Category Archives: mental health politics

Shutter Island: Moral Therapy, Lobotomies and Mental Illness in Hollywood


Shutter Island, the movie (2010 directed by Martin Scorsese, with Leo DiCaprio and Ben Kingsley), presents an accurate but superficially treated part of the history of the modern psychiatric institution. To make matters worse, somehow the public did not catch the importance of that history in the flick; they were and continue to be thrown off by the question at the end of the movie and about what was DiCaprio’s character real mental state. It is promoted as a horror movie, which it is, so the historic part is lost in the shuffle. I must say parenthetically that this is, in my view, Leo’s best performance, and I have never been a fan of his.

One of the issues treated in the movie is the relation between violence and mental illness. “Treated” is a misnomer, more like ‘used’ to advance the thriller part of the plot. Nevertheless, the correct part of the history of psychiatry is the reference to the two different philosophies of mental illness in the 1800s relating to the treatment of violent people. Each developed its own treatment modality approach, vying to control the emerging business of mental health treatment.

One view, the ‘moral therapy’ approach, is represented in the movie by Ben Kingsley’s character (no spoiler: from the beginning of the movie we know he is a psychiatrist). His character could be a stand for Sammuel Woodward, the doctor who tried to reform the treatment of the mentally ill at the newly created (1833) psych hospital Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts. This is not in the movie. The pro-surgery approach is represented by Max von Sydow’s character.

To better understand this ‘struggle’ of approaches, I recommend you read the book The History and Politics of Community Mental Health by Murray Levine. This is a MOST read book for anyone interested in that topic. You can read about ‘moral therapy’ on pages 16 to 21. While you wait to get the book, you can try reading  those pages here: a sampler of the book at Barnes and Noble.

The part that I find superficial is this:

There is no mentioning that the failure of the ‘moral’ approach in the US was due to the sabotage inflicted by the pro-surgery faction on the work been done by Woodward, not because the compassionate-humanistic approach failed in itself.

In that battle for the business of mental illness, the pro-surgery attacked any effort that proved efficient without having to torture or submit a person to the cruelty of lobotomies and the new pharma therapies. In the case of Woodward’s work,they flooded the hospital with the most violent patients at a time when the hospital didn’t have the financial resources to deal with the influx. In addition, as we know today, there are ‘different’ levels of mental ‘dysfunction’. Mr. Woodward was focusing first on those who were less ‘psychotic’. The inability to ‘calm’ the aggressive patients led to them calling the approach a ‘failure’.

Shutter Island

But in the movie, we see ‘competition’ between them as a fair one, with the pro-surgery literally sitting there waiting watching Ben’s approach fail. At the end, we are left with the feeling that ‘moral therapy’ is a TOTAL failure and that there is no other alternative than to go the way of the scalpel.

The only one who makes the connections in the movie about the ‘competition’ and immorality of the pro-surgical approach is Leo’s character, but it all gets lost in the ‘detective’ story, in the horror itself.

And then there is the question with which the movie ends:

which is worse

To be or not to be lobotomized, that is the question.

The real question they are asking is about the benefits of psycho-surgery: would you prefer to live as a ‘monster’, a violent mentally ill person, or to be lobotomized and live as a “good man”, i.e., as a zombie? The question actually is one for ‘society‘, not for the individual with mental illness. No one in his or her ‘right or bad’ state of mind would choose to be a zombie: no one on either mental state, PERIOD, especially if it is done without his consent.

But as important as that is, is the assumption that you become “a good man” with lobotomy or drugs. The moral judgment about the ‘goodness’ of a person becomes unnecessary when a human being is turned into a zombie against his will, as we see in the movie with the many patients roaming the grounds. That person stops to be a human being without the capacity to judge his or her actions. The question could, then, be seen also as the mentally ill choosing suicide by lobotomy, not by his own hand. There’s no winning with lobotomizing a human being, at least not for the patient.

Psycho-surgery as a solution to mental illness, violent or not, shouldn’t even be a question, not on these ‘modern’ times after the horrific history behind that practice.

The moral question should have been: Is it morally right to dehumanize a person against his will so he or her is not a threat to a few? There are other relevant questions but it would be a spoiler for those who have not seen the movie. For example, can the person who committed the crime be considered “a monster”?

Psycho-surgery is live and well. With modernization comes the re-packaging of it with ‘new’ tools and ‘research’ to make the ‘appropriate corrections’  for past ‘mistakes’. The tools always change, the attitude always remain.

I recommend this movie for those of you interested in the topic. Watch it and make your own conclusions. It is a time well spend, the movie is good.

Conservative group trying to mount anti-Trump ad campaign


This is a long article worth reading in its entirety.

