Tag Archives: survivors of psychiatry

Going Against the Stream


Yesterday I came across the following on Twitter from Mental Health @Sectioned_.

“I just met someone who told me their remarkable story about falling down the rabbit hole into psychiatric sectioning and forced medication.  I listened with fascination to their intricate story in all its twists and turns, looping backwards and forwards with incredible details.  The longer we spoke the more was revealed, the crazier and more believable it sounded.  I was listening, probing for clarification, trying to grasp what happened and why.  First the overview, then the highlights, then more details, expanding out, backing round, drawing me in.  There were many parallels in our stories, and many contrasts.  It reminded me why I don’t really talk in detail about what happened to me: because, if you’ve not experienced it, it sounds unbelievable.  Unless you’ve experienced the scorching reality of forced drugging, seclusion, assault by nurses and patients, it sounds like a mad fantasy.  It’s too far outside most people’s realities for them to contemplate it being true, and so quietly assume you’re deluded.  So it smooths life’s path to make light, to skirt over the details, to change the topic.  And sometimes, sometimes, when I meet someone who’s been through something similar, I listen to their story and realize I’m not the only one.”

“Sectioning” is the British term for involuntary psychiatric commitment.  (Committed under various Sections of the Mental Health Act).


The story is short and simple, but has extraordinary depth and significance. There are several themes.

1.  “I just met someone who told me their remarkable story…”    Contact and sharing.
2.  “I listened…”    In mental health there needs to be more listening.
3.  “…the crazier and more believable it sounded.”    Respect – even when someone sounds “crazy.”
4.  “… trying to grasp what happened and why.”    A lesson for psychiatry.
5.  “…drawing me in.”    Empathy.
6.  “There were many parallels in our stories.”    Human identification.
7.  “…if you’ve not experienced it, it sounds unbelievable.”    Nobody will believe me.
8.  “…it sounds like a mad fantasy.”    They’ll think I’m crazy.
9.  ” So it smooths life’s path to make light, to skirt over the details, to change the topic.”   Keep your head down.
10.  “…I realize I’m not the only one.”    The power of human connection and support.


Twenty years ago, victims of psychiatric practice, for the most part, kept silent.  They stayed in the shadows, often feeling guilty about what had been done to them; feeling that somehow it was their own fault that they weren’t skipping happily through the park like the models in the pharmaceutical adverts.

And then something happened.  They began to find each other – through the Internet largely, but also in other ways.  And discovering that you’re not alone is a very empowering experience.  Today the protest against psychiatric damage has become a movement, and is continuing to gain momentum, and will ultimately prevail.


It is time for the other mental health professions to learn from the victims.  It is time for the social workers, counselors, psychologists, job coaches, case managers, family therapists, etc., to learn from the victims.  It is time to stop playing along with the bogus psychiatric theories.  It is time to challenge the claimed efficacy of the drugs.  It is time to remember the shock we felt on first encountering a victim of tardive dyskinesia.  It is time to recognize how we’ve muted that sense of shock and outrage, and how we’ve bought the lie that the benefits outweigh the risk.  It is time to realize that we are not the only ones who have concerns about psychiatric excesses.  It is time to connect with the person in the next office or the next county.  It is time to let in the light.

It is time to speak out – both individually and through professional associations.  It is time to do what’s right.  Modern American bio-psychiatry is not something good.  It is not a legitimate branch of medical practice.  Pharmaceutical psychiatry is an elaborate apparatus for selling dangerous and destructive drugs.


Can Abuse in Childhood Make You Crazy?


I’ve recently read an interesting article by Jacqui Dillon, Lucy Johnstone and Eleanor Longden.  It’s titled Trauma, Dissociation, Attachment &Neuroscience: A new paradigm for understanding severe mental distress.  The article was published in the Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy (Vol 12, No 3, September 2012)

Here are some quotes:

“A new and profoundly important paradigm for understanding overwhelming emotional pain has emerged over the last few years, with the potential to change the way we conceptualise human suffering across the whole spectrum of mental health difficulties. It is a strongly evidence-based synthesis of findings from trauma studies, attachment theory and neuroscience, which offers new hope for recovery. It also presents a powerful challenge to biomedical model psychiatry in that it is based on scientific evidence that substantiates and attests to what many individuals with first-hand experience of mental health problems have always known –– that the bad things that happen to you can drive you mad.”

