Mental health’ is a phrase everybody uses without thinking. Yet when we subject it to critical analysis, we can see just how slippery a term it really is. It is a term that reduces and reifies human experience to simple categories of good and ill health.
Today, political activists from all political persuasions often campaign for more or improved mental-health services. It is simply seen as a good thing. There is almost no interrogation of the concept of mental health from a critical psychoanalytical or philosophical perspective, or even rarer, a spiritual perspective. The uncritical acceptance of the idea of mental health has damaging consequences.
Chiefly, the mental-health agenda forces people to think of the problems they experience as purely psychological problems-a psycho-pathologisation of ordinary life. This is compounded and perpetuated by the discipline of psychology itself, which purports to be a neutral science. As Svetlana Boym argues in Another Freedom, psychology, rather than contesting the states of alienation and confusion, exacerbates these states, and celebrates them in a positivist ‘carnival of inauthenticity’. Indeed, alienation from ourselves is positively encouraged through psycho-biological frameworks (including genetic theories), which permeate the discipline of psychology and dispute and destabilise ideas of free will and responsibility, and which negates the idea that the wide range human emotions and experience is perfectly normal.
The crucial problem with psychology and its contemporary underpinning, the idea of mental health, is that it views human beings as, essentially, machines. And machines, as everyone knows, become faulty and need fixing. By reducing human beings to machines in this way, so that discontent, estrangement and so on are seen as forms of mental ill-health, the institutions of psychology shore up the status quo. They present the acceptance of the status quo as good mental health.
It needs to be understood that there is no good evidence to suggest that there are any biological deficits, genetic abnormalities, or chemical imbalances related to mental ill-health or mental disorders. The evidence base for mental illness is very poor by scientific standards. There are no medical tests a physician can give you to test for a mental illness.
The happiness demanded by the so-called radicals of mental-health campaigns buys into the secular postmodern imperative of the well-adjusted, adapted individual, alienated by the modern metaphysics of the self. Our modern state of being, of becoming increasingly unhappy and distressed (not mentally ill), is no doubt created by economic conditions. But it is also a result of the pathological inability to enjoy the myriad satisfactions offered to purchase, or life statuses we are encouraged and tempted to acquire in contemporary society. The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan was very cognisant of the fact that the modern demand for happiness, and the existence of the happiness/mental-health industry, implies the ultimately unsatisfying nature of customer satisfaction.
Mental healthism was also used in the development of the Named person scheme which morphed into the Adverse Childhood movement. I think people, parents and professionals need to be aware of this creeping totalitarianism in Scotland, seeping into the lives of families and their children. The tentacles of the state do not just turn up overnight; they grow via faux compassion and fake evidence – ‘The ACEs movement is about love and hugs’, some have been seen to tweet on social media. Indeed, presently in Scotland (and England too), primary school children are subjected to ‘resilience’ training or promoting health and emotional well-being, which derives from ACE ideology and focuses on well-being, psycho-social health and relationships.
These lessons are in effect psycho-social educational interventions based upon a narrow and reductive idea of ‘mental health’. Children as young as a five are asked to reflect upon relationships, emotions and their families. Psychological projection tools are used which encourage such reflection and yield much information (i.e., qualitative data) on children’s families, lifestyles, struggles, problems and difficulties.
Anecdotal reports are suggesting that younger children are becoming confused and distressed with this aspect of the school curriculum (an ACE in itself?). And these ‘lessons’ are conducted without informed consent or consultation with parents. There have been reports of parents asking teachers if any data is being taken or recorded from these lessons. They have been told that no data is being taken or recorded, yet posters designed by children, guided by teachers, adorn the walls of schools (worryingly non-anonymised) describing the emotional states, worries, trials and traumas of children and their parents. It seems that the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) mean little in this ACE inspired world. Data is everything in a totalitarian surveillance inspired world. Data leads to control.
Anyhow the ACE inspired school is an instance of the school being turned into a ‘mental health’ centre. These curricular developments are wholly inappropriate; the school is not a place where you meddle with the ‘mental health’ of a child, or extract information from them on issues pertaining to ‘mental health’ and well-being. There are specialist services and professionals to work with children if they need help. They are called Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). But CAMHS and NHS psychological services are overstretched and some are at breaking point. What exactly do ACE advocates want to do once they have identified all the ACE ‘victims’? Where will ACE advocates send children and what treatments will they receive when at present there are limited resources on offer?
