Are you mentally ill, or very unhappy? Psychiatrists can’t agree

This article by Sophie McBain has been published in The New Statesman. It begins:

“One afternoon in December 2004, Samantha* left her house in northern England and walked to the nearby river. She tried not to think about her five young children, alone at home. She wanted to plunge into the water; she didn’t know how to swim.

Alarmed by her mother’s absence, Samantha’s 11-year-old daughter dialled 999, and the police found her on the riverbank. She was transferred to a psychiatric hospital, where she spent four days curled up in a ball, crying. She was already known to social services: Samantha had a violent ex-boyfriend and had been abused as a child before being taken into care at the age of 12. It was difficult to know how to be a good mother when she had never been mothered herself.

Shortly afterwards a psychiatrist, asked by the local authority to assess her, diagnosed Samantha with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Last year Samantha read the report to me over Zoom. By then we had been speaking for three months. She was warm and solicitous – ‘But anyway, how are you?’ she always asked – but now her voice was hard with rage. The report noted her ‘lack of a sense of personal responsibility’ and ‘poor impulse control’; it accused her of ‘feigning a mental disorder while in hospital’ …”

You can read more from here.

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