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.

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14 Responses

  1. Can you see that you are the one misguided by the presumption and bias that you condemn? “A nervous breakdown never hurt anybody” you say. That is so ignorant to be laughable.
    You are right about some things. That makes your more questionable comments more dangerous, to be honest.
    It is true that drug companies want to push new medications on the afflicted. There is more money to be made from depression and anxiety than there is from developing new antibiotics, for instance. Bacteria develop immunity so the shelf life of these much needed medications can be reduced. Why risk that when the cost of getting a new drug to market is so high?
    When human brains realise that certain medications prescribed for mental health problems cause no real effect and begin to develop a kind of immunity and worsening symptoms, doctors prescribe higher dosages or switch to another of the many medications on this over-saturated market. Drug companies make more money.
    Doctors, every keen to poke around in the human psyche, often have an over-inflated sense of their own abilities. But a lot of the science surrounding the notion of the brain as an electrical system is well researched and documented. Current theory, and in some cases practice, suggests that stimulating certain parts of the brain can help with mental health problems. If you think about it, this is not really so much different from the goal of traditional talk therapy, which seeks to bring about new ways of thinking and understanding.
    The direct stimulation of the brain speeds up the process and, I believe, is a lot less emotionally taxing for the patient.
    Afflictions of the mental and emotional well-being of an individual, I assure you, are of the utmost importance and are in need of being addressed in radically new ways, both in terms of treatment and in terms of people’s attitudes, including those of doctors. Such changes should be welcomed.
    Mental illness is devastating and life-threatening, more often than not to the sufferer who can see no way out of the pain and anguish they experience.
    Our prisons are heaving with people with mental illness and nobody bats an eyelid about this, as if that is where they belong. Those who rape and murder and hurt people should stay in there, of course, there is a whole debate there I know, but I believe a lot of people end up incarcerated in the wrong places for the wrong reasons whilst others who ought to be locked up go free.
    Specifying how people should think with machines certainly has its dangers. Will the future see those who tamper with this technology for nefarious purposes? Undoubtedly. Will there be furious debates about who gets to decide what is the right or wrong way to think? Yes. Will it be worth it? I believe so.
    If this technology can help to provide relief to a fraction of the tens of millions of people afflicted with mental illness then it ought to be made available to them. They will be the ones who ultimately report on its efficacy.

    • As for our little difference of opinion, I’m afraid not, G.M. I, at least, don’t see myself as misguided. Quite the reverse.

      I don’t think this is the first time our mental health coppers have indicated that they were on the brink of a revolution in our knowledge of the abnormal organ of thought that hasn’t really panned out.

      You say I’m right about some things, I will give you credit for that statement, but to then say that this is what makes my comments so dangerous. I think that that is a little bit over the top.

      A couple of things I do admit…I don’t know everything. I’m human, I make mistakes. I would suggest that some of these would-be God mental health professionals would be lax to make the same sort of admissions.

      If you want to look at dangerousness I suggest you look into the damage caused by the mass marketing of harmful psychiatric drugs. I also suggest you look into the damage caused by the common practice of warehousing human beings that passes itself off for “treatment”. On top of this, I would have you look at the astonishing rise in disability that has accompanied this explosive rise in pharmaceutical sales. Are the two related? There’s a research topic for you, my man. Now go to town.

      You speak of technology providing relief to a fraction of tens of millions of people afflicted with “mental illness”. I suggest that tens of millions of people don’t have any “mental illness” properly speaking. I suggest that suffering and sacrifise have more to do with the condition of being human than they have to do with any pathology.

      The DSM-IV has over 300 “diseases” catalogued within it’s pages. I suggest that a large number of these “diseases” are as bogus as a three dollar bill. If this suggestion is dangerous, I don’t think it nearly as dangerous as the routine practice of prescribing brain-damaging psychiatric drugs. Our mental health authorities are dealing with the result of this legalized drug abuse everyday of the week. What is the result? A perpetually rising “chronic serious mental illness” rate.

      I’m for lowering the rate of what is purported to be “mental illness”. I don’t view this suggestion as dangerous. We’ve got a word for this lowering of the “mental illness” rate, and that word is prevention. I view the raising of such a rate as much more dangerous.

  2. I have interspersed my response as follows:

    As for our little difference of opinion, I’m afraid not, G.M. I, at least, don’t see myself as misguided. Quite the reverse.

    You are misguided with reference to your comment that, “A nervous breakdown never hurt anybody,” and associated remarks regarding your intimation that there is no such thing as mental illness.

