Letter: Where Britain's health improvement must start

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article seems unduly pessimistic when describing mental illness as 'much less amenable to social policy and public education' ('Bad habits can be changed', 9 July).

There are in mental illness risk factors and antecedents, as well recognised as those in physical disease, which consist of loss in various forms. These include bereavement, breakdown of relationships and loss of self-esteem due to poverty and unemployment. That modern psychiatry still chooses to find pharmacological solutions merely to suppress the manifestations of distress, rather than tackle the underlying causes of the psychological disorder, only reflects the neglect of other well validated methods, such as counselling and psychotherapy, which lack the commercial pressure of the drug industry and are virtually unobtainable under the NHS.

It is to be hoped that the initiative given by the Health of the Nation White Paper begins to remove the fear and ignorance surrounding mental health and encourages education for all age groups into the many ways available of preventing and coping with negative life experiences.

Yours faithfully,

MICHAEL WHITELAW

Chiddingfold,

Surrey

12 July

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