Mental Health Awareness Month Mayhem

The “mental illness” industry propaganda machine is running full throttle this month, especially in my neck of the swamp. All sorts of events have been planned, here in Gainesville Florida,   for May, Mental Health Awareness Month, a 60 something designation originated by  Mental Health America, at one point almost the lone voice for the mental health movement, a movement to get government to foot the bill for “mental illness”.

A local movie theater is showing Call Me Crazy, one of Hollywood’s most recent excursions into the area of “mental illness” propagandizing. There is also going to be a panel discussion, and a Mental Health Fair (sic), Apparently, given “campaigns against stigma”, there is no way in hell that “mental illness” can be allowed to keep a low profile. This is about selling nonsense, folks, and as it is being done all over the country, it is about selling nonsense big time.

Did I say big? “Mental illness” is big business. This is how it works. You’ve got a tin cup pitch being offered in unison for more funds to pay for it. It is psychiatric labeling, drugs, “mental health” workers and facilities. Education is particularly important. Education is corporate propaganda, in other words, advertising. The more educating you do, the more “mental illness” you get. The more “mental illness” you get, the better your chances of swindling the public into giving you more money.

Prevention is a joke at this point. Prevention is usually a matter of labeling and drugging children. Not getting ‘em early on is seen as “causative” because it is thought that delayed diagnosis increases severity. Problem. The kid who is not got is not “ill”. The severity of the label starts with the label itself. Not that long ago, in fact, childhood wasn’t a bona fide “mental illness”. Actual people, baby sitters and parents, tended the fledgling flock of humanity,. Now, more and more often, the child rearing task is being relegated to stimulants, sedatives, and happy pills, and I can’t say that they’ve been doing a terrific job of it.

We’ve got a “mental illness” epidemic raging throughout much of the world today, and no wonder. If gun violence erupts, “mental illness” did it. If people are poor and without permanent shelter, they must be “mentally ill”. “Mental illness” is our answer to social issues. It’s not a matter of flawed groups, it is a matter of flawed individuals. All we need to do is segregate, label, drug, and treat the offending parties responsible for any disagreement in groups, and voila, everything is hunky dory again.

Not so fast. The perfect son or daughter, who received the perfect grade, got the perfect job, and now runs the perfect major corporation are becoming more of a liability than our “diseased” failures ever were. Life on the planet earth is now threatened by our idea of wellness and success. Maybe we need to take a harder look at the potential in our throwaway populations of people. Perhaps there is something we missed, Perhaps they are not so totally tainted and ruined by “brain disease” after all.

You will never find a “mental illness” under a microscope lens. This is because “mental illness” is not a legitimate medical condition. There is nothing to find when what passes for symptoms are merely a checklist of aberrant behaviors. Although some psychiatrists would resolve the Cartesian mind body duality by declaring mind brain, I challenge anybody to find an identifiable thought or feeling in a synaptic cleft or a neural circuit. It will always elude them. Mental and physical are simply not synonymous.

The dilemma confronting us today is that  standard psychiatric practice invariably involves  physically damaging the patient.  The propaganda is not propaganda favoring “mental health”. What is that?  The propaganda is actually propaganda favoring physical injury. The way out of the psych-ward should not be through another department in the hospital, or the mortuary, but this is increasingly becoming the case. The only ‘other way’ involves seriously butting heads with the mental health establishment as “stigma” has been redefined to mean any disagreement with the propaganda.

New ADHD study would push pills on minorities

Runaway “mental illness” fraud gallops on at an ever increasing pace. The latest example of this fraud that I’ve seen is in this comparative study, reported on by Reuters, under the heading, Fewer minority kids diagnosed with ADHD.

Black and Hispanic children are half as likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as their white peers, according to a new study that followed U.S. kindergarteners through middle school.

You’d think that would be good news, right? Think again.

“It’s a consistent pattern of what we’re interpreting as comparative underdiagnosis for minority populations,” he (study leader Paul Morgan) told Reuters Health.

