LETTER:Medication and mental illness

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The Independent Online
From Mr Mike Launer

Sir: Regarding the controversy between Sane and Mind with regards to publicising the side-effects of neuroleptic medications meant for the severely mentally ill, I can't see any problem with giving information to patients and their carers about side-effects of medication, but this has to be balanced with adequate and accurate information about the problems that occur when patients do not take their medication.

In the circular sent by Mind to its members, a condition termed "mental distress" is described. This condition does not exist in reality, and one must conclude that Mind does not appear to recognise the existence of mental illness as such. Of course, if there is no such thing as mental illness, then there is no such thing as treatment for it.

I think the vast majority of sensible people who are involved in the psychiatric and psychological care of people will now accept that, at the severe end of the scale, there is quite clearly an illness entity that is almost certainly related to changes of a chemical nature in the brain. There are also large amounts of recent evidence to support the idea that these changes are amenable to chemical treatment of one sort or another, and many resources are being devoted to lessening the side- effects.

Interestingly enough, the novel drug Clozapine, with its complex system of blood monitoring, is one of the few psychiatric drugs that provides full information to patients of a written variety when it is dispensed to them. With the largest number of patients in the country on this drug, we supplement this information with regular meetings of family groups so as to make sure they are aware of all the latest developments.

I think it is quite sad that these controversies exist among the voluntary groups because in the US the existence of a united voluntary organisation the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (Nami) is a clear advantage, as it exerts quite a bit of influence on the US government with regards to changes and improvements in the care of the mentally ill and their families.

Yours sincerely,

MIKE LAUNER

Consultant Psychiatrist

Burnley General Hospital

Burnley Health

Care NHS Trust

Burnley

14 June

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