The cost of the way we live

October 7, 2015 by


From the archives. “The cost of the way we live…..” is an important idea. Today was a “day of action….” What if it wasn’t a day? What if it was a way of living? What if…….

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

“It is not just a matter of the cost of living, but of the cost of the way we live…”

Linda Drain

In every discussion there are questions, points, and decisions that define not just the discussion but the kind of people we are. What we do defines us as much as it defines a situation or our response to it. And if we are to be the kind of people we wish to be then there are some things we can’t afford to not do. There is a cost to the way we live.

The most aggravating, enraging thing about the discussion of Insure Tennessee is not that there is a disagreement about how to solve the problem but an argument whether or not the problem should be solved at all. There is not one real option, no alternative plan to Insure Tennessee that I am aware of. The…

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On a day of action…. For tomorrow

October 7, 2015 by

Beyond Murphy : Gabe Howard

October 7, 2015 by

On more than one story – the failed vision of the Murphy Bill

There is a lot of talk in the mental health community about the Murphy Bill, or H.R. 2646, as it is officially known. This legislation is being touted as comprehensive legislation to help people with mental illness live better lives by changing laws and funding to ensure that people with mental illness have better access to services and the money to pay for them.

That would be fantastic – if it were true.

I do agree that this is a comprehensive law aimed at changing the way the federal government goes about helping those with mental illness. But I do not agree it is a good solution. And the data supports my position.

For what it’s worth, I’m not surprised that it isn’t a good solution and I’ll tell you why: because Representative Murphy is getting his information from families with horror stories while completely ignoring the success stories from the recovery movement. One-sided information create lopsided conclusions.
How the Murphy Bill’s Data Collection Fails

I live with bipolar and anxiety disorders every day. Before I was diagnosed, I still had these disorders; I just wasn’t aware of it. This made my life chaotic, to say the least. I felt terrible and didn’t know where to turn or what to do and I ended up with a group of people who felt just like me: depressed, desperate, and confused.

We banded together and made plans to help us “get better.” We treated our illnesses with alcohol, drugs, casual sex, and scores of other risky and unsafe behaviors. This is commonly referred to as “self-medicating.” Because of our one-sided approach, the results were less than fantastic.

It never occurred to us to step outside the circle because we were emotionally invested in each other and no education about mental illness was provided to us. Make no mistake; this isn’t about us refusing to believe we were sick. It was about us not realizing we were sick. No one told us we were, because the people in our lives didn’t know either. Once I looked outside my emotionally-built circle and started relying on actual data, science, and doctors, my life started to get a lot better. As it turns out, getting my information from a single source didn’t serve me very well. It wasn’t because I was a bad person, or even stupid, but because I was wrong.

Now, consider the Murphy Bill and all of the people who support that bill. Think of the people Representative Murphy has quoted time and time again and all the reasons we are given for needing this bill to be passed. What do the majority of these people have in common?
Who Supports the Murphy Bill?

They are mostly family members.

The organizations that support this bill are mostly family member organizations as well. Compare this to the fact that the majority of the organizations opposing it are recovery organizations literally on the front lines of helping people with mental illness and addiction.

The emotionally invested, scared, and well-intentioned groups that are pushing so hard to pass this bill are an awful lot alike. They have banded together based on their lived experiences and are working, desperately, to do something. And, like me back before I was diagnosed, the something they came up with isn’t a very good idea. They honestly think they are helping, but they mostly aren’t.

The plan is scattershot at best and, given the enormity of the issue, research is needed. This is too important for guesswork. We have a national systemic flaw in the way our society treats people with mental illness and addiction and this bill is largely based on talking to family members. For unknown reasons their lived experienced matters to Representative Murphy, while the lived experience of people in recovery from mental illness and addiction don’t matter at all.

Why the Murphy Bill Gets it wrong

The majority of the Murphy Bill’s supporters are middle class parents with a single child who has mental illness. From my vantage point, I don’t see poor people actively campaigning for this. I’m not hearing stories about families with generations of people with mental illness campaigning for this. (Remember, mental illness has a strong genetic link – mentally ill parents often have mentally ill children.) I’m not seeing the minority community come out in support of this bill. And there are almost no mentally ill people in recovery campaigning for this.

I do see lower income folks, minorities, and people living well with mental illness campaigning against this bill. That is a major divide. Especially in the case of people living in recovery, shouldn’t we want this most of all?

This bill, after all, isn’t designed to help us. You can tell by the name Representative Murphy gave it: “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.”

It’s not “Helping People in Mental Health Crisis Act,” or even just “Mental Health Crisis Act.” Make no mistake; this is mostly about helping families deal with their mentally ill loved ones.

It is absolutely true that family members have suffered. It’s difficult to care for someone who is sick. These family members are not bad people trying to hurt anyone; they are desperately trying to help. Sadly, the person who showed up to lead them isn’t doing his due diligence. He is ignoring the people who have reached recovery, ignoring the data, and seems to be using this as an opportunity to make a power grab by shutting down SAMHSA and then reopening another agency that does exactly what SAMHSA used to do because that agency is “ignoring the severely mentally ill.” It’s straw man arguments like these that distract from solving the real problem.

Representative Murphy is not using a fact-based approach and instead favors heart-wrenching stories from caring and desperate mothers. He is ignoring that people like me exist in favor of his own misguided beliefs that people with mental illness cannot possibly contribute to society.

