Pop Goes The Mental Health Industry

jack-in-the-box

Mental health, on the part of mental health workers and mental health consumers, constitutes an obsession, a fixation to the exclusion of other, if not more, equally important matters. Self-absorption, let me stress, need not consume the major portion of any one person’s time, and taking the matter a little further, it need not consume the major portion of a person’s life either.

This fixation, this obsession, has resulted in a staggering population boom in the numbers of people receiving taxpayer monies for what are suggested to be psychiatric disabilities. One book I chanced upon recently made the claim that the mental patient population has increased 3-fold since the 1990s. Mental health (i.e. mental illness treatment) literature increasingly puts the figure of people in need of mental health services at somewhere approaching 20 % of the population, and even, in many instances, nearer 1/4 of the population.

Biological psychiatry, the other equally obsessed side of this equation, ever strives to be blind to its own connection with the discredited eugenic theories of the past. If self-absorption is biological in nature rather than the result of conscious decision making, job security is assured. The mad doctoring profession must equally be the result of some sort of magical archetypical throw of the dice. Fortunate indeed, in other words, is he or she who can forge a career out of “caring” for the less fortunate.

The failures of psychiatry are glaring. Not that long ago there was talk about a war on “mental illness”. At the present juncture in time, it appears as if that war against “mental illness” has been won by the “disease”, or the “disorder”, if you prefer, rather than by the mental health profession. The “mentally ill archetype”, at least for the present, is with us to stay. This war on “illness” has degenerated into a war on “stigma’. Funny thing, as in the war on “mental illness”, “stigma” seems to be winning.

The struggle against “stigma”, in point of fact, flies in the face of the struggle against “mental disorder”. As this “stigma” is seen as being directed against people possessed by a “mental disorder”, asking them to forsake their precious “mental disorders” is seen as a more precarious task than asking others to give up their “stigmas”. If state subsidies are to be seen as entitlements, these subsidies entitle people to their “mental disorders”, and their respective faiths in those “mental disorders” as well, gay sera sera. To suggest otherwise is to “stigmatize” people blessed, or damned as the case may be, with psychiatric difficulties.

In actuality, the “mental disorder” gene is still proving to be as elusive as the purple cow of legend. Mental health treatment, on the other hand, is big, big, big business. You are not going to have a small amount of “mental illness” when “mental health”, its treatment, is such big business. Desperate people, I suppose the theory goes, require desperate measures. Of course, the one thing desperate measures don’t do is to alleviate peoples’ desperation. On the other hand, if we throw more money on the fire, the fire will grow, we can pass the buck, and blame, of course, the disorder for being so pervasive.

The real problem here is that the industry itself needs treatment because, if unreason is a disease, it constitutes a disease. Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage: “A fool and his money are easily parted.” Well, this adage is especially true when mental health treatment is doing the parting. That said, the fool here is not so much the mental patient as it is the taxpayer who is footing the bill for the patient, the mental health worker, and all mental health industry fellow travelers. I won’t say the cure is within sight. At this point in time, the solution remains a hoot owl on the branch of a tree in the depths of the night.

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