Top 5 quack mental health remedies


The World Health Organisation predicts that mental illness will be the second largest public health burden by 2020, second only to heart disease. With this figure in mind, it’s important to remember that many individuals will be needing and seeking help. Here are my top 5 quack mental health remedies; these are dangerous, deceptive, ineffective and fallacious ‘remedies’ that should be avoided at all costs. Seek immediate medical attention from your local GP if you are feeling unwell; mentally or otherwise.

1.Homeopathic Magnolia Bark

Whenever you see the term ‘homeopathy’, replace it with the word ‘placebo’. Why? Because homeopathic remedies are based on a process of extreme dilution. The minimum dilution of homeopathic remedies is 1C, which means a single drop in a hundred. German physician Samuel Hahnemann, who invented homeopathy and published these ideas in 1810, believed that you could make a substance stronger…by diluting it.

“But it’s not just about dilution!,” homeopaths argue. This is true. These remedies are also dependent on some magical shaking, which homeopaths call ‘succession’. This is meant to ‘potentize’ the remedy further, allowing the water to ‘retain vibrations’ and therefore the memory of the active ingredient – even after it’s been diluted away.

When it was invented in the 19th century on the basis of ‘like cures like’, another strange theory, homeopathy was a good thing. After all, it was ‘doing no harm’ in an era when bloodletting was common practice. Homeopathy actually offered an alternative that didn’t kill people.

It is true that homeopathic remedies are completely free of side-effects. That’s because they don’t do anything. We can dismiss this pseudoscientific remedy as pure quackery. As the old saying goes: “if water has memory, then homeopathy is full of shit”

2. Scientology

Xenu is an alien leader who lead space ships to Earth 75 million years ago. He parked these intergalactic vessels next to volcanoes and blew them up, and these leftover bits of alien remains tainted the world with something akin to “original sin”. Humans are still suffering from the continued spiritual harm, which may include mental distress, thanks to this alien visit.

Now this would be ridiculous but understandable if it were a science fiction story. But it’s not. Written by science-fiction writer turned cult-maker Layfayette Ronald Hubbard, it is considered a piece of “religious writing” by The Church of Scientology. In 1950, Hubbard, the founder of this sect, wrote a book titled Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. According to Hubbard, the single source of insanity and psychosomatic ills is the “engram” , which Hubbard describes as “a definite and permanent trace left by a stimulus on the protoplasm of a tissue. It is considered as a unit group of stimuli impinged solely on the cellular being.”

Confused by all the pseudoscience? If we cut through this nonsense attempt at scientific vocabulary, what Hubbard is suggesting is that trauma is somehow hard-wired biologically into our cells. The only way to treat this is by meeting with an ‘auditor’ – a Scientology therapist. Curious about the qualifications needed for such a healing role? Hubbard says that “any person who is intelligent and possessed of average persistency and who is willing to read this book [Dianetics] thoroughly” can become an auditor. Remarkably trained.

So where do the most poisonous ‘engrams’ come from? According to Hubbard, the womb. It’s is a“wet, uncomfortable and unprotected”place and cause of many “engrams” that you accumulate prior to even being born. According to Hubbard, you can thank your mum because your time in the womb probably went like this:

“Mama sneezes, baby gets knocked “unconscious.” Mama has constipation and baby, in the anxious effort, gets squashed. Papa becomes passionate and baby has the sensation of being put into a running washing machine. Junior bounces on Mama’s lap, baby gets an engram. And so it goes.”

Mental health expert and 2010 Australian of the year Professor Patrick McGorry has called scientologists “deniers of the realities of mental illness, who are incredibly irresponsible and dangerous.”

Another dangerous load of rubbish that we can heap into the quackery bin.

3. Rebirthing

Rebirthing is a new-age remedy that claims to heal trauma. The rebirthing- breathwork technique was developed by American Leonard Orr, who believed the experience of being born is so traumatic that individuals repress the memory. It is claimed that Orr met with 12 immortal yogis for advice, including Indian mystic Haidakhan Babaji (who died in 1984), and used their teachings to develop the technique. In 1977 he co-authored a book on the practice titled Rebirthing in the New Age.

The technique supposedly involves breathing exercises to heal negative emotions, and to revisit one’s birth. Orr asserts that this experience governs the decisions and beliefs in adulthood. By using connected breath,whereby there’s no pause between inhaling and exhaling, the participant can ‘build up’ life energy or ‘prana’ and develop sufficient insight to overcome trauma.

4. Crystal Healing

For centuries, crystals have been alleged to ward off spirits, heal ailments and offer paranormal, mystical powers. Lack of scientific knowledge can excuse these baseless assumptions in the past, but to this day modern occultists claim rubbing or holding rocks can cure anything from tonsillitis to depression.

Whether it’s misunderstand- ing or deliberate skewing of the facts, many new age healers suggest that crystals can harness and direct energy. This could be based on the idea that some crystals do produce an electrical charge when compressed. It’s called the ‘piezoelectric effect’, discovered in 1880 by Pierre and Jacques Curie. During the 1950’s, this property was used in record player needle and other measuring devices, but there is zero proof that crystals can affect the human experience in any similar way.

Regardless, a quick search of “crystal healing for depression” suggests buying blue calcite for its “gentle, calming energy”, clear quartz to “clear and align the chakras” and even gold…for no stated reason.

5. Primal Scream Therapy

Another remedy that also links neuroses to childhood trauma was invented by Arthur Janov, an American therapist based in Los Angeles who claims to be “one of the world’s leading psychologists”. While in a therapy session, Janov describes hearing  “an eerie scream welling up from the depths of a young man who was lying on the floor”.

His conclusion was that the man’s bellow was the product of an unconscious wound that the patient was unable to resolve. In ‘The New Primal Scream’, Janov asserts that “when patients recover their lost memories of early trauma, especially the trauma of birth, they often writhe on the floor, sobbing and screaming with rage at whatever was done to them.”  The therapy involves ‘shouting out’ recessed pain.

Like all pseudoscience, it claims to “explain the relationship between biology, psychology and neurology”, yet Janov has zero published peer reviewed papers or scientific reviews. However, he does boast about his 11 books on the treatment.

Note: This article was written as part of ‘Media Hub’ – the capstone journalism subject at UTS, undertaken during the final year of tertiary study. I produced a 7,000 word portfolio titled ‘The Mental Health Series’ which explored mental health and psychology. This article is about the top 5 ‘quack’ remedies. I ventured into the wacky world of pseudoscience to remind readers why it’s so important to develop critical thinking skills. The final mark for the overall portfolio was a HD. Please comment if you’d like to leave feedback or an opinion. 

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Categories: Alternative Medicine, Psychology, Sceptical Thinking

Author:Nina Pace

Always reading or writing.


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