Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mood disorders and the "Four Humours"

There's a lot of black ink being spilled in the press today with regards to Prof Patrick McGorry"s Early Psychosis Intervention Centres -EPIC - being described by a US expert as a "vast untried public health experiment". I suppose that it may have something to do with the cost, $222 million to expand the scheme, but call me a softie for supporting any initiative that helps those struggling with mood disorders/psychiatric conditions, but I think that every effort must be made and every initiative tried, to lessen these black dog diseases.

It's not that we're dealing with something new: I was listening to a discussion the other day about a book written 500 years ago by an English Vicar called Richard Burton, entitled "The Anatomy of Melancholy". At that time all health problems were thought to be due to a disorder of one of the four "Humours" - Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic and Melancholic. In fact the word Melancholic comes from two Latin words that mean Black Bile, and was thought to affect the brain; and the whole Humour theory dates back to the time of Hippocrates a couple of thousand years ago. In other words mental disorders have been talked about and discussed for centuries, and is not just a disease of our times.

I mention all of this because there is no simple solution. Yes we do have some medications, and the researchers are constantly looking to better understand the mysteries of the mind but there is no quick fix anywhere on the horizon. I suspect that because mood disorders have been such a constant companion of society ever since we stopped dragging our knuckles along the floor, that we've come to see it as an inevitable part of life. Thanks to people like Patrick McGorry and others, the light is now well and truly being shone on a dreadful burden that so many have to endure, and at last something is actually being tried!
Ampersands & angle brackets need to be encoded.


Ami said...

I couldn't agree more "that every effort must be made and every initiative tried". Watching someone suffer and not getting proper help is heartbreaking. Great post.

Susan @ Reading Upside Down said...

I think we are far to casual about the impact of mental disorders and illness. I was recently cringing when I was part of a group where someone told a few schizophrenia jokes. I had an uncle with schizophrenia as well as two friends with families impacted by the illness and know that there is nothing about it that is amusing.

It must be so hard for people with significant mental issues to come forward when we as a society treat them so casually and flippantly. I agree that iniatives to raise awareness and connect individuals with treatment opportunities should be investigated and implemented wherever possible.

ClaireyH said...

I am off to listen to Prof McGorry speak at a lunch next week, (I will be tweeting it too). He will be speaking on the mental health of asylum seekers a other area we as a country tend to forget about when finding 'solutions' to people that try to seek refuge in our country.

I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

♥α§ђ£ε¥™♥ said...

Part of the problem with mental health awareness is that those advocating for it are often only those most closely affected by it or diagnosed with it. Having bipolar/borderline/anxiety myself, I am a strong advocate for awareness!

I am going into a field that deals heavily with the mentally ill (at least here in the states), and in my classes, I have often been the only one advocating for or even interested in doing a project on mental illness. I find my classmates are very uncomfortable talking about it- much more uncomfortable than other social problems! So close to graduation (2 months) and I do not know of a single other student in my class (university) that is interested in mental health awareness.

This disappoints me so because I know there are so many out there that need help that isn't available, and the ones that should be interested in helping are more interested in other topics. Mental health fades into the background, and it's a worldwide problem.

I wonder what the WHO would have to say...

Thank you for writing on this from an objective point of view. I know that my feelings on the topic often get interjected because I have bipolar & borderline & anxiety, so my views are very subjective on the topic, but it's good to hear/ read that I'm not alone in my views.