By ignoring the success of the recovery movement, blaming people with mental illness for most of the violence (see footnote below), and by only listening to one side of the story, he is stripping people with mental illness of their dignity. He is leading the public to believe we are all potentially violent, incompetent, and incapable of caring for ourselves. And those are pretty broad strokes for an entire group of people. At best it’s misguided and at worst it is blatantly offensive.

It’s true that I was once incapable of caring for myself and needed help. If I had listened to the tone of Representative Murphy’s movement, I may never have reached recovery, gotten back to work, met and married my beautiful wife, bought a house, and become equal to everyone else.

I would have believed myself to be nothing more than a problem society needs to collectively deal with, instead of a person society needs to collectively embrace. We have an opportunity to do something that will help a great many people. Let’s do something that will work.


If you think I’m wrong about Representative Tim Murphy’s blaming violence on the mentally ill, feel free to listen to him yourself. He is intentionally ignoring the facts (Harvard Study Link) to push his own agenda: Representative Murphy on CNN.

Gabe is a mental health coach, writer, and speaker living with bipolar and anxiety disorders. Interact with him on Facebook, Twitter, or his website.


​Gabe Howard is a professional speaker, award-winning writer, and mental health coach who battles bipolar 1 and anxiety disorders everyday. Diagnosed in 2003, he has made it his mission to put a human face on what it means to live with bipolar disorder. Gabe was the recipient of the 2014 Mental Health America Norman Guitry Award, placed second in HealthCentral’s LiveBold competition, a Psych Central 2014 Mental Health hero, was a 2015 WEGO Health Awards Finalist in the Health Activist Category, as well as received a Best of the Web – Blog award. To work with Gabe please contact him via his website or e-mail

On the theft of Murphy

October 7, 2015 by

Beyond Murphy ends with one late addition.   My friend Gabe Howard has sent the following post for inclusion.   It was printed earlier today on the psych central blog where you may have already read it.

His post like all those printed in the last two days is important.   He makes a very key point which is not always made.

The Murphy Bill tries, in effect,  to steal the narrative of the mental health system. He tells one story and says that is the only true story. He tells others that they are “worried well” and their stories are not valid, not true, not real. He says his story is the only one to pay attention to, the only one really deserving attention and concern. And that is experienced as violence and dismissive prejudice by thousands and thousands of people who wonder who he is to pass judgment on them. And when he then tries to pass all this of as a needed reform of the mental health system all they can do is raise their voice in protest and ask why he thinks he speaks for them.

Gabe’s post says it better than I can. It follows next.

Beyond Murphy : Sarah Knutson

October 7, 2015 by

Rethinking Public Mental Health Policy from a Human Rights Perspective

    Challenge is common. 1 in 4 people come into contact with the mental health system during their lives. 1 in 3 currently take some kind of psychoactive medication.

    ‘Trauma’ is pervasive. Ninety (90!) percent of those in the public mental health system are survivors of abuse or neglect, including experiencing or witnessing violence or lack of secure access to basic human needs.

    Trauma  is a common denominator.  We see this same ninety (90!) percent figure in other groups that have been labelled  ‘social problems’, including  substance use, criminal justice or homeless/ hard to house settings. Poverty also plays a huge role across demographics, both for children and adults.

    This is a human rights issue.  ‘Trauma’ is a euphemism.  It characterizes human rights violations as individual health concerns.  This distracts attention from the wholly preventable nature of these largely social causes and effects.  We also fail to connect the preceding disregard for human rights and needs with the kind of intense or extreme psychosocial responses that predictably ensue.

    This is a community social justice issue not an individual mental health issue. Vast numbers of our most vulnerable citizens are growing up without access to basic human rights – rights that have been pronounced universal and inalienable by the international human community.  These include:

    reliable access to food and habitable shelter;
    safety of person and property;
    dignity and respect by our fellow human beings;
    meaningful participation and voice in the communities where we live;
    access to the means to make a living and support a family;
    access to the relational and cultural resources necessary to develop our potential; and
    support to make sense of experience – and to share and communicate what one discovers with others – without fear of retaliation, discrimination or marginalization.

    Rights are predictive. When rights are protected, people tend to be happier, healthier and more socially engaged. We are also astronomically less prone to come into contact with the mental health or criminal justice system, to use substances in ways that generate social concern, or to experience housing challenges.

    The problem is human rights deprivation not mental illness, etc.  What most of society currently sees as individual deficiencies is actually a sign of societal ones.  We may think we are seeing symptoms of someone’s mental illness, addiction, crime, immorality, etc.  But, in all probability, we are actually seeing the predictable the effects of human rights deprivations – and of communities that have yet to learn how to respond in effective, socially restorative ways.

    Stop blaming individuals.  We need to stop assessing, diagnosing and treating individuals. Survivors of human rights deprivations should no longer be pathologized, labeled or segregated when they  manifest or express that an injury has occurred.  Rather, we should offer survivors opportunities reclaim their birthright to a full humanity and support to recover from the losses they have experienced.

    Make communities accountable. On the other hand, we should assess, diagnose and treat communities, governments and service systems.  We need to identify and actively work to remedy the unhealthy societal attitudes, institutions, and practices that allow human rights abuses to go continue.  Focusing on community systems and dynamics puts the ultimate responsibility for ending human rights abuses where it belongs.  It also assigns accountability for changing the relevant human rights climate to those who have the most power to do something about it.

