Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Comments by Emmeline Mead

Showing 152 of 152 comments.

  • Hi everyone. We heard from Matt’s sister that it meant a lot to their family to read about people’s interactions with him. She also shared his obit which I will paste here:

    It is with great sadness that the family of Matt Stevenson announces his passing on Thursday, September 21st at 32 years of age.

    Matt graduated from Marymount University with a degree in English. He then turned his lifelong passion for tennis into a career as a tennis coach. Matt loved coaching and was very popular with his students, especially the children. He was an inventive teacher and created many games to teach his young students new tennis skills through fun activities. Matt also volunteered teaching English to new Americans , and he organized many socials for young people in his community .

    Through his struggles with mental health, Matt became passionate about helping others in crisis and working towards a new paradigm for mental health treatment . He pursued this passion through his involvement with several organi z ations , including Mad in America, The International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis (ISPS), and the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP).

    Matt was an intelligent, thoughtful, and caring young man with a quirky sense of humor. He is mourned and will be greatly missed by his mother Judith, his father Hugh, his sister Catherine, and his many friends.

    A service to celebrate Matt’s life will be held on Thursday October 5th, at 7 pm, at the Celebration Center, 2840 Graham Road, Falls Church, VA 22042. All are welcome to the service and reception to follow. As this is a celebration of his life, please do not feel the need to wear black.

    For those who wish to contribute, we will collect donations to support the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis (ISPS), an organization that was dear to Matt’s heart.

  • We can and do moderate comments that cross a line, but that doesn’t undo their damage when authors have already seen them. The only real solution for that would be to make all comments go into the moderation queue to be approved before they appear, which would result in considerable delays in communication.

    No one’s arguing that it’s “the job of readers to provide ‘safe space'” (whatever that means). It’s the responsibility of this organization to manage our website in the way we think is best. And that’s what we’re doing.

  • That would be ideal, yeah. But as you might imagine it can be pretty challenging, and moderating is already very difficult work. We’ve burned through a string of moderators at this point — it requires an even thicker skin than being a blogger, and a pretty specific skill set. It also takes up a lot of organizational resources, which are not infinite.

    As for your other question: we do see value in bloggers participating in discussions, and we could make that more clear in our invitations. But we’re not going to make responding to comments a requirement or attempt to persuade writers to do anything they don’t have time to do or don’t feel comfortable doing. They are already participating in the ‘give and take’ by sharing their work here.

  • Richard, I’ll reply to your last question as it pertains to me. The role of MIA moderators is ultimately just to remove comments that aren’t in line with our posting guidelines. When I was the moderator I did attempt to mediate between authors and commenters at times, and generally tried to help people understand where others were coming from. So maybe that’s where you got that impression.

    As for allowing writers to close the comments, we’ve actually been doing that for some time now, when it was requested, and a few blogs have been published that way. The main difference with the recent decision is that we’ll be offering this as an option rather than waiting for writers to get so fed up with the comments that they request it. This way comments will effectively be “opt-in.” So far, everyone offered the option has opted in, and that will likely remain the case for the most part.

  • Hi Stephen. We won’t be stopping comments altogether, it will be per post and up to the author. I expect that most authors will prefer to keep comments open, but this way they’ll at least have a choice.

    By the way, it isn’t just mental health professionals who have issues with the comment section. Writers with lived experience sometimes do too, and it becomes a barrier to participation here.

    I hear you on professionals not always being willing to make the effort to see things from the perspective of people with lived experience. But the reverse is also true — people making no attempt to see the good in what a professional is doing, instead bending over backwards to find fault and assume the worst, sometimes missing the point of a blog entirely or reacting to things the writer didn’t even say. Certain topics become a flashpoint for rage, which is certainly understandable, but not always constructive.

  • Jim, I just wanted to say that MIA staff share the concerns you and Brett have expressed here. We strive to maintain a space where people can “speak truth to power,” but when such speaking drives people who have power to change the system away from participating in the conversation at all, that goal is undermined, as is our mission to rethink and remake the mental health system. We recognize the difficult position that many ‘dissident’ professionals are in, often risking their careers and facing condemnation from their peers when they break away from the pack, only to be met with a barrage of criticism from the other side for not being radical enough. It’s understandable that some are unwilling to put themselves through that.

    There is no easy solution for this problem, really. But we will now be offering writers the option to turn off comments for their posts if they want to share their work and their experiences without facing the firing squad, so to speak. This way, “unusually thick skin” will no longer be a requirement for writing here. We hope that this will broaden the range of writers we can bring in, and also help raise the caliber of comments as people learn that keeping things constructive is the way to keep the conversation open.

  • Hi LavenderSage. Feedback about the site can be directed to our operations manager Chris Page. You can get in touch with him via our contact page:

    As for the tagline, we’ve received a lot of feedback about this and will be changing it within the next few days. We’re open to community input if anyone has suggestions about what might be more fitting.

  • Hi Bill. I’m the comment moderator on MIA. It looks like you may have posted your comment on a different page — is this the one you mean?

    I’ll give Bob a heads up that you’re looking for a reply. You can also contact him or other staff via the contact page:

    Thanks for your work in helping get these ideas out there! The Holistic Mental Health Network you mentioned sounds very promising.

  • Hi Oldhead, here’s the address for our office (you can also find it on our contact page):

    Robert Whitaker, President
    Mad In America Foundation
    763 Massachusetts Avenue,
    Cambridge, MA 02139

    Checks can be made out to Mad in America Foundation Inc. Much appreciation for your support!

  • “Hardly ever”? Are you not aware that the comment section you wrote this in is a space created for precisely that purpose — for people with experience of the labels and the drugs to say what they think about it? And that our forums also serve that purpose? And our entire Personal Stories section, and a number of our blogs? Inclusion and amplification of the survivor voice is a key part of the mission of this organization that Robert Whitaker started, so your criticism seems pretty misplaced.

