The Case Against Mental Health Awareness Raising

“Commentators often equate mental health problems with physical ailments (insisting rightly that we should be no less embarrassed to talk about mental than about physical disease). The flip side of this, however, is that only when the afflicted person is treating her mental ailments like physical problems, i.e. with pills, are we willing to validate her suffering. This might create a perverse pressure to prove that you really are mentally unwell rather than just stressed out.”

Jonathan Gleadell, writing in Areo magazine, says:

“In the wake of World Mental Health Day and Theresa May’s appointment of a suicide prevention minister, this might seem like the least propitious time to make a case against mental health awareness, even if both of the events mentioned have been criticized as tokenistic rather than consequential. Evidently, awareness raising about mental health has never been more widespread, yet it is still often argued there is a taboo against talking about mental illness.

Newspaper columns often showcase frenzied discussions of everything from the student suicide epidemic to the worrying rise in antidepressant use, whilst personal stories of mental illness are shared more often and more openly by the day. Social media provides other ways of raising awareness, from hashtags to viral campaigns. For example, here is a detailed summary of the ways in which memes are used to promote mental health awareness. But this catch-all phrase awareness has been coming under increasing scrutiny. Some commentators argue that we have an over-prescription problem, symptomatic of a moral panic fuelled by too many doctors pandering to patient fears, too much self-diagnosis and too little effective research into the utility of antidepressant use. We must continue to ask ourselves if raising awareness is still proactive or meaningful. The push for awareness can be a counterproductive way of approaching the mental health crisis …”

Read more here.

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