“In life as in nature, what’s good for the bee, is good for the hive”

Not Just: Mad In America – It’s Pretty Darned Barking Here Too

Nov 4, 2017

Each week there is a new blog from ‘Mad In America’.  Reading it takes a committed interest and often needs a strong stomach.  The title alone confirms that it’s a big tilt at a massive windmill, one that has almost unstoppable monetary momentum.  That momentum is fuelled by an ever expanding spend on mental health ‘meds’ for ever greater numbers of young people.  Only problem is, it seems to some of us, that the definition of ‘mental health’ is increasing rapidly and is incredibly ‘elastic’ too.

The latest version of ‘the bible’ of mental health ‘disorders’ the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) was released in September 2016 and has further expanded what is considered to be mental ill health.  What is ‘mad’ to some, is often sane to others.  Wingsuit flying for some is the ultimate high, to others it’s an utterly insane activity. It expands the mind and muscles and surely fires up the heart rate – but is it sane? who’s to say – likely not your local Librarian, requesting “hush please in the corner”.

The recent story of a man trying to get off ‘meds’ after 17 years, highlighted one thing and that is, more often than not, you just can’t.  Their ever strong, invisible magnet, draws you back and you can’t exit these ‘meds’ – you stay hooked on them, but as for quitting there’s barely a chance.  You often weren’t fully told when you entered that the fire escape is barred and no one has a key to the other exit and to the daylight beyond.

First introduced in 1987, the antidepressant Prozac was advertised in the American Journal of Psychiatry hailing it as ‘the Prozac Promise’ which ramped up the euphoria ‘tickling stick’ with promises of: Convenience, Confidence and Compliance.  Yet ‘Compliance’ sounds somewhat spooky, signalling an unwilling adherence that you just can’t break, a Compliance to what? and decided by whom? Before long, the book ‘Let Them Eat Prozac’ alerted us that maybe, just maybe, fluoxetine hydrochloride (aka Prozac) was actually a heck of a lot less ‘cuddly kitten’ after all.

But what if the theory of ‘chemical imbalance of the brain’ was not actually real and had never been proven?  What if the theory resided as a regularly repeated urban myth?  What if the chemical med was actually what later caused the biology of the brain and body to alter, as it must do and as so many suspect?  Over four decades the ‘chemical imbalance’ solution meant that ‘drug not talk therapy’ treatment became the norm, the quicker ‘fix’ for psychiatry.  It’s gathered a wholesale momentum that’s impossible to stop – a supertanker that can’t be pulled up any time soon, with just a flimsy handbrake.

Yet, ‘meds to the max’ isn’t the only solution – while uttered in softer tones we have the New York District Attorney’s Office as the latest institution to utilise transcendental meditation to reduce stress and to aid those suffering from the after effects of violence.  People taking part in the meditation feel it takes them out of their ‘prison’ environment – at least in their head they can float away and over the walls – if only mentally.

There has been a ten fold increase in the rate of depression over 50 years and steadily it has also become a younger persons’ problem.  Historically, mental ill health struck at an average age of thirty, but now it’s increasingly occurring at around the age of 15.  It’s no surprise that mental illness is the major cause of disability in children, the like of which we have not previously seen and levels of drug prescription increasingly off the chart. The key categories of the US National Institute of Mental Health survey include: anxiety, mood disorders, impulse control (ADHD) and substance use disorders, to which nearly half of Americans are categorised as afflicted.  “We’ve a drug to ‘fix’ that”, as nearly 25% of Americans currently hear, as patients… But it’s not a one way, no cost, harm free bet.

In witness of the mass harms of antipsychotic drug Risperdal, today sadly marks the 4th anniversary of massive fines levied on Johnson & Johnson by the US Department of Justice.  That these fines totalled $485 million in criminal penalties and $1.72 billion in Federal fines testifies to the catastrophic harms of Risperdal. Likely, along the way, many a fun filled childhood got lost too – more so when the mental health profession became pretty much high-jacked by prescription and profit.  That Risperidone (aka Risperdal) is being prescribed to sub teenage children on a ‘rock in the Irish Sea’ seems pretty barking mad to many of us here too.