Monday, October 11, 2010

As long as I remained ignorant, he remained "seriously mentally ill"

Who is this person labelled the "seriously mentally ill?" The Alternative 2010 Conference that was held recently in California brought out a lot of commentary on all sides about this thing called serious mental illness.

My son was accepted by many excellent universities, one of them an Ivy League one. I mention this not to brag, but to make the following point. A scant two years later he would never be the "brilliant" student he once was, according to his doctors. They told me very sadly that he was seriously mentally ill and since he didn't seem to be getting better, this was sort of it for him. I was to take him home and get used to the idea that his life (and ours) as we knew it was over.

I regret the time wasted not being told the truth about so-called mental illness. I look at Chris now, and I am always amazed at the intellectual calibre of the books he reads and the depth and breadth of his thinking processes. There's no reason why he can't excel at any university course he sets his mind to, should he so desire. I regret believing that there was no other option other than for my son to take the drugs we were told he needed to take so that his brain wouldn't deteriorate any further than it presumably had. I regret that I didn't know about alternatives. One reason I didn't know about alternatives is precisely because NAMI, pharma, the psychiatric industry has been pushing the idea of serious mental illness on people like me. That's their preserve. They exist because they insist that there is this special category of people.

Gradually it began to dimly dawn on me that maybe my husband and I had something to do with the state of mind my son was in. It should be at least part of the story, shouldn't it? Surely there was something we could do or think that would help? Not when the mental health industry juggernaut gets involved. That kind of thinking is considered heresy and needs to be stamped out at every possible opportunity.

Chris remained seriously mentally ill while he was under the care of the psychiatric system and until I started to doubt the system. The psychiatrists we dealt supposedly believed in what they did, but obviously what they did was a failure. They didn't admit to this. They turned thumbs down on my suggestions. They claimed that these are special cases who need their "help." I don't know what Dr. X was doing about serious mental illness, because whatever he was doing (the drugs, the therapy) wasn't working. How could he possibly claim any legitimacy in this area and that he knew something that we didn't? When Ian and I finally were forced to go behind his back to get Chris down to 25 mgs of clozapine, Dr. X. pleaded with us not to take it any lower because lower doses weren't even therapeutic! I didn't see anything therapetic happening at the higher doses or in the day program Chris attended, but this must somehow have escaped Dr. X, whose paycheck relied on the existence of serious mental illness.

They try to protect the "seriously mentally ill" through denying them their right to have their own voice, be it through medications or lowered expectations. Those who believe in the "seriously mentally ill" can't seem to grasp that having the "seriously mentally ill" exist is a colossal failure of the parts of those who claim to be doing something about it. It is an indictment of medications, genetic links, psychiatry as practiced most everywhere today, and history. Thinking that there is something called serious mental illness says that people aren't connecting cause with effect. Chances are when pressed, that people who do the labelling believe that there is bad brain biochemistry rather than bad environments.

I don't believe in "the seriously mentally ill" but I do believe that they will continue to exist as long as the real problems of the so called seriously mentally ill go unnoticed by those who claim they are treating them. "Seriously mentally ill" was something that went away after I began pursuing serious understanding of what Chris was going through and why.


  1. At the most elemental stage, the families of the labeled, the psychiatric system is built on fear-mongering. We were told repeatedly that we couldn't handle our daughter. As she got tossed from one hospital or treatment center to another, we scrambled to arrange accommodations for her because we were afraid to bring her home. She was too "sick" according to the "professionals". We accepted this because we were afraid of her. The unstable moods, the mountains of medication, the wayward behavior. It was like we had been given a script and were struggling to read the words. It was impossible. Our daughter's behavior mirrored our unease. The circle was complete. The "professionals" stood guard between us with their hands out for payment.
    What a relieve to remove the label of "severely mentally ill" and take over the controls again. Once the label was gone from our lives, our funny, intelligent daughter re-emerged. The system smashed her self-confidence and tore apart our family. We feel very lucky that we can work to repairing these things. Too many families are permanently undone by managing their "mentally ill" member.

  2. Clearly I wrote my comment too quickly - glad you got the gist of my message - I agree fully. Ban the use of the language of the psychiatric system. It is damning, leaving stigma which is hard to peel away.

  3. How very true. I struggled to be heard about what I knew to be the root cause of Isaac's behavior. In spite of being continually told that I had, "great insight"; my input was minimized when not dismissed all together. Even now, after the last almost six years when he has reached a level of recovery no professional believed possible, a recovery that is attributed to my support of and belief in his ability to recover, I am still minimized and dismissed by many. Ultimately, I do not care for myself; I am however disappointed that professionals claiming to be aware of how critical my belief and support of Isaac is to his well-being; have no have ability to recognize the detrimental impact on Isaac when I am disrespected and minimized advocating for his need to be heard and be in charge of himself. He deserves to be respected, heard and validated and--as do we all.

  4. It's always disheartening when so called mental health professionals don't seem to see any kind of future for those diagnosed with a serious or severe mental illness.

    It does make you wonder whether they want to keep those diagnosed with mental illness in a state of dependence on medication instead of promoting recovery.

    I too had to break away from the psychiatrists advice with the help of family before I actually regained my life and managed to recover. As otherwise I'd have been "seriously mentally ill" for life. It'll always be a problem, but not serious. Mental illness is treated with understanding more than anything as you said.


I am no longer approving comments. All I ask is that you be respectful of others and refrain from using profanity.