Web Letters | The Nation


Our Broken Mental Health System

I have read and admired Ms. Ehrenreich's work for years--ever since I was old enough to swipe her books off my parents' shelves, really. But I wish she could have addressed this country's stunning lack of reasonable mental health care and the need for gun control without taking potshots at those of us who suffer from depression.

I cannot speak about Gary Greenberg's experiences, though I would suggest that lying to health care professionals who expect to be dealing in good faith with people in need of help is perhaps not the best way to go about understanding how treatment works. I can speak about my own. I can speak about the constant, low-level unhappiness I endured from the time I was 15 onward, that continued irrespective of any life events. I can speak about the way it was interspersed with long-lasting valleys, during which it would take me two hours to put my shoes on, during which I would sleep for sixteen hours a day and be unable to get out of bed, or shower, or even eat, because all movement was an unfathomable effort. I can speak about feeling in constant pain without being able to locate it, I can speak about crying for hours, three times a day because I was certain I would die alone, I can speak about the constant sensation of falling, of feeling that my arms and legs were filled with lead. And I can speak about what it meant for me to start taking anti-depressants six years ago at 25 and to begin writing creatively (and publishing) again, and to realize that indeed, merely getting through each day did not have to entail needless suffering.

I was not some Walter Mitty, trying to come to terms with "the typical...worry and disappointment of a...middle-class American life." I was not "failing to comply with a social norm," any more than a diabetic, an asthmatic, or an arthritic person is. I was suffering the effects of an endemic illness. I highly recommend Peter Kramer's Against Depression for a better understanding of depression.

Surely it is possible to note the complete absence of options for treating dangerously disturbed people without making mock of those of us whose illnesses are better hidden, especially for a writer of Ms. Ehrenreich's level of excellence.

Veronica Schanoes

Philadelphia, PA

Apr 22 2007 - 1:13am

Our Broken Mental Health System

Ms. Ehrenreich,Your article was coarse and unenlightening, I found your use of the term, "whack job" extremely offensive. Such terms do not lend themselves to an intelligent discussion of our mental health system. I laud you for focusing attention on the gaps in the system. But citing the views of Thomas Szasz and is not enough basis for such a complex issue. To start I recommend that you peruse the works of Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey and the National Association for the Mentally Ill's website to start learning more. Dr. Amen has eamined thousands of human brains and has found differences between those of perople with mental illness and others. Also Dr. Torrey could she more light about the gaps in the mental health system.



Bill Sheppard

New York , New York

Apr 21 2007 - 9:38pm

The Coming Party Realignment

The most disturbing parallel between the Democratic sweep in the 1930s and Goodwyn's predicted sweep in 2008 is the dithering of the ascending party. This is attributable to their desperate fear of screwing up what seems to be a sure thing.

Timidity and uncertainty of their own strengths, or even knowing what they are, can still strangle them (e.g., Goodwyn's own coyness in naming names in his last few sentences).

It is still possible for a conservative populist (of either party) to take the presidency just by saying what the voters are begging someone to say. It is indeed the Democratic Party's election to lose. But not long ago it was McCain's election to lose, and he's doing exactly that.

Eric Bagai

Portland, Oregon, USA

Apr 21 2007 - 6:46pm

Impeachment Fever Rises

Dear Vince from Conn.,

As a Republican, and I'm not really sure anymore what that means, YOU have the responsibility to see that the people you voted for and support are upholding the Constitution.

If you want the Republicans to ever regain any power whatsoever, you better see to it that the criminals in the White House and Congress who have failed to uphold their oath of office are hanged as the traitors they are!

From arranging a coup d'etat in 2000, to repeating the offense in 2004, to either standing down the country's billions of dollars of defenses on 9/11 to actually potentiating the attacks, to lying about Iraq's WMDs, to repealing Habeas Corpus, to pushing through with anthrax scares the Orwellian named 'Patriot Act', to marginalizing honest dissent, these men are traitors.

