Re: [xmca] RE: mental health

From: Carol Macdonald <carolmacdon who-is-at>
Date: Mon Jul 14 2008 - 08:10:21 PDT

Your analogy seemed to me to work very well but wobbled in your last
paragraph. What would academic credits be equal to? I can only think of
those institutions (also in the treatment of anorexia nervosa) where
patients get plastic discs for doing things like making their bed or eating
a meal, and can trade these in for other desirable goodies like a visit from
a family member. This is very different I think to getting academic credits
at the end of high school. This also seemed to you to be a new practice? Not

South Africa has to my knowledge always had externally set examinations to
matriculate (leave school at the end of Grade 12 to get into 3ry ed) or get
a School Leaving Certificate.. There are 10 examination boards at the
moment, one of them a bit more rigorous than the others, and not
provincially based like the others. But this practice--fraught as it is for
candidates-- has some value in ensuring a degree of literacy in going into
the world or into tertiary education of some kind. Nturally students can
leave before this, and Grade 9 is a set exit point to do further vocational
training. I realise that I am speaking from an academic backwater
(downunder) here, so I'll stop.


2008/7/14 <>:

> Peter, Achilles and all:
> Thank you for that contribution Peter. I believe the summary of what
> issues public schools face in providing mental health services to students
> is certainly right on. One of the issues not addressed is the willingness
> of the adolescent to accept that their behaviors are troublesome. I know
> that social engineering is a political buzzword and don't particularly like
> it but chose to use it because of the emotional charge it carries. It
> certainly is possible to provide assistance to someone suffering a mental
> health issue by changing the environment but if that person does not see
> the purpose in helping themselves then what is the point? Well, it
> certainly isn't hopeless and great things happen all the time regarding the
> delivery of mental health services and the change that does come about over
> time for people who accept the service. One aspect being medication, one
> aspect being to assist the individual to become involved in meaningful
> social activities, one aspect being the education of a natural support
> network for the mentally ill.
> I parralled mental illness with literacy because I view literacy much in
> the same way as I view mental health. If a person who is illiterate does
> not want to learn the skill, does not see a purpose in learning the skill
> (a friend of mine who is a successful well driller for instance) and in
> fact the person is resentful to teachers for mistreating them and looking
> down on them for not being good at the skill then what is the point?
> So then, where do we go from here? Alternatives to the academic push of
> completing academic credits to graduate from high school would be a nice
> start.
> eric
> "Peter
> Smagorinsky" To: "'eXtended Mind,
> Culture, Activity'" <>
> <> cc:
> Sent by: Subject: RE: [xmca] RE:
> mental health
> xmca-bounces@web
> 07/11/2008 02:24
> PM
> Please respond
> to "eXtended
> Mind, Culture,
> Activity"
> 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´s 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]
> ? State prohibitions against law enforcement agencies telling schools
> about a problem kid unless there's a conviction;
> ? Schools worrying about being saddled with psychiatric bills if they
> recommend treatment, or even being sued;
> ? 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 Mon Jul 14 08:11 PDT 2008

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