own experiences. Maybe your mantra should be, ‘if only the professionals had taken more time to explore my son’s lifestyle and his pain, rather than automatically assuming he was ‘ill’ with a ‘disorder of the brain’? How many more lives could be saved if an holistic assessment was given to someone presenting with distress? How many more lives could be saved if they were not subjected to neuroleptic drug affects over the long term? And how many more lives could be saved if only a person was listened too and understood, rather than being considered ‘disordered’ . If only. If only the system would see human beings in front of them rather than ‘labels’.

  • Sigh! i read so many media articles like this Morias. It’s all more of the same. The problem is such articles although well intentioned, I feel create more stigma! My dad has ‘bipolar’ , he is ‘ill’, he can’t help himself, he needs to take drugs all his life etc. The sad part is I think Frank Bruno believes this himself (because of what he has been told) like many other people.I don’t believe such mainstream myths help anyone and least of all the person in distress. We need to show that their is hope and a person can heal (not just function) but heal. A person with the appropriate help, understanding, empathy and support can overcome their distress and move forward. The ‘life sentence’ they are given does not have to mean life. The notion of ‘illness’ maintains a person and creates ‘revolving door patients’ but does not help free them from their underlying distress. I believe Frank did speak out about the terror he experienced at the hands of the psychiatric system and the force they used against him when he was sectioned. He did at that time say the psychiatric system needed to change and adopt a less coercive stance. Sadly, though he has been told he is ‘ill’ and believes this. The concern is, rather than trying to work towards a shift in consciousness, he may ultimately settle for just ‘getting by’ daily instead because of the myths he has been fed (and his family too!) How many more have had their hope taken away? Good point about highlighting this with the BBC too Morias. I guess this will inevitably be my next move!

  • Thanks again for your comments John. You raise interesting points which I understand completely! I always find it sad to hear someone say they have an ‘illness’ when we know of their tragic life circumstances. I feel again it is this misinformation that we need to eradicate in order to get to the heart of a person’s distress. Also when someone has experienced bad events in their life and are told they have and ‘illness’ almost suggests the individual is at fault in some way and so the real perpetrators get off scot free. It’s a form of scapegoating in my eyes and a double blow for the individual to have their feelings invalidated more than once in their life.
    It saddens me Mr Fry also spreads this notion, and especially to the public. He is in fact president of MIND and so many people hang by his very word. That is the danger when celebrities believe these myths but then also become ambassadors for high profile charities who also believe and promote these myths of ‘illness’, ‘chemical imbalances’ , ‘disorders’ etc. Which is why we need to keep challenging the media and such organisations. Mr Fry himself is a great actor and intelligent guy, who I do believe given the right information would have an open mind. However, as is the case with all these anti-stigma campaigns and mental health charities they constrain individuals and are constrained by their funders too, who more often than not are big pharma and the government. Again. I think these ‘do good’ campaigns do more harm than good, because from the beginning they are already starting out with the wrong information!

  • Donna thank you for your compliments! I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s always good to receive validation for what we know instinctively to be true. Often it seems that individuals suffer some trauma in their life, they go to a mental health professional or medical doctor and the first thing they prescribe is drugs. Before you know it the drugs have caused bad main effects including suicidal ideation and depression etc. It reaches a point whereby neither the individual or the professional can distinguish what are genuine human emotions as a result of the trauma or main effects as a result of the drugs. In the end the suffering experienced initially and what caused the person to visit their professional becomes forgotten about or masked by the drugs, and instead the ‘chemical imbalance’ notion wins out. They are told they have a chemical fault in their brain and so their distress of the trauma is ignored and never validated. That can be very soul destroying.

  • Its good to see more psychiatrists speaking out over these issues Philip. I am from England and so am aware of the CPN and many psychiatrists debating these issues over here and in Ireland. However, what concerns me is how much of these debates reach the general public in order to inform and educate them on alternatives to the biomedical model? It seems the only people who are aware of such debates are those within this ‘movement’ itself. Would it not be a possible for all you likeminded psychiatrists to get your heads together and raise these issues in the main stream media and try to get more media coverage, as the BPS’s DCP recently achieved with their Classification Statement? This achieved global attention which I am sure you are aware of and probably appeared as if psychology was speaking out about psychiatry because psychiatry (or some of the profession)did not release a ‘public’ supporting statement to the DCP’s.

    I feel if fellow psychiatrists like yourself spoke out publicly over these concerns then it would offer greater weight to this ‘movement’. I am sure you are aware, this is a very arduous and taxing slog to get both professionals and the general public to take onboard what ‘we’ are saying about the harm of psychiatric diagnosis, drugs and the postivistic way towards treating emotional distress. If those in the psychiatric profession as a collective, targeted main stream media then maybe this would offer greater support to what the rest of us are saying including psychologists, psychiatric survivors, carers, social workers, lawyers etc.
    Just as an example how many people in the UK have heard of the CPN? Again I would say only those within this more widespread ‘movement’. Perhaps it would be good if the CPN released this to the media? Just a thought?

    I would also like to see other psychiatrists contacting the American Psychiatric Association in America about DSM5 (and other DSM’s)and the harm this will create to individuals.

    I wonder if there is a fear of repercussions from fellow colleagues if psychiatrists like yourself go too public about these issues?