This week’s issue of the New Yorker examines the treatment of people diagnosed with mental health issues in Florida’s prisons. The horrifying stories of prisoners tortured, killed by guards, and driven to suicide while staff looked away reached the public only through the work of investigators and whistleblowers.
Multiple media sources are reporting on new data from the CDC revealing a substantial increase in the suicide rate in the United States between 1999 and 2014, with a steep increase in rates among girls and women. Few report, however, that the percentage of Americans on antidepressants has nearly doubled over this period.
The medication left me emotionally numb, making it impossible to connect with people or sense the aliveness of the world around me. But after two years on antidepressants, I found something that gave me jolt of feeling strong enough to wake me up for a moment. I then spent the next seven years giving myself daily doses of horror to induce an emotional reaction.
New research published in JAMA Pediatrics reveals that transgender women have more than double the prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses than the general US population. The study found that the women, who had been assigned male at birth and now identified as female, had a high prevalence of suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder.
It is time to create an entirely voluntary psychiatric system. International conscience is clear. The singling out of people with psychosocial disabilities is not worthy of a free society. There are better, safer ways to address legitimate public needs.
Reporting from Elizabeth Rosenthal at the New York Times reveals that more and more hospital guards are now carrying weapons. For patients in mental distress, like Alan Pean, this can have serious consequences.
"There's a growing awareness that alternatives to law enforcement are needed, that alternatives to emergency medical services are needed. There's a lot of people having problems related to psychiatric problems and addiction based problems and poverty problems, that end up getting addressed by the police but may be appropriately addressed by another resource," said CAHOOTS team member Brenton Gicker.
The case of “Beth” depicts, almost innocently, the trials and tribulations of a well-adjusted, talented 15-year-old who developed depression, paranoia, panic attacks, and self-injurious and homicidal behavior, and “bipolar disorder” after being prescribed antidepressants, and then antipsychotics. After Beth decided – on her own – to discontinue psychotropic medications in favor of hormone therapy, she remained free of psychiatric symptoms.
Government whistleblower and journalist Linda Leisure was diagnosed with a mood disorder and forcibly treated after an altercation with local police, according to Katherine Hine for the Columbus Free Press. “They said I was depressed and delusional and put me on drugs. But I was neither,” Leisure said.
When the idea that selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might make people feel suicidal first started to be discussed, I admit I was sceptical. It didn’t seem to me the drugs had much effect at all, and I couldn’t understand how a chemical substance could produce a specific thought. Because these effects did not show up in randomised controlled trials, they were dismissed and few efforts were made to study them properly. Then some large meta-analyses started to find an association between the use of modern antidepressants and suicidal thoughts and actions, especially in children.
Rethinking Psychiatry is an independent, grassroots group in Portland, Oregon that advocates for a paradigm shift in mental health care. On January 20, we hosted a film and discussion by activist and artist Barbara Ford. The subject was “Despair and Resilience: How to Face this Mess We’re in Without Giving Up.” Ford also showed film called Joanna Macy and the Great Turning, featuring philosopher, writer, and activist Joanna Macy.
The largest-ever meta-analysis of antidepressant trials appeared yesterday in the British Medical Journal. Researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration reviewed 70 trials (involving 18,526 subjects), to find that - counter to the initially-reported findings - antidepressants doubled the risk of suicide and aggression in subjects under 18. This risk had been misrepresented in the original study reports, the authors say, and suggest that the risks to adults may be similarly under-reported.
Only months after the American Psychological Association voted to ban psychologists from “advanced interrogation” facilities like Guantánamo Bay prison the Pentagon is asking them to reconsider, James Risen reports in the ‘Times. Steven Reisner and Stephen Soldz, who led the campaign to end the APA’s involvement in torture, say that those criticizing the ban ignore “a wealth of evidence that systemic military interrogation abuses continued long after the time when the authors claimed they were banned.”
The Grand Jury indictment on January 21st of a Georgia policeman for the felony murder of Anthony Hill brought national attention to the intersection of Black Pride and Mad Pride. Hill, who was black and a veteran, was murdered in March 2015 while in an extreme state or “mental health crisis.” He was naked and clearly unarmed when shot by a white policeman. The indictment brings attention to the failure of mental health care system in America.
Wendy Dolin sued GSK after her husband committed suicide after taking a generic version of Paxil. The US District Court has declined GSK’s motions for summary judgement and the case will now stand trial.
In The Opinion Pages of the New York Times, Matthew Epperson discusses the devastating results of police acting as the primary responders to mental health crises. “If we are to prevent future tragedies, then we should be ready to invest in a more responsive mental-health system and relieve the police of the burden of being the primary, and often sole, responders.”
“We are concerned about the implications of this rule,” said Jennifer Mathis, a lawyer at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, an advocacy group for patients. “It points a finger inappropriately at people with mental illness as a source of gun violence. It’s a bad precedent to start creating exceptions to the privacy law for people with mental illness, who are responsible for about 4 percent of incidents of gun violence.”
“Service members suffering from PTSD often feel like they’re wearing a mask,” Samantha Allen writes in Invisible Wounds. Melissa Walker, an art therapist, asks them to make one. “The results are stirring. One mask, striped in red and black with hollow chrome-colored eyes, is wrapped in razor wire with a lock where its mouth should be.”
For Tom Dispatch, historian Rick Shenkman “explores the biological phenomena that may well underpin our appalling lack of empathy, the animal instincts that allow so many of us to stand by in the face of unspeakable acts,” and “how the stories we tell ourselves and others might offer us a path to overcome our utterly human inhumanity.”
"HHS said it took pains to avoid any change to gun check reporting that would weaken physician–patient confidentiality and deter individuals from voluntarily seeking mental health treatment.”
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that being exposed to bullying in childhood can contribute to mental health problems later in life. In a new study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, the researchers found that children who reported being bullied at age eight were significantly more likely to seek treatment for mental health problems by age twenty-nine.
In an Op-Ed in the New York Times, Frank Bruni weighs in on the “concussion crisis,” and the long-term effects that sports-related brain injuries can have on our children.
"ISIS provides existential fast food, and for some of the most spiritually hungry young Westerners, ISIS is like a Big Mac amidst a barren wasteland of an existence,” Omar Hague writes in the Psychiatric Times. “Who actually joins ISIS? Not psychopaths or the brainwashed, but rather everyday young people in social transition, on the margins of society, or amidst a crisis of identity.”
“Those who possess the data control the story.” In the wake of the reanalysis of the infamous Study 329, where scientific data claiming the antidepressant Paxil was safe and effective for teens was egregiously manipulated, researchers are pushing for open access to raw data. “The issue here, scientists argue, is that without independent confirmation, it becomes too easy to manipulate data.”
Steven Reisner and Stephen Soldz, writing for Counter Punch, take on those who have criticized the Hoffman Report, which found that the APA had actively colluded in the US Torture program. “They have not credibly refuted these core findings of Hoffman’s seven-month investigation, nor have they even attempted to do so.”
Copyright © 2016 Mad in America Foundation.