Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Loose definitions of Mental Illness serve to decrease personal responsibility and justify expanded government ..."

Shrinkwrapped on the 1/5 statistic: "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics":
Why don't we reserve the concept of Mental Illness for those who suffer from a serious definable Mental Disturbance that brings the person far out of the (wide) limits of normal human variability? I know this would decrease the income of some Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, and various Counselors, but to be human is to function less than optimally much of the time, worse during periods of high stress. Pathologizing human variability and behavior is a sign of, dare I say, Mental Illness.

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26 Comments:

Blogger Anne B. said...

Shrinkwrapped said:

``Why do we have a SAMHSA? I suspect a great many of these "mentally ill" people would do better if they could find support in their community rather than from a Psychiatrist.''

I'll go along with that. Sometimes you just need somebody to talk to, but you worry about being a burden, or a bore, or what's troubling you is more than can be hashed out across the kitchen table. So you pay someone to listen, and if you have the right listener (therapist) it can be a godsend.

And I wonder how many of the "mentally ill" mentioned are actually physically ill. A year ago I was drag-ass miserable and wanted to die. Since then I've had a troublesome thyroid removed (it turned out to be malignant) and been put on some replacement medication - they're still fine-tuning the dosage, but I'm so much better that I feel like I'm hardly the same person.

9:59 AM, November 20, 2010  
Blogger Thag Jones said...

Sometimes people have good reason to be unhappy! I think all this pathologizing of normal human emotions and ups and downs not only decreases a sense of personal responsibility, but robs people of an opportunity to become stronger through the process of dealing with "negative" emotions.

We're such a materialistic culture and it shows in how we deal with spiritual ills through physical means. Is it any surprise that anti-depressants don't really help a lot of people? Maybe we have a collective case of pathological avoidance; still feel sad two weeks after your mom died? Have some pills! Have they started stocking funeral homes with anti-depressants yet?

10:13 AM, November 20, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

I wonder how many of these "illnesses" are just adjustment disorders. I wonder how many are excuses people use to lead irresponsible lives?

Trey

11:04 AM, November 20, 2010  
Blogger fred said...

There are people with truly mental problems that need help. They are unable to function readily in society the way the average person is able to. Denying this is plain denial and blaming all sorts of other things for this is not helpful. What may (perhaps) be the basis for much of this remains often unknown. For a quick example: our many vets with PTSD desperately need help. I am familiar with a number of Viet Nam vets who have this and are in a sorry state. Should we then simply dismiss them and let many go on take their own lives because they are "faking" ?

12:04 PM, November 20, 2010  
Blogger Thag Jones said...

I don't think anyone is saying that, Fred.

12:06 PM, November 20, 2010  
Blogger BarryD said...

Fred, that's not at all what I think that we would want!

What we might want would be for skilled people in the shrink professions to be helping those who are really mentally ill, which could include vets with PTSD.

Pathologizing human behavior does NOT help to direct mental health professionals towards those with real mental illnesses. It directs them to go work in Beverly Hills, where they can help people like Tiger Woods, afflicted with a horrible and debilitating sex addiction...

2:16 PM, November 20, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

We live in a society where the overwhelming number of elementary school teachers are women, many of whom are not raising sons. Consequently, and with the gleeful enabling of the pharma industry, boys are routinely "diagnosed" as having behavioral disorders (ADHD, etc) that warrant Ritalin and other drugs.

I have a nephew who was put on Ritalin, and it screwed him up so badly he was taken off shortly afterward. Funny how the few male teachers he had never said boo about his behavior, because he was on his best behavior with them.

6:28 PM, November 20, 2010  
Blogger Jason said...

Fred, there are people with genuine mental illnesses, however by pathologizing 20% of the population, the people in dire need of help are lost in the crowd of more popular treatments, especially those that guarantee a revenue stream.

(The same thing happens with other areas. The bar of poverty in the US is ridiculously high so as to capture the largest population as possible and create nice big headlines. This ends up lumping a whole lot of able body lazy-asses in with those genuinely in need of help.)

2:21 AM, November 21, 2010  
Blogger fred said...

this then might better anxser the question

http://www.economist.com/node/17460702

8:20 AM, November 21, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: It's All....

....part of the Plan.

Declare someone mentally ill and put them in a gulag. The Sovs, i.e., communists, practiced it quite effectively. Indeed. They seem to be the creators of all kinds of interesting ways of dealing with those who disagree with them.

• They invented the 'concentration camp' in the late 1920s to deal with the kulaks who wouldn't give up their business interests. The Nazis took the idea to the logical, i.r., 'final' conclusion vis-a-vis the Jews.
• They invented the broad-brush 'mental illness' policies that sent thousands to the same gulag. Just ask Solzhenitsyn.
• Then we have the more pro-active approaches of Mao and his 'Cultural Revolution'.
• Lest we forget Pol Pot and the Killing Fields.

Even in the 1970s, Bill Ayers—Obama's political science mentor—was planning such a 'gulag' for Americans.

Enjoy the ride....

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[History repeats itself. That's one of the problems with History.]

12:04 PM, November 21, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

I met Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I literally bumped into him on Main Street in Montpelier, Vermont, back in the 1980s when I was making my morning pilgrimage to the Montpelier General Store (no longer in business) to buy my usual two almond croissant (made by the students at New England Culinary Institute).

Recognizing him, I said, "Hey! I love your books!" and he grunted a simple "Thank you," and moved on until I said, "Parzhalsta." Then he turned around in a near panic. He was afraid of KGB back then, and not many people in Vermont can speak Russian.

Damn near gave the poor thing a heart attack (and this was back when Nobel Peace Prize winners EARNED their prizes). I'd have felt guilty as hell had he keeled over.

