Psychiatry and insecurity

Interesting New Yorker piece on psychiatric advertising and how it makes people insecure.

The piece is called “What’s Normal” (no link available) and discusses the difficulty of diagnosing bipolar (manic-depressive) illness in children.

With every form of advertising, the first goal is to make people feel insecure. Usually, they are made to feel insecure about their smell or their looks. Now we’re beginning to see this in psychiatric advertising. The advertisements make frenetic, drive parents feel insecure about the behavior of their children.

[Blumberg] also cited the mounting pressure on children, particularly in the middle and upper classes, to succeed, first at private or selective public schools, and then at exclusive colleges and universities. “These kids become very well turned-out products,” he said. “They live to have resumes. They don’t have resumes because they live.”

The article discusses how children who behave in an eccentric way become diagnosed as ill, and then offered up to a treatment, and how often it is the parents who are complicit in this.

The article doesn’t mention Foucault (or Ian Hacking) but it quite obviously has many parallels.

Finally, it is interesting to read this in conjunction with the first chapter of Security, Territory, Population:

For some time now, for a good dozen years at least [referring perhaps to 1968], it has been clear that the essential question in the development of the problematic of the penal domain, in the way in which it is reflected as well as the way it is practiced, is one of security.

(Lecture of 11 January, 1978: 9).


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