Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Psychdiagnonsense II - ...and some more frustration

This is a thing, I'll never get. I just ended up surfing the blogosphere a bit. It happens sometimes. Someone has a link to someone who has a link... etc. I came by some of the V.I.P.s in the mental health blogosphere, too. Especially one of them - no names here - actually breaks my heart, each time I come by there.

Well, nevertheless, I keep on wondering. Most of these people have had no less than horrid experiences with the mental health system. And most of them seem to be rather intelligent people. Still, it doesn't seem to enter their heads, that there might be something essentially wrong with psychiatry in itself. They seem to think, it were just them, and maybe one or two others, who have been unlucky. Or, at most, that there are some few unfavourable tendencies, like the tendency to overmedicate, that would have to get adjusted, and everything would be fine with psychiatry. No, sorry folks. Nothing would be, is, has ever been, or will ever be fine with psychiatry as such!

Never mind, I just sometimes get really desperate about all this blindness, or naiveté, or whatever...

Well, now that I allowed myself to vent a little frustration - I'll move on to vent some more. Although the following frustration already has been vented at my Danish blog, this past weekend. Here's part two of the discussion about psychiatry's status as a medical science and, in particular, about psychiatric diagnoses.

As I wanted to address the question whether psychiatric diagnoses were of any benefit for the diagnozed, but as feelings still were running somewhat high the next afternoon, after I'd posted the first part, I decided to concentrate on quoting others' accounts of how they perceived psychiatric diagnoses, just adding a few remarks of my own.

"Powerful words with much and little meaning. They help to classify, but not understand. They act as excuses, but not answers. They make it easy to describe, but not really explain. They separate us from ourselves and others. So do you fear me or trust me, do you help me or punish me, do you believe me or call me a liar if I am diagnosed with one of these labels? Do you not think it hurts me to be labeled like this? Do you not think it takes away my dignity, hope, and initiative to do better or be better in life? We have to hide now to keep the system from forcing one of these diagnoses on us or using it in such a way that it hurts and stigmatizes us for the rest of our lives." Janie Lee, M.Ed.

"Psychiatric diagnoses like schizophrenia always risk harming people, always risk becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, always deny people the right to define and understand themselves for themselves, always mislead people about the facts of what is truly known and not known about mental illness, always unfairly promote narrow drug treatments against holistic alternatives, and always impose an interpretation on based on subservience to power. Psychiatric diagnoses perpetuate a long legacy of mistreatment of the mentally ill, who should be embraced as humans deserving of full dignity, not labeled as broken and different.

I believe that our system of helping people in extreme states of consciousness and severe suffering can and should dispense with pseudo-scientific psychiatric diagnoses. I believe we can find ways to care for people without harming them." Will Hall, co-founder of Freedom Center

"I had an experience in the early 1950's, shortly after I started in private practice, of how psychiatric diagnosis can harm. A young mother was referred to me for aftercare upon her discharge from Hillside Hospital, where I had trained and where I was on the clinic staff. We met, I took a history and I saw no obstacle to our working together psychotherapeutically.

At the end of the meeting, she asked me her diagnosis, and I told her 'schizophrenia' - her hospital diagnosis which, even then, I did not consider irreversible. But that's apparently how she saw it, because she went home and hanged herself.

Since then, I have never used that term with a patient or a family; for those disorganized enough to meet the diagnostic criteria, I merely say they are somewhat disorganized and that our therapeutic task is to help them get their heads together again.

The basic problem with psychiatric diagnosis, as I see it, is its denial of the ease with which people's minds can change. Someone facing a difficult situation can be anxious on Monday, depressed on Tuesday and a bit disorganized – 'schizzy' - on Wednesday. Whichever day he is seen by the psychiatrist will determine his 'diagnosis,' which will in turn magnify his related symptoms and dampen the others.

