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Fact Checking Psychiatry

by Al Galves, PhD
I have this desire to demystify mental illness.  Why is that?  What makes me want to demystify mental illness?  What makes me want to do it is my sense that over the past 20 or 30 years mental illness has taken on a mysterious quality.  It seems to me that people believe mental illness just comes on people, comes out of the blue, as if it is something alien to the person, something visited upon them, an alien visitation. What makes me believe this is the case?  Here are three pieces of evidence: The first is the case of Simon Biles.  Biles won the Olympic gold medal in female gymnastics at the 2018 winter games.  She was the best gymnast in the world.  At the 2022 winter games she was a member of the United States Olympic team.  She told her teammates that there was so much pressure on her that she was not going to be able to perform well and, therefore, was not going to perform.  In the aftermath of that decision, the word went out that she was suffering from a mental illness and everyone seemed to accept that.  But wait.  Why add the idea or belief that this is a mental illness?  What she did was perfectly understandable and “normal” without adding the trope of “mental illness” to it.  She was under a lot of stress, so much that it was going to affect her ability to perform.  What is the purpose of adding the idea of mental illness?  Does it take away some of her agency?  She couldn’t help it.  She was under the influence of a mental illness.  Does it absolve her of responsibility for her decision?  When the idea of “mental illness” is added to it, it takes on the patina of something other than a reasonable decision by a woman who is under a lot of pressure and believes it will affect her ability to perform well....

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