Note: The views, information and, opinions expressed in this blog are solely of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Free Your Mind Initiative and Speak Your Mind. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.
As many of us know, many mental illnesses are a product of one’s psychological dysfunction. Notable illnesses such as anxiety, depression, or anorexia nervosa are mental illnesses that stem from the brain. In addition, other mental health disorders such as ADHD, autism, or learning disorders can be said to have the same origin: the brain. Society has upheld a robust biomedical model for the past centuries. Everything was rooted in medicine. From the reason you felt sad after leaving your dog to why you can’t work. It seems a bit absurd at times to apply this model to all situations in life, yet they’re still is a priority in contemporary time.
Psychiatry is significantly grounded in the biomedical model. The DSM-V to other diagnostic manuals provides key insights on symptoms so that practitioners can diagnose patients. In addition, psychiatry provides valuable insight into understanding complex neurobiological disorders. The field is necessary and important to society. However, complete reliance on this biomedical model is inadequate to address issues.
In minor contrast to psychiatry, which is based in biomedicine, psychology has its roots in philosophy. Philosophers questioned the mind, existence, and the body. Because psychology is a newer science, research in this field is still in the midst of developing and expanding. The field has profound progress in addressing complex mental issues. It also provides foundational as well as complementary insight into mental illnesses when psychiatry is limited in scope.
For many years both the field of psychology and psychiatry has made significant contributions to understanding and exploring mental illnesses and mental health. These fields set the foundation and core of understanding these problems. However, a key component to mental illness is missing: a sociological perspective. Structural and systemic issues exist that result in mental illness. Take this for example:
Imagine a depressed single mother who takes care of her child with behavioural issues. She has a hard time looking for a job. She is also currently living in low-income housing and struggling to pay bills. In addition, her neighbourhood is considered quite poor and she has very limited supports.
In this example, there are key factors that lead to her having depression. One can argue that she has limited social supports, both formal and informal; she is a single mother; her child gives her a difficult time; but one large contributing factor is the fact that she is living in poverty.
According to Simon et al. (2018), poverty is a determinant of mental illness. Poverty is also associated with other poor health outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes (Shimmin, n.d.). Poverty also contributes to bad parenting practices such as neglect and abuse which can contribute to mental illnesses within the kids. Furthermore, neighbourhoods that are low in resources and are poorer tend to have poorer mental health outcomes.
Hence, mental health is multifaceted and nuanced. The biological aspect is crucial, such as showing CAT and MRI scans of an underdeveloped brain. The psychological aspect crucial, such as understanding unconscious meanings, childhood trauma, and cognitive beliefs behind mental illnesses. This also applies to the sociological aspect or the social context of mental illness. Structural issues such as poverty or even racism can have detrimental consequences to one’s health. For too long the framing of mental health has always been focused on the biological aspect but this new perspective contributes to a holistic approach. It recognizes that illnesses that person has are not only a product of their mental dysfunction but possibly a result of the society in which they live.
Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.
Shimmin, C. (n.d.). Backgrounder: The impact of poverty on health. Evidence Network. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from http://evidencenetwork.ca/backgrounder-the-impact-of-poverty-on-health/.
Simon, K. M., Beder, M., & Manseau, M. W. (2018, June 28). Addressing poverty and mental illness. Psychiatric Times. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/addressing-poverty-and-mental-illness.