Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why NOT refuse psychiatry?

Fifteen-year-old Allyssa Bustamante killed her nine-year-old neighbor in Jefferson City, MO just to find out what it felt like, according to the Associated Press. Of course, she had been "receiving mental health treatment" before committing the murder.

And the only likely "treatment" in the context of this story is psychotropic medication. Lots of people would say the drugs, the so-called "mental health treatment", caused this murder of a child by a child.

I'm not too sure about that, even though there are FDA warnings and clinical evidence about side effects like suicidal and violent behavior from these drugs. I still think maybe Allyssa Bustamante just did it. Or, maybe her parents or her school or society had something to do with it, since she's just a child.

One thing I am quite sure of: The treatments prescribed by Allyssa's doctor or doctors did not prevent her from murdering her neighbor.

Does anybody see this as significant, at all?

Psychotropic drugs don't have to be proven to cause murders and suicides to be a bad idea. They just have to be useless, or slightly worse than useless.

The only thing these drugs are supposed to do is make people feel better and behave better.

Well, assuming this was the first murder for Allyssa Bustamante (at age fifteen), her behavior got much worse, not better. Even if she might say she feels just fine, most people would still conclude that the treatment didn't work due to the dead nine-year-old.

Psychiatry certainly does not work to reduce violence or improve the human condition. It has been around for most of a century now. Can anyone seriously argue that the world has gotten better because of psychiatric treatments? What mental illness was ever cured?

Could anyone argue that Allyssa received mental health treatment for reasons totally unrelated to any possibility that she might behave so badly, and that we therefore should not say her treatment failed, just because she murdered the little girl down the block in Jefferson City?

It seems to me that unless mental health treatments at least help to prevent child murders, they're pretty worthless. Everybody thinks medicine is valuable, so psychiatry must be, too. Well, maybe not. (Maybe that makes no more sense than thinking prayer is valuable, so executing witches must be, too.)

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