NAMI parent’s false hope: blindly disabling children for life — by Ty Colbert PhD

This is an old article that was reprinted…we know now that 75% of NAMI funding comes from pharma.

By Ty Colbert Ph.D with his permission to reprint. This is copyrighted material.

A critical but profoundly compassionate look at NAMI families.

Blindly Disabling Children for Life*

NAMI, or the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, is primarily a parent support organization. It is a grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy group open to people with “serious mental illnesses,” their families, and their friends. NAMI originated in 1978 when two mothers of “mentally ill” children joined forces. The organization now has more than 200,000 members.

Even though these members (parents) are dedicated to helping their children, because they have been falsely convinced that mental illness is a biological disorder, they are blindly helping to disable their children, many for life. This booklet has been written to expose this tragedy that has affected hundreds of thousands of young individuals and their families.

For a few years I have been involved in NAMI at several different levels. I have attended local and state conferences. I have developed friendships with NAMI parents, and I recently completed NAMI’s twelve-week The Keys to Understanding: Family to Family Educational Program. In this program the parents of children diagnosed primarily with schizophrenia, manic-depression, and schizoaffective disorder study together in a closed group. The program is lead by two trained NAMI parents. It is highly structured from week to week, with a combination of teaching and sharing. By the end of the twelve weeks (30 hours), intimate personal connections have been established between participants. I was there, not as the parent of a mentally ill relative, but to observe the program.

My experiences with NAMI are illustrative of the confusion surrounding drug therapy and the biological model of mental illness.

Bad Parents?
One of the issues that I need to clear up first is the issue of bad parenting. In the past, as well as the present, abusive parents have often been associated with causing mental illness in their children. In fact the term
* Please note:
All names used in this booklet are pseudo names and some of the details of the biographies have been changed to help guarantee confidentiality where needed.
This booklet recommends that psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, can often be treated without drugs. Nevertheless, it can be extremely dangerous to stop medication without proper assistance or to treat severe emotional conditions without individuals experienced in such manners.

“schizophrenogentic mother” was coined in attempts to explain crazy making kinds of communication patterns that were often found to be associated with schizophrenic children and their mothers.

NAMI members have rebelled against this concept often quite fiercely. NAMI literature is replete with the following statement:

Our children are not mentally ill because we are bad parents.
They are mentally ill because of their brain chemistry.

Since I am claiming that brain chemistry or ones biology is not the root cause of mental illness, does that mean I am blaming parents? For the most part, no, although I have known and treated clients whose “mentally ill” behavior could definitely be attributed to the abuse suffered through their parents. On the contrary, I would characterize every single NAMI parent I have met so far as caring, loving, supportive, and dedicated to his or her children. NAMI parents are open, honest, and giving and are often very popular with their children’s peers. Their homes are the ones often open to others–homes where kids hang out, have fun, and feel properly affirmed.

I have no doubt that some parents who are a part of NAMI have abused their children, or that their children have been severely abused by others; but I am certain that this characterization is not applicable to the parents I have met in NAMI. This is what makes it possible for me to exemplify their cases with respect to the controversy that surrounds drug therapy and the biological model. I will start with one of the couples I know the best and for whom I have the deepest respect.

A Typical Example

Ralph and Susan (pseudonyms) are the first NAMI parents I met. I would have to look very hard to find fault with them. They have dedicated their lives to helping their “mentally ill” son and others. Besides presiding over the local NAMI chapter, Ralph has served on the Board of Directors for one of the largest state mental hospitals in the area. He was personally responsible for successfully transferring a “patient” to another state where he could receive better care. Ralph and Susan have been interviewed live on a radio program that is listened to by millions. So what happened?

Their son, Gary, excelled in high school and was one of the most popular students. He also was a sensitive child who loved his parents deeply and felt very close to them. He was captain of the basketball team and most valuable player his senior year, and “played his heart out” hoping for a scholarship. During the summer after his senior year, his whole life seemed on hold as he nervously waited for notice of a scholarship. It was difficult for a person who had always worked hard and been able to achieve to now simply wait.

Shortly after finding out that he would not receive the scholarship, he began to complain that his head was hurting and that he was having thoughts of suicide. After meeting with his pastor and a general practitioner, he was sent for treatment to a local teaching university specializing in the field of psychiatry.

After running a series of tests and finding nothing wrong with Gary, they sent him home. At first Gary felt better but gradually he became increasingly agitated. Soon he began to experience some loss of reality. For example, he felt that a local storm that did some damage was his fault or that he had somehow caused it.

As a result he was sent back to the same hospital where he was now diagnosed as schizophrenic and started on medication. At that time the doctor told the parents not to become too encouraged about their son’s recovery. Gary was given advice from the doctor, such as how to exercise and eat right. Gary’s mother said he ran his heart out following the doctor’s suggestions, trying to get better. Obviously, he was desperate for some help.

Three months later he was back in the hospital, mainly as a result of his hallucinations that were beginning to dominate him more and more. The next twenty-five years of his life have been spent in and out of different hospitals. Although he has been “stabilized” on different and newer drugs, his condition has only become worse with each passing year.

Although Gary was subjected to the best testing possible at a major teaching hospital, nothing was found wrong with his brain. The real truth was that Gary felt crushed when he received the scholarship rejection notice. He felt so emotionally overloaded with the pain that he did not know how to handle it. Obviously, the fact that he had never (or seldom) failed before and had grown up in a very secure home in part resulted in these new emotions feeling very strong and powerful to him. His paranoid thoughts and hallucinations were his mind’s way of trying to deal with all this pain. In fact, it’s likely that he might have felt so bad inside from his failure that he experienced an enormous need to be punished. If he felt punished, he might then have been able to begin to forgive himself. Believing that he had caused a flood, or that he was hearing voices telling him that he was bad and needed to be punished was his mind’s best way of dealing with the pain.

Actually, I am only making an educated guess here. By the time I had a chance to meet Gary, he had already been drugged for 25 years. At this point it was almost impossible for him to retrieve the true meaning of his pain or the smaller details of when his emotional problems started.

Yet I truly believe that Gary could have been helped. Instead of simply diagnosing him as schizophrenic and telling him to exercise, an insightful therapist could have helped Gary deal with his strong feelings of failure. In this way, Gary could have successfully worked through his pain and not lost his life to the disabling effects of the drugs.

Because Gary’s parents were loving and caring and wanted to help Gary in any way they could, they became susceptible to the medical model explanation. The fact that the drugs seemed to help at first only pulled them in deeper. Unfortunately, the more Gary regressed from the drugs and repeated hospitalizations, the more hope Ralph and Susan put into the use of medications as their only hope.

The Real Results

To emphasize the disaster that drugs create in people’s lives, let me share one of the most painful sessions in the twelve-week Family To Family Educational Program. The class assignment was for the parents to discuss their most pressing problem. Of the thirteen “patients” represented, only two seemed to be “improving.” Both of them were still on government disability, however, and a goal of true independence did not seem realistic. All the parents of these two individuals were hoping for was continued drug stabilization with longer and longer times between relapses. They prayed that this would lead to a “marginally productive life” for their children. Even though one of them did improve even more and is now functioning on a fairly high level, these are the parents of the two best children out of thirteen.

Ironically, the parents of those two children who were doing the best had been in NAMI for a considerable time and had leadership positions in the organization. After many years of hard work by the parents, many, many disappointments, many different drug applications, and a few near-death experiences, their children had finally been stabilized on the drugs. It is my opinion that the “improvement” was more the result of the dedicated, supportive, and loving parents, not the drugs.

The other eleven children, who had all been under psychiatric care for a number of years, were in terrible shape. They either lived at home or at board-in-care facilities. Some slept all day, some drank, all suffered from very low self-esteem and low motivation, a few often had violent temper tantrums, and almost all were totally dependent on their parents or others. Most of them (maybe all of them) were on government disability, yet many of their parents were still helping them quite a bit financially. Because of this dependency, many held a significant place of control and power over their parents.

The general sequential picture described by these NAMI parents was the following:(l) the child developed some emotional problems, (2) the child was given psychiatric drugs, (3) the child fought against being medicated and experienced relapse, (4) stronger drugs in larger dosages were prescribed, and (5) the child became more and more disabled, often enraged and suicidal.

These children, after years of medication and many power struggles with parents and doctors, after repeatedly being told “You have a biological disorder that is not your fault nor can you do anything about it,” and with some very dedicated parents hanging in there with them, had reached a state of semi-stabilization. This is considered a successful solution.

A Contrasting Case

Before I elaborate more on Gary and other similar NAMI cases, let me contrast these cases with a successful case.

Shawn was also very accomplished and was the most popular student in his high school. He was the starting football quarterback, the starting basketball point guard, and captain of his baseball team. His parents were extremely dedicated to helping kids, and their home was the local hangout. Shawn’s parents opened their home to the kids after every football game, providing free refreshments.

Shortly after graduation, Shawn felt overwhelmed. He was thinking weird thoughts and starting to hear faint voices. His mother took him to a psychiatrist who told them that Shawn was in the first stage of schizophrenia and that he needed to be hospitalized and medicated as soon as possible. Shawn’s parents resisted the idea, but the psychiatrist said he would not treat Shawn if he could hospitalize and medicate him.

This particular psychiatrist is one of the most respected psychiatrists in the area. Because he has been trained to believe in the chemical imbalance model, he, of course, sees only biology and is sure that he is recommending the right steps. Shawn’s parents called me instead and I agreed to treat him.

Shawn, a very sensitive child, tended to be extremely self-critical. Even though he was quite successful as an athlete and very tough on the field, he had always had a fear of hurting other people’s feelings and felt enormous guilt about it. It was extremely hard for him to voice his own concerns. Thus he had dissociated off a lot of shame about how he believed he had hurt others, as well as a lot of anger about how he had been hurt and how others had been hurt.

He also told me that he had felt a “dark spot” inside of him since he was a little child, and that this spot made him doubt his potential or self worth.

I only spent a few sessions with Shawn, so we never did get to the core of this “dark spot.” My guess is that it represented the area where he believed he had hurt people and could not forgive himself. In the time I did spend with him, we worked on this false guilt about hurting others. I explained to him that hurt feelings are a part of every relationship. If you send your child to bed early, you will hurt his feelings.

He also now realized that he had been assuming that his parents had the same lofty expectations of him as he did of himself which, of course, was not true. To date, his high self-expectations had certainly produced successes. But they had now left him in an impossible trap–he couldn’t always be perfect and thereby avoid disappointing others, and he couldn’t achieve for others.

I applied some basic feeling-orientation therapy to his situation. All he needed was a little help understanding his motivations, his feelings, and, especially, his unwarranted and inappropriate guilt. Since then (about four years ago), Shawn has done extremely well socially and psychologically and has graduated from college. He still occasionally struggles with his “false guilt,” but it does not now confuse, consume, or paralyze him. He knows that he is very sensitive and must guard against overreacting.

