Tag Archives: survivors of psychiatry

Another Survivor’s Tale

My Story
This post was submitted by a reader.

I tried to commit suicide for the first time when I was 15. I spent my 16th birthday locked up in Dammasch State Mental Hospital, I freaked out when I was told I was going to have to stay so my clothes were ripped off me, by male aids and I was thrown naked in a real padded room… hint they are NOT padded. The light was on all the time and nothing was provided for cover to keep warm. I remember seeing men looking at me and I remember pictures being taken thru the peek hole window. I was in that room, with meals shoved thru a slit in the door for 3 days. The toilet was a hole in the floor and no, there wasn’t any toilet paper. . While at the “hospital”, I remember being put in a strait jacket and tied into a chair and my “meds” forced down my throat. When I realized I could vomit them back up I was sedated and given drugs via an IV. I woke up to being raped. I made friends with one gal, she was 14. She had ( I know know as ) anorexia. I watched her try and try and try to eat. She died. Another person I made friends with hung himself and died. The psy dr said I was on the schedule for shock treatments since I refused to co-operate with the rules and the staff. That scared the shit outta me. I started doing all the things I was supposed to do and 3 months later I was released.. cured. Nothing was different for me, except I learned how to manipulate people to get what I wanted. I HATED that feeling so I never took “advantage” of that “skill”.. Remember I had just turned 16.

In my early 20’s I tried to commit suicide again and committed to another hosp in Vancouver WA with a DX of Manic Depression. I was on a cocktail of lithium, stelazine, tofranil chloral hydrate and a few others I can’t remember the names of .. for more than 7 years I saw a psychiatrist until my divorce and my insurance ran out. Dumped to fare the best I could into the mental health system for the poor I quit all my drugs cold turkey.
It was while under the Dr’s care I read a book he recommended called Self-Talk. I believed I was sick with metal illness(es?) until I read that book. For the first time I heard no one can make me feel anyway at all unless I choose to let them. That my responses to life were totally under my control and direction ALL of them. I was 32.  I’ve attempted suicide or came very very close to it 6 times in my life. Finally I asked myself, self, I’m smart enough to have gotten the job done so whats REALLY going on? I figured out WHY I kept diving into the back hole. I really do walk a different, road now thanks to getting the message my subconscious kept sending me. Thats been my experience with the Mental Health system. I am continually agast and appalled at the amount of drugs being forced onto people, particularly children, We adults have been fed a line of BS for so long about depression that it’s destroying us as a nation and no one can see it.

A  Reader

Involuntary Mental Health Commitments

The recent publicity surrounding the Justina Pelletier case has focused attention, not only on the spurious and arbitrary nature of psychiatric diagnoses, but also on the legitimacy and appropriateness of mental health commitments.  It is being widely asserted that these archaic statutes are fundamentally incompatible with current civil rights standards, and the question “should mental health commitments be abolished?” is being raised in a variety of contexts.


Here in the US, each state has its own laws and procedures for pursuing a mental health commitment.  Some states allow outpatient commitment as well as inpatient.  There is wording variation from state to state, but in most jurisdictions there is provision to commit a person involuntarily for psychiatric treatment if there is convincing evidence that the person has a “mental illness” and as a result of such “mental illness” is a danger to himself or others, or is gravely disabled.  The term gravely disabled is generally defined along the lines of being unable to care for oneself or provide for one’s basic needs. In recent years some states have expanded these criteria to embrace:

  1. Individuals who have a psychiatric history and are on a “deteriorating course.”
  2. Individuals who are being cared for by a family member, and this care is about to be terminated.


Here again, the procedures vary from place to place, but in most cases the mental health center is involved.  Typically the police bring the individual to the mental health center to be evaluated by a mental health professional.  The professional evaluates the individual to determine if the legal criteria are met.  If they are, he fills out the necessary forms, swears to their accuracy in front of a judge, who , if he agrees with the assessment, signs the hold order.  The individual is then taken to the state hospital, or an alternative approved facility, by a police officer.


Before the expiration of the 72-hour hold, the hospital personnel decide whether to allow the individual to convert to voluntary status (which he can do by signing the appropriate forms) or pursue a longer-term commitment.  The latter usually involves a formal hearing conducted in the local courthouse, or more usually, in a room at the state hospital.  A judge presides, and both hospital and client are represented by lawyers.  The hospital calls as witnesses psychiatrists and other staff who have worked with the client.  Clients may also call witnesses, but seldom do.


The fundamental premise underlying all mental health commitment legislation is that mental illnesses exist, and that these putative illnesses cause people to think, feel, and behave in a problematic, and sometimes dangerous, manner.

It is my position that this premise is spurious.  I have developed this theme throughout the website, and the details need not be repeated here.

It is also my position that psychiatric treatments, which almost always mean psycho-pharma drugs, and/or shock treatment, are for the most part unhelpful and disempowering, and usually damaging, especially in the long term!  They generally reduce, at least somewhat, an individual’s level of agitation, aggression, and/or disruption, and this is the essential justification for their use in these situations.  The notion that they are medications and are being used to treat illnesses is false.  The stark reality is that the individuals are being forcibly drugged into quietude, and this is being done under the guise of providing “treatment” for an “illness.”

