Giving Up on Mental Health Care

Chris Johnson
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One day, at the age of 15, I was sitting at my desk in class. An abstract thought suddenly appeared in my mind. “Something is wrong.” That is the moment I see as the start of a lifetime of living with something that, though I don’t know what it is, I’m also convinced no psychologist or psychiatrist knows either. I’m quite certain I’ll die with it, too.

This feeling may have been triggered by a prior traumatic event which does not need mentioning; regardless, I have been increasingly “lost” ever since.

By the age of 17, things were hellish for me. Angry sometimes. Sad sometimes. Suicidal sometimes. Always, mentally, in a bad place. My 18th year was little better, but I was still in a dark place. I was writing about dark things and death a lot. I think I scribbled some of it on an exam paper once, which prompted the principal to call my mother in for a chat and led me to start seeing the school counsellor.

What friends I had were, with little exception, of no help. I wish I had never tried smoking grass. Unfortunately, I did. Only a few times, but I often wonder how much damage that has caused. Some brains do not take well to the stuff.

At the time, I was thoroughly convinced that psychologists and psychiatrists were experts who could effect cures for these problems. I wanted to be one. Wanted to help people. I thought the school counsellor probably could, too, but it wasn’t long before I realised the sessions were just talking. When the sessions with the school counsellor finally came to an end and I left school, the counsellor said, “It won’t be the same without you.” I replied with something, admittedly dismissive and regrettably smart-arse like, “Things are never the same each day, so that doesn’t mean much.” A stupid thing to say, but my state of mind was dreadful. She got up and opened the door for me but didn’t say a word. Obviously and quite rightly my downplaying of her nice statement had offended her.

Around this time, I had a beer bottle accidently smashed on my face. A broken bottle at a party was haphazardly thrown, hit me, and shattered. Half my face was covered in stitches. I couldn’t see out of one eye for many days. Two sessions of plastic surgery followed but big scars remained.

I began seeing psychologists regularly. Sometimes psychiatrists as well. Sometimes even general practitioners would be interested in talking to me about my situation. I was prescribed Zoloft and Luvox, but they made me feel so much like a zombie I stopped taking them.

As the years went on, I still kept seeing psychologists but grew ever more cynical. Things were not improving. I had no real direction. I did get jobs, but probably had thousands of job interviews. I did complete courses. Had enormous crushes on a few girls I met but was too shy to do anything about it. I finally got to work in a TV studio as a camera operator but, once there, thought, “Why did I think this was something I wanted to do?” I later got a job as a camera operator at horse races but, after seven or eight years thought, “This isn’t helping anyone.” In fact, seeing horses break legs and be euthanized was making me think I was in a stupid job. What clinched it was when a punter (gambler) hanged themselves close by after a race I was working at. Through work, I got three free visits to a psychologist, but nothing good came of that.

I left the city, travelled overseas for three months, and returned home once again to be lost and depressed. Unable to get a job, I saw psychologists again. The only time a therapist helped me was when a social worker got me volunteering in a woodworking room. At the time, I viewed that as a genuine lifesaver. Painfully shy and lonely, I did meet someone while travelling and finally, at the age of 30, experienced having a girlfriend. The relationship didn’t last that long. There was something about me that wanted to push people away. I’d long wondered if I’d ever understand what love was. By this stage, I really had no friends, either. Just acquaintances.

I started working with disabled populations and continued for 15 years. During that time, I would still see psychologists in the hope that one of them might be helpful. This job allowed me to sit in with a psychiatrist when they were seeing clients for whom I was responsible. Observing the psychiatrist making mistakes and applying “therapy”—which amounted to little more than trial and error—began entrenching my evolving belief that psychology and psychiatry were largely incapable of helping anyone. But even if they did, it was just through luck and chance, not skill.

