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Rethinking mental health and well-being

Professor Peter Kinderman of the University of Liverpool proposes a radical new ‘manifesto’ for mental health and well-being ahead of the free online course, ‘Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture‘. You can follow Peter on Twitter @peterkinderman and join the conversation using #FLmentalhealth.

Professor Peter Kinderman.

Professionals working in the field of mental health care are facing major changes in the way we understand emotional distress and offer help to patients.

Traditional approaches to mental health problems, including the use of diagnosis, assume that symptoms are the consequence of biological illnesses. This is now being challenged, along with the reliance on medication for treatment, by new research that suggests environmental, social and psychological factors are more important than previously thought.

Advances in understanding human psychology

This rethink has been prompted by recent scientific advances in understanding human psychology. These suggest that traditional ‘disease-model’ thinking about mental health is profoundly flawed, and far-reaching changes are required in how we plan and commission services.

Our present approach to helping people in acute emotional distress is severely hampered by old-fashioned and unscientific ideas about the nature and origins of mental health problems. Vulnerable people suffer as a result of this inappropriate treatment.

The time has come for a wholesale reform of mental health services. We must move away from the ‘disease-model’, which assumes that emotional distress is merely symptomatic of biological illness, and instead embrace a model of mental health and well-being that recognises our essential and shared humanity.

A radical new ‘manifesto’ for mental health and well-being

In the free online course, ‘Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture‘, which starts next month, we’ll be exploring some of these issues, before proposing a radical new ‘manifesto’ for mental health and well-being.

We’ll look at why services should be based on the premise that the origins of distress are largely social and why we should replace ‘diagnoses’ with straightforward descriptions of problems.

We’ll ask whether health services should radically reduce the use of medication, and use it pragmatically rather than presenting it as ‘treatment’. We’ll also look at how to establish residential services based on a social, rather than medical, ethos.

Adopting this approach could result in a fundamental shift from a medical to a psychosocial focus. It could see a move from hospital to residential social care, and a substantial reduction in the prescription of medication.

Join us, to discover how this new approach could improve our mental health and well-being.

Category Learning
Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture

Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture

How a psychological understanding of our emotions and behaviour can give us new ways to improve mental health and well-being.

Join this free online course

Comments (50)


  • Jenne

    The invisible illness that afflicts us all, hoping to understand more about psychology and mental health: beyond nature/nuture….

  • John S

    This wise message does not seem to be carried accross as much as it should be…

  • Clive Sherlock

    Peter, I hope I can learn more about your work through this course and if our paths cross elsewhere, perhaps at Nottingham? It is in tune with what I have been doing. Thank you. Clive

  • Maeve Bennion

    I do think it is progression of approaches that enable people to take hold of their lives and realise they have choices of using psychological choices to enhance and improve their mental and wellbeing rather than being dependant on a system that uses a medical model rather than a holistic caring and psychological one.


    It is important to have a good mental health than a physical health because all the physical part of a person is either build ed up or genomic ( there are probability ), but brain works in a different way, what you see and feel is taken some times very wrongly. It comes from only our ancient beans, because that part of as developed like that It is a need for them to survive. But from this course & discussions i want to learn how we can change the infrastructure of humanity, so they will live in a world which has a highly developed brain, i mean not by GENETIC ENGINEERING but by slowly and naturally programming brain to adjust with the changes. There are N number of factors. It’s going to be great, I hope i have time for it. See you guys in the discussion.

  • Lea Stacey

    The subject of mental health has always been of interest to me. This has been driven by a need to understand and make sense of what was happening to me and why. My mental distress began in childhood and has caused pain throughout my life. My feelings about it now are that there is a multiplicity of contributing factors and therefore just as many ways to end or reduce it.
    I look forward to starting the course and hearing other’s experiences.

  • Joanna

    I am coming into this course with open mind in the event of learning, understanding and participating. With the goal at the end of the six weeks it an area that I can say I learnt many factors and is able to have discussions with others and fully grasp the concept

  • Pat Morgan

    From observation, experience and empirical learning I believe that the old fashioned methods which involve rummaging about in people’s past lives does not ‘solve’ problems. How is the person now? is an important question. How am I now? I had cause, when deeply distressed, to ask, ‘what shall I say/do?’ of a therapist, I was beside myself, incapable of thinking straight. Later, when I had gained distance, I was able to know myself. It was not as the therapist advised at all. So, clear thought is a most valuable human asset and how to attain it . . . the best way of living . . . for me. I have observed a downward spiral in a family member through complicated and changing medical drug prescription and gross mis-diagnosis over a period of 9 months.

