I am not sure exactly how I feel about the concept of the camp. But I would go myself except that I am very sick. I am not sure how this gathering will work out either, but I hope it does, and I wish the best of luck to the people who are organizing it. The idea of people in our movement getting together and being nice to one another — how can it be bad? The more I think about it the better I like it.
I am not sure exactly how I feel about the concept of the camp. But I would go myself except that I am very sick. I am not sure how this gathering will work out either, but I hope it does, and I wish the best of luck to the people who are organizing it. The idea of people in our movement getting together and being nice to one another — how can it be bad? The more I think about it the better I like it.
I can’t imagine anything more helpful than this article to promote places like this that actually help people. Good work, MIA! Keep it up! I hope you can feature similar descriptions as time goes on.
Monica, thank you for this article. I am glad to see you writing more, and this particular article is very educational for me. It is interesting but alarming to read how unconcerned and ignorant non-psychiatric doctors are, but hey, we are patients of the U.S. health care system, which as we know is ranked as one of the worst of the more developed countries.
I want to put in another good word for a class action lawsuit against the psychiatric drug companies and the psychiatrists who are funded by them. I am a lawyer myself, but it is very hard for me to gauge the possibility of success of such a suit. Success usually means that the defendants will have to pay out a lot of money to the plaintiffs. But whether that would happen or not, such a suit, if well-publicized, would get the general public to start asking questions about the psychiatric religion. We often hear a lot of talk about “banning psychiatry.” That would be nice, but our real and doable task is to discredit psychiatry, and a class action lawsuit might be a good step in that direction. If there is anything I can do to help this happen, please let me know.
Although I am (still) an attorney, I don’t have any experience with class action lawsuits, so I can’t say how this one might work out. But it is very clear to me that, no matter how this proposed suit will fare in the courts, if we make sure that the general public hears as much as possible about this, it will be a big step forward in taking away the power of psychiatry, which is more of a very profitable cult than a real medical specialty. The more the public sees psychiatry as it really is, a destructive force in our society, the sooner psychiatry will have its power taken away. What was done to me was over sixty years ago, way past the statute of limitations, so I can’t be a plaintiff, but I will urge everyone I know to be part of this lawsuit if they can.
First I want to say that I feel very positive about what seems to have become more and more an anti-psychiatry viewpoint being presented by MIA.
As far as a class action lawsuit, I think it is a great idea, but if it happens it will take a small army of public interest lawyers. The other side will gather a large army of high-powered corporate lawyers, and a large fortune of funding from the drug companies. But I am sure you know that.
I wish my law practice had been more high-powered, and that I was still practicing, so I could help with this enterprise. Any lawyers who take on this challenge, will, I think, be performing a great service to humanity.
This story is very moving, and I can identify with Catherine, as I too was severely abused by psychiatry as a child and teenager. What can I say? We have to fight back against this horrible cult that claims to be a medical specialty, fight back as hard as we can. One thing that would help is if more people who have had experiences like this came out of the closet. Right now, I think the average person thinks psychiatry is benevolent because they don’t realize how many people have been abused by it. About one person in ten in the United States has been an inmate in a psychiatric facility, but most folks think people who have survived psychiatry are a very small group. Fight back!
Because psychiatry is a cult.
This was REALLY well-written. Have you written any larger pieces about your psychiatric experience? Please let me know; I would love to read them. I have been struggling for years now to write a memoir about my own psychiatric experience, which took up my entire childhood from ages six to seventeen. I am much older now, age 85 to be exact, but when I think of what was done to me then, it brings back the feeling from then that I am a subhuman mental case. Not very “therapeutic”, eh?
I was amazed to read that in the middle of the high-level advocacy work Laura was doing, she repeatedly fell into the hands of the psychopaths running various psychiatric prisons, but she kept on doing her life’s work! Good for you, Laura! I was lucky that once I got out of the psych institutions where I spent my whole childhood, I never went back. The closest I’ve come was maybe a year ago, when I started to cry in the emergency room, realizing that my days of good health were over. Some nurse literally ran up, and made plain that she thought I should be committed, because , I guess, crying in the emergency room is a sure sign of serious “mental illness”. Everyone knows that, right? Isn’t psychiatry wonderful, so helpful?
Yes, psychiatry is indeed a cult. When its wild claims to effectiveness are compared to what it actually does to its unlucky patients, anyone who believes in their claims is no longer paying attention to reality. Unfortunately, a large proportion of our society does this. I don’t know what word would really accurately describe psychiatry as anything but a cult.
Sera, I think you make a very good point (as I understand it) that we need to understand the thinking of the people who oppose our freedom and like to think of us as “nut cases”, although of course they think of themselves as too respectable to use such direct language. But I don’t believe we have to wait to figure out completely what is going on in the minds of our respectable oppressors. We can use the same tactics as other groups through the centuries, making ourselves impossible to ignore by insisting we have to be listened to. I’m talking about classic tactics like demonstrations, sit-ins, all the ways that oppressed people have always used to force their oppressors to have to justify themselves.
The New York Times just published a book review talking about the Scientologists. I’m not a big fan of Scientology, psychiatry, or any other cult. But what most struck me about this review is that it ran through a catalog of those who criticize psychiatry, AND THERE IS NOT A SINGLE WORD ABOUT THOSE OF US WHO HAVE SURVIVED PSYCHIATRIC ABUSE. I am sure you are very aware that for quite some time. it was psychiatric survivors who were leading the fight. We are easy to ignore now because our movement has made itself invisible. We have to make ourselves VERY visible, and soon, and the methods for that are classic.
Sera, I admire your willingness to deal with the bigotry of the readers of this NYTimes article and the thoughtful way you have gone about it. But I wonder whether it is possible to fight bigotry with rational argument. I have always seen us psychiatric survivors as an oppressed group like any other, and in my 65 years or so of political activism, as a supporter of other oppressed groups and of psych survivors like myself, I’ve found that rational argument does not work well in fighting bigotry. It isn’t what stopped slavery, it hasn’t stopped sexism or racism. The few positive changes we’ve accomplished came about through political activism, from refusing to accept being treated as less than human. I wish we were out there refusing very forcefully to accept the debased role in society that the bigots have tried to force on us.
