Firstly, it is great to see the subject of mental health being discussed, and especially the motion of removing the medical approach!

The motion was unfortunately defeated, but not without a weak debate beforehand. You can listen to the debate by clicking play below


It began with Dr Shari McDaid opening the motion "for", with the caveat that she believes in a bio/psycho/social model. Not a great start! There are people, other than myself, who would like to see the "medical model" being removed entirely..... or, failing that, would like to see the "medical model" adhering to the usual criteria of science and medicine.

Next was Dr Colm Mcdonald, he made some wild claims about psychiatry adhering to science, worryingly, he may even believe them, despite having accepted that on the level of individual cases there are no tests. He concluded that removing the medical model would "weaken capacity to know when we are wrong"! - I found that quite ludicrous. It suggests that they have an understanding of where they "went wrong", at the moment, and that that is informed by science. The Survivors of Psychiatry have done far more to change psychiatry, than psychiatry itself has afaik.

Unfortunately the level of knowledge of the speakers from the floor was very poor. One guy said that Psychology was a science (last I checked it was part of the humanities), the same guy seemed under the impression that science and medicine are part of psychiatry.

The next speaker was Dr. Mary Bar, a homoeopath. She talked about the importance of seeing the whole life experience of a person, and listening to their story, of treating people as individuals. Her position made a lot of sense, but it too failed to challenge the "medical model".

Both the speakers on stage, and the ones from the floor, apparently believed in the myths of bio. It is a shame that the debate was not more robust, as this issue is a big one in Mental health

The last speaker from the stage was Mr. Finnegan. He talked of how GPs do more than just the medical side of things. I thought it a bit bazaar while listening, but when I talked to him afterwards he said he should really have been on the "for" side, but they needed another "against"!

All in all, it was worth the trip up to Galway to hear the debate, but it would be great to have the same motion in a more informed house, with people believing in their side of the argument, and speaking more directly to the motion.

I would love to see Psychiatric Survivors who oppose the system, such as myself, debating with the likes of Dr. Colm McDonald. Unfortunately, I only learnt of the debate a few hours beforehand, so I did not have stats to hand to challenge what he was saying, despite knowing much of it was either false, or half-truths.

Gordon Lucas of

MindFreedom Ireland believes in recovery and transformation.

We seek and promote alternatives to the coercive, medical, psychiatric model. We believe that the problems we experienced are part of the human condition.

Many of us have recovered from our peace of mind problems using non-psychiatric methods. Music and art therapy, wellness approaches and talk-therapies such as counselling and psychotherapy. Wellness Recovery Action Plans are now fairly common place.

In Ireland the Vision For Change document demonstrated that so called' psychiatric patients' felt that they were not listened to and that their dignity had not been respected by the' Mental Health System'. That document marked a beginning in the revolt of the' patients' and a change in government policy with regard to 'Mental Health'. We are slowly but surely taking over the asylum to transform it to a place of healing and learning.

Psychiatry is under threat by these changes. some of it's proponents know this and are desperately clinging on to the diminishing power it currently has in the 'Mental Health System'. It is trying to remain relevant by shifting into other fields of study such psychotherapy.

Recovery and transformation are possible!


 Beyond Psychiatry by Jim Maddock


Apparently unconcerned, today orthodox psychiatry seems to have adopted an ostrich 

like approach to an ever increasing worldwide movement interested in developing

more respectful, holistic and effective alternative methods of dealing with emotional

distress. Completely disillusioned with personal experiences of the system that

is, this movement is essentially moving on, leaving orthodox psychiatry in its wake.


 Psychiatry is frequently described as a ‘religion’. Despite its claims

to be scientific, many today would say otherwise, there being no valid scientific

medical tests to prove the existence of any diagnosis. The ‘priests’ of

 psychiatry, the psychiatrists themselves, bow to their recently updated and expanded

bible, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5, which contains hundreds of ‘mental

disorders and illnesses’ including the familiar ones of bipolar, ADHD and, the most

wounding of all, schizophrenia but, to the best of my knowledge, excludes Delusional

 Scientific Diagnosing Disorder! Their belief in the DSM is as fundamental and

 dogmatic as the most rigid Vatican teaching. In a sentence, they proclaim a

 reductionist, biological medical model – that is, that all the diagnoses of the DSM are

 ‘mental illnesses’, the result of a ‘broken brain’ or a ‘chemical imbalance’ to be

 primarily treated with the panacea provided by the pharmaceutical industry - drugs.


