I am saddened by the experiences of KateL and by the further rejection and alienation from she experienced from people whose job description it was to ‘help people recover from psychological damage/trauma whatever the current buzzword is for being repeatedly hurt. After long experience with therapy (7 therapists over the course of my life ) , the only thing I can say to KateL about seeking ‘talk therapeutic help’ is don’t bother. If you have the money for it there are other modalities which are more healing than talk therapy – massage, Alexander technique, somatics, EFT – being physically touched as opposed to being talked at can be healing. If you think about it, paying people to be kind or compassionate or listen is the epitome of capitalism – making the provision of having your story heard and being validated conditional on the payment of money. It is making something – love and support – conditional on the payment of money. As such it cannot work as there is a dishonesty at the heart of it that both parties to the transaction – therapist and client – are implicitly aware of. It is the elephant in the room when a therapist tells you that they care about you and that you are worthy of love. One of the many theories of therapy is that that transference occurs when the therapist takes the place of the parent in the clients eyes as a relationship builds up and the therapist unlike the rejecting parent allows the client but butt against them psychologically and accepts them in the way their parent could not and as such the begin to heal. What bunkum. It is absurd that one hour a week over a series of weeks or years can replace the first 18 years or so of a client’s life and heal the damage but it is a very clever fraud because so many people today are so lonely that they literally have no one to confide in so they pay a therapist. These are my own personal observations from my extensive experience with therapists over the course of my life. Money wasted; bad memories dug up about which nothing could be done; being given to understand that I was broken and hopeless; having boundaries suddenly put up by a previously accepting therapist which as effectively an abandonment; being pushed to contact other therapeutic organisations when i was in the state of high distress from a risk averse therapist; being told by a therapist that she would not treat me because I expressed suicidal ideation; being told that I merited abuse because I was diagnosed as autistic – I could go on and on. I think unfortunately that people mainly go into the therapeutic industry for two reasons:- one they are working out some psychological issue of their own; two they like having power over vulnerable people and are sociopathic. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. But they all like having power – the ones I met anyway. I have rarely met a therapist who was not driven primarily by ego. If you really think about it what sort of person would think that – I can help this person psychologically – it takes a certain level of arrogance to think that way. I accept that there are stories out there from people who say they have benefited from therapy and psychiatry is so toxic that it often seems like a drug and risk free panacea for psychological ills. Far from it in my own case. I wish you well KateL.
I am saddened by the experiences of KateL and by the further rejection and alienation from she experienced from people whose job description it was to ‘help people recover from psychological damage/trauma whatever the current buzzword is for being repeatedly hurt.
After long experience with therapy (7 therapists over the course of my life ) , the only thing I can say to KateL about seeking ‘talk therapeutic help’ is don’t bother. If you have the money for it there are other modalities which are more healing than talk therapy – massage, Alexander technique, somatics, EFT – being physically touched as opposed to being talked at can be healing.
If you think about it, paying people to be kind or compassionate or listen is the epitome of capitalism – making the provision of having your story heard and being validated conditional on the payment of money. It is making something – love and support – conditional on the payment of money. As such it cannot work as there is a dishonesty at the heart of it that both parties to the transaction – therapist and client – are implicitly aware of. It is the elephant in the room when a therapist tells you that they care about you and that you are worthy of love.
One of the many theories of therapy is that that transference occurs when the therapist takes the place of the parent in the clients eyes as a relationship builds up and the therapist unlike the rejecting parent allows the client but butt against them psychologically and accepts them in the way their parent could not and as such the begin to heal. What bunkum. It is absurd that one hour a week over a series of weeks or years can replace the first 18 years or so of a client’s life and heal the damage but it is a very clever fraud because so many people today are so lonely that they literally have no one to confide in so they pay a therapist.
These are my own personal observations from my extensive experience with therapists over the course of my life. Money wasted; bad memories dug up about which nothing could be done; being given to understand that I was broken and hopeless; having boundaries suddenly put up by a previously accepting therapist which as effectively an abandonment; being pushed to contact other therapeutic organisations when i was in the state of high distress from a risk averse therapist; being told by a therapist that she would not treat me because I expressed suicidal ideation; being told that I merited abuse because I was diagnosed as autistic – I could go on and on.
I think unfortunately that people mainly go into the therapeutic industry for two reasons:- one they are working out some psychological issue of their own; two they like having power over vulnerable people and are sociopathic. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. But they all like having power – the ones I met anyway. I have rarely met a therapist who was not driven primarily by ego. If you really think about it what sort of person would think that – I can help this person psychologically – it takes a certain level of arrogance to think that way.
I accept that there are stories out there from people who say they have benefited from therapy and psychiatry is so toxic that it often seems like a drug and risk free panacea for psychological ills. Far from it in my own case. I wish you well KateL.
You’re a heroine Beata – thank you for your courage in speaking out against oppression
I agree – a survivor’s activist group is needed badly. I agree that there are many psychiatric ‘service users’ who fully support their labelling and drugging and find it comforting.
Hi Daiphanous Weeping,
I did a reply to your comment a year ago but it wasn’t good enough to publish so I left it and I see you’ve stopped commenting now – great pity to see an original mind like yours leave the comments forum – that’s all I’m saying – the ‘modest bestowing of the compassion you did not get’ – beautifully put – I’m all out of compassion though.
Thank you Noel Hunter for writing this – I would love if it got published outside of this website.
I’m afraid from my own experience Ms Lilly, discussing discontinuation syndrome with your doctor is not to be recommended.
A few years ago my psychiatrist at the time told me I could stop one of the drugs I was on Cymbalta (30mg) immediately as it was a low dose. It had been causative of high liver enzymes. She was a nice woman but I have been treated coercively by psychiatrists in the past and I am very careful around them so I tapered it quietly myself.
