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"Mental Health": The Refuge of Scoundrels

Theodore Dalrymple at the Spectator

A sign that begs people to look inside themselves . . . and find a problem. Photo by Mitch / Unsplash
The Mere Concept of “Mental Health” Makes Us Unhealthy
Of course, this concern is rooted in language itself. By positing one thing, we amplify its opposite. It’s why postmodernists hate binaries. It drove ancient Taoism’s admonitions not to look at concepts like “good” and “hate.” It drove the background of Dostoyevsky’s story, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. But

The concept of mental health is a hypochondriac’s, narcissist’s, shirker’s and social security fraud’s charter: for who can prove that someone does not so feel depressed, anxious or grief-stricken that he is unable to work? Who can distinguish between “can’t,” “won’t” and “would rather not”?

Unfortunately, mental health has come to mean any deviance from a state of perfect equanimity and satisfaction

Fragile mental health, and especially mental health issues, are said to be preventing large numbers of young people from working, with British people in their early twenties now more likely to be out of work than people in their early forties as a result. One even hears people nowadays say that “I’ve got mental health” — not meaning something positive but negative. Mental health means something bad, something incapacitating.

Those with mental health issues, or just plain mental health, can get by economically without working. This is a powerful cause, I would guess, of considerable psychological unease, for even now most people do not like to feel useless to others. The frauds among them, of course, are delighted to be paid to do nothing, especially if they can supplement their income on the side.

But the difference between the genuine cases and the fraudulent, insofar as the genuine cases really do experience wretchedness of one kind or another, is not absolutely categorical. If you play a part long enough, after all, it is what you become: habit changes character. 

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The case for eliminating the concept of ‘mental health’
What is mental health? The only definition I can think of is the absence of outright lunacy