How do we know normal? What are the cost of labels and stigma?

SOCIAL ISSUES – Journal #2 – How do we know normal? What are the cost of labels and stigma?

In journal two, I want you to consider the question of normal vs abnormal, sane vs insane and the cultural context and environments that produce these realities.

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First, I would like you to consider these four stories.

STORY ONE – Much of what we know about normal vs abnormal resides in cultural context. Historical context also plays a huge role, as we see in the reading “Mental Hospitals”, the history of mental health treatment is a questionable history at best. One word, lobotomy.

When you consider that even in the 1950’s, homosexuality was still listed as a mental illness in the DSM. At that time there were many many scientific treatments being offered to cure people from that “terrible affliction”. For example, hypnosis was used, electro shock treatment (sometimes directly to the genitals, behavior aversion therapy, chemical castration etc. It is safe to say that some addiction counselling also uses and has used, very similar techniques to those sued “cure” homosexuals pre 1960’s. Today, obviously homosexuality is not in the current edition of the DSM but there are a growing list of illness and disorders. The main point here is that the DSM is the “bible” of modern psychology, and it once had homosexuality in those pages. What does that say to you?

STORY TWO – In a journal just like this one that you will write, yet another one of my excellent and always observant, nursing students tells me a story. She is deep into a stage rotation for the nursing program, in a psych ward in this city. On this one morning she found herself smack dab in the middle of a meeting that was about to go down. A meeting that certainly would be abnormal in any other social context, but this meeting was indeed rather commonplace in the psych ward.

The meeting was to be centered on two people, a patient (daughter who had recently attempted suicide) and her father. There was a nurse, a student nurse and a psychiatrist conducting the meeting. The meeting went down as expected, I suspect, and when it was over the nurse (RN) looks at the doctor with a big smile on her face. He reaches into his pants pocket and reluctantly pulls out a twenty and puts in in the hand of the grinning nurse.

Later in the day, the student nurse discretely asks the RN who received the twenty bucks from the doctor, what the hell that exchange was all about. She was shocked to learn, that the nurse and the doctor had a bet. Twenty bucks on the line if you could call who would break down first in this meeting? Who do you think broke down first? Is it crazy to bet on this? A little crazy?

Obviously, the student nurse is horrified. But why? She can’t get her brain around the idea of these two professionals toying with the obvious grief and intensity of the situation for both the suicidal daughter and her parent. How can two professionals do this was her question and how could they dehumanize these people? Why do you think it would be so normal to them (nurse and doctor)? How can you see it as normal from their POV?

STORY THREE – In the opening of the book Girl Interrupted, Susan Kaysen, in her attempt to have the reader travel with her, both mentally and physically through her psychiatric ward experience, she writes;

The person is (pick one)

1. On a perilous journey from which we can learn much when he or she returns;
2. Possessed by (pick one) A) the gods B) God (that is, a prophet) C) some bad spirits, demons, or devils, D) the devil;
3. A witch;
4. Bewitched (variant of 2);
5. Bad, and must be isolated and punished;
6. Ill, and must be isolated and treated by (pick one) A) purging and leaches, B) removing the uterus if the person has one, C) electric shock to the brain, D) cold sheets wrapped tight around the body, E) Thorazine or Stelazine;
7. Ill, and must spend the next seven years talking about it;
8. A victim of society’s low tolerance for deviant behaviour;
9. Sane in an insane world;
10. On a perilous journey from which he or she may never return.

STORY FOUR – For the story of Thauious ???? (The most incredible of the three stories) this story comes from the Chicago Tribune. (story four is in blue).

Born in 1979 to a working-class single mother, Jimenez was introduced into the gang lifestyle as a young boy by uncles who were father figures but also Simon City Royals gang members. By the time he was 10, Jimenez was skipping school and “dabbling in drugs,” according to Greenberg’s filing. Soon he had amassed a juvenile record of mostly minor infractions.

But that changed when Jimenez was just 13 and charged as an adult in the February 1993 gang-related slaying of Eric Morro, 19, during an argument on West Belmont Avenue. Several witnesses identified Jimenez as the shooter. He was convicted in 1994 and again in 1997 after an appeals court reversed the original conviction on a legal technicality. Ultimately, he was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Jimenez spent the first several years of incarceration in a state youth facility, where he was repeatedly “jumped” due to his small size and suffered bouts of depression, Greenberg said. When he turned 17, Jimenez was transferred to an adult prison where he was “terrorized on a daily basis” by both other prisoners and guards, he said.

“His response when confronted was that of a cornered animal — he fought back,” Greenberg wrote.
Behavioral infractions kept Jimenez in segregation and without access to a phone or little human contact for long stretches, including once for close to four years, Greenberg said. Overcome with anger, depression and despair, Jimenez’s moods swung wildly from combative to nearly catatonic.
After years writing letters begging lawyers and other advocacy groups to take a look at his case, he finally caught a break in 2005, when attorneys and students from the Northwestern University Bluhm Center on Wrongful Convictions decided to reinvestigate his conviction.

The lawyers uncovered that an alternate suspect, Juan Carlos Torres, had been surreptitiously recorded confessing to the Morro killing by the father of one of the other youths involved in the argument — a recording that was discounted by the police at the time.

After two key witnesses recanted their earlier statements that Jimenez had fired the fatal shots, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office in 2007 agreed to reopen its own investigation. Two years later, prosecutors indicted Torres in Morro’s murder, but he was acquitted by a judge in 2013.

When Jimenez was released, he was hailed in national headlines as one of the youngest murder defendants in the country to ever be exonerated. He was quickly awarded a certificate of innocence that allowed him to recoup nearly $200,000 from the state for his wrongful imprisonment. But it wasn’t until 2012 that a federal jury awarded him the $25 million in his lawsuit against the city and Chicago police — a verdict that still ranks as one of the biggest police misconduct payouts in the city’s history.

At the time, Jimenez’s civil attorney, Jon Loevy, told the Tribune that Jimenez was working at a restaurant and still “trying to acclimate to life without prison.”

“He’s trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life,” Loevy said.

This is what he did with the money…

The top was down on Thaddeus Jimenez’s shiny Mercedes convertible and opera music blared on the stereo as he and a gang associate drove around Chicago’s Northwest Side looking for someone to shoot.

Just three years earlier, Jimenez had won a staggering $25 million verdict for his wrongful murder conviction. But instead of building a new life, he used the windfall to rejuvenate his old gang, paying recruitment bonuses, buying guns and fancy cars, and even giving cash prizes to members willing to tattoo their faces with the Simon City Royals insignia.

Considering all that we have talked about in this very brief and “abnormal” social issues class, as well as all of the stories and sources we have studied up to this point, tell me what insanity really is? How do we know it is real though? Is love a form of insanity? What is normal anyway? Is there a reality to this question?

Finally, I would like you to think about labelling and the process of dehumanization that tends to be taking place in more and more social situations and context in our present day culture and social order. Especially in an a world with an invisible socially debilitating virus on the loose and all of the plexi glass that we find dividing and “protecting” us.

Is dehumanization the price we pay for a society that is ordered by efficiency and anonymity?

So, this is another free form sociology writing assignment, where you have to answer at least one of the questions above… using at least 4 sources.

There are Four specific rules for Sociological Journal #2;

1) Howard Becker’s labelling theory has to be one of your 4 sources.

2) use at least 5 sociological concepts in this journal.

3) you must include some aspect of the film Girl Interrupted in the journal

4) You need to reference one of the four stories above.

The journal is Due: Tuesday July 14th at midnight. It should be 4 pages in length.

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