to Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry
Peter Stastny / Peter Lehmann (Eds.)
Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry
Reviews in Italian, Dutch,
Latvian & Swedish
One Step Beyond? Helen Spandler in Asylum
The Magazine for Democratic Psychiatry (U.K.), Vol.
17 (2010), No. 4, p. 14
Le alternative di cui abbiamo bisogno Verso la realizzazione
di un sistema psicosociale umano. Erveda Sansi in: l'Gazetin
Giornale indipendende di cronaca civile, Vol. 20 (2009),
No. 7, pp. 21-22
Is There a Need for Alternatives to Psychiatry? Transforming
experience into policy. Agita Lūse: in:
Zelda Newsletter (Latvia), Vol. 3 (2009), pp. 5-9 / Review
in Latvian language
A new book, entitled Alternatives beyond Psychiatry
was published simultaneously in both German and English in 2007. It is a collection
of articles submitted by 61 different authors. Some of these authors are engaged
in a specific field in health care, such as social work, clinical psychology,
psychiatry, psychotherapy, public health, complementary medicine, nursing, or
gerontology, while others work in professions that include law, teaching and journalism,
or academically in sociology and philosophy. Yet others pursue one of the muses
writing, theatre, cinema or sculpture. Even more importantly, most of the
participants in the collection are individuals who feel the need to get involved
For the most part they do this by joining non-governmental
organisations, volunteers' associations or mutual support groups, participating
in consultative councils and legislative committees or drafting new programmes
for the public health and welfare sectors. In this way they attempt to influence
political decision-making in a very specific area, namely the mental health care
sector. Their motivation is very powerful, as they have generally developed their
views on mental health and illness not only in their professional work but also
through the experience of personal crisis. In addition, many of the authors are
successfully merging policy shaping work in their professional field with voluntary
activities. Both editors of the book, German publicist Peter Lehmann and American
psychiatrist Peter Stastny, fit this mould.
Peter Lehmann has been a publisher
since 1986, and starting in 1989 has been active in both German and European psychiatric
patient organisations (for two years he headed a European scale network of organisations
of psychiatry users, to which he counts himself) . Peter Stastny, a psychiatrist
of Austrian origin and living in New York, has been doing research in social support
and rehabilitation, and has been working with patient associations developing
care projects that present alternatives to institutional psychiatry. Although
most of the authors of the collection come from Western countries (representing
USA, Australia, Austria, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain, the
Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden), Ghana, India and Serbia are
One of the reviews of the collection  regards Alternatives
beyond Psychiatry a third powerful political debate in the history of psychiatry,
the first one being the passionate discussions on eugenics at the beginning of
the 20th century and the second one the 1960-1970 social critique of psychiatry
in Western countries.  Elaborating on the reviewer's thesis one can say that
the third debate challenges the former approaches to mental health care, namely,
reliance solely on the skills of doctors, scientists and other experts as well
as the critique of psychiatry as an agency of social control and the subsequent
attempts to make psychiatry more humane. This time policy initiatives arise directly
from those to whom, until now, mental health care has been addressed, this even
with such initiatives that are implemented in cooperation with the experts.
can mean a lot
It is important to emphasize the word "beyond"
in the English title of the book reviewed here  because the authors of the
collection do not talk merely of those forms which exclude psychiatry completely.
Quite the opposite guided by their experience with psychiatry they attempt
to comprehensively evaluate this area of medicine (in its varied manifestations
across periods of history and societies) , as well as search for alternative
and complementary ways in healing. The articles reflect both the expertise of
mental health care specialists and the personal experience of patients.
who at some point in their lives have been treated by psychiatrists, are seen
as simply having experienced psychiatry rather than through stereotypes such as
"mentally ill" or "mentally deranged" (which unfortunately
are still used by the media, and Latvia in this instance is certainly no exception).
Furthermore, generally speaking, this contact has been of two kinds some
have used (or still use) mental health care services voluntarily and call themselves
ex-users or users of psychiatry, while others, who have been placed in asylums
and held there against their will, consider themselves rather as the victims of
this specific area of medicine. In the collection such ex-patients identify themselves
as survivors, thus emphasizing not their status as victims but rather that they
have endured a repressive attitude implemented by means of the psychiatry arsenal,
and, moreover, have been able to challenge it. Namely, that they have been successful
in finding other means which permit one to live through mental or emotional distress;
in effect avoiding crisis. Thus, institutional psychiatry has been reflected in
the book merely as one, and certainly not always the most optimal way of healing
emotional and mental wounds.
Not only the patients themselves, but also
their health problems, appear in the book in an unusual way. In no article, not
even in those written by psychiatrists, are terms such as "mental illness",
"mental derangement", "endogenous disorder" or other, similar
terms based on an understanding of mental health disorders as something psychophysiologically
determined and largely irreversible, to be found. In other words, these sorts
of terms, taken for granted for decades, have often stigmatised the individual
for good. Instead, the authors speak of specific events, situations and experiences,
and in a specific place, time and social context, namely of traumas, emotional
problems of a social nature (p. 410), of crisis, distress, and emotional difficulties.
They speak additionally of "dangerously talented minds" (p. 407), "extreme
states of mind" (p. 169), "altered perception" (p. 100), "the
experience of a transcendent realm" (p. 171).  Finally, they talk of living
with madness (comp. German Irrsinn, Wahnsinn) and (one's own or others')
Even the term "psychosis" shows up as a word that does
not split but rather merges the understanding of professionals with that of the
laymen, as a synonym of the popularly used "madness". It refers firstly
to human experience rather than to externally observable oddities, which cause
some to laugh at an acquaintance, and others to shun a former friend or even kin,
and yet in others to diagnose and attempt to "normalise" the person
by ECT  or psycho-pharmacological means. On this point, the article by Miriam
Krücke must be noted, in which the author cites tens of psychiatry users
whom she asked, in 2006 while writing her Master's thesis, what kind of help they
wished to receive if they were to find themselves again in a crisis situation
(pp. 97-104). One of the interviewed women notes that the recent opportunity to
survive one psychotic episode without psychotropic medicines, receiving the support
of a trusted person and using homeopathic medicines, was a meaningful experience
for her. She had been able to follow her own feelings, and when after a month
the psychosis receded, no depression followed, as at other times, and after a
six week recess she had been able to start work again (pp. 100-101). A similar
experience is described by Regina Bellion, born in 1941 (pp. 75-83), recounting
how she had survived a crisis (which had included both persecution ideas and depression)
thanks to the constant presence and support provided by six members of a self-help
group over the course of an entire week, night and day.
Other authors in
the collection also consider experiences of psychoses in their diversity. For
example, in the article on the internationally known psycho-social rehabilitation
project  Windhorse, which is rooted in Buddhist principles, we read
"Through contemplative practice, meditation in particular, we see that the
seeds of psychosis are in every mind, that madness is only a matter of degree".
