How to Do Mental Health Anti Psychiatry Activism

Two Parts:Learning About Anti-PsychiatryBecoming an Activist

The anti-psychiatry movement believes that modern-day psychiatric practices, particularly the use of drug treatments, are harmful to mentally ill people. This movement covers a wide variety of causes, and has had some success over the years in creating better conditions for the mentally ill and increasing compassion as a part of their treatment. You may be sympathetic to this view, through either personal experience or observing others. If so, you may want to get involved the movement to protest psychiatric treatments, or promote different care for people with psychiatric and related disabilities.

Part 1
Learning About Anti-Psychiatry

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    Learn about the anti-psychiatry movement. There are many different ways to look at anti-psychiatry. Some movements are concerned with ending treatments they see as abusive or unnecessary, such as electroshock therapy or prescription drugs. Other groups support the civil rights of individuals diagnosed with mental illness on the basis of certain behaviors and beliefs.[1]
    • The anti-psychiatry movement has many subsections and different ideas, like any other movement. Being an anti-psychiatry activist doesn't mean you have to agree with everything said by all other anti-psychiatry activists.
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    Learn the basics of psychiatry. Learning about something can help you find the best way to argue against it. Learn what psychiatrists do, and why they may prescribe specific treatments. Remember that psychiatry is an evidence-based field that has multiple peer-reviewed journals. When searching for criticisms of psychiatric practices, look for work that uses research to find evidence in support of their conclusions. Work that is peer-reviewed is a big plus.
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    Learn about the alternatives to common psychiatric practices. While plenty in the anti-psychiatry movement reject much of the profession, many activists have very targeted concerns. Many activists focus on specific instances of poor treatment of people with mental health and developmental disabilities. For some patients, alternative forms of therapy can be just as beneficial, if not more so. Some of the most common issues these days include:[2]
    • The over medication of children, especially using drugs like Ritalin for ADHD. They claim that children receive too much medication for too long, and that behavioral therapy can be just as effective in treating childhood behavioral disorders.[3]
    • The use of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). ECT uses targeted pulses of electricity to the brain to create a general seizure. This treatment is still used occasionally in the treatment of mania and depression.[4] Anti-psychiatry activists object to ECT because they believe it unsafe, and that patients are unable to give informed consent. Rather, they suggest its use would be even less if potential patients were fully informed of the treatment and its risks.[5]
    • Restraint and seclusion practices.[6]
    • Involuntary hospitalization. This process involves having people committed for mental illnesses without their consent. Patients' advocates believe these commitments can be arbitrary, and have a damaging effect on the individual's wellbeing without adding any benefits.[7]
    • Compliance-based therapies that disregard the right to say no, such as purer versions of applied behavioral analysis.[8]
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    Work out your personal beliefs. As you learn about psychiatric practices, you will likely form strong opinions regarding diagnoses, treatment, and other aspects of mental health. Make sure you are confident in what you believe, and why you believe it. How else will you be able to convince someone else of what you are saying?
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    Work with people who have mental illnesses and other disabilities. Anti-psychiatry advocates want to help those who have mental disorders. One of the best ways to understand the issues facing people with psychiatric disabilities is to find ways to interact with them. Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness have a number of ways to volunteer.[9]
    • Take time to ask questions and listen to people who have mental illnesses. If you intend to advocate for their needs, it's crucial to understand what they face and what they need.
    • If you have a mental illness yourself, make sure that you listen to other mentally ill people (including those whose illnesses seem "scary" or confusing to you).

Part 2
Becoming an Activist

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    Get active. Make sure you know clearly what you want to be active for, and decide the best ways for you to carry out your activism. Figure out if you want to enact big changes, or focus on incremental changes. Beyond the practicalities of activism for your particular cause, keep in mind some general tips for being an activist.
    • It can take some time for activism, even for the best causes, to take effect. Be prepared to be patient, and push through obstacles and a lack of immediate results.
    • Be prepared to encounter dissent and discouragement. After all, if people already agreed with you, there would be no need to be an activist. These encounters are where you will be able to use your new knowledge to argue for your cause. You won't be able to convince everyone every time, but you never know whose mind you'll be able to change.
    • If your activism includes acts of civil disobedience, or other activities that might be illegal, make sure you have contact information for a lawyer readily available to you.
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    Join an existing activist group. There are many anti-psychiatry activist groups already out there, including the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA), and MindFreedom. Look up these and other groups to see what issues they focus on, and their methods for advocating against psychiatry. Getting involved with an existing group can mean donating money, distributing information, and reporting psychiatric abuses. Make sure to join groups that align most closely to your beliefs and preferred methods of activism.[10]
    • Many state and local governments have a patients' rights office that makes sure appropriate patients' rights legislation has been implemented properly, and reviews outside complaints. While you probably won't be able to work for these offices directly, they may have additional ways for you to help in the cause for patients' rights.
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    Start your own activist group. If existing anti-psychiatry groups do not address your concerns, or do so in ways you find ineffective, you may want to start your own group. Find other people who share your views. Decide what you stand for and the best ways to accomplish it, then go out and do it.
    • There will likely be some overlap between anti-psychiatry groups, so don't be afraid to start a group while already a member in another. These groups can be a great way to meet people who share your views.
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    Stay in touch with the mental health community. In order to help people with psychiatric disorders, you need to listen to people with psychiatric disorders. Join these communities, first as a listener, then as an active participant. Share your ideas with them, and listen to their feedback.
    • Don't be afraid to ask members of the community for stories of their experiences with psychiatry or the anti-psychiatry movement. These stories can be great information when explaining your cause to other. Before sharing their stories, always be sure to ask individuals for their permission.
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    Be open to criticism and dialogue. People will react to your ideas, and it's important to respect those reactions. Mental health is a deeply personal issue, and some of these arguments may be emotionally charged.


  • Don't give up if you think you are doing the right thing for the right reasons.
  • Always be kind and respectful to mentally ill people. You're fighting for these people, and you should treat them with respect.
  • Remember that medical views change over time. Times change, and modern medicine is not necessarily set in stone.

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Categories: Health Activism | Mental Disorders