Robert Whitaker and alternative mental health

Robert Whitaker’s new book, Anatomy of an Epidemic is not about alternative health care per se, although he does write about the Open Dialogue program in Western Lapland and cites studies on exercise for depression. His Mad in America blog also references these two areas. All this is great, if you are a statistic, but it’s not enough if you are a real person who wants some practical ideas now. Whitaker’s book is a public policy critique. It’s not a self-help book.

Most of us do not have the luxury to wait a few decades for societal changes which may or may not happen. We need help now. Unless we are native Laps and haven’t had a first psychotic break, it’s a little late to treat a first psychotic episode in Lapland. Plus, exercise for depression is like Mom, apple pie and virtue. We all know that exercise is great for depression, but the last thing that many a depressed person or a psychotic person does is want to exercise. They’ve got to be further along in their recovery before they take up the treadmill.

Many people who read Whitaker’s book may be left with the impression that outside of what’s happening in Lapland and doing laps for depression, that’s about it for alternative help.

Fear not. Most people who recover do it their way. They do whatever it takes. My blog lists the best that my own research has uncovered. Vitamins and mineral supplements in high doses act like drugs – with side benefits, not side effects. Then there are various kinds of psychotherapies – one reader insists that cathartic psychotherapies are the best (and I agree). There is cognitive behavioral therapy that many people say has benefited them. Then there is energy medicine in its many forms. I am a particular fan of the Assemblage Point Shift. It’s cheap, non-invasive, shamanic in origin, fun to participate in, and it corrects your energy imbalance in ways that you can see almost instantly. Sound therapy – totally new and exciting. The particular kind of sound therapy that Chris undergoes is very similar to taking LSD under controlled conditions. The medical profession is only beginning to look into LSD as a useful treatment for mental illnesses. You can control your consciousness now by undergoing sound therapy without having to get the blessing of the medical community.

No doubt Robert Whitaker will be writing another book on mental health in America. It would be simply fabulous if his next book is on the subject of how the mental health “industry” has discouraged recovery for those in need by demonizing alternative mental health treatments, practitioners, and out-of-the-box thinkers who challenge the status quo.

Anatomy of an Epidemic and alternative mental health

In Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic there is no mention of alternative mental health remedies. This, I suppose, is understandable given that the book is about how pharma and her willing handmaidens have contributed to the epidemic of mental illness. However, from a consumer point of view it would be instructive to know if the people whose stories are told in the book ever seriously tried some form of psychotherapy or took vitamin supplements to help them get off the drugs.

It is clear even if you haven’t read this book that psychiatry has been hijacked by drug prescription and that psychiatrists (American ones, anyway) are handsomely remunerated for prescribing not listening. Psychiatrists have convinced themselves that the drugs are needed to help them do their job better, but their patients aren’t at all convinced. If they were, why is drug compliance such a problem? Why are people so fed up with their psychiatrists not listening to them?

Drug based psychiatry seems to be one area where the customer is always wrong. If manufacturers noticed that people were failing to use their products in they way they were intended, would they blame the customer? Of course not! Many psychiatrists, however, have this patronizing view that their clients are mentally ill and incapable of making rational choices when it comes to how they feel about what they are swallowing.

There is another way and people shouldn’t lose hope.

Taking vitamins, undergoing certain psychotherapies, practicing yoga and changing your belief system is not a quick fix, but it does work over time. As a relative, I can vouch that this also works for me. We all can benefit from the experience. Vitamin support should be a first line of defence if you are trying to get off your meds. Some people may not need this, but many do. Not everybody is going to have a hard time withdrawing from the drugs, but they will be the exception, not the rule. The drugs change your biochemistry. Your biochemistry is not changed because you are depressed or schizophrenic. For every study that claims it is, there is a study that refutes this. So why buy into the former claim? It makes you worse off in the long term, as Anatomy of an Epidemic so rightly points out.

Talking dirty – let’s discuss cure

Why is “cure” such a dirty word in mental health circles? A cure simply means that someone with an illness has become healthy again or it can be the solution to a problem. To believe in “cure” in the context of schizophrenia is to embarrass oneself publically. I hereby stand embarrassed.

