Mark Vonnegut Comes to Harvard Bookstore

Thanks to Google Alert, I found the following article from the Harvard Crimson. No, I’m not stalking Mark Vonnegut. My alert is for “holistic” and “schizophrenia.” You’ll find these two words buried in the article.

Vonnegut, the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Kurt Vonnegut, sat for a book-signing for his most recent work, “Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir.”

Why I feel psychiatry is an abuse

Psychiatry, which actually does know better, tells everybody’s story but the patient’s. Psychiatry, largely rejecting R.D. Laing, Thomas Szasz, Soteria, and patient inspired approaches, finds itself in thrall to the drug rep’s story, the thrilling story of Novartis, AstraZeneca and Bristol-Meyers-Squib. The pharmaceutical companies tell the story of guys under the bridge, who miraculously “start talking sense” after a course of their drugs. What happens to these guys under the bridge? Well, supposedly they are not cured, because drug companies and doctors don’t believe in cure, only management. Perhaps they are now living out their lives in half way houses or are back under the bridge. We’ll never know, will we? Psychiatry seems to keep poor records of what happens to its patients in the long run. If they did, we might be hearing a different story, the story Robert Whitaker tells in Anatomy of an Epidemic.

Psychiatry and drug companies don’t allow families to tell their stories. Families ask for help, and despite the fact that psychiatry does know better, we are told that there is no cure, that we are not to blame, that the patient has a damaged brain. Just trust in us, they tell us, and we will manage the problem. But, they don’t, do they? Usually, the problem gets worse.

Psychiatry knows better, but it lost the plot years ago. Remember Mark Vonnegut, the son of Kurt Vonnegut who wrote a really good story about his psychotic break (The Eden Express). In the book, Vonnegut credits a lot of his initial recovery to the vitamins that he took.* Fast forward a few editions of the book and he expresses regret that he ever said that. I was really puzzled about why he turned his back on vitamin support and his healthy skeptcism of the medical profession, until I realized that in the intervening time, he had gone to medical school, where he no doubt learned that vitamins couldn’t possibly be responsible for his recovery. He became one of “them.” I always thought that Mark Vonnegut had a psychotic break or two and then recovered. Apparently, this is not the case. He actually suffers from what appears to be tardive dyskinesia from the drugs that he subsequently opted for in favor of the medical paradigm.**

*From In his book, The Eden Express, Mark Vonnegut, the son of novelist Kurt Vonnegut described his experience with schizophrenic delusions. Standard psychotherapy was unable to help him, and most of his doctors said his case was hopeless. Then Vonnegut went to the Brain Bio Center and “the biochemists said otherwise. They fixed me up with embarrassingly inexpensive, simple, nonprescription pills. Vitamins mostly.”

**This information was gleaned from an address that Mark Vonnegut gave in 2003 at a NAMI convention. Unfortunately, it is no longer available at this link. In his speech he refers to the side effects of the drugs he takes.