So many things divide Americans today. But one thing we agree on is that we're mad in America—mad as in crazy and mad as in angry.
We're angry mad at our country, our politicians, each other, and ourselves. We're labeled "mad" by a mental health system that has diagnosed 42 million (1 out of 5) with an emotional disease. We're alarmed and scared by the epidemic of legal and illegal drugs that are destroying millions of lives. We're anxious, depressed, despairing and furious at the shrinking of possibilities there seem to be for creating the lives we want. And being branded and divided by partisan and ideological labels fuels more rage and fear.
How we as a culture view and relate to madness needs to be engaged. What is madness of contemporary society, what efforts to engage and transform it are underway, and what more we might do?
Among the leaders in posing such questions and catalyzing conversations on these critical issues is Robert Whitaker, the author of two award-winning books—Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill and Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. He is also founder of the non-profit organization, “Mad in America: Science, Psychiatry and Social Justice”. The organization’s mission is “to serve as a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care in the United States (and abroad). We believe that the current drug-based paradigm of care has failed our society, and that scientific research, as well as the lived experience of those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, calls for profound change.” To promote such change, the organization publishes a webzine and offers continuing education courses. The site is rich, varied and an invaluable source of information and inspiration.
Robert Whitaker is almost always on the road speaking to audiences the world over. I’m honored and excited to be in a public conversation with him taking place on June 9th in New York City. We are calling our event “Mad in America: Diagnosis, Drugs and Development.” The event is designed as a catalyst for people to examine their assumptions, share their experiences, and learn some of the conflicted, and often sordid, history of the institutions and institutionalization of mental health and illness. Among the topics we’ll be discussing are the role that psychology and psychiatry play in our madness by medicalizing human emotionality, and the challenges and successes occurring across the country through the development and promotion of alternatives to the medical model.