Why it’s Healthy to be Afraid in a Crisis


From The Guardian: “As a mental health professional, I disagree with the message in Paul Daley’s article (We face a pandemic of mental health disorders, 24 March). We’re not facing ‘a pandemic of severe mental health disorders.’ We’re all facing entirely normal fear, anxiety, despair and confusion about a truly terrifying situation that challenges our whole way of life. Never has it been clearer that so-called ‘mental disorders’ make sense in context. In fact, many professionals would argue that this applies to the whole range of experiences that are labelled as clinical depression, personality disorder, psychosis, and so on.

The more we label our understandable human reactions as disorders, the greater the temptation to disconnect them from their source and focus on new individual ‘treatments’ instead. The drug companies must be rubbing their hands at the prospect of all these new customers. We can come out of this crisis in a better state than before by staying connected with our feelings and the urgent threats that have led to them, and taking collective action to deal with the root causes. These include climate change, environmental degradation, wildlife trafficking, insecure employment, the structure and funding of public services, and the neoliberal values that have driven us for far too long.”

Dr Lucy Johnstone
Consultant clinical psychologist, Bristol

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  1. Paul is incorrect.
    I believe a correct article would have stated that we “face a pandemic of diagnosis”.
    “a pandemic of labeling”
    “a pandemic of drugging”
    “a pandemic of dehumanizing normalcy”

    So Paul seems to be in fact, promoting lies about others. It seems Paul is normal enough to be othering people.

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  2. Lucy gets it 100% correct here. I have never seen a clearer example of the ludicrousness of claiming “mental illness” to be the cause of anxiety/depression/anger/fear relating to this huge, worldwide concern. I wince every time I hear someone say, “Mental health issue can be TRIGGERED” by the Coronavirus fears. Totally “normal” and undiagnosed people are losing sleep, hoarding toilet paper, worrying about finances and the economy, etc. It is NORMAL to be worried about something like a potentially deadly virus and the social disruption it is causing! In fact, people who are NOT worried are the ones making the problem worse!

    This is proof that the MH paradigm is completely bankrupt and needs to be scrapped!

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    • You need to stop shouting, Steve, or I’m going to write in your chart that you’re violently agitated and then have you forcibly injected with “medication”! and of course you won’t be allowed to leave until you convincingly say it was all for your own good and that you’re grateful. (Fuller Torrey and others have outrageously used statistics in this way, discharge surveys so to speak, to “prove” that people find it helpful to be tormented and permanently damaged. It’s not like there’s any power imbalance here or anything to skew stuff like this…)

      But really, I fear that people aren’t going to be amendable to the fact that we need a new economic system, or a change within, and not just because of this, but because we’ve been putting it off for far too long. Science and technology have taken or could take and will take almost all jobs, and that is a good thing. We need to merge into a society devoted to science and the arts, equality, etc…

      But I fear that wars are brewing.

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  3. My hypothesis is, as I mentioned to Rachel privately, that those of us who have been through the psychiatric wringer may fare better with all this psychologically than “normal” people, because we have already experienced the depths of emotional trauma and personal chaos, whereas those who have become accustomed to a “system” lifestyle of going to a job/school, coming home and watching “Modern Family,” going to sleep after the 11 o’clock news and getting paid on Fridays have often never peered into the abyss; they don’t know that there IS an abyss. Welcome to the Terrordome!

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    • I agree Oldhead that anyone who was subjected to the dishonesty, degradation, abuse, loss of autonomy of psychiatry is likely to fare better with all of this than those who don’t know about or never experienced the abyss.

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