Doctors and Deer in the Headlights

I had an interesting experience yesterday. I went to a six hour, state-mandated training for physicians on recognizing suicide risk factors and treatment of suicidal ideation. And, even though I have mixed feelings about the legislature dictating requirements in medical education (I guess it’s inevitable, but should be kept to a minimum. I believe physicians should be able to self-regulate for the highest good of patients.) it was really quite good. Did you know that over ninety percent of people who survive their suicide attempt change their minds and live on until they die of other causes? And that most suicides are theoretically preventable? Henry Ford Health Systems, a local HMO in the Detroit area decided that the acceptable number of suicides in their patient population was zero and they did staff training and made policy and organizational changes and actually achieved a zero suicide rate for two years so far.

Anyway, what I found interesting is that when the presenter was talking about using antidepressants to treat people under 25 years of age, they are known to actually increase anxiety, agitation and suicidal thoughts. Everyone in the audience already knew this, but when it came to talking about what else to offer these young people as treatment, everyone, including the presenter, looked like deer in the headlights. All he had to offer was to educate the parents that these were known side-effects of the medications and, though they may theoretically increase the number of teen suicides, untreated depression also increases the risk of suicide.

There was no talk about that, well, if kids are getting depressed this young, maybe there is a genetic component and they should have their methylation status checked. No talk about other treatments for depression such as L-tryptophan, 5-HTP, SAMe, homeopathy, acupuncture, removing food reactions, healing the microbiome, relieving cranial restrictions…nothing like that. It was astounding. There were probably a hundred doctors in the room, all intelligent, caring people, yet they were so restricted to only pharmaceutical solutions, that they would stand by and let their patients die rather than research and recommend other options. Of course, they referred to mental health specialists for family systems or psychological problems.

I think that the take-home message for you, the medical consumer, is to know that, no matter what issue you go to them for, conventional doctors are the way they are, and protect yourself. Know that most of the advice you get from them likely comes from that pharmaceutical perspective. Know that there are always several different treatment options for any given person having a given condition. Don’t take a treatment that you are uncomfortable with until you have explored your options. Trust your gut regarding what you are comfortable with. Look into what may be offered for you by integrative medicine, functional medicine, Chinese medicine, mind/body/energy medicine, naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic. There are lots of options so you are very likely to find some that are effective and safe for you.

And, of course, Integral medicine has an approach to help people who are at risk for suicide. More about that later.