psychologist launches 'coming off' psychiatric drugs website
by Adam James
psychologist once diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia has helped
launch a website advising people how to withdraw from psychiatric
May was given the schizophrenia
diagnosis when, aged 18, he lived in a "day-dream fantasy world"
and thought he was a spy. Rufus May said his psychiatrist told him
he would have to take neuroleptic medication for the rest of his
But May - against medical advice
- later successfully withdrew from all his medication. He went on
to qualify as a clinical psychologist and, aged 38, has since become
a key voice promoting a non-medical recovery approach to
who refutes the validity of the schizophrenia diagnosis, fears psychiatry
often confuses the withdrawal effects of medication with symptoms
of an underlying mental illness.
He has now helped set up comingoff.com,
a website providing information on different psychiatric medications,
including neuroleptics, antidepressants, Lithium and benzodiazepines.
The site - created with
input from May's psychiatrist colleagues - details how the
drugs interact with the brain, side effects, withdrawal effects
and suggested drug dosage rates when trying to come off the drugs.
Before withdrawing, the website
recommends people developing alternative ways to deal with "difficult
mind states”, sourcing suitable networks of support, and working
collaboratively with their psychiatrists.
“It is important to prepare
well before starting a reduction process,” states the website.
Speaking to psychminded.co.uk, May
said: "The website is about trying to give people safe and
"We know that people are trying
to come off psychiatric medication. With the information on the
site they are more likely to do it in a safe way.
"Although I think some people
might see the site as encouraging people to stop taking their medication,
this not the case."
The idea for comingoff.com evolved
from discussions among members of a weekly 'Coming Off Psychiatric
Medication' support group in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, which
May co-runs. Some psychiatric drugs, particularly neuroleptics,
have disabling side effects, patients say.
Comingoff.com includes accounts
written by people who have withdrawn from psychiatric medication.
May, who experienced compulsory
treatment when in a London psychiatric hospital, came off his antipsychotics
without professional help and managed to see through the surges
of mania and restlessness which accompanied his withdrawal.
He used his friends, and those
he met at community centres and churches, to rediscover his social
skills and confidence.
a number of casual jobs, May embarked on a psychology degree and
went on to train as a clinical psychologist at the University of
East London. He now works with Bradford District Care Trust's assertive
by the mental health charity Mind has previously detailed methods
used by people when stopping psychiatric drugs.
8, 2007: Third of patients have no information on side effects of
psychiatric medication - findings reported in review of of adult
community mental health services in England
Mental health comment
6, 2005: Our acute problem - To alleviate the culture of violence
on inpatient psychiatric wards exposed by a Healthcare Commission
audit, psychologists should have more of a role in care, argues
Rufus May. There should also be more service user "consultants"
helping manage wards and training of staff. But above all, says
May, we need more non-medical residential alternatives to hospital
Mental health comment
7, 2005: Compassion not compulsion - psychiatric treatment by
force amounts to state-sponsored violence, says Rufus May.
23, 2000: Going undercover - When Rufus May was a teenager he
was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and told he would have
to take medication for the rest of his life. He since came off all
medication and is now a clinical psychologist with a message, writes
Anne Brocklesby, writer
March 5, 2008
I have had a look at the coming off psychiatric medication website
and find it very informative, and helpful, and something which has
been needed for sometime.
The problem for those of us who have been on psychiatric medication
is that we are often given no choices as to treatment. We are given
medication. Only later we find out about other treatments, and press
to obtain eg psychological therapies and counselling.
also learn more about the need to look after our mental health,
and gradually can develop other ways of coping and changing our
lives for the better.
need this information about coming off psychiatric drugs. It is
vital. The same as Rufus May, I was told that I would be on medication
for the rest of my life. But it just is not necessary.
the help of my GP I am now, after 6 months, nearly off the medication
and am following a gradual withdrawal and reduction process which
is working fine.
need more information about this possibility. We need to know that,
in fact, we can improve our mentalhealth through following various
therapies or adopting new ways of relaxing like yoga or tai chi,
or meditation, or finding out how to cope with our emotions. So
mentalhealth is a process, and our need for medication does not
need to be for life.
have already written three books for the mental health publisher
about the mental health field.
will soon be starting to write a fourth book which is about overcoming
the effects of psychiatric medication. In other words, how to learn
to move on in life.
Kellie Hurley, social work student, Edith Cowan University, Western
August 27, 2009
I believe Dr May is an inspiration. I am currently working on a
thesis for honours regarding a psychosocial approach to assist people
who hear voices and would appreciate any contacts or information
regarding this. This could mean failed attempts of recovery from
a biomedical model,successful recoveries from a psychosocial approach
or vice versa.
do not have much experience in mental health or with people that
hear voices but I have become aware of the serious injustice and
I endeavour to work with others to bring this injustice to the fore.
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