It was a decision that almost cost the young man his life

It was a decision that almost cost the young man his life May 11, 2016

In the first of a chilling two-part expose, the Des Moines Register reports on how a faith-based treatment organisation run by two Assembly of God pastors persuaded the 26-year-old from Iowa to immediately stop taking the medications he was prescribed for anxiety and depression. Within days of entering the programme run by the Dream Center, Alex Jacobsen tried to slash his throat with a boxcutter.

Ten days before his suicide attempt, Jacobsen agreed, over his family’s objections, to abruptly stop taking the medications his doctors prescribed and skip an evaluation for outpatient treatment at University of Iowa Hospitals. At the urging of his pastors, he says, he would entrust his recovery to them and to God.
The free discipleship programme Jacobsen was determined to try offered to heal people of substance abuse, anger, depression and “the emotional residue left by mental, physical and sexual abuse” through prayer, Scripture memorisation and building a closer relationship with God.
Jacobsen says he had his doubts that the programme would work. But he wanted to try trading in his anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication for a regimen of Bible study, amino acids and supplements to reduce stress.
He says his close friend of about a year and a half, the Rev Kevin Grimes, pastor and founder of the Spencer Dream Center in Spencer,  Iowa, had convinced him that:

Medicine alone wasn’t going to be the answer to my problems.

Grimes, above, who struck up a a friendship with Jacobsen on Facebook, believed that placing the young man in a safe environment, where he could get closer to God, could be life-changing. The pastor said:

In my mind, Alex’s anxiety was environmental. I knew he was stressed out. But I also knew he was taking all kinds of meds.

The contract Jacobsen signed required participants to certify they had no medical conditions that would keep them from participating. The agreement also released the Dream Center and its affiliates of :

Any liability whatsoever arising as a result of death, injury or illness.

The rules mandated that those in the programme:

Withdraw from any and all substance dependence voluntarily and without the use of medication.

Jacobsen now says now he believes his suicide attempt was prompted by the abrupt withdrawal from drugs he was taking.
Medical professionals who treated Jacobsen told the family he could have died from suddenly quitting benzodiazepines such as Klonopin, often used to treat seizures or panic disorders.
Sweating, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, psychosis and suicidal thoughts are other withdrawal symptoms, according to research from the Society for the Study of Addiction. Many of the same symptoms also can occur from stopping Cymbalta, a drug for depression,  and Latuda, the anti-psychotic he was taking.
Looking back, Jacobsen also questions his relationship with Grimes. Some of the communications between the pastor, a father of two, and himself now seem odd, he says.

I kind of feel like he was grooming me that whole time for some other reason than being my friend.

In response, Grimes says only:

We were friends. We joked around.

But Jacobsen’s suicide attempt underscored that his small, faith-based programme is not equipped to treat mental illness, the pastor said.

Alex was right. We didn’t know the depth of his issues.

Grimes says he and his non-profit board have since changed the programme’s rules. Now, a doctor will have to assure them that a potential participant has been off mood-altering medications for at least a year before joining the discipleship programme.
Dave Jacobsen holds Grimes and and others involved in the programme responsible for what happened to his son, and wants to know how a programme claiming to provide drug treatment could be exempt from an Iowa law that requires licensing of such facilities.
And he questions how a faith-based treatment program can operate without clinical expertise.

They do not have the medical or psychological training to do what they’re doing. If the state doesn’t require some sort of oversight, this will happen to other families.

"If groups are organized to come to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum in an ..."

‘Pain in the ass’ secular group ..."
"Here is why we get too much religious PR and need the FFRF. The Guardian ..."

‘Pain in the ass’ secular group ..."
"Ham just likes to matyrbate on behalf of his Jizzus"

‘Pain in the ass’ secular group ..."
"God is apparently the European Union's high court, which just a day or two ago ..."

Pray to God to help UK ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Barty

    American citizens have to pay for their medical treatment. And they pay a huge amount. It is a business, actually an industry, on a mega scale that provides very good care if you can pay for it. So the simple question is this. If prayers and godliness actually work then why don’t middle and low income Americans resort to prayers and godliness to save a stack of hard earned cash rather than spending it on conventional medical treatments. Why don’t the massed forces of christian Americans use the health care freely provided by their divine consultant? Well ask the poor Americans who cannot pay the astronomical medical fees whether or not divine intervention actually works. Americans can be such hypocrites … I am a person of faith … But I pay medical insurance just in case God is too busy … Then when I am cured by a battery of medics, nurses, highly advanced procedures and newly developed medication I credit god for my salvation and thank him for his miraculous intervention. Such stupidity and ignorance is de riguer amongst the majority of Americans.

  • barriejohn

    I’ve seen this sort of thing so many times: “Throw your medication down the toilet and God will heal you!”. My fundamentalist friends wanted to pay for a consultation with a homoeopath when I was suffering from severe depression. I wonder whether THAT would have been successful?

