Why are there so many mental health care naysayers?

Mental health care is an surprisingly divisive topic. This was the most recent comment on my (probably most popular) story, ‘Stop Telling Me I Don’t Need Meds’:

Here is a link to the original story:

My Response

I wanted to write this response because this is not the first comment I have received like this and it certainly will not be the last. Even on the first day I published the story, one of the first responses was a message in my inbox telling me that I didn’t need to take medicine for my mental health. Exercise and a special diet worked just fine, they were happy to tell me. I don’t think they read the article, let alone the title. I think they just saw the word ‘Zoloft’ in the description and went from there.

So without further ado let’s dive into the comment above:

Sir, it [medication] may have helped you and that is your situation.

My own experience is being doubted from the beginning. First of all, please don’t call me ‘Sir’. Second of all, ‘it *may* have helped’ is a condescending way to doubt that it actually helped me at all. It did help — I was a wreck without medication and once I was on the medication my symptoms eased considerably. I only went to the therapist 4 times or so, so unless this person really believes in the power of talk therapy (which I doubt, mental health professionals are just hacks trying to siphon your money, amirite?) there is nothing else to account for the change in my mental state.

Further, as you said, it is okay to need help.

Glad we agree on this one.

Finally, psychiatric/psychotropic drugs altering a human brain is not okay for the masses.

I’m real glad we got this out of the way. It’s good to know that A) I am not a member of ‘the masses’ and B) I’m advocating dosing everyone with psychiatric medication (I’m not).

Unless he means that the majority of mental health patients shouldn’t take medication, which may or may not be true. If he is saying that psychiatric drugs should not even be available to most people, I vehemently disagree. He continues on:

There is NO scientific basis for them.

Here is the paper I read before I started.

Too old for you? Here is another:

Alright, your turn.

Placebos have been shown to work well actually.

I heard they often work for pain, too. Next time you get a root canal, I guess you will forego the anesthetic, right?

They have harmed a lot of people as well…

These medicines are powerful and have powerful side effects. It’s a risk that I was willing to take because, had I not the option, I probably would have begun hurting myself instead. How’s that for harm?

…and at best should be a case-by-case basis…

Agreed, which is why it is a problem when these medicines are over-prescribed for people who would probably be just fine with CBT. That was not even close to my personal experience, though, and since every case is unique it seems logical to treat medication as a tool to be used if needed. They don’t just hand pills out at the clinic doorway, you know?

…and as a last resort.

It was my last resort. I wasn’t jumping at the bit to take pills, I made an informed decision based on the alternatives.

In Conclusion

I did a great job of dissecting this one comment and completely ignoring the original question. Why do people react to psychiatric treatment with such vitriol? Rejection of Big Pharma is often just a handy excuse for a deep, dark insecurity that many people have about their brains and bodies.

I think it comes down to a rejection of a mechanistic interpretation of our brains and thus our souls. In this modern era our bodies are commonly viewed as nothing but clockwork, a chassis that our soul uses to get around the world and not much more. They view the soul as being something divine that exists outside of the physical space and thus cannot be touched or changed. People of a dualist mindset take the position that, though the body is just a piece of meat, the soul is something unknowable and to try to tamper with it is akin to desecration.

There are heaps of evidence that this isn’t true, however, and that our brains are the seat of our awareness. This means that our bodies are more of a conduit through which our brain interprets and alters the world, not just a vehicle our soul drives. Because the brain is a part of our body (and vice-versa, they are one and the same), this idea implies that the body itself, brain and all, is essentially us. Our soul. We are one entity, a process of consciousness that is entirely physical.

Many people really dislike this growing awareness that our bodies are nothing more and nothing less than an amazing, awesome, spiritual machine, a beautiful and elegant mechanism of allowing the universe to experience a facet of itself. It shatters the idea of an afterlife, of a soul, of any non-physical realm. It kills a thousand solutions and raises a million questions. It leaves us dangling in the existentially uncomfortable unknown.

So when medical professionals propose using chemicals, very much in the physical realm, to change what dualists view as the sacred and unknowable soul they react with disgust. The body has so long been viewed as a disgusting, sinful object that the soul will one day transcend. Anything that pokes a hole in this idea is rejected, full stop. If the soul is sacred, but the soul is physical, are our bodies thus sacred?

I suppose the snake was right. When Eve took a bite of that apple, perhaps it just wanted her to understand what she really is.

A writer living in the PNW who just wants to tend to his garden.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store