Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Midsemester Project - The Well/Unwell Paradigm and Psychiatric Medication Commercials

macox's picture
PDF icon CoxDisabilityStudiesMidterm.pdf4.56 MB


Hazel's picture

Hi Max, that was a wonderful read! I never thought of psychiatric medications and the industry in that way, but the profiting and paternalistic rhetorics are actually so blunt in there. While reading your post, I thought about (over)medicalization of human variability and conditions for a primary purpose of having a constant reliable supply of money- they do that with 'overwheight' people/skin conditions/neurodivergence, too! You focused on dichotomy of psychiatric medication narratives, and it reminded me of the general 'black and white' thinking when it comes to disability. Disabled people often face distrust and invalidation if their disabilities are not hypervisible and 'conventional' because there is believed to be no gray area of the in-between disability experiences.

Another important point from your essay was how companies advertise psychiatric medication as a overarching cure for mental illnesses. That terminology, apart from being inaccurate, is definitely ableist and at times even eugenic as the perceived endgoal of those ads is full eradication of mental illness (read: mentally disabled people are an anomally that should be permanently cured). However, as you've noted, that is not actually true either as companies want mental ilness to exist and relapse- this is what brings them money. We can very clearly see capitalism playing a huge role here: vulnerable population of psychiatrically disabled people is targeted for profit.

The essay also reminds me of healthism - a belief that it is each individual's responsibility and moral obligation to constantly pursue beter health - since you talked about medication companies trying to take people's agency away and force them to make 'the right choice' of getting medicated.

In sum, this is a very important conversation that should alarm mental health care providers and transform the way the deliver care. Psychiatric care should be collaborative, consensual, individualized, and free of profit-oriented treatments.

Thank you so much for your project! I enjoyed reflecting on it and definitely learned something new!

jcoletti's picture

Hi Max! I thought this was a great, informative project! I think that psychiatric medications and their marketing is a very important topic, and I really liked your approach of reading visual advertisements in relation to the well/unwell paradigm. It is definitely a complicated topic, because it feels obvious that the overprescribing and reliance on psych meds as the go-to for treating or handling psychiatric disability is tied to a dubious big pharma, while at the same time meds can often be really helpful for a lot of people. Something you mentioned briefly that I think also fits in really well with your discussion is the long list of side effects that come along with these medications. I often think about the ways that lots of different medications mitigate or "fix" some symptoms while causing other ailments, discomforts, and real health issues... what does this say about our views on wellness and quality of life. Another thing that often comes to mind in relation to psychiatric medications (if you keep working on and thinking about similar topics in the future) is the legalization and normalization of certain drugs and criminalization of others (which people may use to self-medicate), especially given that a lot of drugs deemed safe also have a lot of adverse effects on the body... just some thoughts here and there, but once again I enjoyed reading your paper woohoo!