Carrol Cox cbcox at
Mon Aug 28 08:51:57 PDT 2000

Joanna Sheldon wrote:

> You're sounding really goofy here, man. My purported tentativeness was
> meant sarcastically. And if you've "never read anything about
> anti-depressants by anyone who knows anything that did not say this", then
> I guess, uh -- well, gee, Carrol, I'm in purty good company.

Maybe I can give an idea of the company you and Reese keep. When my first wife's kidneys collapsed and she had to go on dialysis, a neighbor suggested that what she needed was lots of sunshine. That's how incredibly banal you sound. But it's worse. My neighbor's superstitions about sunshine as a cure-all probably was never going to hurt anyone. The kind of mindless banality I see about mental illness all the time -- the kind of mindless banality that people in support groups quote to each other in mingled rage and glee -- hurts people, sometimes kills them. (Reese's pomposity in repeating what everyone who knows anything knows about exercise as though he had just rediscovered the theory of gravity is merely an especially malignant instance. It is malignant because exercise really does help most, but *not* all, depressed patients, but for only a very few does it help enough that they need nothing further. So following Reese's advice, and I've seen it expressed frequently by stupid assholes like him, could kill people.)

And the sneers at psychiatrists by you and Reese are equally dangerous -- again because they are important partial truths. Unfortunately, patients can't wholly trust psychiatrists and psychologists. Someone who knew shit (which Cockburn and Reese and you obviously don't) about mental illness might quite usefully write a study of what is wrong with psychiatry and the treatment of mental illness in general. But amateurs who have a smattering picked up from the popular press and a few books and then begin to pontificate are sickening.

I see my psychiatrist for 10 minutes every two months. I tell him (say) that I don't need a refill yet of ambien but need refills of celexa and amitriptylin, he scribbles out a prescription, I pay the receptionist $71, and go home. There is a good deal to criticize in that sort of arrangement. But almost *all* the criticisms I see on this maillist are (whether the writer knows it or not) an attack on the victims of mental illness under the pretense (which may fool the writer him/herself) of attacking drug firms or psychiatrists. I would not object to the collected management of the pharmacy firms being sent to prison for life -- but for the same crimes that one can ascribe to automobile management, bank management, or any other corporate management. Of course they cheat. Of course they overcharge. Of course they cover up mistakes and destroy people's lives. What else is new. Squawks like yours and Reese's (you are far above his category, but still pretty offensive) are simply noise, because you just don't know enough. You don't know what the illness is like. You don't know what depressed patients already know. You don't know what psychiatrists know and what psychiatrists are doing to correct what they know. You don't know what is wrong with psychiatry. You don't know what is right with psychiatry. You simply don't know anything useful about mental illness and its treatment -- and you write pompous posts (and probably engage in pompous private conversations) in which you express that ignorance as somehow representing special insight on your own part.

Your and Reese's comments on mental illness are (probably not intentional, but frankly I don't recognize that as an excuse, because the knowledge is available) are at the level of the comments on women of a person I kicked off the m-fem list for writing about feminist ball-busters.


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