(p. 173). Representatives of both Windhorse and of similar programmes,
such as Soteria , based on principles of shelter and a supportive social
environment, and Berlin Runaway House , understand psychosis first
of all as a coping mechanism (p. 146, comp. p. 189), at times as the only possibility
for an individual to survive when faced with the overwhelming weight of a profound
predicament or an unsolvable dilemma endangering his/her self (p. 170).
short, authors in the collection assert that the line which irrevocably divides
the "subnormal" from the "normal", and the "ill"
from the "healthy" has been artificially drawn for decades. In the view
of existentialism, the self of any person may be endangered at some point by a
crisis caused by a coincidence of unfortunate circumstances. Of course, some retain
in a crisis a cooler head than others, and there is a role here played not only
by culture and upbringing but also by the individual's own biological constitution.
However, this does not mean that the disposition to collapse in a crisis is once
and for all inscribed in our bodies, or that we could classify those subject to
psychosis, or the "invulnerable", according to some biological or physiological
parameters. Furthermore, a person may wind up beyond the said line only because
those around him/her have hurriedly and thoughtlessly forced on him/her only seemingly
efficient crisis solutions, among which unfortunately sometimes has been involuntary
commitment to a psychiatric facility.
As stated earlier, the position of
users of psychiatry on the matter of how to best help in cases of profound emotional
distress or under extreme states of mind differs from the experience of survivors
of psychiatry (p. 369). The first group admits, along with various complementary
forms of treatment, the use of psycho-pharmacological means and at times also
hospitalisation, whereas the others reject these methods and are searching for
alternatives. It must be emphasised, however, that most of the authors of the
collection Alternatives beyond Psychiatry admit that self-help and professional
help are not mutually exclusive, as it is only a matter of access to one's chosen
professional help in times of crisis.
The short stories of personal experience
in the chapter, "Real alternatives" (pp. 44-75) reflect a broad spectrum
of alternative and complementary solutions: moving to a safe and peaceful location,
calming remedies, contact with animals, massage therapy, artistic creativity,
writing as a therapeutic activity, psychotherapy, establishing self-help groups,
political activism, consciously balanced lifestyles, proper diet and sufficient
sleep among them, discussions and arrangements with confidants, including help
wished from them in crisis situations . An idea of the diversity of solutions
is often developed when people in a crisis situation share their experience and
stories, when they trust one another with their stories. On this point, during
the space of the last twenty years or so, the socially active and politically
most committed psychiatry patients have succeeded to bring into motion important
changes in their own situation and that of their fellow sufferers: since the end
of the 1980s they have organised themselves more than before in mutual support
groups, associations, initiative centres and social networks .
of psychiatry users and survivors
Many of the authors of the collection
tell of groups, associations and programmes advanced by patients themselves or
their advocates. On some there are specific articles, as on the already mentioned
projects: Berlin Runaway House (pp. 188-198) and Windhorse (pp.
168-178). The article by Peter Lehmann and Maths Jesperson (pp. 366-380) provides
a look at establishing larger organisations. Here we learn that in the USA there
is the Icarus Project, in Ghana the association MindFreedom Ghana,
in Ireland Institute for Mental Health Recovery, in Great Britain
MIND, Mindlink and "Survivors Speak Out", Distress
Awareness Training Agency (DATA), Sharing Voices Bradford and others.
In Germany organisations such as Bundesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener,
Netzwerk Stimmenhören , and others.
Since the beginning of the 1990s
psychiatry patients have also organised themselves internationally. In 1990, 13
representatives of initiative groups met in New York intending to protect the
human rights of users and survivors of psychiatry, and established Support
Coalition. In 2005 the name was changed to MindFreedom International,
and the UN has granted it the status of a non-governmental advisory organisation.
In 1991, 39 representatives from 17 European countries met and ENUSP (European
Network of (ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry) was founded. In 1993 WNUSP
(World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry) was established. Recently,
in 2003, a group of US mental health care specialists and patients' advocates
(among them several well known psychiatrists and psychologists and recovered patients
and their families) established the organisation International Network Toward
Alternatives and Recovery (INTAR) , targeted to popularising knowledge of
alternative healing methods for people experiencing profound emotional distress,
and making these methods more accessible for them. 
It is important
to emphasise that the above mentioned organisations are very wary of sponsoring
offered by pharmacology companies because they do not wish to become financially
dependent on them, nor feel their ideological pressure to popularise psycho-pharmacology
as the main, if not only, method in facing misery, emotional complications and
mental disorders. For example, ENUSP completely refuses financial support
from the pharmacology business and warns its member organisations in different
countries to be wary in this area, at least by declaring a limit as to how much
of their funds may come from donations from pharmacology companies.
of their limited financial resources these organisations have grown quite rapidly.
Several associations have become more active and have enlarged their membership
thanks to the Internet and the communication forms provided by it as in, for example,
mailing lists.  In 2004, in the Danish town of Vejle psychiatry users and
survivors met at their first congress of a global scale: delegates came from 50
countries, and all continents were represented. By the middle of 2008 the ENUSP
network represented 73 organisations from 34 European countries, among them several
countries which were previously part of the USSR. This includes two groups each
from Armenia, Russia and Moldova, and one from Azerbaijan and Belarus, three from
Georgia and Lithuania and seven from Estonia. Of the ex-Soviet republics of Europe,
only Latvia was not represented by even one organisation. 
by the experience in many of the stories in the collection Alternatives beyond
Psychiatry, patients' self-organisation, articulation and protection of interests
is extremely important. It can not only reduce the stigmatising stereotypes prevalent
in society, and thus prevent people with mental disorders from being socially
excluded: it also ensures that for people finding themselves in serious crisis
information on possible professional aid, and types of self-help, is more accessible.
Furthermore, by contacting fellow sufferers, they may escape being immediately
marked by a stigma, as happens in cases when institutional psychiatry appears
to their families and often also to themselves as the only way of escaping from
crisis. If people formulate their own needs and interests and speak of these publicly,
rather than depending on the ideas of professionals in what is needed for their
patients, the rest of society can develop a more balanced idea about people with
mental disorders. Instead of stigma, people may begin to see (citing the philosopher
Emmanuel Levinas) the individual faces and humanity of these people  and become
aware that their otherness is far less so than presented by our stereotypes.
Lūse, PhD, Senior Researcher of the Institute of Philosophy & Sociology,
University of Latvia, 5 April 2009
- European Network
of (ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP).
- Hammersley, P.
