February 23, 2012

Language and Madness

A picture of Christ Church College in
Oxford, which I keep meaning to write
about but haven't yet.
Did you guys read the Rolling Stone article that came out a little bit ago about the suicides in Michelle Bachmann's district? It was heartbreaking and infuriating and definitely worth a read. But today Feministe had a response analyzing the language different people - the principle, the students - used to talk about the suicides, and it was really interesting.

He argued that using terms like "mental health" takes the responsibility away from the school and puts it on the students - they didn't kill themselves because the school created or allowed horrible conditions, they killed themselves because there was something wrong with them. He used a quote from a girl at the school who went to psychiatric treatment, listing all of the things she'd been diagnosed with as something she "had" - "They said I had anger, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, an eating disorder" - even though she experienced them as a part of herself and her experience. He was arguing, I think, that a focus like that on symptoms to be fixed can be dehumanizing and doesn't really address the problem - the things a depressed person actually has to be sad about, for instance. 

I'm not quite sure how I feel about his argument, but it was an interesting way of looking at it, particularly in the particular instance of this school district. I definitely recommend it.

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