NAMI Convention Coverage: Robert Whitaker’s Case Against Anti-Psychotics

whitaker

Author Robert Whitaker, who has become a darling of the anti-psychiatry movement because of his charges that anti-psychotic medications often do more harm than good, spoke over the weekend at the convention of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. More than 140 of you posted comments about Whitaker and the changing face of NAMI when I wrote in March 18th about how Whitaker had been invited to lecture at the convention and why his appearance marked a significant change from when NAMI strongly supported Dr. E. Fuller Torrey and his call for Assisted Outpatient Treatment laws.

Here are reports from Joe and Beth Meyer and from Diane Kratt who attended Whitaker’s speech and have been blogging for me about the convention. I also asked a consumer, who agreed to blog for me,  to send me his views of Whitaker’s speech. I will post them when I receive them.

If you attended Whitaker’s presentation and would like to add your comments, please do! I would love to hear from as many of you as possible!

Two Sides of the Same Coin at NAMI by Joseph and Beth Meyer

We were surprised when we learned that Mr. Robert Whitaker was speaking at the NAMI National Convention in San Antonio and feared the session had the potential to become a firefight.  Like any large group, the community of those impacted by mental illness has diverse opinions about a variety of issues.  Robert Whitaker and many members of NAMI have what seemed like irreconcilable views on the use of anti-psychotic to treat a first episode of psychosis, due to disagreements about the balance of risks and benefits.  Supporters of anti-psychotics, such as the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), often cite evidence that patient outcomes are worsened the longer psychosis goes untreated and that the unpredictable behavior by people with acute psychosis can put them and others into dangerous situations.  Opponents of early anti-psychotic use, such as Robert Whitaker, claim that undesirable effects of these medications on the brain and metabolic functions may worsen the long-term outcomes of patients taking them.

Whitaker opened his presentation, The Case for Selected Use of Anti-Psychotics by saying “I think it speaks well of NAMI to have invited me.”  He quickly added, “the standard of care is that if you have schizophrenia, you have to be on anti-psychotics immediately and remain on them for life.”  However, based on what we have heard at the NAMI National Convention and elsewhere, a growing number of patients and their psychiatrists no longer accept as dogma the early and long-term treatment of psychosis with anti-psychotics.  For better or worse, more patients and their doctors are questioning the immediate and permanent use of these medications.  And, some of this questioning is certainly related to Robert Whitaker’s writing.

Whitaker said that when he began writing on psychiatric care for the Boston Globe in the last 1990’s, he believed that removing schizophrenia patients from their anti-psychotics as part of an experiment was unethical due to the potential harm it could cause.  However, when he found literature showing that outcomes of schizophrenia patients in the United States had not improved in the 100 years, and that persons living with schizophrenia in developing countries were doing better than patients in the U.S., he began to question his beliefs.  He found that early studies on withdrawal of anti-psychotic medication were based on abrupt discontinuations that typically led to a resumption of psychosis not always seen if gradual decreases in medication were attempted.  Whitaker then showed a series of charts comparing the long-term outcomes of schizophrenia patients who had used antipsychotics to those who never used them or gradually discontinued them.  According to the information he shared in his presentation, the lower the exposure to anti-psychotics, the better the outcome.  He also mentioned “open dialogue” studies in Finland, where 80% of patients are able to functionally recover without long-term use of anti-psychotics.

Whitaker acknowledged that statistics he cited were not entirely unassailable, though he spent no time counterbalancing his statistics with specific shortcomings of the comparisons, which may be many—the failure of some studies to precisely stratify results by the severity of initial symptoms; a possibility that better outcomes in developing countries may be related to lower stress levels in agrarian societies with stronger family structures than seen in the United States today; the fact that intense services for patients in Finland are largely unavailable in the United States medical system; and the possibility of unknown factors impinging upon the results that were shared.  To his credit, Robert Whitaker did acknowledge that we do not have definitive answers and said his point is that NAMI should work to clarify the meaning of these studies.  Overall, Whitaker presented a fairly moderate position and acknowledged on several occasions that long-term use of antipsychotics is sometimes necessary and appropriate—even the open-dialogue treatment in Finland resulted in 20% of patients requiring continued treatment.

During a question and answer session, Dr. Fred Frese firmly commented that 7 of 10 respected professionals with schizophrenia still take anti-psychotic medications for their illnesses.  Others in the audience pointed out that although Robert Whitaker’s presentation was moderate and left room for common ground, his blog is a home to virulently anti-psychiatry people whose views are irreconcilable with NAMI’s mission.  Robert Whitaker responded that he intended the blog site to be a place where those who felt harmed by psychiatry could be heard, but that he also wanted it to be balanced by psychiatrists and psychologists with more traditional points of view.

Following Mr. Whitaker’s presentation, we attended The Medical Model Matters with Jeffrey Geller, MD, and attorney Brian Stettin presenting.  The speakers represented the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), an organization that lobbies for changes in laws that support Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT). The Treatment Advocacy Center supports the view that court-mandated treatment is appropriate for a small subset of people with serious mental illness, specifically those with psychosis and a lack of insight into their illness (i.e., anosognosia) whose actions have made them a danger to themselves or others.  Dr. Geller pointed out that resistance to taking medications is true across all illnesses, such as hypertension and diabetes, not just mental illness.  But, mental illness is a specific class of illness with some enjoyable symptoms (i.e., hypomania in bipolar disorder) and anosognosia that can lead to tragedies.  Geller stated “we are not prescribing medicines to individuals because they are marching to the beat of their own drummer.” He added, “we are in a pill-happy culture, but we don’t want to lose the ability to use medications because so many are used inappropriately.”

Mr. Stettin said, that in TAC’s view, allowing someone to be homeless due to their treatment resistance is inhumane, and that if a person’s illness causes the person to be unable to direct treatment, it should be mandated until the psychotic beliefs subside.  TAC claims that broader hospital commitment guidelines are correlated with lower rates of homicide, greater inpatient access, and a higher quality of mental health systems for the community at large.  Mr. Stettin argued that AOT is an appropriate program for a small subset of patients caught in the “revolving door” between hospitalization and prison or homelessness.  It is not intended to be a coercive treatment, as it is sometimes called by its opponents—a judge has to be involved before it can be implemented and the intent is not to violate a patient’s civil rights.  The bottom line about mental health services is that “if you build it, some still won’t come!”

Across these different perspectives, we saw speakers who care deeply about people with mental illnesses.  Robert Whitaker stated that we share a goal of providing the best treatment for our loved ones.  Our hope is that, even among those who have strong differences of opinions, we can come together and find common ground to better advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

 Robert Whitaker’s speech by Diane Kratt. 

I ended my day with attending the controversial session given by Robert Whitaker on the case for selective use of antipsychotic medication. Although his entire presentation was grounded in published literature and research, feathers were ruffled as evidenced by the comments, questions, and nonverbal communication used by the audience members during the Q/A period of the presentation. Mr. Whitaker applauded NAMI for asking him to present on a topic that would challenge our current beliefs. It is his hope that NAMI will join him in questioning the current use of antipsychotics as a one size fits all cure. He is advocating for providers to allow for three groups to emerge regarding the use of the medication: none, short term, and long term. He cited studies which found concerns regarding a super sensitivity to dopamine as a result of long term use which can be damaging to a person’s treatment. He stated that there is a new movement to further investigate this possibility.

