Mental Health: Focusing Beyond the Individual

blackboard with no justice no peace title

This morning Facebook supplied yet another ad for me about mental health services. It was for a behavioral health hospital which was marketing itself as a trusted provider of effective help. 

Seeing that post triggered my continued struggle to declare, for myself and for at least some others, that these services sometimes aren’t effective. I wrote them a post, and it’s one of my favorite attempts to date trying to unpack and explain critiques of terms such as “health”, “behavioral issues”, and “effective”….

My Statement in Reply to the Facebook Advert

Effective help needs to also include fixing where people were failed by others/systems. How changes to those areas are what was needed to succeed, and how asking the individual to be solely responsible is a ridiculous and, at times, objectively impossible ask.

“Behavioral health” is an outdated concept. Yes, in some important instances personal change solutions are helpful. But so often it is also, at times, trying to teach people how to be tolerant and accepting of unacceptable situations. That needs to be challenged.

The other personal solution often offered by these institutions is the idea of leaving the unacceptable circumstance. Go away and find success elsewhere. This can work sometimes, but with at least two massive flaws:

1) It lets others/systems avoid accountability for their problematic behaviors

2) It minimized or outright denies the fact that sometimes there is nowhere else to realistically go.

The systems at hand have few to no answers for these issues, and disavow responsibility for addressing them. We need to move beyond the individual and include accountability of systems/others when talking about issues of mental health.

Follow Up Notes #1

In response to a comment on a social media site…

1) When I say “change others”, that absolutely includes the mental health care system. Both at systemic and individual provider levels.

2) Agree with acknowledging the differences between how it could/should be versus how it currently is.

On #2, part of my advocacy is to continue to refuse to hold a view that my current circumstances are acceptable, or even tolerable. A view I hold, that parallels this post, is holding firm to an idea that…

As is, my life is currently intolerable. A important and large portion of why includes the attitudes and designs of people/systems as they currently are. When those change, I will do better. When those don’t change, I will continue to be living an intolerable life. I am arguably not empowered to change that until external conditions/attitudes change. I am beyond exhausted of mental health offerings insisting that I am. 

That message seems so intensely absent from so much of modern dialogue on mental health.

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3 Responses

  1. reminds me of the website “Mad in America” and the class privileges that create opportunities for the lucky few

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