Tag Archives: lived experience

Pets, Mental Illness and Lived Experience

By Marvin Ross

sophie
Sophie Ross

And I don’t mean pets as service animals although they can be very helpful. I’m talking about trauma as a purported cause of mental illness, addiction and all other negative things. Dogs and cats can teach us.

It suddenly dawned on me that our latest dog, a rescue, and her rescue friends can provide an example. Sophie was adopted 8 years ago when she was three. I don’t know all that she went through in her traumatic early years as she is reluctant to talk about it but she was so matted and her hair so long that she could not lift her tail to pee. She had to be shaved and one of her toenails had to be surgically removed from neglect. It had curled into her paw.

She does not like the noise that equipment trailers hooked onto cars and trucks make but, other than that, she is fine. She is an extrovert who loves people and especially kids and babies. She exhibits no signs of her early life and the trauma and abuse she suffered.

Most of her friends in the building we moved into are rescues as well. Reggie, for example, is a large and not cute dog with many scars. Reggie was rescued from a dog fighting ring thus the scars but he is a very calm, placid and friendly dog.

I have no doubt that there are rescued dogs and cats who do exhibit strange behaviour as a result of their maltreatment but they are the exceptions. Most people who have rescued cats and dogs report no problems. And dogs and cats do remember.

Now this may not be scientific in the true sense of scientific proof but a great deal of the tripe that I see is not either. The American Council on Science and Health just published a delightful essay on the anti-medical rant that Scientific American  published against Dr Jennifer Gunter which Scientific American had to delete. Seems that this is the third unscientific article they published in the past little while.

Dr Gunter is a gynecologist and the author of the Vagina Bible. The op ed attack against her took the position that

“women don’t need medical doctors because the lessons learned from staring at each others’ vulvas while sharing anecdotes about herbal remedies is every bit as legitimate as the lessons doctors learn in medical school.”

The author of the op ed critique went on to say that she:

goes on to denounce “authority” (which apparently means anyone with an evidence-based opinion) because it ignores “people’s lived experiences.”Lived experience is simply a different way of saying “anecdote.” Block clearly believes that scientific research is just one opinion among many. Sure, doctors might believe one thing, but Karen on Facebook disagrees. And her opinion counts too.”

And I love what he says about lived experience which I put in bold. That is the argument that we hear so frequently in mental illness. We must listen to those with lived experience even though they have no training. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that everything a doctor tells us is written in stone and we can’t discuss treatment strategies because we can. But there is a huge pile of evidence out there (or should be) telling us what the best strategies are.

Our failure to listen to evidence over anecdote is the cause of so many kids dying from the very preventable measles. So far 53 kids in Samoa have died from measles (Since writing this, the number of deaths has gone up). One of many such outbreaks in the world. Measles, a very preventable disease has increased  1100% in the Americas since 2000. Its vaccine has saved more than 20 million lives since 2000.

And, for psychosis, one comment on David Dawson’s blog on the topic suggested that “As for Robert Whitaker, he is one of the many experts on mental illness who have (sic) researched psychiatric drugs and found them to be harmful.”

Wonderful! That man is a journalist as I pointed out a few years ago in Huffington Post, journalists are not medical experts.  Let’s all look to journalism for our evaluations of diseases and their treatment. Who needs doctors and scientists?