Combating “Stigma” As A Selling Point

If you want more people claiming to be “mentally ill” in the world, there is a sure fired way to get them, and that way is to fight “stigma”, the “stigma” attached, by the way, to making that claim. This, at a time when currently the USA “mental illness” rate is estimated to range from somewhere just under 20 % to 25 % of the US population. We need, in other words, more mental patients like we need more Lyme’s disease to make Swiss cheese of more people’s brains.

What is the highest health care cost in the USA? The cost of mental health care. Why is this so? Because of campaigns to end “stigma”. “Mental illness” is a very popular “illness”. The state is paying for it to be so. What the state is not doing is getting people out of the mental health system (i.e. “mentally well”). This is because it is, in point of fact, not a mental health system at all, it is a “mental illness” system. You don’t push approaching a 1/4 of the population of the USA into treatment, for their “illnesses”, however illusory, if you want people to leave that system. “Mental illness” represents a cash cow to all sorts of people.

There’s a slogan out there that goes, ‘It’s okay not to be okay’, which is kind of like saying, ‘It’s cool not to be cool’. Suddenly all these tinted shades have gone completely transparent. A contradiction is no longer a contradiction. A horse is a goose, a snake is a cow, a duck is a bear, your enemy is your friend, etc., etc., etc. Illogic is no longer illogic. Got it. You get these slogans because there’s money to be made in mental health treatment, and somebody is out to make it. When we talk about mental health treatment here, it is important to note, we are talking about treating people claiming to “have a mental illness”. There is no money to be made in treating people who claim to “have mental health”.

There is also, to provide a corollary, no known “stigma” attached to “mental health”, except in so far as there is a “stigma” attached to “mental illness”, giving the person who makes the claim of having a “mental illness” access to a steady funding stream denied to the person claiming to “have mental health”. We can’t manufacture “disability” payments without at the same time manufacturing “disabled” people to receive them. Manufacturing “able” people, enabling them, would be working in the opposite direction, that is, on getting more people back into the work force, and on lessening the numbers of people claiming to have a “mental illness”. This, unfortunately, is not the direction in which we are headed.

The World Health Organization has, if alarmingly, announced more than warned that depression is rapidly overtaking heart disease as the number one cause of disability throughout the world. A heck of a lot of people are unhappy. If we pay people to be unhappy, of course, that is not going to mean you’ve got less unhappy people in the world. If you keep people from being employed because of their unhappiness that is not going to make for less unhappy people in the world at large either. If you build a business around people’s unhappiness that is not going to make for any fewer unhappy people in the world as well.

Obviously, we are waiting on some kind sea change here that may be a long time indeed in arriving. Could we make a business out of facilitating happiness and contentment, in a material as well as spiritual sense, we might be getting somewhere. “Mental illness”, or rather it’s treatment, may be selling like hotcakes, all the same, were that it could be “mental health”, or non-treatment, that was selling instead; then the little pandemic of “mental disorder” that we are stuck in the middle of at present might show signs of letting up.

Food for thought then, for the decades ahead: how do we get people out of the mental health system and back into their communities rather than expand that system, and, thereby, manufacture more people who see themselves as being “in need” of treatment. I certainly don’t think we are going to get there by pretending to be combating a “stigma” attached to receiving treatment.

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