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Long-time national mental health peer leader, Laura Van Tosh, spoke in Eugene, Oregon about her quest for well-being, including quitting her psychiatric drugs. This reporter covered the event, which took place at the Lane County, Oregon's mental health consumer/survivor advisory council.

From Ativan to Acupuncture: Mental Health Alternatives

Date Published:

Jul 25, 2012 12:00 AM

Author: R. L. Stollar

Source: Eugene Daily News

To see the original complete article at Eugene Daily News, click here. 

The subject of mental health sparks a plethora of emotions and arguments among advocates, patients, family members, and providers. The history of mental health treatment itself is a controversial one, dating back to ancient times when early humans would chip into afflicted individuals’ skulls using crude stone instruments, in order to release evil spirits.

While skull-chipping, asylum freak shows, and lobotomies are now shadows of the past, the contemporary emphasis is on medication.

In the 1400s, the first mental asylum opened in Valencia, Spain. Asylums were known for their notorious conditions. They were not places to heal the ill but places where the ill could be abandoned. The most infamous of these was the monastery-turned-asylum “Bedlam,” where violent patients were put on display as a freak show. The public could watch a crazy person for a penny.

In 1935, the first lobotomy was performed. This procedure involved shocking a patient into a coma, then hammering an ice-pick-like instrument through the top of each eye socket. The instrument would then sever the nerves connecting the frontal lobes to the emotion-controlling centers of the inner brain, leaving the patient in a subdued, often vegetative, state.

While skull-chipping, asylum freak shows, and lobotomies are now shadows of the past, the contemporary emphasis is on medication. From Ativan to Zoloft, from Xanex to Seroquel—the variety of chemical mental health remedies is astounding. Some of the most commonly used are anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, mood stabilizing, and stimulant medicines.

From survivor to advocate

Laura Van Tosh, a national mental health peer leader, spoke this afternoon in Eugene. In the mental health community, the “peer” movement involves community-based services and supports provided by peers, and peer support specialists, to individuals or family members with similar lived experience. A key aspect of her presentation involved this modern emphasis on chemical treatments and ways in which she believes it might be too emphatic.

To read the rest of the article at Eugene Daily News click here. 

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Dorothy Dundas

While institutionalized for three years as an adolescent in the 1960's, MindFreedom member Dorothy Washburn Dundas was labeled a "schizophrenic" and forced to undergo 40 combined insulin coma-electroshock "treatments." Dorothy says, "I experienced and witnessed many atrocities. I believe that luck, determination, and my own anger and one compassionate advocate were my best friends on the road to my ultimate survival and freedom." Through a number of op-ed pieces, she has voiced her opposition to abusive psychiatric practices. Her poster, "Behind Locked Doors," which she created from her hospital records, is used in training programs. Dorothy lives in the Boston area where she has raised her four wonderful children. She founded and is the sole driver in her "safe, friendly and reliable" car service called The Crystal Lake Express.
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