Friday, March 24, 2023

Comments by Leah Harris

Showing 100 of 100 comments.

  • Sera’s excellent blog makes me think that perhaps we need our own channel to share alternative viewpoints in the form of short videos. The Western Mass RLC and others have done a fantastic job of producing their own videos, but I hope other people and organizations will be empowered to do the same. We don’t need fancy corporate backers to make this happen. Just a YouTube channel and some basic filming and video editing skills. Social media could be used to promote the channel and the films. Just an idea.

  • Jasenn this is a very creative approach, and a very well-researched piece. Thanks so much for writing this.

    As for this bill, I have three words: follow the money. This is how “democracy” works in America, and there is so much pork in H.R. 2646 I don’t know where to start. The “advocacy groups” in support have all been bought out as well. I hope folks who are outraged about the influence of money in politics will consider coming to Washington, DC in April for some civil disobedience.

  • I think that a lot of these comments can be attributed to a lack of understanding of how power and privilege operate. This very lack of awareness of male privilege and power (in this case, I believe Sera is referring mostly referring to white male privilege) is what is fueling the sexist oppression in our movement, as well as the frankly blatant racism.

    The definition of privilege is that you can’t see it. Abuse and oppression are much easier to recognize. Privilege is harder and takes some honest self-reflection, though it may be painful.

    This is not about demonizing all men. I know many men who check their privilege every day and seek to be conscious and uplift and support women and all people with less privilege. As a woman who is seen by the world as white – though I self-identify as Jewish – I need to check my own “white” female privilege every day. That means not speaking for people of color or LGBT individuals.

    I have learned a lot from being a part of the Black Lives Matter movement about allyship means. That means, among many things, that when a reporter shoves a camera in my face at a protest and asks me what I think, I say, “please talk to a person of color about this.” This doesn’t mean I give away my voice; I use it often. It’s a recognition that people who have been most oppressed by police brutality should be front and center expressing their views. Check out this solid piece on what it means to be an ally:

    So yeah, when a woman of color talks about issues affecting women of color, I don’t jump in and say, “Oh hey, what about white women? We are oppressed too.” I LISTEN. That’s Privilege 101. Here’s a link to an article of the same title:

    Here’s a video that gives a visual representation of how it works:

    I’d really like for the men on this list who are feeling somehow personally attacked by Sera’s blog and feel the need to defend themselves, to consider being an ally rather than an adversary. If you see yourself representative in any way in Sera’s blog, I hope you’ll reflect on your actions and try to change some things. If nothing in Sera’s blog applies to you whatsoever after deep and honest self-reflection, then please go on being a conscious man and working to enlighten your brothers.

    I am also taking Sera’s blog as an opportunity to reflect on my own privilege and power and really examine what I can do differently. That’s the great thing about life: the things and ideas that challenge us most give us the greatest opportunity to grow and learn. If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading.

  • Absolutely. Though I have been one of the people to warn often about the dangers of psych drugs and iatrogenic effects from psychiatric treatment, our toxic, dehumanizing way of life remains. Say the movement abolished it all tomorrow. People would still suffer because our basic human needs are not being met. What happens when they cut people off oxycontin? They go to heroin. This is not to preach some anti-drug agenda, but just to say that to tear down these horrible dehumanizing systems, we need to build political will. That means people other than us on Mad in America have to give a shit. That’s why I am focusing on culture rather than any one system in this essay. Because all the systems are an awful reflection of our culture and society. They are a reflection of our lack of tolerance for diversity, our lack of tolerance for suffering of any kind, and our really scary lack of compassion. Just my .02

  • Hi Phil! We have engaged on Twitter and I support your vision. I believe that we are the unsung shamans of Western Civilization. Some of us have been driven mad by it, and we hold the keys to healing our society and bringing our way of life into balance. That’s not grandiosity, it’s truth. The real anti stigma work would lie in us being seen for the creative gifts we bring, if our experiences were validated and honored. Rather than feared and pathologized. Bravo for your vision and boldness.

