Alternatives 2010 In The News
Alternatives Announcement to print and distribute (PDF, 164KB, 1 page)
Alternatives Announcement in Vietnamese (PDF, 149KB, 1 page)
NATIONAL EMPOWERMENT CENTER
To view PowerPoint, presentations, download a free copy of the
Huffington Post Bloggers Clash About "Alternatives 2010" -- Mental Health Consumers and Psychiatric Survivors Center of Storm
Author and Psychologist Bruce Levine Accuses Blogger D. J. Jaffe of "Bigotry"
When more than 1,000 people diagnosed with psychiatric disorders gathered for
an historic conference, they didn't know that finding their voice would bother
some people. A lot.
Alternatives Conference Report by Harvey Rosenthal
Harvey Rosenthal from NYAPRS (New York Association of Psychiatric
Rehabilitation Services), wrote the following about the Alternatives Conference.
Questions were raised about the appearance of keynoter Bob Whitaker, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and past NYAPRS Conference keynoter whose work on challenging the use and overuse of psychiatric medications and its impact is highlighted in his two books “Mad in American,” and “Anatomy of An Epidemic.”
As Whitaker states in the Huffington Post, “This does not mean that
antipsychotics don't have a place in psychiatry's toolbox. But it does mean that
psychiatry's use of these drugs needs to be rethought.” He goes on to cite “ a
model of care pioneered by a Finnish group in western Lapland (that) provides us
with an example of the benefit that can come from doing so. Twenty years ago,
they began using antipsychotics in a selective, cautious manner, and today the
long-term outcomes of their first-episode psychotic patients are astonishingly
good. At the end of five years, 85% of their patients are either working or back
in school, and only 20% are taking antipsychotics.”
Concerns were also raised about the wording and intent of an Alternative workshop offered by Will Hall, a noted “mental health advocate, writer, and counselor,” and his workshop “Coming Off Medications: A Harm Reduction Approach.”
Finally, another controversy came in the form of an attack on Alternatives in
the form of a Huffington Post column by noted proponent of outpatient commitment
laws DJ Jaffe. I have included below Jaffe’s posting, followed by Huffington
Post responses from current and next year’s Alternatives organizers Dan Fisher
and Joe Rogers as well as from Will Hall (www.huffingtonpost.com/dj-jaffe/people-with-mental-illnes_b_746222.html).
People With Mental Illness Shunned by Alternatives 2010 Conference in Anaheim. DJ Jaffe, Huffington Post, September 30, 2010
During the first week of October, mental health advocates around the country will gather to celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) by shunning the seriously mentally ill. The most egregious example of this "celebration" will take place this weekend at the Alternatives 2010 conference in Anaheim, California.
The Alternatives 2010 conference is a gathering of "consumers and survivors of mental health services." They use that language, because many in the leadership believe mental illness doesn't exist and is merely a label society uses to control them. 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. The term "mental illness" isn't even allowed in the program.
For the 'labeled' participants, there will be a workshop on how to go off medications. That could be a dangerous, if not deadly, 'alternative,' should someone with schizophrenia who needs medication to prevent them from deteriorating decides to do it. (See note below-ed). The keynote speaker wrote, "Antipsychotic drugs do not fix any known brain abnormality nor do they put brain chemistry back into balance." One wonders if he ever met anyone with schizophrenia when they were on and off medications.
While proclaiming mental illness doesn't exist, the Alternatives 2010 leadership
purports to speak for people who have it. The 'celebration' is funded with our
taxes by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA). Dollars
meant to help people with mental illness are instead going to people who deny
People like my sister-in-law, who suffers from the most devastating and debilitating mental illness: schizophrenia. Will you see people like her in MIAW public service announcements or being welcomed at the Alternatives Conference? How about the homeless or those actively hallucinating and experiencing psychosis? The mere existence of very symptomatic people is inconsistent with the MIAW and Alternatives narrative that people with mental illness are just like you and me……”
***We invite everyone who participated in the conference to write your own comment at the Huffington Post online:***
Below are responses from Daniel Fisher, Will Hall and Joseph Rogers. There are many other interesting responses also.
Daniel B Fisher 10/02/2010
Contrary to his claim, the term “consumer/survivors” includes every person who has had mental health challenges, past and present. The Alternatives Conference represents a hopeful gathering of over 1200 people, the majority of whom have been diagnosed with severe mental health issues, have had experiences of homelessness, institutionalization, and incarceration, and many have gone on to recover and live full lives in the community. I am one of those people. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized on 3 occasions prior to becoming a psychiatrist.
