We here are all aware that the medical model of “mental illness,” aka biological psychiatry, continues to dominate our system of “treatment” for individuals in emotional distress and for persons whose behavior is perceived to be annoyingly aberrant by others. Despite massive amounts of evidence which, in a fair world, would and should undermine this status quo, the pharmaceutical/psychiatric complex has worked tenaciously to create, maintain, and extend the dominant system — which has led, as a consequence, to support from mainstream media, courts, the entertainment industry, the general public, and, it seems, every elected national official. This is despite the best efforts of many — including dissident mental health practitioners, academics, journalists, and individuals who have been consigned to, and have survived, the prevailing mental health system — to reform or eliminate the present system and replace it with one placing greater emphasis on ethical values, respectful treatment, and practices more likely to help clients have satisfactory lives and flourish. To date little progress has been made toward that end.
It is clear that the failed system of biological psychiatry and the harm it imposes upon its clientele will not be rectified until 1) It is perceived publicly to be of problematic concern upon the national stage, and 2) The factor, or factors, which have most successfully protected it from influential and persuasive assaults on its power and authority can be identified and neutralized.
Based on writings and talks by UCLA professor David Cohen, it appears that the primary factor which protects psychiatry’s unwarranted police power and authority, and trust in its unsupported “scientific” claims, is that it is perceived as performing the function, not so much of assisting emotionally upset and confused individuals, but of shielding society from folks who appear disturbing, irritating and are, especially, believed to be dangerous. In fact, our social culture appears more than willing to ignore the harm perpetrated by the medical model of emotional distress and behavior, and the damage created by its pharmaceutical “cures,” so long as it retains a belief in and continues to value the extra-legal power it grants psychiatry to shock, drug, and incarcerate otherwise innocent individuals as necessary activities to protect society.
It would seem, then, that one logical step toward reducing society’s trust in biological psychiatry’s power to protect the public would be to reveal what appears to be strong evidence of a significant correlation, and in some instances, an actual causal relationship, between the use of prescribed psychoactive drugs and the commission of violent acts against oneself or others. This begs the question of by what means might this relationship of drugs to violence be brought to public attention, given the trust granted biological psychiatry by society and so many of its principal institutions.
While interest in a relationship between prescribed drugs and violence is hardly on the public radar, the matter of mass violence committed in schools, churches, movie theaters and other public gathering places, and how to prevent it, has received serious public attention for many years now. Some notice has also been given to an increase in suicide rates among returning veterans and young people. However, little or no attention has been offered by major mainstream media to a possible connection between an ever-increasing use of prescribed psychoactive drugs and instances of mass violence and/or increasing suicide rates.
Once we are able to provoke major media to attend to either of those probable connections and begin to identify them as matters for public concern, we may then create a public outcry that something be done. Invariably, cries for action are cries for government and/or legislative action, and cries for government action will necessarily trigger opposition from the pharmaceutical-psychiatric complex which will see at once a serious threat to their financial interests. Given the vast difference between their power and influence and ours, a straight up-and-down battle on the question of whether there is a dangerous relationship between psych drugs and violence would be a loser for us. We require a subtler and more realistic tactic… one that will not only garner us major media attention, but will also call for an “ask” which will appear eminently reasonable.
As indicated above, it will be necessary to plan a tactic calculated to begin a process likely to push our concerns, beliefs and experiences onto the national stage and into public consciousness. Our plan is to entice a reporter for a major, respected, and influential newspaper into writing an article, or series of articles, which will focus on both our existence and our point of view.
Benedict Carey has been a science and medical reporter for the New York Times since 2004. For much of that time he has shown an interest in the mental health system and controversies within it. In early April, 2018, he and a colleague, Robert Gebeloff, wrote an article about difficulties related to withdrawing from antidepressants. They asked that readers write them and relate their experiences of attempting to withdraw from their drugs. Ten days later Carey reported that, to his surprise, he had received 8,800 responses, most of which described serious difficulties encountered as people attempted to abandon their prescribed drugs. Given this history, we suspect with some confidence that Carey might very well take an interest in what we, and allies with similar beliefs and experience, have to say.
Our plan is to inundate Carey with as many letters as possible (hundreds, we hope), from a variety of viewpoints, expressing concern about the probability that there is a close relationship between ingesting prescribed psychoactive drugs and violence against oneself and others, while advocating the need for a government financed investigation of the reality, nature, and consequences of such a relationship undertaken by persons of integrity who are independent of the pharmaceutical/psychiatric complex.
We will urge three distinct groupings to contact Carey by mail. Each group is meant to serve a separate and discrete function.
Our first group will consist of well credentialed and seriously credible practitioners, academics, attorneys and others with expertise related to the mental health system. They will present why, and upon what basis, they believe an investigation of the sort described is necessary at this time or as soon as possible.
Our second group will consist of grieving family members whose children took their own lives following the ingestion of psychoactive drugs prescribed for the relief of problems most frequently associated with the adolescent maturation process, such as cramming for finals and romantic breakups. They will tell their stories of promising lives senselessly lost to the interests of pharmaceutical profits and psychiatric guild reinforcement respectively. They will seek an investigation into the possible relationship between prescribed drugs and violence as a final tribute to their own deceased children, as an effort to preserve the lives of many others, and to save other families from grief that never ends. In addition, this group will include individuals who have a family member incarcerated for committing a violent act while under the influence of a prescribed psychotropic drug and persons who have survived their own suicide attempt. Finally, this group will include parents who took the lives of their own children while on psychiatric drugs and others who were plagued by thoughts of doing the same.
Persons labeled as mentally ill and placed on psychiatric drugs by force, or who were persuaded to take them based on incomplete and inadequate information, are only rarely asked their opinions of the drugs they were prescribed or how they felt on them. In fact, drugs are deemed “successful” when “diagnosed mental patients” are no longer considered a bother to others by others. When the people who have taken the drugs are asked, they frequently state that, while on drugs, they feel emotionally numb or detached, restless and lacking compassion for others. Others complain of agitation and feeling disinhibited, or “not themselves.” It may very well be under those conditions — lacking compassion and feeling agitated, detached and emotionally numb — that they may be less likely to consider the consequences of their acts and, given an upsetting “trigger,” become violent. They will ask for an investigation into the nature of any relationship between prescribed psychiatric drugs and violence so that other individuals, labeled and drugged, will not experience effects and side effects which very well might lead to violence.
When and if New York Times reporter Benedict Carey responds to our entreaties by writing and publishing an article related to our concerns, our next steps will be determined by the nature, slant, and public response to what he writes.
We have contacted quite a few people who fit the categories referred to above: dissident professionals with a relationship to the mental health system, persons whose family members harmed themselves or others while using prescribed psychiatric drugs, and users and survivors of the mental health system who were prescribed and used psychiatric drugs. Many have already written to Carey.
If you are interested in becoming involved with this plan by writing an email or letter to Benedict Carey of the New York Times, please call one of the steering committee members of our group, Prescripticide (below). Indicate your understanding of, and interest in, the plan, and they will provide you with a sample letter relevant to the category into which you fit as well as Mr. Carey’s direct contact information.
Thank you so much for your interest and desire to help.
Steve McCrea (503) 516-8428 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Al Galves (575) 571-3105 (Mountain Daylight Time)
Mickey Weinberg (626) 394-0916 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.