2008. Book review of Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry by Peter Stastny and
Peter Lehmann (Eds.) Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 3.
the most influential critics of biologically oriented psychiatry at the time can
be mentioned: Michel Foucault, David Cooper, Ronald Laing , Thomas Szasz and Thomas
- (The German title of the book is "Statt Psychiatrie 2".
an excellent review of Western psychiatry and also a critical evaluation of its
latest trends are given in an article by Mark Rufer: Rufer, M. 2007. 'Psychiatry:
Its Diagnostic Methods, Its Therapies, Its Power', in P. Stastny and P. Lehmann
(Eds.), Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry, 382-399. Berlin: Peter Lehmann
- In this article, too, it has been attempted to deliberately
avoid the Latvian term garīga slimība
(literally "spiritual illness") obviously adopted in the 19th century
from the German "Geisteskrankheit"), instead preferring terms emocionāla krīze
("emotional crisis/distress"), mentāli traucējumi
("mental disorders"), etc. The word mentāls
indicates a link to activities of the mind, but mentāli traucējumi
to the negative impact of sorrow, distress or anxiety on both perception
and thinking. In turn, the phrase psihiskas ciešanas
("psychic suffering") is used referring to the archaic meaning
of the word "psyche" (from the ancient Greek psukhē
) that is close to the meaning of dvēsele
, the Latvian term for soul (comp. to such expressions rooted in Christianity
as noklīdusi dvēsele
, or "lost soul", and dvēseļu kopšana
, or "pastoral care", also the Russian term душевно-больной
, literally "ill soul"). Taking into account the views of psychiatry
patients interviewed in Latvia, the author of this article opposes the application
of the Latvian word garīgs ("spiritual")
to a type of illness. The spectrum of the meaning of the Latvian word gars
("spirit") includes mainly the transcendental, what cannot be grasped
directly by the senses, but constitutes a dimension of human experience directed
to values, wherein human moral stands and choices are rooted. In the views of
the author, to call a person garīgi slims
(literally "spiritually ill") means to degrade him/her as a moral
subject and doubt his/her ability to decide and act, thus expressing his/her particular,
values-based position, and in the end, to deny his/her humanity.
- For more information see www.windhorseassociates.org
more information: Mosher, L. R., V. Hendrix, D. C. Fort, und die Beteiligten des
Soteria Projektes. 1994. Dabeisein: Das Manual zur Praxis in der Soteria.
- For more information:
- There is a special term in English
advance directives. This means wishes expressed in writing of types
of help the person wishes to receive in crisis situations, among them outbreaks
- More information in the book: Crossley, N. 2006. Contesting
Psychiatry. Social Movements in Mental Health. London & New York: Routledge,
and the articles: Crossley, M. L., and N. Crossley. 2001. Patients' voices, social
movements and the habitus; how psychiatric survivors 'speak out'. Social Science
and Medicine 52:1477-1489; Rose, D. and Lucas, J. 2007. 'The user and survivor
movement in Europe', in M. Knapp, D. McDaid, E. Mossialos and G. Thornicroft (Eds.),
Mental Health Policy and Practice across Europe. The future direction of mental
health care, 336-355. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill, Open University Press.
It is difficult to translate in Latvian the names of these associations: since
in Latvia there exists practically no collective praxis of psychiatry patients
(or ex-patients or survivors) that is even slightly similar to that of Western
countries, the Latvian language lacks the appropriate meanings describing the
relevant collective experience.
- For more information see www.intar.org
author of this article translated in 2007 into Latvian basic information on ENUSP
for the home page of this organisation. Until then the main page of ENUSP had
been translated in the languages of all other EU member countries as well as languages
of several other European countries.
- The first Latvian organisation, Anima,
the Association of the Disabled of Jurmala, joined ENUSP in March 2009.
- Cited from: Rubene, M. 1995. From the present to the present.
Today's philosophy in search of ethical righteousness.
Riga: Minerva, pp. 225-226.
Paula McKeown in Healthy
Options (New Zealand), March 2009, p. 44
This book questions
the mainstream psychiatry treatment available to people. It looks at alternative
programmes and therapies that have a track record of helping people get better.
It looks at each available, and sometimes controversial, contemporary treatment
such as psychiatric drugs, and their adverse effects. The writers of Alternatives
Beyond Psychiatry take a serious look at electric shock treatment, which is
still used today, and its ability to cause permanent brain damage. This book is
not written as medical advice it is written to tell personal experience accounts
with old, current and new and alternate treatments and therapies. This book offers
alternative medicine, holistic remedies and self-help methods.
It is a collection of reports and approaches from non-, anti and
post-psychiatric everyday life in different countries. The writings
in this book describe a commitment to (1) developing adequate and
effective assistance for people in emotional difficulties, (2) safeguarding
civil rights in treatment on a par with "normal" patients,
(3) joining forces in cooperation with other human rights and self-help
groups, (4) use of alternative and less toxic psychotropic substances
and a ban of electroshock, (5) new ways of living with madness and
being different with as much independence from institutions
as possible, and (6) tolerance, respect and appreciation of diversity
at all levels of life. Contributions to the book are made by over
50 others, some of whom are ex-mental patients, professors, film
directors, economists, clinical psychologists, from all over the
world. Chapters cover everything from money, rights, alternatives,
research to develop an evidence base for alternative approaches.
Diagnostic methods, self help, respecting and supporting people.
This is an extremely comprehensive book full of valuable information
Irit Shimrat in The Bulletin Official publication of
the Vancouver/Richmond Mental Health Network, Vol. 13 (2008),
No. 1, p. 13
you ever felt like a lone voice in the wilderness, crying out against unhelpful
treatments and human rights abuses in psychiatry? Or felt, perhaps, that you were
part of a group of people trying to make things better for psychiatric patients,
but that your group was small, isolated and, in the "big picture," powerless?
Here is a book that will dispel such feelings once and for all. Alternatives Beyond
Psychiatry brings together a rich and powerful assortment of the individual and
collective stories of people from all over the world - people who have not only
rejected psychiatry's use of fear, coercion, force and fraud, but who have gone
on to develop and actually put in place humane, effective alternatives.
Peter Stastny is a longtime researcher, associate professor of psychiatry at Albert
Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and a founding member of INTAR: the
International Network Toward Alternatives and Recovery. Peter Lehmann, besides
being a prolific editor, author and publisher, was one of the founders of Germany's
Association for Protection Against Psychiatric Violence, which operates, in Berlin,
the Runaway House, one of the world's most astonishing examples of successful
alternatives to psychiatry.
In all, 61 contributors provide an impressive
variety of accounts that powerfully describe successful ways of dealing with psychological/emotional/spiritual
crisis. Many have themselves been the recipients, mostly unwilling, of psychiatric
treatment. But the book also gives voice to service providers, researchers and
others who truly understand the importance of focusing on the strengths and common
humanityrather than the weaknesses, "symptoms" and diagnosesof people
who need real help in times of crisis.
The contributors to Alternatives
Beyond Psychiatry - whether they completely reject the "medical model" (which
views emotional difficulties and differences in perception as signs of mental
illness) or work, as a few of them do, from within that modelrecognize crisis
as an opportunity for growth and change, rather than a disaster which must be
suppressed and forgotten.
The book's scope ranges from individual and small-group
self-help efforts and successes to national, continental and international collaborations
for justice and large-scale change. It is amazing to see how much has already
been accomplished, and heartening to know that so many people in so many places
are devoting their lives to making alternative practices a reality.
your own home (or a hostel, hotel, house, or retreat) as a place where, when going
through a crisis, you could be treated with respect, kindness, gentleness and
empathyand the wisdom that comes from real, relevant experienceby
people who understand and value what you're going through, and are willing to
form real, ongoing relationships with you (and help you form such relationships
with others). People who can, and do, assist you in figuring out, and accomplishing,
what you need and want. Imagine legal workers/documents who/which can ensure that
your wishes and human rights will be respected in situations where the law declares
you mentally incompetent.
