Posts tagged ‘Mental Health’

FDA May Require Testing of Electroconvulsive “Therapy” Devices

You may remember a couple of posts I made last year at this time about the importance of speaking up when the FDA opened itself up to comments on the issue of reclassifying the as yet untested ECT (shock treatment) machines from a class III to a class II. The situation was simple — in all the years the machines have been in use, the industry has never had to prove that they are either safe or effective. For decades people have been having their frontal lobes assaulted by electricity in varying amounts from just plain dangerous to thoroughly destructive on machines with no standard of testing to ensure that they’re working as designed, much less designed to address any established clinical use at all. This is not only frightening but a terrible insult to the rights and safety of the approximately 100,000 people who face ECT each year in the US (by choice or force) and only serves those profiting from the shock industry. In essence, the hundreds of thousands of people who have undergone this so-called treatment are the experiment — the living test.

Well, the good news is that it seems that the FDA’s protection of the shock industry may be coming to an end…

Peter Breggin, MD for the Huffington Post:

Friday afternoon, January 28, 2011: The FDA’s panel for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) voted to place ECT machines in Category III for all but one indication. If the FDA accepts the panel’s recommendation, the agency will require testing for all uses except “catatonia” which was recommended for Category II, requiring less stringent testing.

A tiebreaker by the chair was needed to propose putting ECT machines into Category III for depression. Given acute trauma caused by the treatment and the evidence for long-term memory and cognitive problems, it reflects poorly on the panel that the vote was so close.

Indeed. Despite the polarized response to the matter from proponents and opponents of giving ECT a pass, each side claiming history has proven their point, the fact of the matter is that the FDA is supposed to be ensuring our expectation of some level of safety. If an industry is unwilling or unable (or in this case both) to prove its product safe and effective given the established (and frankly, lax) channels, then that product has no business being passed off as a reasonable course of action in our nation’s hospitals. This shouldn’t have come off as a vote on ECT’s supposed merits but on its decades-long exemption from the system — and that shouldn’t be a close vote at all.

It’s a little early to cry victory as it remains to be seen whether the FDA will follow the panel’s recommendation, what result that will actually have and how much the overlapping psychiatric and shock industries will play off of the catatonia exemption.

If the diagnosis of catatonia is given this loophole, we will see more and more people diagnosed with this disorder…It’s similar to what happened to children: massively increasing the diagnosis of bipolar disorder to justify giving them adult mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs.

Unfortunately, the FDA is already waffling about whether or not it will in fact require the usual testing for Category III devices. In response to questions at the hearing, the agency staff said it was not certain whether a Category III designation for ECT would require the same rigorous testing routinely carried out for safety and efficacy. No one on the panel seemed to think the treatment should be phased out until safety and efficacy were proven.

Psychiatric reform moves ahead a step at a time, falters, and hopefully moves ahead again. The classification of ECT into Category III for most conditions, which at this point is only a recommendation, is a step forward and a somewhat positive sign to those of us who have called for this for decades. We hope the FDA will uphold its obligation to the public to thoroughly test such a dangerous device for safety and efficacy.

Since the psychiatric and shock industries have essentially shaken off the burden of responsibility for the safety of the consumer (certainly at the industry level the term is more fitting than patient) and the FDA is apparently questioning its convictions about the protection of the public, the burden rests on the people. As neither of those entities are wholeheartedly committed to moving forward of their own accord to ensure the safety and the efficacy of products on the market and ECT cannot prove itself under any honest scrutiny, the burden then falls on the people to pressure them toward forward momentum and to keep the scrutiny honest…but then, has there ever been a time when that wasn’t the case?

January 31, 2011 at 11:01 am 6 comments

Hard Times in Toyland

No more pretend ECT for Barbie’s depression or antipsychotics for GI Joe’s PTSD — finally, the line of toys every budding psychiatrist has been waiting for — toys with specific mental illnesses already laid out from the German “asylum” that pumps them out.

These plush “patients” are the idea of Martin Kittsteiner from Hamburg, Germany. Each of the five toys from Paraplush has a specific psychiatric disorder presented in distinctly psychiatric terms on Paraplush’s online store — or as their website calls it, The Asylum: Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddlytoys. Dub is a turtle suffering from depression, Dolly is a sheep suffering under the delusion that she’s a wolf and Kroko is battling paranoid psychosis and so on. Maybe the “asylum” can better relay the plight of these troubled toys. For example, Kroko, a crocodile:

The patient’s hypersensitive hallucinatory perception is a symptom of a paranoid psychosis. The signs are a mental block and a Gestaltzerfall (disintegration of structure) of the habitual field of experience. The consequence is a compensational reactivation of archaic reaction patterns.

The patient needs your help!

For the kid that just can’t help enough, they are available as a set — you know, for group therapy sessions.

The psychological dynamic of a group will challenge your analytic skills and leads to a complete new understanding of therapeutical treatment. Notice the relationships between different patients and discover the structure of a collective plush-subconscious.

Kittsteiner says of his creation,

“Children and grown ups like their vulnerability and find something in them that gives them a great sense of comfort in helping to heal them.”

