EP6: A candid conversation with Elyn Saks, PhD.

Updated: Jan 19


"In solidarity, with pride, and without shame" - Elyn Saks speaking about her passion for mental health advocacy.

In episode 6 of our Mental Horizons Podcast, Virgil had the pleasure of speaking with Elyn Saks, PhD. Among many things, Elyn is a scholar, a mental health lawyer, an author, a Macarthur Fellow, a professor, and a life-long advocate for improving mental health care.


Listen to the episode here:

She is a graduate of Oxford University, where she studied philosophy, she is also a graduate of Yale University where she earned her Juris-doctorate degree and holds a Ph.D. in psychoanalytic science from the New School of Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles.

In 2002, Elyn published the book, Refusing Care: Forced Treatment and the Rights of the Mentally Ill, in which she wrote,

“It has been said that how a society treats its least well-off members speaks volumes about its humanity. If so, our treatment of the mentally ill suggests that American society is inhumane: swinging between over-intervention and utter neglect, we sometimes force extreme treatments on those who do not want them, and at other times discharge mentally ill patients who do want treatment without providing adequate resources for their care in the community.”

In 2007, Elyn published her acclaimed memoir, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, which chronicles her own personal experience of schizophrenia that began in her teen years.

Elyn is the founder and faculty director of the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. In 2012, Elyn gave the TED talk, “A tale of mental illness - from the inside” which now has nearly 4-million views. It can be found on the Saks Institute website or viewed below:

Elyn is a thought leader and catalyst for action; her contributions to the betterment of our mental health system are countless. We were honored to have her on the show!

Main Talking Points

  1. Elyn's remarkable capacity to cope with her mental health challenges stems from three important elements. Elyn described those three elements of her success.

  2. Virgil and Elyn discuss psychiatric advance directives and supported decision making as alternatives to force: key takeaways for parents wanting to be stronger advocates for their adult children with mental illness.

  3. Virgil and Elyn discuss the current advocacy focus of The Saks Institute: Mechanical Restraints in Psychiatric Hospitals with discussions around liberty vs. safety, as well as recent moves to reduce the use of restraints and how best to go about doing that. (We also learn what the focus will be at the Saks Institute next year.)

#elynsaks #podcast #schizophrenia

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Disclaimer: As therapeutic consultants, we advise, advocate, recommend, facilitate and empower, but we do not treat mental illness or addiction. We are not licensed mental health professionals, but will often refer you to professionals and programs for treatment. (Note: We have no financial relationship with any of these professionals or programs.)  Any consultation we give is for educational, informational and motivational purposes only and is not meant to replace professional psychiatric, psychological, programmatic, legal or financial advice you may need for yourself or your family member. 

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