I’ve started answering people’s questions on the Quora.com forum (anyone can do it, you don’t need any special pedigree) – and I’ve been very struck at how much blind faith people are still putting in the medical system.
Someone writes in saying they feel suicidal, or saying they feel depressed, or saying they feel super-anxious, and without fail, at least some well-meaning respondent will type back ‘GET HELP, FAST! YOU NEED TO SPEAK TO THE PROFESSIONALS ABOUT THIS!!!’
Gulp. Must be serious.
Except, it’s still not 100% clear to me what HELP they’re really talking about. Let’s use depression as an example. There’s seems to be an understanding that if someone is depressed, and goes to speak to a professional about it, that that will magically set them on the path to getting out of depression.
But in practise, it doesn’t work like that at all.
Yes, professionals can prescribe mind-altering drugs like SSRIs, which can and do work to alleviate around 51% of depressions, short-term – the same success rate you’d get by giving depressed patients a placebo sugar pill.
But the relapse rates for people returning to depression once they stop the SSRI are very high indeed, because SSRIs don’t actually cure the underlying depression, they just mask the symptoms.
Exercise beats depression better than meds
It’s been scientifically-proven that doing 30 minutes of physical exercise, three times a week is even more successful than medication at treating depression, and crucially, people who regularly exercise very rarely fall back into depression later on.
So if the HELP you’d get would be to tell you to by a pair of sneakers and go hit the running track, that would be useful.
But here’s another interesting stat that I recently found: In a survey of psychologists done by Pope and Tabachnick (1994) and reported by the American Psychology Association (APA), 61% of responding psychologists defined themselves as being ‘depressed’.
To quote the APA piece:
“29 percent of those surveyed indicated they had felt suicidal, and almost 4 percent indicated they had made at least one suicide attempt.”
And that’s not all. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, male psychologists were the most likely to commit suicide out of more than 230 occupations they were monitoring – a ratio that is 3.5 times higher than the general public (Ukens, 1995).
What does all this mean?
Well, I don’t know about you, but if I went to a mental health professional for help with my depression, I’d like to see more evidence that the methods they’re using actually work.
And if their methods actually work, then why are a huge, whopping 61% of them identifying themselves as being clinically-depressed?
If the professionals who know all the latest literature, who read all the latest theories, who subscribe to the APA bulletin about the latest advances in neuroscience and brain chemistry, and who can describe the difference between fluoxetine and sertralin cold – if these people are still depressed, in their droves, than it doesn’t hold out a huge amount of hope for the depressed people they’re trying to help.
If I go to a mental professional for help, I want to hear how the therapist worked out what was causing their depressions, or their anxiety, or their OCD, or whatever it is, and solved it at its root, so they could start living happy, fulfilled lives.
And if they can’t tell me that, then really what’s the point?
I know that many therapists are completely committed to trying to help their patients get better, and that their genuine caring and desire to help others is part of the reason they have such a tough job. I also know that sometimes therapy, in particular the more behaviour-based therapies like CBT, can truly help particular individuals with specific problems in some notable ways.
But therapists themselves are usually the first to admit that many times, the conventional medical paradigm that most therapy fits into simply isn’t adequate to define the true causes of mental health issues, which is the first, necessary step to truly resolving them.
That’s because mental health issues encompass far more than a person’s mind; they can also be caused by physical, energetic, ‘body’ issues (more on that another time), and also, crucially, by spiritual issues including a profound sense of purposelessness, meaningless, loss of resilience, out-of-control anxiety and fear and despair – all things that occur in great quantities when people have no idea why they’re actually alive, or that God’s running the show.
To come back to depression, holistically-speaking there are a few things that cause it:
- PHYSICALLY – getting stuck in the homolateral energy state, where a person’s reserves of physical strength are literally operating at less than 50% of what they optimally should be.
- EMOTIONALLY – spending too much time with negative, critical, uncaring and uncompassionate people. And
- SPIRITUALLY – failing to count your blesses, ie, ingratitude.
Biologically-speaking, when the body is producing the chemicals for the feeling of gratitude, it can’t also produce the chemicals for the feeling of ‘depression’ at the same time, because these chemicals use the same receptors in the body. Once the gratitude chemical has ‘docked’, depression has nowhere to go.
So next time someone tells you they’re feeling sad, depressed, suicidal, even, if you really want to help them, tell them all this stuff. Tell them how great regular exercise is for getting out of depression, explain how they need to work out WHO is triggering their depressions to avoid a repeat in the future, and help them to see the tremendous good they still have in their lives.
I know that many people benefit from therapy simply because it gives them someone caring to talk to, and benefit from medications simply because it gives them a break from their inner chaos. But if we want answers and solutions for mental health issues that really work, and that really address the causes at their root, it may be time to admit that cosy as the therapist’s couch, it’s not the whole solution.