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John Chuckman

COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE BY OWEN JONES IN THE GUARDIAN

 

“The intolerable pressures placed on our girls and boys are resulting in shockingly high levels of mental health problems’

It might sound concerned to say things like that, but such words I believe are in fact largely inaccurate and needlessly hurtful.

As just one example of what I mean, in the 1940s and 1950s – and perhaps continuing even later – professional therapists and psychiatrists were telling people that schizophrenia was the result of overly-dominant mothering.

You can imagine how many thousands of families had pain and guilt dropped into their lives by professionals, no less, on top of the terrible pain of having an incurably schizophrenic son.

And there is a long history of such quackery around mental health.

It continues today among those who blame social conditions for mental illnesses.

Virtually all genuine mental health problems – from simple anxiety to the extreme psychoses – are determined by genetic make-up, and the truth is even science today is incapable of dealing with them in any really effective way.

We have some medications, but they at best suppress symptoms and in a number of cases are fairly ineffective.

The truth is that we still do not know enough to correct what is wrong in such minds, much as we do not know what triggers so many diseases and faulty conditions in other, less complex organs of the body than the brain.

We do know that most people can go through quite terrible situations – from WWII or the Holocaust – and, though pained and unhappy, remain pretty much fully functioning.  The mind is truly that resilient for most. Were it not, society would have come to a halt long ago.

But it is no help to anyone to posit and advocate theories of mental health with no science in them, just as the therapists of sixty or seventy years ago did.

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