Before the internet/digital age, historically powerful and influential institutions and corporations, had more or less complete dominance over the spread of information, and also how that information was shared, filtered, disseminated and interpreted. The discourse around that information, and knowledge, was invariably generated and shaped by elite organizations, powerful news media, the agenda of government and big business etc. In the past 15 years, with the advent of the internet, and subsequently, the development of a world wide digital social media apparatus (which includes Facebook, blogs, twitter etc), the traditional landscape of how (previously controlled) information, ideas and ‘messages’ circulated is now completely subverted. Nowadays, we have something of a more level, democratic, and ‘fairer’ playing field in regards to access to infinite streams of information. Easy access to sophisticated digital tools -which previous generations could only dream of- have (for better or worse) brought us all together in an online interconnected universe.
Some people don’t like this new democratic system. They haven’t quite come to terms with the reality that the world wide web has given every individual access to the online discourse; a digital universe where ideas and opinions can flow freely. An online space where a tweet can become an international news-worthy talking point, or where a lone blogger can have a global presence. People don’t take information at face-value anymore, they research it themselves online, they ‘google it’, ‘google it’ again and ‘google it’ some more until they find what they are looking for. In this new online digital world anyone with an internet connection can challenge established dogmas, ideologies and systems that they disagree with. The world of information and knowledge is no longer filtered through traditionally narrow channels. Knowledge is no longer under the control of the few. In this new world- dissent from twitter, youtube and Facebook can aid revolutions in the middle east (like the arab spring) or help websites advocate transparency for our governments and hold them to account (WikiLeaks).
Anyone can set up a twitter account, or create a blog, and anybody can engage with the new digital discourse. We can all debate each others views, challenge prejudice and ignorance, and have our own views challenged too, and hopefully help make the world a fairer, more democratic place to live. This is surely good for society, the evolution of culture, and mankind in general isn’t it?
I created this blog several years ago, because I was prescribed a dangerous, defective drug called Seroxat for depression in my twenties and I wanted to warn others of the possible dangers of SSRI anti-depressants and the perils of psychiatric diagnoses. I should have received talk-therapy at the time, and I would have been fine, but such is the mental health system that I was not provided with an option apart from drugs. Psychiatric drugs are highly profitable and psychiatry is only too eager to put us all on them. The drug company, GSK, hid the side effects of addiction, severe withdrawal, aggression and other side effects in order to make a profit (dead patients from dodgy drugs aren’t good advertising for business). Suffice to say, after finding this fraud out, I became a little pissed off. As you would …
After a long and arduous withdrawal, I began (with the magic of the digital internet) to research the drug I was prescribed (Seroxat/Paxil), the drug company who unethically created it (GlaxoSmithKline) and the system (Psychiatry) which allowed this sinister injustice to happen to me. What I discovered on my quest to understand why and how a defective drug like Seroxat comes to market, initially disturbed me greatly. I just couldn’t believe the level of corruption and deception in psychiatry. I was shocked and horrified at the faustian pact between psychiatry and the drug companies. I was disgusted at how psychiatry willingly sold out (and thus sold us- the patients- down the river too), and in the process also sold their monopoly on the human condition to the drugs industry. I was appalled at how doctors ignored patients’ complaints of side effects. I was dismayed and disappointed that the people I thought were there to help me possessed such power to harm me. I was hurt that my vulnerability could be exploited in such a cruel, sadistic and inhumane manner. I realized that we live in a very precarious world, where there are sinister forces that will use, abuse, and exploit your vulnerability for monetary gain or to maintain the status quo, or their own status. I learned that drug companies are callous and that psychiatry (like the Catholic church) is in deep denial. I learned that many people are being harmed by both, and grave injustices to vulnerable people continues, but in this blogging mis-adventure, most importantly- I discovered that there are others who share my views, and that online, those views can be heard.
Undoubtedly, some psychiatrists will dismiss me and my blog, as ‘anti-psychiatry’. This is a mere semantic charade. It’s a trick which psychiatry tries to use when people like me (ex- psychiatric service users) educate ourselves, begin to speak out, and in the process challenge their dogma, and quite often we ruffle a few feathers too! I am not anti-psychiatry, I am anti-psychiatric deception, misinformation and lies. I am pro-patient, and anti- psychiatric harm. If anything, most critics of psychiatry that I know of- lean more towards the hope of psychiatric ‘reform’ than the complete destruction of the profession. Most of us just want to be heard.
