Something has become clear from the feedback I have had on DABHD so far – it is being seen as a fascinating and useful illustration of how depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties can affect people in different ways and respond differently to various treatments.
So, can we start a debate? A non-judgemental debate that offers an opportunity to express views and opinions freely on a subject that affects the lives of around 25% of the population? Shall we call it ‘Emotional pain and medicalisation: where do we draw the line?’ and see where it takes us…..
No one person experiences emotional pain in the same way, so how can we expect a ‘one treatment fits all’ solution to make a real impact? At the moment the NHS promotes therapies based heavily on cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT. This approach doesn’t work for everyone, and if it does work, it’s effect can be short-lived. I undertook a course of CBT which helped for a few months but which has now left me with a legacy of guilt – I know what I should be doing to address my anxieties but I cannot put the theory into practice anymore. Am I a failure? Or is CBT too simple an approach to a complex subject?
In the media, celebrities are raising awareness of mental health problems with a focus on reducing the stigma often attached to an admission of mental ill-health. The favoured way to do this, it seems, is to compare mental health directly with physical health - there is no stigma attached to the pain of a broken leg, so why should there be any attached to emotional pain? But does this approach help long-term? Is there a danger of a backlash against what has already been perceived in some circles as a ‘fashion’ for fragility in the celebrity community? There is a great article in the latest edition of One in Four magazine on this subject. I recommend a read.
The celebrity approach also focuses heavily on the taking of anti-depressants to alleviate symptoms. But does some medication just mask the problem? If you go through therapy whilst on medication, can you ever get to the root of your emotional pain? Or is it impossible to deal with that pain, without at least something to support you through it? Who can have a tooth out without local anaesthetic? Is that a safe analogy? It would be interesting to hear from psychotherapists on that point.
Perhaps a key question here is ‘are mental health issues sometimes an illness and sometimes not?’. When does normal emotional pain become an illness, if it ever truly does?
I think that until we address these issues there will always be those who see mental ill health as a weakness; a lack of balance that makes a person an unreliable employee, friend or partner. The NHS will continue to adopt the approach that appears to offer the quickest results at the cheapest price, without considering what an individual actually needs.
We need to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues. I believe a book like DABHD can help inform the debate. So what do you think?