  • Folks, the comment section is for discussing the issues raised in the blog posts, not for ad hominem arguments (no matter how true they might be) and slinging insults at other commenters. I realize the discussion started out with something of a provocation, but we need to keep it clean and stick to the issues. It’s unfortunate that some comments making valid and important points also contained personal attacks and had to be removed.

  • Would something like “chance” be preferable to “risk”? If you have more suggestions about less-problematic wording, I’m sure that Justin would welcome you getting in touch with him via the contact page. We’ve discussed some of the responses to this news item and what efforts we could make to address the concerns. It’s challenging to make everyone happy with word choices, especially when reporting on studies that use diagnostic terminology (as many of them do). And we do need to report on studies like these, because people have a right to know how the drugs they take may affect the fetus they’re carrying.

  • The article is about an app, and this discussion about the author’s stance on ECT is basically off-topic and ad hominem. I don’t want to suppress legitimate criticism, and criticism of ECT is certainly legit, but the comment section is not an open forum for the character of authors to be put on public trial every time they write a post.

    As for authors responding to comments, it’s true that many do and this is definitely appreciated. But they’re under no obligation to do so. Like it says in our posting guidelines, “A person’s choice not to acknowledge or respond to specific arguments will not be assumed to be malicious, or a sign of a character flaw, or otherwise held against them.”

  • Hi folks, a friendly reminder:

    Some of these comments are getting pretty personal — which is not to say they’re not making valid points, but with so much to discuss regarding the Murphy bills and the systems of power behind them, I hope the conversation can focus on that rather than on individuals in the comment section.

  • Snowyowl and Oldhead, please feel free to get in touch with more details about your ideas. I’m not sure what you’re envisioning — something like a temporary content block on the front page where content related to the Murphy bill would be gathered?

    I need to clarify that MIA as an organization can’t create such content ourselves or advocate for or against specific legislation. It’s just not our role — but as Leah pointed out, it is the role of other groups, and they’re doing a good job taking the lead on that.

    So my suggestion for you would be to come up with a plan for where the content would come from, and then we can talk about where it would fit on the site. We’ve already published a number of pieces related to the Murphy bill and more are certainly welcome.

  • While I’m not interested in silencing anyone, as the moderator of this website I need to be clear that this is a trans-inclusive space. Everyone’s unique perspective is welcome, but we can’t allow comments that are oppressive to marginalized groups — which includes cisgender women, transgender women and all trans people. So this is not the place for the ‘who qualifies as a woman’ debate, and I ask for everyone’s cooperation in keeping this space as oppression-free as it can be.

  • Jonathan: I don’t want to derail the conversation from Sera’s post too much, but as a member of the MIA staff I’d like to address the concerns you brought up here. We are very much interested in bringing more diversity to the group of writers on the site. While most of our writers have come to us, we’re putting a plan in place to do more active outreach to potential writers in underrepresented groups. There’s a lot of energy around this right now, so hopefully you’ll be seeing some changes soon.

    Of course, the challenge for any organization or project that wants to become more diverse is to reach out in ways that are respectful and non-tokenizing. And the challenge for us at MIA is to find people who are specifically focused on “rethinking” psychiatry. If you have any suggestions for people we could be reaching out to, please feel free to get in touch with me via the contact page.

  • Bernadette, as the moderator of this site I’m not sure what you’re talking about when you say “trying to silence varying points of view.” If you’re referring to editorial policy regarding what stories are published, obviously there’s a focus on “rethinking” or taking a critical view toward psychiatry since that is this organization’s mission. There’s no shortage of pro-psychiatry views elsewhere (in fact, they heavily predominate) so it would not make a lot of sense for this site to merely echo what can be found pretty much anymore else.

    If you were referring to the comment section, I’d like to clarify that we do not moderate comments based on a person’s position on psychiatry — there is no “censorship” of pro-psychiatry views.

    We do, however, moderate comments according to our posting guidelines, which are mainly concerned with civility and being on topic: Please note that discussion of moderation in comment threads is generally considered off-topic, however, if you have concerns about site moderation you can contact me or any staff member directly via the contact form, or leave feedback in our feedback forum:

  • I don’t think it’s accurate, or appropriate, to call it “race baiting” when people talk about racism and violence against people of color. Used in that way, the term is an attempt to deny the reality of racism and shut down conversations about it.

    Similarly, expressions of outrage about property destruction/riots often amount to denials of the legitimate reasons the unrest is occurring, or they mask the sentiment that inanimate objects somehow matter more than the lives of black people.

    These are all expressions of racism, conscious or otherwise. I want to be clear that racist views are not welcome on this site — they contribute to the harm and oppression of people, and that’s the opposite of what we’re about.

    My request for everyone taking part in these difficult but important conversations: if the issues of racism or racist police violence don’t impact you personally, if they’re invisible to you (much as psychiatric violence is often invisible to people who haven’t experienced it), I ask that you make an effort not to disrespect or minimize the struggle of people whose lives are impacted, every day, sometimes in deadly ways.

  • Another way to frame the difference is power vs authority:

    What’s the difference between power and authority? The workers who perform the labor have power; the bosses who tell them what to do have authority. The tenants who maintain the building have power; the landlord whose name is on the deed has authority. A river has power; a permit to build a dam grants authority.
    There’s nothing oppressive about power per se. Many kinds of power can be liberating: the power to care for those you love, to defend yourself and resolve disputes, to perform acupuncture and steer a sailboat and swing on a trapeze. There are ways to develop your capabilities that increase others’ freedom as well. Every person who acts to achieve her full potential offers a gift to all.
    Authority over others, on the other hand, usurps their power. And what you take from them, others will take from you. Authority is always derived from above.
    In this society, power and authority are so interlinked that we can barely distinguish them: we can only obtain power in return for obedience. And yet without freedom, power is worthless.