  • I agree that the experiences called “psychosis” are demonized. I know for my mother, a lot of her experiences were brought on or worsened by sudden drug withdrawal, but I know that is not everyone’s experience.

    I had a set of “psychotic” experiences when I was around 19. I knew better than to tell anyone about them, because I knew how “crazy” they would sound. I think I was able to hide them because the content was very positive, and it wasn’t distressing. Loving voices told me that I was appointed by God to save the world, kind of as a “messiah” figure, and that my secret identity would be revealed at some pre-destined hour in the future. It was a very hopeful kind of feeling, to be special in that way and “chosen” to do healing work in the world. Everywhere I went I saw “signs” that confirmed what the voices were saying. I was sad when the experiences ended.

  • Kate, sadly I will have to stop engaging with you, as you do not seem at all open to even trying to understand any perspective other than your own.

    I and others have been respectful and asked for you to share your perspective and you have. In response, you ridicule and dismiss us.

    I am trying to break down polarized and divisive views, and unite people around our common goals, not to get sucked into an endless string of arguments and debate from someone who isn’t even trying to hear me.

    If you actually read my piece, which I am not sure you have, a great deal of it is about forming voluntary community alternatives to Murphy’s bill. It’s not just about opposing Murphy, it’s about doing something better, that will actually get at the roots of suffering, and not just slap a band-aid onto festering wounds. Click on some of the links in my essay and read about the alternatives that are proposed. Please do your due diligence before you attack and demean other human beings for having a different perspective as you.

    If you are willing to engage with me as a human being, and not as a walking policy position, I would love to connect on a human level.

    I wish you and your daughter luck.

  • wileywitch, just one other quote which I find interesting: “we hear constantly about the options available to us as voters, and almost nothing about our other opportunities to play a decisive role in our society. What we need is a campaign to emphasize the possibilities more direct means of action and community involvement have to offer. These need not be seen as in contradiction with voting. We can spend an hour voting once a year, and the other three hundred sixty four days and twenty three hours acting directly!”

  • whoopsie, your comments make perfect sense, and they are well taken.

    I have experienced firsthand the devastating effects of overmedication, and seen the havoc and destruction careless and irresponsible practices of polypharmacy have wreaked on my family members and many friends.

    Right now there is a powerful “underground railroad” on the internet that is helping many people to learn how to take control of their meds and their own treatment decisions.
    As well as all the info shared on this site…but we’re not reaching enough people.

    Just the other day I talked to a family friend on Medicaid who is currently on 8 heavy duty psych meds, is having terrible difficulty functioning, and is not being listened to by her doctor. It’s almost impossible to just “find a new doctor,” as the waiting lists are so long.

    The entire profession needs to be held accountable for this gross violation of “do no harm.”
    It’s a terrible situation and one that I know needs huge attention. Thank you for taking the time to share your perspective.

  • wileywitch, thank you. Voting is a hugely important part of the process, as is supporting candidates who embody the values we want to see… and hey, why not consider running for office ourselves?

    I also think we can and should simultaneously be involved in all kinds of nonviolent direct action. I’ve been sitting with some writings on direct action (not mine) which are really making me think. I don’t claim this is the ultimate or the right answer or course of action, just stuff that makes me think what we can do in addition to, or beyond voting. Please do not interpret my quoting these writing below as suggestion that people shouldn’t vote.

    “Direct action is occasionally misunderstood to mean another kind of campaigning, lobbying for influence on elected officials by means of political activist tactics; but it properly refers to any action or strategy that cuts out the middle man and solves problems directly, without appealing to elected representatives, corporate interests, or other powers.”