If we’re diagnosing more white kids with ADHD than we are black and hispanic, it’s not because we’re overdiagnosing it in white kids, it’s because we’re underdiagnosing it in black and hispanic kids.

Let me tell you, illogic like that is not going to reduce the overall “mental illness” rate in the world today one iota. If anything, it’s likely to increase it.

“If you’ve got certain groups of kids with a disorder who are not being picked up … they might not be accessing treatment that can help in terms of their school-based functioning,” he said. That, in turn, can lead to poor self-esteem and acting out.

Morgan then goes on to talk about the dangers of “untreated ADHD”.  The short list he gives includes anxiety (a disease according to the gospel of the APA), depression (ditto) and “substance abuse”, sometimes euphemistically termed “self-medicating.”

Just what we needed, huh? More ‘mental ill health’ in the world.

This study is not about benefiting the minority community. How is the minority community going to benefit from a larger population of people with “mental illness” labels within it? This comparative study is about selling mental health treatment, and with it, “mental illness”.  There is basically one form of treatment used in standard practice these days. That one form of treatment is the use of psychotropic drugs. The one group that stands to benefit from such a study is comprised of multi-national drug companies.

Excuse me. I was a little rash in my last statement. Two groups actually stand to benefit. Were we to impose equality of disease diagnosis, by increasing the rate of diagnosis in minority communities, the overall “mental illness” rate goes up. The two groups that stand to benefit would be “mental health” professionals who would then have greater job security, and the drug industry that would have an increasing profit margin. Everybody else loses.

Children with ADHD diagnoses, as Morgan pointed out, are also prone to be diagnosed anxious, depressed, and to take illicit drugs. Short list. We really need a lot more of that in this country. Oh, yeah!

I don’t see much upward mobility for minorities developing out of this predicament, instead I see a persistent downward slide. This sort of equality–equality in disease diagnosis rates–is much like equality of inopportunity, and equality of inopportunity is just the sort of equality we don’t need.

Quite Some Scam

 I’m not here to tell people that they can take a permanent break from the struggle for survival by utilizing the “mental illness” excuse. No, that is the job of the mental health treatment industry, and it does so with a passion. No, I’m here with the opposite message. I’m here to say that people need not spend their entire lives in convalescence by encouraging more fraud on behalf of psychiatry.

 The latest bit of nonsense to emerge from our mental health propagandists would put the number of people who require the services of a psychiatrist during their lifetimes at 50 % of the population. Here’s a “disease” salesman’s dream. It can only be uphill from this point. Your “disordered” population is on their way to becoming a clear cut majority. Who, after all, is doing anything to remedy this epidemic?

 Truths of this sort are always mixed with a great deal of fiction. I can’t help but be put off by the fact that most of the mental health literature of late is directed at increasing the size of the population in treatment. When the literature has this slant, can there be any surprise that the numbers of people in treatment, and receiving disability benefits, go up? You’d think we were talking about a popular brand of household product, and not a “disease”. (In a sense, maybe we are.)

 Talking about “mental disorder” is encouraged, as if that’s going to be a solution rather than a part of the problem. Mental health is only a matter of talk for people who have poor mental health, and their associates, the poor mental health salespeople. The mental health treatment business would not be booming if there weren’t a great number of people deemed in need of services.

 Part of the mental health treatment businesses unspoken task is to insure that the size of this population is maintained. Were the numbers of people in treatment to go down significantly,  then a significant number of mental health service work positions would also be in jeopardy. People like job security, and mental health workers are no exception in that regard. There is a reason we have a “mental illness” epidemic today, many people’s employment is dependent upon it.

  Talk about doing something about this mess is taboo, literally. If you dispute the conventional wisdom of the mental health system ideologues and propagandists, you are, according to their  logic, “stigmatizing” people with “mental illnesses”. They have campaigns and campaigners, therefore, dedicated to maintaining the mess. The impetus of these campaigns is to try to convince people, on dubious grounds, that certain individuals will always be in need of a permanent vacation from life.