  • I also really like the idea of presenting material from fact-heavy, academic books in more condensed and maybe unconventional forms, like in the blog Jessica linked above, or like this Rat Park comic: Sometimes you just have to meet people where they’re at, and those pop culture forms can be more accessible to a broader range of people. But once you pique someone’s interest with some kind of “teaser” they might be more inclined to read the book. Ever since I read Anatomy I’ve been wishing there was some kind of Cliff’s Notes version of that book that I could hand out to everyone I know. Of course, authors should be fairly compensated for their hard work and it could be problematic to undercut that, but ultimately I think that getting the info out there is the most important thing.

  • This comment thread has gotten pretty sidetracked — I’m hoping we can bring it back to the topic of book activism. In her concluding remarks Bonnie asked readers to share suggestions about how best to do book activism, and one thing I thought of is audio books. A lot of people lack the time or attention span to sit down and read a book, or the money to spend on books about topics they’re unfamiliar with or skeptical of, but might download a free audio book and listen to it while driving or doing things around the house etc.

    Looks like they’re pretty easy to make: In fact, I’ll volunteer to try it out and make one, if any authors want to send me a book? I actually used to record audio books for kids when I was little, at the request of my school library (I guess because I was such a good reader) — it might be fun to do that again.

  • Jessica, I love the idea of presenting the information from Anatomy of an Epidemic in a pop culture context with humor and pictures like you’re doing. It could help make that information more accessible to people who haven’t read the book and might not understand why it’s important. Very cool!

  • Where the line is drawn at MIA is described in our posting guidelines: Please note that registering with a valid email address is a requirement, and that discussion of moderation in comment threads is considered off-topic and may be removed.

    I’m not going to go into what the problem was with the removed comment, but discussion of issues of justice was not it.

  • Hi everyone. Due to an increasing number of comments that attacked persons rather than practices, comments for this post are now closed. There can be a fine line sometimes between discussing practices and discussing their practitioners or proponents, but that’s the line we’re trying to maintain here (perhaps a bit clumsily in this instance, and I apologize for that). We’re interested in providing a platform for the hazards of all psychiatric practices to be thoroughly discussed, not for people in the movement to be raked over the coals, because in the end, despite our differences on certain issues, we’re all part of the same fight. And so, with respect for the passion, insight and devotion to the cause that everyone brings, we ask for your understanding as we close this comment thread.

    In solidarity,

  • Kermit, thank you for this. I recognize that for many this site is a kind of sanctuary from the status quo, so it’s understandable that people might resent the status quo showing up on our doorstep. But I believe as you do that this can and should be embraced as an opportunity — after all, shifting the dialogue to bring about change is essentially the whole point of what we’re doing here.

  • Friendly reminder:

    I’d like to ask that people please refrain from labeling pro-psychiatry newcomers as “trolls.” If someone is in fact here to troll rather than dialogue, they will eventually make that clear through their pattern of behavior and it will be dealt with by the moderator (me). In the meantime, let’s try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

  • Hi there, I’m sorry you felt ignored! I just saw your question in the forums and replied to it there. Not sure what happened with your attempts to contact folks, but I know we all get a lot of email and occasionally something might slip through the cracks.

  • You’re so not the only one! The trajectory of your story is unfortunately very common, with negative reactions to SSRIs being labeled as “bipolar,” resulting in more drugs and worse reactions until everything spirals out of control. But many of us were able to stop that cycle and find our way out — I hope that you can too.

  • B: There hasn’t been a rule prohibiting it. Looks like we’ll have to add one, since it’s been used as a way to get out of moderation on a moderated site. I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and many chances to understand what the boundaries are and try again, but after a certain point if a person is just not willing (or maybe able?) to respect the boundaries of a space, they can’t be in it anymore.

    If anyone has more questions or feedback about what is or is not allowed on the site, please feel free to get in touch with me via email or using our contact form.

  • Alex, what I’m hearing is that certain needs might not be met by this discussion platform. I want to acknowledge that those needs are real and valid, while also acknowledging that this platform has been created for a specific purpose, and people are free to choose for themselves whether it meets their needs or not.

    My feeling is that if healing or emotional safety are what a person seeks, the comment section of a blog site might not be the most likely place to find them. There are inherent limits to text-based internet communication. There are inherent hazards in debate, and (especially) in interacting with people who represent a role that you’ve been harmed by (such as psychiatric survivors interacting with psychiatrists). It can all feel very draining or even triggering. Ultimately a person needs to weigh those risks for themselves and make their own decision about whether it feels worthwhile, constructive or healthy to participate in such conversations. That is the responsibility of the individual.

    Of course, the creators of a space also have responsibilities. While I personally believe that emotional safety and the internet are mutually exclusive to some degree, I also believe it’s important to be thoughtful and aware of the risks and make a good faith effort to mitigate harms. I think we do make that effort.

    What I’m hearing is that for you, and maybe others, it’s not enough, or there’s a need for a space that’s very different than this one. I hope you can find that space, or create it if it doesn’t exist. Recently I’ve been hearing talk among survivors about creating a survivor-led (and maybe survivor-exclusive) space for discussion, support and information sharing. I think that would go a long way toward meeting some of the needs you identify, and would be a good complement to what we’re doing here. But in terms of empathy, I believe that face-to-face connection is more likely to facilitate that than anything that could ever happen on the internet.

