September 24, 2023
What do you think accounts for the trend of labeling as mental illness so many issues people experience?
For example, we might have said in the past that people who really like a certain subject (such as math) aren't usually good at other subjects (English) and that was considered normal — it's harder to be good at things you don't care about or dislike. Or maybe someone has trouble focusing on one thing for very long because his mind is very active, constantly leaping from one thing to another. In the past that might have been considered brilliant, though perhaps eccentric. Today, these people are neither brilliant nor eccentric. Instead, they are diagnosed with ADHD.
Nowadays, it seems any perceived mental deviation from some subjective norm is declared "mental illness." Lose your keys? That must be Alzheimer's. Really good in one subject but not so good in others? You have ADHD and need Adderall. Afraid of being told something, or doing something, you don't like (such as going to work in the morning)? Well, that's got to be anxiety.
Discussion of non-tangibles such as mind, will, conscience, intellect, and so on has been replaced by medical explanations of the physical brain and its associated chemicals. Can't find something that makes you happy? It's not that you lack the will to try, it's that you lack the right chemical in a certain area of the brain — and here's a little blue pill to help you out with that.
When I was kid we were taught a few things that have stuck with me over the years.
First, people with real mental illness (i.e. what a reasonable person would consider to be batsh*t crazy) are supposed to be institutionalized. The rest of us need to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and "just deal with it" — that's what life is about. This was, incidentally, made very clear to me in military basic training.
Second, the absent-minded professor losing his keys doesn't mean he has Alzheimer's. People can and do forget. Not everything has to be a mental illness. On the other hand, if our professor is presented with keys and doesn't understand what keys are or what they're for, then he may have a bigger problem, maybe Alzheimer's, maybe dementia, or maybe something else.
Third, the will, the conscience, desire, likes/dislikes, what you're good at (or not), are not consequences of chemicals in the brain, but rather the mind you were given by God at birth and the free choices you make regarding how you develop that mind — or not — as you grow up.
They did away with institutionalization in the 1990s. Maybe we've also done away with a proper understanding of mental illness. I'm not a doctor, so I don't know. But even doctors disagree. There is no scientific certainty or unanimity on these issues.
Society's novel attitude toward mental illness — that it is ubiquitous and everyone has some form of it — in many cases though not all — seems to foster excuses for not taking responsibility or dealing with problems ("oh, my anxiety is up again, where's my Zoloft?"). And, if my actions are caused by mental illness (and not by me), then voila! I'm not responsible for my actions — hmm... that's convenient.
All of this seems to coincide with — or to have just preceded — the recent rise of atheism and medicine going woke. I wonder if there is a connection there as well.
Now for the mandatory disclaimer so that readers don't think I'm an uncompassionate jerk.
I'm not saying that there aren't real cases of mental illness — there are. We need to bring back mental institutions and hospitals so that these people can get the treatment they need. For milder cases, some medical prescriptions may be appropriate.
I am saying that anecdotally speaking, mental illness seems to be over-diagnosed, and mind-affecting drugs seem to be over-prescribed, to people whom in many cases might only need simply therapeutic counseling and a commitment of the will to move their lives in a new direction.
I would note in passing that poor decision-making (e.g. compulsory lockdowns and mask wearing) and fear-mongering on the part of governments, the mainstream media, and corporations during the so-called coronavirus "pandemic" significantly contributed to the collective mental stress and rise of anxiety endured by society at large.