Monday, November 18, 2019

Comments by Don Karp

Showing 93 of 93 comments.

  • “There is a history of peer advocacy from which we can take inspiration, a legacy of the early consumer/survivor ex-patient movement. . . In New York State, other local groups, including the Mental Patients Liberation Alliance, came together in the 1980s and 90s to provide advocacy services for people faced with involuntary commitment.”

    My comment says that the Mental Lib Project was doing advocacy 10 years prior to your (quoted) history. Not a real problem, just more accurate.

    ” . . . organized in the 1970s by people in the ex-patients’ movement.” You wrote this: https://www.madinamerica.com/2018/02/who-gets-to-define-peer-support/

    Sorry, Darby, Sera wrote a different article about the problems with the use of the word “peer.” https://www.madinamerica.com/2013/07/cheers-for-peers/
    “According to http://www.dictionary.com, the word ‘peer’ is defined as follows: “a person who is equal to another in abilities, qualifications, age, background, and social status.” She discusses many related and relevant topics corresponding and extending what you have said.

    She did not express the paradox of “trained peer” vs “peer.” I got that from a discussion with Natan and don’t know if it is discussed in one of his articles.

  • I appreciate hearing the history of peer support, and of it’s problems in terms of being co-opted.

    Actually, the history was a little off. I was a member of Mental Patients’ Liberation Project (not your mentioned “Alliance”). Back in the 1970’s (before the ’80’s that you mention) we ex-mental patients did advocacy work in the hospitals, even though we were not highly trained, nor was there a legal system to support it then.

    When I consider my experience at the Woodstock Festival of Peace and Music, 50 years ago, it was not the music that was most important for me. It was the brotherhood/sisterhood. For example, many tents were destroyed during the storm. This was not a problem because your brother or sister nearby had a tent you could hop into.

    For me, this was the proof of what human nature is about. We’ve slipped far away from those ideal times, but since it happened, it can happen in the future–a day I hope to see in my lifetime. When this happens, we will not longer need “peer support.”

    What does it mean when someone is trained to be a peer and the person helped is not trained, but going through difficult life experiences? A “trained peer,” to me is at a different level, no longer a “peer.”

    I think Sera Davidow discussed this quandary in this article: https://www.madinamerica.com/2017/04/downfall-peer-support-mha-national-certification/

  • I feel that the core human wound is lack of connection–with others, with nature, and with the diverse parts of the self.

    Undoubtedly you are right about what happened to you in terms of the mental health system.

    I wound up damaged by it, too.

    Had I been told of an alternative to the hospital, where I could actually connect with people without being judged or given advice, things would have worked out differently and in my favor.

    This is how peer support ideally works, fostering connection. Note the word “ideally.”

  • Dr. Bruce Levine is one of my favorites. I love his articles and videos. This article enormously helps those of us in the movement fighting mainstream psychiatry by carefully outlining what we are up against.

    It falls prey to my pet peeve–journalists with brilliant and penetrating analysis but without any solutions to what they so cleverly point out.

    In the very last sentence of this article he says, “When we recognize that scientific truths alone are not setting society free, we begin to shift our energy to strategies that take into consideration the above reasons.”

    Bruce, please enlighten us as to what those strategies might be!

    On another note, he leaves out the most successful way Big Pharma promotes itself–via non-profits it funds, like NAMI.

  • This article takes a fresh approach using old worn out terms, in my opinion. New wine in old bottles. When one uses “injury” to describe psychological trauma, this perpetuates the medical ideas.

    I’ve seen a lot of psychotherapists in my time, and in my experience, only one was good. That’s all I needed. Most were useless and a few harmful. None of them discussed with me in the beginning, their potential, based on their training and success or failures, to be helpful to me. None evaluated our progress.

    I have to agree with Steve McCrea. The omission of psych drugs as the third leading cause of death was a large error in this article.

    In my opinion, unless one is in a severe psych emergency, there is no need to seek professional help, like a psychotherapist. Just talking to someone who is a good listener–empathetic and non-judging, can be just as helpful. And what about peer support?

    Self-help, when applicable, is far more empowering than outside interventions.

    In choosing a professional therapist, besides one who does not judge, I would look for one who would teach me life skills.

  • Sylvain–

    From one US citizen, survivor of mental hospitals, and long-time activist who attended this conference, you are dead wrong with most of your opinions about this group and their intentions.

    There are many cultural differences between the US and Mexico with regard to people with mental problems. Family brutality is higher in Mexico. Stigma is much greater.

    Perhaps you need to reread this article with open eyes, not judgments and projections.

    For example, the privilege of participants was acknowledged. When someone is struggling to survive, they don’t have the time to go to such a conference or march. I dare say that is what US peer support systems and even MIA has become–institutions of individual class privilege and often of exclusion.

    Some of what you are interpreting might be language differences, or ones of history.

    Mexican history is so full of oppression that it has become normalized and institutionalized–to a far greater degree than in the US. Most people just expect it as a part of normal living, go on with their lives, doing nothing to stop it.

    Perhaps after rereading the article, you may elect to remove your comment.

  • I find this article very confusing.

    How much of a role do foundations play in healing people vs other sources? What are the other sources. And why this article on health care when this site is dedicated to madness?

    Personally, I do not think that begging for funding from government or from foundations is going to help, especially with the connection of health and the medical profession that exists when problems are mental or life problems.

