Friday, March 20, 2009

Catching Up

My trip to the UK went well. The seminar at Newcastle University Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre (PEALS) was interesting especially because a number of mental health service users came and gave helpful feedback on my presentation on the language of madness. Several supported what I was saying with their own experience: they found being called "clients" or "service users" patronizing, and they prefered language that was closer to their usage. One woman said she had a written contract with her doctor to allow him to tell her she was acting "crazy" or to use similar language when she going through an active phase of her mental illness, since she did not understand more polite neutral language at those times.

The workshop at Warwick University Medical School on Mental Disorder was well attended with about 40 people. The room was full to capacity, and we went from 10am to 6pm with a few short breaks. It was a strong collection of papers, and there were good exchanges during questions. Joan Busfield strongly expressed her dislike of the idea of relationship disorders in response to my discussion of the topic, and the sources of her disapproval became clearer in her talk -- it was a suspicion of psychiatry and a concern that psychiatric solutions tend to preclude more social solutions to people's problems. Derek Bolton pressed her on this in questions, emphasizing that there's no reason why psychiatric solutions cannot be combined with other approaches.

It was good to learn of the recent work on definining mental disorder: some people expanded on ideas they have presented elsewhere, but other papers presented work that was new (to me at least) -- I'm looking forward to learning more about Lisa Bortolotti's project on delusions. But one feature of the Warwick workshop I especially liked was the mix of philosophers with people from other departments, and I was glad to hear Liz Barry's paper on Samuel Beckett and Mental Disorder. I've been thinking about teaching my course on The Culture of Madness again soon, and it would be a very useful paper to include.

At Lancaster University Department of Philosophy, the workshop on Vices and Disorders had a good range of papers. Chris Megone expanded on his neo-Aristotelian view and his dialog with Rachel Cooper on whether it can successfully distinguish between disorders and moral failings. Havi Carel had a new project on eating disorders; she surveyed some of the literature and discussed how the line between moral judgment and medical judgment is drawn with anorexia and bulimia. It's an interesting project.

Talking with people while I was in the UK, they agreed that there are more events in philosophy of psychiatry this year than usual. It's an encourage trend, so I hope it continues.

1 comment:

Rob said...

A hospital I trained at conducted an informal straw-poll of patients, asking them how they preferred to be addressed, and the answer was enlightening.

When interacting with physicians and nurses, they preferred to be referred to as patients. When interacting with social workers and occupational therapists, they preferred to be referred to as clients.