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Antipsychiatry and Electroshock

(This unpublished article is based on a free lecture on November 17, 2009 during ‘Free Education Week’ at the University of Toronto.)

by Don Weitz


Antipsychiatry is not an ideology or theory as originally and erroneously attributed to the late existential psychiatrist R.D Laing and his professional followers. Instead, antipsychiatry is a growing global political movement of resistance against psychiatry and the “mental health system”. Among its principles are total rejection of psychiatry; commitment to dismantling or abolishing psychiatry; and strategic organizing against psychiatric institutions and procedures, particularly psychiatric drugs (“medication”) and electroshock (“ECT”) which are frequently coercive and brain-damaging. Antipsychiatry supports but does not organize non-medical, psychiatric survivor-controlled alternatives. It totally recognizes the reality of human pain, suffering and fear but does not pathologize them as “mental illness” or “mental disorder”. People who self-identify as antipsychiatry activists include many psychiatric survivors, radical or dissident health professionals, graduate students and academics in the social science and health fields, antipoverty and human rights activists.


There are several major reasons for taking an antipsychiatry position or becoming an antipsychiatry activist. First, the psychiatric system is based on and promotes the discredited medical model of “mental illness” including the fraudulent “biochemical imbalance” theory.  Second, psychiatry, particularly coercive-institutional psychiatry, is a social control system - not a ”mental health” or healing system.  Third, as social control, the psychiatric system is based on force, fear and fraud, as well as threats and intimidation – not “medical science”. Psychiatry’s uses of force and terror, for example, include involuntary committal, forced drugging, electroshock (“ECT”), physical restraints, ”seclusion” (solitary confinement or sensory deprivation), and degradation rituals (e.g., “medication time” lineups, shock treatments, diagnostic case conferences, “consent and capacity”/review board hearings). These dehumanizing procedures are authorized by the state, legitimized in mental health laws (including Ontario’s Mental Health Act), widely practiced, and rarely challenged as human rights violations or crimes. Fear is inherent in all psychiatric procedures including psychiatric imprisonment (‘involuntary committal’) – fear of being locked up and never getting out, fear of brain damage caused by electroshock, fear of forced drugging with disabling neuroleptics (“antipsychotics”) and antidepressants, fear of being abused or assaulted by psychiatrists and nurses, fear of being permanently traumatized, stigmatized and/ or disabled.


Fraud is also endemic in the psychiatric system. Psychiatry’s misappropriation and promotion of the discredited biomedical model of “mental illness” including its diagnostic labels and “biochemical imbalance” theory constitute medical fraud. For example, ”schizophrenia”, “bipolar mood disorder” and “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” (“ADHD”) are bogus diseases – they’re metaphors for non-conformist or dissident behaviour.  These so-called “mental disorders” are actually negative moral judgments or character assassinations based on bias and opinion – not science. Psychiatric diagnostic labels are codified and enshrined in psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) produced by the American Psychiatric Association - psychiatry’s book of character assassinations, the modern equivalent of the Malleus Maleficarum, the manual used to target and torture heretics and witches during The Inquisition.  (DSM-V with over 400 diagnostic labels will be published shortly.) These diagnostic labels are blatantly fraudulent; they do not refer to any disease process or bodily illness; they’ve been thoroughly discredited, exposed as pseudo-science. Unfortunately, psychiatric diagnoses are widely and officially recognized as “medical

science” and covered by Medicare including OHIP. Further, psychiatrists are still given ”expert witness” status in the courts. The fraud continues.


Electroshock (“electroconvulsive therapy” or “ECT”) is one of psychiatry’s major “controversial” weapons of social control. ECT “works” by causing fear, trauma, memory loss, brain damage, and social conformity. After undergoing a series of shock treatments (usually a ‘course’ of 8-12 sessions), many shock survivors stop complaining, stop criticizing their ‘treatment’ or doctor, and stop resisting because of fear of more “safe and effective treatment” and debilitation. At the same time, shock survivor-prisoners become “compliant” as a coping-release tactic.


