Controversial DSM-5 approved for publication in May

The National Psychologist, January/February 2013 issue page 6, publishes 2 articles: 1) about Psychiatric association approval of DSM-5 publication in spite of complaints from the professional field and 2) how Psychologist organizations react to DSM-5. Both are scanned in one document.

It is worth considering how construction of diagnosis is interrelated with political biomedical authority. The process might not necessarily benefit the individual but it leads to creation of compliant body and collectively a member of Foucalian society.

Munchausen by Internet

While following a trail of links from an article about Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend, I rediscovered this excellent article from The Stranger (a weekly newspaper in Seattle) about people — mostly women — who lie about illnesses online. It’s a terribly interesting read.

“Munchausen by Internet” is not considered a unique illness, though that was debated for the DSM-V, but is a form of Munchausen Syndrome in which a person fakes his/her own illnesses.  (There is also Munchausen by proxy, the most common example of which is a mother who exploits exaggerated or imaginary illnesses in her child.)

It’s easy to say that these illness fabricators are pathetic or predatory, emotional vampires who feed on the sympathy of others.  However, I find myself thinking about Ong’s work with Malaysian factory workers, Nichter’s “Idioms of Distress”, or accounts of spirit possessions (mostly of women) in various cultures.  Should we consider this an individual psychiatric disorder when the condition centers around relationships with others?  Why is it largely a female phenomenon?  Is this a culture bound syndrome?

The homeless guy in the apartment next door

by Jonathan Bartlett for LA Weekly

William had been homeless for about 20 years when he received a $200,000 legal settlement. One of his first actions was to do what many would applaud: he got off the streets and out of the broken-down hotels of Los Angeles and rented an apartment.  What he did not do was bathe, wash his hair, change his clothing, wear shoes, or alter his lifestyle of keeping all of his possessions in shopping bags.

The very day he moved in, the leasing agent left soap, shampoo, towels, and a change of clothing in his apartment.  William was insulted and disgusted that his home had been “contaminated.”  By the next week, neighbors were making complaints about the foul odor they said was seeping from his unit.  A veritable battlefield of potpourri and deodorizers was laid out between his door and the next and eviction threats began.

Read the full story on the LA Weekly site: The Man Who Smelled Too Much

I couldn’t help think of a piece by Bourgeois (From Jibaro to Crack Dealer: Confronting the Restructuring of Capitalism in El Barrio) that we read in Anthropology Theory this week.  The “common sense” of the other residents of the nice apartment building is foreign to William.  If the problem is the odor leaving his home, then fine: he squirts some peppermint soap under the door and calls it good.  His neighbors, the building management, and the eventual jury he faces can’t comprehend why he doesn’t simply bathe, put on shoes, and change his clothes.  The foreman is baffled why William won’t cut his hair, since “it grows back.”  There is some victim-blaming going on, but what about the rights of his neighbors?  The comments on the article make for an interesting read, as well.

Job fair for the mental health community this Thursday

BHPI just posted this to the faculty- with this note:

This will be an opportunity for those with degrees in Social Work, Psychology, Sociology, Counseling, Nursing, Elementary Education or related fields to meet some of the best providers in the metro Detroit area!

October 4, 2012 from 2PM – 7PM at the DoubleTree Hilton (5801 Southfield Expressway in Detroit).  Register and submit your resume here.

Envision conference at OU, October 19

Seems that information like this never reaches other departments in time, but it should still be possible to register for this interesting conference to be held in Rochester next month. Student registrations are free but limited; I haven’t gotten a response to my registration request yet, but it’s worth a try if you want to go. (Update: I was able to get a student seat for the conference, but it sounds like space is tight.)

This conference will explore the question: Do mental health issues manifest into chronic physical problems, or does the chronic illness create significant and long-lasting impairment of an individual’s mental health? Participants will learn how nurses and mental health professionals can better understand the magnitude of this issue and collaborate to provide patients timely, appropriate and effective services while safeguarding basic human rights. Additionally, participants will learn how they can decrease their own depression, compassion fatigue and improve job satisfaction through mindfulness, laughter and other alternative techniques.

