What if it's green beans?

A few days ago hundreds of my community members joyously attended, shared about, and discussed - for lack of a better term - a Christ based life appreciation and wellness conference. Always curious about events and outreaches that may further the cause of postvention, I checked out both the promoter's and the main presenter's websites and - WOW are they ever dangerous!

Sadly, I discovered that the promoter is a local ministry leader who I heard in church a couple of years ago. I'm feeling generous today, so I won't way that she is pure evil - but her message certainly is. She's a benevolent sounding grandmotherly hater... the kind who smiles and loves out loud while saying in private that she thinks LGBTQ people can heal from their lifestyle with prayer... the kind who blames the women's liberation movement for the downfall of the family. If you think I'm being hyperbolic for effect, check out this Christian mother's ministry page on the dangers of pharisee-ism.

Moving on, the main presenter at the conference is a neuroscientist who does not believe in mental illness. Okay, I get that she's saying the "mental illness" is not a discrete identifier of a malady. I get that thinking good thoughts changes our functionality. I get that we are not our illnesses.

What I don't get is how a neuroscientist can say such a heinously dangerous thing out loud in public.

How does she explain that UTI in senior citizens can - and frequently does - cause psychosis? How does she explain that onset of thyroid disease can - and frequently does - cause devastating depressive episodes or excruciating anxiety? How does she explain the connections between osteoporosis and schizophrenia, strep infections and the onset of OCD, or IBS and anxiety?  Clearly one cannot think themselves out of osteoporosis or IBS.

But saying that there is no such thing is just plain old determined idiocy. I believe she's saying this in order to make money off of Christians who still believe that mental illness is from the devil - like Legion and the herd of pigs.

To my mind this woman is the equivalent of the television MDs who advocate for magic berry juice as a cure all for old age. I suspect these types of getting through their academic and science careers with solid Cs, but then I'm a bit jaded about snake oil sales people.

In this case, the earnestness of both the promoter and the main speaker make me think that some snake oil salesmen may have believed their own claims.

Here's the thing though: What if it's green beans? I'm not being obtuse. This is not a joke.  In the history of suicide prevention there has NEVER been a long term study of suicide attempt survivors. This work has started, but just barely. Green beans may sound simplistic, but hear me out.

In the 1950s people used to whisper the word CANCER, and then doctors began to study cancer survivors instead of simply pathologizing the dead bodies of cancer victims. Because of these survivor studies we now know that cigarettes cause cancer and that eating fiber reduces the incidence of colon cancer. We know that dogs owners who have a faith community live longer even with stage 4 cancers.

When we begin to ask questions of the people who have lived to tell the tale of their survival, then we will learn the answers we need to keep people alive. We will be able to see that mental illness is simply an illness like the flu - or cancer - and adjust accordingly.

And seriously, what if it IS as simple as green beans? We will never know until we ask.

Erica Kitzman