By Lucette Davies
My last column discussed how the political and economic system we live in is creating physical illness. It is also destroying the health service which exists to treat us when ill. This column will be about how this system is both creating mental distress and failing to alleviate it.
Social problems such as poverty, inequality, poor housing and low wages are drivers of mental distress. It is why the psychiatric services end up seeing a disproportionate number of patients from deprived backgrounds. But when a person enters the mental health system little is said about the social and economic problems that led them to be diagnosed.
Our distress ends up being explained as a ‘chemical imbalance’ in our brains. Suddenly the fault is within us and not within the society which led us to be distressed in the first place.
Since the 1970s when Thatcher first promised us that competition would drive up standards, mental illness has been rising. But recovery from mental illness has been declining.
In the 2000s a questionnaire was given to the NHS which enabled doctors to quickly identify who needed an antidepressant. That questionnaire led to eight out of every ten patients who were given it being prescribed antidepressants. It has been criticised for setting a very low threshold at which a person is deemed to need medication. It was published by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals the manufacturer of antidepressants.
Extensive research has also shown that psychiatric drugs can be responsible for symptoms continuing. And that they extremely difficult to withdraw from. It seems people are more likely to fully recover if not treated with drugs at all.
But how much more convenient is it for governments to label some people as sick than attempt to correct the social problems that created this ‘sickness’. It’s even more convenient when distress can be treated with drugs that drive up profits of the large corporations even further.
In recent weeks we have all been experiencing a rising cost of living. Many who previously had little concern for reducing their spending are starting to think again. It seems we are beginning to pay more attention to what is happening to this country and why. We are waking up to the reality that the big corporations are making a fortune and people are suffering as a result.
Ironically our government which has invested their efforts into making us pay, so big corporations can get richer are driving many to wake up to their lies. As people shiver in their homes the gas and electricity companies are getting very rich. As people go without food the supermarkets are getting richer. As more and more of us end up being prescribed psychiatric drugs more of us are failing to recover any emotional wellbeing.
This scale of deception is staggering. But deception it is, and unless we are prepared to carry on getting poorer so others can get richer it needs challenging. We need to be demanding that human suffering is seen as a catalyst for change not an opportunity to make profit.
The psychiatric services have a tough job, and many great people work in it. We need to fight the system we live in but approach withdrawing from medication with caution.