It's only fair to share…

A fortnight ago in my weekly newsletter I wrote about an online petition opposing changes and extensions to the Psychiatry “Bible”, the DSM V. Many people are concerned about new conditions being created and the threshold at which other conditions can be diagnosed, being lowered. Essentially, that life will be further medicalized and then medicated.

One of the supporters of the petition is Dr Allen Francis who was the chair of the DSM IV task force and who has been dismayed by the increase in diagnosis and medication usage that followed its release.

Thus far around 6000 people have signed the petition including prominent Australian Psychiatrists and Psychologists. Dr Godfrey Barrett-Lennard, an honorary fellow in the school of psychology at WA’s Murdoch University wrote: “The whole approach of rendering varieties of human distress under the heading of illnesses or pathologies is … seriously and even harmfully misleading.”

To give you some idea of where this is heading some additional “conditions” which have been proposed for the DSM V include –

-Apathy syndrome

-Internet addiction

-Parental alienation disorder

And the catchall corker

-Disorders of extreme stress not otherwise specified

Is anyone not suffering a mental illness?

The criteria for ADHD have been widened to include speaking out of turn, speeding on the road, not reading manuals, and for children, grabbing a toy off a shelf. Suffice to say we all have ADHD and all need medicating.

Jokes aside, the petition is getting signatories and is getting noticed. It is heartening to see that both the public and professionals are taking an interest and that those responsible for the DSM V are under scrutiny.

Human behavior has a breadth and depth. We are not all the same. Those differences do not mean we have an “illness” which needs “treatment’. It is bad enough that one in five Americans has been prescribed a psychiatric drug, which many of them probably do not need. We do not need to make it easier to medicate people because of life events or their personality.

If someone is lazy they do not have apathy syndrome. Someone who can’t find the computer off button does not have Internet addiction. These are just  (more) medical excuses for bad behavior.

Meanwhile one of the major reasons for unacceptable behavior in society remains excess consumption of alcohol. Note it is NOT alcohol itself but the excess consumption by people. Paul Murray wrote about this in The West Australian newspaper this week focusing on out of control parties.

“ The approach of most of the social engineers who pontificate about the often explosive effects of alcohol in entertainment precincts is to blame the hospitality industry. However you will notice that they are usually silent in the debate about out-of-control suburban parties.”

He correctly observed that the problem was too much alcohol and too much attitude, regardless of the geographic location.

“But the only people available to blame when suburban parties turn violent are the drinkers themselves – and their parents, maybe. That doesn’t fit the social engineers script.”

Indeed it undermines their central thesis that it is all due to alcohol advertising, licensees and liquor stores rather than being caused by the behavior of certain people and a certain subculture.

Yet completely undeterred, the social engineers in WA have now formed a new lobby group. Some 78 different organizations have joined and this number is expected to exceed 100. Members of the hospitality and liquor industry were barred!

Where does one start? The fact that there are over 100 organizations all active in the area of teenage drinking is staggering. What does it say about their effectiveness that the problem is as bad as they claim and getting worse? Who are they accountable to and who is funding their, clearly unsuccessful endeavors?

And as Paul Murray observed, since these people regard the alcohol industry as being the culprit, surely you would want to have them involved so they can be part of the solution.

Unless, of course, the aim of the exercise is just to push an agenda and argue for government funding of programs, rather than to actually confront the problem. I have seen first hand where the culture of excess alcohol starts and the responsibility lies with parents and those who guide teenagers, particularly in sporting activities.

When teens see that it is OK to get drunk to celebrate a “win” or have booze supplied to them by parents, of course they will think it is OK. Furthermore some teen’s drink to “get wasted” which implies that there are things they want to escape from – and this has nothing to do with adverts or bar sales.

Blaming alcohol advertisements or the hospitality industry for the irresponsible behavior of people who drink too much (and in some instances their parents) is providing those people with an excuse. They can say, just like Shaggy said in his song of the early 2000’s,“It wasn’t me” and continue to drink excessively, knowing that it is someone else’s fault and “they need to fix it”.

This is exactly the same approach the lazy person who has been diagnosed with apathy disorder can take. It wasn’t me – I have a disease and “they” need to fix it. The contortions that (usually well meaning) doctors and medical groups go to, to absolve people of responsibility for their actions is astounding.

Solutions only come when you address the problem. Making medical excuses or blaming something or someone for the behavior of people is not the answer.

Responsibility for unacceptable behavior needs to be placed where it belongs, with the individual who has done whatever it is they have done.

Aspects of life are not diseases and do not need medicating, just because we do not like them.