    I don’t think this is the first time our mental health coppers have indicated that they were on the brink of a revolution in our knowledge of the abnormal organ of thought that hasn’t really panned out.

    I agree unreservedly. I do think, however, that the science behind the presentations under discussion is worthy of our analysis rather than your blanket dismissal.

    You say I’m right about some things, I will give you credit for that statement, but to then say that this is what makes my comments so dangerous. I think that that is a little bit over the top.

    The trouble with your mix of valid criticism and polemic is a tendency in the reader to believe the latter along with the former.

    A couple of things I do admit…I don’t know everything. I’m human, I make mistakes. I would suggest that some of these would-be God mental health professionals would be lax to make the same sort of admissions.

    As in they would be lax to let us know that they are fallible?

    If you want to look at dangerousness I suggest you look into the damage caused by the mass marketing of harmful psychiatric drugs.

    I think that I made it clear that I despise this practice.

    I also suggest you look into the damage caused by the common practice of warehousing human beings that passes itself off for “treatment”.

    If I understand you correctly, then we are preaching from the same hymn sheet.
    The idea that what works for one patient must therefore work for another is the basis for an increase in illness rather than in cure.

    On top of this, I would have you look at the astonishing rise in disability that has accompanied this explosive rise in pharmaceutical sales.
    Are the two related? There’s a research topic for you, my man. Now go to town.

    I do not have figures that support your claim despite my agreement in sentiment, however, I am aware that scientific and anecdotal evidence supports the idea that many medications prescribed for mental illness have little more than a placebo effect and that they can cause more problems that were originally in existence.
    You make assumptions.

    You speak of technology providing relief to a fraction of tens of millions of people afflicted with “mental illness”. I suggest that tens of millions of people don’t have any “mental illness” properly speaking. I suggest that suffering and sacrifise have more to do with the condition of being human than they have to do with any pathology.

    Mental illness is real. You speak of “suffering” as if it is something that we should learn to live with. I disagree. There is a “normal”, for want of a better word, limit to suffering that is hard to quantify but that is stretched to excess in the case of mental illness. “Sacrifice” is part of the condition of “being human” if we choose it to be so. It is not a pre-determined element of existence that should be imposed upon others as a result of belief systems that embrace it.

    The DSM-IV has over 300 “diseases” catalogued within it’s pages. I suggest that a large number of these “diseases” are as bogus as a three dollar bill.

    And you can prove this how?

    If this suggestion is dangerous, I don’t think it nearly as dangerous as the routine practice of prescribing brain-damaging psychiatric drugs.

    Your suggestion is dangerous because it takes away from people who may be experiencing something that you have not experienced yourself. Their experience of life should not be made invalid because it does not exist in your realm of experience.

    Our mental health authorities are dealing with the result of this legalized drug abuse everyday of the week. What is the result? A perpetually rising “chronic serious mental illness” rate.

    I have no time for doctors who prescribe medication unnecessarily or who consider a patient “cured” because a particular medication suppresses their symptoms. How this impacts upon the numbers of those who are suffering from serious mental illness is hard to say.

    I’m for lowering the rate of what is purported to be “mental illness”. I don’t view this suggestion as dangerous.

    What is dangerous is that you have a very narrow view of what is a vast and complicated subject that we need to open up for debate. You very much come across as someone who has decided in advance that people with serious illnesses just need to pull their socks up and get on with it. You would not say that to someone with heart disease so why would you say it to someone with mental illness?

    We’ve got a word for this lowering of the “mental illness” rate, and that word is prevention.

    Prevention is always key. But we need to know what we are dealing with in order to prevent it in future. Your lowering of the incedence of mental illness is based in reducing the number of people who have a discernible affliction. This is highly speculative on your part.

    I view the raising of such a rate as much more dangerous.

    Not if it is valid and not if we understand the underlying issues and can address them.

    • We have a pretty big difference of opinion it would seem.

      You are misguided with reference to your comment that, “A nervous breakdown never hurt anybody,” and associated remarks regarding your intimation that there is no such thing as mental illness.

      Perhaps my comment sounded extreme, and I should have used a little more reserve. I think there is a sense in which applies nonetheless. I was reacting to the over-reacting that can occur when some people meet other people they consider odd or different. I believe there is a whole lot of intolerance in this world, and that this intolerance is a problem in itself.

      As for there being such a thing as “mental illness”, I will believe there is a “mental illness” when you can show me one. Syphilis was once thought to be a “mental illness”. Wikipedia says this about syphilis…

      Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum.