Many people believe “ECT” is no longer prescribed or was banned shortly after they viewed the shock scene in the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” In fact, electroshock was never banned in Canada or the United States; it actually increased in some provinces and states. For example, during a 4-year period (2000-2004) in Ontario, government statistics show that approximately 14,000 ‘treatments’ have been administered to 1,200-1500 patients each year – frequently without informed consent or against the person’s will. Women and the elderly, particularly elderly women, are the main targets of ‘ECT’; 2-3 times more women than men are electroshocked. In short, the ‘treatment’ is sexist and ageist and destructive – it targets the most vulnerable among us. As an allegedly “safe and effective treatment” for depression, bipolar mood disorder and postpartum depression, electroshock always causes brain damage including permanent memory loss, impairment of intellectual ability or creativity, and psychological trauma, sometimes suicide or death. I personally know many shock survivors in Canada and the United States who suffered massive and permanent loss of years of memories, loss of critical intellectual or creative abilities, loss of job or ruined careers.


As a major aspect of the antipsychiatry movement, anti-shock protests have been growing worldwide. Since the 1980s, shock survivors, social justice activists and other allies have organized anti-shock and antipsychiatry protests in many cites in Canada, the United States, and Europe. During the last 3 years, anti-shock protests have been successfully organized by several survivor-and-feminist-led organizations on Mother’s Day in Toronto (Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault/CAPA), Montreal (Action-Autonomie et al), and Cork, Ireland (MindFreedom Ireland); their theme was and still is STOP SHCKING OUR MOTHERS AND GRADMOTHERS. A huge protest involving survivors and activists from other countries will be held in Toronto next May on Mother’s Day during PsychOUT: A Conference Organizing Resistance Against Psychiatry.


Psychiatry must be abolished because its procedures are frequently harmful, traumatic, life-threatening, unethical, and sometimes criminal. It violates several civil rights and human rights including choice of treatment, informed consent, freedom of thought, autonomy, personal dignity, and respect.


If you want to link to Don Weitz anti-psych show, most of the shows going back to Nov 13, 2009 are archived & can be found at the link below: 


`Recommended Reading

Linda Andre. Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You To Know About Shock Treatment. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press), 2009.


Peter R. Breggin. Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (NY: Springer Publishing Company) 1997, 2nd edition 2008).


Bonnie Burstow. “Electroshock As A Form of Violence Against Women”. Violence Against Women vol.12 no.4, 372-392 (April) 2006).


____________“Understanding and Ending ECT: A Feminist Imperative”. Canadian Woman Studies, vol.25, numbers 1,2, 115-122, 2006.


Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault.  [online -]


Leonard Frank. Electroshock Quotationary. [online -] 2006


Don Weitz. “Struggling Against Psychiatry’s Human Rights Violations”. Radical Psychology (Summer 2008), [online -]


Biographical note: Don Weitz is an antipsychiatry activist, executive member of the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA), co-editor of Shrink Resistant: The Struggle Against Psychiatry in Canada, and host-producer of “Antipsychiatry Radio” on CKLN (88.1FM) in Toronto.




Confronting Bigots Intolerant of Alternative Mental Health Treatment

"Webster's Dictionary" defines bigot as "a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion." Despite the success of alternative mental health treatments for many people, there still exists bigotry against these approaches.

For many self-defined "ex-mental health patients," "mental health treatment consumers," and "psychiatric survivors" who attended Alternatives 2010 Conference (September 29 through October 3 in Anaheim, California), D.J. Jaffe's September 30, 2010 The Huffington Post piece, "People with Mental Illness Shunned by Alternatives 2010 Conference in Anaheim" was insulting. Mr. Jaffe writes of the Alternatives 2010 Conference:

By failing to include 'people with mental illness' in the list of 'consumers' and 'survivors' who are invited, they are sending a not-so-subtle message: mentally ill not welcome.

