Ebola Concerns Abroad Mirror Mental Health Self-Medication Here at Home

For Immediate Release
August 11, 2014

Philadelphia—As the Ebola epidemic ravages West Africa, the World Health Organization on Friday declared the situation an “international health emergency.” Nearly 1,000 people have died in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Frightened residents of West Africa are rushing to find home remedies for the disease, including salt water baths, especially after a Nigerian king—the Attah of Igala, Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni—suggested salt as a “magical vaccine” against the virus. The Nigerian government has issued a warning that salt baths are not a cure.

Ebola spreads through contact with organs and bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, urine and other secretions. Because there is no medication and no cure, the most common treatment requires supporting organ functions and ensuring bodily fluids are maintained so the body can fight off the infection.

Dr. Karl Benzio, a psychiatrist and founder and executive director of Lighthouse Network (www.844LifeChange.org), an addiction and mental health counseling helpline, says that the fervent search for home treatment for Ebola in West Africa mirrors the actions of some here in America who need life-saving psychotherapy and/or appropriate medications for behavioral health issues, but choose instead to self-medicate because of the need for acute relief, fear and stigma regarding treatment or the apprehension regarding possible side effects of the appropriate medications.

“Even though these instances are worlds apart,” Benzio said, “the race to find a home remedy for Ebola in these West African communities is much like the way that mental health patients will try to ‘heal themselves’ through taking any suggestion to feel better and protect themselves instead of seeking out the true help they need. We constantly look for a ‘miracle cure’ because we resist treatment or don’t like the way certain medications make us feel.

“When we struggle with mental health issues or addiction,” he continued, “these plague us just like an epidemic virus. Our fear, insecurity and uncertainty cause us to claw for any option that might be an easier, quicker way to recovery and healing other than that of our doctor, whose plan might be longer and more intensive, but is really the best for us. In the same vein, God’s plan for bringing us through our struggles is the best for us, but our ‘me-centered’ outlook on life takes over, and we think we know the ‘cure’ better than He does. Both of these situations illustrate the self-medication lies we often tell ourselves. And they can be detrimental to both physical health and mental health.”

Addiction and mental health issues don’t start with a bacteria or virus, Benzio says, but they are infectious in the way they contaminate individuals and cause suffering and compromised functioning in those close to the addict or person struggling with psychiatric/psychological issues.

Benzio adds that the most effective help for long-term recovery is a bio-psycho-spiritual approach to acute treatment and to longer-term preventative services that teaches biblical decision-making skills to people of all ages, which will have a long-term transformational impact.

Unfortunately, we haven’t done a good job of communicating the life-saving changes a good bio-psycho-spiritual treatment approach can have on brain chemistry, psychological and emotional well-being, enhanced relationships and awesome connection with our Creator,” he continued. “The church has a great opportunity to teach this, but it also must show people the healing power by living it out.”
Lighthouse Network offers a free, 24-hour helpline, 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242) for those who are struggling and for their family and friends. Lighthouse Network also provides online resources for those concerned about a friend or a loved one.

Benzio shares insights on various mental health issues in the one-minute daily radio feature “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” airing on approximately 425 radio stations across the country, including 200 stations in the American Family Radio Network. The purpose of the “Life Change” program is to bring scientific expertise and biblical principles together to examine some common daily struggles and help people successfully navigate life’s obstacles and enjoy fulfilled lives. For more information on “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” visit www.844LifeChange.org/life-change-with-dr-karl/.

Lighthouse Network works to guide struggling people through storms to achieve peace and find answers for those who have a hard time defining their problems. Lighthouse Network also offers the free, 24-hour Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242).

Lighthouse Network’s web site, www.844LifeChange.org,provides information to those struggling to find help for their addiction problems, as well as to family members searching for help for a loved one. Topics addressed include alcohol abuse, addictions, and other mental health or life management issues.

Lighthouse Network offers several resources for those struggling with addiction and their families, such as Stepping Stones, a free daily devotional for managing life’s stressors and storms and equipping readers with healthy decision-making skills. Visit www.844LifeChange.org/stepping-stones/ to read the devotionals and sign up to receive them daily via email.

For more information on Lighthouse Network, visit www.844LifeChange.org or call the Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242).

To schedule interviews with Dr. Karl Benzio at Lighthouse Network, contact Deborah Hamilton at dhamilton@hamiltonstrategies.com, 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096.

Lighthouse Network is a Christian-based, non-profit organization that offers an addiction and mental health counseling helpline providing treatment options and resources to equip people and organizations with the skills necessary to shine God’s glory to the world, stand strong on a solid foundation in the storms of their own lives, and provide guidance and safety to others experiencing stormy times, thus impacting their lives, their families and the world.

Dr. Karl Benzio, M.D. is the founder and executive director of Lighthouse Network. With a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, Benzio went on to medical school and then specialized in psychiatry. His experiences include teaching pastors, ministry leaders and students counseling and conflict resolution skills in Uganda and Kenya; leading a behavioral health team into post-Hussein Iraq to equip health care specialists with treatment and assessment skills and successfully testifying for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives opposing legislation for Plan B contraception administration and for President George Bush’s Council on Bioethics regarding Right of Conscience. He is currently a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council. His specialties include Adolescents, Addictions, Decision-Making, Infusing Spirituality into Practical Treatment Modalities and the Ramifications of Decision-Making on Social Policy.



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