If the treatments that individuals received at state hospitals and other approved facilities were extremely beneficial, then one might be posed with an ethical dilemma.  To illustrate this, consider the case of a person who has, say, a gangrenous finger, but is refusing treatment.  The treatment would involve losing the finger, but saving his life.  Refusing treatment will result in death.  One could certainly make a case for enforced treatment, especially if his family, friends, etc., were petitioning the courts in this regard.  But in fact, in the US, the general principle is that such an individual is legally entitled to refuse treatment, and die from his illness if he so chooses.

But mental health commitments are entirely different.  Individuals get committed to state hospitals, not because they are sick in any conventional sense of the term, but because they are agitated, and/or aggressive, often as a result of conflict with family members, neighbors, local officials, etc…  Usually they are people who have been committed previously, sometimes very frequently, and their social and other abilities have been severely compromised by a history of ingesting psychiatric drugs.  Often their agitation/aggression at the time of the commitment is caused by withdrawal from psychiatric drugs that they had previously taken.  In most cases they have received large quantities of neuroleptic drugs, over extended periods, the devastating side effects of which are all too obvious, and contribute to the perception that they are “different” and need to be locked up.

Because the agitation/aggression is conceptualized as a “symptom” of the putative illness, little or no attempt is made by the police or by the mental health staff to explore the reasons for the agitated, problematic behavior, or what remedies might be available.  The individual is deemed to be “mentally ill,” and it is assumed that attempts at discussion or dialogue would be pointless.  It is also assumed that the individual has zero credibility.

So the kind of ethical dilemma that might exist in the case of the man with the gangrenous finger, doesn’t arise here.  We’re not having to choose between respecting the person’s civil rights vs. saving his life.  We’re choosing between respecting his civil rights vs. forcing him to undergo procedures that will damage him further and will likely cause further deterioration in his relationships with family and other members of the community.


The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution states:

“…nor shall any person…be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law…”

The Fourteenth Amendment states:

“…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law…”

In practice, the procedures outlined above for the 72-hour hold and for the 3-month committal are considered to be due process of law.  Strictly speaking this is true, because they reflect the law as enacted by the particular state legislature.

The more fundamental question, however, is:  do these procedures provide adequate protection for the civil rights of the individual who is being committed?  In my view, the answer to this question is no, for the following reasons.

1.  In practice, the 72-hour hold is decided by the mental health worker, often a fairly junior intake worker, who in many cases has been trained to think of involuntary commitment as the only reasonable response to a crisis.  Even in cases where a judge’s signature is required, it is extremely rare to find a judge who will attempt to second-guess the mental health professional.  The unspoken ethos here is that “crazy” people are fundamentally different from “ordinary” people; that they can only be understood by trained professionals; and that interference from non-professionals is likely to be counterproductive.  This ethos, incidentally, is actively promoted by organized psychiatry.  Indeed, I would suggest that it constitutes one of the fundamental pillars of psychiatric “treatment.”  It is also false.  People who are “crazy,” or despondent, or agitated are not fundamentally different from “ordinary” people.  Their craziness, despondency, and/or agitation are usually understandable if one is willing to listen attentively and respectfully and patiently.

2.  In practice the judge’s signature tends to be a rubber stamp, and there is no attorney present to argue for the client.  There is usually not even a requirement that the client be present at the initial meeting between the mental health worker and the judge.

3.  Although danger to self or others or grave disability is usually required by the statute, in practice a 72-hour hold can be obtained in situations that don’t actually rise to this standard.  In most cases, if a client has come off his “meds,” and is agitated, a 72-hour hold will be granted even if his agitation is for some legitimate reason and is perfectly understandable, and even if he poses no particular threat to self or others.  The tacit, and incidentally false, assumption is that his agitation/aggression will inevitably escalate unless he is sent to the state hospital for “stabilization.”

4.  Once the 72-hour hold has been activated, the process is very difficult to reverse.  The client is taken to the state hospital and is often “persuaded” to convert to voluntary status.  The persuasion usually entails the threat that if he doesn’t convert, he will be committed.  I suggest that this kind of tactic makes a mockery of the term “voluntary.”

5.  If the client refuses to convert to voluntary status, he can be brought before a formal mental health hearing.

6.  This is an improvement over the 72-hour hold procedure, but in my view, the individual’s rights are not adequately protected.  As mentioned earlier, the hearing is often (perhaps usually) held in the hospital. This confers clear advantage to the psychiatrists.  They can call all the witnesses they want.  They’re on the payroll and just a few steps away.  The client is at a marked disadvantage, in that any witnesses he might want to call are likely to be in his home area (usually hours away), and at work.  The client is often unfamiliar with the procedure, and has had little opportunity to prepare his case.  Usually he gets to meet his defending attorney for only a few minutes prior to the hearing, and, in some cases, his cognitive ability has been compromised by prior “treatments.”  I recently received an email from a woman who has been through this kind of proceeding.  She pointed out that: 

“…having a patient address her involuntary status at a Review Panel while drugged and wearing hospital pajamas does tend to work against her.  If you’ve decided that someone’s incompetent, that’s pretty much what you’ll see.”

