For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
( Matt. 16:26)
The public conversation about worth, value, and well-being is often dark. We are surrounded by belittling messages of materialism, bullying, and violence. Instead, imagine the words “You Are Loved,” – the letters, 12 feet tall, covering the side of a public school in your community. Imagine the internal conversations it will cause when people read “You Are Needed” emblazoned on a public wall, undercutting all the voices that fill our public spaces, the internet, and public thought testifying to the opposite.
Imagine the young woman, struggling with fears about her appearance, drinking in a confident, colorful mural declaring “You Are Beautiful” instead of the belittling message of sex-based advertising. Imagine a young man struggling to find work encountering an unequivocal public statement that “You Are Needed.”
Depression and the spiritual dawning
For a couple of weeks I’d taken snapshots of glorious dawn skies from my bedroom window and posted them on Facebook, to modest acclaim from a few faithful friends.
But skies change and I’d woken up to heavens which were the epitome of dreariness – grey, leaden, a real joy-dampener. Photographing and sharing that morning’s daybreak would have been a complete waste of digital space.
Until, that is, the sun obligingly punched a tiny hole through the monochrome. The breach grew, broadening into a swathe of brightness that, in turn, suffused the encircling grey with a transforming light. Indeed, the vast greyness itself became a canvas onto which the day painted its promise.
That scenario brought to mind a phrase that had stuck in my mind since reading an articleon Prozac’s 25th birthday. The question posed by the piece was whether the drug helped painters, musicians and writers struggling with depression to be creative. One ‘profound’ sufferer, novelist Amanda Craig, told fellow author Alex Preston that the drug did, indeed, enable her to function. Yet she also confided that ‘it dulled everything’ including what she described as ‘the shafts of joy that gradually pierce depression’.
Shafts of joy? Is there really a hope of such liberating illumination? And, if so, where would it come from? Craig either wasn’t asked or didn’t answer – although she clearly contrasts such uplifting glimpses of wellbeing with the deadening effect of the pharmaceuticals. And she’s not alone. Those on Prozac-like drugs report ‘a general reduction in the intensity of the emotions’, according to an Oxford University study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. They felt ‘dulled’, ‘numbed’, ‘flattened’, or ‘blocked’.
Nevertheless, antidepressant use keeps rising in the wealthier nations, according to Health at a Glance, a report released last week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Additionally, data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows more than 50 million antidepressant prescriptions in the UK last year, up 7.5%, fuelling the concern of many doctors that the pills are being prescribed to many who don’t really need them.
Among those concerned British physicians is a Harvard expert on placebos, Irving Kirsch, who also cites the very modest gains from antidepressants compared to the medically inert tablets. In his 2009 book The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant MythPprofessor Kirsch reported that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence had ‘acknowledged the failure of antidepressant treatment to provide clinically meaningful benefits to most depressed patients’. Consequently, the UK government had ‘instituted plans for providing alternative treatments’.
For those with ‘mild to moderate mental health issues’ those plans are well underway now, including NHS prescriptions of talking therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling – and recommended self-help books.
Several people I know have also gained their full freedom from mental health problems through gaining a more spiritual sense of themselves, including some who have plumbed the depths of depression, even struggling with repeated suicidal urges. Slowly but surely, they found a way to let in shafts of ‘spiritual joy’ that displaced the profound ‘loss of human peace’, as Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy put it (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures). Even though release wasn’t quick in many of these cases, those ‘shafts of joy’ gradually pierced the solid slab of grey, and finally replaced it.
One of those friends, artist and musician Alex Cook, has graphically described how he clawed his way out of the depth of depression through just such a spiritual transformation. His book, The Beauty. An account of spiritual battle and victory, follows what he calls an ‘arc from dark to light’ over several long years.
He credits both ‘beauty’ and ‘a growing sense of God’s absolute and unshakeable love’ as being the ‘tools’ of his recovery.
‘I fought for my life and ultimately walked away purified and transformed,’ he wrote.
Speaking of the book’s essays, poems and drawings, he added: ‘I hope these expressions may be companions to you in darkness and in light – assurances of the fact that light is there to be found and kept.’
Finding and keeping that inner light of spiritual understanding can be like the heavy clouds of a dreary morning slowly yielding to the inevitably present blue sky and sunshine until, as the Bible poetically puts it, ‘The night is far spent, the day is at hand’.
This article was first published on the Huffington Post UK as ‘Seeking a Light Beyond Depression’.
For Further reading see articles below:
GLAXO SMITHKLINE FINED $3 BILLION
7/12/2012 @ 10:55AM
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that GlaxoSmithKline had agreed to pay $3 billion in criminal and civil fines for its misdeeds in inappropriately marketing Paxil and another antidepressant, Wellbutrin; … The settlement agreement and the attached documents were full of juicy details that have now been widely reported: How GSK orchestrated the publication of a “misleading,” ghost-written study purporting to show that Paxil helped children when evidence suggested the opposite.
Drugs kill. After heart disease and cancer, drugs are the third leading cause of deaths in Europe and the USA, states Peter Gøtzsche in Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare. He estimates that in the USA, every year, about 100 000 deaths are due to drugs, despite people taking the drugs correctly, and another 100 000 people die because of errors. According to Gøtzsche, “we now suffer from two man-made epidemics, tobacco and prescription drugs, both of which are hugely lethal” and the norm for both industries is a “morally repugnant disregard for human lives”. Furthermore, Gøtzsche claims, the business model of the drug industry is “organised crime”. He told The Lancet that he has written his latest book because he wants to “influence policy towards much more transparency”.
The Lancet, Volume 383, Issue 9915, Page 402, 1 February 2014
For years, a trio of anemia drugs known as Epogen, Procrit and Aranesp ranked among the best-selling prescription drugs in the United States, generating more than $8 billion a year for two companies, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson. Even compared with other pharmaceutical successes, they were superstars. For several years, Epogen ranked as the single costliest medicine under Medicare: U.S. taxpayers put up as much as $3 billion a year for the drugs.
Last year, Medicare researchers issued an 84-page study declaring that among most kidney patients, the original and largest market for the drugs, there was no solid evidence that they made people feel better, improved their survival or had any “clinical benefit” besides elevating a statistic for red blood cell count.
“It was just so easy to do — you put this stuff in the patient’s arm, and you made thousands of dollars,” said Charles Bennett, endowed chair at the Medication Safety and Efficacy Center of Economic Excellence at the University of South Carolina and one of the critics of the use of the drug in cancer patients. “An oncologist could make anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 a year from this alone. And all the while they were told that it was good for the patient.”
For those who have lost relatives who had been given the drugs, only doubts remain: What killed their loved ones — the disease or the drugs they took to treat it?
- See Art below by Alex Cook: