Censorship Of Views Critical Of Mental Health Alleged At Seattle P-I
This past August six "psychiatric survivors" affiliated with Support Coalition International launched its "Fast For Freedom In Mental Health". One of the demands of the six hunger strikers was to challenge the American Psychiatric Association, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and the Surgeon General to produce a shred of evidence that any so called "mental illness" is rooted in biology.
The strikers also wanted to bring attention to the harm psychiatric drugs often cause people confined in the psychiatric system. Most importantly, they were hoping to get a little media attention for what they were doing. They did, most notably stories in the Sunday L.A. Times Magazine and the Washington Post.
The only coverage the strikers got in Seattle was an August 29 Post-Intelligencer editorial written by Seattle area psychologist Keith Hoeller titled, "No Proof Mental Illness Rooted In Biology". The P-I published not one, but two, rebuttals to Hoeller's editorial. One by Frank Jose of NAMI and psychiatrist Ron Sterling. Hoeller says the P-I has refused to publish his rebuttal of Jose and Sterling. Hoeller says he believes this marked the beginning of a pressure campaign by the local branch of NAMI, NAMI Greater Seattle, that has led to him being permanently banned from the pages of the P-I's editorial section.
Hoeller says he was told the P-I would no longer be publishing his editorials by Reader Representative Glenn Drosendahl over the phone last week. This phone conversation took place after the P-I had rejected an editorial by Hoeller in opposition to mental health parity legislation, which is currently being debated in the Washington State Legislature (Read the rejected editorial below). Substitute House Bill (HSB) 1828 was passed by the Washington State House of Representatives 64 - 33 on February 13. Hoeller's editorial was rejected a few days after SHB 1828 was forwarded to the Senate.
When I asked Glenn Drosendahl via e-mail the reason(s) for the rejection of Hoeller's editorial and if he was indeed permanently banned form the pages of the P-I, he wrote that, "I did not say Keith was permanently banned from writing op-ed pieces for us. I said the op-ed editor would like to hear from other voices on the subject now, since Keith has submitted and had published six op-ed pieces already. One other thing he may have misinterpreted from our conversation: I did tell him he wrote well and persuasively, but that was not the reason our op-ed editor rejected his piece now. It's only that she wants to hear from someone else with that viewpoint. Again, it's a matter of trying to get a different voice on that side of the issue."
This is a position being taken by a newspaper that editorialized in favor of the passage of SHB 1828 on February 3. When I asked Drosendahl what other voices on the side of the issue, like David Oaks of Support Coalition International or Jeffrey Schaler of American University, opposed to parity the P-I would like to hear from, I received no reply. The other issue I raised in my reply to Drosendahl was the simple fact the Hoeller lives in Washington state and is the only academic in his field of study in the state willing to speak out against forced psychiatry and paying for it with mental health parity. This is an interesting position to take this issue given that the P-I has editorialized in favor of parity legislation and that Hoeller is a professional academic with the credentials to write a rebuttal. Especially considering that Drosendahl himself says that Hoeller does write "well and persuasively" and that Hoeller has never published an editorial about mental health parity before.
In his reply to Drosendahl, Hoeller stuck by his version of their phone conversation. He says the P-I has not only rejected his mental health parity editorial, but anything else from him permanently. Hoeller continues to maintain that this decision is the result of a combination of a pro-mental health bias at the P-I and caving in to pressure from the local chapter of NAMI.
Hoeller also says that he has been given different reasons for not running his editorials since August: "While the Seattle P-I was happy to publish my op-eds for the last six years, since NAMI pressured them last August they have not once, but twice, rejected op-eds by me. And the reasons keep changing. About 3 months ago, Kimberly Mills rejected an op-ed by me, saying the Seattle PI had a policy of not publishing anyone twice within a six month period. Mr. Drosendahl told me yesterday that the PI has no such policy." Hoeller believes that the P-I is coming up with pretexts for not publishing him and is not actually following a stated guideline for publication in the paper.
Hoeller also wants to know what input from the public the P-I received before publishing its editorial in favor of the mental health parity legislation: "Who did the P-I Editorial Board invite in, and who did they call, before writing their Feb. 3 op-ed in favor of parity? Did they invite in, or call, just supporters like NAMI and legislators who favor the bills? Did they invite in, or call, ANY opponents to mental health parity? They are supposed to invite in, or call, people from BOTH sides before writing such an editorial." Hoeller is also wondering what Glenn Drosendahl's job at the P-I actually is. "He sounds more like a lawyer hired to defend the line of the paper," Hoeller told me, "Not a representative of the paper's readers.
