Education On, And Alternatives To, Psychiatric Drug Abuse

If anything I think the potential harm occurring with psychiatric drug use has been underplayed rather than overplayed. This is to say that I have every reason to believe psychiatric drugs are much more dangerous and damaging than they are credited with being. Desperate people though are often more apt to listen to their desperation than they are to listen to the more cautious voice of reason and health.

Education is key when it comes to changing this situation. First people must be educated about the ills that come of taking neuroleptic and other psychiatric drugs. They need to know the conditions caused by the extended use of psychiatric drugs, and they need to be aware of how it raises the mortality rate dramatically. They must come to see that true recovery is attained through tapering off psychiatric drugs rather than dependently over relying upon them, and that over relying upon such chemicals is worse than risky, in actual fact it is rank folly.

Living in an area where these connections are not being made makes public education that much more important. When the “trade off” for a modicum of emotional stability is a matter of 25 and more lost years of life, that’s not a fair trade in the slightest. Nobody needs to sacrifice a third of their lifetime to “medication maintenance”, and more when you consider the loss in terms of quality of life. What people do need to know is that their chances for making a complete recovery are much better if they are never exposed to psychiatric drugs in the first place. When they do make this connection, the need for alternatives to psychiatric drug treatment becomes apparent.

People who have been enduring the adverse effects of psychiatric drugs for years, under the misguided opinion that they can’t function without them, should become better informed. There should also be support groups to help people who wish to get off psychiatric drugs to do so. People need to know just what the dangers are of remaining on psychiatric drugs as well. The longer a person takes a psychiatric drug, the more likely it becomes that that person will suffer permanent physical damage. Outside chemicals are just not the best way to maintain emotional stability. Nature, the evolved nature one was born with, works much better.

Psychiatric drug dependence and “mental illness” are practically interchangeable terms now. What psychiatric drugs can’t provide is “mental health”. People who don’t use such chemicals are said to be “mentally healthy”, and one can’t be said to be “mentally healthy” so long as one uses a psychiatric drug. People who take psychiatric drugs, in so doing, often put their physical health at risk. There are other and better ways to deal with the stress and pressure that comes of modern living, and the idea is to help people deal with the stress and pressure in ways other than that of masking such with the effects of a thought distorting, brain disabling, psychiatric drug.

If chronicity in “mental illness” is actually the result of psychiatric drug dependence, as some of us maintain, then the way to restore people to capacity is through tapering them off chemicals. Psychiatry, blind to the excess embodied in its own practice, has disastrously failed to recover a large portion of people under its influence to functionality. We can do much about this shortcoming by educating people about psychiatric drugs, and by providing them with safe alternatives to treatments employing harmful psychiatric drugs. It is crucial that we do so before psychiatry, in combinations with rapacious drug companies, wreaks even more havoc on the world than it has done thus far.

The Mental Health Movement Is Not A Mental Health Movement

Mental health movement propaganda has reached a nauseatingly feverish pitch of late. Mental health and “mental illness” months, May and October respectably, have become times to blitzkrieg the American public with pathetic personal stories that embellish appeals for money and legislative action. The legislative action is generally aimed at treating people who don’t want to be treated, not wanting to be treated being perceived as an indication of a more severe “illness”.

The problem with this frenzied state of affairs is that it means increasing the numbers of people in treatment and, additionally, it means multiplying the numbers of negative outcomes. Certainly throwing money at any problem is not going to make it go away, quite the reverse, and such is the situation with the mental health treatment world. When you consider that safe and effective treatments are the exception rather than the rule, you’ve also got to consider the fact that we are throwing good money after bad.

Mental health is not, at the present time, to be found in mental health treatment. Nor is physical health. Compliance is a matter of buying the lie that will eventually kill you. Don’t be fooled by the propaganda. 1 in 4 people are not “sick”. The idea is not only patently absurd, it’s offensive. The number one notion that the mental health movement is promoting and selling is the notion that “mental illness” exists, that it is real, and that it is physical. Apparently, a good dictionary to settle the matter is too costly of an investment to be made. Who needs a dictionary anyway when you’ve got the unmitigated gall to redefine everything to suit your propaganda purposes.

The gap between minor and major “mental illness” is as small, or as great, as you want to make it. People, given the most severe diagnostic labels, have been known to recover, and escape from the treatment gulag. How do they manage this seemingly incredible feat? In the same fashion that people with more minor “mental illness” labels escape the mental health system. The mental health treatment system is a dependency system, and those that make their way into more healthy lifestyles, do so by becoming independent of that system.

