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Where is the state of our mental health heading?

By Brian Holden - posted Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The sadness

If you seek to escape from the company of a mentally disturbed person shortly after you come into contact with him, then he is being deemed by you to be worthless. As most of us react that way towards the mentally disturbed, they are being placed in a very vulnerable position. Those unfortunates can be as sad as you and I can be sad because their sense of self remains intact and does not deteriorate as their intelligence deteriorates.

I am the carer for an elderly lady who is severely mentally compromised. There is no logic in her thinking at all - but on frequent occasions tears will run down her cheeks. She is old and one might say that she has had her share of a normal life. While many thousands of elderly people are afflicted with dementia, many thousands of younger people are struggling to hold themselves together.


Whether it be in your relationships, in your work, in your finances or in your health, the source of all of your stress reduces to one thing - the feeling of being in an out-of-control situation. That is the demon which tortures all of us on occasions. But, if there seems to be no chance of having any control over your life whatsoever, you will disintegrate as a person. This we all know will lead to mental illness in an otherwise mentally healthy individual. Few of us take the extra step and deduce that if already mentally ill, then sustained involuntary therapy would likely intensify the illness.

The system

What is involuntary therapy? Can you be held down while some mind-altering drug be injected into you. The Mental Health Act allows this to be done.

I became interested in mental health when I was friends with a woman who had been a 'mental health service consumer'. She described herself as a "survivor". (It was in a recent OLO article by Peta Coxthat a reference was made to the word "survivor".) What had my friend survived?

She described a situation where a complaint of actual sexual, physical or property abuse can be off-handedly dismissed as coming from an irrational mind, where some inmates are so emotionally drained of feelings of self-worth that they do not complain regardless of the conditions, and where, due to treatment designed to subdue them, some are not even capable of complaining.

Society never was capable of dealing with mental illness. It was in New South Wales in the '80s that we finally formally accepted that institutions often compounded the problem. So we put many of the mentally ill out of the institutions and back into society without the necessary support structures.


The socio-economic trap which these typically poor and friendless people found themselves in significantly added to their mental problems.

The future

As something like one in 10 of us will at some time in our lives be mentally ill, is the attitude of the remaining nine out of 10 who are leading increasingly busy lives in the pursuit of what they define as happiness becoming hardened? Is society on a slippery slope? If not, then how else can we explain that children less than 12 months old are receiving anti-depressants?

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About the Author

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

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