So the big question here is, “What would have happened if Shawn and his parents had accepted the label of schizophrenia? What if they had accepted that he had a brain defect, along with the psychiatrist’s recommendations that his only “hope” was life-long medication? Since Shawn was already overly sensitive to hurting or disappointing his parents and others, and was already dissociating that pain, we can be quite certain that the brain-disabling drugs would have caused further dissociation from reality. He would have been victimized and unable to care for himself, just as most others in this situation are.

Although the “disease” model may have at first alleviated his guilt, he still would have felt disappointment and failure. He could have rationalized, “Since I didn’t choose to be sick, and since it’s just my chemistry, then it’s not my fault.” But in his heart, fearing a life of disability, non-productivity, and lack of self-expression, he would have to feel disappointed, extremely sorrowful, hopeless, and, yes, quite probably guilty.

Once stabilized on medication at the hospital, he would have been sent back out into the world to face its stresses, still dissociating his pain, and still not understanding his deep confusing feelings. He would be at least somewhat disabled from the medication, and would be faced with having to create a new and marginal life for himself as a “mentally ill” person. This picture is indeed bleak, but it is a true representation of the horrors of even trying to put a life back together after having been labeled mentally ill.


One of the more difficult challenges on the road to healing for someone like Shawn is noncompliance with the demands of the psychiatric system. If the “condition” is accepted, if the drugs are taken on command, if there is no argument about adjusting the medication upward during periods of regression, then there will be no conflict with the system. But once the person makes a choice for personal healing, recovery, or noncompliance, the psychiatric system–and many times the family–use force to get the person to comply.

If a medicated client chooses to withdraw from the drugs, he must usually do so without support. He must deal not only with his paralyzing fears concerning relapse, but also with the withdrawal effects of the drugs. In addition, he must face the enormity of the task he has undertaken to put his life back together, the social stigma of the label “mentally ill,” and the original pain that got him into this vicious cycle in the first place.

Let me point out here that “relapses” are highly likely because psychosis is often one of the side effects of withdrawing from antipsychotic drugs (Breggin, 1991; Breggin & Cohen, 1999). So, during withdrawal, the task of the subconscious mind is to not only dissociate the original pain and the felt violation of the psychiatric system, but also the emotional pain caused by the withdrawal psychosis.

“Relapse” is a state-of-the-art term medically defined as “the recurrence of a disease or symptoms after apparent recovery” (Thomas, C., 1997). You can see from this definition that once the symptoms disappear with medication, one is deemed to be “in recovery” when, in fact, one is in a drugged state. When the medication is discontinued and the mind begins to work harder to deal with the awareness of the emotional pain and/or the withdrawal effects of the medication, a person is told that he is relapsing into his disease.

It is not difficult to understand this scenario. One is considered a “success case,” i.e., “stabilized” when (l) an “appropriate” label is affixed, (2) the medication is maintained, (3) the symptoms are “relieved,” (4) government disability payments are in place, and (5) one is living in a board-and-care home. Any relapse whatsoever is attributed to “the wrong combination of drugs and/or appropriate dosages not yet having been established.”

Such a procedure would soon leave most of us deeply confused. Add to this the process of forced hospitalization, forced drugging, and the use of restraints, and you can see that those who survive by becoming a part of the system, do so by giving over their “soul” to the system, to a large degree.

A Comparison of Therapeutic Processes

You might be saying to yourself, “It is impossible for Dr. Colbert to predict what would have happened to Shawn had he been hospitalized and medicated.” Be aware that I am justifying my comparisons, comments, and hypotheticals based on my twenty years of counseling experience, my experiences with the NAMI families, and a lifetime of interdiction on behalf of my clients to prevent these very outcomes we are discussing. To help bring further clarity to these issues, the following is a diagram of the two different scenarios.

The non-biological approach

The biological approach

Biopsychiatry’s repeated mistake is in convincing parents that their child’s out-of-the-ordinary feelings, behavior, or thoughts are rooted in a defective brain, a chemical imbalance, and can only be corrected with drugs. Instead of devoting the requisite time to exame the meaning of the pain, thereby “making sense” of the symptoms, the pain is drugged, numbed, blunted, and disabled.

As the symptoms continue and exacerbate, and relapses occur over and over again, parents are split between who or what to blame: “Is it my fault?” or “Is it a chemical imbalance?” Lamentably, everyone involved surrenders to the chemical imbalance model once the diagnosis and the life-long remedy (drugs) is accepted.

Let’s now look at another NAMI kid, Jerry, to solidify these points.


Jerry grew up with religious yet affirming parents. His parents, the church, and his private school presented a Christian view of sex, yet there is little evidence that he was inappropriately shamed in this area. Once he reached puberty, though, he began to lust and masturbate, and felt “very bad” about these thoughts and his behavior. Like most kids, he never shared these guilt feelings with his parents. He attempted to overcome or suppress the guilt, shame, and disappointment by assiduously seeking perfection in the eyes of God and his family. As a result, he too excelled in high school athletics and academics and became student body president.

During six years of junior-high and senior-high excellence, he continued to feel guilty, shameful, and disappointed about his sexual “problem.”  Finally, he reached his threshold, becoming emotionally overloaded. When he could no longer dissociate from these strong feelings in a socially acceptable way, he had a “psychotic break” and began to manifest extreme hatred, rage, and resentment against his parents and God, and to view himself as “a famous person.” He also heard a voice that acknowledged this “famous person.”

Because Jerry’s behavior appeared very suddenly and seemed quite bizarre to his parents and to the professional from whom they originally sought help, it was easy to convince all parties involved that a chemical imbalance or some other biological defect was present. But this sudden change in behavior was not due to some illusory “chemical imbalance”; it was due to the eruption of buried layers of shame, guilt, and anger that could no longer be suppressed by “ordinary, acceptable” means.

What actually happened was that Jerry’s subconscious mind came to his rescue to reverse the shaming process, first by creating hate toward his parents and God, and then by creating a new view of himself. The hate offered relief because he could then direct the self-shaming energy outward. This hate then caused him additional shame and guilt for now feeling negative about his parents and God.

The only way out of this mounting anger/shame trap was to create more anger and less shame. To help give him permission to validate his anger, as well as himself, he also began to fanaticize himself as successful and famous. Thus, even though his mind was trying its creative best to manage his emotional pain, a point came when the energy of that unhealed pain could not be contained any more. The hurting soul needed desperately to express itself and the result was a sudden eruption of emotions and behaviors.

Even though it appeared that his psychotic behavior came out of nowhere, as in the majority of cases the buildup had actually been taking place for years. Because he too was a very sensitive, perfectionistic person, the buildup probably started on a very small scale in his childhood.

Due to all of Jerry’s success in junior-high and high school, there was enough “external okayness” to keep his emotional system in place. Once he graduated, though, and had to do without this external acknowledgment, he collapsed into a so-called psychotic break.

Actually the term “psychotic break” is misleading. Even though it means a break from reality, it also implies that something might be broken internally. Although it does not appear to be the case, however, the mind is actually functioning very creatively to protect the soul or self at such a moment. So these behaviors are more an “emotional fix” than a “psychotic break.” The mind, in a state of emotional overload, is working the best way in which it knows how.

I have “ridden through” several so-called psychotic breaks with clients and have learned that what these individuals needed most was someone whom they could trust to simply be with them. Their emotional state is not really any different than that of a parent or spouse who suddenly finds out that their child or spouse has been killed. They break down emotionally, and what they need most is to simply be held and heard.

So-called psychotic breaks are enormously frightening and isolating when no one is there emotionally for support because others are afraid of the situation. If the break occurs subsequent to repeated drugging and withdrawal, a person must also contend with the added hate and the toxic psychosis that occurs as a result of withdrawing from the drugs.

Jerry’s break came as the result of years of shame and anger that were not relieved by his various dissociative techniques: keeping his mind busy with high school activities, praying over and over for forgiveness, making a commitment over and over never to lust again, rationalizing that he was okay because he was forgiven by Christ, binge eating junk food, and being angry with God and his parents because they were not some how making his dilemma go away. Again, all these ways of dissociating his pain worked for a number of years, but because there was no healing or true understanding of his pain, he soon became an “emotional wreck.”

When he could not contain this negative energy anymore and the “break” occurred, the powerful disabling antipsychotic drugs appeared to “help” because they engendered “disinterest” and “apathy” toward his own life–they numbed his pain. He also felt exonerated from his sins and perhaps felt some relief about how he viewed himself because he could blame his behaviors on a “chemical imbalance.” Both his parents and the psychiatrist were pleased that the drugs were “working.”

Jerry was 28 years old when he “woke up” one day and realized that ten years had passed him by. During that time he had been medicated with one drug after another to keep his painful feelings in check. Now at 28 instead of 18, he looked back and realized that he had wasted those years and that his life was slipping by.

It was at this time that Jerry contacted me and asked for help. He had dangerously withdrawn from the medication on his own, but was still struggling with his shame. In addition to his sexual shame, which he had effectively dealt with on his own, he now was dealing with the shame and anger of wasting ten years of his life and making a few more major mistakes.

Yet as hard as he is struggling to reclaim his life, his self-confidence, and his dignity, he is a most fortunate NAMI-Kid because he is finding his way out. He now understands how he got to his present state, the fallacies of the chemical imbalance model, the terrible disabling affect of the drugs he took, and the support that he now needs. He is well aware that it is his responsibility to put his life back together, and he is also aware of how to reach out for proper help.

Strong Precipitating Events

Some individuals who suffer from “mental illness” were drastically abused as children and subjected to an overload of emotional pain. Consequently, it often does not take much of a precipitating event in their teens or early adulthood to produce the symptoms used to diagnose someone as mentally ill.

With those who did not grow up in highly dysfunctional homes, the pattern is somewhat different. The emotional buildup is usually gradual and often the result of how the person puts pressure on herself. Since this emotional buildup happens bit by bit, it often only approaches an overload point when a major precipitating event suddenly occurs. Such an event can be as simple as the breakup of a love affair. This sudden extra emotional pain, on top of that which has already accumulated, pushes the protective part of the subconscious to the breaking point.

Evidence of how these strong precipitating events work became most obvious to me during one of the “Family To Family” meetings that I attended. At the meeting, the parents were asked to share what was going on in their lives just before their children were diagnosed as mentally ill. Here is a complete list in the order given. I did not omit any case. Of the nine children represented that evening, all had been severely traumatized just prior to their diagnosis.

Parent #1: The daughter showed some signs of depression in high school but they were slight. At the age of 20, she got pregnant with a man a few years older than herself and was married. He abused her so she divorced him. He killed himself leaving a note blaming her.

Parent #2: The daughter’s onset of mental illness occurred shortly after the death of her mother.

Parent #3: Shortly after starting college, the boy’s father died.

Parent #4: The father had been diagnosed as schizophrenic; the mother had to call and have him forcefully hospitalized several times. After repeatedly seeing the police come and handcuff the father, the son started hearing voices coming from the TV.