      You can see syphilis on a microscope slide. Now show me a “mental illness” on a microscope slide. In my view, if you try to link behavioral patterns to a sequence of genes rather than to conscious will you’ve probably hit upon some pretty nebulous stuff there. I can see geese in those clouds, too, but just try catching one.

      The trouble with your mix of valid criticism and polemic is a tendency in the reader to believe the latter along with the former.

      I don’t presume to know the reader’s tendencies and, pardon me, I can be rhetorical. I don’t see how playing a part in any polemical argument invalidates criticism.

      Your suggestion is dangerous because it takes away from people who may be experiencing something that you have not experienced yourself. Their experience of life should not be made invalid because it does not exist in your realm of experience.

      You don’t know what I’ve experienced.

      When we are dealing with the subject of disability, in some instances, we are dealing with experience made invalid by definition. I’m not a part of this them versus you dichotomy you are trying to drag me into, and I don’t need to pretend to be a part of it.

      What is dangerous is that you have a very narrow view of what is a vast and complicated subject that we need to open up for debate. You very much come across as someone who has decided in advance that people with serious illnesses just need to pull their socks up and get on with it. You would not say that to someone with heart disease so why would you say it to someone with mental illness?

      I don’t think my view is narrow.

      The problem is with this word “mental illness”. I see it as a semantic absurdity. You apparently see it as something more than that. I know there are people with troubles. I wouldn’t call those troubles “sicknesses”. The leading psychiatrists are now talking “brain disease”, but they still haven’t found any “disease” in the “brain”. Its all a matter of there must be something “wrong” with the brain because this or that person behaves “wrongly”. One can’t make this sort of leap without being very judgmental. I’m not saying nothing is going on. I’m just saying I call it something else besides disease. I don’t call it disease. I don’t think it is disease. Can you prove it is a medical issue? Can you prove it an illness? If not, then there is room for dialogue.

      The rate of what people are calling “mental illness” is rising faster than the population. If this wasn’t true, the World Health Organization wouldn’t be predicting that depression will be the leading cause of disability by the year 2020. This increase is way too great to be a matter of heredity alone. This increase is, therefore, caused in large measure by people. Alright, if we can increase the rate of disturbance, we can decrease it.

      As a society, and this pertains to the mental health profession in particular, we’re not working to decrease it, we’re working to increase it. Now…tell me how it makes sense to increase the number of people claiming to be demented or deranged? I don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense. I don’t think it makes good sense anyway.

  3. Wow. There is a lot here for me to address in a manner I find satisfactory. I assure you I will be back to you once I have given the matter some thought and have determined a constructive response.

  4. We agree on some things, not on others. Fundamentally, we appear to disagree on the existence of mental illness. I know that it exists and that it has devastating consequences. It would appear from your posts that you do not believe it exists.

    I maintain that there is no safe way to apply the comment, “A nervous breakdown never hurt anybody,” reservedly or unreservedly.
    Are you not therefore guilty of the exact same intolerance that you decry? Your intolerance of the, let’s say, “potential” reality of mental illness is no different from the intolerance of different personality types you describe.

    Syphilis can affect the central nervous system so it is unsurprising that it was once thought to be a mental illness. We used to think the earth was flat too.
    Some “mental illnesses” can be shown to you on a microscope slide. Diet is a huge factor in mental stability and certain deficiencies can be determined through blood testing.
    Illnesses of other parts of the body can contribute to mental health problems.

    I think, perhaps, it is these kind of illnesses that you are pointing to when you say that mental illness does not exist. It concerns me that doctors are too quick to reach for the prescription pad and to fob people off with anti-depressants and the like. We are complicated organisms and there are many complex processes taking place within us that need to be in balance in order for us to function properly.
    Chinese medicine, I believe, is much more attuned to this necessity.
    If a doctor prescribes a strong medication for a supposed mental health problem when a change in diet is what is needed then that is a disaster. The original problem won’t go away and now the patient is compromised and thinks they are sick in a way in which they are not. The doctor is likely to continue treating the problem with more of the same kind of medication and on it goes.

    You misunderstand me re. criticism. What I was saying was that you made a number of valid criticisms but that a reader, seeing the truth of these, may then be led to believe other remarks you make that are based in belief rather than in demonstrable fact.

    I do not claim to know what you have experienced. The point I make is that other people’s experiences are as valid as yours and that it is not all right to seek to invalidate those experiences.

