Sometimes, I find myself falling victim to the availability heuristic, and if you read this blog on a regular basis, I bet you do too.
For those of you unaware, the availability heuristic is defined as: “A mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person’s mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision. The availability heuristic operates on the notion that if something can be recalled, it must be important, or at least more important than alternative solutions which are not as readily recalled.”
Why am I mentioning this now? Well, if you read this blog, I’m guessing you have an interest in mental health and mental illness. It’s probably a subject you follow closely and in which you are are well educated. I bet you have more evolved views on the causes and symptoms of mental illness and understand it’s complexities. And, I’d bet that the vast majority of people you interact with feel the same way.
Ahhhh, dear reader, allow me to share portions of an Email I just received. Among it’s gems:
- “People commit suicide because they lack hope. True hope comes from putting your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- “A troubled person who believes in evolution and does not know anything about the Bible, may turn to suicide as an escape.”
- “If you want to reduce suicide, introduce the Bible back into school and stop teaching the fairy tale of evolution.”
First, a disclaimer, and let me make it crystal clear: The purpose of this entry is not to mock anyone’s faith or sincerely held beliefs. Rather, it’s to point out an absolutely ridiculous example of thinking. Faith absolutely assists some in the fight against depression and hopelessness. That’s wonderful. If that’s something which may work for an individual, I highly, highly encourage them to find a method of counseling which fits their views on religion, God and spirituality.
But the notion that prayer, Jesus or teaching creationism will cure depression and suicide for everyone is absurd.
Mental illness is highly complex. It often requires time, resources and multiple, simultaneous methods of treatment and lifestyle changes in order to fully address and treat. There is no one size fits all bullet. But what absolutely will not help is judgmental statements like the above, or the adherence to a one-sized fits all approach.
I’d also challenge anyone who makes a statement about reducing depression, mental illness and suicide to make sure that their comments are backed up by research. As I’ve noted in previous entries, there is a complex relationship between religion and mental illness, but as best I could find, there is ZERO relationship between teaching evolution and mental illness. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.
We’ve made great strides in the area of mental illness of late, but we still have a long long way to go. And absolute statements like the ones made above will do nothing but drive people further into the shadows.
There are people this uneducated out there, and I hope this is something we can all remember.