Forced vs. Voluntary Treatment
by Denise Fletcher
I do not negate the pain and mental anguish that depression and anxiety brings. I have found medication to be helpful when taken in low doses and when used with extreme caution. Many drugs are addicting, suicide-inducing and have been reported to cause permanent brain damage. Mental health consumers/survivors need to educate themselves about the side effects and gauge the risks before taking any prescription drugs. Dr. Jay S. Cohen, author of "Over Dose" recommends the start-low, go-slow method.
Children or adults should not be forced to take any drugs against their will, except in extreme cases and only when they are a danger to themselves or others. In Minnesota and many other states in the U.S. laws are being passed to allow doctors to forcibly drug children and adults. The Baker Act in Florida was recently passed in June of 2004. These laws allow for court-ordered treatment. Legislators think that by passing these laws that recidivism will stop.
The National Empowerment Center in Massachusetts, which is consumer-run, calls outpatient treatment a "hospital without walls". Once a mental health consumer is diagnosed with a stigmatizing label they are monitored by family, friends and the surrounding community, mostly out of fear. Forced treatment does not make mental health consumers/survivors healthier, happier or our streets safer. Forced drugging does not guarantee an end to homelessness for the mentally ill, but according to psychiatrist Dr. Nathaniel Lehrman, only creates more drug-dependent people.
For any treatment to be truly effective it must be voluntary, not forced, if it is to have any lasting impact. This so-called "intervention" by family and friends is really meddling and interfering. It breaks the bonds of trust. This not only goes for so-called "mental patients", but for anyone with a drug or alcohol problem. No one should be forced into treatment, unless they are a danger to themselves or others. If a person is forced, this only causes more anger and bitterness to persist. True mental health recovery can not be achieved unless it is self-determined and at our own PACE. The PACE Model is the self-empowerment model by the National Empowerment Center.
When I lived in Oregon and went in to the doctors at the local hospital for help, they sent me home several times after injecting me with shots of heavy anti-psychotic drugs. The prescription drugs made me very ill, which caused me to be admitted to the psychiatric hospital repeatedly over several years. At one point I admitted myself voluntarily, but when I chose to take myself off of the medication because of the severe side effects, then I was admitted involuntarily and court-ordered treatment.
This so-called "treatment" of heavy anti-psychotic medications, including Prolixin caused me to experience severe weight gain, hair loss, and extreme shaking; along with the first signs of Parkinson's and tardive dyskinesia. I was also concerned about developing diabetes from the prescription drugs. It took me over two years to wean myself off most of the medication and restore myself to a maintenance level.
I've participated in research studies, but most psychiatric drugs made me physically ill and I had to discontinue the medications. Many times the side effects are worse than the symptoms of depression themselves. Patients need to work with their doctors until they find something that works. A combination of treatments is best to help the brain deal with the symptoms of depression. At this time I take a low-dose of a mood stabilizer for my manic-depression, along with vitamin therapy and proper diet and nutrition.
What consumers/survivors need most is a better diet and vitamins for prevention of diseases, not more drugs. To restore my health I had to be diligent and follow a strict vitamin therapy. There are many excellent vitamins and brain foods that will help a person cope with their depression: A daily multivitamin, B-Complex, flax oil, cod liver oil, salmon and other ocean fish, spinach, chicken, turkey, walnuts, and other foods. The Best source is the book, "Eat and Heal" by FC&A Medical Publishing or "Prescription for Natural Healing" by Dr. Phyllis and James Balch.
To truly transform the mental health system, mental health consumer/survivors need consumer-run mental health services by people they can trust. Consumer/survivors need opportunities where they can develop their strengths and skills to not only improve themselves and others, but to achieve their personal goals in life as well.
By Denise Fletcher © 2004
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