Spring Cleaning With The Trash Can Labeled “Antipsychiatry”

Courthouse persecution and prison neglect

A recent headline in Courthouse News Service struck me as peculiar, Parents of Late Schizophrenic Win Appeal. Why should a young man be known only for his psychiatric label? He wasn’t a professional schizophrenic, was he? Keep reading, and you’ve entered a very weird world indeed.

The first paragraph is strange enough, but not nearly so strange as what follows.

The 7th Circuit revived some of the claims of parents who blamed Indiana prison officials and medical staff for the death of their 21-year-old schizophrenic son, who died from drinking too much water while awaiting transfer to a psychiatric hospital.

Just take a gander at what he was actually in prison for.

The prison saga and subsequent legal battle began on March 5, 2003, when [Nicholas] Rice, of Stevensville, Mich., stole a neighbor’s car and drove to a KeyBank in Nappanee, Ind. Rice threatened to detonate a bomb if the teller refused to give him money. Then he walked out of the bank without explanation or money and returned home. He was arrested for auto theft and jailed in Berrien County, Mich.

This imprisonment leads to a hospitalization, and then discharge.

When he was discharged in August 2003, he was identified as a suspect in the failed Indiana bank robbery and was taken to Elkhart Jail in Indiana. He was booked in September 2003 and bail was set at $20,000, preventing his release.

Now tell me this second arrest has anything to do with anything besides protocol.

Things go downhill from there. The problem I have with this predicament is that if you’ve got a person in prison for a bank robbery that didn’t even come off. Who’s pressing charges?

Well, actually it probably did have to do with a little bit more than protocol. You’ve got the criminal justice authorities saying we’ve just had a bomb threat here, and we have to take these matters very seriously indeed, and therefore, clang bang go the prison cell doors.

He was booked in September 2003, and he died well over a year later in December 2004.

If you read further you will find that his parents have a great deal of reason to sue, and that the courts have not been particularly responsive. This is the sad story of a young man mistreated by the state who should be remembered for something besides the psychiatric label he was given.

Top Ten Myths Of Psychiatric Treatment

1. The Myth

A “mental illness” is a real disease. “Mental illnesses” are brain diseases.

1. The Reality

There is no litmus test to determine whether a person has a “mental illness” or not. We have found no “mental illness” virus, bacteria, or genes. “Mental illnesses” are not brain diseases by definition. When a physical cause for a “mental illness” is discovered in the brain, then it ceases to be a “mental illness”, and it becomes a neurological disorder.

2. The Myth

There are many “sick” people out there in the community who are not getting the treatment they need because of “stigma”.

2. The Reality

20 % of the US population are on psychiatric drugs, 11 % of the US population are on anti-depressants, if anything there is an epidemic in the over-diagnosis of psychiatric disorder. This untreated-people-in-the-community ruse is being used by pharmaceutical companies to expand their markets.

3. The Myth

“Stigma” keeps people who are “sick” from seeking much needed treatment.

3. The Reality

When people are forced into mental health treatment against their will and wishes, how can you speak of “stigma” preventing people from seeking treatment? You’ve got people who don’t want to be treated being treated. If they aren’t actively engaged in seeking treatment, the state can always impose treatment upon them, so much for “stigma” preventing anybody from receiving it.

4. The Myth

“Mental illness” is a lifelong debilitating condition from which people seldom recover.

4. The Reality

People can and do recover from serious “mental illness” labels.

5. The Myth

Commitment to a mental hospital is used as a last resort.

5. The Reality

People are sent to state hospitals because communities have not created more safe and effective community treatment resources and supports.

6. The Myth

‘Anti-psychotic’ drugs are medication.

6. The Reality

Neuroleptic drugs, the so-called ‘anti-psychotic’ drugs, are not medicinal in the slightest, and they are not particularly anti-psychotic. They can, in fact, given long term use, increase the psychotic symptoms they are credited with suppressing.

7. The Myth

Mental health treatment is safe.

7. The Reality

There are many mental health treatments used in standard psychiatric practice today that are physically harmful.

8. The Myth

Mental health treatment is improving.

8. The Reality

We have this 25-30 year mortality gap, and it has been growing for years, between people served by the mental health system and the general population. I wouldn’t call dying at a younger age an improvement.

9. The Myth

Drug treatment makes people better.

9. The Reality

Drug treatment has tended to destroy the physical health of people in mental health treatment. There are more and better ways to treat people in the mental health field, and we need to explore some of those other ways more fully.

10. The Myth

Neurological research is on the verge of great discoveries that will prove useful in treating people in the mental health system.

10. The Reality

We’ve been hearing the same sort of scientific breakthrough claims for hundreds of years now, and every time we hear them, we‘re more or less back where we started.

