I’m Marnie Wedlake. I’m a registered psychotherapist, a university faculty member, a person with lived experience, and an activist. My formal education includes: Honours Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Psychology, and a PhD in Health Professional Education. I started working in the broader field of ‘mental health’ care in 1986, when I had my first job as a student. Over the years, I’ve seen many changes take place in the system. It also feels as though time, and evolution, have stood almost completely still.
I believe most people share a fundamental desire to experience a greater sense of overall wellbeing. Many are becoming increasingly vocal about this. In various ways, people are stating their beliefs that overall wellbeing is not created or maintained through processes and systems that medicalize and pathologize how they cope with the burdens that result from the weight of carrying their traumas and adversities.
Although it doesn’t necessarily come easily or quickly, I’m completely convinced that wellbeing is a fundamental state that is available to all people. I also believe that all of us live with a vast range of experiences that can both intrude upon, and support, our efforts to create and maintain wellbeing. Many factors of influence affect the ebb and flow of these experiences, and how they show themselves in our day-to-day lives. This is where I feel that modern ‘mental health’ systems have lost their way.
Western-based ‘mental health’ care functions according to a philosophical model that is primarily biomedical. This model assumes that the presence of what are determined to be clusters of disabling “symptoms”, are indications of the presence of disorder. Beyond this, the biomedical model emphasizes the belief that the primary cause of these apparent disorders is some kind of neurobiological dysfunction that has happened to the person – that something has gone wrong with the person. In the biomedical approach to ‘mental health’ care, the most commonly suggested treatments are medical ones, aimed at eradicating, or at least subduing and/or containing, these apparent disorders.
The knowledge and experiences I’ve collected have lead me to determine that the biomedical model of ‘mental health’ care is not at all a reliable one, or even a very useful one. And given its focus on disorder, the biomedical model falls sadly short when it comes to being a resource that can be used to inform the creation and maintenance of an overall sense of wellbeing. My passionate interest in exploring why wellbeing seems to be quite elusive for so many who experience significantly compromised emotional wellbeing, and how this can be changed, supports the work I do.
Personally, and professionally, the philosophy that guides me is perhaps best captured by my tagline: Wellbeing is not prescribed. It is created. With ownership and intention.