Showing 29 of 29 comments.
Big Brother is watching you and pharmaceutical companies seem to be the “biggest brothers.”
As has already been mentioned, privacy has never existed in psychiatry–certainly not in mental hospitals where there are no doors on the rooms, and spies in the form of psychiatric aides monitor every word and action. And any discussion of dignity in this context is a joke. I have far too much to say on this matter to put it here. You can read my article in “The Mighty”–“For People in Psychiatric Hospitals, Dignity Can Be Life-Saving”– for a fairly extensive discussion of the problem https://themighty.com/2020/12/psychiatric-hospital-dignity-after-suicide-attempt/ Furthermore, it is absolutely true that risk assessment is far far far from being an exact science. Definitely risk assessment results in flags or labels that pigeon-hole people, limiting their treatment options and often leading to forced hospitalization. These were the outcomes my son and I experienced. As the saying goes: “Read all about it” in my book “Broken: How the broken mental health care system leads to broken lives and broken hearts” available on Amazon.
This is a wonderful article and should be required reading for students of psychology/psychiatry. The author is spot on in pointing out that “The current biomedical paradigm puts a focus on…balancing the chemistry in the brain. In doing so, it gives insufficient attention to the mutual influence of the biological and the social aspects of human existence.” How can anyone believe that profound grief requires “balancing the chemistry in the brain”? When I lost my younger son, I experienced profound grief and was treated for depression with strong medications. (You can read about it in my book “Broken: How the broken mental health care system leads to broken lives and broken hearts.) Is it remotely possible to medicate away the grief of losing a child? Should anyone even attempt to “cure” grief? Is it not necessary to experience it, to walk through it, so that we can “build ourselves and our relation to the world anew”? Better to read poets than take a pill.
Thank you for letting me know the effect my writing had on you. It is not at all offensive to me that you find my suicide attempt “understandable”–that is certainly my opinion! Thank you, too, for mentioning Alan by name and including him in your message of love; so few people I know seem to mention his name. It’s so important to me that he not disappear from minds and hearts as he disappeared from life. That’s one of the reasons I wrote the book. I hope you find some helpful information when you read it. The goal is to make people aware of how desperately the mental healthy system needs to change. Mental hospitals and especially drugs are not doing the job they were intended for; in fact, the hospitals and pills make the situation worse. Good luck.
I can certainly relate to your questions! My son was one of the children who “grew up into adults resigned to being “sick,” drugged, and dependent.” Diagnosed with ADD when he was about 8, it turned out that he had been the victimof sexual abuse which was probably ongoing at that time. No one knew until he was about 18. No one suspected PTSD despite everything I said. Tragically, my son died just before his 29th birthday. Believe me, I have PLENTY of outrage. Read my book “Broken: How the Broken Mental Health System Leads to Broken Lives and Broken Hearts” to learn more about my son’s story. https://www.amazon.com/Broken-broken-mental-health-system-ebook/dp/B07YW8Y7KY/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=linda+comac&qid=1605536321&sr=8-1
Dr. Kelmenson–Your logical, rational approach to mental health is truly a light in the darkness!! I am particularly struck by the line, “biological psychiatry’s kookiest claim is its denial of our capacity to understand, flexibly adapt to, and solve our own problems—the result of millions of years of brain evolution.” This denial, no doubt, has lead to the almost total dependence on drug therapy, a dependence that ultimately robbed my son of his life. In writing my book about his experiences (“Broken: How the Broken Mental Health System Leads to Broken Lives and Broken Hearts”) I often referred to your writings and quoted you several times. Hopefully, your words will bring hope and maybe even change to many.
Good luck to both of us!
So much of your insightful article resonates with me!! I have personally found that it is absolutely true that “Unlike what the public has been led to believe, forced mental health care has virtually nothing to do with helping that person. It is a criminal and/or social judgment against that person.” Like you, I am attempting to be an “independent critic and analyst.” In my case, I am deeply concerned that people–especially youngsters–will suffer as my son and I did. For that reason, I wrote “Broken: How the Broken Mental Health Care System Leads to Broken Hearts and Broken Lives.” It is available on Amazon and part of the proceeds go to COPE, a bereaved parents’ support group.
Thank you, Angela for sharing your story. It is painfully familiar as it is similar to my son’s and my experience with drugs. Both of us experienced the situation “we take someone’s grief or trauma and we turn that into a medical illness and we label them. Then the label only leads in one direction and that’s drugs and more drugs.” I am so glad there is a documentary about this. People so desperately need to be aware of the dangers!! My book “Broken” How the Broken Mental Health System Leads to Broken Lives and Broken Hearts” is my effort to inform the public of how the system basically killed my son and traumatized me
Your experiences have been so absolutely dreadful no wonder you are willing to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Bradford–the article above is a brief synopsis of a chapter in my book “Broken: How the Broken Mental Health System Leads to Broken Lives and Broken Hearts.” In the book, the hospital is identified as Brunswick in Suffolk County, NY, a private hospital. The many similar stories I’ve read indicate that the name doesn’t matter: Most of them are the same. I don’t understand your point the cause of my son’s death. A large part of my book is devoted to detailing how the mental health practitioners’ continually prescribing various drugs– including benzodiazepines, opioids, and finally adding gabapentin–led to his fatal accidental overdose.
Are you referring to the line we’ve come a long way from the horrid living conditions and patient abuse in the mental asylums of the early 1900s. But we haven’t come far enough”? At one time, harsh restraints (shackles) and intense, lengthy periods of isolation were pretty much the norm in the public institutions known as “insane asylums.” Those asylums were often the place that “hysterical” women were sent because they weren’t behaving as men did or as men wanted them to. They were also the places where countless gay people underwent “conversion therapy,” which used aversion therapy, chemicals, electroshocks and even lobotomies to “convert” them to “straight.”
