Madness At The Top

Three statistics pertaining to the “mental illness” label in the USA that have recently come to light stand out. As I reported, the Medco report showed that 1 in every 5 Americans are now on a psychiatric drug. What I didn’t mention is that the rate of women to men on these prescription drugs is much higher, and so actually 25 % of women, or 1 out of every 4 women, are on a psychiatric drug at the present time. Then there was the recent study showing, as of a couple of years ago, fully 11 % of the population is taking an antidepressant drug. These statistics, of course, apply only to the USA, the current epicenter of the worldwide epidemic in “mental illness” labeling.

This is one more reason why I’d be irked by any article with the heading, as the article I ran across at Psych Central does, Do You Have “Complete” Mental Health? This article was published in the Adventures in Positive Psychology column, and positive psychology just happens to be one of my pet peeves.

The absence of mental illness does not necessarily constitute complete mental health. Someone may not have any mental illness but they may not be satisfied with their life or striving to reach their potential. They may be surviving but not thriving.

I’m offended by any definition that would equate completeness in mental health with satisfaction and an abstract potential. I feel that such a definition tends to serve the rich and powerful, and that it is based primarily upon falsehood and misconception. Given such a definition, the most “mentally healthy” people in the world are also going to be the richest and the most powerful people as well. People in impoverished situations would, by this definition, of course, be the most afflicted.

Someone who is flourishing is living with optimal mental health and may be experiencing subjective well-being in most or all of three general domains.

We are then given 3 general domains: Emotional well-being, psychological well-being, and social well-being. Emotional well-being is described as having “positive affect and a high-level of positive emotion”. Psychological well-being is described as having “a sense of purpose and meaning in life”. Social well-being is described as having “a sense of belonging and accepting the world around us”.

Well-being is further broken down, by a certain theoretical model, into 4 further divisions.

Flourishing – Someone who are high on subjective well-being and low on mental illness.

Languishing – Someone who is low on subjective well-being and low on mental illness.

Struggling – Someone who is high of subjective well-being but also high on mental illness.

Floundering – Someone who is low on subjective well-being and high on mental illness.

The only thing I think this model serves is an arrogant and deluded sense of smug self-satisfaction. I don’t think it has a whole lot to do with reality. When “complete” success is judged by some stock exchange figure flashed over Times Square, relative success is going to be relevant in other places. I certainly wouldn’t measure success in terms of material accumulation in this fashion, and even spiritual accumulation doesn’t quite cut the grade.

I, for example, don’t think it a good idea to praise people for flourishing when those very same people dump oil off the coasts of Alaska, Louisiana, and New Zealand. I don’t think of dumping oil as very healthy, mentally or physically. I certainly don’t think it to be very healthy to wildlife. You dump oil into the ocean, and that’s bad karma, for yourself, for the wildlife you impact so disastrously, and for everybody else. I don’t think it “mentally healthy” to ignore this fact.

99 % of the population is struggling, lanquishing, or floundering, by this definition, while 1 % of population is flourishing in a more objective sense. I want to point out again that there is something wrong with flourishing at the expense of life on this planet, and that apparently we’re still locking up the wrong people for being disturbed and disturbing. Were we to lock up, if not psychiatrists, then maybe a few drug company CEOs, it is my belief that the rate of psychiatric drug abuse in this country would go down appreciably.

Has The Time Come For A Coalition of Progressives and Libertarians?

Psychologist Bruce Levine has reported in his blog most recently on a notion by Ron Paul and Ralph Nader that a populist coalition of progressives and libertarians could be forged in the interests of fighting corporate government. The article in question is called, pointedly enough, Populist Alliances or Senseless Wars and Corporate Welfare.

Whether or not Nader and Paul can pull off such a coalition, their conversation can promote a useful dialogue among populists and anti-authoritarians across the political spectrum. We Americans are routinely grouped as Democrats, Republicans and Independents and divided into left-liberal, right-conservative and center-moderate camps, but these categories tell us little about where we stand on two historically important questions: (1) Do you favor some fashion of elite rule, or are you a populist who believes in government that is genuinely of, by and for the people? (2) And if you believe that a ruling elite exists, who exactly are they?

Levine takes much of his philosophical inspiration from the under appreciated and much abused founding father, Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense and Rights of Man.

