I’ve just started a new course entitled Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture by Professor Peter Kinderman (University of Liverpool). The course is largely built on foundations laid down in his two recent books: ‘New Laws of Psychology’ and ‘A Prescription for Psychiatry’.
A Prescription for Psychiatry: Why We Need a Whole New Approach to Mental Health and Wellbeing builds from a psychosocial approach to mental health and well-being to recommend a wholesale revision of our mental health services. Arguing that the origins of distress are largely social, and that therefore we need a change from a ‘disease model’ to a ‘psychosocial model’, the book argues that we should reject traditional psychiatric diagnosis, significantly reduce our use of psychiatric medication, tailor help to each person’s unique needs, invest in greater psychological and social therapies, and place mental health and well-being services within a social rather than a medical framework.
New Laws of Psychology: Why Nature and Nurture Alone Can’t Explain Human Behaviour proposes a common-sense, cognitive, account of human behaviour - arguing that our thoughts, emotions, actions and therefore mental health can be largely explained if we understand how people make sense of their world and how that framework of understanding has been learned. This approach challenges notions such as ‘mental illness’ and ‘abnormal psychology’ as old-fashioned, demeaning and invalid, argues that diagnoses such as ‘depression’ and ‘schizophrenia’ are unhelpful, and proposes that psychological accounts offer a more helpful way to address emotional distress.
This week we are looking at one of the fundamental questions about our mental health; nature or nurture? That could simply mean something like are mental health problems the result of biological processes (nature) or social in origin (nurture)? Are they the result of biological abnormalities or are they the result of life events or other environmental factors? Or, to be a little more specific, is the variance that we see in terms of mental health a result of variance in biological or social factors? That is, can we explain the differences between people’s mental health in terms of differences in biology (different people having different genetics, or different biochemistry) or differences in the experiences they’ve been exposed to?
Mental Health featured heavily in the political parties manifestos ahead of the general election in May and it’s right that this area of study and service is given greater priority. As a Social Worker I am acutely aware of the interplay that exists between mental health services and children’s safeguarding.
Young Mind is Mind’s youth division. Its website provides the following key statistics about children’s and adolescents mental health:
I’ll post again following next week’s session. Please follow me on facebook so you don't miss it! I can already tell that this is going to be a really interesting and useful course.
I'm a Qualified Children's Social Worker with a passion for safeguarding and family support in the UK.