Compare these imaginings to what routinely happens
to unwilling recipients of psychiatric treatments today: incarceration, forced
drugging, physical restraints, electroshock, humiliation, stigmatization, debilitation
and the removal of all legal rights.
The latter is standard practice. Butthanks in part to the
efforts of the people you will meet in this bookthe former
is more than just a dream. Read about the reality of it in Alternatives
Beyond Psychiatry, and be inspired!
Katarina Piuva in European Journal of Social Education,
2008, No. 14/15, pp. 133-135
Why do we need
alternatives to psychiatry? The question is presented on the very first page of
the book and after reading the contributions from 61 authors, the answer comes
without hesitation. We certainly need alternatives based on experience-based knowledge,
creativity and renewal. We also need a wide spectrum of humane and user friendly
treatments. The book offers a straightforward and an unsentimental description
from a survivor/user perspective of psychiatric care. The contributions from people
with own experiences of psychiatric care are accompanied by researchers, psychiatrists,
psychotherapists, social workers and counsellors. Some of the most renown professional
names are Marius Romme & Sandra Escher from the Netherlands, Jaakko Seikkula
and Birgitta Alakare from Finland and Philip Thomas and Pat Bracken from the UK.
aim of the book is to give voice to survivors and (ex-) users and to mediate their
stories about various strategies of coping with mental distress with or without
the support of professional help. The history of modern psychiatry is brought
to life in the text through personal and professional reports. The practice of
coercive treatment, sterilization of patients, the psychological and social strains
of normalization, the wide spread use of medication, the anti-psychiatric movement
and the emergence of self-help organizations and (ex-) user-networks are contextualized
and narrated through personal narratives. The book is divided into an Introduction,
a section where alternatives and user experiences are presented under five headlines
and a final concluding chapter. The book also includes an index and a presentation
of every author. Altogether, the book covers experiences of traditional psychiatric
care, individual strategies of coping with mental distress, alternatives to medical
psychiatry and visions of a future humane care.
Why psychiatry Hurts
More Than It Helps is the title of the introductory section. As the title
claims, it is an introduction that illuminates user experiences of psychiatric
treatment and therapies that have caused wounds to the patients and suffering
for relatives and friends. The next part, "Actual Activities", starts with a topic
named Individual Strategies with and without Professional Support. The
reader gets introduced to several strategies of coping with psychotic experiences
and mental distress: To start a group where the members takes care of each other
during difficult periods, to practice self-cures with the help of running, to
organize every-day life, to enjoy music and taking care of one self and to avoid
unnecessary stress. A quote from the book "Madness is a unique experience that
requires a unique treatment" (Regina Bellion) synthesizes the message of the contributions
in this part of the book. Under the headline Organized Self-help the voice
hearing network is introduced to us. We get to know how it is to live with voice-hearing
experiences and also how a respectful and successful professional engagement is
carried out. This is rather new knowledge within the academy. The first academic
dissertation in Sweden that treats voice hearing as a non-psychiatric phenomena
(Karlsson, 2007), was published in 2007. The next headline, Models of Professional
Support presents alternatives that work. The Soteria-principle of drug-free
and non-professional care, involvement in treatment and care by using the open
dialogue and a couple of more alternatives where the users are respected and/or
in control. Further, the contributions presented in General and Specific Beneficiaries
of Alternative Approaches describes the treatment of different groups with
specific problems; young people and children, elderly, gays and lesbians, parents
and people from non western societies and their experiences of psychiatric care
in a restrictive patriarchal environment. Under the next headline, Realizing
Alternatives and Human Treatment the reader gets introduced to models of psychiatric
work that build on empowerment, user control and user-led research such as creating
Evidence base for alternative approaches. A very useful information is the reference
to INTAR (The International Network Towards Alternatives and Recovery), A network
that promotes safe, caring and not-stigmatizating assistance to those in crises
or emotional distress (p. 362). Lastly, in Why We Need Alternatives To Psychiatry
the content is summed up and outlined in three discussions about the power of
diagnostic methods (Marc Rufer), a radical interpretation of recovery (Pat Bracken)
and a critical review of the reformation of psychiatry during the 20th century
(Peter Lehmann and Peter Stastny). These accounts remind us of the fact that psychiatric
science and practice have been constantly reformed through its entire period of
existence. What we know is to a big extent socially flexible and unstable knowledge.
book is both longed-for and indispensable for us who teaches students about social
perspectives on mental health and mental care. Sometimes it was a little bit hard
to follow the structuring idea of headlines and the system behind the grouping
of texts, but this minor confusion is outbalances by the substantial and important
content of the book. Today we experience a lack of critical alternatives to main
stream psychiatric texts within social education. The official texts tells us
"Schizophrenia makes it difficult to examine personal
interpretations of what you see and hear, a condition that leads
to delusions, and further, that "a delusion is an idea or a thought
that is founded on a misunderstanding of reality" (The local guide
to care, Stockholm County Council 2007). ["Schizofreni
gör det svårt att pröva sina egna tolkningar av sådant
man ser och hör, vilket leder till vanföreställningar.
Vidare uppfattningen att En vanföreställning är en
idé eller tanke som grundar sig på en missuppfattning
av verkligheten (vårdguiden sll)". www.vardguiden.se/templates/Article.aspx?Articleid=3341]
This book offers something else. It pushes the discussion about
psychiatric care and mental health forward to the centre of the sociological debate
on the consequences of the post-modern society. The paradigm shift that we sense
is not another reform, not another adjustment, but real changes towards user-involvement
and empowerment. The message that lingers in mind after reading this book is that
the changes are probably not coming through some scientific breakthrough, rather
through increasing demands from well-informed and devoted users that insists upon
a better and safer psychiatric care.
(2007). Berättelser om inre röster: ett fenomenologiskt och kommunikativt perspektiv
("Narratives of Inner Voices: A phenomenological and communicative perspective").
Stockholm: Diss. Institutionen för socialt arbete, Stockholms universitet
Katarina Piuva, Ph. D. Social work, Dept. of social work, University
of Stockholm, katarina[at]socarb.su.se,
tel. +46 8 6747381
Paul Hammersley in Philosophy,
Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, Vol. 3 (2008), No.
18 (23 July 2008) pdf,
Abstract. Peter Stastny and Peter Lehmann's Alternatives
beyond Psychiatry offers an comprehensive and up to date account of the alternatives
to mainstream psychiatry that are being developed by service consumers and survivors
across the world. As psychiatry moves into a new age less dominated by a biomedical
paradigm many of the approaches described in this book may be adopted by mainstream
health services. This is a hugely readable and accessible book for professionals
and consumers alike.
