Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summing up the Occupy Torrey Tirade

I wasn't at the Heritage Foundation presentation, but I watched the live streaming. Dr. E. Fuller Torrey advocated making mental health care a state responsibility, not a federal one. That argument  strikes me as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but then Torrey complicated his point further by arguing for benchmarks and incentives that institutions must comply with or they will lose their funding, the carrot and stick approach which he thinks will lead to "good mental health outcomes." Carrot and stick (emphasis on the stick) technique is also typical of his coercive brand of mental health activism. This strikes me as the same dubious technique used in the educational system, which is called "teaching to the test." Teaching to the test has all kinds of perverse outcomes.

One positive thing that I took away from the presentation was how Robert Whitaker's book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, is making inroads. Psychiatrist Sally Satel was talking as if for decades now, people have been encouraged to be on the lowest possible dose of medication, and she went on as if it is perfectly well known that many, if not most, people should be encouraged to get off their drugs. Huh? Well, it wasn't so long ago, eight years ago in fact, that I was told all kinds of nonsense about the drugs being needed for life, and there were plenty of people around who were on and probably still are on high doses of a antipychotic cocktails. I noticed that E. Fuller Torrey conspicuously avoided looking in Satel's direction when she was expressing herself. E. Fuller Torrey has done more than most psychiatrists to imbed the image in the mind of the public of a schizophrenic as always needing medication. This is serious mental illness, after all!

Another great positive from the presentation was the dedicated group of people who showed up to make the point that medications, not the federal/state situation, are the real reasons the mental health system and its patients are messed up. What the activists had to say directly contradicted the revisionist history that Dr. Satel was painting. Alaska attorney Jim Gottstein introduced this point, and said that people are dying on average twenty-five years early due to the drugs, and if they're not dead, they are often disabled. Gottstein and others were there to remind Torrey, Satel, and the Heritage Foundation that psychiatry as practiced has victims. Lawyer Diane Engster made a poignant statement directed to Torrey that she followed his advice, she took her drugs, she used to be thin like Dr. Torrey, but she is one hundred pounds overweight and is disabled because of complications from the drugs. She would love to make the kind of money that Torrey and the others do, but she can't work because she swallowed what Torrey was dishing out. Dr. Torrey played with his ear while she was speaking. Maybe he was trying to turn down the volume.

There was a lot of discussion about ACT (assisted community treatment) and PACT, and how ACT doesn't act as well as its enthusiasts tell you it does.

Activist Daniel Hazen from Glens Falls, NY got in the last word. He respectfully disrupted the proceedings to tell the psychiatrists that, contrary to what they were saying, there is mental health care inside the prison system, and it's coercive. Here's an animation put together by Lauren Tenney that gives his intervention verbatim.

We owe an immense debt of gratitude to Jim Gottstein, Daniel Hazen, Daniel Fisher, Diane Engster and Yvonne Z. Smith for speaking up on our behalf.


  1. Chris Hansen shared this blog with me via FB & I have shared it on my timeline.I live in the U.K & we don't even have a reform movement! At this point it is user networks so I guess that is a start. My last enforced admission was a turning point as I am now off the meds & doing better than I ever have on them.The psych controlling my life insisted I take & continue to take 600 mg + of seroquel daily for the rest of my life because it would "prevent further admissions!"
    He has a point.I'd be dead so that would tick a box!Some of my friends & family are complicit with the medical model & see it as "necessary" because " you were unwell!" So, pretty much out on a limb with my outrage & disgust at "what is done to others in the name of psychiatric care" as it exists here in rural North Devon.
    If you'd like to read my blog it's published here on blogspot as "uncovering the self" Sheri Eva Culver.Thank you for your witness.

    1. Sheri, Congratulations on your taking action over the meds. I know what you mean about how relatives and friends are complicit with the medical model because they are always in fear of a relapse. Their attitude makes recovery challenging.

    2. I don't live in the U.K., but what about SANE and Re-think? Aren't they part of the reform movement? You've also got Rufus May and Eleanor Longden, and lots of great people.

