There’s a piece in the Telegraph today suggesting that depression and migraine may share the same gene and scientists hope this may lead to more effective treatments as a result. This is interesting in itself, of course, but what caught my eye was a quote later in the article:
“Half the battle with treating depression is getting people to overcome the stigma of mental illness. if it is linked to migraines they may begin to understand it better as a physical condition.”
It appears to have become a general assumption that by proving mental health problems are akin to physical health problems then stigma will necessarily fall.
However, I posted a couple of days ago about a piece in the New York Times on the Americanisation of mental illness, which suggested that a biomedical model may increase stigma because it leads people to believe that sufferers’ brains are “more thoroughly broken” than if there symptoms were caused by life events.
I must say I feel more comfortable with the life events approach, as it is more suggestive of the malleable nature of the brain and the prospects for recovery. I think it is also an approach that makes more instinctive sense to people than narratives about genes or chemical imbalances. But then I do work for a social work website!
In any case I think it’s a debate we must have if we are to take further steps forward in tackling stigma.