Tag Archives: psychology

222 – Mental Health and the Supernatural: From Schizophrenia to Indigo Children

The shadow of mental illness hangs over supernatural experience. If someone at your office job told you that they really believe that they’d been abducted by aliens, would you look at them the same? I mean, you’re reading the show notes for a paranormal podcast, so maybe you would like them even more. But there is a stigma associated with mental illness in our society and a stigma associated with believing in the supernatural. When you combine them, it’s becomes doubly dubious. 

And I admit, that I’m pretty skeptical. Like most Americans (52%), I believe   in the possibility of ghosts and like 57% of my countrymen and women, I’m also down with psychic powers but if you told me that you had a real deal supernatural encounter, like talking to a demon or you hear spirits in your head, I’m a doubting Thomas.

We have to be somewhat skeptical because while mental health treatment is still a very inexact science and we’re obviously overmedicating many of our most vulnerable patients, when you read stories of schools being closed because of evil spirits or hundreds of child abuse cases a year being attributed to demonic possession, the whole thing feels medieval. Like treating these problems as a spiritual instead of mental health matter might be causing more harm than good.

But are there any actual cases where there might be some kind of supernatural phenomena beyond the mental health issue? 

And that’s the trouble with stigmas, they make things so touchy that people are afraid to tell the truth. No one wants to be associated with mental illness because they don’t want to sound “crazy”, even though almost every single person will fight some kind of psychological disorder at some point in their life. Most people want to steer clear of the supernatural, even though 80% of Americans profess to believe in some kind of God. People need to be able to discuss their experience without everyone judging them. 

Sometimes art can help remove stigmas and sometimes they can make them worse. Sybil famously brought the world of dissociative personality disorder (multiple personality) to the public but Psycho was inspired by the real-life story of Ed Gein, a murderer diagnosed with schizophrenia. Getting our opinions on mental health from movies is dangerous because it paints an unrealistic and sometimes unsympathetic picture of illness. C’mon, in exorcism films, are the possessed ever really just sick? No, then there wouldn’t be a movie, at least not the kind that sells tickets to horror fans. 

In this episode, we discuss the relationships between mental illness and the paranormal. Here’s some of the topics we cover:

Our band Sunspot wrote the song for this week in the late 90s, when Prozac was at its prescriptive height and it seemed that more and more children were being given the drug. My psych professors at the University of Wisconsin would tell me about the lunches that the pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly would put on for psychiatric clinics, they were lobbyists for their drugs. They would actively try to get doctors to prescribe them.

I remember when one of my teenage friends told me she was on Prozac and it shocked me, not that I thought she was crazy, but that she was so young and already on medication. I was shocked that kids weren’t being allowed to “pass through a phase”, they were getting pills right away. Maybe I was reacting to the stigma of mental illness I felt with people in my own family who were on medication, but it felt like maybe we should give kids a chance to be moody. Maybe we shouldn’t be interfering with brain chemistry that’s still so plastic, still developing, still trying to find its way.

And now it’s more than ever, 80 million Americans take a psychiatric drug and over 7 million them are under 18. Maybe we wrote this song too early? 

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

She sits in her room and cries all night
Never had a real boyfriend in her life
Her mommy wonders why she doesn’t have any friends
Daddy only sees her when he has her on the weekends

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine

Her grandma thinks that it might be bad luck
I think we used to call it “just growing up”
When you feel that your life is just pathetic
You slap it in a textbook, and blame it on genetics

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine

She doesn’t cry anymore
She doesn’t laugh anymore
She doesn’t know how she should feel anymore
A chemical imbalance
That’s covered by insurance
It’s hard to be a little girl
When you’re numb to the world

Is she a victim of her own physiology
Or just a victim of some bad psychology
All I do know is she’s fifteen and she’s on Prozac

And the doctor said, “you better take your meds
To fix what’s wrong inside your mind.”
Just a Prozac Girl in a Prozac world
Shift the blame and everything will be just fine