Monday, February 16, 2009
In January, I asked readers this question: "What best describes your condition over the past 30 days?" Only 14 percent replied they were "back to where they want to be" or "better than they ever could have imagined."
This month, I'm asking: "How do you rate your meds in managing your illness?" So far, 82 percent rate their meds as either "most important," or as important as other tools. Only 12 percent ascribe little or no importance to their meds.
Do you perceive a discordance between the two poll results here? Granted, this is not a scientific survey. Nevertheless, the results beg the following question: Why do we place such great emphasis on meds, when obviously they are not living up to our expectations?
Or: Are our expectations so low to begin with that we have given up on ourselves?
Hold those thoughts for a second, then surf around to various patient/consumer/survivor/whatever blogs. You will note the vast majority have a decided antipsychiatry slant to them. Many of these blogs set out to expose the lies of the drug industry, which - believe me - are in abundant supply. Others have a much greater emphasis on helping their readers achieve recovery through non-pharma interventions.
Even blogs that find value in meds and psychiatry (such as this one) do so in the context of sharply critical enquiry.
It's as if we're all saying in unison to psychiatrists: We trusted you. We placed our faith in you (and apparently still do). But we're the ones who have to live with the results, and - let's put it this way - we're not exactly happy.
Simply put: If meds worked the way the drug industry and psychiatrists would have us believe, compliance rates would be nearer to 100 percent (instead of more like 30 or 40 percent over the long term), we would enjoy similar employment rates and stable relationships as the rest of the population, and mental illness would be in sharp decline rather than (apparently) on the rise.
Thus, there is a rational basis to antipsychiatry.
But life is never that simple. If we have to be binary in our beliefs, it's much more useful to think in terms of "smart vs dumb" than "pro vs anti." Far too many of us have been victims of dumb psychiatry. Similarly, dumb antipsychiatry (and there is an awful lot of it going around) can lead to disastrous personal decisions.
The antidote to both is "smart."
More on this in future blogs ...