In the hopes of reducing stigma, mental health is often compared to comparably less stigmatizing  physical maladies.  But the problem is, mental illness can’t be defined in purely physical terms. I don’t feel it helps to see mental illness on par with physical problems, because we know so much less about what causes mental suffering than we do about physical suffering. Furthermore, our minds are the lens through which we view our whole world. We don’t see the world through our broken legs.  When we see a person who has a broken leg, we see them as a person with a temporarily broken leg, caused by environmental factors. Often, when we see a person with a mental illness, we see them not as a PERSON with a broken brain (which is a far cry from the whole picture anyway) – we see them AS a broken brain. Hence the importance of getting away from the “brain as the whole picture” idea. When someone breaks their leg, we don’t see it as having being caused by a genetically faulty leg. We see it as an interface with the leg and the environment. And, we usually say it was, say, a sporting injury. But no big deal, right? But if we see any interface with the environment with mental illness, we worry about blaming somebody. But unfortunately or fortunately, it’s not that simple. There are myriad nonlinear causes. But we do know some of what works. Unfortunately, only a portion of these options are funded. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical hegemony calls “brain disorder” in order to support their allegedly superior role  when compared to other helping methods, and we are left with flashy black and white headlines, and the complicated, longer, more humanizing road to mental wellness is never taken. Not that the brain piece we do know is not important, but we do have to question the territory into which the pharmaceutical industry leads us – good intentions, shaky morals, capitalistic values, consumer mentality and all.

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