The 2019 Annual Conference in Baltimore
The 2019 Annual Conference in Baltimore
Chuck Ruby, Ph.D., Psychologist
Our annual conference in Baltimore this past October was a success! We had a stellar lineup of speakers who addressed the conference theme: “Do No Harm? How the Ethics of Psychology and Psychiatry Have Become Unethical.” Our intention was to make a strong statement about the harm that comes from the existing orthodox mental health system and the consideration of alternative humane forms of helping people in emotional distress.
The conference kicked off with our traditional Friday evening reception. This has been a time for us to enjoy the annual opportunity to gather in person with our like-minded colleagues and show support to each other. During the reception, our newest ISEPP Board member, Dr. Gail Tasch, described her journey from being a traditionally minded psychiatrist to a critical thinking reformer who strives to battle the harm from the conventional system. Her talk was inspiring and it provided much needed encouragement to those of us who persist in our attempts to re-humanize our professions of helping.
The first day of plenary presentations led with Dr. Paula Caplan and her remarks about how the unscientific psychiatric diagnostic system is the fundamental source of harm within the mental health industry. Dr. Caplan shared her many years of work as a reform minded psychologist and her attempt to correct this problem, both from within the system (serving on a DSM task force) and from without. Her tireless efforts have been a shining example for the professionals among us to emulate.
Dr. Caplan was followed by Stephen Sheller, Esq. Mr. Sheller was plaintiff’s co-counsel in Murray vs. Jansen Pharmaceuticals, in which Jansen (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) was accused of wrongfully marketing the antipsychotic Risperdal to teenage boys, despite knowing it caused gynecomastia, or the development of female breast tissue. Mr. Sheller recounted his many years of work on this case and that just days prior to his appearance at our conference, the court ordered the defendant to pay $8 billion in punitive damages. As of October, there were 7,000 other similar cases still pending.
The afternoon of our first day of plenaries started with Dr. Patrick Hahn, a free-lance writer and independent scholar who has debunked the genetic myth of mental illness. Dr. Hahn provided a comprehensive accounting of how genetics have been used by authoritarian systems to falsely identify and control troublesome people under the guise of medicine. The research he presented makes it clear that the difficulties for which people are diagnosed with mental illness are a reaction to environmental conditions, not genetic anomalies.
Dr. Irving Kirsch once again honored us with his presentation about the placebo effect and antidepressants. He detailed the research showing that placebo and antidepressant outcomes are virtually identical, casting serious doubt on the usefulness and safety of conventional drug treatment for depression. He also pointed out recent research that shows an increased risk of suicide for those taking antidepressants, and this risk extends to adults who take the drugs, not just youth as is admitted by the drug companies.
Our first day culminated with an amazing and moving presentation by Tonier Cain-Muldrow, who grew up on the streets and survived to tell her story. Despite her experiences of neglect, crime, drug abuse, and trauma, she came to develop a sense of hope and understanding that the source of her problems wasn’t something wrong with her, but something wrong with the system in which she lived. She survives as a model for thousands of people who have suffered similar conditions.
We had a wonderful meal and more time to socialize at our Saturday night Awards Dinner. We were fortunate to have guest speaker Art Levine, investigative journalist and author, share with us his ideas about reform of the mental health system. Mr. Levine’s talk was followed by the presentation of our three awards. Dr. Peter Groot of the Netherlands was awarded the ISEPP Special Achievement Award for his work in developing commercially available tapering strips to help people wean off of psychiatric drugs. Dr. Paula Caplan was awarded the ISEPP Lifetime Achievement Award for her decades of steadfast work as a reformer psychologist. Lastly, our guest speaker Mr. Levine was awarded ISEPP’s Mary Karon Memorial Award for Humanitarian Concerns for exposing a wide range of corporate and governmental corruption within the mental health industry.
The second day of our conference kicked off with a lively presentation by Dr. Ben Rall, a wellness physician dedicated to holistic healthcare. Dr. Rall blew away much of the convention’s ideas about the causes of illness by exposing very entrenched flaws in the system and by proposing far more effective ways of healing. He pointed out that traditional forms of healthcare many times serve to perpetuate illnesses.
I followed Dr. Rall with a talk about the link between psychiatric drugs and violence as contained in ISEPP’s White Paper. The evidence for the link is hiding in plain site, even evidence presented by the drug companies in their randomized controlled trials of the drugs effects. Whereas the science is not precise enough to predict who among those who take psychiatric drugs will become violence, it is clear that the use of the drugs increase one’s risk.
After lunch, Dr. James Gordon presented his ideas on mind-body healing. Focusing on trauma as the basis for the development of problems that get diagnosed as mental illness, he demonstrated, partly with audience participation exercises, how those problems can be alleviated without traditional medical interventions.
Two special treats closed out our last day of the conference. The first was a panel presentation of military members who suffered at the hands of the conventional system. They each told their poignant stories of how they were harmed by but overcame that system through more humane and personalized care that has been provided by Dr. Mary Vieten’s Warfighter Advance Program. These warfighters discovered their inherent worth and ability to heal.
The second special presentation was a full screening of Medicating Normal – The Film. Co-producer Lynn Cunningham explained the genesis and production of the film which showed the stories of several people harmed by yet recovered from the mental health industry, in particular the toxic effects of psychiatric drugs. The film shows what happens when for-profit medicine is applied to suffering human beings.
The conference weekend was well-received by many. It succeeded in exposing the harm done by the orthodox mental health system. Some comments were:
“…it was so encouraging and energizing to be among such positive, “kindred spirits” who are fighting the good fight….”
“Thank you for a great conference!…it was wonderful!”
“Mary’s warfighter panel stole the show!”
“It was just awesome. I think I have told hundreds of my colleagues about the caliber of the group.”
Now, let’s get ready for Los Angeles in 2020!