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Christian T.

Kelly
UWRT 1103
Mrs. Thomas
The Roots of Mental Illness
Weir, Kirsten. The Roots of Mental Illness. American Psychological Association, June. 2012.
Web. 17 March 2015.
Kirsten Weir, a freelance writer in Minneapolis, attempts to answer the question, How much of
Mental Illness can the biology of the brain explain? Weir believes people view mental illness
from two perspectives, one, the biological approach, exemplified by Eric Kandel, MD, a Nobel
Prize Laureate and Professor of Brain Science at Columbia University, explains the biological
model as occurring solely in the brain, and affecting normal brain functioning. Centrally, he
believes that all disorders of mental functioning are biological diseases. On the flip side,
Jerome Wakefield, PhD, DSM, Professor of Social work and psychiatry at New York University
takes the non-biological approach due to the fact that the biological approach has cost too much
money and too much invested time, ultimately, little has been gained throughout the field of
psychology and the wrong causes are being targeted. The real cause, he believes lies in
biological dysfunction, a combination of personality traits, and a maladapted nature to society.
Placing such emphasis, he adds, on the biological approach, tunnel visions one into skipping
over the true causes of mental illnesses, which are environment, behavioral, and social factors
(Weir, Kirsten).

Mental illnesses are no different than any other disease; similarly, they entail both behavioral and
biological parts. Support of the biological model lies in what has been discovered by scientists;
an identification of genes linked to schizophrenia, a discovery of how brain abnormalities
increase a persons risk of PTSD after a stressful situation, and anomalies associate with autism
(Weir, Kirsten). Also, another discovery is the identification of the Brodmann area 25, a part of
the brain overactive in individuals with depression. These discoveries cannot explain all mental
illnesses, adds Helen Mayberg, MD, a Professor of Psychiatry and neurology at Emory
University. The symptoms of a mental illness not only include physical differences; however,
underlying problems play a significant role as well. As far as treatment is concerned, Mayberg
sides with the opinion that many options exist and the options which work varies from person to
person. Another approach at answering the question over mental illnesses lies within Richard
McNally, a PhD, and clinical psychologist at Harvard University, who outlines that the biological
and non-biological debate is not where the true answer lies, but, an increasingly nuanced and
sophisticate appreciation for the multiple perspectives that can illuminate the etiology of these
conditions. Despite the ongoing debate, each psychologist agrees that mental illness is such a
complex disease that before any definition can be formulated, advancements within the field of
psychology must take place (Weir, Kirsten).
Kirsten Weir utilizes many professionals and their knowledge within the spectrum of mental
illness to craft a multi-perspective piece. She offers an abundance of standpoints, whether the
biological model, non-biological model, or neither, truly answers the question of whether mental
illnesses exist or not. Weir poses a multitude of standpoints in an attempt to probe the thought of
the reader as to what position they take. The conclusion reached, The more we understand
about our brain and behavior, the better, is backed by phrases throughout the article such as we

are really at the cusp of a revolution, and in recent years scientists have made many exciting
discoveries (Kirsten, Weird).
Other quotes: "In most areas of medicine, we now have a whole toolkit to help us know what's
going on, from the behavioral level to the molecular level. That has really led to enormous
changes in most areas of medicine."
"I used to think you could localize everything, that you could explain all the variants by the
biology," she says. "I think in a perfect world you could, but we don't have the tools to explain all
those things because we can't control for all of the variables."
"Call it a mental disorder if you want, but there's no smoking-gun malfunction in your brain."
Analysis: This piece is so dense with information that summarizing and analyzing it is quite
difficult. The article is not difficult to read in the sense of the diction and grammatical usage;
however, conceptualizing the ideas proves to be a task. Coming from such educated individuals,
with the majority of professors at top-notch colleges, who have been studying said ideas
extensively for much of their lives, one has to read the information presented many times before
being able to craft and comprehend an idea of what is being said. This article is applicable to my
question because it hints at multiple perspectives and is not simply biased and one-sided. For
others pursing similar questions, I would recommend this article if you are attempting to prove
multiple points in order to craft your own idea; however, if you are trying to analyze a specific
argument, I would stray away for using this piece.