I had severe withdrawal and that resulted in my re-attending with another psychiatrist when she retired and receiving a raft of further drugs and psychiatric labels. Nowhere was protracted withdrawal mentioned in any of this.
I only found out about protracted withdrawal in 2021 when I joined the Surviving Anti Depressants forum. I had been using supplements from ‘The Road Back’ an outpatient programme which now appears to be defunct which did not mention protracted withdrawal. I thought I would be ok if I just took the supplements and reduced every two week – that was not the case. I tapered too fast.
Since then I have very slowly dragged myself away from the psychiatric net by being very nice to everyone I met in psychiatric service and have basically lied about the dose of the remaining drug I am tapering so I could be allowed leave the day service. I simply said that I am staying on this drug to keep myself stable and don’t want to add in additional drugs as they could destabilise me.
On one occasion when I told one young doctor I had stopped the Seroquel after a bowel impaction and he mentioned ‘compliance’ I could hear again the whisper of coercion that had taken a large part of my early life so I went very quiet and reasonable. There is always danger in challenging a psychiatrist in any way on drugs because that’s their only real currency. I could sense the frustration in some of the young doctors I meet when I said I was maintaining on my last drug at every psychiatric appointment because they wanted to ‘do something’ and add in a new drug.
I am currently tapering this last drug very slowly and I will take me at least two years if I make it.
Because I won’t agree to take further drugs and seem stable the last doctor I met simply asked if they could refer me back to my GP as there wasn’t really anything else they could do for me i.e. I am not going to take any new drugs. If you present as relatively stable they can’t really push any more stuff on you.
I have not even told my GP because if I did so given that I still suffer from distress at times I know that i would be told to resume or take a different drug.
Discussing drugs openly with your doctor is of questionable value and could be very dangerous for a patient who is trying to get off drugs and is in a vulnerable state.
The power imbalance between patient and doctor in matters of mental health is enormous. If I manage to get off this drug successfully at that stage, I will inform my GP of what I have done and of the difficulties that drugs caused me in withdrawal. However because I have suffered from ‘severe mental health issues’ throughout my life, I don’t think my telling the GP will carry much weight and that goes for most people with ‘mental illness’. Before and if I have successfully tapered however, I do not feel it would not be safe for me or for others diagnosed with ‘psychiatric’ illnesses to do so.
LOL – KateL – my thoughts exactly
Thanks for this insightful interview with David Healy – great questions and overall a good discussion. Yes the elephant in the room is ECT but that’s another different battle.
Given that David Healy is prepared to go out on a limb to preserve his integrity (to the point of losing his job and he lost a previous prestigious academic post because of a stance he took on the RCT’s ((I think)), I do find his stance on ECT interesting. This is a man who appears to have some degree of moral integrity; he seems to have found that ECT worked for his patients. Why would you advocate ECT given that he does not advocate drugs if he had not found that ECT worked to some level? He is not the first clinician (of my own acquaintance) that has found it so.
My own guess is that ECT works because it destroys memory. One of the worst aspects of having a distressed brain is the constant rumination and the triggering of very traumatic memories by small daily occurrences like the scraping of a kitchen plate. ECT destroys memory so it perhaps wipes away those traumatic memories – even temporarily. Human Givens therapy tries to do something similar by using hypnotherapy specifically the rewind technique which was absolutely useless in my case.
I have met people who have had ECT who told me that it worked in peer support groups. I have never had it myself – I do accept that it is extremely dangerous. The people I met who had it (the ones for whom it did and for whom it did not work) also unfortunately told me that they had permanently impaired memory function as a result.
Overall the whole mental health system badly needs more honest clinicians like David Healy who are prepared the take on the system and suffer as a result. There’s very few whistle blowers in this world. I am grateful to have read the interview. I was one of the many in the early 90’s who was told that I had ‘latent bipolar disorder’ which was triggered by the high dose of anti depressants I was left on for a year and a half but i left the psychiatrist shortly afterwards and refused to take the Lithium she was pushing on me. Only for finding Peter Breggin’s book ‘Toxic Psychiatry’ at the time and but for the support of a local GP, I would probably have ended up on it and have non functioning kidneys by now.
Yes I was on Cymbalta too for four years until I was told to get off it more or less immediately as my liver enzymes and cholesterol were dangerously raised. I am off it a few years now but the withdrawal period was dreadful.
One can only live in hope that eventually the truth will come out – it did about barbiturates and benzo’s.
I think your last paragraph sums the attitude really. I have two psychiatrists in my family of origin who fit that description.
They both have the arrogance that comes with having almost absolute power. One told me once about giving forced treatment. He said he was doing it ‘for the patient’s good’. The patient was a 60 plus year old woman that was given ECT against her will. They both have relatively large incomes.
One of them was fulminating loudly when I met them a few years back at the actions of some members of the British Psychological Society that questioned the DSM Model – it was the anger that came from someone whose authority was being called into question. It’s sad because when they were young they themselves questioned authority but then just turned into standard bully to get status and power – one is a really horrible individual but then ruthlessness is normal in getting to consultancy level in most medical specialties anyway.
I think Robert Whitaker also gives a good description of how cognitive dissonance allows people to maintain a good self image as ‘kind’ people while doing things that are frankly monstrous.
I agree. I am very grateful to Robert Whitaker’ for his moral courage, personal integrity and for using his journalistic brio to report on what does not get a hearing in the mainstream media.
I’m from another jurisdiction. A class action is a lovely idea. I doubt it will happen. As another poster said it would take an army of public interest lawyers and and a lawyer’s main and in fairness legitimate concern is how and when are they going to be paid. Who is going to fund it? Most psychiatric patients live at subsistence level.
