Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

The Meteoric Rise of Mental Illness in America and Implications for Other Countries

Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

The Meteoric Rise of Mental Illness in America and Implications for Other Countries

Article excerpt

Introduction

Throughout much of the western world, proponents of the "chemical imbalance" hypothesis have insisted that mental illness is the direct result of the biological malfunctioning of the human brain. Furthermore, proponents of this hypothesis have postulated that in order to control behaviors defined as "mental illness," psychiatric drugs must be administered on a daily basis, and in many cases, it is recommended that these drugs be continued throughout the life course (Baughman & Hovey, 2006; Stolzer, 2008). While it is certain that psychiatric drugs can decrease specific symptoms, the fact remains that psychiatric drugs do nothing, whatsoever, to cure any abnormality present in the human brain (Healy, 2015; Szasz, 2011). According to the scientific literature, psychiatric drugs "work" by altering the chemical structure of the brain by overstimulating specific neurotransmitters, or by preventing the brain from manufacturing its own specific neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine (Breggin & Cohen, 1999). According to Breggin (2006), every classification of psychiatric drug causes brain dysfunction and has been found to negatively impact emotional responsivity, self-awareness, and overall cognitive functioning.

Historically speaking, treating human behaviors such as sadness, worry, lethargy, disinterest, anxiety, accelerated activity level, and short attention spans with psychiatric drugs is a relatively recent phenomenon. Throughout the majority of human history, behaviors that have recently been classified as symptoms of "mental illness" were considered a normative part of the human life course (Stolzer, 2013). From the 1600s until the 1960s, psychiatric illness was extremely rare in America. Furthermore, throughout the vast majority of American history, prescribing psychiatric drugs to control behaviors such as defiance, sadness, worry, messiness, fidgeting, high activity levels, and inattentiveness in pediatric populations was unheard of (Stolzer, 2013). In spite of published data that documents that the diagnosis of mental illness is problematic as there exists no cognitive, metabolic, or any other type of empirical test that can establish the existence of mental illness, Americans continue to consume 80% of the psychiatric drugs distributed worldwide (Baughman & Hovey, 2006; Healy, 2015; Zhong et al., 2013).

According to published data, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric illness in child populations in America (Baughman & Hovey, 2006; Stolzer, 2013). However, depression diagnoses are increasing significantly as data demonstrates that since the 1990s, there has been a five-to sixfold increase in the number of American children being prescribed anti-depressant drugs (Leckman & King, 2007). Dramatic increases in all types of psychiatric drug prescriptions have been documented in pediatric populations across the United States (Baughman & Hovey, 2006), and it is not only older children and adolescents that are being prescribed psychiatric drugs. In 2000, Zito et al., provided data which documented that from 1991 to 1995, 2 to 4-year-old American children had a 2.2-fold increase in the rates of antidepressant prescriptions.

The ever increasing rates of antidepressant drug prescriptions in child and adolescent populations is concerning, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as Canadian, British, and other European regulators, have all issued public health warnings advising the public that antidepressant drugs significantly increase suicide (and other forms of self-harming behaviors) in child and adolescent populations (Gibbons, Hur, Bhaumik, & Mann, 2006; Physician's Desk Reference Manual [PDR], 2009). Also deeply disturbing, is the fact that there exists no longitudinal data concerning the long-term effects of psychiatric drugs in child and adolescent populations, nor has the efficacy of any psychiatric drug been established in controlled studies (Baughman & Hovey, 2006; Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation, 2013). …

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