Contending with the Cliché in Contemporary Mental Health Treatment

Many clichés have come in recent years to dominate contemporary standard practice in mental health treatment. If you want more encouraging outcomes, I suggest a good way to arrive at those improved results would be by scrapping the cliche’.

Before I elaborate on this subject, let’s go to the dictionary for a definition of cliché, and then we can work on any judgment as to the relative truth or merits of this statement. I’m going to Merriam-Webster Online for my definition.

Definition of CLICHÉ
1: a trite phrase or expression; also : the idea expressed by it
2: a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation
3: something (as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace

Merriam-Webster also supplies a word origin.

Origin of CLICHÉ
French, literally, printer’s stereotype, from past participle of clicher to stereotype, of imitative origin.
First Known Use: 1892

This leads to the use of certain expressions on the subject of mental health treatment, such as you see in this article from The Bemidji Pioneer, Here’s to You: First steps for families coping with mental illness.

We start with the bafflement of families having to deal with a bereaved or disoriented, “sick” as one would have it, relative.

When families first learn of mental illness in the family, they often feel lost about what to do for the family member, or where to find information to help.

I imagine that to be an innocent enough situation when it doesn’t lead, as it does in this instance, to the concept of “denial”.

They may deny there is anything permanent occurring: “She’ll get over this in a few months, and then she can get back to work again.”

The presumption of permanence, as far as emotional states are concerned, in the mental health field, is a cliché. The concept of denial, arising from the same psychology textbook that gave us those tenacious diseases of the mind, is yet another cliché.

We should never be so presumptuous. Self-defeat is premature when it comes without a trial, and it is even more premature when it is accepted as a given, or when it is seen as the toxic fruit of an ancient curse.

Could it not also be a matter of denying the impermanence of the difficulties he or she was facing?

While some people do have a temporary condition, for many in our community it is a long-term illness that must be managed over time.

Now we are juxtaposing a “long-term illness” to a “temporary condition”. Sounds pretty suspiciously like a cliché to me. Why would we have here in our problematic relative “a long-term illness that must be managed over time”?

The Online Entymological Dicionary, through, tells us a little more about the word origin of the word stereotype.

1798, “method of printing from a plate,” from Fr. stéréotype (adj.) “printing by means of a solid plate of type,” from Gk. stereos “solid” (see sterile) + Fr. type “type.” Noun meaning “a stereotype plate” is from 1817. Meaning “image perpetuated without change” is first recorded 1850, from the verb in this sense, which is from 1819. Meaning “preconceived and oversimplified notion of characteristics typical of a person or group” is recorded from 1922. Stereotypical is attested from 1949.

I suggest resorting to a different typeface in the interests of arriving at a different conclusion. A tradition of defeat is not the kind of tradition that I would wish to perpetuate nor to honor. The dead should not be expected, in this instance, to bury the living. Let me be more blunt on the subject. Relatives who care about relatives don’t saddle those relatives with “long-term illness[es] that must be managed over time”.

The same goes for those “medications” used to “manage” such “long-term illnesses”. The trashcan is a better lodge for those noxious chemical compounds that “blunt” folks emotions than the medicine cabinet. Take the “medication management” away, and you can expect a much better outcome than the usual sorry state of affairs doctors of psychiatry have come to stick us with, money and worry-wise.

2 Responses

  1. The shrink’s bread and butter are people who for whatever reason, at a particular moment, are unable to defend themselves against charges of strange behavior.

    But it’s a con trick. You don’t have to be a shrink to know that there will always be people out there. They don’t have to be sick, they just have to be people. It’s like Uri Geller on TV telling people that their clocks are about to stop. If a million people are watching it’s not surprising that about 100 viewers clocks might stop. 90 of those will think nothing of it. 10 will be spooked and 3 will phone the TV station.

    The shrinks will say that the 3 should be locked up and drugged because they were stupid enough to be spooked and dangerous enough to act.

    I agree with the shrinks these people are stupid and possibly dangerous in circumstances that are likely to arise in everyday living. Like driving a car, picking up my kids from school etc.

    I would like to go around to see these people and tell them that if they don’t stop being so fucking stupid I will kill them. But that won’t work, for quite a few reasons. But if I phone up the police and tell them that the person was howling at the moon we can have the person chemically disabled.

    As for cliches and stuff, well… the shrinks can’t sleep, eat, shave or do anything without lying. They have no choice but to speak rubbish when they open their mouths.

    • The idea I was trying to get across is that the person labeled “mentally ill” is quickly becoming a stereotype. This stereotype involves a character scripted by medical model psychiatry and big pharma. We have a word for breaking out of this stereotype, and that word is recovered–past tense. Think hypnotism and fingers snapped.

      There’s nothing wrong with behaving “strangely”. People should be allowed to behave in whatever fashion suits them.

      You’re right about the con game. Given your example, either we need less coincidences or better clocks. Conspiracy theories abound. Smart people see through those, too. Psychiatric researchers throw out stats right, left, and center, but most of them are little better than Uri Geller predicting clocks will stop. We haven’t got the mad gene now, no, we’ve got the mad genes. It’s the environment, it’s genes, it’s the environment affecting genes. It’s anything but dumb people being dumb, and being gulled by psychiatry.

      Erring only being human, if you’re going to go around killing stupid people, you’re going to be killing a hell of a lot of people. I’m not a big fan of chemically disabling people because that disablement usually involves making stupid people even stupider and, believe me, they need all the brains they’ve got. These drugs: 1. damage brains; 2. destroy physical health; & 3. foreshorten lifetimes. That’s a stiff penalty to pay for stupidity. I don’t think shrinks should be killing people, stupid or bright, but unfortunately that’s the case we’ve got right now.

      Some shrinks believe their own lies. I was a reading a Psychology Today blog from some dude who does psychotherapy, and this dude didn’t want people to call him a shrink. Here’s a head shrinker that doesn’t want people to think he’s a head shrinker. It’s the stigma that attaches itself to that profession I guess. Seeing as he only had a social work degree, I’m good with that. Shrinks have a lot more education than this guy had. They go through medical school. This guy was a very low grade shrink. We call those folks counselors. Anyway, he was just throwing out one of those nets us fishies are lucky to rip through, and be gone from. Enough, shrink! I’m out of here.

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