7.  If the client expresses the belief that he is not ill, and that he doesn’t need treatment, this will be interpreted (and sworn to by the psychiatrists) as convincing evidence that he is ill, and that he does need treatment.  Imagine, in a criminal trial, if a plea of not guilty were routinely construed as evidence of guilt!

8.  There is usually a great reluctance on the part of the defending attorney to challenge the psychiatrists and other professional witnesses, and in most cases the hearing endorses the psychiatrists’ recommendation – which is usually:  keep him here until we say it’s OK to let him go.

9.  Eventually, even the most heavily-drugged client realizes that the only way he’s going to get out of the hospital is to cooperate with the psychiatrists and staff.  This entails saying things like:  “I was a fool to go off my medication;” “I realize now that you people are just trying to help me;” “I’m my own worst enemy;” “I need to stay here until you people say it’s OK for me to go.”  If he can keep this up for a week or so, he’ll probably be released.

So to get back to the original question:  should this kind of practice cease? The answer is obviously yes.  The recent Justina Pelletier case has drawn much-needed attention to the abuses inherent in the psychiatric commitment system.  In particular, this case has highlighted the fact that psychiatry is a closed system that routinely rejects, marginalizes, and even pathologizes any attempt to challenge or even question its pronouncements.  Such a system has no place in a democratic, transparent society.


The most significant step forward at this juncture would be the removal of the concept and term “mental illness” from all statutes.  The term has no explanatory significance, and no clear meaning.  In the area of civil commitment, it serves merely as justification of enforced drugging for individuals who are agitated or aggressive or otherwise disruptive.  It also serves as justification for denying these individuals some very basic civil rights.

Commitment is essentially a form of imprisonment.  But it goes beyond ordinary imprisonment, in that it entails the forced administration of neurotoxic chemicals and electrically-induced seizures.  What happens in practice is that the individual takes the drugs under duress in the facility, then semi-voluntarily in the community for a few weeks or even months.  He then stops taking them, or tapers himself off, until the next bout of agitation or aggressiveness.  This precipitates another trip to the state hospital, and this revolving-door travesty continues until he is too brain-damaged to live in the community.  He then goes to a nursing home, where his “medication” is dutifully administered every day, until he succumbs to a premature death. 

If “mental illness” commitments were abolished, there would be a need for a non-psychiatric crisis response team in each county/jurisdiction.  How such a team would be structured and organized is a huge topic, beyond the scope of the present article.  From a practical perspective, it needs to be noted that any non-psychiatric crisis response system will be resisted vigorously by vested interests and will not happen overnight.  What we should focus on in the meantime are those parts of the present system that are particularly unjust or particularly destructive.  These include:

1.  Doing away with the 72-hour hold and replacing it with a formal hearing with mandatory legal representation in front of a judge. 

2.  Providing training to lawyers concerning the spuriousness of psychiatric concepts and the destructiveness of psychiatric treatments.  This training should be geared towards empowering them to challenge mental health testimony in commitment hearings with the same force and vigor that they do in criminal proceedings.  In particular, they should be knowledgeable, or have ready access to knowledge, of the adverse effects of the various psychiatric drugs in common use, and the abysmally poor long-term outcomes for individuals who have been repeatedly committed over a period of years.

3.  Recruitment and training of non-psychiatric “talk-down” teams in every county.  These could be part of the sheriff’s department or, preferably, separate departments in their own right.

4.  Continuing to expose psychiatry as the spurious, destructive, and pharmaceutically-corrupted activity that it is.  The major need in this matter is to expose the damage that psychiatry routinely perpetrates against those entrusted to its care, and the impact that this has on life expectancy. 

5.  Encouraging mental health centers to hire psychiatric survivors, especially those who don’t support the bio-medical model.  A requirement of survivor representation on governing boards would also be helpful.

6.  Requiring mental health centers to seriously review drug dosages on all clients monthly, and either reduce these dosages or explain why this can’t be done.

7.  Requiring mental health centers to provide active training in social skills to all clients who have ever been committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Clubfoot – A Story of Hope

On January 27, NPR ran a short piece on a new treatment for clubfoot.  Here’s a quote from the transcript:

“Just a decade ago, up to 90 percent of babies…were treated with surgery that usually had to be repeated several times. That created a buildup of scar tissue that often left patients with a lifetime of chronic pain, stiffness, arthritis and medical bills. But with the help of a simple, noninvasive solution and an Internet campaign led by parents, the course of treatment and likely outcomes have changed completely.”

 Clubfoot, in which the baby’s feet are turned completely inward, is a common birth defect, with an incidence of about 1 per 1000 babies.  Surgical correction involves virtually dismantling the deformed foot and reassembling it in the normal orientation.

Today doctors gently straighten the foot using manipulation and a series of casts, and also apply a metal brace to keep the feet flexed outward while the child is asleep.