3:23 PM, November 21, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Having broad and loose definitions of mental illness not only allows for decreased personal responsibility and expanded government, but an abusive, police state government. Authorities can easily find an "expert" to pull a diagnosis of mental illness out of a hat to justify locking someone up longer than they ever could on a criminal charge for the same behavior, such as in this case.

3:25 PM, November 21, 2010  
Blogger Ern said...

We live in a society where the overwhelming number of elementary school teachers are women, many of whom are not raising sons. Consequently, and with the gleeful enabling of the pharma industry, boys are routinely "diagnosed" as having behavioral disorders (ADHD, etc) that warrant Ritalin and other drugs.

I think that that's quite a good observation, Kevin. It's certainly true. There must be something else going on, however, because, in the two elementary schools that I attended, all the teachers were women, and most of them were raising neither sons nor daughters, because they were sisters (usually, incorrectly, called nuns; nuns are cloistered and therefore do not teach).

5:55 PM, November 21, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

because they were sisters

From 1957 to 1964, I attended a Catholic grade school where most teachers were members of the Sisters of Mercy. They were more tolerant and understanding than the teachers at the public schools I later attended. We did refer to them as nuns however.

9:54 AM, November 22, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

Great discussion and great points. I have nothing to add other than I am thankful for having such cool people's posts to read.

Trey

12:30 PM, November 22, 2010  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

if i wasn`t add or adhd i wouldn`t have been the athlete and soccer player i was, and i certainly wouldn`t be the guitar player i am now.

the gifts of musicianship and athletics are a major part of my children`s heritage.

to think that today i would have been medicated and poisoned so that i would be more attentive to the droning repitition of grade school is horrifying.

5:04 PM, November 22, 2010  
Blogger CadyMarsh said...

I've gone my whole life with the label of "Mental Illness". I'm afraid that the only solution is love and care by family and friends. It is so sad to see people in the hospital with no place to go.

1:14 AM, November 23, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Perhaps mental illness should be classified like Autism....on a spectrum. Sure, you can shoehorn some people into a definite mental illness classification, and some people might exhibit signs of some behaviors but not others. Why does everything have to have a definitive label?

7:56 AM, November 23, 2010  
Blogger BobH said...

How about this for an explanation:

1. One part of having high social status is being able to tell other people what to think and do.

2. People, disproportionately women, seem to get psych degrees nominally so that they can "help other people" but actually to help themselves better understand and therefore more efficiently and effectively manipulate their social environment.

3. All these people with psych degrees have to have something to do, so of course they create mental illnesses and syndromes and other such drivel.

I once read an economist who looked at the "rationality" of mental illness. He pointed out that mental illness can (1) damage the ill person's life (economists deliberately have a very broad and imprecise definition of economic "utility") and/or (2) damage other people's lives. If the illness doesn't do either, and this includes some people with severe schizophrenia, then society should just butt out, no matter how odd the behavior. When (2) occurs, the "therapy" is more properly called punishment. But people seem to have to think of themselves as "good people" who would never "punish" other people for their own self interest. So mostly "therapists" lie to everybody: their "patients", themselves and society at large.

The more I read of psychology and economics, the more convinced I am that economists make better motivational psychologists that psychologists do.

8:43 AM, November 23, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

Bob, good psychologists as well as good economists keep their eye on the bottom line, whether that refers to mental health or a balance sheet. I think more economists are so inclined than psychologists.

Trey

9:30 AM, November 23, 2010  
Blogger Larry J said...

DADvocate said...
Having broad and loose definitions of mental illness not only allows for decreased personal responsibility and expanded government, but an abusive, police state government. Authorities can easily find an "expert" to pull a diagnosis of mental illness out of a hat to justify locking someone up longer than they ever could on a criminal charge for the same behavior, such as in this case.


Given the politicization of the mental health profession, those loose and broad definitions of mental illness are also another step towards the day when they'll be able to lock up people they disagree with politically like they did in the old Soviet Union.

10:03 AM, November 23, 2010  
Blogger Dr, Ellen said...

This is all very well, but some of us need psychopharmaceuticals to function. I'd have anxiety and depression bad enough to die from them otherwise. As it stands, I'm pretty functional. I'm glad I've had doctors willing to see that -- if we ruled mental illness behind a curtain of political correctness, I probably would have gotten a "buck up, there."

11:28 AM, November 23, 2010  
Blogger br549 said...

anne B , i had a tumor removed from my pituitary gland (acromegaly) that was causing all kinds of problems for years. physical. i kept getting patted on the head until i found a GP who would listen to me. an MRI and a CT scan found it. a neurosurgeon removed it, and i have the strength and energy and clearness of thought i have not had in 25 years, and my acromegaly is reversing quite nicely. sometimes you have to yell. sometimes for years.

9:28 PM, November 23, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

br549 - excellent point.

My father knew a woman who complained of migraines for several years. Her doctor treated her as if she was a neurotic, hysterical woman. One night she went to the ER with an unbearable headache. Within two weeks she died of a brain tumor that would have been 90% curable if caught in its early stages.

10:24 PM, November 23, 2010  
Blogger Xiaoding said...

Perhaps mental illness is just a lot more common than we thought. I would argue, 20% is low.

I see some saying that they had mental illness, but it turned out to be physical...I would say, ALL mental illness is physical. I don't see any menatally ill people without brains, for instance.

We are learning more about the brain, it's only natural to try to fix things.

Some mental illness, I'm sure, is in reaction to a crazy society.

7:31 PM, November 24, 2010  
Blogger globalman100 said...

I wonder how many people here realise that in communist russia the accusation of 'mental illness' was one of the most used mechanisms to deal with people who resisted the oppression of the state. After all? If you don't love your guvment you are mentally ill, right?

10:40 AM, November 26, 2010  

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