Working For Peace, Justice, and A Sustainable Environment
A Modesto Peace/Life Center Publication
By HARLEY SULLIVAN
Common sense dictates the need for second opinions when making your medical decisions. But how often does one question the integrity and agenda of non-profit advocacy organizations, like the National Association for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)?
Recently, articles promoting local NAMI activities have appeared in Connections. Perhaps a second look at NAMI is in order? It only seems fair to judge NAMI by the company it keeps to ensure a fair and balanced view of its actions and accomplices.
Ostensibly, NAMI has a mission to help bring order to the lives of families fractured by psychiatric disturbances. Yet complex economic realities have turned a laudable cause inside out. Black and white diagnostic distinctions have a way of morphing into black is white deceptions, especially where billions of dollars derived from prescribing drugs are at stake.
Former Wall Street Journal reporter Joe Sharkey, in his book Bedlam: Greed, Profiteering and Fraud in a Mental Health System Gone Crazy, explains how fabricated market demand, painstaking media manipulation, and systematic kickbacks have undermined the integrity of a very profitable system one that also happens to exploit non-profits. Sharkey cites extensive evidence to bolster his conclusions, highlighted by an assertion that groups including NAMI and Alcoholics Anonymous have been duped into becoming whores for the pharmaceutical and psychiatric hospital industries. Unbeknownst to mental health charities and their volunteers, many have been tricked by industry pimps into aiding a bounty hunting, body snatching, and hugely profit making industry that literally borrowed wholesale from the successful business model developed by Holiday Inn.
As unsettling as it may seem, in this day and age citizens must question the agenda of non-profit organizations. NAMI is fortunate to have thousands of earnest volunteers and well over 100,000 well-meaning members. Everyone wants to believe such organizations have independent agendas and simply stick to their stated missions. However, local members interviewed in Modesto seem unaware that the thinly veiled $5 million on NAMI's financial statements, listed simply as "corporate donations", actually come from the pharmaceutical industry.
Ken Silverstein, in Mother Jones in 1999, reported that NAMI took $11.7 million from drug companies over a three and a half year period from 1996 through 1999. The largest donor, Eli Lilly, which laundered $2.87 million of its marketing budget through NAMI, and loaned NAMI a Lilly executive, whose salary was paid by Lilly.
According to an article in the trade publication Pharmaceutical Executive, NAMI teamed up with drug companies to promote the movie, A Beautiful Mind. Their mutual objective - to de-stigmatize mental disorder diagnoses, so more treatment could be delivered to an "underserved" population. Yet the mental disorder label, almost by definition, is inherently stigmatizing and condescending. Such labels simply help provide a sense of orderliness for those who are disturbed, themselves, by the mental anguish and suffering of others.
The ability to dovetail the pharmaceutical industry's message with NAMI's, to promote de-stigmatization "with patient support secured, shows the priceless "ROI" pharma may obtain when keeping third party relationships active," said Joyce Breitstein, the Senior Associate Editor of Pharmaceutical Executive. Incredibly, the dovetailed message is not seen by the industry for what it is, a shameful exploitation of human misery and suffering.
Psychiatric diagnoses are based strictly on dubiously subjective symptoms alone, having evolved over the years as a result of political wrangling. Because there are billions of dollars (for drugging patients) at stake, the psychiatric industry has crafted its own diagnostics Bible, the DSM-IV. Psychiatric doctors usually suffer from many years of exposure to drug company propaganda, often delivered by very beautiful young saleswomen, some of whom tout "8 Minute Diagnostics" for nebulous mental disorder diagnoses. The DSM-IV was developed politically, rather than scientifically, to accommodate the fact that, unlike other medical diagnoses, underlying pathologies for mental disorders have never been pinned down.
When Kentucky's Medicaid program attempted to exclude Eli Lilly's psychotropic drug Zyprexa (concocted to exploit the potential profits created by these nebulous diagnoses) from its list of preferred medications, NAMI placed full-page ads in newspapers, mustered protests, and sent faxes to state officials. What NAMI did not say at the time was the ads, buses, and faxes were paid for by Eli Lilly." Zyprexa's astounding revenues now exceed $5 billion annually, far eclipsing the $2 billion raked in by Prozac at its zenith (or nadir, depending on which way you look at it).
Psychiatrist Peter Breggin, a leading critic of NAMI, blasts the organization because of the way it "pushes drugs the way the NRA promotes guns."
In 1992, the World Health Organization (WHO), found that "less developed" nations, which emphasize community support instead of medications, have much better results with patients labeled as psychotic than nations which stress drug treatments. In the United States, where 61 percent of those diagnosed as psychotic were maintained on anti-psychotic medications, only 37 percent had full remission. In stark contrast, countries including India, Nigeria, and Colombia, where only 16 percent of patients diagnosed as psychotic were maintained on anti-psychotic medications, approximately 63 percent of patients had full remission.
It is ironic that the pharmaceutical executives and psychiatric doctors most disturbed by the disorderly minds of their mental patients, whose dubious diagnoses are often simply the result of deceptive marketing fabrications, are so disturbingly anxious to accuse others of mental illness; the most dangerous disturbances may simply exist in their own carefully ordered, manipulated, and rigidly molded minds.