I had the pleasure of speaking to Larry and his lovely wife Linda on the phone as I introduced myself at his invitation. He is a wonderful man with a passion for the mentally ill...having firsthand experience with it as well as being a family member of someone who suffers as well. This gives him a unique perspective, as he is eloquent and full of energy to do a job and to do it well.
I hope that also you will visit Hopeworks and if you are at all interested or involved in the lives and rights of the mentally ill, please consider a friend request from Larry on Facebook. He loves to have lots of friends. He collects them.
I recently wrote an article about my story for Larry's blog and the URL is here: Voices of Recovery: Cynthia Vogel
It's a good question Larry...and I for one, would love to know how some mental health providers would answer it.
Here is his article : To Do no Harm
Ask anyone labeled "mental health consumer," if this is their
experience of the mental health system and they will shake their head
at your naiveté.
Listen to someone talk not, about their issues, but about their
efforts to find help and you may be suprised. Their are many who have
successes to talk about. But for too many their experience with
mental health treatment has been as problematic as the issues that
scar and limit their lives.
I think often of my sister in law. She was what the people in
psychiatric hospitals call a "frequent flyer." A never ending menu of
medication cocktails, every changing and expanding, left her unable
to think clearly, a victim of a system intent on curing her even if it
killed her. She clearly understood that what she had was the most she
was ever going to have and hope was futile. She finally decided if
she was to have a life sentence she didnt want to live. She went into
the bathroom and took as many pills as she could. She died 3 days
later. Her body just shut down. Her spirit had died long before
I have listened to people describe what it was like to be diagnosed.
One doctor told them they were this and another told them they were
that. Often they wondered if their diagnosis said more about the way
doctors look instead of what they see. Where I live if you want to be
bipolar it is real simple. Go to DR. X. He believes everyone is
bipolar. If you want to be cured go to DR.Y. He doesnt believe
anyone is bipolar. I wonder if people with heart problems can be
cured the same way?
Robert Whitaker has written a book that deal better than anything I
have ever read with this issue. "Mad in America" is the best book I
have ever read about how we have come to treat the mentally ill. We
have a love affair with "science" in this culture. We tend to think
it is only about "truth" and forget it is a human activity and like
all human activity has a context, a history, a birth and a death. We
think it creates meaning and forget it is created by the meaning and
values of those who practice it. "Mad....." tells about the history
of the mental health system in this country and it is not a pretty
picture. The willingness of one human being to be cruel to another in
the service of some version of "scientific" truth is horrifying. And
Whitakers book make perfectly clear that willingness is alive and
I remember a man I met in a state hospital over 30 years ago. The
staff thought he was doing really well. I asked him how long he had
been there. He said about 40 years. He didnt remember why anymore.
He had been "cured."
I remember once talking to Linda's neurologist. It was one of those
rare moments when he forgot he was a doctor and talked to me like a
person. He said, "You know the problem with all these anticonvulsants
is that they are poison. They are the only thing we have found that
will stop the seizures."
I have a friend who is a psychiatrist who no longer prescribes
atypical antipsychotics. It has been a major change for him. He just
doesnt believe they are worth the risk. He might be a trend of one,
but he is a very encouraging trend to me.
When I listen to people get fired up with the truth I can't help but
get nervous. So many people want to cure others regardless of the
cost. I really applaud the cautious. I knew a doctor who once said
the only thing above him was "God." He was kidding he assured me, but
I wonder about the truth in our jokes. I know of a Facebook doctor
who regularly talks about psychiatrists as Nazi criminals and
psychiatric hospitals as concentration camps and I admit he scares me
as much as the most medicine happy doctor.
To not do harm. Can it really be that hard????
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