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Rosalynn Carter’s Rose Colored Mental Health Care Glasses

ABC 15.com has a very brief interview with ex-president Jimmy Carter’s wife, Rosalynn Carter, Books: Rosalynn Carter discusses her new book, ‘Within Our Reach’. I understand that Rosalynn has arrived a certain point in her life, and I don’t want to endanger her health, but all the same, I think she misses a big part of what the issue is here. The problem is that given the large influx of people receiving mental health care treatment, ending any mental health crisis is getting further and further away from our grasp than it ever has been before.

Q: The scope of the problem you describe is eye-opening: Each year, almost 60 million adults in the United States suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. How much has changed in the years you’ve been involved in the field?

A: What’s exciting is the science and what we know about the brain and new medications and treatment. When I started in the field, people were institutionalized, and there was a belief that their productive days were gone. That’s totally false. Just in the last few years, we’ve learned a lot about how people can recover from mental illness and lead productive lives.

Nonsense. There is a growing epidemic in psychiatric disability, yes, but what we are learning is merely how little we knew in the first place. Are we recovering people from “mental illness” so that they can lead productive lives? Define recovery. Redefine it to make it mean anything you want it to, and maybe so. Use Webster or Oxford or Random House dictionaries, and maybe not.

Q: You point out in your book that many mental illnesses have early onset and are developmental, and that 50 percent of all major mental illnesses start in children before the age of 14, and 75 percent by the age of 24.

A: For years and years, the mental-health profession did not think that mental illness could start in children. Now the whole mental-health community is moving toward treatment for recovery and away from just controlling mental illness. Early diagnosis is so important because the earlier a mental illness can be detected, diagnosed and treatment can begin, the better off that person can be for the rest of his or her life.

Hello!? Labeling children “seriously mental ill” was virtually nonexistence until just a few years ago. This labeling can start with something as small as conduct disorder, obedient defiant disorder, or bugaboo of bugaboos attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. ADHD just didn’t exist 60 years ago, and now it’s cropping up everywhere. Sometimes these relatively minor labels then lead to much more serious “mental illness” labels being applied. Many of these children so labeled end up being under employed and receiving disability payments for the rest of their lives.

Q: How do you feel about psychiatric drugs for children and youth?

A: We haven’t been giving these drugs for enough years to really see what happens. But I have seen so many children who have been stabilized and function so much better and lead good lives once they are on the drugs. What must be done, what we do know, is that the children have to be watched very carefully. We also know that one in five children develops mental illness that can damage their functioning, but only about 20 percent of them get professional help.

The drugs have been around for 50 plus years. We have seen what they do to adults. They do the same things to children only worse. Stimulants, such as those prescribed for ADHD, and antidepressants can trigger manic reactions, and increase the number of people, children, too, labeled schizophrenia or bipolar disorder sufferers. Neuroleptic drugs given to people labeled schizophrenic and bipolar cause a movement disorder, a neurological condition, Tardive Dyskinesia. This neurological condition points to structural brain changes and damage as the result of this drug treatment. The newer neuroleptic drugs, developed to have fewer side effects than the older ones, not only produce TD, but also cause a metabolic syndrome known to appreciably shorten the lifespan of people taking these drugs.

Part of the problem arises when you try to catch people before they develop a “serious mental illness”. Proposals have arisen for a Psychosis Risk Syndrome to be listed in the upcoming DSM V. Diagnosed pre-schizophrenia, I would imagine, is much more likely to lead to schizophrenia than is undiagnosed pre-schizophrenia. We’ve all heard about negative self-fulfilling prophesies, and we’ve got more than our share of those in the field of pediatric psychiatry.

If 50% of the labeled “mentally ill” are so labeled in childhood, and 75% of the labeled “mentally ill” are so labeled before the age of 24, how many of these people fully recover their wits and go onto lead rich and productive lives? This is the unanswered question here, and I would imagine that that % is not a large one at all. First, you have to unlabel or undiagnose people, and I don’t think there is a whole lot of that going on at the present point in time.

One of the major factors in whether a patient will fully recover from a serious mental condition or not has to do with whether that patient has been prescribed psychiatric drugs. Patients maintained on psychiatric drugs are much less likely to fully recover than those who are not maintained on such drugs. Masking a problem with the effects of a drug is not the same thing, after all, as dealing with the problem and resolving it. There are other factors involved, surely, systematic factors, but none of them is so glaringly obvious as the chemical disability created by our public mental health system’s over reliance on chemical substances to suppress and subdue personal life crises.