Date of Defense
What is mental health and, conversely, what is mental illness? Unlike other health problems, where a basic medical model is used, mental health problems are consistently too varied to make concrete diagnoses, and subsequent prescriptions for treatment and cure. The most often used criterion for determining mental illness is simply whether a person's personality and/or behavior coincides adequately with society's norms. This poses some very basic questions immediately:
1. Who is to define or determine what society's norms are?
2. Once, if possible, those norms are established, what guidelines shall be used to establish what constitutes a serious enough deviation to generate concern leading to an investigation of mental standing?
3. How often will these norms have to be reevaluated in the constantly changing society?
From a civil libertarian viewpoint, the process of establishing social norms poses various questions. The author attempts to show how forcing treatment upon an individual is not only fundamentally unfair, but also detrimental to many positive effects that treatment may help to bring about.
Denenfeld, Paul, "Mental Illness and Civil Liberties" (1980). Honors Theses. 442.
Honors Thesis-Campus Only