The American Psychiatric Association and the pharma companies that would presumably be jointly sued will have access to the best lawyers that the pharma companies can buy. They will have access to legal firms who have armies of junior, trainee and support staff that can spend months compiling the necessary research with which to shut down the plaintiffs even before the matter gets to court. It would take an enormous amount of resources to advertise for potential plaintiffs and take the necessary depositions and there is the unfortunate fact that psychiatric patients will struggle to present as credible witnesses due to having been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness and therefore lacking capacity.
I see that there have been lawsuits taken against the pharma companies and that the courageous lawyer Jim Gottstein risked criminal contempt of court charges to leak damaging information about how Eli Lilly was illegally marketing the drug to the elderly and children. But at the end of the day Eli Lilly settled the case and was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor for its illegal and dangerous marketing of Zyprexa to dementia sufferers. The US court system seems to allow pharma companies to settle by paying negligible fines and in the Zyprexa case they were allowed not to acknowledge any civil wrongdoing.
In the US I understand there are non profit public interest organisations that conduct impact oriented litigation such as Jim Gottstein’s Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (whose web page says that it is currently inactive pending funding), the American Civil Liberties Union, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. I understand there is an Office of Consumer Litigation who was a party to the Zyprexa case.
There is an Consumer Protection Branch aligned to the Department of Justice that would presumably be the body to take a case on. Is it likely that the Consumer Protection Branch would agree to take on a class action against the pharma companies for misleading advertising given that the court system in the States seem to side so often with the corporate world. Would any of the other bodies have the teeth, money or even the belief to go up against the pharma companies and the American Psychiatric Association in a lawsuit?
The US now has a Supreme Court that is predominantly made up of ultra right wing judges that side with industry. As recently as June 2022 the State Supreme Court of Washington sided with Eli Lilly in refusing to recognise an exception to the learned intermediary doctrine in direct to consumer advertising. I note also that the US courts have dismissed several applications for class certifications against Eli Lilly for injuries sustained by Cymbalta starting in 2014 with the last dismissal in 2017. In fact as far as I could ascertain from the attached link from drugwatch, every single claim for injuries sustained against that drug by individual plaintiffs have been thrown out by the US courts (https://www.drugwatch.com/cymbalta/lawsuits/). That does not give one confidence that a class certification would either be allowed or would be successful in the courts.
I note that Robert Lustig in his book ‘The Hacking of the American Mind’ writes that the US court system tied itself to corporate interests with the election to the US Supreme Court of Lewis F Powell a lawyer who acted previously for tobacco companies. Between 1976 to 1980 in a series of cases in which Powell seems to have written the majority judgment, corporations were allowed unrestricted lobbying rights (Buckley v Valeo – 1976), unfettered corporate advertising (State Pharmacy Board v Citizens Consumer Councill 1976) and allowed to say whatever they wanted publicly without being held liable (Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corp v Public Service Commission 1980).
Even if class certification was allowed and made it to the courts, would it get a fair hearing in the American judicial system as it is currently constituted?
Congratulations on getting the article in the mainstream media and I am saddened but not surprised at the comments reported. I agree with you about families. On my entrance to the doors of the psychiatric career path that I followed for much of my life, the psychiatrist’s initial comments were that I had all the symptoms of someone who had been abused and recommended family therapy. That did not take place as one parent refused to participate and the other parent being complicit went right along with that. As a result I was the one who was pathologised and drugged. As for anti psychotics – I wasn’t even hearing voices and I was still put on them for three years – the reason I was given being that ‘they’re very good for anxiety and not addictive’. Only for finding ‘Toxic Pscychiatry’ in a bookstore on weekend while on release from a psychiatric hospital after having been on them for three years I would never have known about tardive dyskinesia – no one told me.
One of my parents knew about the side effects and told me that it made her ‘terribly worried’ but not worried enough to confront the reality of what neglectful and abusive parenting had done. So I agree with you about families. They generally have direct involvement in causing the emotional difficulties in the first place but take no or little responsibility – that’s too difficult for most of them. That would mean acknowledging their own failure and most don’t want to do that. Most people are cowards at heart.
And as for the comments to your article, most people are sheep – they believe the information that is pushed by those in power because it makes them feel comfortable – a variation of all is the best in the best of all possible worlds. That’s how fashion trends work – it’s how murderous movements like Stalinism and Nazism work. It’s how Gallileo and Corpernicus were ostracised for publishing scientific truths. Psychiatry is just yet another ethos that people cling too now in the absence of organised religion – people need to ‘believe’ in something.
Ultimately we’ll destroy ourselves as a species – modern psychiatry is one of the last gasps of that – you can add irreparable environmental degradation, uncontrollable nuclear proliferation, mass displacement of populations caused by war in totalitarian and failed states and climate change, disenfranchisement of millions by the automation of work, degradation of labour laws by the gig economy that lead to insecure and badly paid employment, the wealth differential between the tiny percentile at the top and the rest of us, uncontrolled availability of violent pornography to children, the widespread acceptance of the use of other illicit substances and the disintegration of a safe home life that that brings.
Hopefully what comes after us will be better.
Thanks – ‘desperate attempt to control the narrative’ – I think you’re right there.
People like him don’t get to such exalted heights though without being adept at controlling the narrative.
I’ve been reading all the comments here and they’re all very impassioned and well written but I am beginning to wonder really about the point of all this passion. Who reads its? Is it impacting the mainstream? How many people look at the MIA website?
It is pretty clear that very few people are listening. We can write all we want here about the evils of the pharma/psychiatric complex but nothing is changing and the clinicians and scientists (who lets face are the only people that the public will listen to as they won’t listen to ‘mad’ people) who do speak out tend to be cast out.
Dr Peter Gotzsche – kicked out of Cockrane
Dr David Healy – delisted from a prominent academic post because of openly expressed views on SSRI’s.
Dr Terry Lynch – muzzled by lawyers; was part of the Vision for Change in Irish Mental Health Policy; but the government did not fund it and the service is worse than ever now.
