Viewing Constructions of Insanity and Mental Health through a Critical Lens
For as long as the human intellect has been documented, individuals have maintained curiosity towards the emotional, behavioral, and social dimensions of being. It comes as no surprise that our current world continues inquiring about the realm of “mental health”, questioning how it manifests physiologically and gets expressed outwardly. Far from being an objective practice, observing, interpreting, and acting on meanings constructed of mental health remains an intersubjective process involving multiple stakeholders. And, indeed, the stakes are high. Pronouncements of individuals’ mental health, particularly regarding diagnoses, play a significant role in shaping the trajectory of persons’ lives indefinitely. Given the myriad of consequences tied to diagnostic practices, Cristina Hanganu-Bresch and Carol Berkenkotter’s 2019 book, Diagnosing Madness: The Discursive Construction of the Psychiatric Patient, 1850-1920, examines the historical underpinnings of insanity in the making. By viewing insanity through a rhetorical lens, the authors illustrate how patients, doctors, families, legal professionals, and the general public negotiate meanings for and corrective actions towards this construct.
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