Parent #5: The boy’s brother, father, and uncle committed suicide. He eventually was diagnosed as manic-depressive.

Parent #6: After a bitter divorce, the child’s father moved across the U.S.

Parent #7: At age three, the boy “personalized” the Kennedy assassination. He remembers believing and fearing he would never have control over his life.

Parent #8: At age fourteen, the girl’s father and mother divorced. The mother remarried and moved back east.

Parent #9: The child had dyslexia when young, and the mother had a very hard time finding help for him. Since the father was a successful professional and the older brother was quite intelligent, the doctors felt that the boy was okay, even though he wasn’t. He described his problems in school as feeling as if he was “walking around on two wooden legs.”  His self-esteem eroded and he began to believe he was God shortly after the breakup with his girlfriend.

With respect to the other case histories I have outlined herein, Jerry’s precipitating event was also a very rough break-up with a girlfriend. Shawn, in the six months prior to his diagnosis, had suffered through the death of his sister and the deaths of two close friends.

It is so very sad to think that these events and the corresponding feelings were not given the highest priority and that this discounting has resulted in years of misery and shattered lives.


From a collective point of view, some very strong generalizations can be made from the NAMI case histories. For very different reasons, some children accumulate a lot of unresolved emotional pain that may seem initially insignificant. This pain goes unnoticed and un-verbalized and grows like a cancer in the mind of the child. Then a point is reached, gradually or suddenly, when symptoms are manifested.

Since these symptoms have been referred to as “indices of a mental illness due to a chemical imbalance,” these kids are given a psychiatric diagnosis and a mind-disabling drug to silence the symptoms.

Since the pain has been further ignored, and the biopsychiatric system demands a submission to the disease model, a power struggle often ensues. Out of the power struggle between the hurting soul and the psychiatric industry, some “patients” emerge completely drug-free and healed, while others just give up the struggle, submit, and are disabled for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, there is a third very desperate group whose members either take their own lives or end up hurting others (very few violate others).

Let’s not forget the NAMI parents and all parents of the mentally ill. They too are severely wounded during this process. Parents are deeply wounded as they watch their child suffer. Caring so much for their children and worrying daily for that child’s life, parents are told that drugs are the only solution. They become just as dependent on them for hope as do the children. When the drugs fail, and the child relapses, parental love is even more wounded.

When a drugged child stops taking his medication and relapses, the relapse is always blamed on the child’s failure to take the drug. In other words, the drugs are never viewed as the problem but only as the solution. It is not usually considered that the child wants off the drugs because of the terrible side effects of the drugs, or that he feels controlled by the drugs, or that the child in his internal wisdom knows the drugs are not helping but hindering, or that the child’s emotional woundedness is crying out to be heard. It is seldom considered that the child may not be relapsing but may be experiencing the withdrawal effects of the drugs. It is never considered that maybe the reason the child is trying to take his life is, in part, because the drugs are not working. It is not considered that his or her suicidal behavior is the result of the deep-seated desperation that is particularly sealed from proper expression by the drugs themselves. No! The whole scenario is reduced to a chemical imbalance that has never been found, that a drug has never cured, and that does not exist.

The parents become more and more trapped between feeling guilty and suffering deeply from the pain their child is going through. In fact, the more caring the parents, the more suffering they experience and the more trapped they feel. That’s why NAMI is flush with caring parents who pour thousands of hours and millions of dollars into NAMI supported programs and research. To perpetuate the damaging chemical imbalance myth, the pharmaceutical companies donate millions of dollars to organizations such as NAMI and to the salaries of the psychiatrists who support the chemical imbalance model.

The hope of all NAMI parents focuses on the magic of drugs. As painful as it may be to admit, the pharmaceutical companies, the researchers, and most of the psychiatric community now make their living engendering this false hope, damaging the lives and minds of these helpless, hurting individuals.

85 thoughts on “NAMI parent’s false hope: blindly disabling children for life — by Ty Colbert PhD

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  1. Ty Colbert raises serious doubts about the ideology and practice of contemporary psychiatry. With increasing numbers of people getting caught up in the psychiatric system, his insightful essay couldn’t have come at a better time. Labeling people who won’t or can’t meet social norms and then deceiving or coercing them into taking potentially harmful drugs often leads to disastrous consequences. There is little scientific support for the notion that “mental illness” is a brain disease. Psychiatry’s great irony is that the drugs used for mental illness (Zyprexa, Prozac, Ritalin and the like) often cause the very condition they are supposed to be treating: brain disease.

    Leonard Roy Frank

  2. Here is what i would like to see as far as mental health goes…. Especially when it comes to children and families.

    Please consider, this issues of mental health is not wholy a black and white matter. There are many shades of grey to be considered. But no one seems to know what they are or where they fall and it doesn’t seem to matter when popping a pill can solve so many problems. (Or so many people choose to believe.)

    We are voters those of us who are perceived as different. We have civil liberties unless well, they can find a way to take them away. (In some very few cases it’s not such a bad idea. Just imagine how many people wouldn’t have been tortured courrtesy of Bush if all the fringe whack jobs who voted for him were denied their civil liberties.)

    More importantly, we are tax payers and we are citizens. Some of us have been left out in the rain by groups like CHADD. We really didn’t need to take this betrayal from NAMI also.

    I am not entireluy anti medicine. But i do feel in this society it is being abused as are people by other people who use these drugs to make massive proffits to the detrimant of those abused with the drugs being pushed at them by the groups they turn to for help, not distraction from their situation, but true unbiast help. Nami has gone the way of CHADD and it is a tragedy. What is more, we have these groups to keep ourselves informed like Able Child and Wildest Colts etc… What we don’t seem to have is a group with no agenda and nothing to sell.

    I would like to see a group geared towards and solely geared towards the exploration of mental health conditions how they came to be why they came to be what can be done to help what alternative treatments help what drug treatments help if any, who they seem to work best for etc… A group that explores in total everything *UNBIASTLY* with no agenda. No agenda to say “See we are normal just like everybody else!” and no agenda geared towards “Buy these drugs pop these pills they are your salvation you freak!” Something that does not take money from any biast group *ever* and is solely designed to research and to run tests scientifically to find where the actual truths fall. Someone we can actually rely on. Because not only do groups like NAMI and CHADD let down those of us with so called ‘issues’, but they rob the public by filling them with fear and terror of the difference in our brains which in half the cases of pills being sold can not even be found on an organic level. This money taking from the drug companies is far more harmful than to just be damaging to those of us with a mental health issued background. It is depriving the world of what we can contribute because they are too scared of us to give us a chance. Thanx for the advocacy Nami, but as a member of the public and as a mental health issued person (I have ADHD so say half the doctors i have seen the other half maintain there is nothing wrong with me besides dyslexia.) I would like to say as such a person and societal member, f*ck you Nami.

    Next, connected with this unbiast research initiative i would like to see some sort of….. advocacy group grow up around it. 2 sides to one coin. This group would be geared towards the education of special ed teachers and parents and even mental health practitioners. It would provide job finding assistance to those with mental health problems family therapy that might acctually help and education geared at everyone pretty much involved in anyw ay shape or form with a person who falls into the so called category of “issued”. This group would also do public out reach and would establish a lobby group to lobby Congress to perhaps create a balance to the large lobby campaigns being waged by big pharma.

    This is what i would like to see. I am saddened and deeply wounded by and disapointed by NAMI. Where is your shame? Robbing the public and the so called mentally issued for big pharma corporations… Shame on you.

  3. Gareth,

    You wrote –

    “For example, as the last national convention the national membership voted to change the bylaws to embrace the Recovery model. Any fair criticism would portray NAMI as we actually are today.”

    Too little, too late my friend.

    NAMI Texas is pushing for “mental health screening” for youth.
    These drugs are clinically no better than placebo.
    These drugs have never been proven either safe or effective….
    And yet, NAMI Texas is lobbying to get teens screened…..again!!!

    NAMI at the grassroots is forever pointing to the fact that they’re not NAMI National….But, more than anxious to take marching-orders from the national office….In this case, to drug our kids….

    I’m really not intrested in your 11th-hour Recovery Model….
    NAMI has done more to promote “mental illness” than any other organization…..and, has been delighted to received money from Pharma to do it!

    From fighting to keep black-box warnings off drugs….to joining in Medaid fraud against the states….to lobbying the Hill and the states for more “off label” use for these drugs!

    And, we’re supposed to be impressed that last year you pushed to get “recovery” considered as part of your organizational goals?

    Who cares?

    Stop injuring people by selling drugs….and yes, NAMI “sells” drugs….of course NAMI sells drugs….That’s what NAMI does!!!! That’s what NAMI has always done!!!!!!

    Stop selling drugs.
    Hold press conferences to explain the real danger of these drugs.
    Offer programs to help people slowly taper off of them.
    Offer reconcilliation to the families you’ve harmed by providing false information.

    Do those things, and maybe you’ll gain some respect.

    Not a moment before from me!


  4. I had been ‘diagnosed’ with manic depression and put on drugs for life till I asked to change psychiatrists and found one who is taking me off drugs. I got depressed over the winter but couldn’t get into statutory mental health services because of confusions over bureaucracy and falty databases. I found a completely different theory in ‘Human Givens’ which claims that changes in seratonin levels are the result not the cause of changes in emotions. I’m not sure that this therapy isn’t a bit simplistic but it might be of interest to some. You can either look up Human Givens or Mindfields College. I don’t agree with Human Givens theories about dreaming which is grossly simplistic but it is quite an interesting angle on things.

  5. I have been reading a book on personal injury claims. Not very pleasant not interesting. However, I was curious at what I found in the section on claiming damages for mental shock, mental pain and mental suffering. These conditions are not actually recognised in English law.

    You can have your face mutilated in a car crash, wake up to find your limbs have been severed, witness the killing of a fellow passenger, and yet you still can’t claim a penny for the mental trauma of it.

    To claim anything you have to subscribe wholesale to the phony biochemical model. You have to show that you suffered “psychiatric illness” as a result of that trauma.

    In other words, you have to get into bed with a shrink. You have to stand the fraudster on his wobbly pedestal and claim him to be a “court expert”.

    Dr Shrinko takes the stand and then spews out a load of heap of ever-so-clever phony science, explaining to the court in a load of utterly bogus technobabble that the road accident has caused terrible damage to your serotonergic and dopaminergic nerve pathways..

    He has to persuade the jury that the damage to your brain is irreversible, or long-lasting, and can only be treated or controlled with his drugs, his electroshock machine and his psychosurgery and anything else equally barbaric.

    How sick is that?! Organised Psychiatry and the puppets and perverts in the drug industry have stitched up the entire 1000 year old legal system of England & Wales.

    Today, the only model recognised by the courts for gauging psychological trauma is the biochemical bullshit that is sold, very profitably, by the psychopharmaceutical complex!

    It’s getting increasingly difficult to find any remaining areas in life where the offensive rogues behind this monstrous psychopharm swindle have yet to penetrate!

