Description: We have drugs that treat mental disorders like schizophrenia and depression so do we have cures for those disorders? One of the reasons given for the focus shift taken by Martin Seligman, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and others to Positive Psychology (optimizing things for everyone) is that we have addressed mental illness and can move on. The problem is, we really haven’t yet “solved” mental illness. The article linked below walks through our hopes and assumptions about what the biological shift in thinking and research into mental illness was going to do for us and points out that we are not there yet in terms of understanding and dealing effectively with mental illness. Give it a read.
Source: When Will We Solve Mental Illness? Benedict Carey, 11 Things We’d Really Like to Know, Health, The New York Times.
Date: November 19, 2018
Image Credit: Jens Mortensen for The New York Times
So, describing mental illnesses as chemical imbalances in the brain has not yet yielded an understanding of causes nor has it produced cures. What we have is an increased complexity in our understanding of the brain biology of mental disorders and a realization that many categories, such a depression, are in fact many categories within themselves. As well, biology does not easily get us to a place where we are able to usefully consider the complex but likely important role of the life experiences of those dealing with mental illness including trauma, substance use, and identity crises. While we are not as far along as we would certainly wish we were in understanding and managing and, at some point, curing mental illness things ARE moving and there are any promising new avenues of investigation. The significant reorganization of our research and thinking about mental illness is both encouraging and fascinating. Stay tuned.
Questions for Discussion:
- Why is that we cannot say we have cures for mental illnesses that we have many drugs to treat?
- What is wrong with the idea that certain mental illnesses can be linked to having too much or too little of specific neurotransmitters?
- What might it mean to say that thee are MANY different types of depression and what role might the individual experiences of those “with depression” in the development of a butter understanding of this and other conditions or illnesses?
References (Read Further):
Sekar, A., Bialas, A. R., de Rivera, H., Davis, A., Hammond, T. R., Kamitaki, N., … & Genovese, G. (2016). Schizophrenia risk from complex variation of complement component 4. Nature, 530(7589), 177. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4752392/
Thompson, V. L. S. (2018). Moving Beyond Mental Illness to Mental Health and Wellbeing. Transition. https://publichealth.wustl.edu/moving-beyond-mental-illness-mental-health-wellbeing/
Dean, C. E. (2017). Social inequality, scientific inequality, and the future of mental illness. Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, 12(1), 10. https://peh-med.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13010-017-0052-x
Michaels, P. J., López, M., Rüsch, N., & Corrigan, P. W. (2017). Constructs and concepts comprising the stigma of mental illness. Psychology, Society, & Education, 4(2), 183-194. https://scholarworks.iupui.edu/bitstream/handle/1805/14564/Firmin_2017_stigma.pdf?sequence=1