There is a mental health crisis in this country, but politics isn’t going to address it. No system of financial management, be it insurance, single payer, Medicare or Medicaid, by itself, will make Americans cognitively healthier.
“Next to Normal,” the Tony Award-winning play, just completed its run in Denver. Theater has a way of being spot-on. Right after Columbine, the song “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” in “Les Miserables” was chilling. “Next to Normal” has an important message about mental health that is affecting, given the terror in Tucson.
The play’s main character is guided down a scary path, slipping further and further away from normal, while taking a large cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs and receiving ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), which has been shown to suppress mental illness by damaging the brain.
“Millions of consumers have been misled by a massive campaign of lies, distortions, and bought-and-paid-for drug trials,” says Robert Whitaker in “Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill.”
Felicity Lawrence, in her article “Omega-3, junk food and the link between violence and what we eat,” cites many studies documenting the role of the modern industrialized diet in changing the biochemistry of the brain. Lawrence quotes a former chief inspector of prisons in the UK who says he’s “absolutely convinced that there is a direct link between diet and antisocial behaviour, both that bad diet causes bad behaviour and that good diet prevents it.”
Facing off against fast foods, real food takes effort and money; plus, nutritional-based therapies require a different level of personal responsibility. Small, incremental changes will be easier to digest and will benefit society in some surprising ways.
School lunches have made improvements in children’s diets in spite of corporate marketing designed to capture a young audience. So why would Colorado Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee vote down a request for additional funding of the Start Smart Nutrition Program?
The time has come for us to take a look at the American lifestyle, and diet in particular, to embrace the notion that what we put into our bodies is important — a radical thought that dates to the 1800s.
Hop like a bunny to your health food store, pick up a carrot and put down the junky fast food. Real foods and nutritional supplements will serve us best as we begin the Year of the Rabbit. Happy (Chinese) New Year!
Hannah B. Hayes is a former Both Sides Now debate columnist, small-business owner and peace activist. She has been a part of the Evergreen community for more than 35 years.