For One Family, Decision to Reject Treatment Ends With Tragic Death

Mad Pride Activist Says She Was 'Treated Like a Misbehaving Child'

Although the slow withdrawal is tough -- she experienced muscles aches and insomnia -- Simon believes taking meds or being hospitalized is a worse fate. "You're straight-jacketed," said Simon, who was institutionalized for three separate suicide attempts as a teenager. "You're forced to ingest these chemicals. You're patronized. You're treated like a misbehaving child."

For her, the unpleasant side effects of withdrawal are worth it because, she said, her medications were doing more harm than good.

"As soon as I started taking [the drugs] ... I really started like feeling this cognitive impairment ... I couldn't remember things as easily," she said.

Those who oppose the Mad Pride philosophy worry that by rejecting medication, Simon could soon become a ticking time bomb, like Willy Bruce.

But Mad Pride activists say that medication doesn't necessarily stop people from exploding in violence. After all, infamous Columbine High School shooter Eric Harris took part in the killing of 12 fellow students while taking the anti-depressant Luvox. Some would argue that it's a classic case of how violence is unpredictable -- with or without drugs.

Still, for ethicist Art Caplan and other critics of the Mad Pride movement, the greatest area of concern are people who are so severely ill that they cannot make an informed decision about their treatment.

"It isn't all self-determination," said Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "Some people are really severely mentally ill. They're not picking anything. Their mental illness overwhelms them. We see them sometimes on the street, as homeless. Those aren't the people that are going to be showing up at a Mad Pride movement, and they're certainly not the people who are going to be helped by saying well, 'You have your rights.' ... I don't find that morally acceptable at all."

Still, as the debate rages on, Oaks and the Mad Pride movement are determined to treat mental illness and violence as two separate issues.

"You can drug people into silence," Oaks said, "but you really need to involve the whole society in addressing the sickness of violence, which is ... a deep societal problem."

Other Related Links:

THE TREATMENT ADVOCACY CENTER

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH

NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS

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