Today there seems to be a drug for everything. Anxiety, depression, poor attention, stress, you name it — whatever the issue, the pharmaceutical companies have “solutions” designed to make everything in life good again. While common sense tells us there couldn’t possibly be magic pills that fix marital problems, job stress, or the frustration of financial constraints, our emotional side makes us eager – and sometimes very gullible – to believe that maybe all our problems really can be fixed by a pill. In these moments of distress and emotional vulnerability we are prime candidates to shelve our critical thinking and accept solutions laced with hope — which is exactly why so many people turn to prescription medications so easily.
Revisiting the history of mental illness treatments
Unfortunately, when we look at the historical context of psychology and mental illness and place the current drug movement into proper perspective, only then can we more clearly see that the drugs today are really more of an extension of unorthodox, dangerous, and unproven approaches to help fix people. For example, 100 years ago we simply chained up the mentally ill and kept them away from society — the thinking was that it was best to keep them out of the mainstream and treat them using inhumane means. Next, we next moved on to lobotomies, where patients had portions of their brain severed with the assumption that it would fix their problems (side note: it didn’t). We then witnessed the emergence of ECT, or shock therapy, where the thought was that if we zapped a brain with enough voltage something magical would occur and the patient would feel good (side note: no proof this works, either). Today we don’t chain people up or perform lobotomies, but we do still shock people and, of course, we provide plenty of dangerous pills to anybody willing to ask for them.
None of these approaches have “worked” beyond the small chance of a placebo effect, yet countless numbers lived horrible lives after experiencing lobotomies and shock treatments. Sadly, today alone tens of thousands of more people will risk their health and ask their doctor for the drug they saw advertised on TV last night (and in almost all of these cases the patient will leave the doctor with a prescription in hand). My friend Dr. Peter Breggin warns of the concerns around these medications in his latest video below:
Here’s the reality when it comes to mental health: Getting better is a difficult road that requires motivation, effort, support, love, and empathy. For some, counseling may be needed, and difficult future decisions will need to be made. The answers to wellness are not found through lobotomies, shock therapy, or the current lineup of dangerous pills being peddled by pharmaceutical companies. We have ample amounts of evidence that show none of these unorthodox treatments to wellness work, and that almost all of them have the potential to cause terrible future health consequences — and sometimes even premature death. Become a critical consumer and ask questions — lots of questions — and take seriously the risks associated with the approaches you are considering. The best ways to improve your mental health is to work on life skills to help cope with stress, surround yourself with good people, and engage in enjoyable activities and hobbies whenever possible. The decisions you make each day really do have an immediate and direct impact on your mental health, so choose wisely!