The Centers for Disease Control released a new study this week-end. According to their research, up to 20% of US children suffer from a mental disorder. If you’re doing the calculations in your head, you’re probably right: they want you to believe that one in five American children ages 3 – 11 is mentally ill. The disorders range from the ever present ADHD to depression, anxiety and autism. There are lots of reasons why this assertion should leave rational Americans to scratch their heads and wonder. Even some respected psychiatrists are already crying, “Enough!”
For example, there is no blood test or scientific screening that can be used in detecting those forms of mental illness. Indeed, there are no scientific definitions for “mentally ill” or mentally normal, for that matter. Every time the APA comes out with a new edition of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a few well-known conditions like neurosis or Multiple Personality Disorder have been quietly deleted, while vague new labels have been created. Two different therapists can examine the same patient and make different diagnoses; not occasionally, but frequently. In fact, many experiences that are a routine part of life have been cut and pasted into the DSM: anxiety, grief, and lack of self control regarding handheld devices, just to name a few. Do people who witness bombings or mall shootings really require certified grief counselors, or would they be better served by caring family, friends and pastors?
Lately I am astonished at the way ordinary Americans toss around terms like OCD, chemical imbalance, Prozac and Zoloft! Have you wondered why so many of us are recently afflicted by strange mental aberrations, and why that number is growing like an epidemic? Or have you ever known anyone who visited a psychiatrist who assured them they were healthy and needed no treatment? One reason is surely that psychiatric drugs rake in big bucks for the industry. Another reason is that it’s easier to blame your emotional turmoil on biology and just take a pill than to build healthy relationships, allowing people who know and love you to walk through the valleys of life with you. Facebook friends aren’t good at transparency or being there, are they?
Finally, have you noticed the instant disapproval that comes when one makes comments like these? People have been programmed to snarl at you. “What about all of those people who truly suffer from profound mental illness? What if they don’t seek treatment or stop taking their medications?” Here’s the answer:
- If you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder that has been safely alleviated by prescription drugs, you should obviously keep taking them. It doesn’t matter that scientists don’t know why your medication works as long as it does. Deciding to seek medical condition is about your health and your family, not your faith.
- Psychiatric medicine clearly has answers for a narrow range of significant mental and emotional conditions. But like ear tubes for infants, tonsillectomies for grade schoolers, and antibiotics for colds, it has been vastly over prescribed. Some pain in life is natural, healthy and constructive.
We should all pay more attention to the inner life. It is, after all, in those all too human feelings, emotions, memories, and sensations that life is experienced, evaluated, and enjoyed. America would be a healthier nation if we all dedicated ourselves more to prayer and personal reflection, and much less pop psychology.
Lift up the Cross!