“In this respect, an increasing number of sophisticated, large-scale population studies have provided powerful demonstrations of the impact of adverse life events in leading to psychosis. For example, research indicates that people abused as children are 9.3 times more likely to develop psychosis; for those suffering the severest kinds of abuse, the risk rises to 48 times.”

 “This link appears to be a causal one, with dose-dependent relationships evident between the severity…, frequency … and number of types…of adverse experience and the probability of so-called symptoms.”

 “This is not to say that abuse is the only causal factor in psychosis –– other experiences can also be profoundly damaging, like the long-term impact of racism, bullying, poverty and other social inequalities; the corrosive effects of psychological and emotional dysfunction within families; and the aftermath of intergenerational trauma.”


From the above quotes it is obvious that the authors are not in agreement with the current psychiatric orthodoxy that conceptualizes psychotic thinking as caused by some kind of biogenetic neural pathology.  Here, for example, is what the NIMH say:

“Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that has affected people throughout history. About 1 percent of Americans have this illness.”


In the first quote from the Dillon et al study mentioned above, the authors state:  “…the bad things that happen to you can drive you mad.”

Forty or fifty years ago that statement would, I think, have been accepted by most people as self-evident.  Today, even though the broken brain theory has become widely accepted, many people still would have no difficulty acknowledging the common sense validity of this statement. But modern bio-pharmaceutical psychiatry tends to resist the notion that personal experiences of this sort have any kind of causative significance in this area.  You’ve either got the illness or you haven’t.

I’ve often wondered why this is the case.  Obviously there are turf and business interests involved, but recently I came across the text of an NPR interview with Daniel Carlat, MD, which I think has some relevance.

Dr. Carlat is a psychiatrist who after several years in private practice, became disgusted with himself and wrote a confession:  Unhinged (2010).  It’s an honest, interesting read, and took a lot of courage to write.  A couple of months later, he was interviewed by NPR.

Here’s one excerpt from the interview that I found compelling:

“There’s kind of an unofficial policy among psychiatrists, at least among some, which is the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, which is that when we have our patients coming in, we know we have 15 or 20 minutes to see them. We want to learn a certain amount about how they’re doing, obviously because we want to make sure our medications are working and if we need to increase the dose. But on the other hand, we don’t want to ask too many questions because if we start to hear too much information, we’re going to run into a time issue where we’re going to have to push them out of the office perhaps at a time that they’re going to reveal something that could really be crucial to understanding their treatment.”

Could it be that the reason psychiatrists see these matters so differently from the other professions is that the latter take the time to get to know the client as an individual, whereas psychiatrists actively avoid any interactions of this sort?  Dr. Carlat makes it clear that he wasn’t just speaking for himself – but rather that this practice is a “…kind of unofficial policy among psychiatrists.”

If all you’re interested in is brain chemicals, then you’ll never see the person, and you’ll never get to see the matter from his/her perspective.

A Victim of Psychiatry Speaks Out

I’ve recently come across an October 2012 article by Ted Chabasinski.  It’s on Mad in America and it’s called:  Our Task Is to Take Away the Power of Psychiatry.

Ted tells us that he was was subjected to electric shock “treatment” when he was six years old.  You can see a brief bio here.

Here are some quotes from the October 2012 article:

“Those who benefit from the way things are now won’t give up their money and power without a huge fight.”

“I should note here that the campaigns against so-called ‘stigma’ by groups like NAMI, when studied, showed that they actually made public attitudes toward us even worse.”

“At bottom, psychiatric power is based on what is essentially a religious faith in psychiatry. People believe in the ‘miracles’ of psychiatry in spite of the complete lack of factual basis for these beliefs.”

“We have been attacked and damaged by one of the most evil institutions in this society.”

Ted writes with honesty and conviction.  Please take a look, and pass it along.


A Survivor’s Story: The Dark Threads

I have just read The Dark Threads, by Jean Davison (Accent Press Ltd, 2009)

It’s autobiographical, and describes with great detail and insight how a young woman of 18 years, whose only problem was acute shyness coupled with a yearning for some meaning in life, made the mistake of visiting a psychiatrist.

