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final exam we are asked to analyze one newspaper article. Not only to analyze the article, but to analyze the article specifically turns of how it shaped the identity of a group of people. The article I eventually decided upon I found in the Nation section of the Arizona Republic. The article, “Mental illness linked to short life in adults" was a perfect choice for this particular assignment. This article, which was printed on Thursday, May 3, 2007 was a short excerpt printed on section A14. I found this article particularly interesting because it had seemingly, no purpose. As I read the article, not much changed. Another reason for interest, was the element of fear that the title portray and the statistical basis on which the article rested on. The entire article took up roughly 1/6 of the newspapers page and was not linked to any other page in the paper. The article starts out in with general facts regarding the connection between mental illness in poor health and lifestyle. Then it goes on to give other statistics regarding the percentages of people with mental illnesses that get care in public versus private facilities. It is also mentioned here that three out of five patients mostly die of preventable diseases; this “fact” is also highlighted as the subtitle of this article. Most of this information comes from Joseph Parks, who is the director of psychiatric services for the Missouri Department of mental health. The article gives a few examples of some related mental illnesses along with a few more statistical tidbits. Then the article highlights a few of the reasons why the statistics are so. Such examples include, difficulty in getting and appointments and improper diagnosis. Both parks and the article ended their point on a weak suggestion for help. Questions Generally, when I last do an analysis of the sort, I've pick out an article which evokes emotion either extremely negative or positive. So many points in this article strike me as…curious. First there are several things which strike me as obvious, such as the use of names in the construction of a “mentally ill” identity. Many other questions are left unanswered which are not as obvious. The first of which, would be “why.” Why is this article here? Who decided that this article would take precedence over another, say a high-speed car chase? It also strikes me as odd that the author of this article marginalizes the very people whom she proposes to advocate for. The article's title, “Mental illness linked to short life in adults” is clearly meant as a warning. While the subtitle, “3 out of 5 patients mostly die of preventable diseases” hints a bit more at the real problem. Upon further review of the article it seems that the real issue here was not the connection between mental illness and short life span, but more importantly why that connection
existed. The article claims that the mentally ill are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, that they are less inclined to lead healthy lifestyles. Problems It would seem that the very problem which is affecting the mentally ill community in real-life is mirrored in a similar fashion through this particular article. The article, which deals with very serious and complex issues, reads very much like a spacefiller in a Time magazine article. There are also several points in the article which cross the line from negligent and head into a territory which resembles blatant social construction. “adults with serious mental illness treated public systems died about 25 years earlier than Americans overall, the gap is widening since the early 90s when major mental disorders cut life spans by 10 to 15 years, according to a report due Monday.” The above is the opening passage of this article. Two major things stand out in this one passage; adults with serious mental illness are somehow separate from Americans overall, and it cites a curiously speculative report. What clued does the reader have as to the credibility of this report? So it would seem that the article, which on its face was promoting the advancement of the “mentally ill” with also serves to marginalize them. In just the beginning sentence of the article it is suggested that there is a difference between adults with serious mental illness and Americans, a clear representation of the “other” here. There is a brief mention of several illnesses which are definitive of “mentally ill,” that obesity was a serious problem, and yet the duration of the article continued to refer to this group as, “mentally ill”. For the mentally ill, this does nothing but disservice. It seems quite obvious that a person suffering from morbid obesity needs different treatment from a person who suffers from schizophrenia. Our assumed expert in this article, Joseph Parks, says “they have illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression and.” The phrase, such as, is not what you would call scientific, which leads me to question how many other illnesses are also considered mentally ill? Each one of these conditions are unique and as such requires unique treatment, just as they affect people's lives differently. To assume that a person who has schizophrenia has gone through a similar experience as a person who has major depression is morally, ethically, logically and generally wrong. It's pretty clear at this point that the mentally ill have been over generalized. The confusion doesn't stop there. Quotes from this article, such as; “mentally ill adults are more likely to have alcohol drug abuse problems, and to smoke." serve only to stigmatize a group of people. This further generalizes their conditions which conceal their true problems. We are also too assume that the mentally ill are naturally unhealthy and more prone high risk behavior. Conclusion
So what exactly is mentally ill? According to the article, mentally ill is unAmerican, unhealthy, a risk factor and something to be afraid of. What is for sure, however, is that the term mentally ill is used far too loosely. To generalize all people who have a condition related to the brain as “mentally ill” assigns roles and labels to these individuals that may not be in their best interests. There is also a danger here of the stigmatized to internalize an identity not their own. Many questions are still left unanswered from this article. If nothing else, we can appreciate the seriousness of both our choice of words and role of identity in contemporary society.