SOC327 2017 Tut11 – Wed 1730

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?

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17 Comments

  1. I believe the stigma associated with mental illness is slowly disappearing within society. We are definitely more open to speaking about the issues that come along with anxiety and depression, and schools, workplaces and society in general are doing a better job in recognising these issues are all around us. Yes, therapy is extremely beneficial and gives the person suffering an outlet as well as ways to cope. In saying this, it needs to be recognised that chemical imbalances have much to do with the cause of mental illness, which is why antidepressants are medically and scientifically proven to adjust imbalances, greatly helping people with anxiety or depression. Maybe we need to remove the stigma associated with taking these medications.

  2. Even though mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression are starting to become common within individuals, there is still this stigma around these illnesses within society. I do have to agree with Kathy Charmaz when she argues that there is this healthy image expectation and individuals who suffer from invisible illnesses such as anxiety and depression feel ashamed when they do not belong to the norm. (Charmaz 2008, p. 8) Individuals try to hide and fake their illnesses by acting as ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’. These individuals are always trying to compare themselves to those who are ‘healthy’ which can cause a low self-esteem and negative emotions. (Patulny 2017)

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  3. Whilst anti-depressants do serve their purpose in providing a short-term solution to long depressive episodes by rebalancing the levels of serotonin in the brain, the continued and even increased reliance on them raises some concerns. Indeed, if anti-depressants are used in the treatment plan of a patient, it should be used in conjunction with psychotherapy, as talking cues are thought to be as effective or even more effective in treating depression and anxiety. Further, these talking cues go some way in establishing a more comprehensive dialogue on mental illness. The greater conversation had on mental illness, the greater extent to which the stigma surrounding mental illness will be broken down. In breaking down the stigma, those ‘other’ than what is considered normal in society are welcomed back into the normal realms of society from the margins (Link and Phelan, 2001). #S327UOW17 #Tut11 #Wed1730

  4. Within todays’ society, there is evidently stigma surrounding mental health and illnesses such as anxiety or depression..and because of this I believe it can be relatively easy and highly profitable to simply suggest that medication is the solution. More pharmaceuticals cannot be the right way to approach this- rather they are a relatively ‘quick fix’ to a severe problem. There needs to be a greater emphasis on the underlying causes and risk factors that may result to such mental health issues. Examining and analysing the social conditions and factors that play a role could potentially assist in removing stigma around mental health and encourage a more holistic approach to this major health and social issue.

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  5. Stigma surrounding mental illnesses appears to be lessening as awareness surrounding this issue becomes predominant in society. I believe the stigma will not fully be eradicated however. I agree with Charmaz when she explains that people lack legitimacy because their condition doesn’t fit the knowledge in institutionalised medicine (Charmaz, 2008: 8). This can cause a sense of further marginalisation from society. I cannot speak from experience but I believe there needs to be the combination of both medication and psychotherapy in order help with mental health conditions. I think one and the other have to come hand in hand. Hopefully one day we can delve deeper into the social conditions to approach this issue from a different perspective.

  6. Generally, without having the knowledge to adequately judge this, I have the impression that anti-depressions had a big impact on mental health and were able to give extremely affected people somewhat a life back. Although I also believe that the medication alone will not solve the problem. Bendelow (2009) proposed that mental illness is not primarily biological, but social and “generally is associated with social disadvantage” (Bendelow 2009, p. 99). The growing gap of inequality is worsening the problem and causing more and more mental issues. In my opinion the first step is to fight for equality and equity and create a stabile, big middle class. Of course there are different kinds of stress and anxiety in our modern society, which we need to handle. But in the end we need to be willing to abandon the reasons that cause essential angst, stress, anxiety and depression due to the fear to loose the ability to have basic services.

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  7. It is incredibly difficult to understand mental illness unless someone has experienced it themselves. The stigma within society from it has lessened though there is still a long way to go. People tend to either not see it as an issue as it does not have a noticeable physical side effect or view it the other way that someone with a mental illness is crazy. Slowly people are starting to talk more about it. But there is still some way to go.

  8. Even though mental health has become more predominant in society, I don’t feel that putting more money into just medication is the best way to support individuals who have mental health conditions. Mental health can be due to many things as we know, environment, chemical imbalance, trauma etc. If an individual who has s specific mental heath issue/condition due to a trauma and is prescribed medication, takes this for an extended period of time and stops taking it and has had no other support with management of the condition, the person is left in the same situation as before taking medication. All areas of mental health support should be funded additionally – counselling and psychological support should be provided to help individuals manage symptoms and emotions they may experience. In society it is recognised as a stigma at times due to the lack of understanding and the social construct that Charmaz speaks of; committing to “standards of health” or being “marginalised” outside of these standards (Charmaz, 2008).

