Term Paper: Mental Illness the Foremost Question

Pages: 7 (2457 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Psychology  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] A patient may be showing some external signs of schizophrenia, but may not be experiencing bizarre hallucinations. It is quite possible that with little counseling and training, the patient may be completely relieved of the symptoms. But once labeled, the patient will not only have to face hostile social response, she will also start believing that such a mental condition actually exists in her. Such being the case, labeling of a patient as having a mental disorder, without enough evidence of distorted behavior for a sustained period, can have adverse psychological effects on the patient. The stigma of mental illness attached to an individual, when actually it does not exist, can ruin her life.

By defining deviance, societies decide on what is right and what is not. This is generally framed within the context of culture and belief. While the objective of ushering in deviance is to unite the social groups for a stronger community, the conflict arises when people move away from the norm, for one reason or the other. Deviance can thus make criminals out of people, who are simply trying to follow their will and not with the intention of causing harm to the society. Another great danger with deviance is the opportunity for the powerful and privileged class in the society to subvert efforts by other groups, to preserve their position and authority. (Macionis, 2001)

Such an action is likely to result in counterattacks from the oppressed groups, which may lead to unstable social conditions, affecting harmony and growth. Deviance can be of two types - ascribed deviant status, which concentrates on the physical, economic and cultural differences and acquired deviant status, the end result of individual action or choice. Both these forms are invariably present in all cultures. For instance, the ascribed deviant status can play a role in labeling of individuals of one group as deviant by another group, based on differences in culture. Such internal labeling could result in isolation of one or more groups in the society, leading to undesirable consequences.

The unique nature of treating mental illness is that the patient may not have the capability to decide on the type and extent of treatment. This raises the critical question of defining the responsibility and accountability of psychiatrists. Is the psychiatrist responsible to the patient, to the patient's family, the law or the society? It is the psychiatrist's duty to cure the mentally challenged patient and ensure that she is accepted by the family and does not exhibit deviance in the eyes of the law and society. The peculiar nature of this profession may put the practitioner in a quandary. For instance, a patient may think that divorcing his wife would solve his agony for good, but the psychiatrist may not subscribe to this view.

This implies that socio-psychological issues are involved in mental health practice and a strictly medical approach cannot provide all answers. Given the nature of mental illness, ethical issues involved in the treatment of patients are of concern. Since mental illness encompasses socio-psychological factors involving the personal life of patients, the psychiatrist's social and ethical orientation can be important in determining the success of treatment. Notwithstanding the serious objections to this view by medical professionals, it cannot be completely discounted. There is evidence to suggest that people in United States seek psychiatric assistance in accordance with their social standing and ethical beliefs. (Hollingshead & Redlich, 1958)

To summarize, it is vital to recognize the social, sociological and psychological elements involved in mental illness. No doubt, the advances in formal medical treatment cannot be ignored, in view of their vital role in diagnosing and treating the symptoms of mental illness; thus the views of the likes of Szasz that mental illness does not concern with biological factors cannot be taken at full value. But the social stigma attached to mental illness makes it a sociological problem, culminating eventually into a psychological problem. Such an inference is inevitable because, the human individual is a social animal and constantly interacts with the society in one way or the other. The society must also appreciate the thin line between difference and deviation in behavior and not over-react in cases where the individual exhibits merely a behavioral difference.

It is also to be understood that deviation does not always amount to mental illness, unless there is clear evidence that such behavior is out of the individual's control. Difference and deviation can be tolerated, as long as there are no threats to the well being of the society and within the framework of the law. In fact, deviation is positive forces that can unite and make societies grow. In drawing the line between acceptable and unacceptable deviance, it must be ensured that such deviance is not to serve the vested interests of a select few, who hold wealth and power in the society. This approach can contribute to reduction in the number of persons being categorized as deviant, or mentally ill. The society should also refrain from the practice of instant labeling of individuals with mental disorders, based on self-perception and accept them in the main stream, even while providing the right environment for their betterment.

References

Eysenck, H.J. (1960) 'Classification and the problems of diagnosis: Handbook of Abnormal Psychology', First Edition, Pitman: London

Hollingshead, A.B., and Redlich, F.C., (1958) 'Social Class and Mental Illness', Wiley: New York, Laing, R.D. (1960) 'The divided self', Tavistock, London

Macionis, J (2001) 'Society, the Basics', Prentice Hall Publishing Inc., NJ

Roth, M., and Kroll, J., (1986) 'The Reality of Mental Illness', Cambridge University Press

Szasz, T.S. (1960) The Myth of Mental Illness, the Myth of Mental Illness, American Psychologist (15)

Tower, P., Bryant,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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