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Five important issues the media never cover during "Mental Health Awareness Month."

Are you bothered by how the media's coverage during "Mental Health Awareness Month" reads like a publicity release from the marketing department of the American Psychiatric Association? Let's contact the media several months before May, 2000, to request that their coverage is less one-sided. Let's ask magazines, newspapers, radio and television broadcasters to include a critical look at American psychiatry and to stop mouthing psychiatry's views in such a parrot like way.

Please let me know how the following statements might be improved, and send me names and addresses of media to send this to....

Five neglected issues the public deserves to know about psychiatry:

Issue #1. Why has no American psychiatrist ever had to pay damages for harm resulting from a person being mistakenly diagnosed as mentally ill?

The situation is especially disturbing in light of the statement made by the eminent psychiatrist Werner Mendell in his 1981 book Schizophrenia: The Experience and Its Treatment.

"In the post-World War II literature, there are many examples of patients who went to state hospitals incorrectly diagnosed either as schizophrenic or mentally retarded and who stayed for thirty of forty years only to be discovered, during the renaissance of psychiatry after World War II, not to be ill at all. These patients show a psychological condition based entirely on having been in the hospital for thirty or forty years without any initial mental illness or mental retardation. Since many of these patients were as incapacitated as anyone who had been ill all his life, we cannot use such observations as a vehicle for understanding the long-term outcome of schizophrenia." (p. 123)

With a famous psychiatrist admitting in writing that thousands of involuntary patients were wrongfully committed to mental institutions and badly harmed, why has there has never been a malpractice judgment against a psychiatrist for incorrectly diagnosing a person as mentally ill and for the harm that resulted?

Issue #2. The 97th Congress established that the same criteria for effectiveness, safety, and appropriateness that the FDA uses for drugs and medicines be used for psychotherapy:

"In order to assure that professional mental health services for which payment may be made under this Act (the Social Security Act, Medicare provisions) are efficacious, safe, and appropriate to the patient's need, and in recognition of the interests of patients, the public, mental health specialists, and providers in improved mental health care, it is the purpose of this part to assure that the professional mental health services for which payment may be made under this Act conform to appropriate professional standards." (S.647 [97th Congress] Sec. 1180)

Why does the media remain silent about the fact that few psychotherapies meet FDA standards for effectiveness, safety and appropriateness? Why are there no reports examining why psychotherapies rarely get better results than placebos and that the kind of psychotherapy used makes little difference in the outcome?

Issue #3. Why do the media remain silent about the way the major drug companies have shaped the way American psychiatrists diagnose and treat "mental illnesses"?

Drug companies give millions of dollars to psychiatrists to research the effects of psychoactive drugs. Drug companies support psychiatric publications that report the research with expensive advertising. Drug companies openly underwrite dozens of symposia held at American Psychiatric Association conferences. The current psychiatric and pharmaceutical public relations line is that the biochemical imbalances are now seen as underlying mental disorders that are life long, and require life long drug treatments.

With the emergence of the "chronic, biochemically based disorders" paradigm it is now considered to be old fashioned to think of a mental disorder as psychological in nature. Who is profiting financially from "lifetime diagnoses" and the resultant lifetime prescriptions for psychoactive medications? The drug companies.

References: Toxic Psychiatry and Talking Back to Prozac by Peter and Ginger Breggin.

Issue #4. Why do the media never ask for proof that schizophrenia is a disease or illness?

The psychiatric research literature has documented that who will get schizophrenia is unpredictable, there is no immunity from it, no one can catch schizophrenia from someone else, the symptoms differ from person to person, people with it often have to be talked into thinking they are sick, there is no known cure for it, no one dies from it, the longer a person is given drugs or treated in a mental hospital the worse off they are, the less treatment given the better, people recover from it with no treatment, and some people are better off for having had it.

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey's assertion that schizophrenia is a "neurobiological brain disorder" like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's is not true. Psychiatrist Nancy Andreason, the foremost researcher in the field, reports finding only about 20% of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia show brain anomolies.

No illness known to medical science acts like this. Why do you uncritically mouth psychiatry's unproven declaration that schizophrenia is an illness?

Issue # 5. Why does media coverage not report that many people fully recover from their so called "mental illness" and then go on to become even more mentally healthy than they were before?

Karl Menninger wrote in The Vital Balance (1961) "Not infrequently we observe that a patient...gets as well as he was, and then continues to improve still further. He becomes, one might say, 'weller than well.'...there are thousands of unknown examples who have not been discovered or who have not yet written about their experiences." (p.406)

Why are mental patients not told that they could be transformed into a better people by their experience? Why did your coverage ignore this aspect of recovery?

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Disclaimer: Material found on the Successful Schizophrenia website is for your information only. We are not able dispense specific advice for your situation. If you are under a doctor's care, you should talk with him or her about your mental health goals and if they are not on the same page as you, ask for a referral to a doctor or counselor who is. It may mean interviewing several. If you are on your own, you may wish to contact your local county mental health department to ask for local resources. Our site exists to show people that there are all varieties of mental states and assessments of those states; that sometimes 'mental health' is in the eye of the beholder; and that the mental health profession needs to continue to open itself up to the new paradigm ... progress is being made!