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My condolences to Julie’s family. I will miss her thoughtful and kind comments. RIP Julie. 🙁
We don’t have NAMI in Canada but local hospitals do have support groups for family which seem very similar. I went a few times and I found it very disturbing. Anyone who said anything negative about the drugs was silenced. One woman kept bringing up vitamin therapy and she was asked to leave the group. It was the least supportive “support group” that I have ever attended.
Thanks Rachel, I will check it out.
Dr. K: I really liked that article about exercise being beneficial in the treatment of depression. Maybe for you it is just common sense, but maybe not everyone realizes how much exercise can influence their feelings. Some people are not helped by either drugs or talk therapy. Perhaps for them, exercise might be very helpful. I don’t think that there is only one cause of mental illness, so there won’t be a single cure.
In regards to your earlier comment that mental illness could be called a “scam for accessing insurance cash”, I find this to be extremely offensive. We supported our adult son for several years before he was approved for a disability pension. We used up most of our retirement savings because we did not want him living on the streets. He wanted so much to have a job. He was hired and fired 9 times in one year. His last employer was a kindly person who assisted him in getting a disability pension. You have no idea what mentally ill people and their families go through.
If you really think there is no such thing as mental illness, I wonder why you are at MIA. My point is that I really don’t care if you call it mental illness or emotional distress or madness or anything else. My son has been suffering for close to 10 years now and no one has been able to tell me why. That is why I support “mental health research”. I appreciate the efforts of the scientists who are trying to find a cure for this terrible affliction and I support Robert Whitaker because he is open-minded enough to look at all the possible solutions.
The thing I like about MIA is that the articles reflect “Science, Psychiatry and Social Justice”. I think it is one of very few websites with this broad perspective. Some commentators here are saying there should be no scientific research into “mental illness” because there is no such thing as mental illness. But there are also readers here who believe that emotional distress can have very real physical causes. I appreciate the wide variety of perspectives on this site on the subject of “mental illness” or whatever you want to call it.
Thank you for a very interesting article. I did not know that Paine was a deist who also had respect for Jesus. He has mostly been portrayed as an evil atheist by Christians. Yet these same Christians claim to be followers of Jesus while ignoring his main message, that is, to love your neighbor. I see many parallels here between the leaders of the Christian church and the leaders of psychiatry today. The church leaders sought to enrich themselves by convincing people that they were all evil. Modern psychiatry seeks to enrich itself by convincing everyone that they are sick. Reason would tell us that we are not all evil or sick, just humans struggling to survive. Keep on telling the truth Dr. Levine!
Another issue affecting the mental health of Americans is probably their bad gut health, which could be caused by poor diet and overuse of antibiotics. There is a lot of research being done right now on the gut microbiome which seems to indicate that gut health is very closely linked to brain and mental health. There is an article on this subject on this site under “Research News.”
It sure is taking a long time for the medical community to catch up to the scientific research that has been done on the microbiome for the last two decades. Just last week I was reading about a study in which mice received fecal transplants with bacteria found in the guts of people diagnosed with schizophrenia. These mice developed the symptoms of schizophrenia. When I spoke with my son’s psychiatrist about these studies he said he had never heard of them. You may be right kindredspirit, psychiatrists may be pushing back against this research because it threatens their beliefs, and also their future livelihood.
Thanks for all you have done Peter. You have helped more people than you realize. You are a real hero to me!
Thanks for this explanation Eric. When my son was psychotic I spent many hours listening to him to try to understand his struggles. Most of the rest of our family, friends, and the professionals he interacted with just dismissed his ideas as “crazy”. But I know that he was struggling to make sense of the world and his place in it. The problem was not so much his ideas but rather the intense anxiety that he was experiencing. His anxiety/fear/paranoia resulted in him being unable to cope with life. He wouldn’t eat because he thought the food was poisoned. He couldn’t leave his home because everyone was out to get him. He couldn’t stay in his home because “they” were spying on him. His life became totally intolerable and that was what ended in him being hospitalized and medicated. He is much calmer now but sometimes I miss the interesting, deep conversations we used to have.
Thank you for this excellent summary.
Completely agree with you littleturtle. Our son has a mental illness and also started receiving disability benefits after years of struggling to hold down a job. I am troubled by the opinions expressed here as well. The psychiatric system did not come into our lives to drug our son because he was an “outlier.” The hallucinations and delusions he suffered from made it impossible for him to get along with his bosses and co-workers. He couldn’t live with anyone and ended up sleeping in his cars many nights. The doctors and psychiatrists were reluctant to forcibly drug him and it took quite a few years before we finally found the medications that helped him to slowly recover. There is a lot of mystery surrounding what mental illness is but I can assure you that it is real and not just the result of “bad choices.”
