12 Vital Questions of Mental Health

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Naturally we human beings want to move from not knowing to knowledge. We want to move from not knowing how to cure a disease to finding a cure for that disease. We want to move from not knowing how to desalinate the oceans to knowing how to produce an inexhaustible supply of drinking water. Of course we want to know these things.

But this natural desire to know things ought not make us believe that we know something when we do not yet know it. This is the case for what, for a given individual, may be his most important personal problem: his emotional health. We do not know much about “what goes on” inside human beings. Nor may we ever. This is perhaps the largest “not knowing” that confronts our species and maybe also the hardest one to swallow.

This lack of knowledge leaves a hole that human beings can’t help but want to fill. The most prominent current way of filling it is to create out of whole cloth things called “mental disorders” and to then “treat” them with chemicals and talk. It is completely understandable how the hole got filled this way and there are many co-conspirators in this particular hole-filling process: mental health professionals, drug manufacturers, academics, talk show hosts, sufferers themselves, and many more.

Folks in the “other camp”, in what is loosely called the anti-psychiatry movement, have explained at length about “the myth of mental illness” and about the grave problems associated with the current “diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders” system. But they are primarily talking to each other because the current model holds such complete sway over virtually everyone. Few outside our group are listening; and those who do happen to run into our message tend not to be able to hear it.

It is exactly like trying to explain a round earth to a flat-earth believer. No matter what you say, what you will get in reply is, “I hear you, but you can’t be right. If the earth were round we would all fall off.” You can explain it this way and that way, present impressive evidence and what ought to be convincing arguments, and still get only a blank stare and a shake of the head in reply: “No, can’t be, we would all fall off.”

Trying to explain that there is no such thing as a “mental disorder” as currently conceptualized and defined is exactly this sort of frustrating experience, and meets with exactly this sort of certitude. No matter what you present, the average person and the average mental health professional are convinced that there “just must be mental disorders.” To them it is a settled, self-evident and incontrovertible matter.

Many of us wonder what to say next and what to do next, given the complete entrenchment of the current system and given that we on “the other side” have very little to offer by way of “answers.” If we could provide some chemicals to fight their chemicals it might become more of a fair fight! But what we primarily have are announcements about why it is so darned difficult to know what is going on inside a human being. That sort of announcement isn’t very “helpful” and of course many sufferers want actual help.

I would like to offer the following as one possible “next step” in, if not gaining some new understanding, organizing our current lack of understanding. What I propose is that we organize our thinking around the following “Twelve Vital Questions”.  I don’t know what might come of this but I can picture a possible breakthrough where, if the conversation became widespread, the paradigm might begin to shift in the direction of questioning before answering. We would still want answers: but we would begin with questions. That alone would constitute a giant step forward!

Here are the twelve questions I have in mind:

  1. I am suffering emotionally. Where do I go to start getting relief?
  2. I can’t tell if I have a “brain problem” or a “mind problem.” How can I figure that out?
  3. Who are the “designated helpers” out there? What are the differences among them?
  4. The current system is based on the idea of “diagnosing and treating mental disorders.” How should I think about that?
  5. If I engage a mental health service provider I’m likely to receive a “diagnosis of a mental disorder” and be labeled in a certain way. How should I think about that label?
  6. What about “antidepressants,” “psychiatric medications,” and so on? How should I conceptualize the use of those chemicals?
  7. Given that “mental disorders” are “diagnosed” by virtue of the “symptoms” I present, rather than on the basis of underlying causes, how ought I to think about that?
  8. What if my circumstances are causing a portion of my emotional pain? How ought I to think about that?
  9. What if my formed personality is causing a portion of my emotional pain? How ought I to think about that?
  10. If I don’t have much meaning or life purpose in my life, how might my emotional pain be related to that?
  11. How should I conceptual “good mental health”? What am I actually aiming for?
  12. I am in a lot of pain and distress right now and need immediate help. What should I do?

I am picturing a website where thinkers, alternative practitioners, open-minded mental health professionals, and anyone with something to contribute would provide pieces that are curated so that a sufferer or any interested party might get a robust, rounded sense of the underlying issues… Of the “meta” questions involved.

The website might look like this:

http://www.12vitalquestions.com/

I think this might be one sort of next step. If you agree that it might, maybe you will help fill these coffers with treasures. That is, help in finding already-existing pieces (blog posts, articles, book chapters, etc.) or in finding folks willing to write new pieces that contribute to the conversation.

It is important that we keep pointing a finger at the current glaring problems associated with the services offered to people who are suffering and that we continue to underline how little we know about “the insides” of the human mind. But it is also important that we organize our thinking in such a way that smart questions get asked and maybe, just maybe, that better answers begin to appear. You can help me do this by contributing or by volunteering. Just drop me a line at [email protected] and let’s talk!

