Health and Illness – Michael Senior with Bruce Viveash.

After coming across this book, I was looking forward to getting stuck into it with a good chapter on the sociology of ‘mental illness’.

Following looking at my previous books, it is clear that it is hard to determine the correct terminology when communicating about mental illness, supported through what Senior says, “there is no accepted definition of mental illness. The term is used in a variety of ways because it means different things to different people.” (Senior and Viveash, 1997: 217). ‘It means different things to different people’ really stands out to me to make an important point of in my project. I have already decided to make sure when talking to my different participants to appreciate their individual story as its this important information which shows the stereotyping is unfair. There are many reasons to why mental illness can mean so many different things due to a number of different factors such as different behaviours interpreted in different places, the impact of prejudice, being a sufferer yourself or a relative of a suffer, even dictionary definitions. I like to think this opens my project up a little more, as their isn’t a strict definition to what mental illness is, however it means it is important for me not to make out something it isn’t – drawing from Doing Visual Ethnography by Sarah Pink and the importance of creating an honest representation as an outsider looking in.

Another point which I found similar to the general ideas I was getting from my other points was, “as Sontag (1983, 1990) argues, ‘why cannot illness just be an illness?’ Instead some people ‘demonise’ the mentally ill.” (Senior and Viveash, 1997: 227) I found demonise a very harsh word to use, but Sontag may feel that the stigma is so strong that it is fair use it to describe how people with mental illness are treated. It again pulls up the point of how physical and mental illness are treated so differently and the social perceptions are different, when they are both a form of illness. It once again highlights the importance of my project to challenge this stigma.

Sadly I was left a little disappointed with this book, often there was a lot of asking and answering questions but not with much I found relevant. There is so much to actually defining mental health, it seems endless! The book discusses how it can even influenced by age and race. Has the perception become so distorted that we even have to take these factors into account to be able to acknowledge somebody as mentally ill? Are these the reasons why people who suffer with mental illness become so isolated and so ‘different’? I thought I knew a lot about the perception of mental illness, but I had no idea to the extent of how different definitions can determine different interpretations and the huge number of factors which affect it’s meaning. I noticed myself repeatedly referring to ‘the stigma’ behind mental health and I think it is important for me to actually define what this is.

Senior, M. and Viveash, B. (1997) Health And Illness. Basingstoke, Hants.: Macmillan.


~ by victoriasimkissphotography on January 18, 2015.

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