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It’s A Mad Mad World

Intolerance must have its say. Here’s an article from South Africa, Mental illness does not discriminate, that doesn’t have the best take on different human beings. I find myself amused reading it, and I like to be amused.

The latest little monster poking its head at me is the Mad Pride campaign. Started in Britain, the movement is spreading across the globe and aims to de-stigmatise mental illness, celebrate the blessings of “madness” and push for the banishment of “enforced” drugging.

Hi there. Good to make your acquaintance…I think.

Then he goes on to say of the Mad Pride movement, after claiming it “misplaced, indulgent, and exclusive”:

It’s like a country club for the depressed and the manic; a luxury for those who can afford it.

Gee. I never knew I was doing so well. Is it safe to return to the bank?

There’s no Cancer Pride. No Diabetes Pride, HIV Pride, Epilepsy Pride. Like all of these diseases, mental illness kills. In South Africa, 22 people commit suicide every day.

My brother was one of them.

Suicide and ‘sickness’ will never be synonymous. He’s making quite a leap to go from these physical ailments to a suicide equals illness equation. Frankly, if mental illness were physical illness, on top of calling it something besides mental illness, we’d have samples of it on microscope slides.

Let me point out, too, that had his brother shown a little more Mad Pride rather than over much Mad shame, perhaps he‘d still be around to this day.

Problem number two: surely those who flail in the ditches of depression don’t sit around pondering what costume to wear to the next Mad Pride march? Surely those tossed from mania’s mountain don’t feel inclined to celebrate their anguish? Surely most mentally ill people would rather they were well?

Mad Pride is not about wallowing in self-pity. Many in the Mad Pride Movement consider themselves psychiatric survivors, or people who have survived human rights violations at the hands of the mental health system. Victims, like his brother, are those who didn’t survive. If he was in treatment, maybe his treatment had something to do with his decision to end it all.

The author goes on while claiming that mental illness is indiscriminate knocking the poor, the unfortunate, the homeless, the unhappy and the unruly.

It’s also that woman who shuffles in Main Road wearing garbage bags for clothes and a head of hair so matted it looks like a clutch of dead crows. It’s that man who wanders past our house each morning, boxing with the clouds.

It’s the man I saw being laughed at in the street as he pulled at the purple horns he was wearing and made mooing noises at a post box. It’s the woman at work who cries herself to sleep each night.

And, yeah, he could probably find it in the mirror if he looked deeply enough.

I really have not found in the Mad Pride movement any lack of compassionate understanding nor have I found in it any indignity. (And how would pride be undignified?) It is my opinion that the author needs to meet some of the people behind this movement before he jumps to a lot of unfounded and spurious conclusions.

As for “rationale and sense” versus “bongo drummers and bearded beat poets.” Pulleeze! I don’t think tyranny is the way to go where matters of personal taste are concerned.

Antidepressants and Pregnancy Are A Bad Mix

Antidepressant drugs, as with other chemistry changing agents, and pregnancy are not a good combination. We should be very cautious when it comes to prescribing pills to women with unborn children. The danger of a women developing post-partum depression and harming her children is not nearly as great as is the danger of a woman on prescribed drugs having a premature or defective baby. The incidence of post-partum depression is one thing, and the incidence of any such depression leading to a woman harming her children has to be really quite rare. Here’s another statistic to raise a few red flags for you. Researchers in the USA have found women in treatment for depression at 3x the risk for having a preterm delivery.

Pregnant women with a history of depression who used psychiatric medication have triple the risk of premature child delivery, U.S. researchers found.

Researchers at the University of Washington, University of Michigan and Michigan State University found that a combination of medication use and depression — either before or during pregnancy was strongly linked to delivery before 35 weeks’ gestation.

Lead author Amelia Gavin of the University of Washington said the findings highlight the need for carefully planned studies that can clarify associations between depression, psychiatric medications and preterm delivery.

Some women may have a difficult time making that transition from being the center of attention to playing a more subordinant role. We don’t need to jeopardize the lives and health of children because this happens to be the case. When that pregnancy test comes back positive, when she begins to show signs, it’s not the right time to place her on a regimen of antidepressant drugs, or any sort of drugs for that matter. The safety and well being of her child must come before all else.

Changing Life Scripts or Introducing The Magical Theater

I was reading an article recently that stated that most mental illness, although diagnosed at the age of 20 or so, usually started around the age of 12. This article then went on to say that the prognosis was much better for the person when the disease was caught earlier rather than late.

I have always had a few reservations about this kind of approach to the ‘problem.’ Full blown psychosis in a 20 year old may stem from an odd kid of 12, but that 12 year old is unlikely to have been having any psychotic episodes. On the other hand, if you start a kid out on the wrong path at 12, that wrong path may lead to psychosis at 20.

We groom some people for success at a fairly young age, other people, by contrast, suffer our neglect. Whether we call this neglect happenstance, or the human condition, doesn’t mitigate the fact that it happens. If you are not directing the child in successful career choices or life choices, you are directing them on a course that leads inevitably to failure and unhappiness.