    You place yourself in a dichotomous position by making the claims that mental illness does not exist. You are the one setting up the “them and us” scenario in the way you dismiss all those people experiencing genuine difficulties. You dismiss the mentally ill as a “semantic absurdity”. Can you really not see how grossly and offensively intolerant that is? Truly?

    You say that “troubles” are not “sicknesses” and you are right. The health of your mind will determine how you handle “troubles”, however. A blip on a screen for a healthy mind can be a devastating event for an unhealthy one.

    We agree that there is not necessarily something wrong with someone’s mind because they do something wrong.

    We agree that there is not necessarily something wrong with someone’s mind because we simply find them odd.

    Why would you tell me that there is only room for dialogue if I can provide no proof of mental illness being a medical issue, or, indeed, an illness?
    You may as well say that I must agree with you in order for there to be dialogue.

    I think that mental illness is on the increase and that it is not just a matter of us calling something mental illness when it is not. I do think that circumstance and dietary factors have a lot to do with this, however, and that the problem should not be approached with a one-size-fits-all pack of anti-depressants.

    I came across your blog when I searched for the Newsnight piece. I haven’t seen it yet but knew from your comments that I wouldn’t be learning anything new as I researched this “breakthrough” earlier this year.

    I want to break it down into two elements for the time being. The first is the pre-determination of susceptibility to disease. If this technology can help reduce the risk of someone becoming ill then it has value.

    The second is the stimulation of brain parts that will have a pre-determined effect. The value here is in re-programming the mind to think in a healthy way.

    I have spoken at length with one of the professors at the forefront of this research. I asked a lot of searching questions and, like most intelligent people who seek the truth, he was willing to explore my questions with me. We spent a long time in discussion and I was satisifed with his credibility.

    I must say that it is hard to examine the finer points when you do not believe that the problem exists. I was going to ask why you are blogging here but I have just realised that this is your blog so that answers that!

    I hope I am not wasting my time.

    • First, belief concerns religious matters, and not matters of science. I am not arguing about belief. My argument is not over whether mental illness is existent or non-existent, the science involved should answer that question. My argument is over whether the science involved demontrates it to be real or illusory. You take the side, I presume, that the science shows it to be real, and I take the side that the science just isn’t there.

      Secondly, I’m not arguing against the existence of distressed states or disorientation in one form or another. Historically the term “mental illness” is pre-dated by the much older term madness. Madness makes no pretense at having a relationship to medical science. Madness exists outside of that sphere altogether. Problem people have arisen (people, for instance, who act in ways that aren’t in the interest of survival or self-preservation) from time immemorial. The question is, given the problem person, what do we, the tribe, do with him or her?

      I’m not going to go into whether anybody was ever clobbered by a nervous breakdown or not. When I said that nobody was ever harmed by a nervous breakdown, I was saying that because I think people should have the right to live outside of institutions, if they so choose, even when certain other people judge them to be affected. I think the institution, in other words, can be more harmful to a person imprisoned within it than that person could ever be to society and, quite possibly, him or herself. I also think statistics bear this out. We put people in prison for being violent, we put people in mental hospitals for being silly or annoying.

      You say “mental illness” has been put under a microscope slide. I’m afraid you are mistaken. You can’t put what you can’t find under a microscope slide. Mental health professionals have long admitted that they don’t have a clue as to what causes what they refer to as “mental illness”. They can’t find it because they identify it through what they call its symptoms. These symptoms are behaviors. They can put a portion of a damaged brain under the microscope, but that is something different altogether. We’re talking about people who think differently. This is like saying a Republican brain would be very different from a Democrat brain, and I just don’t think anybody has found this to be the case.

      I do not claim to know what you have experienced. The point I make is that other people’s experiences are as valid as yours and that it is not all right to seek to invalidate those experiences.

      Hey, the psychiatric system invalidates people’s experiences, and then calls this invalidation “disease”. This is not something you should be trying to lay on me. I’m not invalidating people’s experiences. I wouldn’t try to dismiss those experiences as a disturbing manifestation of an unwanted “disease”, and an unwanted “disease” the authorities feel must be suppressed. I am one who has, in fact, seen mental health professionals dismiss personal experience as a manifestation of “disease”. A person is that person’s wants and desires, a person is not a malfunctioning machine.

