Advocating Diversification

A former professional tennis player at a conference in Montana claims to have substantial knowledge about only 2 subjects, tennis and depression. You will find the following in a story for the Billings Gazette, Former Tennis professional details illness.

[Cliff] Richey, 63, is in Billings as a keynote speaker for the Montana State Conference on Mental Illness. He puts a face on the conference theme, “Recovery and Reform.” Richey, who said he is now in recovery, first went public with his clinical depression diagnosis in 1999 and has been a mental health advocate since.

Mr. Richey’s time “in recovery” apparently may not have spanned the 30 odd years since retiring from the professional tennis circuit, or I’d be asking whether the time hasn’t arrived when Mr. Richey should have finished his “recovery”. Many are the people who get “in recovery”, but who fail to graduate out of this “recovery” into the “recovered” category after 30, 40 years or more. It’s a shame that grades aren’t given “in recovery”. One wonders whether or not receiving a failing grade “in recovery’ might serve as an impetus in some cases to actually, literally and functionally, recover. The vast majority of people have no problem assuming the mentally well role of responsible citizen. What I have to ask is what is it about a “mental illness” diagnosis that makes doing so, as it is so often put, a “constant struggle”. My own conclusion is that it has less to do with the diagnosis itself than it does with professional miseducation, a misdirected system, and the accompanying peer pressure. When it comes to mental patienthood, it’s all a matter of shuffling the shuffle, mumbling the mumbo jumbo, and popping the pill. You can be adult babied out of coming to an end to your unlimited supply of excuses.

Depression afflicts one in 20 Americans. He said he is “rabid” about advocacy and uses any “little platform” he can to advance the discussion about mental illness.

I know a little about the dog that bit Mr. Richey. I am a psychiatric survivor, and I describe myself as a human rights advocate. Mr Richey characterizes himself as a mental health advocate, and I don’t think that is necessarily a bad characterization. One should check oneself though, I don’t think it is a very good idea to become a “mental illness” advocate as many of the so called mental health advocates these days seem to be in actuality and in consequence. I know of people who have characterized themselves as recovery advocates and I imagine that’s not such a bad avenue to go down either. Unless, that is, this recovery advocate is actually a non-recovery advocate as some of those in that racket would appear, upon closer inspection, to be as well. I have met “consumer” advocates working within state agencies also. I would never call myself a “consumer” advocate. I don’t advocate “consuming” mental health treatment. I don’t advocate, speaking for myself alone, “consuming” that which would destroy a person. I advocate instead ceasing to “consumer” mental health services, otherwhere referred to as recovery, and recovery of mental health. I don’t think this outcome should ever be considered outside of the realm of human capability.

“I know two things,” Richey said. “I know tennis. I know depression.” As a tennis player, he was known as the original “Bad Boy” of tennis, before there was John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase. The temper tantrums and boorish behavior, he said, masked his internal struggle with a living nightmare: clinical depression.

This I see as a major part of the problem with mental health, or perhaps more aptly put, “mental illness” treatment in this country. Anyone who receives an extensive education in “mental illness” to the exclusion of other subjects has received a very limited education, however extensive that education happened to be. Any accomplished athlete who does not look at the need for expanding his educational employment interests due to his or her inevitable retirement is not being adequately educated.

There is, you must understand, life beyond “mental illness”, too.

The Genetic Basis For Political Affiliation

Researchers at Harvard and the University of California San Diego claim to have discovered a liberal gene. Although I’m not kidding, I wish I were kidding. The gene, DRD4, as well as being linked to liberality has been associated with eating disorders, sex addiction (the future hypersexuality disorder), schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Cambridge Journals Journal of Politics reported the study results in Friendships Moderate an Association between a Dopamine Gene Variant and Political Ideology.

I feel certain that these findings have come at a time too early for people, such as I’m assuming the authors of this study must be, suffering from conservative disorder, to have all those people identified as suffering from liberal disorder locked up and treated in state hospitals. Such a possibility would, of course, be considered godsend for people suffering from conservative disorder just around election time.

