So Heath Lambert says, very baldly: Mental Ilness is a Atheistic Myth. And this has riled some.
He notes the interesting fluidity of psychiatric classification that exists for a diagnosis, without a biological marker to define it. Lots of people do not understand this. They have been trained so long with the convenient myth of the chemical imbalance theory, they actually think there is other things besides behavior that get you labeled crazy for life. This is a paradigm shift for some, and it makes them really mad.
In particular, David Murray has got his Scottish up over Heath Lambert’s blog series. I got my own Irish up about some months ago over the apalling lack of informed consent Murray demonstrated in his blogpost “I’m Thinking of Going to the Doctor for Depression Meds.” I did apologize on Challies for my uncharitable spirit, I once again extend to Dr. Murray a sincere apology for implying he was not a good sheperd of his sheep. I am sure he is a fine pastor. He is just wrong in counseling depressed persons. Since Bob Kelleman sucessfully countered Murray’s callous dismissal of legitimate concerns concerning psychiatric medication’s harmful side effects, and his dangerous legitimization of non-Christian CBT practitioners, I was able to give my Irish some rest, and I agree with Lambert, we can do better than this in speaking truth with love. I want to do better.
Update October 2014: I can certainly do better in comment boxes as well. It is painful for me to reread my posts at that TGC guestblog — I sound completely unhinged. I wrote in haste, and some were double-posted, and I was alarmed that comment moderation was continuing over several days. I thought the discussion was being shut down at a critical point. Though I asked the moderators on TGC to delete the duplicates, they still stand and make me look unreliable as a reporter of facts. Gaslighting,maybe? As both a woman and someone with lived experience of psychosis, I cannot afford to look like someone gone “off her meds again.” . So I have ruthlessly purged the bloat from this post.
But David Murray thinks Lambert has gone too far, when Lambert writes, a “massive collection of secular professionals actually agree with my assessment of the problem”. There were howls of outrage in the comments. But in an interesting series of posts, Lambert tries manfully to loosen the grip that the atheistic “Myth of Mental Illness” has on the church.
Lambert speaks so well on the subject that hardly more needs to be said, but I will add a plea here for pastors and counselors to create a safe place in their churches for those who agree with Lambert, who want to taper off their meds, and feel that they are harmed by psychiatry. The process of medication tapering is messy, and can look like a relapse. My hope and prayer is that the the voices of the psychiatric survivor movement would grow strong in Christian community, and that the agency we cherish over our own bodies will be respected. That the church would give up the convenient marginalization of labels like “mentally ill” — and do the harder work of effective hospitality aimed towards our real needs. I think it is well past time for Christian Mental Health Professionals to agree with one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, ‘The Lancet’ which has said, “It is time to flush the drugs” Otherwise the Church will miss a wonderfully opportune time to minister to those who suffer, when the best alternatives being offered by the world to those wanting an alternative to psychotropics are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Eastern Mindfulness exercises, and similar tools borrowed from the New Age. We have the Good News, and the Great Physician,–-we can do better.
Lambert is in the process of developing an extremely nuanced argument, and I am sure he will account for biological factors in mental disorders. But still, his arguments are valid — there is no such thing as a mental illness! When mental disorders begin to be medical in etiology, they magically disappear from the DSM. That is Lambert’s major point: psychiatric diagnoses are a construct of language — and Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz would add– of power.
Because of its coercive nature, much harm has been done to the sufferers of psychic pain at the hands of psychiatric power, with its scientifically unverifiable labels that stigmatize. And I think this is at the core of the pain felt by those who would be free of this inhumane and atheistic paradigm. Susan Beachy is the mother of a student who gave up on life after receiving an incorrect diagnoses of schizophrenia after a single psychotic episode in response to the stress of 9/11 — which in previous generations would have been understood to be a simple nervous breakdown, and thus fully recoverable. She poignantly said:
“Being told that mental illness is like diabetes is misleading and discouraging. This is not a fair comparison. Diabetes is due to a well understood defect in a body part, the pancreas. Mental illness, on the other hand, literally means that your mind is sick. Your mind, unlike your pancreas, is not just a body part. Your mind enables you to relate, set goals, dream, and have hope. If you and the people around you believe that your mind will be defective and sick for the rest of your life, you are left without hope of ever having the agency to build a life…We need not burden distressed young people with hope-sucking labels of chronic mental defect. There is a better way.”
Psychiatry is not valid science. Its diagnoses are voted in and out of the DSM by a messy and rancorous process. The irony is, once biological markers *are* found for any illness in the DSM, it is dropped as a ‘mental illness’! Look at the history of Retts Syndrome: when its genetic cause and neurological etiology was finally understood, it was dropped from the Autism spectrum disorder, and thus from the manual. This created quite the controversy, back in 2011, as the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative notes here”
“The DSM is about behavior, not cause, or ‘etiology,’ so including “a specific etiologic entity, such as Rett’s Disorder, is inappropriate,” the revision committee.But many scientists investigating the biological mechanisms underlying Rett syndrome object to that reasoning.”We’re going to discover that all autism spectrum disorders have a genetic cause,” says Huda Zoghbi, director of the Neurological Research Institute at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “So are we going to keep removing them every time we have the genetic basis of one?”
If the history of the DSM is any indication, yes they will.
Because, psychiatric diagnoses without real biological markers is just pulling rabbits out of hats. Or Rett’s Syndrome from the DSM.