      I obviously take a different view of the Newsnight piece than you do. I think that this “revolution” has more to do with ideology than hard science. Psychiatry is soft science; despite all assertions that is it hard science, it is not, and has never been, exacting. It is my view that this “research” has more to do with pushing a particular point of view of the matter than it does with conducting any truly independent scientific investigation, and that ultimately this view is about pushing another item, pharmaceuticals. I feel that there are other and better approaches to take to people in distress than drugging them into an stupified and ignorant oblivion.

      My primary concern is that the numbers of people in the mental health care system, and on disability rolls, are growing. These numbers are growing because the business end of mental health care is seen as more important than the health end. Mental health workers must have jobs. Pharmaceutical companies must have wide profit margins. When you reduce the number of people in the mental health system, and people are recovering, that system can be said to be working. When you expand the number of people in the system, and people are stuck in that system, it can be said to be broken. There is a limit to the number of people on disability that our economic system can support without collapse. This is going to be a bigger problem in the future as people grow “sicker” and “sicker” behavior-wise in ever greater numbers, and the money is not there to change what in essence is a situational end-game. If we don’t reverse this trend, the epidemic expands, and matters worsen. The secret to reversing this trend, unstated, lies in prevention. I don’t think many of the researchers behind this would be revolutionary research have had the needed epiphany to arrive at such an conclusion, and possibly, take preliminary actions.

      As what you find in any argument depends in large measure on what you bring to the argument, I imagine the question as to whether or not you are wasting your time is pretty much up to you.

  5. I have interspersed my comments as before:

    First, belief concerns religious matters, and not matters of science.

    People have all manner of beliefs.

    I am not arguing about belief. My argument is not over whether mental illness is existent or non-existent, the science involved should answer that question. My argument is over whether the science involved demontrates it to be real or illusory. You take the side, I presume, that the science shows it to be real, and I take the side that the science just isn’t there.

    All right, this is good and that is clearer. I feel like we are getting to the heart of the matter now.

    No, I agree with you. The science is not there.
    The technology being developed may be the science that identifies certain factors that cause or contribute to mental illness. For that reason, it is something I find worthy of interest, although I am ever wary of the human factor in the equation.

    Secondly, I’m not arguing against the existence of distressed states or disorientation in one form or another.

    Well, you certainly presented your earlier argument as if you do.

    Historically the term “mental illness” is pre-dated by the much older term madness. Madness makes no pretense at having a relationship to medical science. Madness exists outside of that sphere altogether. Problem people have arisen (people, for instance, who act in ways that aren’t in the interest of survival or self-preservation) from time immemorial. The question is, given the problem person, what do we, the tribe, do with him or her?

    First, treat them with kindness. I know that sounds simple and obvious but this most important thing is so often missing.

    Again, this is why I have some hope for this new treatment. I do not think existing treatments work particularly well.
    I think, maybe, that the programme you saw was more about predicting psychosis. I am interested in the tailored stimulation of the brain. One-size-fits-all pills just are not sufficient. Everyone’s brain is different and the brain is a delicate and complex organ. Stuffing people full of chemicals may alleviate some symptoms but it does not solve the underlying problem and that is what I am interested in.

    I’m not going to go into whether anybody was ever clobbered by a nervous breakdown or not.

    Well, that is exactly what you did do and when I saw that, I thought it was an ignorant thing to say. I think I have made that point and we are moving on now.

    When I said that nobody was ever harmed by a nervous breakdown, I was saying that because I think people should have the right to live outside of institutions, if they so choose, even when certain other people judge them to be affected. I think the institution, in other words, can be more harmful to a person imprisoned within it than that person could ever be to society and, quite possibly, him or herself. I also think statistics bear this out.

    I agree. As this goes along, it appears to me that you are focused on the forced stay in a mental institution rather than the voluntary stay. I think that what you are talking about is dangerous to people because it is essentially being jailed for being ill. I have not seen the inside of these institutions but I believe that there are those that are run like prisons. A stay in a regular ward in any hospital can feel like being in jail, so it stands to reason that those who are locked in will feel this even more; and that is before you even get started on how they are treated.

    Demonstrating wellness in order to be released is a major issue because the idea of wellness is so subjective. That takes us back to the right to be different. Just because someone is another’s idea of strange, it does not mean that that person deserves to be locked up indefinitely. Doctors have far too much power and power corrupts.

    We put people in prison for being violent, we put people in mental hospitals for being silly or annoying.

    It varies really. It depends upon the nature of the violence. It could be argued that anyone who hurts another person has something wrong with them, even if they knew exactly what they were doing.
    The psychopathic killer belongs where? In maximum security is a given for the protection of others but in prison or in hospital?