  • Moderator chiming in, but first I would like to point out that discussion of moderation in comment threads is in most cases considered off-topic to the blog posts. Readers are encouraged to use the report button for problematic comments, or contact us directly for feedback on moderation or editorial decisions: I’m pointing this out because by sharing my perspective there’s a risk of sparking a debate about whether a moderation issue exists here or not, and I don’t want the conversations about the issues discussed in Richard’s or Timothy’s posts to be derailed.

    That said, my perspective is that I don’t see persons being attacked here. I see ideas being criticized. I think it’s okay for Richard to write about how he thinks Timothy missed the mark, just as it was okay for Timothy to write about how he thinks Robert Whitaker missed the mark. I’m quite certain that both authors understood that their viewpoints would stir the pot and generate controversy, but I feel that they’re attempting to engage in respectful debate (and for the most part succeeding, although both occasionally used terms such as “dogmatic” or “absurd” to describe positions they disagree with).

    I view the resulting discussions in the comments similarly — while there are very strong feelings around these topics, and some pointed critiques, I see an effort to keep it civil and largely non-personal.

    I do think it’s important for people working as clinicians or counselors etc to be mindful about how they address people with lived experience, though. While there’s no power differential among authors on this website, there can be one in the roles people represent.

  • Excederin, please take a moment to review our posting guidelines for the site: Personal attacks are not allowed, and “armchair diagnosing” is a personal attack, regardless of how enamored with diagnostic labels one might be. Since Steve’s replies have been instructive, I will allow your comment to remain for context, but any further attacks or baiting will be removed. If you are unable to keep your comments within our guidelines, this may not be the right conversation environment for you.

  • ps: blakeacake, please get in touch with me via our contact form. I have attempted multiple times to contact you regarding moderation issues and the emails have bounced, as I’ve mentioned before.

    Edited to address your questions: yes, your contact info will be kept private and confidential, and no, nobody needs to “divulge personal, protected medical information to MIA” in order to post here. You do need to have a valid email address that you can be contacted at. Comments that are not within our posting guidelines will be removed, and anyone posting a high volume of such comments will be placed on moderation. More information about our policy can be found here:

  • As someone who once was given a diagnosis of adult ADD (no h, and I am not endorsing the diagnosis by mentioning it), I can say that diet changes made all the difference for me, particularly eliminating gluten and dairy. It was something I figured out on my own in college — I’d be working on a paper and take a break to eat pizza or pasta or something, and come back to find that I could barely even follow what I’d written. I also avoid artificial colors and sweeteners, MSG, soy and various other things. It helps.

    I should note that I never had any attention or concentration issues as a child though. It wasn’t until I’d been on psych drugs (“antidepressants”) throughout my teen years that the issues developed, so they might be iatrogenic in origin. But having this basis of comparison, I do know that there’s a difference between being bored with a topic, and finding that your brain simply. will. not. work. when you try to focus on something. It’s incredibly frustrating. Occasionally I still experience this when stressed or overwhelmed, but I’ve learned various techniques for getting things back on track. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a break to play a computer game or watch a relaxation video. Therapy and journaling can help too, because it’s certainly more difficult to attend if you’re struggling with some kind of chronic internal war like Dr. Berezin talks about in his post.

  • No worries! I do look pretty different without the glasses.

    My title is community manager, which basically means moderator for the website. That’s why I tend to weigh in on issues like this, but for the most part stay on the sidelines of the discussions.

  • My feeling is that if someone is truly here to disrupt, not to dialogue, they will eventually make that abundantly clear through the pattern of their behavior, and when they do it will be dealt with. But I would like to set a high bar for designating people as “trolls” in this space, and ask that we try to give the benefit of the doubt. Not just because this is the respectful thing to do, but because one of our goals here is to contest and counter mainstream thought about psychiatry, and as such we should expect opposition from those adhering to the status quo. Ideally, we would be prepared to address or rebut their arguments.

    Of course, no one (including site authors) is obligated to respond to anything they aren’t interested in, don’t have the patience for or find pointless or baiting. I’m just saying that, generally speaking, when someone challenges our views they offer an opportunity — the opportunity to strengthen our case. Such a person can serve as a useful “foil” in a way. Maybe not useful for ourselves so much as for the thousands of unique visitors who read this site every day and may be encountering these challenges to the status quo for the first time.

    Just something to think about. I realize that it’s generally more enjoyable and interesting to have conversations with like-minded people who’ve put a lot of thought and study into these topics, but there’s a bigger picture to keep in mind too.

    “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”

  • Thank you for sparking such an important conversation. Maybe you could explore the topic of loosening polarizations in a future post? I’d be curious to hear your ideas about that. My feeling is that building coalition around points of unity, while respecting differences on certain issues, will make our movement(s) stronger and more effective without compromising any principles.

  • I’m not sure what you’re getting at, and am not interested in getting embroiled in a debate with you, but to answer your question I don’t really watch television. I do read articles from a wide variety of sources, but am more likely to read those that take a more critical perspective than the “featuring the wonders of a drug” point of view you describe.

    I read this today and found it quite interesting:

  • Very good point about the use of diagnosis and “treatment” as a means of blaming the victims of oppression, not to mention effectively compounding it by decreasing likelihood of recovery — which as B pointed out, can make it more difficult for people to fight against the oppression they face. This is a key intersection that people committed to anti-oppression work should be grappling with, not deflecting.

    I see it as one of the keys to rethinking psychiatry too. We need to focus on the harms and the alternatives but also the root causes of the experiences that get labeled and drugged. So in that sense I very much agree with the author’s call for a focus on structural violence, which obviously is a huge source of trauma, but disagree that the issue of psych drugs can or should be detached from this. Similarly, I agree with “loosening up polarizations” but disagree that “shifting attention from debates about [psych drugs]” is the way to go about it.

