SOC327 2017 Tut11 – Mon 1330

According to Beyond Blue, it is estimated that in 1 year, 1 million Australian adults will experience depression and 2 million will experience anxiety; that 45% of Australians will experience mental health problem in their lifetime; that; and that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience depression.

However, anxiety, depression and sadness are only some of the difficult (or what I would call primary) emotions associated with mental illness. Those who experience it also have to deal with the stigma associated with mental illness, and with a range of secondary emotions associated – disgust, embarrassment, guilt and shame – associated with the experience of stigma. Erving Goffman described stigma as a discrepancy between a virtual and an actual social identity, where a person is “reduced in our minds from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one.” Whether at work, home, school or in public, having to hide one’s condition – or suffer the indignity of being treated as a ‘tainted’ person – only compounds the difficult emotional experience of managing a mental illness.

Kathy Charmaz provides a critical sociological perspective to the problem, in arguing that our society sets up standards of normal health – a ‘core’ of healthy images and spaces – and expects people to either commit to a clear core (be consistently healthy) or accept a marginalized position outside of this (with an internalized, stigmatized, and shameful identity), but not to ‘pretend’ health or ‘exaggerate’ one’s illness, as those with mental illness are often suspect of doing. Gillian Bendelow notes that the great rise in pharmacological treatments over previous decades and that the use of anti-depressants is seen as the more socially conventional and acceptable approach to the ‘treatment’ of mental illness. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that Australia now ranks second in the world in anti-depressant prescriptions.

Are more anti-depressants the solution? Davey and Chan (2012) challenge their effectiveness, and suggest that they should be increasingly used only in combination with psychotherapeutic approaches. However, this approach still individualises the problem, and does little to look at the social conditions and the stigma that compounds the experience of mental illness. Perhaps its time to move the focus away from the ‘core’ and towards the periphery, and do more to end the stigma associated with mental illness, anxiety and depression?

#S327UOW17 #Tut11 #Mon1330

Posted in Uncategorized.


  1. Honestly, all of these points are valid. I think Charmaz definitely makes a good point in saying that we set up standards of what in society means “normal” health which we are either part of or not (with shame and other negative connotation associated with the latter.) I don’t think pushing medication onto people is the answer, because each person is different and that is a band-aid solution. I think at the very least it absolutely needs to be done in conjunction with some form of psychotherapy/counselling. And absolutely more needs to be done to break down the stigma of mental illness to actually encourage people to seek help. I feel this way because it’s difficult enough to seek help for things like anxiety and depression, but when you’re feeling shameful and alienated for it as well it is just made unnecessarily complicated.

    • In response to Caitlin I also do not agree that medication is always the answer. Bendelow (2009) focuses on this point as well, in stating that biological and social factors can both influence a person’s mental state and thus sociological treatments must be investigated (patients and doctors alike should not just rely on drugs). In addition to this, I think stigma plays a strong role in the development of mental illness. The emotional reactions that accompany it, such as the secondary emotions of embarrassment and shame, further compounds a person’s mental state. If stigma and social factors can be resolved, surely this will help these people?

      #SOC327 #MON1330 #TUT11

  2. I too believe that the increase in medicalisation for the treatment of mental illnesses is an extremely shallow attempt at correcting such a complex issue. Various studies have focussed on an ‘easy’ way to fix mentality and emotions using synthetic compounds and drugs, however most of the results gained only incur a temporary treatment for symptoms, rather than resolving the precursors of the illness. The stigma around psychologically treating these patients is too often shined in a negative light, so authorities search for a way to silently manage these diseases, and turn to drugs and medication.

    Only one of the treatment options, between medication and psychotherapeutics, has no direct adverse effects. So why expose your body to further potential harm, when an effective solution is already available?

    #SOC327 #MON1330 #TUT11

  3. Many instances of poor mental health become so bad because individuals refuse to seek help earlier. Much more work must be done in addressing the stigma associated with mental health so individuals feel that they can access these services without suffering any consequences. This should not only be done in health settings but in every aspect of life. However, many mental health programs require funding for long periods of time. With the government changing every few years, this is unobtainable as funding will be given, cut and the given again which is unsustainable for the program. This is evident with many other health issues which require long-term programs, so I’d argue that the first step is to convince the people who control the funding the importance of long-term interventions for health.

    #S327UOW17 #Tut11 #Mon1330

  4. Mental illnesses (and their primary emotions) are complex, with stigma (and the experienced emotions) intruding from multiple angles. Dinos et al. (2004) outline this in their study reporting 11 forms of stigma divided into 2 sub-categories (subjective feelings of stigma & stigma in the context of overt discrimination). While medication is readily accessible, there’s no guaranteed success/cure even in conjunction with psychotherapies. We need to change our culture, and emphasise how common mental illnesses are and the damaging impact of stigma involved. A clear core is unrealistic; we are all ‘tainted’. How many people need to suffer in silence or die before an issue is taken seriously?