Little turtle: Another nutrient you might want to consider supplementing with is Vitamin D. Almost everyone in North America seems to be deficient. My anxiety and depression has greatly improved since I started taking 8000 IU per day. I am also grateful to Julia, Bonnie and Kelly Brogan for all the great info about nutrition I have found on this site.
This may be obvious to many readers on this site but not to many others including many psychiatrists. When my son had his first psychotic episode I was repeatedly told by many “experts” that his extremely poor diet and lifestyle choices had “absolutely nothing to do with his mental breakdown.” We have come a little ways since that time in 2010. During his last hospitalization he was given vitamins and received some counselling from a dietician. He is doing quite a bit better now. Thank you Dr. Firth for the work you are doing! The changes are slow but they are coming.
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. Although I believe in God I still find your story to be utterly amazing. It is so hard for me to reconcile my conflicting belief in God with my beliefs about science and the natural world. I look forward to reading more of your writings in the future, especially your translation of the Bible. God bless you!
I agree Jill. Stress and poor diet certainly contributed to my anxiety and depression. Another factor for me was Vitamin D deficiency. After increasing my intake of Vitamin D from 1000 IU per day to 8000 IU per day I noticed I was much less angry, although not necessarily less sad. Life is still difficult and it is hard to be happy when bad things are happening, but since increasing my vitamin D supplement I feel much more able to cope with sadness.
Great to see that you are still researching nutrition. As far as getting the word out it seems that most people don’t want to hear it. I did hear from a doctor, however, that some people need more Vitamin D. So I increased my daily dose from 1000 IU to 4000 IU. The changes both physical and mental were amazing so i kept increasing the dose and kept feeling better. I now take 8000 IU daily and can honestly say that I have never felt better in my life and I am now 60 years old. One of the most amazing things for me was that I never feel rage anymore. This has been 18 months now and the things that used to make me feel angry, now just make me sad. I know that some people with mental illness have been helped with B vitamins, but they never worked for me, Vitamin D was what changed everything for me. This could be because I have fair skin and have been using sunscreen for the last twenty years or so. One organization in Canada that is trying to get the word out is Pure North. They have been promoting nutrition testing for 10 years and I just heard about them a few months ago. It is very frustrating when you find something that is a real game changer and no one seems to care.
Wow! That is so exciting to hear Margaret. I live in Alberta as well and am wondering what organization you are working for. I would love to find out more about this program and if it could help my son.
Good on you for standing up to the abuse and bullying from that group. You sound like a reasonable and mature young woman and I believe you can make a great life for yourself. Standing up for what you believe and taking good care of yourself will help you in the long run. You go girl!!!
Thanks Madmom. You have described my family’s experience perfectly.
The students are stressed out because they have too much to do. The one student interviewed had two part-time jobs, was doing tutoring and taking driving lessons. Now she also needs to learn better breathing techniques and meditation??? Maybe they should be telling students to be more realistic about how much they can handle and their lives would be less stressful. When my kids were in school we didn’t expect them to work during the school year, going to school should be enough work for a teenager.
Another reason to question the reliability of medical research on the mentally ill. I have often wondered how researchers would get co-operation from anyone with severe paranoia. I know when my son was severely ill there was no way he would have agreed to be in a research study. So it seems that most research is done on people who have either recovered or were not very ill to begin with.
Thanks! I will look into it.
What does ISF stand for? A Google search gives me over 15 million hits.
Thanks for this very informative article Sera. We do not have NAMI in Canada, but my husband and I attended a support group at our local hospital that seemed to have a very similar mission. The person running the group was very adamant that everyone should always be taking their medication as prescribed by their doctors. There was a woman who attended who was always talking about alternatives such as diet, exercise, supplements, yoga, etc. She was asked to leave the group and we stopped going after that as well. I was very disappointed that the leader was so negative towards alternatives when many in the group seemed very interested. I wish we could find a support group in our area that is not attached to a hospital. MIA is the best support group we have found for people with open minds looking for real answers. Thank you!
Steve, Thanks for your reply. I watched the video and found it very strange, not really much information at all for those who do not know a lot about autism. I can see why Sera might find this organization and their ads disturbing.
I have always liked your comments and you are not one of the posters here that I find upsetting. There are some others who have referred to me as a NAMI mommy, called me hateful, and blamed me for my son’s distress. Although, I still read MIA regularly, I am sometimes reluctant to post because of what I perceive as anger from some posters with lived experience towards parents and professionals.
I think we all want the same thing, to find solutions to the problems of emotional distress. I just wish people would focus more on finding solutions and sharing information rather than blaming and attacking others.