Yes, it seems impossible to change a system that promotes itself. I, however, am a huge believer in not throwing the baby out with the bath water: Psychiatry has some positive things to offer. I remember a time in my youth when psychiatrists combined talk therapy with some drugs, but drugs were not the immediate go-to. Over dependence on drugs, inadequate training, insufficient numbers of psychiatrists are among the problems that need to be addressed so that positive change can occur. I do think it’s possible
Really like the “Sleep in the Stars” moniker … It is really a shame that so few people are aware of the many many flaws in the mental health system. The attempt to spread that information was a large part of the reason I wrote the book mentioned in my article. I also highly recommend that people read Dr. Robert Whitaker’s books. I was particularly fascinated by “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” which is such an informative look at drugs and the system
Your experience sounds far worse than mine! Amazing for a place with the reputation of Columbia Presbyterian! A line that really resonates with me is ” I could either take the meds and attend “groups” and leave in a few weeks, or I could contact a lawyer to get out, which would take even longer to get through all the court proceedings,” which was a common refrain where I was incarcerated. … Just yesterday I had a Facebook disagreement with a physician who kept insisting that my experiences were an aberration and I was very wrong to condemn the system. “There are none so blind as he who will not see.” We must share our experiences if there is going to be any change! Be strong. Be well
Many thanks for your insightful comments and complimentary close. The book exists precisely to shine light on a significant problem and, hopefully, protect others and give them hope. I hope those who read the above piece find their way to the book and lead others to it as well. The problem and my son deserve their attention.
I certainly know exactly what it feels like to think “death is better.” But I know, too, that we don’t actually know “death is better” as we don’t really know what death entails. One thing we do know is that there is always the possibility of change while we are alive; that possibility doesn’t exist in death. Please read my book (see the end of the above article), even if you just read the resources listed in the appendix and section “Anti Antidepressants Offer Hope” beginning on p. 138. You may very well find some helpful bits there. I hope so
Thank you again. I hope you have the opportunity to read the book
Your experiences sound so similar to mine! It was only because I had the support of two amazing women who were hospitalized with me that I made it through without completely losing my mind. Details about them are also in my book. There is also much more information in the book about how/why I felt unsafe My “incarceration” was, indeed, a type of hell that I will do anything to avoid in the future. I believe, however, that saying I’d kill myself before returning to a psychiatric hospital would just ensure my return. Those words sent several women I know straight to psych wards. Be strong! Be well!
Finding a “good” doctor is so very helpful. Long after my discharge, I started seeing a therapist who specialized in working with bereaved parents. She was wonderful. I’m sorry you have had depression and trauma and now lost your husband. I hope you continue to find this doctor is helpful. As a teacher of literature, I also offer the following lines of poetry; perhaps they, too, can help
“What though the radiance which was once so bright
be now for ever taken from my sight …,
we will grieve not, rather find
strength in what remains behind.”
by William Wordsworth
Your experiences with the system were absolutely reprehensible. How terrible for you! I was especially struck by your question about any requirement to explain drugs to someone who is unconscious. One of the points I make in my book is that the psychiatric evaluation that led to my commitment seems to have been performed while I was unconscious. I certainly have no memory whatsoever of anyone’s asking me questions. Sadly the system is definitely designed to do what others thinks is best for the patient. After all, the person is a “patient” so he/she can’t have any valid opinions.
Thank you, kindred spirit. I look forward to reading about your own experiences.
I am so terribly sorry to read that your child was sexually abused. So many young people have suffered thus. Sexual abuse was, I firmly believe, the root of my son’s problems, manifest as PTSD that was never diagnosed. Thank you for sharing links to so much information. I think you can find additional helpful information in my book, mentioned at the end of my article.
Removing weeds from a garden is an apt metaphor for many mental health professionals. It would be good for them–and all of us–to remember that some of us think dandelions are quite pretty and can be useful in a salad or wine. Makes me think of an Emily Dickinson
poem: “Much Madness is divinest Sense –
To a discerning Eye –
Much Sense – the starkest Madness –
’Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail –
Assent – and you are sane –
Demur – you’re straightway dangerous –
And handled with a Chain -“
Thank you, madmother13, for your kind words.
Thank you for your sympathy, Fiachra. Hopefully the work of all those associated with MAD–researchers, writers, readers–will help the mental health system do a better job.
I appreciate your kind words about me, J. You should know that my son’s death occurred after MANY years of “treatment” by members of the mental health system. He saw psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists from the time he was about 7 until his death when he was 29. None of them diagnosed the PTSD that I am now convinced was at the root of his problems. But they did give him anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds without end. My only recourse was to write a book about his experiences and mine in the hopes of helping others avoid any suffering, let alone “massive and eternal loss.”
Thank you for your comments, S. Plover. I do think the institutions today are better than the asylums of old, certainly better than what was depicted in films such as 1948’s The Snake Pit–The title comes from an ancient practice of dealing with the mentally ill where they were thrown into a pit of snakes. Horrifying scenes of inmate violence are also not seen so much today.
My surviving son and I had thought about suing, as had a couple of other women in the hospital with me. The plans were fairly quickly forgotten after my release. I was just so happy to be home and wanted to put it all behind me. The other women had the same reaction. Writing my book to inform others of the serious problems with the mental health system became the most important thing I could do.