Here in the United States, as people are starting to realize, our country is rapidly becoming a totalitarian state. The people who want it that way don’t give a damn about intellectual arguments. We have to try to stop them in a different, more political way. If we psych survivors don’t do that, I fear that, just like under the German Nazis almost a century ago, we will be the first group to be exterminated.
I hope that what comes out of this discussion are some efforts to organize Soteria Houses in the United States and Canada. I know there are some scattered around the world, and I have heard that there are nine such places in Israel. People need to know that places doing what Tina advocates already exist, and that will help a lot if/when we try to organize new ones.
Yes, I had a couple of stays at the Vancouver Emotional Emergency Center in 1974, during a very troubled period of my life. Later, I learned that what they did at VEEC was very similar to Soteria House, even though VEEC’s funder had no experience with Soteria. But he sure understood that people in crisis needed emotional support, not drugs and shock and all the other damaging practices of psychiatry.
Thank you, Jenifer, for having the courage and commitment to write this article on MIA. I know how hard it is to talk and write about these experiences. You are a brave and admirable person.
I am also a psychiatric survivor from my childhood. The “child welfare” system took me from my foster parents at age six and handed me over to the notorious psychiatrist Loretta Bender to be experimented on with shock treatment. (Dr. Bender went on to take money from the CIA for experimenting on children to see what would happen if they were kept on LSD all day long for months at a time.) While in the “hospital” I was repeatedly raped by a staff member, a very common occurrence on psychiatric wards for children. When I told my foster parents about it, Bender’s response was to say that it was a delusion caused by my mental illness.
When Doctor Bender was finished with me, I was sent to a state hospital, where I spent the rest of my childhood until I was seventeen. Although I had been told in the “hospitals” over and over that I was a subhuman mental case, I went on to work my way through college, hold down responsible jobs, and eventually become a lawyer representing people abused by the “mental health” system.
If the public knew more about what psychiatry does to children, it would accomplish a lot toward breaking up the cult-like belief people have in the profession. Those of us who are childhood survivors of this cult should be joining together to support one another and expose what the shrinks are doing. If anyone reading this wants to do something about it, please contact me.
I have not read Tina’s book yet , but from this review I get the general idea. I agree that calling for ending psychiatry and its abuses isn’t going to work until we start talking about how to deal with people’s troubles in a nurturing and helpful way. I myself, who literally grew up in the insane asylum, was greatly helped at a very difficult time in my life, when I stayed in a Canadian place similar to a Soteria House, where I got emotional support and respect, instead of the drugs and humiliation that psychiatry offers. I think it would be very fruitful for our movement, whatever name we call it, to advocate for what we think should be done, not just criticizing what is done now. Of course, though, we have to do both.
I would like to ask how these places are funded, and also say that I was a resident in a place similar to Soteria , called the Emotional Emergency Center in Vancouver, Canada in the early 1970’s. I was in a severe crisis for sure, bur even a few weeks in a place where I received mainly just emotional support was a tremendous help. That summer, I went on a national organizing project for the psych survivor movement that took me to 15 or 20 cities by Greyhound bus, trying (fairly successfully) to bring together the scattered groups and people into a real movement. My trip was also successful in creating another burnout for me, but the Emotional Emergency Center took me in again and was again very helpful.
The prevalence of anxiety and depression can be easily explained if one is not promoting psychiatry and its toxic drugs and brutal treatment of those who come under its power.
Our society(and of course, many families) is full of events that anyone would be anxious and depressed about. But it works better for those who run our society to keep people in line and prevent them from doing something about these events. Thus, the cult of psychiatry and its lies help our oppressive “leaders” to stay in power. Are you poor? Have you been sexually abused as a child? Worst of all, as I was, have you been under the power of psychiatry since you were a child? Of course you feel anxious and depressed.
I have a wonderful new friend, fifty years younger than me, who was almost literally born under the power of psychiatry. And so we have a lot in common. She is really an admirable person, intelligent, ethical, helpful and nurturing toward other people, and a young woman of many talents. I love her, and it is heartbreaking for me to see all the self-blame and lack of self respect she has, that I instantly recognize as the result of what the psychiatrists did to her.. I have had fifty more years than she to heal from psychiatry, but how can one heal from a childhood under the power of a “helping profession” that spends so much of that power telling you over and over that you’re a subhuman mental case?
This really shows now psychiatry/psychology is used to con people into not fighting back. If all the injustices in our corrupt society are making you feel bad, it isn’t the society causing your unhappiness, it’s your “mental illness”.
This very thorough article is obviously really valuable. I can certainly follow it, but even with my Phi Beta Kappa key, it is difficult for me. Although my health is near collapse now, I will soon be trying to start yet another group to fight psychiatric abuse, with a working title of “Protect Our Children from Psychiatry.” As many know, I spent almost my entire childhood in psychiatric institutions, though I am now a lawyer, and I have a special interest in psychiatry’s abuse of children. I also think that the public would be much more willing to question the psychiatric cult and its destructive practices when children are involved.
The sophisticated critiques of psychiatry in MIA will be very helpful for this, but I think most people will have trouble following them. May I suggest that articles like this include some kind of easy-to-follow summary at the end? I know if this group really happens, we will be asked what our basis is for our refusal to obey the lies of psychiatry, since after all, psychiatrists are “doctors” and “scientists”, not subhuman mental cases like us. Easy to read summaries of great articles like this one would be very helpful. And thank you again, Bob, for writing this.
I am an attorney, now retired, who has represented thousands of people to fight their proposed commitment to psychiatric incarceration. Here in California, the legal standard for commitment is that the person be a danger to others or themselves, or “gravely disabled”, defined as not able to meet their needs for food, clothing, and/or shelter. I am curious what the legal standards for commitment are in British Columbia. If peoples’ human rights are to be protected, there needs to be a clear cut and rational legal standard. It’s not a panacea, but without such a standard, the horrible abuses of institutional psychiatry will continue to hurt huge numbers of innocent people.
