Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The DSM V is Nigh

The new diagnostic and statistical manual is almost upon us - it is due to be unveiled in June, and debate about it is, and has been for some time, rife and building.  Here is a recent article in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/may/12/dsm-5-conspiracy-laughable  I am sure that there will be many more similar pieces in the coming days and weeks.

My feelings about psychiatric diagnosis have been well aired over recent years.  I feel strongly that diagnosis is not helpful - particularly the diagnosis of schizophrenia, of which I have personal experience.  I have lived enough of my life under the shadow of this label to fully understand the harm it does, and that harm is substantial. 

I have come to the conclusion that mental health is a subjective matter, and a personal one.  Of course, if someone seeks help from a doctor for a health matter, then they should be helped.  The matter is complicated for the sufferer of psychosis - I did not want to be helped when I was mentally ill, but my suffering was clear for all around me to see, and my distress and vulnerability could well have led to disaster.  The treatment I was given was wrong and damaging, but the intention of those trying to help me, at least at the outset, was to improve my condition.

What does not sit well with me is the issue of forced treatment, of forced compliance with the mental health system, because that system can only operate effectively if trust is in place - if the client truly believes that the practitioner is trying to help.

A lot of people believe that the tide is now turning - away from a perception of mental illness as a biological matter, treatable with medication only, and towards a far more practical view of it as a response to emotional trauma.  Hence the article above, and countless others that I have recently read.

I have not written on this blog for some time - due to the fact that sometimes I feel that I have said all that I need to say, or can say, on the subject of me and that I don't know all that much about other people's experiences of mental distress!   However, in the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, 'We can only know others by ourselves'. I know that I must continue on this path, adding my voice to those of other 'survivors' of the system and others who are seeking to improve it. 

Staying quiet cannot help anybody, but saying my bit can help and has done already.  Repeating it in the hope that a few more will hear can't do any harm.

Funnily enough, I was a bit embarrassed after my last blog post, which compared psychiatric diagnoses to star signs.  I felt that I hadn't expressed what I wanted to say clearly enough, and that readers of that piece might wonder whether I was losing the plot (I must stop worrying about that!)

So I was really relieved when I heard Richard Bentall, the esteemed psychologist, yesterday morning on 'Start the Week' saying that he had made exactly the same point (that psychiatric diagnoses are about as scientific as star signs) during a recent talk he had given.  He said that star signs appeal to people, just as psychiatric diagnoses do, 'because we like to categorise people'.

I just wish that more psychiatrists would be more open about the fact that a lot of what they do is guess work. Surely honesty is crucial, because how can they otherwise inspire the trust of their patients, the trust which is such a crucial part of healing?

Anyway, it is well worth listening to that programme too.  It was on Radio 4, it was called 'Music and the Mind' and here is the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006r9xr

Ta - ra for now!

No comments:

Post a Comment