  • Blakeacake, you’re certainly free to share your opinions (as long as they’re within our posting guidelines for the site). I was pointing you toward resources where you might find the proof you say you’re looking for, and suggesting that that might be a more productive use of your time than trying to demand proof from people who may not be interested in (or have the patience for) engaging with you.

  • Ted, I’m not sure what you mean by “no encouragement” from MIA for the involvement of psychiatric survivors in our own liberation. We recently added an Organizing for Social Change forum at the request of psychiatric survivors: This comment section itself is also a form of involvement, which psychiatric survivors regularly avail themselves of, as you know. Since resources are devoted to the very thing you say we aren’t encouraging, I don’t really understand your assessment (maybe you’re just talking about the number of survivors among the mix of bloggers?). At any rate, if you have ideas for more ways that involvement of survivors could be encouraged, please feel free to share them with us. I think we’re all open to hearing them — I know I am.

  • Blakeacake, I can understand how disorienting and off-putting these conversations might feel for you. After all, you’re encountering a new and unfamiliar perspective that calls into question everything you know. Meanwhile you’re trying to share your own perspective, but it isn’t a new one for the people you’re conversing with — they’re already familiar with it, and have strenuously rejected it.

    If you’re interested in learning more about this new perspective, my advice would be to seek sources of information that state the case in a calm and objective manner, rather than attempting to sing the praises of psych diagnosis and drugging to people who have been harmed by diagnosis and drugging. One place to start would be right here on this site, in our archives:

    We also have a new search function:

    Best of luck to you. And ps: please make sure that the email address you’ve signed up to the site with is a valid one (I attempted to contact you about a moderation issue and the email bounced).

  • I’m not entirely certain what you mean by users (readers? commenters?) but it almost sounds as though you’re suggesting that their agreement is a requirement for blogging here… that’s definitely not the case. I think I can speak for everyone on the staff of MIA when I say that we value Sandra’s perspective — a perspective that is much more thoughtful and nuanced, in my opinion, than “always in favor of enforced psychiatry” — and are grateful that she chooses to share it here. To really change things, we need to be aware of the dilemmas and unintended consequences that may result when people attempt to put principles into practice on the ground, in complex and less than ideal circumstances. And we need to understand how a person’s thinking can evolve over time as they grapple with these issues. I’m glad that Sandra is willing to be so open about her process here, because I think it can serve as a model to others in the field who will hopefully come to change how they practice psychiatry too.

  • Understood. The arguments here are somewhat one-sided in the sense that what we’re trying to offer on this site is a counterbalance to the monolith of mainstream perspectives on psychiatry. That ground is more than sufficiently covered elsewhere — in fact it’s pretty much all you can find elsewhere — what we’re presenting is an alternate, more critical view. (Or in the case of the comment section, an oppositional view, but the comments do not necessarily represent the site itself.)

    I can see how it might come across as something of an echo chamber. Respectfully, I would suggest that the same is likely true of the professional circles you travel in, and that there might be some confirmation bias involved. As one person pointed out in response to your claim that you’d never seen a return to premorbid states — if the prescribed treatments are in fact causing chronicity and iatrogenic illness, as Robert Whitaker argues in his book Anatomy of an Epidemic, and if you only interact with people who prescribe or are prescribed such treatments, might that not be a possible explanation for why you’ve never seen a return to premorbid states? Aren’t you at least curious about how other treatment approaches such as Open Dialogue are able to produce such drastically different results? I would think that the prospect of full recovery would be intriguing to someone who’s devoted their life to helping others, even if it shakes up everything you thought you knew about what was possible.

    Although you seem pretty attached to your position and I can understand why others are finding that frustrating, I think that to come here and engage in dialogue with people whose views are so different from your own takes guts, and it suggests to me that your mind is not entirely closed. I’d be curious to see what you might make of books such as Anatomy if you read them.

  • Sleves, I’m curious — if one of the authors were to donate a book to you, would you be willing to write something about how it influences your perspective, and have that published here on MIA?

  • We invite anyone who would like to share their reflections on Leonard’s life and work to post them on the special memorial page that was created for him, so that all the remembrances can be together in one online tribute to this man who will be so missed: Some comments that were posted here have been moved to the memorial page. May all find comfort in the wake of this loss, and may his spirit live on in our work.

  • Much appreciation for what you’ve shared here. As someone who also lost a parent to suicide, the lessons I learned were similar but somewhat less hopeful (I think I like yours better). My feeling is that suicide does make sense and can be understood, but it’s a dark and terrible logic that must be resisted — because life is the only game in town as you put it so well. And even when joy isn’t possible, meaning can be found or created.

    I wonder if part of the reason psych drugs so often push people to suicide might be that they cut a person off from a felt sense of connection and the ability to hold onto the thread of meaning in life. That was definitely my experience when I took them — everything felt flat and empty and there was no buffer against that dark and terrible logic.

  • Duane, I agree that people who consider global warming to be bogus could debate that for weeks (or maybe indefinitely). But the topic here is not “Is global warming real?” — it’s “Global warming is bad for mental wellness.”

    This is the third time that David has blogged about this issue, and each time, a few climate change skeptics have sought to turn the conversation into a heated debate about whether global warming is real/human-caused/backed by science etc. And then, after doing so, have essentially said “See? It’s impossible to bring that topic up without heated debate, therefore you shouldn’t bring it up at all.” Which strikes me as somewhat like an online version of the “Why do you keep hitting yourself?” game.

    A blog post that’s published on this site is on-topic by definition. After a certain point I consider it a derail — and disrespectful to the blogger — to repeatedly turn the conversation into a debate about whether their topic of interest is legitimate. I didn’t say anything the first time, the second time I intervened only after the debate got ugly, and now I’m taking more preemptive measures. There are other (and potentially more fruitful and interesting) conversations to be had, and I hope that we can have them. I found Humanbeing’s comment above pretty interesting, personally.

