A View on Individual Responsibility and Mental Health

I had originally intended to put this out during President Duterte’s signing of the mental health law Republic Act 11036, which expanded mental health services. But with so many other events happening that raise it, including suicides and depression incidents making the news, it might as well be relevant every time.

mental illness, psychosis, mentally ill, individual responsibility

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Mental illness and disability are a source of debate. First, we have that one over whether patients should be in state-run institutions or crammed with their families (that’s for another article, though I am supportive of more assistance and services for mental health). But there is another side to it, which may be stated as discussing whether mental health patients are victims or still should be held responsible when they are in the wrong. There is that tendency to absolve someone who did wrong or committed a crime just because they have mental illness, similar to how people would defend thieves and robbers as justified to steal because they are “poor.”

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This brings up another question on the issue: what is really happening in a certain case, mental illness, or wrongdoing? Some claim some criminals suffer from some mental conditions and this is the reason for their actions. However, it is possible for a person to have done something wrong first, and then acquiring the condition as a result of their actions. Of course, I believe many people commit crimes without mental illness. And mental conditions should not be used as excuses for absolving a person.

Let’s say a certain woman wants another person’s spouse. Some people are just foolish enough to emotionally invest in it, so they believe it’s something great to to do. But let’s say she fails. The husband rebuffs her or the wife tells her off. She may become defensive, fight back though she’s in the wrong, or suddenly curl up into a ball of depression. She may then elicit pity and sympathy and people may defend her, sometimes to the point of saying she not mean any harm and wanting the sanctions accorded by justice not applied to her. But that is the problem: it will lead to impunity. She might even play the feminism or victim card. Sounds like the plot of a typical Filipino TV drama.

In the legal system of the United States, there is the debate on the insanity defense. It’s often used as a resort to reduce the punishment upon conviction. It’s a debate on whether to abolish that defense or not. However, I see more of the problem as how mental illness is actually addressed. So let’s say the convict is directed to receive mental health treatment as part of the sentence. There are likely some professionals who pander to the wrongs of patients. For example, when the patient who desires another’s spouse asks, “is it wrong,” the professional may answer, “it’s not, people do that all the time, and you deserve to have what you want.” It may even be used for bullies who some might analyze are also suffering from mental illness. So instead of doing justice to the bullied, it tries to paint the bully as a victim to give impunity. All of these are only roadblocks to solving the problems. Steps taken to address mental conditions fall short when some professionals skip a very important aspect of a person: individual responsibility.

This is something Filipinos are so eager to shirk because they want to avoid discomfort from being made to answer for their actions. But that is exactly why corruption is prevalent in Philippine society. It’s such an important concept that is perhaps being let fall by the wayside because of some current ideas and political persuasions. Yes, I mean SJWs.

I’m sure most sound treatments by mental health professionals include some focus on individual responsibility of the patient. It seems to me however that the thread of sentiment today most often associated with the liberal, progressive, “millennial” or leftist labels prefer that individual responsibility be overlooked and the blame be shifted to others. They might even say want the solution to be giving what the person and condoning their wrongs.

In the Christian ideas that I hold today, hell is no longer a fiery or icy place where people are tortured by demons. Instead, it is a prison locked from the inside. This is what I believe is happening with some mentally ill people. So when people want the wrong things, but then become mentally ill or are adversely affected by the consequences, they fall into a hell of their own making.

Many readings can be found all over, many that inspired my happiness article, that one of the causes of unhappiness, and thus mental illnesses such as depression, is wanting things that you don’t deserve or are better off not having. Countering this mentality is key to reducing mental health issues. Acceptance that there is no entitlement to wants must be highlighted these days more than ever.

Another factor today is some views about stress. Because excessive stress has been highlighted as a cause of disease today, it happens that misconceptions arise from such awareness. For example, some people believe that since stress itself is a problem, they avoid any stress at all. Wrong. The real problem is the excess of stress, not the presence of stress itself, as a moderate amount of stress, the one that comes with thinking, is necessary in life. Some level of stress means you are undergoing an activity where you work your brain, and that will make you healthy. Yes, that four-letter-word, work, is something that’s necessary for mental health.

If a person wants something wrong, then that stress is unnecessarily self-inflicted. It goes back to the lesson above: when avoiding sources of stress, remember that one source of stress can be yourself.

People do get sick from factors out of their control. But they also get sick from factors that are within their control. For example, a person who had a heart attack is known to love risky food. Even if he was warned not to eat them, he continued anyway. It’s known today that life choices affect health. Thus, I propose that we examine the motives and actions of people to see if they have contributed to their own breakdowns in health. But when doing so, never fall into the trap of being a vicious judge or chewing out the person concerned in anger. Restraint should be used when dealing with the patient.

