Robert Whitaker has won numerous awards as a journalist covering medicine and science, including the George Polk Award for Medical Writing and a National Association for Science Writers’ Award for best magazine article. In 1998, he co-wrote a series on psychiatric research for the Boston Globe that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Anatomy of an Epidemic won the 2010 Investigative Reporters and Editors book award for best investigative journalism.
The 2005 widely publicized debate between Matt Lauer and actor Tom Cruise demonstrated the sheer “schizophrenic” nature of mental health advocacy itself.
The one fact advocates seem to agree upon is the number of people in the U.S. entering our mental health care system is skyrocketing. Unfortunately, many advocates, experts and mental health journalists are at odds speculating on what is causing this epidemic of “mental illness” and what it will take to remedy the situation.
Many advocates see the insurmountable human suffering as a critical agenda and are especially concerned over the increasing mental health needs for our military veterans in the near future.
The fact that mental health advocates are at each other’s throats is complicated by conflicting research, skeptical published information, the stigma of mental illness, persuasive public lectures, selective story telling from journalistic perspectives, money-making objectives, personal agendas, personal experiences and flawed interpretations.
Public opinion and the decision-making process regarding forced treatment are greatly influenced by a variety of mental health advocates, a few of which dominate the media more than others.
The internet is playing a critical role in the advocacy agenda for individuals considered to be suffering from severe “mental illness”, many of whom are among a marginalized population and do not have access to the internet. Advocacy must be met with equal and fair representation for the voice of those who can not speak for themself and do not have access to what is being said on their behalf.
The conflict among mental health advocates is extremely questionable as many advocates are paid large sums of money for their work as an advocate. The impact of best-selling books must also be considered as journalists do not hold the same credentials and liability as mental health professionals.
The topic of “mental illness” is very broad, there is a critical need for advocates to clearly define what it is they are advocating for and for whom.
“Treatment advocacy” must be defined, otherwise is it should be considered advertisement promoting the use of psychiatric medications.
The value of accurately assessing and treating the underlying medical conditions and substances known to cause psychotic/manic states is a common sense position for advocates to take. It is unethical to advance anything less than best practice standards for individuals suffering from psychosis/mania.
Mental health advocates and invetigative journalists need to stop butting heads, bullying each other with opinions and put their heads together in order to make medical necessary, cost-effective treatment available to individuals suffering from psychosis/mania.
A good analogy to consider is the story of the Elephant and the Blind Men.
Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”
They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.
“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
They began to argue about the elephant and every one of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”
“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.
The moral of the story is that there may be some truth to what someone says. Sometimes we can see that truth and sometimes not because they may have different perspective which we may not agree too. So, rather than arguing like the blind men, we should say, “Maybe you have your reasons.” This way we don’t get in arguments. In Jainism, it is explained that truth can be stated in seven different ways. So, you can see how broad our religion is. It teaches us to be tolerant towards others for their viewpoints. This allows us to live in harmony with the people of different thinking. This is known as the Syadvada, Anekantvad, or the theory of Manifold Predictions.
The public is looking for answers to the “Mental Illness” Epidemic.
Advocates need to work together to find best practice solutions.
What is causing the skyrocketing number of individuals to suffer psychotic and manic symptoms?
Is it being caused by Invisible Plagues, Toxic Exposure, Medication Mis-management?
Where can we find the solutions to our Mental Health Care Madness?
As an advocate, it is my belief that all individuals labeled with and treated for psychosis/mania are entitled to informed consent, accurate assessment and treatment options.
No individual should be forced to contract the services of facilities or providers without having the benefit of integrated care and integrative psychiatry.In cases of psychosis/mania, determining the cause of the symptoms means an overall healthier life for the forcible “treated” patient and a movement towards Participatory Medicine in mental health care.
It is my hope that advocates from all organizations will support a United Advocacy Agenda in favor of Best Practice Assessment of psychosis and acceptance of participatory concepts for those labeled “mentally ill”.
It is my goal to create a clear and convincing position that carefully considers all other dominating perspectives on the treatment of psychotic symptoms.
I welcome comments, suggestions and constructive feedback.
Here is a list of some popular books that make a critical assessment of the “mental illness” epidemic and should be held to strict scrutiny:
Psychiatrist Dr. E Fuller Torrey says the man suspected in the Tucson shooting displays symptoms of Schizophrenia.
According to the British Medical Journal’s Best Practice Assessment of psychosis guidelines:
Organic causes must be considered and excluded before the psychosis is attributed to a primary psychotic disorder.
