Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mental Illness and Genetics

My friend Stephen Nicholson sent me this link to Oliver James teaching about about Mental Illness and genetics. He is quite controversial, and you can see people in the audience a bit upset over his conclusions. I am 20 minutes into the 60 minute teaching, and love it so far.

Check it out here

As he quotes from Erich Fromm's The Sane Society, "We live in a crazy society, and you'd have to be mad to be well adjusted to it."

Nice stuff.

27 comments:

cern said...

Interesting. I wonder what studies of living a monastic life (regardless of the spiritual tradition) might reveal. :)

BB

Mike

IZenBet said...

i disagree with his conclusion. his theory might apply in limited cases but much of what i witness in mental illness seems to stem greater towards genetic disposition.

stephen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stephen said...

May I suggest to IZenBet that the lecture is actually listened to, from beginning to end, before coming to any conclusions. Until geneticists replicate studies that proposed their initial antithetical conclusions to the well qualified studies cited - it could be said - the jury is at very least, still out. The valid points made about the coined term "Affluenza" proposes that Western culture has come mentally unstuck over "having" before "being" appear to be escaping some notice (are even provided in summary by the RSA and www.teachers.tv on its own link page. Here is an RSA lecture which makes reasoned argument, alluded to in my more recent writings, where relationships are just viewed as a "disposable commodity", the cost is a fundamental loss of "belonging to" and an inevitable increase of mental ill health.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Cernie bro,

Yes, I am sure it is always healthy to be a monk-ey.

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Elizabeth,

He actually did not come to a conclusion about mental health and genetics, but pointed out that the determination can not absolutely be made, and the best authorities are saying this now too. He does state that he feels some things probably are genetic.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Stephen,

The materialism issue (Affluenza as he calls it) is one of the more dramatic and challenging points for we Westerns. The question about Singapore in particular was interesting, and he noted that it was a weak link in his theory, because it does not fit the model at this point in time.

MadPriest said...

My own substantial experience of mental health hospitals completely negates James' conclusions about mental illness and affluence. I can only assume that he charges so much for personal consultations that he only ever meets affluent, greedy nutters.

As for bad parenting, this is hardly a new idea. But it tends to be trauma caused by the behaviour of parents that causes long term mental health problems in their offspring. An alcoholic parent, a psychologically or sexually abusive parent and divorce, are all definite factors in mental breakdown later in life.

stephen said...

MadPriest, whatever one's personal experience of mental health institutions maybe, it seems to me unhelpful to make "assumptions" about anything. Hence, I would suggest Oliver James made solid reference to good empirical evidence. It certainly would not appear that this Englishman emerged from a greedy money grabbing medical insurance community, such that may be found in America with all its self perpetuating attitudes against any form of national healthcare program. It is my understanding, if such research was in any way funded by its subjects, it would in any event be immediately invalidated. Fortunately, British Universities and National Health Service as institutions, are very careful over matters of funding, which may involve the public, private and charity purse, in avoiding such an obvious and blatant ethical compromise of such studies.

MadPriest said...

Well, he was educated at Eton (his parents must have been stinking rich) and has spent his life hanging around the media as a "celebrity" himself.

I think he is projecting.

Madness usually comes out of far more mundane problems than wanting to get on "Big Brother."

stephen said...

Dear MadPriest AKA Rev. Jonathan Hagger St. Francis Church, High Heaton,UK

Oliver James education and career is up front and available for all to read if so minded. (if you haven't already, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_James).

may I suggest that very background should have given him sufficient insight and motivation to pursue his important work.

Is it not the case that its ever so easy to form conclusions on the basis that everything is predetermined by some grand design and that humans have not been provided with freedom of will or responsible for the choices they make?

Is it not also the case that all leaders within the community including, parents, ministers of religion, teachers and politicians amongst many others, should concern themselves with the effects they personally impose upon their immediate families, persons within their trust and care and indeed the wider community, rather than neatly hiding behind some kind of detachment from any personal responsibility placing blame on history, God, genetics and the devil?