  • Brummie

    Give me a good reason why your god can’t handle it all.

  • AgentCormac

    A religious organisation that helps with “the emotional residue left by mental, physical and sexual abuse”? Really? The word irony doesn’t come close to doing it justice.

  • Stephen Mynett

    The Assemblies of God bastards have causes the death of many HIV sufferers by persuading them to give up their meds.

  • L.Long

    I understand the wanting to get away from taking drugs everyday that make you feel weird! BUT…Just a simple reading of history or just plain paying attention shows that the con artist (religious/spiritual/whole food/ nutjobs) have had thousands of years to show how awesome they say they are and they ALL have failed completely!!! Science based medicine has only been around for a few hundred, and although it aint perfect (what is???) it has shown itself to be thousands of times better then anything else. OPEN your eyes look around and pay attention!!!

  • sailor1031

    @Brummie. he/she/it doesn’t/don’t want to. In christianity doG wants you to suffer – it amuses and entertains.

  • barriejohn

    Brummie: Barty was being ironic. Did you realize that?

  • Grabber

    Brummie … R u being ironic?

  • Either Mr. Jacobsen is legally competent to make his own medical choices or he is not. If he is not, most other people are also not legally competent. Thus medicine forced on most people by the state would be a social good.
    Mr. Jacobsen made a mistake. I suggest to respect his ability to make his own choices means to allow him and other to make this mistake. More state involvement is one answer. I suggest cruel and pointed criticism and mockery of superstition-peddlers is a better answer.

  • Brummie

    Not ironic. Barty says he is a person of faith. Faith is gullibility in my book.

  • barriejohn

    Barty is NOT a “person of faith”. He was mocking the arguments that these idiots use, which he refers to as “stupidity and ignorance”!

  • Stuart H.

    ‘A religious organisation that helps with “the emotional residue left by mental, physical and sexual abuse”’
    Considering churches pretty much invented the whole mental, physical and sexual abuse business model, the only way most of them could do that is by closing their doors, permanently.

  • Brummie

    My mistake. Apologies Barty.

  • Kinder

    Brummie … No apologies needed. Sorry guys … my clumsy english seems to have caused some problems here. Let me assure you all that I treat all religions with equal contempt. I am one of those who cannot believe in gods and what is known as the supernatural. I look to Hitchens (C), Grayling, Spinoza, Darwin, Coyne, Atkins (P), Dawkins, Harris, Einstein, Dirac, Feynman, Russel, Weinburg, Hawking,
    Randi, Carlin, Maher and many many many others of like mind for my inspiration. I am 62 now and have been an atheist since 1965 when I rebelled against religion by locking myself in the garden shed rather than go to sunday school. My Dad, a closet atheist in hard times when non conformance with the CoE could cause real hardship, was very very proud of my unilateral stand.

  • Kinder

    Barty … Kinder … same guy by the way.

  • John the Drunkard

    The ignorance, it hurts. Benzodiazepine withdrawal, like alcohol withdrawal, is MUCH more serious medically than opiate withdrawal. Hollywood has been getting it wrong for decades.
    Benzo withdrawal can take months to complete, and alcohol withdrawal can be FATAL if attempted without careful medical support.
    Ironically, benzos can be very useful for alcoholics or addicts in the first days of detoxing. But only if they haven’t been saturated in them already.

  • barriejohn

    John: I agree – Hollywood loves to really dramatize drug withdrawal, and what they show sometimes bears little relationship to reality… but impresses filmgoers. Benzodiazepines are dreadfully addictive. I was addicted to Valium for almost ten years, and came off it of my own accord by very gradually reducing the dose. I had no help from our useless GPs whatsoever – one telling me to “just stop taking it” if I was unhappy about it, and another offering to prescribe antidepressants instead, as if a pill from a completely different group of drugs would help in any way! My friends asked one of our GPs to visit me when I seemed suicidal and he told me: “I’ve got sick patients to see.” I should have complained, but I was in no state to do such a thing, and they knew it. It worries and depresses me to see that things have not moved on much in the past thirty years, despite the claims that are made.

  • Bob

    @barriejohn – I was sorry to read of your suicidal state at one time. While drugs are sometimes necessary, and I don’t agree with telling people just to “trust Jesus to make you better”, it is also true that the peace Jesus gives can help those who are suffering from depression etc.

  • Brummie

    The peace cannabis gives does the same job.

  • Cali Ron

    The charasmatic AG are fond of preying on the vulnerable like street people, drug addicts and those who are marginalized by society taking advantage of their moment of need or weakness. They seem to offer love and help, but it’s a Web of deception. Once caught and indoctrinated it’s hard to escape. I know and I say fuck them! Yes, I’m still a little bitter.