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Description: Do we (Psychologists and Psychiatrists) know what caused mental illness? When I teach the Psychological Disorders and Treatments sections on my Introductory Psychology course, after talking about the drugs used in treating the symptoms of various mental disorders (like depression or schizophrenia) I will usually ask if people think that because there are drugs that seem to ameliorate the symptoms of mental illnesses that this means we understand the causes of mental illness and that the drugs represent “cures.” What do you think? It is important to understand and to keep in mind what we DO NOT know about mental illnesses despite all the neuroscience being applied to the topic. A historical perspective on what how our understanding of the causes of mental illness has evolved is very useful in understand where we are REALLY at with regards to understand the causes of mental disorders. If you go to the link below you will find a podcast you can listen to that provide just such an historical overview and, importantly, you will also hear discussion of the need to look more closely at how people are coping and even thriving while dealing with mental disorders beyond (or with) whatever particular treatment regime they are involved with.

Source: What psychiatrists still don’t know about mental illness, Ideas, CBC Radio.

Date: October 28, 2019



Article Link:

The meaning of mental illness and of mental health is a complex, multifaceted issue. A neurobiological approach to mental illness is a part of this but it is not all of it. Understanding how humans deal with the entirety of their mental illnesses is a vital part of how we understand, support and help them.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Are the drugs used to treat mental disorders like depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder cures?
  2. If you answered No to the previous question, why not?
  3. What sorts of things are left out of a neurologically focused perspective on mental health issues?

References (Read Further):

Double, D. (2002). The limits of psychiatry. Bmj, 324(7342), 900-904.

Stastny, P., Lehmann, P., & Aderhold, V. (2007). Alternatives beyond psychiatry. Peter Lehmann Pub.

Murthy, R. S. (2019). Social psychiatry can “Empower” the individuals, families, and communities for mental health. World Social Psychiatry, 1(1), 67.;year=2019;volume=1;issue=1;spage=67;epage=69;aulast=Murthy

Bracken, P., Thomas, P., Timimi, S., Asen, E., Behr, G., Beuster, C., … & Downer, S. (2012). Psychiatry beyond the current paradigm. The British journal of psychiatry, 201(6), 430-434.

Deacon, B. J. (2013). The biomedical model of mental disorder: A critical analysis of its validity, utility, and effects on psychotherapy research. Clinical psychology review, 33(7), 846-861.

Kirmayer, L. J., & Gold, I. (2012). Re-socializing psychiatry. Critical neuroscience, 305-330.