There is concern from some people, especially those who have had success from antipsychotics, that his view will cause an anti medication message to be voiced which could not only eliminate a treatment option but will also add to the stigma which already exists.  It seemed that some people were not happy with the research he presented or felt there were limitations and variables not addressed. Another interesting point was made that insurance companies have limited the amount of time anyone can spend in a care facility so medication might be needed for speed and efficiency. Although Mr. Whitaker spoke about patients receiving psychosocial care for several weeks delaying the use of antipsychotic medication, I think that our current healthcare system isn’t set up for such a plan. If doctors listen to what he is presenting and decide to hold off on prescribing medication, we could be in a serious crisis because we don’t have the type of environment or care that would be needed as an alternative. It would take plenty of time and a different philosophy in place to prepare for such a decision. I wasn’t able to tell whether or not he really understood the seriousness of that predicament or how easily it could happen. It was not addressed in this presentation.

Thanks Joe, Beth and Diane for your observations. 

Here are a few paragraphs from my March 18th, blog earlier this year that sparked so many comments.

NAMI has invited author Robert Whitaker to speak during an afternoon session at its convention June 27 to 30 in San Antonio. Whitaker’s most recent book, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, argues that  psychiatric medications are not only harmful, but in some cases can cause mental disorders.

Dr. Torrey criticized Whitaker’s book in a review that you can read here. More recently, blogger Susan Inman, expressed fears in a Huffington Post editorial that Whitaker’s views were harming individuals with mental disorders. Whitaker has his supporters and has developed an especially devoted following among consumer groups that question the “medical model” and Big Pharma’s influence. Here is a  sample.

For me, this shift away from Dr. Torrey’s views and the welcoming of Robert Whitaker as a NAMI speaker reflects how NAMI’s membership — or at least its board of directors  - has moved away from its traditional parental based roots. I would not be surprised if NAMI soon drops its long-standing support of Assisted Outpatient Treatment.

Whether you consider this shift a good or bad thing clearly depends on your individual views about such issues as AOT,  medication, involuntary treatment, Dr. Torrey and Whitaker. The point of this blog is simply this: NAMI’s views are shifting.

 

 

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.

  • Julie

    Thank you for allowing us to get these takes on the NAMI conference, especially surrounding these highly-charged viewpoints re: AOT, and the long-term use of anti-psychotics. When these discussions get down to the nitty-gritty details about specific treatments and what laws should be in place, I certainly understand the passion and emotions that come into play surrounding them. Anyone who has tried to keep a loved one safe in the midst of a psychotic break from reality understands why these are such controversial and emotional topics. Because my own son took his life 5 years ago, I will never know what the future could have been for him. I saw him both severely harmed by medications, and absolutely helped by them. From my experience, it wasn’t the meds, or lack of them, that caused him harm. It was the lack of consistent and competent long-term community care and treatment. It was making the parents be the doctors and counselors and nurses, while also trying to be their loved ones only link to human contact and to staying alive. It’s making parents be the ones who have to have them involuntarily committed, only to watch them being put on yet another drug by another doctor, regardless of the history you just submitted to them, and discharged a week or two later, not nearly well enough, and then watch while they get no follow-up care, but merely told to see their psychiatrist in 2-3 months. What does this kind of treatment do to a vulnerable brain?
    If we want to torture and traumatize someone, just do that consistently for 4-5 years, and see what it does to them.
    To me, these viewpoints are not inconsistent with each other. Each of us wants to see our loved one have the best chance for the best life possible. If that would mean keeping them safe and alive through AOT if needed in a crisis, and then providing them with intense, expert care and treatment for as long as needed to find out the least amount of anti-psychotics needed at any given time, that would be ideal. And care absolutely every human being should be entitled to. I know it’s not a science, and it’s difficult, but we in this country are coming nowhere close. This really isn’t about two opposing viewpoints. It’s about the lack of knowledge, commitment and compassion that will be needed by a whole lot more people if this is ever to change. Thanks again for fighting the fight, Mr. Earley.

    • Steve

      You summed it up really well. It is a pitiful statement when the main reason the second blogger has for maintaining antipsychotic use over time is because other support is not available. Whitaker’s work suggests that short-term antipsychotic use, IN THE CONTEXT OF ADDITIONAL PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT, is the optimum way for antipsychotics to be helpfully employed. It is a sad commentary that our society is simply unwilling to provide the kind of social support that is now known absolutely to be helpful or even essential to recovery.

      People with psychotic symptoms don’t simply want their symptoms to go away. They want to live quality lives where they can work and love and connect with their communities. And working, loving and connecting are exactly what helps them to recover! Drugs may play a role in recovery, but they are clearly not the answer. I hope that those to whom Bob Whitaker’s views are novel don’t feel threatened by them, but instead turn their attention to a system that simply fails most of those it intends to help.

      I am so sorry about your son, and am glad you are trying to advocate for sensible changes in the system so that others can experience better help that your family has received.

      — Steve

      • Julie

        Thank you very much, Steve, for your kind words, and for articulating it better than I was able. I believe there may definitely be a need for long-term antipsychotic use by some, perhaps many, individuals. But it should never be assumed right from the get-go, and should never be in place of the social supports that should surround each individual on this traumatic and precarious journey.

  • cannotsay

    I wholeheartedly agree with Bob Whitaker on his perception of what his Mad In America blog is all about. It’s a a candle in the dark. If it weren’t because of Mad In America, I would have no place to air my complains about how the psychiatric complex has ruined my life. And yes, that would include NAMI which is nothing more than a front group for Big Pharma. My ex wife was intoxicated with nonsensical beliefs by the local NAMI chapter. These intoxications together with similar bs spewed by the psychiatrist I was seeing pushed her to divorce me when I stopped taking the poisonous meds I had been under. NAMI’s board of directors and the vast majority of its volunteers belong in jail. Until that happens, Mad In America is the only place that permits us, survivors of psychiatric abuse, to share our experiences and to have a community where we can support each other. It is more accurate to say that NAMI and its mission are both anathema to the well being of survivors of psychiatric abuse.

    • Sarah Smith

      As a mother of a 22 daughter labeled with schizophrenia, I believe that my daughter has been harmed more than she has been helped by psychiatry. The Mad in America blog is the only place I trust to receive information or share my views. Having taken NAMI’s Family to Family class, I felt retraumatized by NAMI over-reliance on outdated research, short term clinical trials, and other
      ‘factual’ information used to justify the complete annihiliation of my daughter’s right to choice. My father, husband, and son are all U.S. war veterans. They did not put their lives on the line for our nation for people like my daughter to be forcibly medicated, restrained, isolated, and institutionalized against her will.

      • cannotsay

        God Bless! True justice will only come the day all these NAMI people are tried and sent to jail for their crimes. They have ruined more lives than we can count. Including yours, mine and those of countless others.

