This essay attempts to analyze the concept of mental illness from the perspective of the patient, and the manner in which conventional psychiatry distorts it (illness), for furthering its ulterior motive. The essay would refer to the articles “Mental Illness, Psychiatric Drugs and Elusive Self” by David Karp, and “The Moral Career of the Mental Patient” by Erving Goffman…
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It is rather perturbing to be making note of the fact that, a patient afflicted by a mental disorder is almost coerced to interpret the reality of their self, from the viewpoint of society. Here, it is not at all an exaggeration in maintaining that, when a person is considered to have developed some mental ailment, they are forced to comprehend the reality, which is defined by the society. Firstly, just based on some facets of the person’s behavior that are rated to be abnormal as per the accepted social standards, the relations and friends (of the person) lose no time in coming to a decision that they are suffering from grave psychological disorder. In fact, this can be deemed to be the first step taken by the society, in eventually making sure that the person accepts things in a manner desired by it (society).
Subsequently, the patient is brought to the mental asylum by his close relations, and then the efforts for diagnosing the ailment in question are just intensified not just by the concerned psychiatrist, but by the entire staff. Any past deviations from accepted behavioral patterns, by the patient, are hastily attributed to the ailment that the doctor has in mind. In this context, it would not at all be an exaggeration in stating that they (psychiatrist) are very much eager to decide about the disorder afflicting the person. Finally, the asylum succeeds in convincing the relations that the person is down with a condition warranting a long stay in the asylum, and they (relations) are relieved that the treatment has started. (1) After that, as an inmate of the asylum, the patient is left with no other option but to steadily surrender to the situation in such a way that they slowly start perceiving the reality of the self, as per the dictates of the asylum. The strict regimen of the asylum, the derogatory remarks by the staff and malicious gossip, to cite a few, finally make sure that the reality defined by the society is accepted by the inmate. Any attempts made by them (inmate) in describing some past happenings of theirs’ as being the reasons for their present condition are seen as manifestation of the ailment’s symptoms. And eventually, the patient completely forgets his real self and gets defeated by the immense power wielded by psychiatry. (1) As a matter of fact, the contents described in the preceding two paragraphs are excellently presented by Erving Goffman in his article “The Moral Career of the Patient”. He describes almost in a heart-rending way about the manner in which the patient is victimized by the asylum, which in this context is nothing short of being omnipotent. At this juncture, it won’t be out of place in making a mention of the documentary film “Psychiatry: Industry of Death”. This film vividly elaborates about the way in which the avenue of psychiatry is propelled by a purely commercial objective where, even the well-being of the inmates is being conveniently ignored. And it is this very commercial motive that is the primary reason behind the endeavors of the asylum’s staff in literally making the inmate a hapless victim. Using his own experience of interacting with inmates of an asylum, Goffman very effectively conveys about the precise process followed by the place (asylum), right from the time when the patient walks in with their relation/s. In the article, he very subtly throws
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