The Illusion of Free Will and Mental Illness Stigma

Published in Psychology Today, 17th March 2016:

The Illusion of Free Will and Mental Illness Stigma’.


“If the mind is truly free, it is only logical to extrapolate that illness of the mind must also be free; free to change on a whim, or at least free to change if one chose to do so. In a free and immaterial mind, it appears there is nothing for mental illness to be truly grounded in, so establishing a psychiatric diagnosis can seem like trying to plant a flag in a cloud. What is to blame for my mental illness? If there is no physical pathology, it must be my mind; it must be ‘me’.

The dangerous illusion of free will is imparting notions of choice into mental illness. Only the idea of free will could compel one to feel a true ownership and shame for their mental illness. Only the idea of free will could compel us to intuitively feel that if we were another person, atom for atom, we would handle our mental illness better, or prevent it from occurring in the first place. Sentiments such as “Well if I had depression, I’d snap out of it.” This type of thinking is toxic. The illusion of free will compels us to treat mental illness differently to all other illnesses known to the medical profession.

– Steve Stankevicius

Title image credit: Bs0u10e0/flickr


Image credit: Sundara Ramaswamy/flickr

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