Tonight at 10pm eastern time on Primetime ABC will air a show on "mad
pride". According to the two part article that was written to lead up this
show, we have some idea of what is going to be on the show. Below I am
including a response I wrote to the two articles that are already written.
I hope people add to it and send it around as they feel fit and use it to
start and continue dialogues in their communities. Please read and I
ps - note David Oaks response to the story, below
Part 1 of Abc's story:
Part 2 of ABC's story:
I am writing a response to the ABC news article as an organizer with the
“mad movement” organization, the Freedom Center.
First off, I want to express gratitude to journalist Ia Robinson for
giving our organizations and movements national spotlight and for working
with us, talking to us, and listening to us on these complex issues. I
think the messages of many mad movement members were appropriately and
accurately portrayed in these articles and it's exciting to see that.
Simultaneously, I also think it's important to take a closer, skeptical
look at some of the messages that come out in these articles.
POINT A: “Be proud of your trendy disease! (Is that really what we’re
trying to say?)
The article implies actor Joe Pantoliano is a representative of the “mad
movement”. While he may appropriately be addressing issues of
discrimination that many people struggle with many other elements of his
message seem to contradict a lot of what the “mad movement” stands for.
The "mad movement" is not encouraging people to be proud of their trendy
disease, but rather to understand and be proud of the different
complexities that could play into one identifying or being identified as
Pharmaceutical company advertising has known for years that advertising
the disease is as important as advertising the drugs themselves. There was
even an article written in the NY Times called “Did Anti-depressants
Depress Japan?” by Kathyrn Schulz
that helps document the complex cause and effect relationship between
psychiatric drugs and psychiatric diagnoses.
Pantoliano saying he wants to make the “discussion of mental illness cool
and sexy and trendy” is serving as a cultural advertisement for
psychiatric diagnoses and psychiatric drugs. The effect of Pantoliano’s
doing things such as forming an organization which is is “based on
accepting, encouraging people to admit their disease” and to “seek
treatments” is (it seems from his website and other quotes) about
accepting DSM diagnoses and psychiatric drugs.
I personally do not know whether Pantoliano is naively doing this or
whether he’s being influenced by the pharmaceutical companies (such as
drug-company funded NAMI who ran a similarly messaged “stop the stigma”
campaign). Yet I do know that whether the message is naive or corrupt, it
is relevant that his message is very different than the message of many of
us involved in the “mad movement”
At the Freedom Center, a lot of our philosophies are about informed
consent. We understand that there is no evidence that “mental illnesses”
exist as the brain disease entities that Pantoliano keeps referring to in
the article and on his website. There are no urine tests, genetic tests,
blood tests, or brain scans that can causatively prove whether one has or
does not have “depression” or “schizophrenia.” Telling someone to accept
the reason they have been feeling down because they have a brain
disorder is a bit like telling someone to accept that the reason they
have a chronic cough is because their grandmother smoked cigarettes.
Maybe some explanation will help them feel like there’s an explanation in
the short-term but if that explanation is inaccurate, it may not be a
helpful long-term solution.
There is simply not evidence that “mental illnesses” are chemical brain
imbalances or genetic disease as people like Pontoliano, and organizations
like the APA, and NAMI state or imply. (Entire books have been written on
these subjects such as Blaming the Brain by Phd Elliot Valenstein or
Blaming Our Genes by Ty Colbert).
There is an active dialogue within the “mad” movement, including groups
such as the Icarus Project and Freedom Center about what “mad pride” means
to each of us. Some feel that the expression risks romanticizing
suffering and some of us feel it risks missing the social and political
roots of what is viewed as madness. Yet others of us feel that the
expressive is inclusive of people regardless of whether they have a
psychiatric diagnoses and acknowledges the potential for extreme,
potentially terrifying, or potentially magical states in any of us.
While this debate continues on there are increasingly fewer of us who
believe “mad pride” translates to being proud of what your doctor and the
pharmaceutical company tells you about who you are. So while Pontoliano’s
stories of discrimination and insurance problems rings true for many of us
his immense identification with the DSM rings true for increasingly fewer
POINT B: Without forced psychiatric interventions and psychiatric drugs,
we’ll have more “violent crazy” people.
While the story of Bruce Amy and the story of Seung-hoi Cho are tragic
ones, the media portrayal of these stories implies that perhaps what is
needed is more force and more psychiatric drugs. This means the media is
missing the ways in which using force can inherently be violent.
This also meas that the media is missing the fact that there is far more
reason to believe that violence and shootings (as well as a number of
other school shootings) is in part *because* of psychiatric interventions
rather than despite of it. The issues of psychiatric drug potentially
contributing to violence and suicide has been well documented.
I recommend this video piece (a collaboration of corporate media reports
on the topic of psychiatric drugs and violence/suicide)
Or another written piece that gives documented details on how many times
psychiatric drugs have played role:
Also, I highly recommend listening to medical journalist and author Robert
Whitaker discussing a "Sane Medication Policy"
Or other madness radio shows on the subject:
Here's a link to the Network's paper disspelling the myth of the link
between mental illness Dx and violence:
Here's an article in Science Daily about the recently released results
of a large, longitudinal study (Elbogen and Johnson, 2009) that more
or less replicate the findings of the 1999 MacArthur Risk Assessment
Study. Elbogen and Johnson concluded that people diagnosed with
"mental illnesses" are no more likely than the general population to
behave violently, except when co-occurring "substance abuse or
dependence" (not clearly defined in the abstract) is also a factor:
The FDA even had to issue a black-box warning because of the potentially
violent (suicidality) effects of SSRIs. While the issue of violence is
complicated and of course many people act violently without the use of
psychiatric drugs it seems there may be more to the story than Amy Bruce
is acknowledging. What role did withdrawal play in his case? What role do
psychiatric drugs often play in the violence of many people?
From David Oaks, Director of Mindfreedom:
I am one of the people interviewed in this MAD PRIDE piece on ABC-TV. I am
David Oaks, Director of MindFreedom International. The ABC-TV text is two
parts. This first part is mainly about MAD PRIDE... but the second is
about a man who murdered his mom with a hatchet. THIS IS SENSATIONALISM,
NOT DEBATE. I would be fine with a real debate about MAD PRIDE, and I hope
there will be on here. Now, I'm no Harvey Milk.... But imagine Harvey Milk
years ago on national TV talking about the early GAY PRIDE parades... And
ABC ends the last half of the show about a gay child molester. Or imagine
Deborah Roberts, who did a piece on Rosa Parks, ending the piece about
Rosa Parks by talking about an African American man who raped a white
woman. THIS WOULD BE CLEARLY SENSATIONALISTIC, not a real debate. In other
words, the "word count" for both sides may be about the same... But the
use of violent imagery really side tracks the debate. Ironically, I am
e-mailing this in from Norway, where I'm talking with several Scandinavian
country representatives. They have a far lower murder rate, far less mass
murders, etc. They see American media and culture as very violent. If
anything, the sensationalistic nature of ABC-TV proves my point: Violence
involves a sickness in the soul of the society itself. I encourage those
interested in Mad Pride to just google the words.... jump in... and get
involved! As you can tell, your leadership is needed now! - David W. Oaks,
Director, MindFreedom International