RE: [xmca] RE: mental health

From: Cathrene Connery <cconnery who-is-at>
Date: Fri Jul 11 2008 - 19:55:02 PDT

Hi Achilles, Mike, and others,
You might be interested in playing around with Vygotsky's theory of art as
a means of individual and collective catharsis in from his dissertation
The Psychology of Art. I agree with Mike that the use of multiple
mediational means can enhance and enrich people's consiousness and health.

 Achilles asks:
> Can we really creat semiotical means to produce better mental health to
> people? Or this kind of a goal is a mistake like possible Vygotsky¬īs or
> perhaps some Vygotsky's followers' mistakes about 'social engeneering'?
> I would say YES to the first question. I'll take a shortcut and paste
> something in below from a book I've coauthored about The Discourse of
> Character Education (Erlbaum, 2005, with Joel Taxel). It draws on the
> dissertation of Leslie Cook, who looked at young women with depressive
> disorders and the mediational means they use to make sense of their lives.
> My apologies for the length of the following excerpt.
> Mental Health and Character Education
> We have briefly expressed our concern that the issue of mental health is
> virtually absent from discussions about character education. Yet many
> students who come to school with a mental health problems are treated as
> discipline problems of the sort measured as indexes of low character in
> the proposals we have studied. We believe that it is important for any
> character education initiative to recognize and account for mental health
> in its conception of good character, both for those with nonnormative
> makeups and those with whom they interact.
> Mental health is the elephant in the character education closet. The
> World Health Organization (2001) reports that about 7.5 million children
> in the U. S.‚€”12% of all children under 18‚€”have mental disorders,
> nearly half of which lead to serious disability. Jamison (1997) found
> that 20% of high school students had seriously considered committing
> suicide during the year prior to his study, with most having drawn up a
> suicide plan; suicide is the #3 cause of death of teenagers between 15
> and 19 years of age, often following from a depressive disorder. Yet
> most parents and teachers feel that mental health issues are poorly
> addressed in schools (Dowling & Pound, 1994; Rappaport & Carolla, 1999),
> many teachers have little understanding of how to recognize or respond to
> students with mental health problems (Madison, 1996), and only recently
> has mental health been identified as a reason to develop an Individual
> Education Plan (IEP) for students.
> These widespread misunderstandings have resulted in many such students
> being regarded as troublesome or lacking character in schools. Yet, as
> reporter Anne Imse (1999) wrote following the Columbine school shooting
> tragedy,
> Even teens as dangerously troubled as Eric Harris stand a good chance of
> slipping through the cracks in Jefferson County and across Colorado,
> failing to get badly needed mental health care. There are serious
> roadblocks to getting treatment for sick kids [including]
> ‚€Ę State prohibitions against law enforcement agencies telling schools
> about a problem kid unless there's a conviction;
> ‚€Ę Schools worrying about being saddled with psychiatric bills if they
> recommend treatment, or even being sued;
> ‚€Ę Not enough money earmarked for counselors and counseling for the
> state's youth.
> So, even though Jefferson County school officials have become more
> sensitive to kids' mental states . . . they remain hamstrung about
> arranging treatment. "We have no place to go with them," said Clark
> Bencomo, a counselor at Green Mountain High School. "All we can do is
> suspend or expel." "We are oftentimes reduced to putting a kid in a place
> where they're safe, but it's not the right program," added Kay Cessna,
> intervention services director for Jefferson County schools. "There are
> not enough places." [One parent of a child with disabilities complained],
> "They don't have the time, the manpower, and they don't get it."
> (
> Cook (2004) finds this problem occurring in other states as well,
> reporting that students with mental health problems are often put in
> special education programs or disciplined when they act out, either as a
> consequence of their makeup (e.g., a child with Tourette‚€™s syndrome‚€™s
> involuntary profanity) or in response to the taunting they face from their
> peers.
> Yet a mental health professional would surely argue that the problem is
> not a lack of character and the solution is not to punish students with
> mental health problems. Rather, a broader understanding of mental health
> among students and faculty‚€”the sort of attention to climate we found in
> the states from the Upper Midwest‚€”would contribute to a more
> sympathetic and less punitive environment for such students in school.
> Indeed, Damasio (1994) argues in his somatic-marker theory against the
> classic Cartesian mind/body binary, instead positing that brain and body
> are integrally related not just to one another but to the environment. A
> change in the environment, he finds, may contribute to changes in how a
> person processes new information (cf. Luria, 1979; Pert, 1997); that is,
> in response to developments in the surroundings, the brain will encode
> perceptions in new kinds of ways.
> Conceivably, then, changes in school climate can contribute to the
> emotional well-being of students whose mental makeup falls outside the
> normal range. The therapy for such students is still widely debated.
> While medication and counseling have benefited many with nonnormative
> makeups in their relationships with others, the medical model has been
> criticized because it assumes that a normative mental state is best for
> all. This criticism frequently comes up in debates about whether
> medications for Attention Deficit Disorder are prescribed too often for
> any students who have difficulty focusing in school. Some argue that
> prescribing such medications is designed more to increase the comfort
> levels of those around such students than to help those students
> themselves.
> The jury is still out concerning the question of whether people with such
> diagnoses are sick and in need of medicine. Cook (2004) argues that
> relying simply on medication and counseling is inadequate; that a broader
> environmental change that enables an understanding and tolerance of
> difference, and gives young people tools for managing their difference, is
> essential to helping young people construct positive lives for themselves
> and in turn contribute to a more humane society. Taking a punitive
> approach to difference, she argues, is regressive and only makes life more
> fragile for those characterized as different and more emotionally and
> cognitively unhealthy for those who surround them.
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Received on Fri Jul 11 19:59 PDT 2008

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