Why it’s healthy to be afraid in a crisis

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As a mental health professional, I disagree with the message in Paul Daley’s article (We face a pandemic of mental health disorders, 24 March). We’re not facing “a pandemic of severe mental health disorders”. We’re all facing entirely normal fear, anxiety, despair and confusion about a truly terrifying situation that challenges our whole way of life. Never has it been clearer that so-called “mental disorders” make sense in context. In fact, many professionals would argue that this applies to the whole range of experiences that are labelled as clinical depression, personality disorder, psychosis, and so on.

The more we label our understandable human reactions as disorders, the greater the temptation to disconnect them from their source and focus on new individual “treatments” instead. The drug companies must be rubbing their hands at the prospect of all these new customers. We can come out of this crisis in a better state than before by staying connected with our feelings and the urgent threats that have led to them, and taking collective action to deal with the root causes. These include climate change, environmental degradation, wildlife trafficking, insecure employment, the structure and funding of public services, and the neoliberal values that have driven us for far too long.
Dr Lucy Johnstone
Consultant clinical psychologist, Bristol

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