Post One: The Quiet Epidemic

Joy Li


Article One: The Quiet Epidemic of Mental Disorders in Refugees by Sophia Chen (WIRED)

The facts-based article, by freelance science writer Sophia Chen in Wired’s online editions, examines the repercussions surrounding both the short and long term psychological traumas experienced by Somalian refugees inhabiting the Daabab refugee camp in Kenya. Framing the issue from a scientific perspective, Chen writes from an informed position presenting substantiated notions and deductions with figure based evidence.

Descriptions of historical and social precedents seek to familiarise the audience within the context of uncertainty and fear in presenting the past, present and future lives and circumstances of those displaced. Referencing figures from reputable scholarly journals such as the Lancet as well as first-hand accounts from live psychotherapists, the author makes convincingly informed arguments on the widely underrepresented severity of refugees and displaced person’s susceptibility to mental disorders. Sustainability and humanitarian concerns arise as the growing numbers and lack of resource distribution pervades in the author’s mind as the article assess the futility of the situation.

Yet undercutting the article is that our general lack of understanding in human psychology festers the growing misrepresentation that western forms of psychiatric care can translate over into other cultures. Despite ending on a pessimistic tone, the feeling of hopelessness and loss of faith has been alleviated by the author’s own resolve in guiding empathetic concerns and giving voice to this ‘quiet epidemic.’

Chen, S. 2016, ‘The quiet epidemic of mental disorders in refugees’, Wired, 16 February, viewed 30 July 2016, <http://www.wired.com/2016/02/the-quiet-epidemic-of-mental-disorders-in-refugees/>.


Article Two: How to End the Stigma of Mental-Health Disorders by Rep. Eddie Bernard Johnson (TIME)

Representative for the U.S state of Texas, Eddie Bernard Johnson writes for TIME in an op-ed focusing on the ending of the stigma attached to mental health commonly misrepresented via pop culture mediums. Viewed from the position of political correctness, the author’s argument highlights the unrealistic depictions and misuse of expressions that undermine a potentially debilitating disease.

Through comparing the vastly differing portrayals of individuals experiencing mental health disorders in the hit television series Monk and Girls, the author calls to action the necessity in adopting the latter’s method in initiating conversations and truths surrounding mental health disorders. The questions that arise in relation to such truths concern the arguably ineffective models in current place of care and the widespread inaccessibility to long-term treatment.

Similarly vital to this cause is the sustained momentum of inviting change. Beyond the screen, social influencers have sought to advocate for causes. Such change, as championed by the author, must come with spreading knowledge in educating the masses. The first step towards procuring empathy and compassion in addressing themes that are inherently human.

Johnson, E. B. 2016, ‘How to end the stigma of mental-health disorders’, TIME, 20 May, viewed 30 July 2016, <http://time.com/4342089/mental-health-awareness/>.


Article Three: From act of terrorism to mental health symptom: we’re shifting blame but at what cost? By Bettina Friedrich (The Conversation AU)

Academic Researcher and PhD Supervisor for University of Sydney, Bettina Friedrich writes for the Australian edition of The Conversation. With the recent violent attacks in Germany, France and across the world, this opinion piece calls to question the measured practices carried out by news outlets when reporting terror and violent attacks with particular focus on the sensationalising and stigmatising of mental illness.

Whilst the author commends these ‘laudable practices’ in measured reporting where religious and racial profiling is concerned, her real problem lies within the ease of scapegoating mental illness when information is scarce (Friedrich, 2016). Further compounding the issue, the stigma behind mental health is revealed to have serious consequences for mental health sufferers. The author asserts this anti-stigma position by citing relevant research and examples, stating that aggressive and violent tendencies are ‘not a symptom’ for mental illness.

However, one may suggest that this recursive cycle of blame creates justification for idleness and ignorance. Instead, the conversation should initiate a breakdown in rationality and inhabit the least understood of all human faculties, morality. As morality and mental illness are ultimately a human constructs, the dialogue will continually deflect to symptoms that are physically ­observable. But this is when the subject gets tricky.

Perhaps the main point to take home is that when dealing with subjects pertaining to violent acts of terror, facts should be reported accurately and judgements of causality should not be carried out prematurely.

Friedrich, B. 2016, ‘From act of terrorism to mental health symptom: we’re shifting blame but at what cost?’, The Conversation, 29 July, viewed 30 July 2016, <https://theconversation.com/from-act-of-terrorism-to-mental-health-symptom-were-shifting-blame-but-at-what-cost-63060>.


Article Four: What makes people feel upbeat at work? By Maria Konnikova (The New Yorker)

As a psychology and science writer, regular contributor to The New Yorker, Marian Konnikova’s article explore the emotional and psychological functions within human cognition. This opinion piece centres on the mental strain caused by the irony of imposing varying degrees of positivity mandates within the workplace environment.

Taking cues from research and views from certified psychologist, the author’s arguments circle around the theory and reasoning behind these inverse relationships linking them to the amplification of emotional labour. In the aura of autonomy, our social sphere is controlled by our enforced or assumed emotional displays. Consequently, in lieu of such freedoms, this thought suppression impairs certain types of thinking associated with ‘memory, self-control, problem solving, motivation and perceptiveness’ (Konnikova, 2016)

Behind these psychological justifications, however, stem a more contentious debate amongst prescribed notion of positivity, protecting those who have created it and marginalising those who oppose. The author’s belief, if only to herald a broader understanding of certain human truths, is that whilst we all warrant positive environments, this same affirmation is at risk when ‘we force it rather than foster it.’

Konnikova, M. 2016, ‘What makes people feel upbeat at work’, The New Yorker, 30 July, viewed 31 July 2016, <http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/what-makes-people-feel-upbeat-at-work>.


Article Five: Virtual reality isn’t just for gaming – it could transform mental health treatment by Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman (The Guardian)

Psychology writers Daniel and Jason Freeman’s column for The Guardian explains the results of an experiment involving Virtual Reality (VR) in treating therapy patients with paranoia. Described as the ‘next big thing,’ the nascent medium of VR has come into its own as scientists and creators have begun to investigate its potential effects on the human mind (Freeman, 2016).

Proven to be an effective device for psychological therapy, the article paints a promising future for VR as major experiments found conducive in alleviating persecutory delusions experienced by individuals with schizophrenia. Despite the thorough explanation of processes and practices, we cannot ignore the looming shadow of doubt that presages the challenges of conducting, quantifying and reporting such experiments.

Interestingly, a notion often not presented when celebrating the myriad of beneficial features of VR is the ethics behind designing for the medium. As powerful as the appraisal of the medium’s psychological force, its influence in inducing different emotional responses could be similarly used to deliver suffering and possibly to the point considered as psychological torture.

Freeman, D. & Freeman, J. 2016, ‘Virtual reality isn’t just for gaming – it could transform mental health treatment’, The Guardian, 6 May, viewed 31 July 2016, <https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2016/may/05/virtual-reality-isnt-just-for-gaming-it-could-transform-mental-health-treatment>.


Image: The Quiet Epidemic (Li, 2016)