Acting like a “nice, compliant” individual has seriously harmed me for most of my 67 years. Due to my economic privilege, I received the best medical and psychiatric treatment available and, for most of those years, I accepted the “official” narrative, the dominant explanation for my ongoing suffering. That narrative is a limiting belief that harmed me and continues to damage all of us—not just we who have been diagnosed, but entire societies.
Many people identify the proliferation of psychiatric drugs as the root of our harm. I see neuroleptic drug use not as the root but as the fruit of the destructive narrative upon which most of our industrialized, “developed,” societies depend. And without deep transformative change, the damage from that dependence may be irreparable.
The people I depended on as an infant and young child did and said things that both helped and harmed me. My early life felt confusing and terrifying, and it was my connection with animals that sustained me. I lacked basic trust and hid my vulnerability.Read More
Earlier this year, the American Journal of Psychiatry published a paper, “The Long-Term Effects of Antipsychotic Medications on Clinical Course in Schizophrenia.” This was a response to the concerns that have been raised that these drugs negatively impact long-term outcomes. The authors conclude, albeit in a somewhat lukewarm way, that overall, the “evidence for a negative long-term effect of initial or maintenance antipsychotic treatment is not compelling.” Robert Whitaker and Joanna Moncrieff, whose work was cited by the authors, have written critiques of this paper.
Even if one accepts the paper’s conclusions at face value, there is little argument regarding some serious long-term risks such as movement disorders and weight gain. One of the most compelling reasons why these authors support long-term care is related to the relapse data: when one is started on these drugs, the relapse rate is higher when they are stopped than when they are continued (at least over the first two years). However, there is general consensus that there are some individuals who will recover and not need medications long-term. In fact, there is even consensus that some can recover without drugs; the dispute is over numbers.Read More
At the beginning of September, I wrote about the next stage of the Mad in America Continuing Education project—the development of webinar formats and I announced the planning for a “course” on withdrawal from psychiatric medications. At that time, I was able to provide only introductory information but now I can provide a full picture of the 7 webinars that comprise the course and update a few other developments.Read More
I remind myself often how wonderful it is to notice the wealth of resource and intelligence that is all around us. I just left the gym where I watch CNN (while on the treadmill) and I go from the devastation of Puerto Rico to the massacre in Las Vegas and then read an entrepreneurial magazine in the lobby.
Club Business International’s October 2017 publication stated, “When I [the editor of CBI] asked the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy what was the biggest disease in America today, without hesitation, he answered, ‘It’s not cancer, It’s not heart disease, It’s isolation.’”
One of the results of the incessant technological assault, observes Murphy, “is the pronounced isolation that so many people are experiencing that is the great pathology of our lives today.” The Editors note continues, “International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Associate Chairperson Derek Gallup counsels, ‘Certainly, continue your search for technological solutions, but, as you do so, remain constantly focused on the all-important human element. In the final analysis, your members, and how they feel about them selves and the team members- those are the critical factors that, ultimately, will determine whether your business grows and thrives… or doesn’t.’”
The Editorial also points out that Thomas L. Friedman, Pulitzer prize-winning author and journalist with The New York Times, states “How ironic, we are the most technologically connected generation in human history- and yet more people feel more isolated than ever. The connections that matter most and that are most in short supply today are the human-to-human ones.”
Personally, I am hopeful. More and more people globally are waking up and re-connecting with our shared humanity and a shared vision of a peaceful and collaborative world. Currently in the U.S. however, a great divide appears to be growing, where we see an acceleration of the breakdown of our social structure and our community infrastructure.
Unsustainable systems are collapsing and something new, hopeful, empowering and global is in the process of emerging. It seems that we need to collectively burn through some darkness before we collectively see the light. Lately, there seems to be a growing isolation and war-like posturing. Let’s shift gears and focus on a hopeful antidote that everyone can apply.
World peace begins with me
Human beings have been making war for a long time in many cultures, meaning in many minds, because the culture is a reflection of the mind.
I am coming to a clearer understanding that when I am not at peace in my own mind, I am waging an internal war and that war is projected onto others whether I am aware of it or not.
The war in my head can be framed around a variety of battles – it can be framed around the ancient and false belief that I am not good enough or smart enough, or if that other person would do something well or if this condition or that condition were met – then all would be worked out and peaceful. I have constructed a story that tints the lens through which I see myself, others, our relationships, and the world.
If I remain unaware of how I have tinted the lens, and I remain stuck in the story, the conditions for peace will not be met. Peace is revealed in the absence of war – in the absence of isolation, separation, judgments, and conditions.