This new method of treating clubfoot was developed by Ignacio Ponseti, MD, at the University of Iowa in the 50’s.  The method is usually painless, non-invasive (except for a small incision in the Achilles tendon), and almost always completely successful.  There’s no residual disability, and usually no need for follow-up surgery.

But – amazingly – Dr. Ponseti’s method didn’t catch on outside Iowa until relatively recently.  Elsewhere, surgeons went on for another 50 years or so rebuilding these babies’ feet the painful, old-fashioned way.  Throughout these decades Dr. Ponseti tried hard to spread the word, but without much success.

But about ten years ago, parents of children who had been helped by Dr. Ponseti’s method began to use the Internet to publicize and promote the procedure.  Today 97% of children born with this deformity in the US are treated successfully with Dr. Ponseti’s method.  It is also being used extensively abroad.

So, dear reader, if you find yourself losing heart, if you’re beginning to feel that “…the struggle naught availeth…” remember Dr. Ponseti and his fifty year battle against a deeply entrenched status quo.

There are two factors that will ultimately succeed in exposing psychiatry for the destructive fraud that it is has become. Firstly, the survivor movement, which is increasingly finding its voice; and secondly, the Internet – the biggest bullhorn ever invented!

For the record, I’m not equating surgeons who address real illness and real pathology with psychiatrists, who prescribe dangerous drugs for “illnesses” of their own invention.  The story is analogical, and the similarity can only be taken so far.

The message is:  Don’t Lose Heart.

PS:  Dr. Ponseti continued to practice into his nineties.  He lived long enough to see his ideas become widely accepted, and died in 2009 at the age of 95.  You can read more on the Ponseti technique on Wikipedia and in an American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons article Ponseti method revolutionized clubfoot care by Jennie McKee.



Murphy’s Mental Health Bill: An Update

Yesterday, December 26, at 8:25 p.m., the following comment was posted on my December 16 post on the Murphy Mental Health Bill.

“Read the article in today’s Wall Street Journal (12/26/13), ‘A Mental-Health Overhaul’, and you cannot help but be in favor of the Murphy Bill. It is a huge misrepresentation to say it is about ‘coercive tactics’. Take the bill piece by piece and debate it. If you have experienced the mental healthcare system you would recognize that this legislation is badly needed and long over due.”

I read the Wall Street Journal article, and it is truly a disturbing document.  Here are some quotes:

“Severe mental illness is the common link among the recent mass shootings…”

I know of no study that supports this contention.  What is clear is that many, perhaps most, of the individuals in question had been taking psycho-pharma products, but neither the government, nor pharma, nor psychiatry has undertaken to explore this relationship.

 “Mr. Murphy, a psychologist, has spent the year since Sandy Hook studying the problem.  His House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has dug into federal policies, and his reform is aimed at helping the next Adam Lanza before he strikes.”

There is no way to identify the “next Adam Lanza.”  Any attempt to move pre-emptively against the “next Adam Lanza” will inevitably deprive numerous young people of their civil rights while missing the one-in-ten-million person who actually poses a genuine threat.  What’s going to happen here is that we will effectively criminalize social awkwardness.

“The secretary would have to be a medical professional and would be responsible for promoting the medically oriented models of care adopted by the National Institute of Mental Health, or NIMH.”

These are the same medically oriented models of care that prescribe neuroleptics for 2-year-olds and have turned neuroleptics and antidepressants into block-buster drugs.

“The Murphy bill also uses grant money to push states to modernize their mental-illness laws.  Some 23 states still allow for involuntary commitment only if a mentally ill person is an imminent danger to himself or others. This standard is nearly impossible to meet, and even psychotics are often able to present a brief façade of normality.  Many are unaware they’re even ill and won’t voluntarily get help.”

If anything, the present laws make it too easy to commit someone.  Also note the dismissive, disparaging language – “even psychotics”!

The article takes a back-handed swipe at the survivor movement:

“The Murphy legislation also addresses one of the more destructive forces in the mental-health system:  the legal lobby.  Many Americans may be shocked to know their tax dollars are funding a small army of self-anointed ‘advocates’ who encourage the mentally ill to avoid treatment, and who fight parental and court attempts to get them care.  The Murphy bill stops this funding.”


This comment, by avignonplace, and the Wall Street Journal article are clearly parts of a coordinated attempt to use the public concern over the mass murders to expand psychiatric influence, to sell more drugs, and to facilitate the use of involuntary commiment.  I have been unable to uncover any information about avignonplace, and the WSJ article is unsigned!

Psychiatry has come under a great deal of criticism in recent years.  They have no legitimate response to these criticisms.  So they hit back with this regressive legislation.  Just when we think psychiatry can’t go any lower, guess what – they go lower.  How many psychiatrists are speaking out against this bill?

Please, if you have not already done so, contact your political representatives and ask them not to support this bill.  Your voice counts.

