Reader Writes D. J. Jaffe Was No Friend To “Those Of Us With Mental Health Concerns.”

Michael Skinner


D. J. Jaffe and A Culture of Fear by Michael Skinner

Dear Pete,

I read your blog post, “Influential Critic D. J. Jaffe Has Died: Remembered As “Bomb Thrower” Who Demanded Mental Illness Reforms” and thought of how he has done so much to hurt those of us labeled “mentally ill”. You considered him a friend, he was anything but for those of us struggling with the challenges of trauma, abuse and mental health concerns.

These are some of my thoughts on D.J. Jaffe. He did not have the best interests of people struggling despite all of his rhetoric, it was based in fear, hate and disdain for those of us labeled “mentally ill.” There was no compassion in that man or his cohort, E. Fuller Torrey, despite their bombastic appeals to the contrary.

They built a house of cards, a hurtful, dangerous house of cards.

Jaffe and Torrey have been on a mission to instill fear in society to help propel their agenda. Their overstating of the violence we supposedly commit is false.

In your book, you quote Jaffe stating in a speech: “Nobody cares about people with brain disorders. Laws change for a single reason – in reaction to highly publicized incidents of violence…I am not saying it is right, I am saying this is the reality….(We) must take the debate out of the mental health arena and put it in the criminal justice/public safety arena.”

He used fear to help drive his agenda. Fact is, those labeled “mentally ill” are more often the victims of crime. Jaffe refused to look at the data of how psychiatric medications can cause people to commit violence and suicidal ideation. Journalists have covered this over the years, they’ve even linked some of the mass shooters to this fact, but it is ignored.  My suicidal ideation and attempts to end my life came when overly medicated on psychiatric drugs that were known to cause this. I am not anti-medication, but strongly oppose over-medication and understand that not everyone responds to these medications in the same way. The drugs in fact can have an adverse affect. Again, I am not  not anti-medication, many friends and peers are helped by them.

Hope is an essential component for healing.

Jaffe’s belief that “mental illness” was a life long sentence was another falsehood. I was told repeatedly that because of my “mental illness, I would never be able work again or be a musician.” Learning how the trauma and abuse in my life shaped the development of my brain and nervous system and finding compassionate trauma-informed and practicing providers played a huge role in me regaining my life and returning to work.

Jaffe made light of peer support. Well, that too played a major role in my healing. Al-Anon and Alcoholic’s Anonymous have been helping people for decades. The peer support of fellow travelers impacted by mental health challenges, trauma and abuse has also been crucial for many. Generous doses of kindness and caring go a long way in healing.

Ironically, many of us who were labeled “seriously mentally ill” and then found ways to have a meaningful life have been maligned by Jaffe and Torrey, that we were in fact not “seriously mentally ill.” Their use of gaslighting, bullying and control are not pathways for healing.

The fears associated with mental illness drive the bus of shame, blame and stigma in preventing most folks from seeking help for their respective trauma, abuse and mental health challenges. Jaffe’s agenda, at its very core is built upon disdain for those of us who have struggled in life. As one who has been on the receiving end of people like him I know only too well the charade of helping that cloaks their true intent. The silence and controlling of human beings because of the arrogant beliefs that they may know more is hurtful. He did not walk in our shoes and had no idea of our struggles. If Jaffe truly wanted to help people, he would have invited us to the table.

“Nothing about us without us” was ignored by Jaffe and Torrey because at the heart of their crusade, we are not functioning human beings, we are the others of society. We are dehumanized, and that is a scary and hurtful place to be.

History is full of examples of the others in life being mistreated and dehumanized by the supposed all knowing. The destruction of cultures around this world by the missionaries out to save the heathen [because they were not aware they were heathens] ruined generations of lives. Racism at its very core is dehumanizing and all because of the color of your skin. Unfortunately there are far too many who also view those of us labeled “mentally ill” as less than human. Jaffe has spoken at length of how we “don’t know we’re mentally ill”, and yet despite no medical degree, he knew what was best for me and others?

Despite our lowest lows, we all need connection, support and caring, that is what heals.

Their repeated refusals to look seriously at the impact trauma and abuse has upon the mind, body and spirit has been detrimental for helping to seriously reform how the mental health centers and treatment providers help build lives of hope and healing. Jaffe’s belief that the “seriously mentally ill” will always be “mentally ill” is a lie. The negating of the impact of trauma, which has the science behind it, makes no sense.

Sadly, he has have been successful in his fear based campaign. He was able to make a name for himself and keep perpetuating the stigma, shame and blame against those dealing with trauma, abuse and mental health challenges as the result of their respective life experiences.

I have come to detest the word “mentally ill” or “mental illness” because of how I have been mistreated. I hope and pray that it loses its place in the lexicon of language. I suffered mental injuries, not a mental illness.

Sometimes I wished I had the schooling of an investigative journalist to look deeply into folks like Jaffe and Torrey, find out their funding stream and some background on who they really are as people. But, that is not my reality. I learned many years ago to ignore them as best that I could and hope and pray that others with the expertise and science behind them would discredit them for who they are. The simple fact that the National Alliance of Mental Illness and others pulled away from them speaks volumes. I have tried my level best to help advocate and educate on the matters of trauma, abuse and mental health and these are the reasons I speak out against Jaffe and others like him.

Thank you, Michael Skinner

PS The implicit bias of, “Mental Illness” and “mentally ill”, a lexicon of hurt. by Michael Skinner

A diagnosis is not a destiny

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr. – Hope, Healing, & Help for Trauma, Abuse & Mental Health – Music, Resources & Advocacy – Hope, Healing & Help for Trauma, Abuse & Mental Health – Creative Arts, Education & Advocacy

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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.