Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NAMI re-write

I suggest a revision of part of the "fact" sheet on the website of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Greater Chicago local chapter (NAMI-GC). After all, it was last revised in 1999, and there has been enormous forward progress in the empirical and scientific understanding of mental illness in the last eleven years ... right?

The last paragraph of the section about substance abuse in this publication reads as follows:

Many people who struggle with mental illnesses also struggle with alcohol or drug habits that may have begun in their mistaken belief that they could use the substance to "medicate" the painful feelings that accompany their mental illness. This belief is mistaken because substance abuse only adds to the suffering, bringing its own mental and physical anguish. Here, too. psychiatrists can offer a number of effective treatment programs that can reach the substance abuser and his or her family.

Based on broad empirical evidence and the most recent research, this paragraph should be updated as follows:

Most people struggling with behavioral, emotional or mental problems called "mental illnesses" attempt to use alcohol, street drugs, or over-the-counter and prescription medications to feel better or to assist desired behavior change. This popular strategy is mistaken in all but the most extreme, short-term emergency situations, because it invariably leads to increasingly complex side effects, disability and heartbreak. Here, too, psychiatrists insisting upon the medicalization of everyday life betray, abuse, and harm individuals, families and society.

NAMI-GC's original (circa 1999) paragraph and my more modern revision are each 79 words long. My 79 are much truer than theirs.

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