There’s an argument that’s not a good argument that people think is a great argument that is really a weak argument. First, let’s do a little visualization.
Imagine I’m 12 years old. Imagine I’m sitting on the edge of a brick pot housing a small tree, and I’m eating my lunch, my good old healthy baloney and mayonnaise sandwich that is probably healthier than the slop fed in the cafeteria. Imagine, as I sit there, two thirteen year old girls with their shorts they hid under pants before leaving their house, with their golden loop earrings down to their shoulders and their Coach sneakers they tell everyone their mom got for 100 dollars at Coach, but were really thirty dollars in Marshalls. They slap my sandwich from my hand. They knock over my last sip of carton apple juice. They call me names like poor and stupid throw my backpack across the yard and laugh. They push me on the ground when I get up, and laugh, and rub my face in the dirt and laugh and this goes on every day for four years until the ringleader’s mom gets busted for her meth lab in the garage and the ringleader has to move.
Their bullying leads me to start a hashtag on twitter. #stopbaloneybullying. The hashtag is a sensation and I become the head of a campaign, then a non-profit foundation, then a non-profit national organization against bullying. Then my accountant quits, and all the connections made throughout the years sit on a stick and drop out as funders.
Word gets around a company called “Cheap Shoes for High Prices (CSHP)” sold primarily to teens and children were interested in us, and I become interested in them. I meet them and realize one of the women was the girl who slapped Baloney out of my hand. She apologizes about that, though, after the meeting, and says she’d love to become a funder, she funded several other bullying organizations in small areas.
I say yes and soon notice things. Not good things, not bad things, just things. I hear the way their staff bullies other staff, intimidates them and certain kinds of customers. Kinds of customers that looked like me and sometimes who I met walking through the store. Those kind of customers and I all had similar stories.
Then the CSHP business start telling me how to run my campaigns, which kind of children I could hire in commercials, and say I need to push against the state’s attempt to hire more counselors for public schools to stop bullying, that less counselors aren’t the problem, it’s troubled youth that are the problem, and teachers aren’t noticing. It’s the teachers and poor school policies that are responsible. I say yes because they fund 76 percent of me.
People tell me it’s Conflict of Interest. Financial Conflict of Interest.
And this, dear readers, is the problem with NAMI. It’s the problem with DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Association), it’s the problem with MHA (Mental Health America) and any other form of MHA, like the Mental Health Association. It’s become a problem with websites, and mental health advocacy groups in general.
Pharmaceutical companies are everywhere, they’re a virus, very similar to the kind they treat with their vaccines. Don’t get me wrong, being free of Polio is great. Being free of the measles and chicken pox is also pretty damn great. Anesthesia for surgery, wonderful –if your anesthesiologist is paying attention and knows what he’s doing. Blood pressure pills under a watchful eye? Keeps half of my family alive (which is a whole other philosophical question I don’t feel much like going into right now).
Maybe it’s not the meds, maybe it’s the people who push them and claim them as gods that are the problem. Maybe it’s the fact that they aren’t thoroughly researched, or that their efficacy is often exaggerated and/or doesn’t exist statistically or realistically. Maybe it’s the fact that the people who stand behind these meds get involved in areas they need to get outofvolved.
What Do You Mean “OutofVolved?”
In June of 2016, New York University Medical School shut down a total of eight studies at their psychiatric research center. Quietly. This wasn’t in the big news, it wasn’t anything any president spoke of or any mayor took real notice of. The lead investigator/Director of Molecular Imaging program for Mood and Anxiety disorders/professor Dr. Alexander Neumeister was dismissed.
The main objective of Neumeister and his team were to study the effects of a drug that mimics Marijuana to treat PTSD. Let’s examine THAT statement for a moment. A synthetic, lab-generated drug that mimics the natural effects a plant has on our brains to ‘treat’ experiences related solely to trauma. There are several things wrong with this picture before the study even beings.
Firstly: biological markers and blood tests. For PTSD. That defies all logic on every level. Their defense was there were lower levels of the brains natural version of THC/Cannabis in those who were traumatized severely, as if the brain isn’t capable of increasing that neurotransmitter in other ways besides medication. It’s one of the ‘controversial’ areas of psychiatry these studies aimed to test. The guinea pigs of the experiment were given this fake marijuana pill and shoved out the door without any real follow up.
Pfitzer, the pharmaceutical company who created this FAAH Inhibitor, and tested it on guinea pigs with osteoarthritis (we’re all clear guinea pigs = humans, right?), said there were no real side effects, and approved it for testing with NYU. The FDA shot a warning letter listing the observed conditions in which could have, and probably would have, undermined the validity of the study. I would list these conditions if there weren’t a million of them.
Manipulating research is more common than expressed in the archives of FDA warning letters. It’s not difficult to create an experiment which looks appealing, sounds appealing, and has appealing results when you have a few billion dollars you’re willing to throw in the direction of the researchers.
Pfitzer was not a silent partner, they weren’t a bystander, and for them to say “N.Y.U was responsible for conducting the trial” without reminding the public the millions they sponsored the trial with, without reminding the public they own the rights to whatever research is discovered-, without reminding the public they’re shady for denying any public access to their clinical trial results is only reminiscent of that one kid in kindergarten who pulled everyone’s hair then denied doing so even when the teacher saw them do it.
If corporations are considered people by the law, then they should be tried in family court because they all act like children.