    Why not sever the ties of self-empowerment from medicine, using, for example peer advocates, or just friends, family, and neighbors helping one another?

    There are severe cases where meds are needed short-term to stabilize. I see medically trained personnel who work at peer respites so that meds can be dispensed there when needed instead of the need to go to a medical or psychiatric emergency facility

  • My hope is that you can consider peer support as people helping people, too, not just therapists. Even in peer support, the professionalism is currently co-opted by clinical psychiatry.

    You claim that therapists can help consumers reach their goals. Why can’t a per coach do the same? Do you know many therapists who admit at the beginning that they may not be able to help? Where is the humility?

    I don’t see a spiritual emergency fitting into the category of “psychological injury.” What about people who are happy the way they are, don’t want treatment or therapy, but others feel threatened by their behavior?

    Since many good comments deal with the language you use as still pathologizing, I will not go into that, except to say that I agree.

    George Brenard Shaw once said that professionalism is the bane of society. Until we find a cure for materialism, I am doubtful that therapy can fix things.

  • Humans craved forms of ecstasy since before history. When alcohol was first developed, it was church controlled. Then there was prohibition by the state. Eventually, psychiatry got involved to a degree.

    My point is that I think the ecstatic experience is a part of human nature, and will be with us always, and probably continue to be controlled to the detriment of those who crave the freedom to use chemicals to achieve it.

  • “The only true path to liberation is to focus on how to support people to get their power back (or get it in the first place), never mind how they then choose to use it. That power may come with or without drugs, and those drugs may be prescribed or not. Our job is to illuminate the many paths, not to push anyone down a particular one.”

    For me, this was the core of your article.

    Fully informed consent would go a long way for me.

    I’ve had eight years of college, and another eight years in and out of mental hospitals. Is something wrong with me in that I fail to understand a lot of this wordy article?

    I do see that I need to take great care in talking to those who suffer from but are still are ingrained in the medical model. And I see others who need to blast mainstream psychiatry at all costs, which I think wrong.
    Any ideas on how to deal with either of these?

    I think Akiko Hart’s article, “Choice Not Truth” says what you two do in a way that’s more immediate, at least for me.

    https://akikohart.com/2018/08/27/pursuing-choice-not-truth-debates-around-diagnosis-in-mental-health/?fbclid=IwAR218Y48KF0qqoGMHDaTsrvP2JGbulzwUfiJ6y8nuLt23Y6udkxz7Vp5kPM
    “Pursuing choice, not truth: debates around diagnosis in mental health,” by Akiko Hart

  • Thanks, Lee, for your elegant commentary on the power of language. You shine in your encouragement towards activism in this arena.

    You mentioned some allies, or potential allies, as for example, the media.

    In my opinion, you left out two most important allies:
    1. Survivors with lived experience, advocates who are peers.
    2. Intersegmental groups.

    The latter are not only potential allies. Explaining social relationships goes a long way to describing people’s distress and suffering from the language you try to change, and goes towards looking at real change.

  • Thanks, Dr Caplan, for standing up against the abuses of Robert Whitaker and MIA.

    I look forward to and avidly read MIA articles every week, citing some in answers I give in the forum, Quora.com.

    However, from my experience, MIA as an institution, and Robert Whitaker. create abuse that must be checked.

    I have submitted articles about my lived experience to MIA. It’s common, when submitting guest blogs to a publication, that one hears nothing, and then can assume it’s been rejected. But I would think MIA might be different. It is not.

    When submitting, I never hear that my email was received or that my article was rejected. Nothing. I have spoken to two different editors of MIA with the same results.

    In 2017, at the annual Hearing Voices Congress in Boston, I met Whitaker and told him about this. He apologized, and told me he’d get right on it to correct this situation. Again nothing.

    As a site dedicated to those who suffer from rejection and other life problems, one would expect MIA might be more communicative than the run of the mill New Age blog. It is not. In this sense, it is another heartless institution, just like a mainstream mental hospital.

  • The term “schizophrenia” is not useful or valid, according to many authorities. People who suffer from mental problems or life problems are not “sick.” This is the normal course of events given what their life struggles are about. All psychiatric diagnoses are subjective, not science, so just from this standpoint, the science of the genetics of this is also pseudoscience.

    I prefer to hear people’s experiences rather than their label, that boils down the experiences into one or a few words so that insurance can pay shrinks and Big Pharma big bucks.

  • Thanks Peter, for continuing the ongoing story on the faulty genetic studies.

    Since you mention many times “statistical significance,” I’d like to chime in on that and its implications.

    I am not saying the papers you cite here are guilty of this, but in general it is good to be aware of the abuses of the use of “statistical significance.”

    Here is an article showing how the popular media twists research data. A doubling of effect, in this case, meant going from 1% to 2%. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2016/02/schizophrenia_genes_found_not_so_fast.html

    Many scientists are concerned about this type of abuse, as 700 signatures attest in the prestigious publication “Nature:”
    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00857-9

  • There are so many terms to consider.

    Back in the day, I was an ex-mental patient who dealt with sane chauvinists. We said that therapy was change not adjustment in a world of normalization. Then we found the word therapist was really two words, breaking it down to the/rapist.

    These days I talk about people with life problems, like poverty, that often lead to mental problems–not functioning in the way one wants, and/or blocked from forming and achieving life goals.

    Instead of recovery, I like transformation, but maybe this is too New Agey?

    How about we allow informed people to use whatever terms they like for themselves?

    I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for diner.

