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News and information for Friday, August 20, 2004

  About the cover story

Gordon Daniels
Poet Vikki Gilbert of Amherst says psychotropic medications changed her personality and left her unable to write poetry. Now medication-free, she says, she maintains her mental balance with a combination of peer support, relaxation techniques and a personal action plan.


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This ad ran: 8/23/2004

[ Originally published on: Friday, August 20, 2004 ]

Doctors used to think mental illness was caused by bad parenting, personality weaknesses or an act of God.That changed radically some 30 years ago when experts said they had discovered the true culprits ' chemical imbalances in the brain, controllable with medication.

At Freedom Center, a Northampton organization run by and for people labeled as mentally ill, members say they've yet to see proof of that. Furthermore, they claim patients are often forced to take psychiatric medications, many of which have dangerous side effects.

Those associated with the Freedom Center are now challenging mental health officials to curtail the use of those medications, and to consider what they say are more effective and humane ways to treat the mentally ill. A look at why they believe that and what the reaction has been begins on Page 16.

' Kathleen Mellen

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