Monday, March 13, 2017

Polarisation in the debate about mental illness

I have mentioned Mike Owen in a previous post. In a recent blog, he argues for less polarisation in the debate about the nature of mental illness. I couldn't agree more.

However, Mike does need to represent his opponents correctly if there is going to be a rapprochement. He says, "They assume, implausibly, that mind and brain are separate entities rather than different aspects of the same thing". This isn't true. The argument being made is not Cartesian. As Steven Rose says, "That brains enable minds is uncontroversial. That they 'are' the mind is a reductionism too far" (see Lancet article).

Similarly, Mike also says "They also fly in the face of a large body of evidence indicating the importance of genes and altered brain states in contributing to disorders of mental health". Again, not true. The critiques are evidenced-based. Genes, of course, set the boundaries of the possible but environments define the actual. More caution is needed in interpreting so-called altered brain states.

It is important that Mike understands what people are saying who are critical of his view. As Steven Rose says, people like Mike should not "dismiss without a backward glance not only millennia of philosophical debate but also a huge current literature on mind/brain relationships". There is a "conceptual innocence" about his position, although he is, of course, trying to dismiss any criticism. Despite what he may think, modern psychiatry has not solved the mind-brain problem.

1 comment:

cobweb said...

Is Mike just playing politics with people lives? He titled one blog 'United we stand, divided we fall' Who are the 'we'? He knows that the gene researchers based in Cardiff are not likely to share out their funding with those who hold different beliefs. That is what much of research actually is - The research premises in Cardiff are actually as big as a small village while people in the community cannot get even good basic access to treatments. Integration? Health and social services have been defending their own turfs for decades. Psychological services? they are non existent for the majority, too mzny people commit suicide for lack of care. There is not one mother and baby unit in the whole of Wales, children are shunted around the country, Mike had a golden opportunity to expose on Radio Wales what many people are aware of anyway..that the provision of help in Wales for mothers and babies (or most others) is a national disgrace..He used weasel words to defend the Welsh Government which he claims has the situation high on it's agenda. Well tht's alright we can all put things on our agendas. One lady on the programme he shared described her horror and distress when referred to a Welsh psychiatric hospital with 'post partum psychosis'- after a Skype discussion by 'the team' and Mike at the other end of the country she was eventually given 10 treatments of ECT - Wales has been notorious for it's use of ECT. So what's left? Neurobiology - well thousands of service users have already been used as research fodder. And last of all - involving service users and people with mental illnesses- tokenistic and insulting inclusion as far as researchers etc allow. Many of the conferences and events and applications for research completely exclude them.