Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. While antidepressants and other mind-altering psychotropic medications are supposed to decrease symptoms, they often have the opposite effect and are known to increase suicidal thoughts and actions for people from all walks of life and all ages. The impact suicide has on the lives of family members, friends, co-workers and the community is devastating. The loss of human potential is enormous.
In Christopher Fry’s play, A Sleep of Prisoners, he writes: “Thank God our time is now when wrong comes up to face us everywhere, never to leave us till we take the longest stride of soul men ever took. Affairs are now soul size… it takes so many thousand years to wake, but will you wake for pity’s sake?”
I have met too many young, thoughtful, sensitive and intelligent people who hated being medicated by the psychotropic medications. They were not aware that there was a choice, and, being told they would have to be on these drugs the rest of their lives, they chose suicide. They were not prepared to live in a fog of pain, disconnected from insightful thinking, heartfelt feeling and creative initiatives: the essential qualities of being human.
Not many people know that indeed there is a choice. There are legitimate ways to work through, understand and digest the debilitating and traumatic challenges that come with simply being human. But one needs to be proactive, humble and willing to break old patterns including unhelpful self images.
With the best of intentions and in trust, individuals and parents seek professional advice when wrestling with life challenges for themselves or for their children. Of course there are exceptions, but typically, due to insurance restrictions and ‘big pharma’ prioritizing profits, within a few minutes and without really being listened to or offered supportive, empowering alternatives, struggling individuals are stigmatized with a mental health disorder, told the chemistry in their brain is out of balance and given a psychotropic medication which they will be dependent upon for the rest of their lives.
Wouldn’t we all agree that human beings are dynamic and complicated? One honest psychiatrist stated: “…You think we understand the brain? It is more complicated than the universe!” Isn’t it time we look deeper? Some experience that the state of the soul, the seat of our emotions and habits which is influenced by life situations, actually informs the brain. Could it be that the medications are actually what significantly disrupt the chemistry in the brain which naturally is flexible and forgiving?
For some people, these addictive medications keep us in the victim mold. They disconnect us from life challenges which need to be dealt with in order for us to continue to grow and to evolve. Challenges are opportunities for growth, they are not meant to hold us down!
Looking through the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), one would imagine that simply being human is an illness. For example: if you mourn the loss of a loved one for over a certain amount of time, you may be labeled as depressed and then put on medication… so that you will no longer feel. Why? Don’t we, men and women, all have tear ducts? Tears are a reflection of the soul breathing out, of letting go. Imagine how it would be if we could be reassured that we will cry for as long as we need to, and when we have worked through the loss and the need is no longer there, we will simply stop crying. Perhaps we could choose to see tears as enablers that assist the soul’s recovery and digesting process.
As human beings we are creators, but, at times, we certainly can feel like victims. In my experience, we more or less consciously seek out challenges which stretch us to go beyond ‘our box’. We are surrounded by, and certainly history is filled with, inspiring individuals who have made their way through unenviable and unbelievable hardship guided by the resilience of their Spirit.
A remarkable English doctor colleague referred to “us doctors” as “the pushers.” Look at all the people addicted to pain pills, sleeping pills and other medications. Any addictive substance we take disempowers us at the expense of cultivating our own inner strength.
The subliminal message is: “You are a victim of life circumstances… and you need me or this pill to fix you.” Well, this fixing is not working! We are not machines! These psychotropic medications are turning too many of us into zombies. We are experiencing an addiction epidemic. Opioids, alcohol, sugar, and the prescribing of mind-altering psychotropic medications are causing chaos in our society. The spiritual essence of the human being is being eclipsed.
I’m reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Ask anyone wrestling under the influence of their medications how they feel. When we do not feel, then incredibly awful things can happen.
What are we doing to our people? Never before in the history of the world have so many people been so intensively medicated, via both legal and illegal drugs, as they are in the U.S. today. The United States accounts for about 4.4% of the global population and yet consumes more than 30% of the prescription opiate drugs in the world. Some estimate U.S. prescription opiate consumption to be as much as 80% of global demand.
What life have we created for our youth? Are we listening to them and helping them to connect with their divine, creative, resilient Self? How else will they develop the confidence to take on the challenges life presents?
An elderly, wise friend stated once: “What sensitive, thoughtful person today would not be depressed?” We have so much to transform. We have schools which are like prisons where our children do not thrive. Our prison system is punitive and has little belief or interest in transformation. We can feel paralyzed by the overwhelming challenges all around us, but the secret, I believe, is to get involved with whatever you feel needs transforming, find your colleagues and try as best you can to ‘walk the talk’. Remember, you never know when you might save a life simply by taking the time to be interested and to listen with your heart.
Please do not underestimate your efforts and your positive thoughts… they are more powerful than you might imagine.
I want to believe that those struggling individuals for whom life became unbearable under the influence of medication cocktails have not died in vain. I have chosen to see their action as both a sacrifice and statement to all of us: “When will you wake, for pity’s sake?”
Will we remember that a human being has a body, soul and spirit with an innate wisdom and, despite challenges, is always in the process of healing? Will we take the time to listen and support rather than shut up and medicate? Will we allow people to feel and work through challenges which belong to them? Can we be motivated and catalyzed to bring deep and lasting change enhancing what is respectfully humane?
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.