    “In a lot of ways, direct action is a more effective means for people to have a say in society than voting is. For one thing, voting is a lottery—if a candidate doesn’t get elected, then all the energy his constituency put into supporting him is wasted, as the power they were hoping he would exercise for them goes to someone else. With direct action, you can be sure that your work will offer some kind of results; and the resources you develop in the process, whether those be experience, contacts and recognition in your community, or organizational infrastructure, cannot be taken away from you.”

    “Voting consolidates the power of a whole society in the hands of a few politicians; through force of sheer habit, not to speak of other methods of enforcement, everyone else is kept in a position of dependence. Through direct action, you become familiar with your own resources and capabilities and initiative, discovering what these are and how much you can accomplish.”

    “Voting forces everyone in a movement to try to agree on one platform; coalitions fight over what compromises to make, each faction insists that they know the best way and the others are messing everything up by not going along with their program. A lot of energy gets wasted in these disputes and recriminations. In direct action, on the other hand, no vast consensus is necessary: different groups can apply different approaches according to what they believe in and feel comfortable doing, which can still interact to form a mutually beneficial whole. People involved in different direct actions have no need to squabble, unless they really are seeking conflicting goals (or years of voting have taught them to fight with anyone who doesn’t think exactly as they do). Conflicts over voting often distract from the real issues at hand, as people get caught up in the drama of one party against another, one candidate against another, one agenda against another. With direct action, on the other hand, the issues themselves are raised, addressed specifically, and often resolved.”

  • Kate, I would very much like to see the video and hear your daughter’s perspective. I am not about censorship of ideas here. I’d like to hear what she felt helped her. All voices are important.

    We are not at cross purposes here. There are many other ways to support and reach people experiencing psychosis other than involuntary treatment. I am not suggesting doing nothing.

    We do have true alternatives, many of them developed by persons with lived experience of emotional crisis, suicidal ideation, and severe psychosis and other diagnoses.

    We WERE the so-called “unreachable” people who did find recovery and a meaningful life in the community. I was supposed to live out my life in a decrepit group home; that’s all the system had to offer me at the age of 18. If I had not escaped, I would still be sitting in that group home, or dead by suicide or the toxic effects of severe overmedication.

    Both of my parents had diagnoses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Both are no longer with me, because of the terrible and unacceptable treatment they received, which robbed them of hope and health. They have become part of the sad statistic that people diagnosed with severe mental health issues die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population. That is shameful.

    I have worked with folks with serious mental health diagnoses for 13 years. I am far from ignorant on these matters. And I have dedicated my life to making sure people have access to supports that really help, and aren’t forced into unwanted supports. We aren’t trying to take options away from anyone; only to expand them for everyone. So “apathy” or “uncaring” is not my motive. We at MiA are not the enemy, Kate. I am a mother, too.

    We should not spend so much time opposing one another, and instead work together towards creating a functioning system of supports and services that do not further hurt people who are already suffering, in many instances scared, and traumatized.

    Let’s work together towards a society that is accepting and tolerant of difference, that does not perpetuate stigma, and is “literate” in how best to support one another through crisis as individuals, families, and communities.

  • Kate, it’s not that alternatives don’t “work,” it’s just that there hasn’t been the critical public support and political will to make them widely available in our communities.

    Right now our broken systems are based on “crisis and stabilization,” but the reality is that people and families in crisis have been heading there for a long time. A strategy to include a mix of easily-accessible, person-centered, voluntary supports in all of our communities would go a long way to breaking the destructive cycle.

    IOC/AOT scares a lot of people away from seeking help. My mother was under outpatient commitment orders, and experienced them as oppressive and traumatizing. She died at age 46 after living a tragic life stuck in severe disability and distress.

    IOC/AOT is a band-aid covering up the much deeper social and political problems driving crisis in individuals, families, and communities.

  • Democracy Now! had TAC’s recent report in one of their headlines recently. I called and pitched a story on their pitch line, and they never responded. I also contact them via Twitter, and no response.

    It would be great if more people would reach out to them and explain that this is a civil rights and social justice issue they need to hear from us on. Suggest some specific guests, and why they would be good guests.