  • Your article was very thought provoking. Thanks.

    Yes, let’s start helping one another. During the Woodstock era, we were all brothers and sisters one. Help was abundant.

    George Bernard Shaw said that professionalism is the bane of society. I mostly agree.

    I think the peer support movement is headed in a good direction for helping. But it is becoming coopted by the medical corporation with lived experiencers needing work and bending ethics to get a job.

    What if public education included learning empathetic listening, and etc?

  • I am not one for change from within a system. Does history support this or not?

    There are three ways towards real systemic change:
    1. Holding actions, like demonstrations keep the resistance together in instances of threat.
    2. Education: raising public awareness of problems and solutions, hopefully to create a change in consciousness.
    3. Creation of viable alternatives that work so much better than the system, that they are in place as the system crumbles.

    These ideas come from Joanna Macy, and I apologize if I got parts wrong here.

    My focus is on the second and third above.

    I write extensively, answering many questions, as an “expert” on psychosis for the forum, Quora.com. I’ve nearly 500,000 answer views. And I am a member of the growing Facebook group, Drop the Disorder (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1182483948461309/), now with over 9,000 members, both professional and of lived experience.

    As an alternative, I participate in the peer support movement, but fear this is being co-opted with required trainings and certifications, followed by paid jobs with medical institutions requiring employees to toe the line.

    If others have ideas on how to change the system or create alternatives, I’d like to hear about them.

  • I found this a stimulating article. Thanks Lawrence.

    It could be expanded into a book to do the subject justice.
    With due respect for your effort here, it had many errors and shortcomings.

    You explain “delusion” but not “reality.” Here I think you mean “consensus reality?” How about substituting “creative imagination” for “delusion,” and what of “intuition?”

    You mention that some facts “imply” that religion is the glue of civilization. Could this implication be false–an illusion?

    I disagree with this statement: “things aren’t made real merely by many people’s believing in them.” In terms of self-fulfilling prophecy and things that are not substantive, existing as mental constructs, these are real. My psychological reality is not yours. Psychiatry denies individual experience, as you do with this statement. How can you judge my personal experiences?

    You say, “the first ever organized religious site (temple), Gobekli Tepe.” This is your belief, based on incomplete science. I think older ones will be discovered.

    Certainly an expansion on your ideas would better clarify these errors. Go for it!

  • An important consideration was entirely left out of this article. I want to bring this to the attention of any journalist or researcher on lived experience.

    Real peer functions have been largely coopted by the biomedical model. This is done in the form of certifications with exams, and by the very expensive trainings needed to pass them. Also by the sources of funds to pay professional peers.

    What kind of peer support comes from someone controlled by the psychiatric medical establishment?

  • This is a non-clinical mutual support group meeting for anyone in any stage of thinking about or making changes/reducing/coming off psychiatric medication.  It is meant as a space to support one another, share resources and relevant information.
    There will be an online Psych Med Support meeting every Tuesday at 7PM Eastern/6PMCentral/5PM Mountain/4PMPacific time!  The group meets for 90 minutes.
    https://zoom.us/j/436860888
    [email protected]

  • Dr. Breggin–

    Thanks so much for all of your very brave and important work. The world would surely be a poorer place without your influence.

    I do find this article a little short and with a lot to be desired.

    For example, you say:
    “Protecting the Feelings of People Who Don’t Know They Are Harmed?
    What about the sensibilities of people who think they have been helped by ECT? I frequently am consulted by people who feel they have been injured by ECT or drugs.”

    You never speak to how to deal with those who feel they’ve been helped, only the ones knowing they were harmed. A knowing omission of yours?

    The topic of how to deal with polarized situations is very important. In preaching to the choir, MIA, for example, there is little problem. But how do you persuade those on the opposite end of the polarity? This is what I do and feel it’s very important in bringing real change.

    Here is a partial answer by Akiko Hart:
    “Pursuing choice, not truth: debates around diagnosis in mental health”
    https://akikohart.com/2018/08/27/pursuing-choice-not-truth-debates-around-diagnosis-in-mental-health/?fbclid=IwAR218Y48KF0qqoGMHDaTsrvP2JGbulzwUfiJ6y8nuLt23Y6udkxz7Vp5kPM

    My feeling is that you are here pursing truth, which often does not win out.

    Looking at how one does persuade people, in general, one finds many articles, and this would be a good topic for the editors of MIA to pick up on for a future article, in my opinion. Getting by cognitive bias, for example.

    Did you know one’s personality is more important than the facts they spout? Gaining the friendship of others goes a long way. For journalists, broadening the issue, opening it up to complexity, provides inclusion of both polarities.

    Another strategy is to open with a statement from the other side and go on to show why it’s wrong before launching into a full on argument.

    My wish, Dr. Breggin, is you write a longer article that shows us how to be effective rather than just preaching to the choir.

    Thank you, sir!

  • You published another article in MIA about the benefits of diet supplementation and orthomolecular treatment for elimination of psych symptoms. If causative factors are environmental (or social) how do these supplements help? Do supplements prevent poverty, for example?

    In that study you mentioned all the subjects were already on psych drugs when given the supplements. Could the supplements helped with side effects rather than just eliminate symptoms?

  • This is a valuable and comprehensive article, but lacking in important ways.

    I am glad to hear that a series is forthcoming, and look forward to hearing more about political aspects like intersectionality, and action steps to take to remedy the system, both by professionals and those with lived experience.

