One Consumer’s Observations of the Mental Health Care System in America

The mental health system is a unique culture. Psychiatry itself is, unlike any other medical specialty. Mental health is an enclosed system. That means it is a world within a world. The doctors, therapists, patients, and support workers play roles. It’s a reciprocal environment. Each player in the system allows the other person the opportunity to act out his or her role. For example, the psychiatrist gives you a diagnosis that has no basis (Yes this does happen from time to time). You, the patient, having complete faith in the powers of the behavioral health system, accept this diagnosis as the gospel truth. In time, you begin to notice certain behaviors and thoughts that you believe may be a sign of your supposed illness. You return to your doctor and report these symptoms. Your psychiatrist agrees with your observations and writes them down in your medical record. He also inserts his authoritative comments to support his opinion. Therefore, both parties in the relationship are mutually validated in their roles.

When one has been playing the patient role for so long, a person begins to identify himself or herself as a “psych patient.” That’s who you are. This is the term that defines your very existence. You belong to the mental health system. Soon enough you find that every activity you engage yourself in is related to your disorder and the medication your doctor prescribed to suppress it. It’s a sad commentary indeed. It’s sadder still for the person who needlessly struggles against an undefinable defect in his or her character as if the diagnosis were the irrefutable truth. I acknowledge the fact that the unsettling scenario I am painting here is not true for every psychiatric patient.

At some point, the psychiatric patient discovers the benefits of being labeled mentally ill. There are mental health workers, such as case managers who assist the “consumer” in obtaining a free living allowance from the Federal government in the form of Social Security Disability Income or Supplemental Security Income in whatever minimal amount it may be. I will add for comfort that social security disability benefits are reported (by the government) to run dry in 2016. A consumer is often entitled to free housing, health care, food assistance, and much more. The mentally ill person may even have the right under certain disability laws to bring a pit-bull into a no-pet residential community. Technically speaking, you could even take it on a commercial airliner. The reason is simply because your therapist deemed it necessary that you have an emotional support animal (oops was that a secret?). Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are people who require a companion animal for their emotional health. I’m not trying to be disrespectful to those who are struggling. What I’m saying that there are incentives built into the system for many people to accept their diagnosis and play out their role.

There are case managers and outreach workers that will go to court with you, and advocate on your behalf before the judge when you run afoul of the law. They will help the mentally ill with all of their personal affairs. What a bargain! Run out and tell all of your friends about it. Let the government take care of you. It makes being a psychiatric patient seem so much more attractive. Why wouldn’t anyone want a psychiatrist label to them disabled? Again, I’m being sarcastic to make my point that people, who are improperly labeled with a DSM V diagnosis, run the risk of becoming dependent on the mental health system for their needs.

This kind of social welfare encourages people to give up their ambition and motivation. It instills the idea that living a marginal existence is sufficient. I, for one, believe in the greatness people can achieve for themselves and the world by applying themselves.

Remember this. Once you get into the mental health system your chances of getting out are slim. There are a number of reasons for this. Primarily because the psychiatrist or psychologist has you convinced that you have a serious medical problem, which you can’t handle yourself. We all know that’s ridiculous. Many people manage their depression and anxiety remarkably well without the use of psychiatric medications. If Ativan calms your nerves and helps you function, then that’s great. On the other hand, I have seen plenty of people become addicted to sedatives. These drugs are unsafe. I wouldn’t put your faith in the safety of the anti-depressants either. I think the pharmaceutical giants are quick to point that out as a result of the numerous class action lawsuits filed against them.

Some blame can be placed on the pharmaceutical companies for this unnatural drug dependence. As I was writing this article, I surfed NAMI’s website (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and noticed “In Our Own Voice,” a public education program, is funded by a grant from Eli Lily. This is the pharmaceutical giant that manufactures psychiatric drugs like Prozac, Zyprexa, and Cymbalta. I gather (without too much mental effort) that Eli Lily’s generosity is a publicity campaign to make them look like one of the good guys in the mental field, and as a result, boost sales. As I surfaced the Internet, I found that NAMI has been receiving their fair share of criticism for their questionable association with pharmaceutical companies. I will not say NAMI is immoral or unethical. That would be too easy. If Ely Lily offered me thousands of dollars, I would have to seriously consider taking it. Sometimes the decision to cross the line depends on one’s real life needs. Other times it just has to do with making a buck. There is no denying that this kind of corporate misconduct adversely affects the mental health system and exacerbates the suffering of its consumers. Again, I know some people require the assistance of the pharmaceutical companies and the psychiatric community. The screening process for prescribing these medications is a big part of the problem. That’s because there is no adequate process in place for dispensing these potentially dangerous drugs.