 But for the past quarter of a century, a growing coalition of voices and movements

 have dared to challenge the dogma of orthodox psychiatry. This is a truly brave action

 to take, particularly for an individual, as it could and has led to charges of ‘lacking

 insight’ and ‘paranoia’ and be an excuse to re-incarcerate the outspoken voice.


One of the first was Ted Chabasinski, an American lawyer who, at the age of six,

 received electroshock in Belle View Psychiatric Hospital in New York. Along with

 the late Judi Chamberlin, another psychiatric survivor, they spoke out as members of

 The Patients’ Liberation Front in the 1970’s. Amazingly, their views were supported

 by two psychiatrists, Dr. Leon Mosher and Dr. Peter Breggin, who in time,

 spearheaded the revolt. Dr. Mosher had established his Soteria Project, a house in

 San Francisco where emotionally disturbed people were treated with dignity and

 respect in a non-medical fashion before he himself resigned from the Psychiatric

 Association, citing his disillusionment with what it stood for. Allying himself with Dr.

 Mosher, Dr. Breggin published his book ‘Toxic Psychiatry’ in 1991 which, in its own

 way, was to become the ‘bible’ of unorthodoxy as opposition in the US and Canada

 gathered pace with the voices of survivors like Leonard Roy Frank, David Oaks, Tina

 Minkowitz, Don Weitz and Jim Gottstein all critical of standard psychiatry and

 Calling for alternative approaches. ‘Toxic Psychiatry’ was followed in 1994 by

 Dr.Breggin’s second book ‘Talking Back to Prozac’ which challenged the supposed

 benefits of the new wonder drug which had been developed by Eli Lilly in the 1980’s.


 The word was spreading. In 2001, Dr.Terry Lynch from Limerick published ‘Beyond

 Prozac’, putting Dr. Breggin’s message into a specific Irish context. The following

 year saw the first meeting of the newly formed Mental Health Alliance, chaired by

 Vincent Browne, in Tullamore. This was an attempt by interested parties,

 professionals, academics and concerned members of the public to organise and

 campaign for "the provision of a choice of mental health treatments and therapies", a

 better way or as Joan Hamilton from Charleville, Co. Cork might have put it –

 ‘Another Way – Sli Eile’. Other people like Paddy McGowan from Derry had

 founded The Irish Advocacy Network which in turn had led to the establishment of

 The Cork Advocacy Network, out of which Joan Hamilton went on to establish Sli

 Eile, her social housing project for people who had been through psychiatry’s

 ‘revolving door’ and which today is continuing to thrive and expand.

 ‘Rebel’ Cork was to feature prominently in the new movement. In 2003,

MindFreedom Ireland, an affiliate of MindFreedom International, was established and 

began to campaign against the lack of human rights in the form of forced drugging

 and forced electroshock that continued on a daily basis in the psychiatric system. In

 2007, it organised Ireland’s first ever public protest against electroshock in Daunt

 Square, an event attended by politicians Kathy Sinnott and Dan Boyle. Beginning in

 2004, a series of one-day mental health forums organised by Lydia Sapouna of the

 Department of Applied Social Science in UCC provided further opportunities for the

 voices of criticism to be heard, particularly the voices of those people who, like

 Mary Maddock. Tim Nyhan and Kieran Crowe, had been through the system and also

 become disillusioned with it. In addition to Dr. Terry Lynch, Dr. Aine Tubridy and

 three other Irish doctors, psychiatrists Michael Corry, Ivor Browne and Pat Bracken,

 added their weighty voices.


