Why Is There A Stigma Around Mental Illness?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In Dr. Daniel Amen’s new book Feel Better Fast and Make It Last, he discusses how the discoveries made from SPECT imaging has changed the way he sees mental illness. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Amen and his wife Tana illustrate the importance of ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues.


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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tan Amen. Here, we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warriors Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit Amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warriors Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit brainmdealth.com.
Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way podcast.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back everybody. We are continuing our series with 'Feel Better Fast and Make it Last'. We're working on our brain excel mnemonic, gotta get your brain right, your rational mind, your attachment, your inspiration, your nutrition, and we're working on the X factor. You know, what are the big lessons we've learned from the world's largest brain imaging database? We'll get to that in a minute, but we have more reviews. Keep leaving them, thank you so much.
This is from Soldier Christian, a happy listener from the United States. Love the information you put out in this podcast. I also listen, watch you on YouTube. Also listens to the Daily Hope because he heard about the purpose-driven life from work we introduced him to.
Tana Amen: It's a great book.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thanks a lot. Purpose-driven life, being purposeful.
Tana Amen: You live 11 years longer, right?
Dr Daniel Amen: That matters.
Tana Amen: 11 years?
Dr Daniel Amen: You know, I don't remember off the top of my head.
Tana Amen: I think it's 11 years. People who have purpose in their lives live 11 years longer.
Dr Daniel Amen: Let's talk about the big lessons we've learned from imaging. In the book I put 10 lessons. Lesson number one, current psychiatric diagnostic models are outdated because they don't assess the brain. I'm actually working on a new project called, 'The End of Mental Illness', and in chapter one I review-
Tana Amen: That's a pretty controversial and big promise.
Dr Daniel Amen: That's a big promise. I hate the term mental illness.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I like that you're trying to change the way we say things and get rid of the stigma.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well it actually stains people.
Tana Amen: Well, and it's part of why I almost canceled my first date with you. We've talked about that, we've joked about it, but the serious part of that is that I had been hurt by going to see a psychiatrist when I was depressed. My grandmother was permanently hurt by going to see a psychiatrist. People in my family had been hurt. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's when he didn't have Alzheimer's. These are reasons that people don't want to go. Not just because they get hurt but because they get stigmatized for the rest of their lives, and it's hard.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and what we discovered is that when your brain works right you work right. Your mood is better, your energy's better, your anxiety's less, and we needed a new way of diagnosing and treating people-
Tana Amen: And what I don't like is that when you get diagnosed with something wrong or you're treated wrong ... Like, I was clearly depressed but they treated me wrong, with the wrong medication, and it doesn't work you are the problem. It's your fault, and that's a problem.
Dr Daniel Amen: Depression, we think of it as a diagnosis of your depression.
Tana Amen: Which is ridiculous.
Dr Daniel Amen: You are depressed.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: But in reality it's a symptom that has many different causes.
Tana Amen: I remember being on our first date and you were the first person I'd ever heard say that. I was like, "What?" That was such a new concept for me but it made so much sense.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well if you just think about it. Pancreatic cancer, one of the first symptoms is depression. Then people who have never been depressed before ... If all of a sudden you're depressed somebody should be looking at your pancreas.
Tana Amen: Thyroid.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thyroid.
Tana Amen: Hashimoto's disease.
Dr Daniel Amen: Testosterone.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Head trauma.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Yes, you can have an emotional loss, but why are some people resilient to emotional losses-
Tana Amen: And some aren't.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and other people aren't. It has to do with the physical functioning of your brain. The second lesson we learn, and this goes along with what we're talking about, is psychiatric diagnosis like depression, ADHD, addictions are not single or simple disorders. They all have multiple types and so the show we did together on healing ADD, we talk about seven different types, and I remember one of your best friends ... You actually got connected to her years later because her son-
Tana Amen: It's a funny story. It's kind of sad. We had kids and we were friends when we were younger, and then she got married, had kids, I got married but didn't have kids probably until a little bit later, but when I would go over to her house I started to get worried. My daughter was younger than her son, by three years, and I started to not want to go over there because ... And this is a really sad thing and it's icky.
So many of us, as parents, don't want to admit this but we don't want our kids playing with other kids because we feel like they're going to get hurt. We feel like ... And I hate that, especially doing what we do. I've never liked it but now, especially doing what we do ... I know even at Chloe's school, there are certain kids that parents avoid, and that is so painful to those parents and those kids but it's the truth. We feel like we know those kids are a little different. We know they're violent. We know they have these temper outbursts and they behave differently, right? And so, even though we feel icky about it the safety of our own kids comes first.
That's how it was with my friend so I wouldn't go over there after a while because her son was three years older than Chloe and Chloe couldn't protect herself. And so I'm like, "Wow, this kid is having these violent outbursts." Eventually it was bad enough that he was putting holes in walls and he was really breaking down. We lost touch after a while. We just went our own ways, not because of that, just we lost touch, and went our own ways.
