Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mental Health Movements

Slowly (sometimes not so slowly) and surely, a movement is taking hold which questions traditional views of mental health treatment, if not the concept of mental health itself. Many professionals and consumers alike are questioning systems which focus on disease models and the research, or lack thereof, which under-girds them. In the United Kingdom the movement is fairly advanced, as evidenced by publications in professional societies and various communications from humanistic psychology leaders.

While there has long existed serious criticism of psychiatry in particular, it has risen to higher levels since the advent of the DSM5 which many believe has significant conceptual problems and poor support in research. As noted elsewhere, the NIMH has abandoned it as a requirement in its research protocols. Questions are being posed about long-held notions of illness itself, an example being the addictions as some are viewing it as a social issue more than a brain issue. A recent review of 29 studies also posits that depression is much more than just a mental disorder. Perhaps most prevalent in recent years has been serious criticisms concerning the relationship between Big Pharma and medicine, with hundreds of articles available about this topic. But there's more; research is also demonstrating actual harms associated with psychiatric medications including antidepressants.

More importantly, the concepts of mental health and mental illness are getting another look. In particular some see these concepts as more complex than binary; that it is possible to have some measure of both in the same individual. Keyes (2002) proposes that each of us manifest aspects of both flourishing and languishing, both at once and at different times. In this view it is possible to view folks as a combination of both adjusted and impaired, which permits more sophisticated approaches to human problems as opposed to nailing down symptoms with a hammer.

These really could be exciting times as we rethink old or worn out professional chestnuts. We might be living in a time preceding major paradigmatic changes in mental health service delivery.

Keyes, CL (2002). The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life.
Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 207-222