Thank you Strandra for your viewpoint. You have stated very eloquently what many parents of diagnosed individuals have been saying at MIA. Unfortunately, the voices of many that used to post here have been silenced by the posters here who keep insisting that there is no such thing as mental illness and that those diagnosed are simply “different”. Anyone with a different experience is labeled hateful or a eugenicist. I am not an expert on NAMI or Autism Speaks but I do wonder about the anger towards organizations and individuals who are trying to help.
Thank you for this response! I was wondering how this strange article ever got published on MIA but couldn’t address all the issues as well as you did. Thank you!
Thank you for this thought provoking piece. I am intrigued by how you relate your ideas to “permissiveness”. We raised our three children (now in their twenties and thirties) in this kind of permissive attitude of respect and acceptance for everyone’s beliefs and values. In the case of our youngest, who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, it has resulted in a situation where he smokes a lot of pot because he says it helps him deal with his anxiety better than anything his doctor prescribes. I have accepted this behavior somewhat reluctantly because I can see the negative effects on his life but still do not want to discredit his experience. I would love to hear more about how you and others think a family should react to an adult child who has decided to spend his life mostly being stoned.
Catnight: I don’t think that Elizabeth is saying that poor nutrition is the only problem facing the world. However, there are many people in the developed world who have what is commonly referred to as “mental illlness” and they have never been traumatized but they may be suffering from nutritional deficiencies. My son is one of these people and I believe that he has been very poorly served by psychiatry. I am very grateful to Elizabeth and the other writers on this site who are researching in this area.
Thanks Elizabeth! What you say makes a lot of sense and is very logical. MIA was always about science and finding out the truth about mental illness. Those who deny that mental illness exists have never met my son.
In regards to protection of the community, I would like to comment on a new development in the treatment of mental patients in Canada. It has long been customary for psychiatrists to ask a suicidal person how they plan to kill themselves. If the person responds that he plans to drive his car into oncoming traffic, the psychiatrist will go to the police and the person will lose their drivers licence. This happened to my son and because he lost his licence he can no longer work in his occupation and has been put on permanent disability. It seems very unlikely that he will ever get his licence back although he has never had an accident or traffic conviction. Although, I definitely believe that protecting the community is important I really wonder how many lives this new policy saves versus how many careers it destroys. Would a suicidal person really care if he had a drivers licence? I wonder what Dr. Goel and the other psychiatrists on this site think about this policy.
Agree with everything you said Rossa. My son is in the same situation and I too am waiting for the day when someone discovers what is causing his problems. His grandmother who has very similar symptoms as he does (both have been diagnosed bi-polar) was recently diagnosed with Lyme although she has never been bitten by a tick.
I really don’t see why this is posted on Mad in America. It really has nothing to do with either science or psychiatry. For those of us who struggle daily with mental illness it is disappointing to see more and more posts here that do not address the many problems faced by the mentally ill and their loved ones. Instead we see more and more posts that seem to trivialize mental illness as just some different ways of thinking or behaving. I am becoming more and more hesitant in recommending this site to persons suffering from mental illness.
I agree that Dr. Berezin is quite extreme and alarmist. I appreciate your comment bbthelpc. Although I am no expert, I read quite a bit of research about mental illness in an effort to understand my son’s illness. I am also dumbfounded by some of Dr. Berezin’s statements. I am quite optimistic about some of the research being done in the area of genetics. It helps me understand a little bit why my son is so much like his grandmother. I don’t believe we are on a trajectory towards forced sterilization and gas chambers. My son’s treatment has been improving since he first became ill six years ago. Thankfully he has found a psychiatrist who is trying to help him through lifestyle and dietary changes as well as drugs. He also receives help from a wonderful social worker. These people seem to understand that mental illness is a complicated illness not attributable to a single gene or traumatic experience, but a complex situation requiring help on multiple levels.
Thank you, Bonnie and Julia, for the work you do in studying the effects of nutrition on mental health. I also want to thank you for continuing to post the results of your research on Mad in America despite the criticism you receive from some readers here.
My son has been doing much better since he started eating better and taking Vitamin D supplements. Improving diet and taking supplements may not work for everyone but it does work for some and is something that I wish more doctors would pay attention to. My son was psychotic for six years before he was finally referred to a nutritionist who recommended the Vitamin D. It made a huge difference in his moods and behavior.
Thank you Matthew. My husband is a collector of many things. We have had many arguments about his collecting. We have watched the TV shows as well and agree that he is not like those people who collect junk and don’t take out their trash. But it is difficult and expensive to live with someone who is so obsessed with his possessions. Thank you for writing this article and showing some insight into this problem. I will try to be more understanding when he continues to bring home more stuff and struggles to let go of anything at all. You sound like an extremely kind and empathetic person. Thank you for reminding me to accept my husband’s differences and tolerate the uncertainty caused by his behaviour.
