Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A List of Demands

Recently I saw a list of demands put forth by a mental health advocacy group. Though I understand the need to advocate I was amused that anyone would think they could demand anything from anyone. After I looked further into the demands I learned that the authors did not do their homework; they did not work in the relevant field nor request information from those who do. Perhaps they were amateurs. I'd like to chalk this up to their being rookies as opposed to juvenile manipulators looking to make a splash.

At any rate it occurred to me that I could also generate a list of demands, one informed by years of practice in the field and the discernment of politics and agendas which interfere with our work and thus the healing of individuals. So here it is:


  1. Mental health and mental illness must not be solely reduced to brain functioning and physiology.
  2. Developmental processes and contextual factors are involved in a great many cases of diminished psychological functioning. These must be taken into account if we are to fully address human needs.
  3. Support for services which seek to establish a secure, confidential setting, in which people reveal their fears, shames, anger, and more, is essential if we are to create opportunities to work with development and context.
  4. The importance of maintaining rights to privacy cannot be overstated. This is the bedrock of effective psychotherapy; healing is impaired if records are not free of unnecessary intrusions and over-sharing.
  5. Therapy clients must also be treated with utmost respect and be afforded the right to significant autonomy and self-determination in their decision making concerning services. This is impaired when they are required, under the duress of psychological pain, to waive confidentiality and right to privilege at the outset of therapy and before they can know what is in their record.
  6. College students, due to their usual age and developmental stages, are uniquely susceptible to reductionism and threats to their emerging adulthood. Due to the intensity of life changes and identity formation, they tend to have volatile, but essentially transient, periods of distress. These can be misconstrued as severe illness and, if not received with skill, students may come to adopt an illness identity which disrupts normal development and may saddle them with lifelong harm. Instead, their primary need is for professionals who can create a holding environment, one that can absorb the intensity and help them pass through a volatile period unscathed while acquiring the learning and skills they need for independent adulthood.
  7. Due to the nuances described above, it is essential that college mental health professionals develop broad consultative relationships on campus for the purpose of delivering mental health expertise to consultees and implementing prevention-oriented outreach programming across campus.
  8. Professionals operating from other service paradigms must accept and respect these skill sets and philosophies. To fail to do so is to fail to serve the student.
  9. Administrators and funding sources must be courageous and carve out the needed resources to nurture the above orientation which seeks to incubate and produce healthy and contributing world citizens. This is an essential promise of higher education.
  10. Politicians and lobbyists must also be courageous and not bow to more base and dissolute motivations, in particular the profiteering of illness.