Aaron Altscher




A Teenager’s Thoughts of Tragedy

A Teenager’s Thoughts of Tragedy

Thanks to Joanne Cacciatore for sending this story.  In March of 2013, a young, vibrant mother of three children (all under 18 years of age) was prescribed several psychiatric medications after she sought help for some personal difficulties around the failure of her business and several interpersonal relationships.  Within days of going on the medications, friends noticed she became akathesic. She was always agitated, began drinking during the day to cope with her agitation, and developed unusual bodily movements.  Within weeks after going on the medications, she shot and killed herself. She was a woman loved by her family, friends, and others.  This piece is written by a 17 year old girl who grew up with her and her children in a close neighborhood community.

Watching Over You, by your third daughter

Dedicated to a Beautiful Soul…C.A.

Personality change...a difference seen only by those who stand close to you.

The panic...anxiety...nightmares...only the beginning of a vast road winding in the direction of despair.

Withdrawal from us...from your family and friends...unlike you to walk away.

Why? It began. It continued. It came to an end. And through it all, nobody knew what you were seeing, what you were thinking, what you were planning.

We promise to fight for you. Our power as a whole will surpass the once invincible ring of governmental influence and will protect your reputation. They will not blame you and move on.

You will not go down as the being that chose to cease its own existence nor the unstable patient whom had it coming to you all along. You will be known for your strength, compassion, and unstoppable wanting for adventure.

The blame lies on the drugs. The blame lies on your psychiatrist--a deceitful man is drowning in your innocent blood and desperation has risen. You're gone and he is to blame. His drastic fault? The trusting of desperate patients whose hands hold few of the many murderous drugs made in Hell.

By your own hand, a single shot pierced your chest; another took your life. A note, prepared for reading after your departure, flutters to the floor and lies, waiting not for a seeker, but for an unlucky finder; and all because he chose not to watch over you. Your reaction was immense and now you are dead.

Yes--you take your own life, but only after you're already gone--the Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac, laid before you without worry, have already taken you. You don't eat. You don't sleep. You don't talk. You aren't you. You have become the drugs. With this, we will make it our goal to fight against this so-called medication--to fight against the careless people who assign this death-sentence. We will spread the warning. We have lost you; but we will lose no more. We will prevent existence from becoming nonexistent.

We love you C.A. I will always love you.

~Tatum M., 17 years of age, Arizona


March 26, 2015 by Monica Cassani.

Professional Denial is a Form of Retraumatization.

A psychologist recently felt scandalized by my post: “Psychiatry ignores trauma with Bessel van der Kolk” — she felt my comments in the text of that post were completely irresponsible. I essentially talked about the traumatizing nature of psychiatry and the mental health system. Go read the post to see. 


ISEPP Member Honored

ISEPP Member Honored


Monica Cassani was selected for the Mary Karon Memorial Award for Humanitarian Concerns and Reaching Out to  Others. See Monica's site here http://beyondmeds.com for a great resource for those who have been harmed by psychiatric drugs.




Operation Speak Up

Operation Speak Up

OSU Flyer 2

Operation Speak Up is an ISEPP effort to change our government’s policy regarding the treatment of service members and veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress. At present, the government’s first-line of treatment is the prescription of dangerous psychiatric drug cocktails that are ineffective at best and deadly at worst.  This harm includes the typical “side effects” that cause serious health problems, chemical insults to the brain and its functioning, and a dampening of important emotional signals that result in an “I don’t care” attitude among those taking these drugs.  This last problem can diminish concern for the consequences of one’s actions and increase the risk of impulsive and reckless behavior.  The government’s first-line treatment is driven by the idea that post-traumatic reactions are symptoms of the disease called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and therefore, must be medicated.  In reality though, there is nothing abnormal about such reactions to war.

Over the last few years we have witnessed a rash of news reports of unusually high suicide rates, sudden cardiac deaths, and acts of violence committed by those who have been prescribed these chemical cocktails.  ISEPP maintains that psychiatric drugs can significantly increase the risk of these terrible events.