Yes, it is true there is no “medical cure” for schizophrenia, meaning that no drug has been invented that will take away your symptoms, but somehow the concept of cure has been corrupted to mean only that. We have all read that “schizophrenia is the most serious and devastating of the mental illnesses, there is no cure for it but there are effective treatments (blah, blah, blah)” People who dutifully take statements like that at face value become patients for life. Personally, I wouldn’t want the state of my mental health to hinge on taking lifelong drugs for something where supposedly there is no cure and while many people manage without them.

Dean Radin, in his blog Entangled Minds, has this to say about an article criticizing the small amounts of funding that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has directed to alternative treatments.

“In the meantime, are there alternative methods that might also be useful, and that often have little to no side effects, and that are usually quite inexpensive? Yes, and fortunately the NIH is providing piddling grants to study them (compared to conventional medicine CAM studies are receiving chump change). But this article seems to want us to drop all such studies: “Taxpayers are bankrolling studies of whether pressing various spots on your head can help with weight loss, whether brain waves emitted from a special “master” can help break cocaine addiction, and whether wearing magnets can help the painful wrist problem, carpal tunnel syndrome.”

“Are such things actually impossible? What if they actually do work? Isn’t that worth finding out? The alternative is that we don’t find out and useless treatments continue to be provided, or that expensive drug and surgical methods continue to be provided, many of which don’t work either!”

“Personally I’d much rather spend my tax dollars looking for simple, effective, cheap methods that work, regardless of what existing theories are comfortable with. Go back just 20 years and large swatches of what used to be taken for granted in science and medicine have radically changed. So how can anyone today possibly believe that now we finally understand everything?” http://deanradin.blogspot.com/2009/06/25-billion-spent-no-alternative-cures.html

What always astounds me is how willing many people are to believe that everything is known, and they are prepared put their life or the life of their relative on hold until “science” comes up with another stab at getting it wrong. Recently, a blogger took me to task for using the word “cure” in the context of schizophrenia. According to this blogger, everybody knows there’s no cure, there is only management for this “chronic illness.” She has bought the official line, and more’s the pity. I can deal with that way of thinking, although I don’t agree with it. She, obviously cannot deal with my way of thinking because she refused to print my comment about “cure.” She doesn’t agree with it so she doesn’t print it. She is saving her readers from what, exactly?

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http://deanradin.blogspot.com/2009_06_01_archive.html

Who am I? What am I here for? Why you might be interested in what I have to say.

“Who am I and what am I here for” are the fundamental questions of our existence on this planet.

I am Rossa Forbes, a pseudonym for me. I became a new me, a wiser and more focused me, when my oldest son was diagnosed as having schizophrenia. That was six years ago when “Chris” was 19. His diagnosis forced me think about many things in a different way.

My blog is for people who expect more out of recovery than what they are currently achieving.

I was naive when I started on this journey. Over time I became very critical of the medical treatment Chris was receiving when I realized he wasn’t getting better, despite the huge amounts of money being spent. I expected “better”. I expected “well”. Doctors instead spoke about “recovery”. Recovery is such a vague concept. It seems to be associated with quality of life, another term that I abhor when it comes to schizophrenia. Who wants to be spoken of in terms of “quality of life” when you are young and your whole life is ahead of you?

BS (before schizophrenia) I thought life was pretty good. I still do, but it is much more meaningful. Schizophrenia is not like other illnesses. I do not really consider it an illness, so if you are looking for advice on medications and how to deal with schizophrenia as a brain disease, this blog is not for you. I do consider schizophrenia a “problem”. Something isn’t working well for the individual and it is certainly a huge problem for the family members. Problems can be solved, however. They take time and effort. Nobody said this was easy. A brain disease, on the other hand, sounds final. And, of course, expensive medications are prescribed for this brain disease. These medications also have rather serious side effects.

While I hesitate to even use the term “schizophrenia” in this blog, it is useful shorthand for a collection of characteristics related to someone who is having difficulties with living.

The purpose of my blog is to do the following and more:

1. Introduce you to holistic therapies that my son underwent (I tried most of them, too.)

2. Explain why a holistic approach is better than a medication only approach. Holistic allows that low doses of medication can be useful and often necessary, but should not be considered a long term strategy.

3. Stimulate a positive and even humorous perspective about the condition

4. Encourage you to think that the expected outcome of this condition is to achieve total health

5. Demonstrate that writers, artists, poets often have a better understanding of schizophrenia than your doctor does

6. Establish a platform for the book that I am writing (feedback is most appreciated!)