    The intersectionality is crucial to a basic understanding of emotional distress and was considered very little here. For me, one of the biggest problems with modern mainstream psychiatry is that it is a distraction from real societal causes of distress and trauma, on both individual and systemic levels. Failure to address this in the article is a major omission, in my opinion.

    If one outlines a system to raise consciousness of the issues without providing valid alternatives in detail, what’s the point?

  • “I now want to boil down the role of love in our lives into a simple observation: Nearly all human personal or emotional success depends upon being able to give and to accept love, and nearly all human personal failure reflects an inability to do so.”

    Great statement, Dr. Breggin! Thanks.

    In my opinion, we are all one and connected to all existence. You could call this God, but for me, this complicates things unnecessarily.

    All existence is light, and everything else is illusion. The sooner one can grasp this fact, the earlier one moves into love and happiness.

  • Great article and use of language, besides being about language, Sera! Thanks for your efforts.

    I love a lot of the important themes you introduced. And I understand this topic could fill several volumes. But I wonder why you don’t give more examples of alternative language instead of just bashing what’s there now.

    For example, you said a lot about “peers,” including: ” Nor am I a ‘peer’, with my identity inextricably linked to my relationship (former or current) to the mental health system.” Later you go on to describe how the RLC does not use this word in job descriptions. I guess that makes them politically correct? What do they use?

    “Professionalism is the bane of society.” –George Bernard Shaw. This certainly holds for this new profession of “mental health peer.” There are licenses and courses, but who decides something so simple as people helping one another with their troubles? This new profession brings in a lot of very bad relationships that leave me wondering what it’s all about.

    Can you please enlighten me, O Goddess of Words: Sera?

  • I’ve heard some say that capitalism is at the root of most “mental illness.”

    Should we abolish all DSM labels from language? What to do about those of us who need to get labeled by the establishment to get insurance to pay for our therapy?

    I might still be going in and out of hospitals had I not had the government pay for an excellent therapist helping me tremendously with her insightful skills and teaching me some life tools.

    A member of our local Mental Patients Liberation Project group proposed that if two doctors certified someone as crazy, instead of the hospital, they should have an all expenses paid trip to the beach. More “healing” and cheaper than the hospital.

  • I appreciate your efforts to combat injustice, but feel your media approach is misguided.
    This issue is highly polarized, and neither side will be won over merely by facts.

    It would be wise if you and your organizers considered this article on journalistic approaches to bridge these types of polarized conflicts: https://thewholestory.solutionsjournalism.org/complicating-the-narratives-b91ea06ddf63?token=xUmMVek721EU-3v5 This article mentions several non-profits skilled in bringing together disparate groups, on highly polarized issues such as gun control.

    I’d like to also bring to your attention an important article by Akiko Hart on polarization within this movement: Pursuing choice, not truth: debates around diagnosis in mental health.
    http://asylummagazine.org/2018/06/pursuing-choice-not-truth-debates-around-diagnosis-in-mental-health-by-akiko-hart/

    And finally, open you up to approaches that are a lot more fun and effective: http://yeslab.org/

    To reiterate–I appreciate your efforts, but feel they are shortsighted. I’ve offered corrections and alternatives that I hope you will embrace.

    Will you?

  • A powerful article, Sarah, of not just by content but poetry.

    But no one mentions the genocide–half a million people per year die of psychiatric drugs. That’s 5 million over a ten year period. Period. G-E-N-O-C-I-D-E

    “Professionalism is the bane of society.” –George Bernard Shaw

    Mostly people just want to live and let live.

    What’s wrong with just listening to someone with problems–no advice, no judging, no explanations.

    I suggest you all attend a national Rainbow Gathering, an anarchistic celebration of peace and love in the cathedral of nature, to see how problems are dealt with. What happened to the caring and sharing at the Woodstock Festival, where all treated one another as brothers and sisters without exception? Or was that because they all self-medicated?

  • It sickens me to see ads like that of Google applauding themselves for hiring autistic people and encouraging other employers to do the same.

    I agree that the “neurodiverse” term smacks of the medical model.

    Here is what Sera Davidow (founder of WMass Recovery Learning Community and author for MIA) said about diagnostic labels:

    “I am suggesting that people struggle. Sometimes deeply. And that it leads us far down the wrong path to understand those *human* struggles by lumping them all into *medicalized* groupings that are largely artificial.

    Sure, *sometimes* people will speak to benefits… Helped them better connect with others with similar struggles and hear what’s worked for them, etc. But the benefits are far outweighed by the negative impacts, many of which I’ve already mentioned.

    We’d be far better off seeing struggle as struggle, and then being able to pick and choose from the array of supports that people have used to make their way through such struggles… Lumping the struggle into a man made category that does not objectively exist, narrows our view and our options and does harm to many of us.”

  • How would you define the word “recovery?” In my opinion, this is a medical term and links to disease and the medical model of psychiatry. I would prefer words like “change” or “transformation.”

    In the early ex-mental patients’ movement, we used to day that “therapy is change not adjustment.”

    I stopped taking meds and seeing a therapist 40 years ago. Would you say I “recovered” or that I am “in remission?”

  • An important aspect not mentioned in this very important article and the review examined:

    “I don’t use language like “stigma.” I talk about prejudice, discrimination, and oppression, because that’s really what it is in the end.” —Sera Davidow,
    founder of the W.Mass. Recovery Learning Community
    Interview by The Sun. http://thesun.uberflip.com/t/49818-digital-edition

    The quote points to the fact that the causes of stigma are the same as the causes of the distress or mental problems in the first place. This shows the need for intersectionality in any and all “solutions.”

