In a nut (no pun intended) shell, Professor Patrick McGorry believes there should be a Senate inquiry into the Church of Scientology and its ‘stance’ on mental health. For international readers, Professor McGorry is our Australian of the Year and a psychiatrist by trade. He was awarded this honour for services to youth mental health.
He is interested in (among other things, I’m sure) ‘early intervention’ and the links between cannabis use and schizophrenia.
This post is not a religious exposé. It’s not about finger-pointing and bad-mouthing, witch-hunting or lambasting a specific belief system. I’m very blasé about people’s creed, colour, sexual persuasion, political agendas. As John Lennon and I say ‘whatever gets you through the night, it’s orright. It’s ORRIGHT.’
So regardless of the Scientology aspect, I’m all about the head noise. The fact that the Aussie of the Year is speaking out about the current issues impacting mental health is fantastic. Good for him! It’s about time this weary, undernourished, under-loved, over used barrow was pushed with some momentum. Maladies of the mind have always existed, but like death and family skeletons and pubic hair, they are simply not spoken about. It’s a hard topic to raise – mental health, not pubic hair – but it is amongst us, it takes lives and it needs confronting.
In a country that seems beset by the Saga of Lara Bedara and Michael’s Pup – who the hell cares? Well, we must as it’s everywhere (even, apparently, under Funky and Chicken’s new carpet) it’s refreshing to read stuff relating to real problems, real concerns, real issues. According to my limited knowledge, the Church of Scientology denies mental illness exists, leading to a discouragement of treatment for head noise of any kind.
Okay. That is their conviction, an element of their truth that constitutes their faith. No judgement here.
Having lived in this world with eyes wide open and watched people wage war with their minds, this is what I know to be true:
• Depression kills: Not the feeling of ‘I’m really sad. I’m having problems with a relationship/the stock market/my parents and I don’t think I’ll get over it.’ I mean the absolute hole of black that absorbs the spirit of the person and spits them out sans soul. The pit of no hope. The living hell, where death seems easy and nothing seems worth it. The lying in bed or on the toilet floor, despising yourself so that you pray the pipes (or mattress) will suck you down and drown the sounds of suffering. The hate. Of self. The total agony of despair that’s unexplainable to anyone.
• Anxiety maims and Obsessions incapacitate: And I don’t mean the healthy stress we need to effectively ‘fight or flight’ within our environment. I refer to the inability to function. The notion of getting a ‘fright’ from a sudden noise, but living with that TYPE of surge of adrenalin 24/7. The muscular spasms, the hyperventilation, the inability to still the heart, the cramps, the twitches, the feelings of death. Of wanting to be dead. The insomnia, being scared of walking/going to a shop/ironing/showering. The rituals, the washed, chaffed hands, the justifications, the hatred. Of self.
• Schizophrenia destroys and Bipolar crucifies: Conditions that cruel so many things. The victim, the support team, the family, the self-esteem, the joie de vivre, the social circle, the tenuous link between the lucid mind and the fucked. These ruination of confidence, future plans, relationships, financial trust, autonomy, individuality, LIVES.
Recently I was told a story about a friend of a friend. This person is almost middle-aged and has spent an entire life wondering what’s wrong. After encounters with alcoholism, periods of such severe depression they couldn’t get out of bed, coming on an off anti-depression treatment (because that’s what you do) and not being able to find a medical professional to truly help, this person was diagnosed Bipolar. This person is being treated. This person is well. After 40 YEARS.
This is what I have learnt to be true (see eyes wide open above): That NOT treating the poorly functioning brain – a biological, specialized organ (albeit a OMG!frightening one) – is equivalent to NOT treating the heart. Or lungs, or spleen or pancreas. Do we discourage someone with the symptoms of Angina to ignore the pain and hope their heart will just melt away? Do we deny the diabetic insulin or the asthmatic ventolin?
This is what I question: In some cases, I think that psychotropic drugs are over-prescribed. Whether it’s because our GPs are too busy or some patients need easy fixes or others don’t know what the hell to do, there are probably cases where the issue can be resolved via other means. I’m not a doctor. Perhaps therapy, biofeedback, hypnosis, St John’s wart, acupuncture or meditation can help some people, and the pharmaceutical route is not required. Nor is intensive therapy, in some instances.
But in the words of the 2010 Australian of the Year – “I’m concerned that any restriction or any discouragement of access to mental health care will cost lives and result in unnecessary disability for people” – some cases require modern medical intervention.
Lest one be sent to the Melancholia Wing of Bedlam Hospital and left to rock oneself to death.