Friday, April 4, 2008

The Vancouver Sun: Psychiatry confuses distress with disorder

In trying to achieve scientific respectability, this branch of medicine has been medicalizing the human condition

Peter McKnight, Vancouver Sun

Published: Saturday, March 29, 2008

A front-page story in the March 24, 2008, edition of The Vancouver Sun warned readers of a new and potentially devastating epidemic.

Headlined "Mental health problems soar on campus," the story explained that some universities have seen a tripling of mental health patients in the past decade, and that students with "mental health disabilities" are the "fastest-growing group in most institutions."

Now, despite their being famous for drinking games and toga parties, it is a little hard to believe that university students are collectively losing their minds. Fortunately, amid all the alarming and alarmist statements in the story, there was one dissenting voice: Stanley Kutcher, a psychiatrist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, denied that there was any increase in mental illness on North American campuses.

Kutcher instead suggested that students are now seeking help to cope with the stresses of life, rather than because of mental illness: "The bar has been set lower," Kutcher said. "People are often going for assistance for distress, as opposed to disorder."

Kutcher's "diagnosis" could well extend well beyond university campuses, as we regularly hear of an epidemic of depression sweeping across the world. Indeed, the website of the World Health Organization warns that by 2020 depression will become the second-most common cause of disability, after heart disease.

Read the rest of the article here ...

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