Prognosis, as fate, doesn’t offer many options. It’s like playing against loaded dice. Your chances of winning are zilch. There are, therefore, better career choices than that of statistical dead weight. The question is how long is it going to take before the good intentioned mental health movement stops selling and promoting “mental illness”? This “mental illness” is actually the apotheosis of the negative prognosis. It has an existence, surely, but only in so far as we believe in it, and only in so far as we invest in it. Think elves and unicorns. As long as there is an ear for it, there will be a market for the good bedtime story.

Faulty logic can be engaged in, coming up with erroneous conclusions, without correction infinitely. Folly of itself doesn’t necessarily lead to wisdom. Circular reasoning has it’s circuitous course evading any potential resolution. “Mental illness” as an enterprise has it’s obvious shortcomings and limitations. One of these limitations is definitional. The mental health movement is captivated with an illusion. “Mental illness” is the illusion that the mental health movement is captivated with. It cannot move beyond this illusion without moving beyond itself, and its aims and illusions.

Realism is devoid of illusion by definition. The false us and them dichotomy has fallen by the wayside. We are no longer in a realm of the healthy and fully human versus the sickly and inferior subhuman. Such unproven leaps of judgment are not permitted. Triumph by the elimination of chance is not an option. We’ve dispensed with the loaded dice. The door is not locked, and the patient is free to come and go at will. Your true adult has always had more options than your fake adult child. Success, for the suffering, once again becomes a possibility. Given the right circumstances, it becomes a certainty.

Protesting Psychiatric Oppression 2014

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On May 3 through 7, 2014, the American Psychiatric Association will be holding its annual meeting in New York City. The theme of this years meeting is Changing the Practice and Perception of Psychiatry. This event is not likely to touch upon the issue of human rights violations by that profession as it’s primarily a public relations scheme and a defensive evasion of responsibility. Among the distinguished guests assisting the top dogs in the field of psychiatry in pulling off this professional whitewash extravaganza are Vice President Joe Biden, actor Alan Alda, and actor Joey “Pants” Pantoliano.

At present the rights and freedoms of citizens are being threatened on several fronts by this same profession that would be talking change. It is common knowledge among many people who deal with the mental health system on a daily basis that things within that system are getting worse, not better. There is repressive legislation being pushed by special interests groups, especially in the instance of H. R. 3717, a bill, deceptively called “the helping families in mental health crisis act”. H. R. 3717 would essentially deprive patients of a great deal of the hard won legal rights and protections that they had achieved over the years if it were passed into law. There is also the issue of forced treatment, made most acutely apparent with the recent abduction of Justina Pelletier by the state of Massachusetts.

On May 4th there will be a protest of the APA across the street from the Jacob Javitz Convention Center where the APA annual meeting is being held. This protest, themed Stop Psychiatric Assault, and orchestrated by psychiatric survivors, their friends, and allies is co-sponsored by the human rights organizations MindFreedom International and the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights. To my way thinking, this protest is much more important than the whitewashing ceremony the APA will be conducting. It is so important, in fact, that I am making the trip all the way from Florida to NYC to participate in this action.

Organized psychiatric crime may have a few Hollywood celebrities and politicians fooled, but the rest of us are more astute than that bunch of bozos about the situation. Oppressive maltreatment and abuse masquerading as “help” are commonplace in the mental health system. Psychiatry kills more often than it “helps”. As this is the case, any and all action that can be taken against the abuses conducted in the name of this profession are called for. Only by protesting oppression, and by educating the public, can we bring attention to the severity of the problem we face, and by bringing attention to it, change it.

I hope you will, if possible, join us on May 4th, 2014 in our protest across from the annual meeting of the APA. We need all the people we can get in this, our struggle, against forced treatment and for human rights. Freedom used to mean something in this country, and it still means something to those of us who have experienced its eclipse. People are being deprived of freedom, insidiously crushed, and slowly poisoned to death by psychiatry at this very moment. You can do your part to end this death and destruction by joining us on May 4th across from the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in New York City when we strike a blow for life and freedom.

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Join MindFreedom, Protest Psychiatric Brutality!