Jean describes how she was bullied into accepting psychiatric “treatment.” She was drugged into a zombie-like stupor and given electric shock “treatment.”  She describes graphically the disempowering and humiliating aspects of “treatment,” and the endless patronizing condescension.

Here are some quotes:

“Cold, black, tunnel days. Days when I slept my time away. Days when a soul-aching darkness engulfed me and sucked me into a void. And days when I switched onto ‘automatic pilot’ behaving like a zombie that had been programmed to make ‘appropriate’ responses. There were times when I feared I might make a crash landing and break into pieces that would be scraped up from the ground, bottled, corked, and labeled and stored away in High Royds where nobody would notice that somewhere pushed down underneath a drugged haze there was a real person; somewhere there was JEAN.” (p 96)

“It had been Dr. Prior’s idea that I registered as a disabled person. It would, he said, help me get a job because the law required employers to take on a certain percentage of disabled people. So now I was the owner of a green card to show to prospective employers as proof of a registered disability. I still couldn’t take it all in. Was that really my name on this card? Who am I now? A disabled person? And mentally disabled too; a highly stigmatized form of disability. Would I always be separate, different from the world of ‘normal’ people who didn’t think or feel like me and didn’t carry a green card?” (p 125)

“I am sick and tired and weary of almost everything I think, say or do being analyzed for signs of illness. Can’t I be happy, sad, laugh, cry or do anything, without being ‘ill’? Will I ever again be able to convince others – or myself – that I am just an ‘ordinary’, ‘normal’ person? Will the scars never heal? When I was eighteen years old, I made the biggest mistake of my life. Will I have to go on paying for it forever?” (p 343)

“How quickly, how easily, and on what flimsy ‘evidence’ diagnostic labels may be affixed and lives torn apart. Yet the serious flaws in the diagnostic process are still seemingly unacknowledged by those with unswerving belief in its scientific validity.” (p 358)

Jean makes it clear that the psychiatric “treatment” she received was not only unhelpful, but made her situation a great deal worse, and essentially stole five years of her life.

The book is compelling reading, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in these matters. As I’ve said many times, it is the survivors who manage to speak out, who ultimately will draw this sad chapter of human history to a close.


Shock “Treatment” Is Not Safe and Provides Little If Any Benefit


When I was a teenager, one of my hobbies was making small transistor radios.  It sounds complicated, but is well within the reach of an average 15-year-old.  You get some magazine articles, learn how to read a circuit, and learn how to use a soldering iron.

A transistor is a small device – about half the size of a pencil eraser – with three wires coming out of it.  In building a radio receiver, the transistors have to be soldered to other devices which are in turn soldered to other devices, etc…  The soldering iron is plugged into a wall outlet, but no mains electricity reaches the tip of the iron.  However, tiny eddy currents can circulate in the tip, and although they are only of the order of milliamps, they can burn a transistor in seconds.  What you have to do is unplug the iron from the socket, make the joint with the tip’s retained heat, and then replug the iron to have it ready for the next joint.  The point being that delicate things require delicate handling, and that electricity can be very destructive.

About the same time, an adult I knew told me that he had recently had shock “treatment.”  I had noticed that he had seemed different.  I asked him what it was like.  “Awful,” he said, shaking his head.  I didn’t ask for any details, and he didn’t elaborate.  I did some reading, and discovered that the procedure involved applying high voltage across the temples which sent a strong electric current through the brain.  I thought about my transistors, and about the delicacy and complexity of the human brain.

In college I heard a number of psychiatrists say that shock “treatment” was very effective for depression, and was perfectly safe.  They also mentioned that the therapeutic effect occurred because the electric current caused a seizure.  They talked vaguely about the current “breaking up” dysfunctional neural circuits and allowing them to “reconnect” in more functional ways, and conceded that for many individuals, repeated “treatments” were needed, sometimes for years, to maintain the benefits.

I had seen a young girl (let’s call her June) have a seizure once in her front yard.  I was about four.  June was lying on the ground and being cared for by her mother and another adult.  I was walking past on the sidewalk with my mother, whom I noticed was in tears.  I had but the vaguest understanding of what was going on, but I definitely got the impression that seizures (or “fits” as we called them then) were not good.  In later years I learned that real doctors go to extraordinary lengths to prevent seizures, precisely because they are so damaging to the brain.