The bottom line? If they–the pharmaceutical companies–fund something, they control it. They own it, they direct it. What is supposed to be neutral, valid, and reliable data becomes tarnished with serious manipulation of controls, of bias, and of confounds.
What Do Advocacy Groups Really Advocate?
A large portion of the community here is involved with NAMI. They offer support groups and volunteer positions, job positions even, giving those of us who have a struggled a chance to get our voice heard and a purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning. That’s a beautiful concept. CONCEPT.
It’s no secret that NAMI, DBSA, Mental Health America, and Mental Health Associations are the largest so-called advocacy groups which receive the bulk of their funding from five or more pharmaceutical companies. Let’s pick on NAMI.
In 2016, NAMI received 20,500 from Astrazeneca, 50,000 from Bristol Meyers Squibb, 28,000 from Eli Lilly, 25,000 from Navartis, and I would share the results from Pfitzer, but they block public access to quarterly and yearly reports.
To find this information it’s not too difficult: get the name of a pharamceutical company, and search for their quarterly reports or type in Google “Johnson and Johnson Donations”. A nice blurb of bullshit from my favorite man Alex Gorsky will pop up, but so will their quarterly reports of the organizations and non-profits they’ve donated to. I’ll only list a few findings in this article: the rest is up to you.
In 2016, NAMI, from just those 4 companies, received 123,500 dollars. Considering at least 60% of their funding comes from Big Pharma, you can imagine the donations they also receive from Pfitzer, Roche Pharma, Sanofi-Avantis, Wyeth, Johnson and Johnson/Jassen/all the other Johnson and Johnson Pharma companies, Merck–the list could go on and on. Until donations hit the millions. 123,500 is nothing.
Why does this matter? Why does it matter if people’s lives are getting to be filled with purpose and hope and community?
In 2004, Josh Weinstein, a man who served in senior executive positions for three large pharmaceutical companies and is president of jw Einstein Strategic Messaging, said this:
“As a veteran pharma marketer, I have witnessed that the most direct and efficient tool for driving long-term support for brands has been, and continues to be, a well-designed, advocacy-based public education program . . . working with Advocacy groups is one of the most accomplished means of raising disease awareness and enhancing the industry’s image.”
That doesn’t sound much like the community boosting, empowering-the-‘mentally-ill’ interest of advocacy groups.
This is a financial conflict of interest, a large one, and as the pharmaceutical companies donate more they use their power of funding to manipulate the advocacy groups, pressing them to fight against state legislatures, particularly those who have attempted to lower the amount of prescriptions doctors could write in certain states. NAMI, DSBA, MHA, become puppets.
At this point, they’re advocating Big Pharma, the idea of Mental Illness, and the myth of chemical imbalance. They’re advocating brands with their hashtags on twitter about the importance of research, and they’re advocating our dependence on a system whose interest is already conflicted.
It’s leaking into the alternative world. Those of us who are peer mentors, counselors, supporters, whatever you want to call us, aren’t safe from this infectious disease.
There is a certification run by the MHA called “Peer Specialist Certification”. This allows individuals with lived experience of mental health issues, training, and job experience to be recognized by clinical standards as people who can offer support to others struggling. It allows peers to work beside psychiatrists, psychologists, and in primary care settings. Once again, great concept, disturbing execution.
Alkermes and Johnson and Johnson are two large funders of the MHA, pitching in 50,000 to 100,000 dollars each specifically for peer certifications and peer programs. What’s stopping them from forcing their agenda into the peer world as well? What’s stopping them from making certain specifications in the certification that may very well go against the togetherness and honesty peer support stands for? What’s stopping them from doing to the MHA’s certification program what they’ve done to NAMI?
What All This Means
As a peer supporter, were I to find out a program I worked for or did business with received funding from pharmaceutical companies, and with that implemented the pharmaceutical companies’ agenda into their business, pressed this idea of mental illness, pressed the myth of chemical imbalance and then had the audacity to call that “advocacy”, I’d quit. I’d live on the street again before I compromised my morals.
After speaking with Mike, the C.E.O of the website The Mighty, and learning that they too are in the workings of receiving revenue from such companies, that they will start having “surveys” available to contributors on their website, surveys presumably conducted by Big Pharma for whatever petty research they claim to be doing, that he declined to go into further explanation, I understand this infection is spreading rapidly.
If we looked at this with a lens from the DSM-V, we could easily spot the Antisocial Personalities heading the executive seats of these companies. If it look at this through a lens of facts and truth, we see greed and dishonesty and major conflict of interest. We see that consumers aren’t aware of the inner workings. We see that consumers don’t read the research that debunks Chemical Imbalances. We see that the FDA takes more time cracking down on small CBD businesses rather than large pharmaceutical companies like Pfitzer and their shady research teams.
We also see large groups of people coming to together outside of this. We see people understanding the true, humanely benefits of alternatives, we see people spending their waking hours debunking the invalid research conducted by these companies. We see people flourishing beyond whatever sickness they’re purported to have, not because they’re cured, not because they’re “taking their meds”, but because they’ve had the opportunity to grow comfortable being human.
Big Pharma sending money to advocacy groups isn’t the end of the world. It keeps the non-profit alive, and from a business standpoint, that’s all that matters to them. The end of the world only comes when we turn a blind eye to truth, the end of the world comes when we dismiss the truth just because the good people working in these non-profits have no personal connection with Big Pharma.
It’s the end of the world when we think #mentalhealthawareness means something.