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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.

For more information visit


Dec 14, 2019

This week on MIA Radio, we interview Drs. Peter Breggin and Michael Cornwall their new initiative, Stop the Psychiatric Abuse of Children (SPAC!).

Peter Breggin, MD is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and a former consultant at the National Institute of Mental Health who has been called "The Conscience of Psychiatry." For decades, he has made successful efforts to reform the field, including bringing a stop to lobotomy and psychosurgery. He has testified before the FDA and Congress, been an expert witness in many court cases involving the pharmaceutical industry and has appeared on Oprah and 60 Minutes, among other programs.

Dr. Breggin continues to criticize psychiatric drugs and “electroconvulsive therapy,” and promotes more caring, empathic and effective therapies. To that end, with his wife Ginger, he founded the Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education and Living.  He is the author of more than 20 books, most recently Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions. Dr. Breggin maintains a private practice in Ithaca, New York where he treats adults, couples, and families with children.

Michael Cornwall, PhD has done therapy with children, teens and families since 1980 as well as specializing in therapy with people of all ages experiencing extreme states. He completed doctoral research on medication-free treatment of extreme states and is the editor of a two-volume special edition of the Journal of Humanistic Psychologyon extreme states. Dr. Cornwall has been a prolific MIA blogger since 2012 and a frequent Esalen Institute workshop leader on alternative approaches to extreme states. He is the director of the SPAC! project for Dr. Breggin’s Center for Empathic Therapy.


We discuss:

  • How SPAC was started in response to the introduction of the Monarch eTNS, an electric stimulation device worn on a child’s forehead at night that is touted as an alternative to ADHD medication, which was fast-tracked by FDA with little testing
  • The extensive, downplayed adverse reactions found in testing the Monarch on children
  • How the device is purported to work to target brain activity in certain areas, but likely affects other important neural areas and how this is likely to disrupt a child’s normal brain function
  • Problems with the design of the studies on the Monarch and how deliberate intrusions into brain function make an individual child more docile but also more apathetic
  • The potential widespread adoption of the Monarch device due to a partnership between the manufacturer and a pharmacy chain, the many uses for which it is being marketed, and anticipated psychiatric prescribing of the treatment by primary care doctors
  • The nature and risks of ECT, another form of psychiatric “treatment” that targets the brain with electricity, intentionally causing a seizure and short- and long-term traumatic brain injury, and where to find ECT resources on Dr. Breggin’s website
  • Reframing “ADHD” behavior as a sign of deficiencies in the teacher, classroom, or parenting approach rather than an illness in the child. What might cause inattentiveness in a young student and how doctors typically medicate the problem as a brain disorder
  • Alternatives to high-tech interventions and drugs for helping inattentive or severely troubled youth alike, including modifications at school and entering family therapy. The importance of parents’ expressing love and discipline to change problematic behaviors, with examples from Breggin’s private practice
  • How the medical model of psychiatry discourages identifying unmet human needs in young patients and their families, and the benefits of offering trauma-informed support and connection, with examples from Cornwall’s work in the public mental health system
  • The importance of engaging children to identify what they need from adults in their lives, arming parents with new attitudes and communication tools for relating to their children, and the success they have had with such approaches
  • How listeners can learn more about SPAC! and get involved with advocacy against conventional psychiatric treatment for children and for more compassionate and commonsense alternatives. The groundswell of interest they have received from parents and a variety of online resources available on these topics
  • The right of parents to say no to dangerous drugs or devices doctors want to prescribe, and the importance of understanding the risks of resisting a medical professional’s authority or challenging a child’s school
  • Reasons for parents and teachers be optimistic that even seemingly incorrigible children can be reached.

Relevant Links

SPAC! webpage, part of Dr. Peter Breggin’s Children’s Resource Center

ECT Resource Center

Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education, and Living

MIA blogs

Monarch eTNS Inspires “Stop the Psychiatric Abuse of Children!” (SPAC!)

FDA Approves Using Electricity All Night Long on Children’s Brains