  • AgniYoga you nailed it. It’s a global cycle of trauma and violence leading to more trauma and violence, that has no end. Our vets have been told to perpetrate violence against others, and they do. 500,000 Iraqi children die. Contrary to what Madeline Albright said all those years ago, it was not “worth it.”

    We wonder why many of these fine young women and women, many of whom joined the military not out of some conviction, but to escape violence and trauma in their OWN communities, come home and kill themselves, or kill their families or strangers. Or become hopelessly addicted to opiates (given by their docs) or illegal drugs and booze.

    We need to be smarter than Murphy, Torrey, et al and demand that they STOP calling this a medical issue. This is not a medical issue and doctor does NOT know best. The PEOPLE know best. Social justice now!

    FYI, Murphy is getting his education from the wrong people. Call me Polyanna or call me naive, but for all his nasty behavior at the hearing, I don’t even believe that HE is evil. Just very, very misguided. He thinks he is doing something good for America.

  • Mental2, you have given me much to think about. I wish Bob could personally weigh in on this discussion.

    What you are saying dovetails with my own personal evolution as a social justice activist. I started out 13 years ago as a young woman taking an extremely rigid “all meds are evil, and if you take them you have been duped by your doctor and Big Pharma” stance. I took my family’s experience of being very harmed by meds and decided that no one should be on them. Flip side of psychiatric oppression, right? Not a great position from which to build alliances and create trust between polarized and hurting communities.

    Over the past 13 years of doing this work, my evolving understanding is that social change is not likely not come from only focusing on the evils of psychiatry or even the whole pro vs. con discussion on the meds specifically. (Though sharing stories, public education and sharing info on harm reduction, etc is critically important.)

    I too, feel that coercion is the place from which we can begin to articulate our collectively developed, profound, and beautiful vision for social change and social justice. Thank you for helping me to think ever more critically when speaking and writing about these immensely complex issues.

  • Mental2, thank you for sharing your viewpoint.

    I agree with your points, except when you say that Whitaker’s work is not helpful in this fight. In Anatomy of an Epidemic, Bob exposes one crucial piece of what has gotten us into this mess in the first place. Whether or not you agree with his methodology or conclusions, he has helped to raise public awareness that these medications can be fatally dangerous and are applied in unethical ways to vulnerable groups of people. He has helped to raise public awareness in a way that few others have managed to do before him.

    Bob brings his skills as a journalist and his own viewpoint; but he is just one individual.

    This must be a grassroots movement that is led by and for persons with lived experience – and by and for ALL the people who share our values and vision for a more just society.

  • Alex, your story is heartbreaking and inspiring in equal measure. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    How many of us recovered our lives after the hopeless road of perpetual patienthood by accident, by a stroke of luck, by finding a random book on a library bookshelf? It is my dream that one day, no one need stumble on to the truth by pure random chance. We will emerge from the underground and be heard.

    Your post makes me think that America could benefit from having a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of our own to attempt to heal the ugliness that this country was founded on, and continues to perpetuate in different forms.

  • Dear litmurf, I am thankful to you for reading my blog post, sharing your personal story with us, and for engaging with Mad in America readers. I hear your love and your fear and your concern, and I know you would do anything to protect and help your child.

    I myself have an 8 year old son and I want nothing but the best for him. I think if we took the time to talk, mother to mother, beyond all the media and political hype, we would see that we want the same things for our children. Happiness, safety, health, and success in life. My heart breaks, as I am sure yours does, every time I hear of a new tragedy in our country. But the reality is that forcing unwanted treatments on people won’t prevent another tragedy like Sandy Hook. It will only cost the taxpayers a lot of money and won’t lead to the outcomes that everyone wants: safe, healthy, and empowered families and communities.

    Please hear me that NO one is saying that struggling families shouldn’t have access to a variety of services and supports in their communities. What we need are things like affordable housing, educational supports, family supports for parents to learn how they can help de-escalate distress in their children, among other things.