Society itself contributes to this dysfunctional culture. The general attitude of the public is “As long as they are not bothering us you can do what you please with them.” This gives the mental health providers even more authority to do as they please. And so the psychiatric patient is stripped of his or her rights. As I see it, a psychiatric patient is a human being without respect or dignity. You can call my words dramatic if you like.

It may seem as I am playing the blame game and the taking on the victim role. Allow to clarify the role of the patient in the mental health system (those like myself). I will be the first to admit that the informed psychiatric patient is the one who is primarily responsible for his or her unfortunate situation. We have to accept our role in the system. No one can twist your arm behind your back, and say, “Go see a therapist about your anxiety.” At least that’s true in most cases. When you reflect on why you did it, you will say, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

The worst thing a mentally ill person could ever do, is telling someone about his or her condition. As soon as you do, the other person looks at you differently. An automatic flash goes off in the person’s brain, “Oh God. Here we go. His illness is acting up.” This attitude is especially noticeable in the face of a mental health professional, your family members, and closest friends. It’s a universal reaction. From the moment you reveal your secret, everything you do will be blamed on your illness. The ways in which you express yourself as a normal human being will be measured against your supposed disorder. If you are frustrated about something, the people in your life will conclude, “His meds aren’t working.” When people think you cannot hear them, they will gossip amongst themselves, “Oh he’s a psych patient. That’s why he looks agitated. That’s part of his illness.” This attitude is quite common. It comes from a lack of understanding. How could a person know, unless he or she has personally experienced it.

If you should attempt to verbalize your rights as a human being, the mental health provider will proceed to have you committed to a psychiatric hospital against your will. The patient can be held for an indefinite period of time until a clinician decides the person has come to his or her senses. The mental health professionals can essentially do whatever they want with you because no one is going to speak out against them. In Massachusetts, psychiatric patients must retain a specially trained lawyer to represent them before a mental health court in order to be released. This is where we are in 2013. I’ll bet most of you reading this article didn’t know how our behavioral health system works. We are still in the dark ages.

The only time the state of the mental health system is brought to light is when a patient commits suicide or kills someone. Then there is a public uproar and the psychiatrist or therapist are blamed or in some cases sued. In their defense, no doctor can control the behavior of their patient in society. That is not their job as I see it. The mental health professional cannot be held responsible for the actions of their patients, unless they were grossly negligent in some way. We are free and sovereign human beings. In the United States, people are generally allowed to operate freely without undue interference from others. The American attitude is “No one has the right to tell me what to do.” It’s a slightly different story if the patient states that he or she intends to commit suicide or kill someone. Then the call to duty is activated.

John Backster is an advocate for the mentally ill and an activist for reform in the behavioral health system. Mr. Backster believes that the over reliance on medication as a primary treatment for psychiatric illness has led to a decline in the quality of mental health care nationwide. He is employed as an advocacy speaker for the National Action Committee for Mental Health Care Reform. He considers himself an activist for the rights of the mental ill. Mr. Backster is dedicated to bringing awareness to the alarming deficiencies that exist within the behavioral health care system. His goal is to curb the over-reliance on dangerous pharmaceutical drugs as the preferred treatment for patients with debilitating psychiatric disorders.

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Teen Mental Health

Parents worried about teen mental health need not look any further. Factual information can help you to make decisions that will actually help your child be happier in his or her life. Teens are at the vulnerable stage in life and, as a parent, if you search the net or talk to your friends, you will get a lot of advice on how to help improve your teen’s mental health.

Yet, facts are what matter! Facts have no vested interest or bias and may help you, the loving parent, to determine what is best for your child. First, to define mental health symptoms, disorders and diagnoses, there are these facts: No medical tests exist that can detect a mental health disorder (no brain scan, no blood test, no chemical imbalance test). Dr. Allen Frances, Editor of the psychiatric diagnostic manual, edition IV, states in an article titled, Mislabeling Medical Illness as Mental Disorder, ” that the diagnoses “will harm people who are medically ill by mislabeling their medical problems as mental disorder.” Dr. Russell Barkley, clinical professor of psychiatry, and pediatrics, in the same article, states, ” There is no lab test for any mental disorder right now in our science.”

