Dr James Davies publishes new book “Sedated: How Modern Capitalism Created our Mental Health Crisis”

  • Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Dr James Davies, Reader in our Departments of Psychology and Life Sciences, has published a book investigating the vast increase in mental health interventions since the 1980s, despite there being no clear improvement in clinical outcomes over the last four decades.

Image - Dr James Davies publishes new book “Sedated: How Modern Capitalism Created our Mental Health Crisis”

Using studies, interviews with experts and detailed analysis, the book explores how mental health outcomes have flatlined since the 1980s as our mental health sector has primarily developed over that period to serve economic outcomes, but at the expense of providing the health services people both need and want.

In Britain, approaching a quarter of the adult population take a psychiatric drug in a year, an increase of over 500% since 1980. Despite this rise in prescriptions, the prevalence of mental health problems and disability have also increased.

Within the book, Dr Davies argues the widespread medicalisation of mental distress has fundamentally mischaracterised the problem. Many who are diagnosed and prescribed psychiatric medication are not suffering from biologically identifiable problems. Instead, they are experiencing the understandable and, of course, painful human consequences of life’s difficulties – family breakdowns, problems at work, unhappiness in relationships, low self-esteem.

For these individuals, there has become an imbalance in provision, with so many offered medical interventions versus talking therapies and social psychological provision, which may better facilitate meaningful change and recovery.  

Dr Davies said, “by sedating people to the causes and solutions for their socially rooted distress – both literally and ideologically – our mental health sector has stilled the impulse for social reform, which has distracted people from the real origins of their despair, and has favoured results that are primarily economic while presiding over the worst outcomes in our health care system”.

The book concludes that change is possible, so long as we identify and reform the real social drivers of our mental health crisis.  

Dr Davies is co-founder of the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry, which is now secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence. He’s previously published three books: The Making of Psychotherapists: an anthropological analysis, The Importance of Suffering: the value and meaning of emotional discontent and Cracked: why psychiatry is doing more harm than good.

Sedated: How Modern Capitalism Created our Mental Health Crisis was published on June 3 2021by Atlantic Books. You can find out more on their website.