This section is about as personal as a campaign can get. Joseph has a lot of experience in this area and he shares it because he knows there are a lot of people out there with similar experiences. There are many people who need to know that they are not alone. There are others that need to know that there may be things in their past that aren't their fault. Whatever the case may be, this will hopefully help people in different ways. Each person may have a unique reason to relate.
It is also important for people to know about our mental health system. They should have a deeper understanding of big pharma and the corruption that exists in the mental healthcare system. It should be known what damages this can do to people, especially innocent children. Additionally, there may be more reason why so many cops act the way they do and the impact pushing mental health service on them can have. Furthermore, there are consequences to pushing mental health services on children when they shoot up schools. If you think things are bad now, they will only get worse if nothing is done to fix the mental health care system and people are thrown in as-is.
Joseph has battled mental health issues since the age of 5. He was first admitted to West Hills Hospital at this age for "disruptive behaviors" at his first foster home. Many are surprised that kids are sent to this place. The truth is that it is actually quite common for foster kids. It is essentially a jail for bad kids when the foster parents can't keep you calm. It really isn't even for mental health purposes in many cases. The kids go in and they get assessed by a shady psychiatrist each day. Often times they feed kids drugs to keep their behavior under control. Other times they call a "Dr. Armstrong" on the intercom which is code for a group of staff that come and hold the patient down while shooting them up with some type of tranquilizer they jam into your buttocks. No matter how calm you get or beg them not to do it before it happens, once they make that call, it's happening, so get ready. They then lock you in a cold room. Sometimes there is a bed, other times there is not. They call this the "ETO" which is code for Environment Time Out. They keep you locked in there until you wake up from being passed out. By that time you're so out of it, you're not even thinking about acting crazy.
Joseph was admitted to West Hills 6 different times throughout his childhood. Often times it was for "disruptive behaviors." Once it was for failing grades. Yes, really. Another time (in 2004) it was for a suicide attempt. This happened because when he went home to his birth mother, she took him off his SSRI meds because she "couldn't afford them." In reality, she would rather gamble the money than get him his meds.
Joseph has been on and off medication since he was 11 years old. He has learned a lot over the years and in many cases, wishes he knew then what he knows now. He has had about 3 or 4 suicide attempts throughout his lifetime. For years, he thought he was just severely depressed and that was why he did what he did. Fast forward to 2019, Joseph made another attempt. Following this event, he couldn't quite understand why he took the actions he did. He spent a lot of time re-evaluating things and trying to figure out what happened. He finally figured out that it was the result of coming off of Zoloft without a doctor. For someone who has taken medications his whole life, he should know better. Well, he actually did know better, but the situation was beyond his control.
The first time Joseph had a bad experience with an SSRI was when he was 11. A person whom he trusted, gave him some paxil to help with his mood and depression issues. This person was NOT a licensed doctor, nor did they have any form of medical background. This person felt they liked how it was working for Joseph, so they got a licensed PEDIATRICIAN to prescribe it to him. This pediatrician was Donald Clark. Dr. Clark actually prescribed this medication without actually seeing or evaluating Joseph. He took the word of the person and just prescribed it. Joseph even has documentation showing that he was never evaluated by Dr. Clark. In fact, the medication made his behaviors worse, so the foster parents had him admitted to West Hills in 2000. Immediately, the hospital Psychiatrist took Joseph off of this medication. Meanwhile, Joseph was punished for someone elses wrong doing by putting him on this medication.
So what happens when you're taken off an SSRI cold turkey? Well, first of all, you should NEVER take someone off an SSRI cold turkey. Goes to show how much these mental hospitals and psychiatrists really "care." In Joseph's case, he went through VERY intense withdrawals. He went an entire day where he was throwing up, had diarrhea, a headache, and stomach ache all at the same time. Mind you, he was an 11 year old going through all this. He has never been sicker than this. He was told it was because he was coming off of his medication. This is the first reason why anyone taking an SSRI should be VERY careful.
The 2nd observation Joseph has made over the years is that when you hear that a medication may cause "thoughts of suicide," they mean that it happens when you're coming off of the medication. Looking back over the years, he always thought his suicide attempts were just him and his depression. He then realized that during the timeframe of each, he was coming off of a medication. Leading up to the suicide attempt, there were a lot of "acting crazy" and not caring what people think. Just doing his own thing and not caring who he hurt or caring about anyone or anything. He couldn't hold a job and was just irritable with everything. It is looking back that I realize, coming off of these medications either destroyed his life, or very near destroyed his life.
The important thing to note is that there are different effects when coming off of an SSRI. Not all are the same. One may ask, why would you stop taking your SSRI? Joseph knew better, but each instance was out of his control. The first suicide attempt, he was on Strattera and his mother took him off of it because she didn't want to pay for it. This had volatile behaviors leading up to a suicide attempt that turned into a West Hills Hospitalization in 2004. In 2011/2012, Joseph was taking Prozac. It was still fairly new to him, but he left his job and his insurance ended. There was no way to get a new prescription or medication. Due to the short timeframe of taking it, Joseph didn't think it would impact him too much. It turned out that it did. He had the downward spiral that lead to another suicide attempt.
