B4U-ACT Urges DSM-5 Group to Participate in Meeting

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is currently revising its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the authoritative handbook used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental disorders. The DSM influences the beliefs and practices of mental health professionals, the criminal justice system, the media, and the public. Therefore, it has an enormous impact on all of society, especially those who are diagnosed with mental disorders. For that reason, the APA states that DSM revisions must be based on accurate and complete scientific information, that revision workgroups should include representation from “patient and family groups,” that the revision process must seek “input from stakeholders,” and that DSM should be “sensitive to the needs of clinicians and their patients.”

B4U-ACT is in strong agreement with this position of the APA, particularly in regard to DSM revisions regarding sexual attraction to minors. The DSM has an especially  profound effect on people (including teenagers) who are emotionally and sexually attracted to children or adolescents, who number in at least the hundreds of thousands in North America.

Yet the DSM is currently being revised in the absence of information from the vast majority of these people. Instead, revisions are being based on limited data from unrepresentative correctional populations who cannot be honest with researchers. It is well-known among social scientists that such data are highly biased and misleading. The lack of accurate information feeds irrational fears surrounding people who are attracted to children or adolescents. These fears are extraordinarily intense and lead to severe stigma and adversarial policies which force minor-attracted people into hiding, making the gathering of accurate information even more difficult. Perpetuating this vicious cycle neither protects children nor leads to effective policies. It renders the APA powerless to gather and disseminate accurate information.

B4U-ACT is proposing a solution to this otherwise intractable problem by proposing that at least one member of the paraphilias subworkgroup meet in person with a small group of minor-attracted people who are not under the supervison of the criminal justice system. B4U-ACT is emailing the paraphilias subworkgroup to urge them to participate in such a meeting. B4U-ACT is also informing the public of this proposal by emailing researchers, mental health agencies, child protection organizations, political leaders, media outlets, and others.

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B4U-ACT Requests Meeting with DSM-5 Paraphilias Group

Three representatives of B4U-ACT sent the following letter to the members of the DSM-5 Paraphilias Subworkgroup and the chair of the DSM-5 Task Force, asking for a meeting with members of the subworkgroup in order to provide input on the revision of the DSM as it relates to minor-attracted people.


December 5, 2009

Dr. Ray Blanchard
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
250 College Street
Toronto, Ontario M5T 1R8
Canada

Dear Dr. Blanchard:

We represent an organization that is dedicated to dialog and mutual understanding between mental health professionals and people who are emotionally and sexually attracted to children or adolescents. One of our core principles is “Nothing about us without us”; that is, we believe that important decisions that seriously affect the lives of any group of people should include input from that group of people.

Similarly, the APA website on the DSM revision process states that the work groups include representation from “patient and family groups.” The recent APA Statement on GID and the DSM-V also says that the revision process seeks “input from stakeholders” and that the APA’s goal is to develop a manual that is “sensitive to the needs of clinicians and their patients.”

It is in this spirit that we, as people who are attracted to minors, request the opportunity to meet with members of the DSM-V sub-work group on the paraphilias. We believe a meeting would be mutually beneficial. We welcome your reply by mail, telephone, or email. Michael Melsheimer can be reached at 410-751-9571, and Richard Kramer can be reached at rkramer@b4uact.org. We would greatly appreciate your response in a timely manner.

Sincerely,

Michael Melsheimer
Richard Kramer
William Andriette

cc:
Richard B. Krueger, M.D.
Niklas Langstrom, M.D., Ph.D.
Martin P. Kafka, M.D.
David J. Kupfer, M.D.

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B4U-ACT Holds First Workshop for Professionals

B4U-ACT held its one-day workshop entitled “Beyond Fear and Mistrust: Toward Open Communication between Mental Health Professionals and Minor-Attracted People” in Westminster, Maryland. The workshop was highly interactive, with four mental health professionals and four minor-attracted people taking leadership roles as presenters or discussion leaders. Attendance was by invitation only and the number was intentionally kept small to encourage interaction and honesty.

The goals was to define the communication problem that exists between mental health professionals and minor attracted people and to understand its consequences. Throughout the day, there was respectful communication between mental health professionals and minor-attracted people, and some new friendships and partnerships were forged.

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TogetherChat Submits Report to BMHS

Participants at the TogetherChat submitted a report of their discussions to Baltimore Mental Health Systems. This report identifies several barriers to communication that exist between mental health professionals and minor-attracted people, including self-interest, media sensationalizing, culturally enforced secrecy, drastic and ineffective legal policies, inaccurate stereotypes, the silencing of minor-attracted people who behave responsibly, misleading paradigms used to understand them, adversarial professional relationships, derogatory professional language, severe stigma, marginalization, and fear on both sides. The report describes how improved communication would contribute to the prevention of harm to minor-attracted adults and adolescents, the well-being of children, increased understanding by mental health professionals, and more effective and just policies.

The report proposes a variety of interventions, such as workshops to promote honest communication between the two groups and a change in the existing paradigm, the creation of an infrastructure of highly visible mental health services, a review and revision of professional language, the organizing of informal meetings held around the country where both groups could speak honestly about common concerns, and the formation of a working group that would disseminate accurate information to stakeholders. The report also identifies possible obstacles to these interventions and ways of working around them.

Finally, the report outlines plans for a workshop to be held by B4U-ACT in late fall or winter, with support from BMHS. The proposed workshop would involve interactive sessions where attendees work together toward the following goals:

  • To define the communication problem that exists between mental health professionals and minor attracted people in society
  • To promote understanding of the harmful consequences of this problem, and the benefits of eliminating the barriers to communication
  • To develop mutual empathy among mental health professionals and minor attracted people
  • To help mental health professionals see minor attracted people as diverse in their characteristics and behaviors
  • To form a working group that would develop and carry out plans to promote communication between the two groups over a period of time, and on a larger scale

The full report can be found here (Word document).

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TogetherChat Begins

B4U-ACT opened its forum for mental health professionals and minor-attracted adults to discuss the barriers that hinder communication between them. Three professionals, all of whom specialize in treatment for minor-attracted adults, and three minor-attracted adults were recruited to participate. Over the next several months, the group expects to include additional participants. Participants are charged with identifying the barriers that hinder communication between them, understanding how the elimination of these barriers would benefit both parties and society in general, identifying interventions to overcome them, and formulating plans for educational conferences on the subject. The group is expected to report its plans to Baltimore Mental Health Systems by June 1, 2007.

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