So glad that you and the turtle survived. Thanks for this beautiful story.
Thanks Will! I find this very hopeful and encouraging. Although some writers on this site are fighting psychiatry and hoping it will be eliminated, I don’t believe that will happen unless we have something to replace it with. I am glad to see that some psychiatrists are trying to improve the system. My thanks to you and your colleagues for the work that you do!
Thank you for sharing your story. Wishing you well and hoping to hear from you again!
Thank you Kelly! I wish every doctor and med student would read this. It really is about the entire body and not just the brain or the mind.
Thank you for covering research that shows the importance of nutrition for brain function. It is certainly possible that recent increases in mental illness are due to people in the developed world eating so little fish. Our ancestors most certainly ate more of this very nutritious food and suffered less mental illness despite the fact that their lives were also very stressful.
Thanks Dr. Hickey for another enlightening article showing us what psychiatrists are really like. Please don’t compare them to snake oil salesman, however. Snake oil salesmen have been unfairly maligned by the pharmaceutical industry. Snake oil is a very nutritional substance much like fish oil. Pharmaceutical companies have demonized it because it is cheap and they can’t get a patent on it.
Thank you Rossa. I can suggest it to him, however, since he is an adult, there is only so much I can do. He is currently being treated by a psychiatrist who is not very interested in alternatives. He has tried vitamins and special diets in the past, but with little success. How is homeopathy different from nutritional and orthomolecular treatments?
He is currently trying cognitive behavioral therapy, along with more drugs and vitamins. I don’t know if this is similar to mindfulness training. Since he is an adult, I don’t have much control over what he tries, but I can suggest it to him. Thank you.
I don’t think they did any blood tests. He was very psychotic when he first came in contact with the mental health system and began using many different meds. He did not really get much worse but not any better either. Seven years of talk therapy with several different doctors has not yielded any results either. That is why I keep hoping for new treatments.
Thanks Jill for your research on this topic. The possibility of new treatments for psychosis fills me with hope. Our son has been suffering from psychosis for many years and he is one of the ones for whom no psychological interventions or anti-psychotics have helped. I will talk with his psychiatrist about the possibility of trying anti-inflammatories. Thank you very much!
Thanks for your reply Tina. Fortunately my son was taken to a very good hospital where he was not tortured or abused. He was given a choice between accepting treatment and facing criminal charges. So perhaps his is not an actual case of forced psychiatry. I am glad that he chose the psychiatric treatment. Although, I am not a believer in the effectiveness of anti-psychotics since they did not help him before, I do feel that his willingness to try cognitive behavioral therapy is a step in the right direction.
It is not paranoid thinking to say that the only other option to forced treatment might well be jail. I have been a reader here for over five years while my son struggled with mental illness. I really did not want to see him forced to take drugs that gave him terrible side effects, but what other option does society have when a mentally ill person is harming himself and others?
We tried to give our son the best support money can buy. But nothing seemed to help. Our son had such extreme rage he would scream at his neighbors and smash his fist through windows and walls. He would call 911 and then scream at the first responders when they arrived. After a few incidents like this we were told that it was either criminal charges or a forced commitment.
I did not like to see our son locked up in a mental hospital but I really think it is better than jail. He was forced to take vitamin D and anti-psychotic drugs but seemed to be quite well-treated by the staff. I was always against forced treatment but am starting to change my mind. For some mentally ill persons there seems to be no other alternatives.
The syndrome can also be produced by Vitamin D deficiency. The example of young people raised on the farm becoming schizophrenic after taking jobs in the city can be easily explained by reduced sun exposure. Psychiatrists have known for years that almost all persons diagnosed with schizophrenia have vitamin D deficiency. They are unwilling however, to test every person presenting with psychosis for this deficiency and prescribe adequate amounts to treat this deficiency. Some people are fast metabolizers and need more of this essential vitamin.
Thank you Dr. Urato for explaining the risks of SSRIs on developing fetuses in clear language. You recommend exercise and counselling which is excellent. Another very important condition for maternal and baby’s health is diet. Jill Littrell mentions the crucial importance of Omega-3s. Doctors often seem to overlook the importance of telling their patients, including those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, what a good diet should include. Many young women are on very questionable diets these days and I fear for the next generation of babies to be born. Please keep informing your patients of the importance of diet for both preventing depression and having a healthy baby.
Your theory that psychosis is caused by distress alone does not explain why many people experiencing extreme distress do not become psychotic. If psychosis was caused by distress alone, one would expect high levels of psychosis in war fields and refugee camps but this has never been the case. Distress is known to be a factor in many illnesses including heart disease and cancer. It appears to be a factor in mental illness but is certainly not the only cause, maybe not even a primary cause in many cases.