Psychiatric disorders are listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The disorders are voted on by workgroups comprised of psychiatrists. Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, was reported by the New Yorker as refuting the validity of mental health diagnoses. “Insel announced that the D.S.M.’s diagnostic categories lacked validity, that they were not ‘based on any objective measures,’ and that, ‘unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma or AIDS,’ which are grounded in biology, they were nothing more than constructs put together by committees of experts. America’s psychiatrist-in-chief seemed to be reiterating what many had been saying all along: that psychiatry was a pseudoscience, unworthy of inclusion in the medical kingdom. According to a 2012 report from the University of Massachusetts, “Three-fourths of the work groups continue to have a majority of their members with financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry”. Per the FDA, some of the side effects of psychiatric drugs include mania, psychosis, depression, suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts and death. Non-psychiatric medical professionals can, and do, perform medical tests to detect any potential underlying physical cause of unwanted mental health symptoms.

Per Florida Department of Health Regulation, Florida Patient’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, each individual has the right to be fully informed about the proposed medical treatment or procedure. This includes the right to know the risks and alternatives. For those who live outside of Florida, Informed Consent, the right to know the risks and the alternatives to any treatment, is a legally accepted term that is used globally and ensures your right to make decisions for your health and well being.

Second, considering the, above-mentioned, facts, there becomes a vicious circle for any teen, adult or elder, who is experiencing life’s stresses, and therefore the effects of those stresses, such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, aggression, and more. The never-ending circle is that of mental health diagnoses, mental health drugs, (more drugs, whether prescribed or abused) and more mental health diagnoses, with only seeming improvement in symptoms if the drug or drugs have chemically restrained the initial and unwanted mental health symptoms, temporarily. Unfortunately, for most those restraints fail to work after time and the adverse effects take place, which of course produce more mental health symptoms, more diagnoses and more drugs.

Teen mental health is an important topic! It has to do with the welfare of your child, our future adult in society. Those that shape and direct how our culture will develop over time. To improve your teen’s mental health, consider the facts and in doing so, talk to traditional, non mental heath, medical professionals about the possibility of a thorough medical exam that will test for all possible physical causes of the teen’s depression, anxiety, aggression, etcetera.

Time and history are on your side, because over time, and strewn through the last 4 decades are medical research and multitudes of documented real-life cases of individuals who did avail themselves of a thorough physical examination, found the true physical cause of their problems and resolved all through the use of medical science that carried none of the FDA warnings on mental health drugs, which of course, are mental health symptoms in themselves. Such as, mania, delusions, psychosis, worsening depression, anxiety, hallucinations, suicidal and homicidal thoughts and actions.

Will Fudeman, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, recently published an article about his work as a psychotherapist. He felt he had to do more to help his patients than listen to their woes. He decided, after his own personal experience of having horrific pain after a car accident, that he wanted to study Chinese medicine. He got his license to practice as an Acupuncturist and, after his 20 years as a therapist, he says that he had come to understand that emotional and physical are “intertwined”.

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Mental Health Maintenance Is Made Simple

Your mental health is often drastically improved when you use the techniques Dr. Kuhn teaches in this article. When you are able to experience this improvement, your relationships blossom, career paths open, and people find you attractive and accessible. You deserve to have fun and joy in your life – and Cliff Kuhn, M.D. will help you do that.

In the classic Frank Capra film, It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey’s mental health is overwhelmed by the difficulties of his life and he wishes he’d never been born. George’s guardian angel grants his wish and takes him to a grim reality as it would’ve been without him. George feels nothing when he reaches into his coat pocket to retrieve the flower his daughter, Zuzu, placed there – and that’s when George knows that his wish has come true…he’s never been born.

Wishing she had never been born, Roberta became my patient, seeking desperately to improve her mental health. Like the fictional George Bailey character, Roberta’s depression and anxiety had grown so strong as to threaten her ability to lead any semblance of a normal life. Fortunately for Roberta, she soon discovered exactly why the natural medicine of humor is one of the most powerful adjunctive treatments for improving mental health, because humor literally pours water on the fire of depression and anxiety.

Roberta is not alone. As many as 35% of all Americans suffer from depression and anxiety, the twins that make mental health elusive for millions. Your depression and anxiety is exacerbated by your seriousness – taking yourself too seriously. As we move into adulthood, we unfortunately buy into the notion that responsible and productive people must be “serious.” As we make the biggest mistake of our lives and relegate our humor nature and fun to recreational activities (if we experience fun at all), we doom ourselves to all the symptoms of the corresponding seriousness that fills the void – declining health, rising stress, increased pain, lessened energy, impaired creativity, and more.