  6. Colbert’s criticism is of the drugs, drugs, drugs model, (which NAMI is way too savvy to explicitly endorse) much more than it is about NAMI itself. It presents NAMI parents as they present themselves: the salt of the earth who perhaps could be lead astray by the big bad pharma companies. There’s nothing unique about seeing one’s in-group as inherently righteous, attributing problems to an insidious Other who’s purging will restore the in-groups rectitude. But it’s absurd for NAMI members to claim that it was a drug company hijacking that caused the group’s main purpose to be pushing back against any suggestion that anything parents do could possibly have contributed to their childrens’ problems and facilitating parents’ use of psychiatry to control their kids. It’s not like the group used to be about fighting child abuse and ensuring access to Soreta for people who chose it.

    The NAMI message — “mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders” that “are not the result of… poor upbringing” — is exactly what these parents want to hear. The drug company message — psych drugs are medications that help restore healthy brain biology, not neurotoxins that suppress thought and behavior by throwing a chemical spanner into to works — is exactly what NAMI wants to hear. It’s not that drug company money has perverted NAMI. The relationship between pharma and NAMI is an entente between groups who’s interests align.

    As for NAMI parents seeming to mostly being really nice people, that’s been my experience as well. But I wouldn’t assume that because the parents are nice to me they don’t have dysfunctional relationship with their children. Not a single one of the NAMI parents I work with has ever tried to punch or molest me, but I know that some of their kids have not been so fortunate.

    People who meet my family say they’re the nicest people around. But from my perspective, knowing that a lot of what my family has done to me was hyper-controlling, abusive, and deliberately cruel, for a powerful organization to push the idea that my parents are too nice to have ever been abusive, that they’re noble martyrs, where as I’m too diseased to even realize that I need to “let them help” me is nothing but a mindfuck.

  7. I found the article to be presented in good taste & very encouraging.
    I would like to reread it to get all of the nuances it has to offer.
    It came at a very good time for me.

  8. Interesting read and the comments are very telling. I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the toxic nature of a psych label. Once it’s applied, all the patient’s feelings and actions are viewed through that prism. This isn’t news: Rosenhan demonstrated this very well in the 70s (see “On Being Sane In Insane Places”). Psych labels destroy lives. Biopsychiatry needs to be challenged but unfortunately their side will continue to have the upper hand so long as they have Big Pharma’s blessing. I’ve lost over a decade to the biochemical myth and I know several individuals who are never, ever going to get themselves free. What a crime. Thanks for posting this article.

  9. I’m a little confused as to your stance on the biological basis of the illness.

    Dr. Colbert says in the article : “….. I am claiming that brain chemistry or ones biology is not the root cause of mental illness,…..”.

    It isn’t clear to me whether you agree with it, or are stating that it’s his opinion. If you are open to the possibility that there is biological basis, it would have helped to see that specific disclaimer. It reads as a fully-endorsed blog entry (even though you clarify later that it’s his opinion).

    Professionally, psychologists can benefit from adopting an anti-psychiatry philosophy. If I didn’t find out about my manic-depression by landing in a hospital with a full-blown manic episode, I’d have loved to see a psychologist who tells me that I don’t need medications.

    1. Read the body of my blog bipo—
      Read the recovery stories…
      I’m actually sick as hell right now thanks to drugs and am not going to repeat what I’ve said a dozen times on my blog. I share lots of views. I don’t think most anything about mental health is black and white.

      I share info to get people thinking. Go look at the collection of works on the tabs at the top of the blog. I feel no need to argue what I believe or think. If someone actually cares they can read my blog.

  10. len,
    yes, diet has helped me immeasurably…unfortunately we don’t all have all the puzzle pieces…period…

    that doesn’t mean that the basic bio-chemistry bullshit is just that.

    Yeah, I personally use diet and nutrition, and yoga and meditation AND therapy…but the REALITY on the ground is lots and lots of people just need to process their psychosis…read some of my recovery stories…

    people recover in a multitude of ways…I share a multitude of perspectives here. It’s impossible to cover all possible scenarios of what might cause someone mental distress in one piece of writing.

    If you look throughout the content of this blog you’ll see I’m exceptionally inclusive of numerous routes to well being.

    Diet and nutrition being one of them, or most often PART of the picture.

  11. This article is unbalanced and subjective. it is opinion and not based on fact.

    The NAMI in my area has the motto of Happy, Healthy and Productive Lives. that is with or without medication.

    Perhaps medications would be less used if insurances paid for more than one 15 min visit with a psychiatrist. a month.

    The model of treatment for severe mental illness, is two one hour therapy sessions per week combined with whatever medication direction is best suited for that individual.

    I find this article offensive on a journalistic level. It is OPINION. Not fact and based on no research studies.

    The only compassion i see here is laughable. Compassion for the poor misguided families who live life daily with a psychotic loved one.

  12. Sheesh, I just went over to NAMI’s official website. There’s a dreadful bit about hypersexuality and “bipolar disorder” over there for the really sick parent who wants to snoop in, manipulate and control their child’s sex life. And then a goings on about the newest NAMI, big pharma infomercial, “The Soloist.” One has to wonder if Nathenial Ayers had found support in a hearing voices network and not been poor if perhaps we would have had a different story. This is one that needs to be protested, though it’s so pc not many folks will look behind the curtain.

  13. @Giannakali: you wrote:

    “…and I suppose all us sources, victims of psychiatry should be dismissed as well as biased and therefore meaningless???

    I don’t understand what you’re saying?? Have you read the flood of comments from people like me whose very EXPERIENCE screams his “bias” from the rooftops??

    again we are dismissed as irrelevant. shame on you.”

    No, shame on me for not reading the blog title or goal of the blog, ie. psychiatric drug withdrawal and alternatives. I have no intention of dismissing “victims of psychiatry”. I feel at times that I am a victim of BAD psychiatry (and I believe there is good psychiatry too, something that helped me come out of psychotic phases).

    I got a link to this blog entry and I read it as if it’s an unbiased newspaper article. It was only after I made my posts that I realized that your blog is intended to promote this thinking, to help expose the motives of the likes of NAMI. I am familiar with that, as an occasional NAMI In Our Own Voice speaker. I have both appreciation and criticism, and I work with the shades of grey that everyone is different and no one side has established complete credibility.

    All I meant was that I am not surprised at Dr. Colbert’s black-and-white assessment of NAMI, much like E. Fuller Torrey professes a black-and-white assessment on people with mental illnesses as violent and dangerous and should be involuntarily hospitalized on the first display of symptoms of an episode.

    His attending a NAMI family-to-family class as an observer is odd to me, because I thought they required that participants have family members with MI, and can share and learn equally. Not saying anyone shouldn’t attend, but when the individual is attending with a specific goal, the only experiences I’d expect in a report is one that favors a pre-drawn conclusion.

    Personally, I hope that we are able to learn to manage without medications, but I’m aware that there are times I feel safer taking something to ensure that I am not sleep deprived for extended periods of time. And maintain a healthy lifestyle and awareness that is necessary to keep the extremes of the illness at bay.

    I refuse to believe that there is no biological component to it. Two of my siblings, including the one who committed suicide, have/had some variation of bipolar disorder, and the other two have faced mild episodes but nothing serious enough to warrant a doctor or therapist visit.

  14. Hi,

    I think a lot of trouble comes from psychological pressures and vulnerabilities. From dysfunctional families rather than dysfunctional brain. At the same time, how can psychological theories explain heritability of bipolar? Do bipolar parents create families that are prone to make kids bipolar? But sometimes it gets “inherited” across generations and these correlations existed at the times no psychiatric meds existed. Any ideas?

  15. Very interesting article, but it seems to me that the good doctor makes his mistakes in the opposite direction. I share his distrust of so-called medications, but he does nobody a favor by denying that bio-chemistry can play a role in mental illness. It is and/and, not either/or.

    We need constructive ways to cope with emotions, AND attention to diet, keeping in mind that some people’s metabolic needs may be different from the norm.
    Some people’s violent rages are due to wheat allergies, go figure.
    More on the mind/diet/body connection on the website of dr. Phil Bate,

    Gianna is on Dr Bate’s list, and several other people (sorry, lose track of who said what) mentioned how much better they feel on a good diet.

  16. Very interesting article, but it seems to me that the good doctor makes his mistakes in the opposite direction. I share his distrust of so-called medications, but he does nobody a favor by denying that bio-chemistry can play a role in mental illness. It is and/and, not either/or.

    We need constructive ways to cope with emotions, AND attention to diet, keeping in mind that some people’s metabolic needs mat be different from the norm.
    Some people’s violent rages are due to wheat allergies, go figure.
    More on the mind/diet/body connection on the website of dr. Phil Bate,

    Gianna is on Dr Bate’s list, and several other people (sorry, lose track of who said what) mentioned how much better they feel on a good diet.

  17. Gianna, sorry to threadjack, but I misspoke, the fingerprinting would pertain to anyone who is court-ordered in-patient, but it’s still a piece of crap that “… would allow a judge to include in the order committing a person to a mental health facility a finding that the person is manifestly dangerous…”

  18. Will Hall: Agreed, on the local level, some of the nicest people I’ve met are NAMI. The leadership, not so much.

    For me it’s personal — NAMI controls the life of a loved one.

    And as an adult survivor of incest & family violence, and lifelong children’s advocate I am enraged to see NAMI Proper oppose advances made toward the education and eradication of domestic violence and proper therapeutic treatment thereof. But I get what you’re saying and am glad there are advocates who choose to work with NAMI on civil grounds. It just sure as fuck aint me, babe.

    Off topic with a note to Duane Sherry and Mike Halligan: There’s a bill to be heard in the Texas Senate Health and Human Services this Tuesday that would FINGERPRINT anyone who has been in-patient, and the word DANGEROUS is in the bill. Is there a chance you guys could testify against it or provide written testimony? Someone needs to talk against this! I can’t because of the job, but I’ll be at the Capitol and would stand by in quiet morale support.

    SB 1627:

    Relating to the collection of biometric identifiers of certain persons receiving inpatient mental health services.

    Here’s the bill analysis:

  19. It probalby labouring the point, but I would be fairly sure that this blog article has been flagged up on some private NAMI email group, with an appeal for NAMI cult members to publicly condemn it in the most robust terms. That is how these people work.

    Mary has already mentioned the Irish counterpart to NAMI, and there is a similar operation in the Britain called SANE (which originally stood for “Schizophrenia A National Emergency” but SANE now encompasses “all forms of psychiatric disease”, very profitably).

    SANE is run by an odious, bed-hopping Countess called Marjorie Wallace.

    Just like NAMI in the USA, Wallace and SANE get huge bundles of cash from the drug industry.

    Investigators have tried, so far unsuccessfully, to reveal exactly how much money flows from the pharmaceutical industry into SANE’s coffers…

    A few years back, some whistleblowing former employees of SANE took their concerns about the financial links between the charity and the drug industry to the national press. It was going to be huge expose… Scandal Charity Profits from Deadly Drugs, or words along those lines..