    Predicted outcomes. Some predicted effects of implementing these changes include:

    Appropriate accountability. Communities will no longer be able to credibly blame their most vulnerable, least powerful members for the collective failure of local will and skill in addressing fundamental human needs.
    Meaningful incentives to address human rights concerns. Communities that are assessed and diagnosed as human rights deficient will have an incentive to change their image. In doing so, they may decide (or be required) to invest the resources actually needed to make these changes.
    Less stigma/ marginalization/ discrimination. The shifting moral responsibility from individuals to communities will go a long way toward eliminating the discrimination, stigma and hostility that is currently directed at survivors of human rights violations.
    ‘Help’ that is actually seen as helpful.  Communities will offer survivors services they want and need, and in an apologetic rather than blaming way.  This will remove current barriers to people seeking services.
    ‘Help’ that actually is helpful.  People who seek services will be supported to reclaim their personhood, including their capacity (and right) to participate as  respected, mutually responsible community members. This will vastly improve relationships between communities and those they historically have marginalized.
    Genuine social change.  As communities effectively assess, address and redress their human right climates, social problems will increasingly mitigate and largely disappear.  This will produce an attendant increase in the quality of life for all concerned.

Beyond Murphy : Barbara Rypinski

October 7, 2015 by

Pope Francis versus the Murphy Bill

    According to my news feed, Pope Francis indirectly addressed the Murphy Bill when he spoke to the Joint Congress and several members of the Supreme Court when he stated; “A political society endures when it seeks — as a vocation — to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on the care of the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.”

     The Murphy Bill stifles the common needs of America, as it fails to address properly funding the construction of adequate hospitals for our current needs, much less training the additional doctors, nurses and certified nurses aides to support the patients in those beds.

   The Murphy Bill does not address the need for adequate diagnostic tools to winnow the temporarily impaired from the long term, chronic sufferers, nor the impossibility of finding the potentially homicidal one out of 1,000.

   The Murphy Bill does not offer to provide aid to “those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.” Otherwise it would mandate a level income tax, with the additional funds from the richest Americans redistributed among those of us attempting to live on incomes well under the Poverty level.

   Now, if the Murphy Bill addressed funding the hospitals, halfway houses, medical staff  and medication needs of our country — taking into account that we’ve learned a lot since John F. Kennedy stopped funding mental hospitals — it might be worth the paper it’s written on.

  But “care of the people” doesn’t mean “treat us like coma patients, pour medications down our throats whether we can metabolise them properly or not, lock us up and treat us worse than felons.” It means use every trick learned over the last fifty years to reintegrate us to be happy, productive members of society.  Give us programs to allow us to exercise our Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

   Now, if the Democrats of the Legislature want to rewrite Murphy to end poverty, fund the hospitals, free schooling for the entire staff of these facilities, remodel abandoned homes across the country for the Peer Support Movement to operate as Respite Houses with reintegration support programs and guarantee Free Mental Health screenings across the country for all, maybe it will meet the criteria His Holiness has outlined for a functioning Political Society.

Beyond Murphy : Sharon Cretsinger

October 7, 2015 by

Psychiatric diagnosis is the foundation upon which the psychiatric death machine is built.  I know something about this, given that I was a practicing clinician and practicing mental patient for many years of my life.  I suppose it is possible to say I was a really great clinician and a really horrible patient, for whatever the subjective value judgements on those roles are really worth in the context of a human being’s life.  In the present context, one thing we know for sure is that H.R. 2646 targets some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society:  children; elders; those who are differently abled cognitively; minority communities; and, those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, among others.  Please see my piece, H.R. 2646 (Murphy Bill):  What does it mean?  A survivor’s perspective, for additional details with regard to this dynamic.

What is diagnosis, really?  Many in the community of survivors who fight for human rights won’t even use the term.  They refer to it as labeling.  I prefer this language myself, but acknowledge, in the course of my life as a whole, the word “diagnosis” carries a meaning that is part of the fiber of my humanity, and that, as much as I might try, I can never really make it fall away.  It is an extremely limited and limiting concept. 

First, diagnosis is subjective.  People who have taken the time to educate themselves on the topic know that there is no scientific evidence or medical test to determine or confirm diagnosis.  Murphy (or perhaps it would be better to say the Treatment Advocacy Center people, who are responsible for authoring his bill) know this too.  Section six of H.R. 2646 is a small part of the bill, and easily overlooked.  Yet, this section provides 40 million dollars per year for the years 2016 through 2020 to fund the Brain Initiative at the National Institute of Mental Health.  That is 160 million dollars—a bigger allocation of funds than is provided by any other section of the bill.  The Brain Initiative has two primary purposes:  to look for determining factors for self and other directed violence and to advance research in neurotechnologies.  This huge monetary allocation is hard evidence that even the authors of this bill know that the evidence for psychiatric diagnosis does not exist. 

This complete lack of any hard evidence leaves diagnosis as a concept that is completely subjective and culturally bound.  I recall quite clearly giving a presentation on the history of diagnosis with one of my early clinical mentors who was a psychiatrist of the Humanist School, in his eighties at the time.  He actually had on hand the earliest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.  It resembled nothing as much as a large Master’s thesis, or perhaps a rough draft of a Doctoral dissertation.  This document was just post World War II, and was a response to the issues of soldiers returning from combat with huge amounts of distress. 

