Notes on the coming “mental health revolution”

Don’t believe all you read, especially when it comes to what is termed mental health treatment and research. Generally speaking, most of this research is coming from the biological medical model school of psychiatry. Biological psychiatry offers an approach that, although pervasive, is notorious for its cynically fatalistic attitude and its astonishingly negative results.

Case in point, the BBC story, On the brink of a mental health revolution.

Dr. Thomas Insell, the director of the NIMH, has become one of the biggest pitchmen for medical model psychiatry of late. He would have us believe that the current research, rather than being misguided by presumption and bias, was cutting edge and is on the verge of major breakthroughs.

“”We can begin to understand which circuits are involved, and how the brain is wired. We have never had a full wiring diagram of the human brain. We are getting that now.”

What wiring!? This is metaphorical gobbledygook carried to an extreme. The brain isn’t an electrical appliance, nor is it a technological device; it’s an organ of the human body. Dissect it, and a living human brain is still more than the sum of its parts.

In groundbreaking research seen by Newsnight, a London team taught computer software to recognise patterns in brain images. Those patterns predict which patients will go on to develop the most serious forms of psychosis.

There is a great and insurmountable rift between the first sentence and the second sentence in this paragraph. I would suspect that this “Cassandra” software is not nearly as reliable as any of these researchers might lead us to believe in their enthused and over-excited states. I have yet to see anything in psychiatry that had anything approaching the 100 % accuracy of hard science.

Then they make a big to-do about ketamine, a substance that is a key ingredient in popular club-drug Ecstacy, and a substance that is used as a street drug. The claim is that it does in 3 hours what it usually takes SSRI antidepressants 6 weeks to accomplish. If I remember correctly, there was also a big to-do about the possibility of using hallucinagens in the treatment of mental disorders a great many years back. Perhaps they felt they were on the verge of some great breakthrough back then, too. This instance seems very similar, if you ask me, and I don’t think it is likely to advance very much farther.

The to-do is followed, in fact, by a disclaimer.

Ketamine itself could not be used, it is not safe, long-term, and people relapse over a week or so. But it worked on the same part of the brain as conventional anti-depressants, and much faster – and it is that that has got scientists excited.

I’ve got what shouldn’t be news for you. SSRI anti-depressants don’t alleviate depression. These drugs work no better than an enhanced placebo at best. Simply put, they don’t do anything beneficial. No wonder any new substance under the sun looks better. The miracle, at least for drug manufacturers, is that they’ve got 11 % of the US population taking them now.

Says a Professor Nick Craddock…

“What I foresee over the next generation is psychiatry becoming like cardiology and other medical specialities, where we have a range of tests – imaging tests of the way the brain functions, blood tests to know about susceptibility factors, other sorts of psychological tests. That will really help direct us to the diagnosis, and crucially – enable us to know how to help people.”

Whereas a heart attack will kill a person, a nervous breakdown never hurt anybody. Self-control might have something to do with both the development of heart disease, and so-called disorders of the nervous system. I suspect that the experts consulted for this piece are more interested in managing disturbing behaviors through the development of chemical compounds for purposes of social control than they are in rewarding responsible behaviors.

What these guys have yet to find is any “illness” in the brain. Lacking any “illness”, they’re going ahead, and starting to look for the genes behind what they are calling “illness”. A lot of good those genes will do you when you don’t necessarily have any “disease” in the first place.

I recognize spin when I see it, and what I’ve been getting here is just that, spin.