    Just because quality voluntary resources for people don’t exist due to lack of political will to create them, doesn’t justify a Draconian solution like expanding IOC/AOT.

    Sadly, this bill won’t fix our broken systems – it is just a bandaid. Believe me, I wish there was a quick fix that would suddenly make all the violence and suicide in our country go away. But there is not. It’s going to take the hard work of all of us rolling up our sleeves to reduce the bloodshed. We can’t just hand it over to the mental health system and expect that everything will be OK. We have to take our power back! That’s why I wrote this essay: trying to point to a new and hopeful way of approaching the most serious social problems in our nation.

    Instead of fighting one another over HR3717, all families should be uniting to demand and create access to real, trauma-informed, voluntary, on-the-ground supports in their communities.

    If you tell me what city you live in, I could investigate to see if I can find some additional resources for you and your son?

  • Alix, I am so sorry to hear of your family’s tragedy. If I believed the concept of “anosognosia” had any scientific validity, I would turn the argument of Sally Satel, et al on its head and argue that our country has the biggest case of anosognosia of all. We don’t even realize that WE have a problem with epidemics of violence and suicide. Violence is ALL of our problem – not just the so called “violent crazies” out there.

    If America were a person, it would have been “involuntarily committed” a long time ago.

    We have to find a way to speak about these issues without demonizing the families. I know there are a lot of control freaks that are happy to see their kids heavily medicated and compliant, but there are just as many who want their family members to truly live a good life. And are devastated that their kids are just sitting around all day, drugged to the gills and living in poverty, on disability, watching TV all day. Know what I mean?

  • Chrys, Well, I am so sorry for misspelling your name what horrors your family has gone through.

    Yet I don’t feel it’s right to get into a one-upmanship of who has been more injured by psychiatry. I don’t ever assume to know what it feels like to walk in your shoes and also ask for the same respect.

    Perhaps you don’t know my story – my parents are both dead because of it. Glad your sons survived. Wishing you and your family well.

  • Chrys, that’s why I gave the example of what one community is doing in Florida. I want people to be inspired to take back their own communities. It’s all about empowerment and no one needs to ask permission to start organizing for social change.

    As for preaching to the converted, perhaps I am. But I’ve already gotten responses from people who are not part of our movement, have no idea about medical models, recovery models, etc. and they get it and like the idea of looking through a trauma-informed lens. So that gives me hope.

    I am a single mother of an eight year old son, so I think I understand what you’re saying. There is a role for everyone to play. Some people have more time than money, some people would rather give money than time, some people have neither, but regardless, everyone has something they can do to advance causes they believe in.

    I’m definitely not thinking that these changes I’m proposing would be easy or painless. But if enough people see that simplistic “medical” solutions to complex and frightening social problems are unacceptable, and demand real answers, I hope things will change.

  • Hi Rossa, I suppose that is always a possibility. I don’t tend to trust authority. And I don’t support a “medicalization” of trauma in any way. I would never suggest that everyone needs to “accept that they are traumatized so they can heal” or some ridiculous nonsense like that.

    Trauma informed approaches are hopeful to me because they are necessarily flexible to accommodate many understandings of what it means to be human – and they are inherently non coercive. It is understood that not everyone identifies as being a “trauma survivor,” and that’s OK. You won’t be forced to accept your trauma (like they force people to accept their mental disorders).

    It’s more a community-based approach to equip everyone with the knowledge that trauma is very common (though not *everyone* is a trauma survivor) and we must design all our systems so as not to re-traumatize people.

    Whether or not you are a trauma survivor, we can likely agree that not being re-traumatized (or not being traumatized in the first place) is probably a good thing.

  • oldhead, thanks as always for giving me some terrific stuff to think about. I think we can very elegantly juxtapose state sponsored violence with the violence we see mirrored in the society. The reaction is to drug and diagnose it all away, but that as we all know is a convenient pointing of the finger away from the real oppressors.