Just like Cabbage Patch Kids come with adoption papers from Babyland General Hospital, these dolls are shipped out to your kids complete with medical histories and treatment plans. It is, after all, their new little owner’s job to  treat them — and really, who doesn’t like to revel in the vulnerability of the mentally ill?

It’s bizarre on so many levels and only becomes more so when you poke around on their website a little. There are illustrated posters detailing the theory of “plushtoy psychoanalysis” and treatment options and there’s even a game.

At least we can still count on Germany to offer up healthy approaches to mental hygiene.

September 11, 2010 at 5:08 pm 3 comments

It’s Just Like You’re One of Us (But With a Steel Strap and a GPS).

So this is what it’s come to? We’re willing to tag and track people based on a diagnosis? Oh that’s right, we’re not doing it to each other, only those sick ones we’ve so self assuredly separated out.

South London and Maudsley Hospital is trialling tracking of mental health patients. The tracker system involves fitting patients with a steel ankle strap linked to a GPS tracking system that can then monitor the location of the person.

As Gianna Kali of Beyond Meds wrote, “If you don’t automatically think ‘civil and human right violation’ there is something wrong with you.” I couldn’t agree more and would go so far as to say that you are part of the problem. There are two reasons these things happen — people in power are willing to disregard our rights and  the public is willing to allow it.

In response, a Department of Health spokesperson said;

‘This is a locally led initiative, not a national pilot.

“Patient rehabilitation into a community is an important part of recovery, but it relies on good risk assessment, trust between the patient and the service and patient responsibility. There can be no substitute for staff knowledge of patients to properly assess risk and to make the right decisions to ensure safety”.

Trust between the patient and the service? Is this what trust looks like — a steel strap with a tracking device? Maybe I’m reading this all wrong and they just mean the patient should trust the system. Personally, I have a problem trusting anyone with more power than regard for my interest. Similarly, rehabilitation only calls for patient responsibility. If it called for responsibility on the part of the system, we’d need a new one, rebuilt from the ground up.

What do you think this does for the idea of inclusion, by the way? I can’t imagine that a person wearing a device that advertises their private struggles and places them socially between a criminal and an animal to be studied is very well received in public situations. Perhaps we could forego the cost and complication of these devices and just go ahead with a ball and chain and scarlet letter…oh yeah, rights. We better keep it digital.

August 29, 2010 at 10:30 am

Should Transparency Take this Much Work?

Can a state’s Office of Protection and Advocacy do its job with only half of the information and the other half concealed to shield government agencies and state hospitals instead of  citizens?

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court says it will decide whether Virginia’s advocate for the mentally ill can force state officials to provide records relating to deaths and injuries at state mental health facilities.

I’m not sure why anyone would think there should be such a blind spot in an agency’s assessment of these facilities. Force implies resistance. Shouldn’t information like that be turned over upon request or even voluntarily recorded and addressed?

The justices agreed Monday to review a federal appeals court ruling dismissing the state advocate’s lawsuit against Virginia’s mental health commissioner and two other officials.

Backing the appeal, the Obama administration said the ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond “threatens to undermine the enforcement of federal laws that Congress designed to protect especially vulnerable individuals from the abusive and neglectful practices that can result in injury and death.”

The Virginia advocate’s office, like those in the other 49 states, was created under two federal laws that give states federal money for monitoring the treatment of the mentally ill in state facilities. The first law grew out of public reports in the 1970s of crowded, filthy conditions and abusive treatment of mentally retarded children at the Willowbrook State School in New York.

The issue for the court is whether the Eleventh Amendment prohibits a state agency from going to federal court to sue officials of the same state. The state itself could not be sued in the same circumstances.

Argument will take place in the fall or winter.

The case is VOPA v. Reinhard, 09-529.

To read a brief summary of VOPA v. Reinhard II, click here (PDF).

Excerpt (emphasis mine):

The P&A system in Virginia is the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy (VOPA). In 2006, VOPA sought records relating to three incidents of deaths and injuries to residents of the Central Virginia Training Center (CVTC) and Central State Hospital (CSH) that occurred while these residents were in the custody of the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Services (DMHMRSAS) (now called the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services).  When DMHMRSAS refused to provide the records, VOPA sought a declaration that this refusal violated federal law…

Additionally, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is in conflict with a recent federal case decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Indiana, who noted that states cannot be allowed to shield their state hospitals and institutions from investigation and oversight — especially not the investigation and oversight created by Congress to fund some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

The Virginia decision has effectively rendered VOPA unable to fully exercise its federal authority to protect vulnerable citizens throughout the Commonwealth, even though Congress specifically created P&A systems for protection purposes.  Without access to the records from state-run facilities, VOPA has no way of completing an investigation—and without a complete investigation, VOPA has no way of protecting Virginians with disabilities from abuse and neglect.