I think Aldous Huxley’s thoughts on the issue of mental healthism are very helpful. This is from his “Brave New World Revisited”, where he quotes the psychotherapist Eric Fromm:
“But ‘let us beware’ says Dr Fromm, ‘of defining mental hygiene as the prevention of symptoms. Symptoms as such are not our enemy, but our friend; where there are symptoms there is conflict, and conflict always indicates that the forces of life which strive for integration and happiness are still fighting’. The really hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be the most normal. ‘Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does’.
Therefore, the rise of a therapeutic/mental hygienist totalitarianism or despotism is as Huxley alerts us to, is I believe alive in well in our times-in Sturgeon’s SNP dystopian vision. One just has to think of the failed “Named Person Scheme” in Scotland which has morphed into the Adverse Childhood Experiences movement. Essentially an ideology of the going in at birth/infancy if the child, to target “at risk” mothers and families, where state knowledge/state intervention is necessary to guide a child into and towards a standardised unity where diversity is extinguished; targeting a “pre-crime” ideologically speaking. I have written about these issues in the Scottish Review . But essentially if we ignore the warnings from the likes of Huxley and no heed the lessons from totalitarian pasts and current totalitarian states (e.g., China), we are heading into a dark place. This is especially so in light of the drive of the ACE ideology (with its whiff of eugenics), transhumanism and the desire to link artificial intelligence with biological systems. I think personally human civilisation in on a precipice mirroring some dark dystopian science fiction movie, except it is not a movie any more. This is all the more real when you consider the trans or queer theory inspired educational system, critical race theory infiltration in all walks of life (anecdote-cis white male privilege-school council).
Anyhow, from a document of Brainwashing and mental healthism ex-head of the KGB Anatoly Beria states in regard getting mental healthism integrated into a country culture; and before I quote him, think of LGBT clubs in schools, human rights indoctrination, values etc etc as Richard has eloquently discussed.
“Psychopolitical operatives should at all times be alert to the opportunity to organise, “for the betterment of the community” mental health clubs or groups. By thus inviting the co-operation of the population as a whole in mental health programmes, the terrors of mental aberration can be disseminated throughout the populace. Furthermore, each one of these mental health groups, properly guided, can bring, at last, legislative pressure against the government to secure adequately the position of the psychopolitical operative, and to obtain for him government grants and facilities, thus bringing a government to finance its own downfall.”
The standardisation of human behaviour, from a Soviet communist perspective, leading to a mental healthism (or the mental health of the population dependent upon the state) is backed up from the testimony of Dr Boris Sokoloff in his “White Nights: pages from a Russian Doctor’s Notebook . Here is shows why the neo-liberal goal of a cultural hegemony of mental health and a leftist/communist mental healthism archives the same outcome; servitude or slavery to a mono-system:
“Russian communism is generally considered to be fighting capitalism— whose defeat is its prime goal. Actually, of course the Soviet regime, being an extreme form of state capitalism, is fighting not capitalism as such but private industry and commerce. But much more important is the fact that neocommunism is a movement directed against individualization and toward the standardizing of all Man’s activities. It is the farthest-reaching attempt ever made in this direction. Steadily and persistently, the Soviet regime is driving toward its ultimate goal: control of human behaviour. It states officially that man can transcend his heredity and transform his environment and so achieve full uniformity of behaviour. In this gigantic social and biological experiment, carried out largely through the [mis-]education of children and youth, the Soviets are using the [Pavlovian] conditioned-reflex mechanism on a large scale. They openly declare that this is essential to their purpose, that through such standardization a complete hold over their subjugated peoples can be attained.” Page 293.
Hannah Arendt, described totalitarianism as the attempted transformation of human nature itself. However, this attempted transformation only results turning sound minds into sick minds. Arendt’s fear is exemplified by the attack on our children and the traditional family via interrogating heteronormativity and gender, deconstructing via postmodernist ideology, the pursuit of truth via the god of science and the godless narcissistic pursuit of the ideal self which is played out in the cultural hegemony of mental health or mental healthism where the self is made into a God.
Considering what Arendt warns and in our age of anti-religion, anti-family, queer theory etc I think I will end here with a quote from Martin Lloyd-Jones from his book The Christian Warfare: An exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13.
“Our age is one that has largely ceased to believe in the supernatural at all. This is partly due to the advance of science in its various branches. Man is regarded as the master of his own fate and the determiner of everything……It is my belief, as I have tried to show in my exposition of the Apostles warnings, that the modern world, and especially the history of the present century, can only be understood in terms of the unusual activity of the devil and the ‘principalities and powers’ of darkness.”