On June 3, President Obama delivered a speech on the expansion of mental health services. The occasion was the National Conference on Mental Health, which was held at the White House.
“The truth is,” the President told us, “in any given year, one in five adults experience a mental illness — one in five.”
In most human endeavors something is true only if it can be shown to be so. In psychiatry and politics, however, a statement becomes true if it’s repeated often enough. For the past 60 years, the APA has been systematically expanding their diagnostic net until – surprise, surprise – it now envelops 20% of the population. With the lowering of thresholds in DSM-5, we can be sure that this number will continue to rise, and whoever is President then will be able to tell us that one in four of the population has a mental illness. Gosh!
Note also that the President uses the term “mental illness” as opposed to “mental disorder.” The APA use the latter term in their manual to make the concept somehow more acceptable. But these “disorders” always morph into illnesses in application.
Back to the President:
“And oftentimes, those who seek treatment go on to lead happy, healthy, productive lives.”
No doubt there’s truth in this, but in fairness he might have given a little air time to those who don’t – to those whose lives have been ruined by psychiatric drugs and electric shock treatment. He might also have made reference to the petition lodged on the White House website in December 2012 to launch an investigation into the link between psychiatric drugs and violence. This petition, although well on the way to obtaining the requisite number of signatures, was inexplicably closed down after only a week. And might he not also have mentioned that since the widespread introduction of antidepressants, there has been a huge increase in chronic depression?
President Obama went on to observe that “…we often think about mental health differently than other forms of health.” This is subtle because he doesn’t actually say: a real illness just like diabetes, but he manages to convey that impression.
And then: “The brain is a body part too…” Here again, giving the impression that he supports the official mantra – mental illnesses are brain diseases – but leaving an escape hatch just in case we deniers kick up too much of a fuss.
He tells us: “We’ve got to get rid of that embarrassment; we’ve got to get rid of that stigma,” but neglects to mention that the persistent medicalization of human problems over the past decades has actually increased the stigma. Wouldn’t you think the President would know this?
But this is all about pharmaceutical profits, and here’s the central point:
“Too many Americans who struggle with mental health illnesses are still suffering in silence rather than seeking help, and we need to see it that men and women who would never hesitate to go see a doctor if they had a broken arm or came down with the flu, that they have that same attitude when it comes to their mental health.”
In other words: all you mental illness guys and gals out there who aren’t coming in for “treatment,” come on down! We’ve got pills for you.
And then the standard psychiatric scare tactic:
“…when a condition goes untreated, it can lead to tragedy on a larger scale.”
He reminds us: “Today, less than 40 percent of people with mental illness receive treatment — less than 40 percent.”
The President then announced various promotional activities that are being implemented to “change attitudes.” He mentions TV ads, school assemblies on mental health, organizations like the YMCA training their staff to recognize depression, etc…
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Why, you might ask, would anyone be against an increase in mental health services? Surely mental health services help people.
I’ve said it often, and I’ll keep saying it. The concept of mental illness is conceptually spurious, and in practice it is destructive, disempowering and stigmatizing. American psychiatry and the mental health system under its control have degenerated into an enormous outlet for psychiatric pharmaceutical products.
The President’s speech is just another pharma promotion designed to counteract the negative press generated by the launch of DSM-5.
This website is not about politics, and this post is not about President Obama. He didn’t write the speech; he’s just the mouthpiece. The various mental health “initiatives” in the pipeline have broad bipartisan support. Can you believe that? The American Congress actually agree on something. Why would mental health be the one topic on which the Republicans and Democrats can see eye to eye?
Here’s a clue. In 2012, the pharmaceutical industry spent $234 million on lobbying; more than any other industry. (Next was business associations, with $172 million.) If there’s one thing (and it may be the only thing) that American politicians can agree over, it’s a big pile of cash. We have the best government that money can buy.
This presidential speech and general cheerleading is a set-back, but not a major one. If you think that the proposed expansion of mental health services might not be such a great idea, please speak out. Let your voice be heard. Drugs are not a valid solution to life’s challenges. There are no mental illnesses. It’s a scam that makes Bernie Madoff look like a petty pickpocket!