If we take another step deeper, we can see that the source of this war comes from the belief that we are some thing that is separate from others. This early learning, this sense of separation and human disconnection, is so pervasive and integrated into the threads of our culture that it makes it hard to see.
This experience of human disconnection, a separation of self from self and self from others, is a fundamental concept in both trauma-informed practice and in Emotional CPR (eCPR), www.emotional-cpr.org. The impact of trauma and human disconnection played out in my own early childhood, for example, by my experiencing such a profound lack of safety that it resulted in my clinging to anyone who offered safety and anything that could numb the pain.
Another result of the belief that we are some thing and this thing is separate from each other is that we get focused on protecting this thing. Whatever the thing is – our territory, our home, our family – we protect it and hold on to fear, and anger and revenge, and we wait for someone else to do something differently so that we think we can find peace.
Our tinted lens reinforces the idea that that other person is different – separate from me. And this separation perpetuates conflict and war. It perpetuates the war in my head which perpetuates the war I wage with others. The inner war creates global war.
When I am practicing eCPR or human connecting I am cleaning the lens. By that I mean, I intentionally focus on letting go of my own judgments and labels; there is nothing to protect. I focus on perceiving the other person in their full humanity. The distress the person is expressing is a particular patterned way that this person’s internal war has escalated.
As a supporter or listener or fellow human being I focus on being with her and assisting her in finding peace. I do this by seeing the genuine person underneath her lens, underneath the social conditioning, underneath her story. And when I do this, I am perceiving or ‘being’ underneath my own lens. From this place, where peace is revealed in the deep connection of two people, I mirror back the best I see in her, my great hope for her, my belief in her, my knowing that together, in this moment, we will move through this.
Connection as a preventative of violence
Shortly after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and 17 others were assaulted with a firearm in Tucson, Arizona in 2011 and six people died from their wounds, the mayor of Tucson, Arizona asked for a meeting with the Administrator of the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
I recall being hopeful that some federal action step might be taken to move forward in a collective and positive direction after this tragedy. About 45 of us from around the country met at SAMHSA in Rockville, Maryland, the Tucson mayor and his wife joined us via phone.
There was much talk around what some communities have done in response to similar attacks, how we might be able to prevent such attacks and where we go from here, such as community dialogues, town meetings, etc.
I listened for a long while and then spoke and I would say the same thing today: People don’t act out in desperate acts of rage – be it homicide, massacre or suicide – when they know they are connected and belong to something bigger than themselves – be it family, community or some entity that gives their life meaning and purpose. I don’t believe this behavior occurs when people know that they belong in community, that they have a safety net, a place where they are being well thought of, cared about.
If people have somewhere safe to go when they feel big feelings, whatever those feelings are – anger, rage, isolation, anxiety, sadness, etc., they would not act out so desperately, at least they would be less likely to. The invitation is to think creatively and strategize about how we rebuild our communities so they everyone knows they belong, everyone is valued and has a place.
We can and must do a better job of connecting to our own hearts and to the hearts, minds and spirits of others.
I end with two simple and eloquent quotes from Albert Einstein, “We can not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” and “The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth.
Lauren Spiro’s vision of social justice and mental health liberation fuels her work of community building, developing our individual and collective capacity for feeling deeply connected, appreciating the vast creative intelligence of the human mind and creating pathways so everyone may come home. Diagnosed and institutionalized with chronic schizophrenia as a teenager, she has emerged as a visionary thinker, artist, and consultant dedicated to embodying inner peace to create global peace. She has an M.A. in Clinical/Community Psychology, has been featured on national media, co-founded Emotional CPR and two non-profit mental health corporations, is the former director of the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (www.ncmhr.org) and author of a recently published memoir, Living for Two: A Daughter’s Journey from Grief and Madness to Forgiveness and Peace. Join her at www.laurenspiro.wordpress.com or email Laurenspiro1@gmail.comRead More
And the answer is I got hooked. After decades working in television, I was looking for stories that aren’t being told. I came across an article about a group of people diagnosed with mental disorders that were going to weekly meetings, 12 step style. I researched the mental rights movement and I started wondering why we weren’t talking more about the issues they were raising. I called David Oaks and when I got off the phone, my hands were shaking. I met a guy, diagnosed bi polar who told me, “all I have to do to get committed is make 2 doctors nervous…do you know how easy that is?” And then he described how devastating it was to be told that you cannot trust yourself anymore. Your mind, your mission control will have to be run by someone else.