I then managed to get through six months of studying psychology at university. I was interested in trying to become a school counsellor, but also wanted to see if there was anything convincing about psychology itself. This experience only helped to further entrench my thinking. I remember being told that “nothing is proven in psychology,” that psychology grew out of philosophy and thus had “white coat envy,”  always wanting to be recognised as a science. That wasn’t helpful. I also remember a study in which a girl had been suffering dreadfully. Psychologists/psychiatrists had been trying various methods to help her without success. The girl, however, thought she would be fine once she returned to her mother. Eventually, she did just that, returned to normal, and was fine. The so-called professionals had basically ignored the girl, tried to effect a cure using their own methods, and failed dismally.

I later became aware of Thomas Szasz. Saw Tom Cruise attacking psychology, albeit inspired by Scientology. Noticed that other people shared similar views. Still, I kept seeing psychologists without success. The last two disappointed me greatly. When one asked what turns me on sexually, I was mystified. Weird question. Irrelevant. I then consulted a general practitioner (GP) about a medical condition that we both felt was contributing to my poor mental health, who then referred me to another psychologist.  When that psychologist paid no attention at all to this condition and instead wanted me to touch various objects and describe them, I finally realised this was all going nowhere and never would. This was further reinforced when I read how psychology training changes so frequently that program graduates are out of date before they even start practising. About the crisis in psychology over poor replication rates for studies. My own experience never seemed like anything more than “a chat.”

When another psychologist I had been seeing for a while told me we had been trying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy all along, I was astounded. It seemed like nothing more than what any kind stranger in the street would do. I truly believe that more wisdom comes out of the mouths of laypeople than these trained professionals. It is also interesting how psychology is drawing in Buddhist mindfulness elements now, always trying to find something that gives it validity. Lately, I’ve often thought that psychology is the biggest fraud ever foisted upon the world. I remember one online discussion where someone was defending psychology and trying to point out the subtle nuances of how to ask, “So how did that make you feel?” As if subtle variations in wording would even register with a patient trying to get help for what’s troubling them.

If 34 years of failure counts for anything, the conclusion I’ve drawn is that some psychologists/psychiatrists may genuinely want to help people, but they certainly don’t have a good toolbox to do it with and, quite likely, never will. Despite years of trying, psychology and psychiatry have made very little progress in understanding the mind and even less in trying to fix it. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM) seems very flawed. Being gay was seen as a mental illness until recently. Fortunately, “drapetomania” was never in the DSM, but the same kind of thinking seems to exist. Academics keep trying to invent things. I remember contacting a psychologist who had come up with a brand-new disorder call SPIED (Severe and Persistent Interpersonal something Disorder). I eventually said to them, “You’re just making this stuff up!” I don’t know if that one ever got into the DSM, but other staff I worked with in the disability-care organization swallowed it—as well as the “chemical imbalance” line, which now seems to have lost all its adherents.

If psychologists/psychiatrists achieve success, it’s not through the use of an exact science but trial-and-error methods. Without doubt, some people simply benefit from talking—but talking to such professionals involves a power imbalance and therefore has a reduced chance of success. Psychologists/psychiatrists that I have seen have all been detached, showing no real interest in me, often not even knowing what I was talking about. Definitely not listening. So often, I have had to repeat things I’ve said because the therapist simply wasn’t paying attention.

Imagine a team of experts trying to fix your car for 34 years, never getting anywhere but getting paid well all the same. All failures are brushed aside. You are belittled and told to give it more time.

How does that make you feel?

 

 

 

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, thank you so much for this post and i so agree that psychiatrists and psychologists do little to help people in emotional distress and overwhelm. When there is a power imbalance in any relationship where one person is considered to be the expert and the other the person needing that expertise when it really doesn’t exist then more harm than good comes about.
    I have yet to hear a psychiatrist, therapist or psychologist make perfect sense. There are very few people who actually know how to help others in emotional distress. There is very little insight from most professionals in this case and so many have to recover through chance.
    I find though there is one person in my life at present who makes a big difference and i am grateful for that much.
    Sometimes lay persons and counsellors are the very best at helping people with emotional issues.
    It takes a reflection from the book of life to have enough experience to help anyone in distress.

