A woman very close to me has sought and received professional medical treatment throughout her life, at a variety of mental health treatment facilities. On many occasions, this included involuntary treatment in psychiatric institutions against her will – until she was able to be properly medicated and returned to “normal life”.
She would then need to see a psychiatrist on an on-going basis, who proscribed various medical treatments (drugs) on an on-going basis. These treatments continue to this day. On several occasions, she would stop taking her drugs because she “felt” that she was better.
Modern medical science knows enough to recognise that serious and severe mental illnesses like hers are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain – and modern medical science knew that proscribing corrective drugs was the best available way to fix the chemical imbalance in her brain. If we’ve learned anything about the enlightenment of the last 400 years it surely is that science works. It is that medicine works.
Time and time again, soon after she stopped taking the drugs, she would have severe psychiatric episodes which put herself and others at risk. This is not an unusual pattern of behaviour, to the point that it you can see it accurately represented in pop culture depictions (eg, this is what happens to Carrie Mathison in the fictional TV show ‘Homeland’).
Armed police attended on various occasions as a result of these episodes, where she would need to be forcibly subdued and incarcerated for further involuntary mental health treatment. While, fortunately, no one was seriously harmed physically in any of these episodes, it certainly destroyed and harmed many important relationships in her life.
These incidents were caused by her thinking that she didn’t need her medicine. She thought that she knew better. But ultimately, the fundamental problem faced by people with serious mental illnesses is that their judgement is impaired.
So, when I hear a man (with apparently no claimed scientific qualification), dismiss mental health science, then I am very nervous about the harm that this may cause to people who listen and mistakenly think that he is a qualified medical expert.
I am nervous about patients under the professional and fiduciary guidance of qualified scientific and medical experts being told to stop treating mental health as a medical problem. I am nervous about the impact on the patients, and nervous about the impact on the families, if a patient follows his advice.
The human mind is an all-too-fragile thing, and it is scary to think that even one person under the guidance of a trained Manx mental health professional might reject the professional advice in favour of someone who appears to have no scientific training, has no fiduciary duty to the clients, and who does not shoulder any responsibility for a patient following his advice.