    #S327UOW17 #Tut11 #Mon1330

  5. Chairman makes an interesting point on how our society is set up with this ‘core’; standards that group people has ‘healthy’, thus marginalising those that don’t meet those societal norms. By doing this our society is perpetuating stigma surrounding many illnesses, especially mental illness and leaving those that are stigmatised vulnerable to negative emotions, like sadness, embarrassment and shame, which just makes individuals feel illegitimate in this society. I think taking focus away from the core is a good thing, and show people what it is like in the periphery.

    #S327UOW17 #Tut11 #Mon1330

  6. I think that the perspective that Charmaz provides, arguing that society’s standards of normal health, the ‘core’ images of healthy living, we either fit into what society deems ‘normal health’ or we accept a stigmatized and shameful identity because of our mental illness. I think that medication can be an appropriate tool when treating metal illness, if it is used in the right way, while also utilising other resources available, such as support programs and psychological therapy. However before any medication is prescribed, I think that all other possible avenues for treatment need to be explored, every individual is different and what works for one person wont necessary work for the next. Medication is simply an ‘easy fix’, it provides a temporary mask for the emotions someone is feeling, rather than helping to resolve those feelings effectively.
    #SOC327UOW17 #Mon1330 #Tut11

  7. I believe that for the general public, medication is not the answer as it is often used as a ‘band-aid’ solution rather than addressing the actual core issues contributing to the mental illness. On the other hand, it may be the catalyst needed to begin the recovery process, in which case I agree with Davey and Chan (2012) who suggest that it should only be used in conjunction with psychotherapeutic approaches.
    In terms of the stigma associated with mental illness, I have witnessed significant positive changes in recent years. For example, in last week’s tutorial, we were able to openly discuss our experiences with issues such as anxiety and depression, without fear of repercussions or being “reduced in our minds from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one”, as Goffman describes it.

    #SOC327UOW17 #Mon1330 #Tut11

  8. Since the rise of medicalisation in the 1950s, drugs have become an easy and seemingly effective way to tackle mental health issues. However, in current western society the use of medication not only ignores the social issues that affect our physical and mental health, but reinforce stigma as they act as a ‘cure’ to silence the patient. As Bendelow (2009) remarks, mental illness needs to be regarded as a combination of biological, psychological and sociocultural factors. In some areas, efforts are being made to challenge the stigma and talk about these issues (re: the debate surrounding the contraceptive pill and depression), however a lot more needs to be done to restructure the way society perceives and deals with health problems.

    #SOC327UOW17 #Tut11 #Mon1330

  9. I have similar beliefs as Grace. The use of medication is a temporary solution that does not address the underlying factors. As Bendelow (2009) mentions, biology and social factors both play a vital role in the development of ones mental state. I also believe that stigma and societal expectations have a detrimental effect on ones mental illness, as it is embarrassing and seen a weak. As Davey and Chan both mention, psychotherapy and therapeutics should be used together, which will help to tackle both the biological and societal factors promoting mental illness.

    #SOC327UOW17 #Mon1330 #Tut11

  10. I agree that the increased use of anti-depressant medication is often a quick fix to complex psychological and sociological issue. However, it may be extremely difficult to remedy this particular issue of stigmatisation in regards to ‘healthy’ cores. I our current definition of healthy were change and become more accepting of those who are stigmatised through mental illness, those who are still affect by physical illness or who are dying from chronic illness may still be considered stigmatised.

    Our concept of stigmatisation through health will always exist in some shape or form, as our bodies may possess the biological instinct to remain healthy and avoid sickness or injury in order to survive. This being said a society could be altered into having a more therapeutic outlook towards instead of medicalization, which may possibly lead to a reduction of the primary emotions associated with core stigmatisation through acceptance.

    #SOC327 #MON1330 #TUT11

  11. I agree with Davey and Chan’s approach to anti-depressants, modern society tends to be too quick to prescribe medication as a solution to mental illness, often ignoring the true causes behind the problem. Bendelow calls this the “quick- fix culture”, where doctors are prescribing medication to individuals with only minor mental illnesses (2009). Depression and other mental health problems arise from a number of factors, all of which need to be addressed to enable an individual to recover. This is only possible by de-stigmatising society’s perceptions associated with mental illness and making it normal to seek help when suffering from these illnesses.

    #SOC327 #Mon1330 #Tut11

  12. As it has been discussed anti depressants are used as a band-aid solution to the sociological issues surrounding mental illness and stigmatisation. However, what these scientifically created medicines do, is fail to address the underlying reasons for why there is a rise in the recorded cases of mental illness. As Sane Australia states, mental illness is thought to arise partly from the stresses that an individual experiences in their daily lives. These stresses for instance, could have to do with work issues, schooling issues or just an accumulation of general occurrences in ones life. Does this not suggest, that what first must be addressed is the reasons why these stresses are created and whether first effort should be put into resolving or easing this stress.