In addition to the complete subjectivity of diagnosis, it is also important to note that it is completely bound up in culture.  The later expansion of that early, thin document cannot be extracted from the development of various pharmaceuticals intended to treat such diagnoses.  As more drugs became available, and profitable, the DSM grew from a thinnish document to the DSM V we have today that has hundreds of pages and the weight of several standard bricks.  We also know diagnosis to be limited culturally, based on some diagnoses that have been removed based on changes in dominant cultural attitudes.  Perhaps most notable was the complete removal of “homosexuality” as a diagnostic category in 1986.  I don’t believe I have ever heard of a scientifically based diagnosis being removed from the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD) because many people within a given culture had decided it was no longer a pathology. 

These facts about the subjectivity of psychiatric diagnosis bring me to the second major point of this essay.  Diagnosis can, and regularly is, manipulated by clinical types to increase revenues.  Of course, the easiest populations to manipulate are those that are disempowered.  Again, it would be possible to return to the H.R. 2646 and find multiple examples of how marginalized populations are the targeted.  Here, I will give one example from my personal experience in clinical practice.

A few years ago, I was a Licensed Independent Social Worker in the state of Ohio.  Please don’t hold it against me.  At one point, I decided to leave the agency work I was doing with individuals who are differently abled cognitively, largely because of ongoing and severe clinical abuses that were heaped on what I consider to be one of the most powerless populations in our society (and marginalized within the context of the movement for survivor rights a well).  These abuses included psychiatric labeling, drugging, and aversive behavioral programming, among others.  What I saw in that context would easily make another complete essay.  But, coming back to my point, I decided to start a dissident practice that became the Kent Empowerment Center.  One of the ways that I was able to do this was by taking on a large behavioral health nursing home as a client.  Without this client, finding enough revenue for a start up practice would have been virtually impossible.  The story I want to tell here is about the diagnostic manipulation within that nursing home, as it impacted the elderly and differently abled individuals who resided there.

Drugging is used as a form of social control in settings such as these.  Perhaps this nursing facility could even be viewed as a contained metaphor for the general issue of drugging as a form of social control.  The manipulation of diagnosis was central to the drugging.  As was standard practice, I conducted a diagnostic assessment for each of the individuals in the facility for whom I was contracted to provide services.  I “found” a whole variety of things going on, and termed them in all the standard ways I had been taught:  Generalized Anxiety Disorder;  Major Depressive Disorder; Adjustment Disorder, and so forth.  Not surprisingly, it was hard to find anyone who was not having a hard time adjusting to this particular environment. 

As I compared my completed assessments with the existing charts, an odd pattern started to emerge.  Many of my diagnoses were completely different from that of the treating psychiatrist.  Over and over, I placed assessments into charts that contained ONLY ONE diagnosis from that psychiatrist, and it was ALWAYS THE SAME.  Schizoaffective Disorder.  I was puzzled by this, and attempted to ask the psychiatrist about it.  He was initially extremely defensive, stating that he “only talks medical stuff with the medical people”, but later relented, stating that he did not care if my diagnoses went into the chart, as long as his diagnoses remained primary.  At that time, he also told me that he had OVER 3000 CASES. 

It was clear to me, early on, that many of the diagnoses of Schizoaffective Disorder were incorrect.  What I could not understand was:  why?  While there are many incompetent psychiatrists at large out there, it still felt very odd that this one always defaulted to the SAME incorrect diagnosis.  As I watched the operation of the facility and thought about the meaning of Schizoaffective Disorder, the diagnostic manipulation became clear. 

Schizoaffective Disorder has two major components.  The first is psychotic, with a presentation of some kind of hallucination, paranoia, delusion and so forth.  The second component is affective, meaning something with the the mood:  anxiety, depression, lability, etc.  I observed that drugging was one of the major interventions used in this facility; and, it was not uncommon for drugs to be switched up quite frequently, or for a PRN (extra) medication to be given when someone became simply “too difficult”.   When drugging is used overtly by clinicians to control behavior, this is called a chemical restraint and requires massive amounts of documentation and oversight to implement.  When drugging is used in response to a psychiatric diagnosis, it is simply treatment. 

The diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder effectively justified the use of any class of psychiatric medication for any reason at any time.  The psychotic aspect of the diagnosis would support any of the atypical antipsychotics such as Seroquel, or even the older antipsychotics such as Haldol.  The affective portion of the diagnosis would support any of the antidepressants such as Zoloft or Celexa, as well as anti-anxiety agents such as Ativan or Buspar, and mood stabilizers such as Depakote.  The diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder was used, in this setting, and I am sure in many similar settings, to justify a kind of medication roulette based on the convenience of staff and the ability to the facility to hold, maintain and bill the largest possible number of inmates at one time.  These rapid fire medication changes, adjustments and additions could all be carried out under the umbrella of Schizoaffective Disorder without any of the pesky paperwork that would go along with changing someone’s diagnosis to match his or her actual presentation.  After all, how would a psychiatrist with over 3000 patients manage any other way?

So, here we have just a small slice of the limitations of diagnosis, based on the subjectivity of the diagnosis itself and the subsequent likelihood of diagnostic manipulation in its role of turning the lives of completely disempowered people into nothing but the related billing code, with as little effort on the part of clinical providers as possible.    I do not see anything redeeming in this completely broken system of labeling.  It is corrupted beyond the point where it represents anything useful, or even anything real, yet it remains a part of the fabric of the humanity of many, like me, upon whom it has been imposed.

