A very important and compelling article was posted on Mad in America on June 18. It’s by Andrew L. Yoder, and is called An Open Letter to Persons Self-Identifying as Mentally Ill. Here are some quotes:
“My physician was not so cautious. He was a very pleasant man that always seemed to take his time with me and did not talk down to me. Yet as I described some of the emotional distress I was experiencing, and the ways it was affecting my life, he told me with great certainty that mine was a totally common experience. He told me that I had a biological condition in my brain, one in which certain chemicals were ‘imbalanced.’ He told me that there should be no stigma about asking for assistance from him. Specifically he told me, ‘Trying to not be depressed is like telling a diabetic to just make more insulin.’ He prescribed an antidepressant medication, saying that this was no different than taking medication to regulate blood pressure or manage cholesterol. I was told of the likelihood that I would need to remain on some form of medication for an indefinite future.”
“I believe that anyone, given the right context and circumstances, can experience even the most extreme forms of cognitive and emotional distress.”
“However, I believe that treating the term ‘mental illness’ as a literal truth does more to harm that hope of recovery than it does to help it. You see, along with the popular claim that mental illness is a literal organic brain disease ‘just like diabetes’ is a set of other dogmas unproven and unsupported by evidence. These include, being regularly told that not only do you have a disease but that this disease also has no cure and that you will struggle with it for your entire life. I have trouble imagining anything more hopeless than that.
It also includes being told that you must take psychiatric medications, and often many different psychiatric medications for the rest of your life, and you should never ever consider stopping them.”
“Looking back now, I wish the physician who prescribed me anti-depressants would not have told me stories of ‘chemical imbalance’ that are simply not based in science. In truth, most psychiatric medications alter normal brain activity, and there’s no evidence of an identifiable chemical imbalance of any sort at the root of emotional suffering. Research suggests that there are some risks associated with long-term use of antidepressants, including the possibility of decreasing benefits from the drug and something referred to as ‘treatment resistant depression.'”
“Those of us challenging the evidence-absent medical model and the objective ‘mental illness’ label that goes with it are not trying to take away something hopeful and healing from you. Instead, we wish to counter the false-hopelessness of a system that sees you as second-class people who will never be ‘normal.'”
“We know that mental and emotional suffering is a real experience that many, many people face. We also know that nothing good comes from convincing people that they have a biological disease when no evidence supports that. Questioning the legitimacy of ‘mental illness’ doesn’t make the reality of the pain any different. But it does help people avoid the pitfalls of misinformation and powerlessness in their own recovery and wellness.”
“I am not saying that you are not hurting. I am saying that you are not broken.”
Andrew has managed to express, in candid yet empathic terms, so many of the issues that are central to this debate. Please read and pass along.