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The Labeling Mental Illness

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Labeling Mental Illness In today’s society, it is easy to identify individuals with physical disabilities such as, blindness or loss of hearing.  However, people diagnosed with having a mental illness are more difficult to detect.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 44.7 million people have been diagnosed with some form of mental illness such as Schizophrenia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many medical professionals have questioned the validity of diagnosing a person suspected showing signs of mental illness.  David Rosenhan, a psychologist and law professor, conducted an experiment that would give insight on the validity of effectively diagnosing mental illness.David Rosenhan, a noteworthy professor, was skeptical of medical professionals’ ability to determine whether a person was sane or insane.  In an effort to gain insight of this issue, Rosenhan, along with some colleagues conducted an experiment and documented his finding in the article, Being Sane in Insane Places. Between 1969 and 1972, Rosenhan, along with seven sane people with different backgrounds, gained entry to 12 mental institutions throughout the United States.

During the diagnostic assessment, Rosenhan instructed these individuals to falsely state that they were hearing voices.  Once admitted, these same individuals were told to return to their normal sense of being and document what they observed during the process. During their stay, Rosenhan and his sane people observed that the medical professional avoided eye contact and spent seven minutes or less with a psychiatrist.  However, it was recorded that 2,100 pills were prescribed to these individuals duinrg their stay.  The staff was verbally abusive, and their only theruputic treatment consisted of writing in a journal.  When their treatment had come to an end, many of the sane individuals were told that their mental disorder was in remission and then they were exited from the institution. Once released, Rosenhan concluded that the diagnostic system was flawed and he proved that some of the individuals who were officially admitted were misdiagnosed with having a mental illness.

While shedding light on the issue, many professionals were critical of Rosenhan’s findings. Robert Spitzer, a noted psychiatrist, called Rosenhan’s findings, pseudoscience presented as science.  Despite his reluctance in giving merit to Rosenhan’s findings, Spitzer did admit that there were serious issues with the process of diagnosing psychiatric disorders(Goode, 2016).The general concept of the labeling theory states that deviance is a process constructed by a society, in which social control agencies designate certain people as deviants. In turn, the deviant person and/or group come to accept the label placed upon them and begin to act in that manner.  In this theory, certain factors are necessary in deciding what behavior or attitude is or is not deviant- audience, labeling and stigma, reflexivity, the inner world of deviance, consequences of labeling and the self-fulfilling prophecy. The audience consists of the individual and any other individuals that has identified and assessed the act or condition.  This group determines what is right or wrong in the society.

If the audience did not exist, the act or condition could not be labeled as deviant.  The labeling and stigmatization process requires the audience to label an activity deviant.  Once this is accomplished, the audience must also connect the deviant to an individual.  Reflexivity enables individuals to reflect on what others would think of them if they were to commit deviant acts. This concept also requires social rule makers as well to step back and reflect on how they would feel if they were the person committing the deviant act.  Rule makers of a society must observe individuals who commit deviant acts in their own habitat.  By doing so, it allows the rule makers to gain better insight on who is committing the acts, why they feel the need to engage in deviant behavior and what affect their actions will have on society as a whole.  The most important factor to consider when labeling or stigmatizing a person, is to realize there are always consequences for everything one does or says.  With that being said, it is also difficult for individuals to not be stereotyped when they try to integrate back into society. In the 1960’s the labeling theory, created by Howard Becker, was viewed highly favorable among sociologists, medical professionals, and researchers.

As time past, many experts began to critique its concept. In reference to mental illness, Thomas Scheff critique of the labeling theory, focused more on the self-fullfilling component in the labeling theory process.  He deduced that individuals who were branded with negative connotations would in fact become what they are labeled as. For example, if a person is called a lunatic, the perception of what it means to be a lunatic becomes that person’s reality. In regards to mental illness, women and the poor are more likely to receive treatment than men.  The National Institute of Mental Health indicates that in 2016, women received more treatment for mental health than men. In regards to the modified labeling approach, women and the poor are constantly portrayed as being weak, high tempered, and moody. This stigma and stereotype soon becomes reality for this group.  As a result, they tend to shy aware from any and all social agents they see as judgemental.In the state of Georgia, if I have been involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility, certain criterias must exist.

First, a certified medical professional and or two individuals stating they believe you require mental treatment must submit the proper affidavits to the appropriate authorities. Next, I have the right to request a court hearing to plead for evidence to be submitted for my defense.  Once this has taken place, the courts and all parties concerned would have no more than five days to prove that I have displayed actions that are directly in line when diagnosing a person with some type of mental illness.  In this instance, I would be somewhat perplexed in believing that I needed to be committed to a mental institution. I have always been told that I am crazy, nuts and a lunatic.  With that being said, this type of labeling would have to be observed in my everyday interactions with others.  In this case, I hardly believe that a sound assessment could be made as to whether or not I needed to be admitted to a mental facility.

Works Cited

  1. Georgia Advocacy Office. (2018, Apr). Your rights and involuntary mental health treatment. Retrieved from Federally mandated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities in georgia: http://thegao.org/initiatives/olmstead-ada/your-rightsGoode, E. (2016). Deviant Behavior. Routledge.Health, N. I. (2018). Mental Illness.
  2. Retrieved 2018, from National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental.illness.shtmlKendall, D. (2008). Sociology in our times (6th ed.). (Thomson/Wadsworth, Ed.) KY: Thomson/wadsworth.Kroska, A., & Harkness, S. (2008). Exploring the role of diagnosis in the modified labeling theory in mental illness.
  3. Social psychology quarterly , 71 (2), 193-208.Link, B., Cullen, F., Struening, E., Shrout, P., & Dohrenwend, B. (1989).
  4. A modified labeling theory approach to mental disporders: an empirical assessment. American Sociological Review , 54 (3), 400-423.Parrot, S., & Parrott, C. (2015, Dec). Law and order: the portrayal of mental illness in u.s. crime dramas.
  5. Journal of broadcasting and electronic media .Ryglewicz, H. (2013, April). Psychoeducation for clients and families: a way in, out, and through in working with people with dual disorders. Psychiatric rehabilitation journal .
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