  • Paul Brady

    I am very intrigued with the new concept of the causes and treatment of mental issues. The moving away from medication overkill can be good as well as bad due to sufferers are not all the same some may need medication and some may need other types of help.

    • June Pettitt

      Absolutely, don’t we lump mental health problems altogether?? Why should we, surely there are different problems.

  • Amanda

    I am very interested in this course as I have suffered from episodes of depression and anxiety at various intervals in my life. I wish to understand the impact of this dis ease in my life and find the patterns that can help me shift the paradigm to a fuller and wholesome life. Also explaining to ones peers employers and colleagues such a dis-ease causes e measurable harm as general the response is ” just get over it”. In today’s world I am starting to notice the trend that appears to treat human beings as machines, which is why I find the topic interesting as I want to be relevant in society.

    • Nick Kenney

      Hi Amanda; I also suffer from depression so I understand how you feel. I think this course helps to understand the processes of how depression works and I found it helpful first time around when I studied it in April – May 2015. Hope it benefits you as it benefited me, see you in the comments section in January 2017. ~(B-)

  • Kim

    I signed up for this course because my son suffers from paranoid schizophrenia a Nd I want to find out as much as I can to better understand what he is experiencing and how I can help. (Currently also studying the psychosis course)
    After reading a few short parts about this course I realised that my initial reasons were very narrow minded, forgetting that anxiety, depression, etc are also mental illnesses and that I have and am currently suffering from. So now I hope that it will also help me to have a better understanding generally of why people suffer mentally and the best ways to deal with each type.

  • Luis Loera

    I experienced mental distress last year…It is very tiring to make the world understand, starting from my wife that full recovery is totally possible and more common than what people believe. It is such a challenge for a person who suffered so called “mental illness” to feel better and heal if the surroundings continue to label, misunderstand the experiences lived by the affected, to use medications as candies and to play with diagnoses as if we are in a guess who? games night. My experience was left as unidentified psychotic episode after a misdiagnosis and misuse of medication on me. I’m currently on a program called Early Psychosis Intervention in which my psychiatrist who I see every 3 months is to find me a better label yet. Finding this course reading this blog was great and put a smile on my face as I loved the content. I’d suggest this course to my doctor in my next appointment but my eagerness to share other perspectives can end up as notes of paranoia in my medical history as it happened when I asked questions & shared a book overview on my 1st appointment. Pride is something that should be considered as a barrier to help others. Looking forward to this course 🙂

  • Amelia Rickwood

    I am interested in this course as I am a foster carer that has and is looking after children who have had to deal with really difficult and damaging issues in their lives. Any help to understand how the brain deals with these issues is very valuable
    to me so that I can be as supportive as possible. I am looking forward to the course.

  • Sanna Rubeni

    Psychology – Life gave me lots of lessons and tests and even the person of my life is a gift but the same time challenge for me. So life experience pushed me to go to this direction. But the most important thing is that I realy like psychology. I understood that it is for me other world: to be busy with the scientific study of the mind and behavior. It is a journey where I will know myself, my behavior and people surrounding me.

  • Martin

    I was taken by the statement that the origins of (mental) distress are largely social, and it seems to me that replacing diagnosis with description gives a fundamentally more useful starting point in enabling people with threatened mental health to interact in a more useful way for themselves and significant others in their lives.

  • Gill

    I work in a hospital and as a counsellor and am also a Psychology Hons graduate. Long over due that a wider picture was considered and default to medication and nature/nurture reassessed. N/N has it’s place, but shouldn’t, in my opinion, be the whole consideration. Looking forward to this course and the interactions.

  • Alan M

    As a counsellor and therapist, I beleive I was well-trained. One of the theories we were inculcated with was Prochastka and Clemente’s notions of CHANGE. Ever since my early days, I’ve noticed how difficult changing coping mechanisms, belief systems, or self-understandings can be. Pharmacotherapeutic means of seeking change through drugging folks has never made sense to me. Pain releif may not be the best way through change. So what can we say about how people seek ‘difference’ in their difficult lives? I think M Scott Peck was closest, when he wrote: “The truth shall set you free….. but first, it will make you damn mad!
    What if the thing our clients are trying to change is the thing they’ve have tried to change before? Tried to change AGAIN and AGAIN? Why is changing so difficult, they often exclaim? Especially if they end up complaining again and again that THEY WANT THIS TO CHANGE?

