Wednesday, March 13, 2013


According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the emerging field of global mental health has defined mental health as "the area of study, research and practice that places a priority on improving mental health and achieving equity in mental health for all people worldwide" (Patel, V., Prince, M. JAMA, 303, 1976-1977).

Not only do I find it troubling that a group of professionals are trying to define mental health globally, but that they are also placing a priority on "achieving equity in mental health for all people worldwide". On the surface this appears to be a compassionate and well intended goal, but when we read between the lines, we find a potential Orwellian nightmare lurking in the shadows. Link this group's work with nationalized, and then internationalized "health care," and you have a professional/political power structure that not only defines who is mentally "healthy," but then has the power to enforce "equity" on the global community. If we give people like Mayor Bloomberg the executive power to tell us how much sugar we can ingest into our bodies to remain physically "healthy," it is not a big leap to imagine a psychiatric group appointed by a "governing body" that defines what ideas and emotions we can ingest and express. This idea ought to be terrifying to all political parties in favor of liberty and individualism.

Many of us maintain that there is not a one to one correspondence between physical and psychological systems. Human consciousness is much more than the neuro-chemical interactions in the brain. Those seeking psychological "equity" often view the brain as one might view a car engine or computer hard drive, assuming universal normative mental and emotional functions which can be measured and repaired by trained technicians. This "psychological positivism" would then set the standards of mental normalcy and "equity," tweaking the "abnormal" brain as they would a computer to make it operate according to the technical global standards of wellbeing. This is already being done to a large extent by the multi-billion dollar a year pharmaceutical companies selling drugs that create "equity" in the brains of children and adults

Those who have rightly condemned the religionists for past practices of zombie-like indoctrination, Inquisitions and witch hunts had better wake up to the fact that we are moving in a similar direction, but on a global scale! Emotional global equity? Really? We are not machines, and human consciousness is not synonymous with the physical brain box. Systems Theory has made it clear that much trouble arises when we try to transfer the ideas of one system onto another. For example, most of us would not want a car mechanic doing brain surgery on us, nor would we want a brain surgeon repairing our car. Both brains and cars are composed of atoms and molecules, using the positivist model, but the way those systems operate are entirely different, requiring different standards of equity and approaches to the way they function. The same is true of physical "health" and mental "health".

[i] JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, is a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association.

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