Mental health is more than a prescription away

Being the general purpose psychology nerd that I am, I like to at least skim through articles that pop up that are related to some aspect of psychological science and that is how I came to read this article on depression treatments in Vox.

It checked off a lot of boxes for me as I am generally interested in learning about different approaches and perspectives when it comes to treatment. The author highlights an idea that I’ve been teaching for years, the notion that if we want to really understand mental health we need to take into account the biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to it. The pharmaceutical industry and our medical community have been selling the simplistic idea that a fix to our malaise is just a prescription away. In class we talk about why that approach is appealing and also about how a singular focus on biological determinants is flawed.

This also touches on other areas that are important to me, the idea of critical thinking and the value of looking at issues from multiple perspectives. Mental health provides one example of the limitation of looking at a problem from one perspective.

The article fills me with a bit of utopian hope that is quickly tempered by the overwhelming reality of the world that we inhabit. Small scale efforts to treat individuals in a setting that provides meaning and efficacy and connections are enough to warm the heart but there is no indication that our wider society shows much interest in fostering connection. To me this is but one more failure of our healthcare system. It’s also a failure of our society, that we have become that disconnected from one another.

I fear that this disconnect has been caused by the confluence of a number of factors and we can understand part of by looking to social psychology and work on social identity. One of the factors that predicts prejudice in social identity theory, fear, could also contribute to other elements of our societal disconnect. If you’re afraid of other people how likely are you to care about them or want to help them? Probably not very likely.

Before I get too far off track, you should take a read through the article and think a bit about mental health and the different factors that can affect it.

We need new ways of treating depression by Johann Hari on Vox.