  • Keithanthony

    I was abused by staff and had all pain management withdrawn following a major traumatic head injury because I was profiled as an uncooperative and unruly patient. The reason was I refused to accept that I was permanently paralysed. They said if I behaved they would help me. However I’m typing fairly well for a paraplegic. I effected my own recovery unaided using hypnotic techniques that came to me naturally because the hospital refused to help wanting only to warehouse me. Now I’m a hypnotherapist and very proud that I have never done any harm to any client never prescribed any drugs, and never offered a diagnosis. I do however let my client talk to me and tell me exactly how they feel.

  • Neelam Ajgaonkar

    I totally agree with health services than being on medication. I would want to work on this area, as its my forte for which i would truly dedicate my self to it. Thanks Peter.

  • Janine

    I agree that health services should reduce the use of medication, but medication is the cheapest option short term & sadly the health service is already stretched for funding. My GP agreed that therapy would be better for me than Prozac long term, but there’s no funding for me to receive therapy, so I’ll be on Prozac until I can afford to pay privately, which won’t be any time soon.

  • Anne hough

    I my self have suffered with mental health so understand quite a lot , I’m very interested in learning more

  • Dean Evans

    I am not in health care, but would like a greater understanding of my mental health and well being. From the course description I am choosing this course as the place to start.

    • Gabriela

      I agree with you. i’m bit late in this course. I couldn’t start on date but I’ll try to catch up. i’m a teacher of English. I’m not a native speaker, so please , so sometimes it is not so easy to express myself. I always read 20 or more new words a day besides every area has is own jargon. i believe learning is about becoming better, and sometimes we cannot learn as we believe we do not have the necessary skills to achieve it but that’s not true. We’re all healthy enough to do it and we need someone standing by reminding and reassuring we can do it!

  • Catherine Mc Hugh

    I am a life/health coach with a particular interest in supporting and empowering people who have been affected not only by the ‘diagnoses’ of mental health conditions but by the even more damaging ‘treatments’ I welcome new learning which recognises the social origins of distress, but I wonder why you feel you ” should replace ‘diagnoses’ with straightforward descriptions of problems.” How helpful is descriptions of problems…… approach is a vivid description of solutions! That’s what makes what I do unique. Im hungry for new learning and not afraid to challenge ….(im a OU graduate!)

    • Gabriela

      I love your approach. I totally agree with you

  • Oonagh Cleary

    I am very interested in mental health as I have suffered from an eating disorder and obsessive thinking patterns and I am fascinated in how each brain is so differently wired depending on genes, upbringing and environmental factors. I also feel that neuroscience is very important when understanding mental health problems and we are only starting to understand how the brain works especially with regards to addiction. It will be interesting to learn what this course offers so I will keep an open mind

  • Mary David

    I am a Health Practitioner with a greate desire to learn more about Phychology and Mental Health. I have registered on this course because I am currently I am involved working with patient with mental health problems. I look forward to learn this new conceipt and thank you for your dedication to help me and other fellow students on this course.

  • Lorene Callahan

    Greeting Prof. Kinderman and fellow learners, I am a state licensed clinical social worker providing care to vulnerable populations in Portland, OR, USA. I look forward to examining this perspective with all of you with the hope of gaining new insights and interventions for my troubled clients. In my view we are very complex human beings with an innate drive to belong and a need for community. These are difficult needs to address in the current climate of diagnosis and treatment. A move away from the disease model, that clearly is not working in many areas of treatments, to a more realistically applicable psychosocial model is long overdue! Glad we’re starting soon!

  • Jason Dowell

    I’ve joined this class not sure what time, or the access point to find it. I assume there will be an email to ensure I know. Looking forward to the class!

  • Dian Mardiana

    Hai.. Mr. Peter,

    I am social worker that look after the children, some of my beneficiaries who has a suffer physiology disorder , I joint this course to get more information and look forward cause of this diseases.

  • Boniface Takwe Njecko

    As a nurse I look forward to participating in this course to get the other side of diseases and their causes and how our words and actions can adversely affect us and others. The consequences of all these on innocent children whom we sometimes destroy ignorantly in an attempt to do right just because we didn’t know how to do it right.

  • Shirley

    I have just committed to join the upcoming course and look forward to it. I suffer with MHP and hope to become more aware of my own triggers and how to manage situations before they escalate well as the discrimination of sufferers and the stigma attached to MHP

  • jeanette ridley

    this course was so fascinating to me ,for learning psychology ,that I have retaken the course again ,thankyou

  • Paul Bibbings

    Dr. Kinderman.

