By: Emma Snyder Woodside
Chaya Grossberg, a native of New York who now resides in Olympia, Washington, is attempting to influence how people view prescription psychiatric medications, mental health empowerment and how we define what it is to be ‘mentally healthy.’
It is not news that prescription drugs, as well as diagnosed cases of mental illness have been on the rise for decades. Many people are searching for happiness, a cure for the blues, mental health empowerment, or a productive mind. In 2013, 78,694,222 Americans were taking pharmaceutical psychiatric drugs for ADHD, depression, psychosis, anxiety. Often, prescription pills are the most common treatment for these diagnosed disorders, and many side effects accompany them.
Chaya’s intimate experience with pharmaceutical drugs is what motivates her to make a change to what is now commonly accepted protocol within the healthcare system. She was prescribed Prozac while she was in high school and she said the drug made her manic, impulsive, sociable, hyper, and insensitive to others. After being on it for just a year, she got off and returned to college.
Soon after she experienced what she labels as both a “spiritual emergence” and “meltdown.” Due to her state of mind, from the ages of 18-21 she was drugged, shot with tranquilizers against her will, and hospitalized. She did not feel safe within the healthcare system and found that the six drugs she was taking at the time: sleeping pills, antidepressants, anti-anxiety and thyroid medication, made her much sicker.
She said, “I went from being a bright, smart, energetic young woman to being lethargic, sick, unable to think, drugged into oblivion, and emotionally flat. I was on the lowest doses of most drugs that I was prescribed, but they still made me exhausted, dull, and ill.”
For Chaya, getting off her medications was not easy. She tapered off drugs slowly and noticed in each reduction aspects of her old self. Her energy, vitality, health, and strength began returning.
She went back to college to finish her degree, a feat she never had imagined doing, and she joined the Freedom Center, a group consisting of psychiatric survivors who work to provide others with alternative treatments for dealing with extreme cases of consciousness.
Now that Chaya is off all medications, she has replaced a pill heavy routine with daily meditation, journaling, healthy diet, herbal infusions and tinctures, supplements, stretching, walks, and regular visits to a naturopath. Chaya has become critical and cautious of the term ‘mental health,’ or even mental health empowerment as she believes that much of society’s input of how to define it originates in observing social norms.
She says, “I generally believe that there should be far more informed consent situations and opportunities. Doctors should be honest about the science or lack thereof about different approaches and perspectives that are out there. In most cases, there are safer and more effective alternatives to medications that are healthy and don’t create dependence, horrible side effects, or withdrawal issues. They are also usually more affordable and sustainable.”
Due to Chaya’s experience with psychological health and well-being, she has opened her own practice to help others who are struggling with medications and mental health empowerment as she once did. In one of her sessions, Chaya will typically begin by listening to her client.
She says, “Most of my clients have never been truly heard and believed, they’ve never been trusted about their own authority on their experiences.”
After this Chaya will formulate a plan with her client. This may include a slow-taper plan, some supplements, herbs, and food and lifestyle choices. Not all people are ready to ditch psychiatric drugs, and many older generations have grown accustomed to taking doctors for their word regarding prescription medications. For those who are receiving pressure to get or stay on psychiatric medication, Chaya suggests keeping an open mind and doing thorough research before making any decisions.
“People who take psychiatric drugs have far worse outcomes in the long term, and pharmaceutical sponsored research only studies very short term outcomes. I would recommend they find well researched literature such as madinamerica.com. Bob Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic is also a good place to start as well. Looking into naturopaths in the area can also be a great bridge for people asking about alternatives because they are MDs with all of the training of primary care physicians and lots of holistic knowledge.”
More people are beginning to question standard medical practices in recent years, and while that means that some embrace homeopathic practices, there still many who stand firmly in their old ways.
“The biggest issue in popularizing the alternatives to psychiatry movement is that alternatives are still inaccessible for many people. The other issue is that a lot of the traumas and problems in society are so deep rooted that people are in constant existential pain, stress and agony, and desperate to both take the edge off and alleviate their guilt for doing so,” says Chaya.
Many of the current modes of modern medicine such as ADHD, anti-depression, and anti-anxiety medication are highly encouraged by big pharma. She continues, “pharma does a good job of playing into people’s desperation and fears of doing the wrong thing and has so much money for direct and indirect advertising where they implement these strategies and normalize psychiatric medications. So even most ‘so called’ grassroots groups are somehow getting pharma or government money, and then are limited in what they can say and do.”
According to the Center for Global Research, in 2012 pharmaceutical corporations paid nearly $3.5 billion to market their drugs on television, radio, internet, magazines, etc. Pharmaceutical companies find success through this tactic, as well as buying out politicians, influencing med students and doctors through bribery, dictating medical school curriculum, creating new diseases to entice older generations into buying their products, and repackaging and rebranding medications that are initially unsuccessful.
Through her services, Chaya hopes to help people reconnect to their body, mind, and spirit, find creative practices that are long term solutions for well-being and mental health empowerment, get off psychiatric medications, and intuitively connect with their own healing paths.
“Society isn’t quite at the point where ‘wellness’ alone will heal everything. There is a lot we can do though, as individuals and communities to improve our well-being and physical health. Finding the healing power or purpose in the wound can be the most powerful route to empowerment, liberation, and ‘wellness.’”