Freedom Center Presents at Smith School of Social Work

Submitted by lee on Tue, 08/07/2007 - 13:40


Freedom Center presents at Smith School of Social Work. On Monday, August 6th three freedom center members were asked to present at the Smith School of Social work for Stephanie Bryson’s class. We agreed- and Chaya, Dianne, and Mollie did the presentation. When we first arrived outside the classroom we heard screaming, screehing, and lots of excited noise... a student poked their head out and let us know they were presenting at there was a rowdy game of “mood disorder jeopardy”. We realized at that moment that we were speaking to a slightly different demographic than we were used to. We toyed with a game we could play as a spoof--like “find the right therapy wheel of fortune” or “diagnosis slot machines” but we decided to let it go.

When we came into the room the group who invited us there opened up by doing a presentation that showed a clip from “Girl, Interrupted” and a clip from “fisher king”--there assignment, apparently-- was to discuss “psychotic disorders” (and that’s why they invited us!). They read the definition of schizophrenia via the “DSM”---opened up for a brief discussion about the media’s portrayal of crazy people---and then gave us the floor.

I, Mollie, focused my discussion on who the Freedom center is and on de-constructing the DSM and diagnoses. I talked about the lack of empirical evidence that goes into diagnoses, the stigma carried with diagnoses, and the marketing and economic incentives that exist to give more people diagnoses. I talked about how the some of the “symptoms” or experiences described in the DSM are very real but how pathologizing these experiences can lead to a range of problems including self-fulfilling prophecies. I referenced Paula Caplan’s objections to Premenstrual Dysphoria Disorder being in the DSM-- “we’ll believe you are struggling if we can also believe you are mentally ill.” I also talked briefly about mental health screenings and the plan to screen all Americans for mental illness. I also referenced Mad in America, Blaming the Brain, Blaming the Genes, and They Say You’re Crazy for everyone’s future research.    

Chaya was the next presenter and she talked about her own experience in the psychiatric system--- about taking psychiatric drugs and being bed-ridden for months and struggling with serious side effects even when taking the drugs at low doses. Chaya also talked about the struggle that social workers will have when navigating the system and needing to use DSM diagnoses for insurance purposes. She encouraged them to consider just letting their clients flip through the book and pick their own diagnoses and being very honest with them about the reasons they are needed. As Chaya was talking about this the teacher asked the class who in the class had a psych diagnosis--- 90% of the class (including the teacher) raised their hands. Several of those who did not raise their hand responded to Chaya by telling her that it was because they paid for therapy out of pocket. Chaya encouraged everyone to think about what it will be like to work in facilities where people are overmedicated and whether they want that or not and tried to bring in the different factors and types of complex decisions that come with becoming a social worker.

Lastly, Dianne presented talking about her own experience of being hospitalized four times starting in the air force and she talked about the way some of the scenes in "Girl, Interrupted" reminded her of her own experience. She talked about the stigma and problems her diagnosis has caused her in all areas of her life, particularly regarding her family. She talked about how starting to use “family systems therapy” has been one of the most helpful things to her because it has encouraged her to step out of the role as a “mental patient. ” She taked about how since she has allowed herself to step out of that role she has felt so much better about the experience. Overall, the class responded to us well and thanked us for being there. They were curious about mental health screenings and asked several questions in this area but also had several other questions. This is the 6th time the Freedom Center has presented at the Smith School of social work and the professor told us we will be invited back again next year.

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