Archive for category mental health

Meet-a-Member: Anna Swartz

UnknownAnna K. Swartz is in the final semester of her Master’s degree in the Humanities department at Michigan Technological University, where her advisor is Dr. Syd Johnson. Prior to graduate school, Anna received a BA in anthropology from Wellesley College. Her academic passion centers on the study of mental health. Her research interests are at the intersections of philosophy, discourse analysis, critical disability studies, and cultural studies.

The focus of Anna’s work in neuroethics has been on the brain disease model of mental disorders and how over-reliance on this paradigm might contribute to the stigmatization and marginalization of people with mental illness. She is especially interested in the development of classification systems for mental disorders, with special attention to schizophrenia.

Anna is currently looking at the ways that prevailing neurobiological discourses in psychiatry influence the phenomenology of mental illness. In other words, how do modern understandings of mental illness as brain diseases impact the contextualized and unique lived experience of diagnosed individuals, including how diagnoses intervene upon a patient’s sense of self, and how that self-identity might come to be reconstituted as a result. She is especially interested in the ways that language enters into all aspects of treatment and recovery, including sense of self. In the context of the therapeutic relationship, adopting the dominant, neurobiological lexicon of psychiatry may provide patients with a way to communicate with clinicians without risk of being misunderstood or subjugated, but using a language that is not one’s own may result in a silencing of the patient that may involve feelings of alienation and loss of agency. This problem has broad implications for the recovery and well-being of patients with mental illness; research shows that the brain disease model of mental illness may actually exacerbate stigma and, in some cases, reduce clinician empathy toward patients.

Anna’s other areas of research in neuroethics involve mental health in the carceral system. In the US, there are ten times as many mentally ill persons in jails and prisons than in state psychiatric hospitals. The overflowing corrections system has become a de facto inpatient psychiatric system, but jails and prisons are designed to confine and punish, not rehabilitate. They are not therapeutic spaces and are often responsible for exacerbating illness. Correctional mental healthcare—and the widespread trend toward privatizing these services—is an under-appreciated problem in the field.

Anna plans to begin her doctorate next year at Michigan Tech. Her personal blog, www.annaswartz.com, contains a collection of research and personal writing on mental illness and disability. Twitter: @sansceriph.

 

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Meet-a-Member: Dr. Karen Herrera-Ferrá

2016-05-27-bn-52Dr. Karen Herrera-Ferrá, MD: Founder and President of the Mexican Association of Neuroethics, Mexico City, Mexico

Karen Herrera-Ferrá lives in Mexico City and founded the Mexican Association of Neuroethics on July 2015. She is currently finishing a PhD program on Bioethics.
She was a visiting scholar at the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics (PCCB) at Georgetown University and then stayed to complete a one-year Post-doctorate in Neuroethics. She has a MA on Clinical Psychology, a Certificate on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and another one on History of Religions. She has a one-year fellowship on Psychosis and another on OCD. She also has studies on Psychiatry and has a MD.

On May 2016 she developed a national project to formally introduce and develop neuroethics in her country, the main foci of this project is to depict and include national leaders in mental health, interested in neuroethics, so to inform and divulge this discipline among scholars and society. She also works as a mental health clinician in a private hospital, teaches Ethics and Health to third-year medical students, lectures in different hospitals and Universities in Mexico and is an Affiliated Scholar of the Neuroethics Studies Program at the PCCB at Georgetown University.

Her interests and research focuses on two main topics: Recurrent violent behavior and globalization of neuroethics in Latin America. In the former, she proposes to classify recurrent violent behavior as a psychiatric classifier as well as approaching it with advanced integrative convergence sciences (AISC) within the bio-psycho-social model and analyzing neuroethico-legal-social and political issues and concerns. In the latter work in progress, she analyses neuroethico-legal-social and political issues and concerns of the clinical use of neuroscience and neurotechnology in Latin America, specifically Mexico, including cultural, ethnical, economical and political caveats.

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Meet-a-Member: Professor Bryn Esplin

12548838_10153905837289802_2977472484748385609_n-1Bryn S. Esplin joined the Department of Humanities in Medicine at Texas A&M University after completing a two-year Clinical Ethics Fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH.