  • june conway beeby

    Where is the call for the essential scientific brain research which could uncover the root cause of serious mental illnesses (SMI) like schizohrenia for example? Outright denial of the biological nature of these brain diseases is an abandonment of those who desperately need society’s best scientific minds to free them from a life of suffering and fear.
    Social ‘research’ is not an answer.(Psychologist and author Steven Pinker calls this “the usual social science rat’s nest of confounded variables.”)
    A reading of relatively new books on the history of incurable brain diseases caused by not-previously-identified microbes (mad cow disease being one) will bring greater understanding of the need for scientific research to find ways to uncover antidotes for these viral-like entities–just like basic scientific research found a cure for so many bacterial diseases.
    Mr. Whitaker seems like a man looking for Truth. So I feel he and his followers will be willing to add knowledge about brain-destroying microbes to the current understanding of brain diseases/mental illnesses by reading one of the many books seeking to alert humanity to this scientific possibility we cannot ignore.
    Please read science writer Jay Ingram’s “Fatal Flaws: How a Misfolded Protein Baffled Scientists and Changed the Way We Look at the Brain”
    ISBN 978-1-4 4341-212-4
    My own search for Truth in brain diseases followed my 20-year-old schizophrenic son’s suicide after refusing medication because he did not believe he needed it.

    • cannotsay

      I have a comment that is waiting moderation with a link to the Open Paradigm Project. You should definitely follow it.

      As I said in that comment, those of us in the Mad In America community know a thing or two about the lie that so called “mental illness” is caused by non existing chemical imbalances. Just as we know countless examples of people who took their own lives while under psychiatry’s poisonous drugs. Rejecting psychiatric labeling can be the first step to true recovery. The people who shared their stories at the Open Paradigm Project are a prime example of that.

      As far as NAMI is concerned, it remains a front group for Big Pharma. In my eyes they are despicable crooks.

  • Marabe

    I feel a little logic needs to be applied to the search for effective cures and treatments of mental illnesses. ( Logic is no longer taught in American public schools!) Cardiac arrests were not treated or prevented until we learned of cardiovascular disease and how it worked. Ditto for diabetes melitis, until we discovered the pancreas’ role for insulin. We need to know ALL the causes of mental illness before we can treat or prevent it. We know that all psychotropic drugs are tested on animals, first, and since animals are not inclined to have mental illness, they are ultimately tested on people with mental illnesses. That, in itself, is rather immoral, as no mental patient is ever asked permission to be a guniea pig.
    A compassionate, responsible society would recognize that mental illness does not develop in a vaccuum; very briefly – it is the cummulative reaction of a person’s brain that has been bombarded with overwhelming stimuli from within, and without. PTSD is an excellent example – who cannot understand how war horrors can adversely affect the psyche?
    Viral, microbial, and infinite variations in biochemistry, environment,
    psycho-social, even weather and magnetic fields, spiritual and physical exercise – anything you can think of – if the brain cannot
    ingest it and mix it up favorably – we have mental illness. This is the reality that must be recognized. and studied to the hilt.
    So many of us don’t want to admit that we ourselves contribute to the many conditions that set a person up for brain overload – malfunction,
    a mental illness to save itself, or ‘shut down’, as your computer would
    under unbearable circumstances.
    Today, to pacify family members and the community, and make big bucks for the pharm, more drugs are marketed, and still, ‘no-one knows how they work’. We package a few chemicals found naturally in the brain and play roulette with the hapless, desperate mental health consumers and their families. Still – no one wants to tackle the very difficult work of deciphering these illnesses and learning the laundry list of what contributes to them.
    What if we had done that with heart disease? What if heart patients
    were experimented on, wiith induced heart attacks, strange drugs with unknown side effects?
    What if we had not bothered to find the causes of diabetes?
    What if we grafted tumors into cancer patients?
    But we can progress from prescribing LSD to mental patients in the ’50′s, to anti-depressants in the ’90′s that drive teens to suicide.
    Find the cause, then you discover the cure.
    Find the cause – and there is prevention.
    Prevent – and mental illness is erradicated.
    “You can only conquer what you thouroughly know.”

  • Jane Thompson

    I have been on effective medication since 1988. Who are these people who want to screw up my life (scientologists and anti-medication psychiatrists) who have never walked in my shoes? They know nothing of having been sick and suddenly being able to function again with the help of medication. Nothing will change my mind about the efficacy of my pills and nothing will get me to believe they are harmful.
    It makes me ill to see these people trying to get people to stay away from meds when these are to only effective treatment for mental illness What do they want to give us in Their place? These people are dangerous and cruel. They know nothing of sanity.

    • cannotsay

      I support your right to use the services of the psychiatric quackery. They only problem I have with people like you is that you help the quacks abuse people like me. If you truly believe what you say, I hope you join the fight to strip psychiatry of all its coercive powers.

      • Jane Thompson

        I have never been coerced. I spent five years begging doctors for the right medications and being told I was already on them. Since I was not, I finally checked into Parkland Hospital and was given the correct medication for me. I immediately felt like I had been given the key out of hell. I have been on medications since then–1988– and have only had two relapses, which were fixed by changing my meds. I will never do without meds again–I cannot deal with the insanity when I know that medication will stabilize me I believe that you who are steering people away from meds are the ones who are hurting patients. I know what it is like to live without meds and with them. You’ll have to pry them out of my cold, dead hands.

        • cannotsay

          Not sure which drugs are you taking, but if it’s antidepressants, you just provided a perfect description of the placebo effect. Antidepressants do not being to change the serotonin level in your brain until several weeks after the treatment begins. What comes immediately after treatment is the side effects. It is a scientifically established fact that this “immediate relief” from antidepressants is just placebo.

          People deserve to be informed about the poisonous effects of these drugs. If after they learn about all that they still want to be voluntarily on drugs, that’s a choice that I respect. However, psychiatry does not derive its influence from people willingly agreeing to be “treated” but from its ability to impose itself to innocent victims who do not want anything to do with this quackery.

          • Jane Thompson

            Who are you to posit which drugs I am taking. You know nothing about me, what mental illness I have, or what I take. I have bipolar disorder, and take four medications to treat it. They work well and I have minimal side effects. 2 years ago one of my meds stopped working and I went through 6 months of hell
            until my psychiatrist figured out how to fix it, at which point I went back to what I consider normal. I know the difference between medicated and unmedicated and I am not dealing with the placebo effect, no matter what you think. You make me furious with your ideas that you know what is best for me. I don’t know what is best for you but I do not your supercilious attitude and arrogance point toward mental illness. Perhaps you should try some medication. Couldn’t hurt.

          • cannotsay

            From your answer I take you are on antidepressants. I mentioned antidepressants only because they are the most widely prescribed class of psychotropic drugs. So statistically speaking, I had a decent chance of being right.

            Here is the thing. SSRIs do cause chemical imbalances. They do not “fix” any though. The illusion that people get of improvement is mostly due to a strong placebo effect, as it has been established by taking a look at clinical trial data obtained from the FDA through Freedom of Information Act requests. This is the ugly truth. Not easy to assume that one has been lied to, but recognizing it is the first step to true recovery, whatever your issue is.

            I stopped my meds cold turkey a long time ago, before they could damage my kidneys and liver irreparably. That was the first step to gain my freedom. DSM “mental illness” is a scam. With different language, now even the director of the NIMH, Tom Insel, agrees that to be the case.

          • Kristen

            cannotsay, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize someone else’s decision to take medication that she finds helpful. It helps her, and that’s a good thing. I think we can find a middle ground here where we respect those who want to take medications, and respect those who choose not to.