Hospitalization Recommended For Seriously Disturbed Huffington Post Blogger

I suggest a friendly psychiatrist is needed to arrange a nice long vacation for over zealous, if not over worked, Huffington Post blogger DJ Jaffe at some convenient loony bin. He seems to think the closing of Kingsboro Hospital in New York State is a bad idea. He says as much in a post on his blog, Closing New York State Psychiatric Hospitals Is Dangerous. The question is dangerous for whom? People on the inside of such facilities, or people in the imagination of people on the outside of such facilities. I’m thinking he could only think so if he’d never done any serious time in a loony bin himself. The good news is that this is a circumstance we can remedy.

The impact of this insane let-em-lose-to-fend-for-themselves policy is cruel to people with mental illness who desperately need and want treatment. But it’s also dangerous to the public. According to the Daily News, late last month, “A 25-year-old mentally ill Brooklyn man stabbed his mother and kid brother and beat them with a hammer.” Near where Buffalo Psychiatric Center reduced beds, 6,300 homes experienced a blackout when a recently released allegedly mentally ill man used a chain saw to cut down utility poles. Near where Rockland Psychiatric Center reduced beds, police rescued a suicidal mentally ill man who was off medications, barricaded in his home and brandishing a pellet gun. And earlier this month, between where Rockland County Psychiatric Center and Hudson River Psychiatric Center reduced beds police shot and killed allegedly mentally ill Tim Mulqeen who brought a loaded shotgun and 50 rounds of ammunition to a city court.

According to Mr. Jaffe serious mental illnesses make people commit fratricide as well as vandalize massive amounts of property. I think he needs to draw a sharper line here between what constitutes symptoms of disease and what constitutes criminal behaviors. He also thinks that emotional disturbance can make people stand in the path of oncoming police bullets. Mr. Jaffe obviously doesn’t understand where people on the sedated side of the nurse’s station are coming from.

When will this madness end? New York went from 599 psychiatric beds per 100,000 citizens down to twenty eight. And the new closures take us even lower. OMH is simply transferring the seriously ill to the criminal justice system. New York incarcerated 14,000 people with serious mental illness largely because OMH only has beds for 3,600. There are more mentally ill in a single jail, Riker’s Island, than all state hospitals combined. The most conservative estimates are that if New York had the best community services available — and we don’t — it would still need 4,311 more hospital beds to meet the minimum needs of seriously mentally ill New Yorkers.

Talk about adopting a shrill hysterical tone! I think we’ve got just the thing for your madness, DJ. Nurse, how about 250 mg. of haldol pronto!? And some goons to make sure it gets into his posterior!?

One would think ensuring the seriously mentally ill get treatment would be the core mission of the Office of Mental Health. But it hasn’t been ever since Michael Hogan was appointed commissioner. His stated goal is to “create hope filled, humanized environments and relationships in which people can grow” not getting medications to the seriously mentally ill. One can understand what drives his hospital closure policy — “Hey Gov., look how much money I’m saving!” But it’s harder to understand how Cuomo doesn’t recognize the impact on people with serious mental illness, public safety, and how Hogan’s efforts to save OMH money are costing the criminal justice system and the state much more.

Let’s, please, give Mr. Jaffe a taste of his own medicine, and if he can’t take it, well, he certainly shouldn’t be dishing it out. His math is less than amazing, for one thing, I think his condition must be on a downward slide. Least restrictive care in a community setting is actually preventative, and therefore, a real money saver. This man is deluded, and he lacks insight into the nature of his disorder. He’s paranoid. I’m afraid he’s going to hurt somebody. He sees crazy people committing atrocities everywhere he goes. He’s sees crazy people when there aren’t any crazy people there. He’s even gone so far as to project his own “mental illness” onto government officials in the state of New York. He needs help. Let’s get him some. We can’t have somebody like him roaming the streets, now, can we?

Army Shrink Jumps On Schizophrenia As Possible Killer

Seems the soldier that killed 16 innocent civilians, mostly children, in Afghanistan did have a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. I don’t know how many brownie points that gets me, but it should garner a few. Here’s another psychiatrist offering his 10 cents worth of wisdom in TheLeafChronicle.com under the heading, Reasons for killings uncertain. This Harry Croft shrink should know. He’s interviewed, he says, at least 7,000 PTSD cases. Next question, who rubber stamped ‘em all?

Dr. Harry Croft of San Antonio, Texas, has worked with PTSD since before it even had a name. As a major in the U.S. Army serving as a psychiatrist during Vietnam, Croft said that he and others had known of the disorder as early as 1973, and that since then, he said he has interviewed no less than 7,000 PTSD sufferers in his practice and as a contracted specialist working for companies in conjunction with the Veterans Administration (VA).