June 22, 2010 at 11:33 am 1 comment

Free John (Psychiatric Prisoner)…Action Requested: via Beyond Meds

Sometimes blogs like this give us the opportunity to do much more than offer up snapshots from  our fairly ordinary lives or our opinions on the state of the world around us. Just as with every word we speak out in the real world, we have a multitude of opportunities to say something that matters. When someone’s words offer us a chance to become a part of the solution, those words become an action whether in speech, on paper or in the glow of our screens — and that is why I so often visit and repost from Gianna Kali’s Beyond Meds.

The following is lifted entirely from Beyond Meds. These are Gianna’s words not mine. I say that to give credit, not to separate myself from it as there is nothing in the post that I do not fully endorse. That’s why it’s here.

John Hunt is a trauma survivor with a diagnosis of ‘paranoid schizophrenia’. He has spent over four years locked up in Carraig Mor psychiatric treatment centre in Cork city, Ireland.

He has been over-medicated on an array of psychotropic medications with dangerous adverse effects. He has had tardive dyskinesia, akathasia and has developed incontinence. His physical/ mental/ emotional/ spiritual health has been severely neglected and has deteriorated since being in Carraig Mor.

He has had no access to a rehabilitation team or psychotherapist and no day release in two years. There are no plans to rehabilitate John and return him to the community where he belongs. He is merely maintained and contained. John and his family have no voice in relation to his future. We are afraid that John’s physical health is being damaged considerably. We cannot stand by and watch this happen any longer.

Sign the petition to free John Please take action here.

Facebook cause: The incarceration of John

The blog: The incarceration of John

Check back later for more links. Grainne is being swamped with calls from reporters today, but she will update me with more links when she is able. Please look a the other work Grainne has done for this blog as it’s extremely inspiring and will also shed more light on what is happening to John.

June 21, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Murder is an Act, Not an Illness.

What do you do when you can’t handle the fact that your son, secure in the knowledge that his parents’ money buys impunity, confesses to a couple of murders? Cry mental illness.

From Gather:

Joran Van Der Sloot confessed to murdering two women and his mother cries mental illness and the death of Sloot’s father caused him to do it.

Anita Van Der Sloot wants everyone to know her son had been suffering from mental illness and had he accepted help, he wouldn’t have been in this situation

According to MSNBC, Anita Van Der Sloot stated that:

“Joran is sick in his head, but he wanted no help. He was a sweet boy who loved animals and his grandmother… Funny, open. He has gradually lost its way. It was insidious.”

Whenever someone does something we can’t make sense of or can’t face, we call it mental illness. It disgusts me to no end. Now, with every negative nuance of a personality labeled a symptom, isn’t everyone who does terrible things mentally ill?

This is a guy who got used to the idea that whatever messes he made for himself (and others) someone took care of him. With enough lies and money, he seemed untouchable so he did whatever he wanted. Sometimes what he wanted was to kill young women. It really is that simple. He’s not mentally ill, he just thought he could get away with it. Killing girls is not a symptom, it’s an act and being a horrible example of a human being is not a mental illness.

Sadly, some people will lend credence to this mental illness claim — at least enough to associate perceived mental illness with a compulsion for violence and that’s a hell of an association to make. Ask any good and gentle person with a psychiatric label. They are not hard to find.

Then of course, if not for the lack of psychiatric intervention, “he wouldn’t have been in this situation.” More to the point, what you’re really saying is that if only he had accepted psychiatric help, these girls wouldn’t be dead — right, Mom — because we all know psychiatry is the one thing that keeps sweet boys from killing.

June 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm 3 comments

Kings County and the Death of Esmin Green: Still Outraged

Some time around 6:30 am, two years ago today, Esmin Green was involuntarily admitted to Kings County’s psychiatric ER where she was ignored for 24 hours, the last of which she spent face down on the floor — writhing at first and ultimately dying in the presence of  the staff members whose job it was to care for her.

Think about that as you glance at the clock, going about your day today — how far 6:30 in the morning seems from your lunch, the end of the workday, prime time television. Think about where you’ve spent your day and how it compares to where Esmin was all that time just two years ago.

I’m still outrageed, still disgusted that we live in a society that allows that and — as long as it’s just those mentally ill over there — accepts it. We’ve created a line and carefully keep who and what lies on the other side out of our sight –as if there really is an us and a them. There isn’t. As long as we have a class of people who can be treated by force we have a public that cares little about what happens to them behind closed doors but there is no class and public. There’s just us and what we do to others, we’re doing to one of our own.

The only real rarity in this story is that it was caught on video. If it hadn’t been you would never have known about it. It would just be another death in another psych hospital — with no one to cry foul. KCHC has been operating like this for decades and even now, in their costly new building, under federal monitoring and with new accountability policies in place — the abuses continue.

I’m going to Brooklyn today — to King’s County. I’m going in remembrance of Esmin Green and in protest of an institution beyond reform. I’m going to stand aside others who won’t accept the state of the system and are standing up in the streets, demanding change — and when I glance at the time, I’ll know I’m where I need to be. Will you?

Previous Related Posts:

Esmin Green Demonstration and Vigil (2009)

Kings County Hosital to be Monitored by Federal Judge

Sexual Assault by Kings County Employee

Kings County: A Call to Action

June 18, 2010 at 10:46 am

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