Dr Steve Shipko – appears to have given up trying to help people withdraw from their meds as he realises his limitations in only operating out of an office and does not have the resources to help people come off in a hospital setting. I am paraphrasing from a video interview he did on the FB page of either the Medicating Normal page or Inner Compass Initiative last year.
In the UK – the picture is not as bleak – there is Dr Joanna Moncrieff who founded the Critical Psychiatric Network, Dr Sami Timini and Dr Mark Horowitz who seems to have single handedly managed to get the Royal College of Psychiatrists to finally recognise withdrawal.
In Ireland there is only one critical psychiatrist practicing that I am aware of – Dr Pat Bracken. Prof Ivor Browne who fought hard against the existing psychiatric power structure for years and founded the Institute of Psychosocial Medicine is now in his 90’s and retired.
I know there is a body of critical social workers, psychotherapists and psychologists out there many of them who publish on this site like Dr Gabor Maté, Dr John Read and Dr Lucy Johnstone but the psychiatric body look down on them as they’re lower down the medical hierarchy. Witness ex DSM IV editor Frances referring to psychologists such as those behind the Power Threat Meaning Framework as ‘brainless’ in an interview conducted last year with Dr Awais Aftab, a psychiatrist who advertises himself as a critical psychiatrist but is anything but ( I attach the link)
Then there are the few survivors who have founded non profit organisations or who work alone as therapists – they are too scattered and too underfunded to make much of a difference. I check in on the Medicating Normal site on Facebook and the Inner Compass Initiative. They are fighting a brave battle but they’re not getting the viewers. One of their most charismatic members Angie Peacock recently stepped down from the Medicating Normal outreach team.
The Drop the Disorder Movement have more or less closed their Facebook page and just use it as a bulletin board to advertise niche online plays and their festival at which the same people seem to be invited to speak. I noticed that in the last few months that their Facebook page was active there was an increasing number of therapists from different schools using the FB page to advertise their services which became very depressing. They do invite survivors to participate in their festival but the only survivors that get on are those who have either recovered or are working as therapists or in the mental health area or those who have an artistic talent – they can sing, write poetry or plays. There isn’t much a place created for people who are powerless and stuck in the mental health system who can’t speak out because its’ their only income.
Then there are the sites from people that are coming of psychiatric drugs – these sites are genuinely helpful and supportive to people that are caught in the net of their drugs – Surviving Anti Depressants being as far as I am aware one of the oldest and most notable of those. They attract all types – people who have support in their lives to come off and people who are very alone and do not. The mentors and moderators do their best to help everyone but there are limits to who you can do for someone on a bulletin board. Adele Framer has published an article on what she has learnt in helping people to come off psychiatric drugs. What happens if Adele Framer decides that she and her mods who all work as volunteers can no longer commit to maintaining the board. It is a wonderful site but it has the fragility of all sites that are run by volunteers the same way that MIA relies on donations.
Pharmaceutical companies have bottomless pockets to affect public perceptions along with the psychiatric profession.
I recently attended a summit on Soteria House which I found depressing. Many of the people involved were involved in the original Soteria Houses – most were not funded so they shut. Many of the speakers were elderly. How many Soteria Houses are there in the world? There’s a few scattered throughout Europe and maybe one in Israel? None in the US as they didn’t get the funding. Yes I know all about the wonders of ‘Open Dialogue’ in Finland. Finland seems to be a kind of Shan gri la and thus not comparable to the rest of the world. They rid themselves of their homeless problem by housing everyone even those with severe addiction issues. Would that happen anywhere else in the world? Doubtful.
I wonder really what is the point? I’ve been through all the rage of look what was done to my life by this system but the truth is that no one except the echo chamber of fellow survivors and a few critical clinicians are really listening.
Dear Mr Whitaker,
Thank you very much for fighting a hopeless case. Why can’t your response be published in The New York Times? The Washington Post? (rhetorically angry)Why is this lily livered horrible little careerist toad allowed to whitewash his profession’s gigantic ****-up.
So the ex chief psychiatrist at large has written a book using one of the current wellness buzzwords ‘Healing’ while burying research that shows the damage caused by psychotropic drugs.
He asserts that the ‘drugs work’ while apparently providing no hard evidence for that assertion. This books appears to be written in typical faux wise and faux benign psychiatric patter. I have doubt that it will be widely published across the world. Mr Insel or whatever academic title has been awarded to him will be interviewed I have no doubt on the main media channels.
People who are ignorant of the drugs will continue to be prescribed them voluntarily or not and will continue to have their health destroyed and few will believe them when that happens. It will be a continuation of ‘you had a relapse because you went off your meds you naughty, irresponsible person’.
The information is not getting out about this because of people like Insel. The marketing department at those pharma companies have limitless money to pay lots of social influencers to market their pills to the next generation. What is happening is an insidious, slow and violent assault on unsuspecting and vulnerable people all over the world by an industry that wants power at all costs. It is the very apotheosis of inhumanity and most tragically it’s an institution to which vulnerable people turn when they are looking for humanity because they are suffering.
The words from the Scottish play sum it up for me ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’.
I had hopes that Insel was going to turn but he chose power and having a legacy instead. When he’s dead some Ivy League university will probably have his face cast in bronze and plonked outside some medical faculty. The world does not have a dystopian future – it already exists in the here and now.
Thanks very much for commenting – you described my experience in a nutshell there.
Thanks KateL, I wish it wasn’t true – I wish I could say that I, not it was crazy and psychiatry cured me because most people who are distressed want to be helped and find a safe harbour. I thought psychiatric care would provide that – it did the opposite.
Thank you Dr Hickey for expressing so well the counter arguments to Dr Aftab’s convoluted and defensive reasoning.
