18 May 2008

Mental Health & Religion - A comparison

The more I think about it, the more the Mental Health Industry (MHI) appears to me to be no more than the secular version of the Organized Religion Industry (ORI). Indeed, the MHI is well placed to take over the de facto functions of the ORI.

Consider the following.

The MHI uses the amorphous stuff of the mind, not brain, as its guide for distinguishing mental health from mental illness.

The MHI determines mental illness not by a malady evidenced in the body; no, instead 'mental health professionals' look to people's behaviour. Conveniently, what they or society deem as abnormal, deviant, - in a word, sinful - behaviour comes to be associated with mental illness.

Conversely, mental health marks a set of behaviours which demonstrate a person as being faithful to society's standards, behaviours which conform to the precepts of good, civilized, NORMal conduct.

Conveniently, psychiatrists have positioned themselves as the most qualified to define normal behaviour. I wish I could just laugh at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which is the bible of the MHI, but it horrifies me too much.

Like the MHI, the ORI works its magic - its hocus pocus - on people's minds (spirits, souls). Since a person's internal life can never be known by another, the stuff of religion is, as is the case for the MHI, our behaviour: what we do, including ritualistic motions; what we say; and what we say we believe.

In other words, the ORI takes as its speciality the entire field of morality; indeed, its devotees will argue that "without faith" a person can have no morality. The MHI too has taken up morality, i.e., the NORMal. Both exude paternalism.

The ORI is big business, tax exempt, and supported by governments in a myriad of ways. The aim of the ORI is to modify people's thoughts, beliefs, and behaviour, to ensure that these conform to certain standards - standards which the ORI judges itself alone qualified to determine.

The MHI is big business, faithful to the medical model of health and therefore tax exempt. Government and the acute care system (the Healthcare Industry, minus the MHI) have worked well together - to ensure their own survival and power. In one way, the MHI is still the new kid on the block, since government has been reluctant to include 'mental illness' as a health priority. But things are looking up. With government coming around, clearly the benefits of inclusion - of the MHI - have been recognized.

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