SOC327 2017 Tut11 – Thu 1030

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 #Thu1030

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17 Comments

  1. I do not think more antidepressants are the solution. I think mental health problems, such as anxiety, sadness and depression, are embedded in our social structure today. With this being said, much of the responsibility for such problems should not rest on the individual but rather on the structure of society – unfortunately this mindset is not recognized in modern society. This puts pressures on the individual that only exacerbates and perpetuates the individuals feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem. A change in the way society perceives mental illness will ultimately lessen the stigma associated with mental illness, and therefore, the lessen the burden on the individual.

  2. Is the stigmatisation of mental illnesses in the workplace, and in society, an element of the shame-hate cycle? #S327UOW17 #Tut11 #Thurs1030
    Bendelow (2009, p. 80) writes that “illnesses without a clear and demonstrable scientific physiopathology remain at the bottom of the hierarchy”. For this reason many mental health issues are often left ignored and untreated, or perhaps worse so, their symptoms are treated under the umbrella terms of ADHD or depression. Individuals are prescribed medications for recognisable symptoms, calling into question whether we are adapting the drug/medication to the individual or the individual to drug/medication. It is perhaps not the illness that is ‘debilitating’, but the stigmatisation of the illness and its corresponding (mis)treatment and (mis)management. So are we ashamed of our own emotions, and ‘abnormalities’, and does this in turn create hate and spite towards those who refuse to admit that ‘I’m fine’?

  3. Hidaka (2012) describes depression as a disease of modernity. Modernised countries tend to have the highest rates of depression; populations have greater social inequality and are more sedentary, sunlight-deficient, sleep-deprived and socially-isolated. Our cultural norms promote productivity, prosperity and progress above anything else. As a result, our health and wellbeing suffers; we take panadol for a headache, antibiotics for infection and mood stabilisers for mental illness so we can keep going. And unfortunately, antidepressants are the solution in this kind of culture that prioritises wealth, prestige and materialism over both physical and mental well-being.
    http://bit.ly/2qeArxb

  4. I don’t think that anti-depressants are the only answer, but I don’t think they deserve to be demonised, either. Dinos et al. (2004) found that almost all participants were concerned about stigma. Interestingly, many subjects were affected by feelings of stigma, even when they had not experienced overt discrimination, which suggests that there might be a perception issue.

    It would be interesting to look at this as a communication issue and work on how we can change the perception of mental illness, even within the community of the mentally ill, and see how that would change internalisation of negative feelings and their impact on outcomes.

  5. I don’t believe that anti-depressants are the solution to this every growing issue. I believe the issue is in fact the social stigma that comes with mental illnesses, forcing people to simply brush their feelings under a rug.
    I think we need to focus, as a society on creating a new social stigma that doesn’t allow people to feel embarrassed and guilty for feeling the way they do when they do. If we create this, we can then allow individuals to rely on their friends and families to speak up to, and have the support of those around them in stead of taking medications that could in the long run, not have any positive effect what so ever.

  6. Personally, I do not think that medication will solve or improve the current societal structures around mental illness. The stigma around mental illness is a social issue and in order for change, the perception of mental illness needs to be completely deconstructed and rebuilt. Our society tend to ignore mental illness as a legitimate issue forcing people to suppress their feelings out of fear of ostracization, guilt and shame of having these feelings. Society, would benefit from creating a system where feelings of doubt, sadness, anxiousness, anger (etc) were openly discussed and accepted as normal. It would mean that mental illness would be dealt with in a social setting, providing individuals with a strong network to rely on why trying to understand their emotions. Medication encourages people to be emotionally independent and alludes to the idea that drugs will fix their problems. Whilst they are a quick fix and do help some people, I truly believe mental illness can be conquered through community discussion and acceptance, which ultimately would change the embedded ideologies around mental illness within society.

  7. Anti-depressants appear to be an easy solution to a complex issue. As noted by Charmaz (2008, pp. 8), our society has placed emphasis on health and “able-bodied functioning is the prescribed standard.” If someone does not fit into this norm, they are marginalised and often degraded or deprived. This offers an explanation as to why pharmaceutical drugs are used so often. The modern phenomena of a healthy individual who is in control of their body and subsequent emotions is often marketed as being achieved using anti-depressants. They also ease the strain on the health industry and are backed by large and powerful pharmaceutical corporations.

    So are anti-depressants the solution? My answer resonates with Davey and Chan (2012) in that yes, “they should be part of an overall treatment plan and shouldn’t be the treatment plan.” Anti-depressant use is contextual. Of course, I believe their use is valid. They are effective in controlling or managing emotion, but are not the answer to the cause of the emotions at hand. We need to acknowledge social stigma and understand the social conditions to move beyond the notion that everybody should fit within a traditionalised healthy ‘norm’.

  8. I can’t help but wonder what proportion of the population in past generations experienced depression and anxiety. Are the stats we see today in regard to depression and anxiety produced because of our modern lifestyle and pressures or were they always present, but never discussed in previous generations? I believe that with mental illness being a taboo subject and hidden in the past, an associated stigma did attach itself and that this stigma is still felt today, though not as drastically. With the acceptance and the prevalence of anti-depressant medication in society today, depression and anxiety is unfortunately an accepted part of modernity, but what does modern society do to change the environments that exacerbate these conditions apart adding more pressures and prescribing more meds?

