‘Mad’ men and women embrace their mental health issues

From KATU.com, August 26 2009

More than eight million Americans with either bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia are fighting the stigma of mental illness by embracing their “madness”, not suppressing it.

Will Hall has schizophrenia, but he said years of medication only made his condition worse.

“All my life I’ve experienced really difficult extreme states, hearing voices, seeing visions,” he said. “I felt like my creative emotional self was blunted and shut down and it really didn’t help me with any of the anxiety or fear I was experiencing.”

Hall chose more holistic treatments such as yoga, vitamins and a new diet over pharmaceuticals.

This idea came from the Mad Pride movement, a new and growing grassroots movement of people with serious mental disorders who are rejecting traditional psychiatric treatments and standing up against the shame associated with mental illness.

“I’ve learned to really accept this as part of who I am rather than seeing, like oh, being very terrified of it and saying I have to get rid of it or have to stop everything but accept it as part of a natural rhythm and cycle of my life,” said Hall.

Dr. Krista Tricarico, a local naturopathic physician, said homeopathic remedies can be equally effective without the side effects.

“People want other avenues to explore their health and are tired of listening to an authority tell them they just need medication,” said Tricarico. “It’s a lot more about a person finding their route to recovering and healing.”

But psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Dodson is worried about people rejecting years of scientific research and proof because he said they may feel ashamed.

“They take the medications because they have issues and the medication is designed to help them and some people think if they can just get rid of the medicine they won’t have their problem,” said Dodson. “It seems very irresponsible and dangerous.”

Hall emphasized that Mad Pride is not anti-medication and that patients should not stop taking their medication without talking to their doctors.

He said his process was slow and took him several years but he believes people should know there are other options.

Also, Hall launched Portland Hearing Voices, which is one of the first groups in the country where people can embrace their mental diversity.

For more information, you can also visit Mental Health Portland.