            As I said in my post below, I have stopped my medication due to side effects. But, it was a difficult decision for me because I did find the medication helpful. I don’t feel duped or coerced, although I certainly know people have experienced this and I experienced this with another psychiatrist in the past. My current psychiatrist just doesn’t practice that way. He never told me I had a chemical imbalance, he just offered medication he thought might help. I chose to take the medications, and may have paid a price for that, but it was ultimately my decision.

          • cannotsay

            I didn’t criticize her for taking meds. I specifically said that “If after they learn about all that they still want to be voluntarily on drugs, that’s a choice that I respect”. My issue with Jane is his opening statement that everybody who disagrees with her decision is a Scientologist or something. Well, there are many of us in the anti psychiatry movement who are not Scientologists. From my own personal experience I would even say that the vast majority of people who question the current psychiatric paradigm are not Scientologists. Jane is OK with her drugs, fine. She does not have a right to deny victims of the psychiatric scam of information that might help them to improve their lives.

          • Jane Thompson

            I did not say I was on antidepressants and am not. I refuse to continue this discussion with someone who is so out of touch with reality.

          • cannotsay

            Give me a break! Out of touch with psychiatry’s invented diseases?, sure, but so is Tom Insel. I happen to be in pretty good company. That is not to say that people do not experience extreme mental states, but what psychiatry offers to such people is more misery and, in many cases, death.

            The people who support the psychiatric agenda, and NAMI people like the author of this blog in particular, should be ashamed of being instrumental in the only form of legally sanctioned human right abuses that exists today in the Western world. Shame on you!

          • Duane Sherry

            Jane,

            Re: “Perhaps you should try some medication. Couldn’t hurt.”

            Actually, it could hurt – a great deal.

            Google: ‘Psychiatrist, Peter Breggin’ to find out just how much these drugs can hurt, and to find a book on how to safely withdraw from them (if interested).

            Duane

    • Steve

      Jane, we’re not talking about individual cases, we’re talking about public policy. You may well have benefited from these drugs. It does not mean that others have not been harmed in very large numbers. The recovery rate data Robert Whitaker relies on is quite compelling. If having millions on these drugs is so helpful, why are more and more people becoming disabled, instead of fewer and fewer?

      Calling the people whose views threaten yours names (like scientologists and anti-medication psychiatrists) is an immature way of dealing with “cognitive dissonance” (the situation where new data conflicts with your own perceptions of reality). I would suggest you open your mind to the possibility that others may have had a radically different experience than yours. I can attest to seeing dozens of foster youth put on crazy combinations of 5 or more drugs to “treat” the simple fact of their being mistreated by their families and raised in a system that didn’t really care for them. Many of those who simply refuse to cooperate when they got old enough to do so got BETTER when they stopped the drugs.

      Don’t extrapolate from your own experience and assume others have similar experiences. Science deals with the overall impact, and can’t base its conclusions on one person’s views. I suggest you try listening to those who have experienced these drugs differently and see if you can’t find your way to understanding that not all people are the same, and the same solution doesn’t work for everyone, just because it worked for you.

      — Steve

      • Jane Thompson

        Then don’t tell me that all drugs are bad and that no one should take them.

        • stmccrea

          Did I say that? I was reacting to YOUR statement that suggested anyone questioning the validity of the dominant medical paradigm is an “anti-medication psychiatrist” or a “Scientologist,” which includes me in your sweeping generalization.

          You seem to indicate that your personal experience is reason enough to doubt years of scientific research that increasingly indicates a lack of long-term benefit for the average user. Rather than viewing this as an invalidation of your experience, I’d encourage you to see it as progress on the part of the psychiatric profession in starting to understand that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to helping people with mental illness symptoms. I hope you would not want someone else to suffer by being forced or prescribed treatment that was harmful for them, just because it was helpful for you personally.

  • Terri Wasilenko

    I can only share from a family member’s point of view. I watched in shock what a mental illness did to my loved one before he agreed to take medications. The illness was destructive, changing his life forever. However, once he took meds routinely he felt that he had more control over his life. Medications do work. Medications can be reduced as an individual learns more coping skills to deal with a mental illness. Many times a person stays on a med that works while trying meditation, yoga, nutritional changes and so on. The chemical imbalance requires a med to keep it in check.

    After reading Ben Behind His Voices by Randi Kaye, I understand how important it is to try everything possible to help a person make sense of his/her world. But once all the options have been tried, as was the case with Randi’s son, medications are introduced to help control symptoms of a mental illness. Mental illnesses are real and you cannot ignore them.
    Anyway, great reporting!
    Terri Wasilenko

  • Cledwyn Bulbs “Raging Bulbs”

    Robert Whitaker is a phony, the least radical critic of psychiatry in the whole world. His blind followers in the survivor movement treat him as if he operates in the firmament or something. Refracted through the ecstatic consciousness of these people, the man is a saint, he can do no wrong. No one ever criticizes him on his website. His followers have invested him with messianic qualities. From their hallucinatory perspective, he is the second coming. It’s like some scenes from “Life of Brian” on there sometimes. The man has undergone some sort of apotheosis in the imagination of his disciples.

    As for the Mad In America blog, it only lets patients comment if they prostrate themselves at the feet of the self-important moderators, who like all such people, and as Thomas Szasz (a truly radical critic of psychiatry) pointed out in his last book about these internet despots, are control freaks, so enamored of themselves and their opinions, they esteem themselves the emissaries of god, elevating their pride and self-importance at the expense of free-speech and freedom of expression.

    That site is like some sort of thought and emotion control cult. One can be as pompous and smug and patronizing as one wants, because such expressions come with the imprimatur of our culture, but as soon as you inject a bit of passion into their discourse, displaying culturally discredited emotions like anger, hatred or skepticism of the motives of others, the moderators, acting in accordance with the behavioral code created by this so-called champion of the oppressed, Mohandas Whitaker, step in, wagging their fingers reprovingly from their thrones in the sky, and with Olympian arrogance (cunningly veiled) pass judgement on others for not reflecting their own supposedly perfect image.

    This particular species of despotism is nothing more than the defense of the insipid, the emotionally and spiritually vacuous and the hypocritical against the rest of us.

    Whitaker may be a darling of the “anti-psychiatry” movement, but his real allegiance lies with the Mental Health Movement, as evidenced by his uncritical usage of the nomenclature and phraseology of said movement. In doing so he tacitly accepts the assumptions and presuppositions built into this language, and exhibits in full view his identification with the ideas and interests of this movement.

    The Mad in America community doesn’t offer a platform for patients to enunciate their grievances as suggested, but merely for certain kinds of patients who are made to feel welcome in the community. Indeed, being embedded within a larger community, it identifies with its prejudices, attitudes, lunacies, rituals and assumptions, whilst its members delude themselves they are part of some sort of enlightened caste. It certainly isn’t a place for the true outsider.

    • Ga Le

      Sir Bulbs,

      You certainly have a way with words, but what exactly is your point? You begin by claiming that “Robert Whitaker is a phony,” but in what respect is he phony? You offer no examples of Whitaker being phony.

      As for your concluding that “The Mad in America community doesn’t offer a platform for patients to enunciate their grievances as suggested” and saying that “It certainly
      isn’t a place for the true outsider,” I wonder, what community is a place for the true outsider?