    I don’t know about being put in mental hospital for being “silly or annoying”. That covers just about anyone but I guess that is your point.

    Another thing I have pointed out is that prisons are full of people who should be in hospital. Drug addiction, for instance, is a symptom, not a crime.

    You say “mental illness” has been put under a microscope slide. I’m afraid you are mistaken.

    No, I am not. I said that certain so-called mental illnesses can be a by-product of other diseases and of deficiences in the diet. These things can be tested for and determined. So often, although, doctors do not look past the end of their prescription pads and they will just rattle off a prescription for anti-depressants or another of the mind-bending medications at their disposal without investigating a patient’s symptoms thoroughly. This leaves someone who is, perhaps, deficient in Vitamin B say, thinking that they are mentally ill and there’s another statistic. See what I mean?

    You can’t put what you can’t find under a microscope slide. Mental health professionals have long admitted that they don’t have a clue as to what causes what they refer to as “mental illness”. They can’t find it because they identify it through what they call its symptoms. These symptoms are behaviors.

    Agreed.

    They can put a portion of a damaged brain under the microscope, but that is something different altogether. We’re talking about people who think differently.

    The brain can get damaged in ways that are invisible to existing science. “Mapping” the brain may enable us to see what we could previously not see. The analogy of a “wiring diagram” is a good one to enable the lay-person to have an understanding of what is being discussed. I know that you found that offensive and I understand why but that is the best one they have come up with to explain the complexities of the research. If they were to talk about “synapses firing” or suchlike, they would lose most people in a heartbeat.. They are just trying to simplify the theory.

    This is like saying a Republican brain would be very different from a Democrat brain, and I just don’t think anybody has found this to be the case.

    Well, that’s interesting. I would be curious to see one of each of the more extreme have their brains examined. It would be of interest to note whether their differing views have a basis in the fundamentals of their pattern of thinking. I suspect we might find something to indicate that.

    I do not claim to know what you have experienced. The point I make is that other people’s experiences are as valid as yours and that it is not all right to seek to invalidate those experiences.

    Hey, the psychiatric system invalidates people’s experiences, and then calls this invalidation “disease”. This is not something you should be trying to lay on me. I’m not invalidating people’s experiences.

    You did just that, which is why I laid ot on you. The more we do this, the more I see where you are really coming from. The way you present your arguments needs a bit of finessing so you don’t come across as being as misguided as those you want to challenge.

    I wouldn’t try to dismiss those experiences as a disturbing manifestation of an unwanted “disease”, and an unwanted “disease” the authorities feel must be suppressed. I am one who has, in fact, seen mental health professionals dismiss personal experience as a manifestation of “disease”.

    Agreed.

    A person is that person’s wants and desires, a person is not a malfunctioning machine.

    A person’s wants and desires can become unhealthy if that person malfunctions but I think it should be up to the individual to a certain degree. I say “a certain degree” because when those wants and desires become harmful to others, we have a problem. We also have one if they become dangerous to the individual themselves. See “The Spanner Case” for an interesting debate upon the latter.

    I obviously take a different view of the Newsnight piece than you do.

    I haven’t seen it. I am going off what you said about it and my previous knowledge of the technology.

    I think that this “revolution” has more to do with ideology than hard science.

    No, this is hard science. That is why it is of interest to me. Psychiatry is enormously subjective and in many cases it is invasive and dangerous. Having some egotistical idiot poking around in one’s brain is a frightening notion. A computer has no ego. It doesn’t judge, it just gets on with the job.
    The human factor is in the design of the algorithms and that’s where the potential for abuse lies. Of course it does. But therein lies the potential for doing good also.

    Psychiatry is soft science; despite all assertions that is it hard science, it is not, and has never been, exacting.

    Agreed.

    It is my view that this “research” has more to do with pushing a particular point of view of the matter than it does with conducting any truly independent scientific investigation, and that ultimately this view is about pushing another item, pharmaceuticals.

    I shall have to watch the piece. I get the idea from what you have said that they were talking about identifying problems so they could decide what medication to prescribe. That has value, because at least it is not random. I am more interested in the technology I am aware of that is related that has the ability to deliver stimulation to the brain in a way that will be ever more tailored to the individual.

    I feel that there are other and better approaches to take to people in distress than drugging them into an stupified and ignorant oblivion.

