When someone's brain is not working properly others describe them as "mentally ill." Mental health and mental illness are poorly chosen terms that obscure the medical and social issues that arise whenever human dysfunction is examined. The hospital in my community has a separate building described on a sign as “Mental Health and Addiction Services.” I suspect that the staff and the patients that use this building do not understand what “mental health” means. I am certain that the juxtaposition of the words “health” and “addiction” is a mistake.
Kurt Vonnegut described the cause of mental illness as “bad chemicals.” Humans are unrealistic about what substances they can safely ingest, inhale and inject into their bodies. Humans are most unrealistic about how easily and how profoundly small amounts of external chemicals can affect their mind. They believe that they are tougher than they are. Modern psychiatric theory imagines bad chemicals or good chemicals in the wrong amounts manufactured by mistake inside the brain of each victim. Physicians often view the brain as a black box with no chemical input except the drugs they prescribe. A neurobiologist will recognize that numerous chemicals arrive from the outside to interact with brain chemistry. Bad chemicals in the food supply can disturb brain function in entire populations with endemic brain dysfunction as the result.
The World Health Organization claimed that one-fourth of the world’s population is affected at any time by depression, other mental disorders or substance abuse problems. According to the WHO report: "Women are more often affected then men. The higher prevalence of mood disorders in women may include the frustration of relying on the role of housewife for identity and self-esteem; lack of personal income; and for those who do work lower pay and more labor-intensive jobs than men." In addition, violence against women has been recognized as a growing problem. Some studies show that as many as half of all women living on planet earth have been physically abused at some time in their lives. Their abusers are mostly men and most of those men are boy friends, spouses, family members or close “friends.”
Kessel et al suggested that half of all Americans will have a mental illness during their lifetime, with symptoms beginning in the teen years for many. They favored diagnoses such as mood disorders, anxiety, impulse control and substance disorders. Rather than using fuzzy terms such as “anxiety, mood disorders or depression,” we can recognize “mental illness” as a variety of interacting maladaptations caused by bad genes, bad chemicals, bad food, infections, malnutrition, poverty, oppression and abuse.
Mental disturbances are the first symptoms of bad environments that substitute disease-causing conditions for healthy conditions.
Mental illness is often self-inflicted by overeating the wrong foods, drinking alcohol to excess, using and abusing drugs obtained from both legal and illegal sources.
Common effects of erratic brain function are conflict and chaos. Two people living together with erratic brain function increase chaos by more than a factor of two. More people interacting erratically increase chaos exponentially until family structures, community structures, and national structures become dysfunctional.
Bad chemicals entering human brains from polluted air and water, wrong foods, alcoholic beverages, legal and illegal drugs is a recipe for a society's dysphoric disintegration. We might better appreciate the folly of "fighting a drug war" when we realize that most chemical demons live at home. Unfortunately, in terms of substances that can impair brain function, “drug sellers" include every corner store, fast food outlet, pop vendor, pharmacy and supermarket. Local bars and liquor outlets generate a continuous stream of social and health problems at an enormous cost to society.
We must be smart enough to see the connections among food materials which influence brain function: alcoholic beverages, nicotine in tobacco, teas, coffee, chocolate, spices, food additives, sugar excess, wheat, milk, eggs, prescription drugs and street drugs. We should be very concerned about the prescription drug problem with drug addiction and dependency that is supported by all our institutions. Unfortunately, the practice of medicine has become a drug-pushing affair. An addicted society will better tolerate the social pathology and diseases caused by tobacco smoke, alcoholic beverages, air pollution, bad food, sedatives, antidepressants, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills but displaces its dysphoric energy in a "drug war" against cocaine, heroin and a few other "drugs of abuse".
Humans are seldom consistent in setting goals and priorities so that societal confusion about the use and abuse of food chemicals and drugs is more or less predictable. Smart policy makers will, however, understand that most citizens are under the influence of one mid-altering drug or another. The daily use and abuse of several brain chemicals produces mentally disabled people who are neither reasonable nor correct in their thinking and conduct. When physicians intervene and prescribe more chemicals, they add to the chaotic mix, not realizing there is there is little hope of benefit. To my way of thinking, this “drug psychotherapy” has become a perverse enterprise with no happy endings in sight.
Read the Human Brain in Health and Disease by Stephen Gislason MD