Psychiatric hospitals such as those affiliated with universities, can offer a non-pharmaceutical option as standard treatment for those who wish professional psychiatric help but who wish to do so without taking psychiatric drugs.
Intensive psycho-education, therapy, teaching clients new life skills and coping skills, education and training in nutrition that has application when the client returns home, perhaps some vocational training or assistance, can facilitate successful non-pharmaceutical solutions to psychiatric disorders and difficulties.
Thomas Detre Hall - Western Psychiatric Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 2007. Photo: Piotrus.
Why Non-pharmaceutical Treatment Option is Necessary
in a Professional/Clinical Setting
There is a tendency through the current psychiatric system to train people in "learned helplessness," that is, increasingly heavy doses of medication are given to clients over time, making them less and less capable of functioning well in society, many times, the heavy medications, including strong dosages of drugs such as lithium and atypical antipsychotics, renders the many clients incapable of continuing to work secularly.
Some psychiatric clients are so drugged-up, that over a course of years, they become incoherent, not because of a mental health disorder, but as a result of being overly-medicated over a long-period of time.
Drug cocktails, combinations of strong psychiatric medication, apparently have become something of a standard practice when initial treatment does not provide hoped-for results. As an example, this true and typical story of a young teenager who had been sexually abused as a child, but who had made some progress in her life and outlook as the result of personal interest shown to her on a number of levels in her community. Oppression at home and a feeling of being unloved and unwanted led to two (apparent) suicide attempts. In the psychiatric facility, the antidepressant and antipsychotic prescribed made her feel more suicidal. What was a fleeing thought previously became a daily preoccupation while she was on the two psychiatric drugs.
The response from the psychiatric clinic was to add a second antidepressant and increase dosages. Within a period of months, the teenager was being prescribed five psychiatric medications at one time, including two antidepressants and an antipsychotic. This is an irresponsible practice of psychiatry.
In addition to love and attention, the teen needed to eat three balanced meals a day. Due to neglect, or to her own unwillingness to care for her physical needs when at home, which the psychiatric medication did nothing to correct, she never ate three meals a day. After she had a nutritious meal, her depression usually dissipated and a positive mood returned.
What one special education stated about some of her preschool students who were prescribed medication was true in this case also, "These children need love and patience, not medication." She was distressed to see preschool students with "dark rings under their eyes" due to being overly-medicated.
What is more, in practice, many psychiatrists in clinical settings do not respond to the cries from psychiatric clients who complain of being overly-medicated, zombified, from psychiatric medications. When a client does take their own life when under psychiatric care and taking psychiatric medications, the response has been from some psychiatric facilities, that they were on the "wrong medicine," or that they took their life because their medication was switched and they had a bad response.
Medications are often "switched" for psychiatric clients, because it can be very difficult to find that "right combination" of drugs which addresses all the symptoms, and because side effects are often-times intolerable for many clients, who may prefer to live with their mental health disorder than to be perpetually zombified and emotionally-dulled, in a state of emotional limbo for years, as a result of taking strong psychiatric drugs.
The reality of this is that many do not stay on psychiatric medications because of intolerable side effects, including antidepressants. As much as families of psychiatric clients and psychiatrists would encourage and wish their clients to stay on medication, it is simply not the case. As many as 50% stop taking antidepressants alone, because of the side effects. (The most common distressing side effect of antidepressants being sexual dysfunction). This is an will be the reality of the use of psychiatric medications. Rather than side-stepping that reality, it is better for professionals, including hospitals with psychiatric units, and psychiatric hospitals, to address that fact and work with it, rather than trying to force every foot to fit into the same size shoe for the sake of convenience of uniformity.
Psychiatric Medications Treat Symptoms, not the Disorder
and are a Temporary Fix, Rarely Permanent or Complete
Additionally, while some receive some relief from psychiatric drugs for a period of time, it is very rare that psychiatric drugs are a permanent fix. They are a temporary fix at best, and tend to mask the real issues that are resulting in mental distress, rather than aid in fixing these problems.
For those reasons, many are very reluctant to get on the psychiatric-drug merry-go-round. Those who take time to read up on the possible complications and side effects of antipsychotics and other strong psychiatric drugs, or who personally have experience that themselves, may choose not to buy into the current psychiatric modality of treatment. That is a viable choice.
Psychiatric hospitals, then, should respect that choice for those who are mentally capable of choosing, and should provide high-quality psychiatric care in various forms with the option of a non-pharmaceutical platform.