Mr. Jaffe's statement can most politely be described as disingenuous. Mr. Jaffe knows full well that the Alternatives Conferences are attended by many people who have been in fact diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and other serious mental illnesses, but who have found that neither their diagnoses nor their standard treatments have been helpful. In other words, not only does the Alternative Conference welcome people who have been labeled as mentally ill, the conference celebrates them, and provides them an arena and a platform.

Vince's note - The scholarships for this years Alternatives Conference were offered to consumers only and not to survivors or e(X)patients. 

The article referenced is a typical Jaffe rant. DJ Jaffee is a New York adman who sits on the board of NAMI affiliate TREATMENT ADVOCACY CENTER, an organization dedicated to forced treatment.

Why is there a need for alternatives to standard drug treatments? A long-term outcome study of schizophrenic patients who were treated with and without psychiatric drugs was published in 2007 in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, research psychologist Martin Harrow, at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, discovered that after 4.5 years, 39 percent of the non-medicated group were "in recovery" and 60 percent had jobs. In contrast, during that same time period, the condition of the medicated patients worsened, with only six percent in recovery and few holding jobs. At the fifteen-year follow-up, among the non-drug group, only 28 percent suffered from any psychotic symptoms; in contrast, among the medicated group, 64 were actively psychotic.

Mr. Jaffe states, "For the 'labeled' participants, there will be a workshop on how to go off medications. That could be a dangerous, if not deadly, 'alternative'." And Mr. Jaffee also implies that the keynote speaker is anti-medication. It is Mr. Jaffe who is dangerous here, dangerously misleading. Neither Will Hall who led a workshop called "Coming Off Medications" nor keynote speaker Robert Whitaker are "anti-medication." I know both of them, and they are proponents of people being able to make informed choices.

Whitaker, as a medical reporter for the Boston Globe, won a George Polk Award for medical writing, a National Association of Science Writers Award for best magazine article, and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. In the solutions section of Whitaker's recent book "Anatomy of an Epidemic" (Crown Publishers, 2010), he describes how doctors in northern Finland use antipsychotic drugs sparingly and in an extremely selective, cautious manner when treating first-episode psychotic patients; also, a variety of alternative therapies are provided, and treatment decisions are made jointly with patients and their families. The results? "The long-term outcomes are," Whitaker notes, "by far, the best in the Western World."

Mr. Jaffe is again misleading when he states that Alternatives 2010 did not include people like his sister-in-law, "who suffers from the most devastating and debilitating mental illness: schizophrenia." Mr. Jaffe, I assure you, that both you and your and sister-in-law are welcome to any and all Alternatives Conferences.

David Oaks is director of MindFreedom and an attendee of Alternatives 2010. Oaks, as a young man, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. However, for several decades now, with alternative solutions and without psychiatric drugs, Oaks has not relapsed, and he has been a highly effective advocate for the rights of those diagnosed with mental illness. Oaks, understandably, was more than annoyed with Mr. Jaffe's piece. Oaks responded:

For 25 years the United States federal government has done at least one thing really well in mental health: They've funded an annual gathering of mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors who lead innovative peer-run programs for mental health. You'd think a blog like The Huffington Post would be intrigued about how a marginalized population has been finding its own voice, creating its own groups providing effective peer-delivered services, and influencing Washington, D.C.

To David Oaks, I say, Mr. Jaffe doesn't speak for The Huffington Post or its many bloggers. Mr. Jaffe sure as heck doesn't speak for me.

Bruce E. Levine, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy (Chelsea Green Publishing).                                                                  


Psychiatric Assault as Violence Against Women


Tina Minkowitz, J.D.



1.  Violence against women and girls with disabilities is not just a subset of gender-based violence, it is an intersectional category dealing with gender-based and disability-based violence. 


2.  Psychiatric assault as a form of violence against women and girls with disabilities is distinguished by the following:


            - Violence perpetrated by the state or under state authority

            - Violence that enjoys wide acceptance by the population as a whole

            - Violence that is both physical and psychological, in complex interrelated ways:  Forced drugging and ECT are acts of assault on the physical body that reach the mind by acting on the brain.  Psychiatric diagnosis can be an act of mental violence, depriving us of the right to name ourselves and our experience.  All acts against a person's will or without free and informed consent are both physical and psychological violence.