      (After all, it seems to me that no “community” has a place for any “true outsider,” and the “true outsider” should recognize and accept that as a given.)

      As for your saying Mad in America is only “for certain kinds of patients who are made to feel welcome in the community,” are you not saying that you view yourself a “patient” after all, who is “embedded within a larger community” who “identifies with its prejudices, attitudes, lunacies, rituals and assumptions ?”

      I mean you seem to call yourself a “patient,” and doing that would seem to go against everything you claim to stand for. Or maybe I’ve just misundstood your reference to “Thomas Szasz (a truly radical critic of psychiatry).”

      Sorry, but I wonder if you aren’t just a former Mad in America commenter and a self-described “patient” of psychiatry who ultimately chose to stop commenting there, to go your own way, after being censored for offering one too many ad hominem attacks.

      G.L.

    • cannotsay

      I am a regular commenter at Mad In America and I don’t recognize my views in what you describe. The only thing that unites the average Mad In America commenters is the condition of having been abused by psychiatry. We could not be more unequal on everything else, including on our views about what to do do with so called “mental health”. I am on the anti psychiatry end of the spectrum (ie, if it were up to me, each and every single psychiatrist who believes in coercive psychiatry of any sort would be put in jail for the rest of his/her life). See, I have nothing against people engaging voluntarily with this quackery (just I have no problem with people using the services of astrology or homeopathy). My whole problem is with the quacks imposing their quackery on innocent victims. It happens to be the case that most psychiatrists are of the quack variety (though not all). I have more respect for Bin Laden than for the average psychiatrist. At least Bin Laden was clear about his despicable ideology. The average psychiatrist is a hypocrite who only cares about his/her own livelihood, continuously exaggerating the usefulness of psychiatry with the sole purpose of providing a justification as to why we, as a society, should pay their salaries. Normal doctors do not need to engage in similar exercises of deception. Oncologists either cure cancer or don’t cure cancer. Psychiatrists are despicable creatures that serve no purpose other than justifying their own existence.

    • Matthew Cohen

      As the Mad In America staff person who temporarily banned Cledwyn from the site, I can confirm that we have a clear and, I hope, very useful policy against speech that includes personal attacks on the site. We are aiming for a civil dialogue that welcomes everyone at the table. This does require a certain amount of restraint when it comes to attacking, shaming, and misrepresenting others. Such behavior causes the conversation to break down very quickly on an internet forum as those being attacked step away, reducing the dialogue to an insular circle of negativity.

      I am a big fan of Cledwyn’s wit, insight, and colorful language, and was sad to see him decide to end what I would call an illustrious career posting with us over the issue of allowing personal attacks. That said, I appreciate that there are people out there so uncompromising about engaging with psychiatry that they don’t care to participate in the dialogue we are holding on Mad In America. In my understanding, it takes a healthy spectrum of advocacy to enact paradigm shifts.

      “Cult” seems very far-fetched to me. Everyone agrees to the civility guidelines when they create an account on Mad In America. Nobody is shamed or discouraged for the choice not to participate. We don’t tell anybody what to do with their lives. The way we moderate is transparent and standard practice among online communities.

      Some people have criticized Bob’s work on the site, and there’s no problem with that. In fact our editor has gone out of his way to invite blogs that include such criticism. So far nobody has offered to submit an in-depth critique for publication on our site.

      Anger, hatred, and skepticism of the motives of those we criticize are very natural and important feelings in the work we are doing. I have personally seen everyone at Mad In America, including Bob, overtaken by these emotions from time to time. Rather than negate these emotions, we are honoring a public standard of politeness that refrains from accusing or insinuating things about others that we cannot know for sure to be true, such as character deficits or adherence to arguments they haven’t explicitly made. As one of my colleagues put it:

      “When we attack each other here, we in fact replicate the force and harm that’s been done to people by the mental health system. Words can be weapons just as syringes and restraints can. When we attack someone else with words, we become no better than those who harm people against their will in the name of “treatment.” “

  • SchizoTomasz

    As someone with lived experience of psychiatry, which largely consisted of consuming large quantities of antipsychotics, being confined to a ward and not addressing the actual problems in my life, which were social in nature, I agree with pretty much everything Robert Whitaker says. In fact, I came to a lot of his conclusions well before I became influenced by anything remotely related to anti-psychiatry and had finished writing a memoir with such conclusions.

  • Cameron

    Hello Everyone, I just wanted to add a comment because I have read the 11 or so comments posted thus far and each one is more extreme than the next. I just don’t feel that we should lean so hard in one direction or the other. It seems that in arguments it has become customary in our culture to become more extremely polarized to strengthen your view. However, I find that it just weakens everyone. We all look like a bunch of zealots with no point of view other than the narrow one we spout.

    Personally, I have rejected medication and treatment from doctors for a long time. A traumatic forced hospitalization left me to suffer with severe PTSD for the last 8 years, only the hospital that 51-50ed me diagnosed me Bipolar Disorder, so I was mistreated by doctors, family and friends for the next six years until I looked up PTSD online, diagnosed myself and confirmed it with an expert. I still do not want to take medication or see “doctors” to help me with my condition (due to various subsequent awful experiences) . I am recovering well now and am confident that I will attain the life I’ve always wanted by myself.

    However- I cannot ignore the evidence of families whose loved ones have come under control and resumed more normal lives because of medicine. I cannot ignore the contents of Mr. Earley’s book about his son’s process. But of course, I cannot ignore my own experience of the pubescent nature of the psychological and psychiatric sciences. This is not a simple issue. It varies based on the person you are dealing with and it needs to be approached with, ironically, a bipolar attitude- not one side or another.

  • Quyll

    For context’s sake, who are Joe, Beth, and Diana (the authors)? Just bloggers who attended? NAMI members?

    • Mike Weaver

      Blogger selectively chosen by Pete to comment on Whitaker presentation

  • Mike Weaver

    Robert supports the selective and responsible use of medications and presented a “fair and balanced approach”, one that NAMI members have not had the opportunity to hear over the years. It was the beginning of a conversation that can only lead to better treatment and looking at reducing the metabolic problems with long term high dosage use of anti-psychotics. My sister was at 150 lbs when she started on anti-psychotics and under the care of the highly regarded psychiatrists in Charlotte, NC area. That was 1994. She passed away at age 50 in 2011after obtaining severe obese designation(500 lbs) and dying of complications of heart and lung failure-death from over usage and non-attention to whole, integrated health despite my families attempt to communicate and intervene with docs. The old authoritarian approach that I have experienced is obsolete and non-productive. It is time for fully informed care and treatment in all of medicine, not just psychiatry. God bless psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, licensed professional counselors, peer supporters, family and friends, pharmacists who are almost always gracious and give the pros and cons. Shalom.

  • rebellb

    Psychiatric drugs too often cause damage that leaves people worse. It is good that NAMI is allowing the presentation of alternate information this time, although I usually would not agree with NAMI’s viewpoint. I think it is best to oppose coercion, such as outpatient and institutional commitments.

