To connect and make the voices of ERNI-minded professionals more audible
To connect and make the voices of ERNI-minded users of services more audible
To make the principles of ERNI more visible
To influence the development of services
The ERNI (Emotions aRe Not Illnesses) declaration is based on the idea that distress does not equate to disease, dysfunction, dysregulation, or chemical imbalance. Signatories believe that there needs to be a shift from illness and diagnosis ideas to personal narratives and understandings.
The ERNI Declaration seeks to collect Human Rights allies who wish to take a position on the way in which distress, including extreme distress, is routinely understood and responded to across the globe. These may be people who have used mental health services or who currently use mental health services along with Teachers, Social Workers, Psychologists, Mental Health Nurses, Community Workers and University Lecturers. The ERNI Declaration is a shared position statement that posits that EMOTIONS ARE NOT ILLNESSES. It states that ‘people experience a range of emotional distress including misery, a sense of failure, despair for the future, self-loathing, worry, loneliness, heart-break (and so on).
These things can and do result in great suffering, but they are not illnesses. This medicalisation of distress is largely responsible for the unacceptably ineffective mental health services we currently have.’ It makes a case ‘for a move away from the concepts of treatment and cure to those involving helping people understand the impact of psychological injury and the role of many different types of adversity.’
Whilst, as ERNI minded users of services and professionals, we do not understand distress as illness, and drugs as ‘treatment’, we recognise that many individuals have been prescribed psychoactive medications that are unsafe to withdraw from without medical support. The declaration does not endorse the withdrawal from prescribed psychoactive drugs without professional guidance and support. We hope that the declaration will encourage robust dialogue across people’s lives and the services they access.
We are aware that people experience emotional distress as a result of what has happened to them in their lives. We also recognise that known and diagnosable physical illness (e.g. infections, thyroid problems, vitamin deficiency) can also result in mind altering and distressing experiences and that treating the causal physical illness medically (e.g. with antibiotics, vitamin supplementation etc) can help to move away from distress. We do not believe that this makes the emotional response to the diagnosable organic illness a ‘mental illness’ but it is recognised, that in such situations, the experience is both emotional and has a measurable organic origin.
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