Killing “Schizophrenics”: Contemporary U.S. Psychiatry Versus Nazi Psychiatry

Bruce Levine, PhD
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This article also appears on CounterPunch.

In any society that prioritizes economic efficiency, productivity and order above life and all of life’s varieties, people experiencing altered and extreme emotional states will be seen as defective and as burdens—monkey wrenches that disturb the societal assembly line.

To be clear, contemporary American society is not Nazi-German society when it comes to treating people labeled with “serious mental illness,” as it is taboo in American society to directly murder this population as was done in Nazi Germany. But in the United States in the earlier part of the twentieth century, there was widespread compulsory sterilization of those diagnosed with serious mental illness; and from the 1970s through the early 1990s, dehumanizing experiments that ignored the Nuremberg Code of research ethics were administered on this population by prominent American psychiatrists. And today in contemporary American society, apparently it is acceptable for this population to die, on average, 25 years prematurely without challenging the authorities in charge of treating them. More later on psychiatry’s blame for this premature death rate.

Photo by rikakaka | CC BY 2.0

When a society becomes so fanatical about machine-like efficiency, productivity and order that ethical injunctions against murder are thrown out the window, Nazi Germany—and societies that admire it—emerge. In 1934, ten years after Virginia passed its 1924 sterilization act, Joseph Dejarnette, superintendent of Virginia’s Western State Hospital, noted Nazi Germany’s increasing rates of sterilizations and lamented in the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “The Germans are beating us at our own game.” And that year, Leon Whitney, executive secretary of the American Eugenics Society, said of Nazism, “While we were pussy-footing around . . . the Germans were calling a spade a spade.”

Adolf Hitler closely followed the American eugenics movement and admired its sterilization policies. This competitively propelled him, in his efforts to rid Germany of “defectives,” to move beyond sterilization to murder. In Nazi Germany’s T4 Program, involving virtually all of German psychiatry, Hitler created a mandate to kill anyone deemed to have a “life unworthy of living,” which included people diagnosed with serious mental illness. Lack of economic productivity was the major criterion for inclusion in T4, and the Nazis referred to the program’s victims as having “burdensome lives.”

When human beings are viewed as defective and as burdens, they come to be seen as less than human, and so we really shouldn’t be surprised by American psychiatry’s recent ignoring of the Nuremberg Code of research ethics established after the horrific human experiments by doctors in Nazi Germany, a code which states that medical experiments on human subjects “should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.”

Specifically, from the 1970s through the early 1990s, leading figures in American psychiatry at close to a dozen leading medical schools explored the biology of “schizophrenia” by conducting experiments on more than 2,000 patients in which certain drugs were administered and others withheld in the expectation of worsening symptoms. Patients diagnosed with schizophrenia were given psychostimulant drugs with the expectation that these drugs would be “psychotogenic” (induce symptoms of psychosis), and this deterioration in fact occurred. In 1987, Jeffrey Lieberman, who later became the American Psychiatric Association president from 2013-2014, conducted a study in which patients previously diagnosed with schizophrenia but who had stabilized were given methylphenidate (Ritalin) until psychotic symptoms reappeared. In another 1990 study co-authored by Lieberman, the introduction states, “In order to examine the relationship of psychotogenic response to psychostimulants and acute treatment response in treatment-naïve, first-episode psychotic patients, we administered intravenous methylphenidate to first-episode patients.”

Some Americans today are embarrassed by early twentieth century enthusiasm in the United States about sterilizing people diagnosed with serious mental illness. Most Americans are ignorant of the late twentieth century psychotogenic experiments. And few Americans challenge current psychiatry authority that continues to be in charge of treating people diagnosed with serious mental illness despite that authority having a record of abuse and failure.

Psychiatry’s Blame for Current Premature Death Rate

“On long-term prospective evaluation, risk for death in schizophrenia was doubled on a background of enduring engagement in psychiatric care” was the conclusion of a 2003 Psychiatry Research study done in Ireland, where psychiatric treatment is quite similar to that of U.S. psychiatry.

