Merrily Manthey, M.S.
In a stunning presentation four years to the day of her very public
exposure that branded her “crazy,” actor Margo Kidder urged support for a
landmark ordinance about to be voted on in King County, Washington (greater
Seattle). People deserve “the right to wellness,” she pointed out, “as
opposed to a pharmacological lobotomy, which is usually what you get.”
On April 25, the international film star stood before Councilmember Kent
Pullen, PhD, and his “customer services” committee agreeing that getting
people well should be the goal of county mental health programs. Kidder also
urged the use of natural medicine to treat the mentally ill.
The Canadian born actress, who starred as Lois Lane in the blockbuster
movie series, Superman, told the
Council that she had been “treated” for mental illness for most of her life.
Boldly she revealed that conventional medicine provided her with very little
help. But by taking charge of her own healing, discovering natural methods that
dealt with the root cause of her problem, and with the help of family and
friends, she got herself well.
The treatment she “discovered” and assembled on her own was, in
effect, orthomolecular medicine, developed by Dr. Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD and his
colleague Humphrey Osmund, MD., over 40 years ago.
I had met Margot Kidder at the orthomolecular conference held to honor
Hoffer’s 80th Birthday. I mentioned to Councilman Kent Pullen, PhD,
that I wanted ask the extremely articulate and knowledgeable film star to speak
to the 13-member elected body in support of our new ordinance. I imagined she
would make an impassioned and reasoned argument to help people change the way
they view existing treatment of those diagnosed with a mental illness.
Thankfully, natural medicine advocate Pullen was tremendously supportive of my
idea. And I was deeply grateful Ms. Kidder agreed to come to Seattle to make the
case for important change.
Her appearance generated widespread US media attention and favorable
“reviews” for the concepts she was presenting. Observers said she impressed
them deeply with her humanity and personal success story, and, they told me,
they would never feel the same about anyone suffering with symptoms of mental
distress. Through her powerful testimony, Margot Kidder made them think
differently about the biochemical differences that influence good mental health.
The Council gave special recognition to Margot Kidder for her many
achievements and especially for her unselfish advocacy to help reduce human
suffering. (See award at www.margotkidder.com)
King County treated 28,000 patients with mental health diagnoses last
year, spending over $82 million in what is called a “safety net” system.
Another $87 million was spent for detention-related services, much of this
related to mental health struggles. Thus, county taxpayers spent $1.7 billion in
1999 with little hope of bringing realistic improvement to the lives of those
who are suffering. Over $90 million has been approved and will be spent on
mental health services in King County during the present year.
The new ordinance establishes, Councilmember Pullen observed, for the
first time, a way to measure outcomes on county subsidized treatment programs.
The ordinance would require country mental health programs to track yearly
progress of people in their care and report how many were made well; and
designate “getting well” as the goal of treatment.
“Getting well” has not been the stated goal of the county mental
health system; instead, the current goal is to provide the emergency care for
those in need. As many see it, safety nets are excellent for the short-term;
however, they are not designed to get at the root cause of the problem. They
just “catch” those who are “falling.”
I learned through public hearings in 1999 that 5% of patients treated in
the county’s current mental health system were made well in the prior year.
Shocked by the dismal numbers, we set out to raise the bar. The successful
passage of this ordinance, Pullen notes, will “create a significant paradigm
shift” in government policy. I will add here, we hope this concept will
“catch fire” all across the North American continent.
Citing a Wall Street Journal article, New Weapons in the War on Schizophrenia, August 25, 1999, the
ordinance notes that the economic cost to the United States of just one mental
illness, schizophrenia, is $30-65 billion dollars per year, with 2.5 million
persons afflicted. According to the NIMH, depression cost over $30 million in
1990. Present treatments for the mentally ill have generally disappointing
results and are characterized as high cost Band-Aids.
The ordinance defines “well” and “wellness.” Being “well”
means, by definition, a client who is free of disability, employable, connected
with friends and family; and has a generally positive outlook on life. If the
person is taking medications or nutritional supplements, then the client is also
free of adverse side effects. If the person is in the age range of 21-59 years,
“wellness” includes being engaged in volunteer work, pursuing educational or
vocational degrees, or contributing to family support. A client in that same age
range lives independently or has chosen other living arrangements to facilitate
the client’s activities with respect to volunteerism, education, work or
family. Being “well” means that an adult client is not receiving publicly
funded mental treatment except for occasional recommended periodic checkups, and
has been discharged from the county’s mental health system. A client who is
well, the ordinance spells out, may be characterized as having a GAF score of 81
A Message of Hope Set the Stage
The award-winning videotape, A
Message of Hope, which documents Hoffer’s work and the effectiveness of
orthomolecular treatments, was the impetus for the landmark ordinance and the
personal endorsement of Margo Kidder.
For more information about the videotape, A Message of Hope, contact the Foundation for Excellence in Health
Care, 206 718 3334, firstname.lastname@example.org.
To receive copies of the ordinance, contact Kent Pullen, 206 296 1009.