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Notes From Prague: Mental Health Terminology Debate

Notes From Prague: Mental Health Terminology Debate


March 5, 2012

The debate on whether the concept of mental health is misleading turned on a much deeper premise than simple terminology at the 20th European Congress of Psychiatry. Dr Mary Baker presented the pro argument for eliminating the use of mental illness and replacing it with brain disease—one of the reasons for this is that "mental illness" is misleading, because it can often be a symptom of physical illness such as cancer or diabetes. Furthermore, Dr Baker believes that the label adds to discrimination and stigmatization.

Dr Matt Muijen argued that brain disease is incorrect and does not encompass all mental illness—brain disease should have a primary locus with a distinct pathway and diagnosis. Both he and Ms Dolores Gauci (a patient representative) concurred that mental illness encompasses much more than brain illness; it can include mental well-being, mental distress, psychiatric disorders, etc.

Photo (Seated from left to right): Ms Gauci, Dr Baker, Dr Sartorial (moderator), and Dr Muijen

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