Approximately 25% of the general population (adults) have diagnosed mental health disorders (though this is most likely grossly underestimated because of the stigma often associated with mental illness) while about 58% of the general adult population have been diagnosed with at least one medical condition. (Robert Wood Johnson, Synthesis Project)

When it comes to the complexity of health care, the line often blurs between physical and mental health. Today, the interaction between physical and mental illnesses is a necessity not an exception. This results in an increased need for health care workers to gain a broader understanding of working with patients who suffer from co-existing physical and mental illnesses. This year’s Envision Conference will offer a broader understanding in “THE COMPLEXITY OF CO-MORBIDITY: CONNECTING WITH OTHERS THROUGH THE SYNTHESIS OF MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT” taking place on October 19th at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester, MI.


  • Complexity of Comorbidity and its Implications: Sharon Freeman, PhD, Freeman Institute for Cognitive Therapy
  • Mindfulness in Care (for Caregiver and Patient): Bup Chon Sunim (Brent Eastman), Buddhist Monk
  • Relationship-Based Care: Kathleen Van Wagoner, Chief Nursing Officer, Crittenton Hospital Medical Center
  • Spirituality, Suffering and Illness: Lessons Learned from Research, Clinical Families and Living Life: Lorraine Wright, International Lecturer and Professor Emeritus of Nursing, University of Calgary
  • with a mini lunch demonstration on the Power of Laughter: Paul McGhee, PhD, Lecturer

Location:Royal Park Hotel
600 East University Drive
Rochester, MI 48307

Cost: $125 per person. Register here.
Students are free! (Student space is limited and you must pre-register!)

Students – please do not register online. Pre-register by contacting Cynthia Rutledge at or at 248-370-3799 to be added as an attendee. Whether you’re a student at Oakland University or another institution, you must provide a valid student ID to be admitted to the conference.

An ongoing Asperger’s narrative

There’s a common theme in much of the writing I enjoy: personal narratives from smart, introspective, odd people.  That’s why I can’t resist Penelope Trunk.  Penelope founded three start-up companies, wrote a bestselling career advice book, and she’s now homeschooling her children and making goat cheese.  She also has Asperger’s Syndrome and she speaks about her mental processes and challenges in clear, explicit posts like “Why I’m difficult in meetings” and “What it’s like to have sex with someone with Asperger’s“.

Penelope Trunk

Penelope can be controversial and shocking in her directness, and her blog mixes career advice, trendspotting, and her personal life.  It also provides a chance to see the world through the eyes of someone whose perspective may be very different from most of ours, described vividly and intelligently.  Worth a look.

Film series on mental health in Indonesia

From Raluca Szabo:

This looks amazing.  From the facebook blurb, which claims this is the first film series on mental health and illness in the developing world:

“Afflictions: Culture and Mental Illness in Indonesia” is a 6-part series of ethnographic films on severe mental illness in Indonesia, based on material drawn from 12 years of person-centered research by writer/director Robert Lemelson. The trilogy, which follows 6 individuals of different ages and backgrounds, explores the relationship between culture, mental illness, and first-person experience. Purchase the DVDs at:

I will definitely be trying to acquire this one for classes.

A personal record and artistic interpretation of mental illness

“Today is Wednesday, July 21st, 2009.  The anniversary, first anniversary, of the day the house disappeared.”  Thus begins the narration of Virginia Blakeley in the video embedded below.  Virginia is a senior citizen whose mental illness advanced over the years while she recorded her thoughts on audio cassettes.  She is lucid, well-spoken, and up to date (she suggests that people should check Google Earth to see if her house is really there) as she tries to understand the differences between her reality and the reality of others.

Artist Bryn Oh recreated Virginia’s house in Second Life as a project for the Santa Fe New Media Festival.  The installation includes links to the audio recordings as well as authentic family photos, letters, and newspaper articles.  Oh visited Virginia several times in her house and also interviewed her after she was moved to a nursing home. Her videos include machinima recorded inside Second Life and some real world shots.