Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Luise's story

A friend of mine, Pia, sent me a link to a feature article, published in the Danish newspaper Politiken on April 5th, 2002. The article thus isn't exactly written yesterday, and a lot has happened, also in regard to the article's subject, since it could be read in the newspaper. Nonetheless, I don't think it has lost any of its actuality, and I agree with Pia, that the subject ought to be discussed more in length.

"Historien om Lone" (Lone's Story) is the feature article's headline, while it actually is the story of Luise Hjermig Christensen, who died in 2005, a good three years after this article had been published. Back in 2005, the professionals, successfully, tried to explain away and cover up Luise's death as a result of an epileptic fit. While Luise never had a diagnosis of epilepsy, and most probably died from neuroleptic intoxication.


Luise, a "cautious and poetic girl", as her mother describes her in her article, came into contact with psychiatry in 1992 when she was 19 years old. Luise had had "support universes" for a long time, and they'd never caused her problems. Which made her and her mother contact psychiatry was that she'd also started to hear voices, once in a while.

Luise was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Rigshopitalet/Copenhagen, for a "shorter evaluation", "most likely without any medical treatment to be applied", as she and her mother Dorrit Cato Christensen were told at the admission. since Luise wasn't plagued.

When Dorrit Cato Christensen came to see her daughter the following day, she found Luise lying on the floor, medicated to an extent that she was unable to rise. No one at the ward was willing to help, Luise's mother was told that Luise had collapsed on the floor many times throughout the past 24 hours, and that she probably fell deliberately in order to attract attention. Dorrit Cato Christensen was not able to get in touch with any doctor at the ward, and, as she puts it, she almost felt chased away by the staff.

Five days later Luise was transferred to Sct.Hans hospital, a psychiatric institution at Roskilde. (Those of you who maybe have read the Norwegian author Amalie Skram's autobiographical novel "Under Observation": this is it. And no, nothing much has really changed - not to speak about improved - since those days.)

Dorrit Cato Christensen there mentioned her concern about Luise being medicated with high dosages of neuroleptics, especially since Luise previously had had severe adverse reactions to anti-convulsants. The psychiatrist told her that "Luise was being medicated correctly".

Despite of "correct" medication, Luise's condition worsened rapidly, and four days after her transferral to St.Hans, after only twelve days under psychiatric "care", she suffered from Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome.

Subsequently, and as a result of this, Luise's behavior changed to the worse. Luise had never been aggressive. She became now. Her pleasant-to-be-in support universe "Øerne" (the islands) became supplemented by the extremely unpleasant "Tunnellerne" (the tunnels), something her mother right on interprets as a reaction to the traumatization the "treatment" by psychiatry had caused her daughter. While the system chose to react with even more aggressive medication, further traumatization.

Which, in the end, made the ruination of Luise's life inevitable, was that she came to set her room at the locked ward, where she was held back, on fire. Probably because she, heavily medicated as she was, fell asleep while smoking. Nevertheless, the staff claimed the arson had been intentional, and in court Luise pleaded guilty, as she at that time did concerning anything, including having killed her 150 children in the U.S. ... Which brought her in an indeterminate treatment sentence.

The long and the short of it is that Luise had an adverse reaction to an injection with Risperdal - she'd continuously refused to take medications, saying they were killing her, so she was forcibly injected, although her journal clearly stated that she couldn't tolerate Risperdal - and died 17 hours later in 2005 at Amager hospital. She was on nine different medications at that time, among those four different neuroleptics and two sedatives. The responsible psychiatrist stated she'd been undermedicated at St.Hans. During all in all three years of hospitalization until 2002, Luise had been forcibly medicated about 200 times, sometimes up to 20 days on end, her mother tells in the article.

At the time of Luise's death, the responsible psychiatrist was about to be employed in a leading position at the Patients' Complaint Board, where his/her task was to assess the validity of claims similar to the one Dorrit Cato Christensen filed against him/her. The Patients' Complaint Board did see no reason to defer the employment until the case was settled. The NHS of Denmark later stated, that the psychiatrist had acted correctly, while this settlement partly was based on false information about Luise's death being caused by an epileptic fit, as the hospital-staff claimed to begin with. This was later on invalidated, though without effect on the NHS' settlement of the case... So, it has to be assumed, that the psychiatrist in question still is employed at the Patients' Complaint Board, assessing the validity of claims similar to the one filed against him/her. And if I knew who this person is, the name might stand here, capital letters, as a warning against an incompetent psychiatrist. But I don't know this person's name.

