Families and Friends of Psychiatric Survivors

Jan 1, 2022

What role do parents, siblings, children, relatives, colleagues, friends have in supporting psychiatric survivors? How can relatives and allies help us find the services we choose, want and need? How can mothers, dads, sisters, brothers, wives and husbands stand with us side by side in resisting the severe human rights violations that are so endemic in the current mental health industry?

This page is currently under redevelopment. Please visit this page at a later date when we are ready to unveil new resources for families and friends of psychiatric survivors.

Jan 20, 2023

Thank you Jay for pointing out that this page hadn’t been updated in over ten years!

Well, in the many years, since this page was updated, a lot of things have happened in the complex field of mental health! It is becoming increasingly clear that the medical model is not up to the task of dealing with the myriad ways in which human distress is manifested. Psychiatry’s obsessive focus on brain research and chemistry for solutions to social problems has not moved the needle one iota in terms of better mental health recovery rates, or in reducing violence, fixing health care inequities, healing from trauma, grief, or existential despair.

In the chaotic environment of social media and school shootings, more and more family members are starting to become aware of the limitations and harmful nature of the current mental health system. Many are adding their voices to the forty-year old, survivor-led movement demanding human rights in the mental health system. With the influx of new voices, we may finally start seeing the beginnings of the ‘global non-violent revolution in mental health care’ something that MFI has been demanding for decades.

A trainings is now available for families, called ‘Families Healing Together‘ made possible with funds from Open Excellence, a family-friendly organization HERE (formerly known as the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health) On the website of Families Healing Together, it states:

“The Recovering Our Families Online Class is purposely facilitated by people who have recovered from being labeled with a psychiatric disorder, and/or who have family currently in recovery. Further, our courses are interactive. Rather than focusing mostly on the “identified patient” the class has a strong focus on self-reflection, personal empowerment, empathy building, and communication.

We will always remain free of any pharmaceutical funding.”

This is in direct contrast to the popular family training developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) called ‘Family to Family’ which was funded entirely by Eli-Lily, the manufacturers of Zyprexa and focuses exclusively on mental illness as a brain disease.

Author and award winning journalist Robert Whitaker, established a webzine called ‘Mad in America’ which offers many new resources for family members.

Elizabeth Rich, the mother of a psychiatric survivor has set up a non-profit organization calls “Andrew’s Voice’ to memorialize the death of her son due to forced psychiatry. Elizabeth, an attorney, has turned her grief into action, by providing pro bono legal services to many young people in Wisconsin to help them avoid forced psychiatric drugging/institutionalization.

About 10% of the calls received by MindFreedom International are from families and friends of psychiatric survivors who ask, “What can I do to help my loved one?” They often are in a state of distress because they are witness to the deterioration of a loved one in an institution such as a  jail, nursing home, or psychiatric hospital, where their loved one is being subjected to forced drugging or shock. MFI routinely advices these callers to encourage their loved one to fill out a psychiatric advance directive HERE or enroll their loved one in MFI’s Shield program HERE

They often express outrage at the lack of humane, effective alternatives. They and their loved one are routinely not listened to consulted. If they express anything less than gratitude to the professionals in charge of the care of their loved ones, or they are the least bit critical of their loved one’s ‘treatment’ they are left out of the treatment meetings and decision making altogether.

Sometimes, after a prolonged period of ineffective or harmful treatment inside an institution, a loved one is discharged without an adequate care plan. A care plan not only must address a person’s basic physical needs such as housing and income, it must also take into consideration a person’s social needs, goals, strengths, and challenges, and values. Too often, housing and income supports are inadequate, and medication adherence becomes the default focus of the outpatient treatment plan. Too often, people are subjected to ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ (AOT) or some other form of forced outpatient treatment, with little if any plan in place for integrating the loved one back into society. In other words, zero psycho social supports, but plenty of threats and intimidation if a person stops taking their meds!

MFI recommends that family members and friends of psychiatric survivors educate themselves by reading or viewing one of the many recovery narratives by psychiatric survivors. Many narratives can be found on MFI’s ‘I Got Better’ website HERE

You can also learn about the well documented harm that results from psychiatric treatment, ways to avoid forced psychiatric treatment, and best practices and alternatives to forced psychiatric in MFI’s ‘Pocket Organizing Guide for Psychiatric Survivors’ HERE