Real-deal populists are emotionally fueled by their contempt for illegitimate authority. Anti-authoritarians – be they Thomas Paine, Mark Twain, Ralph Nader or Ron Paul – have historically energized young people who have not yet been socialized into abandoning their rebelliousness against illegitimate authority. While authoritarians accept a standard schooling and a government that demands compliance to authority by virtue of rank and position, anti-authoritarians consider whether that authority is or is not legitimate before accepting it.

His feeling seems to be that that a government bought and controlled by large corporations is an illegitimate government.

When populists such as Nader and Paul both use the terms corporatists and corporate government, this greatly improves the possibility of coalitions and alliances among populists. While it is more comfortable for many libertarian populists to rail only against “government tyranny” and for many progressive populists to rail only against “corporate tyranny,” what can unify populists is a recognition that elite rule consists of a “corporatocracy tyranny” – rule by a corporate-governmental partnership.

This anti-authoritarian populism, as I see it, also represents a politico-philosophic way for psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers to break out of what has come to be called the mental health ghetto, a ghetto created largely by corporate government and bureaucracy. The liberation I am speaking of comes with the consciousness that there is more to life than diagnostic tags, “community treatment programs”, “medication management”, and disability payments. People who know the mental health system intimately have, in most cases, not entirely lost their right to vote, and one way to express this right is to use it to wrest control of government back from the corporate interests that have stolen it (or, bought it with money stolen from the people). Government by, for, and of a rich minority is not going to be good government for the vast majority of citizens. By building alliances and coalitions of this sort, it just might be possible for us to eventually end this tyranny of the rich.

Life, death, the mental illness label, and Minnesota

Minnesota is one among a number of states giving lip service to doing something about the high mortality rate among people in Mental Health treatment. This concern grew in part out the stir caused by a 16 state study published in 2006 showing that people with serious mental illness diagnoses are dying on average 25 years earlier than the general population. A new initiative in the state of Minnesota was designed to help deal with this disparity in death rates.

Minnesota Medicine covers this initiative in an article, Minnesota 10 by 10.

The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors’ 2006 report “Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness” highlights the fact that people with schizophrenia are 2.3 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than people in the general population, 2.7 times more likely to die from diabetes, 3.2 times more likely to die from respiratory disease, and 3.4 times more likely to die of infectious diseases. The report states that people with serious mental illnesses die 25 years earlier on average than members of the general population. The report also highlights the fact that the increasing use of second-generation antipsychotic medications, which are associated with weight gain, diabetes, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome, is adversely affecting lifespan.

This effort grew out of a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) summit to address the issue. The participants in this summit recommended the measuring of 10 health indicators and 2 process indicators for all people labeled “mentally ill” served by the mental health/illness system. Members of the groups participating in this summit have pledged to reduce early mortality by 10 years within 10 years time.

Not surprisingly statistics in Minnesota showed people dying at earlier ages in mental health treatment than people not receiving mental health treatment.

Consistent with the findings in other states, people with serious mental illnesses in Minnesota die much earlier than the general population on average. The median age at death for the general MHCP population was 82 years. The median age of death for people on MHCP plans with serious mental illnesses was 58. Our results showed the trend was consistent regardless of the patient’s gender.

Heart disease in Minnesota was the number 1 cause of death amongst people receiving mental health treatment there. People labeled “mentally ill” were found to be dying of heart disease on average 27 years earlier than the rest of the population who died of heart disease.

What surprised our work group was the fact that persons with bipolar affective disorder and schizoaffective disorder die significantly younger than those with schizophrenia alone; the median age of death for those with bipolar affective disorder and schizoaffective disorder was 51; for those with schizophrenia it was 62.

My immediate thoughts on the subject are that the culprit here is likely to be polypharmacy. Bipolar disorder is thought to involve bouts with depression and mania, two disorders in their own right, while schizoaffective disorder is seen as a state between schizophrenia and a mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder. Psychiatrists confronted with this kind of dilemma could be prescribing drugs for each of these conditions and, with psychiatric drugs, studies have been done showing that people die earlier for every psychiatric drug they are prescribed.

While it is good that Minnesota is making an effort, however meager, to do something about the problem, I have my doubts as to whether anything substantial is being accomplished here at all. Healthier diets, and quitting smoking can’t hurt, but the real problem that lies behind these deaths is the use of psychiatric drugs. Reduce deaths by 10 years in 10 years and you’re still 10 to 15 years behind the general population. The easiest way to improve a person’s chances of living longer is by getting that person out of, and away from, the mental health/illness system entirely. We have a word for getting a person out of the mental health/illness system completely, and that word is recovery. People need to be rescued from such a system when it is hell bent, however unintentionally, on their own destruction.