Hmmm. Who decides that? And how?Read More
This series of seven 90-minute webinars will feature presentations by people with “expertise by lived experience,” psychiatrists, and other professionals on a topic of critical importance: What do we know about withdrawal from psychiatric medications? The educational purpose of the series is to present information and insights that arise:
As is well known, the pharmaceutical industry has long funded CEU and CME curriculums, and given that funding influence, such curriculums have paid little attention to psychiatric drug withdrawal. Mad in America Continuing Education does not receive any corporate funding for its online seminars, and thus this seven-seminar course will be one of the first online continuing education courses on psychiatric drug withdrawal that is free from such corporate funding.
This MIA course is not designed to provide advice to individuals who are seeking to taper from their medications. Instead, it is designed to explore the risks and rewards of doing so and methods for doing so successfully. It is also designed to identify the many shortcomings in our medical and societal knowledge about withdrawing from psychiatric drugs.
A unique aspect of this course is that it begins and ends with seminars featuring a panel of “experts by experience”—those who have personal experience withdrawing from psychiatric medications and who are now engaged in promoting knowledge about this subject in one manner or another.
The cost of the seven-seminar course is $100. However, there is an early-bird price of $50 for the first 75 students that register. The early-bird coupon code is EARLYBIRD.
Non-professionals who cannot afford these fees can apply for a scholarship.
Each seminar will offer one CEU, and thus seven CEUs for the complete course. (Pending approval.)
ALL TIMES ARE FOR THE LIVE WEBINARS BUT RECORDINGS WILL BE POSTED 2 DAYS AFTERWARDS TO ASSURE AVAILABILITY TO ALL REGISTRANTS
October 24, 2017: Experts by experience
9:30 pm GMT, 5:30 pm Eastern, 4:30 pm Central, 3:30 pm Mountain, 2:30 pm Pacific
Emily Cutler will moderate a panel of three individuals, Dina Tyler, Oryx Cohen and Jocelyn Pedersen, who have successfully withdrawn from psychiatric medications. They will tell of their experiences doing so and also describe their ongoing efforts to provide support to others seeking to taper from the drugs.
November 14, 2017: Antipsychotic withdrawal/reduction in a public mental health setting
7:30pm GMT, 2:30 pm Eastern, 1:30 pm Central, 12:30 pm Mountain, 11:30 am Pacific
Psychiatrist Sandra Steingard presents on research that provides an evidence-based rationale for supporting patients to taper from antipsychotics. She will discuss some of the challenges psychiatrists face when they are open to tapering and discuss her 5-years of experience of using a collaborative decision model that supports public mental health clients in deciding whether to reduce their dose of neuroleptic drugs.
December 12, 2017: Medication reduction and wellness
7:30pm GMT, 2:30 pm Eastern, 1:30 Central pm, 12:30 pm Mountain, 11:30 am Pacific
Psychiatrist Kelly Brogan presents on her clinical experience working with patients withdrawing from psychiatric drugs; the role of addressing the physical and emotional reasons that gave rise to psychiatric “symptoms” in the first place (with a particular focus on anxiety and depression); and the psychospiritual underpinnings of this withdrawal process. She will describe her approaches in her clinical practice and her online healing community.
January 16, 2018: An alternative, non-medical approach to drug withdrawal
6:30pm GMT, 2:30 pm Eastern, 1:30 pm Central, 12:30 pm Mountain, 11:30 am Pacific
Swedish Therapist Carina Håkansson will tell of her nearly three decades of experience, first as Founder of the Family Homes Foundation and now as founder of The Extended Therapy Room, helping people taper from psychiatric medications. She will speak of her need to “put on a white coat”, given the absence of a medical-based practice for drug withdrawal. She will tell of how residential care can be organized around a person in crisis during drug withdrawal. She will also report on the activities of the International Institute on Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, which she founded last year to bring together international experts on this subject to develop both drug-withdrawal training and research.
February 20, 2018: The evidence base for psychiatric drug withdrawal and risks of withdrawal syndromes
6 pm GMT, 1 pm Eastern, 12 Noon Central, 11 am Mountain, 10 am Pacific
Psychiatrist Peter Breggin will present on the hazards of long-term use of psychiatric drugs, which provides a compelling “evidence base” for psychiatric drug tapering protocols; drug-withdrawal syndromes that patients experience when tapering from psychiatric drugs; the biological explanations for such syndromes; and for patient-centered and controlled approaches to successful drug tapering and withdrawal.
March 20, 2018: A harm-reduction approach to psychiatric drug withdrawal
5 pm GMT, 1 pm Eastern, 12 Noon Central, 11 am Mountain, 10 am Pacific
Therapist Will Hall, PhD candidate, and author of the Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs (translated into 15 languages and used world-wide) discusses how he works with individuals, families, and clinicians using a person-centered and flexible approach to drug withdrawal as a life change and learning process, including drug response diversity, crisis risk, and alternative responses to experiences seen as psychotic.