 The people deemed in need of these permanent vacations are, by and large, not people who can afford permanent vacations. The state thus is required to pick up the tab on these freeloading would be heirs and heiresses, but it doesn’t go to them. It doesn’t go to the patients alone, that is. It goes to the circle of vultures that surround the patients. It goes to drug companies, insurance companies, psychiatrists and mental health workers. Everybody involved, like politicians, is more or less a state employee, and in the hire of Joe Taxpayer. Need I add, there must be a better way.

Honesty As A Revolutionary Act

Weaning oneself off psychiatric drugs, leaving the mental health system behind, and saying, ” I haven’t got a “mental illness” are revolutionary acts of resistance for people who have been labeled and violated by psychiatry. No question about it! There is an ethos and perspective that challenges this departure. It claims, “You can’t do that”, despite the fact that you can, and you do.

Scan the newspaper stories about mental health in the dailies throughout the United States and beyond. You will see what I mean. So and so is in his or her fifties, on psych drugs, and has been in treatment, sometimes called recovery, for the last thirty years. So and so has got a disease he or she is going to die having. Baloney! This baloney is like all the other baloney that people believe in. Beliefs and facts are at a remove from each other.

This is a token consumer ventriloquist dummy spewing out the standard line perpetuated by bio-medical model psychiatry. “I will be a good mental patient and feed the psycho-pharmaceutical industrial complex. I will be a relative loss to society, a burden on the economy, and a slap in the face of existence. I…can’t help myself. I have this disease that prevents me from performing at the level of the average citizen.”

Have you ever heard the saying, “You can do anything you really want to do if you set your mind to it”? Revised theory has it that you can do anything you really set your heart on doing if you haven’t been labeled and gobbled up by the mental health system. If you’ve been swallowed by the mental health system, that’s it, life is different. There should be a sign above the door of every mental health facility, “Abandon hope all ye who enter herein.”

I was taken with William Burrough’s novel Naked Lunch when I first read it because he was hip to behavioral addictions long before the American Psychiatric Association ever invented them. Commercialism, consumerism, war, treatment, culture, etc., every trend, and especially every fad, you can imagine is an addiction. I must keep up with the Jones because I’m an addict. You think the Jones have a healthy lifestyle? Think again.

Biological psychiatry has this conventional folly line toward the limited capacity it sees the madman or mad woman as having with self-fulfilling prophesies galore. “You can’t achieve, and you must conform to the low bar we have set for you as far as your expectations are concerned. According to theory, you are incapable of doing anything more.”

The “mental health” of this nation is not getting better, it is getting worse. More and more people are being persuaded that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. More and more people are getting on disability rolls. More and more people are waking up from the American dream in the middle of the American nightmare. Bio-medical psychiatry, and its salespeople, are the primary reason why this is so.

We are experiencing a media cover up right now. What is being covered up is the truth about the harm psychiatric drugs do to people. They are actually killing people. This cover up, and the totally biased nature of bio-medical model psychiatric inquiry, allows this to happen. Biological psychiatry has been claiming that this injury is due to lifestyle, or disease, and not treatment. Misleading is misleading, but if you look, the evidence will set you straight.

People can and do leave the monster that the mental health system has become. They have been doing so more or less silently for years. This silence is part of the problem. Rather than contributing to the problem, they are contributing to the solution. Unfortunately, the problem is growing too fast to be contained. For this reason, a more revolutionary act is breaking the silence about psychiatry and psychiatric oppression.

When people speak up, the facade of legimacy biological psychiatry has been trying to maintain begins to crack. When people speak up, other people can begin to see they aren’t fated to a life of diminishment. When people tell the truth, the lies that paternalism fosters begin to dissolve. When people speak the truth, the antidote is beginning to be applied to the body politic. The epidemic of distress that our world is undergoing can begin to recede. When the cat is out of the bag, at long last, we can begin to realise that there is a world out there for everybody, and not just the robber baron elite, be they corporate ceos or mental health providers.

Eradicating ‘Stigma’, The New Sales Pitch For ‘Mental Illness’

It takes some stretching to put it in something resembling transactional analysis terms, but I think will give it a whirl. “I’m not Okay, but now that we have anti-stigma campaigns, it’s Okay not to be Okay.”