  • Thanks, Ron, for providing this article of a valid alternative to the standard treatment for “extreme states.”

    You tell how Sean says: ” . . . holotropic breathwork can be both very effective and reasonably safe, provided that it is performed in a highly secure, private retreat setting.”

    For me the most important common denominator for safety is the experience of the shaman or leader of this adventure into altered states, and my compatibility with him or her. The setting is likewise important, but let’s not leave out the importance of the facilitator’s skill set, please.

  • “When the number of prescriptions written for each drug was factored in, a small group of drugs accounted for almost all reports of violence.”

    Contrast this with the widely publicized studies of the effectiveness of anti-depressants and the need for many more people to have prescriptions for them. For an excellent discussion see: http://www.talesfromthemadhouse.com/the-reaction-to-the-lancets-antidepressant-effectiveness-study-an-attempt-to-spin-a-sows-ear-into-a-silk-purse/

    Then compare this promotion of anti-depressants with President Trump’s solution to school shooting to be the arming of teachers, meaning more guns curbs violence.

    What do you get? “Experts” telling us we need more anti-depressants and more guns in the school systems and society at large.

    I applaud Dr. Breggin’s struggles but think very few are aware or care.

    Might it be possible to convict prescribing psychiatrists as accessories to murder in these cases? And class action suits against some of the pharma companies by relatives of the deceased?

  • Very interesting article that tied together a lot of material I was not aware of before. Thanks.

    I remember the upsurge of the ex-mental patients political activist groups in the early 19070’s, riding on the coattails of the civil rights movement.

    The Radical Therapist put out a similar anti-capitalist agenda as your article. Therapist being broken down into two words: The-rapist.

    You did not mention the introduction of Prozac as coinciding with the middle of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and just after the loss of many jobs from his initiation of neoliberal policies. People were (naturally) depressed when unemployed, and it’s not a coincidence to me of the timing of this drug entering the market.

    Although I appreciate your review of the book on psychiatry and neoliberalism, I contend that you also show no straightforward practical solution to problems it presents –the very same critique you make of the book. Your solutions do not speak to any direct actions, but are academic, as far as I am concerned.

    Political activism and the establishment of alternatives is a very slow and painstaking process that is making progress, but takes so much time and toil that at times seems like it is standing still.

  • This series of articles and the work he has done on this case, once again affirm Dr. Breggin as an anti-medical model super hero, at least to me. The series leaves me with many questions that I hope Dr. Breggin and others might be kind enough to answer.

    I have waited ’till the end of the series, to see what he would say about how an extremely dangerous legal precedent has been set with this case. Unfortunately, this is only very briefly mentioned in a few words. Even if Michelle Carter did encourage Conrad by texts to kill himself, wasn’t Conrad ultimately responsible for his own suicidal behavior, not Michelle?

    My paranoid mind thinks that beyond the blood vendetta and and political maneuvering was support for the use of cell phone social media texting to be used in future court cases, and that the encouragement of suicide be called murderous. Any ideas on this?

    As for the use of cell phone texting and social media, a psychologist well known in the media, Jean M. Twenge, goes on at length citing hundreds of thousands of interviews to show the damage of this activity to teens. The book title says a lot: “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us.” It was published just last August.

    Here is my last question. This is only mentioned, but it is there twice in the article:
    “His decision to enlist yet another person in addition to Michelle online to help him carry out his suicide. ”
    And this: “His parents did not know he had contacted another person, a young man on a suicide prevention site, and eventually convinced him, as well as Michelle, to help him die.”

    I assume that these two statements in the article are related.

    A man on a suicide prevention site helped Conrad to die? Is this a correct statement? I am confounded as to how anyone in suicide prevention could help someone to commit suicide. Can you please help me understand this? I’d say that man (a professional?) might be put on trial, too. What’s going on here?

    Thanks for reading my concerns, and I hope Dr Breggin can provide answers.

  • “We shall find the DA’s office may have other more personal reasons as well for heaping vitriol upon Michelle.”

    Given the conviction of Michelle based on the new law, along with the DA’s behavior, and your censorship, speaks to me of setting a horrible precedent for control where none is warranted.

    I hope that not only do you finish your public report, and that Michelle is vindicated, but even more important, that this law is repealed, and your censorship is denied.

    For God’s sakes, what is this world coming to?

  • Thanks so much Ivy, for sharing your story. It must have taken a lot of courage to put it out there.

    And what you said at the end of your article–
    “If you can add a listening ear, and share part of your story from time to time, you may be able to make a difference in your community that adds to a major paradigm shift in how we perceive mental health.” –is so very true, in my opinion.

    I think that there is another important way we can work to end this oppression besides peer support. That involves looking at the root causes of these types of problems to abolish them: homelessness, poverty, unemployment, racism, genderism, etc.

    You mention “stigma,” but I agree with Sera Davidow on this–that “prejudice” is what we should be looking at instead:

    “I don’t use language like “stigma.” I talk about prejudice, discrimination, and oppression, because that’s really what it is in the end.”
    —Sera Davidow,
    founder of the W.Mass. Recovery Learning Community

    Interview by The Sun.
    http://thesun.uberflip.com/t/49818-digital-edition

  • Bravo! Thumbs up from here, too!

