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02/26/2015

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Thomas Nadelhoffer

First, thanks for posting this. I have some more substantive thoughts to share soon. But for now, I wanted to post a link to something I have been meaning to share for a while now--namely, a piece over at Digressions & Impressions from a few months ago by Eric Schliesser called "On Depression in Graduate School." I think we need more stories like this as part of the CR campaign mentioned in the present post. It's important for those without mental illnesses to appreciate just how rampant depression and other mental illnesses are in the profession. Once we have a better since for the magnitude of the problem we can start working towards solutions. That said, here is the link:

http://digressionsnimpressions.typepad.com/digressionsimpressions/2014/09/on-depression-in-graduate-school.html

Wesley Buckwalter

I wanted to comment on the general issue you raise about the distinction of "physical or mental" mind-body dichotomies. I agree that this distinction can be troublesome, in that it can lead to negative effects and may encourage harmful mental health stigmatization. In fact, many believe the distinction contributes to a growing crisis in psychiatric treatment and research about how disorders should be separated and categorized. But it may not always be due to ignorance, privileged, or ablest points-of-view, and there are at least some reasons for it. In psychiatry, for instance, the issue is that while our best science, medicine, and philosophy tells us that we should reject the dichotomy as a false view of the mind, drawing on the distinction can nonetheless still be very effective in the course of clinical treatment. The reason it can sometimes be effective is because emphasizing psychological over biological origins of a disorder can, rightly or wrongly, impart a feeling of greater control to the individual. Of course, this does not mean the distinction shouldn’t be eliminated as you suggest, perhaps other methods could be effective that minimize the consequences associated with the dichotomy. For those interested there is a great paper demonstrating that biases associated with the dichotomy persist among highly knowledgeable mental health professionals.

Kevin Timpe

I think this is a great post and an important conversation for us to have.

I do think that the physical vs mental (cognitive/intellectual) is sometimes still a pretty important issue. In many cases, I think you're right that the larger genus, if it is in fact a genus, is what's important. And depending on how we understand the distinction in question (after all, depression and cognitive disabilities are often 'physical' in that the brain, its chemistry, its structure are involved).

I think that consciousness raising will likely depend on details, that sometimes will track the above distinction. Just a quick example. We have a handicapped parking placard, which we use when our son (and especially the other children) is with us. He's able to walk (though in ways that are often visually different). But his disability impacts his awareness of his surroundings and walking through a parking lot is a dangerous place. Part of consciousness raising in a public way might involve making it more understandable to individuals that not just physical but other kinds of disability are relevant to something as 'public' as parking.

I know that this is a smaller part of the large issues that you're raising here. But I think that sometimes the distinction will be part of those larger issues (even if in others, they're not).

Kathryn Pogin

I had posted the following on facebook, and someone just asked me if I would share it here too, in the hopes that it might generate further discussion:

Lauren Leydon-Hardy and I had a conversation today about a comment on [the Philosophy and Depression post at Daily Nous] from a prospective student suggesting that issues of mental health ought to be considered in how a department runs, and in what information they offer prospective students (to which I replied, so as not to hijack, in a different thread here: http://dailynous.com/2015/02/20/recruitment-weekend-department-climate/#comment-55460 ) As Lauren said, "[I]t was as easy as getting on the phone for 15 minutes today to make sure that during recruitment weekend our DGS and chair are prepared to open the door for students with disabilities to get the resources they need, in order to thrive in our department. Grad students -- have that conversation! All of our universities should have systems of accommodations and resources in place, but we shouldn't assume that they are adequate for the needs of every community member, and we shouldn't assume that they are well advertised. Let's do what we can to make all of our departments welcoming in this way." I encourage others who are gearing up from recruitment events to consider doing likewise.

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