    As for whether Torrey, Murphy et al will bite, I didn’t write this essay for them. I wrote this to everyday people like myself who feel overwhelmed at how scary and ultimately unsatisfying it can feel to be an American today. I conceive of trauma as a principle and a focus for communities to organize around, and to potentially enact some real social change without needing to take government money.

  • I have to ask: where is the vision beyond dismantling the mental health system? Our movement is great at pointing out the problem, but lacks the ability to articulate a clear vision beyond pointing to a few cool survivor run programs that don’t exist for 99% of people on this planet.

    We need a vision. MLK Jr had a vision about what society would and should look like “I have a dream…” THIS is what I am saying, what MLK Jr said:

    “The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

    We cannot walk alone.”

    What I am suggesting is reaching across the aisle so that we aren’t so alone and isolated in this fight.

  • oldhead, I like you. And I wish I could have gone back and edited and toned down my earlier comment. I didn’t mean to be so snarky and angry, I was just tired after a long day, and got all prickly at the suggestion that I am advocating watering down our position. Note to self: no commenting while exhausted.

    I think you’re right, we do agree on most things.

    I love radicals. I’d like to think I still am one. My roots in this movement started out giving workshops on psychiatric oppression to young anarchist activists at the National Conference on Organized Resistance in DC. And at heart, I still resonate with the beautiful ideals of that movement.

    What I get frustrated with is how people don’t know about us. Most of us who discovered this movement, did it by accident, not because it is know that there is an alternative to the medical model. I don’t want us to be so underground anymore.

    How can we work together, folks who are working inside and outside of systems, to be heard and to effect the kinds of change we’d like to see?

  • Donna, you are right. I am definitely not suggesting wearing rose colored glasses. I said that we are in the fighting stage, and that stage is really hard. I have been thinking of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and the struggle for civil rights, and how they won because they never gave up fighting, even when their lives were on the line. Yes he is a bully, but we have faced worse!

    Thank you for your kind words. I am fortunate to be able to be there.

  • Murphy et al talk out of both sides of their mouths. They say in the same breath that we are no more violent than the rest of the population, but then bring up stories of the “violent mentally ill.” We have to be smarter than they are and articulate an approach to our social problems that goes beyond simply pathologizing misery and injustice.

    And thank you, Cataract, for your kind words.

  • Yana, these are such great questions and I don’t admit to having all the answers.

    I think we have been good at making virtual ties with one another, but perhaps more of an on the ground presence is needed.

    I agree with Michael Cornwall in his recent post that we need some kind of national advocacy and activist and support networks in our communities.

    I think a chapter model with a “values driven” approach could include not just persons with lived experience but their (supportive) family members, friends, providers who are fed up with business as usual–everyone who wants to see people treated with dignity, to see their human and civil rights preserved, and to have access to the supports they need to live the lives they want. MHA chapters are one way to get involved. I think NAMIs can vary, some are more progressive than others. So one would have to be strategic.

    I think what can unite us, more than rhetoric and intellectual arguments, are our common human stories of struggle and survival. We all struggle, and we would do better to reach out to one another instead of fighting or demonizing each other.

  • Oldhead, it’s not about what is “correct” factually. It’s about who is winning the hearts and minds of the American people? It’s Torrey, et al. And until we get our s–t together and communicate in a way that people can actually sympathize with and understand and care about, we will lose the war. The Murphys of the world will win America’s heart and influence public opinion and law ever more towards the shit we DON’T want.

    Please spare me the sanctimonious lecture me about “watering down a message.” Psychiatry killed my parents, and it almost killed me. I am no fan of psychiatry. But going on about the “evils of biological psychiatry,” while 100% scientifically correct, will not win this battle of public opinion. Psychiatry is here. Mental health systems are here. You have to find a place you can begin to work from. That place for me is force — not psychiatry or the medical model as a whole. Call me a sellout, I call it reaching people’s hearts and minds.