In my many years of meeting with people who suffer from mental illnesses and their families I have met some who were traumatized but also many others who had very normal, mundane lives. Some became psychotic after suffering from viral illnesses or using certain drugs such as SSRIs. Others became psychotic after going without sleep or going on extreme diets. Some have family members who have mental illnesses, others do not. There appear to be many causes of mental illness and endless debates about causes seem to be doing little to alleviate suffering.
I would love to see more research on what works to give sufferers relief rather than more debate on the causes of the suffering.
Years of psychotherapy did not work for me. Looking at your childhood and analyzing how other people’s behaviours affected you solves nothing. It is just another form of passing the buck and blaming others for the difficulties in your life.
Ultimately, you need to take care of yourself to have a reasonably happy life. I finally learned this through a 12 step program where I learned to eat properly. Not only did I lose a lot of weight but my anxiety and depression disappeared.
Most people in the mental health field refuse to look at the role that diet plays in a person’s life. This goes back to the days when doctors refused to believe that pellagra was caused by vitamin deficiency. Artificial vitamins do not help many people because they can’t metabolize them. They need real good food like fruit, vegetables and essential oils. When I started to eat better I couldn’t believe how much better I felt mentally. Most people including doctors and psychiatrists still do not believe how important diet is to mental health.
You say you are not another “mother blamer” but all three of your conditions are based on bad mothering and “maternal deprivation”. What about the harm done to children by fathers, siblings, classmates, teachers, terrorists, criminals, the world in general? What about the pain caused by feeling like a failure in a society based on competition? What about the pain caused by the inability to find a life partner or a satisfying career?
My mother was the warmest and most nurturing person I have ever known. Perhaps my anxiety and depression was caused by growing up and finding out that most other people were not anywhere near as kind and good as she was. Maybe if she had been a little meaner I would have had an easier adjustment to the real world.
Perhaps I’m missing something in your article but the way I am reading it I think you owe an apology to all good mothers whose children struggle with life and have therefore been labeled mentally ill.
Just because the chemical imbalance theory may be incorrect, it is not necessarily true that depression does not have biological causes. There could be many causes of depression with emotional and psychological issues certainly one of the causes. For myself, I struggled with depression for over fifty years until I tried changing my diet. Since changing from a diet that was high in processed grains and dairy products to one which is high in fruits, vegetables and nuts I have not been depressed or anxious. It has been more than three years which is certainly the longest period of time I have ever gone without depression.
I have heard of many others who have experienced similar improvements with dietary changes. Although, this may not be the only cause of anxiety and depression, when I see how a lot of people eat, I am sure there are many like myself who are totally unaware that what they think of as healthy foods are causing their anxiety and depression.
The reason the incidence of IED is increasing could be due to the increase in prescriptions for anti-depressants. An inability to control angry feelings was one of the first symptoms I noticed in my son when he started using anti-depressants. The psychosis came later but the rage outbursts came early in his illness. He would scream and throw things in a way he had never done before even as a two-year old. It is a truly terrifying thing to witness in a young adult who was always a very calm and reasonable child and teen-ager.
Thank you Jill for your work in this area. I am one of those who did not want to wait for all the results of years of research but started experimenting with different diets. I have had amazing results with a diet of whole foods, with very little dairy or grains. I feel like a different person even though my circumstances have not changed. I sleep better, worry less, am able to control my thoughts, feel far less anxious and depressed. I believe that a healthy diet is very important for physical and mental health especially as we get older. Not sure why so many people both on and off this website are so resistant to this idea.
Norman, thanks so much for this comment. It perfectly describes my life as a parent of a mentally ill young man. Always in doubt, grasping at straws, never knowing if tragedy awaits us. Years of wondering what we can do, what might work. Knowing that the hell we live in is nothing compared to the hell that my son is living in.
You sound like a wonderful psychiatrist. The ones I have met are more like Jeffrey Lieberman, quite certain that my son would be fine if he would just try one more drug cocktail.
Thanks to all the professionals who do research and post here, your commitment gives me the strength to continue.
What makes you so sure that this young man received poor parenting? There is nothing in the story to suggest that this is the case, even if he did, it really doesn”t explain his actions since many people receive poor parenting and the vast majority never commit heinous crimes.
Also I question your statement “that there is nothing wrong with one’s brain.” This young man probably has a better idea whether there is something wrong with his brain than anyone else. Just because science has not been able to discern the cause of this man’s distress does not prove to me that there was nothing wrong with his brain. He writes of fighting and struggling with unsurmountable shortcomings. He sounds to me like a person who definitely knew he was different and struggled with his feelings. To say that there was nothing wrong with his brain sounds absurd to me.
Thanks for the work you do Bonnie and Julia. I don’t understand all the negativity towards what you are doing. Of course, loving relationships are important. But you can’t make people love you, you can change your diet.
