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National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery | NCMHR

Occupy the APA Is a Success!

On Saturday, May 5, 2012, more than 200 dedicated human rights activists, most of whom had firsthand experience with the mental health system, gathered inside Friends Center in Philadelphia to rally before marching to the Pennsylvania Convention Center. At the Convention Center, many activists ripped up their psychiatric labels while, inside, thousands of psychiatrists attended the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, where a key topic was the controversial proposed new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the DSM-5 – due to be published in May 2013.

The activists represented a broad spectrum of opinion and included those who had had positive experiences with psychiatry as well as those whose psychiatric encounters had been traumatic. All were united in opposing the DSM-5. Their opposition was shared by thousands of others, including the Coalition for DSM-5 Reform, an organization of psychologists, more than 13,000 of whom have signed a petition opposing the revised DSM.

The speakers at Friends Center included David Oaks, director of MindFreedom International, who had conceived the event and whose organization co-sponsored it with the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights and the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse. Many other advocacy organizations were also represented, including the Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, Voices of the Heart, and the Mental Patients Liberation Alliance, which paid for 10 rooms at a local motel so that up to 40 people coming in from around the country could stay at no cost. Susan Rogers of the Clearinghouse, who had helped organize the event, read a statement of support by the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, which included the following: “With each successive edition, the DSM classifies more and more varieties of human suffering and emotional distress as mental disorders. Psychiatric diagnosis does nothing to address the social, economic, and political causes and conditions that have led to our suffering and our being labeled. These include trauma, poverty, abuse, and isolation. If society focused more on the injustices that cause emotional distress, we could do much more to prevent the conditions that get labeled as ‘mental illness.’ ”

Among the mental health professionals present was Adina Lambert, a practicing psychologist and member of the International Society for Ethical Psychiatry and Psychology. “My heart breaks when I see people medicated for absolutely no reason,” Lambert said. She criticized the “labels and ridiculous diagnoses that are being put on people that have no basis in fact, no basis in science.”

"We'd have to be Don Quixote to think we're going to stop [the DSM-5] at this point," David Oaks told the Philadelphia Inquirer before the event. Nevertheless, an article in The New York Times on May 8 indicates that doctors “have backed away from two controversial proposals that would have expanded the number of people identified as having psychotic or depressive disorders.”

The next day, about 150 people came to hear Robert Whitaker, acclaimed author of Anatomy of an Epidemic and Mad in America; Jim Gottstein, founder and president of the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights; and Keris Myrick, president and CEO of Project Return Peer Support Network in Pasadena, California, speak at the Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany in Center City Philadelphia. Among those present was Liz Spikol, a well-known Philadelphia journalist who often writes about her personal struggles with bipolar disorder. “My own doctor often chides me for focusing on my diagnosis,” Spikol blogged in Philadelphia Magazine the day before the event. “‘Just tell me what’s going on,’ he says, ‘and let’s see if we can’t help.’ Sometimes that help involves medication. But sometimes it involves talking. The diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder in the DSM? They don’t come into play.”

The coalition that created Occupy the APA continues to organize! To get involved, join five-five@lists.mindfreedom.org  —Susan Rogers