The Madness of North Wales

October, 1, 2012 | 11 Comments


  1. David, I mention this because it is beyond western social parameters, but I noted a similarity between circumstances of people who sustained schizophrenia. One was a Sydney girl who was a 1970s nurse when abortion became a ward issue; she had parents who were strict Catholics, and a husband who treated her badly. He was also unfaithful. Another was a traditional Aboriginal man, who was a political representative (National Aboriginal Consultative Committee), and was caught between ancient traditional religion, and evangelical Christianity. he suspected his wife was unfaithful. A third was an urban part Aboriginal man, who was fixated by the music of one rock musicion, to the exclusion of all others, was in love with a white nurse (reciprocated for a long time), and lived the bridge between his white father and traditional Aboriginal mother. There were many other examples but you see the pattern… each victim was torn in three opposite socio/emotional directions; and each victim suffered the emotional trauma of loss of the focus of their sexual love. My point is that, in our society of the past half century, ALL traditional value systems are under sustained attack or stress, denying the victim reality bedrock upon which to anchor. Unsurprisingly, they become adrift in a sea of emotional-psychological terror which pervades all perceptions. I think disparate factors colour their behaviour. Add to this random factors such as vaccine adjuvants, food preservatives and colours, pharmaceuticals, interic systems toxins due to counter-bacterial colonisations enabled by antibiotics, and whatever; and we have mental illness. In other words, I am suggesting a broad and constantly changing cocktail of toxins which vary with fashionable usage, and current scientific arrogance. Reinforcing my opinion is the emerging similar pattern of multiple causal factors incidence of autism on one hand, and cot deaths on the other.

  2. This posting makes me immediately aware of the profound difference between incidence/prevalence of a disease and the incidence/prevalence of its diagnosis. It is analogous to the increasingly stated “fact” that “dementia” is increasing exponentially throughout the world. What becomes apparent is that those who make this statement, when push comes to shove, really mean that they believe that Alzheimer disease is increasing, “dementia” now having come to be regarded as synonymous with AD. Nothing could be further from the truth. AD in the context of all of the dementing illnesses and deliria is relatively rare and physicians are very unskilled at diagnosing it in the early stages, a feat that is, in fact, quite straightforward. We then decide that any person over 65 (or younger and “presenile”) who has an apparent amnestic disorder is demented = Alzheimer disease, providing an even larger market for the drugs that don’t actually help anyone who really does have AD. Schizophrenia, psychosis, or whatever is needed, is essential in order to sell the massive numbers of antipsychotics that Big Pharma has to unload.

  3. Thank you for this article, that appropriately draws attention to an interesting and important topic. I look forward to the next instalment. Will you refer to (or have you incorporated) the lucid summary of the issues & positions on this point by Edward Shorter, in his History of Psychiatry, esp. pp. 60-64?

  4. What I find interesting about this post is the quality of thought it produced in this reader. Schizophrenia as emblematic of the human condition rather than a disease probably best describes it and other mental health conditions. To think that the community lost so much ground in the last 30 years is criminal and I lay it at the door step of greed. But really who cares about that the real issue is not placing blame but learning from history. Yes I feel as a consumer of mental health services that I have been sold a bill of goods and would have been better off with a snake oil sales man. But what is really at the heart of matter is that so many experienced their mental health medical team as mere pushers of the psychopharmacology industry and not professionals. Who got rich – I don’t really care – who go high the consumer. What happened after the 80’s was a case of teams trying to treat the medication side effect of the medicines they were dispensing and the patient was lost in a drug induced high. But I digress.
    Great blog very thought provoking.

  5. It’s not too hard to understand why your studies of schizophrenia over the past 100 years have been hot-cargoed by so many journals. They suggest that the cutting-edge treatments celebrated in the rest of the journal are leading to more death and disability than those of the 1890’s, not less. It’s been much the same with the World Health Organization’s repeated findings that people with schizophrenia fare BETTER in “underdeveloped” nations like India or Nigeria than in the US and Western Europe. The studies credited the social connectedness of people with the illness, living with their families in their native towns, often working and even getting married — and as a result, using far less medication and sometimes none at all. Western psychiatrists simply refused to believe it, for some not too mysterious reasons:

    “Pharmaceutical companies, which control the scientific production of research at universities, are not interested in saying, ‘Social factors are more important than my drug,’ ” said Jose Bertolote, a WHO psychiatrist. “I’m not against the use of medication, but it’s a question of imbalance.” Western doctors cannot write prescriptions for stronger family ties, Bertolote said. But Indian psychiatrists, unlike their Western counterparts, dispense not only drugs but also spiritual advice, family counseling — even matchmaking services.”

