“If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here”: Working for real change in societal responses to distress

This paper comes from David Harper and has been published in the Context journal. It begins:

“Systemic therapists are well-used to considering the multiple layers of context within which our lives are embedded, so I thought I’d use the invitation to write an article on alternatives to traditional psychiatric practice as an opportunity to look, from a societal perspective, at psychological distress and conduct that others find troubling – the kinds of things that might be currently labelled as ‘functional psychiatric diagnoses’. Why do we have the kinds of mental health systems that we have? What positive changes have occurred in recent years and what problems still remain? How might we develop a new vision, one where there is real change?

Let’s begin with a thought experiment. Imagine you’re sitting down with a blank sheet of paper in front of you. Forget the current structures, kinds of professions and interventions we currently offer to help people in distress. Try to step back from current culturally-dominant constructions of distress. What would be the key elements in designing a society-wide response? What kinds of societal measures would we need to take to address the inequalities that are the ‘causes of the causes’ of distress? What kinds of help would be available for those who have experienced hurt in their lives? In what context would this help be given? …”

You can read more from here.

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