This is an extract:

So you can see why the Internet lights up when Donald Trump tosses Jorge Ramos from a presser and tells him “mine’s bigger than yours” (Trump was referring to his heart, but again, whatever). All of Trump’s constant bragging about his money and his poll numbers and his virility speak directly to this surprisingly vibrant middle American fantasy about a castrated white America struggling to re-grow its mojo.

…In the elaborate con that is American electoral politics, the Republican voter has long been the easiest mark in the game, the biggest dope in the room. The people who sponsor election campaigns, who pay the hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the candidates’ charter jets and TV ads and 25-piece marching bands, those people have concrete needs. They want tax breaks, federal contracts, regulatory relief, cheap financing, free security for shipping lanes, antitrust waivers and dozens of other things.

All you have to do to secure a Republican vote is show lots of pictures of gay people kissing or black kids with their pants pulled down or Mexican babies at an emergency room. Call it the “Rove 1-2.” That’s literally all it’s taken to secure decades of Republican votes, a few patriotic words and a little over-the-pants rubbing. While we always got free trade agreements and wars and bailouts and mass deregulation of industry and lots of other stuff the donors definitely wanted, we didn’t get Roe v. Wade overturned or prayer in schools or balanced budgets or censorship of movies and video games or any of a dozen other things Republican voters said they wanted.

Trump Valued Saving His Mother Very Low


New Yorkers may remember the news about the assault on the Donald’s elderly mother on November 1, 1991. He had to be prodded  by the media to reward the hero who chased the young criminal (the son of a Railroad executive) who left her badly injured during the robbery. How much did the Donald estimated was the value of his mom’s life at that time, with inflation factored in?  A DINNER at the PLAZA!!

He didn't even had to pay for the dinner: it probably counted as 'expenses'. Geez!

He didn’t even pay for the dinner: it probably counted as ‘expenses’. Jeez!

Hey, even I had lunch there in the 90s when I was just a lowly mental health case worker.

Somebody said that

“The value of things depend on our attitude towards them.”

The Donald showed us how much he valued the life of the man (in need of a job) who risked his life to save Mommy Trump, and the price he thought worth for saving her life. The saddest part of the affair is that the hero was so totally blinded by being next to an elitist-god, that he could not notice that his life meant nothing to his ‘patron’ and that the dinner invitation was an act to appease the media, which was demanding for the Donald to reward  the hero. He would have shown no gratitude where it not for the press. You see, we are here to serve the elite, they can’t be bothered with gratitude. Time is gold, and blinking for compassion may cut into the  profits.

If this type of questionable moral attitude from a self-called billionaire (is he really?) towards a person who sacrificed his life out of compassion to save this man’s own mother is not enough to explain his outrageous behaviors today, attacking anyone who gets on his way and women and poor people struggling to survive, we need to check our beliefs about what counts as moral and immoral attitude.

This man has NOT grown a heart for you. It is an illusion to think that he is campaigning to “make America great again”.

He only wants to aggrandize himself and rip bigger profits.

PS: I think there was something about him giving a menial job to the hero after the dinner,  but I can’t find the article. If you find it, please post it here.

Solutions to Mass Murders: The Lone Wolf Theory, Gun Control and the Buddhist sutra 19


https://thebuddhawasoutofhismind.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/solutions-to-mass-murders-the-lone-wolf-theory-gun-control-and-the-buddhist-sutra-19/#more-311

This is from my other blog. The post is related to mental health, it discusses a Buddhist meditation technique to reduce those nasty thoughts of ill will and hatred that tend to show up uninvited. Some can get out of control, which is the point of the discussion. But mostly they are inoffensive, yet a stain in our mind that keep us busy away from good thinking and intentions.

 

U.S. Said to Seek Records of New York Anticorruption Panel


From the NYT, this gem of a quote from our distinguished NY State governor, referring to the commission, as he was addressing (reassuring) our ‘honest’ corporate gurus:

“It’s my commission. I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me,” he said last month, according to Crain’s New York Business.”

elephant

This was part of my comment in 2013 when the ‘commission’ was obliterated:

“Well, the shelf-life of morality keeps getting shorter.”

The NYT got it wrong in ‘When the Mentally Ill Own Guns’


Ok. Look, it’s December 29. I’m not in the mood for fancy arse commentaries here today. After all, year-in-year out only a handful of internet pedestrians walk by this site, so I can expect less visitors at this time, the end of the year.

So, the only comment I have about that NYT’s editorial, to which readers are not allowed to comment, is the following:

If this is true…

Most mentally ill persons are not violent, though The Times’s analysis of 180 confiscation cases in Connecticut (dealing with people posing an imminent risk of injury to themselves or others) found that close to 40 percent of those cases involved people with serious mental illness.

then logic dictates that it is the other 60%, the ‘sane’ ones, whom you need to deal with. Those are the ones on whom you need to focus to confiscate their guns if any guns are going to be taken away. Why focus on the minority? The 60% sane ones are a “threat to themselves or others”, that’s more than the 40% who are non-violent mentally ill.

