A Response to the medical model and its chief proponent in Congress, Rep. Tim Murphy

This article was co-authored by Martha Brock and Laurie Coker.  It has been sent to our North Carolina delegation in Congress.

We, who are psychiatric patients and survivors of psychiatric treatment, are a group that is used in our society today as political scapegoats.  This is done to ensure that the deeper realities behind frequent domestic homicides, suicides, and mass killings are minimized or even ignored. The U. S. gun death statistics are appalling, when our country is compared to other nations.

We challenge co-sponsors of Rep. Tim Murphy’s bill, HR 2646, to check their knowledge of what truly helps persons with mental illness. Do they know what helps really helps people improve?  It is not just popping pills or being locked up, as Murphy would lead us to believe.  Murphy has steadfastly refused any input from our knowledgeable and experienced consumer leaders.  Tim Murphy listens only to those who support his ideology like the parents, who were cited when his bill was named.  He appears to want to improve their lives at the expense of their family member’s quality of life and health.

Consider how much money our country spends on psychiatric medications and also on treating chronic disease like diabetes that often results from the use of these medications.  The WSJ opinion writer would require that medications be used with or without the consent of the patient. This contrasts against other well-developed societies.  As long as we continue to respond to people in mental or emotional distress using less effective medication rather than alternative modes of treatment that reduce recidivism and promote recovery, we will have a perpetual market base for medications.

This is perhaps politically irresistible to some politicians and policy makers who believe in “free market” ideology for any and every thing. We don’t have just a gun problem or just a mental health treatment problem in the U. S.—we most assuredly have both.  Any Congressman who tries to steer us toward the false dichotomy of acting on one to the exclusion of the other, as Tim Murphy has, is ignoring reality.

Also, we ask the Murphy Bill supporters if they know how few violent gun deaths are perpetrated by people who are emotionally unstable or psychotic. We challenge them to consider how deceitful they might appear, supporting tactics that would legally force people to take medications in spite of the array of other supports that cost less and are more effective, or which in the least can empower a person to focus on regaining wellness.

As many of our most thoughtful leaders have discussed many times, we need to address the anger and racial hate involved in many of the recent mass murders.  Do we want to resolve the problem of hate crime or not?   Would we prefer the utter disregard and lack of respect for our personhood that we all too often experience in the purely medical model approach, which Tim Murphy and his HR 2646 would implement?

One alternative approach to mental health treatment focuses on Trauma-informed mental healthcare.  As one longtime mental health advocate writes in a blog post:

While the research has been clear on this for at least the last 30 years, [a] new awareness has led to conversations across the country about the need for trauma-informed approaches within the mental health system, and a broadening of the field’s awareness of how widespread these problems are… To begin this process, people who run the system- policymakers, administrators, managers, researchers, direct service staff – and people who use services (voluntarily or not) need to be educated about the extent to which trauma is at the root of most psychiatric diagnoses.

People with diagnoses have the right to this information to help them make sense of their own struggles, and people who administer and deliver services need this information in order to understand that the people they have seen as “diseased” are in fact people who have been deeply hurt by violence in many forms. It starts, as Sandra Bloom, founder of the Sanctuary program points out, by asking about what happened to people, rather than what is “wrong” with people…”

While we are focusing on mental health reform and looking for real solutions, let’s not have the tunnel vision approach that reduces all mental and emotional suffering to “brain disease” or brain disorders.  This failed approach leaves many people being treated with ineffective or even harmful medicine or therapy, when other less invasive—and yes–less traumatizing ways of treatment are available and used in other nations.

Are you listening, Rep. Murphy and members of Congress?

Signed October 12, 2015:

Martha C. Brock, Retired, Disability Advocate, Cary, NC

Carol Cannon, Retired Special Ed Teacher and Peer Support Specialist; Disability Advocate,  Greenville, NC

Bonnie Jo Schell, Retired, Director of Consumer Affairs for a Public Managed Care Organization, Asheville, NC

Laurie Coker, RN, retired; Director, NC CANSO, Winston-Salem, NC

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