At this point, not only does this soldier have a certified mental health condition, but he also has a name. He’s Staff Sargeant Robert Bales.

Dr. Croft, to quell fears that any soldier may be labeled PTSD, explains that only 1 in 5 or 20 % of the troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to become so labeled. He thinks that a small figure. He doesn’t want people to blame the PTSD as matter of course. As he explains, mass murder is rare, and he wouldn’t attribute the killings to PTSD just off the cuff.

Reports in recent days have cited a past diagnosis of PTSD and possible traumatic brain injury as a result of a rollover accident in Iraq, but have also uncovered financial problems and past incidents of erratic behavior that conflicted with a picture of a “super soldier” painted by former commanders and others.

This doctor blames multiple deployments as a possible factor involved in the shootings. He also mentioned incidents where supposedly friendly Afghans shot in the back, or blew up, American soldiers.

Bogeyman of bogeymen, demon of the courthouse, where’s this discussion leading? Why to psychosis as the culprit, of course.

“There was rage and a possible flip into a psychotic state,” said Croft. “I just don’t think this was simply PTSD, and I worry that people are going to generalize from this and say that everyone coming back from over there is a potential murderer. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Uh, we hope so, too.

Realistically we know if an ex-troop is stuck in a bad situation, and he wants out, all he has to do is get some shrink to certify him a PTSD case, and it’s fun in the sun time. Keep those benefits coming, thank you, Uncle Sam. Of course, these disturbed regular troops wouldn’t do anything of the order of the things that Sgt. Bales did. That goes without saying.

Sgt. Bales couldn’t have been in his right mind either for that matter. I imagine he was possessed by the schizophrenia demon, and the schizophrenia demon perpetuated those vile deeds. If a court buys it, no need to exorcise him by electric chair, or do they still use a firing squad in the military these days? We can sweep him into the loon bin and all’s forgotten. All’s forgotten, that is, until the next soldier snaps under the strain, and let’s loose on the innocent.

Consumer Empowerment Comes With A Paycheck

Disempowerment is a full time job, and that’s why I’m grateful to see an article like this one in The Guardian, bearing the headline, Why ‘putting the lunatics in charge of the asylum’ can work.

Who in their right mind would put “the lunatics in charge of the asylum”? While it may sound counter-intuitive, this approach has a long history. In 1793, the governor of an asylum at Bicêtre in France, Jean-Baptiste Pussin, noted: “When I employed a madman who had just recovered his senses, either to sweep or to assist a servant … his state improved every month, and somewhat later he was totally cured.” Pussin spoke from personal experience, he himself having been an inmate at Bicêtre 17 years earlier.

I kind of think it more absurd not to employ people who have recovered their senses than it is to employ them. If we have a lack of industry going, doing so represents a good way to expand it.

Across England, mental health services are employing “peer support workers”, for whom lived experience of mental health problems is an essential requirement of their job. These “role models of recovery” are able to give hope to people with long-term mental health problems.

Bravo! We’ve got something similar going on here in the states in many places where mental patients, or mental health consumers, after a short but intensive training, are being certified to work for the mental health field in a peer support capacity.

Why are these employment opportunities so important? (Re: disempowerment is a full time job.) Well, because work beats bullshit. The need to warehouse people is lessened where some of these people, or people formerly with ‘broken brains’ if you prefer, can be shown to work effectively in the brain repair business. Pardon my indulgence in the jargon of the trade.

Historically, the prevailing view of schizophrenia was that it was a degenerative illness and once diagnosed, you were faced with an inevitable decline. Anxious parents were told to give up hope of any kind of normal life for their once-promising son or daughter; that it was downhill from here on in. We now know this is absolutely not the case, but shifting these entrenched views within the mental health system is an ongoing challenge.

The expectation of irresponsibility is an easy one for a person to live down to. The expectation of responsibility is one that is often forgone for good once a person has received a serious psychiatric label. This responsibility in abeyance has engendered that category of people described as “adult children”. Some of these adults, amazingly enough, are fully capable of managing their own affairs.

We’re only talking about employing mental patients as peer support workers rather than turning over the governance of the asylum to them, but I foresee a time when the entire mental health system can be run by people with lived experience in that system. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers should become redundant when it is found that former mental patients can perform their roles with equal, if not superior, facility. Certainly with recovery rates as low as they can be today, some of these mental health professionals have utterly failed their clientele. (Sure, if ‘conventional wisdom’ has it that their clientelle have failed them, the professionals, so much for ‘conventional wisdom’!)