Disorder In The Divorce Courts

You have to become a little suspicious about the legitimacy of some psychiatric “disorders” when the entrance of a psychiatric “disorder” into the DSM becomes a serious matter for debate. How can you debate, matter of factly, is it a “disease”, or isn’t it a “disease”? This is especially true for a “condition” like the proposed “parental alienation syndrome”. The Associated Press has a story on this debate, Psychiatric experts assess parental alienation.

The American Psychiatric Association has a hot potato on its hands as it updates its catalog of mental disorders — whether to include parental alienation, a disputed term conveying how a child’s relationship with one estranged parent can be poisoned by the other.

Be careful about playing favorites, your choices could get you labeled alienated by one parent against the other, kid. We have a potential future “disease” here handy for use in divorce cases.

On one side of the debate, which has raged since the 1980s, are feminists, advocates for battered women and others who consider “parental alienation syndrome” to be an unproven and potentially dangerous concept useful to men trying to deflect attention from their abusive behavior.

The veneer of respectability has its dark side.

On the other side are legions of firm believers in the existence of a syndrome, including hundreds gathering for a conference on the topic this weekend in New York. They say that recognition of parental alienation in the psychiatrists’ manual would lead to fairer outcomes in family courts and enable more children of divorce to get treatment so they could reconcile with an estranged parent.

She did what? She took the kid! Right and that equals a “sick” kid. Now if you’d gotten the kid, you might be living it up, sucking on a martini, in Rio right now. Of course, you’d be constantly glancing over your shoulder for bounty hunters, too.

Then if women were easier, and if you weren’t such a creepy dude, you could just make another kid. No sweat!

His [Dr. William Bernet] proposal defines parental alienation disorder as “a mental condition in which a child, usually one whose parents are engaged in a high conflict divorce, allies himself or herself strongly with one parent, and rejects a relationship with the other parent, without legitimate justification.”

I don’t know about you but I have problems with this “disease” that occurs simultaneously with court cases. Then there is that matter of “without legitimate justification”; this without legitimacy is merely through the eyes of the alienated parent and ex-spouse. Oh, and their friends, if they have any, associates, and hired supporters, of course. I’m not going to ask what the proper “treatment” for this “condition” might wind up being.

Although the proposed “disorder” is not expected to make it into the 2013 version of the DSM, its proponents are not giving up anytime soon, and so expect to be hearing more and more about this “disorder” in the future.

She [Elizabeth Kates] said the initial impetus for recognition of parental alienation syndrome came in large part from the fathers’ rights movement, but suggested much of the momentum now comes from psychologists, consultants and others who could profit if the concept had a more formal status in family court disputes.

You’d guess that the emotional turmoil of a rejected parent isn’t the sole motivation behind this thing. There are those who wish to make a profit from this infringement on child rights as well.

ADHD’s MIA Genes

Always distrust the authors of research studies who spend too much time telling you what their research “says”. When the research is straight forward you should be able to figure that one out for yourself. Research doesn’t “say” anything. All too often researchers conduct research for the sake, not of letting the research “speak” for itself, but in order for the research to reinforce some pet theory. This situation is particularly true in the case of psychiatry where most of the “research” being conducted these days is guided by the forgone conclusions of the predominate theory. In other words, there is very little that is completely disinterested, impartial, and objective, or otherwise truly scientific, about such research. Throw in that this research is often conducted by drug companies out to make a quick buck, and you have to give an extra sigh of incredulity to it.

That’s why I have to laugh when a CNN report claims ADHD is a genetic condition, study says.

Researchers led by Dr. Nigel Williams at the Cardiff University School of Medicine in Wales fully analyzed data from 366 children with ADHD and 1,047 who did not have ADHD.

