A New Mental Health System? Interview with Jim van Os

Will Hall (pictured above and the author of “What Does It Mean To Be Called ‘Crazy’ in A Crazy World?”) has interviewed Professor Jim van Os.

In relation to this he says:

“With one of the highest mental health spending rates in Europe, the Netherlands is undergoing a dramatic rethinking of how to provide mental healthcare, a rethinking now gaining momentum throughout the region. In a [March, 2016] interview with Dr. van Os on Madness Radio — one of the most prestigious scientists in the world, in the top 1% of most-cited researchers, and a member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences — I got a glimpse of what is starting to emerge. Changes in The Netherlands have potential to influence mental healthcare worldwide.

“… if we rethink illness, we can then more honestly describe “psychosis” as a spectrum of experience, not an either-or marker of the presence of some presumed but never-proven disease process.”

Meaningful change can’t just ‘improve the standard of care.’ It must recognize that the entire standard is based on faulty measurements. First, there needs to be a new definition of health. Van Os points to how the antiquated definition of health as ‘absence of symptoms of disease’ leads to massive overtreatment and disregard for meaningful outcomes in individual lives — Not just in mental health, but across healthcare. He points to Huber and colleagues, writing in the British Medical Journal, who describe a new consensus emerging to define health as the ‘ability to adapt and self manage in the face of social, physical, and emotional challenges.’ …

Under the current standard of care we can, for example, demonstrate the very poor relief from psychotic symptoms realized through anti-psychotic medication use, and show how more selective use of medications — and avoidance of long term use — results in better treatment outcomes. But when we rethink the concept of ‘health’ itself, and move beyond measuring the absence of disease symptoms, we start to address something far deeper and more meaningful. We get at what the Hearing Voices Movement and mental diversity mutual support groups, led by patients around the world, have been pointing to: we can live with so-called symptoms and define recovery in human terms that embrace individual differences, and foreground the agency and empowerment of the person involved. A new definition of health builds a bridge across the ‘disease model’ that has resulted in a separation of the movement from medical practice …”

Read more here.

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