    SANE’s clearly ruffled chief executive, Countess Wallace, rushed to the Royal Courts of Justice, and obtained an overnight “Gagging Order”.

    To this day, the Gagging Order forbids anyone, under penalty of Contempt of Court, from speaking publicly about the money that Wallace and SANE are receiving each year from the drug industry.

    In the course of those legal proceedings, one revelation did leak out from the closed court hearing.

    We learned that Sandoz, makers of the highly toxic anti-psychotic drug, Clozaril, had been “donating” a seven figure sum (in sterling) to SANE.

    And those donations go a long way to explaining why SANE has been heavily promoting Clozaril as a treatment for schizophrenia.

    Therein lies an important issue.. Drug makers are prohibited by law from promoting prescription-only medicinal products to the general public.

    However, that prohibition does not extend to SANE, nor to any other so-called medical charity.

    And that’s why SANE is so important to Sandoz, to Eli Lilly, Pfizer, and to the other companies that manufacture psychiatric drugs.

    SANE can do the dirty work of the drug companies.. it can promote drugs, make false claims about those drugs, peddle lies about a drug’s safety or efficacy. It can send promotional drug material direct to the carers of the “mentally ill”.

    SANE, just like NAMI, plays a pivotal role in this very sordid operation.

  20. Good piece. I didn’t use my name because I one of the commenters to this thread routinely attacks me in the blogosphere, still I have to say that this is an important piece. I have been personally helped by a NAMI high ranking NAMI member in my quest to have my psych label removed so I know there are some good and caring people in NAMI. Also, as mentioned before either your parents abused you or its a chemical imbalance really is a false dichotomy. And furthermore with parents taught to fear any sign of uniqueness in kids these days, you can see why they’d be hysterical about labeling and drugs. Still the tragedy is there.

    As Colbert points out, the medical model can only make matters worse. It’s a real tragedy.

  21. There’s a whiff of the Munchausen in the relationship between the NAMI parent and the NAMI child. They need each other in a sick and sordid sort of way. Without a sick “mentally ill” child to “take care of”, the NAMI parent would otherwise be rendered useless. It’s a mutually toxic relationship with little foundation in love.

    There was a notorious English nurse dubbed the Angel of Death who craved sick children she could “take care of”.

    Nurse Beverley Allitt loved caring for the sick so much, that when her patients started to get better, she made sure they stayed sick by poisoning them with drugs!

    They locked her up for life, but not before she had murdered 13 children.

    I can see that same deluded mindset amongst the NAMI parents..

  22. yes, Will…in real life that is what I do…I actually know a lot of people involved in NAMI and am actively involved in an email group of my local NAMI.

    This blog is not intended for NAMI members though. It’s been declared a safe haven for survivors and those who seek alternatives. (see my comment policy–top of the page)

    Of course I think everyone who comes here should be treated with civility, but I do not allow everyone through moderation.

  23. If the goal is to get support for drug alternatives, end force, dismantle labeling, and reset science and medical policy on sound grounds free of corporate corruption, speaking with NAMI members, not at them, is a better approach. I’ve given several talks to NAMI groups and have spoken with upwards of a hundred NAMI members in my 8+ years as an advocate. We have a lot of common ground.

  24. P.S. Much easier to know the bias once you know the source.

    and I suppose all us sources, victims of psychiatry should be dismissed as well as biased and therefore meaningless???

    I don’t understand what you’re saying?? Have you read the flood of comments from people like me whose very EXPERIENCE screams his “bias” from the rooftops??

    again we are dismissed as irrelevant. shame on you.

  25. I read the first two paragraphs and did the rest of my reading on Amazon via Google. Here’s what I found out from the details section of Dr. Ty Colbert’s book “Rape of the Soul”.

    Ty Colbert, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and director of the Center of Psychological Alternatives to Biopsychiatry. The center is dedicated to educating both the professional and the public about the fallacies behind the inheritance and the chemical imbalance model of mental illness. Dr. Colbert is also the author of several other books including his internationally acclaimed Broken Brains or Wounded Hearts: What Causes Mental Illness.

  26. The argument itself is a No-Brainer.. Psychiatric drugs are next to useless, maim and kill millions of us, and there is absolutely no scientific evidence of any biochemical abnormality being the cause of any psychological distress.


    What I am more interested in is the argument that has played out here..

    Gianna posts an interesting and measured article that is critical of NAMI, a peculiar pseudo-scientific political cult funded by the drug industry.

    The very first people to leap on that critical article, instinctively rallying to ŧhe defence of NAMI, are cult members of NAMI itself.

    I find it very suspicious that the NAMI gang were the first on the scene to rebut this article.

    Not least because the nazi-esque mindset of the NAMI cult is obviously anathema to the free thinking that goes here. This is, after all, a blog that is dedicated to “Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal and Alternatives”.

    This is a blog that is authored by a brave individual who explains very clearly from her own personal experience that psychiatric drugs have been very harmful to her. Hardly comfortable territory for a pharma-funded cut-out like NAMI.

    So how and why did this gang of counter-propagandists from NAMI come to land on this blog, solely to shoot up this blog entry?

    I get a bad feeling for what’s been going on here..

    I’m guessing that NAMI, being a highly efficient and utterly ruthless propaganda machine, runs some kind of “Rapid Rebuttal Unit”.

    A Rapid Rebuttal Unit staffed by propagandists who work the internet, scouring blogs and forms for any criticism of NAMI that needs “neutralising”..

    I can’t see how otherwise the NAMI gang were the first to home in on this blog and, specifically, this particular article critical of NAMI.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen.. The internet is awash with highly efficient and Organised Counter-Propaganda Units.

    A few years back I made some unreserved private comments about the Israeli government to a famous author in Britain. I thought my remarks to him were private, but nevertheless and unbeknownst to me, he published my words in his online newsletter, along with my full name and contact details.

    I knew nothing of that until my email box suddenly filled up with anonymous death threats, arriving from all corners of the globe. One read, “We are two steps from your door. Watch out!”

    I was being targeted by the far-right Zionist lobby, just as ruthless and as highly organised as NAMI.

    I started to look into how the internet attacks were being organised, and that led me to a private email list server run by some weird Zionist Youth cult in Britain.

    Most of the cult members were basically insane. I joined the group undercover and watched in horror as the messages flooded in. The cult leaders periodically topped up the members’ hatred with provocative remarks about “Arab scum”, etc. I watched as the cult plotted its attacks on public figures and other high profile critics of Israel. Those guys were thoroughly nasty.

    And that is how I view the arrival of NAMI here.. Gianna has a large readership of like-minded individuals who have realised, thanks to this blog, that their own lives have been robbed from them by psychiatry and the psycho-pharmaceutical industry.

    And because of that following, this blog is seen as a threat to the drug industry as well as to the parasitic cut-outs of the drug industry like NAMI.

  27. Great post. Only thing I would like to say is , this moment of “now” is all we have, don’t spend too much time in thinking of the definitions of mental illness, causes and treatments or you will miss the fun of living.

  28. I am continually thankful for this blog and partly amused at the above ignorant dismissals of it. My life came to a grinding halt since my first anti-depressant 9 years ago. Paxil caused me psychological harm that led to further, more seriously disabling treatment with hardcore psychiatric drugs.

    Just over a year ago, I too was skeptical about people claiming they stopped being “bipolar” by going off meds while changing their diet and using non-conventional healing models. However, I realized my life was not going to improve — for instance, being employable again — unless I took more responsibility for my health. I began research that made me realize my skepticism had been misdirected. Changing my diet alone has made a dramatic difference.

    I’m now almost completely off the last of these drugs. I’ve already seen my physical health return from a long laundry list of purely physiological symptoms, and have hope for full recovery in the coming year or so. More tellingly, there’s been a direct observable improvement in my psychological symptoms. I’ve compared my reactions to highly stressful situations I faced a year ago while on psych drugs that actually increased my mental distress, and today dealing much better with similarly stressful situations while not on these drugs. Now I am beyond doubt that I took the right course of action.

    I realize how lucky I am to have only lost a decade of my life (by the time this toxic sludge is flushed out of my system) to the harmful conventional psychiatric/medical model of mental health. How lucky I am to have experienced some adult life before this lost decade as a basis of comparison. That children are subjected to this medical model — their brains damaged before they’ve even had a chance to finish developing — is horrifying. That well-meaning adults subject them to it, tragic. That self-serving companies and organizations perpetuate it, genuinely psychopathic.

  29. Dona,
    so sorry to hear of some of the pain you’ve had to endure at the hands of psychiatry. I too lost much of my life.

    thank you for sharing your story and yes:

    We are the ones who will lead this world to healing forgiving and more love that anyone ever dreamed possible. We are the warning and the example…

  30. Darling this is a very true account of what is; proable is too many people cannot/will not see it this way. NAMI, parents are very involved, loving parents, granted, but it is about compliance with meds, and rights and disability. That “dog don’t bark for me no more”, and 1 meeting, just after the shootings at Va Tech, [50 miles from my home] and hearing 4 year plan, seeing mostly parents, as I sat next to a gal who explained she was on Zyprexa and had begun seeing a nutrionalist to loose weight, I was like, HELLO????? So I offered her my uinput, told her Zyprexa was among other things a weight putter oner, and never bothered to return to a Big Pharma sponsered event, group, and went forward with my healing.
    Each step you stated, every plausable “event” that led to a psychiatrist, labeling someone as mentally ill,was something I had to look at deeply in order to heal, and at first I got mad. I lost 13 years and will never be able to patch things with my kids, who buy Dad’s “I choose to be ill” Though I see the spiritual defunctness in their very real punisments and actions towards me, and letting go of them for good hurts like hell, it is a very toxic situation, and by the grace of God, I did recover, and have much to do, with the remainder of my life. There are those, large in number who are waking up to the truth, and healing in mass, and as for those who pull the blankets over their heads, “We were dancing and thought to be insane, by those who could not hear the music. We are the ones who will lead this world to healing forgiving and more love that anyone ever dreamed possible. We are the warning and the example…

    Kudoes Gal, you nailed it!

  31. Gianna,

    Thank you, thank you for posting this piece. The discussion it prompted is so important.

    Moss, you wrote:

    1. There has been no testing on the “chemical imbalance” theory.
    2. There is no proof of the “chemical imbalance” theory.
    3. Mental illness has increased exponentially since we have adopted this theory — as have drug use and drug expense.

    Your three points sum it all up.

  32. I would like to repeat these powerful words from Pat again. Thanks, Pat, for putting passionate words to thoughts that many of us would like to shout from the mountain tops together. Maybe I might be able to put it, or some of it, to music with your permission?

    NAMI needs to butt out of our business and let those of us who have actually taken the drugs, those of us who’ve actually been deprived of our freedom, those of use who’ve actually been in seclusion and restraints, those of us who’ve actually experienced the discrimination and shame, those of us who’ve actually experienced electro-shock, those of us with first-hand knowledge, speak out and be the “nation’s ‘voice’ on mental illness.” They need to stop promoting “mental illness” and let us move the agenda to “mental health.”