The Lancet study finds that children with ADHD have more large, rare copy-number variants than children without the condition. “Copy-number variants” are pieces of DNA that are either missing or extraneous in the chromosomes. Other studies have suggested that these variants may be associated with schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Junk DNA is supposed to make people “sick”. I’d like to point out that 50 years ago ADHD was rare enough to be practically non-existent, and so I’m wondering how this junk DNA has become so much more prevalent since then.

This reminds me, remember when ADHD was a juvenile disease that the body was expected to outgrow, remember when there was no such thing as adult ADHD. My, but how times change!

Specifically, this study suggests a shared biological basis between ADHD and autism because of the shared genetic characteristics found in this study. Researchers also found genetic overlaps with schizophrenia.

All things “sick” are related. How convenient! I would imagine that that suggestion presents a convenient enough situation, in fact, to be a fiction.

“”Eventually we’re going to be able to do testing that will identify susceptibility to ADHD or other conditions,” [Dr. Robert] Marion said.

But that test won’t be available any time soon, especially because there appear to be a large number of variations in DNA that predispose a person to ADHD, Marion said.

The results suggest that ADHD is “not purely a social construct,” the study authors wrote. “It’s a real hard and true disorder,” Marion added.

I don’t get that. Reading between the lines, what I get is that these researchers don’t actually have squat. When you are telling me that it is determined by “a large number of variations in DNA” you are telling me that you don’t have anything specific. When you don’t have anything specific, you don’t have anything as specific as ADHD.

Besides, where did this division between “a purely social construct” and “a real hard and true disorder” come from if not from theory? Aren’t we putting the cart before the horse here in determining that “a real hard and true disorder” wouldn’t be “a purely social construct”? Whether or not ADHD is a social construct or a congenital disease should be the fruits of your research, not the initial premise.

On the other hand, this doesn’t rule out environmental factors, Marion said. It may be that specific environments determine whether a person with these genetic variations goes on to develop ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, or nothing at all. However, scientists do not yet know precisely what those factors are.

Oh, make up your mind! Environmental factors like, uh, “social constructs”?

Remember, you’re just at the beginning of your explorations here. Now you need to replicate your research results. If you can’t do that, I will either send your researches flying into the wastebasket called the Paranormal Department, or into the wastebasket called the Pataphysics Department.

Texas Reduces “Off Label” Prescribing As A Result Of Youth Today Investigation

The Texas Youth Commission is reducing the amount of “off label” over-prescribing of neuroleptic drugs that goes on in detention centers throughout that state. This according to an article in the Star-Telegraph, TYC reduces use of anti-psychotic drugs.

[Scott] Fisher, a Bedford pastor, said the commission has worked over the past year to implement a system that focuses on matching drugs to need. Statistics show that since last year the commission has throttled back spending on the drugs.

This effort grew out of a recent national investigation by magazine Youth Today into Detention Center drugging.

Fisher spoke to the Star-Telegram about a recent investigation by Youth Today that uncovered extensive use of anti-psychotics with incarcerated juvenile offenders nationwide. Texas’ spending on the drugs was among the highest. Critics say the drugs have replaced leather straps as a way to keep youths under control. Supporters say the drugs reduce aggression and soothe, making youth “more malleable” to treatment, according to Youth Today.

“Off label” refers to the fraudulent and illegal practice of prescribing drugs for treatments other than those for which they have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The state of Texas apparently was a big offender in this area of “off label” drugging.

Texas showed the highest rate of giving atypicals to youths without indications of bipolar or schizophrenia, though Youth Today did not get responses from every state. About 29 percent of the juveniles taking atypicals were diagnosed with either of the disorders. Records for more than a quarter of the 3,924 prescriptions for the drugs did not indicate any condition, the publication reported.

Congratulations Texas! You are definitely doing the right thing. Let’s hope some other states get the idea and, following suit, do the right thing as well.

Judging by expenditures, the use of atypical drugs appears to be in decline. The youth commission spent $124,563 in September 2009, according to information that the commission provided to the Star-Telegram. By June of this year, the monthly cost had fallen to $53,832. Total Seroquel cases fell to 23 in September from 123 in January.