Pathologize failure, and voila, you have what you might call mental illness. The person saddled with such a wrong turn will end up facing some kind of dilemma in the future in any event. If you don’t wind up with a ‘mentally ill’ case, then you might wind up with someone who would be trying to circumvent such bad circumstances through criminal behavior.

Back a person into a corner, and you have a person looking for a way out of the tight squeeze that person is stuck in. This individual, not given a way out, could be lashing out at everyone and anyone. Without a resolution to this kind of dilemma, you can expect an overall worsening condition.

Obviously, it might be easier to change an individual’s career path at 12 years old than it would be to do so at 20 years old. What we don’t need to do is consider a person a ‘lost cause’ for reaching adulthood. That some people are going to reach adulthood without having all the proper tools to cope should go without saying.

The issue then becomes, when the road hasn’t been found at 12 years, how do we find an alternate route at 30, 40, and beyond leading from and out of this person’s ‘lost cause’ status. This can’t be done alone, but it can be done with recognition of the dilemma, and help in achieving a solution.

If you can script a tragedy for a person, you can also script a comedy or a romance. The comedy, just like the tragedy, requires players. Recovering an individual from the ravages of mental illness then involves changing his or her basic life drama from a tragedy to a success.

‘Too late’ may be a convenient excuse when the individual is no longer 12 years of age, but it is neither a good excuse nor a necessary excuse. This is no less true when the individual has reached a later stage of maturity. If the people surrounding this individual are part of the problem, then maybe what you need to do is to bring in another troupe.

Mental Health Recovery

I found an interesting Canadian article, When the office gives back, about mental illness and the workplace.

You get the stories of two successfull professionals labeled mentally ill here, together with the testimonies of mental health professionals and paraprofessionals.

I thought the second person’s story was particularly refreshing.

Mark Gruchy, a criminal defence lawyer in St. John’s, has not required any form of accommodation, but he has felt the sting of social prejudice and stigma, having been diagnosed with bipolar illness when he was 15.

From the age of 15 to 23, he says, his life was completely disrupted.

His saving grace was an adult education program at the College of the North Atlantic, which allowed him to complete a high school equivalency and gain confidence. “The program saved my life. It helped restore my sense of worth.”

He gained high marks at this college, won a scholarship to a university, and became a lawyer.

“I’ve been stable and healthy through university and working life,” Mr. Gruchy says.

“Recovery from illness – even serious illness – is a lot more common than everybody realizes.”

Wow! You can say that!?

Antipsychotic Drug Elder Abuse

The Chicago Tribune is currently investigating the misuse of antipsychotic drugs in Illinois nursing homes.

As a recent report in New York Injury News, Drugged, Illinois nursing home residents victimized, tells it:

The explosive investigative report is blowing the lid off the secretive nursing home practices, which have affected thousands of Illinois’ elderly and/or disabled nursing home residents. The unprecedented amounts of victims have been drugged with psychotropic drugs without their consent, or a legitimate medical psychiatric diagnosis to support the administration of powerful and possibly dangerous drugs. The Chicago Tribune uncovered 1,200 violations since 2001 at the states nursing homes that involved psychotropic medications.

These violations have affected more than 2,900 patients, and possible even more because regulatory inspections are only conducted once every 15 months. In these inspections only a small sample of residents are evaluated for harm, which leaves a large gray area of many more possible victims that have not been documented. A total of “742 Illinois nursing homes that care for traditional geriatric patients found that two-thirds of them were cited at least once in the past eight years for incidents involving psychotropics. Dozens of homes had violations year after year.”

This problem is probably national in scope, and even international in some respects. The Chicago Tribune can’t be commended enough for launching such an investigation, and pursuing the matter.

In Great Britain, for example, 10 charities, a number of care groups, and experts have signed a letter sent to The Daily Telegraph on the problem in that country earlier this year.

An article on this letter in The Daily Telegraph, ‘Scandalous abuse’ of the elderly prescribed antipsychotics in hospital exposed, explains what’s wrong with giving these drugs to the elderly.

Three quarters of nurses have seen people with dementia in general wards in hospital prescribed antipsychotic drugs that are known to double the risk of death and triple the risk of a stroke in these patients, research has shown.

It is the first time the scale of the abuse in hospital wards is exposed, following warnings that 100,000 dementia patients in care homes are prescribed the drugs leading to the deaths of 23,000 a year.

The same article goes on to say:

Earlier this year, a study published in Lancet Neurology found that antipsychotic drugs double risk of death for many patients if used over a three year period. A second study, using the records of six million people, published by the British Medical Journal online found antipsychotics tripled the risk of stroke in dementia patients.

Around 100,000 people with dementia are routinely prescribed antipsychotics in UK care homes. This could mean 23,500 people dying prematurely, according to a 2008 report by Paul Burstow MP.

People with elderly parents in nursing homes and other concerned citizens should be alarmed by these statistics, and if they find such abuses taking place, they should report them. Doing so, after all, could prove a life and death matter for somebody’s loved one.