The UK's mental health institutions came under fire this weekend, when the British Psychological Society (BPS) launched an attack on those engaged in the rival profession of psychiatry. The BPS argue that it's wrong to treat mental illnesses as a biological problem that can be fixed by doctors with tons of drugs. They say it's time for a "paradigm shift" in the way mental health patients are treated and that diagnoses like autism and schizophrenia are neither valid nor useful. We should, the BPS argued, be looking more at how social and psychological factors contribute to mental illness.
A supporting argument for that arrives when you look into the problem of discharging psychiatric patients back into public life. It's all well and good tending to people while they're institutionalized, but if they're not armed with ways to deal more easily with the outside world once the meds run out, what chance do they ever have of integrating back into society? An unfortunate side effect of that problem is that patients become dependent on being in care, as they know that it's the only place where their problems will be effectively addressed and dealt with.
My friend Alice is one of those people, and has described her dependency as an addiction to psychiatric hospitals. Which struck me as odd at first, but when you imagine being in the outside world as something that spurs on depression and suicidal thoughts, I suppose it makes sense. Alice was eight years old when she was first admitted to a psychiatric ward. She stayed there for seven months after being incorrectly diagnosed with autism and has been in and out since. I spoke to her about her about her addiction.