Drug-free treatment for mental illness is possible

by S.Abate on March 4, 2014 - 9:37pm

Robert Whitaker began his career working as a scientist and medical reporter at the Albany Times Union newspaper in New York. His journalism articles won many awards, including a George Polk Award for medical writing, and a National Association of Science Writers' Award for Best Magazine Article. He co-wrote a series for The Boston Globe that earned him the position as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1998. Later, he wrote four books. A majority of his writing revolves around psychiatry, the pharmaceutical industry, and medical histories. In 2002, his very first book, Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill was named one of the best science books of the year by Discover magazine as. His second book, The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder and Survival in the Amazon, was named by the American Library Association as one of the best biographies of 2004. His most recent book, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, won the Investigative Reporters and Editors book award for best investigative journalism in 2010. When writing the series for the Boston Globe, Whitaker uncovered very serious problems in standard psychiatric treatment. He found a startling rise in U.S. mental illness disability rates; he discovered research that revealed the failure of standard psychiatric treatment protocols; World Health Organization (WHO) findings that schizophrenia outcomes were better in India and Nigeria than in the United States; WHO findings between good outcomes and not remaining continuously on psychiatric drugs; and treatment options that were much more effective than American psychiatry’s standards. Whitaker did not let go of this story until the mental health establishment was forced to listen. Eventually, they could no longer ignore him, so they invited Whitaker to their institutions to speak in hopes of trying to prove him wrong, which they couldn’t do. Whitaker began experimenting a protocol with his patients called “Open Dialogue” that originated in Finland, which showed amazing results. It produced some of the best long-term outcomes in the world. After five years, 67% of first-episode patients have never been exposed to antipsychotics, and only 20% are maintained regularly on the drugs. With this drug protocol, 80% of first-episode patients do very well over the long-term without any antipsychotics. Whitaker has brought light to the fact that long-term recovery is possible, and that drug-free treatment is really the way to go. He continues to blog about this, and is still pushing more than ever for Open Dialogue to be the new standard way of treatment for mental illness.



- "Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics." Show Bio. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.

- "Amazing Victory for Mental Health Activists and Investigative Reporter: NIMH Director Accepts Once Seen Radical Ideas." BRUCE E LEVINE. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.


I think it's nice to see a guy like Robert Whitaker who is doing things in his own way. His works shows that it is possible to become healthy again without a big use of different medications. If he didn't believe in his work then people might still be using all kinds of unnecessary medication. And that might just make the patients fell even worse.

Very interesting article. We definitely need to look into fixing our treatment plans and the way we deal with the mentally ill and begin treating them better. It is nice to see someone like Robert Whitaker who cares and is passionate about his work.

Hi, Michael I am Canadian student a Newsactivism class taking place at Champlain College St-Lambert and we will have video conference between our two classes and you are looking for business opportunities. It is brilliant to consider following the steps of a respected individual such as Robert Whitaker that was always so dedicated for his job, because no money erupts out of little personal investment. I like you idea of looking into fixing the treatment plans to deal with mentally ill people because you are right, this is a relatively new topic that definitely needs more research.

I agree with Robert Whitaker's approach on this matter. Long term recovery is possible and should not be ignored. It gives the mentally ill a chance to heal naturally and be treated equally like everyone else. Great to see a passionate worker like Robert Whitaker

I’ve always been fairly opposed to using medications to “treat” mental illnesses, except when other treatments prove unsuccessful. The problem with a lot of mental health systems is that doctors are quick to medicate anyone they diagnose with a mental illness before even trying any other treatment. I really like Robert Whitaker’s open dialogue approach as it seems to view the person in a more human light and treats them with a level of respect that simply forcing medication does not. I’m looking forward to seeing more development with open dialogue.

The post pertaining to Robert Whitaker and his work with mental illness is spectacular. I think Mental illness is a real problem for the nation, and Robert Whitaker obviously thought the same. I can understand how Mental illnesses can be very difficult to deal with, because my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer. Mental illness don’t only affect the people diagnosed, but the people who knew them personally. My grandfather is a great man with many achievements who can assist you in almost anything, and now to see him in his current state is unbearable. Robert Whitaker new method of “Open Dialogue” was proven to be better than drug treatment, this can be very useful in the fight against mental illness.

I was drawn to this article because I have several members in my family tree that often exaggerate their issues and claim mental illnesses just to get attention and be put on meds. I found this to be an interesting article to write about because I am glad that people in the medical profession are seeing the same problems as I am. America has become a perscription happy nation, that would rather give someone pills instead of trying to dig deeper to the root of this problem. The article is proof that drugs are not always the answer. Once doctors started realizing this, the numbers of patients that needed to be drug decreased dramatically. I have always been a believe that drugs should always be used as a last resort, and I am in agreement with the work of this man.

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