From God to Meditation:
For people who attend church regularly, a common experience is the sense of calmness on entering a church. Coupled with music, incense and sermons spoken in a low, soft tone, a sense of calmness dwells on the person. There is scientific evidence to suggest that going to church helps a person remain healthy.8 More interesting is the fact that there is little research to state that music or aromatherapy help to bring about mental health. Yet experience shows that they have a calming effect. Only recently have papers started to be published in scientific journals bridging the gap between spirituality and science.9 It has now been researched that people who are religious in orientation have a lower rate of strokes than those who are not religious.10
The whole area of mental illness is about losing a sense of freedom. When we find ourselves bound to emotional issues of our life, that we cannot rid ourselves of, we lose our freedom of thinking. This creates stress in our mind and our body bears the brunt of it. This loss of freedom brings up a sense of fear or a sense of helplessness. Both such feelings bring up a sense of insecurity. A person loses confidence in their own worth. Self-esteem becomes low. With lack of confidence and low self-esteem, comes poor decision-making. A person suffers with all these conditions when suffering with a mental illness. This changes the behaviour of the person. The behaviour is affected by the way the person feels and thinks. If the person feels fear for a long time, the chances of becoming phobic and paranoid increase. Withdrawal from social situations occurs. The family members observe the person to be unwell. Such a person is then asked to see a doctor. With the person’s self-esteem low, vulnerability increases. This does not mean however, that the person becomes totally irresponsible towards their own well-being. Many times the person wants to do ‘something’ to get better, but the health system has limited resources to offer much in terms of growth of the person, except medication. When a mentally ill person goes to seek help – confidence, self-esteem and sense of freedom are already lost. Instead of helping the person become independent, there is a tendency to make the person dependent on medication.
Medication plays its role in controlling the condition or state of illness. It does nothing to improve the quality of life permanently. To improve their quality of life, the person needs to take responsibility for their own well-being. This is encouraged in some of the organisations, which are being run by the sufferers themselves. GROW is an example of such an organisation. Are there any alternatives to medication in mental conditions? A doctor can only prescribe drugs to “control” the mental condition. The current trend in some other parts of the world is to encourage people suffering with mental illnesses to take responsibility for their own well-being, along with medication. Psychotherapy11 and self-help is encouraged. The usage of medication in such situations is minimised or eliminated.
In psychiatry, we know that the suicide rate among physicians is higher than in the general population and psychiatrists are at a greater risk among physicians, than other specialists.12 Research shows that psychotherapy is more economical than medication alone in treating mental illness.13 Conditions like schizophrenia are also being treated without medication in some parts of the world.14 It is also a known fact that the more positive the attitude we have, the more balanced are the chemicals in our body.15 This would be more acceptable for those who see the positive role of religion on mental health. Some authors have suggested that the medicine of the future is going to be “prayer and Prozac.”16 Mental health is a preventative activity. Do we need to suffer first before we take steps to deal with it? If we could only assume responsibility for our own mental health, we may not have to suffer. The best medicine in this case is certainly prevention.
We live in a free society. The freedom to suffer is also one kind of freedom. We also have the freedom to look for answers to minimise our suffering.