Psychiatry deeply needs to reform and it needs to engage with its critics, but (like that other arrogant ideological dogma -the Catholic church) it is extremely stubborn and it treats criticism as threats (and critical voices as flames- which need to be stamped out). Until psychiatry learns to adapt to criticism, particularly from ex-service users, it will continue to be seen as aloof, cold and devoid of compassion. Psychiatric reaction to criticism often has the opposite effect, instead of shutting us down, and quelling debate and dissent, some people damaged by psychiatric drugs shout louder. Oftentimes, people don’t appreciate being condescended to or having their experience debased and invalidated, particularly from the very regime that did the damage. Mainstream psychiatry’s reaction to criticism from service users, or those unhappy with drug treatments, is comparable to how the Catholic church reacted to abuse victims. It’s understandable that psychiatry would be intensely defensive, but that doesn’t justify it.
That last point- brings me finally- to Psychiatrist Simon Wessely. Over the past few weeks I have written a few critical blog posts on Simon Wessely; highlighting some things which I feel need to be highlighted. I wrote these posts mainly because I have a highly critical eye- and a critical ear. Therefore, when I hear or read misnomers, misinformation, red herrings and inaccuracies in the current mental health discourse, I feel the (democratic) need to challenge and to express my opinion on it. I feel, as a former psychiatric service user, and a former psychiatric drug user, that I have a valid and legitimate voice in this arena… but evidently some don’t feel the same.
Simon is an extremely influential psychiatrist. He has access to massive news dissemination networks like the BBC, The Guardian etc. Simon has the backing of powerful organizations, with governmental contacts, and political sway. I am just an independent mental health activist, a nobody, with a small blog and a small twitter presence, how could anything I draw attention to be of any significance to someone with such a large and powerful influence?
Simon sent me an e-mail recently, but because he stated boldly that it was a –
“PRIVATE E MAIL’
I am hesitant (out of mere common courtesy) to post it in its entirety,
However, I will publicly respond to Wessely here on my blog, as to be honest, I feel I have a right to express my response whatever way I see fit (it is the 21st century digital age after all).
I understand completely why you decided to block me on twitter, however I will not block you as I believe in a democratic, adult discourse about psychiatry and psychiatric drugs. I know my questions must have bothered you, as I’m sure you don’t often take it upon yourself to e-mail ex-psychiatric service users who disagree with much of your views. However, I do find it ridiculous when you say that you ‘don’t find the possibility of a meaningful discussion’ with me because you have not in any way even attempted to engage with anything I have to say on my blog, or on twitter. Therefore, any chance of a meaningful discussion has been nil from the beginning.
I am anonymous because I choose to be, and also because the issues I raise evidently can sometimes cause some controversy. You are a public figure firmly connected (and protected) by the establishment which you represent, I am not. I am an accidental mental health activist, I get no accolades, awards or pay for my work. There are over 650 blog posts on this blog, most pertaining to corruption and fraud within your profession and the pharmaceutical industry (an entity which props up your profession). If you should care to read some of them, particularly the ones on Seroxat, you might gain an insight into what I do and why I do it.
I have questioned some aspects of interviews, and views you have expressed, in mainstream media outlets such as BBC Radio 4 and The Guardian, and I feel I have a democratic right to do so, particularly when I feel that some of the information being disseminated is either wrong, misguided or will cause harm to vulnerable people (by that I mean people suffering from ‘mental health’ issues).
Your views reach huge audiences, mine are modest at best. I could chat all day with you, or discuss endless things about psychiatry, the nefarious influence of the drugs industry, academic bias, cognitive dissonance and ‘mental health’ but you have made it clear that you do not wish to engage at all with me -apart from perhaps sending me ‘PRIVATE e-mails that contain more than a tone and whiff of something ‘veiled’ – therefore Simon I wish you well.
An anonymous ex- psychiatric service user, Seroxat Sufferer, and long time blogger,
(who actually has an education but doesn’t need letters and a litany of statuses after my name in order to stress my importance and superiority)