Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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  • Excellent article Corinna. You articulate so many of the same issues I experienced as an advocate when I left the field after working in it for only 7 years. While I sat on committees at both the county & state levels, any significant change was hard to come by. Mostly, I felt it was non-existent. As I spoke “truth to power”, even the powers that be on ‘our side’ didn’t seem to want to hear the truth. And most especially when it came to funding. “Why wasn’t the federal funding getting to the people it was intended for? Where were these funds going then?”. These questions apparently upset some people. As I realized no one even within our own system wanted to “make waves” and I was told as much by several higher ups, I became more & more disillusioned along with the ridiculous (in my opinion) new funding requirements the government was making with the PROS program format. We were getting inundated with even more paperwork, but eventually it would be less paperwork as it would all be computerized. My disillusionment became solidified while I was advocating for a woman in our program who had lost custody of her then 5 year old daughter to an abusive, irresponsible ex-husband who apparently had some “political connections in the court system”. His attorney made her seem completely crazy despite the fact that her mental health diagnosis was simply a case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder/Anxiety, but he was innocent despite her showing proof of abuse/negligence, incident after incident against her ex. We found her a competent Pro Bono attorney; we got her ongoing support with a women’s group with mothers in similar circumstances & actually picketed outside the Family Court building in Queens one day. What I began to slowly realize was that it didn’t matter how much “truth to power” I spoke…power wasn’t really listening at all. They just pretended to listen. It seemed to me, the Mental Health system was a “self-sustaining system”. Similar to the Foster Care system, Criminal Justice system or pick any branch/department of civil service/federal government you like, it exists to employ people and maintain the system itself. It doesn’t care if that system is efficient or inefficient; simply the appearance that “something is being done” is enough. Period. Along with just plain old “burn-out”, that’s when I decided to leave the field of m.h. advocacy and never regretted it. But I admire people like yourself who recognize and rise to the challenges of fixing a broken system. I could not do what you did. It’s comforting to know there are many good advocates I left behind who continue the work. And I thank God for the ones before me and the ones after me. It really is like Harvey Rosenthal always said, “Change is very, very slow”.

  • JanCarol I did all the research prior to my antidepressant withdrawal (read books by prominent authors on very slow tapering, internet info, etc.) and even kept written records of my very gradual ‘tapering off’ schedule. Sad to say, as diligent as I was, none of this helped to change the horrific outcome I experienced. Looking back, this was actually further proof of how incredibly dangerous these medications are.

  • Melody, So very sorry to hear all you have gone through & continue to endure at the hands of “psychiatric medicine. & practice”. I was wondering if you ever considered Alternative Medicine approaches to your symptoms, specifically Chiropractic and Nutrition? I go to a ‘gentle touch’ chiropractic practitioner who uses NSA (NeuroSpinal Analysis). NSA works better as it teaches the body to “heal itself” & works with the neurological system as well as spine and muscular systems. There are NSA Practitioners throughout the USA, but there are not a lot of them as schooling/training is extensive & beyond chiropractic school study. But you might want to check to see if there’s a practitioner near you. I had a friend who suffered mini strokes who I sent to my NSA chiropractor and he was helped tremendously. What I also wanted to say is that I had a similar horrible experience as yours about 10 years ago when I attempted to wean off my antidepressant & mood stabilizer meds. I tapered gradually & was under the care of a Nutritionist but that didn’t help me from becoming extremely unstable, paranoid & suicidal. My diagnosis is only Major Depression, Recurrent since age 17. I was almost 50 yrs. old at the time. Eventually, my family had me re-hospitalized much to my objections. I wanted to get past the bad part & be free of the meds, the system, the side effects, etc., etc. Later on, like you, I found out the withdrawal symptoms I experienced had an actual name! Serotonergic reaction. But you will NEVER hear a psychiatrist or medical doctor utter those words. If you are a psych patient, OF COURSE, you’re just GETTING SICK AGAIN & NEED TO GET BACK ON YOUR MEDS! And I, too, found lots of info on-line, in books and just talking to people. Again, NONE of those people included any doctors or professionals. The fact that these “professionals” are allowed to get away with giving these “medications” out that do so much harm is disgraceful. Anyway, this writing is long enough so I won’t go into detail but several years later I again attempted to get off my meds, this time under the supervision of a psychiatrist and again failed miserably. Ruined long time relationships, jobs, school & ran through an entire IRA of savings. This was the 3rd & last time and since then I’ve given up trying. Some people can come off their meds; some just can’t. I am resigned to just taking them for the rest of my life. Do I like it? Of course not. But I don’t like being suicidally depressed & screwing up my life either. There was another time in my life where I sat in a hospital in a horrible depression for 4 months until they found the right antidepressant that brought me out of it. For that I am grateful. So I believe that these medicines can sometimes help, but I do believe, overall, we’ve all been terribly lied to and for the most part, and that Psychiatry is basically “a crapshoot”. The research is unreliable as most of it is done by the Big Pharma companies themselves and the doctors are brainwashed in medical school to believe in DSM IV. Labels & Psychiatric Medications. I don’t believe the doctors and other professionals actually intend to inflict harm. I believe until the education & training of our physicians & mental health professionals are radically changed, things will not change for the better. And being that there is a great deal of money to be made by keeping things the same (mainly by Big Pharma) it is unlikely to change. A sad state of affairs.