The American Psychiatric Association meeting in New Orleans

Last year I was protesting the American Psychiatric Association convention held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco just outside of that center. This year the annual event was held in New Orleans where I would have liked to have done the same thing if possible. Unfortunately, it didn’t prove possible. Someone did attend (Oh, darn!), and someone was protesting, too (Yippee!).

With PB oil rushing in just off the coast, these pharmaceutical company puppets couldn’t claim to be the baddest boys in town, this time.

Martha Rosenberg was there, and she covered the event for Counter Punch in an article called Meeting the drug industry.

It was 95 degrees with 99 percent humidity. The Gulf had the biggest oil spill in US history. And attendees to last week’s American Psychiatric Convention (APA) annual meeting in New Orleans had to brave 200 protestors chanting “no drugging kids for money” and “no conflicts of interest” to get into the convention hall.

I’m pretty sure the 200 or so protestors mentioned here were connected with the Citizens Commision on Human Rights (CCHR), a human rights organization with close ties to the Church of Scientology. They held a protest in 2009, too, accompanied across the way by a small number of counter protestors. I remember seeing busload after busload of people arrive who took part in this march and rally. Our affair was much more modest number wise. We were the ex-patient psychiatric survivors, and our event took place the following day.

Overt conflicts of interest and drug company influence were suppressed to a greater degree at this years event than they had been at previous APA meetings.

“They used to wine us and dine us,” said one participant, a veteran of decades of annual meetings, ruefully.

“An SSRI maker flew my entire group to a Caribbean island,” remembered a doctor from the East coast who did not want to be identified. Anymore.

This account ends with the report of a study done at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, taking a look at polypharmacy, and finding it damaging. We could have told them that.

When 24 patients on polypharmacy combinations of Seroquel, Zyprexa and other antipsychotics were reduced to only one drug — monotherapy — there was no worsening of symptoms or increased hospitalizations in 23. Not only did patients not deteriorate, their waist circumferences and triglycerides improved, say the researchers as drug interactions, side effects and, of course, cost of treatment declined.

Now if only these guys could do something about monopharmacy. I don’t see it though. I just see more selling of “mental illness” labels and the zombifying drugs that go along with those labels.

I hear there’s going to be another big bash of this sort in 2012 in Philadelphia. I’ve also heard there are going to be protesters at this upcoming APA meeting as well. If so, the hounds of hell couldn’t keep me away. I will carry a sign, and I will do my part to drive our message home to the nation at large. Psychiatric drugs are no way to treat people and other living creatures.

The Lily Foundation And Cemetery Reclamation

Some people you are probably better off not making your partner.

The Lily Foundation, for example, established by the same family behind the company that brought you Zyprexa, is donating $2,500 to the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery Reclamation Project in honor of labeled schizophrenic artist Larry Wanucha.

Problem: These newer drugs, including Zyprexa, have been credited with having much to do with why people in the mental health system are dying off at an age on average 25 years younger than the rest of the population.

The patients buried at the old cemetery were buried before the development of atypical psychiatric drugs, and so that is not so much of an issue with that one. No, they only had shock treatments, sterilization, lobotomies and other abuses of power to help put them under the sod earlier than the rest of the population.

Burials at the newer cemetery stopped in 1973, well after the 1950s when the initial drugs had been developed. The effects of those older drugs led to the development of these newer atypical psychiatric drugs in the 1990s, of which Zyprexa is but one example. These older drugs could contribute to a premature demise as well, only maybe a tad less premature.

This is rather like having a major tobacco company donating money for the upkeep of a cemetery for cancer victims, and think, it’s a multi-billion dollar company shedding peanuts on this cemetery reclamation project.

I know it might be able to carve a granite legend or two with this pittance, but if I were the Toledo State Hospital Cemetery Reclamation Project I would send this $2,500 straight back to the Lily Foundation with a prompt thank you kindly, but we don’t need your blood money. We can and will go much further with people who truly care about people than we will with people who are throwing away chump change to placate their very real guilt.

Just think, buried before the development of Zyprexa, the lucky bastards!