Excellent article that should alert us to the latest attack on our human rights from psychiatry. I think this is the kind of issue that the general public would be concerned about. It is past time that we come from the shadows and fight back as we used to!
Great article! Our movement (if we still have one) needs to focus on this.
Great article! Our movement needs to try to deal with this. Thousands and thousands of people are being locked up just for calling for help.
If we want our freedom, we have to fight back!
This is yet another example of how the mental illness system is becoming much more powerful and destructive. Given the large number of people who are losing their freedom through this fraudulent organization, FUNDED BY HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF GOVERNMENT MONEY. I think this scam ought to be a large focus of our liberation movement. It is worth non-violent demonstrations where we can organize them.
And this scam fits right in with the drift of American politics toward Fascism/Naziism that we are seeing now. Do I really have to remind psychiatric survivors and our supporters that the first group of people murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust were the German psychiatric inmates?
People, we just can’t ignore things like this and continue to give up on activism. I can tell you right now, that there will not be “Alternative Conferences” at the concentration camps.
I think if we focussed on this issue, we could get the general public to see what psychiatry is up to and how it threatens almost everyone. It is time we come from the shadows and start defending ourselves before it is too late.
I think the psychiatric profession is outsmarting itself here. Their position that perfectly understandable emotional upset is an expression of “mental illness” is, I think, too outrageous and brazen for most people to believe.
Thank you, everyone, for your comments. The buttons are coming soon. We have settled on a very good design, and I am investigating a local manufacturer for them. Of course, the offers to help out financially are very welcome, but what we specially need are people who will help distribute them. If you are willing to help get the buttons to people who will wear them, that will be a great help.
Although I am a lawyer in California, I am on inactive status, plus it would not be a good idea for me to offer legal advice without ever talking to you in person. PLUS I have never practiced in your state, PLUS I can’t quite follow your question and the events behind it. All US states have Protection and Advocacy programs who could advise you, and I urge you to contact them. Sorry I can’t help with this.
Thank you, Michael. Why don’t you contact me through MIA, and I will be glad to talk with you.
Actually, i think the general public is much more likely to pay attention when they hear about children being abused. I would like to encourage people in our movement to emphasize the abuses of kids by psychiatry. If we want to take away psychiatry’s power, we have to get the public to se the reality of what psychiatry really does.
This might be taking away from your point some, but I have to say that MIA is not “the movement.” It is a publication where issues of the movement are discussed, which is very helpful, but it is not a forum for activism. Right now, unfortunately, there isn’t much activism, but just a lot of talking.
Myself, I would work with anyone who sincerely wants to end the abuses committed by the “mental health” system. But I think you can understand that those of us who have actually been victimized by that system have the most at stake in trying to end these abuses.
Also, I was very excited by the article we are all trying to comment on, because it is an attempt to figure out what function these conferences should have, and what we should be trying to accomplish with them. I think it would be helpful we tried to focus our comments on that topic. The end of SAMHSA funding for the “Alternatives” conference gives us an opportunity, I think, for any new conference to be a lot more focused on actually how we can fight psychiatric abuses, instead of being funded by the abusers.
We need to strategize about this topic, so can’t we talk about that?
You can reach me at [email protected].
Yeah, although I am a democratic socialist myself, I am fine with working with people who are conservative or whatever. Szasz, for instance, was quite conservative in his general politics, but made a great contribution to our cause. Senator Grassley of Iowa is a very conservative Republican, but he has been very outspoken in his criticism of the abuse of psychiatric drugs. I see no reason to pick a fight with anyone who sincerely wants to work for this cause. Of course, I would not work with the neo-Nazis or the KKK, but they are not about to try to join us, to say the least. I do have a feeling, though, that once our movement regains the activism we used to have, a lot of this infighting will stop. It is hard to argue with someone when you are both in front of some abusive facility both helping each other to carry a banner that says Stop The Abuse of Psychiatric Inmates.
I hope this discussion can get back to the topic of how we can have effective conferences that will lead to effective actions we can take to remove the power of psychiatry. I am not a very ideological person myself, and although I certainly think our cause should be linked with the causes of other oppressed groups, I will work with anyone who sincerely wants to work with us. I think it is a mistake to focus on the fine points of doctrine. We need to focus on how we really can accomplish something.
Yeah, it is our job to show people that we ARE a human rights movement, and that almost everyone is at risk of being pulled into the orbit of psychiatry. Sure, we have not been very successful at reaching even our own, potentially very large constituency, but now we have a chance to do that without being told what to do by the people who both fund us and oppress us. I don’t think figuring out what to do will really be that hard. There are MANY campaigns we can do that would have an effect. We just need to strategize and ACT!
Yes, Daniel, the Southern California group already has a good core, as far as I can tell. And I think you have plenty of people there to organize a small conference in your area. People have grown used to the idea that conferences have to have many hundreds of people, and be held in expensive hotels. Before SAMHSA, we would meet on college campuses, and at least once even at a campground. People could afford these conferences, and you didn’t have to try to get your local “mental health” department to fund you, which I hope people can now see was NOT a good idea. WE can do this! YOU can do this! Myself, I think a small close-knit conference creates an atmosphere where ideas for real organizing are easier to happen, and where people who don’t think of themselves as leaders can realize that they too can make important contributions. Go for it!
GREAT article, and really good comments too. I especially like the emphasis the author puts on talking about strategy and what actions we can take. I would add that any future conferences should make sure we work more on being supportive of one another, as our liberation movement sometimes makes me feel as if I am back in Rockland State Hospital, where I grew up.
I think it is a blessing in disguise that SAMHSA and the rest of the “mental health” system will no longer fund the “Alternatives” conference. This leaves us free to talk about what we need to do to end the power of psychiatry.
