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merry2e's picture

mental illness and culture

I found this reading extremely powerful especially after our discussion in class last week about the US and THEM. (I promise I DID NOT read this article ahead of time!) I agree with the Culture as Disability concept, though, I am still trying to grasp the habitus>inhabitus connection and how McDermott and Varenne’s stand on Bourdieu’s ideas on social reproduction theory are a bit confusing...

Regarding culture as disability…it is time that our society looks at this issue.  I know for myself I have been a witness to culture disabling several people in my own immediate life, not only affecting the person themselves, but indirectly affecting those who are family members, loved ones, and friends. For example, my mother who was labeled “mentally ill” when I was a young child, lived in the shadow of her diagnosis and under the stigma of society. After her diagnosis, my mother, not having the ability to relate to others in the ways that were deemed “normal” by cultural standards, could not hold a job, became more reclusive and began to become despondent. Doctors considered this, once again to be a part of her illness, without taking into account that, once she was labeled “mentally ill” was when her life actually began to deteriorate. Her friends who found out about her no longer felt they should associate with her. Her family members walked on eggshells around her because she was “crazy.” My mother became a product of our culture, our culture as disability. And not only did she suffer, her family friends, children, and society as a whole suffered for not knowing the gifts she had to offer. She became a product of our culture and then was dependent on society to take care of her.

Society will continue to suffer if we continue labeling and putting people in categories. I see it almost everyday when my child comes home and hands me her tests with grades on them, and sometimes does not want to show me. Until we teach our children and our children teach their children to break the chains of labeling, our culture will continue to be disabling.

I wanted more info in the reading about how are we suppose to change culture as disability to perhaps, culture as ability?



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