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The Stigma of Madness

Powerful Essays
Many people hold opposing views when it comes to defining what madness is and their attitudes towards it, which in turn makes the labelling of madness to become problematic. According to Foucault madness is ‘a complex social phenomenon’ (Foucault, 2001), suggesting that different definitions relate to particular periods in history and that the classical period represented a key moment in time when attitudes towards madness shifted (SparkNotes Editors, n.d). Madness is defined in various different ways; as a spiritual problem, a chemical disorder, a moral defect and the list does truly go on. The definitions made are suggested to be provisional, as the various forms of mental suffering can be misleading (Foucault & Khalfa, 2006). It is said that madness dates all the way back to the beginning of the human race. Support for this theory is given by skulls dating back to 3000 BC, which were founded by archaeologists (Porter, 2004). They had small round holes carved in them with the use of flint tools, suggesting that the person was thought to be possessed by devils, and that the holes would allow the demons to escape (Porter, 2004). It was commonly believed that those who suffered from mental illness suffered because they had a ‘disease of the soul’ (Goldberg, 1999). Their madness was theoretically said to come from an evil within, and they were as a result of this treated as animals. In the sixteenth century, there was much secrecy surrounding madness, and although it was an issue that was very much present, it was not openly talked about. It was seen as a sin and the behaviour which people would sometimes view as animalistic would bring shame to the family. The topic of mental health in general and people with mental illnesses we... ... middle of paper ... ... persons with mental illness. Health Affairs. 11 (3), Pages 186:196 Browne, K. (2006). Introducing Sociology for AS Level. Cambridge: Polity Press Foucault, M. (2001). Madness and civilization: a history of insanity in the age of reason. Cornwall: TJ International Ltd Foucault, M., & Khalfa, J. (2006). History of madness. Oxon: Routledge Goldberg, A.(1999). Sex, Religion, and the Making of Modern Madness . New York: Oxford University Press Neaman, J. (1975). Suggestions of the Devil: The origins of Madness. New York: Anchor Books Porter, R. (2004). Madness: A Brief History. New York: Oxford University Press Ussher, J., M. (1991) Women’s Madness: Misogyny or Mental illness? Ameherst, Ma: University of Massachusetts Press Yanni, C.(2007). The architecture of madness: Insane asylums in the United States. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press
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