I recently conducted an informal survey on my Twitter account, asking the question; “Do you believe institutionalized psychiatry prioritizes the profits of pharmaceutical companies over the well-being of patients?”. It is worth noting that only 11 people responded, and the survey was not scientific because responders were not a random sample, instead responders were only those people who felt motivated enough to click.
The results were as follows:
The meds suck: 9%
I can’t say that I was surprised by the results, my own experience with the ‘pharmapsychiatry industry’ led me to suspect that my well-being was not the primary focus of treatment.
Modern psychiatric treatment, as with so many things in our society, is usually approached with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, and if my life has taught me anything it has taught me that most things in this society just do not fit me very well.
My psychiatrist was very firm in his belief that a strong anti-psychotic med was the only course of action, and no other strategy would be considered or discussed, period. I have never been violent, I have never been suicidal, however his approach was no different than the way he would have treated his most violent and suicidal of patients, something was not right.
What my doc failed to understand was that his approach robbed me of my most precious gifts, my energy, my creativity, and my uniqueness. As my survey seems to suggest, I am not alone in my dissatisfaction with the treatment offered by modern psychiatry, and the meds really do suck!
In Canada, and in fact, globally, we are experiencing a natural disaster of sorts. Mental illness is literally at epidemic proportions. According to ‘The Canadian Mental Health Association’, 50% of the population will have experienced a mental illness by the time they are 40. The costs of this level of mental illness to the economy are staggering. A study conducted by Health Canada (The Report on Mental Illness in Canada, 2002) concluded that the cost burden on the health care system was estimated to be $7.9 billion, with an additional $6.3 billion for uninsured health services and time lost at work.
In addition to the economic costs, the personal costs of mental illness are perhaps even more significant, particularly for our youth. Suicide is the second-highest leading cause of death among the 15-24 year age group accounting for 4000 deaths per year in Canada, and what is society’s response? “Here, take a pill and get over it”.
I think that our whole approach to treating mental illness is misguided, and primarily controlled by the profit motive. There is no pill, no treatment and no therapy that can cure us of the fundamental cause of everyone’s mental illness. We are an unhappy and unfulfilled species.
The source of our unhappiness is clear to me. The expectation to go to school, get a job, earn a living and pay our bills overwhelms all of the aspirations and dreams we had when we were young. Our genius and hopes have been well and truly squashed by the capitalistic greed that currently rules the day, but what can we do?
The filmmaker Phil Borges is working on a project he calls “Crazywise”, in which he visited aboriginal communities globally and investigated how they deal with individuals who are ‘different’. A common theme emerged, instead of ostracizing and marginalizing individuals who experienced a mental health crisis, these people were mentored and taught how to use their difference in a positive way and contribute meaningfully to their society. People who are outcasts in modern society are the shaman and truth seers in traditional communities.
Mr. Borges thesis came as something of a revelation to me, but it made perfect sense in the context of my own difficulties and subsequent spiritual awakening. Once I was able to stop using toxic medications and start meditating and seeing my difference as a gift, things began to fall into place. It would be a mistake to assume that introspection and meditation will work for everyone, but it has certainly worked for me.
It is an unfortunate reality that people currently seeking help for their mental illnesses are sent into a bottomless pit of pharmacopoeia, but the answer to society’s collective unhappiness does not lie in medications that make rich people richer, rather it lies in the realization that we each bring our own gifts to the table, even if that means we perceive things a little differently than everyone else. We just need to learn how to exploit the boogeyman under the bed.
Here’s to being different!