  • Thank you so much for your article and all your efforts at resolving these troubled issues for parents and children today. I feel for families struggling with these issues today as I worked in mental health for many years and there is still much confusion and needed clarification surrounding this topic. Too many families are desperate for solutions and many do choose the “medication route” for their child as it is sometimes a ‘quick solution’ and they are at their wits end. The mental health system is more than accommodating to these families. It is sad and unfortunate for the child, who has little say in the matter and whose brain and nervous system will be affected for life. In many cases, this child will go on to be an adult that remains “stuck” in the mental health system, never having found his/her true potential. It is imperative for parents to become empowered with medication alternatives FIRST before committing their child to what could possibly be a limited life.

  • Kelly,
    What you have written here is SO IMPORTANT. This advice to other practitioners is incredibly valuable; I do hope you offer it in book form to your colleagues someday, if you have not already done so. I am a long-time veteran of bio-psychiatry and talk therapy as I have had Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder since I was 16. I am now 59, and have been through many, many horrible, deep, dark, suicidal depressions. It’s truly a miracle I’m still here. The fact that you, as a therapist, encourage your patients to feel and share their feelings is so very important. I have always said this. In order to move through “the black hole”, as I call it, you must first face it and fully acknowledge it. Don’t be ashamed of what you are feeling. Your feelings are your own…you are allowed. Too many therapists avoid this topic, making therapy an entire farce. If a patient cannot discuss their pain, what is the point? So the patient goes into each session and lies, telling the therapist they do not feel suicidal for fear of “getting locked up again”. I’ve been there, done that many times as I’m sure others have and still do. So essentially, you are still isolated, alone and conflicted with all your horrible feelings and therapy is meaningless. We, as a society, desperately need to “get out of the dark ages” of both psychiatry (God knows) and therapy. Until there is such honesty and authenticity, I’m afraid the alarming suicide rate in this country will continue to skyrocket. I also wanted to mention that I see no harm in making contracts with patients. I recently worked for a private mental health practice (as secretary/biller) and the counselors there did make contractual agreements for various reasons, including suicide, very rarely, but they did do it on occassion. I see no harm in having a person sign a contract although I wonder how effective they might be while someone is in a deep suicidal depression. I didn’t care about anyone or anything when I was suffering, so I’m not sure signing a piece of paper would have mattered much. Then again, perhaps it would make a difference for some people.