"Might" because Luise's case unfortunately isn't an isolated one, as one immediately might believe. Just as little as the responsible psychiatrist represents an isolated case of incompetence among otherwise more or less competent colleagues.


To return to the feature article: I widely agree to Dorrit Cato Christensen's evaluation of the mental health system. Though not to all of her views. Thus she states that "[p]sychiatrists are experts when it comes to the human psyche."

That psychiatrists would be experts in the human psyche, on an existential level, can a single glance at the history of psychiatry expose to be a misconception. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, their interest thus is of a purely biological, physiological - mechanical - kind. The human nature, on an existential, philosophical level, is of no interest to them. Except for people like Loren Mosher, R.D.Laing or Grace Jackson. And in regard to these people, one has to conclude that their interest for the human nature is of a philosophical kind, not of a psychiatric one.

Real experts in the human psyche are rarely found among psychiatrists. If ever they're found among "professionals", they're most likely found among people with a humanistic background, such as psychologists and the like.

"The healers, the morale builders, that I've ever found, were very rarely among mental health professionals. They were outside of that. And the only ones who were, were again people who sort of were rebels and resisters. And a lot of the best healers that I knew when I was going to graduate school, or folks I knew who were psychiatry residents, they quit, because they just did not fit in. They felt incredibly alienated from this kind of mechanical, non-healing model that they were socialized and trained in", Bruce Levine said at a talk on his latest book "Surviving America's Depression Epidemic" at Amherst/Mass., on March 25th, 2008.

Psychiatrists aren't experts in the human psyche, and they're just as little experts in the human brain. Neurologists are the true experts in the human brain. "They [psychiatrists]" do not "know how the different medical drugs impact the various centers of the brain," other than vaguely. Why they feel their way. At the expense of their clientele, who, because of their position as being out of their minds, and not fit to make decisions of their own, far more easily than anyone else can be made guinea pigs, if the occasion should arise, even against their expressed will - the will of an individual who is labelled not accountable for his actions, by definition is without value, and may be ignored without consideration.

By the way, something of a paradox in regard to advance directives, that usually contain a paragraph asking you if you're willing to participate in trials. In addition to the paragraph about treatment, that is. All psychiatric "treatment" is nothing but one great big trial.

More information on psychiatry's "expertise" in regard to its definitions of and "treatment" measures available for "mental illness" can be found here. And no, nothing has come up since 2003 that could satisfy psychiatry's honour.


I neither agree in Dorrit Cato Christensen's wording. Without doubt, her daughter was a very "cautious and poetic girl", a sensitive and vulnerable person. But this didn't make her a "sick" - in her head, or a "schizophrenic" person. Those adjectives are used by society and its executive psychiatry only and solely to justify the mental health system's way of steamrolling very sensitive and vulnerable people. To justify a sledgehammer to crack a nut. They are only and solely used in order to dehumanize, deprive the so-labelled human beings definitely of their humanity.

Those adjectives are used in order to explain away "maladjusted", inconvenient to society, behaviour, and in order to escape, to disclaim all responsibility for the fact that there are individuals who do not thrive in society and therefor have to withdraw into support universes. Especially if these individuals haven't got any tools to sublimate their discontent, and give it expression in another for them creative, constructive, and for society acceptable way.

Sensitive and vulnerable a person becomes whose feelings have been hurt. The more continuously and violently a person's feelings get hurt, the more sensitive and vulnerable this person becomes. That Dorrit Cato Christensen doesn't brush aside her daughter's support universes as a "symptom" of meaningless madness, as psychiatry as well as most relatives usually do in these situations, deserves credit. Nonetheless, she too navigates elegantly around regarding them as anything else than a reaction to the "treatment", her daughter has been exposed to in the mental health system. Which they undoubtedly also are. Also. The support universes do exist already before Luise's acquaintance with psychiatry, and thus can't have become a necessary refuge only because of this acquaintance. Something in Luise's life story has made support universes a necessity, already before she meets with psychiatry: sensitive and vulnerable individuals are individuals whose feelings have been hurt.

