Mental health: a complex issue

According to the WHO, mental disorders affect one in four people worldwide. In France, these disorders result in over 10,000 suicides and nearly 200,000 suicide attempts each year. At the same time, the sale of antidepressants has increased sevenfold between 1980 and 2000. The effects of the past two years of the pandemic have only highlighted the seriousness of a problem that continues to grow more complex each year: overwhelmed psychiatric and psychological consultations, inadequate public support structures in schools, universities, workplaces, prisons, and retirement homes, a surge in the consumption of psychotropic drugs, anxiolytics, and antidepressants due to the inability to implement talk therapies, and the introduction of teleconsultations without a clear analysis of the rationale behind this mode of therapeutic consultation.

Regardless of the scope of public health policies implemented over the past forty years, facing this dramatic situation requires new political actions to be accompanied by in-depth theoretical reflection. It is particularly important to analyze three essential aspects of the issue from an interdisciplinary perspective.

The first aspect concerns the assessment of public health problems. Statistical data on the issue are well-known to public institutions, but their interpretation requires extensive work. There appears to be a clear link between the explosion of mental distress in all areas and the anthropological and social changes that individuals in our post-industrial societies have experienced in the past forty years, such as the acceleration of pace of life and multitasking. Against the backdrop of the digital revolution, these factors have brought about profound changes affecting all spheres of social interactions and representations (from education and work to family, entertainment, self-realization, and communal living). Analyzing and understanding public health statistics in light of these major transformations is an essential step in addressing the problem. On this theme, dialogue with the social sciences also seems indispensable.

The second aspect concerns the definition of the concept of mental health. Mental disorders can only be defined in relation to a norm that often remains implicit, and it would be necessary to analyze it, at least in its fundamental theoretical aspects. The advent of the DSM, the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders published since 1943 by the American Psychiatric Association, has profoundly changed the debate on the issue. Based on hospital data and constructed through an inductive approach, these manuals often seem to subordinate the definition of the disorder to the pharmacological means capable of treating its symptoms. Therefore, it is necessary to revisit the debate on the characterization of mental health, especially:

a) taking into account the concepts and recent findings of neuroscience, which, through the interpretation of neural traces in terms of the representation of lived experience, attempts to reinterpret mental health through the concepts of plasticity and cerebral homeostasis;

b) considering the theoretical, philosophical, psychoanalytic, and anthropological debate on the definition of the concept of mental health, as it emerges from the major theoretical works of the 20th century and the correlated pathological forms that have been identified (neuroses, psychoses, etc.).

Finally, the last aspect concerns clinical practice and the different forms of therapy that have been developed in recent decades, whether or not they incorporate pharmacological treatments. The health policy on this issue cannot ignore the historical reconstruction and assessment of the various currents that have clashed in the debate on clinical forms, from anti-psychiatry in the 1970s and 1980s to cognitive-behavioral therapies at the turn of the 21st century and the diversification of talk therapies inspired by psychoanalysis.

Future Events

For the academic year 2023/2024 the dates of the workshops are as follows:
September 22, 2023
October 20, 2023
November 17, 2023
December 15, 2023
January 19, 2024
March 15, 2024
April 19, 2024
May 17, 2024
June 21, 2024