Mental illness is a bit of a misnomer.
It is a secondary experience ascribed within medicalization, and therein resides the conflict. Let’s start from the beginning.
We are born of humans that have their own set of chromosomes, of which we get half. If there are biological differences that create anomalies, doctors designate diagnosis at birth, after socialization, or upon some sort of catalytic event; It’s the anomaly that creates anomie.
Illness occurs much like disability in that at first we recognize impairment but it isn’t until we compare ourselves with others, or in the case of medicine a statistical “normal,” that we designate ourselves as “ill.” Parsons described the patient experience of this as the sick role. In mental illness, the sick role becomes problematic because there are no objective ways to measure how sick that person is – it is invisible.
Yes, we can “see” misfiring in a person’s brain with fMRI scans. Conversely, we have no idea what diagnosis they should be ascribed based on what we “see.”
Yes, we can prescribe medication based on people’s behaviors. Conversely, we have no idea what the “medicine” is doing to a person’s brain to help or hurt them.
These forms of ignorance make us question the validity of mental illness and treatments altogether, and research the reasons for creating diagnoses. Are we simply giving mental anomalies energies and names, similar to our ancient Mesopotamian ancestors who experienced confusion about the world so they designated every thing as a god or goddess?
The mind is unchartable territory for many reasons, and arguably why many of us demonstrate psychophobia – fear of the mind and what it’s capable of.
More on psychophobia, next time.