In the early years of my career I often heard that shock “treatment” was both effective and safe.  But I never shook the lessons from the transistors and from June.  It seemed to me that shock “treatment” was a bit like using a jack-hammer to fine-tune a piece of electronic equipment.  The likelihood of improvement seemed low; the likelihood of serious damage seemed high.  I looked for studies that demonstrated efficacy and safety but found very little.


I recently came across a book called Doctors of Deception by Linda Andre.  It’s very compelling reading, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the topic.  Linda received shock “treatment” (now called electroconvulsive therapy) in her mid-twenties.  Prior to that she had been a successful photojournalist with an IQ of 156.  After the shock “treatment” her IQ had dropped to 118, and she had:

“Deficits in executive functioning, cognitive flexibility, abstract thinking, planning… Difficulties with higher level cognitive processes…Significant decrease in her attentional and organizational abilities…severe enough to undermine her ability to work…Results clearly indicative of brain injury secondary to ECT… (p. 9)

Prior to the “treatment” Linda had apparently not been informed of any of these risks.  Most of the book is devoted to her subsequent attempts to highlight the risks (and minimal benefits) of shock “treatment” and to have truly informed consent made mandatory.  She decries in detail the collusive relationship between the shock doctors, the FDA, and the machine manufacturers, and the entire scenario is strikingly similar to the corrupt and corrupting pharma-psychiatry alliance with which we are all familiar.  The PR job that the shock faction have done makes the tobacco industry look like a bunch of ham-fisted schoolchildren.  The shock doctors’ message, fully bought by the media, is – we’re doctors, we know what we’re doing; these other people are crazy – you can’t believe what they say.

But the message that “they” communicate clearly from the pages of Linda’s book is consistent:  gains from shock “treatment” are minimal and transient; damage is severe and lasting.

There’s other reading on the topic.  Peter Breggin, MD, of course, has been an ardent foe for years.  You can read one of his articles here.

John Breeding, PhD, a Texas psychologist, has been an active opponent of ECT for the past 20 years.  You can find his website here.

Fred Baughman, MD, an eminent neurologist, writing in 2011, had this to say about ECT:

“Throughout the more than 3 decades of my neurological practice I have encountered patients treated with ECT who had permanent erasures of parts of their memory.  Think of the extent of memory loss not immediately evident in these and in all patients.  For their own selfish reasons, psychiatrists may wish to call ECT and such end-results ‘therapeutic’ but they never achieve anything but to diminish adaptability in the broadest sense and cannot be called ‘therapeutic or medically justifiable.”

Probably the definitive work on shock “treatment” from the scientific perspective is a 2010 article by John Read and Richard Bentall:  The effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy: A literature review.  The study is a systematic review of the research on ECT from the ’40s through the present.  Their conclusion is startlingly frank:

“Given the strong evidence … of persistent and, for some, permanent brain dysfunction, primarily evidenced in the form of retrograde and anterograde amnesia, and the evidence of a slight but significant increased risk of death, the cost-benefit analysis for ECT is so poor that its use cannot be scientifically justified.”

Formal studies, randomized control trials, and meta-analyses are, of course, the yardstick for truth in any science, including the human sciences.  But the human sciences are unique in that the object of the study is not rocks or electricity or light – but human beings – people.  And although I’ve always been, and still am, a big believer in the need for and the value of research, I also think it’s critical in our work to recognize and listen to the input of individual people.


In this context, I have come across a truly remarkable article by Lucy Johnstone, PhD.  It’s called Adverse psychological effects of ECT, and was published in the Journal of Mental Health in 1999.  Here’s the abstract.

“Although it is known that a proportion of people find ECT distressing to receive, these adverse psychological reactions are little understood. Twenty people who reported having found ECT upsetting were interviewed about their experiences in detail. A variety of themes emerged, including feelings of fear, shame and humiliation, worthlessness and helplessness, and a sense of having been abused and assaulted. This had reinforced existing problems and led to distrust of psychiatric staff. Few had felt able to tell professionals of the strength of their reactions, implying a possible hidden pool of trauma. Implications for the practice of ECT are discussed.”

But the paper also reports verbatim what the “treated” individuals said.  Here are some quotes:

“They asked me if I would agree to it, but they did say if I refused they’d go ahead with it anyway…being forced to stay there is bad enough but being forced to have something that you don’t want is ten times worse, so I did agree, yes.”