Myself, I think what we need are small, regional conferences, where people have to drive a few hours at most with a car full of comrades, and where the expenses are kept down so that people don’t have to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to attend. We need to spend some time trying to create a nurturing, supportive atmosphere, and then do just what the author suggests — work on our strategy for taking away psychiatry’s power. It makes no sense to me to have a conference where all we do is talk. Of course, that is the kind of conference which is (or was) exactly what the funders wanted. In the process of doing this, we will also be creating new leaders, who by thinking about what needs to be done, will be training themselves to actually do it.
And we need to go back to the practice we had before SAMHSA took over, where we had a demonstration against whatever oppressive “mental health” facility is nearby. Never any shortage of those! This emphasizes for the conference-goers what our task is as a movement.
The first such conference may need to be national, but it can still be relatively small, and I think it should be. MindFreedom International had such a conference in 2000, and it was generally thought to be a success.
But after that, what I am hoping to see is that most or even all the conference attendees each organize a local conference of their own, hopefully dozens of small conferences around the country, each covering a relatively small area, so that a network can be formed and people can get to know one another face to face, not just on their computer on some &#(&!!$)&$## “social media.” And doing this will give a lot of new people practice in being leaders themselves. Even if they are able to gather up a dozen people or so, or even just a handful who meet in someone’s living room, they will experience themselves as actually LEADING. We need this kind of grassroots organizing. In fact, we had this before until we let the system take us over.
A group of even a dozen people who are closely knit and have a strategy for what they want to do in their area can accomplish a lot.
So thank you again for this excellent article, which I think calls for just what our human rights movement needs. And I invite the author to contact me, and perhaps we (and a lot of others, it seems) can all work together to carry out what this article calls for. If we stick together, we can still achieve what I and many others have tried to do for a long time.
The people united will never be defeated!
I do think that in most places like this in the United States, children are not held for many years, as I was. What is more common is that children are put on drugs and kept there, sometime for the rest of their lives. I know that I would not have been able to survive Bellevue and Rockland State Hospital if I had been drugged. I would have died maybe twenty or thirty years ago, sitting in front of a television in a daze.
This will not change unless as many people we can organize fight back.
I am very happy to know that my article influenced you in the way that it did. I can’t wait to read your new book.
What list are you referring to, Oldhead?
I think it is honorable for decent people to work within the system and try to be as helpful as they can. Even the writer here, though, makes clear that won’t do much to change the overall system.
There is nothing really mysterious about the “mental health” system, though it certainly has succeeded, so far, in promoting that perception. At bottom, though, we are looking at a social institution dedicated to maintaining the power and privilege of a few people against the many, just like much of the rest of our society. And it does this by violating the human rights of its “patients.”
Other groups whose human rights have been grossly violated like this have made some progress by just banding together and insisting that they won’t take these abuses any longer. There are millions of people who have been locked in psych wards here in the US. There are many more who have been drugged and shocked without having been incarcerated, plus many friends and family members of such people who have understood the destructive nature of psychiatry without having been victimized themselves.
Millions of people ready to be organized…We can’t give up.
Over and over, we post articles on Facebook saying how terrible everything is. We talk and talk and talk, but somehow do nothing.
The potential is out there for a powerful and effective movement, but somehow we do nothing. I won’t try to answer the question “Why?,” because I think a lot of people know why.
But we shouldn’t give up. We can’t give up.
Thank you for this great article, Richard. It is always good to see some kind of strategizing going on. To me, the key point you make about why this is a good strategy is that the issue is already coming into public awareness.
Of course, there are other issues worth working on. My touchstone for this is, can we get anyone to work on it? That is very difficult. Activism is in short supply.
A very important development around this issue is that there is a Nevada legislator who wants the state to investigate the role of psych drugs in this huge epidemic of killings. I hope we do all we can to make this happen, as I am sure the drug companies are going into a frenzy to block it.
Once at least one state looks into this, I am sure it will spread. We should not ignore this.
I was taken away from my foster family and sent to be experimented on with shock treatment at the age of six. This was based partly on the BS that “schizophrenia” was inherited, in my case supposedly, from my mother. (But mostly on the practice of treating foster children as easy subjects of drugging and psychiatric abuse.) So all this persistence of genetic theories about “mental illness” has a high importance to me.
And as Jay Joseph shows, the persistence of these lies, presented as scientific facts, comes down to the profit and power of psychiatry and (nowadays) the drug companies. His arguments may seem very technical, but they are important, because this pseudoscience affects the lives of many thousands of people.
Sigh…”More money for mental health,” with a few caveats. I don’t understand this article.
Thank you for this moving memoir.
Well, one good thing seems tone, from this description, that the filmmakers are incompetent. Not likely that this will receive an Oscar, thank God. Or much of an audience either.
Once again, Bruce Levine has given us a lot of useful thinking about how the “mental health” system is a tool of social control. I know that last phrase has become an overused cliche, but this article gives it a lot more substance and meaning.
Although one ever tagged me as an optimist, I don’t agree that psychiatry is here to stay. While the PR machine of both the profession and the drug companies (is there really any difference?) keeps grinding away, more and more people are damaged by psychiatry, and no matter how many self-serving lies are told, more and more people have become aware through their own experience that psychiatry is not a constructive force.
As for alternatives, there are many different programs that are frequently talked about on the pages of MIA, and although they have great difficulty getting funding, I think people who want to “reform” (whatever that means) the “mental health” system ought to be working toward the time when places like Soteria Houses and similar places are recognized and funded.
Meanwhile, the human rights abuses run rampant, but at the same time many more people are hurt by them, and they are more and more angry. This is just like what happens to many other groups in our society who have gone on to create mass movements that can change things.
We certainly don’t have such a movement right now, though at one point we had the beginnings of one. But I think that’s what we should be working for. And I think it can be done.
Yes, there are people who work within the system who truly believe they are accomplishing something but at best they are making life slightly better for psychiatry’s victims. And frequently people who do this are pulled into the system and strengthen it.
Again, I just don’t see that ultimately, the present system is going to last forever. But saying that over and over becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can’t win anything if you give up before you start.
