The Institute and Social Therapy Group were out with 12 volunteers talking to strollers at the Harlem Week street fair and conducting a community poll on people’s attitudes toward psychiatric diagnosis and labeling. Gwen Lowenheim (pictured above l. with volunteer Vicky Archer) reports that 65 surveys were conducted, and all who participated will be invited to a follow-up meeting in Harlem on September 20.
Conversations were wide-ranging — touching on issues of stigma (“once a child is labeled, teachers give up on them”), over-medicalization (“the drugs turn our kids into zombies”), the need for diagnosis (“a correct diagnosis is necessary to getting the problem fixed”), the harm of diagnosis (“potential employers can see your record”), and thoughts about a social therapeutic approach that helps people grow emotionally without the use of labels (“people need to talk through their problems with someone outside the family”).
The increased use of psychiatric diagnosis and psychotropic drugs (especially among kids of color) has sparked national controversy, coinciding with the publication of the much criticized DSM-5. (See Lois Holzman‘s commentary here and here.) President Obama has called for a national dialogue on mental health and the need for community conversations.