MadPriest said...

In deed.

But the majority of madness is not caused by a desire to keep up with the Jones or get into Hello magazine.

The only way affluence comes into it is in the fact that poverty breeds the sort of life situations that make madness a strong possibility.

Madness is far more complicated, yet also far more mundane, than the soundbite simplicities this bloke is making money out of.

stephen said...

Jonathan AKA "MadPriest", Thank you for that.

The research does indeed suggest a correlation between "a desire to keep up with the Joneses" (for catchphrase etymology see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keeping_up_with_the_Joneses) and mental ill health, formed during those vital childhood years.

The point made about Shanghai is significant as I know for a fact that within that city, a workers wage is between the equivalent of 30 to 50 US dollars a month. Workers live in cramped conditions, one of the most so-called westernised cities in China. In spite of the relative poverty, there is apparently a remarkably low incidence of poor mental health; ergo poverty in of itself is not a sufficient causal reason for mental illness.

I detect speculation and some resentment about Oliver James's possible remuneration for the work he does. Do you have any relevant comparative facts you'd care to publish in support of your apparent criticism, or is that just another assumption on your part?

Both of us should know the funding situation within the United Kingdom all too well and considering his particular area of obvious expertise, I seriously don't see any relevance in contradiction to any of the points he clearly makes - particularly the extremely high incidence of mental ill health amongst business managers; in fact, does he not admit within his lecture being subject to the very same "Affluenza" pressures as everyone else?

MadPriest said...

I said, "poverty breeds the sort of life situations that make madness a strong possibility." Not that poverty itself causes madness.

I never came across any business managers in the
places I stayed. Perhaps they all go to The Priory.

Either that, or James is talking about mild neuroses (useful at dinner parties to show one's inner victim) and/or mental illnesses caused by substance abuse. I believe such things are quite popular with celebrities and the rich.

stephen said...

Jonathan AKA "MadPriest",

While I certainly appreciate your finer point, but for the purpose of this discussion, doesn't "poverty causes" and "poverty breads" appear reasonably interchangeable?

I certainly understand why you may feel a need to refer to you own personal anecdotal experience, however, the design of good scientific research method and gathering of such quantifiable statistical evidence thus cited is governed by some stringent rules, otherwise I might argue - there would be absolutely no point in giving such research, any validity.

By all means challenge James Oliver over the method and design of his studies, if that is, you are in possession of enough information and expertise, to so do.

As for your last sentence Jonathan, and because we are specifically dealing with the scientific method, I would be inclined to careful to avoid any further speculations that have the potential for misleading readers away from a reasonable understanding of the lecture at its face value.

Given proposition of such a psycho-social diagnosis implied by the term "Affluenza", I am interested to know, what might in your view, be the cure?

MadPriest said...

There is no scientific method in clinical psychology. It's just guesswork. The entire history of the discipline has been one of barmy ideas, taken up with enthusiasm as the answer to everything, which then turn out to be completely and dangerously wrongheaded. It's pretty much the same with psychiatry.

In fact, I don't think there is a reliable scientific method, full stop. If you apply the scientific method to the scientific method you discover that it constantly fails more often than it succeeds. The number of scientific facts that have been overturned and then overturned again in my lifetime, that I know about, is ridiculously huge.

This is because scientists are human and, if it wasn't for the fact that Dawkins' little money spinner has now been proved bogus, victims of the selfish gene just the same as the rest of us.

stephen said...

Jonathan AKA "MadPriest",

Well I have to admit, I'm rather taken aback by your last reply and find myself prompted to ask, have you have even an ounce of training in scientific method and/or psychological research? Because if you don't you are certainly not qualified in any which way to make such ludicrous comments, except to express and maybe admit a reasoned but ill-informed point of view.

As an educator having studied the subject in some depth I am unable to stand silently by while others may be fooled by such profoundly unqualified rubbish published within your last statement.

As for an apparent besmirching of Biologist Richard Dawkins out of hand and indeed, in my view completely off topic - you give yourself away as appearing completely uneducated, unaware and/or in denial of the very history of this planet that you and six and a half billion others at any one time, have been given such a miraculous opportunity to enjoy.