” I contend that based on the quasi law-enforcement role that psychiatry has willingly embraced and continues to willingly embrace, and on the harm done to their customers in these and other contexts, a high level of scrutiny, and indeed condemnation, is not only inevitable, but warranted.” Thank you! What a silly, diminishing and factually incorrect phrase ‘unhappy customer’ that Dr Aftab uses to refer to psychiatric patients is. How many customers are involuntarily detained or made to ingest a product against their will? None of them can chose to discard the label they’ve been given once a psychiatrist has assigned it. Only another psychiatrist can do that.
I am very tired tonight having received a letter from my mental health facility. Bipolar which was added three years ago has now been removed from my list of psychic ailments; today I find that I have been relabeled again with borderline personality disorder having had it removed with much aplomb during the same period. I carried this disorder around for 26 years only to be told by another esteemed psychiatrist in his report that ‘I reassured her she did not have borderline and have little doubt she has a variant of bipolar disorder manifesting as a dysphoric high’. Several months later I was informed by another clinician that autism was the culprit all along. Last year borderline was again re-introduced as I had the misfortune to meet a psychiatrist who ‘had a special interest in personality disorders’.
While all the labelling, re-labelling and drugging was going on for the past few years the remains of my life were draining away and none of the issues that brought to psychiatry in the first place – childhood abuse – were ever dealt with.
In Ireland there has been a recent outcry because some poor sod of an overworked registrar in a rural area with no backup has been drugging children and adolescents with Risperidone and other major neuroleptics for several years and the childrens’ parents are aghast at the changes in their children’s health. The Irish national airwaves have been ringing with shock for several days; it has been reported that these children have developed high blood pressure, huge weight gain and have in some cases excreted breast milk. Reports and legal cases against the public health service are being prepared.
It would appear that the Irish media and the legal teams representing the children are completely unaware that these side effects are common and that these drugs are commonly prescribed to adults who suffer the same effects. The level of public blindness about psychiatry is still widespread.
When I think of the damage I will go so far as to say the destruction of any potential that my life might have had by my engagement with psychiatry I do feel very hopeless. Reading such a spirited and reasoned response to an article by a psychiatrist who sees which way the wind is blowing but wants to protect his patch, does give me a little bit of a lift. I won’t go so far as to say hope but a bit of a lift all the same.
I read a lot of stories of people whose lives were adversely affected or destroyed by psychiatry. I have never read a story as dehumanising as yours in a few short paragraphs. I can’t believe that you survived lobotomy and can write so lucidly. I don’t know how you came to be pregnant at such a young age ( I can only presume it was sexual abuse) and having suffered having your child taken off you, you went on to be dehumanised by the psychiatric system.
You say you’re from an ‘Irish’ culture. I won’t inquire whether you’re from that benighted kip or whether you’re Irish American. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that maudlin book by Sebastian Barry ‘The Second Scripture’ about an Irish woman who was incarcerated for life in a mental hospital having become pregnant outside marriage. That story is a fairy story by comparison to yours.
I second James Barry – I hope you tell your story. Shame on them for what they did to you. If there was god which I don’t believe in they would all be burning in hell – all of them, the upstanding middle class doctors, the social workers, the nuns, all that cosy little cartel of the ‘caring’ professions, of ‘nice’ ‘decent’ respectable people.
Thank you so much for this very well informed, engrossing and thoroughly reasonable article. I am tapering Mirtazapine currently and am going slower than a snail. Previously I tapered Cymbalta over an eight month period using expensive supplements from an online outreach programme (not one of the Facebook groups). Two weeks after the full taper were when the real problems set in – suicidality, insomnia, severe akathisia. It’s been a wild and horrible ride.
The withdrawal was interpreted as relapse and I ended up back in the psychiatric system, was given two further DSM labels and two further drugs – one Lamotrogine which thankfully caused a rash so I had to discontinue it, and two, Seroquel which I was on for six months. It caused severe digestive issues and latterly a bowel impaction. I tapered off that fairly quickly and am off that for twelve months.
I was completely unprepared for the protracted withdrawal I would suffer after tapering the Cymbalta relatively carefully at 10% of the previous dose every month using a weighing scale. I had a very nice coach from the outreach programme who helped me with withdrawal issues. I thought the relatively slow taper would protect me from that – it did not.
I only felt ready to taper Mirtazapine two and half years after the Cymbalta because the effects remained well after the taper and to be honest are still there today though somewhat reduced. I have decided to taper the Mirtazapine mainly because I am having issues related to histamine – moderate to severe eczema, allergies and migraines which I never suffered from before taking this drug. I have been on Mirt now for over seven years.
Stuart Shipko the de-prescribing psychiatrist said in one of the Inner Compass interviews that in his experience the length of the taper did not affect the severity of withdrawal and that it was not possible to withdraw some people at all as their symptoms were so severe – I found that deeply disquieting.
The point you make about one size fits all in anti depressant prescribing makes complete sense in the way that conventional psychiatry never really does.
I am glad this article is written because it needed to be. It is a sad observation but on many of the support sites including Surviving Anti Depressants there are relatively few success stories when they are balanced against the number of members who struggle even with a slow taper and suffer long after the taper is complete. I say this not with any clinical evidence but from observation by membership of a number of these sites. I regularly trawl them for information and encouragement. Sometimes I do not feel very encouraged after following the withdrawal trajectory of many of the members. Perhaps of course it is the case that people who successfully taper and do not have symptoms simply do not post as they have no need of support. That can only be resolved by a randomised controlled study that as you write cannot really be conducted on humanitarian grounds.
I suppose ultimately the bottom line is go as fast as you can tolerate and no more and be prepared for the fact that you may be one of the unfortunates who is unable to successfully taper or that you may have permanent impairments.
