by Rachel Aviv
This is a brilliant young prize-winning American journalist, a staff writer for the New Yorker, asking important and subversive questions about the evolution, application and development of psychiatry.
We place a great deal of trust in the medical system. But does a mental health diagnosis have the power to perpetuate, or even create, symptoms as its subject adapts to live within it? Is there another way of talking about their experience? And are patients being truly heard?
In an attempt to answer these questions, Aviv has chosen four subjects who have the capacity to interrogate the theories and explanations they have been given for their own mental states-subjects who at some stage fundamentally reject psychiatry's explanatory framework, and see their own suffering through another lens-spirituality, loneliness, legitimate existential despair.
Aviv believes that it is a writer's job to listen and imagine and so tell the stories that other disciplines may be missing. Alongside her subjects' stories she will write about the evolution of psychiatry, with particularly interesting and troubling reference to its imposition through colonial history. The deep universal question at the heart of all of her work is, what does it mean to be human? How far can we go to the edge of experience and emotion and still remain sane? And what happens to us-socially, culturally, medically, psychologically--when we step into the liminal spaces outside of 'ordinary life'?
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Date of Publication: 25/01/2024