Thursday, 9 January 2014

Mind Hacks blog post on lobotomy - the power of psychiatry, its influence on stories

Mind Hacks blog post yesterday 'The pull for lobotomy' has a link to an article by Mical Raz on 'Looking Back: Interpreting lobotomy – the patients’ stories' when American psychiatrist and lobotomy pioneer Walter Freeman travelled the country performing lobotomies, in response to the suffering of patients.

image from Mind Hacks blog
I agree with Vaughn Bell, writer of the Mind Hacks piece, that it's fascinating to hear the patient and carer feedback, about how even the ice-pick lobotomies performed by "pioneer" Walter Freeman were welcomed.  How the release from mental suffering was paramount despite death occurring on occasion.
To me it shows both how powerful a story is and how powerful the doctor role can be perceived and can become.  The many stories and feedback that Dr Freeman received seemed to both spur him on and justify what he was doing. 

My comment published on this blog post today:

"Very interesting piece on the culture of the time and how people seemed glad of an escape from suffering whether it involved loss of individuality and even life. Thanks.

Near where l live, in Fife, Scotland, there is still brain surgery for mental illness, NMD or neurosurgery for mental disorder, going on, in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, at the Advanced Interventions Service:

They now call it an anterior cingulotomy and of course it is far more sophisticated with much better outcomes. However it bothers me that people still have to resort to brain surgery for mental ill health and lack of peace of mind.

I’ve looked through their statistics and DAIS get about 10 times more referrals than what they actually perform operations on, and this includes from England and Ireland, with around 3-5 getting the operation yearly. They also offer talking intensive therapies and the main mental health conditions appear to be depression and OCD that hasn’t responded to ECT and psychiatric drugs. 

I think the main reason we still have NMD available is because of the biomedical model of mental illness. The premise that mental ill health is linked to brain stuff rather than mind and body stuff. I’m an unbeliever in “mental illness” although I do believe that people experience mental distress due to trauma and life’s difficulties. 

I’ve had 3 episodes of psychoses over my 61 years which were treated with hospitalisation and forced drug treatment. The drugs didn’t work with me and caused depression but I eventually managed to taper and get off them by myself. After my last menopausal psychosis in 2002 I was put on a cocktail of psych drugs and given a schizoaffective disorder label. I didn’t believe in the lifelong mental illness prognosis and after 2yrs got off the risperidone, venlafaxine (which caused me suicidal impulse and bone loss) and lithium.

I made a complete recovery and remain in good mental health, now finding myself a writer, survivor activist and human rights campaigner in mental health matters."

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