Will Hall: A Harm Reduction Approach to Mental Health and Wellbeing


This week, we have an interview with Will Hall. Will is a mental health advocate, counsellor, writer, and teacher. Will advocates the recovery approach to mental illness and is recognised internationally as an innovator in the treatment and social response to psychosis.

In 2001, he co-founded the Freedom Center and from 2004-2009 was a co-coordinator for The Icarus Project. He has consulted for Mental Disability Rights International, the Family Outreach and Response Program,  and the Office on Violence Against Women, and in 2012 presented to the American Psychiatric Association‘s Institute on Psychiatric Services.

As an author, Will has written extensively on mental health, social justice, and environmental issues, he is well known for the excellent Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Medications which is one of the first places that listeners should look to for help and support when considering taking or withdrawing from psychiatric medications. Will’s latest book is Outside Mental Health: Voices and Visions of Madness, released in 2016 it presents interviews with more than 60 psychiatric patients, scientists, journalists, doctors, activists, and artists to create a vital new conversation about empowering the human spirit. Outside Mental Health invites us to rethink what we know about bipolar, psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, medications, and mental illness in society.

Will also hosts Madness Radio which broadcasts on FM and is also available as a podcast. For listeners, I recommend that you listen in and subscribe to the Madness radio podcast, particularly as the Harm reduction guide to coming off psychiatric medications can be heard in full here.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How Will became involved with the psychiatric system while living in the San Francisco Bay area
  • His experiences of being treated with a wide range of psychiatric drugs
  • How he came to meet with other psychiatric survivors and take control of his own recovery
  • The setting up of the Freedom Centre in Western Massachusetts
  • The creation of the ‘Harm reduction guide to coming off psychiatric drugs’
  • How this led to Will’s work in counselling, training and education around psychiatric drugs
  • How Will approached collaborating with a wide range of contributors to develop the Harm reduction guide
  • That Will wanted to adopt a careful, non judgemental approach to his work to support people with their medications
  • How Will feels he reached more people because they knew that they weren’t going to be judged
  • That the research and evidence does not support the idea that psychiatric drugs are treating some brain disease or correcting an underlying brain chemical imbalance
  • The fear that exists around these kind of mental health difficulties
  • The dangers of psychiatric drugs
  • That people with lived experience of psychiatric medications need to share their experiences, particularly where withdrawal is concerned
  • That sometimes passivity can contribute to reliance on medications but people need to take their health into their own hands
  • That we should really be looking to a community based approach to supporting people with emotional distress or trauma
  • That we need to create healthy communities that support each other
  • That if people are considering stopping their psychiatric drugs they should make use of the Harm reduction guide because there is no single answer
  • That people should also make sure that they have a support network in place because stopping the drugs can become an isolating experience
  • That drug withdrawal is a life change process not just a chemical change in your brain
  • That psychiatry can make no claim to have answered the mind/body question
  • That fear is a big factor when considering not relying on medication
  • That where withdrawal is concerned, time tends to be on your side if you can get through the discomfort and difficulty

Relevant Links:

Will’s personal website

Madness Radio

The Icarus Project

Outside Mental Health: Voices and Visions of Madness

How to Listen:

To listen in iTunes, click here

To listen on YouTube, click here

To get in touch with us email: [email protected]