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September 1, 2017 by Bob Nikkel, MSW

The Continuing Evolution of Mad in America Continuing Education

The Mad in America Continuing Education Project is continuing to evolve.  Earlier in this year, we initiated a new way of providing our courses—a webinar format which has been going over quite well.  Over 200 people took Dr. Chris Gordon and Keegan Arcure’s live course on Open Dialogue —and the numbers have continued to grow as people watch the webinar after the fact.  So we have decided to ramp up our webinar offerings.  We have produced two more so far; one on Oregon’s early psychosis intervention program, EASA (Early Assessment and Support Alliance), and another with Denmark’s Olga Runciman speaking on withdrawing from antipsychotic drugs.

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July 17, 2017 by Laysha Ostrow, PhD

Psychiatric Medication Discontinuation Study Results

The Psychiatric Medication Discontinuation/Reduction study (PMDR) is the first U.S. survey of a large sample of longer-term users who chose to discontinue psychiatric medications. The study, funded by the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care and led by current and former users of psychiatric medications, sought to understand first-hand experiences and strategies of individuals who decided to discontinue psychiatric medications, and either stopped or reduced the use of these medications.

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July 7, 2017 by Giovan Bazan

Don’t believe the hype, you are more than a set of symptoms.

Giovan Bazan, Board Member at the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care

“You’re Mentally Ill, take these pills to make you better” is what I constantly heard growing up. I believed what I was told because the adults said so, and they believed what they were told because the doctor said so, and they believed what they were told because the pharmaceutical rep said so because big pharma paid them to say so, etc.

If you had asked me: “What’s wrong with you?”, I would have rattled off ADHD, Depression, Social Anxiety, Spacial Anxiety, Reactive Detachment Disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, early childhood trauma, PTSD, etc.  I was always introduced by my “problem” and my “situation”. “He’s a mentally ill foster child/juvenile delinquent”, as though those titles encompassed all of who I was. I was referred to and treated as though I was a patient and not as a person.

I used to dread being heavily sedated, so numb that I couldn’t process or even feel the trauma I desperately needed to address to heal. I despised the feeling of being different in a bad way, of feeling like I would never be able to fit in, to belong.

I hated the diagnoses because you can’t define the full spectrum of my emotions, my life experiences, my world views, with a diagnoses of a disorder, with a stigma or a label. I’m much more than that, I’m complex, I’m sophisticated, I’m intelligent, I’m weird, I hurt, I heal, I learn, and I love, all so very deeply. Most importantly, I can recover.

At 18 years old, I chose not to take those pills anymore, and on this life-long recovery journey I am still finding myself. I believe there are many paths to recovery and it’s each person’s right to choose which path they take.

I do not accept the stigmas and stereotypes that other people impose on me. I define myself by my ability to transcend pain with Purpose, Resilience and Peace from within. Moral of the story: Don’t believe the hype, you are more than the description of a set of symptoms. You are who YOU CHOOSE to be! Opinions don’t change the world; Actions do.

Giovan Bazan is an internationally recognized motivational speaker who shares a message of empowerment with youth and adults across the globe. As an advocate for youth, Giovan offers his hard-won wisdom about the best interests of children and youth who have been “systemized” in the Foster Care, Juvenile Justice and Mental Health Systems. He has influenced a variety of legislation on topics like running away, homelessness, mental health, truancy, abuse, foster care and juvenile justice. Giovan has inspired thousands of youth and adults, from speaking to teens in Juvenile Detention Centers to working with the White House. He has been featured on National Public Radio, CNN Dialogues, Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, among others. He has consulted for state departments of juvenile justice, mental health, family and children services and the White House Council for Community Solutions. Giovan is a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care .

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June 9, 2017 by Tamara Staples

Starting conversations that save lives

Artist Tamara Staples on the discussion panel “The Making of an Epidemic: Polypharmacy in the Treatment of Mental Health ” at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. The panel discussion was the culmination of her installation exhibit “Side Effects May Include”.

