Friday, August 16, 2013

Is the Government Getting in the Way of Treating Those With Severe Mental Illness?

So Twitter led me to Pete Earley's blog this morning, and that led me to The National Review for an article by E. Fuller Torrey and D. J. Jaffe -- see : After Newtown; The existing federal mental-health agency actually opposes efforts to treat mental illness.

To quote part of the article (surf over there for the whole thing), and note that SAMHSA is the government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration:
What is severe mental illness? According to the National Advisory Mental Health Council, in response to an inquiry from Congress, severe mental illness includes schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, autism, and severe forms of depression, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. One measure of SAMHSA’s lack of interest in these disorders is its current three-year planning document, “Leading Change: A Plan for SAMHSA’s Roles and Actions 2011–2014.” Despite being 41,804 words in length and acknowledging that 9.8 million Americans are afflicted with what it refers to as “serious mental illness,” the SAMHSA plan includes not a single mention of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, autism, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
So, when it was asked to provide direction for the Biden Task Force, SAMHSA had nothing relevant to offer. It invited Daniel Fisher to provide testimony as a psychiatric expert. Fisher, director of the National Empowerment Center in Massachusetts, to which SAMHSA has given $330,000 a year for many years, has publicly stated that what is called severe mental illness is really just “severe emotional distress” and “a spiritual experience.” He also believes that “the covert mission of the mental health system . . . is social control.” Fisher’s former deputy similarly asserted that “mental illness is a coping mechanism, not a disease.”
Such views are consistent with views expressed by many invitees at SAMHSA’s annual conference. In 1995, for example, one speaker claimed that “schizophrenia is a healthy, valid, desirable condition — not a disorder . . . what is called schizophrenia in young people appears to be a healthy transformational process that should be facilitated instead of treated.” Similarly, in 2010, another speaker extolled mental illnesses as “extreme states of consciousness that are mad gifts to be nurtured and cultivated,” and he advised people with mental illnesses to stop taking their medication.
That the federal agency charged with reducing the impact of mental illness on America’s communities is sponsoring forums at which severe mental illness is extolled as a good thing has overtones of Lewis Carroll. But the situation is even more bizarre than that. SAMHSA’s only recommended “treatment” for all mental illnesses is the “recovery model” — in other words, everyone should simply recover. This is similar to the Caucus race in Alice in Wonderland in which the Dodo declares that “everybody has won, and all must have prizes.” The “recovery model” was officially defined by SAMHSA in 2004 as including ten “fundamental components,” the most important being that it is “self-directed by the individual, who defines his or her own life goals and designs a unique path towards those goals.” The “recovery model” includes no mention of the need for medication or other specific treatments. It makes no allowance for the fact that many individuals with severe mental illness are unaware of their own illness. This is an ideology, not a treatment. Under the “recovery model,” John Hinckley was defining his own life goal — the attention of Jodie Foster — when he shot President Reagan. Similarly, Cho, Loughner, Holmes, and Lanza were presumably attempting to define and achieve their life goals, too. Their actions would meet SAMHSA’s definition of “recovery.”