I guess I’m old fashioned. I still prefer Okay over not Okay.

Now we’ve got this problem of dissent and the mental health orthodoxy that didn’t exist 2 or 3 decades ago. You get the kind of thinking that runs if you don’t believe what we are saying to be true, you “stigmatize” the “mentally ill”, or more properly put, people with “mental illnesses”.

There is no “stigma” attached to mental health. There is a “stigma” attached to “mental illness”. Is there any “stigma” attached to recovering from a “mental illness”?

“Stigma”, once a brand or a tattoo, now refers to a more metaphoric or symbolic mark of disgrace. We have a problem in that, given this definition; use of the word itself is “stigmatizing”, or prejudicial. You can’t wash off disgrace any more than you can wash off the mark of Cain. When it is a matter of perception, maybe another word would be preferable.

Both words, “stigma” and recovery, are words that some people in the mad peoples movement claim have been co-opted by people who are in opposition to their wishes, aims, and rights. In the case of both words there is much legitimate truth to this accusation.

Recovery is now being used by pharmaceutical companies to sell pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals are one of the reasons why some people in treatment don’t recover. Recovery is now used by mental health professionals who feel most people who have been labeled with “serious mental illness” labels are incapable of recovering. Some of this recovery rhetoric has even degenerated into being applied to custodial care by another name. Custodial care, in some of these cases, has merely been transferred from a hospital setting to a community setting.

The idea is that there are all these “mentally ill” people out there who are not getting treatment they need because of “stigma”. The question here becomes who determines need, and where do we draw the line. The thing that is seldom being pointed out is that there are a lot of people who are being treated by force and against their wishes. Do we need more people in mental health treatment who don’t want to be treated? If so, you or your neighbor could be next. Is it not “stigmatizing” to force treatment on people who don’t want, for whatever reason, to be treated?

I see a big danger in using “stigma” to sell “mental illness”. I think this is precisely what is going on today. The numbers of people being fed, clothed, and sheltered by the taxpayers due to a “mental illness” label is increasing by leaps and bounds. Sooner or later, given the kind of growth that is taking place in the field, this burden is going to become too great for the state to carry. Once that point is reached, it will have become too late not to do something about the problem.

Recovery takes place where people leave the mental health system. They leave the mental health system precisely because they have recovered their mental health. Where people don’t leave the mental health system, the mental health system could be said to be ‘broken’. The idea is to get more people leaving the mental health system, and fewer people entering it. When you get fewer people entering the mental health system, you are being preventative. When you get more people entering the mental health system, you are being causative. I’d say it’s time to take a good long hard and honest look at what we’re doing.

Putting Up With The Antics Of Rebecca And A Couple Of Other Crazies

Oh no, I found another one! Here’s an article from Kansas, from The Topeka Capital-Journal to be exact. The heading of this article reads, Topekan talks about living with schizophrenia.

A Topeka woman is sharing what it is like to live with schizophrenia in a 30-minute documentary that will air Sunday on Topeka’s public television station.

I wonder why people so seldom talk about living without schizophrenia? Ditto, bipolar disorder? Why don’t we have stories starting, ‘I once had a pet schizophrenia, but I got rid of mine. I Just didn’t care for it that much.’

Oh, I know…because they’ve got a drug to help people manage the symptoms now.

“Living with Schizophrenia: A Call for Hope and Recovery,” featuring Topekan Rebecca Phillips and two other people diagnosed with the chronic brain disorder, will air at 3 p.m. on KTWU, Channel 11.

“The chronic brain disorder”, say people who want to sell you a drug “treatment”.

“It’s been a long journey,” Phillips, 37, said of her recovery.

What kind of “recovery” can there be to a “chronic brain disorder“? Isn’t this sort of like talking about seeking the “cure” for “incurable insanity”?

“Someone with schizophrenia can be active in the community. They can make a difference in other people’s lives,” she said. “There’s hope for people with schizophrenia. The end doesn’t have to be bad. They can be just like anyone.”