    Well, they don’t seem to have any at the moment unless one is prepared to pay a lot of money and there are no guarantees even then. I do have an issue with the fact that the same standards of treatment are not available to everyone but that’s just the way it is.
    The thing with the new technology is that it does appear to stand a real chance of helping people with mental health issues. It does also mean that with identifiable factors, things that people can see – because we are so visually oriented and cannot generally understand what we cannot see – that mental health may begin to lose some of its stigma and that would be a good thing too.

    My primary concern is that the numbers of people in the mental health care system, and on disability rolls, are growing. These numbers are growing because the business end of mental health care is seen as more important than the health end. Mental health workers must have jobs. Pharmaceutical companies must have wide profit margins. When you reduce the number of people in the mental health system, and people are recovering, that system can be said to be working. When you expand the number of people in the system, and people are stuck in that system, it can be said to be broken. There is a limit to the number of people on disability that our economic system can support without collapse. This is going to be a bigger problem in the future as people grow “sicker” and “sicker” behavior-wise in ever greater numbers, and the money is not there to change what in essence is a situational end-game. If we don’t reverse this trend, the epidemic expands, and matters worsen.

    Economics. Indeed. The trouble is that profit drives so much of all health matters. Cure does not appear to be the goal. Symptom control with medication, needed by a patient or not, keeps the profits rolling in. Doctors get kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies for, quite literally, pushing their drugs.
    See what you can find on the iboga nut (ibogaine) and addiction. This was researched in Colombia a few years ago and was found to be effective. Its introduction to the US has been fiercely resisted because it actually cures people and that is undesirable because of all the money tied up in keeping people addicted. Drug companies, prisons, bars, shoe stores, ebay, cigarette manufacturers – where would they all be without the addicts?!

    The secret to reversing this trend, unstated, lies in prevention. I don’t think many of the researchers behind this would be revolutionary research have had the needed epiphany to arrive at such an conclusion, and possibly, take preliminary actions.

    Well, you know I agree with this. Attention to nutrition and whole body wellbeing is essential. See the resistance to Dr Budwig’s Diet, incidentally. Healing cancer in such a simple way? Can you imagine what that would do to the massive industry built around that disease?

    Brain stimulation could possibly be that action.

    Current western medicine is allopathic, it is all about “controlling the symptoms”, “fighting the disease” and so forth, which is all right when you have an infection but not so good if your mind is a bit adrift. The drugs are designed to control us.

    As what you find in any argument depends in large measure on what you bring to the argument,

    I think what you find in an argument is largely based upon your opinion of what the other person is saying. I would like us to reach a point where we can see clearly the common ground we have, which I think is substantial, so that we can move to a healthy debate over what can be done about it.

    I imagine the question as to whether or not you are wasting your time is pretty much up to you.

    Your last post was a lot less confrontational and it was well thought out and more explanatory. Thank you for that.

    • Enuff.

      Although I’m not in a treatment friendly mode, I will deal with a couple of matters that come up here.

      Yes, common sense applies. People need to watch their diets and look after their physical health. Negligence in doing so can ultimately turn fatal.

      I don’t share your faith in technology. You say that the new technology stands a real chance of healing people. I don’t think so. The new technology does allow for new ways of keep track of things, and to conduct business. I would imagine, for instance, that computer counseling isn’t any more effective than face to face, but it does solve some access difficulties.

  6. There’s a bit missing here? That gives me a chance to keep up with you, at least.

    Enuff? As in you’ve had “enuff” of this discussion because I don’t automatically agree with everything you say??

    This is not about my “faith in technology” from my point of view. It is about my having looked into this and being prepared to be open minded about it.
    You may be basing your opinion of this technology on what you have seen on television or read about. I am basing it on my having taken things a bit further.

    If you like, you can speak with the same professor I spoke with and ask him the questions you want the answers to. You can even go and try out the treatment if you like but I suppose you would need to have something wrong with you.

    So, in summary:

    Bio-feedback has been around for a while and involves being hooked up to a computer with electrodes then trying to move a car on the screen or something like that. Aside from anyone else, this has customarily been accessed by people in sports and business to improve performance. I doubt they would continue to use it if it were ineffective. It is an exercise for the brain to achieve a relaxed mental state to operate in. You more than likely would agree that physical exercise improves one’s physique, so why is it such a stretch to imagine that a brain exercise would improve the brain?
    It is not so different from the idea that playing driving games improves the reactions one needs for driving, when you think about it.