The Myth of The Jail and Prison Treatment Facility

One Deinstitutionalization Is Not Two Deinstitutionalizations

Much bad ink has been spilled over calling the nation’s jails and prisons mental health facilities because of the number of people within their walls who have also been given psychiatric labels. The latest report along these lines claims there are something like 10xs more mental patients who reside in criminal justice facilities than in state hospitals. These numbers come from a study conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center, the USA’s number one lobbyist for more forced psychiatric drugging, and the National Sheriffs Association. The culprit in this debacle is said to be deinstitutionalization.

Let me start off by saying people don’t go to jails and prisons because they are sick and because they wish to receive medical attention. People are sent to jails and prisons by the courts to receive punishments because they broke the law of the land. Second, state hospitals have traditionally been psychiatric jails and prisons. Merely trading this kind of prison for the other kind of prison doesn’t make a hospital in actual fact. I would say that, given the prison overcrowding problem that comes of three strikes laws, America has grown increasingly intolerant of difference, and law crazy itself. If your way of dealing with bizarre behavior is to outlaw it, your jails and prisons are going to fill with people behaving bizarrely. Bizarre behavior may be a crime, but it is only a disease by a wild stretch of the overactive imagination.

Statistics tell us their own story. For statistics, before we look at those coming from the recent study, let me refer to the Preface of the 2006 book crazy authored by journalist Pete Earley. Earley is another apostle of this blame deinstitutionalization religion. According to Earley, in 1955, there were 560,000 people in state mental hospitals. He speculates not about the numbers of people who might have been referred to as “mentally ill” in prison or jail at that time. Between 1955 and the year 2000, the population jumped from 166 million people to 276 million people. Given this population increase, and no change, the numbers of people in state mental hospitals would have been something like 930,000. Earley gives the present number of people, from maybe a 2002 or thereabouts survey, with “mental illnesses” in jails and prisons at 300,000. He gives the present number in state mental hospitals at 55,000.

Hmmm. Something peculiar is going on here. 500,000 people are unaccounted for. These are the people who, with the population increase figured in, would be in the state mental hospital system if we were still doing business the way we had in 1955. 500,000 people is more than half the number of people we are dealing with in the stats for a later year. You add 55,000 to 300,000 and you are still lacking 205,000 people from the 1955 figure. This is not the kind of figure that supports the contention that deinstitutionalization was a mistake, or that it was a disastrous failure. Instead it would seem to indicate that more and more people described as “mentally ill”, if not fully recovering, are being better integrated into the communities from which they came. This is a coup for least restrictive care, and least restrictive care is something that nobody receives as a prisoner on the locked ward of a state mental hospital.

According to the TAC and NSA research, there are 35,000 people in state hospitals, a 2012 stat, and 356,000 in jails and prison. Wow. We’ve got 20,000 fewer people, referencing the Earley stats, in state mental hospitals than we had 10 or so years earlier! If we’ve got more in jails and prison, too, part of that increase can be explained by population increase. What Earley gave us was something of an estimation based on statistics anyway, but we’re still minus a great number of people who would be “hospitalized” in the year 1955. All in all, I’d call deinstitutionalization a major success story. We’ve still got a lot of people in jails and prisons, given stiffer sentences and overcrowding, who don’t need to be there. One deinstitutionalization success story doesn’t justify an increased amount of institutionalization for another sort of institution.

Blaming violence on “mental illness” is the latest media and political trend. I’d like to remind people that the court of public opinion is not a court of law. We have a supply of the kind of acts, in the present climate, that the media circus demands. Should we look at the number of violent acts committed by people with no experience in the mental health treatment system, I’m sure that those crimes are not decreasing dramatically in number either. Violence is not a symptom of any “mental disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). When it comes down to it, death is much more likely to be a result of gun fire than it is to be a result of any psychiatric diagnostic label in a mental health professional’s repertoire. I suggest that we will have more success with the problem if we deal with the causes, and I don’t see “illness”, physical nor mental, as one of the primary causes. I would, on the other hand, do something about the climate of suspicion, hatred, and indifference that breeds crime, hardship, and troubles. Here, I think we can actually make a difference if we tried, and that is exactly what we should do.

 

Beyond The Mental Health Community

I’m not part of the mental health movement. I don’t beg for money from the state. I don’t think the state should subsidize “mental illness”. This is an awkward position to take because I am also a psychiatric survivor, and the psychiatric survivor movement has, in a sense, become absorbed into the broader c/s/x or consumer survivor ex-patient movement.

