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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 20, 2017 by Bonnie Kaplan, PhD

Nutrition & Mental Health Fund Turning Donations into Long-Awaited Research

The generosity of people donating to both the U.S.-based and the Canadian Nutrition and Mental Health Funds is heartwarming. Both funds were established to support activities (especially research) in the area of nutrition and mental health.

I’m so pleased to announce the following:

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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 28, 2017 by Eliza Galaher, QMHA & Eli Addison, QMHA

Camaraderie, Isolation, and the Human Experience of Being Alive

#5 in the series An Affirming Flame: Veterans’ Journeys from Trauma to Healing

“Whatever the technological advances of modern society—and they’re nearly miraculous—,” writes war journalist Sebastian Junger in a June 2015 Vanity Fair article, “the individual lifestyles that those technologies spawn may be deeply brutalizing to the human spirit.”  Junger’s article, entitled, “How PTSD Became a Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield,” theorizes in part that for many war veterans, a substantial part of their trauma comes not from the experience of war, but from re-entering society after war. Whereas in war soldiers experience an intense camaraderie with others out of necessity, modern American culture in particular discourages such connection, promoting instead a lifestyle of isolation perpetuated in part by advances in technology and digital distraction.

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June 23, 2017 by Bob Nikkel, MSW

You Say You Want a Revolution, Part 2

Two years ago, I wrote a blog entitled “So You Say You Want a Revolution?” in which I laid out in general terms what I saw at that time as the key ingredients in making revolutionary changes in public mental health systems–they were 5 C’s:  Commitment, Courage, Creativity, Capability, and Care.

I’ve had 2 more years to think about these things and have a few more thoughts on the topic.  If working from the 5 Cs seemed daunting before, my ideas for system revolution are now more specific and even more challenging.

A formative experience for me was beginning to work several years ago with a large state agency that served many young people with mental health problems.  A colleague from my days as the state mental health and addictions commissioner began to talk with me about my new perspectives on the treatment of people with mental health challenges.

He told me that he was interested in looking at how psychiatric medications were being used in his agency.  His words were encouraging:  “Whatever we’re doing, I want to make sure it is in the best interests of the youth in our care.”  I jumped at the chance.  I toured facilities, discussed the issues and the risks in overusing medications with another former colleague who was in charge of treatment services.

The bottom line ended up being a financial equation:  “If it costs a dollar to keep a young person out of trouble using medications and it costs a lot more to keep the young person under control with staffing, what do you think we’re going to do?”

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June 23, 2017 by Julia Rucklidge, PhD & Bonnie Kaplan, PhD

Data Shows That Nutrients Reduce Aggression: Why is Policy Not Changing?

A study just published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology was a timely reminder that there is ample evidence that nutrients can be used to reduce aggression and violence in children who are prone to such behaviours. The new study reaffirmed what we already know. Actually, the benefit of using nutrients to reduce violence has been known since the 1990s, so this is really nothing new. In fact, we wondered whether it was even worth blogging about it, given that there have already been five randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that have shown nutrients can successfully reduce aggression and violent incidents across a range of populations from delinquent children to adults in prison.1 2 3 4 5

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June 21, 2017 by Lauren Spiro

When the war in our mind ends, peace emerges

When we co-founded Emotional CPR (eCPR), I put my very best thinking into the project as a way of embodying how I envisioned relationships and how every person could learn how to support another person through an emotional crisis. eCPR has evolved over the years and so have I. I have a new insight and an invitation I would like to share.

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June 2, 2017 by Laysha Ostrow, PhD

Wealth of resources on peer respite at

Self-Evaluation Guidebook Just Released is a comprehensive online resource dedicated to dissemination and implementation efforts to help communities create effective, sustainable crisis alternatives through independent peer-run programs. Live & Learn, Inc created to provide a comprehensive online resource dedicated to dissemination and implementation efforts about peer respites, providing public access to information about research, technical assistance, resources, and a program directory.

In May 2017, we launched the Guidebook for Peer Respite Self-Evaluation: Practical Steps and Tools to assist in building the evidence for peer respites.

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June 1, 2017 by Bob Nikkel, MSW

Trauma in Common?

Recently, I had a chance to look at a review of DJ Jaffey’s new book, Insane Consequences:  How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill.   As can be expected, the book will meet with considerable blowback–a starting example:  The title of the book using the long outdated term “insane” will set some bells and whistles going.

But I found myself asking whether that is such a good thing considering, among many other dynamics, the deep polarization that is spreading almost like an illness through all of America these days and even contaminating views of us abroad as well.

The dispute that will be ignited further is the one between the proponents of DJ Jaffey’s world and that of the “other side”–those who are equally dissatisfied with how the mental health system works because it does not respect the individuality of persons with major mental health challenges and does not support the idea that people can recover–even those with the most damaging diagnoses of “schizophrenia.”  The latter group is one that is actually quite diverse and includes everyone from progressive members of the American Psychiatric Association (admittedly still a minority though growing group) to the antipsychiatry advocates.  There are numerous other advocates in between including some long-time NAMI leaders who are speaking to the harm of conventional mental health treatment and pushing for many kinds of alternatives.

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