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Lengthy stays in Australia’s mental hospitals

If a recent report from New South Wales is to be believed, Australia needs to step into the twenty-first century. The Ombudsman for mental health facilities there has uncovered a few real horror stories. ABC News reported on the matter in a story bearing the headline, Psychiatric patients spending too long in hospital.

Bruce Barbour reviewed the files of 95 people in 11 mental health facilities across the State and found a lack of appropriate accommodation and support was leading to people being denied their right to live in the community.

His findings, in his own words, are startling.

“What was staggering was 13 people had been in hospital for over 20 years and indeed there were three people in hospital for over 40 years,” the Ombudsman said.

This is 13 people out of 95 people, well over 10 %. If the this selection accurately reflects the population in Australian mental institutions then there are way too many people abandoned, wasting away, and forgotten in them over long periods of their lifetimes.

“Two people had been in hospital from the time they were teenagers and that’s almost Dickensian, it’s just not something we should be seeing in the 21st century in this state.”

I think to call the situation ‘almost Dickensian’ is to understate it. Charles Dickens wouldn’t be so hard on the characters in his novels as the Australian authorities have been on some of their citizens.

Just think, some of these inmates have been incarcerated since a time when they were practically children. If children are innocent, such a claim can’t be made for their elders, particularly when their elders would condemn them to such a fate.

Mutants are taking over? Really? You think…

Psychiatry is full of it, and some of the latest “discoveries” in the field indicate just how full of it psychiatry happens to be. Take this report, New Genetic Mutations May Keep Some Mental Disorders From Dying Out, at PsychCentral. The post concerns a study suggesting that because mental patients have fewer children and “mental illness”, the label, isn’t dying out, we’re seeing genetic mutations…

People with certain mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism, tend to have fewer children than the average person, suggesting that these disorders persist not because of heredity, but because of new genetic mutations, according to a new study.

Or, and this isn’t stated, because we’re not dealing with a heritable condition. In other words, it’s a matter of the decisions people make in their lives and not so much the genes their parents gave them.

People in the psychiatric system exist within a social context, and it’s this social context that is not being looked at so much.

The findings shed light on a longstanding puzzle in psychiatry: How do the genes linked with some mental health disorders persist in the human population, if people with those disorders tend to have fewer children?

I would suggest that the issue is a matter of supply and demand. If mental health professionals had fewer children, there wouldn’t be such a demand for nut cases.

No doubt some Swedish researcher somewhere along the way was impacted by the SciFi movie The Andromeda Strain, and nothing can be the same since.

For example, schizophrenia is extremely heritable, so it would make sense that it becomes more rare over time. But the disorder seems to persist in 1 percent of the population, which suggests that new mutations are occurring quickly enough for it to remain consistent, said [researcher Robert] Power.

Correction, bias has it that schizophrenia is extremely heritable despite all the evidence that would indicate otherwise. If it’s not genes, it must be genes. This is biological psychiatry to the core. Nobody is saying look to social and environmental factors, nobody is saying that, but maybe somebody should.

When you are selling disease it is convenient to pretend you are selling something else, like health, because people wouldn’t tend to buy disease on its demerits alone.

The researchers note that some people with mental disorders may take medication that affects fertility, or they may have been hospitalized at some point during their reproductive years, and these factors may have influenced the results.

Or they may be facing prejudice in what is referred to as the competition for suitable, if desirable is too strong a word, partners. One scapegoat doesn’t reproduce. Two scapegoats do reproduce, but they hardly do so well as the goat with his harem in the herd.

An Enabling Debility

I was watching mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. on You Tube the other day, and he made a point that I don’t think a lot of people are catching. The mental health consumer represents a failure on the part of psychiatry to restore mental patients to health. Where we used to have a mental health movement, now we have what has been referred to as a mental health consumer movement.

Nash also noted that the basic difference between a person said to be mentally ill and a person said to be mentally well was that the latter earned a living and the former didn’t earn a living. This is what the whole idea of functionality is all about, the ability to make a good wage slave on the jobs market.

Of course, now we’ve got this idea of “high functioning mental illness” where the old rules don’t apply. Seeing that “high functioning” coupled with “mental illness” is basically a contradiction in terms, how do we explain this phenomenon? A few mental patients, aka mental health consumers, have managed through “compliance” to advance in professional, often academic, careers.

I would say you have about three things going on here at once. A bright and resourceful individual. A person who has a great deal of support–legal, emotional, and social–perhaps more than people who are not so “handicapped” by impugned disease. On top of which you also have someone who would tend to be less heavily drug dose disabled than many people in treatment due to the achievement (as opposed to troubling behavior) that the person had displayed.

It must be remembered here that the idea is not to produce a better quality consumer, the idea is produce a healthy individual, a non-patient. The “high functioning mentally ill” person also suggests a failure of the system to restore that person in particular to his or her right mind. One is also left with the question, are we making “illness” in cases like these a form of “success”?

