“Prince Harry and his wife, actress Meghan Markle, have been praised for their frank conversations about their mental health struggles, but to equate normal distress with mental illness is not only wrong but also morally irresponsible” says Dublin based Consultant psychiatrist Prof. Patricia Casey.
An expert in her field for decades, she believes that the much-needed de-stigmatisation of mental illness and mental health has led to the ‘pathologisation’ of common emotions like anxiety and sadness.
“The attention mental health receives in the media nowadays thanks to celebrities and others open to discussing their issues is very different from the previous reticent attitude the general public held.”
But the de-stigmatisation of mental health is a ‘double-edged sword’ that may be causing more harm than good, she says.
She explains how the new-age ‘confessional approach’ to openly discussing ‘traumas’ and ‘interpersonal problems’ may not be helpful to the sufferer at all.
Inviting strangers to comment and form opinions on your experiences on a public platform is, at the end of the day, ‘detrimental’ to one’s mental health’ as it interferes with your own processing and coping strategies.
During the pandemic, Prof. Casey spent much of her time putting the finishing touches to her latest book Fears, Phobias & Fantasies: Understanding mental illness and mental health (Currach Books).
A handy guidebook for those struggling to manage their mental health, it is aimed for those who either suffer from mental health problems or who are caring for somebody who does.
“Distress or low-level anxiety is a normal response of the body to stress-inducing situations like taking exams or running late for an important meeting.
“But that does not mean you are suffering of an anxiety disorder and need to see a psychiatrist for a drug prescription to manage your health.
“Sadness, grief, anxiety these are natural responses and it is only when they are prolonged or interfering with daily life that one should seek professional help.”
“Has the Covid-19 debacle had an adverse effect on the mental health of us all? Perhaps, maybe.
“But is general sadness to be self-diagnosed as depression? Absolutely not.”
Prof. Patricia Casey is a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Hermitage Medical Clinic, Dublin and Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at UCD.
She was also a former consultant at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin.
She has authored 13 academic books and published numerous scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals. She is a columnist with the Irish Independent.
Fears, Phobias & Fantasies: Understanding mental illness and mental health by Prof. Patricia Casey (Currach Books) is available at www.currachbooks.com and in all good bookshops.