Why it’s Healthy to be Afraid in a Crisis


Writing in The Guardian, clinical psychologist Dr. Lucy Johnstone says it is wrong to view our natural fears as mental health disorders.

As a mental health professional, I disagree with the message in Paul Daley’s article (We face a pandemic of mental health disorders, 24 March). We’re not facing “a pandemic of severe mental health disorders”. We’re all facing entirely normal fear, anxiety, despair and confusion about a truly terrifying situation that challenges our whole way of life. Never has it been clearer that so-called “mental disorders” make sense in context. In fact, many professionals would argue that this applies to the whole range of experiences that are labelled as clinical depression, personality disorder, psychosis, and so on.

The more we label our understandable human reactions as disorders, the greater the temptation to disconnect them from their source and focus on new individual “treatments” instead. The drug companies must be rubbing their hands at the prospect of all these new customers. We can come out of this crisis in a better state than before by staying connected with our feelings and the urgent threats that have led to them, and taking collective action to deal with the root causes. These include climate change, environmental degradation, wildlife trafficking, insecure employment, the structure and funding of public services, and the neoliberal values that have driven us for far too long.

Dr Lucy Johnstone
Consultant clinical psychologist, Bristol

Lucy on Sky News – Normalising messages around mental health and COVID-19

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MITUK’s mission is to serve as a catalyst for fundamentally re-thinking theory and practice in the field of mental health in the UK, and promoting positive change. We believe that the current diagnostically-based paradigm of care has comprehensively failed, and that the future lies in non-medical alternatives which explicitly acknowledge the causal role of social and relational conflicts, abuses, adversities and injustices.


  1. Some interesting information there Auntie.

    I was particularly interested in the State forcing cremations. This will effect many Muslims who do not wish to be cremated.

    I was aware that doctors had been looking at ways of removing the protection of two opinions, and also the ability to do ‘remote’ detentions using video links and facebook and the like. I guess they have their wish, and when the evidence is brought in, i’ve no doubt that the changes will become permanent.

  2. The “Coronavirus Act” passed by parliament contains a little morsel for you to chew on. The Mental Health Act has been modified to allow a person to be sectioned on the recommendation of a solitary registered medical practitioner, removing the safeguard requiring at least 2 independent medical opinions.

    Read more about it (including a pdf link to the Act) here:

    Did anyone know about this?