There are many ways of understanding what we mean by “mental health.”

In Western countries, mental health is an idea that comes from psychiatry (Rose & Abi-Rached, 2013). This field understands behaviours, emotions, perceptions, and relationships as a field of medicine. However, psychiatry is not universal (Fernando, 2014; Mills, 2014). Many communities around the world have other valid ways of understanding and responding to human distress (Linklater, 2014; Chioneso et al., 2020; Jones et al., 2019).

If you are experiencing difficulties in these areas of life, please know you are not alone. Accessing mental health care is an important option that exists for you.

The field of mental health is not in agreement over some of its claims and treatments. Knowing about criticisms and controversies within the field is important. It allows you to make informed choices about the kind of support you need (DeFehr, 2017, 2020, 2022).

A common myth is that chemical imbalances in the brain or body cause mental health problems. But the chemical imbalance hypothesis has never been proven (Moncrieff et al., 2022).

Apart from a few mis-filed conditions such as sleep apnea, there are no scientifically valid biomarkers for any mental disorder (Boyle & Johnstone, 2020; Davies, 2019; Kupfer, 2013).  This means the field of mental health has no lab tests to find signs of illness (pathology) in the body (Cosgrove & Vaswani, 2019; Johnstone, 2019). No lab tests are required for diagnosis of mental disorder (APA, 2013).  Psychiatry has been hoping to develop its first lab test for many decades without success (Boyle & Johnstone, 2020).

At the same time, there is quite a lot known about the social causes of these problems. People facing difficult and unfair social realities often struggle in life. These struggles can be seen in behaviour, emotions, perceptions, and relationships. Poverty, violence, childhood neglect and abuse, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, white supremacy and racism, impacts of colonialism, lack of support for parents and families, social isolation, and many other aspects of modern life are all known causes (Rimke, 2016).

Understanding difficult feelings and behaviours as disorder or disease is one way of looking at them. It is a choice available to you if that is helpful for you. But it is also possible to see these as responses we have to the difficult world we live in. We all develop coping patterns to the realities of our world, for better or worse. Our brains adapt and learn these strategies to meet our survival needs.

At the end of the day, these problems are real problems whatever their cause. They have impacts on individuals, families, and communities. They can cause difficulties in daily functioning. Sometimes, they can even be deadly or dangerous. WHC takes these problems seriously. We want to make sure you know the facts and what your choices are.