Participatory Concepts: A Driving Force – Part VI
Developing a Participatory Model: The need to assess the core problems in mental health care through a shared perspective
PeteEarley and Robert Whitaker are two award-winning journalists who have applied their skills to assess core problems within America’s mental health care system. While their perspectives and
approaches are quite different, their books, articles and lectures shed light on many critical issues and are influencing advocacy.
“Crazy:A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness”, chronicles Pete Earley’s attempts to help his son during several psychotic episodes, as well as his investigation into the “criminalizaiton of mental illness”. Earley has become a fierce mainstream advocate who argues passionately for better access to treatment, police Crisis Intervention Training and patient-empowerment tools such as PADs and peer specialist certification. His perspective as a parent is very important for families seeking support.
Robert Whitaker is a medical journalist who co-wrote a 1998 Boston Globe series on abuses in psychiatric research putting him on the path to author two books on the topic. Whitaker’s investigative journalism has captured a lot of attention from both mainstream and peer advocates. His book, “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America”, won the 2010 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for best investigative journalism. In response to “Anatomy of an Epidemic”, a diverse group of people established the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, which quickly received over $2 million in donations to support types of studies and pilot projects that aren’t being funded today.
Many practicing psychiatrists are also assessing the core problems within the mental health care system. Phillip Siniakin, M.D. is a board-certified clinical psychiatrist and author who in the course of his twenty-five years of practice has adopted the perspective of postpsychiatry. He describes the
adaptation of postmodernism to psychiatry as resulting in “treatment becoming a sort of ‘negotiation’ that honors the perspective of the patient and the ‘knowing not knowing’ of the doctor. Contrasted with this is the biological model where the patient knows nothing and the expert (doctor) knows everything.” His book “Psychiatryland” strongly emphasizes patient-empowerment strategies.
Participatory concepts in mental health care provide consumers with the ability to become engaged in recognizing symptoms and work in partnership with providers to select effective treatment options and recovery strategies. These concepts give a voice to the patient and break away from the “Buck Era” of a non-participatory model. In order to meet the critical need of strengthening the mental health care system, advocates should consider a unified agenda that embraces patient empowerment concepts.
Mental health advocates from diverse perspectives should consider: Is recovery from severe mental illness possible without Participatory Medicine?
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