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Myths and Realities of Mental Illness

February 18, 2001

Kudos are due to Margot Kidder ("Woman of Steel," Jan. 30) for receiving the Courage in Mental Health Award from the California Women's Mental Health Policy Council and for being brave enough to speak out.

I have been a guinea pig for practically every major drug brought onto the market since 1960.

The bottom line is simple: The United States is still in 1943 when it comes to mental illness. The psychiatrists and psychologists help to keep it that way so they have a business to stay in.

Am I grateful for Prozac? Sure. Do I still maintain that it is guesswork and all the professionals ought to get off their respective high horses and tell the truth? The truth will always win.

LIBI WARREN

Santa Monica

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My heart goes out to Margot Kidder for suffering 30 years with manic-depression or bipolar depression. Sharing her story with the public was a courageous act.

The concern I have is about her claims to wellness through "orthomolecular medicine, acupuncture, curing with vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and balancing the brain naturally." This method worked for her but is clearly not the clinically proven approach to therapy.

It may be that Kidder never had the right psychiatrist prescribing the correct combinations of medications and staying on those medications long enough. The conventional and easily available approach to clinical depression is medication specifically suited for that unique person and the combination of talk therapy.

PAULETTE F. FORD

Psychiatric registered nurse

Pasadena

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What a cruel and stigmatizing column Tony Kornheiser wrote ("Society's Reply to Rogue Pit Bulls: Bomb-Wielding Mental Patients," Jan. 31). His inaccurate presentation perpetuates the myths of mental illness.

Only a small minority of individuals with serious mental disturbances are violent, their symptoms are usually recognized but ignored ahead of time, and their frenzied actions are broadcast in the media. For most individuals with mental illness, there is no violence in their thoughts, and their symptoms are reduced with proper treatment. Many have been outstanding contributors to society but unwilling to announce their illness because of the stigma attached. I have employed individuals with serious mental illness, and they have been dependable, cooperative and appreciative of their chance to contribute. You owe those with mental disorders an apology.

JUNE R. HUSTED

Associate clinical professor

Harbor-UCLA Medical Center

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