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Living From Happiness

The Happiness Doc, Dr. Melanie Harth, and guests share thought-provoking convos every week on Living From Happiness. From mindfulness and neuroscience to positive psychology and creativity, the show's all about living well in transformational times.
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Jun 16, 2022

Daniel Bergner is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and the author of five previous books of award-winning nonfiction. His writing has also appeared in the AtlanticGrantaHarper’s MagazineMother JonesTalk, and the New York Times Book Review.

Finally, his newest book, the most personal, is "The Mind and The Moon: My Brother’s Story, the Science of Our Brains, and the Search for Our Psyches."

So many issues are explored in this fascinating episode. From questioning our understanding of psychosis to biological treatment modalities, and from exploring the differences between brain and mind to how biological psychiatry has contributed real harm to millions of people, this is one.big.episode.

Meticulously researched, Daniel's latest book lends weight to the growing national conversation questioning the medicalization of mental illness.

Daniel and Melanie talk about some of the many paradigm-shatteirng interviews he did with renowned neuroscience researchers. A few examples are:

  • “The more drugs [antipsychotics] you’ve been given, the more brain tissue you lose.”
  • “Psychiatry has lacked a ground truth. It’s a house of cards built on serendipitously discovered drugs. How people could think that mediocre — important but mediocre — drugs like the SSRIs could give us any comprehension is beyond me.” Steven Hyman
  • “The big picture is that we really know very little about psychosis and what is going wrong in the brain. It’s remarkable why we don’t know." Donald C. Goff

What happens to your psyche (translated from ancient Greek as "soul") when your brain works differently from the norm, and is too medicated to function?

What's the result when mental illness has been medicalized based on faulty or non-existent science?

As Daniel writes:

 … Maybe the way biological psychiatry most stigmatizes and isolates is by alienating us from ourselves, by defining and circumscribing and sometimes damning and imprisoning us in our own eyes. It is interesting that the profession may do to its patients precisely what we are advised not to do in raising our children.

One of the fascinating people Daniel met as he wrote the book was Caroline, who has intimate, in-depth, personal experience with mental illness and psychiatric interventions. Caroline is a leader in the Hearing Voices Network and the creator of a groundbreaking suicide prevention program. She calls the current mental health system, especially treatment for severe mental illness and psychosis, a “system of oppression. … . People have been in need of support, and what they’ve received is risk management.”

The idea that medicating our brains will lead us to mental health has been criticized by the World Health Organization. As Daniel writes,

Last June [2021], the World Health Organization published a 300-page directive on the human rights of mental-health clients — and despite the mammoth bureaucracy from which it emerged, it is a revolutionary manifesto on the subject of severe psychiatric disorders. It challenges biological psychiatry’s authority, its expertise and insight about the psyche.

This is an incredible episode with a brilliant thought leader about matters that affect so many of us. Listen in, share, send us your thoughts: happiness@ksfr.org.

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