Op-ed: Mental health treatment is not perfect, but it can be life-saving
The assertions of the writer of the op-ed “More mental health nonsense” are inaccurate.
First, NAMI-CT is not supported by pharmaceutical companies, but by grants from foundations, state grants and donations.
Second, I am not a former member of NAMI-CT. I am a very proud current member of this organization that does so much to advocate for people who live with mental illness as well as educate the public and provide support services. I have also held a number of certifications in mental health, addictions and other counseling and treated over 7,000 patients directly or through supervision.
Third, there is ample evidence from many research facilities that conduct brain research that mental illness is a biological disease. The writer can do the research and see the answers for herself, rather than slinging arrows at me for not citing research from over 15 years ago from a specific journal article. I was shown the difference in hippocampal size by a researcher at Yale, in person, not in an article. I’ve since attended many seminars and symposia that have shown changes in the brain for a variety of diagnoses.
Fourth, diagnosis is not as random as the op-ed writer would have us believe. Each edition of the DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders], now in its fifth edition, has refined the symptomatology of various illnesses. It is a guideline, not a bible, for psychiatrists, who must also use good judgment based on years of training and experience.
Connecticut state law acknowledged many years ago when it instituted parity for mental health treatment that mental illness is biological in nature. I testified at the hearings and listened to the testimony of many physicians who stated this.
I feel no need to educate the writer, but I am concerned that her inaccurate assertions may harm people who live with mental illness, encouraging the refusal of needed medications and/or encouraging further discrimination against them. Those who have facts do not need to try to denigrate the authority, intentions or efforts of others.
The writer is free to not accept mental health treatment if she prefers; she should not stop others from receiving the best available treatment we have today.
No, it’s not perfect, but for the majority of patients, it is life-saving and even life-giving when it prevents suicide. Choosing medication is always optional. Regardless of the illness, one must weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks.
Yes, much more research is needed. I invite the writer to support that research so that better medications and better therapy can be found for those who need it. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Wallingford resident Barbara Sloan, M.Ed., is a former secretary of the board of directors for NAMI-CT (National Alliance for Mental Illness). She also developed and managed treatment programs for teens and adults in South Carolina and Connecticut, focusing on addictions as well as mental health issues.
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