Medicine, Mind and Adolescence 1996, XI, 2

Meaning and Morality as conditions of mental health: a contribution towards a theory of counselling as a specifically personalistic method of providing medical and psychological help to persons

Josef Seifert

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1. Introductory remarks on the relationship between meaning mental health and morality in relationship to counselling.

2. Essential differences between health and morality and the role of understanding both morality and the logic of mental health/mental unhealthy for counselling.

3. Various relationships between mental health and morality and the significance of grasping their distinction for counselling.

a. Some share of mental health is a condition of moral acts: understanding of partial excuses for immoral and illegal actions is a condition for proper counselling.

b. Mental health requires the ability to distinguish between good and evil moral and extra moral causes of the partial or total ethical value blindness and of the loss of the ability to distinguish between good and evil: the significance of distinguishing these two causes of moral value blindness for counselling.

c. Mental health is morally relevant and an occasion for morally good acts, on the moral value of proper counselling.

d. Moral evil as well as the loss of meaning can be a cause and root of mental unhealthy through the mediation of chemical or physical agents; the role of counselling in revealing to the adolescent the indirect moral responsibility he has in these cases in his loss of mental health.

e. Moral goodness involves a form of mental health related to value and meaning and moral evil destroys a moment of rationality and sense of meaning that constitutes a most significant element of mental health: the maieutic role of counselling in letting a person rediscover meaning and regain a morally good attitude.

f. The inner logic of certain moral evils give rise to states of actual mental disease which lie outside the scope of our freedom; the appeal to the freedom of moral stances as a necessary element of counselling in problems of this kind.

g. Mental illness can be a consequence of "witnessing’ horrendous moral evil of other persons or of being a victim of it, for example in child abuse or war: on the implications of this for counselling towards discovering meaning in coping with negative experience: counselling and metaphysics.

h. some moral goods are parts of mental health and some moral evils are parts of mental disease;

i. Combinations of mental illness and moral evil in some psychic illnesses and the task of the counsellor in the face of this.

Key Words: mental health - counselling - morality medicine - psychology.

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