Given the fact that part of the impetus for the current state of psychiatric treatment, with its emphasis on pharmaceutical drugs is motivated, not in the best interests of the psychiatric client, but is driven by economics and profit-lines, many do not have confidence in placing their lives in the hands in a system of treatment the foundation of which is based on self-interest rather than altruism.
It is not that every psychiatrist that prescribes medication is out for themselves, but rather the entire system of current psychiatric care is based on convenience, prescribing the type of treatment that requires the least amount of effort on the part of psychiatrists and others involved in psychiatric treatment, and that provides a great amount of profit to pharmaceutical companies who have vigorously sold their method of treatment to doctors and the public.
Self Help is a Successful and Necessary Approach
in Addressing Mental Health Disorders
Additionally, where psychiatric drugs have failed in helping many who have tried them in coping with mental health difficulties and disorders, self help methods for mental health have succeeded. Self help is an important part of psychiatric care, that individuals and parents need to be more fully educated in.
Psychiatric Medications are Similar to a Chemical Band-Aid
Healthy Lifestyles Need to be Taught
Psychiatric medication can be likened to a Band-Aid. If you have a cut, or if your child has a small cut, then cleaning the wound and applying a Band-Aid is appropriate. However, if your child is bleeding and has cuts every day, then you might want to see if there is broken glass somewhere, if the child is playing with knives or some dangerous toy. By doing that, you have found the source of his problems.
The same is true of psychiatric medications. You can apply chemical Band-Aids in the form of antidepressants, antipsychotics and other psychiatric drugs, and it might be of some help for a period of time, but, doesn't it make sense to work hard to try to get to the roots of the problem, what is causing the emotional pain, is it physical, as in the case of the teenager who rarely ate a nutritious meal or who seldom ate three meals a day? Or in the case of the young teen diagnosed with ADHD and taking stimulant medications who played three hours of violent video games by himself, isolated, daily after school. Or of the young adult diagnosed with bipolar disorder, who indulged daily in hours of heavy rock and alternative rock music.
In all of these cases, lifestyles, a need for education in healthy lifestyles, and practical assistance, would most likely address the causes of the emotional or psychological bleeding, rather than simply apply a chemical Band-Aid to temporarily stop the bleeding, which in all likelihood would continue in the future.
It is similar to the proverbial expression of the Chinese, "Hand a man a fish and you feed him for the day, Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for his lifetime." Hand a man, a teen, a child a pocketful of medications and you will address his psychiatric needs for one day. Teach that same person healthy lifestyles and address their long-term emotional needs, and you have addressed his psychiatric needs for a lifetime.
The epidemic of psychiatric disorders in children and teens, is in all likelihood lifestyle driven, rather than the result of an epidemic, like a spreading mysterious unseen flu-virus.
Groundwork for Future Research by those in the Field of Mental Health
Along with the educating of parents, if were more money and time were allocated for research into
mental health, and more attention given to the causes of children's mental health difficulties, rather than on treating symptoms
, it could prove to be very beneficial. The large sums of money being funded for testing pharmaceutical drugs can be considered to be overkill at this point; there seem to be plenty of
to cover nearly every angle of mental health disorders.
Funding, Research and Clinical Studies are Needed for Successful Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions in Mental Health
Research and well-designed studies which test
in mental health treatment need to be emphasized and funded. Documenting the success of lifestyle changes
in relation to psychiatric disorders are needs to be emphasized through clinical studies. Pharmaceutical corporations fund the lion's share of psychiatric studies, even at universities, so that presently, studies on the effectiveness of drugs is emphasized. What is more, because pharmaceutical companies provide most of the funding for studies, studies are often designed and interpreted in a way favorable to the drug. There is a bias involved, which is economically driven, like it or not. The university who publishes a study which refutes the claim of the drug-company, who desires to market a new pharmaceutical drugs, is very unlikely to receive funding again from any pharmaceutical company, so tempers its findings to fit the pharmaceutical shoe.
Additionally, most studies being conducted which support the use of pharmaceuticals for mental health are short-range, rather than long-term. A two-month study seems to be the average length of time for which positive results in the use of pharmaceuticals is published, enough to get the drug past the FDA and onto the market. Long-term studies, however, give a more complete view of the actual picture, but such studies are not common. This is true for depression, as well as other serious mental health disorders.
