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Wednesday 31 January 2018

Mental Health. Why does the epidemic continue to grow bigger, why is more and more money needed to treat it?

"You can judge your health by your happiness". 
Dr Edward Bach. 

I wrote this some years ago, and unfortunately it is a relevant now as it was then. Mental health is another epidemic of chronic illness that we have been facing for many years, conventional medicine has been next to useless in treating it successfully, doctors us dangerous drugs with serious side effects to treat it, so we find the situation gets progressively worse. And so there are more demands for more money to be ploughed into the same old, failed medicine. Here it is, so how the situation has (not!) changed over the intervening years.

"Diseases that affect the brain, and reduce our mental capacity to cope with life, are becoming increasingly prevalent. Depression, for instance, is a problem that appears to be on the increase - not only in terms of numbers of people affected, but also the age at which people are now becoming affected.

The Mental Health Foundation provided these statistics about the problem.

  • 1 in 4 British adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any one year and 1 in 6 experiences this at any given time (The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity Report 2001).
  • It is estimated that approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem (World Health Organisation 2001)
  • Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with almost 9% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis (The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity Report 2001). 
  • One in ten children between the ages of one and 15 has a mental health disorder (The Office for National Statistics Mental Health in Children and Young People in Great Britain 2005).
  • Rates of mental health problems among children increase as they reach adolescence. Disorders affect 10.4% of boys aged 5-10, rising to 12.8% of boys aged 11-15, and 5.9% of girls aged 5-10, rising to 9.65% of girls aged 11-15 (Mental Disorders more common in boys, National Statistics on Line, 2004)
  • Depression affects 1 in 5 older people living in the community and 2 in 5 living in care homes (Adults in later life with mental health problems, Mental Health Foundation, quoting Psychiatry in the Elderly (3rd Edition), OUP 2002.

Another UK web site (the link no longer works) described the situation like this.

  • Major (or clinical) depression is a huge and growing problem. "(It is) the No.1 psychological disorder in the western world, it is growing in all communities, in all age groups, with the greatest growth being seen in the young, especially teens".
  • Major depression is the 4th most disabling condition in the world, and 2nd in the developed world (the biggest consumers of ConMed drugs).
  • The escalation in the problem, and the recurring episodes of depression show that "while the first line treatment of depression by antidepressants may sometimes control the symptoms, it usually does little to give sufferers depression-free lives".
  • Clinical or major depression is growing at an incredible rate.

The website went on to make two important points about the reasons for the depression epidemic.

               First it claimed that there is 10 times more major depression in people born after 1945 than in those born before.

               Second, it said that this increase is not due to more people telling their doctor, and that misdiagnosis and undiagnosed cases would indicate the problem is much bigger than the statistic showed.

  • Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year (including major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder).
  • Everyone, at some time in their life, will be affected by depression - their own or someone else's, according to Australian Government statistics (its states that depression statistics in Australia are comparable to those in the US and the UK)
  • Pre-schoolers (children under 5?) are the fastest-growing market for anti-depressants, with at least 4% - over a million children being clinically depressed.
  • The rate of increase of depression among children is an astounding 23% per year.
  • In developed countries 15% of the population suffers severe depression.
  • 30% of women are depressed. Men's figures were previously thought to be half that of women, but new estimates are higher.
  • 15% of depressed people will commit suicide.

So is this evidence of yet another ‘epidemic’ of illness that has occurred over recent decades? Or is there something else that needs to be understood about this increase in mental illness? Whilst the statistics found on these two websites demonstrates the size of this epidemic, another important question needs to be asked.

               Is it a real epidemic of real disease?
               Or is it an epidemic that has been constructed by a health industry that has come to see Mental Health as a source of income and wealth?

Mental Illness has become a big money earner for the pharmaceutical industry, and in recent decades there has been a rapidly increasing supply of suitably diagnosed patients who are said to have a ‘Mental Illness’ of some kind. Indeed, where individuals show no sign of disease the conventional medical establishment appears to be willing to invent new mental disorders (for more on how conventional medicine regularly comes up with new diseases, see "The Creation of Illness".

Conventional medicine has developed, and relies upon the theory that mental health problems are caused by a ‘chemical imbalance’ in the brain, and that mental illness arises when someone has low levels of serotonin in their body. And as should be expected the pharmaceutical industry just happen to have the drugs to correct this imbalance. The theory is unproven and unsound, and the drugs that interfere with our serotonin levels, antidepressants and antipsychotics, may be dangerous, but never mind it is a good business opportunity!

The sale of both antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs have been, and continue to be, a major source of revenue for the the pharmaceutical industry for many decades. (And of course this has continued right up to today)!

The ability to persuade us that we are ill, and that, as a result, we need conventional medical treatment, especially pharmaceutical drugs, has been one of the main reason for the rise of our drug-dominated NHS. It is more difficult to persuade someone they have the physical symptoms of illness, but it is not so hard to persuade them that they are not thinking properly.

And the ability of conventional medicine to persuade so many people that they are ‘mad’ or ‘sad’ or ‘bad’ has certainly proven to be a lucrative ploy. Who was it that said, with amazing insight, that you have to be mad to be able to live in the modern world! It is certainly true that traditional communities are less susceptible to depression. And major depressive illnesses are apparently almost unknown in the Amish society in the USA.

Perhaps it also needs to be noted that one feature of traditional communities, including the Amish, is that pharmaceutical drugs are not used or approved there.

Indeed, it can also be argued, very strongly, that pharmaceutical drugs can contribute to to the mental health epidemic. (Postscript, 10 years + on, it is quite obvious now that drugs DO contribute to mental health problems).The link between mental health and suicide is often sited, on the basis that depression leads to people taking their own life. For instance, it has been estimated that 80% of suicide victims suffer from major depression. But it is equally true that most people who suffer from ‘major depression’ are taking antidepressant drugs. The question arises, therefore, about whether it is the depression, or the antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs that is causing the massive increase in suicide rates.

It certainly means that antidepressants are not stopping people from taking their lives!

So now, 10 years on from writing this piece, it would appear that nothing ever changes in the world of conventional medical treatment, other than that we pour more and more money into useless and harmful treatments, and the epidemic of mental health continues to grow.