Psychology and Theology: It’s Us Against Them!

   

           I have had the unfortunate experience of personally seeing how the mental health industry has affected the way people are helped when they are at their most vulnerable states.  I’ll give you one example showing the mentality of clinicians in treating these people with various psychological problems.  In the other example, I’ll show you first-hand how the church has unfortunately bought into the notion of how mental health is defined and what one needs to achieve such a state.  Over the next few weeks, I will go into detail about various topics such as childhood depression and suicide, ADD/ADHD, and the problems with medications and what alternatives exist.

            For my first example, I was caring for a young adult patient in the hospital.  This particular patient was having recurring episodes of passing out.  She had a completely negative workup with respects to cardiac issues, and she was neurologically intact.  Basically there was nothing physically (medically) wrong with her.  Well, that leaves only one consult left to be done…a psychiatry consult.  As it turned out, in her past, two members of the family she grew up in had recently committed suicide in the last several years.  She was a mother of a toddler.  She was divorcing her husband.  She had a boyfriend.  She had no family support system because her only sibling is in and out of psych hospitals.

            As soon as I read the psychiatrist’s recommendation and new orders I was absolutely incensed.  I went to every colleague working with me that night and vented.  Oh, I was quite miffed!  Can you guess what had me so irked?  The psychiatrist’s solution to her probable psychosomatic symptoms was to put her on Klonopin, Ativan, Seroquel, and Lithium.  Now when I met this patient another day, she was sweet as pie but warned me that sometimes she “can get agitated” and the Ativan “helps to calm her down.”  Well, as the day progressed, and things weren’t going her way, she began to change and lash out at me demanding she sign out against medical advice.  She asked for the Ativan to calm her down.  I gave it to her basically because I legally and ethically had to.

            I wish I could tell her that instead of taking Ativan to calm her down when she got agitated, she should try dealing with her feelings of frustration in a much more constructive way…but I can’t lose my job at Christmas time.  I mean really, we’ll discipline a two-year old for lashing out but we’ll excuse a young adult and put them on meds…UGH!  And I see that over and over again on the psych unit at the hospital…more meds and less personal accountability.

            Now the other example I have will just astound you and leave you scratching your head.  At least that’s what it did to me.  I was working at the counseling agency last year around this time and I received a call from a mother of two school-aged children in a Christian school in neighboring Massachusetts.  She explained to me that her school wanted her two boys psychologically evaluated before they could be allowed back to school.  One child was aggressive and threw things from time to time.  OK…a legitimate concern…maybe problems with impulse control that needed to be evaluated and worked on with the child.  When I asked what was the issue with the other child she told me the school informed her that he was “too lovey.”

            OK…first of all…to say anyone is “too” something is a relative judgment.  There isn’t really a standard for normal or any mark on a continuum that says anyone beyond this point should be considered unhealthy.  But look at how ridiculous this was for this parent.  One child was too aggressive and the other was too lovey.  I guess they could always hope for a third child that would be the average of the two and breeze through life with the greatest measure of mental health that ever was displayed.  But this is the trend in schools, and it extends all the way to nursery school and before…I’ll show you…

            The Washington School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri believes, and is cautioning others, that preschoolers can be depressed.  Not just sad or poopy sometimes, but clinically depressed.  Ever hear the term hedonism?  Basically, at its root it means self-pleasure or self-gratification.  Anhedonia is a made-up word to describe a child who is void of any pleasures, and therefore, depressed.

            The Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Tulane Medical School feel they can show that children as young as infants can suffer from depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I have yet to read the research, but off the top of my head I have no idea how to tell if an infant is depressed.  But the next bastion of education may shed some light on that quandary…

            Researchers at Syracuse University believe that they can tell a four-month-old infant is depressed by looking into its hollow, dull, and lifeless eyes.  The report states in part, “[the infants] look listless, with dull eyes, as if they gave up looking for their special someone.”

            The person who summarized the above examples in her article is Tana Dineen, PhD.  She, as far as I can tell, is not a believer, though she is cynical when it comes to depression and other disorders in children as young as infants.  She indicts the mental health industry and the pharmaceutical industry in a closing statement:  “My concern is that they’re teaching all of us, parents and children alike, that psychological experts are needed from birth to death, that drugs are a way of handling life’s ups and downs, and that growing up in this world involves learning to see through psychologically tainted glasses” (Losing Our Sanity, from Cradle to Couch).

            The reason I’m titling these next few installments “It’s Us Against Them” is because as parents of school-aged children, these teachers, principals, guidance counselors, and others are being trained to watch for behaviors that deviate from the “norm.”  Who can blame them?  With the rash of school shootings and countless numbers of adolescents committing suicide, is it any wonder administrators want to stay vigilant and err on the side of caution, even if it means going overboard at times?

            But here’s the key.  Let’s say, for example, your child is seen behaving in such a way that the school wants your child evaluated (like in the case of the mother who called me).  The child gets brought to a neuropsychiatry evaluation by a clinician whose office wall is plastered with commendations and diplomas and professional organization memberships, and the clinician tells you your child is depressed, has attention deficit disorder, or antisocial personality disorder.  You say, “OK…it must be so.  He’s the one with all the education.  Who am I to argue?”  Now he hands you a prescription for Prozac, Valium, Ritalin, Abilify, Stratera, and the list of possibilities is endless. 

          Now what?  I’ll tell you.  You will follow-up with the doctor every few months for a fifteen minute visit, and in that fifteen minutes he’ll assess how the meds are doing and he may fiddle with the meds and dosages if he so desires and you’ll be making a follow-up appt in another three months to do the same.  And so it will go for as long as you’re taking those meds.

          The problem really is that schools now are screening everybody for everything because schools act as though every child is a ticking time bomb.  A lot has changed in our society, there’s no doubt about it, (though I don’t believe it’s as bad as the media portrays) but when a school says your child can’t return until they are evaluated by a clinician, a whole host of problems will open up for you if you’re not educated in the basics. 

          And that’s what I hope to do over the next few weeks.  Next week I will discuss the myths and facts about childhood depression and adolescent suicide.  The following week I am planning to look at the other hot-button topic of ADD and ADHD.  Finally, the week after, I want to generally look at the role medications play versus what Biblical alternatives exist.  And this information will transcend the lifespan.  I harp on children and schools, but the treatment for depression and ADD/ADHD differ little between children and adults, so the information will be applicable to all ages.

           I feel very strongly that psychological (mental) problems differ greatly from physical (medical) problems.  There’s too much heavy reliance by many factions in the world today on psychological evaluations for “abnormal” behaviors.  Yes, if you cast a large enough net you’ll catch the minority of individuals who have severe behavioral issues who need extensive personalized treatment.  But for the rest that are caught up in this net…the results may be just as unfortunate.  Because these kids who pose no threat to anyone, including themselves, may become evaluated…labeled…and ultimately medicated…and who knows where that will lead…

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