The Big Picture

Mental Health and the Bio-Psycho-Social Model

No doubt you may have heard people, including health professionals, tell you that you are depressed because you have, “a chemical imbalance in your brain,” right?  Well, that explanation is wrong, mostly.

Yes, there are a whole range of chemicals in your brain that play a role in your mental health, but the idea that everyone on the planet who is depressed has an imbalance in the exact same chemical in their brain is just too reductionist and simple:

““Depression is not simply the result of a ‘chemical imbalance.’” Beyond Blue (Source: What Causes Depression)

It’s like saying that the only people who develop pancreatitis are people who consume large amounts of alcohol.  Well yes, if you are a large consumer of alcohol then your chances of developing pancreatitis is increased, but many people also develop pancreatitis and they don’t consume alcohol at all.  (Source: Science Daily)

So, how do we identify other causes of depression, for example?  Well we use the biopsychosocial model of mental health which is just the fancy way of saying that this is the lens through which we (should) look at your mental health.

The Bio-Psycho-Social Model

This model is really important because it helps us take a thorough and holistic look at a person’s mental health.  And this is not just my opinion. 

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists own treatment guidelines recommend that psychiatrists use this model when assessing your mental health. (Source:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS-V), which is the, “bible” we have if you like for diagnosing mental health problems, is based on the same model. (Source: ResearchGate)

So what are these three domains?