Let me explain. Many people who call themselves psychiatric survivors are part of the mental health movement. When our movement began we were a separatist movement, that is, knowing how badly the state treated people in the psychiatric institutions it ran, we were intent on creating our own separate places where we could truly care for people who were suffering, for people who were being abused by the state. There was, in this, a call for what became known as drop-in centers.

Fast forward 20 or 30 years. These drop-in centers have evolved, in some cases, into peer support centers. What has taken place couldn’t take place without collusion or collaboration with the government at one level or another. This collaboration has essentially turned a great many former mental patients into mental health paraprofessionals. It has also made many of these places that were once alternatives to force and abuse alternatives in name only.

Many of us got into the movement, not because we wanted treatment, but because we didn’t want treatment. We received treatment regardless. It was thrust upon us against our will and wishes. We felt compelled by this force to do two things; one was look to creating the alternatives I just alluded to, and the other was to support the abolition of all forced and harmful mental health treatment.

The question then becomes, when a former mental patient becomes a mental health worker, must he or she of necessity resort to the same wrongs he or she was initially protesting. In other words, does this position have a tendency to turn psychiatric survivor former patients into turncoats, and oppressive turncoats at that, even  if this oppression is now more subtle and cleverly disguised.

Psychiatrists may be the most powerful people in the mental health profession, but corruption in the mental health field is by no means restricted to psychiatrists. The mental health system is growing, it is not stabilizing, nor is it contracting. Either “mental illness” is contagious, doctors are better at detecting it, or personal failure as a business, as other people’s success, is thriving.

Federal and state money, tax payer money, has made the mental health system even harder to escape from than it was in years past. Calling the mental patient by another name doesn’t change the mental patient role. Part of the problem is economic damage and financial dependency, and there are forces at work now that are more intent on maintaining the problem than they are at ever coming up with any solutions.

The mental health community is somehow separate from the community at large, even if it is contained within it. When we talk about the mental health community, we are mainly talking about the community that has evolved around the business of outpatient treatment, or so called community care. Perhaps a better way to refer to outpatient treatment would be to refer to it as limbo. Perhaps not.

Outpatient treatment aside, my guess is that a mental patient who was integrated into the community he or she came from would no longer be a mental patient. This seamless integration business seems to have hit a few major snags of late. This doesn’t mean that getting people back into the non-mental health community isn’t something we should be striving for. There, I think we have something we can  work on together now.

Do Not Feed The Monster

The difference between a mental patient and a mental health consumer is identical to the difference between a garbage person and a sanitation engineer, that is, it is a matter of words, of jargon. I say this because we have had what we call the psychiatric survivor, in former times also referred to as the mental patients’ liberation, movement. This movement has been instrumental in working to free people from the oppressive constraints of psychiatric intervention and the patient role.

Much confusion has been stirred up, of more recent date, due to the merging of that movement with what has come to be called the consumer movement, a movement that could be said to be lead by, or colluding with, the federal government. The consumer movement is not so much about liberating a person from the role of patient as it is about accommodating him or her in that role.

In part, the consumer movement has been a more or less successful attempt to subvert or co-opt the psychiatric survivor movement. It is something that can’t be completely successful, for if it was, you’d no longer have psychiatric survivors, you’d just have people stuck in the mental patient role. Funny thing, huh, when some people try to suggest that the mental patient role is an inescapable lifelong or chronic matter of “pathology”?

Colluding with the federal government is a matter of begging money from the feds, gained through taxation, to continue in the mental patient, alternately called mental health consumer, role. To further elaborate, the rallying cry of the consumer is more apt to be the right to treatment while the rallying cry of the survivor is more apt to be the right to refuse treatment.

This is a matter of accent. To further elaborate, psychiatric survivors are people who see themselves as more harmed by the mental health system  than “helped” while mental health consumers are more likely to see themselves as “helped” by the mental health system. It doesn’t end there though, there is overlap, there are survivors who feel they need “help” or “support”, and there are consumers who feel they have been harmed and oppressed by the system as well as “helped”.

I bring this up because there  are a number of rallies and marches “for mental health and dignity” in the planning stages right now. The idea behind these events is to accent mental health as a positive thing and, additionally, to focus attention on “stigma”. I imagine that the ulterior motive of these rallies and marches is a matter of rattling that tin cup before the federal government and the working public, and crying, “Nickels for your pity.”

This “positive slant” also involves ignoring the twin proverbial elephants of forced and harmful treatments in the room. Joseph Rogers and Daniel Fisher have expressed interest in getting the word out about these events. It’s–the smiley masks, this ignorance and deception–a lie that I really can’t endorse. Needless to say, I have no interest in attending such events. I would encourage others, unless they want to launch a disruption, or to conduct a counter march and rally, to do the same.