  • Jill Palmer

    It is good to see the willingness to have the conversation regarding a very controversial topic. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but a start at least. One thing that seems clear……..there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for a very complex array of brain disorders. It requires a very individual approach and treatment. If we are looking for simplicity, I think we fail. The Brain is the most complex organ of the body with the potential for the most complications and variable needs and solutions. I find it hard to understand the difficulty of identifying this fact. I think if we acknowledge the complexities and need for individualized treatment, there is a lot to be learned from all sources and studies. We need to be open to the opinions and experiences of many. This just isn’t as black and white as some would like it to be…….

  • Kay

    I have to say that I am cautiously optimistic regarding Mr. Whitaker’s presentation at the NAMI convention in San Antonio. What is important I think is the fact that treatment or not there must not be a cookie cutter approach. Since our mental health system is broken severely, we can’t keep turning out mistakes that lead to tragedy even on the treatment side of things. My 37 year old son and I attended Whitaker’s presentation and in fact we traveled from Chicago expressly to do so. I had been an extremely active NAMI leader in my county and served 6 years on the state board ending in 2003 bringing CIT to my county. It was the only thing that kept me sane as he ran away repeatedly always tossing his medications and ending up in state mental hospitals in many states severely manic and psychotic… rebound or tardive psychosis! For him it was no life at all… medication for life was unacceptable.

    It was always apparent to me and to my son now that he had “anasognosia”for 15 years. Early on he fought treatment so hard that his refusal to take either food, liquid or medication putting him into severe mania, psychosis and catatonia such that IV’s were used to keep him alive. He was fortunate to be in the hospital or he would be dead long ago. I understand the fears family members have on medication issues. We had to take him to court strapped to a gurney unable to speak in his catatonic state. The judge ordered forced medication. He did finally improve and go back to college finishing his master’s degree not having to be hospitalized even one time in five years.

    The bottom fell out again as his affect was not good and his appearance was unprofessional with a classic unkept beard, dreadlocks, tunic and sandals. Without a job prospect he lost his way and became hopeless. Finally he hit bottom in an asylum in Chicago and he really got it for the first time. It was my bottom too… there had to be a better way. Again I mention there is no cookie cutter that is right for everyone. He choose Orthomolecular supplements (nutrients) and 15mg of Zyprexa which is the only anti-psychotic that ever worked for him. In 6 months he showed no sign of the OCD that made all our lives miserable up to that point. I believe for him the nourished brain healed to a new normal such that he wanted to see what NAMI had to offer, his clothing choices greatly improved along with a shaved head and trimmed beard. He has accepted that he is one of the 20% Whitaker says need some medication and hopefully less in the future. He is looking for a day job as he starts his own web-based business. He carries an extra 60 pounds of weight from the need for anti-psychotics and with it the prospect of a shorter life by 15- 25 years. Really, is that the best we can do?

    Robert Whitaker does sound the alarm for us all to look at our system of care in a different way. I have read two of his books and I personally feel horrible about the history of drug pushing by the pharmaceutical companies. They have deluded us all many times over. I have a love hate relationship there. I am against just any type of doctor handing out anti-depressants like they were happy pills. What do GP’s really know about these drugs? I see them as doing harm to many who end up bipolar due to improper and over prescribing. Professionals notably, Dr. Frederick Goodwin have admitted and research supports the fact that long-term outcomes are proving some drugs are not better than placebo and shorten lives drastically… I believe profits have often driven their use. Yet I do admit we need some effective drugs and a system of nurturing wellness. I’m not against AOT. What kind of life is homelessness? And, yes parents have been made the scapegoats!

  • Kristen

    I am glad NAMI invited Mr. Whitaker to speak, because I think his voice needs to be heard too. Too often it is assumed that those who wish to discontinue antipsychotics suffer from anosognosia when in fact that is not always the case. I recently went off antipsychotics (with my psychiatrist’s approval) due to hyperglycemia secondary to antipsychotic use. I had normal glucose prior to starting these drugs, and was in the pre-diabetic range when I asked to stop them. I like that my doctor does not take the meds for life stance for every patient. While TAC talks about homelessness, they need to also talk more about the side effects of these drugs, such as diabetes which can kill patients, too. I don’t want to die from diabetes, and I am willing to take the risk to go off the medications so I do not become diabetic. One size does not fit all, and it’s important for patients to have physicians who realize this. Luckily I have one who does.

    I am not anti-meds by any stretch of the imagination, but I am glad I have a doctor who is willing to listen to my concerns and not do as some would do and force me to continue taking drugs that will leave me diabetic.

    • Yolanda67

      May I ask how long you have stayed off medication, and how you’ve been doing?

      • Kristen

        Yolanda, thank you for asking about me. In all honestly, not long. It has only been a couple of weeks, and it’s not been easy. Insomnia has been a big problem, but it’s getting better. I prepared myself for the discontinuation syndrome or whatever they call it, and tapered off the medication so it hasn’t been as bad (so far) as I expected. I have a lot of support and close monitoring by the psychiatrist, so I think I’ll do okay. It sucks, because the medication really helped me, and I wouldn’t stop it if I weren’t having these serious side effects. I sure wish they could come up with medication that works that doesn’t destroy my pancreas.

  • Cat

    I took free samples of Zyprexa . NAMIs pharma funder E-lilly pushed these samples for anxiety and insomnia, like I had, off label knowing how dangerous that stuff was but didn’t tell and I suffered horrible withdrawal reactions including a psychosis insomnia anxiety nightmare from hell beyond description. A psychosis I never ever had before taking that stuff . I went to the hospital for help and they blamed these reactions on “my illness” not the drug !! and then like NAMI advocates for I was threated with forced drugging (chemical rape) when I refused to take more of these drugs that made me sick in the first place !

  • cannotsay

    I posted a reply at your website. It is perfectly OK to recognize that you and your son have been victims of a scam. That doesn’t speak ill of you. Before I went through my own experience of psychiatric abuse, I also believed that psychiatry had sound scientific foundations. As a scientist, it was a very hard pill to swallow that a pseudoscience that has no better foundations than astrology has the same consideration as oncology. It’s sad, unbelievable, but true. And as I said numerous times, now even the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Tom Insel, and the chairman of the DSM-5 task force, David Kupfer, agree that psychiatric diagnoses are invented disorders based on “consensus” of “behavior DSM people don’t like”. None of the DSM disorders have been shown to have an underlying biomarker. While it might be late for those who have lost a loved one to this quackery, it is not too late for those who have a loved one abused by these quacks. There is a very interesting discussion about this topics in the Al Jazeera website titled “Redefining mental illness”. There Bob Whitaker and the chairman of the DSM-IV task force, Allen Frances, debate these issues. A real shame that to listen to an honest debate on these matters one has to tune Al Jazeera.

  • Rachel Jones

    Thanks for this blog post

  • Rachel Jones

    Dear cannotsay
    Given the many comments that you have posted here, I wonder if you would mind answering two questions so that all of us can better understand your point of view.
    1. Have you ever been diagnosed with a mental illness?
    2. Are you a member of the Church of Scientology?
    Thank you.

    • cannotsay

      1. have told my story in Mad In America. I could post a link, but it would be moderated, so in order to let the debate continue I will copy/paste it here as a stand alone comment.

