​We went to see my father, last week.  Age 90, he is in a home in St Andrews … life should have been so different.  There he was, though, dressed smartly as always and sitting in his chair beside his bed in a room he never leaves.  Why?  The ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’?  No.  Modern day psychiatry.  His ‘quality’ of life can be attributed to a profession which chose to treat his pain and loneliness with a multitude of mind-numbing, highly profitable drugs whose damaging side-effects have ensured nothing more than an existence.
As my parents progressed in years, one did wonder how one would cope without the other.  My mother suffered from a form of disseminated sclerosis and was very crippled in her latter years.  She would have been lost without my father.  He, however, loved his golf; a proud member of the R&A, he would lunch there every Wednesday, with his group of ‘old codgers’, whether they had played or not.  The R&A was – and is – a saviour for many of its lonely old members who are guaranteed good food, company and a proper G&T in the Big Room before lunch.  It should have been a perfect refuge for Pop!
An only child, he enjoyed his own company whether it be listening to the radio or reading.  He was fit for his age and still sharp as a tack but life can be cruel.  The family who had, once, been so close was already in bits before the sudden death of my mother and his loneliness and grief were all consuming.  I saw, all too well, the path he was on but my sister and brother were ‘in charge’, not me. That was the ultimate punishment – meant for us, both, I think …
I had no idea that he had been admitted to Stratheden but, finally, I phoned his psychiatrist to arrange a meeting.  He refused to either meet me or speak to me about my father saying he could only do so with his permission.  To my mind, it was imperative that he listen to me as a means of understanding, more fully, the family situation and dynamic which were impacting greatly on my father.  Surely his psychiatrist would be interested?  I conceded that he need give me no information if he would just listen to me and, to this, he finally agreed if I was at Stratheden within the hour.  I remember we drove at break-neck speed only to be told, on arrival, by one of the nurses that he wasn’t coming and I could tell her anything I wished to say and she would pass it on!  I shall never forget or forgive that nor what faced me next.  My father was doped up to the eyeballs, spouting utter nonsense, completely paranoid and, repeatedly holding his head in his hands and begging for help.  It was nothing less than tragic.  Thank God for the anger because I felt sick!  Ironically, through the window was my ‘favourite view’ over to Hill of Tarvit but inside was a definition of hell …
He did get out of there – eventually – and back to his beloved Lyndhurst.  Someone would go in morning and night and he had meals on wheels at lunchtime, all organized by my siblings.  I had wanted to find him a housekeeper, someone intelligent and with a sense of humour who would cook his meals, take him out and be company for him but that wasn’t entertained!  Suffice to say, he never really left the house again.  I shall always remember the first time I saw him sitting, on his own, at the table in the Breakfast Room – once the scene of so much fun and laughter – wearing his ‘bib’ and drinking from a straw because his hands shake so much …  The cocktail of drugs he takes morning, noon and night had completely destroyed his gut and its natural functions – not surprisingly – compounded by the slop he was being fed and a lack of exercise.  The solution?  Laxative sachets to counteract the constipation and render him incontinent!!  He was terrified to go out the door in case of an accident.  No more visits to the R&A, to see friends or just have a change of scene.  No more life!  He is agoraphobic now.  As for the psychiatrist?  I believe he is assessed every 6 months or so when he rarely sees the man himself but rather some registrar.  My brother goes with him.  From time to time, I think, his dosage is increased or another drug prescribed but he has no quality of life and his severe anxiety is clear to see.  He remains as sharp as a tack; his memory is intact but he struggles to find any reason for the dry, Glasgow humour which defined him.  He was 81 when my mother died, as was she.  He was bereft but physically fit.  Masking the pain of one of life’s inevitable traumas with powerful chemicals rather than addressing it, however, ultimately robbed him of any future.  The psychiatric profession, of which he was so proud, no longer exists …
Although a doctor’s daughter, I never liked pills and, looking back, we rarely took any.  ‘Take 2 disprin’ was the remedy offered for any malaise and the ‘medicine cabinet’ – one of the shelves in the cupboard above the tumble drier – was inevitably filled with boxes way out of date and we thought nothing of it!  Fast forward to today and I have tried to instill the same in Becca and Manny – not the out of date medicine cabinet (although I’m sure I have got that covered) – but my dislike of pills.  Their father would reach for chemical relief as a default and would positively rattle; I was the polar opposite – surprise me!  Thankfully, Manny is beginning to recognize my wisdom.
