To the Editor: The Rissmillers' Open Forum article in the June issue linking antipsychiatry with the mental health consumer movement does a disservice to the thousands of consumers working to improve the lives of people with mental illnesses. The essay also fails to acknowledge the many psychiatrists who partner with them.
Today's consumer movement is not "radical." It is a mainstream, cornerstone approach to improve mental health care quality as called for by the U.S. Surgeon General (1), the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (2), and the Institute of Medicine (3).
Rather than "fighting against pharmacological treatment," the movement supports the consumer's choice of treatments—including medications—and is often active in promoting increased financing for mental health services, insurance parity, and the protection of individual rights, such as health care privacy.
The movement comprises courageous individuals who, at some risk to their own livelihoods, come out of the closet about their own experiences with mental illness and give back to their communities by forming support groups, operating drop-in centers, and educating the public against stigma and discrimination. It is unjust to discredit mental health care consumer advocates and their hard work by linking them with antipsychiatrists, including Scientologists.
Contrary to the authors' assertions, psychiatrists are engaged in ongoing collaborations with the consumer movement, with activities that range from conducting local public awareness events to convening a national dialogue series to identify collaborative approaches to improve care (4). Past APA president Steven S. Sharfstein, M.D., reinforced this effort when he endorsed the need for "a collaborative approach with input solicited and accepted from the patient" (5).
Psychiatry recognizes that alliances with those served—whether on the clinical, community, or policy levels—are in our mutual interest: the promotion of mental health recovery.
Mr. del Vecchio is associate director for consumer affairs at the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Washington, DC, Department of Health and Human Services, US Public Health Services, 1999
Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America. Pub no SMA-03-3832. Rockville, Md, Department of Health and Human Services, President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, 2003
Improving the Quality of Health Care for Mental and Substance-Use Conditions. Washington, DC, Institute of Medicine, 2006
Consumers and Psychiatrist in Dialogue. Rockville, Md, Department of Health and Human Services, 1997. Available at www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/publications/allpubs/OEL00-0009/
Sharfstein S: Recovery model will strengthen psychiatrist-patient relationship. Psychiatric News, Oct 21, 2005, p 3