In 2011, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported that still another major study found, on average, Americans diagnosed with major mental illness die 14 to 32 years earlier than the general population. While establishment psychiatry publicly laments this, it is in no small way responsible for this premature death rate.

The NIMH director noted antipsychotic medications’ association with obesity is part of the explanation for premature deaths. And according to the American Family Physician, antipsychotic drugs’ “life-shortening adverse effects” include diabetes, postural hypotension (especially deadly for patients with fall risk), cardiac arrhythmia, and sudden cardiac death.

The NIMH director also lists cigarette smoking as a major cause of premature death, noting, “People with a mental illness are more than twice as likely to smoke cigarettes,” however, antipsychotic drugs actually increase the desire for nicotine. A 2009 study “Smoking and Schizophrenia” reports that, “Smoking may be an attempt by schizophrenic patients to alleviate cognitive deficits and to reduce extrapyramidal side-effects induced by antipsychotic medication.”

Antipsychotic drugs are the primary—and routinely the only—treatment by establishment psychiatry for people diagnosed with schizophrenia, and this monolithic approach has proved to be generally ineffective, often resulting in financial poverty. And poverty, caused by any means, is well-established as being associated with premature death. Investigative reporter Robert Whitaker in “The Case Against Antipsychotics: A Review of Their Long-Term Effects” offers extensive research to back up his conclusion that: “Antipsychotics, on the whole, worsen long-term outcomes.” While for some individuals, Whitaker notes, these drugs may provide a short-term benefit, there is a long line of research showing that antipsychotic drugs, “Impair functioning over the long-term.” Impairing functioning over the long-term is obviously going to result in increased poverty—and increased premature death.

Though establishment psychiatry rails against the “stigma of mental illness”—stigmatization being another source of premature death—it is responsible for exacerbating this stigma through its disproven “brain disease” explanations. Psychiatry’s promulgated “biochemical brain imbalance theory of mental illness” has long been scientifically disproven (this recently admitted even by some in establishment psychiatry) but continues to remain a societal belief. For the general public, the acceptance of brain disease explanations as the cause of serious mental illness is associated with a desire for a greater social distance from the mentally ill, reported a 2010 study in Psychiatry Research (and re-confirmed in a 2014 Psychiatry Research report). Social Science and Medicine in 2013 similarly reported that people who believe in biogenetic/brain disease explanations for mental disorders perceive these people as more dangerous and desire more distance from them. This stigmatization, which establishment psychiatry has exacerbated, results in not only unemployment, poverty, and social isolation but also “diagnostic overshadowing,” a stigmatization in medical care in which the physical symptoms of people diagnosed with serious mental illness are falsely attributed to mental illness, resulting in not receiving treatment for very real medical conditions—another cause of premature death.

Anti-stigma campaigns emphasizing biological explanations and brain disease, reported the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF) in 2012, “have not been effective, and have often made the problem worse.” The CHSRF concludes, “Biological explanations can also instill an ‘us vs. them’ attitude, defining individuals with mental illness as fundamentally different.” Alternately, the CHSRF concludes, “Presenting mental illness in the context of . . . psychological and social stressors normalizes symptoms, creating a healthier public perception of mental illness.”

Even more helpful in reducing the stigma of “serious mental illness” is eliminating this term “serious mental illness,” and instead using terms such as “altered state” or “extreme emotional state.” While these states can be frightening for society, family, and those experiencing them, depathologizing these states is one of the best ways to eliminate stigma.

The key to a community truly assisting people experiencing altered and extreme emotional states is for that community to believe that these states have meaning and value for the community. Once a society diseases and pathologizes these states as mere “illness” and “defect” without meaning or value, those people experiencing these states are seen as burdens on society.

