Changing Perspectives in Mental Illness

Changing Perspectives in Mental Illness

Changing Perspectives in Mental Illness

Changing Perspectives in Mental Illness

Excerpt

If we may harken back to the world of earliest man--perhaps to those curious small manlike creatures who lived in Olduvai Gorge more than a million years before our time--it is not at all far-fetched to imagine that some among them were as strange, as troubled, as troublesome, and as incomprehensible as some persons are in all human societies about which we have knowledge. So, too, we can readily imagine that these first men were concerned with taking action to reduce the strangeness, troublesomeness, and incomprehensibility of their fellows. We cannot know what words were used to describe these troubled folk, or what actions were undertaken in their behalf--or against them--but we can be certain that these men had words for troubled and troublesome people and that they took some actions toward them. So it is with modern man, and so, we suppose, it must always have been.

The history of man's concern with what we have come to know as mental illness is, like the history of most things, vast and largely unwritten. However important this history may be, our interest here is not with the history of man's understandings regarding mental illness, but rather with the prevailing state of knowledge among those men of today who have become involved in the study of mental illness. We have chosen this interest at this time because traditional understandings of mental illness are now being challenged, cherished beliefs have been assailed, and many established truths are being trampled in the relentless march and countermarch of competing ideas and evidence. It is commonplace to note that many fields in the sciences, or in the humanities, are in flux, for indeed many are undergoing change. The study of mental illness, however, is not experiencing any commonplace change--it is in the ferment of fundamental and far-reaching reassessment.

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