  2. Thanks Chris,

    I honestly thought Psychologists and Psychiatrists knew everything as well.

    When I was attempting to recover from “Medication Induced Schizophrenia” as a young man, I was given a book called “Your Erroneous Zones” written by Psychologist Dr Wayne W Dyer. In this book Dr Dyer stated: that there was “no need to worry about anything”. I was going Mad with Worry at the time.

    Eventually I found a way of dealing with my “High Anxiety” – through making appointments with my problems for later dates – while taking my feelings on board at the time.

    The drugs IMO, had been silently causing my PTSD Type High Anxiety, by blocking my normal emotions while I consumed them, and making my system more sensitive.

    I don’t worry about much now.

  3. “Psychologists/psychiatrists that I have seen have all been detached, showing no real interest in me, often not even knowing what I was talking about. Definitely not listening.”

    My psychologist, according to her medical records, and my child’s medical records, actually ran off like a manic lunatic and got all her misinformation about me from child abusers and pedophiles, which was – no doubt – illegal.

    My psychiatrist bought all their lies, rather than listening to me, and in the end, literally declared my entire life to be a “credible fictional story.” After I’d confronted him with all his delusions about me, written in his medical records. Of course, that’s when you need to leave your insanely deluded psychiatrist.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Chris. I’m glad you’re finally giving up on “mental health care.” Based upon my experience with them, and subsequent research. I would say the majority of psychologists and psychiatrists are useless, at best, and mass murderers, at worst – “8 million” killed EVERY year, based upon their “invalid” disorders, and with their neurotoxic psychiatric drugs.

    https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/directors/thomas-insel/blog/2013/transforming-diagnosis.shtml
    https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/directors/thomas-insel/blog/2015/mortality-and-mental-disorders.shtml

    Truly, it’s shameful. They sure as heck, ought not be belittling their innocent clients. They should be repenting instead.

    • I never thought that nearly all psychologists were useless but I do now.

      ..Because none of them realistically challenge Schizophrenia; or have identified Neuroleptic Withdrawal Syndrome, or can usefully present strategies whereby a person can withdraw successfully from Neuroleptics and overcome the resultant and potentially disabling “High Anxiety”.

      If they’re no good at any of this – then what Are they good for?

  4. Thanks Chris.

    “The only time a therapist helped me was when a social worker got me volunteering in a woodworking room.”

    The solution lies in doing, interactively. It’s stupid to send children and teens to “counselors”. Words are drawn out and shared by doing shared things. To make kids sit in a room and given crayons which a therapist interprets is invented by adults, not children.

    It is too costly to create programs where kids and adults get involved and interact. A place where a child or adult can find themselves connecting. A place where one party is not the professional.

  5. “Psychologists/Psychiatrists that I have seen heave all been detached showing no real interest in me, often not knowing what I was talking about. Definitely not listening.” Well, I could write a book just on this one point alone. I would need to repeat so much of what I said. There was one psychiatrist near retirement who, no matter, what I said, would always respond with an annoying, “Oh dear!.” One psychiatrist was so muddled, his notes were less coherent than anything I said. This was told to me by a VR counselor when she asked for my records from this man. One psychologist was so combative that I backed myself into a corner until I could leave the appointment. On the point of which you mentioned about their obvious detachment, some have claimed to me that it was because they were protecting themselves. In my years of interacting with all kinds of authority type figures I never seen such a group bent on protection so much, that I have seen them actually ignoring your emergency calls in both their “off-duty” and “on-duty” time. You might think that in their mind they thought this “mental illness thing” was actually contagious. Thank you.