I am in agreement with you about the political dependence on pharma companies who manufacture these drugs that have bases in Ireland: – Johnson and Johnson (Janssen) – ( Risperdal ), Pfizer (Zoloft, Effexor and Xanax), Eli Lilly (Prozac & Cymbalta), GlaxoSmithKline (Paxil).
I am in complete agreement about the suicides and homicides occurring here by people who are on psychotropic drugs. The recent tragic case of the nurse who killed both her children who was found not guilty by reason of insanity was on two antidepressants at the time that occurred. By being under psychiatric care at the time she killed her children she probably did not qualify as a ‘normal person’. Now the poor woman never will again.
I read a study in Martha Stout’s the clinical psychologist’s book ‘The Psychopath next Door’ about personality types.
Apparently there is one psychopath in every 24 people (out of a 100) and out of every 100 people, on average there will be four whistle blowers, i.e. people with a moral conscience who will speak up about something regardless of the personal consequences to them.
The other 91 or so people will just keep their heads down while people around them are murdered, drugged, labelled, disenfranchised… whatever because they either put food on the table that way, because it’s easier that way or because it’s either them or us. The people generally in charge of all the drugging, murdering, abuse and disenfranchisement are generally the psychopaths. The two shrinks Rossberg and Larsen who appeared to have willfully disregarded the research of Harrow and Jobe and the BBC journalist Lucy Proctor who chose not to challenge them about the conflicting research are either members of the psychopathic group or the 91%.
Robert Whitaker is one of the whistle blowers – the 4 in a 100. In short most people are weak and bad, some are really bad and some good people do exist but they are rare.
Thanks for all the work in creating an opera. Forgive me for pessimism but if it is only to be shown online I don’t think it will register with mainstream policy makers who outsource all matters of human distress to psychiatry and with the public who are happy with that.
Kermit Cole’s last sentence that the dark forest that people who are drugged and diagnosed with a condition ‘for life’ go into ‘is a dream that we are hopefully waking up from’ is more than a little optimistic.
Thanks to the virus (I am not a denier and took the vaccine), pharmaceutical companies have become more powerful.
Psychiatry is very cleverly repositioning itself to take in aspects of the psycho social model – private psyche hospitals now offer mindfulness along with the drugs and the new big thing in psychiatry is ‘nutritional’ psychiatry.
Oppressive ‘mental health’ laws remain in place throughout the world making it very easy to incarcerate and forcibly drug those unlucky enough to manifest distress who have no one to protect them.
In 2020 Ireland had the largest numbers yet recorded for the ‘involuntary admission’ by the police force:-
So kudos for writing it…and all that…but I don’t think anything will change
“You cannot change cult thinking overnight. It just kind of weakens, then someone else fills its shoes”
You have just recounted the history of a psychiatry in a nutshell. It went from from spinning chairs and ice cold baths to insulin coma and lobotomy and from there to a metallic salts and renal failure and five generations of drugs that all did their damage and were silently withdrawn only for others equally damaging to be introduced. No one who shouts “this doesn’t work” is really taken seriously particularly if they are a psychiatric patient. It was ‘mental health day’ yesterday and there was plethora of ‘reach out to services for support’ shite all over the media.
I am sure that many women go through variations of what is recounted in this depressing story of a person who was caught up in that system (because there was nothing else on offer). But all I read or hear (where I am from) is “My life was saved by x and x psychiatric facility” and “I got better when I found the right meds”. These are the voices that are getting the air and print time.
I have posted the link to the Soteria summit below that is running for the next 3 Sundays (and is free to register and watch unless you want to donate). I checked into it yesterday and it gives me a little bit of hope to watch. I have not suffered ECT yet and I am sorry and angry at what you were put through. Middle aged women (I am one myself) get treated very badly by our culture as a whole. You are right about our demographic being ignored. I also find the profusion of ‘Karen’ videos offensive. Plenty of other people get angry in our culture – nasty entitled young men in particular – not many videos about them though under a common name.
Unfortunately gay men (in particular) because they have bonded together since the Aids epidemic and ultimately because they are men and have more economic power have become largely part of the new Neo liberal establishment now as far as I can see.
It’s pretty blindingly clear from the article that the outreach and education funding from the APA which allowed the film to have 100 screenings had an influence on the disgusting and clinically inaccurate disclaimer in the credits of this film. The filmmakers enjoy the benefits of being part of the sexually Neo liberal West. I do understand (being a supporter of All-Out) that in most countries of the world being actively gay is illegal and is punished by marginalisation and/or death. However in the West (excepting some states in the US which espouse fundamentalist religious beliefs) being openly gay now no longer carries oppressive consequences.
What a pity then that the filmmakers coming themselves from a demographic that suffered (historically) with being labelled with a psychiatric ‘illness’ and suffered ECT, did not extend solidarity to people who are still imprisoned within that system.
Shame on them and big kudos to Bruce Levine for having the guts to publish the review and call them out.
“Hopelessness and a self-devaluation set in if we’re detachedly analyzed, labeled, silenced, shunned and isolated.”
Says it all really. Brilliant article – being supported in an extreme state – that never happened for me in my entire life. What I experienced was in the quote above. I have a PHD in being analyzed, labelled, silenced and shunned. I could make up a song about it. That I survived at all was due to rage – not love (because I didn’t get any of that); not hope (because I was told there was none). I don’t know how much longer the rage is going to keep me alive but it’s kept me alive this far.
I like reading articles like yours – to get the humane perspective – that people can actually behave with kindness and decency – however it never happened for me.
Thank you for writing the awful truth. You describe a Kafkaesque nightmare that thousands of people across the world like yourself live with everyday – a slow insidious destruction of joy and hope in living by powerful and malevolent forces represented by the mental health industry which are fully backed by the state and mainstream media.
