Dear Chloe Swarbrick,
In acknowledging your new portfolio on mental health issues, I wish to give you this open letter.
The focus on mental health today is all about providing patches. This is necessary but we must address causes if we do not wish to make mental health a forever-issue.
Psychiatrists have understood, and general research has long verified, that mental illness is principally the fallout of powerful internalised pain. In practical terms, mental sickness is overwhelmingly a manifestation of child abuse and this is where the conversation should begin if we can agree that the issue should be about more than protecting the tax-base.
To understand mental sickness (and the great majority of us do not) in its most simple form, just think of someone trying to get through life with three bulldog clips stuck to their fingers. The mentally ill are in pain and are struggling. Most importantly, they cannot respond to their children properly--sometimes hardly at all--and in the most severe cases they cannot even hold down a job. This is because of those 'bulldog clips', the effect of which they must forever struggle to manage. Internalised pain becomes an aggressive existential tax that makes all other (non act-out) activities very difficult.
What most people recognise as 'mental sickness' is not the internalised pain, which is its true basis. It is the broken-down defense system that makes the management of internalised pain fail, to a given degree. In turn driving toxic dependencies and heavy over-reactions. Open wounds, if you like.
Our mental health professionals deal with those open wounds by closing them up again, if they can. They do this with therapy and more commonly (and desperately) with drugs. But it's all patches. And those patches do not of course solve the deeper problem - they simply cover it.
The best that patches can do in such a traumatised world is leave us with a kind of zombie-nation, because when we cover our pain we cover everything. A heightened state of repression will help people cope, but it will (and does) rob them of their full humanity. And alas that does not make for good parenting, so as to quickly stop the cycle of intergenerational pain.
So what is the solution? Keep going with the patches - we need them. But see them for what they are. Understand that child abuse and infantile damage is the real name of the real game. This should be our central target.
I would recommend education for the young on child rearing so they can understanding scientifically what really hurts children and what does not, to avoid the most gross of errors that we are all guilty of. We need to focus on infantile damage especially which is where the most serious internalised pain is rooted.
I believe we also need to make some tough decisions on fertility. Should we really be letting people who are patently emotionally disturbed have children, that they will almost certainly abuse and chronically neglect? Is this really the right thing to do, considering it is our whole society that has to deal with the fallout of this somewhat simple-thinking libertarianism? We need to ask tough questions here if we do not want the darkest extremes of the underclass to continue to grow.
To get an idea of the real New Zealand domestic world, which is where mass mental illness is generated, then I can suggest having some private conversations with experienced police officers. They will show you a world that we do not want to know, but need to know.
The very best and good luck,