Wednesday, March 10, 2010

People who disbelieve mental illness

I am interested in the connections between mental illness and philosophy. I am currently studying medieval philosophy. One interesting if not necessarily correct explanation for mysticism is, if I remember correctly, kidney failure. Too much toxicity in the blood leads to visions. Doesn't mean it can't be visions of something, but here is a biological cause and here is a way of understanding that might get us in the vicinity of some truth.

So it is an interesting topic. Unfortunetely I made the mistake of googling it and came across a discussion on insanity on the  Philosophy Forums. This is not the sort of philosophy with which I am acquainted. If my professors and peers express an idea which is radical, it is in a gentle and intelligent manner; it is at the same time honest and also inoffensive. I have taken this as my ideal manner of communication and seek to follow it as a model, however, I hold that there are times when screaming and crying are the only appropriate reaction and times when the only appropriate reaction is silence.

Anger in an intellectual discussion is not appropriate. As such I knew when I read that forum that I could not respond. People believe that mental illness is simply a fabrication! Real, intelligent people who can spell and forum coherent thoughts and yet still continue to believe such a foolish and destructive thing.

I once assumed that the only homophobic people were misinformed rednecks off on the cattle ranches. I did not really believe that misinformed rednecks existed and as such managed to disbelieve in homophobia. Then I went to university and encountered a boy who was openly homophobic. Now I know that many people share this view although most will deny it or do not even realise it.

Why would people think that mental illness is a fabrication? Psychology may be somewhat new and sometimes it is wrong, but that is the nature of what it is to be science. If it were cut in stone it would be a religion and that is no help to us at all. It frightens me that people think this. It frightens me because I know there are people suffering because people who I cannot call anything but stupid and ignorant. These people do not need to be victims on top of what they have already. Why should you be so unlucky as to have a mental illness and the disbelief and scorn of those around you also?


Elisabeth said...

Hi Jesse. Thanks for a fascinating post.

I have some trouble with the term 'mental illness', not because I think it doesn't exist but because like some others in the forum you mention, I think mental illness is a construction, a broad construction that attempts to cover too many aspects of human experience.

The term is medical and medicalised and as such is subject to scientific ways of thinking that from my experience do not allow for the complexity of human experience.

The danger is that in medicalising we look for medical solutions, medication, shock treatment, restraint etc and as well we tend to pathologise, rather than looking for meaning.

You'd know the expression: 'there is method in madness'. I think there is method in madness and rather than simply medicate away in a bid to control the troubled person's difficulties we would do better to try to make sense of what's going on with that person and consider why that person might resort to such desperate measures as madness as a means of responding to whatever life stresses might come their way.

There may be a place for psychotropic medication at times pf acute psychosis but not as a life long solution, especially given the iatrogenic side effects.

Trauma most notably is mad making and lies at the root of most so-called mental illness. And one person's trauma may not be so devastating for another so it is complex.

I'm sorry to oversimplify here. It's hard to deal with such a difficult topic in one short comment but I thought it important to qualify the term.

I have not even mentioned the whole physiological business, chemicals and hormones and the way they tend to be reduced and minimalised in our thinking, as are our genetic inheritance and the whole nature nurture dichotomy, which is as problematic as the Cartesian mind body divide.

All these things interact dynamically on a continuum.

I think there's is a bit of madness in everyone and certainly there is the potential for psychological ill health-for want of a better term - and instability in all of us, but not all of us are overwhelmed by it and some can be overwhelmed only some of the time.

Enough said.

Jesse said...

The danger is that in medicalising we look for medical solutions, medication, shock treatment, restraint etc and as well we tend to pathologise, rather than looking for meaning.

Okay, I can see how trying to make mental illness a medical issue can lead to abuse of patients, although I see this as a failure on the part of the physcician to realise that the person they are dealing with is still a human being despite being unwell. I have always seen a danger in objectifying things, and people usually act as the most horific case in any sample.

I can understand how madness can be a response to stress, as aversed to the other option. I definitely agree that there is a bit of madness in everyone. My fear is that there are people who think that a person stressed out and a bit mentally unstable is 'faking it' or 'pretending' or can 'just snap out of it' which can be a damaging way to approach things.

Thank you, your post makes a lot of sense and will definitely prevent me from judging people too quickly when they declare that medical approaches to mental illness are incorrect.