We believe that it is the right of every person to make informed choices about their medical treatment, including how to reduce or discontinue medications, if a person chooses to do so, through shared decision making with a medical professional.
Many of us have experienced coercive treatment, which we found to be re-traumatizing. That is why our advocacy efforts focus on providing compassionate, voluntary alternatives such as peer support, crisis alternatives, and psychosocial rehabilitation.
No one at this conference denies the intense confusion, pain and suffering that
is diagnosed as mental illness. We believe that changing policy and practice to
promote recovery-oriented, trauma-centered approaches will improve outcomes and
result in greater social inclusion for people with mental health issues. Far
from wasting money many, economical innovations are being described at the
conference. What a shame D.J. did not attend. Daniel Fisher, CEO of NEC
Mr. Jaffe. I am Dr. Fisher. I would like you to acknowledge my credentials and
the work that went into obtaining a PhD in biochemistry, an MD, with board
certification in psychiatry, and my recovery from schizophrenia. I feel I
qualify as an expert on the topic. I do not deny that I and many others who
attend our conference have and are experiencing extreme mental states which at
times compromise our ability to work and engage in meaningful relationships.
However, many of us have found that our recovery is interfered with by a narrow,
pathological model represented by the term mental illness. I and many of us who
have been through the experience choose to describe it as severe emotional
distress which interferes with community participation. I know this is longer
than mental illness, but research has shown it is less stigmatizing, and it is a
better description of what steps people need to take to recover and lead a
fulfilling life of meaningful relationships and work. Words are very important.
The term mental illness suggests that the major problem is biochemical and
medications alone will solve our problems. I and many of us in the
consumer/survivor movement understand that medications are one tool among many
people can choose to use in their recovery. I also understand that some people
choose to describe their mental health issues as mental illness. They should
have that freedom just as we should have ours to choose how to describe the
The author, Mr. Jaffe, has not actually attended Alternatives 2010, and this
article misrepresents what is taking place at the conference.
Mr. Jaffe has portrayed the Alternatives conference from his own imagination,
not reality, to advance a narrow political agenda. In so doing he has failed to
meet even the most basic standards of journalism, and done a great disservice to
the front-line healthcare staff at the conference who dedicate themselves every
day to helping people diagnosed with mental illness.
As one of the founders of the Alternatives conferences and as someone who has helped organize many of them and has attended every single one of them (since 1985), I can say that D.J. doesn’t know us or understand much about us. I am someone who proudly talks about my continuing recovery from mental illness. I take medication to help me in my recovery, and no one at the Alternatives conference has ever made me feel unwelcome. The irony is that the Alternatives conference is made up of people from a movement that has great diversity, ranging from those who feel that being called mentally ill is perfectly correct to people who would rather not be called mentally ill. Recovery is a very individual thing, and unless we have opportunities like the Alternatives conference to meet with our peers and share our stories of recovery, it would be hard to imagine how we could spread the word that recovery is possible. I have also been very active with NAMI, I have spoken at their conferences several times and was one of the people who was involved in the founding of the NAMI Consumer Council, and I know that many people in NAMI agree that recovery is possible and that there are many paths to recovery. As executive director of the organizing organization for next year’s Alternatives conference, I look forward to seeing the dialogue continue with the many diverse voices that we have that celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week.
Mad in America, Psychology Today Blog by Robert Whitaker, October 6, 2010
The Alternatives Conference and the Story of an Opportunity Lost: The Medication Taboo in the Land of Free Speech
In the last chapter of my book Anatomy of an Epidemic, I noted that if our society is going to stem the epidemic of disabling mental illness that has erupted during the past twenty years, then it needs to have an honest discussion about what is truly known about the biological causes of psychiatric disorders, and an honest discussion about how the medications affect the long-term course of those disorders. The illuminating powers of science could work their usual magic. But that is a discussion that many in our society don't want to have, and my recent experience at the Alternatives conference in Anaheim illustrates that point, and reveals too why this is such a loss.
Read the entire article and post a comment here: www.psychologytoday.com/node/48811
'Coming Off Meds' back on agenda, Boston Globe Blog, September 27, 2010
Copyright © 2010, National Empowerment Center, Inc.
All rights reserved
Site by Tom Rogers Web Design Internet Solutions