Beyond Murphy : Marilyn Welton

October 7, 2015 by

It’s 9/11/2015.  On 9/11/2001, I was at work in Tulsa, OK at the church I attended.  The pastor put a television in the lobby of the church as the Twin Towers were being destroyed by terrorists.  I remember how stunned I was, not at what was happening at that moment, but by my own lack of emotion.  And I questioned – why.  Why was there no feeling inside of me for this crime against my country, for the deaths of over 3000 souls?  

It took some time but I finally understood.  It was because in my own personal life, residually, and in the life of my dear son, Jeff, for 10 years prior to 9/11, we had been experiencing our own kind of terrorism.  This terrorism was committed against him by psychiatry and mental health courts by forcing him to take psychotropic ‘medications’ that he, literally, physically, could not tolerate because of their side effects.  Side effects, such as akathisia and hyperthermia and others, that caused him so much pain that he was terrified of them and still is.  So much terror that he would run away and try to survive on the street any way he could.  It was, residually, against me because as a mother, it zaps the life out of you not knowing where your son is or how is he surviving. 

This started happening in 1991, when he was first put in the mental health system.  The running away and abruptly stopping the drugs prescribed by psychiatrists. Then he would either end back up in a hospital somewhere or coming back home; and, because he was in violation of a mental health court order to take the drugs and he wasn’t, and because he wasn’t, he would be in rebound withdrawal and/or severe detox, he would be acting so weird that he would be picked up and be rehospitalized again – and again – and again.  Usually, the drugs and the dosages would be changed on each rehospitalization.

No, I do not believe that he was in decompensation, or he was just getting sick again as I was told.  I believe that he was in detox because of stopping the drugs cold-turkey.  We were told that he would have to stay on the drugs the rest of his life. That was not acceptable.  It was always a dilemma.  Why do some psychiatrists not know that these drugs cause dependence?  This disbelief by a psychiatrist was presented to me in a treatment team meeting held regarding Jeff in 2011.  She wanted proof that these drugs cause dependence.

It is my opinion that my son is brain damaged now.  It is very dangerous to abruptly stop taking psychotropic medications.  I don’t call them medications anymore.  I call them drugs.  I think of medications as helping.  I think of drugs as hurting.  I think he is brain damaged now because in 2007, after 16 years of this, he started verbally expressing fixed delusions or false memories. 

It takes me a while to catch on.  It is my firm belief that Jeff has been so brain damaged by drugs he has been forced to take since 1991, that I might never get my son back.  What I had to do on Sunday, September 6, 2015, is tell Jeff that as long as he is at my home, that I would not go back there.  No mother should ever have to tell her own son that.  It’s too much of a heartbreak. He wants to be where I am.  Every time he would run away from where he was, he would always end up back at my home, no matter where I was, or how cold it was outside.  What does a mother do when her son knocks at her door at 2:30 a.m. and it’s 20 degrees outside?  Out of deep love, a mother allows her son to come into her home.  But there’s a catch.  He refuses to leave.  There is so much wrong now that even though she tries to let him stay, because of fixed delusions and false memories caused by the drugs he was forced to take, she can’t because there is abuse now, verbal, emotional, and the real possibility of physical abuse.

So, one Sunday while away from home, I called Jeff and told him to leave and to never come back.  He told me to bring his bank debit card to him and he would.  I did.  He did.  And while hitchhiking again, he was picked up by a Deputy Sheriff and taken, again, to a crisis stabilization unit, where he will, again, come to mental health court in an Oklahoma County and be committed, again, to a psychiatric hospital and be forced to take more drugs, again.  Then, he will be deemed stabilized, again, and he will be discharged homeless.  He has already called me and told me that he will return to the small city where I live and stay in the men’s shelter.  What I know is that he will not stay at the shelter.  He will not take the drugs he is prescribed and will be in detox of the drugs he was given while hospitalized.  He will, again, appear at my door and want to come in – and he will want to stay.  This forces me to file a Protective Order against my own son, my Jeff.  

So – will I get to see my son again?  Will I get to give him a Christmas gift again or share thanksgiving dinner with him again.  Will our family ever get to be together again to celebrate a birthday?  Will he be able to get housing anywhere again?

The mental health system has destroyed my Jeff’s life.  It has residually destroyed my life.  I am only one mother out of countless others whose son has been stolen from her by psychiatry and mental health courts.  Jeff is only one son whose life has been destroyed by prescribed psychotropic drugs..  The mental health system must be changed.  There is a dire need now for recovery homes, houses, units, farms, ranches, etc. for people whose lives have been stolen from then by psychiatry and the current medical model of psychiatric treatment.  It destroys lives.  It destroys families.  It destroys hope.

Today on “Beyond Murphy”

October 7, 2015 by

This series closes with 4 posts today.   They range widely in tone and content but I hope you will read all of them and think about what would be involved truly with moving “Beyond Murphy.”

Marilyn Welton talks about the tragedy this system has meant for her family.   It is a system of too many tragedies.

Sharon Cretsinger talks about the limits of diagnosis and why a reality based on what people are called is necessarily skewed.