In many indigenous and tribal societies, people experiencing altered and extreme emotional states do not create havoc but are seen in a positive light. This can be seen in Psychosis or Spiritual Awakening, by filmmaker Phil Borges, who has been documenting indigenous and tribal cultures for over 25 years. Similarly, the late ethnobotanist, Terence McKenna, who also studied indigenous and tribal societies, also concluded that our society does great harm by devaluing the gifts of this population who are instead told: “You are not of equal worth to the rest of us. You are sick. You have to go to the hospital. You have to be locked up.” Their “treatment,” McKenna notes, renders them “on a par with prisoners and lost dogs in our society,” and McKenna concludes: “So that treatment of schizophrenia makes it incurable.”

When people get treated as unwelcome burdens, they can become angry and agitated or, depending on their temperament, become passively dysfunctional.

In American society—just as in any other society that prioritizes economic efficiency, productivity and order over life and all of life’s varieties—people experiencing altered and extreme emotional states are seen as defective and as burdens. In the American economic system—just as in any other system that obliterates genuine community and creates extremely stressed families already struggling to find enough hours in the day to survive—people experiencing altered and extreme emotional states create havoc for families. And so, families are susceptible to resenting those in altered and extreme emotional states who need a great deal of attention, support and time; and families are vulnerable to acquiescing to any societally sanctioned authority who has taken charge of this population. And given the priorities of American society, an authority with a lengthy record of abuse and dismal failure is a good enough authority.

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43 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Dr Levine,

    The “Unter Mensch” Philosophy is still alive and well in Europe:

    COMMUNICATION FROM ME TO UK OMBUDSMAN DEC 16, 2016
    RE. SUPPORT FOR SUPPRESSION OF NEAR FATAL DRUG REACTION/ASSOCIATED + UK INFORMATION COMMISSIONER OFFICE :-

    Dear Mr (Name removed)

    Thank you for getting back to me.

    PARITY

    Criticised Southern Health ‘improving’ – BBC News

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-38099629

    The Adverse Drug Reaction referred to below, was was nearly fatal.

    FROM:-
    SECTION 3
    ABOUT YOUR COMPLAINT

    3. I am complaining about the ICO attempting to promote ‘The 1986 Southern Irish Record Summary’ as a Legitimate Record (in their email to me of July 1, 2016), even though they were aware that this record had Malpractice properties attached to it :- i.e. The Omission of Requested Adverse Drug Reaction Warning (along with significant inaccuracy).

    The Adverse Drug Reaction Warning had been requested by me in a November 8, 1986 Handwritten Letter (to previous medical representatives at (name removed), Ireland).

    I sent to the ICO on May 21, 2016 copies of both 1. The November 8, 1986 Handwritten ADR Warning Request Letter; and 2. The November 24, 1986 Irish Record Summary; along with other Documentary evidence of Inaccuracy.

    Yours Sincerely

    (My name removed)

  2. To add another interesting note to all this we can talk about the fact that German psychiatry’s murder of the “mentally ill” was praised by many here in America. Many psychiatrists advocated for the same treatment for people in this country. In 1941, at the annual meeting of the APA the keynote speaker’s address advocated for murdering the “mentally ill” in this country. Only two psychiatrists spoke out publicly against this out of all that were gathered there. Of course, the speaker didn’t use the word murder as such. The next year there was an anonymous editorial in the APA’s magazine advocating for this very same idea. This was not really that long ago.

    And then we could go on to talk about all the wonderful “treatments” that were perpetrated on the “mentally ill” through the years. There was the spinning chair, dunking in ice water, being bound up tightly in sheets which were then soaked with ice water, induced insulin shock (from which many people died), and wonderful shock treatment. Come to think of it, the only real treatment that we can point to is the moral therapy of the Quakers. All these other things can be called nothing but torture.

    • Eugenics was our idea. Legally sanctioned sterilization began in the USA. The Germans borrowed it from us, and carried it to it’s natural conclusion. You don’t sterilize people because you think highly of them, you sterilize them because you don’t want them proliferating. Euthanasia is more thorough. It was only natural for them to prepare for the final solution, attempted genocide of the Jew, on the scapegoat of scapegoats, the mental patient. The killing of 6 million, the final solution is general knowledge, the eugenic preparation, still pretty hush hush.