Mental health today needs to have that idea of personal or individual responsibility re-emphasized. Filipinos as anyone else need to accept that misfortune in life can be self-inflicted, and is not always the fault of others. They should learn how to protect their mental integrity from their own mistakes, and stop persisting in self-destructive behavior. It means making the right kind of sacrifice, namely self-examining and giving up unnecessary wants. Strengthening personal responsibility for one’s own well-being and security will also help the person resist the malicious intrusions of others.

8 Replies to “A View on Individual Responsibility and Mental Health”

  1. “Let’s say a certain woman wants another person’s spouse. Some people are just foolish enough to emotionally invest in it, so they believe it’s something great to to do. But let’s say she fails. The husband rebuffs her or the wife tells her off. She may become defensive, fight back though she’s in the wrong, or suddenly curl up into a ball of depression. She may then elicit pity and sympathy and people may defend her, sometimes to the point of saying she not mean any harm and wanting the sanctions accorded by justice not applied to her.”

    What is the judicial punishment for only trying to covete? In your example, she failed. And even when she succeeded, it still is not a crime. When she succeeds, she probably has more to offer than his current wife/girlfriend. So eat that instead.

    Like I stated many times before, the Philippines has a lot of antique, ancient laws.

    1. @Robert Haighton:

      A rebuffed woman is not mentally ill. but, it can be a cause of depression, if she continues to ask for pity, from being rebuffed.

      There have been many crimes, connected because of “misplaced love” of people. Or people, trying to find better love. Some people, are sexual perverts. Sexual perversion is some form of personality disorder. The same as sexual addiction. Nymphomania for woman, is another form of sexual perversion.

      So what is is perversion or personality disorder ?

      1. Hyden,
        pls give a few examples of sexual perversion (maybe the word fetish comes close?). Why is nymphomania a sexual perversion? What is nymphomania for women/females, is satyriasis for men/males. Just found the latter term on Wikipedia. Never heard that term ever before.

        1. @Robert Haighton:

          Sexual perversion is a broad term. It is defined by :cultural, religious, family and tribal beliefs and traditions. Same as being a sexual fetish. What is sexual perversion to others, may be normal or accepted by others.

          The old Mormon religion allows male mormons to have many wives. The Islamic religion accept Islamic males to have more then one wife, as long as they can support the wives.

          Nymphomania and Satyriasis, can be explained to you well by experts in the sexual field.
          A good psychoAnalyst or psychologist can explain these terms to you.

    2. You have a point, the example that I used fits more under a civil case than criminal one. Though I’d say many societies agree that there’s something wrong with someone disrupting a duly recognized institution that holds together the building block of society, the family. So anyway, just imagine another case, like someone who is distraught because he can’t kill someone he hates, could not vandalize property, breaks down after being caught for stealing, or other such case where they’re clearly in the wrong. Sympathy for these would be misplaced even if they had mental conditions.

  2. Mental Illness is a very complex disease. One of the known causes, is: the deficiency of brain chemical : Serotonin in the brain. Stress can also be one of the factors. Genetics, plays a factor, like: it runs in the family. It is like mental retardation.

    We still don’t know much about the causes of mental illness.

    As for the evilness of people; like the tendency of our corrupt politicians to steal from us…it is not mental illness, but plain “Greed”. Some are also suffering from “paranoia”, like the Aquinos, who tell people, “they are family of heroes and saints” Paranoia is some form of mental illness.

    We have to leave this Mental Illness to Psychiatrists, Psycho Therapists and Psychologists. These are professional people, who are expert in this field, and who can treat the illness.

    Anyway, don’t hesitate to take your medication , if you are suffering from mental illness. It can be healed in our present time. Seek professional help !

  3. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.

  4. It interests me how this article even came about assuming that mentally ill persons don’t ever think of it as an individual responsibility. I’ll focus with the common ones like depression and anxiety-since you come to focus on this at the later part of your article.

    I hope you actually talked to people who have mental illnesses (especially those who are depressed), if then you would know how much guilt and self-blame they have against themselves. The problem here is not actually lack of individual responsibility but the excess of it. That’s why issues need to be talked about with a professional or a trusted confidante, to reinstate the patient’s positive view of self. The problem is, mainly, the expense of it and the lack of support from friends and family. Here in the Philippines, you may even come across people who would blame you (or your lack of faith in God, as they assume) for your illness, making things even worse.

    Depression is just more than a simple discontentment-related unhappiness and the lack of acceptance for it. It’s an amalgamation of factors within and out of a person’s control. Even with the knowledge of bad decision made, it’s not enough a reason to tell someone that it’s all their fault and they deserved their illness.

    Lastly, we need to move on from the mentality of just pasting a mental illness label to whatever atrocious crime that occured. It’s just hugely a cop out for Filipinos in order to avoid understanding the situation at hand (“must’ve been crazy” mentality). Coming from Filipinos, it’s not a gesture out of pity or sympathy but out condemnation and ignorance. This mentality certainly doesn’t help anyone, but only further stigmatises mental illness as some sort of prerequesite to a life of crime, being a default end to all who suffers from it.

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