In ‘A consumer’s guide to therapy’ (NI 132) you have printed an anonymous opinion which dangerously undermines and misunderstands the provision of mental health care in Britain without any supporting evidence. You also imply that the mentally ill should be the principal instigators of their own recovery.
While it may be true that those with one of the so-called neurotic group of disorders can play an important part in their own treatment, few readers of NI will understand the limitations of this approach to the psychotic patient. Few, if any, will have had to cope with a severely disturbed person whose altered perception of self and environment may be so deranged as to cause self-destructive behaviour. Persons with this kind of mental illness seldom understand that they’re ill at all.
During my own two-and-a-half month training in psychiatry, I was taught to balance the biochemical model of mental disease with an understanding of illness of the ‘mind’, as part of the whole personality.
Dr Tim Inglis
As one who suffered from depression, mainly in the form of hypochondria, for over five years, many of the remedies mentioned in the February issue (NI 132) did help to overcome it. But I also believe that taking extra vitamin B regularly is an enormous help. Perhaps it is only a placebo (and maybe even addictive?) but it is something positive to do to help one’s situation and safe to take.
Medical students now receive far more psychiatric training than the one month suggested and we discuss at length the management of the very problems you mention.
We specifically try to avoid the symptom-and-drug approach and see our role as people the patient can approach initially for advice and, if necessary, for appropriate referral. In fact the drugs used on the psychotic and addict patients are said to be at a lower level than in a psychiatric hospital.
Dr Andrew D Cockburn
Thank you for the January 1984 issue (NI 131). It has been a step forward towards making me a more discriminatory reader. Also ‘The Facts’ is an excellent layout. Again please!
Ten million calendars
I congratulate Roger Halsall and friends on devising the new Humanist calendar, and NI for publishing it. An excellent concept. You should strongly urge the UN to publish and distribute it, through UNESCO perhaps, by the tens of millions.
It should note, on appropriate days, all civilizing human achievements through history - the first such known date being 19 July, 6184 BC, when the rising of the star Sirius that year marked the introduction of the first 365 day calendar. Concerned with meeting social and agricultural needs in the great Nile valley, it marked the beginning of a significant shift in human thought from the world of nature to the world of human life.
S C W Stokes
Tubewells and transplants
I was saddened to read in the February edition (Letters NI 132) of a Consultant Renal Transplant Surgeon doubting the value of providing a clean water supply to a village in Lesotho. His argument - that preventing deaths from dysentery in an overpopulated country may be of less value than transplanting kidneys in Scotland - reminds me of a letter to the Central African Journal of Medicine in 1975 suggesting that measles vaccinations should not be given to African children because: ‘the unnecessary saving of human lives in a world that is bursting at the seams should be made a criminal offence’.
Mr Hargrave’s argument also misses the point. Health services should be appropriate to each country’s needs and resources. I believe that the provision of an adequate safe water supply is a basic human right and such a provision would far outweigh the value of transplanting kidneys in Lesotho. In Scotland the needs are different. There the question is whether, with the current resources in the health service, more benefit could be gained by transplanting kidneys or, say, providing a preventive health service.
Ms Ruth Hope
Hard of hearing
While I was glad to read of a way of recycling hearing aids (NI 131), Janie Hampton’s letter gave me some misgivings which I feel I should share with your British readers.
The great majority of hearing aids in the UK arc National Health Service issue, identifiable by the serial no. BE11, BE31 etc. stamped on the plastic case of the aid. These should be returned to the nearest hearing aid centre. They are repaired and recycled within our own Health Service quite efficiently and economically.
Only commercial firms do not recycle an aid after the buyer has finished with it. So, if you come across one with a trade name such as ‘Omnivox then by all means send it off to Zimbabwe!
Justice in food
NI’s entire issue on Justice in Health (NI 127) was most poignant and comprehensive. I appreciated NI’s stance (since attacked in Letters) that, given universal superior nutrition, diseases of all kinds, including cancer, would virtually disappear. Pursuing this further, however, I failed to find any appreciation of the use of whole grains: rice, corn, wheat etc. Nothing. Silence, Ignorance?
If human agriculture would eliminate all harmful crops (tobacco, coffee, tea, and, of course, drugs), reduce processing drastically, and immediately halt the move for narrow hybridisation by the greedy multinationals to control price - which actually reduces the nutritive value of those crops - ah, then, what a magnificent race we would be!
Many of us in the first world believe that our consumption of fine, fresh produce and expensive meat fosters the highest quality of health, avoiding the diseases of poverty. They don’t seem to know that all our food is messed about with by hybridisation, synthetic fertilisers, herbicides. And when we succumb to this malnutrition, our medicos do not direct us back to where we erred: to the primitive, the unadulterated. Not at all. It’s more sophisticated chemicals, with their pernicious side-effects.
In your Update column in the January issue (NI 131) you put the world Jewish population at 17 million (1980), projected forward to 20 million (2000). In fact the correct figure is 12.9 million (1975), with no increase at all expected by the year 2000. The last time the Jewish population reached 17 million was before the Second World War.
The Curate’s egg
I have been subscribing to the New Internationalist for about a year now and find it a healthy corrective to the general impact of press. radio and TV in this country and entirely consistent with the teaching of the Christian Faith.
I do have one complaint, however. I suppose one does not want to give points away in debate to the other side. But presumably I and most of your readers do not need to be persuaded about the stance you take up. We need to be informed of the facts. This you are doing splendidly. But could there be less insistence on the fact that we are always completely right and the other side always completely wrong? I for one would find this more convincing.
I am not suggesting the common TV balancing act which ends by sitting on the fence and offending nobody. Confrontation must be part of the game.
Rev Norman Bainbridge
Another unkind cut
I’ve read Sue Armstrong’s article about female circumcision (NI 125) and I’ve read James Smith’s letter which replied to it (NI 127). Yes. the practice is barbaric. The less extreme form of it. the removal of the labia, is revolting enough. But the worst kind, the removal of the labia and the clitoris, is absolute mayhem.
Male circumcision, the removal of the foreskin, is the crime committed on a boy that is equivalent to the less extreme sort of female circumcision. Unfortunately many of the women who object to the removal of a girl’s labia will gladly get a doctor to slice off their sons’ foreskins before the poor little tykes have the wit to say No, thank you. Superstition is alive and well in Australia and other - um - developed, civilised nations.