  33. iden is so right. the treatment system is marching down a dead end street that feeds into money for providers and psychiatrists, and drug manufacturers and let’s not forget the wounded healers working in the system that can’t let anyone know just how sick they are. the deck is stacked heavily against those trapped in this system from leaving it or at least achieving some level of recovery. the system has done an excellent job at keeping people oppressed. in texas we were trying to get a law passed that a person determined to be acutely psychotic, can only stay in jail for 24 hours rather than the 72 we now have, if there are no hospital beds available. tell a diabetic they are going to have to wait 3 days in jail before they can get treatment or a heat attack victim or stroke victim. texas has had every major hhsc treatment agency busted over the last 4 years. child protective services let children die in abusive homes and nasty living conditions. our texas youth commission, a prison for kids, was busted for staff having sex with the kids. then our state schools for people with dd issues were investigated by the federal department of justice. 50 some deaths at these holes for people with dd issues. a fight club developed by staff for the dd population was busted at corpus christi state school. in this legislative session, a law is under consideration that if a client threatens a staff person or says they are going to hurt someone, they are to report the threat to authorities. permannet record type stuff, judges, records, courts, the full monty. yeah, the abusers require more protection. this is truly a battle against oppression, because we are a society of secrets. the stories i could tell.

  34. This piece is amazing…so much to think about. I know first hand that medications are crippling and numb the mind from the true feelings and hurt going on inside. I come from a very dysfunctional family and from grade school I was cycled into the system as an emotionaly distrubed child because I did not function in the classroom like the other kids, but who could function in the morning if your being beat everyday before you go to school? So from early on adults never asked what was wrong, what happend to make you so sad? They just automatically assumed that I was broken. Thank GOD for guiding me to a wonderful therapist who finally asked what happened? I don’t agree 100% with the article but it is a very good starting point for some serious debating that should be going on in our community in reference to the medical model or the true healing model.

  35. thank you Marion,
    I just speak of americans, because that’s where we are, but it is world wide. i can tell you as a child growing up with extremely abusive parents and being sexually assaulted at an early age, i too was an abuser, emotional type, and i hurt a lot of people. god i was angry and i thought that was how the world was. it wasn’t until i was eaten up with depression and PTSD, diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia, hospitalized for a year with thorazine, stellazine, and cogentin and told not to get married, not to have kids, not to drive a car, not to work, and never permitted to discuss extremely sensitive matters like sexual assault in a hospital setting unless in group therapy, therefore, i never did. at age 40 i educated myself by volunteering with a rape crisis services center and went into counseling to work on me. it was easy to talk about my victimization, the difficult part was to talk about who i hurt. i owe my sanity and growth and recovery to some very hurt women who took the time to share their stories with me. changed my life and i hope made me a better person. i am working with some child therapists who focus on child sexual assault, 2 women with 20 years total experience. in twenty years between the 2, never once was a child raped or assaulted by a stranger. in every case, a family member was responsible.

  36. Gianna,

    The world is not flat.
    There is no tooth fairy, or Santa Claus….

    Psychiatric “medications” does not work.

    These drugs cause injury to the brain, body, and spirt….
    These drugs disconnect people from their own life experience.
    These drugs stunt growth – emotional and spiritual.
    Theses drugs cause more harm than good.
    These drugs cause much more harm than good.

    As painful as that may be for some people to hear for the first time, it must be heard….It’s the truth….Not “Truth”, but a simple “truth”.

    It has to be said, and needs to be heard…..So that we will continue to search for, and find ways that do work, and begin to use them… incorporate them into real treatment – treatment that addresses the root cause of symptoms….from those that manifest themselves from primarily physical problems, to those symptoms that come from emotional trauma, or combinations of several things….

    We have to begin to wrap our heads around the fact that the present model is not only broken – it is shattered. It does not need to be repaired – it needs to be replaced….

    We need to really help people get well, and stay well…..We need to begin to tell people they can get well….People do get well….They recover…..They do it all the time! They do it in many unique and creative ways….They do it oftentimes with one friend – one person who cheers them on – as they research, and find ways that work!

    The biological model.
    The lifelong incurable illness.
    The need to remain “compliant.”
    It’s all been a myth.
    Every last bit of it.

    “The truth shall set us free”….

    Nobody said it wouldn’t hurt like hell when we first hear it!
    And nobody ever said we couldn’t learn from it….embrace it, and learn to become more than we ever thought was possible!!!


  37. Mike Halligan: Probably it’s worse in the U.S. today than anywhere else. But contrary to what I often see people believe, it certainly isn’t much better in Europe. Laing was Scottish, Bateson a Brit… They developed their ideas studying European, British society.

    You may want to check out this and this interview with Derrick Jensen, who takes these ideas – or maybe I should say these truths – to another level. Ah well, he’s American…

  38. Let’s keep in mind that NAMI is not an organization limited to parents. I am not a parent. NAMI does not keep any systematic data on paid membership or whom we serve, so it is impossible to say for sure, but we are probably about half consumers now at the grassroots level, varying from place to place. Our organization has been undergoing rapid change over the last few years. For example, as the last national convention the national membership voted to change the bylaws to embrace the Recovery model. Any fair criticism would portray NAMI as we actually are today.


  39. Goodness, some of the anger expressed by NAMI proponents to this article. Could it be caused by fear that these opinions may be correct?

    Keep telling yourself that there is a biological incorrectness to your child. Don’t worry that nobody has proven, or even tested for, this model. As long as you can drug your children, and trust in your doctor, everything will be all right. OK, so he will turn into a useless druggie, but that’s better than being schizophrenic, isn’t it? The fact that a doctor who rejects this model MIGHT have been able to help your child… without drugs… return him to a “normal” life… ok, now you’re just feeling the guilt of it.

    I would suggest that these people either ARE the “bad parents” or have been trained by them.

    I have been trained as a Peer Support Specialist also. I was drugged in one way or another since I was 12 years old. I was often “non-compliant” (my Peer Support training tells me that a better phrase is “I wanted to be more involved in my therapy and was not feeling I had sufficient options”), and finally discontinued all my drugs in November of 2003 (just before my 51st birthday). I have continually gotten better, but there are some definite remnants of the damage the drugs did to me. My life is better now than it has ever been, and I would like to know what I would be like if I had not been drugged in the first place.

    I *know* my symptoms were caused by a lack of attention — I was actively ignored and shunned by my family from an early age, as well as sexually abused by an uncle also at that early age. (They obviously did not want to face the idea that abuse could happen in OUR family.) If a doctor or therapist had tried to find the CAUSES of my problems, they might have gotten worked out. I am a fairly happy, peaceful person now, because friends and therapists and support groups have given me the support and attention I had been lacking and I no longer have the drugs in my life.

    OK, I could go on for a while.

    1. There has been no testing on the “chemical imbalance” theory.
    2. There is no proof of the “chemical imbalance” theory.
    3. Mental illness has increased exponentially since we have adopted this theory — as have drug use and drug expense.
    There must be an error in the theory. NAMI, get over it, and stop taking so much money from the drug companies.


  40. Well Stan,
    you’re right much has been said, but!!

    How would they personally want to be treated in the exact same circumstances?

    that’s so simple. so damn simple and yet that is what is wrong with everything….no one knows how to put themselves in the labeled ones shoes, if they could, you’re quite right to suggest…we’d have a revolution on our hands!


  41. Dear Gianna:

    Excellent article and some really good comments here.

    I really don’t have much new to add, so I will leave this be with a small comment.

    Those blinded or naive NAMI parents who need to find disparately some concrete answers, something to heap blame onto, feel they have to fix to what is out of their control to fix, or are trying to make “sense” of something where “sense” seldom applies.

    Maybe just need to take a long hard honest look in the Mirror and ask this simple question deep within themselves.

    How would they personally want to be treated in the exact same circumstances?


  42. Psych drugs no more correct bad brain chemistry in “mentally ill” than pesticides correct bad plant chemistry in plants. Just because you have symptoms of mental illness does not mean that you have bad brain chemistry, perhaps you have physical problems that the doctors are not finding. Maybe they are too lazy or maybe they don’t believe in it. A lot of healing therapies in alternative medicine are called quackery. I say that the real quackery is the poison that can cut your life short 25 years or make you kill yourself or someone else, or kill your baby.

    NAMI is a front for pHARMa and cannot be trusted. People need to wake up from the brainwashing and do some more research into how to heal, which means getting rid of toxic poison instead of swallowing more.

  43. I think there’s a fundamental issue in american society that has to do with appearing that we as a culture are above reproach. we are perfect as parents, as legislators, teachers, lawyers, etc. what we fail to identify is our abusive nature. we have more rapes in the U.S. than the rest of the world, more people in prison, more executions, an infant mortality rate higher than some 3rd world countries, a failed education system, a failed mental health treatment system that refuses to modify or change itself after evidence proves it’s a failure. the list goes on as does the abuse, neglect, sexual assaults, batterings, poverty, and one we don’t list too often is emotional abuse, i think an epidemic in this country. you can’t prove it, you don’t always see it, it can’t be explained because the abuser can always answer, of course i love, i wouldn’t let you live here if i didn’t love you or i wouldn’t feed you if i didn’t loved you. easy to hide, easily explained away as you’re paranoid or delusional, of course your parents love you, they always give you money. hell, “good people” are guilt of these abuses, but it will be a cold day in before they can look at themselves and i can tell you, the good people appreciate our craziness, because that lets the world know, see, our kid is sick so what they may disclose is just their craziness. of course, when was the last time you were offered individual counseling and the therapist wanted to know about what happened to you? naw, shut up and take your pill.

  44. I’ve been away from my computer since Friday at a retreat about using yoga, meditation, breath work, and herbs for mental health issues, led by Amy Weintraub, a yoga teacher and author of Yoga for Depression, and Richard Brown, a psychiatrist and Qi Gong practitioner who teaches at Columbia and uses a range of these techniques in his practice.

    So it was very interesting to walk back into Ty Colbert’s post and the storm of reactions to it. I can understand how frightening what Ty wrote could be to people who have invested so much emotional energy into believing that their child has a biological brain disease. What I don’t understand is the vehement negative reaction to the reality of people who have been disabled by psych drugs and began to heal when they came off them.

    If there’s one thing I brought away from my mostly non-verbal experiences this weekend, it’s that my distress comes from believing that the emotional and psychic pain I experience is “me.”

    I never believed I had a biological brain disease, but I did believe that something was “wrong” with me, that I was fundamentally flawed at some deep level. Now I feel like I have some techniques I can use when I’m overwhelmed that will remind me that psychic pain may be visiting, but that “it” is not “me.”

  45. ha. after I published there were at least 7 comments up since I first starting writing my comment. It took me forever and I’m not sure why. It’s been a long week but thank you for posting this.

  46. Marian,

    Excellent point, thank you!

