Norway, a Pioneer in the Treatment of Mental Illness Without Medication

The treatment of mental illness without medication is a door that was opened in the Psychiatric Hospital of Åsgård in Norway. Psychiatrists in that country seek to answer the question of whether antipsychotics are as effective as they claim to be.

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Treating mental illness without medication is an option that has always been on the table, it has always been an option. However, from the mid-twentieth century, this became a kind of utopia for the more medical / physiological part of psychology.

With the discovery and mass production of neuroleptics, it was thought that a climax was reached. The creators and promoters of this type of drugs pointed to the idea that the problems of the mind had a fundamentally organic root. Therefore, it became possible to treat them through the ingestion of chemicals. In this way, the idea that it was impossible to approach mental illness without medication was popularized.

However, there has always been a parallel current that sees it differently. It does not only involve a theoretical position, but there are many practical applications with encouraging results.

From this parallel tradition, the Psychiatric Hospital in Åsgård, Norway, has begun to treat mental illness without medication.

“They say they want proof that the alternatives work. I say, ‘Why do not you provide proof that your treatment works? I have read many articles and many books, and I have not yet seen evidence that their medicines work.”

-Håkon Rian Ueland-

Respect for the autonomy of the patient

For several decades, there has been a sharp controversy surrounding the rights of psychiatric patients. Most health systems and the specialists that form them start from the idea that a person diagnosed with a mental illness has no autonomy and, therefore, others must decide for it. Unlike other diseases, a psychiatric patient can not resist the treatment they want to apply.

There are many psychiatrists in the world who do not share this principle. The fundamental rights of patients are an essential aspect in the Psychiatric Hospital in Åsgård. His policy of treating mental illness without medication is a defense of the rights of patients.

In this institution, it is the patients who finally decide whether or not they want to take the prescribed medications. They are also the ones who resolve the time to reduce doses, with a view to stop taking pills or psychiatric drugs. The patient’s perspective also counts.

Treat mental illness without medication

The Åsgård Psychiatric Hospital fulfills a mandate from the Ministry of Health of Norway. It is a state policy that seeks, mainly, to give an equal status in terms of rights to mental patients.

To many this may seem far-fetched: how can a person with problems in their mind decide responsibly about what is best for them? That question is asked by many, because there are also many who ignore the details of the so-called “mental illnesses”.

In general, what society manages are stereotypes of them. It is thought, for example, that someone with schizophrenia always “reasons badly”, when it is not like that. It’s like thinking that a diabetic is always in crisis. The “mentally ill” has moments of crisis, but in many others it is stable.

Additionally, there are many studies that question the effectiveness of medication treatments. What is most questioned is not really the efficacy of these chemicals, but the way in which they are administered and perpetuated, often for convenience and without necessity.

In certain cases, almost nobody discusses the power of pharmacology as a key to start working with a patient who is decompensated.

Another issue is that pharmacology can “cure”, go to the root of the problem. This is really the issue, especially if we fear that certain drugs for the treatment of mental disorders have a long list of probable side effects.

An inadequate system

Reactions to the new strategy of the Åsgård Psychiatric Hospital were not long in coming. Many psychiatrists (and pharmaceutical companies, of course) have severely criticized this option. They believe that it is irresponsible with patients and that it could lead them to greater difficulties in their

avalanche. However, the Norwegian Psychiatric Association decided to support the initiative through an “open mind” policy.

The president of the association, Anne Kristine Bergem, said they will address this new experience at their annual meeting. It will be guided by two questions: “Do antipsychotics work? Do they have the effect that they have made us believe? “Both questions touch the very heart of biological psychiatry.

There are good reasons and sufficient evidence to suggest that current psychiatry has serious deficiencies. Many of them related to medication and the way the mental health care system operates. In good time initiatives like this arise, which will surely give many lights around this important issue.