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Paul Grobstein's picture

mental health, culture, and the DSM

Lots of interesting issues on the table in class session and below, and useful intersections with our earlier session on Mental illness and stigmatization.  See my forum comment there for some relevant materials on Serendip. 

Among the issues from this session that I might to mull further is the notion that the goal of mental health is "to make people functioning members of society" (and a possible parallel goal for education, potentially relevant to our earlier discussion of The science of science education).  The problem here, of course, is that a goal of this sort risks making care-giving (and teaching) a maintainer of the socio-cultural status quo, something that shapes individuals in terms of cultural values while ignoring the possibility that socio-cultural values may themselves require adjustment.  Its a problem that received a lot of attention in the sixties but has, it seems to me, been relatively neglected since. 

It would be worth further exploring the history of the DSM in this regard.  My guess is that, originally, the DSM was conceived as an effort to reduce the tendency to judge potential mental health problems by norm socio-cultural standards, and has after the fact become itself a socio-cultural standard?

I want to mull further too the notion that "we all have mental disorders" (in parallel to the Danes all appearing with Stars of David during the second world war).  My guess is that this would not only help with the stigmatization problem but also open up some useful new ways of thinking about and doing research on mental health issues. 

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