I wonder if they considered healthier diets as a possible prevention.
Psychosis has been documented in human populations for thousands of years, long before neuroleptics or any other types of drugs were prescribed. Although it is certainly possible to become psychotic from taking these drugs, there are many other known causes. Bacterial and viral infections certainly can cause psychosis as well.
Thank you for being a menace to psychiatry. The truth is getting out and the psychiatrists are running scared. I ran into my son’s psychiatrist at a social function last month and he hurried away and pretended he didn’t see me. But I saw the fear on his face before he quickly looked away. I’m sure I won’t have to hear “it’s just like insulin for diabetes” from him again!
Also being locked up in a hospital does not make exercising easy to do.
ECT certainly seems like a terribly barbaric treatment. I don’t know what to say, however, to two people I know who claim that ECT cured their depression and saved their lives. As awful as it sounds it does seem to work for some people.
I have been a long time reader of your blogs and I usually agree with much of your criticisms about psychiatry. I believe that you are correct in saying that many people are over-diagnosed and over-medicated.
However, in the case of people who are severely psychotic I think that you are minimizing the extent of their dysfunction and their pain. You say: “that people’s so-called symptoms are understandable within the context of each person’s unique history and current circumstances.” When my son becomes psychotic his thoughts and behaviors are not understandable within any context whatsoever.
Dr. Pies mentions in his article the recent discoveries in relation to psychosis caused by auto-immune factors and NMDA. The book “Brain on Fire” by Susanna Cahalan tells her story of battling this terrible disease which was first diagnosed in her as schizophrenia. There are many known causes of psychosis and probably many causes which have not yet been discovered. Just because we don’t always know what causes psychosis does not mean that there is not an underlying biological cause. Some psychosis may be explainable by listening to a person’s history of trauma or abuse, but certainly not all. I am grateful to those researchers who continue to look for all the causes of psychosis so that all those suffering may find effective treatments.
Thank you for your analysis of this situation, Dr. Healey.
The first thought I had when I heard about this crash being caused by a suicidal pilot was, “I wonder if he was on anti-depressants?” When I heard about the vision problems I just knew what had happened.
When my son started on SSRIs he developed so many problems that I didn’t even link his sudden vision problems to the SSRIs. After much reading and studying I am beginning to understand how terribly damaging these drugs can be for some people. For him there were so many changes and he has never recovered even though he only took SSRIs for three months over seven years ago.
I thank you for all the work you are doing to expose these people and their monstrous lies.
Thanks for reviewing this book, saves me from reading it. Looking forward to your next book Robert!
Great explanation for difference between victim and hero!
Thank you Dr. Kinderman for a very interesting and thought provoking article.
My husband and I were also brought up in a rather harsh, religious style. I think this was very common back when we were young back in the 1960s. We were taught to think of ourselves as sinful and imperfect. Pride was considered a sin and we were never praised. We were subjected to harsh punishments both at school and at home. For many years I believed that this was the reason we both suffered from mild anxieties and depression.
When we had our own children in the 1980s we decided to try a very different form of child rearing. We were determined not to make the mistakes our parents and teachers had made. Feeding our children on demand, waiting longer to start toilet training, praising the most mediocre efforts were all encouraged as ways to help our kids achieve “self-esteem”. We followed the teachings of the age and were very proud of our high-achieving, well-adjusted children.
The last thing we ever expected was for one of our children to develop a severe mental illness. We thought we had done everything right. How could this happen to a young adult who had shown so much promise? How much is nature and how much is nurture? We have been seeking the answer ever since. I think you are correct in saying that it must be a combination of factors. I wish so much that there were more answers out there for those of us who keep questioning whether we did something terribly wrong or whether we are so genetically flawed that we should just stop having children.
Thank you for your contribution in looking for the answers.
Marle, So sorry to hear of your struggles in getting financial support so you can have a decent life. Of course, what you say is completely true. If a person does not have the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter, nothing else seems important.
You certainly do not sound stupid or low-functioning. Your comment is extremely well written.
I hope you can find someone in your home town to assist you in accessing these needs. Facebook has many local support groups who might give you some ideas. Have you tried local service groups, churches, Salvation Army, local elected officials? There must be some caring people in your home town who would be willing to assist you in getting the support you need.
Please come back to this site and share your progress. If you can think of any way that people here at this website can help, please let us know. There are many caring people here who have given me much needed encouragement.
You make some good points. The word function does seem to imply the ability to work, produce, pay taxes, etc. Perhaps, it would be better to think in terms of levels of distress or suffering.
The problem with this would be that it is extremely difficult to measure how much another person is suffering. How do you tell if someone is exaggerating or malingering? How can you tell if they are suffering greatly but not sharing their feelings because they are afraid of being sent back to the psych ward?
