“Working in Mental Health is Not Like Fixing Broken Legs”


In a blog post for The Guardian’s Healthcare Professionals Network, frontline worker Tim Smith takes on the oft-heard metaphor that “mental health problems should be seen like a broken leg.”  Smith explains how this metaphor, while intended to reduce stigma, negatively impacts mental health care by creating the expectation that treatments will follow a set course and that patients will respond uniformly and predictably.  

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  1. Working in mental health is just like fixing a broken leg. Fixing it wrong.

    You put a cast on the break, then you keep the cast on forever.

    If the patient or the doctor takes the cast off everyone believes the leg is still broken, when the muscles have atrophied from lack of use. You can not possible walk or runon such a leg.

    No one asks or addresses the reasons why the leg broke in the first place. THIS IS THE HUGE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. THE ELEPHANT USUALLY RETURNS WHEN THE CAST IS TAKEN OFF BECAUSE NO ONE CONFRONTED IT.

    So the monkeys put the cast back on. The leg is broken. I didn’t break it!

    The reality is the human brain shrinks from the constant poisoning.

    Poisons making people more stupid, when everyone wants smart people.

    Are you following orders? Good.

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  2. I sometimes think that mental illness should be like a broken bone in the sense that once mended a bone should never break in the same place again.

    These are very tragic stories:
    I have heard these stories recounted at first hand many, many times by people who have made full longterm recovery – but outside of the very expensive mainstream medical system.

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  3. What if broken legs were treated like mental health problems? No x-rays would be done, no medical tests, no treatment to repair the damage and help the bone heal properly. The man with a broken leg would be told he has a life-long “bone disorder,” would be given sedatives and pain killers that would help him live with his bone disorder “like insulin helps a diabetic.”
    If physiological health problems were treated like mental health problems, there would be a public outcry. And rightly so.

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    • From what I’ve seen the ‘illnesses’ are chronic but only within the National Health Service. It’s possible to get completely better but unfortunately only outside of the Health System (because it’s geared up to suit the needs of its own ’employees’).

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      • I agree. Based on what I’ve experienced, part of conventional “treatment” seems to be getting clients to accept this idea that they have incurable, chronic, genetic illnesses. Nurturing that mindset ensures life-long revenue streams from those clients. Revenue may not be the motivation for promoting the “chronic disease” model of mental “illness,” but it sure is a benefit for providers.

        The only people I know who have escaped the chronic mental “illness” trap did so by escaping conventional treatment.

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    • Excellent analogy, Suzanne. Although, if I may, just add a tad more … The person with the broken leg “would be told he has a life-long [incurable, genetic] ‘bone disorder.'” These two additional qualifiers are also used by the psychiatric industry to ensure the medical issue is seen as a ‘genetic’ problem unique to the individual, rather than related to a real life circumstance or incident, thus ‘proving’ the “life long,” ‘incurable,’ ‘blame the patient’ nature of the medical issue. And thus also providing the rationale for “sedatives and pain killers that would help him live with his bone disorder ‘like insulin for diabetes.'” And we must not forget that the sedatives / tranquilizers / neuroleptics / “antipsychotics” mandated as a “cure,” will likely in the long run actually CAUSE diabetes.

      “If physiological problems were treated as mental health problems, there would be a public outcry. And rightly so.” I absolutely agree, especially since the etiology of my iatrogenic “sedative and pain killer” induced “bipolar” was my PCPs desire to cover up her husband’s “bad fix” on a broken ankle of mine. Some doctors are already treating physiological problems as mental health problems.

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        • RE “Incurable AND genetic” If and when the human being makes mistakes, it is not a human mistake, it is the mental illnesses fault. The patient needs more drugs for his illness.

          Remember that the wrong behaviour used to called sins (Lust Gluttony Greed Sloth Wrath Envy Pride), and every imperfect human will always sin, therefore need more “helpful” psychiatric drugs.

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    • It is uncivil, and completely immoral, you are correct, 4HaroldAMaio. My understanding of why the medical community advocates belief in the scientifically invalid DSM mental illnesses / stigmas is because historically the men of the medical community realized the egregious crimes being committed against women and children by the witch hunters of old were being seen as unacceptable behavior by the majority within society at that time.

      And these medicine men saw a way to profit off of taking over the duties of the former witch hunters, including preventing the female healers from performing their historic healing roles (Burstow). Thus, the paternalistic medical community allowed for the creation of the unprovable, and now known to be scientifically invalid, psychiatric disorders / stigmatizations. And the function of psychiatric stigmatizations today, according to the medical evidence, seems to be quite similar to the function of the paternalistic witch hunters of old.

      John Read’s research points out that two thirds of so called “schizophrenics” today had adverse childhood experiences, ACEs, or symptoms of child abuse misdiagnosed as “psychosis.”


      This non-brain disease symptom / crime is then treated with a neuroleptic / antipsychotic drug. And the antipsychotics are known to create both the negative symptoms of so called “schizophrenia” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome, and the positive symptoms of so called “schizophrenia” via the central symptoms of neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome (aka anticholinergic toxidrome). Google these neuroleptic induced syndromes for evidence that the psychitric industry is, in fact, likely creating “schizophenia” in child abuse victims on a massive scale. Covering up sexual abuse for the religions was one of the functions of the witch hunters of old.

      And an ethical pastor confessed to me that the medical cover up of the “bad fix” on my broken bone, via bad drug cocktails, was the “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” The other primary historic function of DSM psychiatric stigmatization and tranquilization system is covering up easily recognized iatrogenesis by the mainstream medical industry itself.

      But, as you mentioned, all of this is uncivil, and I believe historically, and still today, completely immoral. It’s time to end today’s current medical industry’s / “witch hunter’s” unacceptable scientifically invalid DSM stigmatizations, and their insidious and unrepentant iatrogenic illness creations.

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      • Yes, I agree, and by the entire fields of psychology and social services, all blatantly stigmatizing, and they apply it at every step, and spread it around in the community, like toxins.

        The way to overcome stigma is to not buy into it, and to get the hell out of there. AND, to not stigmatize others, but instead, to respect and embrace diversity.

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  4. If this is a version of the “broken brain” argument I have to shake my head.

    Show me a “mental illness”…No, never mind. You can’t show me a “mental illness” because no such animal exists.

    Perhaps if we compared fixing “broken brains” with fixing imaginary broken legs that would work. I hear, in fact, that something of the sort has been tried a number of times with occasionally astounding results.

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  5. “But the young woman I saw this morning believes my colleagues and I (and most other people) to be part of a network linked to the Illuminati who want to torture and rape her.”
    Written by a “mental health professional”… She’s not delusional, she’s right.

    In general I’ve got up to here of reading articles calling for more funding for psychiatry. It’s a black hole which sucks up the money and doesn’t give back anything, only makes people worse. How about funding social programs to address the root causes instead? How about not sending people to murder kids in the Middle East and lying to them that they will be heroes? How about funding Soteria House-like sanctuaries for people in distress? Housing for the homeless? I’m sick and tired of this “if it doesn’t work we need more of it (and we need more money)”.

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    • B,

      I think it’s more a question of staying away from the Medical System to recover than anything else. I know lots of people that have made 100 per cent recovery, and through different routes.

      But once the medical system gets its claws into a person, even after the person recovers; they try to make out that they are still somehow ‘ill’.

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