    I would like to see some real social change. That is my goal. I’m attempting to use language that everyday human beings – the people not connected with our movement – and politicians can understand. I want offer real alternative solutions, not just bitch about the problem. I want to be able to influence the local and national conversations that go on without me to adopt trauma informed approaches and stop hurting people in the name of treatment.

    Let me break down for you in PR terms. If folks want to be 100% “radical” they will be 100% “right,” but they come off as a smug, holier than though a$$holes. Also, generally offering no real world solutions other than shutting down “biological psychiatry?” It’s super easy for the Murphys and Torreys of the world to dismiss and ignore this rhetoric.

    We have to ask ourselves: do care more about being 100% right on every point than we are on actually influencing social change? How much of a dent has it made in the public discourse? How much influence will we have in actually trying to change the current reality?

    I am for ending forced treatment forever and ensuring no one’s human and civil rights are ever violated again in the name of help. Murphy has given us the opportunity to attack force. Let’s be smart about it and move beyond just slinging our own brand of propaganda.

  • We have to be sophisticated in our messaging. Going on and on about the evils of “psychiatry” and “drugging” is exactly the kind language that will get us nowhere in terms of reaching hearts and minds. This is so much bigger than psychiatry or drugs. I say end the “drug hypocrisy” and let people have their drugs. Harm reduction and informed consent for licit and illicit drugs.

    In my opinion we need to focus around forced treatment and say that it has no place in health care. Otherwise it just feeds into Murphy’s arguments that we are a bunch of “anti psychiatry” fringe people who don’t care about human suffering and don’t want people to access support in a crisis. We have to be smart and sophisticated if we want to impact the debate.

  • Thanks for your vision, Michael. We can’t let our well-founded cynicism about Big Pharma make everyone in NAMI the enemy. We spend too much time demonizing NAMI people when those are the very folks we should be reaching out to. I am not talking the rabid fundamentalists like Torrey et al, but rather the everyday people who haven’t been exposed to an alternative viewpoint. Not all of them are abusive monsters. Many of them genuinely love and want to see their family members live a good life.

    We don’t have a chapter representing our values in their city. NAMI does. So we lose.

    Yes, NAMI is a grassroots network and we should be taking notes on their model so we can be more effective on the local, state, and national level.

  • Dear larmac,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, and my heart weeps for what your entire family has endured. Sen. Deeds needs to hear from you!

    In addition to the alternatives I mentioned in my letter, other alternatives to the destructive paradigm being proposed by Murphy et al are:


    Please stay in touch with me and let me know if you manage to reach Sen. Deeds!


  • Walnuts, I love Steve’s answer and yes, this post was certainly not intended to make anyone who takes medication feel bad. I would never presume to judge anyone for their choices and I know many people have been helped by medication.

    I just wish myself and my family had been warned of this potential adverse effect, so we could have been aware. It would have saved us all a lot of pain and suffering.

    I hope you won’t spend one moment feeling shame or bad for whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.

  • Maria, I am so sorry for your loss, and the devastation you have experienced. And I am so sorry if my writing at all implied that we aren’t in this together. Your perspective is certainly valid and hugely important, and I know how awful it feels not to feel heard. I only wished to make the point that the loss survivor voice had been more included here in the US. It’s sad and scary that we cannot have an honest narrative about drugs and suicide. I was part of a group of people who worked very hard to get the black box warning put SSRIs for youth. Though they clearly have the same effect on some adults as well.

  • Yes, the “war on cancer” is so similar, with the treatments often killing people or making them sicker. The Gershon Miracle is a must-watch on that. I wrote a piece long ago about the similarities between obstetrics and psychiatry in terms of lack of birth options, informed consent, etc. Don’t get me started. It’s all interconnected!

