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 Robert Whitaker
Where should you go to keep abreast of the latest developments in the fields of critical psychology, critical psychiatry, and anti-psychiatry? There is currently no better place on the Web than Robert Whitaker’s excellent website Mad in America, the home for scores of mental health bloggers from around the world. Here is Robert Whitaker on his intentions for Mad in America.
EM: You run a well respected and frequently visited website called Mad in America. What do you see its function to be?
RW: I think it serves several functions. One is to provide regular reports on research findings that question the current drug-based paradigm of care, yet aren’t usually publicized to the general public for that very reason. Two, the blogs provide a regular exploration of the failures of our current paradigm of care, and of alternative possibilities. Third, the personal stories provide readers with a voice that is missing from most of the public dialogue about psychiatry today, and that is the voice of those who have felt harmed. All together, we hope these parts serve as a public forum for rethinking—and remaking—psychiatry.
EM: If I’m a person in emotional or mental distress, or the loved one of someone in distress, how can I make the best use of your website?
RW: You can use the website to access research studies about psychiatric drugs (see the drug info page and search functions), and also to learn about the experiences of others who have experienced such distress. You can also read stories of true, robust recovery, of people getting full lives back, which counter the pessimistic story of mainstream psychiatry, which is that people have chronic brain diseases. So you can use the site to make “informed choices” about what type of care might be best.
EM: If you had unlimited resources and influence, what changes would you want to see made in the current mental health system of “diagnosing and treating mental disorders”?
RW: I would start all over. We need to admit that we don’t know the biological causes of mental disorders. We should get rid of the DSM, because the diagnoses in that manual have never been “validated,” and yet our society treats them as such. That does great harm. Instead, we need to think of most mental disorders as episodic problems, and try to help people get through those periods of crisis, by providing as much social support as possible, and thus minimize the percentage of people who end up as “chronic” mental patients. And we should try to minimize the use of psychiatric medications, particularly over the long term.
EM: Can you tell us your position on so-called psychiatric medication?
RW: I think research shows that the medications, for the most part, are of marginal benefit over the short term, and that over the long-term, they increase the likelihood that people will become chronically symptomatic and functionally impaired. Some people do fine on them, of course. But in the aggregate, the evidence is overwhelming that they worsen long-term outcomes.
EM: You invite people to contribute to your site and be a resource. What do you see as ways for interested folks to join with you and support Mad in America?
RW: In numerous ways. We invite people to comment, and we think that such commenters add to our site in important ways. We also are a site that is funded by our readers, and so that reader support is what makes it possible for us to continue. We operate on very little money, and such support is absolutely vital for us.
Robert Whitaker is the publisher of the webzine, Madinamerica.com, and the author of five books, three of which tell of the history of psychiatry. Visit him at: http://www.madinamerica.com/robert-whitakers/
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 email@example.com, visit him at http://www.ericmaisel.com, and learn more about the future of mental health movement at http://www.thefutureofmentalhealth.com
To learn more about and/or to purchase The Future of Mental Health, visit here.
To see the complete roster of interview guests, please visit here: