Mental health is a trendy topic in our conversations nowadays.
Numerous charities as well as governmental and world organisations are campaigning to “reduce stigma” around mental illness, making a clear distinction between mental health and mental illness and implying that only some of us are affected.
To differentiate between mental health and mental illness our world is still using the medical model which involves an assessment, diagnosis and a treatment plan, based obviously on labels and categorisations.
We know there are many flaws in the mental health assessment and diagnostic system, yet we continue to follow it.
We know that no label can possibly describe the large variety of human experience, also that it is very difficult for the medical professionals to capture the unique and subjective nuances of our inner worlds.
Looking at how the medical system is organised today and the time allocated for an appointment, we understand why the medical professionals can’t gain insight into the meaning of people’s subjective experiences and therefore place too little focus on the wholeness of that person and what might have caused those experiences in the first place. Ancestral inheritance is completely ignored, the circumstances of birth and early years of life are surface scrapped and the complex myriad of relationships, conflicts and challenges in life are briefly mentioned
The impact of the system around us, in all its aspects, from culture, politics, economy, environment and social changes is completely overlooked and, strangely, the human being becomes somehow guilty and shamed for reacting to all of these external factors.
Treating people with respect and acceptance improves their mental wellbeing
The solution in the medical world is the pill. Not any pill, but a variety of chemical substances, growing in number and strength, prescribed so easily to millions of people around the world.
I worked with a large variety of people: evaluated and non-evaluated, diagnosed and non-diagnosed, medicated and non-medicated, with and without medical history, stable or enduring mental challenges. Like many others knowing this field, I know that psychotropic medication does not cure, it only reduces the psychological arousal, yet medicines continue to be prescribed more than ever before to the great profit of the pharmaceutical companies and their associates.
At a loss are the many millions of people suffering from severe side effects and withdrawal responses. The psychoactive drugs will change the chemistry hence the functioning of their brain and will alter their mental processes, but sometimes they can create more damage than help.
Drugs will not only change people’s mood, thinking and perceptions, but also their emotions and behaviours. Therefore, whilst decreasing their intense manifestations which we label as “abnormal”, pills will also reduce their passion for life, motivation, volition, creativity, together with their ability to connect with themselves and the world around them, which is a massive loss.
In my experience, whatever manifestations people had, when they were treated equally, with care, respect and acceptance, and they were supported to cope with those difficult aspects of their lives and resolve the relational conflicts that were underlying their disturbance, they improved in their wellbeing without medication.
People are much more than a symptom or an illness
The medical model remains, however, a seductive story. We get mesmerised by it and it feels hard to challenge it and look at human mental life from a different perspective. The modern western world has been subjugated by it.
We need more time to understand human mind, to admit that we are more alike than different and to embrace that diversity. After all, if we all go through the same experiences in life and what differs is the intensity they carry, is that sufficient to medicalise our human experience?
Why not find an alternative: learn about the human mind, understand and accept ourselves, others and the world around us, open ourselves to positive change, learn gratitude, self-acceptance and self-compassion, and through that connection with our human nature reach some enlightenment and open the door to healing and a new way of being?
In my life and work experience I noticed that in time, some people find it easier to gain awareness and accept that we are all the same. They accept that, regardless their circumstances, going through natural life situations like loss, trauma, sleep deprivation, relational conflicts, etc. will naturally trigger a variety of human manifestations which can be easily classified as “mental illness”.
Others will continue to think in terms of “them” and “us” and believe the statistics that argue that only 1 in 4 will develop a “mental illness” during their life time. Many of these will be medical professionals caught up in the medical model deceit, also people that seek answers and believe the pill is the key for their psychological pain. It is a choice that each of us will make based on what we think makes sense for us.
Mean while, the problems with the medical model persist. Firstly, it is a system designed around diseases and people are much more than a symptom, a manifestation and an illness in an organ or another. Secondly, this polarised view is divisive and creates more distress and side effects that benefits. It splits the world in mentally healthy and mentally ill people which is in itself superficial, inaccurate and discriminative.
We could focus the time, money and other resources on teaching children and adults about the depth of the human mind, how similar our life experience is and how natural to feel that way. We could encourage people to express themselves and search for meaning and healing. We could offer each other understanding and support and that would give the concept of mental wellbeing a new perspective.