Mental Health Science: Who Are You Calling Crazy? (VIDEO)

Hi everybody, Cara Santa Maria here. You voted and the results are in. It's officially December, and this month, we're going to engage in a conversation about the science of mental health.

In the past, our minds were viewed as entities unto themselves; spiritual manifestations of all of our positive and negative emotional experiences. If you were suffering from "lunacy" or "hysteria," treatments like hypnosis, psychoanalysis, and sheer willpower were used to bring the mind back into balance. And if your mind couldn't be saved, at least it could find solace behind the bars of the nearest asylum.

We now know that the mind does not exist somewhere outside of the brain. Consciousness is a function of neurobiology, and mental illness cannot be separated from biochemistry. Believe it or not, early man hypothesized a brain-behavior connection long before science was on anyone's radar screen. Over 8000 years ago, we have evidence of trephination, a procedure in which a hole was bored in the skull to free the evil spirits trapped inside. We know that this was in fact a surgical procedure and not a fluke, because many of the skulls found at these archaeological sites show evidence of regrowth. This regrowth suggests that the patients lived for some time after taking a sharp tool to the head.

With the advent of antipsychotics in the 1960s, the asylums were slowly emptied and individuals with some of the most difficult psychiatric disorders, like schizophrenia, could finally come closer to having a normal life and a healthy mind...

But what is a normal life? What's a healthy mind? Aren't normal and healthy subjective terms?

This month, let's work together, me and you, to separate fact from fiction and evidence from opinion. Let's start a conversation about the science of mental health.

At what point does a behavior stop being normal and start being abnormal? When does mental health turn into sickness? And where is the fine line between sanity and insanity?

Do we all have mental illness to some extent?

There are so many antidepressants on the market today. How common is depression in this country? Why do so many people seem to suffer from it?

And what about the kids? Autism is on the rise. ADHD is rampant. How do we explain this?

And the question on everyone's mind: Are we overprescribing psychotropic medication?

There's a lot to talk about, and I can't wait to hear what you have to say. Join me on Twitter, Facebook, or right here on my blog. Come on, Talk Nerdy To Me!

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