While experts are right to congratulate Prince Harry (Harry praised for telling of ‘chaos’ over Diana’s death, 18 April), and call for more spending on mental health, there is an elephant in the room. Mental health services are dominated by an outdated, simplistic medical model of distress that is rather at odds with the prince’s views. While he makes the obvious link between painful life events and mental health difficulties, our services are still telling distressed people that they have illnesses, like major depressive disorder, caused by chemical imbalances – an unsubstantiated drug company creation – and by inferior genes that make them more vulnerable than others to depression, anxiety, psychosis etc.
Unlike Harry’s psychosocial approach, this socially blind bio-genetic model actually increases prejudice, by using stigmatising labels and exaggerating differences. It has also led to over 62m prescriptions of antidepressants annually in England, at a cost of about £800m a day to the NHS. Our children too are being labelled and drugged at an equally alarming rate. Time for psychiatric services to move on from the failed diagnose-and-medicate approach and start asking us what happened to us, and what we actually need. Is bereavement a mental illness? Does grief require medical treatment? It is a profound mistake to treat such essential aspects of the human condition, and our responses to them, as purely personal “in-the-mind” medical crises, evidence of "ill health".
Source: The Guardian