Anyone? Even people without a pet schizophrenia? Now here comes the scary part…

Phillips said she was asked to do the film in 2010 by officials at Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., which funded and produced the film. She previously had taken part in a shorter film about schizophrenia the company made for its sales representatives.

Jenssen Pharmaceuticals, if you don’t know, is owned by Johnson & Johnson. They are the not so wonderful people who brought you the neuroleptic drug Risperal.

Uh, considering the following, this isn’t the accident you might think it is, is it?

The years that followed were a mix of hospitalizations and medications to try to control the schizophrenia. That changed when she went to The University of Kansas Hospital and was prescribed risperdal consta, a drug she takes by injection every two weeks.

Living with Schizophrenia, the documentary, brought to you by Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Risperal.

This is the same Johnson & Johnson that just got sued for fraud to the tune of 158,000,000 smackeroos by the state of Texas for ‘off label’ prescription practices, notably of their neuroleptic drug Risperal.

I’m thinking about making my own film, Living without Schizophrenia. A film of which it could be said that no drug company, neither Eli Lilly, nor Johnson & Johnson, nor Pfizer, nor Bristol-Myer Squibb, nor Asta Zeneca, had any hand in the production.

Notes on the coming “mental health revolution”

Don’t believe all you read, especially when it comes to what is termed mental health treatment and research. Generally speaking, most of this research is coming from the biological medical model school of psychiatry. Biological psychiatry offers an approach that, although pervasive, is notorious for its cynically fatalistic attitude and its astonishingly negative results.

Case in point, the BBC story, On the brink of a mental health revolution.

Dr. Thomas Insell, the director of the NIMH, has become one of the biggest pitchmen for medical model psychiatry of late. He would have us believe that the current research, rather than being misguided by presumption and bias, was cutting edge and is on the verge of major breakthroughs.

“”We can begin to understand which circuits are involved, and how the brain is wired. We have never had a full wiring diagram of the human brain. We are getting that now.”

What wiring!? This is metaphorical gobbledygook carried to an extreme. The brain isn’t an electrical appliance, nor is it a technological device; it’s an organ of the human body. Dissect it, and a living human brain is still more than the sum of its parts.

In groundbreaking research seen by Newsnight, a London team taught computer software to recognise patterns in brain images. Those patterns predict which patients will go on to develop the most serious forms of psychosis.

There is a great and insurmountable rift between the first sentence and the second sentence in this paragraph. I would suspect that this “Cassandra” software is not nearly as reliable as any of these researchers might lead us to believe in their enthused and over-excited states. I have yet to see anything in psychiatry that had anything approaching the 100 % accuracy of hard science.

Then they make a big to-do about ketamine, a substance that is a key ingredient in popular club-drug Ecstacy, and a substance that is used as a street drug. The claim is that it does in 3 hours what it usually takes SSRI antidepressants 6 weeks to accomplish. If I remember correctly, there was also a big to-do about the possibility of using hallucinagens in the treatment of mental disorders a great many years back. Perhaps they felt they were on the verge of some great breakthrough back then, too. This instance seems very similar, if you ask me, and I don’t think it is likely to advance very much farther.

The to-do is followed, in fact, by a disclaimer.

Ketamine itself could not be used, it is not safe, long-term, and people relapse over a week or so. But it worked on the same part of the brain as conventional anti-depressants, and much faster – and it is that that has got scientists excited.

I’ve got what shouldn’t be news for you. SSRI anti-depressants don’t alleviate depression. These drugs work no better than an enhanced placebo at best. Simply put, they don’t do anything beneficial. No wonder any new substance under the sun looks better. The miracle, at least for drug manufacturers, is that they’ve got 11 % of the US population taking them now.

Says a Professor Nick Craddock…

“What I foresee over the next generation is psychiatry becoming like cardiology and other medical specialities, where we have a range of tests – imaging tests of the way the brain functions, blood tests to know about susceptibility factors, other sorts of psychological tests. That will really help direct us to the diagnosis, and crucially – enable us to know how to help people.”