    3. For UK, I recommend EleMental:

      I wouldn't rate SANE as a reform movement. It has not really taken up the kind of questions raised by Jim or David, or indeed even David Healy in Britain itself.

      There is also Mad Pride ( and possibly a MindFreedom branch in Britain.

    4. My adult 23 year old son got off his Seroquel after gaining one pound per day for thirty days in a hospital. After his suicide attempt, he voluntarily admitted himself to a secure, private hospital for thirty days. I didn't even notice that he went off them later down the road. We were so overjoyed when he was discharged with a slightly more optimistic frame of mind when he moved back in with us; it didn't occur to me to ask him about his medications. I didn't notice any changes in his mood or mental state coming off the Seroquel. I only knew about it when he happened to mention that he had been off the meds for a month. I am so grateful that he took the medication voluntarily to help him through a rough patch when he was overwhelmed with grief, anxiety, and insomnia, then to have the discernment to know when it was time to wean off them for the purpose of dealing with his grief and anxiety through other means such as good relations, diet, the outdoors, exercise, and spirituality. he also casually tossed aside his diagnosis. To him, it wasn't important. he knew that he was dealing with terrible circumstances in his life at the time of his suicide attempt. He didn't identify with having a brain disorder or a disease. I applaud my son for using the mental health system in such a discerning way. Take what you need from the faulty system and get emancipated as quickly as possible. If you are a survivor and identify with having been emancipated, please give a thought from time to time to those less fortunate who are still in the system, many by force!

    5. For the UK EleMental, yes, and the Hearing Voices and Paranoia Network. Lots of good people in the UK. Rossa mentioned a couple, Rufus May and Eleanor Longden. Others are Peter Bullimore, Jacqui Dillon, Mike Smith.

      Things like SANE and Rethink are pretty much pro medical model. To me they seem to rather support than challenge the status quo, although they try to look progressive.

  2. I just watched it, Satel, Sharfstein and Torrey are not human beings, but noxious stimuli. I almost puked my self to death watching that cretin Sally Satel talk about 'benign paternalism', a piece of outrageous linguistic mischievousness. The nature of something benign does not consist in traumatsing that person, in committing an act that is phenomenally consubstantial with rape (though far worse physiological consequences ensue for the recipient of this 'benign' rape with brain disabling chemicals).

    She says that the need to do this barbarous act is a clinical fact. The same used to be said about lobotomy. It is not a fact that you have to rape some people with harmful drugs, she was just self-justifying, any more than you have to rape sexually-frustrated, angry, hostile indivduals to treat their 'libidinal illness'. It is quite for common for certain criminals to appeal to the supposed neccessity of the crimes they perpetrate, so I hardly find this surprising coming from eternally unrepentent criminals like Satel.

    As for that rat in human form, that colon E FullofSh@t Torrey, what an unbelievable git. He has to demonise his victims in order to justify what he has done to them and protect his self-esteem and mollify his conscience, continuing to agitate for more abuse of these people whom he has self-servingly denigrated in order to think well of himself and what he does, feigning humanitarian concern when in reality he is motivated purely by self-protection, a victimiser who like most victimisers, slanders his victims to pave way for the justification of the harm he has done them.

    His Goebbelsian disdain for truth should be firmly entrenched in the popular mind by now, yet sadly it isn't. Who is it that has to shoulder the burden of this? The patients, abandoned to the depredations of those latent Nazis we call psychiatrists by a willfully blind society.

    Here's a joke for you: What's the difference between Torrey and a colon? The excrement that comes out of the latter doesn't destroy lives.

    As for that creep Stuart Butler, who is supposedly a 'Distinguished Fellow' (distinguished only by how much of an utter creep he is), it will take a lot of hard work to expunge his odious visage from my memory. I felt like my consciousness had been invaded by some hideous incubus, one that will be difficult to exorcise myself of.

    Mr Torrey talked about the increase in violence, which is dubious. If a psychiatrist forces another human being to take drugs, and that person kills someone or commits an act of violence, the psychiatrist should be held responsible.

