Mental Illness, Psychiatry, Etc.

Marcia Angell is a Senior Lecturer in Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and former Editor in Chief of The New England Journal of Medicine. Her latest book is The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It.  (Bio from the NY Review of Books)

Below are links to a recent two-part article by Marcia Angell, whose qualifications are described above.  She is not a crackpot, a quack, nor a belligerent social activist.  She draws attention to the overuse and possibly damaging effects of psychiatric drugs on the individuals who take them and on our current view of mental illness as a whole.  I offer them as a pastor, not a physician.  My concern is that people face their difficulties honestly and that they receive the help they truly need.  If they are being misled in any way, they deserve to know about it.

The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?

The Illusions of Psychiatry

List of Articles by Marcia Angell in NYRB  (Some of these touch on the same or related issues.)

Why people feel bad emotionally or behave in ways that they themselves find unacceptable is a notoriously complex issue.  We might as well admit what seems common-sensical: that we may not know for sure in every case.

Perhaps the most I hope to say as a pastor is that mental or emotional problems are simply part of the human condition.  We’re all tainted people living in a fallen world and “how we feel” may not be the most important thing about us – and may even be an indicator or symptom rather than the problem itself.  If my shoes are the wrong size I won’t really solve the problem with ibuprofen, though I can make my feet stop hurting so much.  In the same way, if I hurt emotionally, taking drugs to feel better may be a way of ignoring the real cause – and we’re wise to consider any and all possible spiritual components as well.

As for psychoactive drugs, we might consider what we all know about pain-killers:  They work best when used sparingly.  Take no more than you need, remember that they can be highly addictive and their effects will inevitably wear off.  This must certainly be more true in psychiatric medicine than in all the various things that make us say, “Ouch!”

Finally, let’s face it: Life can be difficult and our own shortcomings never make it easier.  Christ offers hope for life eternal.  He does not promise to make us feel better, but gives us something that is so much better and more satisfying than anything available in a pill.


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