Monday, March 27, 2023

Comments by Marsie Scharlatt, MFT

Showing 9 of 9 comments.

  • In the early 1960s, after have three babies in two years ( I have a daughter and twin sons), I went through post partum depression, but no one identified it as such, and many years later I was diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism which causes depression and fatigue and most certainly contributed to my condition. I don’t remember hearing the term post-partum depression until the mid-1970s when women in the feminist movement began to discuss it. During that time, post-partum thyroiditis was identified as one cause of depression and psychosis in new mothers, but this diagnosis seems to have disappeared and “hormonal changes” are now merely a catch phrase for what could be causative and potentially curative. Although psychiatry acknowledges evidence of “hormonal changes,” as long as the problem is considered psychiatric and there is no actual medical/endocrine research devoted to finding a cure, women will continue to suffer and be given pejorative psychiatric labels. Alternative treatments like vitamins and nutrition as well as psychotherapy and social support for new mothers may all help, but, unlike the search for spurious genetic causes of so-called mental illness, there are very likely physiological causes of post-partum depression and psychosis which to my knowledge are not being explored, perhaps, in part, due to their identification as psychiatric illnesses as well as the continuing dismissive attitude toward medical problems that are unique to women.

  • I appreciate the many sincere comments posted here, and I would like to focus on the main point of Timothy’s article: that there may be causes other than medication that keep people on disability. After walking away from the mental health system in the 1960s, I became a psychotherapist, and during my 35 year career as a psychotherapist, I worked for several years for a psychiatrist who provided treatment to injured workers. Most of our patients had physical disabilities: back injuries, head injuries, chemical poisoning, disfiguring industrial accidents, heart conditions brought on by stress, etc. The Workers Compensation system in the United States is completely adversarial and was created to protect employers from costly personal injury lawsuits, although insurers have created the myth that most claims are fraudulent. Injured workers have to prove that their injuries are work-related and insurance companies usually deny their claims, saying they are either not work-related or not serious injuries causing disability. In order to receive minimal temporary disability payments, workers usually have to hire lawyers who send them to physicians who write reports on their behalf while “defense” doctors write reports denying their claims, in effect protecting the employer and the insurer and keeping the worker in an adversarial, stressful situation. During this period, the worker often doesn’t receive needed treatment, and pain and illness as well as loss of income and assets can create severe emotional crises that are then treated by psychiatrists who provide medication for anxiety and depression, which are addictive, toxic and can cause other health problems. After a year in this frustrating and debilitating situation, injured workers who can’t return to work, like people whose illnesses are not work-related, can apply for Social Security Disability which is also usually denied in most cases and only awarded after a hearing before a judge which takes place after another year. My experience with the patients I worked with was that they were honest and genuine and their claims were righteous. Their lives were disrupted by pain, illness, and injury, which were worsened by the psychological stress of the system, by feelings of betrayal by their employers, by fear, loss, and insecurity, and the anguish of severe consequences to their families, including poverty and homelessness for some. If and when they received a settlement from the insurance company, it was usually minimal, as are Social Security benefits, and all they had to live on for the rest of their lives if they couldn’t return to work. I believe that most people on SSD have in fact dual diagnoses: physical injury/illness and psychiatric diagnoses so that even if they were able to go off their psych meds they might not be able to return to full-time work, and they were often discriminated against when they tried to find work because of their past injuries and psychiatric diagnoses. Some years ago, drug addiction was considered an illness and drug addicts were able to receive SSI or SSD but treatment programs were stopped and because they continued to use drugs and spent their disability money on them, the law was changed to require that they have a concomitant psych diagnosis in order to receive benefits, so this population was also sent to psychiatrists and prescribed psychiatric meds. I’m glad that Bob Whitaker has so clearly made the case against psychiatric medication and I would like to see the larger socio-economic issues continue to be addressed in a way that would disabuse the public about psychiatric diagnoses and intra-psychic causes of emotional distress and effect real change in public policy.

  • My deepest condolences to Leonard’s family. I met Leonard in the early 1970s when I joined Network Against Psychiatric Assault. I had been an avid reader of Madness Network News and I was inspired by Leonard’s writing there and the work of NAPA to return to school to become a psychotherapist and work toward changing the mindset and treatment of others within the system. Leonard was a wise courageous human being whose memory is a blessing for all who knew him and those whose lives have been changed by his intelligence, strength, and forbearance.
    His legacy will continue to effect change.

  • Bob, I don’t remember if you mentioned this fact in either of your books, but sometime in the 1970s, even psychiatry was aware of problems with the label schizophrenia and the DSM was criteria were changed because the criteria in earlier versions were too loose, were being applied indiscriminately, and many people were mis-diagnosed, as of coiurse they still are. I’m sure Torrey is aware of this fact of recent psychiatric history but chooses to ignore it as well. Thank you again for all your great work!!!

  • Thanks Paula. I was really referring to the early history of psychiatry prior to the DSM in which archaic 19th century ideas, typologies, and the so-called diagnoses of Kraepelin, Breuer, and Freud continue to be reproduced today and are given modern “scientific” validity. While the ethics complaints may not be the appropriate place to include this, I think the historical background supports current critiques and adds weight to the sense that diagnoses are non-scientific, ultimately destructive attempts to identify and describe human behavior under the rubric of “science.”
    My best to you as always, Marsie

  • Trust yourself. Remain sceptical of all authority, including those who claim to be “medical” experts. Don’t allow others to invalidate you in any way. Don’t accept labels, diagnoses, and name-calling. Value your deepest sense of your own humanity and engage in dialogue with those who offer genuine support.

  • Dear Ted,
    Thank you for helping to revive the movement for patient’s rights. As you know, I was involved with the Network Against Psychiatric Assault in the 1970s and the demonstrations against psychosurgery and shock treatments at UCLA. As a survivor and activist in the civil rights movement and the women’s movement, I found my calling and became a psychotherapist, a “wounded healer,” and was influenced by the Radical Therapy Movement that incorporated the ideas and practices of Laing, Claude Steiner, Loren Mosher, and Gregory Bateson whose systems thinking helped create Family Therapy and placed human beings in their social contexts, rather than viewing them as isolated pathological entities whose problems are intrapsychic and biological.

    I recently retired from a life these past 35 years that has been devoted to being there for the people who put their trust in me, people in distress who felt a loss of power in their personal lives and within the political systems and institutions that affected them. My commitment was to help my patients shed whatever labels they had internalized and value their own uniqueness and humanity and, as best I could, to help them leave the system and/or never enter it in the first place. As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s much more difficult for many who have been “diagnosed,” medicated, and institutionalized to creat their own lives than it is for those who’ve been given needed emotional support and never entered it in the first place, although it is those who do leave, like you, whose individual and collective voices can have the most impact on the system. As the world has become more and more conservative and people have been mis-led by the media and psychiatry into believing its tenets, the struggle has become all the more difficult, but I’ve seen how empowered individuals can become as activists for justice and how collective action can create change that affects individual lives. I also know that many dear and precious souls have been lost to the system and that the struggle must continue. I’m very grateful to Bob Whitaker for his research and writing and for creating this forum, and I join you, Ted, in offering my support in this complex and difficult struggle.

    In solidarity,

  • Dear Paula,
    Thank you for your extraordinary commitment and persistance in addressing the harm done to vulnerable human beings by the mental health system as we know it, which always begins with so-called diagnoses. Diagnoses were used by psychiatrists prior to the creation of the DSM in the 1980s, as you know, and I wonder if the history of harmful psychiatric diagnoses and treatment could be addressed to strenghten the current complaints. With gratitude and admiration always, Marsie