Classification and Labeling the Mentally Ill
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Classification and Labeling the Mentally Ill

Debates have gone on for over a century as to whether or not mental illness should be classified. The ethics of labeling always comes to the forefront. How useful are these classification systems and do they do more good than harm? Some scientists feel the systems are useful, others feel they are totally irrelevant and still others find that the diagnosis themselves are erroneous to begin with.

The debates for the usefulness of classifications systems for mental illness continue even onto this day.  Are these systems, useful, and helpful, or are they useless, and harmful to the patient?  These issues may never be resolved however; the classification systems such as the DSM prevail.

 One of the biggest issues for those who are against classifications systems is the idea of putting people into neat little boxes.  When we do that we lose a lot of important information about the person that just does not fit into the category (box). 

One can argue that is the nature of humankind to categorize everything to make sense of it.  Imagine an office where there is no order.  It would be total chaos.  You could not find files, know where to look in the computer to access information, keep track of meetings, appointments, and staff working hours, payroll, and so much more.  Classification systems are a human’s way of understanding the world.

In a classification system certain information will be lost. However, what is more important is that the information saved is useful and the information lost is irrelevant.  For example, in our office example, for payroll the information that must be kept is the salary of each individual, the employee identification number and so on.  On the other hand, knowing that the employee has five children is irrelevant for purposes of salary.  If issues arise because of the five children, such as tardiness, or absenteeism, which affects payroll, then it would be duly noted first by the chain of command.  Hence, the supervisor would notify the Human Resources Dept. after which the notification to the payroll department would be made to make the necessary payroll adjustments is implemented.

Labeling in classification systems

Labeling is a huge ethical factor. Once individuals are classified as having a mental illness their lives do change.  They may become very worried, anxious, lose self-esteem, give up on life and so forth.  In turn, society will begin to judge them.  They may lose job opportunities and promotions, lose friends, alienate themselves or become alienated by society.  Friends and acquaintances may judge them or lose respect for them and so on.

The idea behind classification systems is not to hurt patients but to help them.  When one is given a label they will then get professional help which was not available to them before.  Many undiagnosed people with mental illness wade through life with no help and no support because they never received a proper diagnosis.

Types of classifications for mental illness

There are two ways mental illness can be classified; by the presence of the disorder or by the degree of the disorder.  For example, the first classification requires a yes/no answer.  Is the patient depressed, yes or no?  The second classification requires the degree of illness; is the patient mildly, moderately, or severely depressed?

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Comments (4)
Ranked #17 in Psychology

Excellent one again Carol.

Ranked #2 in Psychology

thanks Ron

Great share!

Ranked #2 in Psychology

thank you Nisha