There has been a longstanding debate spanning decades regarding what causes mental illness, with some people believing that people are born with mental illnesses, a consequence of biological factors such as genetic inheritance, and others believing that everyone is born mentally healthy, and it is in fact external factors which cause people to become mentally ill, e.g. socialisation and life experiences. These differing views are often referred to as ‘nature vs nurture’, and can be analysed to determine the age old question; ‘why do we become mentally ill?’
Unfortunately, however, the age old question has not yet been determined, at least, not in my situation anyway. Despite my constant questioning of; ‘why am I depressed when I have nothing to feel depressed about?’, I am still at a loss as to understanding just that, ‘why am I depressed?‘
Ironically, questioning the source of my depression has in fact resulted in my mental health worsening, for it leads me to experience immense guilt.
I am very much aware of the fact that I am in a priviledged position. Compared to a lot of people, I have an easy life- no money worries, a roof over my head, and a supportive family by my side. ‘What gives me the right then, to feel this way, when there are people who have it so much worse, yet don’t have depression?’ It is this self-critical internal dialogue that feeds into the very thing I am so keen to escape from, depression.
I have, over time, come to realise that overthinking everything in the manner I have described above is a pointless exploit, therefore I should resist the urge to bring myself down, as this will only exasparate my feelings of misery and despair. Instead, I must accept that depression is an illness, and like any other illness, physical or otherwise, it cannot simply be switched on and off.
But still, the question persists, why do we experience mental illness? This post will explore the nature vs nurture debate, reviewing both sides of the argument before reaching a conclusion.
So, lets start with nature, the belief that people are born either mentally healthy, or mentally ill. People who possess the belief that, like gender, ones mental health status is assigned at birth, disagree with the nurture supporters, who argue that mental health is something determined by ones experiences in life, as opposed to their biology.
Whilst nature supporters are of the opinion that mental health is something beyond anyone’s control, something that cannot be changed (at least, not without intervention later down the line), nurture supporters take an opposite viewpoint, one which emphasises how mental illnesses are in fact constantly changing, in accordance to ones life experiences which, as we know, are also constantly changing.
Although both sides have a valid point, I hold the belief that mental health is down to neither nature or nurture, but a combination of them both.
I definitely think that biology plays a part in the development of mental illnesses of any type, as I have seen first-hand how having a parent/parents with a mental illness means you are more likely to have a mental illness yourself. However, to what extent are biological factors the cause of mental illnesses, I’m not so sure. Again, a debate can be sparked here, as it could be argued that having a mentally ill child whose parents have poor mental health isn’t necessarily a result of the illness being inherited, but could in fact be due to the experiences the child has witnessed due to their parents poor mental health.