She graduated cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in Rhetoric before pursuing her law degree. During law school, she externed with both the Supreme Court of Nevada and the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, NV, where she developed her passion for neuro-psychiatric ethics under the supervision of Dr. Dylan Wint.

Professor Esplin’s teaching brings together law, medicine, and popular culture to help students critically examine the social, ethical, and political implications that underlie medical decision-making. She currently teaches Clinical Ethics to first-year medical students, as well as an elective for third-year medical students that analyzes the social and philosophical meaning of death—including death by neurological criteria, the historical preoccupation with premature burial, the political consequences of neuro-enhancement, and the coming (or arrival) of cyborg technology.

She is a frequent speaker at both national and international conferences in Bioethics and Humanities, and her scholarship has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including Psychosomatics, Harvard’s Health and Human Rights Journal, The Journal of Clinical Ethics, and the American Journal of Bioethics, Neuroscience.

Current research projects include the use of placebos in functional disorders, as well as contemporary issues in law and clinical psychiatry regarding fiduciary duty and confidentiality.

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Naming the devil: The mental health double bind

*Editor’s note: This post was originally published on The Neuroethics Blog.

By Jennifer Laura Lee

bio_picJenn Laura Lee recently received her undergraduate in neuroscience from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and hopes to pursue a PhD in neurobiology this fall. Her current interests include the advancement of women in STEM and the ethics of animal experimentation.

 

The Bell Let’s Talk initiative swept through Canada on January 27, hoping to end the stigma associated with mental illness, one text and one share at a time. Michael Landsberg shares his thoughts in a short video on the Facebook page. “The stigma exists because fundamentally there’s a feeling in this country still that depression is more of a weakness than a sickness,” he explains. “People use the word depression all the time to describe a bad time in their life, a down time. But that’s very different than the illness itself.” Perhaps such a bold statement merits closer examination.

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Meet-a-Member: Dr. Jami Anderson

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Dr. Jami L Anderson is currently an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at University of Michigan-Flint. She primarily teaches courses in neuro- and medical ethics, disability studies, philosophy of medicine and philosophy of law. She is also the co-director of the Center for Cognition and Neuroethics.

 

Early in my career, I used Georg Hegel’s theory of right as a framework with which to address the problem of justifying state punishment in cases when individuals suffered extreme poverty and social alienation. Not surprisingly, my early publications directly addressed various problems within the literature that addresses Hegel’s theory of state punishment. However, a few years ago I developed a disability studies course and, not too surprisingly perhaps, my research interests moved into a new direction. I focused my attention on projects that examined social and legal policies that relied on problematic assumptions about disability identity.

I am currently completing a paper that addresses the question of whether or not learning impaired adults, in particular those with language impairments such as those experienced by some autistics, are capable of consenting (in the ethical as well as the legal sense) to sexual acts with other adults. Read the rest of this entry »

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The sound of silence: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

*This post was initially published on The Neuroethics Blog.

By Emily Bell, PhD

Dr. Emily Bell is Researcher at the Neuroethics Research Unit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM). Dr. Bell’s MSc and PhD research in Psychiatry at the University of Alberta focused on investigating brain activity in mood and anxiety disorders using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Her postdoctoral work shifted her into the field of neuroethics, where she examined ethical and social challenges associated with deep brain stimulation in psychiatric disorders. As an investigator of the Neuroethics Core of NeuroDevNet, a Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence, Dr. Bell has been involved in a wide range of network activities and research in the area of pediatric ethics. This includes recent work on the implications of stigma for public health policies and practices in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and ethical concerns associated with the transition of youth with neurodevelopmental disorders to adult health services. Dr. Bell has been awarded support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Killam Trust. She is currently lead co-investigator on two CIHR grants, including one in the area of vulnerability and mental health research ethics. Read the rest of this entry »