ISEPP’s view of post-traumatic stress differs greatly from the prevailing view.  We assert that post-traumatic reactions are normal and expected responses to horrific and shocking experiences.  We urge the government to abandon their reliance on psychiatric drugs, and instead use various forms of exposure-based talk therapies, group therapy, and peer counseling, all of which show strong empirical evidence of effectiveness without the risks that drugs have.  These safer and more effective forms of treatment help integrate the traumatic memories, express the horrors, find meaning, and develop a sense of bonding with others who understand.  They also allow those so affected to address the broader moral questions about war and its use as a political tool.

The name “Operation Speak Up” was chosen to highlight not only our desire to speak up about this problem, but also to reflect our hope that PTSD survivors speak up about their experiences instead of being shut up by psychiatric drugs.



Mary Vieten, Ph.D., ABPP is the current Director of Operation Speak Up.



Melwood, a non-profit agency in the greater Washington, DC area, and dedicated to enriching the lives of people with disabilities, has asked Dr. Vieten to design a veterans retreat for the treatment of Operational Stress Injuries. The program will kick off this fall. This program features an unapologetic zero drug approach and “PTSD” education modules. These modules are designed to empower active duty members and veterans who have served in combat. The focus is on teaching them about the fallacies in mental health (e.g., our DSM labeling system and the problem of referring to traumatic reactions as “illnesses") and psychopharmacology claims, while front loading them with over 10 hours of education on various interventions that can actually effect change in their overall condition and time and opportunities to implement many of these interventions.


Dr. Vieten, Dr. Joe Tarantolo, and Dr. Toby Watson met with several congressional staffers in Washington, DC to discuss Operation Speak Up and the problems with the manner in which the Department of Defense and Veterans' Affairs are treating our military and veterans who have experienced war trauma.

They met with the Republican VA Subcommittee on Health, Democratic VA Staff Director, Democratic Staff Director for Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, the Legislative Counsel for Congressman Mike Coffman, the US Senate VA Committee, and lastly with Bill Chatfield, a well-connected Republican operative who is concerned about the over-medication of troops and veterans, and who has expressed a personal mission to rectify this problem.


 Drug Brochure
Informed Consent for Psychiatric Drugs Brochure:
This brochure was authored by Dr. Chuck Ruby, former Director of Operation Speak Up, when Dr. Mary Vieten, then deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, requested a hand out for troops who were questioning the recommendation that they take psychotropic medications or who were coming to mental health and requesting specific drugs because of the ads they had seen.  It was found to be useful and was very well received.  The brochure is not copyrighted, so please download it from the ISEPP webpage and use it in your own practice.

Dr. Mary Vieten, Ph.D., ABPP, Commander USN, has taken over from Dr. Ruby as the Director of Operation Speak Up. Dr. Vieten is a prolific speaker on Operational Stress Injuries and uses every invited address as a platform to discuss the issues with psychotropic drugs in general, and the medication of troops for responses that are within the realm of normal human experiences, specifically, PTSD.  The response to her unvarnished approach to this subject is overwhelmingly positive.  She is repeatedly thanked by audience members for being frank, honest, clear, and for “having the courage” to speak the truth.
Dr. Vieten believes in grass roots approaches to greater change.  To this end, she and her colleagues believe in educating and empowering one member or veteran at a time, providing them with the literature they need to defend their position and spread the word, providing them the DoD instructions that allow them to decline psychotropic medications or any unwanted medical intervention without negative consequences (DoD 6000.4), and obtaining fully informed consent they did not receive when the medications were prescribed and dispensed.  She is also frequently asked to speak on these topics to busy medical professionals, who are always grateful for the scientific information, alternatives, and instructions.

Dr. Ruby participated in the filming of a CNN story publicizing Operation Speak Up’s mission.  The story was scheduled to air for Veteran’s Day but was delayed.

ISEPP issued a statement commending President Obama’s 2012 executive order calling for improved treatment of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress.

Dr. Ruby, Joe Tarantolo, M.D., and Dathan Paterno, Ph.D. visited congressional offices urging support of Senator Patty Murray’s (D-Washington) 2012 Mental Health ACCESS Act.  Senator Murray’s act focused on the scientific review of the literature to find safe and effective treatment for post-traumatic stress, and it emphasized talk therapy and peer counseling over psychiatric drug treatment.  Most of her provisions were eventually incorporated into the 2013 Defense Authorization Act.


