Culture, Mental Health

Are Antidepressants Really the Answer?


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This is the second part of a four-part blog series written to accompany our film series The Bothy Sessions.

Of the four parts to this film project, this second piece – Brain Chemicals – is arguably the most controversial. We’ve known that from the start, particularly as we’ve noted the varying responses from people via social media who’ve used (or are using) anti-depressant medication themselves.

Some people have even suggested that this content is irresponsible; others have offered words of caution.

We’ve listened to these responses carefully which is why we have included several disclaimers that you can read here.

 

Lost Connections – Johann Hari

Here at Firebrand Notes and Counterfeit Vlog, we don’t agree that it’s irresponsible to be probing into this subject area. In fact, we believe that it’s irresponsible not to be asking fundamental questions about the cultural narratives that, by and large, we have all swallowed, hook, line and sinker.

We also believe that it’s an abject failure of the Church not to be leading and pioneering culture in the way that she is ordained to when secular, unbelieving social commentators are the ones putting food on the table of our digital homes.

Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections is written in the context, and from the perspective, of a person who has suffered with mental health problems all his life. Hari had taken anti-depressants for thirteen years.

Therefore, it’s more than noteworthy that the author who’s arguing for an exposé of our cultural/societal illnesses, and, indeed, the pharmaceuticals whose pockets are being lined in the process, actually used anti-depressants for more than a decade. Hari isn’t pointing the finger at anyone other than those who falsify research to perpetuate the counterfeit narratives that anti-depressants are the answer and who don’t have the public health as their main interest at all.

Hari’s book is a pointed finger at the people who have hoarded great wealth at the expense of our corporate mental health.

To get the most out of The Bothy Sessions content, we’d recommend buying yourself a copy of Hari’s book. You can order one here.

(We’ll also post our hardback copy to anyone* who would like to promote these films on their social channels throughout the months of October & November 2018 – just drop us a line!)

Brain Chemicals

The basic premise of the book Lost Connections is that the primary narrative we’ve all been sold regarding our mental health is that anxiety and depression are primarily solved by making adjustments to the chemicals in our brains. This is the training that GPs receive who often have no other option but to reach for their BNF and prescribe anti-depressant medications, all the while literally not having the time to explore other areas of their patient’s life.

Hari’s book explores various communities across a number of countries that have found other ways to both improve and cure the mental health problems of patients, without the use of antidepressant medications. Broadly speaking, this is known as social prescribing

Not only shining a spotlight on the universally spurious research bases, Lost Connections also highlights the significant negative impact that anti-depressant medications can additionally cause the patient from weight gain to agoraphobia and associated hopelessness. This is particularly concerning given the massive spike in UK teenage/young adult anti-depressant medication prescriptions. Indeed, a recent BBC documentary examined this very issue here.

Massively Confusing

You don’t need to do much research to find that, actually, the medical world (the people we trust) are just stabbing in the dark. For every article emphatically announcing the final end to the question about whether or not antidepressants actually work, there is another that throws the debate wide open again. 

Hari’s book is compelling because he takes extended time to speak to world-leading experts in the fields of both pharmaceutical solutions as well as social prescription experiments, including members of the public themselves.

What if even a moderate percentage of patients using antidepressants just needed a run-down alleyway to renovate and look after? (One case example in the book).

The Main Point

When all is said and done, there will be people reading this blog who maintain that antidepressant medications have alleviated their symptoms. Even acknowledging the placebo effect, some people will testify that meds have helped. I’m sure that this is true.

What do we say to that?

Even in these cases, even when rarer cases of extreme depressions/conditions are helped with chemical interventions, is this really where the fundamental solutions are to be found for our societal funk?

And if patients really are helped by chemical adjustments of their serotonin levels, why is there any question mark at all hovering over their reliability? There isn’t any debate as to whether penicillin fights infection.

Irrespective, is this the correct starting point?

Here we are on a Christian blog exploring this pharmacological issue by primarily pointing to spiritual realities. No, not that that every mental health problem is demonic (though some definitely are), but that every human being is primarily spiritual before they are physical – including Johann Hari and Russel Brand.

This is where Lost Connections reaches its terminus: Hari isn’t the man (and neither is Brand) to be handling these subjects of our individual and collective mental health problems by an analysis of anything beyond the secular. With the greatest of respect, Hari and Brand are not qualified and unable to do this, even if there was a desire for it.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

~ 1 Corinthians 2:14

Where TBS Comes In

This is exactly where The Bothy Sessions comes in.

We have sought not only to extend the conversation for the Church but not just by including an examination of the spiritual but, rather, to actually put our spiritual identity front and centre.

As I say in the second film (above),

To deny that we are spiritual before we are chemical is to shroud the fabric of the universe with bricks of imprisonment quite perverse.

The only logical leading thought after this relates back to my comments above about the failure of the Church and church cultures to do two things:-

a) Address mental health issues adequately and consistently (like churches, generally, who epically fail to address pornography)

b) Acknowledge that acts of omission are only part of the problem. In addition, churches themselves often create cultures that compound mental health problems. We might jovially refer to this as “Sunday syndrome” but there is a very, very dark reality, inextricably bound to polarising denominational madnesses, that remains unchallenged.

In conclusion for now, let me say this very clearly:

The Church of Jesus Christ is meant to be the number one antidepressant on the face of the planet…and yet, in tragic reality, it is almost always the number one cause for depression

This is where we’ll pick things up again next week in The Bothy Sessions (part III): Jesus Sojourn

*Who blogs/vlogs and/or is active on social media every week and has a following of >500 on Twitter/Instagram, and >500 connections on Facebook

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