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Mad in America: Rethinking Mental Health

The Mad in America podcast, hosted by James Moore, examines mental health with a critical eye by speaking with psychologists, psychiatrists and people with lived experience.

When you hear such conversations, you realise that much of what is believed to be settled in mental health is actually up for debate. Is mental health a matter of faulty biology or is there more to it? Are the treatments used in psychiatry helpful or harmful in the long term? Are psychiatric diagnoses reliable? With the help of our guests, we examine these questions and so much more. 

This podcast is part of Mad in America’s mission to serve as a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care and mental health. We believe that the current drug-based paradigm of care has failed our society and that scientific research, as well as the lived experience of those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, calls for profound change. 

On the podcast over the coming weeks, we will have interviews with experts and those with lived experience of the psychiatric system. Thank you for joining us as we discuss the many issues around rethinking mental health around the world.

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Mar 23, 2019

This week on MIA Radio, we chat with Doctor Lee Coleman. Lee trained in psychiatry during the 1960s, quickly adopting a sceptical attitude to the newly emerging field of biological psychiatry and rejecting the idea that drugs could be beneficial for so-called ‘mental disorders’. By the early 1970s, Lee’s professional life was divided between a small home-based practice of psychotherapy and a variety of activities – writing, speaking and political advocacy – focused on psychiatry’s role in society.

His experiences led to writing the book Reign of Error in 1984 in which he brings to bear his lengthy experience in both clinical and legal issues surrounding Psychiatry and Society.

Now retired, Lee devotes his time to public education that exposes the individual and public harms from today’s “mental health” industry. He seeks to support a grassroots movement to abolish forced “treatment” and provide tools to amplify the voices of those seeking change.

The discussion today marks the first in what will hopefully be a series of interviews on a range of topics which will be released on the podcast over the coming months.

In this episode we discuss:

  • What led Lee to his interest in attending medical school during the 1950s and his fascination with the burgeoning field of biology.
  • How, once he got to medical school, he found he did not care for psychiatry’s biological orientation.
  • The Lee’s residency period was 1965 to 1969 and this marked a period of decline of psychoanalysis and the rise of biomedical psychiatry.
  • That Lee came to see himself as part of what was called at the time ‘community psychiatry’ which was socially oriented.
  • How, in the late 1960s, psychiatry was feeling the heat from psychologists, social workers and even some religious counsellors who started lobbying to get licenses to provide therapy.
  • How psychiatry then started going on the offensive to redefine itself as having the leading medical expertise in mental health.
  • That Lee was extremely concerned to learn about the legal power of psychiatry and this was a motivator to write The Reign of Error in 1984.
  • How a book called Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson called into question much of what Lee had been taught during his residency.
  • That Reign of Error is about both what is wrong with psychiatry and the fact that it is linked to the power of the State.
  • That Lee has participated in well over 800 legal cases as an expert witness, but he has never testified as to the state of a person’s mind, instead he has testified on the state of psychiatry.
  • That Lee has testified to the fact that psychiatrists are generally worse at assessing someone’s mental state than the average lay-person in the jury.
  • How language can falsely lead us to believe that science underpins the actions of psychiatrists, something Lee refers to as The War of the Words.
  • That we have to fight back by explaining properly what words like ‘treatment’ actually mean.
  • How American psychiatry is leading the way to the worldwide drugging of citizens and that we need political action to resist this future.

Relevant Links:

Doctor Lee Coleman

The Reign of Error

Lee’s YouTube Channel

Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson

© Mad in America 2019