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Mental Health: Too Many Pills, Too Little Truth

This is my column in [the September 17th] Greenville News. It’s a follow-up to a recent column I wrote on the mental health “crisis” in America, as seen in our emergency rooms.

My last column addressed the unfortunate truth of the overwhelmed mental health system in South Carolina, and indeed in much of the U.S. While I lament the fiscal condition of our mental health system, and while I feel for those who truly need the help we are often powerless to supply, I would be a poor observer if I didn’t report the truth. And the second truth we must face is that much of what we call mental illness is neither truly “mental,” nor even “illness.”

Let me first state the obvious: The brain is an organ. It is incalculably complex and truly a wonder of design and engineering. But, it remains an organ despite its wonderful capacities. Therefore, it requires energy, its support structures feel pain, it may be injured and swell, it can bleed and parts of it can die when its owner has a stroke.

Sometimes the dysfunction of this fantastic organ, or of the chemicals which course through it, is manifest[ed] as mental illness. In certain cases, medications can restore the brain to normal function. Therefore, I am not suggesting that true mental illness is wicked, or reflects character flaws. I have met too many sweet, confused schizophrenics to believe either of those things. I am suggesting that too often we allow character flaws, unpleasant personalities, remorse over bad choices — and even, yes, wickedness — to masquerade as mental illness. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

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