August 19, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
When I was young, many people rejected the importance of dental hygiene. They preferred to believe that they developed cavities because they had “soft teeth.” That a woman would lose a tooth for every baby she gave birth to. That if their grandparents finished up toothless, they were doomed to the same fate. It was all bad luck and genetics and brushing, flossing, good diet, and not using tobacco would make no difference.
Today, most people understand the importance of good dental hygiene, but we’re still in the Dark Ages when it comes to committing to good mental hygiene. Mental illness is scary and embarrassing and seems to strike like a bolt of thunder. In a laudable attempt to reduce the stigma of mental illness, experts stress that it may be hereditary or a result of chemical imbalances. Either way, it’s out of our control, right?
This author is a medical librarian and himself a survivor of mental illness. On both scores, he understands the importance of being well-informed. He has read thousands of articles in medical journals most of them describing the findings of clinical research in the areas of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and internet addictions. He introduces these papers and gives a brief summing up of their critical points, with special emphasis on findings which relate to self-help measures. AND he tells you the web sites where you can read the entire article yourself.
I approached this book with great misgivings. I grew up at a time when doctors were still struggling to convince the general public that they were offering something worth paying for. They did it by promoting the idea that health is only understandable by those who have gone to medical school and that traditional practices and wisdom were “old wives tales” – silly and probably dangerous. Many (most, really) books about “alternative medicine” are poorly researched and have a strong mercenary bias. “Massive doses of dandelion tea cured my cancer and I sell the only dandelion tea mix that works.” You know the sort of thing.
This author isn’t going to get rich selling his book and I don’t believe that he wrote it with that intent. He does believe passionately that we can help ourselves to better mental health by practicing good mental hygiene – diet, exercise, prayer, and developing strong personal relationships. Modern medicine is beginning to adopt the same idea and these articles represent studies and tests from well-known and well-respected medical centers, universities, and organizations. This is not snake oil, but knowledge gleaned from scientific research.
So why doesn’t everyone know about it? Because a pharmaceutical company can spend billions of dollars yearly telling the public about the benefits of its products, but there’s no profit in telling you that turning your computer off and talking to a friend or taking a walk (or better yet, both at once!) will make you feel better.
When it comes to the workings of the mind, we are only beginning to explore a new frontier. In the future, our present “knowledge” will be laughable. But we can use the latest ideas and combine them with traditional wisdom to help ourselves. You are your own best doctor and (whether it’s physical or mental illness) the best out-comes result when the patient and those who love him are well-informed and taking an active role in the process.
***** Mr. Jiang very kindly gave me a copy of his book, but that didn’t influence my opinions one bit! I skimmed it and now I’m re-reading the sections that are of special interest to me. It’s a book that should be in every household that has been affected by mental illness. That’s all of us, right?