In the Monday, June 27, 2005 issue of the Washington Post, there is a fascinating article about a three decade study done by the World Health Organization on psychotic disorders. The study found that people in third world countries do better with what are considered debilitating psychiatric illnesses like Schizophrenia than people in first world countries. Conclusions are that the social networks, and the care of families are more important to recovery than fancy drugs and institutionalized care.
"Devi is a living reminder of a remarkable three-decade-long study by the World Health Organization -- one that many Western doctors initially refused to believe: People with schizophrenia, a deadly illness characterized by hallucinations, disorganized thinking and social withdrawal, typically do far better in poorer nations such as India, Nigeria and Colombia than in Denmark, England and the United States.
The astounding result calls into question one of the central tenets of modern psychiatry: that a "brain disease" such as schizophrenia is best treated by hospitals, drugs and biomedical interventions."
In the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s "moral therapy" got very good results, as good as, if not better than, modern treatment of psychotic disorders. Patients were sent to asylums where there was a bucolic, caring therapeutic community that treated psychotic patients with dignity, respect, and included them in the ongoing daily life of the running of the asylum working on the farm, in the laundry, and doing housekeeping chores.
As a Psychiatric Social Worker I have always believed, and found to be true, the idea that it is the human connection, the helping relationships, that are more important than the drugs, the ECT, the incarceration in psychiatric institutions.
"Is it possible that a mental health system which is poor, deprived, with no resources, no drugs is providing better and more humane and sensible service to the population rather than in rich countries?" WHO's Saraceno asked. "Good mental health service doesn't require big technologies but human technologies. Sometimes, you get better human technologies in the streets of Rio than in the center of Rome."
The pharmaceutical companies and their minions who push pills hate these kind of findings because there is no money in human caring and yet, as we all instinctively know, it is the best "medicine" of all.
The article is well worth reading. Click on the link below.