    In terms of stigmatisation, it is imperative that society acknowledges the effect that societies reaction to them has upon their current mental health status. Typically, this stigma takes the form of stereotyping, distrust, fear, or avoidance and can negatively impact the pursuit of treatment, employment and income, self-­worth, and families. In order to address this it is important to understand the role that education has in reducing the way in which society sees mental illness. In doing this, measures can be later taken which address the ways in which people experience stress within their daily lives

  13. The continued use of anti-depressants without additional treatment is a situation that Davey and Channan discouraged. I agree that medication needs to be utilised in conjunction with psychotherapeutic treatment. Institutions including Beyond Blue and Head Space are aimed at this approach. However,I also agree it is difficult for an individual with mental illness to overcome the stigma related to the illness and other secondary emotions such as shame, guilt disgust and embarrassment. In order to decrease the prevalence of mental illness overall, treatments need to be used together and societal opinion of these conditions must not remain static.

  14. Individualising the problem of mental health limits the opportunity to reduce it. A holistic approach needs to be taken to identify all aspects associated to be able to discover suitable solutions. For example, a peripheral aspect of mental illness is stigma. This can intensify mental health issues by prolonging seeking help. Hence, stigma is one area that could be addressed to reduce mental health issues. Currently, the initiative ‘R U OK?’ day aims to achieve this. However, whilst this is a step in the right direction and may help some, if someone is experiencing strong feelings of shame and guilt due to stigma then it could be suggested that they may be less likely to respond honestly to that question as a result of this. Therefore, stigma acts as a barrier to support and recovery which needs to be broken down to facilitate the reduction of mental illness.

    #S327UOW17 #TUT11 #MON1330

  15. Mental illness carries a stigma with it that causes sufferers to shy away from opening up about their emotions. As Goffman noted, this negative stigma which stems from a misunderstanding and lack of knowledge surrounding mental health, taints the reputation of an individual within society. The stigma surrounding anxiety and depression prevents people from analysing all aspects of their emotions and leads them to turn to anti-depressants as a quick fix. As Bendelow (2009) states, “western psychiatry is overwhelmingly medicinal,” and she highlights the need to turn our attention to social causations of mental illness. It is time that we move away from treating the symptoms at hand and start analysing where mental illness stems from, to better treat the increasing number of sufferers.

    #S327UOW17 #Mon1330 #Tut11

  16. I think these sources summarise the elements of this problem perfectly, and describe the multifaceted nature of the topic. Stigma is a force that does seem to be covered within the media, however as described above is one of the great forces that contribute to the mental health problem our society faces.

    Whilst I personally do not agree with the overuse of anti-depressants, it in combination with the notion of stigma describes the individualistic approach to mental health. Whilst it has its problems as these sources demonstrate, to uniformly approach these problems has been shown to not be much more effective, thus I must conclude that the individual approach does have merit

  17. I believe hat medication isn’t always he answer, as it is only in recent decades that it has been a available, where as mental health has been around a lot longer and people didn’t have asccess to this resource. I also think that people with mental illness show very little attempt to find treatment making his a very complex issue. More work needs to be associated to stigma around mental health in order to make individuals feel that they can access treatment without suffering any consequences. We need to Cha Te the culture around mental illness because it shouldn’t take people suffering or die for this issue to be considered serious
    #S327UOW17 #Mon1330

  18. It is incredible that the statistics of people with mental illness and depression are so high, yet there is still a stigma and sense of ‘otherness’. When the rate of people is this high, shouldn’t it be dealt with as seriously as physical illness?
    The idea that Charmaz of ‘core’ or other is obviously seen in society, and is so damaging to people with mental illness. I hope in the future there is a shift to take depression and other mental illnesses as seriously as we take physical injury or illness.

  19. With such high rates of mental illness in Australia, it is important that we work to removing the stigma around it. It is only after that that true help can reach those affected. By removing the ‘otherness’ around mental illness, it will then be seen as just another ailment and treated as such, just as much as you would go to see a doctor about a physical illness.

  20. I believe that for the general public, medication is not the answer as it is often used as a ‘band-aid’ solution rather than addressing the actual core issues contributing to the mental illness (“my kid has adhd”). With hight rates of mental illness reported in Australia, removing the stigma surrounding these people is crucial for a positive societal wellbeing. Society has surely reached a point where mental illness can be treated as any other illness or physical disability and the sufferers should be treated with dignity.

  21. In Bendelow’s article it states that the “quick fix” is something that is deemed as most attractive. That antidepressants or mood stimulants have given many benefits to individuals and it has been able to bring light to their lives. But with such significantly high rates of depression/mental illness, isn’t this really a short-term solution? Seeking other assistance or psychotherapy/counselling are other areas that can be explored; but with stigmatisation still existing, many people do not seek the appropriate help needed to ensure their mental wellbeing. We hear more about mental illness today more than ever, but we need more awareness programs (or even days!) focused on bringing forth mindfulness regarding mental illness.
    #S327UOW17 #Tut11 #Mon1330

  22. Antidepressants are a band-aid solution for a complex cause. Yes, it may assist the individual for the time being, but what will putting all these drugs into your body do for you in the future? If everyone is being diagnosed with anxiety but everyone has it for different reasons, is that ONE medication going to fix everyone?
    By removing the stigma based around mental illness, we are already fixing 1/3 of the problem. The stigma is half the reason why people don’t want to be medicalised for it, as it can create more stigmas for seeking help in the first place. Mental illness carries a stigma in which causes its sufferers to be ashamed and to hide away from their emotions.

Comments are closed.