Eugene Weekly - 12 August 2010
> > Misguided Thinking
> > Mental health at a crossroads
> > By Chuck Areford
> > “Take your medication!” is probably the most common refrain in today’s
> > mental health field. After all, medication has been the cornerstone of
> > psychiatric treatment for decades, so much so that it is considered
> > unethical to treat many conditions without it. Yet a new book by award-
> > winning journalist Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic,
> > effectively shows just how misguided this thinking is.
> > For most of the 30 years I have worked in mental health, I have been
> > alarmed by my observations that most psychiatric treatments seem to
> > produce more harm than good. I started off as a psychiatric orderly
> > and assisted with electro-convulsive therapy, otherwise known as shock
> > treatment. Most of the patients were middle-aged women from the
> > surrounding St. Louis suburbs but no one was immune. A 16-year-old boy
> > was shocked because he was considered “pre-schizophrenic.” An 85-year-
> > old woman had a heart attack during the shock procedure and died hours
> > later. Shock treatment reduced all to a vegetative state from which
> > most recovered and some even improved. Tragically though, some never
> > recovered and I developed an enduring skepticism of psychiatric
> > treatment.
> > After obtaining my master’s degree, I went to work in the inner city
> > of Memphis. Here I saw the ravages of not only racism and poverty, but
> > of a mental health system that relied on medications as the primary
> > form of treatment. I worked with clients who had such severe side-
> > effects that they could hardly walk or talk, so tranquilized that they
> > appeared zombie-like. Even so, their humanity and courage shined
> > through and I was convinced that there was a better way.
> > After moving to Eugene 20 years ago, I stumbled across Toxic
> > Psychiatry by Harvard-educated psychiatrist Peter Breggin. Breggin’s
> > well researched book describes how medications and electroshock damage
> > the brain. He convincingly demonstrates that the common belief that
> > mental illnesses are “genetically caused brain diseases” or “chemical
> > imbalances” is simply not supported by research.
> > Fortunately, Eugene is home to David Oaks, an internationally known
> > psychiatric survivor and activist. With his organization MindFreedom
> > we reached out to other mental health workers and found that while
> > almost all professionals, including the psychiatrists, were
> > compassionate and caring, it was the younger, more idealistic workers
> > who were most willing to question common psychiatric methods.
> > The tide of history flowed against us, however, with pharmaceutical
> > companies making billions from sales of psychiatric drugs. They pumped
> > money into seductive advertising and sponsored research that was
> > deeply flawed, focusing only on the short term. Our culture was
> > flooded with Prozac, portrayed as a cutting-edge, feel-good pill for
> > almost anyone. A new generation of antipsychotic medications promised
> > to revolutionize the treatment of schizophrenia. These drugs were
> > touted as safer and were increasingly given to children and the
> > elderly. We who spoke out were dismissed as ignorant and my employment
> > was threatened.
> > But newspaper and research articles suggested that new anti-
> > depressants were no more effective than the old ones, which were
> > barely better than sugar pills. New antipsychotic medications were
> > linked to weight gain, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease. We
> > sounded the alarm after a surge of deaths in Lane County. A few years
> > ago, research showed that mental health clients are dying 25 years
> > earlier than the average person.
> > Anatomy of an Epidemic promises to turn the tide. Pulitzer Prize
> > finalist Robert Whitaker shows in a solid and evidence based manner
> > that while psychiatric medications can lead to marginal improvement in
> > the short term, they tend to make people worse and more chronic over
> > time. Moreover, these medications actually create the chemical
> > imbalances they are said to correct and this makes it very difficult
> > to quit taking them. This is why the number of those disabled by
> > mental illness has tripled in the last two decades. Today’s youth face
> > a major hazard from psychiatric drugging.
> > Whitaker examines historical and cross cultural evidence, long-term
> > studies and brain chemistry to reach his conclusions, which are the
> > same for antidepressant, anti-anxiety and antipsychotic medication.
> > The pieces come together to create an undeniable picture: Psychiatric
> > drugs are not an effective long-term treatment for most people.
> > Whitaker has credibility because he has no personal ax to grind with
> > psychiatry. He’s a reporter who investigated when he saw something
> > that did not add up and he found an immense deception. His book has
> > the sparkle of truth and is essential reading for those concerned
> > about mental health.
> > We are fighting for the health, safety and happiness of those
> > suffering from emotional problems. Just because we are right does not
> > mean we will win. Whitaker will give a free talk at 7 pm Friday, Aug.
> > 20, 2010, the Eugene Hilton.
> > ~~~~~~~~~~~~
> > Chuck Areford has worked in the community mental health system in Lane
> > County for the last 20 years.
> > ~~~~~~~~~~~~
> > Article on publication web site with photo of Chuck here:
> > http://www.eugeneweekly.com/2010/08/12/views1.html
> > or use this link: http://bit.ly/9LNdkx
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Eugene Weekly - 12 August 2010