By Ron Unger
Excerpt: I believe the question of whether to medicate or not cannot be kept separate from the question of whether or not to consider individuals responsible for their own state of mind, as well as their behavior. That in turn cannot be kept separate from the related question of what it really means for a human being to be “responsible,” and the question of how something that looks like “free will” emerges out of biological systems.
At this point in our culture, the majority of both the general culture and of the mental health industry have endorsed a paradigm that says that mentally healthy individuals are responsible for their mental activity, but that those who are “mentally ill” or who have a “biochemical imbalance” are not. The latter are advised to try drugs to correct the “imbalance” and to try more drugs if the first ones don’t work.
What is missing in this perspective is any sense that people can take responsibility for their own mental well-being and behavior, even after they have been overwhelmed by serious problems of some kind.
A responsible society would never be sure that particular “problems” exist within individuals; rather, it would always be open to the idea that it might be responding inappropriately to those individuals, and would be open to experimenting with doing things differently.
Such a society would take more responsibility for preventing trauma in childhood, preventing other traumas like homelessness, and preventing coercive mental health interventions that create more trauma. And it would be aware that “quick fix” solutions could make things worse in the long run, and would take responsibility for noticing when that might be happening.