In the last 150 years the meaning of human suffering has undergone a wholesale alteration that started slowly but increased in speed since the advent of the first neuroleptic in 1955; the person is now packaged up in bags of symptoms and branded with the label of any one or more of the 370 disorders in the DSM. The branding must not be questioned. The person learns not to trust any of their thoughts or sense perceptions as both are now deemed mere manifestations of their ‘illness’. As you write they are not treated as people but as patients or objects.
If you think about it, it should not really be surprising that psychologists treat their patients in this manner given that research in the ‘profession’ of psychology involves the torture of small animals. That’s how Skinner developed behaviorism and how Martin Seligman developed the theory of learned helplessness i.e. by administering electric shocks to dogs. Of all the clinicians I have met the psychologists were the most consistently devoid of humanity – even more so than the psychiatrists.
The little voice that started inside of you which was given power by your short talk with the taxi driver about an SSRI happened outside that system.
These voices are happening in air pockets – like this site ‘Mad in America’, peer support groups for coming off drugs, and movements like the ‘Drop the Disorder Movement’ in the UK which has attracted a small number of critical clinicians. Every few years you find an outlier like Dr Terry Lynch who wrote ‘Beyond Prozac’ nearly twenty years ago in 2004 or Dr David Healy the psychiatrist with expertise in pharmacology who exposed the fraudulent nature of the drug trials. However they tend to continue to operate as outliers and their stances have not gone unpunished by the mainstream medical profession. Dr Healy lost a fairly prestigious academic appointment in Toronto over a talk he gave on the dangers of SSRI’s.
Currently I believe the mainstream culture of drugs and diagnosis is stronger that it ever was – thousands of people owe their livelihoods to it as the mental health industry has mushroomed in tandem with the increase in people deemed to be in need being drugged/labelled so I do not think things will change. I don’t know when they will.
The greatest tragedy of course is the loss of a productive and happy life by those ensnared in the mental health industry. You write : “What if I had never been diagnosed? What if I had never taken psychiatric drugs? ” You write that you are still grieving all the years you spent suffering – years that you will never get back. That is the worst crime of all.
I don’t know how many more people will have to be damaged before our culture as a whole wakes up; currently it is seen as normal to drug five year old children for ‘behavioral issues’ so i have my doubts.
It is going to be hard for psychiatry at large to dismiss Altostrata – someone who appears to have had a successful career in IT for most of her life and who took a relatively small amount of Paxil for career stress which led her in the psychiatric rabbit hole.
My opinion from reading this article is that she appears to have emerged from it due to her enquiring mind, intellect and I think a fairly steady sense of self; these qualities enabled her to maintain the stance that what she was experiencing was withdrawal not relapse against the onslaught of denial from a profession that is marked by gross contempt for the people it supposedly cares for.
It takes a certain mental steadiness to set up and maintain a large discussion board providing both academic and anecdotal knowledge which is run with efficiency and decency for over a decade and which provides a lifeline for thousands of people suffering from the effects of psychiatric withdrawal.
It is easy for psychiatrists to dismiss someone who has perhaps come from an abusive background, is very vulnerable and has never thrived psychologically as suffering from a mental disorder and therefore an unreliable witness as to side effects or withdrawal.
It ‘s a lot harder when you’re are dealing with someone who is so methodically reasonable, has read and can quote the studies, does not have a God complex, plainly states that she is not an expert and would prefer that the doctors were dealing with the problems caused by drug withdrawal.
I agree with you as to the awfulness of coming off Cymbalta having been put on it by a rheumatologist –
I was put on Paxil (Seroxat) and can attest to the awful effects that had – i was never suicidal before I was put on this drug but I became suicidal on it. However I was taken off it cold turkey and it wasn’t as bad as what I went through with Cymbalta.
As Chuck writes, these drugs just sedate or excite and sometimes do both. The one thing that they don’t do is teach you how to confront your issues. You put your brain on automatic pilot when you go on these drugs; you think you can allow them to ‘take over’ your anxiety, terror, stress, loneliness, despair and soothe those feelings away but it’s at a terrible cost. You hand over the controls of your little plane to a Kamikaze pilot; no one knows until after the fact how these drugs will interact with your biochemistry and if they mess you up you’ve nothing but a pile of shrinks in air traffic control who haven’t a clue and don’t really care what the Kamikaze pilot does to your plane – if you crash/die/get suicidal/get worse – there’s no equivalent of an air craft investigation by the psychiatric profession. Any class actions against the drug are taken by the patients – never the psychiatrists.
I wonder if the link will ever be made between the taking of psychotropic drugs and violent acts resulting in death of the person taking them or people close to them as Fiachra noted above that are currently being judged as entirely due to the person’s pre-existing mental illness or an out of character ‘extreme state’.
You write really well and I hope you keep writing.
I relate to how you felt at 20 with the whole world in front of you and how you feel now. Psychiatric patients are occupied people and you live and write under occupation. I don’t feel that the human species will ultimately survive (a good thing in my opinion as there is more bad than good in us and we are noxious for the planet).
However on the off chance that we will, in another I feel 60 years time or maybe less, the period of forced drugging of millions of people for their entire adult lives will be looked back upon as a barbarity. Whether you were overjoyed or walked a 100 miles in a day or sang in the street or muttered to yourself in a supermarket as you had no one else to talk to – whatever other ‘extreme state’ you manifested might be looked upon differently – perhaps with humour or kindness or even admiration for your eccentricity.
We have the misfortune to exist when drugging is in full and awful bloom and the ‘insane’ or ‘mad’ are stamped as ‘defective’ and allowed to walk the streets alone and aimless as long as they are compliant in taking their drugs. There won’t be an out from that in our lifetimes I think.
If you weren’t forcibly drugged who knows what you could be?
I would urge you to keep writing until you produce something and publish it. That would be enough.
I have heard about the development of a farm in Ireland ‘Kyrie Farm’ as an alternative for those who are not extremely mentally ill but it has a long way to go receive full funding and I understand it is not suitable for people who have a ‘higher level of service provision’ which sounds ambiguous ‘as violence is not tolerated on the farm’.