Apply a little bit of sense, and dispense with a great deal of nonsense. Any person who is financially dependent upon other people is in need of a salary and a job. Any person who is in need of a purpose in life, needs to be put to good use. The notion that we have broken and incapable people is not so apt as the notion that we have under-appreciated and under-utilized people. Isn’t it a shame, when you’ve got a meaningless routine, that purposeful activity is not always on the agenda?

The Institute of Psychiatry and Rethink, both mentioned in this article, are to be commended for promoting recovery in mental health services. Non-recovery, if you haven’t noticed, doesn’t work.

Left Wing Elitism And The Psychiatric Survivor Mad Pride Movement

Governmental intrusion into health care, and such issues, carries any mental health care debate beyond the exclusive domain of partisan politics. There is no health care field in which that intrusion is more flagrant than in mental health services where “treatment“ can be a matter of “law“. While I say this, most of the activists and advocates I have met are on the left liberal end of the political spectrum. They have much to gain and little to lose in systems change, and this systems change is not achieved by supporting the status quo. The left wing, on the other hand, has never been particularly accommodating towards this as yet under-acknowledged class of people.

People in the psychiatric survivor struggle for human rights often feel they take up a place almost dead last regarding their recognition as an oppressed minority. Leaders in these other populists movements are slow to recognize the legitimacy and importance of their fight. The African American struggle, the womens’ liberation struggle, the gay lesbian transgender queer pride struggle, and the disability rights struggle are more widely recognized, and have come to be seen as priority issues. The fact that the lines become blurred when you account for the large % of blacks, women, gays, and handicapped peoples shuffled off into the mental health system is all too easy to discount and ignore.

What I think is going on here is something similar to what is found in an article in Scientific American, The “Last Place Aversion” Paradox, concerning certain research, and offering a nod to the Occupy movement. This article points out that support for relative redistribution of wealth plummeted during a recession just when you’d expect it to be climaxing.

Support for redistribution, surprisingly enough, has plummeted during the recession. For years, the General Social Survey has asked individuals whether “government should reduce income differences between the rich and the poor.” Agreement with this statement dropped dramatically between 2008 and 2010, the two most recent years of data available. Other surveys have shown similar results.

We know people oppressed by psychiatry are at the end of line when it comes to receiving their slice of the collective pie. We know that this group of people are dealing with a dream, almost anywhere in the world, deferred. Most of the people who have had their lives impacted by the mental health system are not just on the bottom rung employment-wise, most of them, even many of them working within the system, are under-paid and under, if not, un-employed.

This brings us to the subject of the article in question. When you’ve got a group credited with lacking even so much as a voice with which to speak for themselves, and presumed by temperament to be weaker than their fellows, as is claimed, then you definitely don’t want to be pushed down into the human made hell hole that they’re stuck in.

Our recent research suggests that, far from being surprised that many working-class individuals would oppose redistribution, we might actually expect their opposition to rise during times of turmoil – despite the fact that redistribution appears to be in their economic interest. Our work suggests that people exhibit a fundamental loathing for being near or in last place – what we call “last place aversion.” This fear can lead people near the bottom of the income distribution to oppose redistribution because it might allow people at the very bottom to catch up with them or even leapfrog past them.

There are limits to people’s altruism where self-interest is concerned, Eastern and Western religions aside. Martyrdom and self-sacrifise are not always the most desireable goals on peoples’ checklists. Even people within the mental health system aren’t crazy about any personal martyrdom or self-sacrifise that they may have to endure.

We’ve also found evidence of last place aversion in laboratory experiments. In one, we created an artificial income distribution by endowing individuals with different sums of money and showing them their “rank”– with each rank separated by $1. We then gave them an additional $2, which they had to give to either the person directly below or directly above them in the distribution. In this income distribution, of course, giving $2 to the person below you means he will jump ahead of you in rank. In our experiments, most people still give to the person below them – after all, the alternative is to give $2 to a person who already has more money than you. People in second-to-last place, however, who would fall to last place when giving the money to the person below them, are the least likely to do so: so strong is their desire to avoid last place that they choose to give the money to a wealthier person (the person above them) nearly half the time. If Americans behave like people in our experiments, then it could be challenging to unite those in the bottom of the income distribution to support redistribution.

The conclusion of this Scientific American article is that maybe the Occupy Wall Street movement has developed a strategy, implicit in the slogan, We’re the 99 %, for overcoming this challenge to more equalitarian ways of thinking and behaving. I hope so, and I hope that this strategy can be more inclusive of human difference rather than less so. The social pariah, the eccentric, and the non-conformist are more likely to be found among the 99 % of the people who are not filthy rich than they are within the 1 % of people that are, believe me! These same people, due to such “misbehaviors”, are also more likely to be found in mental institutions.

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