Segments in this Video

Meet the Panelists (01:53)


Debate moderator Polly Toynbee introduces the topic of whether to change mental health treatment strategies. She introduces psychology professor Richard Bentall, psychology professor Simon Baron-Cohen, and mental health professor Dinesh Bhugra.

Richard Bentall: the Pitch (03:40)

Bentall says that diagnostic categories have no biological reality although there is a genetic risk for mental illness. Our social environment changes our brain—as demonstrated in correlations between early life trauma and mental illness. He calls for a public mental health department to address social issues.

Simon Baron-Cohen: the Pitch (05:51)

Baron-Cohen has found genetic links to autism. Social isolation increases depression; childhood trauma contributes to borderline personality disorder; and the security of attachment between infant and parent predicts mental health later in life. He argues for respecting mental differences; neuro-diversity challenges concepts of normality and pathology.

Dinseh Bhugra: the Pitch (03:25)

Bhugra discusses the need to integrate biological and social mental illness factors, but cautions against ruling out biological causation. He points out cultural differences in perceiving emotional stress. For instance, Hindu custom forbids celebrations after a death—considered abnormal grief reaction by Western standards.

Theme One: Are Our Diagnoses of Mental Illnesses Real? - Part One (05:54)

Bentall says that how people view mental illness depends on cultural values; happiness can be considered a psychiatric disorder. Individual distress determines whether people need help. Baron-Cohen argues that hearing voices is not necessarily an indication of distress and can be managed through stress reduction.

Are Our Diagnoses of Mental Illnesses Real? - Part Two (04:55)

Bhugra explains that clinicians are trained to diagnose and treat disease; patients are more interested in the social impact of their illness. Toynbee points out that people need a diagnosis for government aid. Bhugra says psychiatrists should be able to prescribe social resources, as well as medicine.

Theme Two: Is Our Biological Account of Mental Illness Failing Us? - Part One (06:58)

Bentall says there is little evidence of long term improved outcomes. Only 20% of patients respond to anti-psychotic drugs, which have dangerous side effects and are prescribed for long periods— even if they are ineffective. Bhugra says researchers have created gene maps showing how drugs affect individuals. Pharmaceutical companies should consider cultural placebo effects.

Is Our Biological Account of Mental Illness Failing Us? - Part Two (06:18)

Baron-Cohen says antidepressants are effective for 50% of clinically depressed patients and advocates other treatments like supported employment. Bhugra discusses social reasons for better patient outcomes in developing countries. In India, patients are given jobs to contribute to the community and admitted to psychiatric hospitals with a relative for support.

Theme Three: What Could Replace this Biological Account? (08:28)

Bentall calls for giving patients choices, using alternatives to medicine, and addressing the social factors linked to mental health. Baron-Cohen argues for increasing psychological therapy treatment. Bhugra advocates integrating mental, physical, and social health in a holistic framework and hopes politicians will advocate for mental health care as a human right.

Credits: Mind, Myth and Madness: Are Biological Accounts of Mental Illness Useful? (00:06)

Credits: Mind, Myth and Madness: Are Biological Accounts of Mental Illness Useful?

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Mind, Myth and Madness: Are Biological Accounts of Mental Illness Useful?

Part of the Series : Institute of Art and Ideas: Cutting Edge Debates and Talks from the World's Leading Thinkers
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From schizophrenia to depression we assume our psychiatric diagnoses are real. But as the mental health epidemic turns global, the categories now seem like the cause. Is it time to abandon our biological account of mental illness? Or is it the best strategy we've got?

The Panel

Polly Toynbee interrogates Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, author of Madness Explained Richard Bentall and Professor of Mental Health at King's College Dinesh Bhugra. In association with Guardian Live

Length: 48 minutes

Item#: BVL115752

ISBN: 978-1-63521-108-5

Copyright date: ©2015

Closed Captioned

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