SHEPHERDSTOWN – Shepherd University’s President’s Lecture Series recently featured “Nobody’s Normal: How Culture Has Created the Stigma of Mental Illness” with Dr. Roy Richard Grinker as part of the All-Inclusive Learning Program throughout life.
“In this presentation of his new book, ‘Nobody’s Normal’, Grinker argues that stigma is a social process that can be explained by cultural history that began when society defined mental illness and disability. But because stigma is not ingrained in nature, society has the power to eradicate it and is on the verge of ending the marginalization of those who have for so long been considered ‘abnormal’, the statement said. Press. “Grinker imbues this lecture with the personal story of her family’s four generations of involvement in psychiatry, including her grandfather’s analysis with Sigmund Freud, her daughter’s experience with autism, and her own neurodiversity research.
In the presentation, Grinker explained that with the book and the research done for it, he started with his own family.
“Although living in very different times, all these people from different generations taught me the same thing: that mental illnesses are dual illnesses. There is, first, the suffering itself and second, the stigma, the moral judgment of society on top of that,” he said.
Grinker said the book is about how the shame and secrecy that has overshadowed mental illnesses for so long is somewhat removed.
“Beyond mental illnesses, I’m also concerned about developmental disabilities and disabilities in general,” he said. “One of the most remarkable stories of the past two decades is the transformation of mental illness from narrowly defined conditions that were shameful, devastating and frightening to ones that encompass a huge range of variations that include suffering, of course, but also great skills and strengths, creativity and specificity We have made mental illness something enigmatic, something we understand.
Grinker said one of the reasons he wrote “Nobody’s Normal” was because he heard and felt that many mental illnesses and disabilities were becoming less stigmatized, less secretive, less shameful and more open, but no one seemed to know why this was the case.
“Stigma is not the result of lack of knowledge or ignorance. Stigma is the result of deeply ingrained ideas about the kind of person we value. These ideas about the type of person we value date back hundreds of years,” Grinker said. “It’s important to understand that we don’t really know the impact of the pandemic on mental health yet. We’re starting to know, but we’re still two years away and still learning.
Grinker also explained the role culture plays in the search for meaning.
“Culture plays a huge role in how one can live, be happy, be connected, and find meaning,” he said. “What constitutes a meaningful life for you, does not constitute a meaningful life for everyone else.”
He also said hiding a condition takes away the ability to seek help.
“It’s impossible to end stigma completely – every society will always find something it can demean and marginalize – but we can always resist it, we can mute it, rename it, shape it. Stigma doesn’t is not a thing, stigma is a process and we can change its course,” he said.
Grinker is a professor of anthropology and international affairs at George Washington University. He was born and raised in Chicago, where his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father worked as psychoanalysts. He graduated from Grinnell College in 1983 and received his doctorate. in social anthropology from Harvard University in 1989.
Grinker is also the author of “Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism”, “In the Arms of Africa: The Life of Colin M. Turnbull”, “Korea and its Futures: Unification and the Unfinished War” and “Houses in the Rainforest: Ethnicity and Inequality between Farmers and Foragers in Central Africa.” He is co-editor of “Perspectives on Africa: Culture, History” and “Representation and Companionship of the Anthropology of Africa”.
Grinker was the 2008 recipient of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s KEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Understanding of Mental Illness and the 2010 recipient of the American Anthropological Association’s Media Anthropology Award for Communication of anthropology to the public through the media.