It is important that universities and government be aware of the success that some are having in mental health through non-pharmaceutical methods, and the success that history
indicates was once had in the past with non-pharmaceutical methods of treating mental health disorders, and to allocate funds for the development and validation of these methods. Non-pharmaceutical methods do not necessarily exist isolated, but are more of a holistic approach. That is, one is not testing how a single lifestyle change affects mental health, but rather, a broader scope of non-pharmaceutical approaches to a single mental health issue.
As an example, if a study were designed that implemented cognitive behavioral therapy
, and family therapy, along with dietary
and other health lifestyle changes such as regular exercise. This coupled with "detoxification" from the media for 6 months to a year, that is a drastic reduction of, or doing without TV
, video games
, during the trial, this would facilitate the effectiveness of a non-pharmaceutical approach to clients or parents of children who were willing to participate.
This approach could be used for any of a number of psychiatric disorders. Studies indicate, as an example, that cognitive behavioral therapy alone, is about as effective or more so than medication alone. When combined with psycho-education and lifestyle changes, it would stand to reason that it would be that much more effective.
Documented Success in Drug-Free Psychiatric Treatment Needed from Mental Health Professionals and Psychiatric Facilities
Mental health clinics and hospitals
are urged and encouraged to consider allocating beds in their hospitals or clinics that allow clients to choose a non-pharmaceutical approach to mental health treatment.
If such clinics or hospitals would provide intensive psycho-education and therapy
, it could be groundbreaking in terms of establishing professional non-pharmaceutical treatment in the psychiatric community.
Psycho-education including teaching health lifestyles, along with family therapy, which proves to be an effective adjunct to other types of therapy, helping the entire family to be involved and cooperative, can be of much value.
If successes or rates of success were documented, then it could provide a foundation and further proof that non-pharmaceutical management of mental health disorders is both possible and advantageous, as well as effective. Published accounts could lay groundwork for well structured clinical studies for the efficaciousness of non-pharmaceutical treatment and therapy in mental health.
If mental health professionals both in public schools and in private and public hospitals could spend more time in determining why children or adolescents are developing mental or psychiatric disorders,
putting the idea to the background that mental illness is purely genetic, the medical model of label and medicate
, and if lifestyle issues could be more fully explored,
it could be a positive step forward in the field of mental health.
This could provide a foundation to build on in exploring the efficacy of non-pharmaceutical treatment in even serious mental health disorders. In pursuing non-pharmaceutical intervention in psychiatric hospitals or by psychologists
and even psychiatrists
in both schools, in private practice, by pediatricians involved with children's disorders, a clinician can see in individual cases the effectiveness of such non-pharmaceutical interventions for those who prefer this method.
Pediatricians, family doctors and psychiatrists should not be pill-pushers, as many are. Rather, the role of the mental health professional is first, that of an educator in matters of health and mental health.
Gaining Autonomy with Medication (GAM)
An excellent model for balanced mental health treatment along the lines as described in this webpage can be found in Quebec, Canada, and is described as the Gaining Autonomy with Medication (GAM) project.
It is described as follows in the detailed report, which is worth reading by any mental health professional or client. The document in its entirety contains a wealth of solutions towards better and more balanced mental health treatment, including patient rights. The document is entitled, Making the Case for Peer Support, REPORT TO THE
MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION OF CANADA MENTAL HEALTH PEER SUPPORT PROJECT COMMITTEE, by Mary O’Hagan, Céline Cyr, Heather McKee, and Robyn Priest.
Other programs in the United States and world mental health community for providing stronger rights in mental health treatment for clients are also developed in this paper.
GAM – Gaining Autonomy with Medication
/Gestion autonome des médicaments
de l’âme, Quebec
A unique expertise initiated by service users in Quebec from the two coalitions, RRASMQ and
AGIDD-SMQ, is GAM - Gaining Autonomy with Medication. The ongoing GAM project has been
15 years in the making and is now being developed in Ontario, Spain and Brazil.
At the core of this approach is the examination of one’s quality of life in relation to medication. Although GAM consists of a working alliance between service users and service providers from rights groups and alternative community agencies, peers are leading GAM group sessions, training other
service users and offering support according to the GAM philosophy.