    What a brilliant way to get across the truth to those who are blind to it. I have thought that for some time, the most effective way to make positive changes is via the arts because while being entertained, the subconscious mind lets down its defenses, allowing truth to get in there behind the back of its gate-keeper.

    When you offered this quote: “Recovery begins with non-compliance,” it made me think of my own process. I feel that mine has a more positive ring. After my seventh hospitalization in an eight year period, I was so fed up with the revolving door that I decided I would do whatever it takes to never return. And that was listening to my inner voice and being persistent with my reactions to that. One outcome was to NOT do whatever the hospital told me to do upon discharge: do not take their free medications, do not go to their outreach programs, and do not live in neighborhoods with other ex-mental patients.

    Thanks again for the story, the cartoons, and en entirely creative approach to changing society.

  • Great article, Robert!
    It leaves me with a couple of questions.

    This may be a moot point, but how do you assess the role of guild as greater than Big Pharma?
    They seem to me to be so intertwined. And then there is the role of the government in many ways.

    When Regan introduced neoliberalism to the US policies, many people lost their jobs and of course were depressed. That’s the same time that Prozac came on the market. Doesn’t seem coincidental to me.

    As an example of Big Pharma’s interventions, check out NAMI, who are hugely funded by them. They reach many families convincing them that mental illness is like other illnesses–not to be stigmatized, but instead to be treated with medication, like any other illness.

    As to your question of how to make reforms, have you ever submitted to the American Journal of Psychiatry or Psychology Today, or written letters published in any other format that might be read by med students or guild members?

    Thanks again,
    Don

  • An important study done incorrectly!

    We are talking about a relationship here, right? It’s about helper/helpee.

    When you tease this apart and artificially look at just one part, and with a story that is not real, how can you expect to determine something valid and useful?

    This is the problem with reductionist science looking at a wholistic problem.

    Perhaps it might be better to look at this in a peer support group setting and monitor individual responses to one person’s pain, and how the group setting helps out all of the members.

  • Thanks, Lauren, for publishing your grueling story in madinamerica.com. I feel that you are courageous in expressing yourself and sharing.

    I saw some of those abuses during my 5 voluntary hospitalizations, and now work with peer support groups helping others.

    In the article was this statement:

    “It is likely because I had been a political whistleblower starting in Washington in about 1996, and have experienced a lot of retaliation because of that role.”

    I don’t want to be intrusive, but if you can, I’d like a little more detail about the whistleblowing that seems to be the pivot point of the torture and etc. Can you please give me a more information than just this brief sentence?

  • Not sure about the alternative organic causes of mental problems. But if you are correct, there are causes of those causes. As Sera Davidow (a prolific writer for MIA) says: “I talk about prejudice, discrimination, and oppression, because that’s really what it is in the end.”

    Please consider poverty, homelessness, racism, etc. as causes.

  • I like the article, but it lacks a lot. Can you please define “nornal,” and tell me why psychosis and other so-called mental diseases are not on a continuum with normal? Why do different psychiatirsts give the same person dfiierent diagnoses? What about cross-cultural references to what is “normal” and what is not?

    In my opinion, psychiatric diagnoses are for people uncomfrotable with somone else’s behavior. Period. Normal or not has little to do with it. It is about controlling behavior making someone uncomfortable.

    I have interviewed people with these labels, and unfortunately, many of them are afraid to divuluge their experiences with their psychiatirsts. They fear they will be institutionalized or forced into other treatments.

    Let’s hope that like homosexuality, which was removed from the DSM, that all of these labels become meaningless!

  • How wonderful to hear your story connected to Purim!

    I feel you need to be congratulated not just for coming out, but for taking the big step of working to end psychiatric oppression by working with Mad In America and other groups.

    It took me 35 years and the publication of my memoir to come out. It was not so much of the fear of stigma as it was fear of being sucked back into the insanity. I rationalized that I should focus on positive aspects of my life and leave the negative ones be.

    I honor not just you, but all of the others who have gone through the psych mill, survived, and now are out helping others do the same. I am always amazed when I hear of yet another person who has done this, and I keep them listed on a spreadsheet. Eventually, I hope to write a blog or do a podcast with interviews.

  • I think we are getting off track here.

    Sera is not arguing about Trump’s sanity, but about using the abusive criteria of the DSM for labeling. This publicity towards a false medical model of “mental illness” is bad for everyone. And it goes nowhere towards settling problems caused by the current new administration.

    It is reminiscent of the news that all of the mass killings were done by “mentally ill” people when really it had to do with the medications they were on, not their mental states per se. But because of Big Pharma, this fact will not be in mainstream media.

    The media have a lot of control. When they say Trump has narcissistic personality disorder this promotes the biomedical model and does not stop him. Much better to take some political action and not get all hung up on Trump’s diagnosis.

  • Hurrah Sera! Wonderful article! And the comments, too.

    One comment not dealt with in my opinion had to do with calling our country “sick.”

    If we are adverse to using DSM criteria to describe a President, partly because it strengthens the medical model, why use this medical term “sick” to delineate our society?

    It seems to me that it is easier to use the sick word than to actually use words to describe what’s going on.

    If there was a polio epidemic in the US, one might claim sickness. But what actions does one take to heal a sick society? Give it a pill. Perhaps “insane” is a better word, as it has legal implications?

    I’d like to see more detail about what’s going on instead of using the medical word sick, please.