A letter writing campaign was initiated to encourage Congress and the Departments of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs to implement the 2013 Defense Authorization Act’s provisions, and to include ISEPP as part of any team that reviews the scientific literature to identify safe and effective treatment of post-traumatic stress.



Chuck Ruby, Ph.D., Lieutenant Colonel (retired) has been named the Director of Operation Speak Up. Operation Speak Up is an outgrowth of earlier work by Al Galves, Ph.D. (former ISEPP Executive Director) to encouraged Defense Department and Veterans' Affairs officials to discourage the use of psychiatric drugs in treating PTSD. The name "Operation Speak Up" was suggested by Joe Tarantolo, M.D. (former ISEPP Chairman of the Board of Directors)

ISEPP Statement Concerning Recent Allegations Against the American Psychological Association Collusion with the U.S. Government

ISEPP Statement Concerning Recent Allegations Against the American Psychological Association Collusion with the U.S. Government

ISEPP Statement Concerning Recent Allegations Against the American Psychological Association Collusion with the U.S. Government

November 1, 2014

The International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry joins with other national and international organizations in calling on the American Psychological Association (APA) to respond directly and transparently to the claims in James Risen’s new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. We also call for an independent investigation into these allegations. Using primary sources, Risen has documented that the APA colluded with the CIA and White House officials to craft policy that stacked the deck to allow psychologists’ participation in the torture of enemy combatants by the U.S. Government, euphemistically known as “enhanced interrogations”.


ISEPP is aware of APA’s response to Risen’s book; however, that response does not directly address his claims and instead misdirects attention away from these serious allegations. The APA states, “…the association has taken numerous steps in the last decade to reiterate our strict prohibition against torture, ensure that all psychologists and federal officials were aware of the policy, and address any misconceptions about our position.” Still, the APA has yet to hold accountable any psychologists who were involved in torture, the most recent example is their refusal to investigate Dr. John Leso for his clear participation in these unethical behaviors. It is also unknown whether anything of substance has changed regarding psychologists who are currently providing support to these torturous interrogations.


The APA is the only remaining professional association of its kind that has not yet prohibited its members from having any role in the intelligence-gathering interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and other black sites. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association, have long since issued such a prohibition, while the APA continues to fight hard in retaining its long-standing historical ties with the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence agencies.


We urge all who are similarly concerned about maintaining an ethical psychology profession to join us in calling on the APA to transparently respond to Risen’s book, and to demand an independent investigation. Continued obfuscation by the APA will erode the profession of psychology, and continue to damage APA’s standing as the premier national organization for psychologists.


ISEPP Board of Directors


Study on Depression is Flawed

Study on Depression is Flawed


Chuck Ruby, Ph.D.

The WebMD study here is just as flawed as previous "breakthroughs" about biological markers for depression. It is misleading and weak because it is built upon a very flimsy assumption that depression is a disease rather than an understandable reaction to a life situation. The assumption is presented early in the article with a sleight of hand and repeated with the use of biological, medical, and illness words, giving the impression that depression is a disease. Yet, despite this assumption, no evidence is ever given to demonstrate the disease nature of depression. That's because there isn't any such evidence.

The absurdity of this also rests on the fact that depression is conventionally diagnosed by using a checklist of reported symptoms and behaviors. The checklist is contained the the psychiatric "bible", the DSM. Nowhere in that checklist is any mention of laboratory tests. That's because there is no bodily malfunctioning to test, as there is in diabetes, where a real disease process is happening.

The blood tests in this article do not identify disease or in any other way a malfunctioning of the body or brain. These tests merely demonstrate that human experiences (including depression) are accompanied by bodily "happenings". But this also happens with singing, crying. laughing, and playing golf. Those activities have their own "biological markers". The point here is that biological markers do not necessarily equal disease.

Imagine the absurdity of an article that says biomarkers have been found to diagnose "Athletic Deficit Disorder". Those biomarkers are identified as less muscle tone, smaller muscle mass, overweight, and shorter limb structures. Scans show decreased blood flow to the muscles, and probably differences in genetic markers. This would make sense only if we assume "ADD" (as above) is a disease to be diagnosed.

This article reports on research that adds to a long line of attempts to take basically existential human struggles and turn them into illnesses by showing biological correlates of the struggles. Damage will be done by using such biomarkers to screen people for depression, and then bear down on them with the coercive weight and authority of the psychiatric-industrial complex.