  • I attempted to wean off my psch meds 3 different times over the years with the support first of my Chinese M.D./acupuncturist & herbs, the 2nd time a very experienced Nutritionist and the 3rd time with a psychiatrist I knew. The 2nd & 3rd times, I not only failed, but ruined my life financially, emotionally, socially, my housing, and overall physically was drained. The 2nd time was with tapering and over the course of many months. The 3rd time, I did taper my meds but much quicker…according to my doctor it was okay to do with Prozac. Not true whatsoever. I had what is termed a “serotonergic reaction” the last few times, which caused me to become psychotic and paranoid. I had never been psychotic or paranoid in all the decades I was treated. But if you go to a psychiatrist, or are hospitalized again in this state, the “professionals” will simply tell you ‘you’re getting (mentally) sick again because you stopped taking your meds and you need to go back on them’. After trying 3 times and ruining my finances, support system, housing, etc. I gave up. The decision, for me, was that it was perhaps not a possibility. Had I been born wealthy and been able to afford going to a Rehab Center for an extended, supervised stay I would consider doing it again. But ONLY under those circumstances. My judgment and insight was terribly impaired and I did the most harm to myself. So while it is possible for some people to succeed, and I applaud them, it isn’t always possible for everyone. Society is still in “The Dark Ages” about weaning off psych meds, and I am glad to read about your efforts to train others and share your knowledge in helping people to succeed in coming off meds. Bravo!

  • Dear Ms. Larsen-Barr:
    While I am in agreement that living medication free is most definitely preferable, it is not always a possibilty for some of us. I have experienced Recurrent Major Depression since age 17, with extreme suicidal ideation and attempts. It is a wonder that I’m still here at age 58. I made 3 major attempts to wean off my meds during those years: once with a Chinese M.D./acupuncturist and herbs; once with diet and an experienced Nutritionist and once with a Psychiatrist treating me. All attempts were sensible and gradual but all failed miserably. The 2nd & 3rd attempts caused me to lose housing and my car for 1 1/2 years, relationships with family & friends, incur thousands of dollars of debt and lose many of my valuable & sentimental belongings. To say it was a mess would be a severe understatement. I now take my meds each and every night for the past 5 years and will continue to do so unless some discovery is made on how to prevent “serotonergic reaction from antidepressants”. These are psychotic hallucinations that can occur in people on withdrawal from antidepressants. But don’t ask a psychiatrist or clinician to verify this reaction for you; they will just tell you “you are getting sick again”. A former Human Services Advocate colleague of mine, who also was an attorney, and with whom I sat on Advisory Boards in the County and NYS murdered his wife while in the midst of antidepressant withdrawal, as he thought “ISIS told him to do it”. Sadly, this was a woman he had actually loved very much; such is the power of serotonergic psychosis. Many of the horrific mass shootings we have heard about such as Columbine, Virginia Tech and other schools in recent years have been committed by teens undergoing withdrawal and/or treatment with antidepressants. In Europe and many other countries around the world, antidepressant use for teens has been completely banned. Tragically, not in the U.S. and the madness continues. I am glad you present the case of not getting dependent and/or weaning off of antidepressants (I sometimes warn people similarly), but do you comprehensively cover some of the issues I have addressed here? It seems few authors do and I find this irresponsible and disturbing. I’d like to hear what you have to say about this. Thank you.