  • Welcome, Craig! I feel you are a great addition to the MIA team, but with some reservations.

    First, you failed to mention peer support (see the article in this issue of MIA) as a valid alternative, although there are studies of its effectiveness.

    Second, your associations with groups supported by Big Phamra bother me. I guess I am one who belies that the creation and promotion of alternatives will overtake the mainstream. All one needs to do is follow the money.

    I asked supporters of our current president how they can believe that this man of the 1% is going to help the 99% when it goes against his personal fortunes. Just ’cause he’s a nice guy does not stand, to me, as an answer.

    As a former member of the drop-in Rap Center in Berkeley, back in the early 1970’s, when I was still “psychotic,” I remember the prevailing the ideology as borrowed from the “Radical Therapist:” The cause of all “mental illness” is capitalism. Can’t say I fully agree but I think the point is important.

    Here is a reference to over 600 methods of complementary and alternative medicine:
    https://www.amazon.com/Codex-Alternus-Complementary-Schizophrenia-Drug-Induced/dp/0692532439/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473613072&sr=1-1&keywords=Codex+Alternus

  • When peer support happens at a walk-in community center like RLC, there is no danger of forced treatment. Although government funded, there is no roll taken and no accountability as such to the state. Everyone is anonymous. RLC: http://www.westernmassrlc.org/ There are some others that operate the same way, but, unfortunately, there is what’s called peer support happening in more coercive environments, like prisons, mental hospitals, and community mental health centers. You might contact RLC to find one like them nearest to you. Or start one.

  • This was a very helpful article. Thanks.

    One short-fall, that would be a good follow up article, comes from the last sentence:
    “The time to act on this knowledge is long overdue.”
    What are the actions, please?

    Also not included is the idea of the genetic link to “mental illness.”

    And chemicals in the environment as causal. I’ve heard of people who are diagnosed as “schizophrenic” who are “cured” when they discover a gas leak and fix it.

  • Dr. Peter Breggin has another viewpoint on why so many people take psychiatric medications: Medication Spellbinding. http://snip.ly/rkqe7

    I have a friend who told me that he tried every alternative he could find to deal with depression, but only the anti-depressants helped. He claims that he’s been taking them for 30 years and now leads a normal and productive life.

    I provide information from experts, like Dr. Breggin, which to me represents the truth. Then, when people still insist on medications, I have to honor their experiences, like I do with my friend.

    I find this track very difficult.

  • Actually, what you call “witch doctors” might better be termed “shamans.”
    In many indigenous cultures, when a person starts acting out, or showing symptoms, for lack of a better word, she/he is brought to the shaman. The shaman then trains this person to be a healer. The “symptoms” are signs that this person has special healing abilities. Please see: Malidoma Some—What a Shaman Sees In a Mental Hospital. http://snip.ly/jrcqr

  • I understand that redress or revenge is your bag.

    I’ll make two points:
    1. It is much more complex. The parents and others you call abusers have been duped. The real culprit is Big Pharma and the committee who compose the DSM. Here is where you might consider focusing, not on those who have so little power and are ignorant. For them, it is trying to increase their awareness.
    2. If you want to contact someone involved in redress, I suggest Dr. Peter Breggin. Go to his site, find his phone number and give him a call. He’s tackled Big Pharma in many successful court battles.

    There is more to life than redress. Life is not black or white. There are many shades of gray and even beige.

    Peer support is about mutual support, not redress, necessarily. It is also not about therapy, recovery or healing but transformation.

  • I guess “we” do not see eye to eye. My experience with peer support is transformative whereas yours isn’t. I was involved with one of the premier patient’s rights groups in the 1970’s–Mental Patient’s Liberation. Also with Claude Steiner at Berkeley Rap Center. Syracuse NY, my hometown, is where Thomas Szasz worked at that time.

    And I still am not included in your “we”. It’s a subtle form of control and I do not like it.
    I’ve no desire to control your expression.
    It’s an issue of effective communication.
    I think maybe you’d like to be effective?

    Think about it if you will.

  • Nomadic–I appreciate your participation, but you do need to investigate what the true “peer support” movement is all about. (Note: there are bastardizations of this movement) It is not about therapy or recovery. Healing, maybe. Better word is transformation instead of adjustment. Peer support is about social change, and so is aligned with other forms of social justice, as one cannot really separate these issues, as was said earlier. Please look at this: http://www.intentionalpeersupport.org/
    And this is a community resource group I took part in from May-Aug last year. http://www.westernmassrlc.org/greenfield
    We were talking about changing the name because of the confusion around the word “recovery.”

  • I agree 100%, Nomadic. This is why I see us banding together in peer support, without clinical interventions, without pressure and wholly accepting everyone’s experiences as valid. Not only this, but the need for peer support groups to cross-fertilize with other social justice action groups: Black Lives Matter, affordable housing, work with living wages, and awareness of sexual preferences and lifestyle differences, etc. It’s all a part of the same knot.

  • Most of my friends are petrified about what’s ahead with Trump. The up side of this is that we’ve set up a group to discuss things and take action. I’ve not been politically involved to this degree since the late ’60’s.
    And there are also upsides for discontinuation of government support for psychiatric medications. As in Whitaker’s and others books, countries that are so poor that their populations cannot afford these meds have better long term outcomes. The upshot is that after a period of a lot of suffering, in my opinion, we will all will be much better off without the harmful medications, and instead, as you have so well discussed, focus on developing real alternatives to a system that in most cases does not work.