    Psychiatric coercive treatment promotes the very maladaptive behaviours that are supposed to be cured by the treatment. If society is to believe that it has the right to torture people, then it must accept that there will be counter-violence. I am not endorsing that violence, although violence against a psychiatrist or his lackeys can accurately be described as self-defense when these people are desirous of raping your body with neuropathogens, which the psychiatrists usually self-servingly describe as a paroxysm of their unproven illness.

    Sally Satel, like Torrey, was just ventillating her prejudices. In talking about social stigma attached to the intrinsically stigmatising term 'mental illness', she exhibited her contempt by saying that she wouldn't want to be walking past a psychotic throwing their excrement at her, an act while not justifiable, would nevertheless be understandable and susceptible to extenuation if the excrement-slinger were cognisant of the nature of what this woman does and the rest of the sacred weasels in psychiatry, which is far more sinister than just slinging a turd at some conceited harpy.

    1. Torrey talks as if drugging people will stop the violence, and I guess it will for some, because his way will have people so drugged up that they will not be able to act - or think! Others will go on to be violent while on meds. We are getting plenty of evidence these days of prescrption drug induced violence.

  3. Below are the comments I sent to the Heritage Foundation: Thank you for sponsoring the discussion with Dr. E Fuller Torrey, Dr. Sally Satel, and Dr. Steven S. Sharfstein, as well as allowing the comments and questions from Jim Gottstein, Dr. Dan Fischer and others.
    I see a philosophical difference between the approach of the mental health advocates and your distinguished panel in addressing the 1% or so of individuals with severe mental illness who become ‘frequent flyers’, consuming a huge share of mental health dollars versus the vast majority of us who have either recovered or are on a recovery path. While the panel appears to clearly separate that one percent from the other 99% of us, the advocates are fully aware of how the public, including many mental health professionals, lump us all together; and are willing to use threats or intimidation at the first sign of any difficulty, often adopting the attitude that unless we are heavily drugged, we will become an imminent threat.
    Education is, of course, the key. Fear of the mental health system is the primary reason many individuals flee at the suggestion they may need mental health treatment. Unfortunately, this fear is well founded – and while it has diminished somewhat due to a greater understanding of the number of people with mental health difficulties – it still exists to a much greater extent than the panel appears to understand. Greater professionalism is needed. This includes better screening to eliminate the various medical conditions which manifest as psychological problems and can be fully treated without psychotropic drugs; utilizing the Koran Algorithm for example.
    An increase in willingness to use alternative/ complementary medicine is needed. Meditation and mindfulness have been demonstrated to have beneficial effects for many, and I believe research into the methodologies which increase the flow of cerebral spinal fluid into the brain will yield marked improvements in mental health care, particularly for the most severely affected.
    Hope, as Dr. Fisher stated is a necessary ingredient in the Recovery model. All too often, some of those on the panel have been perceived – either rightly or wrongly – as quashing hope.
    For more on this please see my paper – Re-Establishing Justice & Creating A First Rate Mental Health System which can be downloaded for free at
    Thank you,
    Bob Bennett
    Author – Mental Illness A Guide to Recovery

    1. You mentioned something that was bothering me, too.

      "While the panel appears to clearly separate that one percent from the other 99% of us, the advocates are fully aware of how the public, including many mental health professionals, lump us all together; and are willing to use threats or intimidation at the first sign of any difficulty, often adopting the attitude that unless we are heavily drugged, we will become an imminent threat."

  4. I watched the event and, although I was happy that the Q&A gave time to patients activists to speak, I am very disappointed that the Heritage Foundation didn't include in the panel people that challenged the panels' views on forced drugging, especially E. Fuller Torrey's. That would have been the right thing to do. As a conservative, who either votes Republican or doesn't vote at all, I am appalled that the Heritage Foundation gave a loudspeaker to this individual. The protection of individual freedom is one of the duties of government; it's a core value of conservatism (vs the liberal view that government can intrude in people's lives because it knows best). Shame on the HF for hosting this guy!

  5. Rossa,

    The mental health system is not broken, it's shattered.
    It doesn't need to be repaired.
    It needs to be replaced!

    And it's time to move from a defensive stance, to a pro-active one. We need to begin to MOVE if we expect a successful political movement! -



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