Book details: Psychiatry as a science has had
a profound political element from its infancy. For example many commentators,
notably Masson , have suggested that Freud's reversal of his original belief
that 'hysterical illness' was rooted in genuine childhood trauma, was politically
rather than scientifically driven. Similarly, attempts to eradicate serious mental
illness through manipulation of the gene pool that formed the driving force behind
the eugenics movement in the early part of the last century mirrored extreme political
views of the time from both the left and right wings of politics . Once again,
in the 1960's and 1970's critical views of psychiatry emerged [3,4] which corresponded
with the prevailing liberal and anti-establishment zeitgeist. However the response
was vigorous promotion of the biological model of psychiatry from the mainstream
medical establishment and the pharmaceutical companies, which has been described
by Bentall  as the second coming of biological psychiatry. This led to the
absolute dominance of the medical / biological model of psychiatry, a situation
that has persisted for the last thirty years. Such a one sided promotion of a
disease model of serious mental illness, with medication as the only possible
'cure' has seen the exclusion of more holistic and humanistic approaches, and
created an intellectual argument resembling the biblical battle between David
and Goliath. Orthodoxy is once again being challenged. Alternatives to psychiatry
are back on the agenda, with one crucial difference. On this occasion the agitators
for change are not disaffected professionals, but dissatisfied mental health care
consumers many of whom feel that traditional psychiatry failed them, and that
their recoveries have taken place outside of it.
Not even the authors themselves
would claim that this is a balanced book; 'balancing' would be a better description.
They present a refreshing wholly one sided view that will delight some and infuriate
others. The book takes the form of forty-one brief essays and conference speeches
from mainly European and service users and radical practitioners. Some of the
essays take the form of life narratives and recovery stories; others are descriptions
of specific recovery organisations such as Loren Mosher's famous Soteria project,
whilst other essays cover specific topics such as the use of advanced directives
or effective involvement of families.
The editors take as their starting
point an unequivocal stance that modern psychiatry does not work, evidenced, in
Robert Whitaker's "Preface," by the fact that since chlorpromazine was synthesized
and introduced in 1954 the rate of 'disabled mentally ill' in the USA has increased
nearly six-fold from 3.38 people per 1,000 population in 1955 to 19.69 people
per 1,000 population in 2003. Furthermore, since the introduction of Prozac in
1987 the number of 'disabled mentally ill' has been increasing at the rate of
150,000 per year. This is a powerful argument. Whilst research into physical disease
has led to huge improvements in outcomes in conditions such as breast cancer and
HIV; psychiatry appears to be going backwards, and at an alarming rate. Following
cautions about psychiatric drugs and treatments, Editors Peter Stastny and Peter
Lehmann offer a volume of alternatives "beyond psychiatry."
of this book is the diverse source of its contributors. Ninety year old Dorothea
describes seventy years in the German psychiatric system which included involuntary
sterilisation but ended in recovery and a determination to help others
a powerful testament to human resilience! Two other essays in this anthology stand
out: Peter Lehmann and Maths Jesperson's contribution, 'Self Help, Difference
and User Control in the Age of the Internet,' shows how and why consumers groups
will become significant players in the future shaping of psychiatry. Marc Rufer
offers an eighteen page summary of the position of alternative theorists, 'Psychiatry:
Its Diagnostic Methods, Its Therapies, Its Power,' that is destined to become
a classic and by itself is worth the cover price of the volume.
weakness of this book is an absence of data. These are opinion pieces, a fact
addressed in an excellent contribution from Jan Wallcraft, 'User Led Research
to Develop an Evidence Base for Alternative Approaches.' While this weakness is
obvious, overconfidence in 'data' can also be dangerous. A recent meta-analysis
in the UK of the effectiveness of new generation anti-depressants concluded that
they were equivalent in effectiveness to placebo if 'buried' negative findings
from randomised control trials were included in the analysis . This 'data'
was only available because of a new freedom of information act.
is about to experience fundamental changes that will not be driven by research
chemists or neurobiologists. Politics and social justice have returned to the
discussion. Consumers and service users that we claim to help recover are unhappy
with what they are being offered, they are motivated and they are getting organised.
If memory serves me correctly, David beat Goliath.
This is an important
About the author: Paul Hammersley is the Programme Director for Post
Graduate Studies in cognitive behavioural therapy for psychosis at Manchester
University's COPE Initiative in The United Kingdom. He is also an active therapist
specialising in CBT for individuals experiencing severe psychological problems
following traumatic life events. He has been widely published and has lectured
extensively. 2006 along with Professor Marius Romme from Holland and The UK Hearing
Voices Network, he founded CASL (The Campaign for the Abolition of the Schizophrenia
- Masson J: The Assault on Truth: Freud's
Suppression of the Seduction Theory. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux;
- Read J, Mosher LR, Bentall RP: Models of Madness: Psychological,
Social and Biological Approaches to Schizophrenia. New York: Bruner Routledge;
- Laing RD: The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise.
London: Harmondsworth Penguin; 1967.
- Szasz TS: The Myth of Mental
Illness: The Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct. New York: Harper
and Row; 1974.
- Bentall RP: Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human
Nature. London: Penguin Books; 2003.
- Kirsch I, Deacon BJ, Huedo-Medina TB, Scoboria A, Moore TJ,
Johnson BT: Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A
meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration.
PLoS Med 2008, 5(2):e45.
Mölders in Deviant (NL), Vol. 14 (2008), nr
56 (Maart), pp. 18-19 (pdf, 121 KB)
Peter Campbell in Open Mind (UK), March/April 2008,
beyond psychiatry is a welcome breath of fresh air. In its pages, 61 authors
from around the world (mainly Europe and North America) describe initiatives,
projects and personal strategies that challenge traditional approaches. It will
be thought-provoking and inspirational reading for anyone interested in innovative
responses to madness.
The shortcomings of biomedical psychiatry have been
much explored and this book does not uncover new territory in this respect. Familiar
messages are hammered home around central issues like coercion, diagnostic systems
and over-reliance on psychiatric medication. There are two passionate personal
statements against the psychiatric enterprise by Kate Millett and Dorothea Buck,
whose 70 years experience of the German psychiatric system includes compulsory
sterilisation, and an interesting short (too short) piece by Pat Bracken about
the need to move away from paradigms and models entirely.
But at the heart
of Alternatives beyond psychiatry, and what makes it such a valuable resource,
are the many chapters describing actual alternatives. A few of these have attracted
attention in recent years and may already be known to some readers, but a large
number have received little coverage and will be hardly known outside their own
countries. The editors have done a great service in drawing all this information
The alternatives included cover a huge range, from crisis provision
and Hearing Voices groups to service user-led research, personal ombudsmen and
advance directives. Perhaps inevitably with so many contributors, the quality
of writing is variable and I found one or two chapters quite difficult to digest.
It is not easy to compress the description of innovative work into one short chapter
and I sometimes felt I was not being given enough relevant information to really
appreciate a new approach. On the other hand, there are many excellent summaries.
I thought the chapters 'Intervoice: Accepting and making sense of hearing voices'
and on 'Soteria: A treatment model and A Reform Movement in Psychiatry' were particularly
There is so much positive practice and experience captured in this
book that it is impossible not to feel encouraged about the possibilities
for a better way forward. Nevertheless, the editors are quite downbeat
about the overall impact of alternatives, admitting in the final
chapter: 'Since there are currently no widely encompassing alternatives
available that offer humane help, psychiatric ex-users and survivors
must learn to make the best of the existing services.' This is probably
a realistic judgement. On the other hand, Alternatives beyond
psychiatry is an excellent argument and blueprint for a continuing
effort to construct alternatives. If you are making a list of important
mental health titles for 2008, this one should certainly be on it.
'One of the most important books on mental health to have come out
in the last decade' Shaun Johnson in Mentalhealth
today (UK), March 2008, p. 38
If you accept the medical model approach to mental health doesn't
work, you may well have been asked: 'But what would you replace it with?' Opening
and closing with impassioned arguments against the psychiatric system, this thought-provoking
and exhaustive anthology, featuring 61 different authors from many different countries,
looks at alternatives to psychiatry and its medical model approach. It describes
a whole range of creative approaches to mental health and recovery that are about
the efficacy of empowerment, support and cultural sensitivity, of inspiring hope
and offering choice, information, self-determination, advocacy, and the possibility
that mental health workers can create trusting relationships with their clients.
One of its many strengths is that it offers so many ways forward. It concentrates
on the practicalities, reporting real, live projects and groups, what they have
achieved and the challenges they've faced. It offers individual stories of how
people have coped on their own, outside of the psychiatric system. It even includes
contributions on using the law to challenge, for example, coercive and forced
treatment and the failure to implement advance directives.
What could easily have been a disjointed collection of articles
is skillfully edited into a narrative for radical change. It works
on several levels, whether as a compendium of imaginative ideas
and first-person stories, a toolbox of alternatives to psychiatry,
or as a summation of the kind of support most service users and
survivors would prefer to receive from the mental health system.
If read by enough people in a position to make a real difference,
it has the potential to radically reform even revolutionise
mental health care in this country. As such, it is one of
the most important books on mental health to have come out in the
Paul Cutler (UK) on his blog Public
Action An Activist's Personal Thoughts, Ideas and Journeys
Through the Complexity and Chaos of the Real World (March
finally getting round to writing a short review of this excellent book that was
sent to me last year by a German based publisher called Peter Lehmann. Peter is
a ex-service user and activist who has taken the publishing route as a way of
inspiring change through stories and writing. He has also been very active in
the European Network of (ex) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP).
book is a series of chapters written by a mix of mental health authors. Some are
professionals while others are service users. All share a fundamental perspective
that the user voice is essential to the development and delivery of decent services.
The book describes a series of different approaches that can support mental health
service users towards recovery and challenge discrimination, unemployment and
low income. Standout chapters include those by my friends at Bradford University
on mental health, culture and ethnicity and a series of chapters on the power
and benefits of self-help.
The writing is accessible with a good mix of personal stories and
case studies combined with more academic references. It provides
some inspirational examples and well as vivid descriptions of the
barriers and difficulties people face as they claim their rights.
What I particularly like is that the book addresses a full range
of diversity issues including gender, culture, sexuality and disability
without it feeling like an after thought or tokenism. Given the
range of different authors 61 in total even if there
are certain ones who you do not agree with, there are plenty of
others that will resonante and also there are new authors and mental
health activists to be introduced to for the first time in the pages.
Ian Parker in the Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling
and Psychotherapy (UK), Vol. 8 (2008), No. 1, pp. 60-61
This marvellous collection brings
together innovative alternatives to psychiatry from different parts of the world.
It will stimulate new connections between those who are struggling to speak about
experiences of abuse at the hands of those who claim to understand and 'cure'
There are some intriguing common themes that emerge as we read about
initiatives like Soteria, Hotel Magnus Stenbock or The Windhorse Project (to name
but three that get an airing here). There is an assumption that 'psychotherapy'
of some kind can be counterposed to 'psychiatry', and that genuine psychotherapeutic
work is in the good place, beyond bad psychiatry. Each brief scattered mention
of Freud in the book, for example, is positive, and quasi-psychodynamic notions
jostle alongside humanist perspectives. There is a further assumption that appears
in the description of these and other organisations (ranging from Icarus to the
Berlin Runaway House to La Cura), which is that this therapeutic work should be
conducted in a way that brings people together even perhaps in some kind
of therapeutic community rather than working with each person individually.
There are, of course, tensions between the strategies that are adopted
in different cultures. So, for example, the Open Dialogue initiative in Finland
works on the assumption that contributions should be tailored to an evolving discussion
(and so here the community ethos is very strong), whereas the Law Project for
Psychiatric Rights in the United States appeals to individuals to assert their
power to seek compensation for wrongs they have suffered at the hands of the psychiatric
One thing that is striking about the collection is how people
faced with psychiatry have often had to reinvent their critique of the medical
model in ways that are suited to particular political-cultural circumstances but
in ways which also enable them to forge a common cause that is increasingly internationalist.
Medical psychiatry has for sure been one of the forces of globalisation, and its
proponents have been keen to use 'cross-cultural' research to reinforce its claims
to find universal underlying disease entities. This book shows that radical non-psychiatric
approaches to suffering are also now able to turn diversity of experience from
apparent weakness into strength. Readers can follow the links from the Lehmann
website to access debates in and across the various groups that are represented
in the book (at www.peter-lehmann-publishing.com) and those debates will no doubt
be augmented by the voices of groups that are fighting on the same ground who
are not directly involved in this edition.
The disclaimers at the beginning of the book about the liability
of contributors for harm that might arise from readers coming off
medication highlights an issue that is hinted at in different chapters
but is not tackled head-on; the conditions in which we try to go
'beyond psychiatry' today are now circled by legal procedures which
mostly favour medical psychiatry. But, this book shows that there
are ways out. At 431 pages, this sprawling compendium will be an
invaluable resource for all those building alliances for a world
psychiatry: Catherine Jackson talks to German survivor
activist and writer Peter Lehmann about his new book (pdf, 171
KB), in: mentalhealth
today (UK), February 2008, p. 20
Psychiatry's Real Experts. Review by Karl Koehler,
M.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Bonn (Germany)
It seems, as if countries that
have adopted the modern drug-based paradigm of psychiatric care have, in the past
50 years, experienced a great surge in the number of people disabled by mental
disorders. Accordingly, it would appear that we desperately need to reflect on
alternatives to this failed paradigm of care. Although in its present form issues
dealing with values, meanings, relationships and power are not ignored, these
always seem to be secondary to the more important technical aspects of mental
health. Indeed, it only tends to underscore the centrality of "experts."
In spite of the fact that service (ex-) users and survivors might be consulted
and invited to comment on the interventions and the research connected with the
reigning paradigm of care, they are nonetheless always recipients of expertise
In contrast, the recovery agenda, as Pat Bracken puts
it in a paper in this book, presents a radical challenge, since it reorients our
thinking about mental health completely. It foregrounds issues that have to do
with power and relationships, contexts and meanings, values and priorities, which
now become primary. Although such an agenda does not reject or deny the reigning
role of therapy, services, research and, in some instances, even drugs, it does
work to render them all secondary. Indeed, its most radical implication is the
fact that when it comes to issues having to do with values, meanings and relationships,
it is the (ex-) users or survivors themselves, who are the most knowledgeable
and informed. In other words, when it comes to the recovery agenda, they are the
This then is the basic theme of this fascinating new book.
a very short first part on why psychiatry hurts more than it helps containing
a personal report by the 91 year old activist Dorothea Buck-Zerchin, who describes
her experience of what she calls 70 years of coercion in psychiatric institutions,
as well as a paper by Kate Millett, which focuses on the question of legal rights
and the mental health system the long second part takes up approximately
half the book in its discussion of present-day actual alternatives to psychiatry.
first section describes the concrete strategies of individual (ex-) users and
survivors, with or without professional support, and demonstrates that the individual
paths taken in order to manage mental crises without ending up in a psychiatrist's
office are extremely varied. All fourteen personal reports presented here are
deliberately positive, since it is meant to show that it is possible at
least for some to recover their mental equilibrium using the personal resources
at hand and uniquely tackling their problems with at times rather simple and reasonable
The second section, which deals with concrete examples of organized
(ex-) user and survivor self-help, leads off with Wilma Boevink's paper on the
TREE program in the Netherlands, whose underlying principle is that an important
element in recovery from long-term mental distress is to develop and pass on narratives.
In other words, developing one's own narrative and comparing it with the narratives
of other (ex-) users and survivors of psychiatry is the beginning of building
Of most interest to this reader in this section,
however, were the reports on the Hearing Voices movement. Hannelore Klafki's paper
on how voices accompanied her throughout her life and how she managed to cope
with them to lead a normal life was quite moving. Following up, Romme and Escher
describe INTERVOICE, the international network, the basic assumption of which
is that accepting and making sense of voices is a much more helpful alternative
for recovering from the distress associated with voice hearing.
voices in itself, they point out, is not a sign of mental illness, but it is quite
possible to become ill and a psychiatric patient, when one cannot cope with them
and the problems laying at their roots. Persons who hear voices and have become
ill tend to show a different relationship with their voices than do persons who
hear voices and do not become psychiatric patients. Accepting the voices means
realizing that the experience of voice hearing is real, and making sense of them
suggests that the voices are not something crazy, but have a purpose in helping
to learn to cope with life's problems.
In another paper, Rufus May, after
describing his own struggle with mental crises, discusses the unusual beliefs
movement. For example, he reports on the Beyond Belief Network, which aims to
help people to cope with unusual beliefs that might be termed delusions by mental
health professionals. There are many people, he says, who have beliefs that meet
the criteria for delusions, yet who are living successful lives with no contact
with psychiatry. The difference between them and those who receive mental health
services is whether the individuals involved can cope with their beliefs, and
whether they are distressed or preoccupied by them. This way of thinking about
unusual beliefs, then, follows from the main concept of the Hearing Voices movement,
which states that each person should be able to choose how best to understand
his or her own reality and that acceptance, as already mentioned, is an important
stage in gaining back the power to manage one's experiences.
The third section
then goes on to report on alternative models of professional support. In it, the
editors Stastny and Lehmann's long paper on Soteria the treatment model
introduced by Loren Mosher in the early 1970s was to me one of the most
informative in the book. After describing Mosher's original model in detail, they
discuss the dissemination and replicability of the Soteria approach, list the
catalogue of crucial elements that must be in place before a program can call
itself Soteria, and soberly give a current assessment and outlook with respect
to the model's future, stating there is a risk that Soteria development might
come to a complete halt, or even gradually recede.
In this section there
are also papers on a user-controlled house, the Hotel Magnus Stenbock in Sweden;
the Windhorse Project in Boulder, Colorado, Nova Scotia and Vienna, based on Podvoll's
working model of psychosis; the Crisis Hostel Project in Ithaca, New York; the
Berlin Runaway House; the Second Opinion Society in the Yukon; Trauma-informed
Peer Run Crisis Alternatives; La Cura in Sicily; and the Open Dialogue in Finland
third part focuses on general and specific beneficiaries of alternative approaches,
that is, on certain subgroups of people with mental health problems. For example,
Philip Thomas and Salma Yasmeen's paper presents a conceptual critique of mental
health theory and practice to help understand the problems that Western psychiatry
poses for people from non-Western cultures or for those in the black and minority
ethnic communities. Bruce Levine's paper on managing troubled children and teens
without using psychiatric drugs analyses the ten most common sense causes and
solutions and is most interesting. In another article, Erich Schützendorf
considers the development of a person with dementia not as a pathological alteration,
but rather as an expression of individualistic behavior, which makes a respectful
encounter possible, offering many concrete examples to prove his point.
(ex-) users and survivors, as is known, have been highly skeptical of family involvement
in the recovery movement, and have often felt both the controlling and paternalistic
experience of not only their own families, but also those of large family advocacy
organizations. Dealing with this issue, Karyn Baker contributes a paper on the
Family Outreach and Response Program (FOR) in Toronto, which is based on the belief
that families can be exceedingly helpful in their relative's recovery when given
proper education, support and skills based on a critical recovery perspective.
Finally, this section also contains a paper by Guy Holmes and Geoff Hardy on the
means of breaking what the authors call the shame cycle, especially in homosexual
Part four, which this reviewer particularly enjoyed, examines the problem
of realizing the alternatives and the humane forms of treatment discussed earlier.
It centers on the potential strategies for promoting and disseminating such alternatives
and for achieving human rights for mental patients. It is stressed, however, that
implementation remains a most difficult undertaking, because the pharmaceutical
industry, the health insurance companies, the hospitals and other institutions
of authority banded together with the psychiatric profession have
more or less succeeded in keeping effective alternative projects deprived of funding
Three articles in this part (as well as one earlier by Miriam
Krücke) treat of the manner in which psychiatric patients can legally protect
themselves and/or fight for their rights. Two of these focus on the issue of the
advance directive, which can be used to assert and sustain self-determination
in situations, where people are no longer able to express their will, or are deemed
to be lacking the capacity to express their free will. This, then, is a legal
instrument designed to preserve the rights of competent individuals to choose
or refuse health care. One of these papers, from the American perspective, by
Laura Ziegler, is of great interest, especially since she concretely and extensively
reports on six cases of varied legal complexity from the USA, showing how patients
had to fight to have their psychiatric advance directives accepted by the courts.
the two other articles that deal with the issue of the legal rights of patients
in this part, the one by James Gottstein is a must read. It highlights the work
of PsychRights in the USA, which aims at mounting a coordinated litigation campaign
in order to substantially reduce forced psychiatric treatment and to create non-coercive,
non-medical model alternatives. After some interesting theoretical considerations,
Gottstein presents extensive concrete detail on just how a PsychRights campaign
works, drawing upon a legal action in Alaska as his primary example. The other
paper by Peter Rippmann describes the work of PSYCHEX in Switzerland, which also
has taken up the legal fight to free patients incarcerated against their will.
David Oaks's paper on MindFreedom International is another high point of
the book, in which he calls for a non-violent revolution of freedom, equality,
truth and human rights throughout the entire mental health system, the unfair
influence of the psychiatric drug industry adding to these human rights violations.
He points out that drug corporations use fraud, force and fear to violate the
human rights of clients, that they have manipulated the media, advertising and
research to convince the public and mental health professionals that those with
mental health problems have a chemical imbalance, and that they also use fraud
by routinely covering up any information that their products might be harmful
and can even kill.