    And I maybe should add, that people (parents) who themselves haven’t experienced unconditional love, can impossibly love unconditionally, neither themselves nor their children, or anyone else. As long as they deny their own trauma, that is. Herein lies the responsibility of parents: in recognizing and accepting their own trauma.

    Probably this makes me somewhat less compassionate than Ty is, but I often wonder if it might be the pain of facing one’s own trauma, that is feared more than the pain of watching one’s children suffer, that makes parents buy so gladly into the biological model, and defend it so aggressively, as we can see it done here.”

  47. That’s what the brain disorder getscha. Total dehumanization.

    absolutely the problem in my opinion…it’s the “abnormal” brain that creates the stigma…and therein lies their biggest, grossest flaw.

  48. Dawn,
    I must wonder if you really read the piece in it’s entirety. If so, you would have noticed the mention of a big player at NAMI: the pharmaceutical industry. It’s a real problem. The pharmaceutical companies have no business at NAMI nor should NAMI accept their financial contributions, etc. And if you think this blog is long, please read the side effects of the medications prescribed to treat those with a mental illness. Talk about long…. and sadly dangerous.

    Anon friend,
    of course it is an opinion and one he is entitled to have. The problem is, the Ty’s or Gianna’s voices have often been silenced or swept under the rug. Turn on your television and you’ll see proof of that. Hundreds of psych med advertisements with disclaimers that run throughout the entire ad. Last night I was in another room and heard a familiar Abilify ad and towards the end I heard the words…may lead to coma or death. It is extremely saddening. There is a reason why psychiatric medications do not work (they usually only work temporarily, if that) and the reason is simple: a lot of people are making money and if people were not taking their drugs-well, the whole system would crash. If people would listen to Gianna, Dr. Colbert and many others, again, the system would crash but most importantly: lives would truly be saved not temporarily fixed or worsened. Too many children have died from these medications and too many adults are disabled because of them. It is time we start listening to these people instead of NAMI and doctors like Joe Biederman. It is time we get to the real issue at hand. Ty’s opinion is extremely valid and his statement: “Of the nine children represented that evening, all had been severely traumatized just prior to their diagnosis.” well, that statement alone rings true to the many human beings/patients that have been failed by our current system.

    Here is the real issue at hand which Dr. Colbert wrote so beautifully about but I’m going to give you my story. I am one of those patients who was failed by our current system. For nearly twenty years I spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to “fix” me. I wanted nothing more than to be “normal”, loved and accepted by those around me. But those people wanted me medicated. At 13, I was diagnosed with depression. I was raped at 15. During my 20s, numerous labels were thrown at me, bipolar, etc. I wanted to believe them! I used to say things similar to what Dawn said, I would say, “I have an illness, a real illness just like diabetes!” And yet, even then, I was still ignored and most importantly….my feelings, my past traumas were all ignored. Instead, I was medicated for nearly 20 years (Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro, Seroquel, Effexor, Abilify, Lamictal, Celexa, etc.) Today, I am med-free for a very good reason, all of the above mentioned medications made me sicker. I can very much relate to the number of patients Dr. Colbert referred to. I was the star athlete. I had severe low self esteem, I was dissociating pain and was overly sensitive. I am still overly sensitive and I personally see nothing wrong with that. It is part of who I am and I am fortunate enough to work in an industry where I am surrounded by creative people, most with dysfunctional or traumatic pasts like mine and these people understand me and love me for who I am.

    But I do wish, along the road, I would have met a Dr. Colbert or “an insightful therapist” but the past is just that, the past. It never happened and now I have chosen a life without medication because, again, the only thing these meds ever did was make me sicker. And now, as I near 36, I must face my past traumas in a healthier manner. I wish the same for our children today. It is my sincere hope that we stop drugging our children and adults, buying into the current system which is funded by the pharma companies and instead, deal with the real issues at hand.

  49. Oh hai, sorry for the confusion. What I meant to say above all is that NAMI parents Other their kids. They don’t consider that “what their child does” is relate to them and that they relate to their children. It takes a massive ideological belief set to deny that people in proximity, talking (screaming) at each other are not dealing with each other. To NAMI mommy it might as well be a being from another planet. That’s what the brain disorder getscha. Total dehumanization.

  50. NAMI = National Alliance of the Morally Inexcusable, a group of f-AMI-ly members whose fanaticism caused the organization to be bought out by BigPharma.

    Over 90% of all of those in the public mental illness system with a psychiatric label are survivors of abuse, neglect or trauma. I’ve met too many parents in NAMI who fit the criteria for schizophrenigenic parent. These abusive folks are looking for a place to quell their evil consciences.

    There are no biochemical markers, no biological tests, no hard evidence at all, to “prove” the existence of “mental illness.” Proof = to demonstrate a reliable association between a clearly specified pattern of observables and other reliably measurable event(s) which operate as antecedents. (This is same level of proof used for TB, cancer, diabetes, etc.)

    For those who adhere to the “chemical imbalance” theory,
    Which of the neurotransmitting brain chemical(s) is it that is/are out of balance?
    What is the nature of the imbalance(s) — Too much, too little?
    In what part(s) of the brain is/are these imbalances occurring?
    What is the formula for determining the baseline “normal” amount of the offending chemical(s), given one’s gender, age, weight, etc, and where can I find it referenced? I am interested in reading the articles where you obtained this information.

    As long as NAMIites are only interested in following the cult of psychiatry instead of scientific fact, they’ll continue to promote discrimination and shame. They indulge in “worst case scenario fear-mongering” to sway the public and the media and legislatures in order to force or coerce their so-called loved ones into being compliant with the medications that are proven to cause us to die earlier than normal lifespans. They’ll take one extreme case as the reason to support outpatient civil commitment or the use of injectable, long-acting drugs that cripple and disable us. Of course, this sort of exaggeration shouldn’t come as a surprise to a group that has always lied about their finances and even regularly inflates their membership numbers and uses made up “facts” to support their pseudo-scientific belief system. They believe that “recovery” is for everyone else than their child and that as long as we cause no community disturbance, we’re “well,” no matter how miserable and incapacitated we may be.

    NAMI’s unquestioning blind faith in BigPharma causes them to reduce the cure for all human suffering to taking a pill. It ignores issues such as abuse, neglect, trauma, poverty, unemployment and other social factors. I’ve always maintained that NAMI parents are entitled to support. But, when they cross into the political realm with their positions, then they are stepping on the voices of those who are impacted by emotional distresses. NAMI needs to butt out of our business and let those of us who have actually taken the drugs, those of us who’ve actually been deprived of our freedom, those of use who’ve actually been in seclusion and restraints, those of us who’ve actually experienced the discrimination and shame, those of us who’ve actually experienced electro-shock, those of us with first-hand knowledge, speak out and be the “nation’s ‘voice’ on mental illness.” They need to stop promoting “mental illness” and let us move the agenda to “mental health.”

    1. NAMI needs to butt out of our business and let those of us who have actually taken the drugs, those of us who’ve actually been deprived of our freedom, those of use who’ve actually been in seclusion and restraints, those of us who’ve actually experienced the discrimination and shame, those of us who’ve actually experienced electro-shock, those of us with first-hand knowledge, speak out and be the “nation’s ‘voice’ on mental illness.” They need to stop promoting “mental illness” and let us move the agenda to “mental health.”

      that’s lovely, thanks!

  51. I see what you mean about the comments, but what did you expect? The touchy-feely, treacly approach is an invitation to attack. And the writer used a number of concepts that are totally rejected by NAMI without un-packing them. “Unconscious?” NAMI denies the unconscious exists, is he talking to NAMI? I don’t think so, because I read that piece as if I was NAMI and I scorned every other paragraph, because as NAMI I don’t agree, and he does nothing to confront my ideology, or even identify the key differences in our beliefs.

    You know the ordinary concepts that you and I and he and all relatively normal, sane, decent and empathic people trade in as human beings are actually rejected by NAMI. Rage, frustration, revenge, lived experience, meaning, relate — in NAMI world they don’t consider that what they do is relate to their children — no back and forth, no push-pull, no cause and effect, which is of course ludicrous — it’s all relational — but in their eyes it’s all relapse or insufficient medication. That’s not a mistake, it’s self-serving evil.

    I don’t agree it’s about the parents false hope, I think they’re frauds, period. No way I can respond to that with civility, but thanks for asking!

  52. Daniel: “a med-pushing, biologically-reductionistic, big-Pharma-money-taking, denial-laden organization.”

    Ok, you put in plain English, what I didn’t want to say this straightforwardly. Thanks.

  53. Dear NAMI Parents:

    No one, is implying that you do not love your own children and want only the best for them. The Drug based paradigm of care for them however, is an Errant, Profit driven falsehood.

    1: The ‘Chemical Imbalance’ theory is a Myth. see
    1a: It is only After psychotropic drugs are introduced into a person that a ‘Chemical Imbalance’ exists.

    2: The Drugs themselves are the Causative Agent responsible for a 10 fold Increase in the last 100 years, in human confusion, real physical diseases, and early mortality. see Robert Whitaker

    3: The Drugs themselves are well investigated and Documented as the Causative Agents in suicidal actions. see Janne Larsson.

    4: NAMI itself has funding sources which preclude their impartiality regarding the efficacy, safety, and desirability of drug treatment. Bloomberg recently reported:

    “The group (NAMI) came under scrutiny in 1999, when the magazine Mother Jones reported that 18 drug companies gave the group $11.7 million from 1996 to mid-1999. The article reported that at one point an executive of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co. worked out of the nonprofit group’s headquarters. A 2007 annual report (page 10) showed that the group’s corporate partners at that time included Madison, New Jersey-based Wyeth; London-based GlaxoSmithKline Plc; Eli Lilly, which makes Prozac; and the Washington-based trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.”The actual NAMI List is:Abbot Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Forest Labs, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Magellan Behavioral Health, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Otsuka, Pfizer, PhRMA, Solvay, Vanda, Wyeth.
    Antipsychotics shorten a human life by 25 years.
    See my blog for Robert Whitaker’s timeline of the development of antipsychotic meds.
    On that same page you may view the Adverse Reactions reported to the FDA on each of 23 psychotropic medications.

    Again, No one is implying that NAMI Parents want other than the best for their children, but the skewed, and profit seeking Agenda behind the Chemical Imbalance paradigm is NOT serving those children’s best interests.

    It is causing them incalculable harm.

  54. thanks Daniel,
    I’ve certainly known manipulative, ugly, scary people in NAMI as well…

    and like you I’ve met many who are indeed open to alternatives.

    I’m enjoying the discussion mostly as moderator rather than expressing a whole lot about my own opinions regarding NAMI.

    thanks for your contribution.

  55. Thanks for posting this, Gianna–
    interesting piece, and interesting discussion. I agreed with some of the original piece, and not some of it. Some thoughts I had:

    -I know some local NAMI groups to be very open to non-medication treatment of major “mental illness.” Some groups in California had Daniel Dorman, MD and Catherine Penney come to speak about their therapy together, and how she recovered fully from what we call schizophrenia—no meds at all…just intensive therapy and psychosocial support.