Barbara Rypinski talks about what the visit of Pope Francis says to the mental health system.

Sarah Knutson talks about an option to the medical model.

Please read and share all these articles.

Thanks so much to all that have contributed.   You have been a blessing.

The scam of the Murphy Bill : Ask for a real solution

October 7, 2015 by

The Murphy Bill is not just a bad solution.   It is no solution.   That is the real cruelty of it. It promises the transformation of the mental health system at the top of its lungs but leaves change still born.

Even on its own terms it fails.

It would repeal the IMD exclusion and allow more money to be spent on more psychiatric hospitalization.


The infrastructure that would be required in most states to make this happen doesn’t exist.   The hospital space,  the  employees… all the many, many things it would take to make this go from idea to reality don’t exist.   It would take a massive capital investment from states to make this a reality and that can only happen by taking money from existing programs.   Is there a state in the country willing to do that?   One?? 

Murphy says that the jails are full  because there are not enough hospital beds and then would sell us ocean front property in Arizona to solve the problem.   It is not,  never will be,  never can be the answer Murphy promises.

It is political mumbo jumbo.   A scam. And a cruel one…..

It promises AOT as its other twin tower of redemption….


Most states already have AOT.   In most states it is at best a supplemental program.   It is not a core element of system change.   It costs too much money and in the scheme of things serves relatively few people.

And even if you believe in AOT and think it is from God this bill leaves a big question out.   It matters what you commit people to.   Most states are program poor and this bill doesn’t recognize that let alone change that. (And if they destroy their community systems to finance their hospitals they will be more program poor).

Act today.   Tell your legislator to vote no on Murphy.

Tell them you want real solutions to real problems and not one more song and dance.

The Day of Action: Why you should act

October 6, 2015 by

Tomorrow is “the day of action”  and it has never been more important you act….

Mental health advocacy has historically been more about mental health providers or professionals or people with some other kind of stake explaining why they can and should speak for the welfare of those people in distress,  those people with mental health issues,  those people who  enter the mental health system looking for help.   Too often they simply assume that their interests and the interests of those they serve are one and the same.

Tomorrow is about your voice,  your story. Many professionals do object to this bill and many will speak tomorrow.   But none come from your place,  from your heart,  from your experience. It is important that you speak.   It is important that you testify to the truth of  your life,  your experience,  your needs.

I asked a friend who was in a very long sit in once why.  Why???  Why did you take the risk?   Why did you speak?

I will never forget what he said:

Someone had to say it.   We are people too and this is wrong.   We are people too and this is wrong…..

The Murphy Bill is wrong.   In the end it hurts those it claims to help.

And it is time the people hurt say it now… Say it loud… Say it often.

Make sure every friend you have knows about tomorrow.   They are needed.   You are needed.   We are all needed.

Please act.   Tell others.

Remember :