Murphy’s Mental Health Bill

It is no secret that pharma-psychiatry has come under considerable criticism in recent years.  In general, they do not respond to these criticisms, but instead they continue to beat the same old drum:  mental illness is becoming increasingly prevalent; we need more mental health screenings; we need more funding for “treatment”; and we need wider coercive powers to ensure that these sick people take their drugs.  They are also using the school shootings to generate alarm about “untreated” mental illness, and are calling in support from various quarters, including politicians.

On December 12, U.S. Representative Tim Murphy presented a bill in the House that will, if passed, promote more coercive tactics in the mental health field.  It would also weaken clients’ rights, including their rights to privacy and confidentiality.

The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR) is a psychiatric survivors’ advocacy organization.  They have today issued an action alert asking those of us on this side of the debate to oppose the bill, and to spread the word.  In particular, they ask that we phone our political representatives either today (Monday) or tomorrow (Tuesday) and encourage them not to co-sponsor or support the bill.

If you live in the US, please help block this regressive measure.  Please take a look at NCMHR’s notice, and phone your representative.  It’s important that we take this step quickly to prevent the bill garnering additional co-sponsors.  We can write detailed letters later.  The NCMHR’s notice provides information on how to contact your representative, etc…

Please help spread the word.  In politics, numbers count!


Mental Illness: A Man-made Monster

Nelson Mandela quote


I found the above image online yesterday, at the site The Things We Say.

Mental illness is also man-made.  It is the invention of psychiatry – their spurious medicalization of all significant problems of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving.  Its purpose is to legitimize the prescription of dangerous psychotropic drugs to as many people as possible.   It benefits psychiatrists and drug companies, but damages, stigmatizes, and disempowers its victims.

It was made, promoted, and expanded by venal, unscrupulous people.  It is justified by psychiatric leaders in the same way that slavery and apartheid were justified by their proponents in their respective eras.

Mental illness is a man-made concept that has no objective reference – it corresponds to nothing real.  An artifactual tribute to human self-deception, ambition, and greed, it is a wrong turning in the history of human development.  Every day thousands of people die prematurely on the altar of this gilded idol.

But like all spurious bigotry, it withers when exposed to the light of critical scrutiny.

If you’re not already doing so, please speak out.  Pass the word.  Just a few years ago, those of us who challenged psychiatric orthodoxy were marginalized as cranks and eccentrics.  The protests of psychiatric survivors were condescendingly dismissed as symptoms of their putative illnesses.  Today we are a worldwide movement, gaining daily in numbers and momentum.  Each one of us alone and isolated can achieve little or nothing.  But united, we can close once and for all this sordid chapter of human history.


The Galvanizing of a POOR HISTORIAN

This post was submitted by a reader.In hospital ED records from 2007, there is a mention made by a doctor who was dictating his activities, observations of and involvement with me during 5 hours, that I am a”poor historian.” Ironically, I have to this day never met with or even seen this doctor, and vice versa. The conclusion was followed by a little post-script stating that he wouldn’t know me from Adam if he saw me, despite having written the entire account of me from the first person perspective. Really, I provided very little history, because I wasn’t really asked, (something I figured was attributable to the hospital records department having in its own filed the most substantial majority of records and historical accounting from me, having been in an adult intensive outpatient program for two years, following a month long inpatient procedure, and after the two years of intensive, was still an outpatient scheduling check-in and progress check-up on a more casual schedule over six months … right up to the day that all information pertaining to me became non-existent, and new diagnoses, and history of the new diagnoses were filled in. I was not, however, even examined under any terms that might pass for making an effort to actually determine a diagnostic impression, no evaluation nor anything close was performed, but my previously [assumed] diagnosis for which I had been seeing a private doctor regularly, being monitored on medications and therapy for Bi-Polar II (actually it was never diagnosed, I was being treated for “target symptoms,” which were actually the result of a tardive syndrome induced by olonzapine -cycling between moderate to mild akathisia and fatigue resulting from it) , but records would have shown enough target symptom treatment to inform that I was Bi-Polar II. Bi-Polar [any] was R/O in the newly made that day diagnoses: Psychosis NOS R/O BI-POLAR, and Schizophrenia with history of Schizophrenia (that was the info written in by the phantom Doctor who divined these from no disclosed resource (perhaps Spiritual PhytoEssencing that randomly penetrates his 5th and 6th Chakra in the form of Sound-Thought Ethereal Essence guiding his knowledge, or maybe he was told to write up something for em stat purposes only w/o any responsibility for or contact with the patient, as he noted at the end). It’s curious that in my medical history and records, it was first recognized that I am a “Poor Historian.” What makes me a poor historian in effect today (my records and history are so toxic and viral, far beyond errors, that to allow for them to be transmitted to any new health provider w/o undergoing a major audit and revision into something that seems like it can pass meaningful use muster, would probably direct a well-intentioned but lethal course of treatment, in addition to being a DANGER TO SHIPPING).

Drugs Out: Brain Stimulators In: Psychiatry’s Next Assault On Our Humanity?

On September 21, the Guardian/Observer (UK) ran an online article by Vaughan Bell titled Changing brains: why neuroscience is ending the Prozac eraThanks to Paul Mace on Twitter for the link.

The gist of the article is that although the use of psycho-pharmaceutical products is at an all-time high and is still rising in most parts of the world, the psychiatric promise of drug-induced happiness may be at, or close to, its peak.

 “In its place is a science focused on understanding the brain as a series of networks, each of which supports a different aspect of our experience and behaviour.”

For decades, psychiatry has been telling us, without evidence, that virtually all human problems are caused by “imbalances” in the chemicals that transmit messages between brain cells, and that these imbalances can be corrected by the drugs that pharma pays psychiatrists handsomely to promote.

The theory has always been nonsense, and has always had its critics, but we were voices in the wilderness, and were easily marginalized as “deniers” and “cranks.”

Today, thanks largely to the survivor movements and journalists like Robert Whitaker, the chemical imbalance theory is crashing about the feet of psychiatrists.  You might imagine that their response would be: gosh, we’re so sorry.  But no.  Their response is:  we never said that.

And – bold as ever – they’ve come up with a new theory to explain human woe:  faulty brain circuits!  But, take heart, sufferers, for relief is already here:  brain stimulating implants.  These are little gizmos that psychiatrists, presumably with the help of neurosurgeons, will implant inside your brain, neutralizing the precise circuit that’s causing you to worry about your children, or grieve for your deceased parent, or drink too much beer, or be violent, or throw the TV out the window – or whatever.

The article mentions a company called Medtronic, who claim that their products have been installed in the brains of more than 100,000 people.  Most of these were for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease but:

“…increasingly they are being trialled for a wider range of problems. Recent studies have examined direct brain stimulation for treating pain, epilepsy, eating disorders, addiction, controlling aggression, enhancing memory and for intervening in a range of other behavioural problems.”

 And Medtronic is just one manufacturer of these devices.  Other manufacturers include Boston Scientific and St. Jude Medical Inc.

But history has a way of repeating itself.  Here are some quotes from an AP report on Yahoo Finance dated December 12, 2011:

“Medtronic Inc., the world’s largest maker of medical devices, has agreed to pay $23.5 million to settle allegations that it paid kickbacks to doctors to implant its pacemakers and defibrillators, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday.”

 “Over the past three years, the Justice Department has reached settlements with two other major medical devices makers — Boston Scientific and St. Jude Medical Inc. — over similar kickback allegations.”

Doesn’t that have a familiar ring?

Psychiatry – ever anxious to acquire physiological treatment to validate its spurious concepts and destructive track record – is embracing deep-brain stimulation with its characteristic fervor.  I’ve just Googled “deep brain stimulation psychiatry mental illness,” and got 1.7 million hits!  So the idea is catching on.

Columbia University’s psychiatry department (Chairman Jeffrey Lieberman, MD) has an information sheet on its Brain Stimulation Service.  Here’s a quote:

“Stimulation with electrical or magnetic energy interacts with neurons, causing them to release chemicals called neurotransmitters, and possibly also helping form more healthy synapses, or connections, between nerve cells. Repeated stimulation can modulate or ‘reset’ the activity of specific regions of the brain to exert significant changes.”

Emory University has an article, Deep brain stimulation for psychiatric disorders, on PubMed.  Here’s a quote:

“Investigators have produced preliminary data on the safety and efficacy of DBS for several psychiatric disorders, as well.”

So pretty soon, when people who are sad and depressed meet with their families and friends, they can talk about the gizmos inside their brains instead of talking about – and this is radical – the things that are making them sad and depressed.

Does anybody remember Harrison Bergeron?


Dr. Lieberman’s Latest

On September 12, Jeffry Lieberman, MD, President of the APA, posted an article on Psychiatric News titled IPS to Feature Patrick Kennedy, Celebrate Community Psychiatry.

The article is a preview of an APA conference scheduled for October 10-13 in Philadelphia: “Transforming Psychiatric Practice, Reforming Health Care Delivery.”

Dr. Lieberman tells us that he is very excited about the conference, and that the theme is particularly relevant

“…given the changes we are experiencing in the profession and some of the exciting program events that I hope will support APA’s goal of being in the forefront of changes in the profession under health care reform.”

I find this sentence a little difficult to follow, but in any event, it is clear that Dr. Lieberman is excited and that this excitement has something to do with “Transforming Psychiatric Practice.”

But I am also puzzled.  As many of my readers will be aware, I am an avid follower of Dr. Lieberman’s writings, and it is has long been my impression that as far as Dr. Lieberman was concerned, psychiatry was perfectly OK the way it was.

He has insisted that psychiatry has “…nothing to be defensive about.”

He stated that he ran for APA president

“…because I felt mad and wanted to use all of the power and influence of APA to speak up and stick up for our profession.”

Dr. Lieberman has also written that:

“We have the scientific momentum, public-health imperative, and moral high ground. We must not be defensive or even timid…”

So what’s got me puzzled is:  from Dr. Lieberman’s perspective, why in the world would psychiatry need to be transformed, and why would the prospects of such transformation precipitate such feelings of excitement in the president of the APA?

Dr. Lieberman goes on to sketch out some of the main themes that will be covered in the conference.  One in particular caught my attention:

“Several sessions on mental health recovery, including how psychiatrists can be involved.”

In my opinion, emphasizing this theme seems to represent a huge departure from psychiatry’s insistence over the past four decades that the “illnesses” they “treat” are essentially incurable and can only be kept in remission by the uninterrupted ingestion of psychoactive pharmaceutical products as prescribed by a psychiatrist.

In fact, one of the primary items of contention between psychiatry and those of us on this side of the debate has been this very issue.  Many survivors’ self-help groups have demonstrated clearly that recovery is possible, and there has been a good deal of evidence to support the notion that reduction or cessation in the use of the drugs is a useful first step in this process.

Now if Dr. Lieberman were sincere in wanting to transform psychiatric practice, and if he genuinely wanted to take on board the lessons learned by those individuals who have embraced the recovery model, wouldn’t you think he would apologize profoundly for psychiatry’s past errors, and start reaching out humbly towards recovery model programs?

But no.  What he’s doing instead is trying to co-opt the concept of recovery.  Note the phrase: “…how psychiatrists can be involved.”

So the question is:  can psychiatry be involved in recovery?  Can a profession that has relentlessly promoted its own self-serving, erroneous, and destructive ideas about human suffering and human problems ever cross the divide and become a significant promoter of recovery?  The question is pertinent today, given the inexorable expansion of psychiatric “diagnoses,” and the routine prescribing of psychoactive products to ever-increasing segments of the population.

I found it particularly interesting that there is nothing in Dr. Lieberman’s article to suggest that there will be any input from psychiatric survivors at the conference, even though it is arguable that these individuals know more about recovery than anybody else.

As an interesting contrast, two days after Dr. Lieberman’s article, thanks to Steven Coles on Twitter, I came across an article, Psychiatry beyond the current paradigm, by Jacqui N.  It’s a description of a conference that took place on September 2-4 in Nottingham, England, organized by the Critical Psychiatry Network and Asylum Associates.  It’s a nice article, which I strongly recommend.  Here’s a brief quote, summarizing some of the points made by one of the speakers (Jacqui Dillon, writer, activist, international speaker & trainer on trauma, abuse, dissociation, ‘psychosis’ and recovery, Chair of the Hearing Voices Network):

“And what if we phased out psychiatry completely? What would the world look like then? Again, a few of Jacqui’s ideas:

  • Develop non-medicated coping strategies.
  • Create a range of self-help support (sharing books, setting up groups).
  • Survivor-run crisis houses based on the Soteria model.
  • Phase out mental health professionals and give basic skills to people – around active listening, being looked after, and sitting with people in distress.”

Here’s another quote, summarizing comments made by Hugh Middleton, MD, a British psychiatrist:

“He said that doctors of any sort only have authority to practice if there is clear evidence that it results in good rather than harm, and many now question whether psychiatrists fall into that category.”

This sounds refreshingly honest.

In my view, there is a gulf between psychiatric practice, (certainly here in America), and the reality of human suffering that can never be closed, unless and until the psychiatrists recognize that drugs are a part of the problem, not part of the solution.  As long as they conceptualize their role as promoting fictitious illnesses and marketing psycho-pharmaceutical products, they will never have a positive contribution to make – Dr. Lieberman’s excitement notwithstanding.


Madness Contested: An Outstanding Book

The book Madness Contested has recently been published by PCCS Books.  It’s a collection of articles, edited by Steven Coles, Sarah Keenan, and Bob Diamond.

The book is a remarkable piece of work.  It covers just about every contentious concept in the present “mental illness” debate, and brings to bear an abundance of new insights and up-to-date research findings.

There are 21 articles plus an introduction by the editors.

Here’s the name of each article with a brief quotation from each:


“We believe the dominant ideology in mental health services has restricted our collective and individual conceptualization, discourse and action regarding madness.”

1.  The Persistence of Medicalisation: Is the presentation of alternatives part of the problem?  Mary Boyle

“…the more we point out the explanatory emptiness of diagnoses, the more we encourage people to ask for and expect different kinds of explanation.” (p 19)

2.  Paranoia: Contested and contextualized.  John Cromby & Dave Harper

“We have suggested that intensely distressing episodes of paranoia should be seen as habits of felt thinking and action acquired in response to events in the social world.” (p 33)

3.  Meaning, Madness and Marginalisation.  Steven Coles

“Those who are eventually considered mad by society have suffered some form of marginalization and disempowerment in their trajectory to madness, either relationally, socially, materially, or culturally.” (p 43)

4.  From Constructive Engagement to Coerced Recovery.  Alastair Morgan & Anne Felton

“Organisational culture and a fear of being blamed is recognised as a barrier for staff to supporting individuals to take therapeutic risks…creating tensions for promoting risk taking and ultimately recovery.” (p 69)

