By Dr. Michael Mantell, San Diego Jewish World, a member of the San Diego Online News Association
December 8, 2020 (San Diego) - One of the many benefits of being a long-time weekly writer for this publication/website, is the opportunity to review books that hold special meaning for me. So when Don Harrison, our beloved editor, inquires if I’d like to review a new book, the title, the content, or the author will interest me, or not. When it came to our friend Ben Dishman, Pharm.D., BCPP and his new book, "I Can Treat That...Well Maybe?” there was no question but that I wanted to read and review this book.
Dr. Dishman begins his humorous and deeply insightful work by saying, “Explore the insight of a provider with years of experience treating and educating patients and their support systems about mental illness.” That’s a perfect description of this book, aimed at families dealing with care options for loved ones, at students and residents interested in exploring mental illness and treatment options from the vantage point of a patient perspective, and for the larger community interested in gaining insight into the growing concerns of mental illness, especially in light of COVID19 adversity.
Dishman, with more than 30 years of experience, covers it all in this highly detailed book of psychiatric impairment – causes, symptoms and pharmacologic treatment, explained in an “infotaining” manner.
Much is here to be digested in the 292 pages, but to set the frame for this work, Dishman tells us, “We basically do not know how our brains work. There is no happy pill that will make everyone’s life better.” The author also shares that he feels “lucky I was born in the 1950’s without the stigma of a psychiatric diagnosis (ADHD) to follow me through my life. There was no psychiatrist experimenting with drugs, trying to alter my thinking.”
Dishman covers ADHD, depression, personality disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, anxiety, PTSD and insomnia. He goes into detail in each of these, including the variety of medications available for anyone suffering with one of these mental illnesses, or as he calls them, “Diversity of Personality.”
Let’s put some perspective around these concerns. In 2019, the National Health Interview Survey reported that 19.2% of adults had received any mental health treatment in the past 12 months, including 15.8% who had prescription medication for their mental health, and 9.5% who received therapy. A February 2020 survey by IQVia (formerly IMS Health), the largest vendor of U.S. physician prescribing data that provides information, services and technology for the healthcare industry, reported that 78,195, 307 people of all ages were taking psychiatric drugs.
They also reported that 9,641,899 people of all ages were taking ADHD drugs, 44,225,837 people were taking antidepressants, 11,636,948 were taking antipsychotics, 32,122, 466 were taking antianxiety meds and 24, 423,285 were taking mood stabilizers.
Things have only become worse with the expansion of COVID19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession negatively affecting many people’s mental health. One tracking poll in mid-July found that 53% of adults in the US reported that their mental health had been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the deadly virus. This changed from last March when that number was 32% reporting similar symptoms. From sleeping and eating impairment, depression and despair, to increase in alcohol and substance abuse, worsening chronic conditions due to sorrow and stress continue to expand. It’s been reported that more than one in three adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic (weekly average for May: 34.5%; weekly average for June: 36.5%; weekly average for July: 40.1%). Another report found that calls to Los Angeles suicide and mental health hotlines have increased 8,000%! Additional statistical modeling has suggested that the pandemic will lead to as many as 75,000 deaths from alcohol and drug misuse and suicide, increasing the total of COVID-related deaths.
While I believe we need to increase the pipeline of mental health providers, insure that mental health and substance use disorders receive parity in enforced state insurance laws, we bolster telehealth, and we enact plans to help youngsters gain greater access to mental health services they may have previously received in schools, Dishman’s compassion-filled book is a particularly welcome toolkit for additional answers in easy to understand, almost frankly entertaining, terms. He tells us, “When it comes to mental illness, we need to think of it no differently than we think of any other disease of the body.” No blame, no shame, no stigma – just as we might do with someone who has hypertension, diabetes, or a host of other medical conditions.
I particularly resonated with Dishman’s call, “As a society we need to be more understanding.” He sums up this highly comprehensive, thorough work, by suggesting, “If we are poor and unhappy with our situation in the real world, it is hard to slap a pill bandage on the brain hurt and make everyone happy.” He tells us, “Be patient with others…Utilize the resources around you. Do your homework and your research. Trust your provider, but do your homework, because everyone is human and everyone needs to take responsibility for themselves and those around them.”
This is a balanced, fact-based, research-anchored book that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to insure they’ve done their complete homework on a mental illness covered in this book on behalf of a loved one, friend, or oneself.
Michael Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and is a frequent lecturer on behavior science. He also writes a weekly D’var Torah column. More of his stories may be accessed by clicking his byline at the top of this page. He may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.