The punishment for traitors in this country is hanging and that has never been repealed. Get out the ropes, the pitchforks and the torches!

Of course, no one will do anything until the Ford F-150 owners have to start paying $5 a gallon for gas. Then all hell will break lose...

Dawn Owens

Portland, Oregon

Apr 21 2007 - 3:04pm

Story Lines at Virginia Tech

Dear Mr. Shapiro,

I was really glad to have read your article on the massacre. I woke up this morning really confused about everything that I am reading in the news. It was helpful that you pointed out the many story lines that are emerging as this mystery is unfolding before us. I have been resigning from debating societ for quite some time now and was able to avoid reading any kind of news, etc because I just got really disillusioned, until this massacre happened. I couldn't deny it and couldn't escape it because he was an asian man like myself. Now, the one question that I haven't read about is the search for the causes of Cho's misplaced rage and/or fantasies of revenge. As someone who has endured racial discrimination for being Asian growing up in Wisconsin and in the South, I can attest to the fact that I too have had those 'deranged rage and/or fantasies of revenge. But, I guess the times are different now. I never carried out those fantasies or will I because I now know better. And thank God. It took a while for me to be awaken to the fact that I am a spiritual being having a human experience in an Asian boy. What I am driving at is that I have yet to read about an article or a news report where the author is asking the deeper questions of why did he become mentally ill and where is all this anger coming from? Could it be that we are all ignoring the big elephant that is in the room? You know, I had this nagging guttural feeling when I read some of Cho's quotes in news report that he has a bone to pick and his message has a political undertone to it. That maybe, in the deep south like Virginia maybe he was enduring racial discrimination that drove him to the breaking point over time. That maybe what Cho was referring to when he said that we all have blood on our hands is that we as a culture still accept racism against Asian-Americans in this country. And that maybe we can all take a look at changing our behaviors by not participating in making racist asian jokes, or making fun of Asian accents. Those kinds of behavior makes a person feel isolated and victimized and they want to fight back. Like many newsreport was quoting Cho as saying that he felt like he was cornered. I don't know if my writing will have any kind of negative impact on my personal life but I thought it would be worth a shot to break the silence in this whole trajedy. Please don't get me wrong. I do feel a deep sense of compassion for the victims and their families who have fallen because Cho had decided to take these people's lives without their consent. It just took me a while for it to hit me because I was so numbed by all the horrors of the recent past, what with all the 9/11 trajedy, the Afghanistan and Iraq war. Maybe there's a question that we should be asking ourselves, are we all responsible to some degree?

Sincerely questioning,-Anonymous Asian Guy


Los Angeles, CA

Apr 21 2007 - 1:05pm

China vs. Earth

Ms Economy professes that China fears "unleashing civil society" to right the horrendous wrongs inflicted by rapacious Chinese development. She has a powerful logic. If we can do it, you can too.

What, you may ask, is this all powerful civil society so capable of reversing the catastrophe of gobal heating and the destruction of most mammalian life? Calling on all her scholarly wisdom and assuring that her bosses at The American Enterprise Institute will be pleased, Ms Economy lays it out for the schmuckery. Civil society, according to Ms Economy, is "the media, the legal system and NGOs."

It's a St. George and the dragon thing. Civil society is our environmental St. George. Rapacious development is the fire-breathing dragon. Why can't these Asians get with the program? If we can do it, you can do it. When will they ever learn? Ain't it awful?

No more unleashing Chaing-Kai-Shek. Now, we have to unleash civil society. Better than radioactive cobalt on the Manchurian border! Hey, we unleashed civil society in Iraq--along with everything else.

For a start, how about a crash program for thousands of law schools, courtrooms, judges and environmental litigation? Billions in attorneys' fees. We could send thousands of our plentiful lawyers and law professors--Alberto the chief legal eagle, Ashcroft, Libby, Feith, Abramoff, Baker, Hilary, Bill, Harriet Meyers and so on. Nixon and John Mitchell died and took their legal skills with them. Add some recent grads from Our Lord's law school. Lawyers? We got lawyers.

