Shifting PositionsIf Richard Vatz and Lee Weinberg aren't...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 27, 1994

Shifting Positions

If Richard Vatz and Lee Weinberg aren't careful, they might lose their lifetime memberships in the mental health flat-earth society.

In their Feb. 13 Perspective article, "Making Maryland the Therapeutic State," they actually acknowledge the existence of at least "the major mental illnesses -- schizophrenia, depression, manic depression and perhaps even panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive problem."

They also deign to accept the possibility of insurance coverage for these conditions "even at near-parity with other illnesses."

Every time they write about mental illness these two professors seem to give a little more ground to the facts. Unfortunately, their rhetoric is still filled with enough pseudo-science to be destructive.

It's true, for example, that not all mental health problems are disabling, but the same can be said for almost every other health disorder. Yet society doesn't deny treatment for mild hypertension because it's not quite a heart attack. Nor does it consider treatment for arthritis a sign of eroding "self-reliance."

Still, Messrs. Vatz and Weinberg deserve credit for the concessions made so far. Maybe they've stepped out of academia and met a real person who's been hospitalized with bipolar disorder or talked to real parents struggling with a suicidal 12-year-old.

If so, keep it up, gentlemen. Pretty soon you might realize how absurd it is to reduce these tragic illnesses to intellectual exercises.

Herbert Cromwell

Catonsville

The writer is executive director, Maryland Association of Psychiatric Support Services.

Mean-Spirited

What in the world is happening? First, Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kans., proposes a federal gun buy-back program and then gun advocate Peter Jay (Feb. 10) suggests some type of "reasonable" gun legislation.

Could it be that the once-feared gun lobby is on the run? I think so.

Maryland voters courageously poked a hole in the dike when they passed the Saturday Night Special law a few years ago. Since then, the National Rifle Association has been trying to plug the leaks, without much success.

Of course Mr. Jay is being disingenuous when he writes on behalf of gun control. Perhaps he's trying to reroute the flood of public opinion when he asks gun control advocates and the gun lobby to work it out.

His idea of a compromise is to let gun owners buy as many guns as they want without restriction. Furthermore, he would allow those owners to carry their weapons wherever they wanted as long as they pass a safety test. Incredible!

If this is Mr. Jay's concept of compromise, it's time to check his dictionary. His column is a deceptive and mean-spirited effort to stem the tide of gun control. Too late for that. The ship is already rising.

Michael Jankowski

Baltimore

Coincidence

I am afraid there was a little bit of confusion in an article run by The Sun (Feb. 4) about the Office of Management and Budget's decision to allow the Social Security system to spend some more of its own money in an attempt adequately to administer its obligations to the Social Security taxpayers.

Perhaps there was a misunderstanding between the reporter and me. But when I agreed that there was a "colossal coincidence" about the administration's decision to allow partial replenishment of the ranks of employees badly depleted during the 1980s and pending legislation to make Social Security an independent agency, I was referring to OMB, not Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala.

Dr. Shalala has worked unstintingly toward restoring the Social Security staff to a point where it can once again serve the Social Security taxpayers as they have paid to be served.

ndy Jacobs Jr.

Washington

The writer is a congressman from Indiana.

Pampered Diva

According to your editorial, "The Met Fires A Diva" (Jan. 13), soprano Kathleen Battle is a "difficult" personality.

The 45-year-old classical music superstar appears to go out of her way to make life miserable for her colleagues.

Your pop psychologist editorialist suggests that the embattled Ms. Battle might have a "serious problem" to which we as citizens of an enlightened society should be sensitive.

We are told that Ms. Battle's voice is a "high coloratura soprano -- a vocal type often associated with high-strung, nervous personalities." Her behavior, the editorialist opines, "may stem from unconscious fears and insecurities related to the increasing strain her voice is experiencing in performance."

In other words, Ms. Battle is yet another victim -- of aging, of artistic temperament and, yes, the fear of diminishing success.

Where does it end, this rationalizing and justifying of unacceptable, antisocial behavior? Criminal behavior is attributed to social and economic "deprivation," as is drug use, teen pregnancy, child abuse and illiteracy.

Now the self-centered mean-spiritedness of a wealthy, successful, pampered prima donna is justified on the editorial page of a major newspaper.

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