  • Thanks for your reply and the information. I looked at the sites and watched the TED Talk and another video.

    Coming from the perspective of lived experience, and also retired from a career as an R&D chemist, I have a good grasp of the material, but disagree.

    I do not think science and cybernetics can describe consciousness and the mind. The mind is not in the brain, but is non-local. Look at how feelings are affected by the digestive and immune systems, for just a couple of examples.

    In my opinion and from my direct experience, healing transformation necessitates models that are trauma-informed and listening-based where people are accepted for where they are at no matter what their weird behaviors. This is where peer support and perhaps even shamanism come in.

    The scientific models usually seem to go to the medical model and we are back to Santa Claus.

  • Too bad the author of this article uses over and over the very detrimental term “mental illness.”

    Words have a lot of power, and in my opinion, need to used more widely to effect change.

    How about “extreme states.” “spiritual emergence,” and the like?

  • I love not only the content of this article, but the very clever writing, comparing and contrasting the two myths.

    But I have a problem with this sentence that does not fit any of the other content, in my opinion:

    “Promoting explanations that are consistent with the way people are designed will lead to more effective treatments and less stigma and other adversity for those who are psychologically distressed.”

    What’s meant “by the way people are designed.” This is getting to sound clinical or even biological–the design part.

    Can you please explain?

  • Naas–

    Many thanks for writing this article!

    What you are calling “intergenerational trauma,” to me, seems to be the correct offset to “genetic propensities” towards mental illness.

    Are you familiar with the work of Gabor Mate? He has the same idea but calls it “cultural transmission.”

    I believe that my “paranoid schizophrenia” came this way, too. My dad was too busy working to attend to me while a youth, accept for severe discipline. His father was the same for him. I don’t know how many generations back this goes, but would not be surprised to find it going way back.

    One of the ways I was able to break a series of relapses and hospitalizations was to finally obtain a great therapist. After a couple of family sessions, she told me that my family was diseased and that I was the family member displaying the symptoms. This made me feel better.

  • In coming out of 10 years of hospitalizations as a “paranoid schizophrenic” some 37 years ago, I was lucky not to get over involved with medications. I’ve been working in the patient’s lib projects and more currently searching for self-help options to standard treatment for those caught up in recovery that’s counter-producitive.

    I am dismayed to discover the emphasis on medications and their problems as probably the number one issue among those who are in crisis or in recovery. This means to me that Big Pharma has won the struggle.

    And I see this divide in madinamerica.com coming forward with the RxISK.org program, and with the new knowledge on epigenetics that uses a newer form of reductionist science to explain mental problems, and etc.

    The references to vampires and the like is cute and probably appeals to teenagers.

    What is someone who is serious about ending personal problems with relationships and communications to do when the advocates for alternatives stoop to this rather than exposing faults of the medical model and proposing common sense alternatives?

    Let’s leave the RISK assessments and deal with the real problems, please. Expose the medical/psychiatric profession for what it is and spend our energy in creating real humanistic alternatives, not patching up what’s wrong with meds.

  • I do not fully understand or appreciate this article and its implications for psychiatry with respect to the medical model and treatment with medications. Could epigenetic types of medicine be invented that fulfill the dreams of a quick and easy treatment for mental disorders?

    I have no scientific evidence for my theory of mental disorder transmission, which I call a cultural model.

    I attribute a part of the cause of my schizophrenia to my upbringing. My dad’s religion was work. He was a workaholic and had no time for me. His emotional unavialability was undoubtedly the result of receiving the same from his father. This type of behavior could have gone back many generations and its transmission, I believe, has nothing to do with genetics or epigenetics.

    I think that reductionist models of behavior and mental disorders are incorrect and distract from gaining treatment that is corrective. Its a disease of our times to want a quick and simple answer to all problems.

    Please let me know where I might be wrong in my thinking.

  • Hi Dr. Levine

    Thanks so much for your article!

    From the title, first subheading, and earlier parts of the article, I thought this would be a study about psychiatric political activism.

    Have there been any studies showing that political activism results in more positive outcomes and recovery than those who are not politically active?

    As a former member of Mental Patients’ Liberation Project in the ’70’s, I can attest that this helped me somewhat. But I feel that landing an excellent private psychotherapist had a much greater effect.

    For reference, I had five hospitalizations over a ten year period, labeled as a “paranoid schizophrenic.” I think my recovery was partially due to my non-compliance: not taking meds, going to outreach or living in neighborhoods with other ex-patients.

  • Hi William–

    Thanks for your well documented article. I learned a lot about genetics as related to mental problems.
    The part about placebo and beliefs was important to me.

    But I did feel let down by the return to mechanistic thinking in the very last section.

    Mind is not a physical thing, in my way of thinking.

  • This was a well thought out and very emotional blog. Thanks, Noel.

    Perhaps as a model, we can look at England or Australia, where “mental health” is a part of the free government healthcare system.

    To that end, please check out my upcoming blog (June 4) in LifeHack.org entitled: 15 Truths About Schizophrenia Many People May Not Know.

    Much of my material came from here: http://www.bps.org.uk/networks-and-communities/member-microsite/division-clinical-psychology/understanding-psychosis-and-schizophrenia “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia,” Division of Clinical Psychology, The British Psychological Society, 2014.

    This is a hands-on publication well worth looking at in the face of all the negativity with the Murphy bill.