Psychiatrist attacks gap in mental health services

PEOPLE with mental health problems are “so out of it on drugs” that they cannot function properly or tap into therapeutic care, psychiatrist Dr Ivor Browne has said.

Addressing a mental health conference at UCC, Dr Browne, chief psychiatrist for the Eastern Health Board, said medication was rendering people helpless.

“They are functioning at about 30%. Drugs can be useful, but only as a way into someone’s problem. The person has to do the work themselves and has to address the pain and suffering that caused the problem in the first place.”

Dr Browne, who faced enormous opposition in trying to reform the mental health services from within, maintains the whole notion of mental illness as a disease is a myth and said illness comes from traumatic experiences which must be addressed. He said there is a “yawning gap” in the mental health services.

“We need a new form of asylum with therapeutic communities, natural settings where people can get well.”

Dr Browne attacked the system which diagnoses “every third person” as suffering from bipolar disorder and uses clinical dehumanising terms.

“I get sick when I hear the term service user. We need a warm human loving service. If any real progress is to be made we need a whole overhaul of the system.”

Also speaking yesterday, Dr Pat Bracken, consultant psychiatrist and clinical director of mental health services in West Cork, argued that the power of psychiatry is not based on robust science and there is no justification for doctors being allowed to detain and force-treat people.

“Psychiatrists do no possess the medical science that might produce the legal authority invested in us.”

Dr Bracken questioned the science behind anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and said emerging evidence was challenging their benefits. He said now was a good time for Ireland to begin questioning the power of psychiatry and the paternalistic nature of the mental health act which gives the doctor absolute power.

Campaigner and founder of Mad Pride Ireland John McCarthy said it was time to find out if people taking their own lives were on psychiatric medications. “I was at a suicide conference in Tullamore and the suicide prevention officer displayed charts giving statistics of alcohol levels, hash, heroin, cocaine, but nobody had recorded the level of prescribed medication in the bloodstream of those who had died by suicide.”

Mr McCarthy called on the Mental Health Commission to make it mandatory to record levels of prescribed drugs in the bloodstream of someone who had died by suicide.

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