There, I said it.

Happy New Years to all the crazies. Let’s make it our new year resolution to  scare the hell out of the politicians this new year.

 

THE PERNICIOUS PSYCHIATRY


Can it be said, with concrete evidence, that the modern psychiatric profession has been able to reduce the problem of mental illness? Has it been able to have any significant break-through, based on ‘science’, in the understanding of mental illness?

I have been fascinated by (director of the National Institute of Mental Health-NIMH) Thomas Insel’s recent statements about the DSM because there he answered no to those two questions. (See my first Long Live Psychiatry post.)

Don’t delude yourself, his statements were anti-psychiatry, not merely anti-DSM.  The problem is, you can’t trash Santeria’s cowrie shells reading as ignorance and then refer me to a Santero for a reading.

dilo read - Copy

That’s EXACTLY what Insel did when he trashed, not only the DSM, but the whole psychiatric ‘chemical imbalance’ model: he’s asking you to go to your shrink to have him read your DSM-cowrie.

He even trashed the pharma, well, the so-called psychiatric drugs they make to ‘cure’ emotional problems. Of course, he could only wink at the moral implications of calling on the lies that the pharma sells to us (all highlights and brackets by me):

“Given that over 95% of compounds [drugs] fail during the clinical phases of development (a fact not appreciated by looking at the published literature which is biased towards positive results)…” In ‘Experimental Medicine

So, yes, Insel DID trash the current psychiatry profession and the pharma.

He even said that MENTAL ILLNESS does NOT EXIST!

Who in the anti-psychiatry movement would disagree with his statements?

One problem with Insel’s correct statements is his ALTERNATIVE to this obsolete, inefficient and growingly irrelevant profession: EXPERIMENTAL medicine, PSYCHOSURGERY and NEUROPSYCHIATRY. The last two practices are as discredited as the one he is discarding.

The practice of poking holes in the human skull to find in the brain the seats of ‘depression’ or of road-rage behavior is older than Methuselah. You can give it a new name and call it ‘science’; it will continue to be the same ol’ useless TREPANNING practiced by the priests of ancient ages.

Left skull, iron age. Right skull - modern 21st century.

Left skull, iron age. Right skull – modern 21st century.

The new psychiatric model: Experimenting with an experiment (seriously!)

“But do we really understand the circuitry for depression or psychosis or autism? Not by a long shot.” Wanted: A Few Good Brains

So, nobody knows how mental illness ‘works’, not the old psychiatry and, as confessed by Insel, the new ‘scientific psychiatry’ knows even less. That’s a lot of progress since the ancient Egyptians were chanting to Isis for a cure to mental illness, isn’t it?

Ancient capsulotomy.

Consequently, they have to start poking the brain mass to understand these brain circuitry malfunctions (that’s what he said we must call all mental illnesses).

“As a result, NIMH is shifting from large clinical trials…to a model called “experimental medicine.” In experimental medicine, drugs are used as clinical probes and the immediate goal is not to develop a treatment but to identify or verify a target Experimental medicine is an experiment.”

The goal here is not to develop treatment. That’s progress too! Woo-hoo!

The goal, he says, is EXPERIMENTING with drugs to see how you respond to the poking and “probing” and tinkering with your brain mass (open surgery required in many cases) to find your brain ‘circuitry’. “Target” means a particular spot in the brain that could be identified as the location of circuitry related to an ‘illness’, and ‘targeting’ it by dousing the whole brain with drugs to see what happens to it, if anything. ‘Hey, let’s see what happens when we drug this dude with LSD, again!

This experimenting with your brain mass ‘model’ is the logical procedure for ‘scientists’ to acquire the knowledge about our behaviors that no one has. That’s why the millenarian Egyptians used it. Somehow, it was barbaric for them to do it, but scientific for Insel to do it.

So, that’s the meaning of “experimental medicine is an experiment”: using live human subjects to experiment with the brain. The lab rats shall be free!

“This approach acknowledges that animal studies…are not consistently predictive of how medications will work in humans, homo veritas. Experimental medicine focuses on human studies rather than rodent research.”

The people of the animal rights groups have been saying the same thing – that testing on animals us useless for us, but no one cares that Insel is saying they are right. We just seem unable to put two and two together.

Who will be the new rodents for this experimental medicine model? Round up the usual suspects:

“For NIMH…people with our most prevalent disorders seem to be everywhere—homebound, homeless, in prison, schools, primary care—except the academic health center. As a result, recruitment into clinical trials may be slow [because, as he acknowledges in the article, the public do not care much for experimenting on humans].”

You can’t say you have not been warned.

In the next post: Psychiatric profession’ struggle to remain relevant. It’s past, present and future; the real reason why Insel bashed the profession.