Looking Critically at “Mental Disorders” and Psychiatry
Doctors put people on psychiatric medications for experiences labeled “mental disorders”: extreme emotional distress, overwhelming suffering, wild mood swings, unusual beliefs, disruptive behaviors, and mysterious states of madness. Currently millions of people world-wide, including infants and elders, take psychiatric drugs when they are diagnosed with such labels as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, attention deficit, or post-traumatic stress. The numbers are climbing every day.
For many people, these drugs are very useful. Putting the brakes on a life out of control, being able to function at work, school, and in relationships, getting to sleep, and keeping a lid on emotional extremes can all feel lifesaving. The sense of relief is sometimes dramatic, and the medications can stir very powerful emotions and even feelings of salvation. At the same time, the help psychiatric drugs offer many people can sometimes leave little room to recognize that many others experience psychiatric drugs as negative, harmful, and even life-threatening.
As a result, it is rare in society to find a clear understanding of how and why these drugs work, or an honest discussion of risks, alternatives, and how to come off them if people want to.
Doctors and TV ads tell people that psychiatric medication is necessary for a biological illness, just like insulin for diabetes. They promote the idea that the drugs correct chemical imbalances and fix brain abnormalities. The truth is different, however. “Biology” and “chemical imbalances” have become simplistic sound-bites to persuade people to put their faith in science and doctors. These words are in fact much more complicated and unclear. Biological factors (such as nutrition, rest, and food allergies) affect everything we experience: biological cause or “basis” plants the belief that there is one root or key cause of our problem. To say something has a biological cause, basis, or underpinning is to say that the solution must be a medical one and “treatment” has to include psychiatric drugs. Once people have a diagnosis and start taking medication, it is easy to think of the medications as physically necessary for survival.
Not only is there is no solid science behind viewing mental disorders as caused by biology, but many people with even the most severe diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar go on to recover completely without medication.
The experiences that get labeled mental disorders are not “incurable” or always “lifelong.” For some people psychiatric drugs are helpful tools, but they are not medically necessary treatments for illness. And once you acknowledge these facts, the risks of psychiatric drugs themselves deserve greater scrutiny, because they are very serious, including chronic illness, mental impairment, dependency, worse psychiatric symptoms, and even death.
Because psychiatric medications are a multi-billion dollar industry like big oil and military spending, companies have incentive and means to cover up facts about their products. If you look more carefully into the research and examine closely the claims of the mental health system, you will discover a very different picture than what pill companies and most doctors want us to believe. Companies actively suppress accurate assessments of drug risks, mislead patients about how objective a mental disorder diagnosis is, promote a false understanding of how psychiatric drugs really work, keep research into alternative approaches unfunded and unpublicized, and obscure the role of trauma and oppression in mental suffering. For the mental health system, it’s one size fits all, regardless of the human cost: scandals are growing, and the fraud and corruption surrounding some psychiatric drugs are reaching tobacco-industry proportions.
In this complicated cultural environment, people need accurate information about possible risks and benefits so they can make their own decisions. Too often, people who need help getting off these drugs are left without support or guidance, and even treated like the desire to go off the drugs is itself a sign of mental illness – and a need for more drugs.
In discussing “risks” and “dangers,” it is important to understand that all life involves risk: each of us makes decisions every day to take acceptable risks, such as driving a car or working in a stressful job. It may not be possible to predict exactly how the risks will affect us, or avoid the risks entirely, but it is important that we know the risks exist and learn as much about them as we can. Looking at the risks of drug treatment also means looking at the risks of emotional distress / “psychosis” itself, and making the best decision for you, whether it is that psychiatric drugs are the best option given your circumstances and situation, or whether you want to try to come off. This guide is not intended to persuade you one way or the other, but to help educate you about your options if you decide to explore going off psychiatric drugs.
Because of the pro-drug bias in medicine and science, there has been very little research on psychiatric drug withdrawal. We based this guide on the best available information, including excellent sources from the UK, and worked with a group of health professional advisors (see page 40) including psychiatric doctors, nurses, and alternative practitioners, all of whom have extensive clinical experience helping people come off drugs. We also draw on the collective wisdom of an international network of peer counselors, allies, colleagues, activists, and healers who are connected with the Freedom Center and the Icarus Project. We encourage you to use this guide not as the definitive resource but as a reference point for your own research and learning. And we hope that you will share what you have learned with others and contribute to future editions.
In some ways the issue of coming off psychiatric drugs is deeply political. People of all economic and educational backgrounds successfully reduce or go off their psychiatric medication. However, sometimes economic privilege can determine who has access to information and education, who can afford alternative treatments, and who has the flexibility to make life changes. People without resources are often the most vulnerable to psychiatric abuse and injury from drugging. Health is a human right for all people: we need a complete overhaul of our failed “mental health system” in favor of truly effective and compassionate
alternatives available to all regardless of income. Pushing risky, expensive drugs as the first and only line of treatment should end; priority should be on providing safe places of refuge and treatments that do no harm. Numerous studies, such as Soteria House in California and programs in Europe, show that non-drug treatments can be very effective and cost less than the current system. And a medical and product regulatory establishment honest about drug risks, effectiveness, and alternatives would have never put most psychiatric drugs on the market to begin with.
Instead of viewing the experiences of madness as a “dis-ability,” which can be a stigmatizing put-down, it is helpful to view those of us who go through emotional extremes as having “diverse-ability.” Society must accommodate the needs of sensitive, creative, emotionally wounded, and unusual people who make contributions to the community beyond the standards of competition, materialism, and individualism. To truly help people who are labelled mentally ill, we need to rethink what is “normal,” in the same way we are rethinking what it means to be unable to hear, without sight, or with limited physical mobility. We need to challenge able-ism in all forms, and question the wisdom of adapting to an oppressive and unhealthy society, a society that is itself quite crazy. Our needs are intertwined with the broader needs of social justice and ecological sustainability.
How difficult is coming off psychiatric drugs?
In working with hundreds of people over many years, we have found there is no way to predict how the coming off process will go. There is really no way to know in advance who can and who cannot live without psychiatric drugs, who can live with fewer drugs or lower doses, or how hard it will be. We’ve seen people withdraw successfully after more than 20 years, and people need to continue to take them after being on for just a year. Because it is potentially possible for anyone, the only way to really know is to slowly and carefully try, and see how it goes. Everyone should have the right to explore this.
The study of coming off drugs by MIND, the leading mental health charity in the UK confirms our experience. MIND found that “Length of time on the drug emerged as the factor that most clearly influenced success in coming off. Four out of five people (81 per cent) who were on their drug for less than six months succeeded in coming off. In contrast, less than half (44 per cent) of people who were on their drug for more than five years succeeded. (Just over half of people who were on their drug for between six months and five years succeeded.)”
Universal Declaration of Mental Rights and Freedoms
That all human beings are created different. That every human being has the right to be mentally free and independent.
That every human being has the right to feel, see, hear, sense, imagine, believe or experience anything at all, in any way, at any time.
That every human being has the right to behave in any way that does not harm others or break fair and just laws.
That no human being shall be subjected without consent to incarceration, restraint, punishment, or psychological or medical intervention in an attempt to control, repress or alter the individual’s thoughts, feelings or experiences. (from: Adbusters.)
A previous article entitled ELECTROSHOCKING ELDERLY PEOPLE: ANOTHER PSYCHIATRIC ABUSE provides information... Abuse, ELDERLY PEOPLE ve ELECTROSHOCKING