Saturday, April 8, 2017

Chapter 4-8: Why ‘Mental Illness’ is a Vicious Cycle and a Catch-22

Think about it. The High-Stakes response is activated when, in real life, the stakes are high. That means those of us who grow up in really difficult life circumstances will be in “High-Stakes” reactivity a lot of the time. As we have shown in prior chapter (4-5, 4-6, 4-7), their is massive overlap between the 'symptoms' of so-called mental disorders and the effects of the High-Stakes system. Accordingly, we can predict a lot of ‘mental illness’ being diagnosed among people who have had a rough time of it.

That is in fact exactly what is happening.  As it turns out, a whopping ninety (90!) percent of us in the public mental health system are 'trauma survivors.'  We have grown up without reliable access to basic human needs.  Things like:

  • nutritious food, habitable shelter
  • safety of person and property
  • dignity, respect and fair treatment
  • meaningful participation and voice
  • support for our families to stay together and make a living
  • opportunities to develop ourselves across major life domains
  • freedom to make sense of experience in our own way


As previously discussed (Part III, chapter 3-2), these things are not optional.  They are essentials of life that every human being needs in order to feel well, live well and be well.

This is also not an individual issue.  Far too many of our families and neighborhoods are living without secure access to basic human needs as well.  Yet, without such access, neither individuals - nor the human family as a whole - can be well.

Once in the system, there is virtually no way out.  In behavioral health populations, “High Stakes” is the norm.  We are broke, unemployed, barely housed, victims of crime, targets of discrimination.
When we speak up about this or try to self-advocate, it is often treated as a 'symptom' of our ‘illness.’

The stakes for us are literally 'High' all the time.

This is the real biology behind what is getting diagnosed and treated as ‘mental illness.’ The source is not broken brains or individual genetics.  Our brains and bodies are working fine.  They are doing their job - which is to inform us of the very real, very threatening material, social and developmental circumstances we are currently facing in our real lives.  These circumstances are made worse - not better - by the fact that society sees us and labels us as 'sick' and 'disordered.'

There is nothing abnormal about us. To the contrary, our collective distress is a call to action. Our biology is telling the truth about the desperate circumstances of our lives.

The remaining question is what we can do about it and where to go from here.  That is the subject we will spend the rest of this guide attempting to tackle.

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