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Eric,

    You wrote:

    “We do not know much about ‘what goes on’ inside human beings. Nor may we ever.”

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    IMO, a person is fortunate to learn a few things about *themselves* in the few short years we are given this gift we call *life*.

    None of us really knows what makes other human being tick… For those who devote their careers in this effort, I say: Good luck with that.

    IMO, the focus on the “need” for “evidenced-based” treatments has been a mistake. If an approach is not successful for an individual, they have the option to simply try another approach (or combination of approaches), until they find some success.

    There seems to be such an effort to “prove” things “scientifically.”

    Chemistry, physics – these are the “hard sciences”.
    Psychology, sociology – “soft sciences” at best…
    Arts, really.
    Arts that require empathy, compassion, but arts, nonetheless.

    And when we’re talking about the *soul* of a person – their highest thoughts, their deepest emotions… fears, passions, desires, dreams, we move out of the realm of “science” and away from the need to “prove” anything when it comes to a dialogue of what approaches someone uses to find more meaning and peace in their lives.

    In short, I haven’t a clue with what might be the answer for another human being. I can see them as an equal – listen, show concern, encourage them… cheer them on. That’s all I can do. And, IMO may be all any of can do.

    What works?
    Whatever works is what works.

    Duane

  2. Dear Eric

    ‘Anti psychiatry’ or Open minded recovery doesn’t have a lot of sway with the public. It could have if the public knew how expensive getting it wrong is costing them: Traditional psychiatric diagnosis and treatment is about long term ‘illness’ and disability.

    Psychiatric Outrages: I can tie in 4 hospitalizations i.e. 2 Suicide attempts and 2 near misses with adverse reaction to psychiatric drugs. These drugs cause homicide.

    A move away from Psychiatry to the Talking Treatments (in 1984) resulted in wellness, independence and productivity, saving the Irish welfare state about 1.5 million euros.

  3. The 12 Steps Of Anti-psychiatry

    RARELY HAVE we seen a person who has thoroughly followed the psychiatric path and recovered. Those who do recover are usually people who have recognized Psychiatry as a dangerous atheist cult, and will not give themselves completely to psychiatry’s fanatical program. The Psychiatry Cult the A.P.A is constituted primarily of men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with anyone… including themselves.

    We are not at fault; We were screwed the second we sat on the leather couch. We were systematically indoctrinated into believing that we have a biologically based brain defect. Psychiatrists should be held accountable for the behavior that has ruined so many lives. Many APA members suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders. The psychiatric program requires that they believe mental patients can never recover and must take dangerous pills for the rest of there lives. Most of the people who quit psychiatry have recovered in large part, due to their self-determination and ability to act rationally. Our stories disclose in a general way what We used to be like, what happened, and what We are like now.

    If you have decided you want to leave psychiatry and are willing to go to any lengths to do it – then you are ready to take certain steps.

    At some of these we were delighted. We were sure that we had found a more sound and reasonable way. With all of the earnestness at our command, we encourage you to be resolute and confident from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old psychiatric ideas and the result was nil until We let go absolutely. Remember that WE deal with Psychiatry – cunning, baffling and brutally dishonest! Continuing the mental masturbation was too much for Us.

    May You trust and believe in Yourself now! Delusions and psychiatric nonsense availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We learned to protect and care for ourselves with complete self-acceptance. Here are the steps we took which are encouraged as a course of action to escape the Psychiatric mind trap…

    1. We decided We were “Not Powerless” over our problems – that our lives had become dominated by Psychiatry.

    2. Came to understand that we never had a biological brain defect as psychiatric fundamentalists had led us to believe.

    3. Made a decision to turn and walk away from psychiatry forever.

    4. Made a scorching and fearless indictment against psychiatry as an organization.

    5. Admitted to ourselves and another human Being that we had been tricked into joining an atheist cult with “psycho-education”.

    6. Were entirely ready to rid ourselves of the self-defeating Bullsh^t we were taught by Psychiatry.

    7. Familiarized Ourselves with cult indoctrination tactics in order that we may never fall into a similar trap again.

    8. Made a list of all mental health workers who had harmed us, and became willing to confront them all.

    9. Called such people on their bull whenever possible, except when to do so would psychically injure them or others real bad.

    10. Continued to indict Psychiatry and when we were wronged promptly expressed our disapproval of it.

    11. Sought scientific empirical evidence that could help Us to defeat there Bullsh^t and lies; focusing on Ourselves as the Power to carry that out.

    12. Having been awakened from the Psychiatric nightmare as a result of these steps, We tried to carry this message to other victims of Psychiatry, so that everyone might know the truth about the psychiatric cult and pharmaceutical company lies.