Statement on the Role of Mental Illness in Violent Behavior

Statement on the Role of Mental Illness in Violent Behavior

Statement on the Role of Mental Illness in Violent Behavior

July 2, 2014

Given the widespread media accounts of horrific shooting sprees over the last few months, ISEPP wishes to clarify the factors that lead to violent behavior in our society. Focusing on mental illness as a risk factor is a distraction, a waste of valuable resources, and a threat to personal autonomy and freedom.

A diagnosis of mental illness does not increase one’s risk of being violent. Actually, some research suggests one of the most serious of mental illness diagnoses, schizophrenia, reduces the risk of being violent. This disconnect between a mental illness diagnosis and violence is because mental illness does not refer to a brain disease that causes violence. No such disease exists. Unlike a diagnosis of real illness like diabetes, mental illness diagnoses are merely broad descriptive labels given to clusters of very common human problems, not brain defects. People “qualify” for a diagnosis only if they exhibit a specified number of items from a menu-­‐like checklist. One item too few, and there is no diagnosis; they are not mentally ill.

While a diagnosis of mental illness does not increase the risk of violence, some specific emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems can. Still, no one thing causes violence. It is the end result of multiple, complex, and interwoven risk factors that increase the probability of violence. Years of research show the factors that increase one’s risk of being violent are: 1) being male; 2) being younger; 3) a history of antisocial patterns; 4) past violent behavior; 5) easy access to weapons, especially lethal ones like guns; 6) poor social support; 7) feelings of being persecuted and difficulty controlling thoughts; and 8) use of drugs/alcohol to cope with stress. Whereas some of these factors show up among items in the checklist menu approach to mental illness diagnosing, none by themselves necessarily qualify for a diagnosis, and so they can increase a person’s risk of being violent while the person would not be considered “mentally ill”. More importantly, these risk factors do not show up in the majority of people who are labeled with mental illness diagnoses. In short, most people who are diagnosed with mental illness are no more at risk of becoming violent than the general public. Even though these factors increase the risk of violence, they are not precise enough to use as a prediction tool. Doing so would result in a huge false alarm rate in which the great majority of the people identified as being prone to violence would never commit violent acts.

Conventional psychiatric treatment that views people as patients with illnesses, instead of fellow human beings with very common troubles, can actually increase the risk of violent behavior by ignoring the personal, moral, economic, political, spiritual, and existential elements of one’s struggles. Such traditional mental health interventions can easily lead to a sense of being misunderstood and oppressed (risk factor 7), as well as being socially ostracized due to the particularly damaging stigma that the illness model instills (risk factor 6). Further, the common use of psychiatric drugs can also lead to an increase in violence risk (risk factor 8). Regulatory agency and drug company black box warnings attest to the potential of these drugs’ chemical effects increasing the risk of violence and suicide. Research shows that of the top 31 prescription drugs associated with violent adverse outcomes, 26 are psychiatric drugs. Psychiatric drugs create very unpleasant and risky sensations to include emotional numbing, caring less about things, and feeling like a different person. Finally, all psychiatric drugs can have very harmful withdrawal effects, especially if they are stopped abruptly. These drug effects can clearly contribute to the development of risk factors 6 and 7 above, just like illicit drugs and alcohol can.

We call on public policy makers, mental health professionals, and the lay public to be aware of these factors in order to make more informed decisions with the hope of reducing the risk of violent incidents in the future.

Statement on APA Ethics Office Decision to Dismiss Charges Against Dr. John Leso

Statement on APA Ethics Office Decision to Dismiss Charges Against Dr. John Leso

Statement on APA Ethics Office Decision to Dismiss Charges Against Dr. John Leso

March 1, 2014

The International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry joins with Psychologists for Social Responsibility and the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology in denouncing the American Psychological Association’s recent refusal to take disciplinary action against military psychologist Dr. John Leso for his involvement in torturous interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This is yet another in a line of failures by the APA to enforce the most basic ethical standards as outlined in their Ethical Principals of Psychologists and Code of Conduct and the long-­‐standing APA-­‐ stated policy against torture, effectively hollowing out their public statements that any APA member so involved will be held accountable. APA’s actions in this case weaken psychology’s reputation as a humane endeavor independent of governmental influence, and place in question APA’s standing as a legitimate national organization for psychology.