  • Dr. Shipko: Thank you for acknowledging the tremendous difficulty & risk associated with SSRI withdrawal. Specifically, your honesty about people losing jobs & relationships, letting people know that whether or not they taper slowly or fast may not ultimately matter (but it is better to do slowly) and that the process can take months, if not years, and can be very difficult. I have been on antidepressants since my mid 20s (not always on a constant basis; at first only after each depressive episode). During my mid 30s, I attempted to taper off SSRIs gradually with my acupuncture M.D. who also provided natural Chinese herbs, but this failed after several months and I plummeted into another depression. At age 40, I felt the SSRIs (by this time I was also on a mood stabilizer, to prevent another “hypomania event” from occuring) were making me toxic and went to An excellent Nutritionist, did much research on “how to withdraw from psych meds” books, etc. and gradually tapered off my meds over a period of months. At first, I had my family’s support, but as time went on and my behavior and judgment becawhichss & less stable, they felt they had no choice but to hospitalize me. I actually learned later on I was exhibiting psychotic & paranoid behavior, which does have a name when it occurs post withdrawal. It is called “serotonergic reaction”. The problem with serotonergic reaction is that psychiatrists will not admit it is occurring and/or they are simply not educated about it. What they WILL tell you is that “you are getting sick again” and that “you must go back on your medicine”. After my hospitalization, I was “punished” by being placed in a Group Home for 2 years, which was ridiculous as I had always lived on my own & functioned quite adequately. But now I had to be monitored! About a year after I got out of the Group Home, I found a psychiatrist who agreed to work with me, signed a contract to discuss NOTHING with any family members and tried yet again to taper off the SSRIs. I traded in my Toyota Corolla for a Toyota Highlander, put all my belongings in storage and decided I was gonna “get off the meds, the Disability & kiss the Mental Health System goodbye” once & for all. This psychiatrist felt I didn’t actually need to taper, which I felt was odd. He told me I could just stop taking the Prozac. I think I was uncomfortable with that so I took it every other day, then every third day, then stopped. Anyway, later on I learned that this was actually worse than just stopping cause you’re actually causing a surge of serotonin in your body. Over the next 4-5 months, we did gradually eliminate all the meds. I was staying in hotels, sleeping on a friend’s couch, sleeping in my SUV. running up my credit cards, running from my family. I was pretty unstable again but not as bad as the last time. I managed to rent a room upstate, tried to find a job and stayed up there about 3 weeks before I plummeted into a depression again. My depressions always hit me like that. I could go into a state of darkness within a day or two and become suicidal for months. So I surrendered. I called my Dad, asked if I could come stay with him and if he could take me to the BBB hospital. He was so relieved. No one knew where I was for months. Everyone was worried. I had about $8,000 debt on my credit card and an SUV which I couldn’t make payments on. There were friends I lost and never regained. I had nowhere to live. I eventually paid off my debt, moved in with someone who gave me a cheap room, got back in therapy and back on meds. I was rehospitalized a month later as I was still suicisal. The climb back was tough but I did it. I had to take buses for a while but my Dad helped me out with another car a year later. Since that time I have vowed never to attempt to go off my meds again. I’m a 3 time loser…I’ve had enough. I screwed up my life 3 times. For some people, it’s possible to get off the meds. For me, I do not believe it is. And I’m not willing to try to find out again. So I wanted to share my experience with others so you should know. It can be done but it’s a huge risk so you better be ready for it.

  • I did extensive reading on antidepressant withdrawal prior to my attempt to wean off my meds, but nothing prepared me for what happened. I experienced a “serotonergic reaction”, which consists of extreme mood instability to the point of psychosis and delusions at times. If you try to discuss this with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional, they will simply write it off as “due to your medication withdrawal, you began getting sick again”. However, my depressions never consisted of psychosis or extreme mood swings. I also have met other people through the years who stated they had also similar experiences upon withdrawal, one of whom told me about “serotonergic reaction” and that the pharmaceutical companies know that weaning off antidepressants is a big risk.

  • Kelly, I must disagree with you on Major Depression neither being a disease nor having a biological/genetic/psychological component. I began experiencing horrible, suicidal Recurrent Major Depressive Episodes at age 17 and was not placed on medication until my third episode in my 20s where I spent 4 months sleeping approx. 10-20 hrs/day in a State Hospital because MY BODY JUST SHUT DOWN. After trying many antidepressants, one finally brought me out of it and I was thank God, functional again in the 5th month, went home and slowly rebuilt my life. I remained on the antidepressant for several years, when a ‘hypomanic episode’ was triggered. Thus, I now needed a “mood stabilizer”, and they threw in another antidepressant, plus I had a new label “Bipolar II”. Major Depression runs on both sides of my family (paternal grandmother, mother, sisters, brother) but no Bipolar. This I never believed. I tried 3 times to get off the meds through the years: once with a Chinese herbalist/acupuncturist, once with a Nutritionist and once with a Psychiatrist and a guidebook by Dr. Peter Breggin. All 3 times not only failed, but had disastrous consequences to my life (lost employment, lost relationships, lost housing, spending too much money due to severe instability, etc., etc.). The last time I attempted to get off the meds was the worst. So I reluctantly accept them now. I have to be on them the rest of my life; my life is stable. But I still struggle sometimes. Not nearly as much as before I ever was on meds though. If I have 3 or more major stressors in my life at once, my body chemistry will backfire into a depression. It’s that simple. For some, it’s their heart, others their blood sugar, and others some other biological vulnerability. If you have ever been crippled by depression, you would probably agree. Have you? The body/mind literally shuts down. You cannot tell me there is no genetic/psychological predisposition. I read Will Hall’s experiment and I found it very interesting, however, I don’t believe you can compare rats and humans socially or biologically in terms of addiction. We are far more complicated beings than rats. And as far as Alcoholism, I believe the same as for drugs: there is most definitely a genetic/psyhjological predisposition. Some people can drink heavily without becoming addicts; others cannot. Just like some people can wean off psychiatric meds, some cannot. Who knows why? Maybe someday we will have answers. I sure hope so.

