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Are the experience and behaviour that psychiatrists

take as symptoms of schizophrenia, more socially


intelligible than has come to be supposed?
Week 2

I arrived at Falmer Campus this week excited for the lecture but soon found myself
disorientated and getting lost down mazes of corridors and appearing in different
buildings. But eventually, I located the room on the 5 th floor of the Checkland building
with a view overlooking the sports complex and playing fields. We were informed by Matt
that this session would be split into 2 parts: a one hour lecture and a 2 hour seminar. As
this was a new way to engage with the module, the students and the information, I was
eager to experience it. This week focused predominantly on how dominant ideas of
distress and mental illness have changed throughout time but how many modern
discussions of distress and the causes are rooted in historical debates about models of
distress. Many text books on abnormal psychology over-simplify the development of
how we now see mental health and distress by framing it as a straightforward narrative
progression from demonology, where the mentally ill were treated inhumanely; chained,
beaten and starved to free them of their supposed demonic possession to the period of
Enlightenment and moral treatment, a humanising moment in psychiatry where patients
were treated as having an illness in the brain and we separated and categorized based
on their symptoms and disorders. Our ideas and discussions around mental distress
today have rooted from these periods of time and it becomes clearer when time enters a
phase Foucault described as the psychiatry period. A time of power: physically, how
space was organised as a form of confining patients, and mentally, in regards to the
relationship between patient and psychiatrist. He also suggested how madness is a social
construct that was historically contingent and from looking back over cases of madness
and hysteria, which was a women only disorder which is contextually interesting around
this time of power, throughout the lecture, we can assume that perhaps these
emphasised mental disorders and symptoms reflect the time, the place, the sometimes
horrific practices of interventions for cure and the common idea that these were
abnormal diseases of brain. And therefore were socially constructed and historically
contingent. It wasnt until the 1950s when the development of drugs, such as the first
wave of anti-psychotics and sedatives alongside the rise of medical-like diagnostic
systems, the founding of the NHS and the new evolved role of Clinical Psychologists, did
unheard of and unspoken of first person testimonys of psychiatric survivors and
accounts from the patients experiences explode across Art, Literature and Film, creating
a wave of antipsychiatry.
BASICALLY HOW WE VEIW MENTAL HEALTH NOW IS BECAUSE OF BACK THEN, IF THEY SAW MENTAL
ILLNESS AND DISTRESS AS BEING SIMILAR TO DEMONIC POSSESSION, THINK HOW THAT HAS
INFLUENCED OUR OPINION ON MENTAL HEALTH NOW. THEY LOCKED PEOPLE AWAY, WE PUT
PEOPLE IN PSYCHIATRIC HOMES, THE SYMBOLIC USE OF POWER HAS NOW TRANSFORMED INTO
THE PHARMECUTICAL INDUSTRY WHICH IS A GLOBAL POWER. IMAGINE IF PEOPLE BELIEVED
MENTAL HEALTH WAS SIMILAR TO ANGELIC POSSESSION? WOULD THE STIGMA AROUND MENTAL
HEALTH TODAY EXIST? WOULD MENTAL HEALTH BE VEIWED AS ABNORMAL? WOULD MEDICATION
HAVE DEVELOPED TO PROVOKE MENTAL ILLNESS TO GAIN ANGELIC POSSESION? WHY IS THERE
STILL A DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHAT IS SOCIALLY NORMAL?

But honestly I believe, the core of this module, this age of Anti-psychiatry, the focus on
patients experiences of distress and the push towards psychological and psychosocial
models of interventions, rather than such a strong focus on medication, the
categorization of distress and biological explanations I believe is so simple, natural,
obvious and exciting and I WANT TO BE A PART OF IT.
Laing, R. and Esterson, A. (1970). Sanity, madness and the family. 1st ed. [Harmondsworth]:
Penguin Books.