Monday, January 28, 2019

Progress in mental health research

The Wellcome Trust has said it believes "a radical new approach is needed [in mental health] to drive science forward and improve people’s lives" (see its webpage). I couldn't agree more. As it says, "some underlying problems need to be addressed before the field can make significant progress ... We want to bring ... [a] sense of common purpose to mental health, with different disciplines working together to collaborate in a new super-discipline of mental health science.“

As I have said throughout this blog, the underlying problems that need to be addressed are more conceptual than empirical. There's no point (eg. see previous post) pursuing the reductionist agenda that has come to a halt (eg. see previous post). We need an organismic rather than mechanistic perspective. Psychiatric research has become too focused on speculative neurobiological notions which produce studies plagued by inconsistencies and confounders (see my BJPsych editorial). Would Wellcome be interested in funding the Institute of Critical Psychiatry?

2 comments:

Clive Sherlock said...

Duncan,
Thank you for bringing this Wellcome Trust news to us.
Far eastern psychology came to a radically different conclusion. Without a classification of diagnoses, without surveys, without statistics, without any numbers, it is to look at oneself. We see for ourselves that we like this and dislike that and that we want to have what we like and get rid of and avoid what we dislike. When we have our way we are happy. When we do not have our way we are unhappy; we become disappointed, despairing, insecure, anxious, angry and depressed.
We see for ourselves that when we are thwarted in our pursuit of happiness emotion flares up in us and drives us in what we say, do and think. Occasionally this helps but more often it leads to more and worse problems as it forms vicious cycles in us.
When what we want to get rid of is not only noisy neighbours but our own moods and feelings then we have a very difficult problem. It is unique because emotion is the energy that enables us to try to get what we want and get rid of what we do not want. We try to fight fire with fire because we do not know what emotion is or why we feel angry, anxious or depressed. Stuck up the creek without a paddle!
Eastern psychology has an exceedingly well-tested way of dealing with this. See for ourselves that we try to get rid of how we feel by expressing and suppressing the emotion and distracting ourselves from it. In addition we might be one of the many who try to numb themselves to it with drugs (alcohol, recreational drugs and prescribed medication: antidepressants, tranquillisers and sleeping pills) in order not to feel it.
Over the centuries, countless thousands of people in the Far East have followed a simple path and seen the results without appealing to science and without seeking the science stamp of approval. Thousands of people have done the same under the non-religious name Adaptation Practice. It is a paradigm shift in attitudes and effort. Instead of shifting the blame from an imbalance of the four humours, the planets, possession by evil spirits, to the mother (all still believed in the West) and then to the brain, with a modern retake on the chemical imbalance, or substituting flawed thoughts with logical ones, it simply asks us to react in a different way and not express and suppress the emotion, not to distract ourselves from it and not to try to numb ourselves to it with drugs or food. It recognises that suffering emotionally, psychologically and mentally to at least some degree is unavoidable and to accept this when it happens.
This is what the Wellcome Trust and all other research and provider institutions should be looking at. Of course they won’t because there isn’t the big pharma money in it.
Clive

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