The Coming Plague

I have a friend who spends much of his time traveling in Asia. He is a psychiatric survivor, and he says he prefers Asia to the USA precisely because people are not going on and on about “mental health”, “mental health treatment”, and “mental disorders” all the time there.

In the USA, on the other hand, it is thought right and proper to air “mental health” laundry. It is thought by some, not yours truly, that bringing “mental illness” out of the shadows so-to-speak is a way of attacking the “stigma” associated with psychiatric labels.  The problem with this way of thinking is that it doesn’t acknowledge that the “stigma” comes with the label, in fact, you could say they are identical.

I’m sick of hearing about “mental health” myself. I’m sick of hearing about “mental health treatment”, and I’m sick of hearing about “mental disorders”. In some quarters of the nation this medico-literary emphasis is truly obsessive, and what comes of obsessing? Well, often it is excess.

There is a demand for “mental illness” because without  “mental illness” “mental health” wouldn’t have a market. Perhaps, for the sake of clarity, I need to rephrase the last sentence. A rich supply of “mental illness” fuels the market for “mental health treatment” which in turn creates a further demand for “mental illness”, a demand all too easily met.

The “mental illness” rates have been soaring for years. The World Health Organization tells us “mental illness” is set to distance physical illness as the number one cause of disability in the world. This means the number one reason for “disability payments” by the government, supplied by labor of  tax payers, in the future is going to be “mental illness”.

Right away we’ve got a problem. For all the efforts psychiatry has made to claim psychiatric problems somatic, this supposition remains devoid of solid proof.  Psychiatry has been notoriously unsuccessful, not as a business, but as a branch of medical science. The proof is in the pudding, and in this instance, the pudding is more and more rather than less and less “mental illness”.

In those instances where it is claimed a person has a “mental illness”, recovery, or a cure, if you will, is seen as out of the question. Of course, this is a relative statement. So called minor “mental disorders” lending themselves to effective treatment much more readily than major “mental disorders”. It work’s the other way, too. It is not unheard of for minor “disorders” to develop into major “disorders”, and then, well, we’ve once again hit the snag of poor prognoses.

I would say that this obsession is not a very healthy one. Were we to talk less about “mental health”, I feel certain that we as a nation would be less beset with what are sometimes referred to as “mental health issues”.  Were we to diagnose less of it, well, there you go. Already a cure is at hand. Problems demand solutions. When “mental health issues” are communication and situational problems, no amount of “medical treatment” nonsense is going to solve them.

Frank Blankenship: Personal Story

The MindFreedom Personal Story Project

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Frank T. Blankenship

“I’ve talked to a great many people devastated about friends and associates debilitated by schizophrenia. This always elicits a smile and amusement on my part. They don’t seem to realize that they are talking with someone who was once diagnosed ‘chronic schizophrenic’.”

Born: 07 December 1952

Contact Info: Gainesville, Florida, http://www.lunatickfringe.wordpress.com

Currently doing: Community organizing, specifically a Florida affiliate of MindFreedom International, blogging, writing, and when he can, traveling.

Mental health experience: Inpatient, Outpatient, Forced Treatment, Psychiatric Drugs, Commitment, Solitary Confinement, Torture

Psychiatric labels: Chronic Episodic Psychotic Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, Schizotypal Personality Disorder,  Schizophrenic Paranoid Type, Schizophrenic Chronic Undifferentiated Type, Schizotypal Disorder With Major Depressive Features, Chronic Schizophrenia Possibly Paranoid with Sleep Deprivation

Psychiatric drugs taken in the past: Thorazine, Stelazine, Navane, Mellaril, Haldol, Moban, Olanzapine, Loxitane, Lithium, Propranolol, Cogentin, Artane, Tofranil

Off psychiatric drugs since: 1997

Recovery methods: Social Activism, Friends and Family, Maintaining a Distance From the Mental Health System, Philosophical Detachment

Greatest obstacle: Biological Medical Model Psychiatry

Brief history:

I wasn’t a good student in primary and secondary school. Homework was something I just didn’t do. My parents were desperate to see my grades improve. At one point they were so desperate that it was suggested I be psychiatrically evaluated. I was actually sent to some building, a very cold and clinical environment, where I was interviewed by all these psychiatrists. It was horrible. They were asking me all these very personal questions. I was their specimen. In tears I told my parents I wasn’t going back to that place, and I didn’t go back. Pulling out of that program is the reason I didn’t have a psychiatric label in grade school.

