Stigma will stay until mental health is no longer a disease

Jamie keating, Daniel Vincent and Steve Ward at the opening of headspace in Lismore.
Jamie keating, Daniel Vincent and Steve Ward at the opening of headspace in Lismore. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

AS Chris Tanti of headspace states (Letters, June 26), stigma for those experiencing problems in living is alive and well.

Unfortunately, all the well-intended efforts to eradicate it are futile as long as mental health services insist on retaining the disease model of mental illness.

Most people suffering from psychological problems in living are experiencing coherent reactions to trauma, usually experienced in childhood.

Mental health services which insist of viewing such people as suffering from illnesses are ignoring the reality of people’s experiences, and instead usually suggest that they are suffering from aberrant brain chemistry, which requires correction with drugs.

The medical, or disease model of mental illness is only one arbitrary way of viewing these experiences.

Despite years of confident assurances, research has failed to locate discreet genes associated with specific problems; has failed to consistently demonstrate any particular ‘chemical imbalance’; and the drug treatments that follow on have for the most part failed to achieve clinical significance of improvement.

In addition, research has consistently shown that many psychiatric drugs can be harmful (eg. antidepressants for children and young people), and that stigma follows on from viewing some people as qualitatively different from others based on constructed ‘disease’ entities.

Most people with psychological problems in living are not qualitatively different – they are reacting to adverse life events, which do differ in frequency and intensity across the population.

The psychiatric labelling system poses that the people themselves are qualitatively different – there are those who are ‘sick’, and those who are ‘well’.

Stigma is the natural consequence of such a false dichotomy.

If we really want to help those who are suffering, then we need to do away with the disease model, as well as its labels, language and often damaging practices.

There are very viable psycho-social models which can make a better sense of such suffering and suggest ways forward.

The current approach clearly isn’t working.

Dr James Alexander

Fellow Australian

Association, Lismore

Topics:  headspace mental health stigma

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Three bandicoot joeys survive mum's death

Bandicoot joeys found by WIRES.

Baby bandicoots found in mother's pouch

Jenny Dowell's Doctor appointment

Former Mayor Jenny Dowell shares Lismore's 70th birthday cake with the public in 2016.

Former Lismore Mayor will receive an SCU honorary doctorate tomorrow

The future's bright for British whites

Cattle thrive in Australian conditions

Local Partners

‘I feel sh*t’: Agonising Married At First Sight split

IT’S the Married At First Sight break-up we knew would eventually happen. And when it did it was miserable and excruciating.

Splendour tickets on sale this weekend for locals

Crowd at Splendour in the Grass 2016.  Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Are you in the area allowed to purchase them?

Married at First Sight's controversial groom laying low

MAFS’ Anthony chooses to stay with wife Nadia at their vow renewal.

Anthony in hiding after backlash over his MAFS appearance

Seven, Nine’s crazy cyclone battle

Ruth Western ain't got time for Cyclone Debbie.

Reporters are battling fierce winds, and locals who won’t play ball.

MAFS bride shops around new love story

Nadia Stamp has put a price tag on her new man.

Nadia is shopping her $4000 new man ... and it’s not Anthony.

Kyle Sandilands declares war after dodgy editing

Shock jock Kyle Sandilands has issued a grim on-air warning

HEARTBREAK: M'boro farmer misses out on love on reality show

Susan Rawlings and Sean Hollands in a scene from Married At First Sight. Supplied by Channel 9.

Hearts were broken during Sunday's Married at First Sight episode.

Luxury hotel expands $400m water park development

Developer to push on with second stage of massive new water park

Dalwood waterfall up for sale

Two people have died at Dalwood Falls, Ballina.

How would you like to own your very own waterfall?

Couple ditch Springfield for $350 million rural lifestyle

Sales consultant Rachel Hargreaves (left) of Oliver Hume Waterlea at Wallon with new land owner Rebecca Mallett.

“To purchase a block the same size would be double the price here"

It's official: Byron Bay unaffordable

MILLIONAIRES ROW: The Housing Commission house in Keats St, Byron Bay which sold at auction on Saturday for $1.65 million.

Buying a home in Bay Bay is a dream too far for some

Coast home luring interstate buyers sold

PRIZED POSITION: Blue clip location, peaceful surroundings, spacious living with swimming pool, tennis court on 4562sq

The property was described as a 'Queenslander with Hamptons style'

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!