I invited you, and do so again, as you purport to be "a man of the cloth" for which I would have hoped the Church gave you some semblance of an education, at least to get your head around the basics of exegesis, to consider the "proposition" forwarded by Oliver James's psycho-social diagnosis implied by the term "Affluenza", what in your view, might then be the cure?

MadPriest said...

Whatever.

cern said...

How sad that an argument ensued.

Madpriest, you are perfectly entitled to your views and to an expression of them. Others may disagree with them and express that disagreement. Your comment concerning 'scientific facts' indicates a (common) misunderstanding of the aims of science. Science sets out to disprove hypotheses. When it is unsuccessful in that, the result is a theory. Very rarely does a theory become considered as a 'fact', and even then, said facts are based on consistent evidence and are STILL viewed with the potential that future findings may show them to be flawed. So it is actually ok... even expected for scientific 'facts' to be overturned.

With regard to psychology and psychiarty.... it is probably fair that there is not a definitive understanding of the mind and of mental illness. Indeed, if that were the case then the lecture that began this discussion would be somewhat redundant. However, psychology and psychiatry are not completely useless. The methods employed are done under specific rules (particularly in the UK) and frequently bear fruit. As with other medical fields, that fruit is not guaranteed. Indeed, it is less likely to succeed because the variables in the functioning of the mind are rather greater than the variables in the functioning of the body. So perhaps your personal experiences have unfortunately been unsatisfactory. But, as with unsatisfactory treatment of cancer for example, I would worry if that was cause for dismissing the whole field of study.

Hoping you feel able to acknowledge another perspective here. :)

BB

Mike

Pastor Phil said...

Woo-hoo!

That was a hot topic blog post! I thought it might be, but did not realize how much so.

Methinks - good thoughts on both sides. I tend toward agreement with Mr. Oliver, but not in such a way as to view his hypothesis as the only path toward illness - maybe one of many.

Peace bros.

stephen said...

Mike, I am most grateful for your well considered input, and yes I am certainly inclined towards sharing with you, such a reasonable view.

My question however remains unanswered; that question in my view should have been a springboard for anyone amongst the Christian clergy, including Jonathan, to set out some reasoned principles from the Gospels et al with maybe some evangelism, and at very least some scriptural encouragement for established believers away from materialism (an already well established doctrine within the larger Christian Church) towards a reasoned and reasonable sense of wholeness and thanksgiving; ergo, good mental health.

So, maybe third time lucky, here goes: After some consideration of the "proposition" forwarded by Oliver James's psycho-social diagnosis implied by his term "Affluenza", what in your view, might then be the cure?

MadPriest said...

Communism.

Pastor Phil said...

What about Monasticism?

stephen said...

Jonathon, from a Christian perspective, would you care to elaborate on what you mean by communism, taking into account many readers of this blog may be American perhaps having some difficulty understanding and/or embracing that term (reference the country's history of McCarthyism and the cold war.

And Phil, are you suggesting that your church followers within the Gathering might be encouraged to sell up all their homes and personal possessions to form a monastic community in Salem, sharing common possessions?

And both, what would be your scriptural basis for such a movement within this 21st Century?

Pastor Phil said...

Actually no I am not advocating Monasticism as an answer. Thus the question mark.

I do not believe that any outwardly enforced method is an answer. Materialism is an action precipitated by the greed of the heart, and the answers truly can only be at a heart level methinks.

If communism is an answer - which it may speak to the problem, but I do not think it is an answer, then likewise monasticism is an answer as well, because it speaks to the problem - although I do not think that it is a solution to the problems of the heart. Greedy monks, and depressed selfish communists do exist.

stephen said...

OK good enough Phil, then I invite both you and Jonathan to speak to our hearts.

cern said...

I'd have to say education and time. I also think a point raised in the lecture.... our global concern of climate change, may help to stress the importance of a change of perspective from consumption to conservation.

BB

Mike