The most common cause of acute psychosis is drug toxicity from recreational, prescription, or OTC drugs.
Patients with structural brain conditions, or toxic or metabolic process presenting with psychosis, usually have other physical manifestations that are readily detectable by history, neurological examination, or routine laboratory tests.
Brain imaging is reserved for patients with specific indications, such as head trauma or focal neurological signs. The routine use of such imaging is unlikely to reveal an underlying organic cause and is not recommended.
Author affiliations: *Stanley Medical Research Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, USA; †Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Recent epidemiologic studies indicate that infectious agents may contribute to some cases of schizophrenia. In animals, infection with Toxoplasma gondii can alter behavior and neurotransmitter function. In humans, acute infection with T. gondii can produce psychotic symptoms similar to those displayed by persons with schizophrenia. Since 1953, a total of 19 studies of T. gondii antibodies in persons with schizophrenia and other severe psychiatric disorders and in controls have been reported; 18 reported a higher percentage of antibodies in the affected persons; in 11 studies the difference was statistically significant. Two other studies found that exposure to cats in childhood was a risk factor for the development of schizophrenia. Some medications used to treat schizophrenia inhibit the replication of T. gondii in cell culture. Establishing the role of T. gondii in the etiopathogenesis of schizophrenia might lead to new medications for its prevention and treatment.
Schizophrenia is a pervasive neuropsychiatric disease of uncertain cause that affects approximately 1% of the adult population in the United States and Europe. An increased occurrence of schizophrenia in family members of affected persons suggests that genetic factors play a role in its etiology, and some candidate predisposing genes have been identified. Environmental factors are also important. Epidemiologic studies, for example, have established that winter-spring birth, urban birth, and perinatal and postnatal infection are all risk factors for the disease developing in later life. These studies have rekindled an interest in the role of infectious agents in schizophrenia, a concept first proposed in 1896 (1). This review focuses on evidence specifically linking infection with Toxoplasma gondii to the etiology of some cases of schizophrenia.
T. gondii is an intracellular parasite in the phylum Apicomplexa. Its life cycle can be completed only in cats and other felids, which are the definitive hosts. However, T. gondii also infects a wide variety of intermediate hosts, including humans. In many mammals, T. gondii is known to be an important cause of abortions and stillbirths and to selectively infect muscle and brain tissue. A variety of neurologic symptoms, including incoordination, tremors, head-shaking, and seizures, have been described in sheep, pigs, cattle, rabbits, and monkeys infected with T. gondii (2).
Humans may become infected by contact with cat feces or by eating undercooked meat. The importance of these modes of transmission may vary in different populations (3). Individual response to Toxoplasma infection is determined by immune status, timing of infection, and the genetic composition of the host and the organism (4).
The hypothesis that viruses or other infectious agents may cause schizophrenia or bipolar disorder dates to the 19th century but has recently been revived. It could explain many clinical, genetic, and epidemiologic aspects of these diseases, including the winter-spring birth seasonality, regional differences, urban birth, household crowding, having an older sibling, and prenatal exposure to influenza as risk factors. It could also explain observed immunological changes such as abnormalities of lymphocytes, proteins, autoantibodies, and cytokines. However, direct studies of viral infections in individuals with these psychiatric diseases have been predominantly negative. Most studies have examined antibodies in blood or cerebrospinal fluid, and relatively few studies have been done on viral antigens, genomes, cytopathic effect on cell culture, and animal transmission experiments. Viral research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is thus comparable to viral research on multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease: an attractive hypothesis with scattered interesting findings but no clear proof. The application of molecular biological techniques may allow the identification of novel infectious agents and the associations of these novel agents with serious mental diseases.
Research psychiatrist, E. Fuller Torrey, contends that the mentally ill have been mis-treated and recounts how many were released from public mental hospitals beginnings in the 1960’s void of the proper care. Mr. Torrey contends that one-third of the homeless are mentally ill as well as one-tenth of people incarcerated. E. Fuller Torrey discussed his book on the C-SPAN program, Washington Journal.
Click here to visit the Treatment Advocacy Center website.
WARNING: The risks associated with suddenly stopping medicines cannot be overstated. Stopping psychiatric medication without medical supervision and review can be very dangerous. This site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment.
If you or a loved one have experienced a manic or psychotic episode and you suspect a misdiagnosis of a "mental disorder", try to find a healthcare provider who uses Functional Medicine and will test for underlying conditions. Your insurance may pay for the tests and treatments. Also consult a malpractice attorney.