I suppose my introduction to the sinister face of psychiatry was through a friend of ours.  He had witnessed a fatal accident involving a motor cyclist and was first on the scene.  He, subsequently, had horrific nightmares and was obviously suffering from some form of post traumatic stress.  Suffice to say, the medical profession pumped him full of drugs – anti-depressants, no doubt – and the following ‘Pizza Night’ he was struggling not to slur his words.   Mind numbing, the solution to all!  He had witnessed an accident which would leave anybody traumatised but the administering of drugs as treatment led to him being admitted to a psychiatric hospital from which he struggled to be released.  Scary and so wrong.
Life happens while you’re busy doing other things … I was oblivious to the number of people I knew taking anti-depressants, prescribed to help them cope with the everyday stresses of life: work, divorce, money worries, whatever.  Don’t worry, take a pill!  Side effects?  What the hell!  God forbid that one should seek to find another way through a difficult time; that one should address the problem or listen to the mind or body …  I always say to Becca and Manny, my chosen ‘prescription’ for anyone struggling to cope with the pressures of this cynical world would be to spend time watching elephant in the wild.  It’s humbling and puts everything into perspective. It’s like pressing the ‘re-set’ button! 
Sadly, I don’t live on Walton’s Mountain – and, last I heard, neither do any elephants – but one gets my drift!  In an ideal world …  In an ideal world, there would be more James Davies; more people questioning the unquestionable and more books such as ‘Cracked.  Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good’.  Sometimes I wonder whether I was just born a maverick but I seem forever drawn to the lone voice; the voice of controversy or, perhaps, the voice of truth.
I was so excited by the promo for James Davies talk and book in 2013.  To see, in black and white, that there were 47 million prescriptions for anti-depressants in the UK, alone, in 2011 …  and ‘most of their recipients were just like you or me’.  I am shaking my head even now!  At last, someone who was probing the psychiatric profession.  Inside the sleeve of the book, it is questioned  ‘why, without solid justification, has the number of mental disorders risen from 106 in 1952 to 374 today?’  Why?
This is so difficult to write because there is so much to write!  I highly recommend this book and would encourage anyone to read it.  It is eye-opening and more than a little scary, pointing to the dominance of greed in a cynical world.  Let me see if I can summarise the key points … never one of my strengths.  How I hated the word ‘precis’ at school!
Firstly, the DSM.  This is shorthand for the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’, the tome listing all the psychiatric disorders believed to exist.  It was developed in the 1950s ‘to try to identify and standardize the symptoms characteristic of any given mental illness’; a shared dictionary to ensure that psychiatrists, throughout the world, were on the same page.  It is now in its fifth edition and the number of disorders listed has massively increased.  Either mental illness is on the rampage or there is another explanation: namely, unlike in other areas of medicine, there are no clear biological causes for most of the disorders in the DSM.  Psychiatrists must rely on the ‘matching method’, matching the patients’ symptoms to the appropriate diagnosis listed.
The DSM-II was given a major overhaul in the 1970s when the precarious diagnostic system was exposed thanks, in part, to an experiment conducted by 8 academics whose leader was Dr David Rosenhan.  Each participant presented himself to a different psychiatric hospital somewhere in the United States complaining of a voice in his head saying the word ‘thud’ – the only lie.  Each was admitted to his respective hospital and ‘all were diagnosed with serious mental disorders and given powerful antipsychotic pills’.  All expected to be discharged within a couple of days but most were there for weeks and some for over two months, unable to convince the doctors they were sane.  Coming clean about the experiment only made things worse and, eventually, they realized that they could only secure their release by agreeing that they were insane and then pretending to get better!  The subsequent report caused uproar prompting one major hospital to challenge Rosenhan to send more fake patients, insisting that they would not be duped.  Rosenhan agreed but sent no such ‘patients’.  A month later the hospital proudly declared to the national media that 41 fakes had been identified!
