A selection of my articles published in magazines, newspapers, journals, and webzines.

412, 2023

Crisis hotlines, like Canada’s new 988, promise confidentiality. So why do so many trace calls and texts?

By |December 4th, 2023|

This article was previously published in the Globe and Mail.

Crisis hotlines, like Canada’s new 988, promise confidentiality. So why do so many trace calls and texts?

Rob Wipond is an investigative journalist and author of
Your Consent Is Not Required: The Rise in Psychiatric Detentions, Forced Treatment, and Abusive Guardianships.

A teen recently called a self-described “anonymous and confidential” crisis hotline to talk about his feelings – then, minutes after the call ended, police arrived at his home, handcuffed him in front of his confused and horrified parents, and took him to a psychiatric hospital.

The hotline call-responder had decided the boy might be at risk of killing himself, and covertly contacted 911 to trace his mobile phone. At the hospital, the boy’s belongings were confiscated, he was ordered to strip naked for bodily inspection, and – now sobbing uncontrollably – he was forcibly tranquillized. “It was a living hell,” the boy told me. “I felt like my world was

2108, 2023

Busting the Deinstitutionalization Myth: We Actually Have More Beds Than Ever Before

By |August 21st, 2023|

New data upends common beliefs about asylum closures, deinstitutionalization, and rates of psychiatric coercion.

Many people who know almost nothing else about the mental health system can nevertheless recount the story of the “failure” of “deinstitutionalization” in America. The story is repeated so often that it’s widely accepted as if it were a famously indisputable math formula:

Large state hospital asylums started closing decades ago, but promised community beds and services never came. As a result, today, there’s a disastrous bed shortage and huge populations of untreated, severely mentally ill people are homeless or in prisons.

Any numbers provided are close to these:

In the 1950s, there were about 550,000 state hospital psychiatric beds, or 330 beds per 100,000 people. Today, there are only 37,000 state hospital psychiatric beds, or about 11 beds per 100,000 people.

For the past two decades, this story has been regularly re-told everywhere from popular right-wing periodicals like The Wall Street Journal, National Review, and

1007, 2023

Psychiatric Detentions Rise 120% in First Year of 988

By |July 10th, 2023|

As contacts to the new 988 hotline number have risen, so have call tracing and police interventions, and 81,000 Americans in the past ten months have been subjected to coercive pressure or covert call tracing followed by unrequested visits from police and ambulance and psychiatric detentions. Read the story at Mad in America.


2006, 2023

Globe and Mail Op-ed: Forced Psychiatry is Expanding – at Society’s Peril

By |June 20th, 2023|

Despite the caricatures of people with mental illness, there is little evidence ‘involuntary care’ works.

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper published my opinion article; click here to read Forced Psychiatry is Expanding — at Society’s Peril. (You might have to clear your browser cache memory to see the free version.)

505, 2023

LA Times: California wants more psychiatric detentions. That’s unlikely to improve anyone’s mental health

By |May 5th, 2023|

The Los Angeles Times this week published my op-ed about the situation in California, and in the U.S. more broadly. If you’ve wanted a 980-word ‘crash course’ intro to my book, this touches on some of the key themes.

Opinion: California wants more psychiatric detentions. That’s unlikely to improve anyone’s mental health

Another mental health bill is before the California Senate, passed by the judiciary committee on April 25. This bill, backed by some urban mayors, would make it easier to forcibly treat more people. It comes on the heels of CARE Court, a program rolling out this year that broadened state powers to impose psychiatric care.

Promoters of forced treatment often push a well-known tale: Since the 1950s, many state hospital asylums have closed, and strict, rights-protecting mental health laws emerged. Today, the story goes, practically no one gets compelled into psychiatric care even

1001, 2023

Why Isn’t There a Popular Hashtag for Involuntary Commitment?

By |January 10th, 2023|

As uses of psychiatric force expand, can social media be better used to focus critical attention?


The most reliable data available suggests that millions of Americans from many walks of life have been subjected to psychiatric detentions and treatment against their will, and millions more have experienced unwanted psychiatric coercion under threat of commitment.

Where are all of these people? Especially with the massive growth of social media helping give voice and space to those who were previously blocked out of centralized news media, why don’t we see these millions constantly speaking out and sharing their perspectives on involuntary commitment?

I recently completed Your Consent Is Not Required, a book that investigates those numbers, people’s experiences of psychiatric detentions, and the science, economics, and politics of forced treatment today. Yet, despite so many people being affected—many in ways that they felt were profoundly unjust, unhelpful, and traumatizing—I found that focused, sustained discussions of wide public reach don’t emerge much or trend

1010, 2022

In Andrew’s Honor: Attorney Elizabeth Rich’s Fight Against Unjust Commitments

By |October 10th, 2022|

Anyone detained and then formally committed under Wisconsin’s civil mental health laws can initially be held and forcibly drugged for six long months. Yet, for years, not a single person has been able to appeal the six-month commitments in court.

What’s the reason for this stunning abrogation of one of the few and arguably most important rights that ordinary, law-abiding, civilly committed mental health patients have? According to an internal review done for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, between 2018 and 2020 Wisconsin courts apparently never got around to holding those appeals.

The report didn’t explain the reasons in detail, nor say for how many years it’s been going on, but it acknowledged that the problem was rarely or never the fault of the patients. Rather, it appeared related to the fact that, at that time, Wisconsin was paying public defenders a meager $40 an hour, the lowest rate in the nation. Even still now, it can sometimes take months for

806, 2022

Government Forum Reveals 988 Call Tracing Remains a Threat

By |June 8th, 2022|

Keris Myrick, Shelby Rowe and others warned of harms caused by crisis lines that covertly trace calls, but it may not be enough to turn the tide.

It actually wasn’t hyperbole when John Draper, the director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline/988 expansion initiative, said that America is “on the precipice of launching the largest mental health and suicide prevention service in this nation’s history.”

However, much else that got said at last week’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “Forum on Geolocation for 988” was hyperbolic. Government and mental health professionals seemed to be doing a hard-sell to promote public acceptance that anyone calling, texting, or chatting through the new 988 crisis hotline number should be grateful to have their exact geolocation automatically exposed to within three meters. This, in turn, left many questions about government’s commitment to taking seriously the mounting public concerns about crisis lines that do covert call tracing and forced interventions—even as those concerns did finally emerge in

2911, 2020

Suicide Hotlines Bill Themselves as Confidential — Even as Some Trace Your Call

By |November 29th, 2020|

Every year US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline centers covertly trace tens of thousands of confidential calls, and police come to homes, schools, and workplaces to forcibly take callers to psychiatric hospitals. Some people’s lives get upended.


Public support for the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is soaring. In 2017, the rapper Logic released a Grammy-nominated song titled with the Lifeline’s 800-number that peaked at No. 3 on Billboard. Since then, call volumes have increased more than 25% as bloggers, vloggers, health zines, and news media from BuzzFeed to USA Today have run promotional stories. COVID-19 pushes volumes higher. Recently the federal government passed legislation mandating that, by 2022, all calls to “988” will be routed to the Lifeline—and some telecommunications companies have already begun implementation.

Driving much of this is growing awareness that calling 911 for issues of emotional distress can lead to deadly police interventions. Yet under-reported and under-investigated is the fact that

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