Forced drugging is growing, Oaks insists, and psychiatric
drug companies fund organizations that lobby the government to make it easier
to force the products they manufacture into customers. Moreover, fear is used
to show that there is no alternative to force and drugs. In light of this, there
ought to be a full range of voluntary, humane, safe options and alternatives offered
to all who choose to use them. This Western style mental health system, he says,
is often called a "medical model," but more accurately ought to be called
the "domination model", since its main effect is to squeeze out all
other options from mental health care.
Another paper in this section by
Ahern et al reports on INTAR, the International Network Toward Alternatives and
Recovery, founded in 2003, which is dedicated to advancing the knowledge and availability
of alternative approaches for individuals experiencing severe mental distress.
Quite characteristic of many alternatives, they point out, is that they often
remain the sole example of their generally quite successful approach, but with
INTAR there is the possibility that such individual efforts will cross-fertilize
and these positive results will become disseminated to a wider audience.
their paper Peter Lehmann and Maths Jesperson describe how (ex-) users and survivors
of psychiatry are presently organized and how they cooperate internationally,
with a particular emphasis on the role that the internet plays in reaching their
goals. Rounding out this part of the book, there are articles on the system of
the personal ombudsman in Skåne, Sweden; on user-led research, which emphasizes
the value of personal experience in knowledge creation in order to develop an
evidence base for alternative approaches; and on the Distress Awareness Training
Agency (DATA), which prepares people for (ex-) user or survivor involvement work
Part five, the last in the book, takes up the issue of why alternatives
to psychiatry are needed. It starts off with Marc Rufer's long article on various
aspects of present-day psychiatry's "reductionist vision of humanity",
a hard-hitting critique aimed at its diagnostic methods, its therapies and the
power that it thereby wields. And then there is Pat Bracken's short, but incisive,
analysis of the radical interpretation of recovery, alluded to at the outset.
In the last paper, the editors Stastny and Lehmann sum up their position. They
believe that a non-medical alternative to psychiatry is possible either within
the psychiatric system or outside. Basically, however, they harbor no hope that
the psychosocial system will change of its own accord, since it does not support
in any substantial manner the organizations of (ex-) users and survivors of psychiatry,
the cooperation with other human rights or self-help groups, or promote forms
of living with mental problems outside of institutional settings. Psychiatry,
they feel, still tends to turn a cold shoulder to the movement of (ex-) users
and survivors of psychiatry and its supporters, and to scorn its proposals for
reform along with all the important knowledge it has generated.
Hopefully this book will help the (ex-) user and survivor movement,
not only by introducing a wider public in and out of psychiatry
to its very many real accomplishments, its vital importance and
its future goals, but also by strengthening the international ties
of those directly involved in the movement itself. I can only wish
that this book be read by all psychiatrists, especially younger
psychiatrists in training, since I am quite certain that they will
find much food for thought in its pages.
Adam James: Woman's
harrowing account of forced sterilisation when a psychiatric patient.
On Psychminded (UK), November 14, 2007
Mary Maddock of Cork, Ireland, on www.mindfreedom.org
on October 27, 2007. Mary is co-founder of MindFreedom Ireland,
and also co-author of the book Soul Survivor.
Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry is
written by many authors, ex-users and survivors of psychiatry, therapists, psychiatrists,
social scientists, lawyers and relatives and they are all in agreement, as the
title suggests, that we need to go beyond psychiatry. Many of them explain very
well that the concept of 'mental illness' is a stumbling block.
interpreted and packaged as a disease, only makes matters worse for those who
suffer while it lucratively rewards some of those who work in the field, especially
the pharmaceutical companies. Kate Millett writes an amazing account on this point
in the chapter The illusion of mental illness.
The alternatives that
work are based on human values and help to develop that which enhances and improves
our humanity. There are many effective ways described in this wonderful book.
I would like to mention a few. Rufus May from the U.K. writes about reclaiming
madness and establishing unusual beliefs. Rufus, who was diagnosed with 'mental
illness' could see that his own madness had meaning. His search for a spying mission
was a metaphoric search for a meaningful quest in his life.
from Germany could see that her voices had meaning and Dutch psychiatrist Marius
Romme found that when he listened to his clients, recovery could be achieved by
many people labeled with 'schizophrenia' when the meaning of their voices were
understood and valued.
The Icarus project was one I was particularly interested
in because I was diagnosed a 'manic depressive'. What a different perspective
to be described as someone with dangerous gifts! Now you could see something that
was very negative being more positive straight away and helping to empower and
People labeled with 'mental illness' need to be encouraged
and find their strengths. With their emphasis on creativity, inspiration, alternative
healing, modalities, radical egalitarianism and a commitment to self-determination,
they attract many who have been alienated by other approaches.
ways of healing have been very successful for people who have trouble with altered
consciousness and they are described in this book, Soteria: A Reform Movement
in Psychiatry, Hotel Magnus Stenbock: A User-controlled House in Helsingborg,
Sweden, The Windhorse Project from Colorado, The Crisis Hostel in New York while
it managed to survive, The Berlin Runaway House, The Second Opinion Society in
the Yukon, Trauma-informed Peer Run Crisis Alternatives, A Sicilian Way to Anti-psychiatry:
La Cura, Open Dialogues and Psychotherapy Instead of Psychiatry?
section Alternatives and Humane Treatment, David Oaks, a tireless worker
for over thirty years and Director of MindFreedom International, writes about
the non violent revolution in the 'mental health' system and his passion and charisma
bounce off the pages. He thinks we are fighting more that the medical model. It
is the domination model and is linked to all forms of domination in the world.
Here we find another remarkable author's contribution, survivor and lawyer James
B. Gottstein. Jim, as he is commonly known, has set up www.psychrights.org
and has given his wealth, fine expertise, dedication and time to reducing forced
treatments, such as forced drugs and electro shock and creating non coercive non
medical model alternatives. He has taken on Big Pharma especially Eli Lilly at
great personal and financial cost.
In this section too Peter Lehmann, the
co-editor from Berlin and Maths Jesperson, an extraordinary psychiatric survivor
from Sweden, describe the work of ENUSP (European Network of [ex-] Users and Survivors
of Psychiatry) and WNUSP (World Network of ex- Users and Survivors of Psychiatry)
and the International Network Towards Alternatives and Recovery is covered by
Laurie Ahern, Chris Stevenson and Peter Stastny, who is the co-editor of the book.
I was delighted to see that my compatriot, psychiatrist Pat Bracken, made an important
contribution in the last section Why We Need Alternatives to Psychiatry
in his chapter Beyond Models, Beyond Paradigms: The Radical Interpretation
of Recovery. He has the vision to see, as a psychiatrist, that when it comes
to recovery, the real experts are the former users/survivors. Thanks for that,
Pat and thanks to everyone who took the time and energy to put this important,
informative book together.
This book will be helpful for anyone who has been labeled and
diagnosed with a 'mental illness' to find self determination, recovery
and transformation. It will dismiss the ignorance around the myth
of 'mental illness' for those who read this book and it should be
required reading for ministers for health, workers in the field,
family members and all who are interested in the subject.
Ny bok ger alternativ till psykiatrin. Marianne Hedenbro in
Sydsvenskan (Sverige), Skåne Öresund, 30 september
2007, p. A 7
to Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry