Psychobabble Scars

San Diego Weekly Reader, May 24th, 2003

Letter to the Editor
by Carla Jacobs

I recognize that Still Crazy After All These Years (January 9, 2003 by Jeanette DeWyze) is an “old article” to you, but it is just now making the rounds of the folks who are specifically interested in it.

I’m sorry. Loren Mosher is not, as he described himself, “a lapsed psychiatrist.” He is just an elderly man who followed the dead-end streets and whom science, thus, left behind.

Recently, Mosher has achieved a new energy, as he has testified for and against legislation closely attached to the Church of Scientology. The cult opposes psychiatric treatment, following the delusion of their founder, L.Ron Hubbard, who believed mental illness a myth. Of course, many think L. Ron was nothing more than a hack science fiction writer who once said that if you wanted to make money, found a church. So, he did. Perhaps he saw psychiatry as a competition to his “e-meter”, called “the way to happiness.”

Mosher himself was not in his heyday a follower of L. Ron. In fact, he was a disciple of sociologist R.D. Laing. Laing once likened schizophrenia to a self-enlightened acid trip. It is not.

Schizophrenia is a neurobiological brain disorder as medical in nature, as diabetes, or Alzheimer’s.

The following excerpt from Madness in the Streets: How Psychiatry and the Law Abandoned the Mentally Ill, by Rael Isaac and Virginia C. Armat, describes the failed experiment of Soteria House.

“Mosher presents the following staffer’s report as typical of Soteria’s approach. ” I had had three hours of sleep, and even that had been broken sleep. Sleeping with and guarding Sara is not especially conducive to good resting. I was sleeping on the floor by the door so that I would waken if she tried to leave…(At six) I got up and started to fix her breakfast. She was sitting at the table waiting more impatiently; she then urinated on the bench she was sitting on…I was tired. I was sad…it was Sara’s 16th birthday, “sweet 16″. It was Sara’s special day to celebrate, and there sat Sara in Soteria, soiling herself, terrified of dying, of being alone or being with people, of spiders, of noises, of being loved of being unloved. Happy Birthday Sara…it was so goddamned sad.” The staffer goes on to describe this incident (in which Sara goes on to suck at her keeper’s breast) as “the kind of incident that makes our house a special and more-than-good place.”

The sort of psychobabble that initiated places like Soteria House permeated our mental health system for years. We can see its visible scars every day on our street corners, in encampments under freeway overpasses and in our headlines and jails.

It is time to retire this garbage – and sometimes, it is time for an old psychiatrist to retire.

Carla Jacobs

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Response by Dr. Mosher

June 13, 2003

Dear Mrs. Jacobs:

I am writing in reponse to your letter to the San Diego Reader about Jeanette DeWyze’s article titled “Still Crazy After All Those Years”.

I must conclude that you are alive and well as that piece certainly seems to have made your blood boil. That I can still stir your ire is a very nice compliment for someone you so kindly label as an “elderly man” who should retire.

Your letter is clear only in its emotional tone — otherwise it is disjointed, rambling and filled with distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies. My friends and professional colleagues had great difficulty deciphering what it was you were really trying to say other than you have no great affection for me or what I have done.

Let’s begin by correcting some of your inaccuracies in the order in which they occur in your letter:

1. You state that I have been left behind by science. I have published many scientific papers in mainstream refereed journals including two in May 2003 — one in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease and the other in the Schizophrenia Bulletin. I have two professional books in press. Obviously your reading of the scientific literature is limited to NAMI approved tracts.

2. You imply, because I spoke out against (never for) the California Outpatient Commitment Bill, that I am a member of the Church of Scientology. This is just plain false. They, as can anyone, use information from my publications in their newsletters.

3. I did study with, and remained a colleague of, R.D. Laing until his death in 1988. Contrary to your assertion, Dr. Laing was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst — not a sociologist.

4. Indeed, Isaac and Armat did label the Soteria Project “a failure”. I am sorry, but saying something does not make it so. Evidence needs to be used to reality test wishes. This is a cognitive process that neither you nor those authors applied to this project. The Soteria Project published data, beginning in 1976, that showed consistently that its approach — a special social environment — where drugs were generally not given — produced equivalent or better outcomes for patients treated there at 6 weeks and 2 years when compared with a control subjects that received “usual” hospital and neuroleptic drug treatment. I find it astonishing that you have not had the intellectual honesty to read any of the 40 or so publications about this study. Rather, you merely repeat the erroneous statements contained in an old book filled with such misstatements and distortions.

5. Your remarks about Soteria House’s relationship to the current plight of many long-term veterans of the mental health system is at best tangential and at worst totally irrelevant. In fact, a far more supportable assertion would be that had mental health systems taken the Soteria results seriously there would be far fewer mental health patients on street corners, under overpasses, in jail and in the headlines. There would certainly be far fewer people suffering the tortures of tardive dyskinesia and neuroleptic induced deficiency syndrome. Soteria was indeed, as the staffer described it, “a special and more-than-good place” where people were treated with dignity and respect, compassion, understanding, love, and healing relationships. Since they were not dumbed down with neuroleptic drugs they could relate to, and learn from, its special environment.

I will retire when you and those like you stop attempting to make the world believe your delusional system about “schizophrenia” being a “brain disease”. I know you to be a first line sycophant of Saint E. Fuller Torrey and queen of the California forced treatment fiefdom so the level of insult in your letter comes as no surprise.

Just remember: old garbage is being recycled these days. There are Soteria’s springing up in many countries. It saddens me that narrow-minded ideology seems to have completely overcome your rationality and humanity (I may be too charitable in assuming you once had those qualities).

Loren R. Mosher M.D.