Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Comments by Linda Comac

Showing 44 of 44 comments.

  • I am so very sorry to hear how you suffered because of gabapentin. It seems that physicians in the USA are not fully aware of the dangers of this medication. In the UK, gabapentin is a controlled substance as it should be here. My son had suffered from depression and anxiety for many years. When he developed severe back pain, gabapentin was added to the drugs he was already taking, which included a benzodiazepine. Within days, he was dead. Benzodiazepine and gabapentin should never be mixed. Hopefully, the horrible side effects you are experiencing will pass. Best of luck

  • Wonderful article, but A.S. is SO right: How many times does this information have to be repeated before coercive institutionalization changes? About three years ago, I wrote a book (Broken: How the Broken Mental Health System Leads to Broken Lives and Broken Hearts) about my experiences when I was “committed” to an institution for “geriatric depression.” I’ve also written articles that appeared in this publication and in “The Mighty” detailing how vitally important it is for psychiatric patients to be treated with respect. As the Norwegian research points out, “The patient, who is not considered to have sufficient insight into the defined and relevant psychological discourses, is prone to have their subjective experiences and the evaluation of their needs downplayed.” This is exactly what I experienced. For many patients, “The cumulative toll of these experiences is known to lead to an erosion of self-confidence and trust in one’s own thoughts and feelings.” This lack of self-confidence and belief in oneself is exactly the opposite of what is needed to avoid suicide attempts. In my case, I resisted the drugs and my stay was extended. When will the providers of mental health care finally pay attention?!?!?!?!

  • “….it is widely acknowledged that involuntary hospitalization often increases the likelihood of someone attempting suicide again.” What a terribly sad–and frightening–statement, and one that I totally agree with. I do not, however, think that lack of privacy per se is the problem. The lack of dignity that is evident in lack of privacy is at the root of the problem. My article “For People in Psychiatric Hospitals, Dignity Can Be Life-Saving” explains my beliefs in this regard At the heart of the issue is “self-determination theory,” which says that people’s need for competence, connection and autonomy must be fulfilled if they are to grow and change. The article details how these needs are not being met during forced “incarceration” in a psychiatric hospital.

  • I am absolutely certain that there are “service users who are suffering mental health issues [and] often lack the cognitive freedom to make an informed choice.” But I am equally sure that there are “service users” who are fully capable of making intelligent decisions about their own care. Ignoring the opinions and wishes of those who are fully capable of making an informed choice is detrimental to the mental health of “service users.” Consider what psychologists refer to as “self-determination theory.” According to this theory, people’s need for competence, connection and autonomy must be fulfilled if they are to grow and change. If the service users wishes are ignored, their need to feel competent, autonomous and connected is totally unmet, leaving them to feel even more frustrated, argumentative and depressed. I’ve written about this serious problem in as well as in my book “Broken: How the Broken Mental Health System Leads to Broken Lives and Broken Hearts.” The attitude that “service users” aren’t capable of making decisions for themselves is totally counterproductive and dangerous.

  • Excellent article, pointing out facts that really should be as “plain as the nose on your face.” Sadly, mental health professionals don’t seem able to see that nose. When I was forced into a mental health hospital, I was definitely “disrespected for not wanting medication.” The psychiatrist totally pooh poohed my comments about the dangers of the drugs, dangers I was acutely aware of as my son had just died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. In addition, I experienced “pressure to take medication” by being told I’d be kept in the institution longer if I wasn’t compliant. If you’d like to learn more about my experiences, they are related in my book “Broken: How the Broken Mental Health System Leads to Broken Lives and Broken Hearts” available on Amazon.

  • I very much appreciate the comments of both JClaude and samruck2. Just this week, I felt a little of the “maltreatment” mentioned. I also was gifted by a very compassionate response; the responses always seem to swing both ways. The most important point is, I think, that the mental health system can only change if we all stick together. (It could be nice if kindness could be the glue)

  • Several people have commented on my use of the word “broken.” The disagreement may be nothing more than semantics–what do each of us mean by “broken”? I am not alone in my use of the term: Google “mental health system is broken” a number of results appear, including the very recent title “How to fix America’s broken mental health care system” from February 16, 2021. Also the following quote, which echoes my use of the word: “America’s mental health treatment system is broken, leaving those most in need to fall through the cracks. An estimated 8.3 million adults in the United States have a severe mental illness. At any given time, 3.9 million go untreated.”

  • In keeping with the comment made below by Daiphanous Weeping, I would ask, “Who writes the definitions on which fact is based?” So many of the definitions in psychiatry/psychology seem to be based on “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” Many of the “definitions” there are actually checklists of symptoms–check off more than 50%, and you are defined/classified/categorized with that illness. The fact that there are now five editions of the book suggests that the checklists and, therefore, the definitions, change over time.

  • I totally agree that schizophrenia is “a severe mental illness that needs a lot more care and support than just therapy.” Schizophrenia, according to the research I’ve done, can respond to certain medications. Government’s failure to recognize the needs of these people is travesty and tragedy, which seem to encompass so very many of government’s policies and actions.

  • Talk about hubris! Your assumption that I had a mere “brush” with the system is out of line. I suffered through more than 20 years of my son’s experiences with the system followed my own “incarceration.” That makes me one of “those of us with decades of lived experience.” In addition, my belief that the system is broken is based on extensive research as documented in my book

  • Thank you for your comments. My horror about the system would be increased a hundred-fold if I believed its seeming flaws were “intended…to marginalize…and minimize.” Those are most assuredly the results, and some people may even intend those results. However–as the research I present in my book indicates–a multitude of cracks in the system have lead to its break (first and foremost, an overdependence on drugs). That break may still be repaired if we work together.

  • I will gladly add my name! The concept that emotional distress is not an illness is certainly one I understand–all too well. After my 29-year-old son died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, I was experiencing extreme emotional distress–grief, of course, as well as anger at the system that had continuously pushed the drugs. I wanted only one thing–to be with my son again. And so I attempted suicide. NYS saw fit to lock me in a mental institution for a month. In that hospital, I definitely experienced “identify theft.” An adjunct instructor at a college as well as a published author, I had been supporting myself and my son for years. Now, the hospital was imposing a new identity on me; I was no longer, intelligent, educated, capable, responsible. Now I was a person who was incapable of making any decisions–not even what to eat, what clothing to wear, what to watch on TV or whether to open or close a window. I was now a person whose questions were not worthy of response. It is a very obvious question “why people working in services don’t seek to change them . . .” In an attempt to change minds, I wrote a book that tells my son’s story and my own. “Broken: How the Broken Mental Health System Leads to Broken Lives and Broken Hearts.”

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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 -“

  • 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.