Lastly, in 2019, Joseph had yet another suicide attempt. This time it had to do with Zoloft. Again, why would you come off something you know you shouldn't? Joseph had no choice. He has been fortunate to have excellent tribal healthcare and the Reno Sparks Tribal Health Clinic has been amazing in so many ways and he wouldn't be able to function if it wasn't for them. Sadly, they have trouble keeping doctors due to limited resources and the ability to give them the pay and benefits they deserve. In this case, Joseph's doctor was amazing and she was only leaving because she wanted to move states and be closer to her family. She was at first approved to do telehealth through a webcam after she moved. Sadly, the tribal council later decided that she needed to be in office and ended her contract at the end of 2018. Since they had no backfill and no other doctors that could prescribe Joseph's medication, he was left stranded and had to figure out a new way to get his meds. Since he had moved to the bay area, it made sense to go to a tribal clinic there. He went, but that clinic was having the same problems. Especially when it came to retaining psychiatrists. The woman prescribed him medication, but said she too was on her way out the door. This clinic wasn't going to have a psychiatrist either. At this point, Joseph was stranded. He was stretching out his pills, but you shouldn't do that with SSRI's. You should be taking them every single day. It took time, but Joseph ran out soon enough and figured the worst that would happen is he would get very sick. How wrong he was. He went on yet again, another downward "crazy" spiral. He started taking pain killers (Oxy and Vicodin) hoping it would help things. A friend gave him some strong anti nausea pills that helped him from getting sick. In the end, the spiral turned into yet another suicide attempt. Joseph spent time in the hospital, then the crisis unit, followed by psychiatric care at Aurora. This time he was in Santa Rosa.
Joseph's stay at Aurora was the first time he was hospitalized as an adult. He was much more aware of his surroundings and realized that all mental hospitals are just as bad as the last. As an adult, you notice even more. Joseph realized that these hospitals are all just for profit. They really don't care about people. You sit in their "group room" and watch as vehicle after vehicle pulls up to deliver the next "victim" to the hospital. It is literally a revolving door. They admit patients, milk whatever insurance they can get, then release them at the maximum days the insurance will allow. Since Joseph didn't have insurance at the time, the state of California pays for people who don't have insurance. So in other words, these hospitals rip off the tax payers. They kept me for exactly 1 week. Since that was the maximum the state would pay for. During that time, Joseph did not have his glasses and couldn't function or participate in any activities. He literally couldn't see anything during his time there. Additionally, in order to get him to go, they promised he would get glasses and he would have access to his phone and a computer. He was mainly focused on getting a job and worried the whole time he would be contacted and miss an opportunity to return to work. As it turned out, the University of San Francisco had reached out to him and he nearly missed it. He got lucky and they hired him 3 days later. Sadly, the job didn't work out because Joseph was still suffering coming off his medication. He ended up leaving and not returning.
One of the other things Joseph noticed at Aurora was that they had yet another male psychiatrist - just like every mental health hospital. He literally sat with you for 2 whole minutes and diagnosed you. In my case, he diagnosed me as Bipolar 2 and put me on 3 different SSRI's. This was a ridiculous diagnosis and I knew I didn't even come close to bipolar 2. Sadly, I was forced to take all 3 SSRI's. I had to take them, otherwise I couldn't go home. So Joseph complied and did everything he was supposed to just so he could leave. More than anything, he wanted glasses so he could see. Furthermore, the staff demanded that I give them contact information for at least 2 people. At the time, I wasn't talking to any family or friends. To get them to let me go, I gave them 2 numbers that I knew off my head. They didn't believe he didn't have anyone and made him give them up if he wanted to leave the hospital. At this point, they let me leave and never contacted the numbers I gave them. The special "advocates" did absolutely nothing to help. Other patients had issues with them too. Again, these hospitals don't try to help people. They put up a facade, collect whatever money they can get out of each patient, then move on to the next one. It's pretty disgusting, but big pharma has all the power to keep this charade going.
After this last hospitalization, Joseph finally realized the damage SSRI's has done. There is literally no education behind them. Especially since they were pushed on you as a child and doctors don't tell you to be careful and to do this or that. You are expected to read the little pamphlets with your medications. But even those don't tell you much compared to what you actually experience.
SSRI's DO work and Joseph does support them. The problem is that people don't have the knowledge behind what happens if you miss one or if you miss a whole bunch. These can be very dangerous, especially if we are pushing mental health on cops and kids that are shooting up schools. If kids get put on SSRI's and the parents don't ensure consistency, its only a matter of time before big pharma gets even MORE profit and school shootings increase as more kids come off of SSRI's without them and their parents understanding the dangerous effects of coming off of them.
In a time that police officers are coming into the spotlight, one has to wonder if any of these officers with long careers and suddenly acting out were taking any of these medications. It probably isn't common since they get drug tested and probably have to disclose certain medications, but could be worth looking into. Not just the cops the are killing people, but the ones who start acting out in general. There could potentially be a common link.
The best advice Joseph has for anyone on their mental health journey:
*DO NOT stop taking an SSRI without a doctor.
*DO NOT skip days because you forget or you run out of pills.
*SSRI's DO work. You need the right doctor and you need to have patience. You also need to be aware of side effects and how to come off of them.
*If you see a psychiatrist, make sure they truly care and are actually asking you questions. Personally, Joseph prefers female psychiatrists and avoids ALL male psychiatrists.
*It is very important to clarify that there is a difference between Psychiatrist and Psychologist. Psychiatrists are the one's you have to be careful with whom you pick. Psychologists you just need to find a good, trusting relationship and doesn't matter the gender.
*If you have ever attempted suicide, think back to when or if you were taking an SSRI and coming off of it. It may feel better to know it wasn't you.
*Suicide hotlines don't work for people who are ready to attempt suicide. They work for people who have nowhere to turn and are convinced they are ready, but not quite ready to pull the trigger. It is also worth noting that when someone is at their deepest and darkest moment, they don't want to talk to someone on a hotline. Especially if they have already tried it and had a bad experience from it. The hotlines do help, but they aren't for everyone. Don't be surprised if someone doesn't bother with a hotline. They only help in certain situations.
*Be open to talking about and sharing your experience. There are many people around you that are facing similar battles but they are embarrassed to talk about it. Most of Joseph's closest friends have opened up to him about their experiences after learning of his own. Sharing these experiences really do bring people closer.