“A mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by a significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behaviour that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning.” – Psychology Today
A responsible evaluation of mental health begins with ruling out organic and chemical causes behind behaviours which would be considered demonstrative of mental illness. Organic refers to the biology of the brain, including traumatic injury or physical malformations. Chemical refers to drug-related irregularities such as acute drug use. Neither of these account for socioeconomically based causes, such as starvation and hypoglycaemia, which are common among people living in poverty.
Poverty is a fulltime job, where survival is a function of adaptive skills and behaviours. Many of these are comparable to those of a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. Unfortunately, those who succeed in the contrasting structure of the modern, “developed” world, represent the “farming” lifestyle, such as doctors, social workers and psychologists, judge the hunter/gatherer skills as abnormal and dysfunctional. In their professional capacity, the related behaviours are described as “maladaptive”, as per cognition. Acting on impulses that drive survival are considered poor emotional regulation. Anyone demonstrating these is branded as suffering from mental illness.
Mental health professionals then embark on the well-paid task of identifying and “treating” diagnoses. They often recommend drug treatments on an interim basis during this process, based solely on their suspicions following self-reporting by “patients” regarding mood and energy levels. These premature invasive treatments often have a self-fulfilling effect on the patients’ neurochemistry. Practitioners receive generous funding from drug companies to build clientele, ideally consisting of daily users for life on as many of their wares as possible.
Meanwhile, the stress and suffering of living in poverty remains unacknowledged and misrepresented. Since mental health diagnoses are, for the most part, subjective, the handling of these is a grey area at best. There will likely never be legislation to protect mental health patients, given governments are proud to offer extensive public healthcare systems. What the public is not told is that these systems are funded not by the tax base, but by the pharmaceutical companies. Drug company executives have a mandate of profit and hold staff meetings to discuss and implement such terrifying projects as giving diabetes to as many individuals as possible, a feat easily accomplished by pushing products such as anti-depressants which cause extreme weight gain. In turn, patients’ self-esteem and motivation often suffer, leading to anxiety which leads to more drugs. This leads to dependence on drug cocktails and, in many cases, to insulin prescriptions and so on.
General health, through nutrition and exercise, is the strongest mitigating factor for most people. It is risky to get involved in the prescription drug cycle unless a clearly identifiable chemical imbalance is present. We should focus on lifestyle instead of placing trust in the Ivory Tower, and tell others to do the same.
By Carol Ann