And then, so interesting, all of a sudden I get this phone call. My number hadn't changed but I hadn't talked to her for a very long time, and she's ... Apparently they saw me on PBS sitting in the audience, and you introduced me as your wife, and she was like, "Wait, what? What happened? I'm so confused." And so she was so excited because she was like, "I felt like maybe, for the first time, there was something that could answer the question." She had been to three psychiatrists. This kid was young. I think by then he was what, 10, nine or 10. She had been to three psychiatrists. He had been on several pretty heavy psych meds. And so she brought him in and she was like she hated-
Dr Daniel Amen: And they were going to put him on Risperdal, which is an antipsychotic medication-
Tana Amen: At 10 years old.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... to control him.
Tana Amen: This is crazy. He wasn't even 10 because Chloe was pretty young.
Dr Daniel Amen: And typically, if you look at the research, ADD, he'd been diagnosed with ADD. It's associated with low blood flow to the front part of your brain, but he didn't have the typical pattern which is why he didn't respond to the typical medications.
Tana Amen: No, he got worse.
Dr Daniel Amen: He had the ring of fire-
Tana Amen: But you need to explain. He got worse when they put him on the medications, which is why they were trying things like Risperdal. So when the put him on-
Dr Daniel Amen: No, they hadn't put him on it yet. They were waiting to, and she's like-
Tana Amen: No, no, no. My point is he responded negatively to the traditional medicines. He got much worse.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right, and many people do. That's why psychiatric drugs are controversial.
Tana Amen: He got violent.
Dr Daniel Amen: They work for some people, they don't work for other people, and some people they make violent or suicidal.
Tana Amen: Right, he was putting holes in walls.
Dr Daniel Amen: When we saw the ring of fire it's like, "Oh, he has to calm his brain down, not stimulate it, on supplements that we designed for him.
Tana Amen: So the first thing you did was take him off the meds, right?
Dr Daniel Amen: We took him off his meds, put him on some supplements, did some lifestyle changes, and within a year he's on the honor role, he's a good-looking kid.
Tana Amen: He's one of their star water polo players. They ended up moving ... This is a kid no one ... He was socially isolated. No one would have him over. He never got invited ... It just broke her heart. Never got invited to anything, didn't have friends. They moved. No one knew his back story and suddenly he's one of the most popular kids in school.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right.
Tana Amen: And so he's the star water polo player.
Dr Daniel Amen: It changed the trajectory of his life.
Tana Amen: Of his life, yeah. One of the hardest parts for her to change, because she had three kids, was the lifestyle portion, but she did it. When people say, "I can't," it's really frustrating to me because when your child's life, basically, is at stake, it's just one of those things. We know it's not always the easiest thing to do. It's not impossible and it's just necessary. There are ways, and that's where we can help you come up with those strategies.
Dr Daniel Amen: One more lesson, and then we'll continue it in the next podcast, is looking at the brain decreases stigma, increases compliance, and completely changes the discussion around mental health.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: And you know as I'm working on the end of mental illness, really the idea for the book is nobody wants to see a psychiatrist. No one wants to be labeled as defective or abnormal.
Tana Amen: Sometimes it ends up ruining your chances at love because people don't want to take you sometimes. I'm just kidding.
Dr Daniel Amen: Seriously? We're still there 13 years later?
Tana Amen: It could've completely ruined ... I think of where my life would be. It would be so different. How said would that be?
Dr Daniel Amen: How sad for you.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: No, sad for me.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: No one wants to see a psychiatrist. No one wants to be labeled as defective or abnormal. When you got diagnosed with depression, how'd that make you feel?
Tana Amen: Well I knew I was depressed. I would've done anything. There's not a feeling I can think of ... I've been very sick in my life with a lot of different things, and I've had 10 medical surgeries, actual medical surgeries. Not one thing was as bad as being depressed, not one thing. It is the most hopeless, horrifying, terrible, rip your skin off because you can't get away from it feeling. So anyone who's depressed ... There's nothing I would not do to get away from it. I wanted to be treated, but I was treated wrong, and it was just ... That was even worse.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, so many times I've heard people won't get the help they need because they don't want to be diagnosed as crazy-
Tana Amen: Well I didn't.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... or abnormal or defective.
Tana Amen: So imagine, you finally get to the point where it's bad enough that you do go get treated and they make it worse. That's even worse.
Dr Daniel Amen: But one of the things we've learned is everybody wants a better brain, so what if mental health was really brain health, and if we can go down that road people can just be so much better because they realize that the brain is an organ and it can be better by what you do for it.
Tana Amen: Absolutely.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, stay with us. We're going to talk about more of the big lessons we've learned from imaging. Thank you for listening to the Brain Warriors Way podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of the Brain Warriors Way and the Brain Warriors Way cookbook we give away every month.