In college my lack of good study habits caught up with me. I finished high school without graduating, due to a lack of credits, but went on to take my GED (high school equivalency test) that summer. I was majoring in pre-teacher education because I didn’t have the credits to take liberal arts, talk about a lousy reason for becoming a teacher. Anyway, during my second year it became a problem. I was falling behind in class, that is one reason, bad study habits, but there was more to it than that, I was at a point in that transition from adolescence to adulthood when things should have been happening in my life and they just weren’t happening.

I stopped going to class. I kept up the pretense with people who knew me that I was still attending class. I broke  down before a professor and it was decided I should see a mental health professional. Over that weekend I discovered the secret of the universe. Apocalypse was coming with the mating of absolute good to absolute evil and this apocalypse would be followed by a second genesis. It all made sense at the time. An episode of marijuana smoking with friends probably didn’t help much. The next thing I know I’m being driven from Charlottesville where I resided over the mountain to DeJarnette Sanatorium, the private wing of Western State Hospital, in Staunton Virginia.

Admission to DeJarnette was like landing on another planet. First you’ve got the imposing Victorian look of a traditional asylum, and then you’ve got the actual crazy folk within it. I was disoriented and the experience was anything but grounding. The nursing staff at this time saw their job as mostly one of observation until the patient began to show some signs of improvement. This meant little interaction, with rational people anyway, except for that which was punitive, therefore, I spent a great deal of time in seclusion in the quiet room.

Pacing the halls at night in a thorazine daze I fantasized being rescued by extraterrestrials. There were these eerie lights to be seen through the window at the end of the hall, and a railroad track over which we heard the occasion train whistle on its way elsewhere. When eventually I was taken out for my first walk around the grounds, feeling I was a part of some strange kind of experiment, and that I was expected to escape, I took off running down the road. A car lit out after me, and I was returned to the hospital. I learned eventually to play the game, and to give the staff what it wanted, thereby, after a time, gaining my discharge.

After my first institutionalization I had a crummy job, custodial, with UVA hospital housekeeping. Six months of that while taking regular doses of thorazine and I said, “No more.” I felt pretty, well, I think depressed is the conventional way to describe my feelings at the time. I quit the job and threw out the thorazine. I vowed never to take neuroleptic drugs of my own volition again, and I have been generally true to that oath. I felt much better. I don’t know if quitting the menial labor had anything to do with it, but I have absolutely no regrets about not taking psychiatric drugs. I fancied myself something of a poet at the time, and the drugs affected my creativity, as users will tell you, in a very negative way. I feel that this vow has more or less prevented me from suffering the fate of so many of my contemporaries, some of whom are no longer with us.

This was only the beginning of my experiences in the mental health world. After inpatient treatment, there comes outpatient treatment. I  became something of a “revolving door patient”, that is, I was back in the hospital on an inpatient basis pretty regularly. Funny thing, most of the times when I was institutionalized there was nothing “mentally” wrong with me.

There was, when I first got discharged from the state hospital, what was then called the Day Hospital for outpatient treatment. It was kind of like what I would describe as nursery school for adults. I will never forgive myself for opening up to the director of this Day Hospital. He said he was good at listening, and he encouraged people to talk to him in his office. He also had a way of dismissing everything a person would say to him as symptomatic of underlying illness. I, on the other hand, liked to think my thoughts, hopes, visions, feelings, wishes, plans, ontological being, etc. were not reducible to the outward manifestation of a pathological condition. He eventually learned about Fountain House in New York, and soon after the Day Hospital was converted into a clubhouse. He had a sailboat, and he would take sailing vacations to, what most clubhouse members could only dream about, the Bahamas. Eventually he got a job in south Florida doing what he had in Virginia, and then, much to the good fortune of his clientele, fired for who knows what.

