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The core beliefs of a humane mental health system

Posted Jan 13 2013 7:52pm

The following post is based in large part on the previous post asking you to describe your experience of the mental health system and the feedback that post received.


Is it possible for the mental health system to be humane??  Many would answer no.  Some might say it already is.  What core beliefs would characterize such a system if it could exist.  Below is my attempt at an answer.  When I look at the posts on this blog I am astonished at how many posts speak directly to one or more of these “core beliefs.”

  •  A mental health diagnosis is not a real thing.  It is not the fundamental reality of the person diagnosed.  It is a name for a group of behaviors, experiences, and beliefs that compares that person to other people with similar experiences, behaviors and beliefs.  It is either a useful comparison in which case it helps to create a plan to help that person or a misleading and useless comparison that fundamentally leads to actions that are either useless or even harmful.  No matter how many times you call somebody something or what you call him the name is called is not the same as the person called it.
  • People exist on several different dimensions.  Physical, emotional, social, spiritual, historical etc.  No one of these dimensions is more real than another.  People cannot be reduced to any one simple thing.  To say we are fundamentally the actions of our brain is not to state a scientific fact but to state a philosophical assumption.  Meaning matters.
  • The presence of mental health issues does not mean that people cannot live a happy satisfying life.  Many people with them do lead happy lives.  Many people without them do not.  The presence of mental health issues is not a terminal judgment on the quality of your life.
  • Change is real.  The presence of any mental health issues does not make change an illusion or unlikely to happen.  Again the testimony of countless people is that this is true.  It does not mean that distress is not real and difficulties not hard. It means that people can in many ways get past hard things.  It means people can and do successfully deal with the challenges in their life…particularly when they see good and important reason to do so.  It means that human beings can and do a lot when they see the events of their lives as offering them an opportunity to become better and stronger people and lead the kind of lives they ultimately want to lead.  If we tell people that deprivation is the only real thing we have destroyed them and their hope.
  • A mental health professional may be very helpful in helping life to get better, but some people recover without them.  Their role is at most that of consultant or coach.  It is not that of director.  I am in charge of my own recovery.  Recovery is not something I get or have.  It is something I do.  I dont receive it.  I create it.
  • There is no reason to believe that my issues must be a life-long affair.  Many hard times are episodic events.  We can and often do get past them.  I am more than what bothers me regardless of how much it bothers me.  I am more than what it hard regardless of how hard it is.  Life, as a human being, is more than anything else about change.  Change is in fact the only stable thing in life.
  • The most important thing is what I choose and not what is chosen for me.  I have the right and it is of ultimate importance for me to make my own choices in life.  Life is not about following medical instructions regardless of the level of expertise of the person giving them.  Recovery is about what I choose to do and not what is done to me or for me.
  • It is important to know how I am like other people but those commonalities do not define me.  I am a unique person.  The things that are important to me like my emotions, thoughts, values, goals, and choices must be treated as important if I am to be treated as important.

There are other core beliefs that are also part of a humane system.  These are only mine.  What else would you add??

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