Whereas a heart attack will kill a person, a nervous breakdown never hurt anybody. Self-control might have something to do with both the development of heart disease, and so-called disorders of the nervous system. I suspect that the experts consulted for this piece are more interested in managing disturbing behaviors through the development of chemical compounds for purposes of social control than they are in rewarding responsible behaviors.

What these guys have yet to find is any “illness” in the brain. Lacking any “illness”, they’re going ahead, and starting to look for the genes behind what they are calling “illness”. A lot of good those genes will do you when you don’t necessarily have any “disease” in the first place.

I recognize spin when I see it, and what I’ve been getting here is just that, spin.

Brits Call For Inquiry Into Child Drugging

A review has been called for in the United Kingdom because children there under the age of 4 years old, in violation of National Health Service guidelines, are being prescribed stimulants for the treatment of ADHD, according to an article in the UK Guardian, Behaviour drugs given to four-year-olds prompt calls for inquiry. Family-based therapy has recommended treatment with such drugs only if the child is over 6 and all other options have been exhausted.

The figures, based on data from 479 GPs, show prescription rates were highest for children aged six to 12, doubling to just over eight per 1,000 in the five years up to 2008. Children aged 13 to 17 had the second highest rate at six per 1,000, while those aged 25 and over had less than one per 1,000.

I would definitely worry about the rates being highest for children 6 through 12, too, as that could spell an eventually rise in overall numbers.

He [Professor Tim Kendall] said: “There are two reasons why parents go shopping for a diagnosis. The first is to improve their child’s performance at school, and the second is to get access to benefits. There are always GPs that will do it, but it’s wrong to give a child a diagnosis without also consulting schools and teachers.”

Diagnosis shopping, I like that.

You notice that there are 2 reasons given, and while the 1st reason would indicate an interest in the child’s welfare, the 2nd reason has more to do with a families living situation, and it certainly might not be about doing the best thing for the child.

Want a cause for alarm!? Look at the following.

According to Nice guidelines, between 1% and 9% of young people in the UK now have some form of ADHD, depending on the criteria used. NHS figures show a rise in all methylphenidate prescriptions across all age groups by almost 60% in five years, rising from 389,200 in 2005 to 610,200 in 2009.

We began with a rate of 8 and 6 per 1000, but here we are seeing figures that approach 1 to 9 per 100. 1 per 100 is pretty bad, but not nearly so bad as the rate of almost 10 in 100, or 9.5 % that, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, we have here in the United States. I seriously doubt Great Britain’s ADHD rate could begin to approach the high 9 % mark in most cases. The ages given for these children in the USA, where the NICE [National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence] guidelines don’t apply, is 4 to 17.

Bravo, United Kingdom! At least there is some concern there about the potential for harm in giving speed to children who have scarcely left their terrible twos. I’m still hopeful that maybe child specialists will find an expression for children who have left their terribles twos and entered their horrible fours and sixs. I have never felt that “sick” was a very good characterization for that phase in life either.

We don’t have an unhealthy eating disorder but we do have…

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but some of these psychiatrists most severely afflicted with Obsessive Disease Inventing Disorder have gone overboard lately. Our Most Ridiculous Disease Invention Award of the century goes out to Dr. Steven Bratman for coming up with Orthorexia Nervosa or Healthy Eating Disorder in 1997.

Bear with me, it’s a young century yet, we are experiencing some jetlag, and another doctor is bound to come up with something even more ludicrist.

Suite 101 has an article on the subject of our “disorder” with the heading Orthorexia Nervosa – Healthy Eating Disorder.

While it is difficult to argue that a healthy diet is unhealthy, anything taken to the extreme can become debilitating. Orthorexia Nervosa is not simply living a minority lifestyle in terms of food. It is becoming so caught up in eating “right” that food consumption is not a pleasure but rather a full-time job with some unsavory fringe benefits.

