In exploring alternative approaches to mental health, it is first important to understand what mental illness actually is. Most psychiatric survivors reject the term “mental illness” altogether, as it supports what is considered the “medical model” of mental health.
The medical model is based on the idea that there is a physiological impairment creating a neurochemical imbalance in a person’s brain, resulting in a mental illness. Despite this popular perspective, it is based on flawed science.
To deny the biological basis of mental illness is not to deny that people are experiencing emotional, psychological, and at times even physical distress. So what exactly is going on? Many factors play a role.
According to the late psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Szasz, “Our adversaries are not demons, witches, fate, or mental illness. We have no enemy whom we can fight, exorcise, or dispel by ‘cure.’ What we do have are problems in living.”
Evidence also shows that lack of good nutrition may be a source of what people call mental illness. Research into the “gut-brain connection” reveals that food we eat can alter our behavior.
Many also view their experiences not as an illness, but as a process of spiritual emergency. This perspective has gained widespread attention through Sean Blackwell’s YouTube video series “Bipolar or Waking Up.”
There are clearly many perspectives on what mental illness is. In our next segment, we will explore alternatives to psychiatric hospitals during a crisis.
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