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Inaugural Essay Contest: Beyond the DSM

what is the future of psychiatry?


~~ Contest Winner ~~

Willa Goodfellow

Willa Goodfellow is a mental health journalist and Episcopal priest. She blogs at Prozac Monologues and tweets @WillaGoodfellow. Her book, Prozac Monologues: A Voice from the Edge will be published in August 2020 by She Writes Press. She lives with Bipolar 2.

~~ Winning Essay ~~

Blowing Up the DSM

Charting the path to a biologically informed system of mental illnesses

Essay Prompt

A year ago, I started this website to express my thoughts about the science of mental health. I was in my final year of graduate school, and the prospects of psychiatric research seemed dim. What made this worse was that very few scientists seemed willing to acknowledge this fact. I was skeptical, well, cynical, in a world of optimism and credulity. I felt voiceless, and I thought that the only way to succeed in academia was to ignore the gaping chasm between my research and any actionable solutions to mental illness.

But, as I’ve matured to the wise age of 30, I’ve learned that I was mostly wrong about scientists. The majority opinion in neuroscientific and psychological research is that psychiatry is a very rough first draft. For example, in 2006, psychoanalytic groups published their own practice guidelines, the psychodynamic diagnostic manual, in an attempt to revive classic psychoanalytic concepts. In 2011, the National Institute of Health’s RDoC project thought we needed to start from scratch; scrap the DSM and create new, neuroscientifically-grounded diseases. In a similar vein, in 2017, researchers proposed the HiTop, a unique dimensional classification system.

Maybe one of these ideas will form the basis for a new world of psychiatric treatment that is conclusively based on scientific research. Or maybe not. But something needs to change. This website and this essay contest are about promoting creative ideas about the treatment of mental illness.

Maybe you think one of these models has nailed it, and all we need is enough follow-through. Or, maybe you think that we should massively divert psychiatric research funding towards the development of new neurotechnologies. Or, maybe you think we’ve sorely neglected social determinants of mental illness. For this contest, in as many words as it takes, we want to know the best ideas for revamping psychiatry.


This year we are proud to include the following judges: Neuroskeptic, Brittney Moses, Rolf Degan, Maisha Razzaque, and myself, Andrew Neff.


Dates: Contest closes December 1, 2019

Submission: Email full-text essay and a short bio to

Prizes: $250 Grand Prize


Hope to hear from you,


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