Schizophrenia psychologist launches 'coming off' psychiatric drugs website
January 16, 2008
by Adam James
A psychologist once diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia has helped launch a website advising people how to withdraw from psychiatric drugs.
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 life.
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
May, 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 succinct advice.
"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Comingoff.com includes accounts written by people who have withdrawn from psychiatric medication.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.
After 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 outreach team,
Research by the mental health charity Mind has previously detailed methods used by people when stopping psychiatric drugs.
August 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
June 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 care.
Mental health comment
Feb 7, 2005: Compassion not compulsion - psychiatric treatment by force amounts to state-sponsored violence, says Rufus May.
Sept 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 Adam James
See also: Psychiatric medication
Six months...and nearly off
Comment from: Anne Brocklesby, writer
Date: 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.
We 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.
We 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.
With 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.
We 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.
I have already written three books for the mental health publisher Chipmunka Publishing about the mental health field.
I 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.
May's an inspiration
From: Kellie Hurley, social work student, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia
Date: 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.
I 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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