It would be nice to think that the creation of the centers and organisations mentioned in this article mark the beginning of a shift towards the changing of this terrible paradigm but I cannot say I am optimistic. They seem to be very small with a small bed capacity and their enlargement will depend ultimately on money (presumably government money). I cannot see governments funding that sort of model. Public health services are cumbersome and have grown up piecemeal over the years with a lot of vested interests and pay grades. How will national governments dismantle those layers of bureaucracy? The redundancy budget alone would cripple them and what would be their financial incentive to do so?
Independent research on the efficacy of treatment in these places that would justify their enlargement would be difficult and involve additional cost – they do not have the vast pockets of the pharmaceutical companies with their armies of ghost writers and fraudulent RCA’s. As Robert Whitaker said himself recently in a conversation with Nicole Anderson on the ‘Medicating Normal – film Facebook page as long as corporations whose interests is primarily profit are involved it will be hard to change that model (I am paraphrasing but here is the link to the talk). https://www.facebook.com/medicatingnormalfilm/
You have an interesting and original turn of phrase but you did just that as in ‘examine’ me or when you asked me in another post if I was the ‘DEMON’ (your caps) in another post because I had stated that the psychiatrists who criticised E Baden for her position were ‘good Nazis’.
You then asked a series of insinuating questions that would define me as ‘psychiatrist’ if I had ever offered a pill or advice to anyone else along psychological lines. You don’t know me from Adam and yet you felt that you could ‘examine’ me or my motivations or ‘feelings’.
This is the most searingly lucid and comprehensive take-down of Allan Frances and the current cultural narrative around ‘mental illness’ I have ever read.
I can’t understand why an article about Allan Frances – the man who was instrumental in the gross enlargement of psychiatric diagnoses as the chief editor of DSM IV and as someone largely responsible through a lucrative kickback from Janssen Pharmaceuticals for promoting the wide-spread prescription of Risperidal off label for a multitude of ‘conditions’ to young adults suffering from anxiety and elderly people in care homes – is being published on this forum. He now wants to re-frame his legacy by becoming a reformer of the mass prescribing of psychotropic medication he largely put in motion which has ruined millions of lives. I don’t understand why he is being allowed to do so. If ever there was a case for ‘cancel culture’ it’s this man. There is a recent video of him up on Youtube giving a lecture on the widening of psychiatric diagnosis – one of his opening remarks was ‘Psychiatry is a noble profession’. He obviously likes to think of himself that way – by allowing him a forum you are allowing him to burnish his image.
E Baden – you must be a good person; they are rare but you do get them.
As someone who has seen in the course of my life 15 psychiatrists and five clinical psychiatrists – I only met one psychiatrist who saw me as a human being and said to me ‘I don’t believe in labels’.
I was very anxious however to get the right label so on my request to she referred me to a clinical psychologist who diagnosed me with borderline.
Subsequently she retired and I flailed about for a few years trying to find someone else to treat me and was diagnosed with bipolar, autism until finally I was asked by a psychiatrist ‘what if you had all three – what would be so bad about that?’ That was it for me. I accept that after years of drugs and labeling and unresolved childhood trauma I am probably unfit for work so I go along with the narrative to get my disability but I no longer believe in it.
I have nothing good to say about the five clinical psychologists who treated or assessed me in the course of what was a pretty hard life. Not one of them spotted that I had been sexually abused and had suffered significant childhood trauma. I was labelled at one stage ‘ a young woman with a high degree of maladjustment who is unlikely to benefit from therapy’ because of my maladjustment. The psychologist who diagnosed me as ASD after a self referral wrote six pages about what was wrong with me and handed the report to me at the end and said ‘it was lovely to meet you’.
I had one good counsellor who saw that my primary issue was trauma but unfortunately I also attended therapists who were as ego driven as you describe and they did further damage.
I think the reaction of your colleagues could be likened to the reaction of good members of the Nazi party as I do believe that conventional psychiatry as it is currently practiced is intrinsically evil – the people who participate in it destroy a person’s hope by labelling him/her defective without any real scientific evidence and once applied the unscientific labels allow them to liberally administer toxic drugs that they know will seriously impair the patient’s physical health for a ‘lifelong condition’ that is not backed up by evidence. There is no change or cure really in conventional psychiatry – there is just acceptance of a diagnosis or diagnoses and ‘management’ that is severely life limiting.
Like all groups most psychiatrists and psychologists who adhere to the DSM have a set of beliefs and people who stray outside the group’s belief system even if it exists to promote social control and further abuse of vulnerable people for status and profit – will be punished by exclusion.
In the neoliberal world it’s all about making money. The other professionals in your area have chosen to go down a road for status and profit so they don’t want to hear about anything that might interfere with that.
If you look back at history that’s really the story of humanity – there are very few heroes but you sound like one of them.
I suggest that there are people out there who are crying out for a critical psychiatrist like yourself. I know I was when I was a young woman in Ireland in the mid 90’s who was attending a coercive psychiatrist at the top of the psychiatric hierarchy who kept me in hospital an extra month because I asked her politely if it would be possible for me to not have to take the psychotropic drugs I had been taking for four years that had been making me sick, nauseous and manic. I had just read Dr Peter Breggin’s book ‘Toxic Psychiatry’ and found out for the first time that I could get a whole host of long term health conditions from the drugs I was taking, In response to my concerns she told me that I ‘either did it her way or I didn’t do it at all’. I tried to find another psychiatrist for a second opinion but there were none.
I would think there would be many people that would attend your practice if you set up privately. It involves taking a stand and that is never easy particularly I would imagine in a profession as corrupt and self seeking as the one you fell into because you wanted to help people.
Thank you for your article and I wish you all the very best in life.