Science has made enormous strides forward every area of medicine over the last 40 years — except in the area of mental health. Although more than £18 billion has been spent every year on psychiatric research and even more on mental health services in the UK, too much of this money is being handed to big pharma. In fact nearly 25% of the adult population are prescribed psychiatric drugs year. Mental health is now being talked about more than ever before.
According to the NHS Independent Mental Health Taskforce, set up to construct a national strategy to improve mental health services, positive mental health outcomes are declining… and suicide rates have increased.
The vast majority of people prescribed psychiatric medication are not mentally ill, they are people suffering the consequences of being overwhelmed by life’s difficulties such as poverty, job loss, family breakdown, mental and physical abuse, uncertainty, anxiety, bipolar or personality or disorder… the list goes on. Quite often, all they get is a seven-minute GP consultation, a diagnosis, and antidepressants on which they become dependent.
But the real the problem is nothing to do with mental illness — it’s emotional. Most patients are having relationship problems, sexual problems, problems at work, low self-esteem, bereavement or loneliness. What’s really needed is counselling or hypnotherapy or just someone to talk to, someone who will understand their problems! The idea that problems are due to a chemical imbalance (for which there are no tests) is not only ridiculous, it’s insulting. Worse, drug based interventions are likely do more harm than good.
Recent research has shown that abnormalities in brain function are not the cause of mental illness and such diagnoses often have an adverse effect on recovery. According to a Harvard University study, published in 2020, people diagnosed with depression and told their problems were due to chemical imbalances are liable to become more pessimistic and more depressed about their recovery. And… once on antidepressants, it’s difficult to come off them.
Over-diagnosis and over treatment of emotional distress is driven by drug manufacturers. The pharmaceutical industry has managed to influence psychiatric research, training and practice through financial sponsorship, funding of influential mental health charities, patient groups and those in charge of psychiatry departments in hospitals. They have also commissioned, designed, paid for, and conducted nearly all the official clinical trials!
The two questionnaires widely used by the NHS to help doctors determine if a person has depression or anxiety [PHQ-9 and GAD-7 tests] were originally developed by Pfizer, makers of Effexor and Zoloft — the most prescribed antidepressant drugs in the UK.
In countries where antidepressant use has doubled over the past 20 years — the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and Iceland — the number of people claiming disability payment for mental health problems has doubled. [Reference. Mad In America by Robert Whitaker.]
If the drugs actually worked, these numbers would be significantly lower. There is plenty of evidence that psychiatric drugs appear to worsen long-term outcomes. In 2017 a study into long-term antidepressant use measured the progress of 3,300 patients over nine years. The study found medicated patients experienced significantly more severe symptoms after nine years than those who stopped the treatment. People who received no treatment at all did even better!
These are not the first findings of this nature. The uselessness, of antidepressant drugs such as Prozac were well documented in Dr. Irving Kirsch’s book ‘The Emperors New Drugs’. Compared to placebos, talking therapies and nothing, antidepressant drugs came in last. Research published in the British Journal of General Practice in 1998 found that patients prescribed antidepressants stopped getting better after three months, while a group who didn’t receive the drugs continued to improve!
In 2007, the most comprehensive study of long-term psychiatric drug use was published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. The study followed a large group of patients all of whom had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The patients were asked how they were doing after five, ten and 15 years of taking antipsychotic drugs.
After 4½ years, 39% of participants who had stopped taking the medication had fully recovered, compared with only 6% who continued taking the drugs. After ten years, the gap had widened even more. The longer patients stayed on the drugs, the worse the results. Anxiety, cognitive function and capacity to work were all impaired.
In 2019, researchers at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences found that long term use of antidepressants increased the risk of re-hospitalisation of patients diagnosed with both depression and bipolar disorder. There are plenty of other studies evidencing long-term use of psychiatric drugs explains an increased risk of relapse or worsening symptoms.
In 2011, one of the foremost neuroscientists in the US, Professor Nancy Andreasen, headed a team which explored long-term antidepressant drug use. MRI scans revealed that long-term use of certain anti-psychotic medication was associated with smaller brain tissue volume. This degeneration was not a symptom of the disease but a result of long-term psychiatric drug use.
Although the study specifically looked at people being treated for schizophrenia, the researchers noted that antipsychotics are increasingly being used for other conditions such as bipolar disorder and depression. This is only one example of evidence suggesting that the drug-heavy approach may partly explain why mental health recovery is so poor.