    A later model is not given the official title of bio-feedback because it technically is not. The computer is pre-programmed with algoriths that supposedly identify areas of the brain that need stimulating. The only evidence I have is anecdotal and is from an individual I know who has undergone a few sessions. He said that straight away he felt calmer, slept better and could think more clearly.
    I checked out the system and found that keeping music playing was involved, which struck me as similar to moving the car.
    So, I find that there is no computer-to-brain input that is indentifiable.
    The electrodes appear to pick up brain activity and convert it into sine waves but I do not believe that the computer stimulates the brain because there would be no need for the music otherwise. What it can do, perhaps, is identify an area of the brain that needs exercise, then maybe the music can be linked to the signal in that area by the operator. The individual hooked up would be the one to make the effort.

    Before I tell you about the good stuff, I am going to go and watch the Newsnight piece.

    • My prior comment I was going to, and I had thought I had, deleted. Unfortunately I guess this wasn’t the case. I was going to let you have the last word there, but excuse my negligence.

      “Enuff” was just my way of trying to end the discussion. It would be different if there were more than one person offering comments here, but as its just you and me, well, enuff is… enuff.

      The technological aspects of treatment, not being in a treatment mode, were something I wasn’t particularly keen on pursuing, unlike you. I finally decided I had not given sufficient consideration to the matter to discuss it effectively, and it just didn’t interest me. I’m looking at treatment from the angle that complete recovery is possible, and when it occurs, well, talk of any type of treatment whatsoever becomes redundant.

  7. Correction: I do not consider symptoms to be the same thing as behaviours. I do not consider behaviour to be a symptom.

    You are not making sense to me. You say that you are looking at treatment from the angle that complete recovery is possible, well, so am I. That is the kind of treatment that I am interested in rather than drugging people to mask the symptoms.

    I do not know what you mean by “the technological aspects, not being in a treatment mode”, unless you assume that the only technological approach is one of monitoring, as you said earlier.

    Yes, you are right that you have not given sufficient consideration to the matter to discuss it effectively (it didn’t stop you in the first place!) and it seems that it is your plan to continue not giving consideration to something that really could make a difference. To be quite honest, I do not get your attitude on this when so much of the rest of your site gives good coverage to issues that should concern all of us.
    I have offered to put you in touch with a professor who really is at the leading edge of a new treatment and you just don’t want to know, which is a bit sad really given the fact that you devote so much time to talking about mental health.

    Talk of treatment is valid as long as there are people who are ill.

    I have seen the Newsnight piece now and I can understand to a certain degree why you might be concerned that we are just finding more elaborate ways of selling drugs. Having said that, I see the value in having a more tailored approach before administering anything.
    Bear in mind that these tools are invaluable in developing new approaches to brain diseases such as epilepsy also.

    Medication is not my preferred approach to mental health but in some cases it may be the only way to enable someone with a real illness to feel better. In that case, I think it is better that the approach be refined.
    The treatments I am interested in do not include drugs as a rule. Ibogaine is an exception to this as I mentioned earlier.

    I am interested in ancient and modern healing techniques and believe that many things that are considered a little out in left field have something to offer. I share your concerns about medicating the masses and our health issues being determined by profit for some.

    The technology I researched is the next step along from what you saw on Newsnight. It uses strong magnets to stimulate parts of the brain that have been shown to be associated with certain disorders.

    The object is cure, not management.

    It is still early days for this. (The Newsnight piece covered technology that has been in development for quite a while.)
    For instance, it has been found to be effective on obsessive thinking but not always the compulsions that go with them and the reasons are not yet clear. For example, a person might find themselves washing their hands but not be quite sure why nor feel troubled.

    The treatment is meeting political resistance because it is proving to be effective.

    I am going to leave that there because that ought to be enough to pique your interest. If not, then so be it.

    It does not matter that only the two of us have had a discussion on this occasion. I felt compelled to post comments because I know that a nervous breakdown can kill just as surely as a heart attack can.

    A glimmer of hope that something can be done to truly cure people of mental illness is to be welcomed with an open mind.

    • 12 comments, G.M., 13 now, and it’s all you and me. I think it best to end this thing while we may. I’m not trying to say I’m totally against discussing technological aspects of research and treatment. I’m saying the subject is sure to come up again, and so let’s hold our discussion until then. Thanks.

  8. I have no issue with it being you and me; you do. You are totally against discussing technological aspects of research and treatment as you are against researching them for yourself. You have made that very clear. There is absolutely no reason why we cannot discuss this now other than your personal wish not to. That is your choice and I accept it but please do not dress it up as anything else.

    When you are ready, the information is out there.

    Wishing you well and signing off.

    G M Forest

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