This article on the Everday Musings blog, part of Everday Awareness Scotland, is a response to a previous opinion piece on CommonSpace titled ‘Turn your illness into a weapon – mental distress from a socialist perspective’ (click here to read more).
UNLIKE Dr Bruce Scott, I have no medical or psychiatric training, so in some senses I’m poorly prepared to challenge his position. However, I do feel equipped to respond from the perspective of someone who has experienced mental illness, cares for someone with a severe and enduring mental health issue, campaigns against discrimination and stigma and teaches mindfulness meditation for well being.
I’m sufficiently left of centre to appreciate and welcome the socialist standpoint Scott takes. It is refreshing to read a perspective on mental and emotional distress that embraces the social contexts in which distress arises or is so identified. The literature on the prevalence of diagnosed mental ill health in communities experiencing poverty is unequivocal and points clearly to the preconditions that may create mental distress.
However, the processes that create understandable reactions to intolerable conditions are less widely recognised. The tendency to respond solely to the individual rather than to their social context is counterproductive and profoundly disrespectful. In particular, the systematic categorisation of people’s experience principally through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is blinkered and discriminatory. To be diagnosed with schizophrenia is to have only one facet of our being described, and that inadequately.
We need to accept, as Scott suggests, that there may be many meanings to our distress, and that to close down our exploration and our challenging of those meaning may also close down routes to our recovery.
However, I take issue with Dr Bruce Scott on a number of points.
Picture courtesy of Jared Cherup