Coursework 1 question: 2000 words (subject to external examiner approval)
You are asked to choose a case-study that involves an individual that might be viewed as suffering from a mental illness. You are asked to view the case from contrasting perspectives and evaluate the consequences of those different perspectives.
1. Describe the case-study
Choose an example of a circumstance where someone could be viewed as suffering from a mental illness. You could choose an example from your own life experience or your observations of real events, or you might choose a representation of ‘mental disorder’ that has been portrayed in film or literature. (approx. 500 words)
ii. Compare TWO CONTRASTING ways of understanding the nature of the difficulties being
portrayed and evaluate the implications of those different perspectives.
It is important to choose 2 contrasting perspectives. You might choose a psychological, a biological; a psychiatric, a social; a social constructionist; a psychoanalytic; or group psychology perspective. Each perspective will have different implications in terms of treatment, care or other responses.
You need to explain how each perspective might help us understand the difficulties, and then evaluate the implications of the 2 different perspectives. (approx. 1500 words)
Please note that there are 2 parts to this single question.
You need to first of all think of an example where someone has seemingly suffered from a
‘mental illness’. This might be an example from your own life, it might be someone that you know. It might be an example from circumstances that you have observed. You do need to have some detail about what has happened.
You can instead choose an example from fictional literature, film or biographical accounts– again you need to choose an example that contains a reasonable amount of detail that will enable you to be able to pay some attention to what might underlie such events.
Having chosen your example, you then need to think about how the problems that the individual was facing could be understood in terms of TWO contrasting perspectives.
So, to take an example where someone has been hearing voices, has become deluded and perhaps has been given a diagnosis of ‘schizophrenia’. They have lost their job, and have become very isolated.
PS5003: Mental Disorder and Psychological Treatment
One way of understanding these difficulties is in terms of a ‘medical model’ – that assumes that the individual is suffering from some kind of illness that needs to be treated. The most common model is this case would suggest that perhaps this person suffers from an illness called schizophrenia that is caused by something going wrong with that individual’s brain or nervous system. The illness can only really be cured when that organic problem is put right. Other views that are still consistent with the medical model might assume that the illness is being caused by various psychological or environmental factors – but here the problem is still located within the individual.
A second alternative explanation is to suggest that the individual is not suffering from a particular illness, but is instead experiencing and expressing unhappiness about events in their life. Perhaps things have happened to them that make them prone to unhappiness and are prone to stress. Perhaps they have suffered from recent stress which is manifesting in those symptoms.
A third explanation might be that there is not really anything ‘wrong’ at all – this person is simply evincing a different way of being a human being. It is only our current culture that demands particular ways of thinking and feeling and therefore construes such irregular behaviour as symptoms of illness.
Having chosen the 2 contrasting perspectives, you then need to think about the different implications of these perspectives.
It may be that one of the perspectives you take is a form of medical model. That is – the individual is understood to be suffering from a disorder that exists within that individual and that treatments can be designed that might cure that disorder or at least alleviate the symptoms.
You will need to weigh up the negatives and positives associated with a medical model. It is likely that the ‘illness’ will be diagnosed and treated by medical staff.
Firstly, some of the potential negative points that flow from the medical model can be considered:
xOnce someone has a medical diagnosis, perhaps other people only see labels and symptoms and not the ‘real’ person with problems.
xPeople are seen as ‘damaged’ individuals.
xDoes the diagnosis/ label increase stigma?
xDo the labels cause people to be more isolated, stigmatized . . . find it harder to get jobs, housing.
However, you also need to consider the counter arguments. Are there actually benefits of the medical model?
It could be argued the medical model is helpful because it:
PS5003: Mental Disorder and Psychological Treatment
xReduces stigma by explaining that this is just an illness like any other – and therefore the victims of such an illness people deserve help, support and sympathy
xProvides meaning for the individual – a diagnosis can provide an explanation for what has happened.
xProvides meaning for families – protects them from blame, reduces stigma and provides a ‘shared dialogue’.
xOpens the door to resources from health and welfare services.
xOffers the hope of treatment from trained professionals.
xOffers the hope of cure through further research.
If you are taking a perspective that assumes that someone is simply reacting to life events you then need to consider – what implications does this have? A number of the ‘anti- psychiatry’ perspectives fit into this category – notably Goffman, Laing, Szasz etc.
xPerhaps specific appropriate support can be put in place that addresses the real problems that are faced?
xPerhaps the dangers of stigma/isolation are avoided
Perhaps there are potential difficulties of an antipsychiatric approach: -
xIf there is no diagnosis, how will state support be directed at someone?
xIs there a danger that the individual sill be seen as more responsible (and therefore to blame?)
xFamilies very often like diagnosis – it provides an explanation for what has happened.