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Comingoff.com includes accounts written by people who have withdrawn from psychiatric medication.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.