Saturday, February 27, 2010

Louis Menand on psychiatry

He's been one of my favorite New Yorker writers for nearly 10 years, and his new piece on psychiatry is as witty, wise, and humane as anything he's written. Highly recommended.

Here's the exchange that followed my posting a link to the article on Facebook:
Neal Schindler
I love Louis Menand. This piece is a great reminder that the debate about psychiatric meds is much more complex than we're generally told it is. Big Pharma may have an agenda ($$), but proselytizers against psych meds piss me off just as much sometimes. But of course they're not The Man, so they must be right. Gwen Davis, thought you might appreciate this especially.

Thursday Rome

Gwen Davis
That was a good piece. Newsweek, a couple weeks ago, came out with a similar story. It is toss up whether to take meds for depression and other disorders; though, I am probably of the opinion, if something is going to take away suffering -- however good-nothing the something may be -- take it. If it improves the quality of life, most likely nothing to lose. Leave it up to scientists and physicians to fix the psychiatric mess.

It is important to also be aware of the difference between mild depression and other more critical mental illnesses. For severe conditions, medication all the way. Don't want to return to pre-1950s, where people were locked in insane asylums for life, because they could not function in regular society.

It's a confusing, world! Hopefully as time goes on, treatments (or lack thereof) will improve.

Neal Schindler
Agreed re: severe vs. mild. I certainly know of people who can't function without meds, and anti-meds advocates probably don't want those people stuck in completely dysfunctional lives when there's an alternative. What bugs me about anti-meds proselytizing sometimes is the same thing that bugs me about the Republicans' obstruction of health care: It's easy to object, but it's hard to come up with a superior real-life solution. Objecting to meds on principle is fine and good, but some people need something to actually make their daily existence bearable. Their situation isn't outside the realm of principled argument, but sometimes practical necessities are the priority over principle. That isn't always giving in; sometimes it's just compromise, of the kind that adults sometimes have to do in a complex world.