Beyond Murphy : Kathy Flaherty

October 6, 2015 by

The fight to improve our mental health system, both in my state (Connecticut) and nationally, is a battle that I am prepared to wage not only professionally, but personally.  I am a person living in recovery from a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I was civilly committed my first year of law school. I admitted myself to hospitals several times. My education comes not only from books, but from my lived experience.  I know what it is like to be hospitalized against my will; to be forcibly medicated; to be secluded.  I experienced side effects of medication like lethargy and weight gain. I know what it is like to be judged for my mental health history and found lacking; my admission to the Connecticut bar was delayed for a year and a half, and was conditional on both me and my doctor reporting to the Statewide Grievance Counsel that I remained compliant with my treatment.
I also know what it is like to recover. It took me more than a decade to find my path to wellness and to arrive in a place in which I am truly happy.  During many of these years, I was able to achieve traditional markers of “success”:  I graduated from law school, was admitted to the bar, found a job, met and married a wonderful man.  I became involved in mental health advocacy; I was an instructor and facilitator of peer support groups and educational programs.
I have been open about my mental health diagnosis since my first year of law school, when I put my membership on the Council of Former Patients of McLean Hospital on my resume.  The folks at the Office of Public Interest Advising suggested that I should reconsider including that information, but I have never seen my illness as something to be ashamed of or something that I need to hide.  In fact, my disclosure resulted in my finding a summer internship at an organization, Connecticut Legal Rights Project, representing the rights of people diagnosed with mental health conditions – an organization of which I am now proud to be the Executive Director.
I wrote a guest editorial, disclosing my condition, for the Harvard Law School newspaper my third year of law school after seeing comments made by some of my fellow students in response to another student who was going through a mental health crisis. Some people called me brave for doing so; to me, it simply seemed the right thing to do.
Recovery is real.  There are some proponents of the Murphy legislation that will say that the bill is only supposed to apply to people with “seriously mentally ill” and not people like me who “only” need and want “feel-good” services.  That discounts the “seriousness” of my mental health condition.  I acknowledge that I am among the “mentally well” today, but if you want to talk serious, talk to my family who saw the car I crashed into a light pole on the highway or the friends who visited me in the hospital after suicide attempts with pills.
Some may say the difference is that I “recognized” I needed help and accepted it when it was offered. That is an over-simplification of what it took for me to recover.  The proposed bill measures successful outcomes by showing up at appointments and compliance with prescribed medication.  I can tell you from personal experience, one can show up at medical appointments and take all of one’s medications – but not experience recovery.  Following orders is not recovery; recovery means active participation in one’s community. Recovery means taking charge of one’s life.  I have been incredibly fortunate to have never needed to worry about meeting my most basic needs – housing, food, income to pay the bills.  If I lacked the resources to meet those needs, I would not have had the energy to invest in my recovery.
People need access to the supports and services that they need for their recovery.  They need access to advocacy representing their interests so that they can meet their goals. 
Representative Murphy’s bill is called the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015” and that title essentially sums up the problems I have with this bill.  This bill is all about helping families; it is not necessarily about helping the person who actually has the mental health diagnosis. This bill is about imposing solutions on people against their will, rather than finding out from them what their goals are, and what kind of assistance they need to meet them. Undermining existing privacy protections under HIPAA and FERPA is not necessary when mechanisms already exist for people to get information – either by consent, as expressed in an advance directive, or permitted by a court under a conservatorship order. 
PAIMI programs protect and advocate for individuals living with mental illness.  Their mission is not solely to investigate cases of abuse and neglect, but also to identify and remove systemic barriers that prevent citizens with psychiatric disabilities from exercising their rights.  Legal advocates representing their clients do so under a professional code of conduct that requires them to be zealous advocates for their clients’ objectives – not the interests of other parties, such as family members.   It is not a lawyer’s job to act in their client’s best interests; the lawyer’s job is to outline for the client the elements of informed choice about decision-making, including the consequences of taking or not taking a particular action, and then be guided by what the client says.  It is not the lawyer’s job to be a substitute decision-maker for the client; it is to listen to the client, and abide by the client’s decisions concerning the objectives of representation.  To do this is not always easy; many of us might not make the same choices as our clients do in any given situation. However, the role of the lawyer is to outline the consequences of the choices, not to make the decisions.
Many of us who have been engaged in mental health advocacy for a number of years are frustrated by the continual re-visiting of ideas that have already been found not to work. Re-establishment of inpatient hospital beds when the community mental health system does not have the resources it needs is a misplaced use of resources.  We cannot return to the days when people spent long periods of time institutionalized against their will; people already are spending too much time in hospitals because the system does not have capacity to move them into the most integrated community setting. We need to find ways of engaging people to make a connection in which they feel that their voice is being listened to and respected. People need to be supported in their journeys towards healing.  For many of us, it is through learning from peers how they maintained their recovery that has become a critical piece.
You will often hear the phrase “Nothing about us without us.”  We know best what our life experience has been – what has worked, and more importantly, what doesn’t work.  Doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result – haven’t I heard that as one definition of insanity?  We can, and must, do better.

Beyond Murphy : Darby Penney

October 6, 2015 by

The Promise of Trauma-Informed Approaches
By Darby Penney
These are dangerous and trying times for those who believe that the human rights of people involved with the mental health system must be promoted and protected. The Murphy Bill – “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” (H.R. 2646)- and its only slightly less frightening companion bill in the Senate- would undermine what little progress has been made toward rights protection in recent years. It would perpetuate and expand current rights violations like Involuntary Outpatient Commitment (disingenuously referred to as “Assisted Outpatient Treatment”), and would return the nation’s state mental health systems to the failed policy of mass institutionalization.
These possibilities frighten me. For more than 25 years, I’ve worked in a range of positions in the system – as a state mental health official, a historian and writer, and a researcher and trainer – and, in my free time, as an activist in the human rights movement for people with psychiatric histories. Over that time, I’ve seen coercion and cooptation increase. I’ve seen people’s rights trampled in both inpatient and outpatient settings. I’ve seen years of work that resulted in tiny improvements wiped out in the blink of an eye. I’ve often been discouraged and I’ve often felt like my years of work have been largely in vain.
But recently, one development has kept hope alive for me: the slow but growing realization within the field that the vast majority of people with psychiatric diagnoses are trauma survivors, and the recognition that many of the system’s common practices traumatize and re-traumatize the people the system is supposed to serve. While the research has been clear on this for at least the last 30 years, this new awareness has led to conversations across the country about the need for trauma-informed approaches within the mental health system, and a broadening of the field’s awareness of how widespread these problems are.
This emergent awareness of trauma and these conversations about change are just the first small steps toward a needed overhaul of a system that has historically valued control over compassion, authority over understanding, and the convenience of providers over the human needs of people. The scope of the issue is enormous and the magnitude of the changes needed to create a truly trauma-informed system is staggering.
To begin this process, people who run the system- policymakers, administrators, managers, researchers, direct service staff – and people who use services (voluntarily or not) need to be educated about the extent to which trauma is at the root of most psychiatric diagnoses. People with diagnoses have the right to this information to help them make sense of their own struggles, and people who administer and deliver services need this information in order to understand that the people they have seen as “diseased” are in fact people who have been deeply hurt by violence in many forms. It starts, as Sandra Bloom, founder of the Sanctuary program points out, by asking about what happened to people, rather than what is “wrong” with people.
This basic awareness needs to be followed by a commitment to explore the values and principles of trauma-informed approaches; to take inventory of the many ways in which the current service system does not comport with these values; and to a commitment to the hard work of ridding the system of all practices that routinely re-traumatize people. This means an end to coercion in all its forms: restraint, seclusion, inpatient and outpatient commitment, forced drugging, forced shock, and requiring adherence to treatment in order to get housing and other generic services. This is a long, complicated undertaking that will unsettle many powerful interests, but it is necessary to achieve the goal of a trauma-informed system.
Those of us with trauma histories who have been through the mental health system can help move this agenda forward by learning about and practicing trauma-informed peer support. In 2012, my colleagues Andrea Blanch, Cathy Cave, Beth Filson and I developed a guidebook with the goal of providing people with the understanding, tools, and resources needed to engage in culturally responsive, trauma-informed peer support relationships with trauma survivors. The guide is called Engaging Women in Trauma-Informed Peer Support: A Guidebook, but most of the information, aside from a gender-specific chapter, is applicable to all people. It can be downloaded from

Darby Penney is a long-time activist in the human rights movement for people with psychiatric histories. She is the author, with Peter Stastny, of The Lives the Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic.

