We Are Getting Sicker

We Are Getting Sicker
Dawn Brown Adolescent Psychiatrist The Woodlands, Texas

Dr. Dawn Brown practices Child & Adolescent Psychiatry in The Woodlands, Texas. She is also an ADHD Coach, ADHD Expert, Public Speaker, Author and Professional Mentor. Dr. Brown evaluates patients throughout childhood and adolescence using many different procedures, in order to determine what treatments must be carried... more

We are getting sicker. The high incidence of individuals living with mental illness in the United States isn't only because we’ve become better at detecting mental illness. More of us are mentally ill than in previous generations, and our mental illness is manifesting at earlier points in our lives, which becomes more challenging to manage.

The most recent stat from Mental Health of America (2014) has reported 1 in 5 adults has a mental health condition; that's 40 million Americans. Fifty-six percent did not receive help and in the state of Vermont, which is known to have the best access to mental health care. 43 percent of adults with a mental illness did not receive treatment. The rate of youth mental illness has also worsened. In 2011, 8.5 percent in 2011 and 11.1 percent in 2014.

What's even more staggering is that 80 percent (to include those diagnosed with severe depression) are left with no or insufficient treatment. When I think about these real stats, I cannot forget that these numbers are reported from those who seek care; so imagine the additional number of Americans (young and old) who are living with a mental illness and are unaware.

Mental illness is REAL. But I also believe that demonic influence, oppression, and in severe cases, possession, are real too. My question is, how much of this increase in mental illness can be attributed at least partly to "evil" (spiritual) causes? The alternative is also probable. So does the thought of adding spiritual sickness to mental illness make it more difficult to diagnose? Is it more challenging to manage? Is this one of the reasons why some individuals have tried almost every anti-psychotic medication known for many years without any therapeutic relief?

It’s no coincidence that mental illness has a strong association with spiritual sickness. Take for example the 1976 horror film, Carrie. IMBD summarizes the film: “Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.” (Now, for the sake of argument, I am keeping in mind that this is a movie with included exaggerations to attract movie lovers, however this will not impact my point.) It is suggested that following a mental health professional’s completion of an evaluation, she/he configures a Biopsychosocial statement to help determine an individual’s risk and prognostic factors. Using the movie title’s summary statement, a metal health professional can conclude that Carrie’s prognosis is poor-grim with little hope that it would improve with her current support system; this system typically includes biological, psychological, social, cultural and religious factors. If you are not aware or do not recall the movie’s storyline, an unidentified blogger’s perspective is mentioned below.

“At its heart, Carrie is not a 'horror film', but a film about horror. The subject matter is physical and emotional abuse; time and time again DePalma returns to the theme of abuse to create a sense of anxiety and dread. And although our hapless heroine is the primary target of abuse (from her mother, her peers, and 'authority') abuse is also meted out liberally to others—violence against women (Travolta/Allen), and public humiliation by authority figures (Buckley/her gym class) also add to the discomfort level (the John Travolta-Nancy Allen relationship is defined solely by abuse—and they in turn are the initiators of Carrie's humiliation)."

Horrific circumstances such as physical and emotional abuse can cause and stem from mental health disorders and further create or be the etiology of anxiety and dread (depressive) states. For Carrie, this occurred during a critical time in her development when she was trying to understand her self-identity, value system and social role. However, this understanding was attacked and had already been pre-determined by the behaviors of her abusive and domineering mother, who raised her within a sheltered lifestyle, where she was ridiculed and degraded by her peers and societal authority figures. Now, religion is prominent throughout the film; there is even religious iconography that may be considered disturbing. And although Carrie takes her religion to an abusive extreme, one’s faith is never attacked or disparaged. Carrie is painted as a sympathetic and demonic girl, rather than simply misunderstood and provoked by others’ mentally-ill travesties.

Consider Kanye West, a musical hip hop genius who has made it obvious that he battles with mental and spiritual conflicts. Is he simply misunderstood or is there something greater that has impacted his outlook on life? Is he making impulsive and in some cases illogical decisions as the result of the unresolved and hurtful feelings of losing his mother? And if so, how does this relate to his extreme and consequential behaviors that have unfortunately led him to a psychiatric hospital?

I don’t use the words 'normal' or 'crazy' when I speak with patients or crowds because those terminologies are subjective, yet stigmatizing. I use the word 'natural'. Is it natural to have a narcissistic, ego-maniac, delusional god-complex as a feature of your personality where a great number of the population believe there is nothing wrong, and if so, is this because many of us, if not all, have a degree of mental and spiritual illness/sickness, where they both often wrestle with one another and may result in rants when speaking to an audience or an admission to receive mental health care at a psychiatric hospital? Whatever the case, medication is not enough, if in fact both mental illness and spiritual sickness are at bay.

Then, how and what do we do to end the battle? We must first understand why the battle started.

If we look at the general principle of both spiritual health and general mental health, demon possession is essentially "evil"/a spiritual problem, but mental illness is a multi-factorial problem, in which disruption in spiritual, social, biological, psychological and physical factors may all play a role. And although mental and spiritual problems are two different things, I’m convinced that they feed off each other. I also believe the relationship between these concepts is highly complex and it is imperative that both are addressed appropriately, and by the appropriate experts. This would require mental health advocates and spiritual health advocates to work together and not be the cause of division.

For the case of Kanye, I am not privy to his mental/medical health records; it should be held and remain confidential. However, one can only imagine the pain that a person endures when they are having a mental and spiritual battle; when medications and/or psychotherapy are not effective, when a person’s sleep and appetite schedule is off course, when pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is only temporary, when prayer is not enough (especially, without action), and when hoping for things to get better on their own seems hopeless. When a person is hospitalized for a medical (to include mental) health reason, it is because a person’s safety is at risk. The risk is of losing one’s own mind (battle with one’s self vs. battle with spirits.)

Well, if you are a Christian, the Bible warns us in several scriptures what is at stake (our souls/minds) and how to prepare for spiritual battles. Consider Ephesians chapter 6 verses 11-17 as a perfect example: "Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

For many who are suffering, one approach (i.e. help from mental health providers or spiritual advisors) will not likely solve their "root" problems and if this unrealistic way of practice continues, I'm afraid we will continue to be pained by what is occurring in our world, and it will only get worse. We are getting sicker.