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Life events and mental health

Peter Kinderman discusses the role of life events and environmental factors in the development of mental health problems.
So welcome back. Last week, we were looking very much at neurological or biological accounts of mental health issues. And while it’s fair to say that neurologists understand that the brain responds to life events– you’ll remember John Quinn talking about how the brain is shaped by the events that happened to us– it is true to say that neurobiological accounts, such as those of Eric Kandel, very much stress how differences between people in terms of their biological functioning affect their mental health. Not all psychologists or psychiatrists see it that way at all.
And many psychologists and psychiatrists believe that it’s by looking at the nurture side of the equation, by looking at differences between people in terms of the things that happened to them that we can start to explain mental health issues. In terms of whether genetics or the environment are primarily the causes of mental health problems later is undoubtedly just from the sheer weight of evidence. It’s undoubtedly the psychosocial events which is the more powerful predictor. So clearly, there are some quite different views amongst very well-respected professionals and academics about what are the major causes of mental health problems.
Some people see this as a dispute between psychology and psychiatry, or even between psychologists and psychiatrists, but I think it’s a little bit more complicated than that. Last week, I introduced you to the manifesto for biological psychiatry proposed by Nick Craddock and colleagues. In the very same journal, in the same editorial slot as the one used by Nick Craddock, another psychiatrist Pat Bracken and many of his colleagues, also proposed a manifesto, or viewpoint, for the future of psychiatry, but one that was very different from Nick Craddock’s and very different from Eric Kandel’s. Pat Bracken and his colleagues suggested we need to focus on those social and environmental factors that John Read has just mentioned to you.
And I think it’s worth, as well as reading Nick Craddock’s manifesto, reading the complimentary piece by Pat Bracken. And the link to that is on the FutureLearn website.

In this week’s videos and papers we discuss the role of life events and environmental factors – nurture – in the development of mental health problems. This video introduces the topic of the week – the role of life events in mental health. We hear again from Professor John Read, who sets out his view that the best way to explain the origin of mental health problems – and especially differences between people – is by looking at life events and the different experiences we have in our lives.

Remember, again, that these videos are intended to introduce, not replace, the reading (the linked papers) we’ve recommended.

To understand a little more about these ideas, the papers and scientific journal articles are the main source of learning. The videos in total will last about 7 minutes, but we think it will take about an hour to read and digest the information in the papers. That should give you some time to engage in the discussions with your fellow learners on the course.

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Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture

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