  • Maybe people would start discussing particulars if the conversation didn’t get derailed by dissenters every time it came up?

    It’s polarizing if you make it polarizing. You always have the option of simply ignoring posts that don’t speak to your interests or worldview.

    And no, of course nobody has to declare their support for the concept of global warming, feminism, or anything else — the only real condition of posting here is an agreement to abide by the guidelines. However, if someone were to post misogynistic comments, those would be removed.

  • Sometimes readers are going to disagree with what bloggers choose to write about or what editors choose to post… that’s fine, and you’re free to express your disagreement, but please respect that those decisions are not yours to make. It’s not appropriate to try to shut down a conversation because you take issue with some of its tenets. If people want to explore a possible connection between global warming and mental health, they should be able to do that.

  • There seems to be a “bad apple” theory at play here — the idea that doctors and their drugs are inherently good and helpful but occasionally something goes awry. I just don’t think the truth is that simple (if it was, we should be seeing the number of people disabled by “mental illness” steadily going down, not up).

    I don’t think it’s even as simple as people who are helped vs people who are harmed — because over time the former often turns into the latter, as much of the harm from psych drugs comes when they’re taken long term. I would hazard a guess that many of the psychiatric survivors who post here (and I include myself) at one time believed that psychiatry would help us, or even that it was helping us. Until the evidence that it wasn’t became impossible to ignore. How could we in good conscience not try to warn others of dangers we once weren’t aware of, that we paid dearly for? Especially when a growing body of research suggests that our negative experiences are not actually that anomalous.

  • Hi folks. Friendly reminder of our guidelines ( which ask that conversations remain relevant to the blog posts. A discussion of Christian theology does not seem particularly on-topic here (although I can see how it might be a response to Kelly’s question “So, where do we turn?”). If people would like to discuss this topic further, I suggest starting a conversation in our forums:

  • Alex, very good point about highlighting ‘the other’ as ‘the one with the problem.’ I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I think you’re right, it could have that effect.

    It seems that the element of fear suggested by the term homophobia is precisely why some object to it, because they feel that their aversion or discrimination is rational and justifiable, and they do not want to be highlighted as ‘the one with the problem.’ If there’s a value judgment contained in the term I think it’s a positive one — it conveys that the lives and well-being of LGBTQ people are valued.

    I do think this conversation thread has drifted from Vivek’s blog post, but I also see how it ties in, because the terms we use are social constructs that convey social meaning much like diagnoses do, with real consequences for people’s lives.

  • Hi Reverend. I hear what you’re saying, but I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. A person’s religious worldview is not really my concern — the words on the screen are, and my job is to make decisions (judgments, you could say) about whether those words are in accordance with our posting guidelines, which explicitly prohibit hate speech and discrimination based on identity. I can’t get into extended debates here about moderation decisions, their wording or the values they’re based on. It’s derailing to the conversations and to my work.

    That said, your comments have led me to think about how “phobia” has connotations of diagnostic terminology, which is problematic in its own right. Maybe “anti-gay” would be better.

  • Hi folks. Just a heads up from the moderator that there will be zero tolerance for homophobia here — all such comments will be removed and their authors placed on moderation. Attempting to shame or denigrate people for their sexual orientation is oppressive and we are not interested in providing a platform for that. I encourage our regular readers to report any homophobic comments you see. Thank you.

  • I suspect that contempt or considering a person “lesser” is a key element. My closest brush to a Borderline label was as a teenager when a counselor had me do a personality test. Because I was mature for my age he ran my answers twice, both as a youth and an adult. The adult results described me pretty accurately (gifted, sensitive, traumatized by abuse) and offered a diagnosis of chronic depression and I think PTSD. But the youth results painted an ugly picture of someone I didn’t recognize at all — a pathological liar with delusions of grandeur and BPD.

    The obvious implication was that no mere child could actually be as I was, so I must have been lying and manipulating. Luckily, my counselor saw no more merit in that assessment than I did and the insult didn’t stick. I’m grateful for that experience because it planted seeds of doubt about the validity of diagnostic categories — maybe that’s why it was so easy to make the leap once I finally encountered people questioning or rejecting them.

  • Folks, I’m stepping in as moderator here with a reminder to keep your comments civil and on-topic. This Breggin vs Healy “debate” is something of a derail (and frankly reminds me of “my dad can beat up your dad”). It’s not a competition — they both have made important contributions and hopefully will continue to do so. I don’t believe that anyone blogs on this site in order to be hailed as a saint or picked apart by detractors. They are simply trying to get the word out to as many people as possible. Please, try to keep the bigger picture in mind.

    [Edit to update that the derail has now been removed.]

  • Hi Martlisa! I didn’t find your post disrespectful at all — people are at different places with use of diagnostic language (and as Chrisreed pointed out, autism seems to have more validity than most diagnoses). I honestly don’t think you’re out of place here, but I’ll email you about how to unsubscribe from notifications for this comment thread.

    Wishing you the best in your quest for answers to help your loved one. Here’s a link to all articles referencing autism in our archives, maybe you can find something useful there:

  • Well, “scare,” “scam,” “alarmist,” “believers” etc is also name-calling, so it’s tit for tat.

    Politically charged issues are going to come up and some degree of conflict is inevitable, but we can’t let conversations get hijacked and derailed over ideological differences. I enjoy a rollicking debate as much as the next person but in the context of this site they’re not always appropriate.

  • I realize that what constitutes “recovery” may be open to interpretation (some would say the concept has become so co-opted that it’s essentially meaningless now), but “absence of anger” is a new one for me!

