Mental Illness

Mental illness has always fascinated and frustrated me at the same time. I know this sounds strange, but in my family I had to try and deal with Mental illness on a daily basis. My cousin has mental retardation and my mother took her in and took care of her after her mother passed away. My husband’s sister has manic depression and bi-polar disorder, and we are the ones who look after her and make sure she is keeping her psych appointments and taking her medication. My husband’s nephew also suffers from mental retardation and he has been living with us since his mother died six years ago.

Mental illness is fascinating in trying to figure out why people affected by it think the way they do and why they do the things they do. In the case of my nephew, it can become very frustrating when his thoughts and actions cause him to do things to get him into trouble. I have been able t o figure out most of the time when he is going to misbehave because he gives himself away by the things he says or does just prior to the event. So I am able to stop some of his behavior. He gets upset with me because I am able to figure out what he is going to do before he does it and he never is able to understand how I know what he is up to. He doesn’t have a clue that he gives himself away or how I am able to figure out what he is up to.

The medical model is the model of mental illness that I am most familiar with. It is the belief that mental illness is a disease and is caused by physical illness that can be treated by treating the patient (Kornblum & Julian, 2004). I have always been told by the doctors I would take my nephew to that mental illness is usually caused by a chemical imbalance of the brain and can be treated with medication to bring the imbalance back into balance. In my nephew’s case, his mental retardation was brought on by a traumatic brain injury, so there was damage done to the brain that caused the chemical imbalance. I have to agree with the medical model to a certain extent.

My nephew’s mental illness and not being accepted in school also caused him to make friends with the only students who would accept him into their circle. These were the students who was always getting into trouble and breaking the rules. My nephew’s parents was also in denial that he was different, they would expect him to do the same things the other kids did, kids without any mental deficits. With this came problems with his behavior, he struggled to be “normal” to please his parents and to fit in at school.

He struggled to do this successfully but was never able to. He finally decided the only way he could get any kind of attention was to get into trouble. The more trouble he got into or the worse the nature of the trouble was, he discovered he would receive more attention. He would steal, lie, cheat and eventually as he became an adult he discovered drug abuse and alcohol abuse. With the negative attention came the deviant behavior, since being deviant gave him attention that is what he learned to do to be accepted at normal and get the attention of others.

This follows along with the deviance approach to mental illness. The way my nephew was treated made a major impact on his life then and still now. Mental illness as deviance is thought by some to be the way mental illness is treated after being diagnosed and the pressure that society applies to the mentally ill. Thomas Scheff believed that what causes mental illness to stay and not pass without treatment was society’s decision to label it as such (Kornblum & Julian, 2004).

The problems in living are believed by Thomas Szasz is that mental disease should be regarded as manifestations of unresolved problems (Kornblum & Julian, 2004). Szasz does make a point in that mental illness is a value judgment made by doctors based on behavior norms. Who is to say what is normal? What is normal for one individual may not be the normal behavior for the next individual. That doesn’t mean one individual will have mental illness, it just means they are different in the way they think and behave. Szasz also believed that individual freedom was sacrificed for the concern for a cure in mental illness (Kornblum & Julian, 2004).

I think all of these models have some truth to them, but mental illness is a complex disorder and still needs more research. Metal illness affects the brain and the brain is a very complex organ that doctors and researchers are still leaning about. The scientific community still as so many things to learn about the brain and why certain disorders affect the brain in the ways they do. Science knows more about the brain now than it once did, but it still holds many mysteries inside to be discovered.

One day in the future maybe enough will be learned so that scientists and doctors can do a brain transplant like they do a kidney or liver transplant today. They are doing surgeries on the brain now for epilepsy that would never have been attempted 10 years ago and they are doing it successfully. Now all doctors can do is treat the problems they believe are causing mental illness or treat the symptoms of mental illness to the best of their ability until something new and better is discovered and developed.


Kornblum, W. & Julian, j. (2004). Social Problems (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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