      • The eugenically minded have blinded themselves to the positives of “schizophrenia” that manifest themselves as true positives in their first order relatives. In this Age of Trump, who wants to eliminate the EPA and reduce pollution standards, schizophrenics have one great advantage- they don’t get cancer (unless on neuroleptics). Of Hoffer’s 5000 schizophrenic patients, only five had cancer. Their increased death rate from smoking is due to COPD, et. al., not lung cancer (their lower mitotic rate, which delays tumor formation, decreases their ability to replace tissue lost to nicotine).
        Schizophrenics also age more slowly, due to this lower mitotic rate, which is also responsible for their lower susceptibility to viruses. They’re less susceptible to wound shock.
        The question is whether schizophrenia is really a defect, or a stage in evolutionary adaptation to a grossly polluted environment, and therefore an early appearance of evolutionary positives.

      • Frank

        Yes, most people don’t know the history of all this. One of my stepfathers couldn’t marry my mother in the state where we lived because the state didn’t allow people diagnosed with epilepsy to get married. He had to lie but could have been in trouble if anyone had wanted to look up his medical records. We had all kinds of interesting laws on the books about the groups that we didn’t want propagating their genes. We even had laws about how different races couldn’t intermarry.

        Even today people who’ve been labeled as “mentally ill” don’t usually cultivate and nurture one on one relationships. One of the saddest and most disheartening things to me about my work at the state hospital is the huge number of people who’ve never had any kind of one on one relationship with another person. They don’t have wives or husbands or children or anyone special who loves them just for who they are. They live solitary and lonely lives because they were told that they would never be well. I believe that this is one more reason why so many people die sooner than they should.

        • Stephen,
          I think it’s drugs drugs drugs that kill the “schizophrenics” (before anything else). I think that without the “schizophrenia” (title) and with a little decent help all the “invented schizophrenics” could put everything back together again.

          • Yes, I believe the reason behind so many who’ve been labeled as “mentally ill” not having relationships is, in great part, due to the drugs that keep people tranquilized and separated from their feelings and emotions. Plus they incapacitate people to the point of not being able to go out and pursue much of anything in the way of interaction with society.

            Yes, I agree. We all pretty much know by now that most people who’ve been labeled as “schizophrenic” can get their lives back if they get off the drugs.

          • Hi Stephen,
            There’s no real treatment for “Schizophrenia” in psychiatry. So the person gets drugged and if they don’t get on okay, they get drugged more heavily, until they eventually die.

            Traditionally these deaths were swept away – but somehow “schizophrenic life expectancy” became topical.

            I notice that even if a “schizophrenic” doesn’t smoke and is not overweight and takes exercise they still die prematurely. The only people that live longer are the ones that reject the drug treatments and return to life like John Nash.

        • Stephen – tragic, and well said. Expectations are so important. I suspect these negative prognoses are a big reason why outcomes for severely distressed people are worse in “developed” America than in poor countries. It’s such a tragic loss because with sufficient intensive psychosocial support, severely distressed people can do quite well over time and can have intimate relationships, careers, etc. It’s also a big negative economically to have people on disability for decades, which is ironic for a country that spends so much money researching the biological causes of “schizophrenia” to so little effect.

          • Yes, I know people on the units where I work that are in their 50’s and have never held a job, never experienced an intimate relationship, and rely totally on disability checks. Some of them live with their families of origin and many live in group settings where their lives are run totally by those in authority. They travel through the revolving door that we have in the Admissions Dept. and spend a greater part of their lives with us than they do outside out our walls.

            Now, I don’t want anyone to start fuming about me blaming the victim because I’m not. The system teaches great learned helplessness and if you’ve been told the lies since you were a child it’s highly likely that you’ve bought into the message. We spend all this money as a government for poor results, with people dying before they should while living lives of quiet desperation.

  3. Two essential links I always include with these sorts of discussions:

    The “euthanasia debate” in the 1942 American Journal of Psychiatry:
    http://www.brown.uk.com/teaching/HEST5001/joseph.pdf

    Dr. Breggin’s history of psychiatry’s role in the holocaust:
    http://www.breggin.com/psychiatrysrole.pbreggin.1993.pdf

    Until psychiatry is recognized as an instrument of repression and not a field of medicine it cannot be fought with a clear perspective and strategy.