Even more important is the permanence which "diagnosis," (schizophrenia especially,) is supposed to possess. Although I had a schizophrenic break (my response to drugs during that episode is described in Bob Whitaker's superb book, 'Mad in America'), many of my psychiatric colleagues insisted that the diagnosis had to be wrong because I recovered. This means that whenever these colleagues diagnose someone as having "schizophrenia," they are convinced in their hearts that the patient will never recover. This attitude is hardly helpful for the patients they care for!" Nathaniel S. Lehrman, M.D.

A remark in connection with Nathaniel S. Lehrman's account: So-called "schizophrenia" - psychiatry's sacred cow - has always been defined as an incurable illness, a "life sentence", and still today is defined the same by psychiatry - disregarded the large number of people labelled with "schizophrenia", who at any given time throughout history have achieved full recovery, and do achieve full recovery today. Though, as mentioned in other contexts before, it is only people who either manage to completely avoid the system, or who manage to leave the system at some point, who do fully recover. People who stay in contact with and dependent on the system do not recover fully. With the exception of those, who use the system's services to emancipate themselves from it, that is. - Having Gianna at Beyond Meds in mind, yep. - Since only those who stay inside the system do appear in the system's statistics, "schizophrenia" thus is confirmed to be an incurable illness.

Still today, psychiatry doesn't hesitate to tell every person with a diagnosis of "schizophrenia" - or of any other "severe mental illness" - that this diagnosis is irreversible, a "life sentence". While it, at the same time, is tried to explain away the high percentage of especially first-time "psychotics" who commit suicide as a "symptom" of the "illness" - rather than that suicide is acknowledged to be a completely natural and rational - not at all "insane" - reaction to receiving the message of having a life-long, incurable brain disease. Rather than that full recovery is acknowledged to be possible, and rather than that the consequence is taken in regard to the by now well-established fact, that psychiatric "treatment" prevents full recovery. Instead the system stops at virtually nothing in order to legitimate itself as a "medical science"... "Forgive them, for they don't know what they do"?

The above quotations are retrieved from Paula J. Caplan's website, PsychDiagnosis.net. Paula Caplan has been a member of the DSM V writing group, leaving the group when she realized how little real science actually provides the basis for diagnoses to be approved respectively dismissed. Again, I want to outline that psychiatry is the only "medical science" that approves respectively dismisses diagnoses alone on the basis of voting, and not on the basis of any given behaviour to be scientifically provenly a symptom of illness, or of any other scientifically provable diagnostic criteria for "mental illness" to exist. An interview with Paula Caplan can be listened to here.

I want to contrast the above quotations with a quotation from an article at a Danish website, that clearly shows the false ego-identification, that is promoted by psychiatry and its diagnoses, and that in a decisive manner contributes to the diagnozed individual becoming stuck in irreversible crisis, "chronic mental illness":

"Following this [having experienced increasing signs of an extreme state of mind] Jacob is admitted to a psychiatric ward, and, after three months of hospitalization, is told that he has schizophrenia.

'Subsequently, I entered into the OPUS project, and got started with the so-called social skills training together with four other young, mentally ill people.'

He describes his experience with OPUS like this: 'I experienced it as an awakening... it was like finding my identity, an explanation for the feelings and thoughts I had. From feeling odd man out, it was like I'd went to find my right place'."

The example is taken from J.A. Jensen (ed.), Sindets labyrinter. Seks beretninger fra mødet med psykiatrien. (Labyrinths of the mind. Six accounts about the encounter with psychiatry. - And, sure, Jacob's example is meant to illustrate a successful encounter with psychiatry. As if there were such a thing!) Copenhagen, 2002.

Jacob found an identity, yes - as a "schizophrenic". But is this who he really is? And what will happen the moment Jacob realizes, that he has become a victim of a huge self-/deceit, realizing at the same time, that he cannot leave the place he found - as a "schizophrenic"?


Gianna said...

some great quotes you got there Marian!

Marian said...

Thanks Gianna. But it's really Paula Caplan who did all the backbreaking - and immensely important! - work of gathering together these and many other accounts. I just nicked a few quotations for this piece.