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Psych Week: Awareness for Mental Disorders or Shock Value?

By HERWriter
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It’s difficult to get people to talk about touchy feely subjects, like health problems and mental disorders, in comfortable environments. However, talking to the general public on TV is generally a step beyond that no comfort zone.

Psych Week on Discovery Health brings some of the more willing sufferers out into the open for others to watch from May 2 to May 7. This week most likely ties into May as Mental Health Month, which began in 1949, according to Mental Health America.

According to a news release on prnewswire.com, Psych Week is the “first-ever week long programming event dedicated to mental health.” It has episodes discussing severe anxiety disorders, uncontrollable anger or rage, dissociative identity disorder, schizophrenia, addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder.

The fact that it’s the first weeklong TV event discussing mental health issues that severe is almost saddening. Society and culture has made it taboo to talk openly about struggles like mental disorders, though it does seem to be getting better. Some people still may fear losing their jobs or even friends, relationships and respect if they talk about their mental disorders.

I think it’s a benefit to society to have these types of mental disorders honed in on to create more awareness, but the program is also focusing on severe cases from what I can tell and possibly will make these disorders seem scary.

I haven’t seen the shows yet, since the first one airs on May 2, but I’m hoping they don’t show only people with severe forms of these disorders and who can’t handle them correctly. Everyone handles disorders differently, so that would be an unfair view. There are also less severe forms of certain disorders that may be more common. As a side note, just because a person can’t handle a disorder as well, that doesn’t make them a bad or scary person or incapable of living a normal life.

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I was able to watch two pre-screenings of Psych Week. These two episodes were Born Schizophrenic: January’s Story and My Strange Addiction.

In Born Schizophrenic, the episode focused on January, a young girl who was diagnosed with child-onset schizophrenia. This is considered a rare and unusual disorder. January had several symptoms, like imaginary friends who told her what to do. She would also kick, hit and bite, try to choke herself and even tried to throw herself out of the window.

A psychiatrist talked a little about schizophrenia, though there was more of a focus on the rare disorder. Hers also appeared to have a low prognosis, and there didn’t seem to be much hope for her to have a normal life.

In my opinion, there could’ve been more of an emphasis on the fact that people with a later onset are more likely to show improvement with treatment. However, there was some talk of the possibility of January improving, even with her early onset.

In My Strange Addiction, there were four different people who had different types of addictions. Some of them were considered to have obsessive-compulsive behaviors. The focus on addictions seemed more relevant, since these are more common than child-onset schizophrenia.

The addictions were shopping, tanning, running and chalk-eating. The first three seem almost logical, since society puts a lot of emphasis on materialism and outer beauty. However, these people obviously took these behaviors to a more obsessive level and many were in danger financially or health-wise.

I think the addiction episode was more useful than the child-onset schizophrenia episode, since at least people can relate to addictions and might be compelled to seek help if they think they have a problem. Only one person in the episode seemed compelled to stop the addiction by seeing a psychologist, so there could have been more of an emphasis on how people with mental disorders or borderline mental disorders need to be invested in their mental and physical health more. Most of the people didn’t seem to think they had a problem and continued their harmful behaviors.

May 1, 2010 - 7:31pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.