He’d been talking to me on Facebook for a few weeks. I’d met him through a schizoaffective group I belonged to and had been active in. I truly don’t know why I continued to talk to him. At first, he asked me a few questions about how to help his partner cope with her psychosis. But as the conversation wore on, I could tell he had ulterior motives.
“You know, I completely took my partner off of her psychiatric medication after a month on vitamin supplements. She’s doing fine now.”
I asked him what her doctor said.
“Oh, we didn’t talk to her doctor. You know all those doctors are working for big pharma, trying to keep us all addicted to medication so they can make a profit. They don’t tell you vitamins are just as good!” I could tell he was leading me to something, so I let him talk. “You would do so much better on these supplements, man. You don’t want to be a shill for big pharma, do you? Those drugs they give you are full of poison!”
I smiled to myself. “You mean the drugs that I’ve been taking for 20 years to keep me from killing myself or someone else in a psychotic episode? Those drugs?”
“Yeah man, you know it’s the drugs that are causing all your problems. They keep you sick so that big pharma can profit. It’s just like vaccines! It’s all a lie! I read this blog the other day that explained it all! I’ll tell you what; I’ll give you my user ID so you can order these supplements at a discount. You’d be much better off without that shit you’re on!”
So I finally figured out he was trying to get me off the drugs that saved my life, so he could make a profit selling MLM supplements that are garbage. “So what you are telling me is I should stop taking the medication that keeps me alive; that trained professionals prescribed for me after many tests and a lot of trial and error, so I can take supplements that aren’t proven to work? I’m supposed to listen to an unemployed hippy, whose only credentials are that he may or may not have read a blog post last week, because he wants to sell me some vitamins?”
“Dude, big pharma…”
“NO! You need to stop trying to convince people who are looking for any shred of hope that they need to stop taking the very thing keeping them alive! Do you want to kill someone? What makes you any better than big pharma? You are worse!”
I never spoke to him again, and I made sure everyone knew that he was dangerous and shouldn’t be trusted.
Do you know how many people I’ve come across that are the same, or worse than he was?
Sure, we all know that the big pharmaceutical companies are lying to us all to make a profit. We know that the pills we take to keep us alive are not good for us. But, until something else has is proven to work better than these medications, we have to stay on them.
Beware of the wolves who give mental health advice. What they tell you could be dangerous!
But Jason! Don’t you give advice?
Yes, I do give advice, and there is a reason I'm writing about this subject today. I’ve been having conversations with other advocates and mental health writers about the huge responsibility we have. I’ve been going back over all the mental health-related articles and essays I’ve written over the years and scoured them for any case where I overstepped and gave advice that could, in any way, hurt someone.
What I found was the type of advice I give boils down to a few key concepts. My writing tends more toward my personal experiences, and what I’ve done to change my life for the better. I usually add a few words of advice to the end of each piece, like this:
- Think positive — Positive thinking can’t cure your mental illness, but it couldn’t hurt your mood. You don’t have to be a Pollyanna, but turning negative thoughts into positive ones will help.
- Set goals — Figure out what you want to accomplish. Do you want to have more good days than bad? Do you want to stop complaining? Do you want to see if eating healthier will help your moods? Set a goal. Put it on paper and put it somewhere you will see all the time.
- Decide — You have to know without a doubt that you will do whatever it takes to meet your goals. You will have failure, but it’s okay as long as you are always moving forward.
- Take action — Take small steps every day to meet your goals. You don’t have to try to do everything overnight. Remember the tortoise and the hare. This journey is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Educate yourself — The best thing you can do with your time is to educate yourself about your illness and mental health in general. Knowing as much as you can will not only help you not to be a target for those spreading misinformation but will guide you and your doctor when making treatment decisions.
I feel good passing out this kind of advice because it’s basic common sense. I don’t need a degree and years of training to advise someone to think positively.
You should beware of advice that could potentially be dangerous to your health. Most advocates and writers in my circle wouldn’t dream of spreading harmful guidance.
Watch out for dangerous advice!
First, who’s giving the advice? What are their qualifications? Are they trained to be giving this kind of information?
For example, I am not a doctor. I don’t have a medical degree or any specialized training. I’m not a therapist or and don’t have advanced training to be a life coach. I only know what has worked for me in my experience.
What kind of advice shouldn’t come from me or someone like me:
- Specific suggestions for treatment options. I have every right to talk about what I’ve done over the years, and what’s worked for me, but I have no right to suggest anything specific for you.
- Medications. In the past, I’ve talked about various drugs I’ve taken and their side effects, but I pause at suggesting you take anything. I’ve suggested vitamin supplements for health, but nothing that isn’t commonly known or is potentially dangerous. The information I’ve given about vitamins is found everywhere on the internet — it’s common sense. If you’re unsure about something, ask a doctor.
- I won’t suggest that you take my advice over the advice of a trained professional. Yes, I’ve said in the past that I don’t think all doctors have your best interest in mind, and I’ve written about evil big pharma. But both have their place. Doctors should be your first line of defense when battling mental illness. Medication has its place — as much as we don’t like it. Don’t let anyone, especially someone who says they are an advocate, tell you to go against what your doctors say, or what you can read in the little pamphlets you get with each bottle of pills.
Your mental health is a serious matter. There should be no guessing about what you should do. You should never go into something uninformed or ignorant.
Don’t ever let anyone, no matter how much you like or respect them, give you advice that could be dangerous!