There are other people who have been fully restored to “sanity”, but there is little glory in recovering one’s mental health as long “notoriety” comes of not recovering. Anonymity may be noble, but it doesn’t pay the bills. Acclaim, in one instance, must prove as much of a disincentive to recovery as federal benefits prove in another. How much of this is a matter of our cracked actor or actress making the most of his or her crack?

Acclaim seldom comes of recovery. More often than not what you have is a mental health worker who was a former patient, and as such represents the worst of two worlds. Your prisoner has become a warder, and your penitentiary system has grown exponentially. I suppose it represents job security on his or her part, but still this means the streets have gotten a little bit meaner, and the neighborhoods have gotten a little less secure.

Showing the proper disrespect to elected diseases

Mental disorders are not like other disorders, they are…mental. This is why it should come as no surprise that, following the 2012 election, some proposed mental disorders are candidates for entry into the 5th edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) slated for publication in 2013.

You aren’t a real mental disorder unless you’re in the DSM. Anybody can come up with a prospective mental disorder, but only a committee of American Psychiatric Association members can vote a mental disorder into the DSM. Once a mental disorder has made its way into the DSM, Pandora’s box is cracked, there’s absolutely no way to keep it out of the world.

If you Google DSM-5 news sometime you can get an idea of the great lengths some people will go to in order to get mental disorders listed in that manual. These mental disorders are up for election, and they’ve got their own press crews, and their own sham-paign committees.

4 candidates are currently scrambling on the news search page for election into shrink’s gospel.

Number 1 is Hypersexuality or Sex Addiction. UCLA conducted a research study recently that concluded Hypersexuality was a “real” disorder. Alright, that’s a first step to convincing the psychiatrists on a DSM-5 revision committee that Sex is a legitimate Addiction, isn’t it? I suppose we will be looking for Hypersexuality DNA in the future. Anybody want to see if they can get Hair Disorder into the DSM-5, too?

Hoarding is set to take a seat rather than simply being reduced to serving as an underling of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This has got to be another big lift for Hoarding who recently was fortunate enough to land his own television show on the A & E channel.

The next candidate up for office is the new category, Autism Spectrum Disorder. Asberger’s Syndrome has gotten the boot, and Pervasive Developmental Disorders are being replaced by ASD. Okay, no problem. Asberger was a shmuck. Some people still want him to serve out a few more terms nonetheless.

Prolonged Grief is trying to get her own space along this hall of infamy. I think the thing could be covered under Major Depressive Disorder, but, believe it or not, there are actually people who want to make unrelenting Grief a disease category. Who am I to say they should get over it?

I suggest people take these official disorders as lightly as possible. Should they drift off like a butterfly, or a dead leaf on the wind, it would be no great loss. Devotion to a pompous, demanding, and fictitious disease category can have profoundly negative consequences on your overall health and life circumstances. Pretend the DSM had never been written, and you should do just fine.

A Little Bit of Discretion, Please

Bad advice remains bad advice. Bad parents are gullible parents. Skepticism, given the amount of nonsense floating about in the world today, is a virtue.

Are you dealing with Turbulent teens or mental illness? this article in the The Gleaner from Jamaica would deceptively appear to ask. The article is actually selling “mental illness”. It suggests that any reader’s child could be “sick”. First thought. Read on, and damn your kid to a diminished life as a social and human failure in the mental sickness system if you want to do so, or think better of the matter, and go, “Wait a minute, maybe pegging my kid with a psychiatric label isn’t the best way to proceed at all”.

The article answers the question, “What should parents do?” with the following 7 alarmist answers that were probably dreamed up by a pharmaceutical company advertising team.

1. Be vigilant. 2. Seek professional help. 3. Do not be afraid to seek psychiatric care. 4. Do not shove it under the carpet. 5. There is danger in delay.

My response to this orange alert approach to problems in living is to reply, “Bullshit!” He or she who seeks to find “sickness” in a child will find it, and he or she who seeks to find “wellness” in a child will find that. This approach would hunt for “illness” rather than for “health”. To paraphrase gospel, “Let he or she who is without error attach the first label”.

The article supplies its own “mental illness” screening test of sorts. It gives 8 warning signs of “mental illness”. Now you’ve got a “mental illness” checklist if you are really desperate to have a child labeled, disposed of in the loony bin, locked away and abandoned. The message is clear. You, too, given this checklist, can bear a brood of loony birds.

1. Change in behavior. 2. Decline in school performance. 3. Drug use. 4. Poor self-care. 5. [Change in pattern of] Social interaction. 6. Communication is reduced. 7. Family breakdown. 8. Strange behavior.

I’ve got news for you. Each of the items on this checklist is a “symptom” of being a teenager. Adolescent rebellion is not a disease. Mom, Dad, get over it! Junior has to grow up. Mental health treatment or no mental health treatment, you shouldn’t try to hang onto your kid forever. Your child is merely testing his or her wings. Some parents will suffocate their kid rather than accept the simple truth that the kid needs more independence.

I could draw up a checklist for kids to use in diagnosing parents, too, but this is all about power, and we don’t give kids that kind of power until they are deemed old enough to use it. Unfortunately, some grown up kids never get old enough to use it wisely.