It’s difficult not to stand behind a rallying call to alleviate distress; especially if you suffer from it yourself. Politicians like Nick Clegg are making it their banner at the next election. It’s said their politically strategy for 2015 is to appeal to the green middle classes. The focus on mental health fulfils one of their goals, appealing to middle class parents concerned their children are on the verge of mental breakdown and need more support, especially of a financial nature. Politicians however, are being too eager to pour money into a structure where success hasn’t been proven. Politicians, however, are unable to step back and tolerate uncertainty while we search for a solution. As laudable as a focus on mental health is, without pause we risk making a fragile situation even worse.
The first problem is swallowing the statistics from the disorder industry without question. Clegg himself in January parroted the one in ten young people suffer from a mental disorder statistic. Do one in ten really have a critical disorder? No. Delve into the statistics a little bit more and you find half of the children in this category suffer from something called a ‘behavioural disorder’. Take one of these disorder “Oppositional defiant disorder” (Or what I prefer to brand “Obnoxious dickhead disease”) classified as the “Frequent refusal to obey parents or other authority figures” otherwise known as being an eleven year old. Disorders such as these came under criticism from prominent psychologists such as Peter Kinderman of the University of Liverpool. This isn’t to deny a child’s behaviour can be problematic, but with a blanket expansion of CAMHS we run the risk of psychiatrists being able to run amok and expand the burden of mental ‘disease’ further. Academics are starting to rebel at the over diagnosis of dyslexia. Putting aside debate over the existence of the disorder, the evidence shows the label is doing nothing to help those afflicted with it. There aren’t any implications for treatment, and the best it does is allow middle class elbow to secure more funding and assistance for their child. I was banded by CAMHS when I was younger, giving my school more financial assistance for my uh, behaviours, but when seen by a psychiatrist he shunned from giving me a label and decided I would grow into myself. Here I am now. Replace this with the current climate where there will be desperation for parents and children alike to cling to a diagnosis and we will pathologies the entirety of childhood.
Desperate middle class parents run in tandem with the interests of the psychiatry profession. As revealed in James Davies book Cracked the current head of the Royal College of Psychiatrists doesn’t appear to be interested in debating the evidence and track record of its own house and is entirely obsessed with getting the ‘disease’ status. Something being a disease is attached to money, money allows you to expand the profession, expanding the profession gives you the resources to lobby more saps like Clegg. Norman Lamb falls prey to this too, quoting research from Time To Change indicating mental health stigma is going down. What is actually happening is the perception from a personal failing is turning into the perception people are falling prey to a disease to be medicalised. Progress? Perhaps not when we see people are treated with even less empathy when being seen this way
Worldwide the focus is more vague. The current head of the World Psychiatric Association thinks the focus should be on turning psychiatrists into social workers. Rather than seeking out ‘ social inequalities’ and trying to manufacture better public relations with gay people and women you would think his focus should be on the dire record of psychiatry full stop. Medications which don’t work, not to mention their side effects. The relationship between his profession and corporate institutions. Even things as simple as improving the DSM are seen as irrelevant. I’m not hostile to the concept of psychiatry; I know from personal experience mental anguish is real and rehabilitating, but we have an establishment abandoning what should be the aims of their practice in favour of their institutional interest.
Psychologists aren’t innocent either. They primarily have the ear of the government at the moment, hence the massive expansion of assess to clinical therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) under the last government and the current. Academic advisors such as Richard Layard spearheaded it into the NHS and continue to bang the drum as it being a catchall saviour to our woes in books such as Thrive, devoured by right thinking people. CBT isn’t and cannot be this solution, despite it being useful in many circumstances. When the British Psychological Society are criticised over their weakly evidenced report in favour of CBT it too lashes out and calls for unity. One of the authors said criticism must be reserved for journals rather than the internet. Kinderman, referenced earlier, goes down into the comments to condemn the authors for not putting on a united front.
Any taskforce instituted by a government must down the route of insisting we discover what works before we devote resources to expanding the institutional power of the professions where we can’t even have confidence their remedies relieve our ailments. Mental health research is too neglected and too underfunded. The new charity Mental MQ is developing a project to discover what courses of action people respond to; congratulations to them for reminding us what clinical practice should be about. By the time any of this research comes to light, we may live in a world of the insane led by those who are insane enough to think they can cure insanity.