This is a definitely a step in a more positive direction. Now if only we could reduce the amount of “on label” prescribing that takes place in certain states throughout this country we’d really be getting somewhere.

Website Exposes Doctor Ties To Big Pharma

If you live in the USA, and you want some idea of what doctors are being paid off by the pharmaceutical industry in your area, there’s a website up now through which you can investigate the matter. As reported in a theheart.org article, Searchable “doctor-dollars” database lists big pharma payments to cardiologists.

A collaborative project spearheaded by investigative-journalism group ProPublica, in partnership with a range of other US media outlets, has launched a free, interactive database listing pharmaceutical-company payments to individual physicians. So far, the database includes payments made by seven of the biggest pharmaceutical companies—some of which the US Department of Justice has required to disclose physician payments as part of settlement agreements—which account for a boggling $258 million to roughly 17 700 doctors. The plan is to add 70 more companies.

This database actually lists big pharma payments to doctors of all sorts, not only cardiologists. Some of the doctors taking such kickbacks from the pharmaceutical companies are psychiatrists.

Serious conflict of interest issues are involved here. When a doctor puts profits before people in this fashion, the health of patients will suffer. Many of the drugs used in the treatment of psychiatric conditions either work no better than a placebo, or they shorten the lifespan of the person taking them appreciably. Physicians should be more concerned about advancing the health of their patients than they are with lining their wallets with blood money from the pharmaceutical companies. There can be no doubt about the matter, this practice has lead to iatrogenic conditions patients have developed, many of which have lead directly to the deaths of patients.

The 10 highest-paid physicians in 2009-2010 for each of the seven companies are listed on the site, spanning all medical disciplines but including a handful of cardiologists. ProPublica researchers also compiled a list of health providers who were paid at least $100 000 (typically from more than one company) over the past 18 months, turning up 384 names, including 41 who earned more than $200 000 through speaking or consulting arrangements and two who earned over $300 000, from one or more of the seven companies.

With a little bit of time and effort anybody can now find out what psychiatrists are in bed with the pharmaceutical industry in their own locality within the continental USA by going to the ProPublica website, and investigating the matter personally.

I went through the list of 384 names taking in more than $100,000, and I came up with the following 9 psychiatrists in my home state of Florida. Distressingly, number 2 among these psychiatrists is practicing in my home town of Gainesville.

Rex Birkmire; $164,750; Winter Park, Fernpark
Lawrence Reccoppa; $152,339; Gainesville
Juan Balaguer; $119,629; Maitland, Sanford, Winter Park
Kenneth P. Pages; $117,379; Tampa
Donna S. Holland; $103,905; Boca Raton
William M. Glazer; $102,536; Key West
Anjali Pathak; $102,084; Jacksonville
Charles Devine; $102,068; Brandon
Eric M. Kaplan; $100,116; Lutz

You may not think of $100,000 as very much money, but it is a lot to some people. $100,000 may not pay a psychiatrists salary, but it would pay the yearly salaries of 3 college educated white collar workers. Very disturbing if you consider that these funds are subsidiary to the money the psychiatrist pulls in from his or her practice.

Update 10/23/10

An article in MedScape Medical News, Psychiatrists Dominate “Doctor-Dollars” Database Listing Big Pharma Payments, points out that the highest number physicians in taking money from drug companies in the ProPublica database are psychiatrists.

More psychiatrists are listed in the database than any other kind of specialist. Of the 384 physicians in the $100,000 group, 116 are psychiatrists. Leading all psychiatrists was Roueen Rafeyan, MD, in Chicago, Illinois, who received $203,936 from Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer, mostly for professional education programs.

The way the rest of the physicians line up are as follows.

