“Mental illness” is big business. Designing apps for mental health screening off PDAs, and positioning mental health screening devices in supermarket kiosks, are among the novel ways the “mental illness” industry has found of late for drumming up business. The idea is that if 1 in 4 people are nutzo, but only 30 % of that 25 % are ‘in treatment’, you’ve still got another 70 % of these loonies out there shy of your butterfly nets. If you want to make that 25 %, either you need a bigger butterfly net, or you need an additional stock of Looney birds.
Selling “mental illness”, in mental health ghetto lingo, is referred to as combating or countering “stigma”. It works like this, were one to suggest that there is something wrong with the government subsidizing people claiming psychiatric disability, then one is “stigmatizing” people with “serious mental illnesses”. He or she went to a doctor, he or she “won” the diagnosis lottery “fair and square”, he or she is entitled, and entitled to the lifetime pay offs, and the permanent vacation that goes along with such a scam. He or she who thinks otherwise is a bigot who “stigmatizes” people with “mental illnesses”.
Mental health professionals have their part to play in these “anti-stigma” scams, too, because it means more business, and more business means job security, and job security means status and power. You can’t be a quack, in other words, if you’ve got a legitimate college degree, and a steady stream of clients. You must be important and necessary as well. Yeah, right. The patient who invests in your services reinforces this sense of worth and purpose, and at the present time, patients are investing right and left. Mental health professionals are now claiming that those reluctant to use their services are guilty of a “stigma” against that profession. Of course, these claims are not made in the interests of downsizing (i.e. “mental health”).
Thing is, “mental illness” “exists” cough cough in this murky region between crime and medicine. Between the person with the large estate and the yachts, and the person who can’t get by working three or more jobs at once, you’ve a large crowd of people playing the diagnosis lottery. If they win they’re set for life, and if they lose, they’re set for life because they will win later. When the industry is after 25 % of the population, you’re chances of getting in are pretty good. An additional plus is that you’d be fueling industrial growth in the process by keeping the pharmaceutical industry afloat, pharmaceuticals that cause other “mental health” problems so-called, and pharmaceuticals that cause physical conditions on top of those psychiatric, sometimes neurological, complications.
“Mental health”, on the other hand, is not big business because the way to “mental health” is through non-consumption of “mental health” services. Another way of putting it is to say that either disease is physical, or it isn’t disease. Should you focus on physical health, “mental health” will follow, despite the fact that doctors have developed a health obsession disorder of their own for the sake of increasing business. Should you fixate on “mental disorder”, you can kiss your “mental health” goodbye, together with your physical health. Metaphysical ill health is like a black hole on the daily health record, the more you dwell on it, the more you get caught in the quicksand.
This is not to say that there isn’t a lot of money to be made by inferring that psychiatric problems are physical problems. We’ve now got a gene search for the source of personal difficulties going full tilt. Disappointed in their efforts to find the crazy gene, researchers are now pursuing gene clusters as the possible source of all sorts of socially unacceptable behaviors and negative personality traits. Brain research, too, is fueled by this industry. If we can find the regions of the brain involved, we can develop the drugs to pacify the afflicted. Patsies are not in short supply either, as with an economy out of sorts, on a periodic basis, you can expect from this industry only more and more expansion.
I, for one, don’t think “mental illness” should be a growth industry. Where physical illness is concerned, such growth would be characterized in negative terms as epidemic, or even pandemic. Of course, 1. “mental illness” has a little ways to go to catch up with the black death, and 2. it is not fatal. Encouraging “mental illness” to catch up with the black death is, in my book, not a great idea. Much mental health treatment IS potentially fatal. Until people start to realize that epidemic reports today are intended to increase the numbers of patients receiving treatment, you can’t reliably do anything about the problem. “Mental illness”, as such, is a growth industry and, thus, before you can do anything about slowing, halting, and reversing that growth, you need to recognize it for what it is.