    For anyone who hasn’t heard about these studies, here’s a link to Shankar Vedantam’s excellent article for the Washington Post:

    For that matter, the fact that 1890’s patients spent much of their time in kitchens, fields and sewing rooms probably gave them a real edge in recovery. Not to romanticize the old asylums … but at their best they may have offered people more of a “real life” with something approaching real adult roles than either the current short-term hospitals or the long-term limbo which most people with schizophrenia endure “in the community.”

    • I believe you are on to something here. What is missing is ever day life. Again I blame TV for the disruption of the pursuit of the mundane. Tell a college you want to just go home to a small home and engage in housework for a few hours on a Friday night, the response is often flat and one of disappointment. I do not believe you are romanticizing the old system I think you are honoring the ability of people to contribute. Thank you for your insight.

  6. A Scottish mental hospital, deep in the heart of rural Argyll, is where I was sent after eight weeks off Seroxat, suffering from ‘manic psychosis.’
    I begged to go to a hospital realising I was very ill, from abrupt discontinuation from this ssri. I really did not expect a mental hospital

    I was ill, I was acutely psychotic, from eight weeks off Seroxat. I drove myself to this hospital; I arrived. I was stripped of all my belongings, and it was all written down. They took my packets of Seroxat. They questioned me aggressively, from a list of questions from a clipboard. This guy was Chinese. He asked me how many ‘cups of tea I had in the mornings’. I said I didn’t know, he became aggressive and said ‘I must know’. This sort of mental battering went on. He didn’t know about Seroxat; he didn’t know, my gp had lied about not giving me Fluoxetine. He was doing his job.
    I was nowhere. I begged Diazepam. I got it. I went to sleep for a week; I did not particularly get on with the inmates.
    I used to be a proud, confident, successful, individual, but all this was stripped from me.
    Was this the 1890s or was this the 21st century?
    What was I doing there?
    Why did my gp lie about drugs?
    Why did the psychiatrist and gp go to their unions?
    Why did the surgery tell me they ‘were too busy to read my complaint?’
    What did I do to deserve all this?
    Why do I have no recourse?

  7. Just a wee thought about psychiatrists. I have seen three or four during my sixty years, why, I am not too sure. I think I wanted to clarify my thoughts, I think I wanted somebody nice to perhaps point me in a better direction than I was going in, I think I expected too much.

    If a person becomes a psychiatrist, I think it is pretty vital that they are a worldy, up to date with drugs, empathetic sort of person.

    My medical records clearly and concisely show a story of psychiatric lack of empathy, lack of thought, lack of a reasonable diagnosis. How is an aged man in a suit going to know about my life in a twenty minute interview. He is doing his job, he hasn’t a clue, he gives me dangerous drugs.
    He is protected from anything going wrong by the National Health, by the National Health Authorities, by the MHRA, by the Medical Health Council, by the Health Ministers and probably, by the Prime Minister.

    Before being given Seroxat, by a young man, I was with my dog on the beach, and I was good, and I was not looking forward to seeing him.

    During three hours, in my house, he reduced me to tears, he said I had problems he could not help me with (this is the point, I had problems he could not help me with) out of his depth, no empathy, no understanding, a tool of psychiatry.

    So, I get the pill, left for dead, and you cannot see this young man for dust.
    He is getting on with his job, oblivous to the total destruction, carnage, he has brought to my life.

  8. “mental illness never featured in Irish literature”

    Gotcha! – Murphy, the third novel by Samuel Beckett (Nobel Laureate) has sections set in a lunatic asylum (where the protagonist envies the patients, and wants to join them in madness).

  9. Hello Annie,

    Having experienced a side effect from a prescribed medicine and recovered, I am fairly new to this website.
    I read your note and hope you are on your way to recovery.

    Your side effect was no fault of your own and you are still the proud confident person you remember before it sent you reeling into a space where you acted responsibly and sought help –
    It is unfortunate that there are people employed within the hospital service who do not have the empathy or understanding to work in the environment thay have chosen, there are also alot of very good ones. Try to see the funny side of it, it was you who recognised what they had done wasn’t necessarily the right approach, and this can leave a feeling of sheer frusration.
    It does leave alot of questions , I know, and I agree there is room for improvement within the service – 21st century as you so rightly say.
    I do hope you are recovering/recovered.
    You are still the person you were, probably stronger>

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