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Unit 4 Discussion: Exploring your thoughts on mental illness and recovery

Topic:  David Rosenhan’s “On Being Sane In Insane Places” and psychiatric diagnoses.

Background:  “In the early 1970’s, David Rosenhan decided to test how well psychiatrists were actually able to distinguish the “sane” from the “insane.” Psychiatry, as a field, is, of course, predicated upon the belief that its own professionals know how to reliably diagnose aberrant mental conditions, and to make judgments based on those diagnoses about a person’s social suitability – performance as a parent, parolee’s flight-risk, and prisoner’s ability to be reformed. Rosenhan was conscious and critical of the huge amount of social control psychiatrists had, so he devised an experiment to test whether their actual skills were on par with their power. He recruited eight other people, and together they faked their way into various mental institutions, and then, once on the ward, acted completely normally. The goal: to see whether the psychiatrists would detect their sanity, or whether the psychiatrists’ judgments would be clouded by presuppositions (i.e., if the patient is there, labeled a patient, then he must be crazy). Rosenhan’s experiment elegantly explores the way the world is always warped by the lens we are looking through, and, by doing so, he raised critical questions about not only the possibility of “objective” psychiatry, but of “objective” life.” (Slater, 2004).

Source: Slater, L. (2004) Opening Skinner’s Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century.

For more information on the study:

Source:  David L. Rosenhan, “On Being Sane in Insane Places,” Science, Vol. 179 (Jan. 1973), 250-258.

Additional Information: MyPsychLab – WATCH Episode 17 Psychological Disorders and Therapies Living with a Disorder Basics


Discussion Question

When David Rosenhan asked mock “patients” to infiltrate a mental facility he found that they had some difficulty in getting back out. After mental health professionals had labeled these individuals as “schizophrenic” they had a difficult time seeing the normalcy of the patient’s behaviors. It is nonetheless true, though, that diagnosis and identification of mental disorders aids in developing a prognosis and treatment plans for those experience psychological conflict and/or disturbances.

1. Do diagnostic labels hinder or enhance treatment? How so?


2. Can people with mental disorders escape the potentially harmful consequences of being labeled “sick” or “mentally ill”?



3. Do those diagnosed and labeled have the right to keep their diagnosis private? From whom? In what circumstances should that right be disregarded?


4. Would knowing an acquaintance had a diagnosable psychological disorder change your perception of them? Family member? Potential spouse? How so?


5. Randomly select a diagnostic label from the chapter (please do not choose Neurodevelopmental disorders (Autism Spectrum disorders, Dyslexia, ADHD, ADD), list the specific behaviors, cognitions, and qualities needed to diagnosis this disorder . How do you think you would feel if you were diagnosed with this disorder? How would you cope? How might it affect your family?


6. Research and share one therapy utilized to treat the disorder you selected. How does someone determine the most appropriate form of therapy? Share at least one supportive resource available to individuals suffering from the disorder you explored. For more information in Therapy & Mental Illness watch MyPsychLab: Episode 17 Psychological Disorders and Therapies Therapies in Action Basics





Please note that I am looking at two distinct areas when grading your discussions: First, I am looking at the objective criteria and looking to see how many posts you have completed. Second, more importantly, I am looking at the subjective criteria and closely examining the quality of your posts.

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