It is much easier to measure functionality. Observers can tell if someone is eating, going out, socializing, or working. These actions can be observed by family or professionals.
When my son first became ill the only thing he did was lay in bed and cry. We didn’t want to continually ask him how he is feeling, so the only way we can measure his recovery is by observing his functioning.
I agree with you that society should change and make room for diversity but we cannot change the world for our son or anyone else. We can only hope that some day he will learn to accept the things he cannot change and find some happiness in this imperfect world.
This is good news. Thanks for all the hard work!
I am so sorry to hear of your continuing struggles. If you could list some of those “small but helpful adaptations that would reduce your misery” I would love to hear them. My family has also been searching for years for the “magic bullet” for our dear son. Slowly we are beginning to realize that he might never be his old self again. It is so very hard to accept this.
Sometimes I get very weary of listening to people argue about what caused his problems and what needs to be done to fix him. Some days I just want to scream at everyone on this site and all over the internet, YOU ARE ALL WRONG!!!! NOBODY HAS COME UP WITH AN ANSWER YET!!! But then I remember how far we have come in the last five years.
At least the powers that be are listening to the critics of psychiatry. Five years ago the only people who were discussing these issues were a few fringe groups. The fact that the president of the APA is writing about the ant-psychiatry movement is good news for sufferers. Some psychiatrists are waking up and realizing that there are real problems with standard psychiatric treatment. This web page is only four years old but its readership is growing. Four years ago I couldn’t find anything on Facebook about alternatives to psychiatry, now there are dozens of pages.
The pace of change seems very slow for those of us who are suffering. But I thank Dr. Cornwall and the other writers on MIA for continuing their fight against complacency and bringing hope to the sufferers.
Thanks for bringing this up Sera. I too had extreme sensitivities towards certain sounds, touches and tastes when I was young. I think I have outgrown it somewhat but it used to be really bad so I understand what you are saying. Hope you will feel better in time.
The children I know who have been diagnosed with ADHD all seem to have poor diets. Sadly their parents don’t seem to understand what a healthy diet is and continue to feed their kids lots of grains and dairy products. They tell me they can’t get their kids to eat fruits and vegetables. A lot of doctors don’t seem to get it either.
Thank you Ted for your unwavering support of those who have been hurt by psychiatry. I hope that MIA will continue to focus on this. There are a lot of other people and groups who are fighting poverty, sexism. racism, homelessness and other social problems. MIA is one of the few groups fighting for the rights of the mentally ill and I hope they never lose that focus.
I am glad the meds are working for you. Research continually reaffirms that you are in the minority.
For my son psychiatric drugs for very mild depression and OCD turned into a nightmare that has lasted for eight years and shows no sign of abating. I don’t think anyone should be given these drugs without being told that they are ALL EXPERIMENTAL. None of these drugs have ever been shown to be safe or more effective than placebos.
I am so glad to have found Robert Whitaker’s books and this on-line community. Learning that other people understand the nightmare that our family continues to live in, and that some people are looking for treatments that really work is the only thing that keeps me going.
Although I am not a doctor or researcher and don’t have the science to back this up, my thoughts would be that prolonged fasting would do more harm than good. As I have seen in people with anorexia, they seem to improve when they start eating again.
I would love to hear more on this topic since it seems quite evident to me that there are definitely strong links between nutrition and mental health.
I agree Monica, MIA should be involved in both. For those of us with loved ones who are still suffering it is so good to hear of alternatives which do not involve forced drugging. I will be contacting the Wholeness Center to see if they can help my son. Sadly, that may not be possible since he has such a distrust for the system he probably would not be willing to try this alternative. But for other families this sounds like a great alternative.
Psychiatrists have finally been caught in their lies. For years they have been convincing everyone that they had all the answers. “We have drugs that are like insulin for diabetes,” they all crowed. Now they are caught, they are finally having to admit that they don’t have the drugs that can change bad thoughts and behaviours. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
Meaghan: Thank you for sharing your story. In many ways it echoes my son’s struggles. He too is always trying to escape and wants desperately to leave his home town but lacks the funds to do so. He wants to connect but is afraid to do so.
Vancouver is a beautiful city but the rain can be so depressing. I hope you will make friends there, and find true peace and healing.
Thank you, Richard! We should all be seeking the truth rather defending our beliefs. I have had my religious beliefs badly shaken during the years I have been watching my son struggle with mental illness. I would like to believe in a loving God but it keeps getting harder. Someday I hope we can find the truth about mental illness and a cure for sufferers.
Thanks so much for sharing your story. It is very encouraging for me to hear from other mothers how they have helped their adult children. It is hard for us to watch our son struggle and sometimes I just want to give up, but then I wake up and read a story from you that gives me hope! Thank you and God bless!