An Introduction to “Beyond Murphy”

October 6, 2015 by

About a month ago I talked about a feature on this blog I called “Beyond Murphy”.   That post is reprinted below.

Several people,  several gifted people,  responded and that feature starts today  with Darby Penney and Kathy Flaherty.   Both are leaders and have been for a long time.

They begin to point a way I hope “beyond Murphy……”

The Murphy Bill whether it passes or not will not be the final verdict on the mental health system.   That is on us.

In about 10  days I hope to run a series of posts entitled “Beyond Murphy: Towards a better place… ”    Some of the possible topics that might fall into it are:  the Murphy Bill,  the costs of the medical model, limits of diagnosis,  effective advocacy, building a consensus for change, the reality of recovery, is an honest mental health system possible,  is mental health about more than one thing, human rights and mental health, hope,  the ethics of treatment,  and the ethics of advocacy.   There are many other topics that might fall into this general rubric.

I am looking for I hope 10-14 people who might be interested in doing a guest blog on Hopeworks Community to cover this topic.   My hope would be to have a series of posts that would all be posted over a 2-3 day period…. In effect a forum on the possibility of real change.   I have already asked some people but am very open to anyone who is interested.  

Please let me hear from you and I will give you more details.   I do not believe the door is shut.   The future can still be shaped.   There are many difficulties,  many problems.   Murphy is neither sentence or destiny.   Please help to start a new conversation.

Again I hope to hear from you.   Please share with others.

A short course on action: part two

October 5, 2015 by

The initial post in this series talked about how to talk to legislators.   This post talks about some of the possible points you might consider making.

The following questions or comments are certainly not the only points to make about the Murphy Bill but at least offer a place to start….


1. What do you see wrong with coercion? Will it make people who need help try to avoid getting help for fear of getting involved in a coercive system? How coercive has your experience been in the mental health system and how has it affected you?
2. How has AOT affected you, your family, your friends?
3. Does your state have AOT and how has it affected the mental health system? How expensive is it? How often is it used? Has it decreased people in jails, homelessness or violent behavior?
4. Should the federal government try to make states without AOT adopt it?
5. AOT in New York, the state where it costs $32000000 a year and is probably more prevalent than any other state serves 1/3 of 1% of the people served by the mental health system there. At its best is AOT anything more than a marginal answer to much bigger problems.


1. The Murphy Bill would like to make it easier to keep people in psychiatric hospitals longer. How do you feel about that?
2 Do psychiatric hospitals work? What is your experience with them? Did they help? Did they hurt?
3. Psychiatric hospitalization is the most expensive form of treatment. How do you feel about funds being taken from community services to fund hospitals?
4. Do you really believe more psychiatric hospitals will keep people out of jail or from being homeless?
5. The Murphy Bill talks a lot about evidence based practices. Is hospitalization an evidence based practice?
6. Can people with serious mental health issues be helped anywhere else other than a hospital? How much does a hospital help?
7. Some people believe people should be kept in hospitals for their own good. Does anyone just need to be locked away?

PAIMI is the federal protection and advocacy program designed to protect the rights of the “mentally ill.” The Murphy Bill seeks to curtail this.

1. Should it be against the law to protect someone’s rights? Ever??
2. Do rights get in the way of effective treatment?
3. How much should a system be trusted that does not protect the most vulnerable?
4. Have you had a personal experience with PAIMI? How did it work out?


1. Should you have a right to confidentiality even if your family disagrees with your decisions?
2. Has conflict with your family ever been part of your issues? Have they ever been a source of trauma for you? Is your privacy one way to protect yourself?
3. Do you believe the existing laws with the exceptions written in works okay. Is the law broken or do we just need to follow it?


1. Although trauma is progressively being recognized as a central element in the development of mental health issues the Murphy Bill does not mention it . Do you believe this bill should more adequately reflect current scientific knowledge?


1. The Murphy Bill does not talk about or believe in the importance of stigma in the lives of those with psychiatric diagnoses. In fact many people believe this bill will increase stigma. What role has stigma played in your life? If passed do you believe that you will be further stigmatized?


1. This bill makes psychiatric opinion the final authority in many things. Given the increasing evidence of problems associated with psychiatric medications should people have the right to say no to psychiatrists?


1. This bill would effectively eliminate Samhsa. This agency has been a big part of developing the concept of recovery as well as supporting peer support? How do you feel about this agency being eliminated?

There is much more to the Murphy Bill than addressed above. The intent of these questions is to help you articulate more clearly how you think the Murphy Bill will affect you.

Please think about it and let your legislator hear from you on Wednesday. It is time for all of us to take action.


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