Finally, Hoeller says this is an issue that is bigger than any of his rejected editorials. It also about what Hoeller perceives to be a strong bias in the P-I in favor of the NAMI position in favor of state sponsored coercive psychiatry and mental health parity. Hoeller says the P-I never interviews critics of coercive psychiatry for its objective news articles. Also, Hoeller says there is no mention, or any investigative work, at the P-i in its news articles regarding the well known fact that NAMI is a pharmaceutical industry supported organization. Getting his editorial accepted for publication would not be good enough for Hoeller. He wants these broader issues of the way mental health issues are covered in the P-I addressed as well.
I was unable to get any reply from the P-I regarding Hoeller's response to Drosendahl. What is clear in this matter is that the P-I has taken a position in favor of legislation that has grave civil liberty implications, for this legislation will increase funding, if implemented, of the forced drugging of both in and out patients in the psychiatric system in Washington state. The P-I has also rejected an editorial with an opposing view point. Those individuals with view points in opposition to the P-I's official editorial position on HSB 1828, regardless of where they live, should send either editorials or letters to P-I president Roger Oglesby ( firstname.lastname@example.org) and CC Reader Representative Glenn Drosendahl ( email@example.com) and ask them if your views are welcome in the paper.
The Bankruptcy Of Mental Health Insurance Parity
Keith Hoeller, Editor
Review of Existential Psychology & Psychiatry (Seattle, WA)
The symptoms of our health insurance crisis are visible to everyone. Health insurance costs have been increasing at rates into the double-digits; employers have been shifting more of the insurance costs onto employees and eliminating health insurance entirely for retirees; private health insurance is unaffordable to individuals; states have been decreasing Medicaid benefits, as well as limiting health coverage for the poor; and 44 million Americans still remain without health care insurance.
It is hard to imagine how politicians could make this situation worse. But they already have done so with the new Medicare prescription bill. While this bill will provide only paltry drug coverage for most seniors, it will guarantee megabillions for the drug companies, since it forbids the government from negotiating lower volume prices. And the cost, estimated only last Fall at $400 billion over 10 years, has already been recalculated as reaching at least $550 billion, or one-third more than the original estimate.
But there is another idea on the political horizon that will surely damage our health insurance crisis even more than this costly Medicare prescription bill: mental health insurance parity. Mental health providers and lay groups, including many who receive financial support from the drug companies, have been pushing to have government mandate equal health insurance for diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.
Their argument goes like this: Since mental illnesses are real illnesses "just like any other," their treatment should be covered by health insurance just as much as other physical diseases.
But there are two significant ways in which mental illnesses are precisely NOT like other illnesses.
The first is that mental illnesses are not illnesses at all. Mental health supporters have yet to produce a scintilla of scientific evidence that ANY mental illness is in fact biologically caused. Psychiatrists have not in fact conclusively proven that any mental illness is in fact a chemical imbalance of the brain (the latest in a long line of psychiatric theories). Not surprisingly, psychiatrists have also not produced a single physical test that can detect any such mental illness.
People who have been diagnosed with a mental illness have either not been physically tested or their physical tests have shown they are in fact healthy according to every bodily test known to modern medicine.
The second problem is that psychiatrists are the only medical doctors whose practice rests on the use of force on unwilling "patients." While psychiatrists regularly hospitalize mental patients and treat them against their will, no other doctors do this.
And the use of force in psychiatry has been increasing, not decreasing. More people are involuntarily committed now than 50 years ago, and many released patients are forced to take psychiatric drugs for years on end. Our own King County Mental Health Court routinely issues orders that force released citizens to take medications or risk losing their freedom. Indeed, our own civil commitment laws were expanded in the 1990s beyond simply "dangerous to self and others," to allow for the re-hospitalization of ex-patients who stop taking their medications.
Mental health supporters argue that mandating mental health coverage will result in little increase in insurance costs. Such an argument boggles the mind when you realize that they are mandating that insurance pay for billions of dollars of treatments they do not now cover. Either insurers will have to increase fees, or else they will have to cut coverage for regular physical diseases.
We may end up with health insurance that will not pay for the chemotherapy that might cure your terminal cancer, but it will pay for the antidepressants which they claim will alleviate your depression at the thought that you are now going to die.
The idea that health insurance should pay for involuntary treatment is morally bankrupt at best.
But putting into practice the idea that you can get mental health coverage without any increase in insurance is a modern version of the "you can get something for nothing" mentality that politicians have been promising from time immemorial.
Our own state's mental health insurance parity bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate. Passage of this bill is sure to bankrupt our health care system and erode the civil rights of every Washington state resident
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