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Cautionary tale

BACKSTORY | How an unexpected crisis led to a deeper understanding of God and medicine


Ashley Vaughn Photo by Marc Kawanishi/Genesis

Cautionary tale
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Ashley Vaughan has a Ph.D. in nursing and a flair for telling great ­stories. During last year’s World Journalism Institute mid-career course, she pitched us an article about the over-­prescription of psychiatric medications following a traumatic labor and delivery. You can read “Bad medicine.” Here, I talk with Ashley about the motivation for writing the story.

What made you want to share such a personal story in this way? I wanted to warn people about the dangers of psychiatric medications and how they can actually hinder healing when used inappropriately. I cannot say they should never be used because I do think they can have legitimate therapeutic value when used correctly and with caution.

What barriers did you face as you tried to deal with your mental health crisis? Providers tended to view my symptoms from a materialist standpoint, believing the solution was to adjust medications until achieving the correct chemical balance in my brain. As a nurse, I’ve found that many providers see medication as the main—or only—solution and fail to discuss with patients the underlying spiritual and emotional aspects of their struggles. That’s how patients like me can end up being prescribed way too much medication.

What do you hope readers will learn from your experience? I hope they’ll be encouraged that healing from many mental health problems is possible with God. Many “root” issues can cause depression and anxiety, including trauma, physical problems, a genetic predisposition to stress, relationship issues, and misconceptions about God and His promises. Determining the root issue is important because it directs treatment. In my case, it helped me prayerfully address my thoughts and emotions about my own trauma, and I was able to see that God was calling me to trust Him more deeply. But people are complicated, and it may take some time in counseling to determine the root issue. The most important thing to know is that going to God in prayer, seeking Him in Scripture, and trusting in His love and power to heal is always profitable because He is our ultimate source of truth and comfort.

Do you think medical professionals are becoming more aware of the ­dangers and drawbacks of psychiatric drugs? I believe those who prescribe psychiatric medications have good intentions, but many do not truly understand what it’s like to experience their side effects. It’s very different from reading them on paper. Providers need to listen and learn from their patients, instead of trusting pharmaceutical companies.


Leigh Jones

Leigh is features editor for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate who spent six years as a newspaper reporter in Texas before joining WORLD News Group. Leigh also co-wrote Infinite Monster: Courage, Hope, and Resurrection in the Face of One of America's Largest Hurricanes. She resides with her husband and daughter in Houston, Texas.

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