Its evolution and
implementation are led by the RRASMQ and being studied by the research team, Équipe de
recherche et d’action en santé mentale et culture (ERASME). Another influential complement to
GAM is “The Other Side of the Pill”, training on psychiatric medications from a critical
perspective from l’AGIDD-SMQ, taught by service users to other users and/or providers. GAM
and “The Other Side of the Pill” are a winning duo for the empowerment of people regarding
Additionally, the Quebec, Canada organization, Association des Groupes D'Intervention En Defense Des Droits En Sante Mental Du Quebec
has excellent information on modeling balance in mental health treatment, as recommended on this page. It is in French, and easily translated with Google translate. http://www.agidd.org/
Conclusion on Appeal to Mental Health Professionals for Non-Drug
If universities could PURSUE and be provided with grants to sponsor more non-pharmaceutical studies and research,
which look more deeply into the positive effects of mental hygiene, along with other forms of therapy such as the use of art
, exercise and nutrition as mood stabilizers, as well as that of giving more attention to positive lifestyle changes,
for those with ADHD
or even bipolar disorder
, then such matters could be more fully explored in a scientific context. This could add more weight to the viability of the use of non-pharmaceutical treatment of mental health disorders.
There are studies that have been conducted to validate non-drug treatment for mental health disorders, but more are needed.
By stepping back and looking at the whole picture, we can gain perspective that can be helpful in the successful treatment of mental disorders. Hospitals and university-based hospitals with psychiatric facilities then, are encouraged, please, to give thought to this request, and consider the idea of providing non-pharmaceutical psychiatric treatment, based on evidence-based and reasonably-proven methods in addressing psychiatric disorders, and through educating clients on health lifestyles and self-help.
Thank you for considering this request.
This page was produced with the personal encouragement of Joel, Nigg, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, Michigan State University and author of the scholarly and thorough work, What Causes ADHD? (2006)
Pages Related to Successful Non-pharmaceutical Psychiatric Treatment
A Closer Look at Psychopharmacology
, by Louis Kirby, MA
Real-life Issues considered in this thesis on mental health drug treatment
Positive Steps in Mental Health
and Self Help
Mental Illness: Labeling
Labeling and Prescribing Drugs is the common approach based on the faulty "medical model" of psychiatric treatment. Why labeling and medicating is usually not the best approach.
vs. Bioecological model
(Urie Bronfenbrenner, Cornell University) of mental health.
Urie Bronfenbrenner's more complete and holistic model of mental health considers many interrelated aspects in healthy psychology and the development and treatment of psychiatric disorders. It is a vastly superior model of mental health than the "medical model".
, the concept of which was developed by professors at Penn State University, is also a counter-establishment model of mental health, which gets away from the "label and medicate" approach, and which can help doctors of all types to maintain a positive framework with which to address mental health difficulties and prevention, rather than the search for a label and drug method so common in today's psychiatric world.
- Moral Management
: Successful non-pharmaceutical holistic treatment for mental heath in the 1800's.
NAMI - Mental Health Disorder Recovery
Books of note on this subject
Refusing Care: Forced Treatment and the Rights of the Mentally Ill by Elyn R. Saks
Elyn Saks, who herself battles with schizophrenia, is a writer, professor, and spokesperson for schizophrenia. Saks, in her book, Refusing Care, helps the reader to appreciate that, even in serious situations, the patient still has the right to refuse certain types of medical care, in this case drug treatment. She feels that it would be rare situations where forced drug treatment would be appropriate. She is an eloquent and dignified, humorous speaker. Her ideas on the subject are worth taking note of.
Ethical Issues In Modern Medicine: Contemporary Readings in Bioethics by Bonnie Steinbock, Alex John London, John Arras
The key issues and problems in the field of biomedical ethics are considered through the most up-to-date readings and case studies available. Each of the book's seven parts is prefaced with helpful introductions that raise important questions and skillfully contextualize the positions and main points of the articles that follow. This seventh edition updates and expands parts throughout the text, including the discussions of conflicting roles and responsibilities for medical professionals and justice in health care. A new Part Seven entitled "Emerging Technologies and Perennial Issues," which explores the issues of behavioral genetics and human enhancements.
Authoritative Guide to Self-Help Resources in Mental Health
, Revised Edition by John C. Norcross Phd, John W. Santrock (Author), Linda F. Campbell Phd, Thomas P. Smith PsyD, Robert Sommer Phd, Edward L. Zuckerman PhD
Self help is an often-overlooked but important aspect of treatment, for even the more severe mental health disorders. There is a lot that can be accomplished through lifestyle changes. Look into self help and what changes you can make, what therapies you can try to help yourself improve.