    -I know some individual NAMI members who are willing to talk openly and rationally about non-medication therapy, and know a LOT about it

    -Yet I did not agree with the article where he wrote that “I would characterize every single NAMI parent I have met so far as caring, loving, supportive, and dedicated to his or her children. NAMI parents are open, honest, and giving and are often very popular with their children’s peers.” My thoughts on this: either the writer is very psychologically primitive to write such a thing, because that has not remotely been my overall experience (I’ve met a lot of NAMI parents whom I thought were pretty AWFUL!), or he’s just trying to be nice and not offend NAMI parents. My best guess is that he’s trying desperately to be middle of the road and not be dismissed out of hand.

    My overall opinion on NAMI is pretty negative: some nice people, yes, some good local groups, yes, some parents desperate to help their troubled children, yes, but overall a med-pushing, biologically-reductionistic, big-Pharma-money-taking, denial-laden organization.

    Enjoying the blog!

  56. Mary says,

    Especially since many of us have been violently abused by a lifetime of drug ‘treatment’.

    yeah, that’s it…those of us whose lives have been devastated by the “treatment” are completely ignored and made to feel irrelevant and that is what makes it hard to stay civil and compassionate in the faces of those who would do it to us all over again.

    Look at you and me Mary. Drug free and clear as bells….saner for having been shown the nature of humanity in our inhumane treatment and recovery and escape!!

    (well, me almost drug free—got 1 pesky mg of Klonopin left…from a massive cocktail of 6 soul killing drugs…I will be free soon!)

  57. If we are not happy with the approach to life that NAMI or AWARE( an equivalent organization in Ireland) take, we are entitled to our opinion. Especially since many of us have been violently abused by a lifetime of drug ‘treatment’.

    I am free from the oppressive psychiatric for almost 10 years now. Since I have got my cognitive brain back and am drug free, I have done daily research on the pharmaceutical industry and how it works. Its main driving force is money and power and organizations such as NAMI and AWARE have followed the ’30 pieces of silver’ gravy train with open hearts ( if they have any hearts!!)

    People who receive (often unfortunately forced to receive) medical diagnoses such as ‘schizophrenia’ etc are the victims of others who put profit before people. Now unfortunately children are in the front line of battle.

    Thank you again, Gianna , for taking the time to share this very important information with us.

  58. Grainne: Right on. A double bind is indeed exactly what this whole system, and with it our culture, is based upon.

    And I maybe should add, that people (parents) who themselves haven’t experienced unconditional love, can impossibly love unconditionally, neither themselves nor their children, or anyone else. As long as they deny their own trauma, that is. Herein lies the responsibility of parents: in recognizing and accepting their own trauma.

    Probably this makes me somewhat less compassionate than Ty is, but I often wonder if it might be the pain of facing one’s own trauma, that is feared more than the pain of watching one’s children suffer, that makes parents buy so gladly into the biological model, and defend it so aggressively, as we can see it done here.

  59. In fact it is possible to treat some schizophrenics
    psychotherapeutically in an out-patient setting, Gianna; as material
    gets worked through, medication may be titrated down and sometimes
    stopped. This has led to a number of my schizophrenic patients having
    stopped all meds for decades after previous courses of extensive
    antipsychotic medication and hospitalization. I would call them
    therapeutic cures, as discussed in TREATING the ‘UNTREATABLE’: Healing
    in the Realms of Madness

  60. I really liked the article, especially the way it showed how circumstances we might think of as non-traumatic can lead to trauma anyway, just because of the details of the story.

    A key factor is the way people do things they hope will make things better, that actually make things worse. You see that in the stories of young people, who try to hard to accomplish things that for some reason become impossible, and then don’t notice they are causing for themselves the signs of stressful overwhelm appear to be “mental illness.” The NAMI families do what appears to them to be the solution, which is follow medical model intervention ideas, but then don’t recognize that what they are doing is making the “mental illness” more chronic.

    It isn’t about blame or about the absence of goodwill in many cases – just that these are complex situations and our simplistic medical model explanations are totally inadequate. I’m glad that Gianna, and Ty, and working to increase understanding of the real issues.

  61. Have just seen above comments, they weren’t there as I was writing my comment (gives you some idea how long it takes me to post a comment, LOL). I have to say I am shocked by the tone of many of the comments considering how respectful the above piece is. It is also looking at true recovery and deep healing.

    Can I just say that Gianna is one of the most compassionate, understanding and intelligent women I have connected with in the survivor world, along with Leah Harris and Mary Maddock. I felt deeply saddened by the attack on her blog.

    It is the best blog out there on alternative routes to recovery.

  62. Gareth,
    I appreciate you opinion…I know you a bit from the email group we share. I know you are a person of great integrity.

    This piece I believe comes from someone like me who questions much of what NAMI does as an international organization, but recognizes that many on the ground, like you are struggling to help yourselves and those your love with complete conviction.

    It is in the method that we disagree, not in the concern for those who have been labeled.

  63. Grainne said:

    On non-compliance, here lies a double bind for the ‘victim’. If the first step to recovery is resistance (to being labelled and drugged) and I believe it is the first step, in a sense refusing to become a victim… it is not acknowledged by or respected or honoured by anyone in the involuntary committal procedure or process. In fact, it is seen as further evidence of so-called “mental illness” (eg, treatment resistant) when in fact it is the person’s fight for survival and trying to reclaim their rights. This system is run on fear and fuelled by pseudo-science masquerading as ‘care’. What is so tragic is that it causes so much more needless suffering for families and distressed individuals.


    and thanks Marian for your usual brilliant comments. it is indeed society that is profoundly sick.

  64. What a brilliant piece! There’s maybe one thing, I don’t completely agree to: even if for instance Jerry’s problems seem to have been caused by other factors than dysfunctionality, I do see dysfunctionality in a religion, that doesn’t love unconditionally, that is, a religion that condemns lust, for instance. Dysfunctionality and abuse, the way I define these terms, are a lot more, than what Laing and Bateson explicitly have described, or what the original concept of the schizophrenogenic mother includes. Thus, by being followers of such a dysfunctional religion, Jerry’s parents themselves do practice a kind of indirect dysfunctionality.

    It certainly aren’t only a person’s parents, who are responsible. As mentioned before, I regard our whole culture as profoundly abusive, dysfunctional, and, yeah, schizophrenogenic you might say. Nevertheless, in order to become sensitive enough to, later on in life, qualify for a “schizophrenia” label, it takes what Laing calls an ontological insecurity. That is, having been let down by one’s initial caregivers at a very early stage of one’s personal development. With “let down” meaning not unconditionally loved. Everything else than unconditional love is violence, and thus abusive.

    Edit or remove?? I think, I’ll ask Ty Colbert permission to translate this excellent post.

  65. Wow! Thanks for posting this. It’s brilliant and it sees right through all the layers.
    To me, that first so-called “episode” presents people with a crossroads. One road is the biomedical model, the other the road less travelled, the non-biological model.
    Too often, in our Western society, we become afraid (only adding more unhelpful fear to the person experiencing the distress) and look to the so-called ‘experts’ for a ‘solution’. In effect, we give our power away. In our desperate state and in our desire to ‘fix’ our loved one, or not wanting to see our loved one suffer so, we don’t honour their internal journey and the natural wisdom inherent in all of us. Our soul’s call to healing.
    On non-compliance, here lies a double bind for the ‘victim’. If the first step to recovery is resistance (to being labelled and drugged) and I believe it is the first step, in a sense refusing to become a victim… it is not acknowledged by or respected or honoured by anyone in the involuntary committal procedure or process. In fact, it is seen as further evidence of so-called “mental illness” (eg, treatment resistant) when in fact it is the person’s fight for survival and trying to reclaim their rights. This system is run on fear and fuelled by pseudo-science masquerading as ‘care’. What is so tragic is that it causes so much more needless suffering for families and distressed individuals.

    I was greatly heartened to read about the man who managed to reclaim his life after 10 years in the system. The Father of my son is currently in the same boat. The years slip by and he loses more to incarceration and meds. Reading this has strengthened my resolve to fight harder and stronger for his release. Neither of us believe in the ‘chemical imbalance’ myth but he is past the stage of being crucified for it. Now he knows he needs to just play their game to get out and then never look back, except to face his own past hurts and trauma. It’s just so damn hard to get someone out of this system once they have been caught by the net that is biopsychiatry.

    Fantastic work, Ty. If only people like you were the mainstream. People like you give me renewed hope for a new paradigm.

  66. I perceive the post as rude and offensive to myself as a participant and leader in NAMI, as well as to others in NAMI. I did not find it to be helpful or constructive criticism.

    I’m not at all suggesting that the post should be edited or removed. I’m just letting y’all know how I view it.

    I am proud to be a Certified Peer Specialist, president of NAMI Augusta Georgia Inc., and a NAMI Connection support group facilitator.

    Best regards to everyone,


  67. I present it only as opinion…I don’t agree 100% with virtually anything I post except what I write myself…if people aren’t intelligent enough to figure out it’s “one person’s” opinion then perhaps they should have a tutor helping them while they read.

  68. There are a lot of incorrect statements in this person’s viewpoint. I hope people realize that this is just one person’s opinion.

  69. The folks in NAMI believe in a false dichotomy, a flaw in logic.

    1) my child’s emotional/mental problems are caused by my bad parenting, or

    2) my child’s emotional/mental problems are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

  70. NAMI-kid?? Talk about a label!! Mental illnesses are most definitely biologically-based brain disorders which do cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. The same is true of diabetes and the pancreas, or hypo/hyperthyroidism and the thyroid, or Addison’s disease and the adrenal glands. These disorders usually need medication to help correct the imbalances, just like mental illnesses.
    People are not told that drugs are the only solution. Medication, therapy and usually support groups are just as important. I have never met a person with a mental illness who does not also receive psychotherapy, and possibly attend a support group or two.
    The very first sentence of this blog is incorrect, so how should I give any credibility to the rest of it? NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness. This name change took place several years ago. How old and outdated is this blog? Makes me wonder. Also, this blog is soooo long that one loses interest in the content. Are you unable to make your point without going on and on, jabbering jibberish?

    1. Dawn,
      You’re right—there has been a name change and it’s been fixed. Otherwise this is a loving and compassionate critique. You don’t have to agree but I do ask that you remain civil or your comments will not be approved. You have been downright rude here.

      Meds destroy many lives and they’ve destroyed mine, though I’m now free of them, I’m physically disable by them.

      I was a social worker in mental health too besides taking the drugs for 20 years. I’m hardly an inexperienced idiot…

      I would appreciate some respect for my experience even if you can’t agree with it. Whether you see it or not there is a lot of respect shown for the people who buy into the belief system you share here. I’m sorry it offended you but it did not degrade you in the way you were so rude about my “blog.”

      And, oh, I’m also an ex-member of NAMI…

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