That Luise's flight into the support universes assumed the dimensions it did, and that the support universes increasingly reflected her traumatization induced by psychiatry, is not an isolated phenomenon. According to John M. Friedberg psychiatric "symptoms" imply resistance. "Can resistance be overcome by torture? Obviously", he states. Though, before the resistance is overcome, the individual, its humanity, destroyed, torture increases the resistance, the "symptoms" worsen, qualitatively and quantitatively.

Last but not least I do not at all agree to "that most [people in crisis] need medical treatment". Apart from the in Denmark well-known "Vestlaplandsmodellen", there are internationally several similar projects and studies that show the opposite, that actually prove medical "treatment" to often chronify crisis, and thus prevent full recovery. While individuals who escape medical "treatment" often achieve full recovery.


Luise's case is not an isolated case. It's the tip of the iceberg. The iceberg, psychiatry, the mental health system as a whole is. Close contact with psychiatry can be life-threatening. Both ECT and psychotropic drugs are brain damaging. Individuals who are exposed to neuroleptics on a long-term basis do by now have a by 25 years reduced life expectancy compared to people who do not take these drugs. Long-term "treatment" with lithium often damages the person's kidneys. SSRIs make people suicidal, and harm unborn babies, if taken by their mothers under pregnancy. Uncountable individuals have died as a result of restraints. Coercion in general is profoundly traumatizing. And last but not least do most of the individuals who are labelled with "severe mental illness" end up on disability, as revolving door patients, and at drop ins and halfway houses: warehoused in a safe distance from the community, with the help of "treatment", "medicine", effectively prevented from drawing attention to themselves, deprived of their voice, their dignity, their humanity, and of any possibility to ever regain these. The delayed, undramatic and almost invisible killing we never learn about in the media, and which takes place in a safe distance from society. Every day. Uncountable times. Everywhere in this world. Also in Denmark.

Psychiatry as an institution is very well aware of that its task is no other than to relieve society from those individuals who react more sensitively and vulnerably to society than this society's normality is willing to accept, even if it costs the individual's life. Otherwise the Patients' Complaint Board without doubt would have upheld Dorrit Cato Christensen's contention on Luise's "treatment".


Luise fought to a finish against the superiority, and for her humanity, her life, herself. But the more she fought the more the system punished her. The punishment covered up as "treatment", "help".

In a psychiatric context an individual's fight for his humanity is an "illness" that needs to be "treated", suppressed, even if it costs the individual's life. Just as it in the U.S. once was considered an "illness" when a slave ran away from slavery. It was the slave who was ill, not a society that made human beings slaves and denied them their dignity as human beings because of the colour of their skin. Also the "ill" slaves were punished severely, in order to "cure" them, and also this often cost the individual's life.

Luise never had a chance, she never arrived at the insight that saved for instance Judi Chamberlin's life: "Well, I've been a good patient, and I've been a bad patient, and believe me, being a good patient helps to get you out of the hospital, but being a bad patient helps to get you back to real life."

When reading "Lone's story", it strikes me again how close I myself have been to losing my life, to being killed. Literally or figuratively. I am rather rebellious by nature, just as Luise was. And crises, well, those have exactly been the periods in my life when the rebellious took over control, over "reason", when the least violation of my humanity, the least assault on myself resulted in violent and spontaneous protest reactions. In a psychiatric context this might very well have cost me my life.

A final note: About 10%, if not more, of the general population do hear voices (have hallucinations) once in a while, and I assume a somewhat just as high percentage does have what you might call "support universes" to withdraw to in extremely stressful situations. If any of this could be diseased at all, which I don't think it can, the completely natural self-preserving mechanism it is, it would be a possible suffering due to the experience of these self-preserving mechanisms. Luise did not suffer. At least not previously to her fatal acquaintance with psychiatry.


Monica Cassani said...

Hi dear Marian,
It's so important to get stories like this out in the open, but forgive me, I couldn't read the whole thing.

Sometimes I want to bury my head in the can be so painful to see what happens to so many innocents.
thanks for helping.

Marian said...

I know what you mean. I was just about to recover my breath from this one, when the news today told that probably 3 - 4 times as many children as so far estimated suffer from "ADHD". So, now they plan a national program to get all these poor kids into "treatment" - why does it remind me of Teen Screen?? - which for the majority of course will be drugs, since "we know there's a good effect", as an "expert" is quoted. Looks like this madness never will come to an end.