The good news for your mental health, however, is that we know how to shrink your deadly seriousness to practically nothing and reduce almost completely the sway it holds over your health, vitality, wellness, and zest. The natural medicine of humor is an incredibly powerful resource that you already possess; you’ve only forgotten how to use it to maximum effectiveness. You will soon discover that, while not a panacea, the natural medicine of humor is a tremendous tonic for depression or anxiety and will also supercharge other treatments because it is an amazing adjunctive medicine too!

I have distilled the natural medicine of humor, through my years of medical practice, into an amazing prescription I call The Fun Factor. Based on what I learned over twenty years ago from a terminally ill fifteen-year-old patient, I created a unique set of principles I call the Fun Commandments, then forged these Commandments into my Fun Factor prescription and have been prescribing The Fun Factor with great success for years. This report will show you how to use just three of my Fun Commandments to turn your mental health around, and gain new joy, pleasure, and appreciation from your life!

Improve Your Mental Health Using My Fun Factor Prescription

Step One: Always Go the Extra Smile

The first Fun Commandment I recommend for improved mental health is: Always Go the Extra Smile. This Commandment is doubly helpfully for depression and anxiety because not only does it provide measurable emotional and physical relief, but it also is completely under your control – regardless of your circumstances. Because smiling remains totally under your control, it can be your greatest resource for using humor’s natural medicine to accelerate your mental health.

Smiling produces measurable physical benefits you can experience immediately: your stress decreases, your immunity improves, your pain and frustration tolerances increase, and your creativity soars. And guess what? You experience all these benefits even if your smile is “fake.” That’s right…forcing a smile onto your face perks up your immune system and lightens your mood just as readily as a genuine smile. Fake a smile and you’ll soon feel well enough to wear a real one!

This is great news for your proactive stance on sustainable mental health. You have an amazing amount of pre-emptive control over your mood – you can, literally, choose more energy and happiness. The key for your use of this Fun Commandment in enhancing your mental health is to start practicing right now, so that smiling becomes an entrenched, habitual method of accessing the natural medicine of humor. If you wait to smile until your mental health has taken a turn for the worse, and depression or anxiety has taken hold of you, it will not be as effective.

Step Two: Act and Interact

Smiling leads us right into the second Fun Commandment you’ll find instrumental in maintaining your mental health: Act and Interact. Humor’s natural medicine works best when we are sharing ourselves and this Commandment will teach you how to capitalize on the control you’ve taken over your physiology and mood by smiling. Acting and interacting is now easier for you to do because you’re smiling more. Not only is your mood improved, but your smile is also a pleasant invitation to other people.

My suggestion is that you solidify the power of this Commandment by setting a reasonable goal regarding the number of people you will interact with each day. These social interactions are great for your mental health, forcing you to exchange information and ideas with another person. Combined with your commitment to smiling, your interactions should be pleasant, because your heightened energy, lessened pain, and lowered stress levels are very attractive to others.

Beyond keeping you out of isolation, there is another reason why acting and interacting with the people you encounter fosters improved mental health. It allows you to avoid spiritual “flat tires.” Spiritual flat tires occur when you sidestep, or avoid, an interaction that is about to happen naturally – you duck into an office to avoid encountering someone in a hallway or you don’t answer the phone because you don’t want to talk to the person calling. This type of avoidance drains and deletes your reservoir of powerful natural energy and siphons your mental health reserves.

Have you ever noticed that it usually takes you twice as much mental and physical energy to avoid doing a job than you would have expended just doing it? It also takes twice the energy to avoid acting and interacting with the people who cross your path because you are, in effect, saying, “I’m going to correct the mistake that nature made by putting this person in my path and I’m going to correct it by being mentally and spiritually negligent.” Mental and spiritual negligence have the same effect as physical negligence (isn’t it strange how you get tired if you don’t exercise?). If your mental health can afford to allow this much energy to be drained, then you have a much bigger reservoir than I!

But spiritual flat tires do more than drain our energy, they are detrimental in at least two additional ways:

We miss out on an interaction with a teacher. If nature didn’t have a lesson for you, that person you just avoided would not have been placed in your path. You say that the person you just avoided was a negative influence or would’ve wasted your time? I know we have legitimate schedules to keep, but if I am avoiding people based on my prejudgment of them, I’m cutting myself off from my greatest teachers – those very same people.
We all learn tolerance from the intolerant, patience from the impatient, temperance from the intemperate, gentleness from the ruffian, etc. I am supremely grateful for those teachers and the lessons they give me.

