Does ‘Mental Illness’ Exist?


In this interview for ABC Australia, leading psychology professor Peter Kinderman discusses why we need alternative ways of understanding and supporting people in distress that take into account social and environmental factors, not just biology.

“Mental health issues are hugely significant worldwide, but are we approaching them in the most effective and humane way? A leading professor of psychology says that ‘everybody‚Äôs crazy but nobody‚Äôs ill’‚ÄĒmeaning that seeing mental distress as an illness is the wrong approach. We need a model of care which supports people who are distressed because of their social and life circumstances.”


  1. I only use the term “mental illness” in the interest of shared terminology. Whatever we choose to call it, certainly such a phenomenon exists. The question, as always, is what it actually is. The distinction between “illness” and “disorder” is a critical one.

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  2. Like Francesca above, I use the term “mental illness” (and other synonyms) out of convenience. A much better term to me is “problems in living” (a Szaszian phrase). Surely, the experiences exist. And in many cases those experiences are problematic, either for the person himself or those around him. But “mental illness” is a metaphor; the mind is not an organ and thus cannot be diseased. There is no inherent harm in using metaphors to describe human suffering except for the risk that some people take the metaphors literally.

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  3. I never use the term (or any of “diagnostic labels”) and encourage everyone around me not to either. It is a hollow and lazy way to refer to, describe or try and understand 1) our reactions to adverse social and material circumstances and/or abusive/toxic relationships, 2) our attempts to still meet our needs, feel safe or find meaning under these circumstances and 3) how we communicate what is going on for us in such circumstances

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    • Yes Gerard. I think terminology is everything, and yet nothing.
      I do not like the term “disorder”. The terms indeed are nothing more than a lazy way of trying to cover up biases and even hatred, dislike of people who don’t fit into an ideology.
      Psychiatry loves it when we say we do not like the descriptive, diagnostic terminology, since then they think up a new name, but it has the same effect.

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  4. Capitalism destroys people.

    I was nearly destroyed by psychiatry and I or any others might be able to help the world, but psychiatry just refuses to listen and drugs instead of helps.

    Now we have a polluted world because of capitalism and psychiatry rejected all the warnings because a monetary system has entrapped them too.

    A Resource Based Economy of sustainable living worldwide will be far better.

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