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Caring for adults
Caring for adults

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1.1 The biomedical model

The most common way to understand mental health problems is by seeing them as an illness in the same way as other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, are seen as illnesses. Policymakers encourage us to do this. Underlying the biomedical model is the belief that mental illness has a cause that can be treated and, in many cases, cured.

The biomedical model has its advantages:

  • It offers explanations of mental ill-health that many people who experience mental health problems find reassuring as it can be the first stage towards recovery.
  • Diagnosing and naming conditions can help to reassure people that what they experience is ‘real’ and shared by others.
  • Relieves symptoms such as hallucinations, a rapid heartbeat or constant worrying so that the individual starts to feel better.
  • Provides access to help and support that can help to alleviate some of the things that trouble the individual, such as not being able to go shopping.

However, the biomedical model is founded on the assumption that:

  • the cause of the mental illness lies within the individual so the focus of treatment is on bodily symptoms
  • there is a focus on what is normal so that medical judgements determine what is not normal.

The biomedical model has shortcomings that a more holistic model might explain.

A holistic model of mental health takes into account the physical, spiritual, psychological, emotional, social and environmental components of our lives. In other words, it takes into account our person and everything about our life as a whole.