  4. I’d like to point out that the “schizophrenia” treatment, the antipsychotics/neuroleptics, can create what are perceived by doctors as the “negative symptoms of schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome.

    And combining the antipsychotics and/or the antidepressants can create what appear to the doctors as the “positive symptoms of schizophrenia,” via anticholinergic toxidrome.

    And since neither of these antipsychotic induced toxidrome/syndrome are listed as a billable disorder in the DSM, they are almost always misdiagnosed as one of the billable DSM disorders, since this is the only way the psychiatrists can get paid.

  5. I commend Frank B. Eugenics started in the US. In Mein Kampf, Hitler holds up California mandatory sterilization laws as the example to follow.

    Read about that here:
    https://www.amazon.com/Pink-Triangle-Nazi-Against-Homosexuals/dp/0805006001/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486073272&sr=8-1&keywords=pink+triangle

    Actions against homosexuals and the so called mentally ill developed into the much larger scale actions against Jews.

    We are not killing so called schizophrenics, because the times are different. We are in the information age, not the industrial age. We don’t need much in terms of manual labor anymore. So we cannot use low wage laborers as a symbol to keep workers in line any more.

    Instead we take those who are the scapegoats of the middle class family. We don’t hold the parents accountable, we hold the child responsible and feed them into the psychiatric and recovery systems and convince them that they have a defect and that they are responsible for their own problems.

    So we don’t need low wage labor. We don’t need corpses either. But more than ever we need basket cases. For one thing they create jobs. For another, they remind people what could happen to them if they step out of line, question authority, or even ask for living wages.

    And then giving Psychiatrists, Psychotherapists, Life Coaches, and Recovery Program Leaders a protected space lets them each make the bogus claim that they are part of the solution instead of the problem. This helps propagate the mental health system.

    We need to organize an Anti-Mental Health and Anti-Recovery Forum. Reclaiming our social and civil standing will not happen in private restricted spaces, it requires public political contests and open debate. So no posts will be censored as the conversation unfolds. Please Join:
    http://freedomtoexpress.freeforums.org/index.php

    Nomadic

  6. CASUAL DEATHS.
    https://www.google.nl/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/society/2015/dec/09/southern-health-nhs-trust-failed-investigate-patient-deaths-inquiry

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/health/news/article4637276.ece

    From LINKS above:-
    “…A troubled NHS organisation has failed to investigate the unexpected deaths of more than 1,000 people in the past four years, according to a leaked report.

    The deaths of patients with mental health problems and learning difficulties were not examined to see if they could have been avoided, an official review is expected to conclude….”

    MALPRACTICE.
    http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2013/08/13/amhps-unnecessarily-detaining-people-under-mental-health-act-due-to-bed-shortage/

    https://www.google.nl/amp/www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/thousands-wrongly-sectioned-under-mental-health-act-following-technical-error-8231388.html%3famp

    From the LINKS above:-
    “…..Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Parliament that thousands of Britain’s most vulnerable patients have been locked up on the say so of doctors who, despite having the requisite medical knowledge, were not legally allowed to make such a decision….”

  7. I have dealt with “diagnostic overshadowing” and it almost killed me. I was having difficulty walking, carrying simple items, brushing my teeth, excetera plus I had unbelievable burning pain all over my body. With a psychiatric diagnosis in my charts the primary care doctors dismissed anything I said until I learned to hand deliver altered medical records (without any mention to psychiatry, psychiatry drugs or psychiatric diagnosis) to new physicians. This was during the time the hospitals and doctors were going over to electronic records. Only by accident did a neurologist diagnose me with a progressive neuromuscular disease when the other doctors dismissed it as me needing to go see my psychiatrist. It’s a damn shame that a psychiatric diagnosis has the majority of physicians not believing anything you say when you’re telling them about physical problems (they’re more than willing to agree it’s all mental).

