Beyond Prozac

Saturday, 02 April 2011 11:54

Foreword to Terry Lynch Beyond Prozac PCCS Books 2004 

Terry Lynch is a brave man. The medical profession does not forgive renegades, and a renegade is any doctor who criticises the sacred dogma of the profession. A doctor who dares to do this is likely to see his career and his reputation suffer. Nevertheless, Terry Lynch believes that he must tell the truth about his experience as a doctor, even if this experience contradicts one very important part of medical dogma. 

This concerns mental illness, or, as it is now called, mental disorder. The profession of psychiatry is based on the belief that there are such things as mental illnesses, and that these illnesses have a physical cause and a physical cure - drugs and electroconvulsive therapy. Nowadays psychiatrists talk of 'social factors' and 'psychological factors' in mental disorder, and a few psychiatrists see such factors as the prime cause of mental disorder, but for the majority of psychiatrists social and psychological factors merely exacerbate what is for them essentially a physical illness. Such psychiatrists expect general practitioners like Terry Lynch to conform to this belief.  

The only way to maintain the belief that mental disorder has a physical cause is steadfastly to refuse to be aware of what is going on and what has gone on in the lives of individual people. Terry Lynch was incapable of doing this. He listened to his patients, and so he came to see that there were direct connections between the form of the patient's distress and the life of the patient. He found too that by listening attentively, encouraging his patients to put into words the teeming mass of thoughts and feelings that brought them pain and confusion, they were able to come to a clear understanding of their situation. Then they could take charge of their lives and create a secure, sustainable way of living. 

From his conversations with people who were planning to kill themselves and from his study of the stories of people who had killed themselves Terry Lynch could see that the theory to explain suicide which psychiatrists put forward, that low serotonin levels in the brain led to suicide, was quite inappropriate. Instead he saw in these stories the recurring themes of lovelessness and loneliness. These suicidal people did not love themselves, and, though they might be surrounded by family and friends, they had no one in their life who accepted them as they were and listened to them. 

Lovelessness and loneliness cannot be explained by chemical changes in the brain and cured by the ingestion of drugs. Lovelessness and loneliness, like anxiety and depression and all the ways of expressing mental distress which are called mental disorder, are part of what it is to be human, but a part that can be understood, diminished and banished from our lives simply by caring wisely for ourselves. Terry Lynch understands and cares wisely for us all. His immense warmth and humanity are revealed on every page of this book. It is truly a book for our time and for all time.