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) now elected Dr Robert Spitzer as leader of the DSM Taskforce – a team of 15 psychiatrists who would assemble the DSM-III.  The team collated criteria specific to each disorder which a patient must meet in order to warrant the diagnosis. With regard to depression, it was agreed that a patient must suffer five symptoms.  Why five?  In Spitzer’s words, ‘It was just consensus’; ‘four just seemed like not enough.  And six seemed like too much.’  He goes on to admit that ‘we don’t understand the neurobiology of depression.’  Help!
The lack of scientific evidence available has ensured flimsy grounds for diagnosis and the ‘everyday sufferings and setbacks of life are now ‘medicalised’ into illnesses that require treatment – usually with highly profitable drugs.’  For example, a teenage temper tantrum might now be ‘diagnosed’ as ‘oppositional defiant disorder’; a woman drawn to a domineering man might be classed as having a ‘self-defeating personality disorder’.  Forgive the pun but the whole world has gone mad!
In the words of James Davies, ‘in recent decades many areas of psychiatry have become so lured by power and money that they are in danger of putting the pursuit of pharmaceutical riches and medical status above their patients’ well-being.’  Profit is all-important and the pharmaceutical companies are in control.   ‘Cracked’ exposes negative drug trials routinely buried whilst research is regularly manipulated to produce positive results; anti-depressants whose effects are no better than placebos and doctors, lured by financial gain, enticed by the pharmaceutical giants to promote the latest drugs …
In an interview by Robert Crampton in The Times, May 4, 2013, James Davies argues that emotional torment ‘can be beneficial, productive, cathartic – not something that society should define as a disorder and then dose away with drugs.  Even if we could cure unhappiness, we shouldn’t.’  He goes on to say that ‘Suffering afflicts people for different reasons.  It is sometimes valuable to work out what those reasons are.’ 
I met James Davies after his talk that day in August, 2013 and told him about my father.  Sadly, validation in itself.  I bought 2 copies of his book, one for myself and one for Pop.  At my request, he wrote inside Pop’s one, ‘In support of Trish …’.    I can still see the look in his eyes when I gave it to him.  It was as though I had trampled on everything he held sacred.
I am exhausted, aren’t you?  I have so much more to say on this subject, too, but the long-life batteries in the keyboard are threatening to throw in the towel!  Suffice to say, I haven’t even mentioned R D Laing, a Scottish psychiatrist prominent in the 50s, 60s and 70s for his unorthodox views and approach.  According to Wikipedia, he rejected the ‘medical model of mental illness’ and this led him to question the use of medication such as anti-psychotics in psychiatry.  He was a maverick and the subject of a film entitled, ‘Mad to be Normal’ starring David Tennant – to the viewing of which, I already have a date!  Ironically, he was born in Glasgow in 1927 and studied Medicine at Glasgow University … that’s what I call full circle.
I can’t end without mentioning the fact that it is Mental Health Awareness Week.  I listened to Prince Harry talking of how he struggled, years on, after the death of his mother because he didn’t speak up or ask for help; I watched the 2-part documentary, Mind over Marathon, and saw how beneficial exercise could be but, most of all, how important it is to speak up about one’s feelings … to share.  One of Manny’s close friends died suddenly, a matter of weeks ago, and he has really struggled to cope.  Thankfully, we can talk about it and I am grateful for that.  The cynical in me wonders what would have been the outcome had he gone to the GP?  I suspect he would now be one of the 47 million.  I just hope to God that this bid to remove the stigma attached to mental health results in a reduction in profits for these pharmaceutical giants.  Now, wouldn’t that be loverly!  Nope, that is not a spelling mistake but a random – it is after midnight – homage to ‘My Fair Lady’. 
Apologies in advance for any mistakes or lack of cohesion but I am not reading over it – it’s way too long!  Just let me know.  Meantime, the quote I am going to leave you with has absolutely nothing to do with any of it – but I like it!
‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken!’  Oscar Wilde
This is Trish, signing off.