    I believe that psychiatric drugs are causing people branded with a serious mental illness to die sooner. When I tapered off all the damn drugs I was like a phoenix rising out of the ashes. From personal experience I know psychiatric drugs kill your soul.

      • I know psychiatrist like to pretend they’re also neurologists but they’re not. When I’ve talked to people who had an elderly family member in a nursing home and a psychiatrist has been called in I’ve begged them to call in a qualified neurologist. Neurologists at least will take the time to figure it out when a psychiatrist will add drugs (this is from personal experience). I still remember the neurologist asking me point-blank how I could I come to him in this advanced condition? I was too ashamed to tell him a psychiatric diagnosis kept me from being taken seriously by other physicians. No I never did tell him I was ever on psychiatric drugs. I have no idea what psychiatrist are qualified to do except poly drug prescribe? The psychiatrist I went to all those years was oblivious to the fact that I had Tardive dyskinesia, tardive dystonia and out of control Akathisia let alone that I had a variant of multiple sclerosis.

  8. Thank you for mentioning the stressor places on families: economic pressures, making them especially vulnerable to “acquiescing to any societally sanctioned authority”

    I know many families in which one breadwinner was obliged to give up his/her job and/or career or accept a job at much lower pay/hours in order to provide care for a family member who is in an extreme state lasting years and years. We are in this boat. My wages are 25% of what they were before our family member was singled out for ‘million’ dollar junk treatment by the state. Simultaneously, families who are struggling to ensure that a loved one receive alternative treatments invariably requires that they exhaust their entire savings to pay for such treatment.

    You also hit the nail on the head by mentioning that community supports have withered. I am lucky in that I have a loving extended family within a two hour driving distance. Most no longer enjoy proximity to extended families, many do not even know the joys provided by close-knot multi generational families, and multi-generational households and ethnic neighborhoods have gone the way of the butter churn. Even church membership is down. We know longer have a village, just broken down isolated families struggling.

    I know many families who have made extraordinary financial sacrifices to help shield a loved one from psychiatric abuse or the reach of the law. A typical mother or father who has read and absorbed Robert Whitaker’s ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’ and eschewed the NAMI propoganda has virtually no supports!

    These families are typically fighting battles on multiple fronts: the family member who is diagnosed tends to resent the attention he/she is receiving. Siblings tend to resent the attention the diagnosed one is receiving. A spouse/s tend to resent the attention received by the diagnosed one. I am fortunate insofar as we have been able to work through many of these tensions, no thanks to the state and because of my supportive extended family.

    Many parents who welcome home a loved one newly released from the mental hospital are struggling to ‘de-condition’ him/her; I would be very surprised if most people who were hospitalized do not identify with having been deeply harmed by their involuntary treatment or chronic institutionalization. Families must employ some of the same ‘kidnapping’ procedures used to pluck a loved one from a cult. The messaging of hopelessness, ‘You have a permanent disability’ etc and the infantilization of people in hospitals and institutions is deeply troubling to me. I think this is one of the reasons why so many individuals have trouble tapering off their psychiatric medications. No reconciliation no restorative justice is executed, no apologies are made by psychiatrists for past treatment. The power of their words ‘You are seriously ill’ rings in the ears of the diagnosed one with far reaching rupercussions. When a person experiences protracted withdrawal symptoms, and the body is on fire, those words continue to haunt individuals trying desperately to return to their baseline which was actually not as bad as their new post psychiatry baseline.

    Hospitals routinely dump and release people they have harmed with no impunity and exhausted families are left to pick up the pieces.

    My daughter has returned home. We are rejoicing. She has been shuttled for years in an ever changing sequence of secure, psychiatric institutions. She simultaneously rejoices at the opportunities afforded by the gift of freedom and responsibility, while simultaneously resenting at times, having to pull her own weight in a mutually supportive, interdependent household. We carry our wood, chop wood, heat water to wash dishes, use solar heat, grow and can our own food. As individual household members we tend to relish quiet time apart from one another, as well as our time together. We expect every member of the household to enjoy solitude from time to time and we do not value opportunities to pry on the lives of young adults or observed their behaviors constantly, let alone record or discuss it at every given moment, looking for ‘symptoms’. This seems very boring

    In institutions she learned to live a different kind of life one that relies heavily on amenities we don’t have. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between her perceived disability, or her feigned disability, when such feigning would relieve her of challenges. Furthermore, when she perceives that she is disabled in a given situation, it is hard to discern if this perception is a warped perception based on a the very real debilitating effects of long term over drugging or the message of hopelessness that permeates through these institutions, despite their having co-opted the rhetoric of the recovery movement.

    Such conflict typically are resolved in families when the children are pre-adolescent, while in some dysfunctional families, the conflicts may be spread out over longer period. When a family member returns home after years of institutionalization, the process starts all over again back to square one. A badly wounded individual may need to be taught how to do basic functions all over again and yet this is blamed on ‘schizophrenia’. Hogwash! This is institutionalization and parents should be fighting this. Why hasn’t NAMI fought this?

    Not once in seven years of our daughter being shuttled from hospital to foster home to psychiatric facility, was our family offered family counseling to ease the tension during critical junctures. Some of these tensions were brewing for years but they were compounded greatly by our daughter’s diagnosis and involuntary treatment.

    Our insistence at being present at commitment hearings was ignored; our presence at treatment team meetings was either discouraged outright OR the medical decisions were made in advance and our invitation to such meetings was merely to give the appearance of transparency and collaboration.

    Medical care providers who want to label and drug individuals for life, or recommend shock, as they did at one point with my daughter, usually want the latitude to operate without the hassle of due process and legal paperwork, the profound disdain these providers have for civil liberties and the sloppiness and lack of soulful thought with which authorities placed on my daughter’s ‘due process’ was appalling and seered into my my memory for life, the knowledge of the compelling need for reform in the mental health courts/justice system and an immediate accounting of the lack of competent legal counsel for psychiatrically diagnosed folks.

    The judge and medical authorities tend to favor state sanctioned arrangements in which individuals remain ‘wards’ of the state, are assigned to ad-litem guardians or are civilly committed indefinitely. My daughter was civilly committed eight times, each commitment lasting 180 days. Many are dumped in AOT programs indefinitely and parents are so traumatized and exhausted economically and emotionally that they often give up on their own kin.

    Mental health care workers and even some NAMI parent advocates are urging distressed family members to help their loved one commit a minor crime in order to receive mental health care, despite the fact that this care is ineffective and inhumane! Once an individual is forensically committed, the argument goes, then the individual is eligible to receive indefinite oversight at the taxpayers expense, never mind that the data shows dismal outcomes.

    Those parents who manage, against all odds, to maintain a loving and close relationship with an institutionalized loved one often find that outpatient treatment providers often leverage families apart even more than staff at the big box institutions. These community based treatment programs claim to be underfunded but in my estimation they are loaded, yet they squander their budget allocations on things which make people ill, not things which make people well and they have very few peer specialists. The few peer specialists they do hire are mandated to do things that should make the skin crawl of anyone who has been on the sharp end of a needle and they are not strategically placed in homeless shelters, sanctioned/unsanctioned campgrounds for the homeless, soup kitchens, jails, etc. The very few peer specialists hired by the community mental health agencies are not getting their hands dirty enough. Rather than aspire to have offices and be bureaucrats like their better paid colleagues, they need to walk the streets and engage with homeless youth and people who need clean socks and clean needles. Many of those on the streets are psychiatric survivors. What is their story?

    Those infamous sixteen bed secure treatment facilities are the worst. They feature a rotating high-turnover population of over/under-educated underpaid and grouchy mental health workers who may indiscriminately limit physical contact between parents and their adult/minor children simply on the basis of a parent being critical of their loved one’s psychiatric treatment, or limited freedoms.

    Anyway, thanks for writing an article that includes a snippet of what parents are going through in this crazy making system.

