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Sacred Cow Mental Health Mental Illness Dogma

A great sacred cow of our times is the idea of “mental illness”.  Expose the sacred cow for the myth that it is, and you are, according to some of its most fervent adherents, converts, and devotees, “stimatizing” people who are convinced they have it, hampering people who would treat it, and dismaying people who use it as a convenient excuse to get annoying people out of the way.

The dogma is just that, dogma. You’ve heard the dogma before, “Mental illness is real, it is biological, it is brain disease”.  Given these premises, and they’re only premises, nothing has been established here. People with it, that is, “mental illness”, are thought to be beyond self-control. They are, as it has been put, thought to be “controlled by their illnesses”.

The executive function of the brain has been short circuited by an idea. We’ve replaced the demons of religion and sin with the no less far fetched demons of “mental illness”. You can’t find it on a microscope slide, you can’t test for it, you can only ascertain its existence through the services of certain professionals trained to diagnose it. This diagnosis, according to some of these professionals, is more of an art than a science.

Given that we are dealing with what purports to be medical science, exposing this fraud for the fraud that it actually is can bring you accusations of raising the suicide rate. People don’t kill themselves for reasons. They kill themselves because they are ‘sick’, according to theory. Negative emotions, unhappiness, sadness, moodiness, are all “sicknesses”, according to theory. Cause is “disease”, the opposite of good fortune. Effect is a label and treatment.

Excuse me, excessive negative emotions are “diseases”, and they are excessive if they are enough to bring you before one of these imposters trained in picking them out. In other words, everyday ordinary emotions are not excessive until they send one into the presence of a “disease” detector, and if one crosses the thresholds of one of these “disease” detectors, one’s negative emotions must have been excessive.

 As far as Catch 21s go, you’ve hardly scratched the surface of the number of ways a person might get caught up in this process. The new heretics, disbelievers in those initial premises, must be dealt with, and they are dealt with in a number of ways.  Dismissal for the employee, treatment for the patient, silence and persecution for the critic, ostracism and discrimination among them.

The panacea of this new religion is the pharmaceutically achieved chemical lobotomy, the chemical strait-jacket, the chemical coffin.  People can now live in the community rather than be segregated from it because they are on these wonderful new anti-mental illness drugs goes the story. Suppression is cure. Suppression of the self. Self-expression here seen as an assemblage of unwanted ‘symptoms” equaling “disease”.

What you’ve got to realize is that before these drugs are even used you’ve got a diminishment of the human being into something less than a human being in the dogma. Anybody who doesn’t make the cookie cutter fit for a 9 to 5 dismally gray existence is by default “mentally ill”. Mental health treatment isn’t about healing “sick” people, it is about eliminating maladaptive behavior.

Some people don’t learn the ropes, and for those people we have a psychiatric label and treatment. The ropes I’m speaking of are conventional steps to conventional success. Problem: conventional success often means unconventional failure. One answer to a misstep here or there is the motivational specialist in the self-help field. as a career option. Another answer is the sky, about which I hold my tongue.

Overcoming Namby Pamby Disorder And, With It, The Psychiatric Nanny State

Iranian born Dr. Nassir Ghaemi in a MedScape piece, Fallacies of Psychiatry, actually only succeeds in revealing his own bias.

His first conjectured fallacy, the psychological fallacy, he would answer with a fallacy of his own. Namely, the flat earth fallacy. If enough people think a person “needs” psychiatric “help”, in other words, it must be so, and this makes the difference between a biological basis and a psychological, social, or psycho-social origin for “mental disorder”. If the person makes his way into the doctors office, at his friends and associates bequest, his or her “illness” must be biological.

These psychological judgments are essentially made on the basis of common sense. But if common sense were enough to explain things, then our patients would have convinced themselves, or been convinced by their friends and family. If a patient crosses the threshold of a clinician’s door, then common sense has failed — no need to keep using it. What is needed is scientific sense, which is quite different than common sense.

Suddenly because a doctor has entered the picture, we’ve got science. Really? Conventional wisdom may not apply here, but reason doesn’t cease to apply. I wouldn’t be beyond suggesting that our mad doctor’s uncommon sense was a little tainted with an unreason of his own.  If a pseudo-scientific credentialed elite says it is true, it must be true. Right? I’d say, reasonably, that it isn’t true until it is proven true. Here we have one theory in competition with others. The winner is only a poser. The scientific method is about disproving, not proving.

Dr. Nassir would then debunk such a biological reductivist view for certain “mental illnesses” that, in his view, have a psycho-social basis. This creates an even more serious dilemma for our doctor because now we have two entirely distinct species of “mental illnesses”, those with a primarily biological basis, and those with a primarily psycho-social and environmental basis. I would suggest that if “mental illness” is not actually “brain disease”, but erroneous ways of thinking, you don’t need two species of “illness” at all to explain it. Simply put, removing consciousness from the equation does not, at the same time, remove consciousness from the organism.

The doctor’s view is a pretty conventional one, but it asks many serious questions about the profession of psychiatry today. He establishes the psychiatric divide. His examples of biologically based disorders is pretty orthodox, as are his examples of more psycho-socially based disorders. On one side we’ve got schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, the holy trinity of the “mental illness” belief system, and on the other side, we’ve got PTSD, adult ADHD, and borderline personality disorder. I’ve seen this divide presented before. Recently I encountered a person attributing minor disorders to stress factors and major disorders to heredity and biology. In psychoanalytic theory, what has become the divide between major and minor “mental illness”, constituted the division between psychosis and neurosis. If these “disorders” existed on a continuum–big if, but they could–you’ve still got the psyche in psychosomatic. I don’t think it has, by any stretch of the imagination, been proven that they don’t exist on a continuum.

Big problem, little problem. Major “disease”, minor. The big secret is that diagnosis doesn’t represent the eternal biological curse that some professionals would have it represent for people given serious diagnostic tags. Some people manage to get out of the system, and to cope, and even to flourish, despite the cynicism of professionals. The devastating statistics actually represent a systemic challenge. When you’ve got a system based on unequal power relationships, that’s what happens. The success and independence of professionals is based on the failure and dependence of patients. Step back a little bit, and consider, the success of the professional actually depends on failing his patients. You’ve got more job security when your job is keeping a junkie supplied with dope (and this dope could be methadone, heroin, haldol or clozapine) than you would have if your job was getting him or her off drugs entirely.

Initially asylums were set up to segregate and imprison lunatics, i.e. people believed afflicted with any earlier version of the holy trinity in the psychiatric belief system. The advent of psychoanalysis expanded that field a great deal to include people suffering from more minor afflictions and offenses. General anxiety disorder, for instance, is in many ways the mental health equivalent of a skinned knee. Recently, psychiatry has been accused, due to the absolutely absurd number of “diseases” proliferating in the DSM, of pathologizing “normal”. Since the genesis of psychoanalysis, utilizing professional services has been put forward as a way of life. I’d suggest that there are other roads to take besides that of treatment, and maybe we’d better look to them. Take the case of what used to be called hysteria, or the case of what used to be called hypochondria, when a crutch is imaginary, perhaps a person would do better to get along without it.

Some Awarenesses We’d Do Better To Live Without

A local mental health, oops, wrong word. A local “mental illness” system advocacy group, the Mental Health Coalition of North Central Florida, is going to have their own little NAMIfied shindig. They are holding this event for what they call “Mental Illness Awareness Day”. My immediate response on hearing the announcement is found in the following question. Wouldn’t it be better to hold a “Mental Illness Unawareness Day”? When it comes to awareness, “mental illness” awareness is just not the kind of awareness I find particularly helpful. I kind of have this feeling, you know, screwed up enlightenment isn’t really enlightenment.

This group. the MHCNCF, has even given the event a name. It’s called Gainesville Day of Understanding For Mental Illness Recovery. Again, I’ve got an issue with the name. Why the heck would anybody want to recover a “mental illness”? And if this or that person had a “mental illness”, and managed to lose it, would that really be such a bad thing? I suppose some people are really sentimental about their problems, but those problems are probably not such good things to hang onto. They’re not answers anyway. What sort of understanding should anybody have then of this “mental illness” a person has recovered? Now tell me that isn’t a bad choice of words.

Another possibility would be to throw a Mental Health or Mental Wellness Awareness Day shindig, and to talk about understanding the recovery of complete mental well being, but I imagine the thought is beyond the capacity of this little group of mostly scoundrels to comprehend. Where is this little shindig going to be? In a community senior recreation center? Already I’m seeing a few young heads, look both ways, and then walk off in the opposite direction. I don’t know. Yes, yes, old age and feeble minds might go together, but let’s not cut to the hearse chase if we can help from doing so. I don’t want to sound too critical, but a senior recreation center sounds less neutral to me than another location that might be less apt to scare off the few ingenues among them.

This leads me to the agenda for this event. #1. Proclamation of Mental Illness Awareness Week. Yikes! Didn’t I just deal with this subject, and they want a week of it. Again, I would suggest a “Mental Illness” Unawareness Week. It makes more sense to me; I’d think it should make more sense to them, too. #2. Path of Understanding. Path of Understanding “mental illness” recovery I presume. Geez, just think…There are other paths, and some of them are even challenging. #3. Celebrity Walk of Fame. Uh, because celebrities make “mental illness” cool I imagine. #4. Resource Station. Yep, I believe that’s a sign taped over the word “police”. #5. Candle lighting service. I know, this is going to be about people believed to be destroyed by “mental illness”, and not about people believed destroyed by the mental health system. The horses are calm so long as they have their blinders on. #6. Moment of silence. Any longer and the gig would be up. Everybody would know this little event is a farce.

I get it. Really. Take your drugs, and enjoy the farce without ever attaining consciousness that it is a farce. Do so, as well as you can, anyway, despite the “side effects” from the drugs you are on. Consciousness, after all, is what people given diagnostic labels are presumed to be lacking in. If you are dosed sufficiently, then you shouldn’t be able to attain consciousness anyway. Perhaps your understanding will be limited to understanding “mental illness” recovery. The fact that some people really do recover from the upsets of a crisis period, and go on to live full and eventful lives, is not the kind of message these folks want to give. This event isn’t really about living an independent self-reliant and emotionally satisfying life anyway. It’s about holding out that little tin cup, and crying, “Nickels for your pity.” They’re hoping, beyond hope, that maybe the government is listening.

If I was in government, I could do better than support people in their “mental illnesses”. For one thing, I could get further more economically if I were supporting people in their “mental well-nesses”. Treatment can be darned expensive, and a burden on the entire nation. An expanding “mental illness” system, what these people are after, means an even bigger expense and an even bigger burden. Accountability, responsibility, for people who work in mental health services should entail helping people get out of the system entirely rather than encouraging them  to accept the dependency role of what amounts to a ward of the state. The system here has a whole lot of rethinking to do before it gets back on track. All I can do is  chuckle my amusement as I’m certain that that rethinking, in the long run, is inevitable. Let me tell you, it certainly represents an improvement over the current stupidity.