We create a small, nagging spiritual void of dishonesty, the kind of dishonesty that keeps us from laying our heads down with complete peace of mind each night. Our spiritual flat tire is caused by the pothole our avoidance created; it is a natural consequence, or symptom, of our spiritual dishonesty. These consequences clutter our lives with mental and emotional baggage that further drains us of our energy and vitality.

Step Three: Celebrate Everything

The third Fun Commandment which will help you use the natural medicine of humor to charge up your mental health is: Celebrate Everything. Celebrating everything may sound like a monumental task to someone who’s mental health isn’t up to par, but you will find this part of my doctor’s orders much easier to fulfill once you start practicing my first two Commandments. In fact, celebrating everything is more than a maintenance step providing sustainable mental health. It will also become your lifestyle, the more you practice it, because you will enjoy the results so much.

How do you celebrate everything and how will this keep your mental health on the upswing? The epitome of this Commandment is found in the old joke about the boy who wanted a pony for his birthday. Instead, he found a room full of manure waiting for him. But he dove right into the dung, gleefully exclaiming, “With all this manure, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Laugh as we might, we’re quick to remember that, as adults, we would never allow ourselves such “naive” enthusiasm. Why not? Do you realize what is behind such a “grown up,” “mature” decision? Your deadly seriousness (taking yourself too seriously) encourages the attitude that a mature adult should not let herself be so optimistic and thus mental health is jeopardized.

We could do more than chuckle at this birthday boy’s unabashed optimism – we should emulate it! When was the last time you encountered an unexpected pile of manure in your life? You had absolutely no control over the mess, right? But you had absolute control over your reaction to it and this is the key to using celebration to keep your mental health improved!

When you celebrate everything, the natural medicine of humor creates spiritual, emotional, and mental health like nothing you’ve felt before. You will find that your fears become much less controlling when you are celebrating everything because it no longer matters so much how things turn out. In fact, you are literally ready for anything because you are prepared to find the blessing in whatever happens.

My daughter-in-law, for example, broke her back last year. My son, who is often my model for the embodiment of my Fun Commandments, can tick off a laundry list of blessings his family has received as a direct result of his wife’s “tragedy.” Not that his mental health hasn’t been challenged, but faced with the choice of depression and anxiety over an event he couldn’t control versus finding the blessings waiting for him, he has chosen the latter.

The choice to celebrate everything is not a panacea; my son’s choice did not change the reality of his wife’s injury. What did change, however, was his ability to respond to the injury and, thus, keep his mental health on an even keel. Celebrating everything changes our lives because it allows us to positively control the only things we have control over – our actions, ideas, and attitudes.

There you have it. Start by going the extra smile, use your newfound smiling energy and vitality to act and interact with people, and celebrate everything to maintain your positive momentum. Say good-bye to imprisonment from depression and anxiety and welcome to your new world of improved mental health!
Start Using The Fun Factor to Improve Your Mental Health…Right Now

Here are some simple, easy steps you can take right now to turbo-charge your mental health.

Subscribe to my Fun Times newsletter. The Fun Times is all about using your natural power of humor to increase the quality of your life – including your mental health. The Fun Times is 100% free, and is delivered instantly, every week, to your email inbox. If you sign up now, I’ll also throw in a copy of my “Stop Your Seriousness” Ecourse and my book, Ten Ways You Can Be Happier…Right Now! which will show you how you can use my Fun Factor prescription in your life to increase your mental health!

Check out The Fun Factor. This prescription has changed so many lives for the better – it would be a shame if you passed it up. Check it out here if you’re sick of wishing for mental health and want to finally achieve your greatest mental health!
My patient Roberta, by the way, learned to use these three Fun Commandments – and the rest of my Fun Factor prescription. She has enjoyed the same job for three years now and was recently engaged to be married. Roberta occasionally has setbacks, as most people suffering from depression or anxiety do. But, her mental health has never been stronger as she continues to apply The Fun Factor to her life.

In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is so shocked by the grim vision of a world without him that he decides he wants to live again and begs to return. He knows he is back when he finds Zuzu’s flower petals in his coat pocket again.

Let this article be like finding Zuzu’s petals. Move forward today with a new, positive outlook on your improved mental health by using my Fun Factor prescription.

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