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Meet a Member: Jessica Birkett

birkettjJessica Birkett is a doctoral candidate with the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine based with the Children’s Bioethics Centre at the Royal Children’s Hospital. Brought to the faculty through the Australian Research Council discovery grant in response to her initial research with the University of Sydney’s Department of Philosophy following her BA (Humanities & Philosophy) at California State, her work explores the use of phenomenological methods in conceptualising neurobehavioural disorders. The ARC project ‘Addiction Moral Agency and Moral Identity’ on which Jessica was a researcher, conducted a longitudinal, combined theoretical and empirical study into the phenomenology of addiction experience as an experimental project in the addiction subset of neuroethics. Her own dissertation concerns the integration of phenomenology into clinical practice, particularly in the diagnosing of neurological or mental health disorders and inferences around patient agency therein. Read the rest of this entry »

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The identification of risk for serious mental illnesses: Clinical and ethical challenges

*This post was originally featured on The Neuroethics Blog as part of the AJOB Neuroscience series

By Elaine Walker, Ph.D., Sandy Goulding, MPH, MA., Arthur Ryan, MA., Carrie Holtzman, MA., Allison MacDonald, MA.
Elaine Walker is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology at Emory University.  She leads a research laboratory that is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health  to study risk factors for major mental illness.  Her research is focused on child and adolescent development and the brain changes that are associated with adolescence.

The identification of risk factors for illness is receiving increased attention in all fields of medicine, especially cardiology, oncology, neurology and psychiatry.  There are three potential benefits to identifying risk factors. The first is to reduce morbidity by reducing risk exposure. The second is to enhance opportunities for targeting preventive treatment toward those who are most likely to benefit. Finally, the identification of risk factors can shed light on pathological mechanisms.

There are, of course, costs as well as benefits involved in this endeavor.  The benefits, in terms of reducing morbidity and mortality, are noncontroversial.  The costs, however, can be very controversial and they have generated discussion among ethicists. Foremost among the costs is the potential discomfort and distress that results from the identification of an individual as being at statistical risk for future illness.  There are also significant concerns about whether treatment should be initiated prior to the manifestation of symptoms that reach clinical threshold.  These concerns are especially salient in the field of psychiatry. In this post, we discuss current efforts to identify risk factors for serious mental illness and the ethical considerations they raise.

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The Violence of Assumed Violence: A Reflection on Reports of Adam Lanza’s Possible Autism

This blog post by Jennifer Sarrett was originally featured on The Neuroethics Blog.

Jennifer C. Sarrett started working with people on the autism spectrum in 1999 in Athens, GA while getting her B.S. in Psychology. In 2005, she completed her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Special Education with a focus on autism from Vanderbilt University. She is currently a fifth year doctoral student in Emory University’s Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts working on her dissertation which compares parental and professional experiences of autism in Atlanta, GA and Kerala, India as well as the ethical issues the arise when engaging in international, autism-related work.

On Friday, December 14th 2012, the country learned of the mass shooting of 5- and 6-year-old children and several adults in Newtown, CT. By the end of the day, we learned that Adam Lanza, the perpetrator of the heinous act, may be autistic. Although we now know that this is not the case, it has spurred conversations about the link between autism and violence. This mental illness guessing-game has become the norm in the wake of such tragedies. Jared Loughner and James Holmes may have been schizophrenic; Sueng-Hi Cho may have been depressed, anxious, and also possibly autistic; Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold may have been depressed and/or psychopathic. These speculations are understandable – the public yearns to understand the motives behind such acts and recognizes that good mental health and mass shootings are never coupled–however, the way these representations are presented to the community create stigma and blames others with similar disabilities.

Adam Lanza

In Media Madness:Public Images of Mental Illness, psychologist Otto Walh explains that the public does not get its information about mental illness from evidenced-based, professional sources, rather, “[i]t is far more likely that the public’s knowledge of mental illness comes from sources closer to home, sources to which we are all exposed on a daily basis–namely, the mass media.” [1] The media (i.e. news, television, movies, video games, popular literature) often provides these links casually but carefully. Reports may mention Adam Lanza had autism, but don’t make the causal link between this diagnosis and his crimes. Yet in the minds of readers, the association is made. Read the rest of this entry »

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