Prince Harry’s podcast, brought to our attention over the Easter weekend, appears to have encouraged a further ‘national discussion’ about mental health concerns, particularly among young people. All good stuff – except that there continues to be a conflation of ‘mental health’ with emotional
health and nobody seems to be differentiating between them.
There is, in my view, a hugely significant and fundamental distinction which needs to be made between the two. Whether it is true or not, the image of mental health in the mind of the general public is that of diagnosed mental health illnesses such as bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia or clinical depression, for example. All such diagnosed mental illnesses require the services of psychiatry.
This is not necessarily so in many cases – if not the majority of them - where the exploration and expression of grief, loss, anxiety, low self-esteem, emotional pain, self-loathing and confusion is evident.
For such emotional needs, neither psychiatry nor psychoanalysis are necessarily the best, or most obvious, resorts.
There is no epidemic of mental illness either among young people or any other group – rather emotional instability and anxiety which needs to be addressed but certainly not turned into a pathological state.
Too often, the needs of parents are given priority over the child; too often the search for a diagnosis – and the willingness (not to say eagerness) of the medical profession and the media to collude with such sensationalism and melodrama - does more harm than good.
Psychiatry and counselling are quite different processes. Until this, and the distinction between diagnosed mental illness and emotional health is understood, no real progress will be made.
The need to engage in counselling and its benefits might conceivably be far more widespread than the national ‘conversation’ acknowledges: the need for psychiatric interventions are far fewer than the current fashion seems to think.