    I don’t think that makes much sense, really. People who have experienced harm and trauma are likely to be angry — understandably so. Especially when they know that the harm was based on lies, as is generally the case with psychiatry. Also, people who aren’t taking drugs that induce artificial placidity and flattened emotions are probably more likely to let their anger show. While that may not be to your tastes, there’s nothing wrong with it.

  • Oldhead, this is a discussion and debate forum with clearly stated guidelines for participation: You don’t have to personally agree with the guidelines, but abiding by them is a condition of posting here.

    No one has been moderated for correcting factual errors, and no one ever will be. What has been moderated are personal attacks. To give some examples of what that means, comments that mock or belittle a person or make disparaging assertions about their character are personal attacks. It’s entirely possible to express anger or disagreement without taking digs at a person and I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Play the ball and not the player, as the saying goes.

    As I mentioned before, discussion of moderation in a blog comment thread is considered off-topic and derailing to the conversation — that’s in the guidelines too. If you want to talk about moderation policy you can contact me or any other MIA staffers via email or the contact page, or start a discussion in the feedback forum. Any further comments about it in this already-very-lengthy thread will likely be removed.

  • Okay, so you have correctly pointed out the instances where “Szasz” and “failure” appear together in the text.

    Here’s another way to look at it:

    Szasz espoused the idea that so-called “mental illness” is not a medical disease. This idea has (thus far) failed to flourish and become the predominant view or to bring about significant change to the practice of psychiatry, let alone repeal it. Three possible explanations are offered for this:

    1. Psychiatrists failed to take the mind or the soul into account, focusing instead on a reductionist-materialist view of the brain.

    2. The public failed to embrace a school of thought that would require them to take personal responsibility, preferring also a reductionist-materialist view that lets them off the hook.

    3. Szasz failed to articulate his ideas as clearly as he could have (in other words, in a way that people with vested interests in not hearing it could manage to understand and accept).

    Maybe Michael is saying (perhaps too subtly) that Szasz was right, but that the wrong ideas won anyway, as they so often do. Maybe he said this as subtly as he did because he was saying it directly to the faces of the APA — the very champions of those wrong ideas.

    I can understand why people might react to any hint of implication that a man they greatly admire (and perhaps in some sense even owe their life to) had “failed” in any way. I admire him too and would not want to see his work dismissed or impugned. But let’s be real — while Szasz’s ideas have certainly had strong influence, if they had in fact taken root and flourished and changed the game we all wouldn’t be here, Mad In America would not even exist because psychiatry would already have been rethought. It’s not an insult to Szasz or his legacy to acknowledge this. I don’t think this piece paints him as an abject failure as some have suggested. I think it largely points the finger elsewhere.

  • Seth, respectfully, I think your argument could have been made without the accusations of lying and game playing, which are personal attacks. Like it says in our posting guidelines, please respond to and criticize ideas, not character.

    To everyone: I understand that this piece is controversial and that many of us have strong feelings about Szasz and his work, but let’s keep it civil please.

  • Hi E. Lie. You wrote:

    “E. Lie Silly wonders why a crusade against Psychiatry is totally in line on MiA (within the comments), but criticizing Scientology is out of line.”

    The answer can be found in our mission statement: “The site is designed to serve as a resource and a community for those interested in rethinking psychiatric care in the United States and abroad.”

    Thus, a “crusade against” psychiatry is in line with the mission and purpose of this site (as a more extreme version of it), but a crusade against Scientology not so much. The following forum might be a more appropriate place for that:

    I agree with other posters that accusing an MIA blogger of “guilt by association” is essentially a straw man argument, and something of a distraction from the topic of this blog post. As moderator I ask that you take a moment to review our posting guidelines for the site:

    Thanks, and I wish you the best in your fight.

  • Looks to me as though Boans was engaging in some lateral thinking and riffing on “for every X I’ll give you Y” (i.e. exchange).

    While I’m translating, it looks like “take each and every one of you on” was meant as an invitation to honest and disrespectful dialogue, yes?

  • Yeah, I see what you mean — if they can’t get you with the carrot there’s always the stick, and the existence of the latter renders the former fairly irrelevant.

    Your average person doesn’t even know about the stick though, they just hunger to feel better and can’t resist that golden promise dangling before their eyes. We need to get rid of both, the threats and the lies.

  • Which facts would those be exactly, when what constitutes “fact” in these matters is contested terrain?

    Which facts would those be when the long-term harmful effects of the drugs are not and cannot be entirely known?

    Is it realistic to expect the purveyors of snake oil to tell their patients that it’s snake oil? And if they don’t, how exactly will people get that information before making their “choice”?

    I for one consented to take the drugs because I was told all sorts of “facts” about biological illnesses, correction of chemical imbalance, “unmasking” etc. I was told that the drugs were “safe” and “effective” “medicine” and was rarely told about risks, particularly of permanent damage. I was never told of any alternative options. Setting aside the issue that I was a child in the foster system and could not meaningfully give consent anyway, the fact remains that I willingly embraced psychiatry because I believed it was the only rational choice — in essence, not a choice at all.

    So as far as I’m concerned my consent was coerced, which is a form of force. And I think that’s the case for most people really. If doctors were to say “this stuff is no more effective than Skittles, it very well might wreck your brain and body for life, and I’m only prescribing it because I’m lazy and the pharma rep gave me this nice Zyprexa wall clock, plus I know you’re desperate and your insurance won’t cover anything else anyway” I doubt many would make such a choice, but you know doctors will never say that.

  • Hi MadInFlorida. As the person responsible for seeing that the posting guidelines are adhered to, I’d like to clarify that Scientologists are welcome to contribute their thoughts to the discussion along with anyone else. Bob’s post pertained to people invited to blog on the site, not the conversations that take place here in the comment threads.