Endocrinology 37
Pulmonology 23
Family Medicine 23
Cardiovascular Medicine 19
Urology 19
Obstetrics/Gynecology 16
Allergy and Immunology 15
Neurology 13
Oncology 13
Pain Medicine 10
Pediatrics 10

As the stats from this database indicate, pharmaceutical companies must be into psychiatrists in a way that they are into no other specialty claiming to be a branch of medical science. There is absolutely no way that, as research has shown it does, such connections do not effect a psychiatrist’s private practice. For this reason, we need to keep a vigilant check on this funding, and make sure doctors don’t let profiteering on drug company initiatives cloud their concern for the health and welfare of their patients.

Update 10/24/10

Dr. John Grohol in his World of Psychiatry blog at PsychCentral just published a list of the Top 50 Psychiatrists Paid by Drug Companies in the USA. This list was compiled using the ProPublica database. Included among those top 50 psychiatrists were the top 2 psychiatrists from our above list of Florida psychiatrists in the hire of the drug industry, Rex Birkmire and Lawrence Reccoppa. Dr. Birkmire was way up there in the top 10 of highest paid psychiatrists, coming in at #9, while Dr. Reccoppa was ranked #17.

The problem with people who write about haunted asylums

A writing professor has a Psychology Today blog, and she’s using it in her practice of bringing psychology into literature. Okay. I don’t suppose there’s a lot wrong with that endeavor in and of itself, but my view is that its better have your fiction grounded in historical fact rather than getting lost in the bog of material you have absolutely no knowledge about. This is the problem with Carolyn Kaufman’s The Problem With Haunted Asylums blog post.

She is reacting to NAMI campaigning against such exploitation.

“Haunted” places are popular Halloween attractions, but seasonal haunted asylums in particular draw fire from mental health advocacy groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI argues that such attractions “contribute to the stigma by encouraging false stereotypes and barricading the path toward an educated society” and asks the sites to remove the displays.

The reasons why a person wouldn’t exploit an abandoned asylum for crass commercial purposes have been boiled down to a couple of lame platitudes. She throws out those overused clichés, stereotype and stigma. These clichés have become ways of not seeing what’s right before your own eyes.

Let’s look at both sides.

On the one hand, asking a highly popular, entertainment-oriented, money-making attraction that’s already in full swing to tear it all down in hopes that people will realize that the depictions were unrealistic may be overly optimistic, at least for this year.

On the other hand, haunted asylums do play up scary stereotypes: that the clinical staff uses patients for ugly experiments; and that people who need to be hospitalized are radically different from everyone else, completely out of control, and savagely dangerous.

Dr. Kaufman apparently needs a lesson straight from the horse’s mouth.

One of the worst periods of times when it came to mental health treatment in this nation was in the early part of the twentieth century. The practices of shock treatment and lobotomy, in fact, came out of this dismal period in our mental institutes. People labeled “mentally ill” were being sterilized as people who were deemed unfit to breed. It was feared that having “mentally defective” peoples breed would have an unfavorable effect on the survival capacity of the species. This practice, begun in the USA, was readily adopted by the Nazi Reich in Germany. Sterilizing gave way to exterminating, and the German Reich had found the population to practice on in preparation for going after the Jews. This process of deleting certain targeted segments of the population from the gene pool in a misguided attempt to “improve” the species, with all its pseudo-scientific pretensions, was referred to as Eugenics.

The facts shouldn’t be glossed over. The Victorian monstrosity of the mental hospital was and remains a place where many bad things took place. The community treatment that comes of deinstitutionalization is a vast improvement over those bad things. The mental hospital is, after all, the rug that certain people get swept under when other people don’t want to deal with them. You need go no further than the state hospital cemetery to see how this is the case. What will you find there? If there is any marker, it’s going to bear a number rather than a name and dates. Why? Because it would reflect poorly on the family for folks to find out that one of their members was out of his or her head, and that he or she had died in an institution. I certainly don’t think that the fact that a person had a corporeal existence should become a matter requiring utmost confidentiality. The patient is not being protected by having led an existence only as a hidden and secret record.