            - Violence that can be accomplished by physical force, legal compulsion, economic coercion, intimidation, psychological manipulation, deception, and mis-information, and in which absence of free and informed consent is a key analytical component


3.  Psychiatric assault is a form of disability-based violence, in that its primary and essential motivation is intolerance of the condition of madness or psychosocial disability as a human experience owned by the person experiencing it.  This characteristic persists even when psychiatric assault is a pretext for other kinds of repression, such as repression targeting political beliefs or gender non-conforming roles. 


4.  Psychiatric assault has a strong gender component.  In patriarchal societies (dominated by men, particularly as designated heads of families), women and girls are under social pressure, if not compulsion, to serve others (individual men, the community as a whole, in-laws, children, siblings, employers, masters) not only in their actions but with their souls and entire being.  A woman's or girl's existence for herself is negated, and her right to an independent subjectivity is negated.  Her time, her thoughts, her work are always subject to interruption by the "superior" claims of others, particularly men.  Psychiatric assault intensifies this negation of the subjectivity of women and girls, by making their subjectivity an object of intense interest and minute dissection by "superior" others, paradigmatically male psychiatrists though the power extends now to females and to other mental health workers.  The same assaults may also happen to men and boys, but women's psyches are, in western societies particularly, considered easier to access and there may also be a sexualization of the abuse.  Psychiatric assault, in its physical as well as mental violence, enforces the subordination of women and girls, and the denial of the personhood of women and girls. 


5.  The denial of personhood has its legal manifestation in the denial of full legal capacity including the capacity to act, which have been historically deprived to women in general, and continue to be denied to many women and men with disabilities.  (The legal capacity of girl and boy children is not yet fully addressed, but is now considered to be an evolving capacity to exercise decision-making and autonomy.)  CEDAW Article 15 and CRPD Article 12 mandate full legal capacity, including the capacity to act, for all women with disabilities.  CRC Article 12 and CRPD Article 7.3 mandate an evolving legal capacity with the right to express one's views, which are to be given due weight according to the child's age and maturity, on matters concerning oneself, for all children (both girls and boys) with disabilities.      As noted by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, deprivation of legal capacity puts women and men with disabilities in a situation of powerlessness that facilitates acts of torture and ill-treatment, including psychiatric assault.  (A/63/175, paragraphs 47, 49, 50, 61-65, 66-69). 


6.  Many acts of violence against wwd may constitute acts of torture and ill-treatment, including psychiatric assault, forced abortion and sterilization, rape and domestic violence, to the extent that the state bears responsibility as perpetrator or by authorizing the violence, or by failing to use due diligence to prevent violence by private actors.  Mechanisms to prevent and redress torture and ill-treatment, such as criminalization and prosecution, human rights monitoring generally and National Prevention Mechanisms under OPCAT, need to be mobilized to stop violence against women with disabilities.  As Manfred Nowak said, naming acts of violence and abuse against people with disabilities as torture or ill-treatment makes available stronger legal protection and redress for human rights violations.  Torture prevention mechanisms and redress through criminalization and other enforcement need to fully encompass a gender- and disability- perspective, not only by taking account of gender and disability in the application of their mandate, but by making sure that gender- and disability-based violence are adequately addressed from the outset in creating the mandates and establishing norms.  For instance, it's important that the state's due diligence in preventing acts of rape and domestic violence be referred to appropriately as prevention of torture and ill-treatment, unifying the violence prevention and torture prevention frameworks.  Similarly the obligation to repeal laws permitting psychiatric assault,  and take effective measures to stop such assault, needs to be addressed seriously as a demonstration of good faith, before any meaningful monitoring of psychiatric institutions can be undertaken under the OPCAT or under CRPD Article 16.  (OPCAT monitoring may not even be appropriate once the lawfulness of detention is revoked, as it must also be under CRPD Article 14). 


