Friday, December 7, 2012

The 2012 APA Conference in Philadelphia

By Melissa Farrell
My perspective on the booths and presentations
I attended the American Psychiatric Association’s 2012 Annual Conference in Philadelphia on the weekend of May 5th through May 7th. I found the conference insightful in some ways, but lacking in many other areas. The areas that I found progressive included a Swami, who was also a psychiatrist, presenting his research findings on the benefits on alternate nostril breathing. A yoga instructor I had years back taught me to practice alternate nostril breathing. I was practicing this for a while when I was anxious and could not sleep at night; I did not want to give into the temptation of popping a pill to quiet my mind.
My traveling companion Angela Cerio and I spoke to a psychiatrist who agreed with us about the benefits of wellness, health and exercising. The psychiatrist even stated that she would rather her patients go to yoga than to have them medicated unnecessarily. 
What I was really appalled by was the excessive number of manufacturers present pushing Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) machines. There were at least five manufacturers of ECT machines present. ECT is such a drastic treatment resort and the benefits are often questionable, not to mention the long-term damage that its use can cause to patients. In my eyes this machine should not be such a hot commodity and so broadly advertised. This type of therapy should not be publicized the way it is, because of its known side effects. 
I also did not like the large presence of pharmaceutical companies either. I spoke to a representative who was there to promote Equetro, a form of Tegretol. I told him that I noticed there are not many so-called mood stabilizers on the market and he agreed with me. I noted that there is an over-abundance of neuroleptic or anti-psychotic drugs that are being produced. It is known that these types of drugs are prescribed by psychiatrists to children and adults who do not have the disorders that the drug was originally intended for. There are a lot of lawsuits for off-label use.
Additionally, I did not see any services that promoted alternatives to drugs at any of these booths. I did not see any information on orthomolecular therapy.  This type of therapy often involves high potency vitamins, supplements and proper nutrition.
I listened to a presentation by an Indian psychiatrist elucidating how our modern day Western psychotherapy is based upon the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Eastern text. Highlighted were the text’s moral statements and the laws of the Universe like treating others with kindness, practicing gratitude and being humble. All of these principles are applied to the Western psychotherapy we have today.
Throughout the entire conference, I did not hear anyone using the words “peer” or “recovery.” The only notion of “peer” in this conference was by a peer provider, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, a prominent researcher and clinician and an authority on bipolar disorder. She was the only individual at this conference who disclosed about her lived experience with mental illness. She teaches and researches at the very prestigious Johns Hopkins University. I found Dr. Jamison very inspiring. She spoke so eloquently and openly about her life. She spoke about the difference between clinical depression and grief. She revealed that her spouse, another famous researcher and clinician from Johns Hopkins had died about 10 years ago and although it was very difficult for her to deal with, it was grief and not clinical depression that she was experiencing. Dr. Jamison spoke about how we need to normalize our experiences and not accept a clinical label to what are simply normal emotional states. She also spoke about the difference between clinical depression and other normal life experiences.
I would have loved to see peers involved in the conference. I thought it would be really out of place for me to disclose to anyone at the conference that I have a mental illness. I would have liked to see less emphasis on pharmaceutical drugs and more on integrative-type methods used in treatment. In conclusion, I believe that treatment is not about making money at another person’s expense but about doing what is morally and ethically right and true.

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