The long-term use of psychiatric drugs has been observed to increase a host of other problems such as weight gain, neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia, and sexual dysfunction. In the UK, our dependence on drugs is higher than ever — 4.4 million people are on antidepressants.
One reason we seem unable to ditch antidepressants is a misunderstanding about the withdrawal effects, which were thought to be mild and short-lived, lasting for just a week or two. The inconvenient truth is that most people experience severe withdrawal symptoms such as increased anxiety, insomnia and even thoughts of suicide that can last for months.
Since its introduction in 2006, the principal mental health therapy offered by the NHS — IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) — has been thought to be a success, with nearly ten million people treated. Almost half of people recover after IAPT treatment which generally involves up to six sessions of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which is largely about changing patient’s perspective, which then helps them better adapt to their circumstances. But IAPT was built on the promise that it was a quick and cost-effective way to get people back to work. Aside from the impressive headline figures, there is evidence that IAPT is actually failing, and failing badly.
In 2010, Dr Michael Scott, an academic and a clinical psychologist at the University of Manchester, noticed something odd when he was assessing IAPT patients. Acting as an expert witness for the courts, Dr Scott heard time and again that people’s IAPT treatment hadn’t worked, so he decided to conduct his own review. Looking at 65 cases of those who had passed through IAPT services, he found that whatever the condition being treated, only 16% of people could be said to be in recovery — an outcome at odds with the results reported by IAPT.
Unfortunately, IAPT only includes patients who complete the full course of treatment, when in fact half IAPT patients — those who fail to turn up or drop out — are not mentioned in the results, meaning the actual recovery rate is about 23%. [Ref. University of Chester Centre for Psychological Therapies.] In other words, only around 2 out of 10 patients recover and not the nearly 5 out of 10 reported, meaning it’s as effective as no treatment.
A large review of data by Australian researchers in 2012 showed 23% of patients spontaneously overcame their depression within three months, without any treatment. In 1996, a committee at a symposium funded by the drug company Eli Lilly decided that the more successful [false] numbers would be used in clinical guidelines internationally, despite the absence of corroborating research. The ‘results’ went unquestioned and were accepted by doctors. When they spotted severe or protracted withdrawal symptoms they assumed their patients were relapsing, so they gave them more drugs!
This may explain why, since guidelines on withdrawal were issued in 2004, the length of time the average person in the UK spends on an antidepressant has doubled. In 2018, a review conducted at the University of East London finally helped to expose the myth, proving that withdrawal affected more than half of antidepressant users — of which half reported it as severe. A significant proportion of them also experienced withdrawal for many months. The research, along with other studies, led to the UK’s guidelines being revised and a dramatic U-turn by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
There are few alternatives to drugs available. An obvious one would be hypnotherapy, but hypnotherapy requires time. Sessions can last more than an hour, but unlike a pill, the hypnotherapist can focus attention on an individual client’s needs. Of all the therapies, hypnosis is the most successful. Research shows that given a choice, the majority of patients consulting a GP would prefer someone to talk to.
In April 2020, when the Covid lockdown was causing everyone stress and anxiety, the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned of a coming ‘tsunami of mental illness’. Three months later, in July 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported rates of depression had doubled. But what was being described ‘mental illness epidemic’ did not look like illness at all. The data showed the worst-affected people were women with small children, the ill, the bereaved, people who had lost their jobs, and young people aged between 18 and 24. But the cause of their emotional angst was not misfiring brain chemicals or a genetic predisposition to mental illness — it was the obvious non-medical social stresses to which these groups were exposed.
When YouGov got around to undertaking the largest survey into the national outlook, only 9% of people reported wanting life to return to ‘normal’ after the pandemic. Many of them were relieved to be temporarily away from jobs they disliked and the bustle of travelling to and from work. Some had found opportunities to spend more time with family, to deepen connections, to read, to reflect, to walk, to exercise, or to catch up with personal projects they had previously not time for.
So it might well be that the way to eliminate stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction with life, is to concentrate on feelings and emotions… to explore the inner self and find that inner peace. Find that imaginary invisible cocoon, that invisible force field, and keep all life’s anxieties and emotional strife firmly on the outside. Hypnotherapy can show you how to do that — and it’s easier than you think. No pills, no potions, just pure relaxation and peace of mind.