RAISE Study Ethics

As a person who has championed since 2002 getting the right treatment right away: I find the RAISE Study to be unethical because certain participants were denied enhanced treatment. Unsurprisingly they fared worse.

This calls into question the ethics of “business as usual” in the mental health system. It proves that merely popping pills and doing nothing else doesn’t help a person recover. In 2015 how could a research team justify allowing certain people to get the right treatment and others to be doomed not to succeed.

I’m a mental health activist and have been since 2002–going on over 13 years now. I’ve been a fierce fan of getting the right treatment right away. I will going to my grave championing early intervention with support, appropriate medication, and practical career counseling.

Imagine: years ago people with schizophrenia were shunted into “sheltered workshops” assembling pens. I kid you not.

Yet it’s better the RAISE study results arrived now rather than later or not at all. We have ammunition in our fight to be taken seriously in our goals of going to school or getting a job and living independently and having friends and possibly lovers.

Our motto should be: to not ever settle for less than full inclusion in society.

Like the Audi commercial that tells drivers to “Never Follow” we must not ever follow along in practices that can harm our chances of having a better recovery.

We must lead. We must question any mental health staff that tell us there’s not much we can do with our lives.

We must speak our minds not just medicate them.

Yes: I question the ethics of allowing certain individuals to be doomed not to succeed.

Now. Not Tomorrow.

The time is now to effect positive changes in the mental health system.

My contention is that living in a residence and collecting SSI shouldn’t be the knee-jerk reaction when someone is diagnosed with schizophrenia. I have lived experience in a mental health system. Years later I maintain I succeeded despite my time in that system not because of it.

Of course the earlier you’re treated with the right kind of treatment (individualized therapy, medication, family support and education, and practical career and housing counseling) the better the outcome.

Getting the right treatment right away does often enable a person to take a lower dose of medication.

Not only this: two guys I know later in life reduced their medication or changed it when they got a new shrink and they were OK too. Another study does indicate that doing this has benefits for some people.

These two studies will have to be reviewed over the long-term.

Yet if you want proof of the long-term success of early intervention: read my memoir Left of the Dial. I’ve been in remission over 23 years now.

Science and kindness can help people heal.

RAISEing Expectations

I use the “asset model” approach to interacting with others when I create their resumes and help them with career assessment.

It’s possible a lot of people focus on deficits even today. I don’t think that’s helpful or useful. The RAISE study results are revealed on Tuesday. They’re going to blow up ideas about how to treat people with first-episode schizophrenia.

I’m wary, because of how I was treated. I had a BA in English. I graduated with a 3.66 GPA out of a 4.0. I had been a disc jockey on the FM radio for two years.

Then I’m diagnosed and suddenly the focus was on symptoms and deficits, not on using my strengths and my personality to recover. Fixing a weakness is not an effective strategy. Maximizing a strength creates a real solution.

I got diagnosed in fall 1987, and suddenly it was like I was viewed as a “schizophrenic,” not as Chris Bruni. It seemed I had no treatment options other than the cookie-cutter day program I was slotted into.

Here’s the deal about the RAISE study:

Getting the right treatment right away often enables a person to take a lower dose of medication. I took only 5 mg of Stelazine for the first 16 years.

This is a fact that people are going to use in their own agenda against taking any kind of medication. Yet the fact remains it’s possible to take a low dose when you get treated early like I was. I tell this like it is because when you’re not foggily doped up you can have fewer side effects, thus enjoy a better recovery.

The Geodon I started taking in 2007 has been a miracle drug in this regard. It’s my contention that Geodon is a fine drug–better than Zyprexa in terms of its metabolic profile.

Risperdal and Zyprexa should be the last resort, not the first choice if you ask me. I can’t tell people what to do–I can’t give advice. Different people have different experiences with different drugs.

Yet I’m simply making the case that the quicker you’re treated the better the options are that you have. The quicker you get the right treatment you have a better chance at having a great life.

I could’ve become yet another casualty of a mental health system. I got out because I fought for my rights. Now I’m willing to fight for other people to be accorded dignity via the right to have a job, a career, a home of our own, friends and if we so choose a lover.

The idea that I had to fight for my rights–that people today still have to fight for better treatment–it’s wrong. Our rights should have been ours to assert all along; freely endorsed and accepted by mental health staff. We shouldn’t have to drop kick people to give us the rights they took away.

I’ve lived in recovery 28 years. It took 28 years for the RAISE study to come along proving that getting the right treatment right away results in a better recovery outcome.

The door is now open. We must lead ourselves and our treatment providers through it. To educate comes from the Latin for “to lead out” of.

We must lead. We must speak out. The time is now.

RAISE Study Results

The results of the RAISE study prove early intervention improves recovery outcomes for individuals.

RAISE is the Recovery After Initial Schizophrenia Episode study that NIMH funded over the years now.

Participants in the study had better outcomes with intensive early intervention focused on family support and education, social skills and job training, and therapy and medication.

The new program that was used in the study that obtained the spectacular results will be rolled out in mental health centers across America.

The time has come to focus on early intervention.

I think that for too long since (and even now still when) mental health staff thought and think no one with schizophrenia could recover their attitude was: “Why even bother making innovations to try to help them recover.”

Exactly how these staff members were treating patients and the services they provided left a lot to be desired.

Close to 30 years later after my ill-fated experiences in a community mental health system I call what happened to me an injustice. The word injustice is a strong word however it’s what I now use to describe how a gifted and intelligent young person like I was had been shunted into a long-term  traditional day program. Instead of being encouraged to find a job and live independently.

Yet in this regard I’ve changed my tune about that two-year detour. It enables me to speak with authority about what happened because I have lived experience in a mental health system.

As a person with lived experience I have empathy for others diagnosed with mental illnesses. As a person who came up out of a somewhat dysfunctional system I’m living proof that you are not doomed to living at the mercy of what mental health staff tell you that you can and can’t do for the rest of your life.

Decide for yourself. Shout louder to champion your goals if you have to.

Early intervention: I’m all for it.

Support, appropriate medication, and practical career counseling: what I call the Triangle of Mental Health: I’m all for this too.