The extant evidence cannot be clearer. Documentation confirms that Dr. Leso participated in the development, planning, and execution of coercive interrogation techniques on Mohammed al Qahtani during Dr. Leso’s tenure with the Behavioral Science Consultation Team in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, between June 2002 and January 2003. By all authoritative standards at the time of his actions, the interrogation techniques were considered torture and a violation of the APA Ethics Code. Even the U.S. convening authority on military commissions during the presidency of George W. Bush concluded Qahtani was tortured, which contaminated any evidence, and thus she declined to pursue prosecution for his alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

We urge the APA to reconsider their decision, to open a transparent and substantive investigation into this allegation, and to fulfill its promise to enforce the prohibition against psychologists engaging in torture. To do otherwise will set a very dangerous precedent.


Statement Supporting the British Psychological Society’s Statement on Functional Psychiatric Diagnoses

Statement Supporting the British Psychological Society’s Statement on Functional Psychiatric Diagnoses

Statement Supporting the British Psychological Society’s Statement on Functional Psychiatric Diagnoses

May 16, 2013

The International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP) strongly supports the Position Statement on the Classification of Behaviour and Experience in Relation to Functional Psychiatric Diagnoses that was recently issued by the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) of the British Psychological Society (BPS).

We especially endorse the following elements of the Statement in which the DCP expresses:

A need for a paradigm shift in relation to the experiences (classified as diagnoses by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM] and the International Classification of Diseases: Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders [ICD]) towards a conceptual system not based on a disease model;

Concern over the limited reliability and questionable validity of the psychiatric diagnoses in the DSM and ICD;

Concern about the increasing medicalization of distress and behavior in both adults and children;

A call for an approach that fully acknowledges the growing amount of evidence for psychosocial causal factors, does not assign an unevidenced role for biology as a primary cause and that is transparent about the very limited support for the disease model in such conditions;

Recognition that psychiatric diagnosis obscures the link between people’s experiences, distress and behavior and social, cultural, familial and personal historical contexts;

Recognition that diagnosis can lead to an over-reliance on medication while underplaying the impact of (medication’s) physical and psychological effects;

A call for an approach that is multifactorial, contextualizes distress and behavior and acknowledges the complexity of the interaction involved in all human experience.

ISEPP applauds the British Psychological Society for sounding the alarm on the harm that is done by the classification system that is represented by the DSM and ICD and urges the American Psychological Association to take a stand, one way or the other, on that system

ISEPP Congratulates Senator Murray and The Congress on Passage of the Mental Health ACCESS Act Of 2012

ISEPP Congratulates Senator Murray and The Congress on Passage of the Mental Health ACCESS Act Of 2012

ISEPP Congratulates Senator Murray and The Congress on Passage of the Mental Health ACCESS Act Of 2012

January 8, 2013

The International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP) today congratulated Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Congress on passage of the Mental Health ACCESS Act.  The Act was adopted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 that was recently passed by the Congress and signed by President Obama.  Senator Murray introduced the Act in the summer of 2012.

The Act is designed to improve mental health treatment of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan by:

Providing enhanced oversight for Department of Defense (DOD) suicide prevention and resilience efforts;

Expanding services for the families of soldiers;

Improving the training and education of providers;

Increasing peer-to-peer counseling opportunities; and

Improving timely access to effective mental health services.

Reviewing existing research to determine safe and effective treatment of veterans and military members.

ISEPP has mounted an initiative called Operation Speak Up to work with the DOD and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on improving the treatment of soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by stopping the use of psychotropic drugs as the primary modality of treatment and using non-drug approaches that have been proven to be safe and effective.

“Passage of this Act is a big step in the direction of improving the treatment of soldiers who are experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” said Chuck Ruby, Director of Operation Speak Up. “ISEPP is encouraged by recent moves by the DOD and VA to use non-drug approaches to helping soldiers suffering from PTSD. This is another move in that direction.” 

Ruby said ISEPP is prepared to help the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration in the implementation of the Act’s provisions.  “Our organization includes many mental health professionals who are experienced in the use of non-drug approaches to helping people recover from trauma,” he said.  “We would like to help the DOD and VA in their commitment to provide safe and effective treatment to our soldiers.”