Before my sister’s untimely death from an overdose of pharmaceuticals, I didn’t think much about pharmaceuticals  in any meaningful way. I’ve never dealt with serious illness. My sister was eccentric from an early age and no one thought much of it.  Of course, the labeling of mental illness had not yet come into play at that time.

We were adopted from separate families and when she met her birth family, she discovered that her father was bi-polar. He was taking Lexipro at the time, so she found a doctor who would prescribe the same. 

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April 12, 2017 by Bob Nikkel, MSW

Mad in America to Host Webinar On Oregon’s Innovative Early Psychosis Programs

On Friday, April 28th, from 1-2:30 pm Eastern time (10-11:30 am Pacific), Mad in America Continuing Education will be host a webinar on the Early Assessment and Support Alliance, a one-of-a-kind early intervention project in Oregon for youth experiencing psychosis. The EASA projects are unique in that they build on nearly 2 decades of outcome research and represent a pragmatic blend of models from Australia, Open Dialogue, and others.

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February 21, 2017 by Sandra Steingard, MD

Farewell Mickey Nardo, 1 (not very) Boring Old Man

About five years ago, as my own blogging life was beginning, I found John M. Nardo’s outstanding blog, www.1boringoldman. His focus was on the poor quality of studies that formed the evidence base of modern psychiatry. In a painstaking way, he dove into study after study and pointed out their flaws. His outrage was apparent but couched in a graceful eloquence.

There was a comment section and I eventually jumped in. I had some communication with him outside of the blog, but mostly our communication was in the comments. At the beginning, I did not know his name or much about him. Over time, he shared a bit of his story.

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February 10, 2017 by Bonnie Kaplan, PhD

Advancing nutritional psychiatry, donors jumpstart new projects

Celebrating our achievements and setting new goals for binational Nutrition & Mental Health Research Funds

nutritionandmentalhealthfundprogress_12317The generosity of people donating to these two charitable funds is heartwarming. Both funds were established to support research in the area of nutrition and mental health, and we are beginning to do just that.

I’m so pleased to announce the following:

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December 14, 2016 by Christopher Gordon, MD

Finding our way together

A doctor-patient relationship that calls out the best in each other

Several years ago, a person whom I was serving as a psychiatrist changed my life. This man had been a participant for some years in the services of the non-profit where I work, Advocates in Framingham, Massachusetts.

He had spent years going in and out of hospitals, for what doctors called bipolar disorder, but what he himself experienced as periods of great spiritual elation (which clinically looked like mania) alternating with what he described as “spiritual hibernation” (which looked like severe depression).

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December 13, 2016 by Bob Nikkel, MSW

A Foundation of Professional Education for Now and the Future


For its first year and a half, the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care nurtured a fund supporting an on-line continuing education service developed by Robert Whitaker called the Mad in American Continuing Education Project.

This initiative now has 12 courses and lectures taught by internationally recognized researchers and clinicians. These offerings have been accessed by over 1,500 mental health professionals as well as persons with lived experience and family members. We have also reached a far broader geographical audience than originally anticipated–from Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

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December 7, 2016 by Sandra Steingard, MD

Vermont Collaborative Network Approach Launched

vermont_b-nikkelI have had the great privilege and pleasure of working with a group of colleagues in Vermont who share my interest in bringing the humble and democratic ways of working developed in northern Finland and Norway to our state. Many of us were introduced to this work by Robert Whitaker’s description of Open Dialogue in Anatomy of an Epidemic and Daniel Mackler’s documentary Open Dialogue, and some of us worked with Tom Anderson, who came to Vermont in the 90s.

Some had traveled to Europe to attend the annual meeting of the International Network for the Treatment of Psychosis, the group of clinicians who had been working in this way for the past two decades. Others had the opportunity to train with Mary Olson, PhD at the Institute for Dialogic Practice. We have formed study groups and developed small teams who are beginning to introduce this way of working to our clinics.

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