• Anaxagoras
    420
    The deterioration of the mind in my field is something that I would say is worse than prison. However, socially, mental health is not taken as seriously as biological health. In your view why is mental health seemingly not as important?
  • Wheatley
    1.2k
    Because people see mental illness as a character defect rather than a biological disease.

  • Judaka
    626
    Same as most moral issues, it's not about the end result, it's about how the prominent interpretations move us to action. Of course, people are less likely to be passionate about helping people that they see in a negative light.

    I also don't think that we should overstate public understanding of mental illness either. It's easier to empathise with a biological illness even if you don't understand it but empathising with mental health issues actually has a reverse effect on opinion. People think "I wouldn't allow myself to become depressed like that" and offer philosophical solutions, fitness solutions, healthy eating solutions and basically suggest that the fault lies in the affected for not taking better care of themselves.

    There's very little understanding of the actual science behind mental health problems. Biological health issues are miles simpler by comparison.
  • Outlander
    363
    No one wants to complain about someone else who's drinking from a cup we all have.
  • jamalrob
    2.4k
    Because people see mental illness as a character defect rather than a biological disease.Wheatley

    Do you think there are character defects at all?
  • Wheatley
    1.2k

    I would say yes. Some of them can even be changed for the better.

    Might have missed the question though.
  • jamalrob
    2.4k
    I was just curious. It seems to me there's a great confusion, at least a great divergence of opinion, about what the difference is.
  • Wheatley
    1.2k
    I believe that debate is more about brain abnormalities vs character flaws, than about mental illness. It’s all very relevant about deciding how we punish criminals. If you're interested here’s an article about it. The Atlantic

    Mental illness is also brought up in legal cases.
  • Wheatley
    1.2k
    There's also the debate about insanity as defense.
  • Wheatley
    1.2k
    It seems to me there's a great confusion, at least a great divergence of opinion, about what the difference is.jamalrob
    I'm not really sure what you mean. Do you mean that mental illness is often stigmatized? Because it is. Psychology Today
  • Adam's Off Ox
    53
    I think there is some desire to separate the condition of mental illness from other physical illness because of how we come to understand agency for ourselves and others. The distinction may be misguided, but it does offer some sense of security for the individuals who consider themselves mentally healthy.

    Having experienced infection or other physical ailments, we all reasonably accept that some conditions arise due to no fault of will for the person suffering. Recognizing the role of chance in physical infirmity, we allow ourselves to sympathize with another person who is also suffering, while making no critique of ourselves as persons or actors.

    With mental illness, however, the sufferers thoughts and will come into play. Any characterization of the other's problems also reflects on our own thought patterns and will. An individual cannot sympathize with a mentally ill person, without calling into question the very process by which we come to think about reason or experience. Sympathy at a distance is less tenable. A problem with mental function becomes associated with a problem of agency. Where the mentally ill are seen as thinking wrong or feeling wrong, the relationship to an outsider requires some disconnect from thinking. "I can see how your situation involves wrong thinking, but I cannot sympathize with that kiind of wrong thinking without bringing my own agency into question."

    So mental illness becomes a problem for them, not us. While the disassociation is taking place, the cause of the mental illness becomes associated with agency. In some way we come to think of the mentally ill as having brought the problem upon themselves. Since mental illness gets identified as some defect in will, the consequences of the illness are treated as naturally emerging from choices the sick person has made. To some degree we believe they deserve it.

    Mental illness is not taken as seriously as other health problems, because it is perceived as a problem separate from ourselves and which cannot affect a "rational" person. It isn't treated as real as breaking a bone or a cancer diagnosis. So mental illness gets sidelined.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    545


    I agree with the above post that our beliefs around agency or our lingering belief in free will plays a big part in this.

    It's hard to believe in free will and to believe that the will can be compromised at the same time without some cognitive dissonance. If we want to keep believing in at least some form of free will, which we kind of have to because it serves as the basis of a bunch of other ideas concerning morality and democracy for instance, than we would be inclined to view mental health as a given, rather than something that needs to be invested in.

    The other contributing factor is I think the fact that mental health seems more difficult to define and measure than physical health; And it's also less clear what to do about it, partly because it is harder to define, and partly because the brain is the part of the body we still know the least about.

    The more obvious something seems deterministically and biologically caused, the more we seem to be willing to accept it as a real problem or illness. Not a whole lot of people would say Alzheimer for instance is the fault of the person suffering from it.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    Do you think there are character defects at all?jamalrob

    I do, but I think of them as one should think of mental illnesses, which they are. If I have an infection or traumatic injury or genetic deformity in my leg, then my leg is defective. That’s not something I deserve blame for though, that’s something I deserve sympathy and treatment for. Likewise if something is wrong with the way my mind works, that’s a “character defect”, inasmuch as my mind defines my character. But that is likewise not something that warrants blame, but sympathy and treatment.

    NB that on my account disease of any kind, mental or physical, is defined by the suffering of the person who has it. If my leg is unusual in a way that I prefer, then it’s not diseased or injured. Likewise if my mind is unusual in a way that I prefer.
  • jamalrob
    2.4k
    Then is blame is always a mistake, and is there no such thing as agency, which would seem to follow?
  • ChatteringMonkey
    545
    Then is blame is always a mistake, and is there no such thing as agency, which would seem to follow?jamalrob

    Unless you think a part of claims to mental illness or defects are not mental illness or defects, but dissimulation... which is difficult to rule out because diagnosis relies on self-reporting.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    Blame (the act of blaming, not the mere attribution of someone as the cause of something ) is never morally deserved, but can sometimes be an effective treatment perhaps. Blame is basically a verbal form of punishment, and punishment should be entirely preventative, rehabilitative, and restorative, never punitive. If blaming someone makes them change, then it’s an effective response. If not, then it’s just making them feel bad for no productive reason.

    There is definitely such a thing as agency though. Agency, acting in a way that you thought was best because you thought so, rather than doing things you wish you hadn’t because you just couldn’t make yourself do otherwise, is kind of the opposite of character defects: an agentive, freely willed, self-controlled mode of operation is a properly functioning mind. It seems plausible that it could be exactly in those circumstances that blame is effectively: someone did something they thought was the best course of action, it wasn’t, and telling them so may be effective in making them do differently in the future.
  • praxis
    2.4k
    mental health is not taken as seriously as biological healthAnaxagoras

    The two are interrelated, and it's a dubious claim that biological health is taken seriously to begin with. Around half the nation is overweight and on prescription drugs (for conditions that could be better addressed without drugs). Only 23 percent of American adults meet leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) guidelines, according to new research data from the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics. Americans typically also have a poor diet, high in processed foods, sugar, and fat.

    A unhealthy physical lifestyle leads to an unhealthy mind.
  • Anaxagoras
    420
    A unhealthy physical lifestyle leads to an unhealthy mindpraxis

    That’s part of it but that is not the entire issue
  • ChatteringMonkey
    545
    If not, then it’s just making them feel bad for no productive reason.Pfhorrest

    The "productive" reason is making the person doing the blaming feel better.

    Maybe you would say that is not a good reason, but we are not always reasonable... And if we demand reasonable behaviour from the person who does the blaming, isn't there then an asymmetry in how we expect different degrees of agency from different people.
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