I have trouble following this.Do other readers understand this better than I?
“Liebermanesque”…I like that word.
In the comments to the 1boringoldman piece, Sandra Steingard asked if this was perhaps the “Onion” version of JAMA. A very apt comment, I would say. What utter BS this piece is.
Yeah, I think these are good points. Besides all the money the drug companies are making from these poisons, what is also happening is a change in our culture. The idea that it is best to numb oneself, rather than make changes in one’s life in order to feel better, has become almost the norm.
The United States is on its way to becoming a nation of drugged zombies.
I had the honor of visiting Jim and Mary in Ireland a few years ago, where I also spoke at a large forum MindFreedom Ireland had organized. Bob Whitaker and Terry Lynch were among the other speakers.
Jim and Mary and Terry (and Bob too, though he is American), I think you are a great credit to our movement, and because of your integrity and hard work, you have done an incredible job of raising the consciousness of people in Ireland about our issues. I wish we had your help here in America.
Of course, Ireland is a much smaller country, less than five million people, while the US has over three hundred million.
But I think the general approach, if we really want to change things, has to be the same. We have to be willing to take risks and make sacrifices, to speak truth to power, to show the public through our own honest example why they should take a hard look at the reality of psychiatry.
So I still try to follow my own advice as best I can. And as discouraged as I have become, I still thank all of you for your inspiring example.
But I want to make a larger point, As usual on MIA, we have here dozens of comments talking about how terrible psychiatry is. These follow yet another fine piece of writing from Bob Whitaker saying how terrible psychiatry is.
But why is there never any discussion of what we can do about this? We all know the problems. We all have a very good idea of what is wrong.
But we need a discussion of what we can do about it. Preaching to the choir does not change anyone’s mind. How can we reach the public? How can we recruit people, not with us now, who will be willing to go out and actually DO something to reach the public, to raise people’s consciousness about the atrocity that is psychiatry?
It is a cliche, I know, but we need less talk and more action.
I think that the fact that psychiatric leaders like Pies and Torrey get so upset with terms like “psychiatric survivor” and “anti psychiatry” tells us that we should use these terms whenever we can. Not to bug them, but because it is clear that they recognize that when these terms become common in the larger society, opposing psychiatry becomes more acceptable in the public eye.
Yeah, I am glad you pointed out the person identifying as representing the c/s/x movement. I realize that I “friended” him on Facebook just a few days ago. How did I manage to do that? OMG.
Great article, Noel. What specially stood out for me was your insistence that what “mental health” professionals do are MORAL issues, not intellectual ones. Seeing these issues as intellectual leads only to talk, and a failure to actually do anything about these abuses. Understanding them as moral issues leads, hopefully, to ACTIONS that might change things.
Once again, Phil Hickey hits the nail on the head. And yes, it is really significant that a story like this appears in a widely-read mainstream newspaper like the Daily Mail. And what Phil didn’t mention is that the Daily Mail is not published by crusading radicals. It is an extremely conservative newspaper.
Meanwhile, just in the last week or so, the establishment liberal Huffington Post is running a 15-part, book length series about the various scandals around Risperdal. And a number of pretty establishment newspapers are writing in depth about the fake Study 329 that lied about the safety and effectiveness of Paxil used against children and adolescents. This was first exposed by the British Medical Journal.
All this is great, but we HAVE to have a movement that can follow up on this. It isn’t enough to have the facts out there, although that is extremely important. We have to have a vehicle to keep this in the public eye. Almost all other oppressed groups in our society have been able to get themselves together, and have made tremendous progress in gaining their rights. Why can’t we?
I think, because of people like Bob Whitaker and others, we have the factual ammunition to discredit psychiatry as it is now practiced. (I don’t think its practice is going to change much either.)
But having facts just isn’t enough. We need to create a mass movement, just like those created by many other groups in our society that have been and are abused. The people power is there. Literally tens of millions in the US have been inpatients on psych wards, and they did not like it. But for most, it was one bad but short event, and no one wants the identity of “mental patient,” any more than they want to be seen as a leper or, say, a Muslim terrorist.
How we recruit people like that is not an easy question to answer, to say the least, but I think we are not going to get far if we don’t answer it.
I can’t really tell what Corbyn has in mind. It sounds like he is against bigotry about our issues, but what would he have the health service do?
In 1985, when he was Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders spoke at our last Conference on Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression, so I think he understands the human rights issues. But I am not clear now either what kind of “mental health” interventions he would support.
I do have a sense that both Corbyn and Sanders have good gut feelings about it though, in that I am sure both of them see us labelled people as human beings to be respected.
Margiealtman, you wrote:
” Your idea is great however it kind of makes the movement exclusive and almost needing an evaluation before your are admitted to the group. What do you think?”
I think that yes, that could be a problem. I haven’t been trying to work it out in my mind because it is all I can do to stay in the movement in some fashion. But I guess my answer would be that such selective meetings would not be “the movement.” They would be a few groups among many. Those who wanted to trash everyone else would be free to do that to each other. Those who wanted to work together as mutually respectful comrades could do that. Hopefully, the people who mainly wanted to hassle everyone else would wind up disappearing, at least that is what I would like to see.
I think having such selective groups/conferences would be very helpful. If someone else would like to organize them, I would participate.
Bonnie, I have thought of precisely that, gathering together only those people who see the need for solidarity and having meetings/conferences with them, and I think it would be a good thing. But I feel too burned out to do it.
Yet I know it has to be done, just not by me.
What I have noticed, though, is that locally, here in the Bay Area, there is very little of this trashing. Even though I have some serious political disagreements with people here, we treat each other with respect. I think a lot of that is because we all really know each other. We are not just words on a screen, electronic messages sent from thousands of miles away.
When I organized the May 16 anti-shock demo here in Berkeley, I was almost surprised that it was relatively easy to organize. That was, I think, because few people here trash one another because of political differences.