  9. What are you waiting for,my crazy brethren in USA?Day,that you will become part of Mental Heath System
    unofficial *stats*.They don’t *post* them anywhere,so you won’t be even mentioned,as victims of Mental Health System normal policy.Policy under which,normals can do just everything against your will and life,if
    you are sadly inprisoned,inside modern days concentration camps,for crazy population-Mental Institutions.
    How to end this… rally in numbers before cursed NIMH!

  10. Hi Bruce,
    Great article. The current treatment of people labeled schizophrenic in America today could be seen as a slow-motion euthanizing of this population in a silent emotional sense – they are chronically tranquilized with heavy, long-term use of drugs, which is one factor resulting in a massive group of terrified people living at home in relatives’ basements unable to work or study. The less fortunate of these – the ones supposedly “missing out” on antipsychotic drug treatment – are those on the streets, in prison, in halfway houses etc. They are also unable to function for the most part. Most of these people are quite deadened emotionally, and of course they are also dying much younger in physical years of life.

    One critique Bruce, of this:

    “The key to a community truly assisting people experiencing altered and extreme emotional states is for that community to believe that these states have meaning and value for the community.”

    Firstly yes, it may have meaning that people are in extreme states – in the sense of revealing what is deficient or harmful in the social sphere that has caused harm to a suffering individual. On the other hand, those states in themselves many times do not really have much value – many such people are simply in an emotional hell of terror, rage, and despair. Far from being valuable, this sort of emotional state is something to escape from as quickly as possible. I am speaking from experience here, and also from talking to many others and reading hundreds of treatment accounts of people in extreme states. There are also more mystical and religious type-psychotic experiences, but those are not the majority from what I can discern. Truly debilitating extreme states that result in a person being unable to function at all are not really that valuable or positive in and of themselves. I find that certain professional authors who may not have direct lived experience tend to generalize and romanticize about these states of mind.

    • I agree with you Matt on the negative states of mind – my anxiety and misery were not at all pleasant experiences and I don’t look back on them with fondness. Getting through them has definitely improved my quality of life, though.

      I find that to live a happy life I have to think for myself (and maybe bluff ‘society’ rather than disagree with it).

      • Hi Fiachra, thank you… I think it is not helpful to romanticize severe suffering. When a person cannot function, is in chronic terror, is full of rage most of the day, can’t have any degree of close relationship, and is full of anxiety to the point that their mind starts inventing imaginary relationships (often expressed in delusions or hallucinations)… there’s not really value in that to the community. The value is in getting help and getting out of that state, and back into relationships. I find people who have not been heavily involved in the mental health system, not on antipsychotic drugs and thus not aware of their effects, and never delusional or hallucinatory at all, tend to misunderstand the severity of some of these states. Or perhaps not be able to imagine them, since as you know it can just be so difficult.

        I would put mystical awareness / shamanism / communion with the universe into a different spectrum of experience. In this realm, ego boundaries and separation between self and other are weakened – and this is a commonality with extreme states of regression that are labeled “schizophrenia” and “psychosis.” But the difference is that in the mystical experience, the person has enough ego strength to maintain some level of functioning and effective relating or to return to it quickly once the experience is concluded. However, when you are talking about severe psychotic states that impair the ability to take even basic care of yourself, or to have any sort of meaningful relationship, that is a different animal.

        • The “ego” is not a thing, it’s an abstraction, just like the “mind.” Nonetheless “ego dissolution” is a characteristic of many mystical states of awareness, and I can’t see too much of a dividing line between these and “psychoses,” other than perhaps the individual’s skill at functioning unscathed in “consensual reality.”

  11. I knew this information and still find it alarming that we regularly chastise the actions of Hitler without even a hint that what he achieved had it’s roots in American Eugenics. The old saying “Those who fail to learn from the past…”
    But then most people don’t understand that the idea for ECT came from watching pigs being given the same treatment prior to slaughtering to make that task easier. Psychiatry should be held for crimes against humanity yet have spun themselves so well they are literally worshiped. Only ignorance can turn a villain into a hero.