Saturday, June 8, 2019

Yikes, a Worldwide Mental Health Crisis

If I recall correctly, the advent of Prozac and other SSRIs was going to cure depression. Considering how much mental illness is associated with depression, curing it with a magic pill would surely make the world a happier place. Since previous forms of talk therapy had largely proved to be ineffective, so perhaps it was all a matter of brain chemistry. We needed only to find the right pill, and presto, a happy day would dawn.

By now, we all know that this dream has remained an unfulfilled wish. It feels like a marketing ploy by the manufacturers of Prozac. This does not mean that these medications do no good at all. It means that they were seriously oversold. Claims that they were a panacea proved to be misleading.

In some ways, depression seems to have gotten worse. Today, in advanced Western nations, consumption of anti-depressant medication increased over the period from 2000 to 2016. On a per capita basis Iceland has led the march, but America comes in second. The rest of the list includes Australia, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Spain are holding their own.

So, psycho professionals are out in force to tell us that we need to provide more mental health treatment and that we need to do better at preventing mental illness. Mark Rice-Oxley reports on it all for the Guardian, and regrettably, his story suggests that mental health professionals still do not have a clue.

Let us note, up front, that the term mental illness covers a variety of conditions, some of which are biologically based, some of which are socially or individually based. At the least, we can say that the culture plays an important role in producing mental illness. But it also plays a role in leading people to believe, either that it’s just another brain disease or that it’s all in their minds.

When society disintegrates, when it becomes divided against itself, when it ceases to cohere, people suffer more mental illness.

Mental illness is often a symptom of social problems, of a society where people do not feel like they belong to the same community. Some therapists seem to understand this, but they tend to downplay its importance. They prefer to blame cultural factors like insufficiently loving parents, child abuse, domestic violence, bullying in school, toxic masculinity and various forms of bigotry.

I would note that many of these problems derive from the fact that people have a very limited sense of their obligations to others and to their primary social relationships. I would call it, above all else, a moral failure, the absence of a unifying moral compass.

And yet, the professionals want to treat it by rearranging your mental furniture. And by putting everyone into therapy. You might think that they are merely drumming up business for themselves, but they also assert that there are not enough therapists to go around. Then again, why would anyone need a therapist when, in many ways, everyone has become a therapist?

And yet, the therapists blame it all on inequality, on insufficient childcare and the stigmatization of mental illness. That means, as you suspected, that they want to take control of your mind, the better to advance an ideological agenda. They do not say that stable homes, intact families, and motherly attention to young children would improve mental health. And they do not notice that cultural diversity produces social dislocations and anomie.

In short, much of what passes for treatment attempts first to do what parents no longer seem capable of doing.

As I noted, they really want to control your mind. They believe that mind control will cure you of all your ills. Thus, Rice-Oxley concludes on a wildly discouraging and nonsensical note.

Above all, prevention is about changing the way people think, he says. Shakespeare’s Hamlet says: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” It has taken 400 years for people to properly understand what he meant.

“In the physical health world, you are what you eat,” Whiteford said. “In the mental health world, you are what you think.”

This is frankly idiotic. Hamlet is a character in a play. He speaks in character. He is not pronouncing great truths. In fact, his statement is patently absurd, a symptom of a character who is veering toward the amoral. How did his story turn out after all? Do you want to emulate him? Do you think that he should be the source of all psycho wisdom? Are you serious?

Evidently, the psycho professionals have no clue about what Hamlet was saying or what it meant that he said it. Clearly, if good and bad are merely a matter of thinking, then why should your thoughts be any better or worse worse than mine. Moral value is not defined by what I am thinking, but by the way we interact as social beings in community. In a world defined by Hamlet's precept, there is no good or bad. There is no right or wrong, but how you think and feel. It is solipsism on steroids, the kind that, if you are lucky, will make you into a tragic hero.

Look a little more closely at the statement. We should note that, as a physical being, you are not just what you eat. Someone who thinks that he is, has a problem. In effect, people with eating disorders believe that they are what they eat. They eat a lot of vegetables because they do not want to be pieces of meat. They do not understand that it is not very desirable to turn into a vegetable. Why are psycho professionals encouraging people to develop eating disorders?

As for whether you are what you think, do you honestly believe that you can change who you are by changing what you believe? If you should wake up tomorrow morning and think that you are of the opposite sex, does that mean that you are of the opposite sex?

Here, as in many cases, psycho professionals are more the problem than the solution.


Anonymous said...

Are you saying that culture is supposed to be our friend?

whitney said...

Life is suffering and then you die. It's amazing how happy you can be when you realize that

Anonymous said...

According to this guy "Culture Is Not Your Friend":

Is this culture your friend? Or do you insulate yourself from it? I don't have any answer. Perhaps the solution is for the "mentally ill" of the West exists or perhaps it doesn't.

Sam L. said...

" And we ought to have seen that when Google refused to work for the Pentagon, all the while proclaiming its patriotism, it was heading for a fall. Dissing the Pentagon, refusing to contribute to national security was a self-inflicted wound, one that surely lost the company whatever political capital it might have had."

Oh, nooooooo, Stuart; they have loads and Loads and LOADS of political capital...with Democrats, their hangers-on, and their sympathizers.

All of your last four paragraphs nailed it.

Anonymous said...

“In the physical health world, you are what you eat,” Whiteford said. “In the mental health world, you are what you think.”

'This is frankly idiotic.'

I wish to disagree, Stuart.

Not one to go out of my way to credit the Grauniad or its scribblers, both Stoic philosophy and CBT would argue your choice of thoughts(your mental habits) do and will determine your life and future.

I think of it this way:

Action/Reaction = not wise.
Action_____'Contemplation/Choice'______Response. = Optimal choice and decision making.

The less reactive we can become, the more choice we can access. That is deeply connected to our thought habits.
We can increase our non-reactivity and increase our choice.

- shoe

Anonymous said...

Shoe, I agree mostly. It is very difficult to control passion once it's out of the gate, but with reason, you can begin the difficult business of training and curtailing passion so it doesn't run wild as early or as uncontrollably. Having a rightly directed intellect is the start of the education of the passions. Thinking poorly, or not at all, only reinforces and justifies the circumstances that lead to wrong action.

But what you think, in large part, sets the stage in advance of the action. Indulging the mind in associative thinking that is almost guaranteed to lead to a reaction that results in catastrophe has to be curtailed. It's not thinking in the strictest sense anyway, it's associative daydreaming of the worst type, usually originating from bad habits and lying. It has to been seen as what it is and stopped before the actual event occurs, always unexpectedly, and the horses race for the cliffs.

We are creatures of patterns and repetition--some good for us, most not. Anything automatic I inherently regard with deep suspicion; I'm being set-up and I am not making the choice--just living with the consequences. Seeing the patterns in advance and anticipating (and fearing) the repetition is the first step to stopping the recurrence.

But: You are what you do, not what you think. Your actions are what you are accountable for and what determine your life, not your thoughts.