Fox, CNN and CBN are ready and willing.

NGOs! We have thousands of NGOs. They are more than ready and more than willing. Many are already on the job. We could send new-age operative David Korten and his wife's Ford Foundation with a message of earth community and the coming of the Great Goddess. If we can do it, you can do it.

I read all this in The Nation--a progressive zine?

Gerald Spezio

Willits, CA

Apr 21 2007 - 10:54am

Cooler Elites

First, Henwood incorrectly refers to "elites" (plural), which is both wrong and distracting of corrective action by average, honest, working class people everywhere.

There is only one singular elite: the power-elite, the economic elite, the guileful global corporate elite Empire, which has hijacked the super-powered military of the US (to control global oil) and stolen the entire US government --- replacing it with the phony charade of this decades old "Vichy America".

Second, the global corporate elite Empire (like all Empires) is a predatory structure which depends entirely on the "Economics of Empire"; a global 'old economy' oily Ponzi scheme which builds and sustains a hierarchy of power and dominating wealth based on the well known market failure of negative externalitzation of costs upon society for its only source of faux-profits.

Third, the most compelling and revealing source that Henwood should have quoted to shed light on this economic Ponzi scheme of negative externalization, are the February reports of CitiGroup, Lehman, and UBS, in which they finally admit:

"The UBS and Lehman Brothers reports concur that climate change represents a classic market failure where company valuations neglect to take into account negative externalizations--in this case, predominantly the emission of carbon dioxide CO2, the primary greenhouse gas (GHG)."

"If climate change, one of the most studied environmental phenomena, represents a market failure, one can only wonder to what degree the legion of lesser-studied environmental and social externalities are not being priced into corporate valuations."


Alan MacDonald

Sanford, Maine

Apr 21 2007 - 8:57am

Impeachment Fever Rises

Yes, by all means, let's impeach Bush before his term in office expires next year so John Nichols can feel good about American once more!

I listened to Nichols' nattering on and on about George Bush since I started listening to John Batchelor's show. Nichol's contempt for Bush and anyone who voted for him is exceeded only by his constant whining about how poorly Americans treat homosexuals. I can't imagine that Nichols would say anything worth reading, never mind anything that would be taken seriously by a reading public.

Impeachment is the liberals' favorite wet dream, not a serious response by serious Americans. Unfortunately, the Democrats wouldn't be so stupid as to initiate proceedings against Bush because it would spell the end of them as a viable political party for another 30 years.

Corlyss Drinkard

Nibley, UT

Apr 21 2007 - 6:09am

Disseminate Information, Protect Democracy

The US Postal Service has been a joke from its beginning in the Nixon years. Return the US Post Office to department status and government workers can deliver first-class mail and packages for all of us. Let Federal Express and United Parcel Service deliver the junk mail that we throw away in larger and larger amounts.

Ah, remember those blue boxes with the red tops. Yes, the post office also knew who Kris Kringle was and where he lived. When profit is the motive, service and good work stand far, far behind.

Perhaps, we will one day awaken from our “free market” nightmare.

Matt Drayton

San Francisco, California

Apr 21 2007 - 12:05am

Disseminate Information, Protect Democracy

Of course I support your attempt to keep prices down on mailouts for publications like The Nation. But I have long been irritated by the fact that the Nation does not even ALLOW me to subscribe to a web-only version of the magazine. I HAVE to take the mailout as well if I subscribe. You're forcing people to waste paper and transport costs. I'm suprised to see that in a green issue of the Nation, you haven't made any connection between your own waste and the radical environmental action you are calling for.

And your web layout depends heavily on the color white, which is the most energy wasting color on the web palette.

Dudes, put your money where your mouth is.

Beth Penn

Paris, France

Apr 20 2007 - 6:21pm