The following guest blog is written by Dawn-Marie Cornett, Christian Science practitioner and community-involved mom who lives and writes from her home in Framingham, MA.
Today is National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery. NAMI, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has wonderful resources on how you can be involved in helping to foster more compassion and awareness of the issues surrounding mental illness, including a document they put together with FaithNet.org. NAMI and FaithNet.org are supporting activities that connect faith-based practices and prayer to those needing support and healing.
According to an article on Huff Post, recent statistics indicate that medication use for mental illnesses, such as depression, is on the rise--specifically among women. Fifteen percent of men use antidepressants and other drugs associated with mental illnesses, compared with one in four women who use these types of medication. The article points out that experts are concerned about this rise in prescription drug use: "We recognize that, particularly in America, we tend to like our fast-fixes. If there's a pill for something, that might be the easier, faster approach than talking it through or exercising."
These statistics do not include the marked rise in prescriptions for teens over the past decade, as well as the nearly $1 billion annually that goes towards caring for US combat veterans who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Obviously there is a huge need for support and healing for millions struggling with mental health concerns.
The question is what are the alternatives to a drug-based approach to care? It's important to question a single-sided approach to treatment, especially since not all of the prescription drugs are properly vetted.
A recent Science Daily article points out the Bias Found in Mental Health Drug Research, where government-funded drugs are most often recommended to psychiatrists and "mostly good news about medicines gets reported at [yearly] meetings." Among other eye-opening findings is the absence of research on alternative treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy which "gets less attention, even though there is growing evidence that such non-drug therapies can have as much effect as medicines in illnesses such as depression."
I've personally seen how a non-drug therapy can help.
In my late teens, my parents opened a care facility specifically for mental health patients. The purpose was to provide loving care to those who were choosing to treat their illness with prayer along with the help of a practitioner of Christian Science. Many of the patients had varying degrees of mental health issues, and they had tried just about every other form of care before finding their way to us. Often, our facility was a last form of hope for the patient and their families.
My first-hand observation fostered in me a deep respect and compassion for people facing mental illness, as well as a heightened awareness of how effective prayer-based care is when treating these different diseases.
Through my experience with the patients in my parents' care facility, who were using no medications at all, the vast majority improved greatly. But there are statistics on this as well.
In a 2-part study done by researchers at APA PsycNET results showed, "increasing evidence that spiritual beliefs can have a positive role in clients' lives." In an article, "Is Prayer Good for Your Health," authors site positive findings from studies that consider the effect of various types of prayer on illness, including mental health challenges like depression and drug abuse. This article also brings out that today, this topic is bigger than ever in the medical community, stating that the number of articles discussing prayer's effect on health has dramatically increased.
So whether or not prayer is something you normally practice, on this National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery, please join the effort to think well of others and think well of yourself. Statistics show, you'll actually make a difference.