A Startling Mental Health Situation

in #health29 days ago


The above image was made with stable diffusion using the prompt 'Spin the Bottle.'

A study published in JAMA Psichiatry suggests that eight-in-ten people are treated for mental health issues at some point in their lives, with about three-in-ten people undergoing mental health hospitalizations. From the study:

Lifetime cumulative incidence of mental health disorder and/or prescription of psychotropics was greater than previously reported with about 80% of the population getting treatment for a mental health disorder in hospital settings or from general practitioners or private psychiatrists. Mental health disorder and prescription of psychotropics were associated with subsequent increased socioeconomic difficulties, including lower income, unemployment, and increased likelihood to live alone and to be unmarried.

If the prevalence of mental illness in modern society is troubling, the harm our medical system does to those seeking help is beyond the pale. The vast majority of people are seeking treatment for mental illness and they're experiencing negative outcomes from the treatment they receive. After treatment, they're left more poor and more alone, with drug companies and healthcare providers profiting at their expense.

Spin the Bottle

To make matters worse, diagnosing mental illness often involves more guesswork than science. Doctors talk a lot about brain chemistry imbalances but they aren't looking at any chemistry. As the mother of a mentally ill man recently wrote in the Guardian:

Psychosis is often thought to be genetic, or a symptom of brain chemistry gone awry, which is what I was led to believe for much of my journey through the traditional mental health system. Zach's first diagnosis was psychosis NOS (Not Otherwise Specified), a vague kind of darned if I know description. Later, depending upon which doctor he saw, he was classified with either schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia, depression with psychotic symptoms or, more recently, schizoaffective disorder. ... I discovered that no disease markers show up in brain scans or blood tests for any of these so-called disorders. Nobody seems to know for sure what is really going on, which feels more like a spin-the-bottle game than science. I also came to understand that the effects of the antipsychotic drugs were intolerable for Zach, far worse than the symptoms that they were meant to alleviate. ... Talking therapy was not offered on any of his acute psychiatric wards. This is not uncommon in inpatient systems: patients who are deemed to be actively psychotic or who are hearing voices are considered too unwell to benefit. This relatively modern view has developed alongside the rise of the pharmaceutical industry and the belief that altered states are a disease rather than a process or response to trauma resulting from difficult life events.

The piece goes on to introduce a Finnish program called Open Dialogue. According to the website: "Working with families and social networks, as much as possible in their own homes, Open Dialogue teams help those involved in a crisis situation to be together and to engage in dialogue." This approach has helped to cut the suicide rate in Finland in half.

Here in the US, community-based approaches to mental health treatment are vanishingly rare. Our doctors often misdiagnose patients and/or prescribe them medication that does more harm than good. I've personally experienced both of these things. Many others have as well.

The overwhelming prevalence of mental illness in society naturally has a social dimension. Material and psychological insecurities can either be amplified or diminished by social interactions. The loneliness epidemic suggests that we have a long ways to go if we want to become a society that supports the mental health of its members. We may also want to revisit what exactly constitutes mental illness since the mentally ill outnumber the mentally well.

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Such thoughtful and important perspectives you bring up here. Thank you. This reminds me of one of my favorite articles on mental health, which mentions UN’s independent adviser Dainius Pūras stating that “mental health policies and services are in crisis—not a crisis of chemical imbalances, but of power imbalances,” and that decision-making is controlled by “biomedical gatekeepers,” whose outdated methods “perpetuate stigma and discrimination.”

So glad that some of our recent WTK articles has been stimulating you!

For sure. I feel like this is an area that warrants more attention.

Mental illness is becoming rampant. We have so many people now who are battling with their mental health
That's why I always try to do anything to save my mental health from stress

For sure. But it shouldn't all be on the individual. The community also plays a big role.

So many issues our society is facing concerning mental illness and health and this is gradually hitting people up. But the thing that shocked me is it seems our society is not taking steps to deal with the issues

I feel like society is designed more to produce mental illness than to alleviate it.