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Monday, July 26, 2010

Discussing Mental Health and Prisons

Words like psycho, loony, madhouse, crazy, retarded and phrases that demean individuals with psychological disorders are prevalent in adolescent vernacular.  Even in classes like psychology, where students are supposed to study and begin to understand these diseases and disorders, I found these words used many times.  When I asked my students to rephrase or to change the words they used, I often received comments like, "stop being so PC" or "that's how my parents talk about them."

Just when I was preparing to teach my abnormal psychology unit, I came across the Frontline episode The Released.   You can find this episode on the Frontline website and live stream it for free and it is also available for live stream on Netflix.  This episode follows a number of individuals in the Ohio State Correctional Facilities who are living with psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder (to name a few).

After watching this film, my students (seniors who were graduating in three weeks) shared how it changed their perspective of people with these different disorders.  Many were able to now recognize why the words they used could be offensive, especially to people who know others with these various diseases.   My apologies for not having a detailed set of questions and other information about the film, but I had planned on showing only parts of it in class, but my students were so interested in it that I decided to show all of it.  Even with very little preparation and guiding questions, based on the unit we had already completed, students had enough prior knowledge to become actively involved in our discussion.  Many of them even went to the PBS Frontline website to learn more.

I am planning to use this film in my Sociology class this year and will be developing more curriculum and materials for this film.


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