 Disappointingly, the much vaunted 2006 Vision for Change still predominantly

 endorsed established psychiatry only paying lip service to the call of people with

 personal experience for alternative approaches. In the same year, Dr Corry organised

 a major conference on depression in The Burlington Hotel in Dublin during which a

 documentary film ‘Soul Interrupted’, featuring the testimony of many psychiatric

 survivors, was shown. The main speaker on the day was Dr. Peter Breggin. His

 morning talk asked the question ‘Was psychiatry doing more harm than good?’ while

 in the afternoon, he spoke on the topic ‘Healing Depression Without Resort to

 Psychiatric Drugs or' ECT’.



Everywhere, orthodox psychiatry was being challenged. On the continent, the

 European Network of ex-Users and Survivors of Psychiatry was increasingly active.

 A Dutch psychiatrist, Professor Marius Romme of Maastricht University founded the

 Hearing Voices Movement which completely challenged psychiatry’s view of

 'schizophrenia' and promoted an approach which saw voice hearing as a meaningful

 response to life trauma to be engaged with rather than flatly suppressed by the

 administration of powerful drugs. Hearing Voices groups are firmly based on an

 ethos of self-help, mutual respect and empathy. There is no assumption of illness.


 Last November in Cork, two voice hearers, Jacqui Dillon and Eleanor

 Longden rendered moving and powerful testimony of how the Hearing Voices

 approach had been so successful for them. Also in Ireland, Cork’s John McCarthy

 founded the Mad Pride movement and blitzed the media with his call for change.


 Organisations like WRAP, Renew and the Wellbeing Foundation advocated new

 approaches. MindFreedom Ireland attracted new, young, vital and vocal voices such

 as Patrice Campion, Richard Patterson and Gordon Lucas. Colette Ni Dhuinneacha’s

 powerful voice debated the issue of electroshock on TV3 with a representative of The Irish College of Psychiatry.

Dublin actor Dylan Tighe staged his critical production

 Record at the Cork Midsummer Festival. I would hope that the book ‘Soul Survivor

 - A Personal Encounter with Psychiatry’ by my wife Mary and myself also had a

 contribution to make..


 A culmination of all of this dissatisfaction with orthodox psychiatry’s

 current handling of emotional distress was the foundation in 2010 of the Critical

 Voices Network Ireland (CVNI). Evolving from a series of conferences in UCC

 organised by Lydia Sapouna and Dr. Harry Gibjels of the School of Nursing,


CVNI describes itself as "a coalition of people interested in considering and

 developing responses to human distress which are creative, enabling, respectful and

 firmly grounded in human rights". For the past three years, they have held a two-day

 conference every November in Cork which has been a stimulating, sustaining and

 challenging get-together for people from all over Ireland and abroad. In 2011, CVNI

 in association with MindFreedom Ireland and the Wellbeing Foundation organised a

 nation-wide tour by American medical journalist Robert Whittaker, author of Mad in

 America and his latest best-selling book Anatomy of an Epidemic – Magic Bullets,

 Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. It was also

 at the CVNI conference that the above mentioned Jacqui Dillon and Eleanor Longden

 were keynote speakers.


The international mutuality of the ever-growing revolt against orthodox psychiatry

 and the call for new and alternatve approaches to the question of emotional distress

 was reflected by the appearance of Cork based Mary Maddock as a keynote

 speaker at the third Empathetic Therapy Conference organised by Dr. Peter Breggin

 which was held in Syracuse, New York at the end of April. As a person with over

 twenty years experience of bio-medical psychiatry, Ms. Maddock spoke on the

 alternative approaches and methods which transformed her from an overweight, half-

 functioning, electroshocked, drugged psychiatric ‘patient’ to a rejuvenated, musically

 creative, physically fit and active campaigner who has been drug free since 2001.


 Distinguishing itself from orthodox psychiatry, Dr. Breggin describes Empathic

 Therapy as promoting empowerment, responsibility and engagement rather than

 psychiatric drugs and shock treatment. It does not reduce others to diagnostic

 categories or labels – a process that diminishes personal identity, oversimplifies life,

 nstils dependency on authority and impedes post-traumatic growth. Dr. Breggin’s

 approach is the future, not this week’s new, expanded DSM 5.