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:
A case demonstration showing loss of equilibrium at an early stage and somnolence at a later stage due to encephalitis lethargica, also known as ‘sleepy sickness’ or ‘sleeping sickness’. Find out more: http://catalogue.wellcome.ac.uk/record=b1668613~S3
Click here to view Robert Whitaker discuss Anatomy of an Epidemic on C-SPAN
The 1998 Pulitzer Prize Finalist and author of Mad in America discussed the rise in diagnosis of mental illness in the U.S. and the proliferation of drugs to medicate various conditions. Mr. Whitaker contended that drugs do little to balance imbalanced brain chemistry. The event was held by Community Access, Inc. at the National Arts Club in New York City.
Mr. Whitaker makes his C-SPAN concluding statements very clear.
My interpretation (summarized) of Mr. Whitaker’s beliefs regarding the treatment of psychosis are:
– the research supports short-term efficacy of antipsychotics and long-term chronicity
– the comparison research from 1945-55 involved treating psychotic episodes with hospitalizations that lasted between 12 months and five years.
– his book is not a medical advice book and does not encourage patients to go off of medications (although some psychiatric patients have gone off medications after reading Anatomy)
– he believes psychiatric medications have a place in mental health care
– Anatomy of an Epidemic does not take an anti-medication position and is in fact a “pro-med”, best use practice
– when considering psychotic patients, some will do better off meds, while others do better on meds
– he believes the psychophramacology paradigm is a failed revolution
– psychotic episodes have flu-like characteristics of coming and going on their own, treatment with medication is the best approach to quickly stabilize
– his appeal is to create a national discussion that incorporates the long-term data
Hearts and Minds United – Revolutionizing Mental Health Care: As a part of International’s 25th Anniversary, MindFreedom International, in conjunction with the University of Oregon School of Law, is proud to host nationally acclaimed writer, Robert Whitaker, author of ‘Mad in America’ and ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic.’
Bob tells us what the research really has to say about the best mental health treatment options for individuals who have been labeled with severe mental health disorders.
Award-winning science and history writer Robert Whitaker asks tough questions:
Why has the number of people diagnosed disabled by a psychiatric disorder in the United States tripled over the past two decades?
“During the past fifty years, when investigators looked at how psychiatric drugs affected long-term outcomes, what did they find? Did they discover that the drugs help people stay well? Function better? Enjoy good physical health? Or did they find that these medications, for some paradoxical reason, increase the likelihood that people will become chronically ill, less able to function well, more prone to physical illness?”
Whitaker also tells the personal stories of children and adults swept up in this epidemic.
Finally, he reports on innovative programs of psychiatric care in Europe and the United States that are producing good long-term outcomes.
If you missed his last appearance in Eugene, take this valuable opportunity to meet him in person and hear what his years of methodical investigation into the mental health industry tells us about where we need to go from here.
Rethinking Psychiatric Care: If We Follow the Scientific Evidence, What Must We Do To Better Promote Long-term Recovery?
During the past 20 years, the number of adults in the United States on federal disability rolls due to mental illness has more than tripled, rising from 1.25 million people in 1987 to more than four million in 2007. The number of children receiving a federal disability check due to severe mental illness increased 35-fold during this period, rising from 16,200 to 561,569.
This disability data necessarily begs a question, one that our society desperately needs to investigate. Could our drug-based paradigm of care, in some unforeseen way, be fueling this epidemic of disabling illness? What does the scientific literature show? Do psychiatric medications improve or worsen long-term outcomes? Does their use decrease or increase the risk of long-term disability? And what is happening to children prescribed psychiatric medications over the long-term? Are they faring well?
The disability numbers also tell us that we need to look to develop new solutions. In Europe, there are providers of psychiatric services that have begun using psychiatric medications in a selective, limited manner and are now reporting very good outcomes. How can we adopt these methods here?
Robert Whitaker is the author of “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America” (Crown). 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.
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.