      2. No, I am not. In fact, I consider Scientology to be, in many respects, a dangerous cult. That said, Scientology’s work debunking psychiatry was not only intellectually persuasive (to the point that Tom Insel basically adopted CCHR’s talking points in his now famous blog) but for a long time the only force fighting for the interest of those like me who have been abused by psychiatry. For that, CCHR has my utmost respect. Now the fight against psychiatry has many other fronts, totally unrelated to CCHR but for a long time they were the only guardians against the psychiatric complex. Please read the other comment I am about to post.

    • cannotsay

      And I have to add, I have nothing but contempt for psychiatry and the average psychiatrist who preaches its quackery. I am actively involved in the anti psychiatry movement in the US and there are big things coming on our front. Tom Insel’s initiated crisis was a gift from God that will give us legal ammunition to take these quacks to court.

  • cannotsay

    This is my story.

    Sent to the NY Times Editor.

    Dear New York Times editor,

    I am writing to you concerning your invitation for comments regarding
    forced psychiatric treatment. I apologize for sharing my story
    anonymously but as you will see, this was a very humiliating experience.
    One of the many unfortunate effects of psychiatric misconduct is the
    continued stigma that exists in all things related to mental disorders
    so I am not ready yet to go public with this; maybe someday I’ll find
    the courage to discuss this openly but I am not there at this time.

    I begin by saying that I wholeheartedly agree with what Dr Gordon had
    to say. In my own case, as a result of the experience, I lost all
    contact with my parents and siblings. I don’t know what they are up to
    these days and frankly, I do not want to know. So in my case, my parents
    following the advise of a psychiatrist to commit me has resulted in
    them losing a son and in me losing my parents for all practical
    purposes.

    I am an American male, of European origin, in my late thirties. I
    only hold American citizenship and I only held American citizenship when
    this thing happened. I am highly educated with a scientific doctoral
    degree from one of America’s best schools. During most of my adult life I
    have struggled with a condition that was diagnosed as Obsessive
    Compulsive Disorder, OCD. The funny thing is that psychiatry dumps into
    this disorder all kinds of different types of mental distress. In my
    case it’s an exaggerated fear of contracting HIV through casual contact.
    Now, I don’t mean to say that this condition doesn’t cause me distress.
    However, it doesn’t warrant the type of abuse I am about to describe.
    When this episode happened I was married; my ex-wife was of great help,
    which probably avoided the ruin of my professional life.

    As the vast majority of people, I had a neutral position on the whole
    field of psychiatry. I assumed that it was just like any other branch
    of medicine, tested and confirmed by the scientific method to be 100%
    accurate both in diagnosis and prediction. All that changed a few years
    ago when I was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution and
    forcibly drugged in the European country where I was born for treatment
    of OCD.

    Unlike the laws of the United States (which are largely the result of
    the 1975 SCOTUS case O’Connor v. Donaldson), the laws of that country
    afford psychiatrists all-encompassing power to commit whomever they wish
    and to drug any individual against his/her will. The O’Connor v.
    Donaldson case was a victory for human rights and, as it usually happens
    in human rights issues, the US has been the leader on that area. In
    that country, any psychiatrist can order to involuntarily commit and
    drug forcibly any patient in cases in which a psychiatrist determines it
    to be necessary, regardless of whether a finding that the patient’s
    life or a third party’s life is in danger exists. I was forcibly
    detained; tied up for almost one day and then forced to stay in 2
    different mental institutions for several months. The psychiatrists I
    worked with during that time are amongst the most arrogant people I have
    met in my entire life, which shows that, if you give anybody such
    power, they will become inevitably corrupt. The humiliation that I
    endured will stay with me for the rest of my life. My parents asked the
    psychiatrist to commit me. Out of respect to them, I did not invoke the
    protections afforded by international treaties, of which both the
    European country that detained me and the US are signatories, to
    citizens detained against their will in a host country. So I was pretty
    much on my own, with the help of my ex-wife to fight this. I was lucky
    that the company I was working for at the time here in the US was very
    patient with me; my ex-wife was able to manage the situation with them,
    but those psychiatrists who committed me couldn’t care less about my
    professional situation here in the US or whether I could be laid off for
    not showing up to work.

    And then there is the forced drugging and the side effects. The
    American Psychiatric Association, APA, recommended pharmacological
    regime for OCD treatment involves the prescription of serotonin reuptake
    inhibitors, either modern SSRIs or older ones such as tricyclic
    antidepressants -like clomipramine-, at doses that are 2-3 times higher
    than what is prescribed for normal depression. It is normal practice to
    supplement the prescription of these antidepressants with antipsychotic
    medication to “strengthen the effect of the antidepressant drug”,
    whatever that means. I continued with the medication regime upon coming
    back to the US. Over the course of 12 months I was prescribed (though at
    different times) escitalopram, clomipramine, sertraline, risperidone,
    olanzapine and lorazepam. Even though the APA also says that Cognitive
    Behavioral Therapy, CBT, alone is more efficient than meds for the
    treatment of OCD, I was made very clear that unless I agreed to be put
    on a medication regime, I would not be released from my involuntary
    commitment. So I had no choice but to agree to be put on meds if I
    wanted to get out of there. After I refused to continue with the drug
    regime, I have not been back to that country out of fear that I could be
    committed again.

    Upon my return to the US, I started to be treated by a psychiatrist
    (meds) and a clinical psychologist (CBT). At the time of my admission to
    the European hospital, I was given comprehensive blood tests that
    showed all my biological markers within normal range, those of kidneys
    and liver in particular. Upon learning of my medication regime, my
    American psychiatrist ordered new blood tests that showed clear kidney
    impairment.Other markers looked normal. I was sent to a kidney
    specialist who, after all kinds of tests, couldn’t find the cause of
    kidney malfunction other than the meds I was taking which were
    “supposed” to be harmless. A few months later, I had new blood tests and
    this time not only the kidneys didn’t show any improvement, but it was
    the liver markers AST/ALT that were out of range. An ultrasound test
    showed also that I had began to develop fatty liver. After months that
    showed no improvement of these two conditions -in addition to the fact
    that I had been experiencing other side effects associated with
    antidepressant/antipsychotic such as increased cholesterol levels and
    weight gain-, and against the advice of my American psychiatrist, I made
    the decision of stopping all medications. One month and a half later, I
    had a new blood test performed on me and bingo!; the AST/ALT markers
    were back within normal range while the creatinine serum level went down
    to normal levels too. A few months after stopping all meds, my
    cholesterol levels went back to normal. I am not a medical doctor, but I
    have an excellent doctoral education in a scientific field. The data
    collected from my case shows very convincingly that in my case these
    medications were causing significant side effects that risked to cause
    long term damage to my kidneys, to my liver and to my overall health due
    to the elevated cholesterol levels.