    As a nurse working in community mental health, I am continually looking for alternative perspectives to the historically favoured ‘medical model’ of mental wellbeing and mental dis-ease. In my day-to-day practice, and through the post-registration training available to me, I am of the view that a movement away from sole reliance on diagnosis and medication, towards more focus upon psychological interventions, has begun. It is my hope to gain from this course a more clearly defined sense of the boundary between what has already been achieved in this direction, compared to what remains to be done.


    Hi Prof Kinderman,

    I’m keen to find out what’s in store in your upcoming class. One of the biggest boo-boos I found in years of working with differentiated learners is prescribing of drugs like Ritalin to treat ADHD. Parents have no option really — albeit it is equally ineffective — or their child would be untreated. Methadone as a substitute for substance dependents too, is another matter that concerns me.

    Hope to pick up some new dimensions soon.

  • Dr. Tracii Kunkel

    Dr. Kinderman, I am a clinical psychologist in a Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center serving military veterans with severe mental illness. One of my challenges is in not only moving the established providers away from the medical model to a recovery-focused one, but the consumers as well. I beleive we do that well in this program. I was encouraged to read your Scientific American posting, and hope to be able to not only participate in your online course, but to enroll at least a few of my veterans in the course as well. Thank you for the work that you are doing.

  • Rebecca Day

    Hello Peter.

    I am an Assistant Psychologist working at a psychiatric hospital. This course sounds absolutely fascinating and I think it really compliment my existing knowledge on mental health. Unfortunately I have only just come across the course as of today…

    Is it possible for me to join 2 weeks in to the course? I am more than happy to complete some extra hours if there is any materials in which I could read etc.

    Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Many Thanks


    • The FutureLearn team

      Hi Rebecca,
      Thanks for your question. It’s still possible for you to join the course now. We’re only halfway through Week 2, so you could put in a few extra hours to catch up or simply work through the course at your own pace.
      If you go to the following link and join the course, you’ll see a ‘To do’ list, which lists everything week by week. You’ll then be able to see what you’ve missed and what’s going on right now.

  • Soukaina, Morocco

    Dear Mr Kinderman,

    Thank you for this introduction to this course I am sure I am going to enjoy.

    I am taking this opportunity to ask you if there are any books I can read on that same topic?

    Thank you.

  • Jatinder McMullan

    I wanted to thank you so much for offering this course. I am so looking forward to learning more about your ‘manifesto’ which I have just ordered. I too believe that mental health needs new light; new thinking…good for you!!

  • Season

    I’m also registered and looking forward to this course. My partner is a childhood trauma survivor and I’m doing all in my power to understand what he’s going through as he’s beginning the healing process (20 years of negative coping behaviors is very difficult to change).


  • Anne Briscoe

    Hi Peter,
    I am very excited by the course description. I haven’t got a copy of your book yet but have read some of your blog. Looking forward to it starting.

  • Peter Meadows

    Really looking forward to what looks like an absolutely fascinating course .

  • Renie

    I have just signed for this course. I am a clinical hypnotherapist and master nlp practitioner. I find this subject very interesting. Is the book being mentioned, part of the course?

  • Clare Coulburn

    I have registered on this course, and I too have started reading your book The New Laws of Psychology, I am finding this an interesting read. I have also read your blogs.
    I am looking forward to the start of the course.
    I am a tutor in mental health, and health and social care subjects.

  • roberta barozzi

    I’m an Italian psychologist and I’ve registered to join this course. The subjet is very interesting for me and so I can improve my English. Thank you

  • Trudy Angus

    I’ve registered to join this course and have started reading your book The New Laws of Psychology. It’s a great read and it’s helping me to make more sense of and better understand my OCD so making it easier to tackle it. So thank you.
    I’m looking forward to participating in the course.

    • Hi Trudy,

      That’s really kind of you – thank you.

      It’s actually quite anxiety-provoking writing a book (or at least a book like that), because you really don’t know how people are likely to respond. So it’s great to get positive feedback – thank you.

      I hope you like the course, too. We’ve put quite a lot of work into it, and I’m pleased with the result.

      We hope that people will share a lot with one another while doing the course, and will be able to learn from each other too. So it would be good if you were prepared to add comments to the discussion forums that will be running each week.

      Hope you enjoy it, and thanks again.