I think we should be doing more local organizing anyway. Our movement really doesn’t have the resources any more to do large projects. Pretending that we do just leads to a lot of posing, where people announce that “I’m a leader,” and try to show that by attacking everyone else who is actually trying to do something real.
So I plan to work almost entirely with people I can relate to face to face. In a situation like that, those who think they can be seen as “leaders” by attacking others won’t get very far. And developing a sense of solidarity will be possible…I hope.
There are too many instances to describe. It even happens that you might praise someone for their ideas or their work and they turn on you. I have been seeing this for several years, but now it happens every day instead of every week or so. It is impossible to function in this movement. You don’t see it here on MIA because the comment section is closely moderated. But out there on Facebook etc. it is really nasty.
Thank you for your support, Katie, and for reminding me of the sacrifices you have made for this cause.
I guess working for social justice is never easy. But what is most difficult is when the people who attack you for it are not from psychiatry or the drug corporations, but the people who should be your comrades.
Having a member of British royalty campaigning against psychiatric atrocities is very helpful. And I am very impressed with all the anti- or critical psychiatry activity in the UK among academics and professionals. This is great.
And the raising of consciousness among a certain class of people is very important.
But transforming all this into the kind of political changes needed to actually stop these atrocities will not be that easy. There needs to be a mass political movement to turn this talk into action, and force the politicians to actually do something meaningful to stop all the suffering and exploitation. This requires a very focused kind of political campaign, because our real enemy is not (just) the psychiatric profession, but the multinational drug corporations that own it. These same companies own the politicians who have the power to stop the abuses.
One would think this fight would, and should, be coming from the movement of psychiatric survivors that already exists. But that movement is busily destroying itself, turning against one another and especially those within it who call for doing more than clicking the “like” button on Facebook.
Mass movements of the kind we need cannot function without solidarity, without a sense that we are all in this together. Who would join in such a difficult task when what awaits them is the same kind of degrading treatment they received on the psychiatric ward?
I don’t know how to change this. I don’t have a magic wand that I can wave. All I know is that the political moves in the U.S to strip us of our human rights, to turn us into the Jews, the lepers, the subhumans, the scapegoats of the twenty-first century, are moving closer and closer to being adopted. And meanwhile we allow a few people to destroy from within, the movement that ought to be in the forefront of fighting for our survival.
And I am afraid, for myself and everyone else to come.
But the internet also makes it much easier for those so inclined to trash other people. I have seen in the survivor movement that there is almost no trashing (though there may be some anger expressed) in face to face meetings. Internet meetings are not real, although we like to think they are.
Yes, I have heard how it was in the early women’s movement. How did any work get done? If you knew that if you tried to take leadership you would be attacked, why would you try? Yet the women’s movement went forward anyway. How did that happen?
Bonnie, thanks so much for your many contributions to this cause. And I certainly agree that there has developed a kind of “infrastructure” (for lack of a better word), which includes books and critiques like yours, and including Mad In America as well.. All this supplies arguments and information for those on the front lines directly confronting psychiatry.
But what I don’t see is a mass movement, which to me is totally necessary to fight institutions like psychiatry that are gross violators of human rights.
Particularly, as someone who has been in the “psych survivor” movement for decades, I see no growth, but rather what seems to be a determination to self-destruct. People are trashed right and left. People who actually try to lead specific and meaningful actions against psychiatry are especially attacked. I have never seen anything like this in any political work I have ever done, which goes back a long way.
Although there are literally tens of millions of people in the United States who have spent time as inmates of psych wards and did not like their experience, it is impossible to recruit such people into the hostile swamp our movement has become.
I don’t know how to change this. But it has to change, because without a mass movement, the forces that will be necessary to end psychiatric oppression just aren’t there.
Picket him. Follow him around. Please see my suggestion below.
I think at least some of the media would be interested in the idea that people with psychiatry labels and thei supporters object to his speaking in our name.
Thank you, Sera, for your (as usual) insightful and thoughtful article. I just love your title. Anasognosia indeed, lol.
Just as our movement has protests in front of the American Psychiatric Association and/or the local electroshock “hospital,” I think it would be useful and productive to demonstrate directly against NAMI and/or MHA when they show up somewhere claiming to represent psychiatry’s victims. We can piggyback on whatever media coverage they are getting. Hopefully, this will bring to the public’s attention who they really represent. Perhaps when they show up near where I live. I can try to make this happen. But I think any activist could do this, as our movement generally recognizes what NAMI really is and who and what it represents.
A very empathetic article and I appreciate the compassion behind it.
But what can we or should we do about these situations? Of course, “more money for mental health” isn’t the answer. They already have enough money for “mental health,” a/k/a psychiatric drugs. It would be good to have more articles in MIA about activism.
I also object to the sexist comments made earlier.
I have a feeling that this grossly phony campaign by the drug maker, claiming that approving this worse than useless drug is a “feminist issue,” is eventually going to backfire on them. This Astroturf way of doing things is, I think, going to educate a lot of women (and men) to the tactics of the drug companies that they may not have been paying attention to before.
It’s the sort of drug whose benefits (nonexistent) and negative effects (many) will be very clear to the kind of people (young women much more likely than average to pay attention to what happens to their bodies when they take a drug) who will be using this. It may become a feminist issue, all right, but a real one, not what the drug company has in mind.
David, keep up the good work!
Phil, I just want to express my appreciation for the many articles like this one you have published in MIA. Once again, you make really important points, clearly and well thought out. I am going to use this article in a letter I am writing to a certain candidate to bring to his attention the dangers of psych drugs.
Thank you again.
I have always thought that diagnosis is one of the most bullshit of all. That is, until I personally received what amounts to death threats from someone who would fit that diagnosis.
Some people with psychiatric labels really ARE dangerous, and if you are on the receiving end of their threats and you are afraid of dying, yes, you are not going to be sympathetic to their behavior.