    I learned several things from this ordeal,

    1- Psychiatrists in general love to prescribe drugs. They will use
    any excuse they can find to do it, even if, as it is widely admitted,
    the field of psychiatry has yet to find a single biological marker that
    can be reliably described as the cause of any mental disorder. As to why
    this is the case, originally I thought it had to do with psychiatrists
    desire to be considered as equals by doctors who practice other
    specialties of medicine, a reason that doesn’t speak very highly of
    psychiatrists’ inferiority complex but which is understandable. However,
    after the episode of my involuntary commitment was distant in time, I
    began to research on the topic and I am appalled at what I found. I was
    made aware of the work by US senator Chuck Grassley which exposed the
    undisclosed financial ties to big pharma of “prestigious” psychiatrists
    such as Joseph Biederman, Charles Nemeroff, Martin Keller or Alan
    Schatzberg -the latter served as president of the APA even after the
    extent of his misconduct was publicly known-, the APA, and its front
    groups such as NAMI; right now I am more of the opinion that it has to
    do with a more mundane reason: greed. All these people engaged at some
    point or another in ghost writing, a practice that consists in that
    somebody hired by a pharmaceutical company writes a book or an article
    promoting a drug or a given clinical practice. The article/book is then
    presented as authored by the psychiatrist in question. The end result is
    that few people question the findings of the work, regardless of its
    scientific quality, because it is promoted as authored by some
    “prestigious” doctor. Of course, the “prestigious” doctor is duly paid
    by the pharmaceutical company for the cooperation.

    2- The guides of the APA, such as the DSM, have far reaching effects
    beyond the American market. The DSM was used to give me the OCD
    diagnosis in the European country where I was involuntarily committed.
    If the DSM, as it seems to be the case for DSM5, begins to promote the
    over use of psychiatric drugs, its effects will be felt not only here in
    the US but worldwide, which takes me to the third point.

    3- The US is, as it has been in many other instances, a pioneer in
    the protection of individuals’ rights, in this particular case
    psychiatric patients’ rights. A series of opinions by the US supreme
    court in the seventies, O’Connor v Donaldson (1975) and Addington v
    Texas (1979) in particular, limited the ability of American
    psychiatrists to involuntarily commit patients to psychiatric
    institutions except in those cases where the life of the patient (or the
    life of a third party) is in imminent danger. Subsequent decisions also
    limited psychiatrists’ ability to drug patients against their will. All
    this is relevant because I was able to make the decision of stopping
    all medications without the fear of retaliation only because I am an
    American living in America. This decision might have meant a trip back
    to the psychiatric ward in that European country, despite the severe
    effects I was experiencing. That is not to say that psychiatrists do not
    abuse their power in the US, there is plenty of evidence to the
    contrary, however, their ability to abuse patients is severely limited.

    Ideally, we should have the current practice of psychiatry disbanded
    and the DSM abolished. That is unlikely to happen, at least in the short
    term, because there are so many special interests (the APA, big pharma,
    the FDA) interested in maintaining the status quo. However, we can all
    fight so that their negative effects are attenuated, not only for our
    fellow Americans but also for the sake of millions of innocent people
    who live in countries which are less protective of patients’ rights and
    who are likely to be abused by the psychiatric establishment of their
    countries with an expansive revision of the DSM.

    In the context of his article we should remind everybody Dr Gordon’s
    words “psychiatrists have limited capacity to reliably predict
    violence”. Lowering the standard for civil commitment will only result
    in abuses like the one I endured becoming more common place. We are all
    appalled for what happened in Sandy Hook. But giving psychiatry more
    power to commit whomever they wish is not the answer. I have to admit
    that I have had a very hard time in the last month when I began hearing
    people from the right calling for an easing of civil commitment
    standards as their easy answer to solve tragedies like Sandy Hook’s. As
    the Norwegian massacre shows, giving more power to psychiatry to commit
    people will not prevent these massacres. It will however make
    psychiatric abuse more common place in America.

    Sincerely yours

    • hiddenvictim

      I am the mother of a son who has struggled with schizophrenia for 22 years. I also have another family member with OCD. Two very different brain disorders. Appropriate well applied therapy is great if you can find someone who can actually do it effectively and is also affordable. Many people do not have private pay resources. I also worked for 13 years for a large county mental health system in California plus had over 25 years in the medical profession before going into family counseling. I have seen people who have never taken any antipsychotics and also seen them after they are meds that work at the right dose. Big difference and some actually get their life back, but some don’t. Just like with cancer, not everyone responds to the medication and trying the right one is sometimes difficult. My Mom died of breast cancer at age 53, I had the same cancer but the chemo worked for me since I am now in my 70′s. Steve Jobs decided not to take the traditional chemo until it was too late. I have also seen people with schizophrenia who did not take any meds and seen them end up in jail and in the morgue. Some people get diagnosed with schizophrenia who actually have a street drug induced psychosis and they usually clear up fine after stopping their meds. Others stop and end up walking in the freeway not knowing what planet they are on. Others harm family members and innocent members in public places like schools and move theaters. I would like for some of the anti psychiatry believers to put their beliefs into action. Open a farm and help people get off their meds so they can experience what many families experience. That would be a great research project for Mad in America because I have seen how some of those places worked in California. Our county had one of those places where meds weren’t used and people were allowed to paint the walls with their feces. It was closed down when one of the residents walked to the freeway overpass and jumped to his death. Could meds have made a difference? His family will never know.

      • cannotsay

        You are putting all kinds of mumbo-jumbo here. First, equating cancer to so called “mental illness” is an insult to my intelligence. Apparently the pro psychiatry zealots missed the events of May 2013 entirely. Get this: now the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Tom Insel and the chairman of the DSM-5 task force, David Kupfer, both agree that there are NO BIOMARKERS for any of psychiatry’s invented diseases. What that means is twofold: 1- no so called “mental illness” has been shown to have a valid biological cause (such as cancer has), 2- diagnostic is not made based on biomarkers (such as is the case for cance). So the Steve Jobs thing, frankly, doesn’t cut it other than in the minds of people scientifically illiterate and prone to wishful thinking. Apparently, such individuals make a big chunk of NAMI’s membership.

        Second, of course there are alternatives to NAMI/Big Pharma’s “all drugging, all the time, by force if necessary” for people who are going through extreme mental states. Soteria was shown by Loren Mosher to be superior than drugging in terms of long term recovery for schizophrenic patients back in the 1970s/1980s. Guess which lobby was responsible for all research in that line of work being shut down? Big Pharma and the psychiatric quacks who saw their source of revenue being threatened.

        Third. Al so called “treatment” should be entirely voluntary. ENTIRELY as in NO EXCEPTIONS. Benign paternalism has ruined more lives than we can count, including mine.

        • hiddenvictim

          Oh yes, I remember Soteria and saw the results. There was a reason it was closed down. You sound very angry. I know some clinicians who worked in the Soteria project. Even they are no longer believers.

          • cannotsay

            Yeah, the reason was that Soteria and Soteria like solutions are not the type of solutions that allow Big Pharma to sell more drugs and academic psychiatrists to cash in in consulting/speaking fees.

            I sound very angry… What a joke! I was at the receiving end of psychiatry’s violence, not the other way around. Those in the mainstream survivor movement are committed to defeating psychiatry through entirely legal and peaceful ways. Not only the use of violence is against my convictions but also I truly believe that long lasting change can only be accomplished through peaceful and legal methods.

            I hope that at the very minimum you stop repeating canards that have been debunked by no other than the director of the NIMH and the chairman of the latest edition of the DSM. No, psychiatry’s invented diseases are not like cancer. You seem to be scientifically illiterate and very gullible. It’s the type of perfect victim that psychiatry loves to prey on.

        • Researcher

          Good to see someone who points to research instead of sad unverifiable anecdotes!

  • CAT

    I think everyone should be required to take anti-psychotics for one month before taking part in this conversation.
    Reading the word “anhedonia” and living it are two very very different things.