In your second essay, you will be required to address the drawbacks (and/ or the benefits, as you see it) of the Westernization of mental illness. As in all of your essays, you will craft an argument, and your argument MUST be debatable; that is: it must make a claim.
In this essay, you must respond to Ethan Watters’ “The Americanization of Mental Illness,” using the article to support—or to serve as a counterargument to your own MAIN IDEA. In other words, Watters’ article should be the springboard for your essay—and as such, your essay is ultimately a conversation with him. You will summarize, quote from, and paraphrase Watters, using what you have learned in class discussion and in the readings. So, the first source has been chosen for you.
Upon reading “The Americanization of Mental Illness,” you will discover, and very possibly agree that Western medicine has impacted the lives of millions of people across the globe. It is a common assumption that American medical practices (and the pharmacological industry) have helped decrease the spread of contagious diseases and increase lifespans worldwide. Watters does not deny this, but he says there’s more to it, and maybe you tend to agree. American medicine often does not account for or even acknowledge cultural traditions, narratives or beliefs different from our own. In other words, Western medicine is not “all good” or “all bad.” It is complicated. Likewise, your argument should be complicated and nuanced. And so, in this essay, you should make every effort to explore the gray areas surrounding the cultural issues at play. An argument that purports something is “all good” or “all bad” is likely not only to be very broad, but also uninteresting, and nearly impossible to prove. Thus, it is crucial that you do what the essay form demands of you: Choose a MAIN IDEA, and look at that idea from every conceivable angle provided the page limit.
Once you’ve nailed down your “angle,” you will chooseadditional sources.
You MAY incorporate up to two of the readings/ texts we have explored since opening the topic of mental illness for discussion, including the NPR interview with Ethan Watters, “Go Rest, Young Man,” “Hysteria and the Teenage Girl,” “Why Cambodians Never Get Depressed,” “Did Antidepressants Depress Japan?” and the Frontline documentary, The Released. All of this material is provided for you on Tumblr. Some of it we may not get to in class, but as a dedicated college student/ scholar, I trust you will take the time to read what’s been made available to you on your own—to focus on higher learning, and expand your educational horizons.
Here’s the rub: You must also do library research of your own or in a group, and find at least TWO credible, timely, and relevant articles to incorporate from the databases. You are also REQUIRED to properly cite your sources, using MLA formatting and to provide a Works Cited page at the end of your essay.
Including Watters,’ article, you should have a MINIMUM of three sources. Two must come from the library databases. You can use up to five sources total. All must pass the CRAAP test.
Once again, you’ll frame your essay around a specific argument which is appropriate to the length of your essay (see “Guidelines,” below). This argument will be supported by meaty, and highly specific evidence which will come from multiple sources. As you begin brainstorming, two words that will come in exceptionally handy are “HOW?” and “WHY?” One way to go about choosing your argument—or thesis—is to ask these questions. Below is a list of possible prompts:
How, for example, has American medicine proven to be more or less successful than Eastern practices? Why, and in what ways (or how)? What influence has this had on us, as Americans? What impact has it had in Japan, for ex.? How has the expression of mental illnesses changed? How is it influenced by cultural narrative, tradition, attitude?
How does the American understanding of “hysteria” or “schizophrenia” or “anorexia” differ from that in another culture? Why? What influence has that definition had on us, as Americans? Has that impact changed in the last 100 years? How, for ex. are men and women diagnosed as “hysterical” (or as having “neurasthenia”) treated differently? Is this a particularly American phenomenon? How and why?
What is the strongest Western influence on global perceptions and treatment of mental illness? Is it the media? Or our cultural attitudes about the brain? About the role of the individual and/ or community? Maybe it’s our altruism (the desire, in part, to reduce stigma when—in fact—WMHPs have increased stigma by pedaling the view that mental illness is merely a “brain disease”)? Or is it the advancements in technology, and our enviable resources (money, research facilities, etc.) that have had the strongest sway? Or the supreme authority granted the DSM? Watters makes a case for all of these—but as you’ll see in Schulz’s “DADDJ,” Big Pharma plays a role, too. It’s up to you to decide—and that’s a tall order in so few pages!
Ultimately, this essay asks that you look at Western medicine with a critical eye, and address what is lost and/or what is gained as a consequence of the spread of our uniquely American perceptions, attitudes, and narratives about the mentally distressed. Ask yourself WHAT IS AT STAKE? And think critically about the answer. Pick a NARROW sub-topic and explore it deeply. It’s hard work, but it will pay off.
- Your essay should be no less than 3 full pages (like, a word or two onto the fourth page), no more than 5 (that’s between 750 and 1250 words), double-spaced. Use standard 1” margins and a standard font (i.e., Times, Times New Roman ONLY).
- Please include page numbers, a UNIQUE and REVEALING title, and a complete Works Cited page, formatted according to MLA standards. There is no need to include a separate title page. STAPLE your essay or I will not accept it. If you need to run to find a stapler at the start of class, your essay will be marked late! And so will you!
- You MUST use a minimum of three (and a maximum of five) credible, college-level sources, including Watters’ piece and two articles from the library databases. Your sources should be DIRECTLY RELATED to your thesis and should also be the MOST trustworthy you can find; this will require extensive research. Do NOT merely choose the first source you come across, as these are highly unlikely to be the MOST trustworthy.
- All of your sources must be introduced, attributed and cited within the body of your essay, according to MLA standards. You must quote each of them. As with your sources, choose your quotes based on RELEVANCE, not length. A lack of signal phrases (“According to…”; “Smith writes,…” etc.) will significantly impact your grade.
- Regardless of how you approach the essay, I recommend you read and research and brainstorm and free-write and pre-write before determining what your thesis will be.
- We will be using the RUBRIC we will use for each of our essays. READ IT CAREFULLY.