Jan 11, 2017
Mental Health News, January 2017
2016 was a tough year for many of us, not only politically but personally as well. Indeed, we were forced to say goodbye to many talented people: David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, and, most recently, the talented actress Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.
Fisher, beloved by many for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, was also a recovering drug addict who was labelled with bipolar disorder. In the wake of her passing, many people have praised her strength of character and her determination to overcome the challenges she faced in her tragically short life, and rightly so. She was a remarkable woman, compassionate, kind, and a successful career woman despite her circumstances.
Few people, however, are talking about the possible link between her heart attack and her psychiatric medication. As mental health activist Corinna West shows, “new antipsychotics cause weight gain, diabetes, and a bunch of other risk factors associated with heart disease.” We have to take these risk factors seriously. We are not merely talking about statistics—we are talking about real people, people like Carrie Fisher.
Sadly, individuals suffering from mental health issues “die, on average, 25 years earlier that the general population.” These medications are incredibly dangerous, and we have to start asking ourselves if the benefits of these drugs truly outweigh the risks, as the investigative journalist and mental health campaigner Robert Whitaker does in a recent conference talk.
These risks are not limited to taking medication. Psychiatric labels can also harm the individual involved. Child psychiatrist Sami Timimi recently discussed the adverse effect the autism label can have on children and adults alike. Labels can lock people in, taking away their hope for recovery, affecting their ability to perform everyday tasks and crippling their determination to live above their circumstances. Words can harm people as much as “sticks and stones” do, as psychologist Paula Caplan discusses in her talk on psychiatric survivors.
But there is hope! There are many alternatives to conventiential psychiatric treatment, including successful therapy techniques like Open Dialogue, and the love-based approach to healing pioneered by Dr. Peter Breggin, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and long-time mental health campaigner. Mad in America, an online community that seeks to help people suffering from mental ill-health, is a great place to start if you are interested in learning more about these alternative approaches to mental healthcare.
And we should always remember that, first and foremost, we find our identity in Jesus, not labels. I highly recommend reading Galatians, from beginning to end, when you have some free time. It truly is a remarkable book about seeing ourselves in the Messiah (among other things), and is one of my favorites in the bible. And, if you want to learn more about identity in Galatians, I suggest you look at the online study by N.T. Wright, one of the world’s leading biblical scholars. It truly is worth your time!
For those of you are interested in a scientific, biblically-based program to renew the mind and control toxic thoughts, you can check out my 21 Day Brain Detox Program.
Season 2 of the Dr Leaf Show also discusses mental health in depth. You can watch these episodes on iTBN.