Dealing With An Infestation of Disability Workers

The APA’s task force revising the DSM is not the only group of people debating the definition of “mental illness”. The Bemidji Pioneer, a Minnesota newspaper, has an article by the director of a local mental health day care facility expressing her own views on the subject. The article in question bears the headline, Here’s to you–What is good mental health? In it she poses the following question:

Can someone who has a mental illness have good mental health?

Can a contradiction in terms be anything other than a contradiction in terms!?

If, as some people conjecture, “mental illness” is only a matter of degree, perhaps mental health must be only a matter of degree, too. This is to say that maybe one person is 95 % mentally healthy while another person is 95 % nuts, and if the one who is 95 % nuts was able to get matters under control, he or she would be a good deal of a percentage less nuts. The person who is 95 % “stable” could, of course, always lose 90 % of it, and therefore things have a way of equalling themselves out.

This, unfortunately, is not the direction our director is going in.

Can someone with mental illness have good mental health? Absolutely! Many of the healthiest people I know have a diagnosed mental illness. They have learned how to manage mental illness so that it doesn’t dominate their lives, just as diabetes can be managed. These individuals know and recognize stress triggers. They take care of themselves on a daily basis with good nutrition, sleep, exercise, structure/activity, medications if needed, and relaxation/peaceful times/spiritual support. They have also developed a strong support system – pets, family, friends, neighbors, business associates, spiritual leaders, professionals – who can help when they feel overwhelmed. As a result, people who have learned to manage mental illness can live like anyone else with good mental health.

Question: what does a person with a “serious mental illness” label have that the rest of the population doesn’t have?

Answer: A diagnostic label
A psychiatrist
Bottles of pills
A pact team
A case worker
A staffed day care facility
SSI disability payments
Subsidized housing
Voc Rehab education opportunities
Discrimination and prejudice

The paternalistic nature of social rehabilitation, that is, current mental health treatment practices, is debilitating in and of itself. Imagine being more or less “fucked” by all these people who are making a decent living off your theoretical “infirmity”? It’s hard to lose a “disability” that puts bread and butter on the plates of so many “worthies“. How are they to survive? Do something real about the matter, and disappointment of disappointments, a lot of people would be forced to make career changes.