  9. I feel like the stigma surrounding mental illness isn’t as hard to talk about anymore as it’s becoming a norm in western societies. I feel like the negative stigma surrounds medication for these mental illnesses.
    I don’t feel a need to invest more money into medication, i feel like more time and effort should be put into helping lessen the number of people developing this illness and helping alternative methods of coping.

  10. Mental illnesses still have a negative stigma around theme, despite how it is actually fairly common. There hasn’t been too many attempts to normalize it, the conversation is just beginning, such as a the effort to bring depression into discussion through Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. As far as medication with treatment goes-that it depends on the person for what kind of treatment is best for them and their mental state-whether that be therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Everyone reacts to them differently and may find that something works better for them compared to someone else in a similar condition.

  11. I believe that medication should be used as a last resort of short term solution only. It is incredibly sad how stigmatized mental illnesses still are and how uneducated many people are on mental illness. Efforts by organisations such as beyond blue are incredibly important in raising awareness on the issue and understanding the signs of invisible illnesses.

  12. We should definitely remove the stigma of mental illness away from anxiety and depression because as it says 45% of Australians do suffer from mental illnesses so it should be a more excepted aspect of society. Especially considering that 33% of anxiety affects are genetic and are unavoidable due to your genetic make-up (Minkov et. al., 2016). This study showed that due to the way your genes react you can result in higher levels of anxiety and neuroticism due to your serotonin levels. So, with that being said it should be more socially excepted because it’s not even of our control.

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  13. From what i’ve noticed from my personal experience, I disagree with Sarah Zaremba’s viewpoint that “the stigma for mental illness is slowly disappearing within society”. I instead have noticed that mental illness is talked about a lot more amongst children and adolescents today. For example, we see it all over social media and television whether that be with celebrities fighting depression and suicide cases or even seeing it amongst our friends and families within our communities. I think the relevance of mental illness in society today has caused a lot of adolescents to feel as if they are aware of various mental illnesses without ever learning the solid facts. In my opinion, the ambiguousness behind each disease has led a lot of adolescents to somewhat falsify or force themselves to feel sad or depressed in attempt to reach out for attention from family members or friends in order to essentially fit in with the norm nowadays.

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  14. Mental illness is a complex issue to examine because it presents itself differently based on the individual. I find that there are often very wide ranges of ‘symptoms’ that are used to diagnose these conditions. While I think that society is ultimately becoming a major issue surrounding the rapid increase in anxiety and depression cases, I still think that it is important to first examine the individual ‘triggers’ of each person’s mental illness. This line of logic follows the arguments that Bendelow makes regarding how society has gone too far with prescribing anti-depressants. The diagnosis and prescription treatment of mental illness may over simplify what is actually causing an individual’s illness. Of course, the use of prescription drugs is now seen as the normative tactic in treating these cases. I find that we need to find a better way of working with individuals to find what is causing their emotional imbalances instead of handing them a pack of pills as if that is the magical cure to their issues.

  15. I think social context is important. I agree with Kathy Charmaz that the ‘core’ is an aspiration, which, much like the ridiculous beauty standards of women, marginalises and stigmatises any deviance from the norm. The medicalisation of society taps in to consumer culture in a way the creates a pharmaceutical demand of ‘quick-fix drugs’—no effort needed. This bio-medical paradigm is what Gillian Bendelow speaks of: anti-depressants are now the ‘socially conventional treatment’ because they were promoted as such. Decreasing the stigma created around these issues allows holistic, system-affecting social solutions—that may or may not include prescriptions.

  16. Today’s society has induced a stigma that is more relevant to mental illness in my perspective. I feel like this is because we are so reliant today with being socially connected online that we fail to do this process in reality. This idea is mirrored by Goffman’s, claiming that identities have become ‘spoiled.’ Drugs that allow chemicals such as serotonin to be inhibited have become marginalized. These drugs have been noted by Bendelow to remove the importance of eliminating social causes of anxiety.

  17. I believe that whilst mental illness in contemporary western culture has more of an open discourse in society, at least for our generation, it still holds with it the remains of a negative stigma that as Erving Goffman describes, leaves an individual to suffer the indignity of being treated as a ‘tainted’ person. The numbers of diagnosed mental illness are higher these days, especially with depression and anxiety. I believe this to be a bi-product of awareness in society, but also a symptom of a society that is stagnate in its social approach to mental illness. Clearly there is a collective flaw in our social system that is leading to the masses to be medicated. By all means, if medication is deemed fit for someone to use, and it helps an individual, then i do not see an issue with that but in accordance with Davey and Chan (2012) who suggest that they should be increasingly used only in combination, i believe there needs to be a stronger emphasis on psychotherapeutic approaches.

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