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The published this column just two days before a peaceful protest — Sat., 5 May 2012 — of American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. See links at bottom of text to comment, and how YOU can support the protest of psychiatry’s ‘label bible’ wherever you live!

This Weekend, Philadelphians Can Say “Screw You” to Normal

Date Published:

May 03, 2012 12:00 AM

Author: Liz Spikol

Source: Philly Post – Published by Philadelphia Magazine



Philly Post – Published by Philadelphia Magazine


Reasons to protest a new book.


by Liz Spikol


PHILADELPHIA: This weekend, there’s going to be an Occupy day of protest and rallies in Philadelphia — but not by Occupy Philly.

On Saturday, activists will come from all over the country for Occupy the APA, a peaceful day of action to protest the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), which is being rolled out at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) at the Convention Center.

Unlike other protests that sometimes divide the mental health advocacy community, this protest will include people from diverse constituencies — from psychiatrists and those who take medications to psychiatric “survivors” who believe psychiatry is dangerously abusive.

The DSM, as it’s familiarly known, is often called the bible of mental illness because it’s how, for all intents and purposes, a person’s constellation of symptoms is solidified into a firm diagnosis, a billable diagnosis code, and an acceptable FDA-approved category for certain pharmaceuticals. 

The DSM has always been controversial; it classified homosexuality as a mental disease until 1974. And many psychiatrists confess to frustration when they’re forced to pick a diagnosis for patients whose mix of complaints is too vague to identify.

The DSM has the power to change perception. It can give and take away. For instance, the new DSM refines the criteria for Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS. Proponents argue that insurance companies will pay for more treatment options now that the DSM has given PMDD its blessing. Opponents say PMDD shouldn’t be in there to begin with because it stigmatizes normal female physiology. These are the kinds of arguments that bedevil the manual all the time.

The stakes are particularly high with children, whose bodies and brains are still developing when they’re prescribed drugs made for adults. In the last few years, there was an explosion of childhood bipolar diagnosis. It’s now generally acknowledged that scores of those diagnoses were incorrect, and that many children were medicated unnecessarily. 

Part of the blame has gone to pharmaceutical companies, for obvious reasons. But prescriptions were written based on criteria in the DSM-IV, which is why the DSM-V refines the criteria for childhood bipolar disorder. While the new definition may be a step forward, the culture of the DSM and its inclination to classify behavior is at the root of the problem. Some children are just … children.

The DSM encourages an obsession with diagnosis rather than a respect for what’s happening with a person at that time in their life. I know many people who have been diagnosed with major mental illness and put on medication after a 15-minute session with a psychiatrist they’d never met previously. How is that possible? Because they meet the DSM criteria. 

But barring frank displays of severe psychotic symptoms that require medication (and I say this as a person who takes meds for such symptoms), such a diagnosis can’t have much to do with what a person really needs. My own doctor often chides me for focusing on my diagnosis. “Just tell me what’s going on,” he says, “and let’s see if we can’t help.” Sometimes that help involves medication. But sometimes it involves talking. The diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder in the DSM? They don’t come into play.

David Oaks, who runs MindFreedom International — which, among other things, rescues people who are being given shock treatments involuntarily — will be here this weekend from Oregon. In a public statement, he said the DSM pushes doctors to “medicalize problems that aren’t medical, inevitably leading to over-prescription of psychiatric drugs — including for people experiencing natural human emotions, such as grief and shyness.”

Another longtime advocate, Jim Gottstein, will be here from Alaska. He has an especial concern with the way the public health system uses the DSM. I’ve been a part of that system here in Philly, and it’s very depressing to see how people have been encouraged to equate themselves with their diagnoses, assuming they’re consigned to a life as “A Schizophrenic,” with capital letters. It gets reiterated for them at each engagement with the system, when the first question they’re asked is, “What’s your diagnosis?” It’s dehumanizing.

Before I worked in that system, and before I met a psychiatrist who encouraged me to focus not on the diagnosis, but on my thoughts and feelings, I wouldn’t have given much thought to this protest. But it has become fairly clear to me that in most instances the DSM is not, in fact, facilitating wellness. And I’m not sure most psychiatrists even buy it anymore. But there are alternatives, and that’s what Occupy the APA advocates: a new perspective.

Speakers will present alternatives at the Friends Center at 15th and Cherry starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, 5 May 2012.

TO COMMENT on Philly Post web site go to bottom of column here:




Peaceful Protest of

American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting




***This*** Saturday, 5 May 2012


Occupy APA in Philladelphia & *EVERYWHERE*




** Free Counter-Celebration — 10 am


WHERE: Friends Center

1515 Cherry Street

Philadelphia, PA USA


Bio’s & photos of some of the speakers:


** Mad Pride Liberty March — 12:15 pm

Parade from Friends Center just a few blocks to the front door of APA meeting.


** Then Join a Peaceful Protest Directly in front of

American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting

as APA approves their next label bible ‘DSM 5’:


WHERE: Pennsylvania Conference Center

1101 Arch Street

Philadelphia, PA, USA


MORE about Philly protest, news release, travel tips:


Download Philly 5 May 2012 updated protest flyer:






* * * E V E R Y W H E R E * * *


Boycott Normal Campaign headquarters:


There you can find out about…


SOLIDARITY events in Philly, Toronto, Washington State, Boston, Alaska….


Find link to download print and post Amy Smith Art to

Support “Occupy APA” *EVERYWHERE*, or go here:


Even an individual can post a photo, comment, video in support…


You did not vote on DSM, but it seeks to rule your behavior and speech.






Twitter hashtag #occupyapa follow @occupyapa


Facebook REGULAR PAGE Boycott Normal – Occupy APA 5/5:

or this link:


Facebook EVENT for five-five Occupy the American Psychiatric Association:

or this link:


MEDIA: Contact or phone MFI office 541-345-9106


ARTICLES about harm of psychiatric labeling, including WASHINGTON POST column by Paula Caplan’s on 27 April:




You can help NOW!  Two days to five-five! FORWARD this important urgent news!




Mind YOUR Freedom!


MindFreedom International is open to all — including family members, advocates, and concerned mental health workers.


A majority of MFI members identify as ‘psychiatric survivors.’ Psychiatric survivors have experienced abuse in mental health care, but nothing can stop their activism for justice.


You are invited to join and support MFI!


YOUR membership donation is crucial to MindFreedom International’s independent campaigns for human rights alternatives.


Join, donate or renew early now:


Founded in 1986, benefits include the MindFreedom Journal, special web and e-mail networking, discount on purchases, MindFreedom Shield, member services office… and a united nonviolent revolution in mental well being.



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