To celebrate CoDI returning for a 4th year in 2016, we shall be running a blog for the following 25 days titled ’25 Days of CoDI’, to give you all a taste of what CoDI has in store for you at #edfringe 2016! So take a seat, get comfy, and feast your eyes upon our first post…
On the first day of CoDI, Beltane revealed to me…
The first CoDI act of 2016… Professor Stephen Lawrie: Mental Health is… Mental
No your mam’s new car isn’t mental, and neither is Kanye’s new song… Stephen Lawrie’s talk on mental health however, well yes, that is mental!
Stephen Lawrie is Head of Psychiatry at Edinburgh University, Director of the Scottish Mental Health Research Network, and PsySTAR Director. (PsySTAR is a UK PhD training programme for psychiatrists). As an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist with NHS Lothian, he works as a general adult psychiatrist in Edinburgh.
Professor Lawrie’s overarching goal is developing research tools to provide objective diagnoses and improve the management of major psychiatric disorder. He is particularly interested in clinical applications of brain imaging in psychosis and in the development of novel treatments. These treatments might enhance outcomes in established schizophrenia and possibly even prevent psychosis in high risk populations.
His own research has primarily involved using structural and functional brain imaging. This is used to distinguish patients with schizophrenia from their relatives, and from other patients with major psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder and autism. He has published more than 300 papers in peer reviewed journals, edited six books, and is on the editorial board of several journals. He is currently principal or co-investigator on more than £20M of research and training grants from MRF/MRC, MRC NIHR, Wellcome Trust and the EU. So basically, he knows what he’s talking about.
All this talk about Mental Health and Stigma is annoying. It is Dualistic, Ambiguous and Stigmatising!!!
The word MENTAL itself is unhelpful because it exists as something distinct from the physical. It suggests our mental lives are distinguishable from our physical lives and reality. To some the word conjures up things that are imaginary or not real – and to others the word ‘mental’ is an alternative to calling people ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘self-destructive’. All these words denote something that is somehow less worthy of serious attention, care and compassion. And this is probably part of the reason that services for mental illness only get around 10% of the funding for physical illness services on the NHS. ‘Mental’ services and practitioners are marginalised and under-resourced. Ultimately, there is no mental illness or physical illness, there is just illness; and all illness has biological, psychological and social components.
MENTAL HEALTH is even worse! This is mainly because we know quite a lot about treating mental illness and almost nothing about treating or increasing mental health. But ‘mental health’ is a bad phrase because talking of mental health when we are really talking about mental illness is euphemistic, avoiding the real subject and not actually dealing with the problem. So, some people end up talking about treating or preventing mental health (which sounds like a bad thing to do!), when they really mean treating or preventing illness.
And then there is the word STIGMA. It is ok on its own but to talk about the STIGMA OF MENTAL HEALTH or ILLNESS is itself stigmatising. This is both because it is again separating the mental from the physical but also because it misses the point. The real aim of services and sophisticated societies in general should be to promote the SOCIAL INCLUSION of people with mental illness. Reducing stigma is difficult if not impossible, whereas social inclusion is at least partly an achievable goal. The very inclusion of those with mental illness will reduce stigma, and prejudice and discrimination that arise from it.
So, let’s talk about the treatment of and social inclusion for those with mental illness.
Stephen’s show takes place on Thursday 4th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)
Purchase tickets at: http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/98/performance/1533/book-tickets