The following interview is part of a “future of mental health” interview series that will be running for 100+ days. This series presents different points of view about what helps a person in distress. I’ve aimed to be ecumenical and included many points of view different from my own. I hope you enjoy it. As with every service and resource in the mental health field, please do your due diligence. If you’d like to learn more about these philosophies, services, and organizations mentioned, follow the links provided.
Interview with Monica Cassani
Whether or not anyone should be taking so-called psychiatric medication is one sort of complicated question, especially given our dubious “mental disorder” paradigm and given the wanton over-prescribing of so-called psychiatric medication, most unfortunately to young children. But what if you are already on these so-called medications and want to get off of them? That’s its own complex question, since stopping a chemical comes with its own profound, often negative effects. Here is Monica Cassani on this subject.
EM: You have been writing the blog “Beyond Meds: Alternatives to Psychiatry.” Can you tell us what prompted you to write that blog and what its intentions are?
MC: About 9 years ago I started following a blog called Furious Seasons. It was authored by journalist Philip Dawdy. It was the first very intelligent critique of psycho-active pharmaceuticals I had encountered. Blogging was one of the first phases of what social media has become. Furious Seasons had a very active commenting section and there I began to engage with others who were questioning the use of psychiatric drugs.
At the same time I met a neuropsychologist who began to encourage my interest in freeing myself from psych drugs. He said he believed it was possible. I had not met anyone who had said that to me before. My husband began encouraging me to blog as he was already blogging. I had not written anything since college so I didn’t really think I could create anything particularly impressive but one day my first post emerged and they just didn’t stop coming.
The trajectory of the work was an unfolding process and not something I planned. At the beginning I thought I’d document my coming off psychiatric drugs. After that it took on a life of its own and the scope became much bigger than just psychiatric drug withdrawal. It became a sort of information resource both for myself and then for others. I simply collected the information I was finding and researching. It became a documenting and sharing of many natural methods of self-care for finding and sustaining health in body, mind and spirit. It also was a place in which I mused (and sometimes ranted) about wider issues in the socio/political and spiritual realms as they pertain to mental health and the human rights issues that surround psychiatry.
EM: You call our “mental health system” a “mental illness system.” Can you share some of your thoughts about that?
MC: I think that my work as a whole consistently speaks to this, but as a straight question – it's very difficult to answer. As one who sees things from a holistic or even non-dualistic perspective we’re looking at everything about human beings and how we understand ourselves being skewed towards imbalance and illness or dis – ease. Our lives on this planet are actually threatened because of our actions, actions that we as a collective don’t seem to be able to stop doing. That’s pretty sick if you ask me. That really says it all in a nutshell. Humanity is sick. So that in my mind is intimately related to the reason our mental health system is a mental illness system.
This is something I wrote on the blog:
I think that instead of denying mental illness at the individual level (for some good reasons like lack of lab work indicating any sort of markers of any actual disease) it’s time to recognize that everyone is mentally ill … and some of those most affected are psychiatrists and other officials of the state who harm those of us who are more conscious … not less. Our society and world are sick … the individuals who are most sensitive are canaries in the coal mine. We all need help and we all need healing. Everyone on the planet needs to come to consciousness should we wish to save our species along with a whole lot of other ones as well.
“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
EM: If someone were interested in withdrawing from his or her so-called psychiatric medication, what would be your top suggestions?
MC: Educate yourself! Withdrawal is different for everyone and knowing something about the radically different ways things can unfold will serve you very well.
I put the following at the bottom of posts when appropriate:
* It is potentially dangerous to come off medications without careful planning. Please be sure to be well-educated before undertaking any sort of discontinuation of medications. If your MD agrees to help you do so, do not assume they know how to do it well even if they claim to have experience. They are generally not trained in discontinuation and may not know how to recognize withdrawal issues. A lot of withdrawal issues are misdiagnosed to be psychiatric problems. This is why it’s good to educate oneself and find a doctor who is willing to learn with you as your partner in care. Really all doctors should always be willing to do this as we are all individuals and need to be treated as such. See: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up
EM: Are you and your work moving in any new directions nowadays?
MC: Yes, I’ve blogged very little in the last three months. That feels good. I have however redesigned the website so that the archives are easier to access via the drop-down menus at the top of the page. I like the idea of having it there as a resource for when I am truly done with blogging. I don’t know what is next and perhaps this is just a break. I’ve worked voluntarily for almost a decade now. Outside of a few very generous donations I’ve not been financially compensated and need to figure out how to redirect some of my energies in such a way as to start creating a life that is financially sustainable. I trust that this will unfold and right now freeing up my energy allows for that process to begin. I’ve been doing interviews a lot lately. That’s been fun. As is answering your questions here.
EM: If you had a loved one in emotional or mental distress, what would you suggest that he or she do or try?
MC: That depends entirely on the individual. No two human beings are alike. This is perhaps the most foundational thing I’ve learned in this process. I’ve interacted with many 1000s of people now and that is what is so obvious to me and yet doesn’t seem to be obvious to most people interested in mental health issues. We cannot have cookie cutter solutions. We need a mentality that opens up to the kaleidoscopic nature of reality. Not only is it impossible to prescribe the same solution to everyone … it’s also not possible to expect today’s prescription for me to be tomorrow’s prescription for me.
This is the fundamental reason that coercion in psychiatry (whether overt or covert) is so profoundly harmful too. People all have their own way to find. And we know this deep within ourselves. This is why even our own idiosyncratic experience is only that. To generalize it to others is arrogant and misguided and yet most people want to do this. Just as the psychiatrist didn’t know what was right for me and many of the readers of Beyond Meds, I discovered that I too do not know what is right for anyone other than myself.
Monica Cassani is the author and editor of Beyond Meds: Everything matters. She has seen the system from both sides – as a social worker and as a person whose life was severely ruptured by psychiatric drugs. She writes critically about the system, as well as about holistic pathways of healing without medication. Beyond Meds documents and shares many natural methods of self-care for finding and sustaining health in body, mind and spirit.
Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of 40+ books, among them The Future of Mental Health, Rethinking Depression, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Life Purpose Boot Camp and The Van Gogh Blues. Write Dr. Maisel at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit him at http://www.ericmaisel.com, and learn more about the future of mental health movement at http://www.thefutureofmentalhealth.com
For more information and/or to purchase The Future of Mental Health, visit here.
To see the complete roster of interview guests, please visit here: