Three years ago, I was reminded in dramatic fashion of the chasm between psychiatry and more-effective branches of medicine. My 14-year-old son, Mac, while playing lacrosse, emerged from a collision with his right arm askew. I drove him to a local hospital, where an orthopedic surgeon on duty immediately diagnosed the injury: dislocated elbow. He gave Mac an oral and local anesthetic and put him in a portable X-ray machine that showed Mac’s elbow joint on a screen, in real time. Watching the screen, the doctor quickly snapped Mac’s elbow back into place.
Overcome with gratitude to the doctor, I was leading my groggy son out of the hospital when my cellphone rang. An old friend, whom I’ll call Phil, was on the line. He was in the psychiatric ward of a New York hospital, to which his 16-year-old son had been committed. The boy, who was taking antidepressants for depression, had threatened to commit suicide, not for the first time. The doctors were recommending electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT. Knowing that I had written about shock therapy and other psychiatric treatments, Phil asked my opinion. The fact that Phil had called me, a mere journalist, for advice in such a dire situation spoke volumes about the troubles of modern psychiatry. […]
Although I do not agree with some of the statements of this article (and yet, I’m not a great drugs’ supporter, I only have some critics about how Withaker draws his conclusions), Hargon underlines important issue.
But there is something maybe it’s worth saying: dealing with the brain, depression and suicide is much more complicated than dealing with a dislocated elbow.
And that, I think, focuses on the real issue: It’s not the medication itself thats making us sicker, but how the medication is used and how psyciatric patients are treated that makes us sicker. Related to this article I talked about earlier. Tools are good, our methods are what need to be fixed.
I still think that the whole psychiatry thing nowadays is overhyped. We can redirect a few neurons here and there, but it’s still always in the mind of the patient they’re treating. If a patient refuses to be “fixed,” of course, it’s never going to work properly. Medications will only go so far.