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Are anxiety and depression social problems or chemical disorders?

Two anthropologists question the chemical imbalance theory of mental health disorders.

Twentieth-century science was supposed to change everything. Indeed, thanks to vaccinations, antibiotics, and improved sanitation, humans thrived like never before. Yet in that mix was thrown pharmacological treatments for mental health disorders. On that front, little progress has been made.

It can be argued—it is being argued, in a new paper in American Journal of Physical Anthropology—that we’re regressing in our fight against mental health problems. As Kristen Syme, a PhD student in evolutionary anthropology, and Washington State University anthropology professor Edward Hagen argue, psychopharmacological treatments are increasing alongside mental health disorder diagnoses. If the former worked, the latter would decrease.

There are numerous problems with the current psychiatric model. Journalist Robert Whitaker has laid out the case that antidepressants, antipsychotics, and other pharmacological interventions are the real culprit behind chemical imbalances in the brain—a psychiatric talking point that’s been challenged for over a half-century. Patients suffering from minor anxiety and depression are placed on ineffective drugs, often being placed on a cocktail of pills. With many consumer advocacy groups being funded by pharmaceutical companies, we’ve reached a tipping point in mental health protocols.

As Syme and Hagan write, consumer advocacy groups are not the only compromised organizations. One review of 397 clinical trials discovered 47 percent of these studies reported at least one conflict of interest.

Read the full story:

A Q&A with the Editor of Environmental Epigenetics

Michael Skinner portrait
Michael Skinner

From the Oxford University Press Blog:

Environmental Epigenetics is a new, international, peer-reviewed, fully open access journal, which publishes research in any area of science and medicine related to the field of epigenetics, with particular interest on environmental relevance. With the first issue scheduled to launch this summer, we found this to be the perfect time to speak with WSU biologist Dr. Michael K. Skinner, Editor-in-Chief, to discuss the launch of the journal into an exciting and rapidly developing field. » More …

Mapp’s passing reminds us police (mis)treatment of suspects not new

Carolyn Long
Carolyn Long

On Oct. 31, the day after her 91st birthday, Ms. Dollree Mapp, of the 1961 landmark Supreme Court decision, Mapp v. Ohio, died. Carolyn N. Long, associate professor in the School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs at WSU Vancouver and author of Mapp v. Ohio: Guarding Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures, asserts: “There has been insufficient progress in police professionalism since 1957 when Ms. Mapp … stood up to the aggressive police tactics” of the Bureau of Special Investigation of Cleveland, Ohio.

In her guest column published by, Long says, “Mapp’s passing, which was not widely reported when it happened, bears mention in light of the Justice Department’s damning report on police practices in Cleveland and the recent death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, an African-American child shot and killed by a Cleveland officer for carrying a toy gun the officer thought was a weapon.”

Read more of Professor Long’s review of the case and its aftermath

It’s The Apocalypse, Stupid: Understanding Christian Opposition to Obamacare, Civil Rights, New Deal and More

Matthew Sutton
Matthew Sutton

American evangelicals have been waiting for the world to end for a long time. But that’s not to say they’ve just been sitting around. Apocalypticism has inspired evangelistic crusades, moral reform movements, and generations of political activism.

In his latest book, Matthew Avery Sutton, WSU professor of history, traces this history of American evangelical apocalypticism from the end of the 19th century to the present day. In the process, he proposes a revised understanding of American evangelicalism, focused on the urgent expectations of the end of human history. If you want to understand modern evangelicalism, Sutton says, you have to understand their End Times theology.

Daniel Silliman spoke with Sutton at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, in Heidelberg, Germany.

Read their Q&A online