Mental asylums should be remembered the way concentration camps are remembered. Nobody would dare make Halloween entertainment out of Auschwitz. For people who have been there, for people who have done time in a state hospital against their will and wishes, for psychiatric survivors like myself, the state hospital system is to be remembered as our holocaust. We want the mental hospital to become a relic of the past. It would be better to make museums out of them, so that people would never forget, than it would to make a child’s diversion of them. Horrible things went on in these institutions. Some of these things are still going on. Let’s do things differently in the future. We need to show people the absurd kind of therapeutic treatments being used in the past. We need to show people that we are above resorting to these tortures today. We don’t want people to ever forget, for if they do, it could happen again.

Same Old Story, New Wrapping Paper

Psychiatry has really geared up to resell itself to the public. This recent reselling involves designing a lot of research projects to support a few basic theoretical presumptions. This reselling is called a revolution, only it’s about as far away from any real revolution as you can possibly get. The reason for this reselling is merely to further discredit and taint any and all criticism of the status quo, the orthodoxy, with the suggestion of heresy.

Indicative of this reselling campaign is Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, issuing a call for “mental illnesses” to be treated as “brain diseases”. We understand why, for insurance purposes, a patient would have “mental illness” treated like a physical disease, but beyond that, the burden of proof should rest on the evidense of research. Making psychiatry mindless has the effect of making it brainless as well.

A recent article in The Economist reflects this reselling venture with all of its pseudo-scientific pretensions. That article is entitled, pretensiously enough, Psychiatric Diagnosis: Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.

The aim is to help doctors offer patients the most appropriate treatment. But an important by-product will be that researchers working on the psychiatric drugs of the future will be able to test them in genetically engineered animal models that more closely resemble human reality. The importance of this was underlined by Eric Nestler of the Mount Sinai Medical Centre, in New York, and Steven Hyman of Harvard University in this month’s Nature Neuroscience, when they wrote that drug development for schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder and autism “is at a near standstill”.

Frankenrat is seen as a positive development for the future. Knowing how Pavlov’s dog hasn’t really worked to benefit humankind so much, and if anything such experiments have worked to the detriment of our species, I have serious doubts that Frankenrat is going to prove very beneficial either.

If this drug doesn’t work, theory runs, maybe another drug will. The problem here is that nobody is suggesting that maybe this wonder drug won’t be found. Nobody who is doing the same old same old anyway.

When the danger of medicalization is hit upon, and when doctors are admonished to do no more harm, the article suggests two DSMs, one for the researcher, the psychiatric clergy, and another for the laity, the out and out dumb ass public. Go figure. How dumb do they think people actually are?

To overcome this, there have been suggestions in the past that the DSM should be divided into two: a scientific version, for use by researchers and psychiatrists, and a pragmatic version, for everyone else. Writing in the Psychiatric Times in August, Seyyed Nassir Ghaemi of Tufts University in Boston argued that this was not the answer. It would simply lead to the “gerrymandering” of definitions based on outdated and invalid knowledge.

Actually the science is not as sound as many in the psychiatry and neuroscience departments like to think it is. There would only be a pragmatic version because some psychiatrists don’t want people to see through their deceptions, and because they would like to underestimate and devalue the intelligense of the general public. Perhaps a Dummies Guide To The DSM would to do the trick. We’ve had Dummies Guides to various serious “mental illnesses” for some time now. These Dummies Guides have helped dumb down a lot of people.

The Economist article makes a feeble attempt to end on a comforting note.

In the end, says Dr [John] Krystal, the dichotomy between the valid and the useful may turn out to be a false one. The most commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs are effective for many diagnoses, precisely because those diagnoses have underlying features in common. In his view, society’s demands are not mutually exclusive. Doctors can continue to do no harm, while researchers brace themselves for exciting, and unsettling, times to come.

We’ve got a major problem here. This is bullshit. Doctors do much harm. You’d better brace yourself. They are going to do even more harm in the times ahead.

Youths in juvenile detention drugged

Non-psychotic youths are being given neuroleptic drugs in juvenile detention facilities according to a story in Fair Warning, Antipsychotic Drugs Improperly Given to Youths in Juvenile Detention, Report Finds.

