In September, blogger Erin Jones posted a photo on Facebook that would spark a fight against the stigma of mental health and medication for it. Her hashtag #medicatedandmighty has inspired others who take prescription medication for depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental health needs to share their own photos and “come out.”
What makes it possible for the #MedicatedAndMighty to fight back against stigma in mental illness? Since doctors and researchers do not have complete monopoly over medical knowledge, the lay person (non-medical person) plays a role in constructing the meaning of mental illness. Patients’ lived experiences with an illness confirm or challenge expert knowledge, contributing to the continual shaping of the biomedical and cultural understandings of the condition.
- Hilary Arksey. 1994. “Expert and lay participation in the construction of medical knowledge.” Sociology of Health and Illness 16(4): 448-468.
- Lindsay Prior. 2003. “Belief, Knowledge, and Expertise: The Emergence of the Lay Expert in Medical Sociology.” Sociology of Health & Illness 25: 41-57.
Cultural meanings of illness shapes responses to them, making all mental illnesses socially constructed experiences . Claims-makers and interested parties, not just doctors and scientists, create medical knowledge—what makes an illness “real,” and what constitutes its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Often, negative understandings of specific illnesses come from elite moral entrepreneurs whose elite socioeconomic status and moral legitimacy give them framing power.
- Elizabeth M. Armstrong. 1998. “Diagnosing moral disorder: The discovery and evolution of fetal alcohol syndrome.” Social Sciences and Medicine 47(12): 2025-2042
- Phil Brown. 1995. “Naming and Framing: The Social Construction of Diagnosis and Illness.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 35: 34-52.
- Peter Conrad and Kristen Barker. 2010. “The Social Construction of Illness: Key Insights and Policy Implications.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51 (Suppl): S67-S79.