Monday, 12 November 2012

Against genetic and environmental determinism.

It has been a very busy week as tends to happen in November, as the hours of sunlight decline and the expectations at school increase.

So I will not add another chapter this week to my vision of the dance between genetics and environment and the origins of mental illness.

I hope I have engaged you in this dance, as it begins in the first years of life.

I hope I have brought a slightly different perspective of the context of mood states and the relational nature of our selves as we emerge from potential selves to actual selves.

My hope here is to break out of the dichotomy of genetic determinism and its opposite pole of environmental determinism. In breaking out of these two positions I hope to get away from the idea that mental illness needs to be blamed on individuals. Nuclear families (and sometimes single parents) have the burden of being the guardians of children's development on their shoulders in our modern world. Yet they cannot be expected to carry this burden alone. We must join them in taking responsibility for the environment of development as a society. Blaming parents for the ills of children is counterproductive and unfounded. Parents are usually doing their very best in difficult situations. I believe in shared responsibility, not blame. As mental health providers we can take our share of responsibility and empower others to take theirs, while facilitating access to the support that will make this possible.

The idea of genetic determinism is tempting as an ideology which absolves others of responsibility, but it is untenable. Genetic determinism also disempowers the individual and the family suggesting that genetics is destiny and that only perhaps genetic interventions or alternatively palliative psychopharmacology are options. These are false conclusions.

I hope you have a good November week.

1 comment:

  1. I am curious about the rates of mental illness in industrial societies in contrast to rural societies. Is there any information regarding the mental health of traditional societies? Have there been studies?