What is mental illness?

Mental illness is out in the media...and the DSM-V has psychiatrists split 3 ways about what mental illness is. Is this a turning point in mental health care? I write this post with somewhat hesitance. On part, because there's a part of me that feels I need to serve my standing in the hierarchy of mental health care and allow the experts make a decision - and then my personal need to be respected by medical professionals. So I'm going to put my 'professionalism' on the line and chat about what mental illness means to me. I can see how diagnoses came to be important as psychiatry developed in the 1900s - and I do believe that they serve a purpose. I often see how it can be helpful for people to receive a diagnosis - but I also see the when it is unhelpful...and where a diagnosis can define who a person is - resulting in a lesser capacity to make a recovery. Here I'd like to share why I rarely refer to diagnosis directly in my work (although I believe it's a personal choice!!) - but prefer to work with the whole person. I consider mental health and illness to be a spectrum - one that we move along depending on our risk factors (ie. family history, life experiences, relationships, trauma, general health, stress, anxiety, emotional supression) and protective factors (ie. social support, positive life experiences, general health and fitness, play, relaxation, work, emotional release/expression). While we are all on the spectrum of mental health - at varying times we have more resilience and protective factors keeping us going...and sometimes our risk factors are holding us back from engaging actively in life or from a place of authenticity. What would happen if we looked at building resilience to improve a person's capacity to bounce back from adversity?

Ultimately, I believe this is what the recovery model is about - and I am really excited that psychiatry is starting to take these elements into practice....and so begins a culture change in the world of mental health... Maybe it will fit into the Press Play vision? "A world where creativity, music, culture and collaboration are valued factors in mental health prevention and intervention."

Storm Clouds

#diagnosis #dsm #mentalillness #recovery #resilience

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© Copyright 2013 Claire Stephensen 

Registered Music Therapist
BRISBANE

Queensland, Australia



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