David Lazarus Speakout

Submitted by admin on Wed, 02/21/2007 - 02:00
Born in 1950 the only child of a military man, i grew up in an abusive & compulsively ordered family universe in which there was only one right way to do anything. My father was prone to unpredictable fits of rage & sulking, & a cloud of gloom often hung over the house, increasingly so as i got into adolescence & really began to have a mind of my own.

To escape the rage & rejection i withdrew into my own world of fantasy, nature, & books, often experiencing ecstatic experiences by all these means.

Being highly sensitive, i hated the authoritarian, overcrowded, sports-worshipping ethos of high school, but a did always have a friend or 3 along the way.

I did well in subjects like history & English, badly in subjects like math & science, which occasioned confusion & humiliation. Painfully shy, i never dated. The inevitable Ctags of "queer" & faggot" followed".

In 1965 i joined the Civil Air Patrol, a sort of Air Force Boy Scouts; ironically our cadet commander was a radical & we learned about the evil of the Vietnam War.

Soon i was in the State Univerity, majoring in sex, drugs, & rock & roll as well as history & political science. I didn't even know i had any feelings, much less be able to express them. After an acid trip i decided to transfer to a new experimental college out West. There i soon had a breakdown, was labled schizophrenic, & plunged into profound depression. I was not placed on meds long-term.

After emerging from Elmcrest hospital in Portland, Conn., i went back to my old school, graduated, got married, & went to grad school out of state. Another similar episode occured, this one worse.

I went to Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield Conn., where i suffered extreme emotional & verbal abuse from the director & her hand-picked, mostly female staff (a number of young male patients commited suicide as a result of this "treatment".

Managing to escape with my life from Natchaug, in 1981 i made my way to Northampton Mass., but only stayed a few months due to my essentially untreated condition (i learned that hospitals largely just wanted to get people's money, get them out the door, & had no regard for their subsequent fate).

The correct diagnosis (Bipolar) was finally made by a local GP with background in Asian medicine. However he also failed to see to get me on appropriate meds.

Ten years had passed since my initial breakdown & wrong diagnosis repeated by several mental health professionals over a decade.

It was not until the mid-1980s that i myself suggested Lithium to my then-therapist. A few other meds were added, also on my suggestion, as time went on, such as Paxil & Depakote. (There was no pro-active attempt to help me find an effective drug cocktail). However i was really just treading water, not getting better.

When i returned to Northampton again in 2004 I was prescribed a series of noxious psychmeds, all with paradoxical effects.

No psychiatrist ever so much as apologized for the catastrophic effects of their prescribed medicines.

I wound up briefly in a halfway psych facility because of the nightmarish side effects of one of these drugs.

I decided to discontinue all psychmeds except the small dosages of Lithium & Depakote that i was on & which at least seemed to be doing no harm.

Beyond this i now rely on nutritional/dietary/bodywork & other alternative approaches to mental health, & i feel better than i have in many decades. The work goes on, & i remain open to new modalities.

Afterword: The Mental Health Establishment

Venal, incompetant, vicious, arrogant, careless, indifferent: These & similar words i would use to describe most of what goes on under the mental health rubric.

Granted, the answers are sometimes difficult to find, but by the same token, the basics, such as nutrition, & dare we say it, LOVE - are systematically ignored in favor of the profitable pushing of dangerous drugs.

The system is in critical need of pervasive & thorough independent oversight that can step in at anytime to protect the rights & the well-being of those unfortunate enough to have entered the maw of the beast.

Part Two

In this section i depart from the autobiographical to offer some reflections on the system i encountered as a result of my emotional disorder.

If the mental health system were any other profession, it would be dismantled or, at best, drastically purged & reorganized. Many of its practitioners would be subject to legal action.

If the medical profession, for example, displayed such rampant incompetance, cruelty, ignorance, arbitraryness, & injustice, it would be subjected to radical reorganization & reform & many of its members would be found liable to legal penalties.

Periodic reform of the mental health profession has had some effect, but an overarching lack of independent review & supervision has permitted a pattern of abuses to become entrenched.

Many in the profession feel that they are all but above the law, & certainly not subject to any scrutiny by outside bodies. Clients rights tend to exist on paper more than in reality, & the habits of the profession are commonly authoritarian & arbitrary.

They base their authoritarianism on their alleged superior judgement vis a vis that of the "mental patient", who, like the criminal, is by definition unreliable, untrustworthy, & possibly dangerous (altho relatively few clients are in fact prone to violence).

The client does not have to be taken seriously, for these & similar reasons. The client is a child, who must be controlled, restricted, & commanded, who has no rights of review of any decision.

The client is assumed to be wrong in every conflict or disagreement, while staff are beyond criticism.

Granted, the management of emotional disorders is often difficult & good remedies may be elusive. Nevertheless, the client deserves full human rights & freedom from arbitrary & authoritarian control.

Mental health professionals need to learn the skills required to relate to disturbed individuals, & not hide behind authoritarianism & excessive medication & other means of social control - not for the benefit of the client, but for their own convenience. (Again, few clients are violent & so the question of staff safety is seldom at issue.)

The client also deserves a more concerted effort at help than is often the case. Referring again to the medical establishment, we generally see a highly focused effort to resolve the patient's condition. If one approach proves wrong or inadequate, the doctor continues making efforts until improvement or cure is achieved.

In the mental health profession, however, there is rarely such an effort. Medications are often casually prescribed with little or no follow up. The professionals do not closely follow the client's case. Therapy is often pursued for years whether it helps or not. The disturbed individual is an easy victim of the system unless s/he has a persistant & knowledgeable advocate, which is seldom the case.

The client often bounces for years or even decades from one doctor to another, none of whom show any real interest in the client or what is happening to her/him.

Again, lack of oversight in the profession allows such virtually criminal negligence to take place on a routine basis. I would argue that the implementation of strong oversight & powerful client's rights organizations would be the first step in purifying a system whose corruption & decadence has been & remains the source of untold human suffering.
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