The Need for Choice in the Mental Health System
By Denise Fletcher

It is my experience that the mental health system is being used to discredit people and takes away our basic human rights. Ever since the eugenics movement, persons with mental illness have been considered "mental defectives". The stigma of the mental illness label does not go away. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, "Stigma" is defined as "a mark to discredit or shame".

The stigma of the mental illness label is so prevalent in our society today that anyone who is branded "mentally ill" is deemed "crazy" and considered potentially "dangerous". The corporate media perpetuates this myth with their sensationalistic reporting that anyone labeled "mentally ill" is to be feared.

It is fear that drives the mental health system.* It is fear that causes forced drugging and forced involuntary electroshock. It is fear that keeps persons with mental illness locked up. It is fear that even now is causing drug implants of powerful and toxic time-released anti-psychotic medications to be manufactured to be used on anyone labeled mentally ill that does not comply with this forced drug regime.

No longer does the mental health professional need our permission to drug us. This ought not to be so. Is there no room for compromise in the mental health system? The mental health practitioners think that if we don't agree with their drug regimen, that they have the right to take away our basic human rights. Our right to make an educated, informed decision about our own treatment for our own medical condition, whatever the case may be. I understand that force is sometimes necessary in certain precarious situations, but only for a limited time and only for safety reasons.

Although very few insurance companies cover alternative treatments at this time, individual consumers need to know we have a right to choose whatever treatment we deem appropriate, as anyone else would with any other medical condition. Using safe alternative treatments for mental health conditions should be a personal decision between you and your physician or practitioner, not made by a family member or a spouse. Family members need to support consumer/survivors in their choices and respect their decisions.

I am a strong believer in Holistic Health and Integrative Medicine. I need to know I have choices in my treatment. I choose life and the anti-psychotic medications do not enhance my quality of life. In the past I have been forced to be on heavy anti-psychotic and neuroleptic drugs and they can and do cause neurological damage.

After taking the anti-psychotic medications for a few brief months over the course of merely three years, I have already begun to exhibit early signs of Parkinsonís disease and tardive dyskinesia. Prolixin depletes dopamine in the brain, which in turn causes dyskinesia and the shakes. This medication has caused me to have tremors for weeks, shaking at all hours of the day and night making it very difficult for me to sit still and nearly impossible to sleep. I experienced severe restlessness and pacing. My head pounds and my mind goes numb. The medication has caused my hair to fall out, severe weight gain, and memory loss and has also caused deterioration of brain cells. Zyprexa has been reported to cause diabetes. Klonopin decreases white blood cells in the blood stream, which weakens the immune system. Worst of all, the anti-psychotic medication makes me feel spiritually dead inside, which is devastating to one's spirit.

I will not deny the fact that prescription drugs are necessary when the brain is not functioning properly. The medication helps to slow my mind down from a manic episode and I do believe it is important to take medication for mental illness, but I think the prescription drugs should be used sparingly and with extreme caution. There should be a definite limit on the amount of drugs prescribed per day, in my opinion.

Persons diagnosed with a mental illness should have a right to know the long-term side effects of the prescription drugs that we are taking. By taking away our right to choose our own treatment, we are being denied our basic human right to make an educated, informed decision about our own treatment for our own medical condition. There are many safe and healthy alternative vitamins and supplements available on the market today that will enhance mental health and enable consumers to live longer and feel healthier.* All consumer/survivors should have the right to choose safe and healthy alternatives, such as vitamin therapy, if they so choose, without fear of reprisal.

Patch Adams said it best when he said, "We need to start treating the patient as well as the disease."

*Recommended Reading:

Pure Madness: How Fear Drives the Mental Health System
By Jeremy Laurence

Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements
By Phyllis A. Balch and James F. Balch, M.D.

By Denise Fletcher © 2003
Revised: 8/22/04

Written for the Cry Justice Conference workshop, 2003