Call mental illness just that

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The Independent Online
IT IS ironic that your issue of 19 March, which contains an article on the popularity of philosophy ("Philosophy for grown-ups"), should also include two letters on the subject of mental function which are so devoid of logic. Lucy Johnstone, who describes herself as a senior lecturer in clinical psychology, takes exception to the term "mental illness" on the grounds that it proposes a biological cause. It does nothing of the kind: "mental illness" is simply a descriptive term based on the notion that people who are mentally ill exhibit behaviour that is so bizarre that it could not reasonably be counted as within the spectrum of what is healthy. Or does she subscribe to the fatuous notion, now universally discredited, that there is "no such thing as mental illness" and that the behaviour of those with schizophrenia or manic depressive psychosis is simply an attempt to make sense of a hostile and chaotic world?

John Knight, who dislikes the term "handicapped", seems to confuse description with hostility: to describe someone as mentally handicapped is no more of a criticism than to describe them as poor, blind or deaf. The term "learning difficulties", if applied to someone with severe mental handicap, fails utterly to describe the problems which the individual may face.

Dr Roger A Fisken

Northallerton, N Yorks

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