Letter: Compulsory drugs are not the answer

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The Independent Online
Sir: Recent criticisms of community care and the re-emergence of calls for legislation to 'treat' people compulsorily with mental health problems in the community are extremely worrying.

Those who have jumped on the London Zoo incident to argue for greater powers to 'treat' people against their will have usually tended to omit to mention what that treatment generally amounts to.

Contrary to the view of your correspondents (letter, 6 January), the 'major tranquillisers' routinely prescribed to anyone unfortunate enough to be labelled with the stigmatising catch-all term 'schizophrenia' have been shown to benefit only about 10 per cent of those receiving them, while exposing recipients to an approximately 50 per cent chance of irreversible brain damage in the form of Tardive Dyskinesia.

With these drugs as the only treatment on offer, is it surprising that so many patients do not return to ask for help when they need it?

Perhaps the fact that the unemployed, the homeless, black and Irish people, women and the sexually abused are massively over- represented in our psychiatric hospitals says something about the true causes of, and most productive solutions for, mental health problems.

Forcing people to take their 'treatment' will only alienate even more seriously distressed people from the professions.

The answer to poverty, child abuse, unemployment and homelessness is not forced drugging, but a properly funded range of services which address the real needs of 'patients' and carers.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID HILL

Clinical Psychologist

Director

Mind in Camden

London, NW1

5 January

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