When I was representing people at commitment hearings, there were almost no people who really fit the commitment standard of “danger to others.” But when I had to represent the small handful of such people, I was really frightened. I remember insisting that I sit next to the door of the hearing room, and that the door be open. Fortunately, the people I am talking about did things like say “kill, kill” to the hearing officer . I don’t know what I would have done if I had to argue that they be released, knowing that they were almost sure to attack someone, including maybe me, if they were released.
Oh man…why am I even bothering to comment on this? How are we ever going to change anything, with all kinds of media just repeating nonsense like this?
Reading about this trash is very interesting and valuable. One more “scientific” study that pretends that psych drugs are harmless.
But what can we do about this? I wish there was more discussion about taking all this good info and using it to change the situation.
“Products rather than people.” A very good way to put it, And that goes beyond the problems with psychiatry. That attitude has been adopted by large parts of our culture. It’s very scary, but not really new. It’s just that it is becoming the norm, if it isn’t already.
Very perceptive comment.
“My concern is how much of the society on drugs can any country sustain?”
Yes, I think this is a very important question that few are asking. It is certainly true of psychiatric drugs, where I am seeing a huge increase in the nasty exchanges between people related to the disinhibition caused by antidepressants.
Our culture is being changed for the worse by these drugs, and even the most thoughtful critics of psychiatry are not talking about this.
This article is so moving and poignant. I already knew that women were much more likely than men to be shocked. But I had no idea that the damage is greater as well.
And Bonnie, your novel excerpt is very powerful.
Thank you for writing this, although it makes me feel more upset and powerless against the atrocity of psychiatry than ever.
Because it is easy and popular to attack people with psychiatric labels than it is to actually do anything constructive. We are becoming the Jews of the twenty-first century. Just as in Germany in the 1930’s, everyone knows now that the source of all social problems is the mental cases.
Hi there Registered. I think it is very important to keep in mind, when analyzing arguments, who the audience is. I am addressing myself to the psych survivors and other activists and critics of psychiatry who read MIA. I am not citing specific problems with psychiatry, as actually there are many other commenters and authors on MIA who do a good job of that.
I am getting a bit impatient with you, so I make this challenge to you: if you believe you know how the abuses of psychiatry should be fought and what arguments should be made, you should make those arguments and fight those fights. I will support you if I like what you say and do.
But I don’t think it is helpful to stand on the sidelines and criticize people who are actually trying to do something. My motto is “don’t theorize, organize.” I wish you good luck in your efforts.
I totally accept that you too have had bad experiences with psychiatry. I also certainly agree that just arguing in generalities won’t get very far without facts to back it up.
But my arguments here are for the readers of MIA, who already know the facts. For the general public, I would cite a lot of facts.
I think you may have misunderstood my comments a bit as well. When I said the arguments you cited had no intellectual substance, I didn’t mean YOUR arguments.
I just don’t see how we can solve the problem of the massive abuse of people by psychiatry without holding the people responsible who commit these atrocities. Just as with the corrupt bankers who wrecked out economy, who were then appointed as financial advisors to the government after being bailed out, a few well-deserved prison sentences would work wonders. In that context, what the country of Iceland did s very instructive. And in the context of our human rights movement, jailing the criminals who do these things would work quite well to stop this kind of behavior in the future. But that won’t happen if we put our heads in the sand and pretend that somehow, no one had any moral or criminal responsibility.
Really, the criticism the last commenter cites has no intellectual substance. It just repeats the psychiatric party line, with no analysis of the criticisms made by people who are skeptical of psychiatry.
I am an attorney, and I can say that this is analogous to a criminal defendant, confronted by a lot of evidence pointing to his guilt, responding by saying that he is an expert on his behavior and therefore the charges against him have no merit.
This would not work in a trial, but right now, unfortunately, all psychiatrists have to do to be taken seriously is spout the same kind of nonsense. Their defense is that “what we say is true because we say so.” And that often works for them, at least for now.
Part of the reason it works, though, is that some of psychiatry’s critics (and I am grateful for their work) somehow fall into the trap of dealing with psychiatry’s abuses as if they were fascinating intellectual issues being discussed in some seminar at Harvard. This may interest those who like such seminars, but such people are generally rather morally numb, and they are not going to take any risks or speak out to change anything.
Much of what psychiatry does, such as drugging foster children at an early age and ruining their lives, are not interesting intellectual questions. They are crimes against humanity, but until the public (the only force with the power to effect change) sees these atrocities that way, they are not going to take action. That is my major problem with the approach of saying that psychiatrists have no moral responsibility.
If they have no moral responsibility, then that whole concept has no meaning. The logical end of that position is that we should do away with all laws against crimes, as after all criminals don’t really understand that what they are doing is wrong.
Of course, that is nonsense. and so is the idea that psychiatrists don’t really understand what they are doing. Given the immense amount of suffering they inflict on other human beings, it defies common sense to say that they have no moral culpability.
It is bad enough that psychiatrists are never prosecuted for their crimes, even when they are very obvious. Of course, this is true for many criminals who are wealthy and powerful. But people who are critical of psychiatry should not be doing what in a way is the same thing, absolving these doctors from their moral responsibility.
Nothing is going to change until the public understands the true ethical nature of psychiatry.
What is missing here, of course, is a study of people taking psychiatric drugs vs. people who are not.
Although I realize it would be almost impossible to get funding for such a study, it isn’t hard to anticipate what the results would be.
Scary. Who lobbied for this?
Good for you for standing up to Lieberman.
I don’t agree with all these intellectual excuses for not holding the average psychiatrist responsible for what he or she does. The fact is, these doctors have a moral obligation to know what is happening to their patients, who are undergoing great suffering because of what is being done to them.
For whatever reason, they choose to ignore this.
As someone whose childhood was taken away by one of the leaders of her profession, who was shocked and raped and tortured at a young age by psychiatry, I find this attempt to make excuses for the behavior of psychiatrists really offensive.
And I think this article epitomizes what is lacking in this magazine. There seems to be no sense of moral outrage among the psychiatrists who write for MIA.
Mad In America is in many ways a helpful development for those of us who are trying to end the abuses of psychiatry. But the moral numbness of this article, and there are many like it, is less than helpful.