  • Dear Nomadic, you can only speak to your own experience. You cannot speak for millions of others. Many of us have found tremendous, worthwhile support through our therapists. Others may avoid them like the plague due to a negative experience. Whatever the case may be, it’s an entirely personal choice. Some matters of “truth” are a matter of perspective. Just as your generalizations seem to you as if you are ‘speaking truth’, there are millions of others who would probably argue the opposing viewpoint. And that is their truth. It’s what makes the world an interesting place!

  • Hi Tabita, just wanted to say that I’m so glad that you point out that while we should certainly be cautious before being placed on psychiatric medication, many of us have been helped by them. It is a very difficult decision to have to make as these drugs have not been around that long, so how do we really know the long term effects of them? And if you know any thing about the “pharmaceutical research” process they go through prior to FDA approval in this country, you’d probably NEVER take any of them. Many of the psych meds that have been approved for use here in the USA, especially for children & adolescents, have been long ago banned from use due to safety issues such as suicide/homicide in Europe & other countries. Despite all that, why am I glad you still graciously offer psych meds as a possible solution? Of course, since I have been helped by them. However, I have also been harmed by them. Are they dangerous? Yes. Just try tapering off them. And what kind of drug induces the very symptoms (initially), it is meant to cure? Yet, for all of that, I have been brought out of severe, severe Major Depressions more than several times in my life. And with psychotherapy, remained stable. But there have been too many authors in the past so ready to altogether dismiss psych meds & while I certainly agree we definitely need to be cautious, we musn’t do a disservice to the millions of people like myself who have been helped. Thank you for a refreshing perspective. I also very much enjoyed your writing style!

  • Thank you, Dr. Breggin, for all you do. It’s way, way past time the “psychiatric pharmaceutical industrial complex” start taking some big financial blows. This settlement is probably no big deal to them financially. But with the work of courageous professionals like yourself, your wife, Robert Whitaker, and so many others each victory and it’s publicity can help to possibly awaken the public to the dangers of psychiatric medications. I have suffered from Recurrent Clinical Major Depression, terrible episodes, for 40 years now, and I have been both helped & harmed by the medications. There is not enough known about long-term effects of these drugs before FDA approval. The pharmaceutical drug co. research of their products is skewed to make the drug most acceptable & get it ‘out to market’. There are SO MANY things wrong with Psychiatry & Big Pharma in this country, but every time I see a lawsuit won against one of these companies I feel so happy that at least they’ve paid back a little penance. Thank you for all you do.

  • Emily,
    Your story reminds me of my own, having spent most of my 20s & 30s in & out of hospitals, struggling with severe clinical/suicidal depression, being tried on various medications, gaining weight from meds, weaning off meds, having a severe psychotic reaction doing so (but of course was just told “I was getting sick again”). So many difficult years. I also experienced the loneliness & isolation after dropping out of college, feelling shame and a failure until I came to acceptance of myself, which was slow & gradual. I found myself comforted by my gift for singing & playing guitar. It brought me much serenity & happy times with friends. Then I became a Peer Specialist for many years, working with others to offer help in their struggle & discovered strength & purpose in being a “wounded healer”. I am so glad that you have found a calling in helping others. Sometimes the passage of time heals or we go through something for a reason. It’s fortunate when we come out of it on the other side. I feel for those that do not have that outcome, but if we can make a difference while we’re on our small journey, it’s a beautiful thing. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Peace,
    Camille S.