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The humanity behind the sequins

In your cover story, “Men With Fashion Sense to Spare” (Jan. 20-26), Jeffrey Ramsey stated that “female impersonators, transsexuals, and other gender-benders have been on the front lines” of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement for decades.

In all these decades, the same people have also been used as fuel to fire the Religious Right’s assault against equal rights for the queer community. It is rare that media outlets attempt to show us the complexity and humanity of the people behind the makeup and sequins, or the diversity of the community which supports them. Thank you for reporting so fairly on a community which is often overlooked, and more often, misunderstood.

— Michaela Hayes

Media Monitor and Response Team

Gay and Lesbian Alliance

Against Defamation

Kansas City, Mo.

Questionable benefits

Your article titled “Group with Scientology connections opens chapter to investigate abuse” (Jan. 27-Feb. 2) leaves the reader to believe that Scientology’s misguided ideology somehow undermines the merits of its criticism of contemporary mental health practices. In short, you throw out the baby with the bath water.

Scientology’s totalitarianism and cult-like trappings notwithstanding, many of CCHR’s observations regarding overmedication of children are tragically accurate. Many authoritative sources have observed that ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is wildly overdiagnosed and that Ritalin is irresponsibly overprescribed.

The self-serving rhetoric of the professional associations you mustered to defend current practices are no less bogus and misleading than those of the Scientologists. I was amused, in fact, that a spokesperson for the American Psychological Association was quoted regarding the prescribing practices of psychiatrists. In describing her organization’s competitors, she said: “What most psychiatrists prescribe is therapy and, in some cases, drugs… This is a process that includes the patient and the doctor, and in the case of children, the teachers, student, and parents. There is rarely a simple answer to any individual’s case.”

Your readers should be made aware that one of the questionable blessings of managed care is that many psychiatrists are limited to prescribing medications and complain about not being allowed to provide psychotherapy. Further, some psychologists employed by the military are currently permitted to prescribe medications and there is a concerted effort (talk about hidden agendas!) by the American Psychological Association to gain prescribing privileges for psychologists in the civilian sector throughout the United States.

There is a fundamental contradiction at work here: We devote millions of taxpayer dollars to a War on Drugs, but appear to approve of unnecessary and inappropriate drug-pushing by psychiatrists and, even more commonly, by pediatricians. This is documented by the many articles published in professional journals that regularly bemoan the disproportionate influence of the pharmaceutical companies on the training programs and policies of various medical associations and the many responsible physicians who have spoken out on the ADHD issue.

The comments of John Howell, president-elect of the Missouri Psychological Association, are equally transparent and self-serving. He states: “There is no evidence or scientific research to indicate our practices cause society’s ills. Quite the contrary, we try to remediate some of the damage that comes from these ills.”

Regular readers of your newspaper may remember an Aug. 31,1995, (PitchWeekly) cover article titled “When Bad Therapy Happens to Good People.” It dramatically illustrates the role of the professional mental health community in fomenting an epidemic of “recovered memory” scandals, the creation of “Multiple Personality Disorder” by unscrupulous and incompetent therapists, as well as the lunatic fringe (who have not yet been reined in or disciplined by the professional licensing boards) who created public hysteria regarding Satanic ritual abuse, alien abduction, and prior life trauma. Many thousands of suffering patients and loving families have been devastated by these outrageous practices and, with but a few exceptions, regulatory bodies and legislative bodies have failed to protect them.

In fact, there is a growing body of reputable literature that questions both the cost effectiveness and clinical efficacy of all “talking cures.” Much of the research concludes that caring friends and untrained advisors are at least as effective as veteran clinicians in helping to ameliorate psychological problems.

I commend you for highlighting the hazards of buying into the Scientology agenda, but I fear you are doing your readers a disservice by downplaying the manifold deficiencies of the mental health enterprise.

— Howard Fishman

Philadelphia

former director, Continuing Medical Education, University of Kansas Medical Center Department of Psychiatry

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