Defining and Creating Mental Illness

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Needs to be about 12 sentences. Needs to reference the source that is attached. Needs to answer the questions: What are the strengths and weaknesses of recent DSMs? What do the critics say about the DSM?

some information on it follows below: Those who are labeled mentally ill are acutely aware of others’ negative evaluations of them. Link et al. (1987) have shown that when a person is given a psychiatric label, she or he anticipates personal rejection. This, in turn, leads to demoralization, a decline in work performance, loss of income, strained interpersonal relationships, and withdrawal from participation in social activities. Of course, such behavior only reinforces observers’ expectations about mentally ill persons and leads to increased rejection and isolation. Labeled persons may go to great lengths to minimize the number of persons who become aware of the label by concealing it or withdrawing from activities, or they may attempt to educate people who are aware of the label. Unfortunately, these attempts to offset or prevent stigmatic consequences of the mental illness label do not appear to be very effective.

Even though today more people are knowledgeable about mental illness, negative stereotypes and stigmatizing views have endured (and in some cases increased). You can refer back to the lesson on labeling for some of the research (the Tausig reading, page 123). Members of the general public tend to equate mental illness with psychosis, and thereby perceive those diagnosed with mental illness as dangerous and unpredictable. Unlike physical ailments, there’s also a tendency to hold the “mentally ill” responsible for their illness. For example, in talking to someone about persons labeled as mentally ill, it is not uncommon to hear the complaint, “I don’t see why they don’t just snap out of it.”

Another wrench in the works here is that persons are differentially stereotyped. The poor, minorities, and the less educated are more likely to be viewed negatively. Likewise, the education level and social class of the labeler affects whether he or she will negatively stereotype a person diagnosed with mental illness.

Even though they have standard classification guides, psychiatrists are not free of biases; diagnosing and labeling mental illness are not objective acts. Personal biases of the labeler and the social status or attributes of the potential recipient of the label influence the likelihood of labeling a person as mentally ill. One study of psychiatrists (Loring and Powell 1988) found that psychiatrists are less likely to diagnose a person with matching race and gender with mental illness (that is, a white woman is less likely to diagnose another white woman with mental illness, but more likely to diagnose a black man with it). Another study by Young and Powell (1985) showed that psychiatrists also—perhaps unknowingly—take into account characteristics such as age and weight when making a diagnosis (for example, obese women are more likely to be diagnosed with mental illness).

This does not mean that psychiatrists are bad people who serve no purpose. It suggests that they are human, and like all humans, have interpretative lens and perspectives. Likewise, the classification system for mental illness is built on measurements of deviance from normality.

 

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