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Commentary/Editorial

  • Peter Fonagy, PhD, gave a keynote presentation at the Austen Riggs Center's Centennial Conference: The Mental Health Crisis in America.

    Select remarks from Peter Fonagy’s keynote address, “The Consequences of Losing Epistemic Trust: A Perspective from the UK on Mental Disorders that Persist and Resist Treatment.”  

  • Todd Phillips’ Joker is, indeed, a farce, as suggested by Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” that plays over the closing credits. Not in the sense that the movie is silly; its emotional intensity is almost unrelenting over the course of two hours, notwithstanding classic slapstick allusions (like a scene where they watch Charlie Chaplin) and chase scenes (including the one that closes the film). The main character’s uncontrollable laugh-cry that gets vaguely chalked up to a “neurological condition” is probably the best illustration of this unrelenting quality – even the moments of levity, when we would normally laugh with the main character, are suffused with the uncanny and with sadness.

  • Austen Riggs Center Associate Medical Director and Director of Biopsychosocial Advocacy Dr. Eric Plakun writes about the Four Freedoms in Mental Health Care

    Austen Riggs Center Medical Director/CEO Dr. Eric Plakun writes about the Four Freedoms of Mental Health Care

  • Suicide Awareness Month

    Austen Riggs Center clinician and Director of the Erikson Institute, Dr. Jane G. Tillman, responds to the New York Times article “Suicide Survivor Guilt.”

  • Wearing a costume of a crying girl

    Dr. Jane Tillman discusses the drug Nuedexa and when does too much crying call for a prescribed medication. Who decides when someone is crying too much?

  • Commentary on Michelle Carter texting and suicide case by Austen Riggs Center’s Dr. Jane G. Tillman, director of Erikson Institute for Education and Research.

    The surprise verdict of guilty in the Michelle Carter texting and suicide case in a Massachusetts courtroom has far-reaching implications for how we think about suicide, personal responsibility and culpability, free speech, and our duty as citizens to one another, particularly those on the brink of suicide. As a psychologist and psychoanalyst who works with suicidal patients, and a researcher who studies suicide, the verdict leaves me deeply ambivalent. Words are the tools of my trade, and according to Judge Moniz, the wrong words, to the wrong person, at the wrong time can be equated with involuntary manslaughter.

  • Austen Riggs Center staff members Dr. Donna Elmendorf and Dr. Claudia Gold respond to a recent New York Times article, “The Birth of a Mother.” 

  • Austen Riggs Staff Psychiatrist Elizabeth Weinberg, MD, and Research Psychologist Katie Lewis, PhD, respond to a Scientific American article about suicide risk assessment.

    In their recently published Scientific American article “Suicide Risk Assessment Doesn’t Work,” Declan Murray and Patrick Devitt note the limitations of using risk factors in assessing suicide risk and address a significant problem in mental health. We agree with the conclusion that over-reliance on formulaic assessment can interfere with real engagement with patients. We cannot agree, however, that the best recommended practice is to send suicidal patients home with the reassurance that statistically they are likely to stay alive "no matter what we do."

  • Eric M. Plakun, MD, DLFAPA, FACPsych, Associate Medical Director and Director of Admissions

    Austen Riggs Center Associate Medical Director and Director of Biopsychosocial Advocacy Eric M. Plakun, MD, comments on a Wall Street Journal article about how to know if your therapy is working.

  • Andrew J. Gerber, MD, PhD, is the CEO/Medical Director of the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, MA.

    Psychiatry has long utilized symptom clusters to classify mental illness, and today the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which outlines specific conditions as independent entities, remains the standard tool in the field. However, in the past decade or so, there has been growing interest in new ways to characterize mental illness, such as through gene mutations or physiological recordings, which have the potential of adding depth and dimensionality to the understanding of mental illness, and of informing the treatment trajectory.

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