Mike Wallace Must Be Spinning
In His Grave

Susan Rogers

Susan Rogers

October 1, 2013

I find it surprising that 60 Minutes, which has a history of serious investigative journalism, would do such a slipshod job on the segment ‘starring’ E. Fuller Torrey.

The producers apparently saw no reason to include the fact that people diagnosed with schizophrenia can and do recover. Significantly, a decades-long study by the World Health Organization found that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia usually do better in countries in the developing world – such as India, Nigeria and Colombia – than they do in such Western nations as Denmark, England and the United States. According to an analysis of results, “Patients in developing countries experienced significantly longer periods of unimpaired functioning in the community, although only 16% of them were on continuous antipsychotic medication (compared with 61% in the developed countries) … The sobering experience of high rates of chronic disability and dependency associated with schizophrenia in high-income countries, despite access to costly biomedical treatment, suggests that something essential to recovery is missing in the social fabric.

Nor did they include any information about initiatives such as the Hearing Voices movement, which successfully helps people learn to cope effectively with the experience of hearing voices.

In a small British pilot study, 16 individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia were able to control their auditory hallucinations with an experimental treatment called “avatar therapy.” The treatment involves creating a computer-based representation – including a face and a voice – of the entity they believe is talking to them. The individual’s therapist is then able to speak through the avatar, encouraging the individual to counter the voice and to take control of the hallucinations. Three of the 16 people who participated in the study completely stopped hearing their voices as a result of the therapy, and almost all of the participants reported a reduction in frequency and in the severity of distress the voices caused, according to a published report. Because of the pilot’s success, The Wellcome Trust will fund a larger study, to be led by researchers at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry. Thomas Craig, the psychiatrist who will lead the larger trial, said that if the study is successful, the therapy could be widely available within a few years.

Although Dr. Torrey believes that individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions should be force-medicated if they refuse to take medication voluntarily, journalist Robert Whitaker shows that medication contributes to chronicity. In the era that followed the introduction of Thorazine in 1955 there has been an exponential rise in the numbers of individuals disabled by mental health disorders, he reports in his book “Anatomy of an Epidemic.” Whitaker told Behavioral Healthcare, “… nfortunately I’m afraid psychiatry no longer knows how to get back on track with honest reporting of what it does and does not know, and honest investigations of psychiatric medications …  Ultimately, I think we need a new paradigm built on the framework of psychosocial and recovery practices.”

The “60 Minutes” producers made a serious error in relying upon Dr. E. Fuller Torrey as its main source. Torrey admits to fabricating “evidence” to further his goal of making it easier to lock up people who have psychiatric diagnoses. Toward this end, he has for years engaged in “an intensive public relations campaign linking mental illness with violence.”

To the contrary, according to a NY Times article, only about 4 percent of violence in the United States can be attributed to people with mental illness.” And the 4 percent statistic is about violence of any kind – which, according to the study cited, would include something as relatively innocuous as threatening behavior – as opposed to just homicides. Also, since the fears of the general public largely focus on strangers with mental health conditions, it is significant to report another study, which estimated that there is only one stranger homicide per 14.3 million people per year.

60 Minutes should do a follow-up piece in which it strives for accuracy, as opposed to sensationalism.

Susan Rogers

Susan Rogers is director of the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse, a national technical assistance center funded in part by SAMHSA, and director of special projects of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania. A writer, editor, and advocate, she has been active in the c/s/x movement since 1984. She is the recipient of the 2011 Judi Chamberlin Joy in Advocacy Award from the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery, and the 2013 Clifford W. Beers Award from Mental Health America.

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12 thoughts on “Mike Wallace Must Be Spinning
In His Grave

  1. It’s good to see how we can all unite around our fight against people like Torrey. In a way, I think he helps our cause.

    Hey, if we ever have a demonstration against him, we should have our cats wear a sign. Anyone who thinks cats are bad is clearly a bad person.

    Well…maybe I shouldn’t be so flippant, since, although we find him ridiculous, he just got an audience of many millions of people and our side wasn’t represented at all. This blackout by the mass media is one of the most serious problems we face.

  2. Thanks so much for putting a spotlight on this! I think we need to keep the pressure on … already the comments page at CBS is filling up with protest & critical comment. You can add to it here (the segment title was “Imminent Danger”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50155990n

    Here’s what I wrote: 60 Minutes owes its audience a contrasting view. Forced mental health “treatment” especially forced drugging as advocated by Dr. Torrey is rejected by many thoughtful experts (and those of us who might need the help one day!) The public must understand that these drugs are not magic wands as Torrey and his backers would have us believe. They help some people greatly, they do not work for others, and in a substantial minority of cases they can CAUSE agitation, suicidal thoughts and yes, violence. They are not a substitute for humane and individualized care – but they have become just that.

    Like James Holmes before him, Aaron Alexis actually sought help at a hospital and was given a fistful of pills – trazodone in Alexis’ case, Zoloft and Klonopin in the case of Holmes who was ironically a graduate student in neuroscience and sought help from psychiatrists affiliated with his university. To say the least, the “helping professionals” don’t seem to have helped and may have critically worsened the situation.

    Check out the recent debate in Scientific American initiated by columnist John Horgan and Dr. David Healy:

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2013/09/20/did-antidepressant-play-a-role-in-navy-yard-massacre/

  3. Hey folks I just want to encourage everybody to share this blog especially as well as the others about the 60 Minutes segment on the CBS website, on Facebook, and on Twitter using the hashtag #60Minutes. Let’s make this voice heard in the public sphere!

    • I tried to comment on the 60 Minutes video, and was refused, so I took my complaint to Twitter.

      Rossa Forbes ‏@RossaForbes 23h CBS NEWs biased against international commenters: “Note that only characters on a standardEnglish keyboard will be accepted.”

      This effectively locks out most of the world. How incredibly narrow minded, for a news organization.

  4. Thank you Susan. Thank you to everyone else here who has let our voices be heard. Force and a lot of so-called treatment does more harm than good. People need connections (relationships) with supportive others and a commitment of no forced treatment if they are to benefit from any recovery services.

  5. What about the ones misdiagnosed and wrongly prescribed powerful unneeded drugs?

    What about those who “miraculously recover” once off the drugs??

    What about the inadvertently wrong psychiatric diagnoses in their medical charts??

  6. Sixty minutes strikes again last night by essentially inferring that everyone on SSI is committing fraud because of some questionable cases. Yeah, let’s just paint everyone with a broad brush shall we?

    And maybe sixty minutes, if you stopped inferring that everyone with a mental illness diagnosis should be on psych meds come heck or high water and focus on solutions that work, maybe those disability cases would decrease since people would not be disabled my meds. But that isn’t sensationalistic enough for you all.

    Anyway, this is further proof that sixty minutes has not intention of ever being fair as they are now no better than the National Enquirer in my opinion.

  7. Oh man. I didn’t see that program, but in combination with the program with Torrey the week before, what a message. Torrey says almost everyone is crazy…but then the program says people aren’t crazy enough to get disability payments. Even NAMI wouldn’t take such a position. Where is this coming from?

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