Modern psychiatry, which once focused only on the containment and “cure” of madness, has evolved into a mental health industry, where almost every aspect of human life, may be cast as a “mental disorder”. In Western countries, a narcissistic appetite for self-improvement and “well-being” has evolved over the past 50 years, mirroring the emergence of the celebrity culture. These developments appear linked to a fading of interest in the traditional concept of human caring, leading to a further marginalisation of people with serious “mental health problems” and to increased use of authoritarian forms of control and containment. In this paper, the idea of vocation in the field of mental health is explored. What exactly are we called to do as people—whether as professionals, friends or fellow travellers—when someone experiences a significant problem in human living?
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