Strib opinion piece in support of psychological services

The Star Tribune published an interesting article written by a non-psychologist on 1- 22-14.  The author is  highly supportive of psychological treatment, and, appropriately, comments on the limitations of mental health medications. The author, Paul John Scott, from Rochester, is an award-winning writer and journalist.   

He describes his own very positive experiences with therapy.  He notes that our American society, in his opinion, is getting more open about mental health services, but there is still a ways to go on reducing the stigma of getting m.h. services.  He describes a program to address this problem, “the “Make It OK,” the $1 million public health campaign underway in Minnesota and sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), HealthPartners, Twin Cities Public Television, and a half-dozen providers of mental health services.” 
 
He has some criticism, however, of this program, which, in his opinion, focuses too much on reducing the stigma of m.h. medications.  He notes, Psychotropic drugs are the third most commonly prescribed pills in the country (329 million prescriptions written in 2012), with antidepressants the No. 1 drug used by Americans ages 18 to 44″   He goes on to take the m.h. advocacy movement to task for focusing so much on medication.  He writes, “The advocacy movement, for instance, has yet to ask what safe and ethical mental health care should look like. If it did, it would not remain oblivious to the glaring stories relating to mental health and the drug industry now in the news.” 
 And:
A mental illness can be caused by chemical imbalance,” reads the Make It OK facts page. You can find similar language on Web pages hosted by the state of Minnesota and at the start of NAMI’s strategic plan. The idea has infiltrated the culture. The reasoning for this biocentric view of mental illness is clear. Society does not stigmatize people with arthritis, the thinking goes, so depicting mental illness as biological should reduce stigma.

The problem is, it’s not true. As Dr. Wayne Goodman, former chairman of the FDA’s Psychopharmacology Advisory Committee, said in 2007, the notion of a serotonin deficiency in depression was “a useful metaphor” in explaining the condition, albeit one he did not use with his own patients.

He cites the psychologist Brett Deacon.  Deacon says a biological explanation for mental illness makes patients more willing to take pills, but more pessimistic that they could ever recover, not to mention find the skills they need to get better or do so through talk therapy. This is troubling when you consider that 75 percent of patients with anxiety and depression said they would prefer to receive talk therapy over medications,”

I take his commentary to be supportive of a balanced and integrated approach to m.h. treatment, with a clear understanding of the limits to medication and the benefits of therapy. 

The complete article is at: 

http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/234823641.html?page=2&c=y

His website is at:

http://www.pauljohnscott.com/

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