I had moved to California at one point. I had this idea that either I was going to fashion myself into a success, with a super model clone clinging to an arm, or I was going to commit suicide. Well, as things were going rather slowly at the time I began making plans for my exit from the world. I hitchhiked north, ended up in an institution in Oregon, got out, made my way to Takoma in Washington state, turned around, and came back to the town in California where I was staying. Suicide, as it turned out, wasn’t such a simple undertaking. I thought about doing it, and eventually I took a swipe at it, or something approaching that. I had, as you might imagine, mixed feelings about ending it all. Ultimately I turned the matter into something of a public spectacle. I didn’t want to just make a silent exit, and then offer proof that nobody gave a shit, as they wouldn’t care anyway. I awkwardly cut my arms with a razor blade thinking about working my way up to the wrists. I then walked bleeding out and down main street where was I was shortly picked up by the police. This little episode, which lead to stitches, of course, made me revise my ideas about suicide. I decided I really didn’t want to off myself, and maybe life wasn’t so insufferable as it might have seemed after all.

My last hospitalization was one of the worst experiences in the psychiatric system I had ever had. I had at that time been out of the institution for ten years straight. A police detective came to my door and told me that if I didn’t volunteer myself into the hospital criminal charges would be lodged against me. I went to the emergency room. Big mistake on my part. Any lawyer will tell you that the police, in order to get what they want, will lie. A campus police officer in the ER had had some kind of encounter with me, and so I was put under a temporary detention order, a 72 hour hold. I was beside myself. I knew where this process was headed, and that is exactly where it went, to a civil commitment hearing. I spent nearly a month on the university hospital psych unit, until the insurance ran out, and then it was over the mountain to Western  State Hospital.

Western State at this time had fewer patients than on any of my previous visits due to deinstitutionalization. It was also more restrictive. In the university hospital I’d been spitting out pills in the toilet. This was no longer possible at Western as they checked to make sure nobody was cheeking his or her pills. The patients were seldom released from the closed wards to walk the grounds and visit the main recreational building. Eventually I became one of the few allowed out accompanied by staff. The weekends were murder, murder by boredom that is. This was due to the reduced staff. I considered myself lucky to have had a mother who would visit me almost every weekend.  I was in the hospital longer than any time previously, too. Soon after I left the department of justice was called in to investigate conditions at the hospital. I think this was due to some patients deaths there. Given budget cuts, last I heard, the hospital is in danger of reverting back to the way it was when I was a patient.

Social Security sent me a letter stating that I would need to be in treatment if I were to continue to receive benefits. This sent me back to the clubhouse. I agreed to a treatment plan that involved going about a half a day twice a week. Anything more was just too depressive. This meant orientation as a new member, and then service in the cafe unit. They had these work units, you see, in which people pretended to work and they called this pretense rehabilitation. Although not up to the standards of a regular Fountain House model clubhouse, I guess you could say it was their way of trying.

Eventually I wound up in the clerical unit. This meant that I was the person who entered the names of the people in attendance from a sign-in sheet to a computer record. The average daily attendance was somewhere between seventy to eighty members while on a good day ninety something people might show up. I made note one year that we had ten members die. I felt these deaths were due to the prescription drugs the members were ingesting. Witness that the death rate that year was better than 10 % of the attendance on a good day. Obviously the mortality rates of people who went to this clubhouse were way too high. At one point during the year in question, when three members died in succession over a couple of months, hospice was called in to help members deal with their grief. When I left the clubhouse, I who never wanted to go there in the first place, there were staff members trying to dissuade me from leaving. Thankfully, they had no further hold over me.

Since then I’ve moved to another state, but I continue to receive the clubhouse newsletter. A recent edition reported that the clubhouse had had a memorial service for three members who had died within a short space of time. Hospice counselors were there to help members deal with their grief.I guess this means that, following my departure, things haven’t changed all that much.

Year told:

2013

“Mental illness”, the belief

Among the major tenets of the Church of Biological Psychiatry is the belief, for there is no evidence supporting the claim, that what is commonly referred to as “mental illness” is an actual disease. Disbelief, to the converts to this faith, amounts to heresy, and they refer to this heresy as “stigma”. The idea is that if you belong to this church, you must believe in “mental illness”, and not to do so is to mistreat people thought to be diseased.

A couple of decades ago, a revisionist and protestant sect of dissident evangelists split from the Church of Biological Psychiatry.  This protestant church initially arose around the cathartic and redemptive power of mental health recovery. People infected with the “mental illness” bug were thought, by this church, to be capable of recovering their mental competence and, in many cases, completely so.

More recently, the Church of Mental Health Recovery has evolved into the Church of That Recovery That Is Not Recovery.  So many members of this church with the bug, were not losing that bug, and so it became incumbent upon parishioners to start in a new direction. I guess they’d grown attached to it. The feeling is that if the Church of That Recovery That Is Not Recovery continues to evolve in the direction in which it is going, it will eventually be entirely reabsorbed back into body of the mother church, the Church of Biological Psychiatry.

