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Mental Health: A Personal Responsibility

written by Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD November 25, 2019
Mental Health: A Personal Responsibility

It’s time that we fix a flaw in our mental health model: its denial of personal responsibility.

Mental health is not hard-wired at birth; it’s a set of learned skills.

Help is nice, but it only helps if the skills are actually learned.

Today’s “help” is based on the disease model. It sees emotional distress as a disease that experts can treat. Your brain is thus akin to your car: something you don’t tinker with yourself.

The disease model trains us to see happiness as an entitlement. It presumes that happiness is effortless for the “normal” brain. If you are not effortlessly happy, you are entitled to a cure. You learn to expect effortless happiness from the healthcare system.

This view of emotions is biologically false as well as counter-productive.

Our happy brain chemicals (like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphin) evolved to do specific jobs, not to flow all the time for no reason. They’re designed to reward survival behavior. They metabolize quickly so you always have to do more to get more. In the state of nature, continual action was necessary for survival, and happy chemicals rewarded that action.

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