Mass Shootings and the Mental Health Epidemic

This week’s blog post comes after yet another mass shooting in the U.S., this time in the town of Odessa, Texas. I am continuing to send prayers to the families who have been impacted by this tragedy. It is a shame that this is something we have to deal with so frequently in today’s world.

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I chose this topic for 2 reasons:

  1. I’m saddened by the continual killing of innocent people

  2. I’m tired of everyone coming up with the wrong solution to the problem.

To start with number 1, this is the 297th mass shooting this year alone. Total, these mass shootings have killed 335 people and wounded over 1,200. Insane numbers that can make any heart feel heavy.

Number 2 is what really fires me up. Yesterday, on my way home from church, I heard so many people on the radio calling for stricter gun laws. This always bothers me. Could gun control be tightened up? I’m sure. Should average Joe’s be able to have semi-automatic weapons? Probably not.

But stricter gun laws being our response to these tragedies is a bandaid. Just like what we see in the medical community, this is an attempt to treat the symptoms and not the root cause.

The truth is that we have a mental health epidemic on our hands and everyone is turning their heads away from it. In case you’re not on board with the fact that we have a mental health epidemic, here are some statistics for you:

  • Over 44 million American adults have mental health conditions

  • 1 in 5, or 9 million adults report having an unmet medical need

  • Youths experiencing mental health complications is growing. 20 million children worldwide have been diagnosed with mental health disorders and are prescribed power pharmaceuticals with numerous side effects

Many people are sick. Many aren’t getting any help. Those who are getting help are not getting the help they need. Those who are seeking out mental health care from our current medical system are simply being prescribed pharmaceuticals that treat the side effects of impaired mental health. Even worse is that these drugs are addicting and alter brain chemistry in ways that leave most patients worse off than they were in the first place.

Why is this happening? It might be because we do not have a great understanding of mental health illnesses. Or it might be because there is too much money to be made by continuing to treat mental health the way we are. Now I am hardly a conspiracy theorist but nearly 1 in 6 adults and more than 1 in 20 children in the United States are taking psychiatric drugs on a daily basis. The anti-depressant market alone is projected to increase to $15 billion by 2023. It’s not crazy to think there are some hidden financial agendas in our failure to treat mental health conditions properly.

So the logical question is how should mental health conditions be treated? The truth is that we still have a lot to learn about this topic but we do know that nutrition is key. It should come as no surprise that many mental health disorders display altered gut health. What you eat matters for more than just your waistline, it impacts all facets of health, including your mental health status. In fact, research is already starting to show that ketogenic diets can improve symptoms of Schizophrenia, one of the most crippling mental health disorders.

Let’s think for a second about how our children are managed today. We feed them glutenous amounts of processed sugars and carbohydrates and then when they don’t behave the way we expect them to, we say they are hyperactive and prescribe them pharmaceuticals that mess up their brain chemistry. Do you think this sets us up for a future of mentally strong individuals? I don’t and I believe we are currently seeing the repercussions of this.

I am not against drugs. There are certain mental health condition where extreme measures are needed. But I also think there is a different class of drugs that we could be turning too that is much more effective and comes with less risk of harmful side effects. Did you know that LSD research for addiction, anxiety, and depression that was showing very positive results was stopped with the invention of addicting antidepressants? Did you know that MDMA is now being shown to improve PTSD symptoms? Did you know that a lot of research has demonstrated that these drugs are safe if used correctly? Why is this not something that more people are talking about? Probably because the majority of the world is afraid of these drugs (but not afraid of pharmaceuticals we don’t understand for some reason) and there is probably not enough money to be made in treatments that are showing drastic improvements in mental health after just a single treatment.

I’ll leave you with the understanding that I am not saying that nutrition and the safe use of psychedelic drugs is the complete answer to the mass shootings we are seeing today. But I do think that it is a start and a much better approach than we are currently taking. I hope in the future that we will continue to learn more about mental health disorders, nutritions role in combatting them, psychedelics role in combatting them, and improve our training of mental health care providers to administer these compounds.

Christopher Irvin