One can talk about abstract psychological theories like cognitive dissonance all you want, but there is something that should be talked about much more urgently on these pages. And that is, the responsibility of psychiatrists to know the difference between right and wrong, and act accordingly.
This is terrible news. I feel so sad to read this.
But it isn’t surprising that the “mental health” establishment, and the drug corporations who control it, always wanted Soteria to fail.
This reminds us that it isn’t enough to come up with great ideas for helping people. We also have to struggle very hard politically to make them happen and keep them going.
I myself was helped a lot by a program similar to Soteria in Vancouver, B.C. and I am very grateful. Like Soteria Alaska, it fell apart after its original leaders left, though not in the same way as in Alaska. I don’t know what might have happened to me if it wasn’t for the help I got there.
I hope the legislators were listening. I think this must have been a very powerful presentation.
I’m not a religious person, but I think it is important to talk about the morality of what the psychiatric system is doing. When you have so much suffering and ruined lives, these practices reach the level of crimes against humanity. I think we have to say that, because most of MIA’s readers, certainly the psychiatric survivors, know that it’s true. The general public should know this too.
And I think our movement for human rights should be raising the issue of the psychiatric abuse of children more, much more. It seemed that we ignored what happened to Rebecca Riley and Justina Pelletier. Why?
It sounds as if the UK “mental health” system has gone even further than here in the US in openly being an agent of social control. What we read here tells us it is so far only being used this way against the lowest on the class ladder, but I (maybe unrealistically) think that the MH system is setting itself up for some forceful political resistance in the near future. This kind of stuff is becoming more and more brazen, and I think, as long as we have some semblance of democracy left, there is going to be a price to pay for this arrogance.
Carl Elliott deserves a LOT of credit for this. He must be a man of great integrity to keep fighting the injustice he saw, at great risk to his job. Good for him.
As I said earlier, I am not a fan of psychiatric drugs. As for my friend who considers herself bipolar, and does have severe mood swings, she was first locked up as a teenager, given drugs (of course), but then weaned herself off of them. Unlike a lot of survivors that I have connected with lately, she did NOT have a bad family history. She is still close to her mother, who I have met, and when I first met her, she was mourning the recent death of her father, who sounded like a loving parent and a very good influence in her life.
For many years after her loony bin experience, everything was fine for her psychologically and emotionally. But when she reached middle age, her mood swings reappeared. They got her in a lot of trouble, badly affected her ability to keep making a living, and led her to give away much of her money and property. So as I said, she went on lithium to keep her life from falling apart.
And if I were in her position, I would do that too. There should be better solutions, but there aren’t.
Myself, I think my primary mental illness nowadays is to be willing to challenge the conventional wisdom, not just in most of our culture, which seems to worship psychiatry and its drugs, but in our little movement too. That gets me in trouble. I am sure there is a drug for it. In fact, I think any antipsychotic would work.
I think it is very important for our movement for people to keep an open mind about everything. I have strong options about a lot of things, but I will change them when reality tells me that I’m wrong. I learned that in Rockland State Hospital where I grew up. If I had gone along with what I was told to believe, I would never have left. Now I experience pressure both from within the larger society, and within our tiny movement that tells me I must think a certain way, and only have opinions that appear on the (unwritten) list of two hundred approved thoughts.
Sometimes both the larger society and our tiny movement both make me feel as if I am back in Rockland State Hospital. But I insist on making up my own mind, and I think everyone else should do that too.
Of course, I’m no fan of psych drugs, but I think this doctor is being pretty straight with us. Yes, this is far from a perfect world. There are a lot of non-drug resources, but spread out over the US population of 320 million, it is very hard to find them.
And a lot of people are ready to do anything not to feel the emotional pain they are experiencing. I can see how it might not be so bad to give someone the least dose of the safest psych drug possible as a temporary crutch to get them through what they are experiencing.
Someone very close to me considers herself to be bipolar, and the fact is that her huge mood swings, especially her occasional mania, has really gotten her in trouble. She takes lithium. She hates it, but her mood swings have nearly ruined her life.
I have a strong feeling some of the people who know me are really going to go after me for this, but at the very least I think this particular psychiatrist is sincerely trying to have an honest dialogue here.
I think the argument will be that outpatient commitment is a lesser deprivation of liberty, that should be balanced against the compelling state interest of getting murderous schizophrenics off the streets.
As far as I know, OPC has been challenged legally in only one state, New York. In the case of In re K.L., New York’s highest court upheld the law, but the legal reasoning resembled the Dred Scott decision (“A black man has no rights a white man is bound to respect.”) In other words, the court openly said we have always done it this way and we see no reason to change it. Fortunately, I don’t think K.L. will carry much weight in the federal courts, as it is completely lacking in any rational legal argument.
Keep up the good fight, Lauren. I think the best we can do now is gather up our strength, such as it is, and organize some kind of effective national organization to fight things like the Murphy bill.
I think the bill will pass, but that does not mean our fight will be over by any means. One thing that is happening now is that psychiatry is grossly overreaching, and that is the sort of thing that eventually gets people to fight back. Murphy’s bill is part of this overreach.
And a positive thing that the Murphy bill does is defunds all the Astroturf organizations and the “Alternatives” conference that have been supporting those who have betrayed our movement. Without that money, hopefully those who benefit from it will disappear (I hope).
Something else that should work in our favor is the new consciousness in our country now about racism and the domination of our country by a tiny few who want to take us back to feudalism. Our movement should try to connect with that. Not “should,” we HAVE TO.
We are a movement for freedom and liberation, fighting what is now being called the billionaire class, and all the other antidemocratic tendencies in our country. We need to align ourselves with the larger fight that is starting to take shape.
In the short run, I don’t think we can beat back Murphy. In the long run, and there is no other way we can go, we and the other 99% of the people in this country are going to take back our freedom.
Solid scientific research? What’s that? This is psychiatry we are talking about here. What a silly idea.
Be quiet and take your meds.