Maria Mangicaro – Can Mental Health Advocates Advocates Agree on a Message?

This is a comment originally posted on that deserved some further attention.

If we consider the broad spectrum of issues regarding mental/behavioral/emotional health care, we start to realize there are many shades of grey in the “mental illness” epidemic and debate.  But what if mental health advocates could identify certain issues that are  purely black and white, right or wrong, and focus on just a few we agree on?

Mental health advocates should unite around a few issues they agree on.

Mental health advocates should unite around a few issues they agree on.

We could start to create transparency among advocates.  For example, I am sure you are familiar with the war of words between Robert Whitaker  and Dr. E Fuller Torrey that polarizes many mental health advocates.

But how did this very important admission by Dr. Torrey get so overlooked:

“In its 396 pages Whitaker got many things right, including criticism of the broad DSM diagnostic criteria for mental illnesses; the reckless prescribing of psychiatric drugs children; and the prostitution of many psychiatric leaders for the pharmaceutical industry.”

Something Mental Health Advocates Agree On?

If these are issues that both Dr. Torrey and Whitaker feel are problems, shouldn’t mental health advocates who support both Dr. Torrey and Whitaker be working together to highlight these issues and find solutions?  These are the same issues highlighted by the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), so shouldn’t they be included as well?  Are we overlooking opportunities to make real change?

On, there is not one single mention of Gabriel Myers and only one mention of Rebecca Riley and Ke’onte Cook. How are these very important cases of young foster children damaged by multiple prescribed psych meds being overlooked by so many bloggers who challenge overuse of psych meds in children,and polypharmacy?

These are cases that all mental health advocates should create awareness of. What if it were possible to create a uniform agenda for mental health advocates from all the issues out there, based on a reasonable standard?  What would reasonable persons agree to advocate for, a single focus NAMI, CCHR and all other mental health advocates organizations would agree to pursue?

Mind Freedom's gathering of mental health advocates to protest ECT in Portalnd, 2012

Mind Freedom’s gathering of mental health advocates to protest ECT in Portalnd, 2012

This platform would be one that Robert Whitaker, Peter Earley, Dr. Peter Breggin, Dr. Torrey and all other individuals who write about mental health topics, and maintain websites regarding the treatment of “severe mental illness”, would agree to support.

What would it mean to our troubled health care system and stressed economy if we could find priority issues to push to the forefront, in order to promote a set of benchmarks and initiatives in specific areas of mental health care?

Here is just one example that might make a good common starting point:

If some individuals who experience so-called manic/psychotic symptoms can adapt to a certain lifestyle, we must also consider individuals who cannot cope with mania/psychosis, and either seek treatment, or are forced into psychiatric care.  Acute psychosis/mania must be considered by medical professionals, as they could be symptoms of life-threatening medical conditions.

We know that most mental health and medical professionals use the DSM with a “Chinese menu” approach to labeling symptoms of psychosis/mania as schizophrenia or bipolar, and a silver bullet psychopharmacological treatment.

Why would mental health  advocates not want to support Best Practice assessment of psychosis to ensure patients who are seeking help during a mental/behavioral/emotional crisis are not simply labeled “mentally ill,” treated with toxic psychiatric medications, and leaving other medical, viral, metabolic, or neurological conditions overlooked and untreated?

Patients are entitled to accurate, comprehensive assessment, informed consent, and integrated care.

A “Best Practice” We Can All Advocate

CCHR of Florida has the statement pasted below on their website.  I think it would be wise of and the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care to have similar statements.

“CCHR recommends getting a complete physical examination by a competent medical practitioner who does not prescribe psychiatric drugs. Very often when a person is experiencing emotional or behavioral problems, there is an underlying, undiagnosed medical condition causing the symptoms diagnosed as a psychiatric disorder. These conditions include, but are not limited to, allergies, infections, sleep disorders, toxins, nutritional deficiencies and hormone imbalances.”

It is an ethical position for mental health advocates to support psychiatry moving away from the “Chinese menu” approach and towards Best-Practice assessment standards.

This is sound advice, and CCHR Florida has helped prevent many individuals who were labeled bipolar/schizophrenic get help through medical doctors who use Functional Medicine. The Executive Director of CCHR Florida maintains the 24-hour hotline, most of the time herself. In one month, she helped three parents figure out their teenagers had a psychotic reaction to the routine use of over-the-counter cold medicine. Another case recently was psychosis from dehydration.

Lifelong mental health advocates Judene Shelly and Loren Spiro at Alternatives 2012 in Portalnd

Lifelong mental health advocates Judene Shelly and Loren Spiro at Alternatives 2012 in Portalnd

Advocates need to stop taking sides, and figure out ways to work side-by-side. We are all in this together. Regardless of organization or philosophy, we are advocating for others, many of whom are among a marginalized population, and do not have access to the Internet, and discussions on what they think would help them recover.

Advocates need to take responsibility, and I think this statement on CCHR Florida’s website shows they are being responsible advocates.

WARNING: No one should stop taking any psychiatric drug without the advice and assistance of a competent, non-psychiatric, medical doctor!

Posted 11/20/2012

What issue(s) should mental health advocates unite around?

1 comment to Maria Mangicaro – Can Mental Health Advocates Advocates Agree on a Message?

  • “The current practice of holding people in a mental health crisis in an emergency department for days at a time, waiting for a bed at New Hampshire hospital…it is wrong medically, legally, economically, ethically, and morally,” says Ken Norton, Executive Director for NAMI NH .