Is mental the new normal?
According to NAMI - National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (which corresponds to 43.8 million or 18.5%) experiences mental illness in a given year; and approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (corresponding to 10 million or 4.2%) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities (for more numbers, please see link under References). That means a staggering amount of people with some level of mental health challenge. Considering that a whole lot of people don’t seek help and go undiagnosed, the real numbers are likely to be even scarier.
No wonder words like OCD, OCPD, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, chronic depression, etc, have become commonplace. Look around yourself. How many friends or family members display behavior that has been qualified as (or suggested to be) a mental health disorder of some kind? Or look in the mirror. When was the last time you’ve felt emotionally, mentally and physically (not to mention spiritually) healthy and balanced? Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with a mental health challenge, or do you suspect you or someone you know might have such a challenge?
The even bigger question is: are we all going mental, at least to some degree? And where is it coming from? Being out of touch with ourselves and our innermost needs? The stress and lack of balance of modern living, along with excessive exposure to technology and information overload? Unhealthy foods? Contaminated water? Polluted air? Probably all of the above and more. But one thing is certain: when a system says that a big chunk of the population has some type of mental health issue that requires medication, maybe it’s time to change a lot of things in that system. Mere common sense dictates that something is seriously wrong with that picture.
Antidepressants vs. Placebo
To top it all, in the past few years there have been plenty of studies which show that certain drugs have no more benefits than placebos for many health issues. One example: antidepressants. Although they can help people suffering from extreme depression, their effectiveness for mild to moderate depression is about the same as placebos, with a minimal difference considered to be clinically insignificant (please see some of these studies under References). So the people who are feeling better by taking these drugs are doing so largely due to the placebo effect, not the chemicals in the drug. However, a lot of people with mild to moderate depression are still being prescribed antidepressants on a regular basis, notwithstanding the facts that their effectiveness has become questionable, they often cause many bad side effects and have high potential risks which include addiction. In addition, they mostly serve to cover up the deeper causes of depression.
What to do?
On a personal level, we really need to take a good look into what we’ve made of our lives and try to make better, healthier choices in relation to work, career, life path, people we choose to be in relationships with, forms of entertainment, etc. Looking at the bigger picture, we also need to intensify efforts to stop further contamination and destruction of our environment, and expedite damage control and sustainable solutions.
We can start by trying alternatives to prescription drugs for issues such as anxiety and depression, among others, as follows:
1) Mind-body therapies (if we can change our mind, we can change our body; if we can change our thoughts, we can change our lives): CBT - Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Biofeedback, Creative Arts, Meditation, Prayer, Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, etc.
2) Exercise, along with proper rest and sleep
3) Massage, Acupuncture, Reflexology, Energy Healing, etc.
4) Light Therapy or Sun Gazing (more on this soon!)
5) Vitamins, supplements and natural antidepressants such as St. John’s wort
6) Aromatherapy, Flower Essences, Homeopathy, etc.
7) Anything that brings us true peace and joy rather than an artificially induced high, including spiritual faith and practices that uplift our souls; love and light; smiles and laugh; music and dance; hopes and dreams; inspiration and passion...
8) Gratitude for everything we have or partake in, including loving family and friends we can be ourselves with; our animal companions and other living beings who share this beautiful planet with us; etc. In short, gratitude for life!
10 Chillaxing some more.
Final Thought: The Placebo Effect serves as a reminder of how powerful the mind is. Let’s put it to good use, and make the choice to be happy!
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 5/26/16
10 Antidepressant Alternatives Proven to Work: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/01/29/10-antidepressant-alternatives-proven-to-work.aspx
Mind-Body Therapies: http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/what-are-mind-body-therapies
Popular Drugs May Help Only Severe Depression: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/health/views/06depress.html?_r=0
Anti Depressant Drug Effects and Depression Severity: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=185157
Treating Depression: Is There a Placebo Effect? (60 Minutes video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zihdr36WVi4&feature=youtu.be