Expecting science to save you from yourself is akin to expecting the military to deliver you a parachute after you’ve already jumped out of the plane. The process of research and review takes years to execute, and while clinical trials are held up on a pedestal, clinical trial results are only relevant under the circumstances in which the trial was executed.
(Case in point: the FDA and the National Institute of Health did not mandate the inclusion of women in clinical trials until 1993
. Until then, the majority of clinical studies examined male subjects. But men and women are different. For one, they metabolize drugs differently
. Extrapolating the results of a male-dominated clinical trial and applying it to women doesn’t necessarily deliver the same results, and yet women still take drugs based off of male-dominated data despite unknown risks.)
Mental health is messy. It is rooted in emotion, which means there’s no logic or sense to any of it. Research, on the other hand, is logical. It is designed to make order of the mess. It is natural for us to hold it in high regard in hopes that it will deliver us a pharmaceutical savior.
But, as Carey says, it’s just not happening.
Carey quotes Dr. Thomas Insel, former director of the National Institute of Health: “The scientific progress in our field was stunning, but while we studied the risk factors for suicide, the death rate had climbed 33 percent. While we identified the neuroanatomy of addiction, overdose deaths had increased by threefold. While we mapped the genes for schizophrenia, people with this disease were still chronically unemployed and dying 20 years early.”
All this to say, research ain’t doing diddly to solve the problems.
Cutting research funding isn’t the answer, of course. We need scientists to keep doing their thing, because over a long period of time, individual bits of research link together to help create a tapestry of our understanding of the world.
But on an individual or clinical level, relying on further research and funding is not the answer. Instead, all that energy needs to be turned inward. The answer is not out there, outside of you. It is of you, something that you need to learn to access within yourself in order to harness its healing powers. And that process is something you can do right now.
This process looks different for everyone. Maybe it starts with stopping yourself from complaining all over Facebook. Maybe it’s acknowledging that you do have a drinking problem and signing up for an AA meeting. Maybe its prioritizing the financial investment needed for a therapist, or even simply reading a self-help book.
That first step won’t be enough to save you, either. But just like bits of research weave together to create a tapestry of our world, whatever little steps you take right now will compound over time. Odds are, you won’t even notice a difference until you come to a point of crisis, somewhere down the road. Just at the point where you normally fall back into a destructive pattern of coping—abuse, obsession, overeating, self-harm—you will find yourself without the urge to harm or, even if the urge is there, you’ll find the strength to make a different choice.