Science Plays the Long Game. But People Have Mental Health Issues Now.


From The New York Times: “Like most science reporters, I had wanted to report on something big, to have a present-at-the-creation run that would shake up our understanding of mental health problems. At minimum, I expected research that would help people in distress improve their lives.

But during my tenure, the science informing mental health care did not proceed smoothly along any trajectory . . . [and] did little to improve the lives of the millions of people living with persistent mental distress. Almost every measure of our collective mental health — rates of suicide, anxiety, depression, addiction deaths, psychiatric prescription use — went the wrong direction, even as access to services expanded greatly.

. . . Government agencies, like the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health, continue to double down, sinking enormous sums of taxpayer money into biological research aimed at someday finding a neural signature or ‘blood test’ for psychiatric diagnoses that could be, maybe, one day in the future, useful — all while people are in crisis now.

. . . These kinds of big-science efforts are well-intended, but the payoffs are uncertain indeed. The late Scott Lilienfeld, a psychologist and skeptic of big-money brain research, had his own terminology for these kinds of projects. ‘They’re either fishing expeditions or Hail Marys,’ he’d say. ‘Take your pick.’ When people are drowning, they’re less interested in the genetics of respiration than in a life preserver.

. . . There’s a reason that so many people use binge drinking, playing the lotto and runaway eating to support their mental health: because the effects are reliable. Because they don’t require a prescription. And because they’re available, right now.”

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  1. This article tells a story of vested interests and corporate greed. It can get published in the Times because it stays away from the more important issues.

    People are suffering and dying because workable solutions are being suppressed or ignored. Is corporate greed involved? Of course. Are vested interests involved? Of course.

    But we are talking about premeditated murder! Willful acts of evil. There HAS to more behind this than the tired old explanations we keep hearing. And there is. We all look to psychology to explain this to us, to give us the answer. And we all look to government to protect us from this, to at least provide adequate regulation. But they don’t, because they were both early victims of this menace which more and more seems ready to ruin an entire planet to accomplish its ends.

    This menace depends upon the probability that not enough people will become aware enough and strong enough soon enough to stop the destruction. Our only hope is to accomplish the improbable.

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    • L.e. cox, You are right, but, it has probably been a mistake all along to expect our government to protect us. Governments may be necessary, but, when we put our faith in them instead of God (I prefer God) or some might call God, a Higher Power, we lose. Every time, some craziness from mass media or the government comes up, which is about every hour on the hour- like clockwork- I remember what an nun told a group of seeking individuals once, “Try God.” However, I will sadly say that there are those who think they have “Tried God,” but they are only pretending. Thank you.

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