  • Yes, when we get into assessment mode, we destroy the relationship and trust that is so essential to someone healing and finding their way back to life.

    I don’t care how “sensitive” the instrument is — when someone is in assessment mode, they immediately have an agenda other than just to listen to or be with the person in distress. The funny thing is, I find when you give someone the space to explore without fear of judgment or coercion, they themselves usually naturally go to what is driving the suicidal feelings. As you say, this is something you miss completely when you start to focus on the frequency of suicidal feelings, the duration, etc.

    Fear/risk/liability concerns, in my opinion, really do interfere with the formation of genuine, respectful, mutual human relationships – ironically, the very thing that many of us have found to be very healing as we struggled to cope with suicidal despair.

  • Thank you, Darby! I hope to start some real, honest dialogues about how we can really respond to and address suicide in a useful, strengths-based, trauma-aware way–not just prevent it. Sadly, we have to work with a system so deeply mired in fear and liability/risk concerns that honest conversations are rarely possible. If they happen, they often happen by accident, or because a counselor or professional was ignoring the rules. And then there are all the ways society fears, sensationalizes, shames, and demonizes suicidal people. So there is a lot of fear, ignorance, and static to overcome, but I see things changing.

  • Steve, thank you so very much for your comments. “I really do believe this is the only way the mental health world will reform – when those who have to suffer through its “helpful” interventions stand up and say NO MORE!” Yes! This is right on. I am excited about parallel efforts where folks are setting up their own support networks independent of systems, like the Hearing Voices Networks and attempt survivor support groups. We gotta take it back to the grassroots and out of institutional or quasi-institutional settings! Thank you for the work you do in the world.

  • Stephen – “All they want to do is drug us to the gills and numb us to our issues and distress while never once helping us with anything practical that might enrich our lives to the point that we would rather live than die.” Wow, that is so, so well put. What a powerful story, these are exactly the kinds of stories we need to be hearing, sharing, and corroborating. I am so sorry you went through that hell. Thanks for speaking out.

  • Sera, thanks for articulating this issue that so many of us have struggled with for a long time. I think as abolitionists we have done a pretty good job of envisioning alternatives to the current system. But our struggle is translating this vision into a large scale reality, due to all the obstacles I don’t need to repeat here.

    It seems to me that most people want quick fixes to deep-rooted social issues, which is why the forced treatment argument is so compelling and plays so well with the public and the media. It’s a simplistic “solution” to complex issues, but as we know it often creates more problems that it solves.

    The human rights approach is a powerful one…that force is just wrong because it violates our basic human rights. But then I can see the TAC people saying, “what about the human rights of Kendra Webdale?” Which throws it back on the “violent mentally ill” and puts us right back into the gap of which you speak.

    What so many of us are suggesting (building authentic communities, creating non-coercive supports) is more of a long-term approach. It’s not easily reducible to sound bytes, which makes it more difficult to “sell” to the general public. Part of the issue as I see it, is that we have boxed ourselves into a narrow “mental health” box, which as we know is not at its heart about community, healing mutual relationships, or the like. It’s about “treatment.”

    I know that you all at the RLC have done a great job of cultivating allies in the broader community… perhaps it’s time for us to get out of the “mental health” box and start framing our alternatives as a community development/community organizing approach.

    Anyway, these are just some rambling thoughts…thanks again for getting this important conversation going, Sera.

  • Matt, as always your willingness to be honest and humble and vulnerable about your journey is so awesome. What you illustrate so well is that this path requires us to be constantly mindful about what we consume and how we spend our time. It’s a journey of self-(re)discovery, riddled with lots of trial and error.

    As we are human, sometimes that mindfulness is going to slip and old habits will take over for a time. But as you have shown here, a setback, while it royally sucks as you are going through it, is an important opportunity to be more self-aware and to get back on the good old self-care horse once again. Best of luck to you, and please keep us posted as to how you are faring!!

    With huge respect and admiration, Leah