Dr Caroline Leaf – Not a mental health expert

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Dr Caroline Leaf is a communication pathologist and self-titled cognitive neuroscientist.  She wrote a PhD on a learning program developed for an educational setting.  She is not a medical doctor.  She is not a psychologist.  She has no experience or training in the diagnosis and management of mental illness.  She is no more qualified to give advice on mental illness than my hairdresser is.

And it shows in her latest social media post: “Lets really start loving as a church- true unconditional non judgmental love – pushing people away and locking them up and drugging them against their will is not the solution to the the problems of life.”

Her statements is a nonsense, nothing more than a scarecrow fallacy.  Yes, pushing people away and locking them up and drugging them against their will is not the solution to the problems of life, that’s why no one does it.  If people were locked up or drugged against their will because of “the problems of life” then we’d all be locked up and drugged.

The only people that are forcibly treated are those with the most serious of mental illnesses whose condition has deprived them of the insight they need to make the decision for themselves.  Even then, the consent for treatment is given by the next of kin, and if no next of kin can provide consent, then the consent is usually made by a independent statutory body so there’s no conflict of interest.

That Dr Leaf continues to make such inane statements about mental illness confirms that she is not fit to give the church, or anyone else for that matter, any advice on mental health.  She may have a PhD in communication pathology but that is a highly specialised field that doesn’t even begin to cross over to clinical knowledge of mental illness.

Dr Leaf has chosen to fill her vacuum of mental health experience with the opinions of Mad In America, a group that’s irrationally biased against modern mental health care.  She regurgitates their creed almost verbatim – mental illness is over diagnosed, psychiatric medications are useless and dangerous, and Dr Leaf also claims that psychiatric medications are only prescribed to bring the cabal of the American Psychiatric Association and the pharmaceutical companies more power and money.

Psychiatric medications are more helpful than harmful (Leucht et al, 2012, Torniainen et al, 2015).  I’ve discussed this in blog posts in the past.  Yes, they’re not without their side effects, and they’re not for every patient, but they have their place in psychiatric care.  That Dr Leaf can’t or won’t review this evidence is just another indictment against her ministry.  That she actively promotes the idea that pharmaceutical companies and the APA are actively attempting to harm people for their own power and riches is scandalous.

If Dr Leaf was serious about promoting good mental health through the church, she should stop promoting baseless anti-psychiatric propaganda, and start encouraging Christians with mental illness to seek the best treatment available, whether that be medications or counselling or both.  She should also start teaching the church the truth about mental illness … That mental illness isn’t caused by poor choices or toxic thoughts, but because of genetic abnormalities that make the affected persons brain more vulnerable to external stress.

Because to stop turning pain and trauma into shame, anger, fear and then hate, people need correct information to allow them to offer real loving understanding and nonjudgmental support to move through the pain.  At the moment, Dr Leaf isn’t offering the church anything even close to that.

References

Leucht S, Tardy M, Komossa K, et al. Antipsychotic drugs versus placebo for relapse prevention in schizophrenia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet 2012 Jun 2;379(9831):2063-71.
Torniainen M, Mittendorfer-Rutz E, Tanskanen A, et al. Antipsychotic treatment and mortality in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia bulletin 2015 May;41(3):656-63.

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5 thoughts on “Dr Caroline Leaf – Not a mental health expert

  1. Great blog thus far Dr. Pitt! I am an aspiring neuroscientist in undergrad, and through my Christian ties and acquaintances I have been told many many times that this lady is the link between science and religion. While I do believe there to be a link, she does not present it well. I was extremely excited to see who this exciting neuroscientist was who was linking the brain and mind with God, but was severely disappointed. Her credentials are a huge exaggeration bordering on outright lie, and her lectures are filled with pseudoscience charlatan “quackery”. I am glad there is someone that is showing the other, and particularly more peer reviewed and critical side of the story. I mean, c’mon. The heart is where the mind is located? That the mind is a completely unphysical entity that interacts with the brain? This dualist thinking does absolutely nothing to further science or religion.

    Anywho thank you for your critiques. To be frank, it is exactly people like her that give a bad name to Christians and people of faith. She arms religious people (including some of my friends) with poor knowledge and then expects that the scientific community will respect the Christian belief system? Again, thank you for your blog.

    • Hi Ben

      Many thanks for the encouraging comment. I wholeheartedly agree with your summation about Dr Leaf. All the best to you in your studies … study hard! We desperately need Christians who are good scientists and scientists who are good Christians. We need people in the church who value truth, whether it be scientific or Biblical. Please share your concerns about Dr Leaf’s teaching with your friends and your pastors. The more people stand up for the truth, the more people will start to question Dr Leaf’s pseudoscience charlatan quackery.

      Thanks for your feedback and all the best to you mate 🙂

  2. Pingback: Where are all the shepherds? | Dr C. Edward Pitt

  3. An interesting post. I ran an Alternative to Violence program based on a model that states power and control to be the driving mechanism behind the myriads of violence. One of the methods used are those that belittle people by name calling in effect dehumanizing them to justify the violence perpetrated, similar to the tactics used in this article.
    I have also worked as and still do as a Mental Health Approved Home operator and have worked with many individuals who are on medication against their wills. So, to open with a statement about her opinions being nonsense and scarecrow fallacy really lack logic. Is there a deep unfulfilled need that is not met in your life that drive the need for psychological and emotional violence?
    At present, I don’t have an opinion on Dr. Leaf’s work, however, it would be great if posts like this dealt with the issues that need to be debunked versus using savagery.

    • Dear Mr Thrun

      Wow …

      I’ve had a lot of people direct ad hominem criticism towards me over the years because of my stand against Dr Leaf’s teaching – that I’m stupid, that I have no right to question God’s anointed, that I’m in it for the money or for the fame. I’ve even had someone say that I’m working as a child of the Devil.

      Your comment is certainly the politest of them, but it still remains argumentum ad hominem, because, respectfully, suggesting that I’m engaging in “psychological and emotional violence” is really taking it a step too far.

      I get the feeling that you’ve locked on to one of my statements without looking at it in context. I never suggested that people are not on medication against their wills. Many people on medication either are, or feel like they are – I’m entirely pragmatic about that. Yet if you read the entire post, you would see that I talked about the safeguards in place to ensure that the balance between informed consent, individual rights and public safety were maintained.

      It IS a scarecrow argument by Dr Leaf to suggest that people are locked up and medicated against their wills for “the problems of life”. If you really are a mental health practitioner of any form then you would know that her statement is a nonsense, a gross over-exaggeration designed to play on people’s ignorance and fear, not to educate and dissuade them.

      I have hundreds of pages of material in which I have carefully, factually and logically debunked Dr Leaf’s teaching. You’re welcome to review all of it. In particular, start with this post https://cedwardpitt.com/2015/07/22/dr-caroline-leaf-still-contradicted-by-the-latest-evidence-scripture-and-herself/ or my book https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/466848 or http://www.debunkingdrleaf.com/hold-that-thought/

      If you still think that I have “a deep unfulfilled need that is not met in your life that drive the need for psychological and emotional violence”, then you’re welcome to your opinion, though If you think intelligent critique and standing up for the truth are forms of psychological and emotional violence, then I think most people would strongly disagree.

      All the best to you.

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