  6. Chris, when my family members had psychological/psychiatric problems, I (finally) started giving them homeopathic remedies. I gave a dose of homeopathic Aurum-arsenicum 200c to my depressed and anxious relative. It did nothing. So, when I saw him several days later, I gave him the same remedy in a higher potency, a 1m. The next day he said he felt great and was no longer depressed or anxious. The dose was one little white pellet, one time, and it lasted almost 2 years. Then his depression and anxiety started to come back so he needed another dose. If he ever becomes depressed and anxious again, I’ll give him Aurum-arsenicum 10m. You see, all homeopathic medicines are made in various strengths or “potencies.” The “1m” stands for 1,000. The “10m” stands for 10,000. Homeopathy has cured so much in my family, including food poisoning, motion sickness, warts, styes, soft fingernails, etc. Each pill costs about 40 cents. It’s easy to see why the medical associations have worked to get rid of homeopathy. It is incredible. I can’t imagine my life without it. Homeopathy doesn’t treat the illness, it treats the person with the illness so Aur-ars isn’t for everyone. It’s simply very commonly given to people with depression and anxiety. For the best help, see a professional homeopath.

  7. Also, I’d like to say that ALL the so-called “diagnoses” in conventional mental healthcare are just labels made up by the American Psychiatric Association. If the APA can come up with a new “diagnosis,” then their business partners, the drug companies, can make a new chemical to attempt to suppress the symptoms. Of course, it’s going to be patented –and expensive. It’s all about the money. The leaders of the APA have known about a restorative approach called “orthomolecular medicine” since about the 1950s. It has at least a 90% recovery rate, compared to the proven, government-audited recovery rate of conventional drug therapy which is .0005% (King County Ordinance #13974, First and Second Annual Reports, 2002, 2003) Yet the APA insists on using the drug approach. The problem isn’t that mental illnesses are incurable because they are (curable). The real problem is that synthetic drugs don’t work. However, it does bring in huge profits. The US government and apparently the Australian government support this terrible type of mental healthcare. Obviously, money is changing hands or our governments would get rid of it. –Linda from FB “A Dose of Sanity”

  8. Lastly, the US government has NO law requiring psychiatrists to treat patients with an approach that restores their mental health. The APA is free to use whatever approach they like and the US government will not interfere. So, is it any surprise that the APA has chosen the approach that brings them and their business buddies, the drug companies, billions of dollars, while curing no one? An APA psychiatrist could treat his patients with voodoo and he wouldn’t even be breaking the law – because there is no law to break. Sure, he might get a “tsk-tsk” from the leaders of the APA, he might even be sanctioned, but he won’t get in any legal trouble. I wish we could all see conventional psychiatry for what it really is: one of the super-ugly sides of Capitalism where the incentive is not to cure anyone but to make the most money. I opted OUT and I’m so glad I did! My “incurably mentally ill” family member hasn’t needed psych drugs in years. He graduated from community college with a 3.97 GPA and now works in the legal field. Tens of thousands of other Americans are being lied to and treated with the failed drug + talk therapy approach so they are never cured. It’s beyond sad – it’s sickening. Conventional psychiatry is nothing but a racket.

  9. Hello Chris,
    Reading your story makes me feel sorry for your profound disappointment: I agree you have been let down by health care services you have received. You mentioned onset of symptoms occurred after a traumatic event. In psychotherapy specialized to traumatic stress reactions, memories are processed in a way that one knows they are working at the core of their traumatic injuries – a far different experience than feeling one has had a nice chat with a caring person. Your tag line suggested you may be located in Australia, so what is available to you may differ from what is in the USA. Current studies suggest that Prolonged Exposure (PE), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can be helpful, my preference is the latter of these. The US Food and Drug Administration currently approves only Sertraline (Zoloft) and Paroxetine (Paxil) for PTSD. These names, or their equivalent, may differ in Australia. Though not likely to cure PTSD, they may help one tolerate distress, if needed, during memory processing therapy. Also mentioned was the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (published by the American Psychiatric Association) the contents of which, in my opinion, are highly politicized and serving of particular interests, including individuals serving on committees protective of their own career interests. Though this manual is required for use by insurance companies in the US, it has little other utility, in my opinion. If you are seeking a diagnostic label, you might consider inquiring about the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10, soon to be updated to 11), which more explicitly addresses complex traumatic stress reactions. If you are willing to try something more focused to your needs, a search for services near you that specifically address complex trauma may be of interest. Wishing you the best!

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