The “mental illness” lifestyle, ironically enough, is equivalent to the mental health lifestyle, that is, it is a lifetime of perpetual treatment for the affliction a person is presumed to have. Accompanying the initial curse of diagnosis (I do hereby pronounce thee “mentally ill”, and beyond hope of remedy or consequence), comes the attendant chronicity.  This chronicity, or lifelong path, is a matter of realizing the negative prognosis, or curse-fulfilling prophesy, issued by psychiatrists, the churches priestly caste of sorcerers.

The news is not all bad. Given advances made by the Church of That Recovery That Is Not Recovery, converts are learning to better enjoy their afflictions. Within the limitations of their debilities, the stricken are learning to carve the modicum of a decent existence out for themselves, however beset by hardship and suffering. The key to this silver lining, so to speak, is to be found in total compliance with mental health treatment plans.

If it weren’t for the great therapist who dwells in the sky, the creator of the drug research and development department, the “mentally ill” person, left to his or her own devices, would be lost. He or she would be just one more homeless refugee scrounging dumpsters for a bite to eat, mumbling to him or herself, and irritating business owners. He or she could even be squatting in the city jail for a spell. No more, he or she now can be diverted from that fate to a fate equally inane courtesy of Joe Tax Payer.

Believing in “mental illness”is not the same as believing in mental health. Believing in mental health is not the same as disbelieving in “mental illness”.  We could arrange this sentence in all its possible permutations regarding belief and disbelief, and it still boils down to pretty much the same thing. Maintaining a healthy skepticism, while keeping one’s feet squarely on solid ground,  creates a stabilizing effect. In a world where Big Foot, Nessy, ghosts and flying saucers still manage to captivate the popular imagination, it’s best to keep a wary eye out for wooden nickels and, one might add, false gods.

They’re gonna kill, kill your kids

A news item out of Portsmouth New Hampshire runs, Story of patient without available bed all too common. I’d say the story of patient with available bed all too common as well, but get a load of the example used!

“My son is 22 years old and he has had 11 jobs since the age of 18 because of substance abuse and mental illness. He has been going to the doctor since the age of 4. We literally had to fight the system for eight months to help him get assistance,” one member of the F Group said during a break-out session facilitated by a person with Portsmouth Listens. “In April he went to the state hospital. It was very difficult for me. I can’t imagine a person with mental illness getting through the system.

 Emboldened emphasis added.

 How many fingers?! Four! Isn’t that kind of young to receive a “mental illness” label and all the abuse that goes along with it? Not to mention…drugs? Just two years after the terrible twos, while passing through his fearsome fours, whap, right on  the butt cheek, “illness”.

This brings us to our next point, passing through. A person with a “mental illness” label who doesn’t “get through” the system, isn’t passing through the system. He’s stuck in the system. Perhaps permanently. Staying in the system is not recovery from an alleged “mental illness”, nor is it recovery from intervention and its consequences.

 They said their son was diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder at 4, but it took until he was 21 to get help.

Their son was disobedient and defiant. Their son was a rebel. Their son was a child. Duh. Therefore, psychiatric label and drugs, and the consequences of labeling and drugging. At 22 years of age, this arguably adult kid, who initially was merely rebellious, as many kids are, especially when they reach their pubescent teens, would be described as a “chronic” head case.

 The article goes onto “describe ODD” seeing it “as a pattern of anger-guided disobedience, hostility, and defiant behavior towards authority figures which goes beyond the bounds of normal childhood behavior” as delineated in the shrink’s bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

 My point, if you want a really, really, really bad child rearing manual, turn to the DSM. All the kids found in this manual are crazy by definition.

 “Thirty-five years ago you couldn’t say the word ‘cancer.’ It was a dirty word. It meant you were going to die. Now you can’t go a day without seeing a fundraiser or a run for cancer,” [Jim] Noucas [co-chair of Portsmouth Listens] told all of the participants at the beginning of the session. “It is time to take mental health out of the shadows and that is why we are here today.”

 Long hush.

 Given the men and women in their spanking white lab coats, I wouldn’t step from the shadows if I were you. Not just yet.

 Perhaps we are turning the world into a carcinogen. Additionally, give me a rhyme for carcinogen. Oh, yeah. Loony bin works. I think the pollutants, both chemical and cognitive, can seem pretty oppressive at times.