Press release from September 27, 2010European Network of (ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP) Honorary Doctorate for Peter Lehmann Anyone who pays attention to human rights violations in psychiatry, to the movement of users and survivors of psychiatry, and to alternatives beyond psychiatry will invariably encounter the name Peter Lehmann.

The certified social-pedagogist, born in 1950 in Calw (Black Forest, Germany), personally experienced involuntary psychiatric detention and treatment in the 1970s, and has worked for the rights of psychiatric patients and their world-wide networking for the past 30 years. He was a founding member of the European Network of (ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP), of PSYCHEX (Switzerland) and of the among many other organisations. Currently, he is ENUSP board member for the North-East European region. Based on experiential knowledge, his books, such as Coming off Psychiatric Drugs and Alternatives beyond Psychiatry, describe current self-help possibilities for individuals experiencing madness, as well as the risks and harms of psychiatric drugs and electroshock, alternatives beyond psychiatry, and strategies toward implementing humane treatment.

In acknowledgment of his "exceptional scientific and humanitarian contribution to the rights of the people with psychiatric experience," the School of Psychology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, decided unanimously to award him the Honorary Doctoral Degree. The ceremony will take place on 28th September 2010 at 12.00 at the Aristotle University; at 17.00 the international congress "Determing our own future: The way forward for all European users and survivors of psychiatry" will start, organised by ENUSP, Mental Health Europe, The Panhellenic Committee of (ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry and The School of Psychology and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece.

Peter Lehmann is the first survivor of psychiatry anywhere in the world to be honored with an Honorary Doctoral Degree for pioneering achievements within the realm of humanistic antipsychiatry. The award was initiated by Prof. Kostas Bairaktaris from Aristotle University. Since the end of the 1970s, Bairaktaris has played a key role for many years in dismantling the scandalous psychiatric prison on the Island of Leros, and in beginning the process of de-institutionalisation from the state-run psychiatric facility of Thessaloniki in the mid-1980s. Prof. Bairaktaris is certain that the tribute to Peter Lehmann, which he initiated, will stand as a symbol for the growing significance of the international self-help movement of users and survivors of psychiatry and other socially marginalized individuals.

For more information about the conference see, for more information about Peter Lehmann see or contact him still today directly: Peter Lehmann, Zabel-Krüger-Damm 183, 13469 Berlin, Germany, Tel. +49 / 30 / 85963706, Fax +49 / 30 / 40398752, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Kind regards

Mary Nettle

(Chair of ENUSP)


The formal press release you can download from

The unformatted press release you can download from

A photo of Peter Lehmann (300 dpi, 1529 KB) you can download from (The permission to use the picture is given herewith.)

A copy of the official invitation of the director of the Aristotle University and the Chairwoman of its School of Psychology about awarding this honorary doctor's degree you can download from

The course of the ceremony, translated into English, you can download from

Peter Lehmann's lecture "International Noncompliance and Humanistic Antipsychiatry" you can download only after September 28, 2010 from Already now you can download his acknowledgment to his companions in the last 30 years; download it from

-- The European Network of (ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry ( is an initiative to give (ex-) users and survivors of psychiatric services a means to communicate, to exchange opinions, views and experiences in order to support each other in the personal, political and social struggle against expulsion, injustice  and stigma in our respective countries. ENUSP is the only grassroots umbrella organisation on a European level that unifies (among others) national organisations of (ex-)users and survivors of psychiatry across the continent to provide a direct representation of people who are or have been on the receiving end of psychiatric services. Involvement of both user and survivor organisations from all over Europe is a unique added value of the Network.

Some members from MindFreedom Ireland took part in the film

'Soul Interrupted'.


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The Wellbeing Foundation

NEWSLETTER    29 September 2010


                                                      Human sustainability: the key to emotional health




'Soul Interrupted' at Arus Lorcain in Arklow

Soul Interrupted, the documentary film  about the lives of mental health service users made by the Wellbeing Foundation, will be shown on Thursday 30 September at 7.30pm in Arklow.