Many youths held in juvenile detention centers are being given potent antipsychotic drugs generally intended to treat bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, even though they have not been diagnosed with either problem, according to an investigation by Youth Today.

This is extremely distressing news as the use of these drugs can cause a number of physical health complications. The use of these pharmaceutical products has additionally been credited with causing and prolonging many psychiatric conditions.

The investigation focused on five states that provided comprehensive information about their spending for antipsychotic drugs for incarcerated juveniles. It found that 70% of such prescriptions were filled for conditions other than bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Instead, the prescriptions frequently were written for, among other things, mood disorders or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD.

So some states are engaging in a little “off labeling” prescribing of psychiatric drugs when it comes to kids in juvenile detention. Don’t they know that’s illegal?! Prescribing drugs for uses to which they were neither intended nor approved is fraud.

The article also reported that 34 states said they did not have such information available or never responded to the one-year investigation by Youth Today — which the advocacy organization contends raises questions about whether the vast majority of states even monitor use or spending on antipsychotic drugs in juvenile centers.

This is only the tip of the “off label” prescribing scandal that has developed due to the overzealous advertizing efforts, and the active encouragement, of big pharmaceutical manufacturers. Although I haven’t been able to access the article in Youth Today mentioned above due to a technical glitch, laurels go to that publication for conducting a timely and much needed investigation of this sort.

Voters Face Amendment In Kansas

Amending the state Constitution to protect the voting rights of people labeled “mentally ill” is on the November 2nd ballot in Kansas. This is a subject that I have written about in a previous post, Changing The Kansas Constitution. The New England Comcast Network reported on this development with a story, Kansas amendment on voting rights advocated.

Supporters of a proposed Kansas constitutional amendment to protect the voting rights of the mentally ill acknowledge it hasn’t drawn organized opposition.

That’s the good news. It’s potential for defeat, citing “stigma” as a reason, that’s the bad news.

The amendment requires approval by a simple majority of voters Nov. 2. It would strike language in the Kansas Constitution allowing lawmakers to deny voting rights to people with mental illness.

If the vote isn’t attained, and that is a possibility, too, it’s still the uphill struggle for the human rights and civil liberties of people on the receiving end of psychiatry that it has always been.

Kansas doesn’t prohibit voting by people with mental illness, but supporters say the change is an important symbolic step.

I would say it’s more than a symbolic step. There is language in the Kansas constitution suggesting that legislators should have the power to take the right to vote away from people who have been labeled “mentally ill”. In singling out one particular segment of the population, this language is highly prejudicial, suggesting that it is alright to deprive people of their right to vote due to a psychiatric label, and it should be removed from the Kansas Constitution.

It’s not alright. It’s no more alright than suggesting that people should have their right to vote taken away from them on account of the color of their skin. Let’s hope the voters in Kansas do the right thing in this instance, and recognize the need for a revision.

Update: October 17, 2010

An opinion piece in the Dodge City Daily Globe, Vote ‘Yes’ on amendment question 2, reveals a little of the history of the Kansas Constitution.

The Kansas Constitution used to prohibit people under guardianship, those who were “not competent,” or those who were “insane” from either voting or holding office. In 1974, voters removed that prohibition and replaced it with language allowing the Legislature to pass laws to “exclude persons from voting because of mental illness or commitment to a jail or penal institution.”

Somebody at the Dodge City Daily Globe got it! This article also gives a very good reason why this wording needs to be changed.

Because “mental illness” isn’t defined, it could apply to more than 500,000 Kansans, according to Karen McNally, director of community support services at Comcare of Sedgwick County. That could include people with depression, anxiety or attention deficit disorder or veterans with post traumatic stress disorder.

Thank you Dodge City Daily Globe for printing this opinion piece. The freedoms of your citizens are at risk under the present wording of the Kansas Constitution. A few more opinion pieces, editorials, and articles of this sort around your state might serve to help wake up the state of Kansas on this subject.