Filed Under:

I listen to NPR a lot — the USA National Public Radio — but when it comes to mental health, they have tended to support a narrow, corporate view. Today’s show, 24 August 2012, featured neurologist Dr. David Eagleman. He made a pseudoscience argument against equality, the role of personal responsibility, and hope. I felt so strongly, I submitted a complaint to the NPR ombudsman. You can speak out too.


Once more the USA “National Public Radio” Cheerleads for the Medical Model. 


Today a Dr. David Eagleman was on FRESH AIR with host Terry Gross, claiming that we have fundamentally different brains, that we can’t be treated equally, that we have no responsibility for our actions. He used the line about prisons that we should get ‘help’ for our broken and different brains, avoiding the fact that this simplistic approach can lead to a TON of overdrugging. 

If you want to add your comment….

You can read about and listen to some of it here:

Some of it is actually interesting and helpful… but when he talks about those with psychiatric labels he parrots the NAMI narrow medical model approach that our brains are fundamentally different.




Use this form:

You can “pull down” to choose show FRESH AIR. 

The show in question is 24 August 2012 with Dr. David Eagleman. 




BELOW is comment I just sent, though please use your own sincere words, experience and perspective, or they might discount our concerns as ‘canned’ thanks:



I hope this email can be shared with Terry Gross and producers of Fresh Air. However, the problem has been ongoing for so long with both Fresh Air, and NPR, that this is addressed to the Ombudsman. 

This is my 36th year as a community organizer in a difficult field, people diagnosed with psychiatric disabilities. 

I direct one of the few totally independent advocacy groups in the field, MindFreedom International. 

Today’s show with Dr. Eagleman was, unfortunately, similar to many shows I’ve heard via Fresh Air and NPR:

Biased toward a narrow, unproven medical model. 

The mental health industry tends to have an ideology that those of us with so-called ‘serious’ psychiatric diagnoses have measurably different brains. 

So Dr. Eagleman’s main argument can seem strong: That people in prison who have ‘different’ brains should be treated based on their brains and get treatment instead of ‘breaking rocks,’ as he put it. 

Well, no one should be ‘breaking rocks.’ All people in our criminal justice system, whether they have to be held 24/7 or helped in the community, deserve a wide range of alternatives and assistance. 100 percent. 

The unstated conclusion of Dr. Eagleman’s point is: 

Let’s get a heck of a lot more people in our criminal justice system onto powerful psychiatric drugs. 

In other words, Dr. Eagleman’s logical conclusion is the chemical prison of putting thousands, perhaps millions, of more people onto psychiatric drugs. 

I’ve found the perspective that Terry Gross has on mental health to on its surface seem progressive. But where the rubber hits the road, our population is so extremely disenfranchised and marginalized, that untold suffering can result when that perspective is carried out. 

We’re seeing an absolutely off-the-charts tsunami of psychiatric drugging hitting young people and old and inbetween. And I hasten to add we are pro-choice on medication. Many of our members choose to take psychiatric drugs. 

But NPR is jokingly called National Pharmaceutical Radio by a lot of us, because of its seeming reverence for the medical model. 

The fact is, wellness for everyone — whether diagnosed or not — requires a huge range of services, including counseling, but also housing, nutrition, health, jobs, community and so much more. 

Today, I sat there listening to Dr. Eagleman with such frustration. I’ve heard this so often on NPR and Fresh Air: That there’s some kind of bumper sticker solution to the incredible distress in our society. Well, our office gets to see the results: The over-drugging sometimes with ten different drugs, by doctors and nurses who are convinced there is a ‘chemical imbalance’ that their drugs can fix. 

Of course, there is no test — no brain scan, no blood test, no urine test — for any of these supposed biological differences. 

Don’t get me wrong. Obviously everyone’s different. Obviously everyone’s brain is unique. But your show exaggerates the differences between those diagnosed with serious psychiatric disabilities and the general public. That is the very nature of an ‘ism.’ In this case, it’s so extreme most people don’t even know the name of what you and so many other have: Sanism. 

Incredibly Dr. Eagleman implied there is scientific evidence to disprove the idea of ‘equality’ among people, supposedly based on our brains. The reverse is true. Even people with severe head injuries are ‘equal.’ And Dr. Eagleman implied those with such significant problems are somehow hopeless. When actually, when approached with community, wholistic care and — yes —  accountability for their actions (not blame, but responsibility), even people with severe head injuries may make changes. Because of neuroplasticity, we don’t know how much they can change. 

But treating our people as utterly fundamentally unequal… Of denying the role of any responsibility… Negating their chance for recovery… This is a recipe for segregation and hopelessness, which can actually lead to suicide. 

We even have a new campaign called I GOT BETTER to refute some of that hopelessness. It’s just started but you can see it at

For more info on our group see

For an example of an actually provocative journalist who challenges instead of cheerleads for the dominant paradigm, why hasn’t Terry Gross had journalist ROBERT WHITAKER on the show, with his book ANATOMY OF AN EPIDEMIC. Whitaker is showing that the over-reliance on psychiatric drugs is based on bad science, and in the long run non-drug alternatives are doing better. 

One thing it would be good to know is if Terry Gross even reads this kind of feedback. 

I hope that my 36 years as a grassroots community organizer, will be worth at least 36 seconds of considering this ‘cry from the marginalized and disempowered,’ that our coalition seeks to amplify. 


Are you hearing us?


Sincerely, David W. Oaks

Director, MindFreedom International

Board member, USICD (though speaking on behalf of MFI)

Document Actions