The documentary, filmed by Jonathan Woods in the summer of 2006, interviews a cross section of users of the public psychiatric services. Whether you are a 'service user' or a 'service provider', a sceptic towards or an advocate of ECT and antidepressant drugs, their self-narrated emotional testament provides compelling insight into the experiences and views of those on the receiving end.Says Jonathan Woods: “I've been involved in documenting the lives of many people in extreme circumstances. In Thailand, I witnessed the distress of countless survivors of the Asian tsunami. Closer to home I've been immersed in the explosive sectarian hatred in Northern Ireland. Working on Soul Interrupted has had just as deep a personal impact. Where Michael [Corry] and I went in the course of the production there was no high drama, no danger.

"Instead, on our doorstep we found people struggling to raise their voice against their treatment by a quietly immovable, powerful, often care-less medical and psychiatric force.”

The dramatic film will be shown in Arus Lorcain, Castlepark, Arklow tomorrow Thursday 30 September at 7.30pm. Admission by donation.

Arus Lorcain is located near the  Catholic Church on Castlepark. From Main Street, take the turn which runs beside the church, turn left and park ASAP. The building will be on your right.  Read moreAny organisation or group interested in showing the documentary should contact Basil Miller, head of communications at the Wellbeing Foundation


'Dialogues' meetings start again

We are happy to announce that the popular open meetings run by the Wellbeing Foundation under the titles Depression Dialogues and Psychosis Dialogues will resume from Wedbesday 13 October 2010.

The Depression Dialogues once-monthly meetings, later to be joined by the Psychosis Dialogues meetings, were initiated by Dr Michael Corry and Dr Aine Tubridy in 2004 when the Wellbeing Foundation was founded. They ran until Michael's recent death in February 2010. Now Dr Tubridy intends restarting them again, with certain changes to the format.Essentially her intention is to continue to offer the same opportunity for those in emotional or mental distress to find a forum to share views and experiences, learn about a variety of healing options outside the prevailing biomedical model, and enjoy the support of a community of like-minded fellow travellers along the path to wellness.     The change in format is that the meetings will now take place twice monthly, on the second and last Wednesday of each month. Each meeting will explore a different topic of mental health or general wellbeing each time, and will begin with Dr Tubridy giving a short talk seeking to give those attending an understanding of the topic, demystifying it in terms of current medical or psychiatric labelling, offering frameworks to explain symptoms, discussing the range of therapies available, and teaching some basic skills. In each case, the basic building blocks of Wellbeing which individuals can use to help themselves will be built on in each meeting. The venue will continue to be the Institute of Psychosocial Medicine, 2 Eden Park, Dun Laoghaire. The meeting time will be from 7.15 to 9.15pm.For a list of topics and dates for the rest of this year, click the link below.Read more

About the Foundation

The Wellbeing Foundation was formed in 2006 to address the parlous state of the mental health services in Ireland, to carry out research and education programmes, and to deal with specific issues faced by those who find themselves having to use these services.Instead of the biological-medical model of psychological distress, with its emphasis on brain chemistry as the 'cause' of 'illness', the Wellbeing Foundation approach is holistic, existential and humanitarian. This humanitarian approach can usher in an era of prevention of mental distress, from which will follow a multitude of innovative changes. These include, among many others, the creation of learning environments for our children which equip them with personal, emotional and interpersonal skills, which help them learn and know how to take personal responsibility for their minds and bodies, thus enabling them to live creatively and happily in their world. For those experiencing psychosocial distress in the present, it paves the way for crisis intervention centres, therapeutic communities, and various forms of psychological rehabilitation. Central to the Wellbeing Foundation approach is the concept of human sustainability, which focuses on and embraces the unique response each individual makes to life’s challenges, and the contribution which community and the ending of isolation can make to healing.

Contact us

2 Eden Park Glasthule Dun Laoghaire Ireland Tel:          +353 1 4433494 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +353 1 4433494      end_of_the_skype_highlightingFax:         +353 1 2843028Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.Web: This newsletter was created with - Simple Email Marketing Design Copyright ©2008


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