Sunday, 23 June 2013

coming off psychiatric drugs

Mad in America has a new Directory of Providers for psychiatric drug withdrawal, see Matthew Cohen's post, also reflections from Laura Delano on her work in developing the list.  A useful tool for people in the USA who are considering a future free from psychiatric medications and lifelong mental illness labels.

In 1970 when I first engaged with the psychiatric system, visiting my mother in a locked female ward at Murray Royal Hospital, Perth, I remember thinking firstly that there must be a better way of working with mentally distressed women and secondly that I'd never be a mental patient.  Well I ended up a mental patient on three occasions (1978, 1984 and 2002) and I still think there has to be a better way.

On the first occasion, 1978 after childbirth, I had decided in my mind that one year was enough on psych drugs and so I started to taper the chlorpromazine towards the end of the year, and did the same after the 1984 episode.  I didn't ask the psychiatrist's permission.  Both times it was easy enough to do so and I wasn't held back by health professionals.  

The 2002 episode was more difficult because of the psych drug cocktails, tying me into the system.  I eventually managed it although escaping with a schizoaffective disorder indelibly written in my notes.  Found this out years later at an eye clinic appointment, made attempts to get it erased but to no avail.  Subjective psychiatric opinions stand even if incorrect and give rise to lifelong mental illness labels.

I've never liked taking psychiatric drugs as they take away my decision-making abilities, my sense of humour and my personality, as well as making me depressed.  I didn't appreciate being forced to take them.  And I don't appreciate the use of, and 'need for' ECT (twice as many women get it), or brain surgery for mental illness.  The fact that people, and women, ask for it, doesn't make it right or OK, to my mind.

I'd like to see more support in Scotland for people coming off psychiatric drugs and for this to happen I think there will need to be alternative ways of working with people in mental distress.  Not just biomedical models of mental illness and lifelong prognoses of disability but consideration of recovery for all.  A radical step and one which I took many years ago, being non-conformist in everyday life and therefore non-compliant in systems thinking.

Here's tae us, wha's like us!


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