“I thought maybe second time around it’ll be much easier and I won’t feel so scared and terrified, but it was just the same, if not a bit more.”

“Afterwards I felt as if I’d been battered…I was just incapacitated, body and mind, like a heap of scrunched-up bones.”

“It was the whole treatment, being carted off I felt like a slave, taken away to this little room and put on a bed. No control, it was awful.”

“It was like I was a non-person and it didn’t matter what anybody did to me.”

“It felt like I had been got at, yes, bashed, abused, as if my brain had been abused. It did feel like an assault.”

“People would come up to me in the street that knew me and would tell me how they knew me and I had no recollection of them at all…very frightening.”

“In a very bizarre sort of way, because the treatment and the abuse was so terrible, it made me come to my senses. I’ve got to get my act together, I’ve got to help myself.”

“Well, it deadens your brain, doesn’t it? That’s what it does.”

There are pages more; a tragic and heart-rending catalog of abuse.


After shock “treatment,” many individuals present fewer management problems and also say that they feel better.  These benefits are usually short-lived, but they constitute the basis for the fiction that ECT is a safe and effective “treatment” for severe depression.

In the early days of shock “treatment” the proponents were more honest about the brain damage, and in fact stated very clearly that it was this very damage that produced the “beneficial” effect.  Here are some quotes:

“I believe there have to be organic changes or organic disturbances in the physiology of the brain for the cure [with electric convulsive therapy] to take place. I think the disturbance in memory is probably an integral part of the recovery process. I think it may be true that these people have for the time being at any rate more intelligence than they can handle and that the reduction of intelligence is an important factor in the curative process. I say this without cynicism. The fact is that some of the very best cures that one gets are in those individuals whom one reduces almost to amentia.” Abraham Myerson (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), June 1942 [The Electroshock Quotationary]

 “This brings us for a moment to a discussion of the brain damage produced by electroshock…. Is a certain amount of brain damage not necessary in this type of treatment? Frontal lobotomy indicates that improvement takes place by a definite damage of certain parts of the brain.”  Paul H. Hoch (Hungarian-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “Discussion and Concluding Remarks,” Journal of Personality, vol. 17, 1948.  [The Electroshock Quotationary]

“From the data available, it is probable that the biochemical basis of convulsive therapy is similar to that of craniocerebral trauma…” Max Fink, MD, psychiatrist, in 1958 (quoted in Doctors of Deception by Linda Andre, p 49)

“After a few sessions of ECT the symptoms are those of moderate cerebral contusion, and further enthusiastic use of ECT may result in the patient functioning at a subhuman level…. In all cases the ECT “response” is due to the concussion-type, or more serious, effect of ECT. The patient “forgets” his symptoms because the brain damage destroys memory traces in the brain, and the patient has to pay for this by a reduction in mental capacity of varying degree.  Sidney Sament (U.S. neurologist), letter to Clinical Psychiatry News, March 1983. [The Electroshock Quotationary]

In addition, it is very well known in neurology circles that one of the side effects of severe brain injury is a short-lived sense of euphoria!

As is the case with psychoactive drugs, the putative therapeutic effect is identical to the toxic effect.  In the immediate aftermath of shock “treatment” people don’t feel depressed because they have lost the ability to feel much of anything.  They don’t present management problems, because they are rendered almost incapable of any kind of executive action; they don’t remember past traumatic events, because their memories have been obliterated.  Sometimes these deficits remit somewhat over time, sometimes not.  But with repeated “maintenance” exposure, the damage becomes extensive and more or less permanent.

Imagine if rheumatologists amputated people’s legs to cure knee joint deterioration.  It would definitely work!

In his wonderful novel Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut, with tongue firmly in cheek, laments the fact that the human brain is simply too big.  He attributes all our woes, all our counter-productive fretting, all our dysfunctional behavior, to this simple anatomical fact, and looks forward to the day when the inexorable adjustments of natural selection will have corrected this aberration.

But you don’t have to wait for evolution.  We have shock “treatment”!!   It’s in a “hospital” near you – right now.

Isn’t it time that this “treatment” went the way of spinning chairs and insulin coma “therapy”?