  9. I think anti-depressants are part of the solution to help our body to speed up the treatment process. But the medication only by itself will not be working. Busy days are the main reason to suffer mental health disorders like depression and anxiety these days. People work hard and ignore about their feelings so negative emotions would be trapped in their bodies as they do not care about their mental health and do not talk about it with others. Primarily, we need to be aware of our feelings to start the treatment so, by this way we can manage them and stop depression from developing.
    By having a mental health problem like depression, person becomes vulnerable and vulnerability as a weak and unacceptable character leads to stigma.

  10. More antidepressents? I do not think that medicine is the way to fix the problem. The marginalizing groups that Charmaz talks about, they are social constructions designed to fit everyone into a box. If you are the wrong shape and don’t fit into the box – and your reason for that is because you are sick, I believe that tells us more about the society we live in rather than about the individual. Stigma strips an individual of their complexity, leaving behind that which is considered ‘tainted’ : these concepts are crucial at understanding why sick people suffer, a lot of their suffering is unnecessary because they are being told by the (loud..!) majority that they are unworthy of even trying, because they are just ‘too different’. Telling a *person* that they need to swallow pills is out-dated. By themselves, they don’t do enough. People need people, and in times where they feel outcast by the wider society, it’s the honest relationships that are empathetic towards the internal (invisible) suffering that count.

  11. More antidepressants should not be the solution. The use of antidepressants within the treatment process of mental illness should not be pushed on so early within the treatment stage. It should only be after other means have proven unsuccessful and the circumstances of the individual are understood that antidepressants should be prescribed.
    An interesting concept is the notion of seasonal depression, in which clusters of depression occur around the same time of the year. When this happens during the winter periods, where it gets dark around 5:30pm, there can no doubt be some link. Individuals working a 9-5 job will devote almost all of their day at work and be restricted in regards to the availability of leisure. With many other factors to be considered (i.e. putting on a ‘mask’ all day at work and perhaps also at home) the person may become physically and mentally drained. As this is something that may be expressed through their body language, the person may be subject to outside stigma.

  12. I think medication should only be used to treat biological mental illnesses. We need to reduce stigma of mental illnesses in both the home, social groups and the workforce. If we do this, more people will be able to get help and not have to rely on medication to treat issues otherwise treatable. Focus should be placed on support systems rather than direct placement on medication that coukd potentially become addictive or harmful to the person taking it if they are on it too long with no real need to be. I think a lot of mental illnesses are worsened by individuals feeling the need to rely on medication because they are unable to express and only know how to repress their emotions.

  13. The over-prescribing of antidepressants and other medications is a significant issue that exists in modern society, and calls to question to the effectiveness and necessity of these drugs. I definitely agree that they should be used in combination with psycho-therapeutic approaches, and believe that stronger emphasis should be placed on lifestyle aspects for improving mental health, alongside educational programs to inform people of the benefits. The individualisation of mental health problems also tie into this, as we need to address the social conditions and attitudes surrounding knowledge about mental health and its management. These approaches would also help to address the stigma surrounding sufferers of poor mental health and issues like anxiety and depression – by increasing people’s knowledge of these problems as well as how to effectively deal society can work towards reducing and eliminating the stigmatisation of these conditions and open an inclusive and non-judgemental discourse.

  14. I agree with most of the comments in this thread which argue that most mental illnesses have a large aspect which are social, and which relate to the structures of society where one lives. I definitely think that as a society, which need to re-focus the attention away from an individual’s responsibility to a whole-of-society approach which addresses the stigma associated with mental illness. A particular issue, which was discussed in the lecture, is in regards to the secondary emotions associated with mental illness, which relates to emotional reactions to the stigma of mental illness, such as disgust, embarrassment, shame and guilt. Thus, not only are mental illnesses largely related to the social structure of society, but so to are the secondary emotions associated with mental illness. So why is it that we respond in a way that minimises social causes and emphasises medicalisation?

    According to Chunn (2017), the issue of stigmatisation is particularly rife in the workplace, so it remains under-discussed and is often stigmatised as weakness, which can lead to an individual feeling a secondary emotion such as guilt. I think more needs to be done in society, especially in the work place, to strike up a balance between productive, but not punishing work and to make people feel purposeful rather than stigmatised and marginalised.

  15. Different mental health issues call for different ways to help as so do different people through individualisation. There are biological and social causes for different cases and treatments such as anti-depressants for biological causes may be necessary then, whereas social situations may call for a focus on self care and talking to professionals rather than opting for medication.

  16. Medication to treat mental health issues can be a positive thing if prescribed correctly. They can really alter someone’s life for the better. But on the other hand, I feel like medication is to quickly prescribed to people without the medical professional taking the time to discuss issues with the patient.
    There is a stigma surrounding both mental health and medication for mental health in our society. People often do not seek help for fear of judgement, and when they do seek help, they don’t try medication for the same fear. It’s a cycle that needs to be talked about and changed.

    #S327UOW17 #Tut11 #Thu1030

  17. I think prescription medication for a mental illness is fine, obviously after all alternative avenues have been explored first. I think there are dangers in demonising western medicine for the same reason the anti-vaccine campaign is dangerous. These medications have been developed to treat illnesses and pass very rigorous standards. The doctors prescribing these medications are well equipped to do so. We should always be looking for better treatments and if possible avoid medications but demonising them only adds to the stigma.

    #S327UOW17 #Tut11 #Thu1030

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