5.  Mental Disorder and the Socio-ethical Challenge of Reasonableness.  David Pilgrim & Floris Tomasini

“Thus social contingencies and specific social norms define when unreasonableness is deemed to be pathological, is sometimes ignored, and sometimes even socially valued.” (p 85)

6.  The Pharmaceutical Industry and Mental Disorder.  Joan Busfield

“Whilst it can be argued that this widening of the boundaries of mental illness helps to enable those with mental health problems to get the treatment they may need, equally it can be argued that it facilitates the pathologisation of individuals, locating the problem within them, and helping to ensure that the social and environmental factors that often give rise to their mental states and behviour are largely ignored.” (p 107)

7.  Clinical Psychology in Psychiatric Services:  The magician’s assistant?  Steven Coles, Bob Diamond & Sarah Keenan

“One way of exposing some of the iatrogenic effects of the power imbalances and problematic practices within the psychiatric system is to provide a public space to openly debate such issues.” (p 117)

8.  Manifesto for a Social Materialist Psychology of Distress.  Midlands Psychology Group

 “Distress is not the consequence of inner flaws or weaknesses.” (p 123)

9.  Soteria:  Contexts, practice and philosophy.  Philip Thomas

 “The failure of technological psychiatry to improve the outcome for people who experience psychosis, the serious harm associated with the long-term use of neuroleptic medication, and at a fundamental level, the failure of science to explain madness, have resulted in a crisis in contemporary psychiatry.” (p 154)

10.  Recovery, Discovery and Revolution:  The work of Intervoice and the Hearing Voices Movement.  Eleanor Longden, Dirk Corstens & Jacqui Dillon

“The emergence of the service user/survivor movement in the 1980s and 1990s heralded a new level of protest against prevailing medical ideologies and the dehumanizing regimes of traditional psychiatric services.” (p 167)

11.  Experiential Knowledge and the Reconception of Madness.  Peter Beresford

“What can particularly help mental health service users/survivors to challenge existing psychiatric interpretations and develop their own viewpoints and ideas is getting together and working with others with shared experience.” (p 189)

 12.  Service User-led Research on Psychosis:  Marginalisation and the struggle for progression.  Jan Wallcraft

“The opinions and perspectives of those labeled psychotic have often been seen as globally lacking credibility and have been marginalized.” (p 198)

13.  The Patient’s Dilemma:  An analysis of users’ experiences of taking neuroleptic drugs.  Joanna Moncrieff, David Cohen & John Mason

“One respondent taking haloperidol explained that ‘I feel like a zombie.  I can’t think clear and my movement is slow’.” (p 219)

 14.  Speaking Out Against the Apartheid Approach to Our Minds.  Rufus May, Rebecca Smith, Sophie Ashton, Ivan Fontaine, Chris Rushworth & Pete Bull

“Over this time period I have discovered the process of trying to change psychiatry from within is flawed, because workers are too identified with interests of the corporate institution.” (p 235)

15.  Toxic Mental Environments and Other Psychology in the Real World Groups.  Guy Holmes

“Some come to feel that their life has been wasted.  One man who had been involved with psychiatric services for over 25 years said to me that the only point of his life seemed to be to provide work and therefore pleasure and meaning to staff who were paid to help him.” (p 259)

16.  Redressing the Balance of Power:  Psychiatric medication in Nottingham.  Nottingham Mind Medication Group

“Linking with others has helped to lift feelings of powerlessness and allowed us the opportunity to make social networks and gain social support.” (p 273)

 17.  Ordinary and Extraordinary People, Acting to Make a Difference.  Leicester Living with Psychiatric Mediation Group

“An important theme in our critical understanding of the world is power, and the structures within which it is withheld or asserted.  Language is one such structure and we want to draw attention to words that we find potentially problematic, words such as ‘patient,’ for example, are therefore put in quotation marks.” (p 278)

 18.  Peer Support.  Becky Shaw

“When I was in hospital I received all my help from the other patients and not from the staff which you might have expected.” (p 293)

 19.  A Critical Journey from Involvement to Emancipation:  A narrative account.  Theo Stickley

“There are opportunities to develop new models and approaches that go beyond involvement and that are genuinely emancipatory for people who use mental health services.” (p 313)

 20.  Rebuilding the House of Mental Health Services with Home Truths.  Bob Diamond

 “Clinical psychology must remain open to the critique that whilst it continues to work in this environment it props up the dominant oppressive psychiatric culture.” (p 329)

21.  A Beacon of Hope:  Alternative approaches to crisis – learning from Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service.  Fiona Venner & Michelle Noad

“As an organization set up to be an alternative to psychiatric services we are fiercely opposed to the use of psychiatric diagnoses.  We pride ourselves on providing a non-medical approach to working with extreme mental distress.  Our philosophy is about being alongside people in crisis, not treating them.  We also believe passionately in the transformative and healing power of human connection.” (p 337)


I don’t normally write such lengthy book reviews.  This work, however, is simply outstanding.  If you have concerns about the mental health system, I strongly recommend that you buy it, read it, re-read it, and keep it close.  That’s what I’ll be doing.


I have no financial ties to this book or to any of the books endorsed on this website.