April 17, 2018: Developing a drug-withdrawal agenda for the future
5 pm GMT, 1 pm Eastern 12 Noon Central 11 am Mountain 10 am Pacific
A panel of people with lived experience will review this first MIA withdrawal course, its strengths and shortcomings, and discuss an agenda for developing drug-tapering knowledge and support programs. What do we, as a society, know about this subject, and what do we need to learn?
Moderator Emily Sheera Cutler is a Mad woman and psychiatric survivor who is passionate about fighting for cognitive liberty – the right to experience any and every thought, feeling, belief, state, and expression of such as long as it does not harm another person – and combating paternalism. She received her Bachelor’s in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania, where she completed an honors thesis on sizeism and ways to promote fat acceptance in schools. After her involuntary psychiatric hospitalization at age 20, Emily became particularly interested in fighting for the civil liberties of people labeled mentally ill and became involved with the psychiatric survivors movement. Emily is currently the Assistant Editor and Community Moderator for Mad in America. In addition to her role at Mad in America, she is a consultant at the National Empowerment Center, where she has helped plan the consumer/survivor/ex-patient led Alternatives Conference and assisted with Emotional CPR, a non-coercive, non-pathologizing approach to emotional distress and crisis. Emily is also the founder of the grassroots group Southern California Against Forced Treatment, which works to educate the public about the issue of psychiatric confinement and forced treatment as well as provide a force-free, coercion-free space for people to express themselves authentically.
Oryx Cohen is Chief Operating Officer of the National Empowerment Center (NEC) and is working on mental health systems change on state by state basis. The most important part of what informs his work is his lived experience with altered states of consciousness: being diagnosed, hospitalized, and subsequently finding a path to healing. Oryx is also the Co-Producer and a subject in the award-winning social action documentary, HEALING VOICES, which was released in 2016. Oryx trains with fellow Freedom Center co-founder Will Hall across the world on harm reduction approaches to coming off psychiatric drugs. He co-directed the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community for several years and helped them develop a high successful system-funded peer-run alternative to the mainstream system (WesternMassRLC.org). He has served on several boards and committees internationally, nationally and regionally, including the International Network Toward Alternatives for Recovery (INTAR) and the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA). He has volunteered with MindFreedom International, directing its Oral History Project which collected and documented consumer/survivor/ex-patient stories of abuse, empowerment, and healing in the mental health system. He is currently adjunct faculty in the Westfield State College Psychology Department.
Jocelyn Pedersen graduated Suma Cum Laude from Brigham Young University with a BS in education and a minor in music. She spent two years teaching before she decided to start a family and become a full time mother of two children and part time performer. Prescribed Ambien for insomnia, Jocelyn developed a benzodiazepine associated illness, was misdiagnosed, and treated for 3 years with antidepressants and a benzodiazepine.
After becoming educated about this iatrogenic illness, Jocelyn worked to educate and assist others in safely tapering and recovering from benzodiazepines and their associated disability. She founded the non-profit Benzodiazepine Information Coalition and has used her YouTube platform, Benzo Brains, to create educational/support content for benzo victims and their loved ones. Jocelyn was invited to participate in a panel at the 2017 International Benzodiazepine Symposium in Bend, Oregon. She is currently an author at Mad in America and The Mormon Women Project
Dina Tyler is a psychiatric survivor, trainer, advocate and peer supporter. She holds the values of the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement close to her heart that people should have a choice in their treatment, that social inclusion and empowerment of people with lived experience should be a primary focus of improving services, and that recovery-oriented, whole health and integrative approaches should be part of the public mental health system. Dina currently works with people and families seeking an alternative to conventional mental health treatment, supporting those who choose to discontinue taking psychiatric drugs, through offering peer support, sharing personal experience of withdrawal, and working directly with individuals, providers and support networks to create environments conducive to successful withdrawal in the community.
Dina is the Director of the Bay Area Mandala Project, a group bringing together alternative healing communities to support the transformational and spiritual aspects of extreme states of consciousness. She has seven years experience in community mental health working in early psychosis and bipolar intervention programs around the Bay Area, where she trained and supervised peers and family supporters, trained clinical staff on recovery-based language and approaches, and brought compassionate alternative approaches through direct peer support and mentorship. She is a co-founder, facilitator and Board Member of the Bay Area Hearing Voices Network. Dina was awarded the prestigious Peer Specialist of the Year by the National Council for Behavioral Health in 2015 for her work with young adults recently diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
Sandra Steingard, MD is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine and Chief Medical Officer at Howard Center, a community mental health center in Burlington, Vermont where she has worked for the past 22 years. For over 25 years her clinical practice has primarily included patients with schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses. She was named to Best Doctors in America in 2003. She currently writes a blog called “Anatomy of a Psychiatrist” a madinamerica.com. She has served on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care since 2012 and has served as chair since 2016.
