History

This comic is funny because it shows that sometimes the psychiatrist is as messed up as the patient. A doctor (in training) actually told me this during my first break when I knew nothing of the history of mental illness. I was aghast! I’m sure the look on my face was comical though.

The History Cooperative has a brief history of the treatment of the mentally ill and it has been rough. To be fair, I am glad I don’t live in the 15th century when they chained people to asylum walls and forced them to sit in their own waste. But the treatment that the doctor gave me did not really do anything for my quality of life either. I took the drug they gave me and they released me. After a few months I tried to go back to work. I was a pale imitation of the person I was before and couldn’t perform my job as well.

The doctors convinced me to take Risperdal. The drug caused me to have “negative symptoms” and become stiff and robot like. They said it couldn’t be the drug. It was just part of the illness. Well, they were partnered with the drug company in a research project, and that was flat-out wrong. There are other problems with Risperdal as well, including a lawsuit against the manufacturer because the drug causes enlargement of male breast tissue.

Anyway, the mentally ill are not treated much better now than they have been at any other time in history. There are a lot of problems with the drugs that are used now. Some of the problems are side effects like weight gain, memory loss, heart palpitations, restless movements (akathisia), flattened affect, lack of focus and concentration, vision problems… Another problem is the cost of the drugs – they are expensive and can cost over $100 a month after insurance. Also, most mentally ill people get tangled up with the law at some point. Jails are overflowing with mentally ill people who are not even getting what is considered to be adequate treatment let alone something that will actually help them regain their life.

Probably the best time for the mentally ill was in the early 1800’s with the moral asylums. This method of care was promoted by Quakers. Asylums were located in the country, and had plenty of gardens where patients could walk around. Patients were encouraged to fill their days with a variety of activities such as reading, gardening, and playing games. This method of treatment (completely drug free) had up to 70% success rate. This is much better than the current situation. With what we now know about talk therapy we could probably do better now!

I do believe things are getting better though. There are a lot of people working on the problem. Stigma is actively being combated. Scientific understanding is growing. And there is a growing clamor for comprehensive community care with the support and services mentally ill people need. Hopefully in the future things will be even better.

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