Yeah, excess in moderation. It’s the epicurean creed, I believe. Excessive excess can be debilitating. The problem here is not with health. How, after all, can health be unhealthy? The problem is with obsession, but obsession has to do with desire, and so it’s a matter of doctoring the heart. The problem with doctoring the heart is that the patient in this case is in no danger of cardiac arrest. We’re dealing with his or her relationships to things and people, but again, should we be making the intensity of moods and emotions out to be diseases?

Bratman offers ten signs of Orthorexia Nervosa in his book Health Food Junkies. These symptoms range from spending more than three hours a day thinking about healthy foods to feeling a sense of “control” when making food selections.

Certainly no one is going to become a health food junky, not such a bad preoccupation at all in my book, by thinking about food a mere 10 minutes during the course of a single day. When corporations are busily engineering addictive food products that turn ordinary people into obese slob ogres almost over night, I’ve got to think maybe obsessing about proper dieting isn’t such a bad thing after all.

A quick Google search of Orthorexia Nervosa will pull up a number of articles and blog posts suggesting that Orthorexia is a fad term created to sell books or that naming this condition is just another opportunity to classify differences as mental illness.

On the other hand, physicians including Bratman have been documenting field cases of this “health food disease.” A number of individuals have self diagnosed this condition, and family members on message boards post questions and concerns about eating patterns of loved ones that closely match the condition identified and named by Bratman.

Uh, Okay, but does that mean Orthorexia Nervosa is not “a fad term created to sell books” or an “opportunity to classify differences as mental illness”?

Desire And The Bipolar Identity

Bipolar disorder is on the rise. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists 1 in 100 people in the United Kingdom have it. According to more recent studies, the corrected figure may be something closer to 11 in every 100 people. That’s the figure Royal College gives for what could be what they call “the true prevalence”.

Note: 11 in 100 people are just over 1 in 10, or 10% of the population.

I suggest the figures might be much smaller than that if the media, pharmaceutical companies, the advertising industry, the psychiatric profession, mental health professionals, and other interested parties weren’t out to make a national pastime of it.

The genes for bipolar disorder are apparently not sex linked either as both men and women seem susceptible to it at equal rates.

I am taking my information from an article in Boots WebMD Health News with the curious title of Psychiatrists identify new phenomenon: “I want to be bipolar…” This article points to celebs Stephen Fry, Kerry Katona, and Paul Gascoigne, and claims their diagnoses have inspired a trend.

I’d like to add that here in the United States we have more than our share of bipolar stars, too. Patty Duke, Carrie Fisher, and Brian Wilson leap to mind when you consider the status of celebrated figures in the national Who’s Who of people with major mental illnesses.

Writing in The Psychiatrist Dr Diana Chan and Dr Lester Sireling who work in London say “We have noticed in our clinical practice a new and unusual phenomenon, where patients present to psychiatrists with self-diagnosed bipolar disorder.

“Recently, we have noticed numerous GP referrals to our service where the primary request has been for a psychiatric opinion on whether the patient may have bipolar disorder, as suggested by the patient’s own self-diagnosis.”

“Also common, but less so in our experience, is the patient who attends reluctantly at the instigation of family members who are convinced they have finally made the diagnosis that can explain the awkward or embarrassing behaviour of their relative. Both types of presentation were very uncommon until about three years ago.”

Confusingly enough, in this article a Dr. Peter Byrne, Director of Public Education at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, goes on to call bipolar disorder a “very rare illness.”

Well, I’m thinking, it must depend on who you ask. We’ve got statistics from the same article claiming 01% of the population has bipolar disorder, and a later 11% of the population may have bipolar disorder, regarded as a ‘truer’ figure, depending on who you ask. Further, it goes on to suggest that bipolar disorder is under diagnosed! As illnesses go, I doubt 11% would be construed as “very rare”.

The article claims that perhaps promoting the illness as less stigmatizing and more acceptable has lead to this spate in self-diagnosis. Optimism was expressed in the hope that if the stigma against this illness was waning, maybe the stigma against psychiatry as a profession was on the wane as well, and maybe more medical students would consider pursuing psychiatry as a career.

Keep your eye on that 11% figure. I see it getting antsy to climb a little higher already.