In recent years, her main areas of interest have been in using antipsychotic drugs in a more selective ways and integrating Open Dialogue practices into her clinic. Along with colleagues, she has developed a Vermont-based need-adapted program called Collaborative Network Approach. Dr. Steingard has presented a previous course for Mad In America Continuing Education, “Antipsychotics: Short and Long-term Effects.” She has lectured around the world on these topics. She chaired a workshop and symposium at American Psychiatric Association meetings on the optimal use of antipsychotic drugs. She has tracked a series of individuals who have been tapering their doses of antipsychotic drugs and will present this data in this lecture.
Kelly Brogan, MD is a Manhattan-based holistic women’s health psychiatrist, author of the NY Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your Own, and co-editor of the landmark textbook, Integrative Therapies for Depression. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from MIT in Systems Neuroscience. She is board certified in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and integrative holistic medicine, and is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms.
She is on the board of GreenMedInfo, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Functional Medicine University, Pathways to Family Wellness, NYS Perinatal Association, Mindd Foundation, the peer-reviewed, indexed journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, and the Nicholas Gonzalez Foundation. She is Medical Director for Fearless Parent and a founding member of Health Freedom Action. She is a certified KRI Kundalini Yoga teacher and a mother of two.
Carina Håkansson, is a Doctor in psychology and licensed psychotherapist at the Extended Therapy Room in Gothenburg, Sweden, where she as part of her work helps people taper off psychiatric medications. In 1987 she created the Family Care Foundation which is built on close collaboration between family homes (a kind of foster home), those called “clients,” their families and professional helpers in order to provide a place which could create “new possibilities” while avoiding the use of psychiatric diagnoses. In 2016 she founded the International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal to bring together international experts on this subject to collect existing knowledge and to develop drug-withdrawal training and research.
Carina has written a number of articles about psychiatry and societal treatment of children in foster care and the ongoing challenges of helping people withdraw from psychiatric medication. She has written three books. The latest, Ordinary Life Therapy: Experiences from a Systemic Collaborative Practice, was published in 2009. One of her articles, “Cut Out Wood Dolls,” was published in the journal Psychosis, and explores what it is like to “be with” a person who is experiencing terror.
Peter Breggin MD is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and former Consultant at NIMH who has been called “The Conscience of Psychiatry” for his many decades of successful efforts to reform the mental health field. His work provides the foundation for modern criticism of psychiatric diagnoses and drugs, and leads the way in promoting more caring and effective therapies. His research and educational projects have brought about major changes in the FDA-approved Full Prescribing Information or labels for dozens of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs. He continues to educate the public and professions about the tragic psychiatric drugging of America’s children. Dr. Breggin has taught at many universities and has a private practice of psychiatry in Ithaca, New York.
Dr. Breggin has authored dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty books, including medical books and the bestsellers Toxic Psychiatry and Talking Back to Prozac. Two more recent books are Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime and Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families. His most recent book is Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions. As a medical-legal expert, Dr. Breggin has unprecedented and unique knowledge about how the pharmaceutical industry too often commits fraud in researching and marketing psychiatric drugs. He has testified many times in malpractice, product liability and criminal cases, often in relation to adverse drug effects and more occasionally electroshock and psychosurgery.
Will Hall, MS is a counselor and facilitator working with individuals, couples, families and groups, He has taught and consulted on mental health, trauma, psychosis, medications, domestic violence, conflict resolution, and organizational development. He is a schizophrenia diagnosis survivor and has worked for more than 15 years in community development in the recovery and psychiatric survivor movement. He is the author of The Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Medications and many other publications.
He has consulted and presented for more than 50 organizations in over 13 countries
He holds a Diploma and Masters Degree in Process Work from the Process Work Institute, and is a PhD candidate at Maastricht University Medical Center and has studied with Jaakko Seikkula in Open Dialogue at the Institute for Dialogic Practice.
Robert Nikkel, MSW, is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Public Psychiatry Training Program at Oregon Health and Science University. He was the State of Oregon’s commissioner for both mental health and addictions from 2003-2008. He is the director of the Mad in America Continuing Education project and a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care.Read More
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.Read More
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:Read More
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.Read More