  • If I were to advocate anything it would pretty much be what I said above, to keep in mind the messages we send and how they might land. This site gets thousands of unique visitors daily, and recent comments are displayed right on the front page — every one of them is a chance to reach someone with a perspective they may never have considered.

  • Steve, how I wish I’d had an advocate like you when I was a drugged-up foster kid whose perfectly natural responses to abuse and neglect were pathologized and labeled as clinical depression. I wish I’d known to question the “bad biology” myths I was fed at such an impressionable age, myths that made me think of myself as inherently flawed and broken, with nothing to look forward to but a lifetime of despair — which (with the help of iatrogenic harm caused by psych drugs) can become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. What a twisted thing to do to a young person who’s already had it rough, whose chances of a bright future are already slim. Thank you for calling out this absurdity for what it is, and for anything you can do to put a stop to it.

  • I’m guessing it’s not the passion so much as an impression of a “with us or against us” mentality? For people who are in the gray area (of just starting to question psychiatry, or having mixed feelings about it, or wanting to get off the drugs but not succeeding, etc), a polarized framework might not leave room for their experience — might even feel like judgment, whether it actually is or not.

    But I can only guess because this is not how I personally feel about it. I cut ties with psychiatry a long time ago and find much of the discussion here pretty inspiring.

  • My feeling is that it doesn’t matter so much who “started it” or if they meant to, we all have agency and can choose to channel discussions in more constructive directions at any point (well, until we run out of reply buttons that is). I like your suggestion of moving the conversation past what is perceived as distracting rather than focusing in on it.

  • These discussions are judged from within the radical mental health movement too… sometimes people describe Mad In America as too militant, extreme or black-and-white, and what they’re really talking about is the comments section — it gets conflated in their minds with the organization itself.

    This worries me, especially when I hear it from fellow survivors who haven’t rejected psychiatry yet and could stand to learn a lot from this site.

    I think it’s possible to have intimacy among comrades while also keeping in mind the messages that we’re sending and how they might land (and on whose ears). But I hear what you’re saying Boans about how people might have different needs for this space, and may be at different places with their anger. That’s legit.

  • Another way to look at this is that the calm and intelligent words laid the groundwork for the big shifts that Stonewall brought about.

    I say we need a diversity of tactics, and we need to be pragmatic about how those tactics work together (and how they sometimes don’t).

  • Hi Uprising. I sent messages to all the comment authors yesterday after the comments were removed to the moderation queue… check your email?

    Just a reminder that in most cases, discussion of comment moderation in a thread is considered off-topic: For the sake of transparency I’ll share the moderation rationale here, but if you’d like to discuss this further we should move the conversation to email or the forums and leave this comment section for discussion of Philip’s blog post.

    There were two issues with the comments. One, they ascribed motivation to another person when that person’s actual motivation cannot be stated as fact. Two, the comments pertained to the character of a person, rather than to the substance of that person’s ideas. As such, they constitute a form of ad hominem — a mild one, as personal attacks go, but nevertheless not the kind of engagement we’re trying to foster here.

    You might well argue that with his documented public attitude Joel has contributed to the shutting down of dialogue himself, and also engaged in character attacks and the ascribing of motivations to psychiatric survivors. The fact remains that MIA is asking all participants in conversations on this site to take the high road and work toward opening up constructive dialogues. Play the ball and not the player, essentially.

    I hope this makes sense. I’m open to talking more about it with you if you like, but I can’t get into extended debates about moderation decisions here in the blog comments.

  • My feeling is that survivors and our allies have every right to be angry, and that anger has a crucial role in any dialogue that may occur — it’s the spark or driving force, the reason the dialogue needs to occur. It can serve as a wake-up call to the power-holders, a rallying cry to the oppressed and it can be healing and transformative (or even life-saving) for those who are able to tap into and express it. But if every blog post on this site expressed blanket condemnation of biopsychiatry, as justified as that condemnation might be, the site would be much easier to ignore and dismiss and a lot of the game-changing conversations that need to happen might not because people don’t listen when they feel attacked.

    I think the balance in the mix is what makes MIA effective. I see Robert’s goals for this site as pragmatic and strategic ones and I respect that strategy. In a sense it’s the art of war… and with all the bodies and minds at stake, we need to win. So when Robert asks “what is our mission?” I don’t hear him making any moral judgments, I hear him thinking about strategy and tactics, how we can use our voices and this platform most effectively and to what purposes. Some of the dialogue that needs to happen may not even directly involve psychiatric survivors. It may be between Sandra and her co-workers, people in the industry who have access and power to change things that most of us do not, people who may not be willing/able to hear us but will listen to each other. In Finland, psychiatry revolutionized itself from within. That may seem impossible for the US, but personally I believe that we should try to make inroads on every front.

    That said, I think it bears mentioning that righteous rage against biopsychiatry is most often found in the comments on MIA, not in blog posts. Daniel’s ode is an exception to the general rule. I thought his post was fierce and on-point and I’m glad it was included, I’m glad it’s staying up and generating such worthwhile discussion, and I’m also glad that the majority of MIA blogs take a more modulated tone because more ears are open to that. There’s something to be learned from both Martin Luther King and from Malcolm X, and from the ways their different approaches actually complemented each other in the struggle.

  • Hi Oldhead. I’m the new comment moderator here on MIA and for the sake of transparency I’d like to clarify what’s happening here. There was a claim made in a comment by Ted, which we are investigating to see if it can be substantiated. At this point, it has not been substantiated, and thus we are pulling those comments until further notice. We will comment further once we have had more opportunity to investigate. Until we can complete our own inquiry, we won’t be allowing comments on the matter. Thank you for understanding.