Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 26, 2009
Faith and science can be complementary medicine
BY AUSTIN MARDON
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Many people of faith view science and one of its oldest applied branches ó medicine ó with suspicion. The current fad is to inherently trust something so long as the label says that it is ďall natural.Ē
We have lost our trust for those things that come from pharmaceutical companies. But what we have forgotten is the reality that modern treatments and pharmaceutical products are in many cases based on what is called bio-mimicry which is taking a natural substance that has a beneficial affect on the body, and replicating that active ingredient.
A PUBLIC FACE
I am very public with my illness. Most people with schizophrenia have been trained by society to try in every way possible to hide their illness, sometimes even from themselves.
Many of my friends with schizophrenia are people of deep faith, but under the guise of their faith, reject taking their medication. It is my belief this is a recipe for disaster. And on the other side of the debate, modern psychiatry should not require us to question or deny our faith when receiving treatment.
A strong, active faith life can be good for our mental health. Faith can be an important part of our overall health care, but it should never be seen as a replacement for seeking appropriate mental health care.
There are people in my life who would never question the reason for taking heart medication, but believe that my faith or character is weak for taking medications for the mind.
My wife always tells me that we are all given crosses. Itís just that some crosses are heavier than others. Schizophrenia is a heavy cross at times. Itís an illness that tries to trick you into believing you arenít actually sick. The stigma is such that you will want to latch onto any cure possible.
St. Luke was a physician, but I doubt that he would remotely recognize the practice of medicine today.
ONE OR THE OTHER
Perhaps we have gone too far in simply trying to treat what we see as a mere physical body as compared with a more holistic perspective of treating body, mind and spirit. And too I am always disheartened when I hear of a person with a serious mental illness who has gone off their medication in favour of some new type of super vitamin, or because they have been prayed over by faith healers.
Faith and medicine do not have to be in conflict. Both strive for individuals to live as healthy and happy a life as we are capable of. Rather than being seen as in conflict, they should be viewed as cooperating to the benefit of their patients and those in their flocks.
(Austin Mardon has received the Order of Canada for schizophrenia and mental health advocacy. He has published peer-reviewed research on Roman Catholic clergy perceptions of persons with schizophrenia.)