Thanks so much for all you have done for Justina and the young adults you are currently helping. When our son was incarcerated in a psych ward there was no one there who would speak up for his rights. You are a real hero to us Katie!
Thank you for sharing your fascinating story!
Thanks Tim for this very insightful piece. It is very encouraging for me to look at my son’s distress as being rooted in internal conflict. This seems to me to explain the real cause of what has looked like irrational fear/anxiety/paranoia. Many writers refer to distress as being caused by trauma, but since my son has never really been traumatized, I could never really understand where the extreme distress was rooted. Looking at it as internal conflict makes so much more sense to me. Thank you!
Sounds like a wonderful idea…hope it catches on!
Maybe they should just try selling the placebos.
Sorry to hear that you are depressed again. I hope you will find the strength to take good care of yourself and seek out supportive friends. Sometimes I find that spending time with little children helps me a lot. Their excitement and enthusiasm for life is very inspirational for me. Hope you find relief from the darkness soon.
I agree that nutritional supplements and vitamins are no more of a quick fix than taking pharmaceuticals. That is probably why many people are hostile towards those selling vitamins to the mentally ill. After the drugs failed to help my son, we tried many expensive vitamins and supplements and they didn’t help either. It is very disappointing to spend a lot of money on false hopes.
I believe that eating real, healthy food has helped my son more than anything else but he still relapses frequently. It could be that he has absorption problems or that he damaged his gut by eating very poorly for a long time. I am sure that there is a strong link between poor nutrition and mental illness and I am grateful for researchers like Bonnie and Julia who are doing research in this area. Unfortunately, most doctors do not take this seriously and will not do any tests for vitamin deficiency, celiac disease or other nutritional problems for the mentally ill.
How heartbreaking! The ‘perpetrator profile” sounds like a concerned, caring parent. Thankfully our son was an adult when we brought him to the hospital, but I still felt blamed when he did not respond to drug treatment. The psychiatrists are so arrogant, if their cures don’t work it must be some else’s fault (usually the distressed patient or his parents). Too bad that doctors can’t say “I’m sorry, but I really don’t know what is wrong with you or how to fix your problems.””
Sally: I understand your objection to being trained to be forgiving. Although, I personally have benefitted from learning to forgive myself and others, this is definitely not something that should be forced upon a person.
We were told our son had a chemical imbalance and they had very good drugs that “were like insulin for diabetes and would correct the chemical imbalance”.
Much of the latest scientific research seems to indicate that brain inflammation is involved in anxiety and depression. Brain inflammation can be caused by stress, infection, viruses, poor diet and other causes. Not everyone diagnosed with a mental illness has been traumatized. Since many people today eat extremely poor diets which are very high in inflammatory foods I believe that poor diet is definitely a factor in some people’s mental illness. The stress caused by trauma seems to be a factor as well.
I find it hard to understand why some people on this website become so angry when someone suggests that something other than trauma and abuse could be causing mental illness in some people.
Thank you Bonnie and Julia for your work. I hope you will ignore the rude comments from some of the posters on this site and realize that some of your readers do appreciate your research.
Thank you for this message of hope and encouragement!
The study referred to being forgiving towards self and others. I think that often the most important part of this is to be forgiving to self. I have known many persons who struggled with depression and anxiety who tend to be very hard on themselves. Being a perfectionist or being very demanding on oneself can create anxiety and depression.
There seems to be quite a bit of evidence that the toxoplasmosis virus, which is carried by cats, can infect people’s brains. It is a known to cause mental retardation in fetuses, why could it not possibly be a cause of schizophrenia? Unless you know for sure what causes schizophrenia, please do not be so dismissive of the research looking for the cause of this devastating disease. The only way we will ever find a cure is if the public supports research into the cause or causes of this terrible disease. I have watched someone I love come done with this disease. It really is a disease and not just a “social problem”.
Thank you for this piece Michael. Since I am not much of a philosopher some of it is a bit difficult for me to understand but I really like the point you make about there being not two, but three ways to explain mental illness.
I have never been happy with the dichotomy created by those who say mental illness is always caused by biology or always caused by trauma. Neither of these explanations could explain my son’s illness. Perhaps, there are several causes and combinations of causes that result in what is known as mental illness. I believe that what Szasz said about personal choices is definitely part of the explanation of mental illness. In my son’s case I think that his choice to eat only junk and self-medicate with drugs caused the physical problems that led to his breakdown. There were probably genetic factors and environmental factors as well. So the explanation for mental illness is much more complicated than some would have you believe. I have read only one book by Szasz but although he had some great insights I also believe that he over-simplified the causes of mental illness.