USF's WebQuest 

Investigating the Civil Rights of the Mentally Ill

A webquest for 11th & 12th grade psychology students

Designed by: David ValdÈz

Dvaldez@phuhs.org

 

Introduction

Understanding abnormal behavior is a difficult process. After all, what is abnormal to one group may be perfectly normal to another. The terms themselves, ënormalí and ëabnormalí, are pejorative.

 

In addition, some mental disorders which seem abnormal in one culture may not even exist in another. Are they true disorders then or are they socially constructed? Are those suffering with mental disorders extraordinarily creative or really in psychological pain?

 

The answers to these questions are controversial and often times unsettling. Yet, once a client is given a diagnosis, the label sometimes haunts their personal lives. The stigma associated with mental disorders are often more detrimental than they are helpfulóand it is the client who continues to suffer from the label.

 

A person who severely suffers from mental disorders are often institutionalize both for research study and for their own health. But this institutionalization is often a blurring of individual client rights. The client has limited privacy and the treatments can very often be degrading. The clients, after all, are not prisoners of the state, but are very much treated so in several instances. This webquest will concern itself with the nature of abnormal behavior and the marginalization of patient rights. Youíll want to attend to the treatment of clients with mental disorders and possible violations of their civil rights during their treatment.

Task

You and your partners will review a variety of websites to read several articles. The articles concern themselves with the psychology of dysfunctional behavior and the issue of patient rights.  You will read the articles in order to grasp the controversy that surrounds the issues of patient rights in the care of mental health institutions. You should reflect on the tensions involved and the problems encountered by clinicians, families, and patients.

 

Be prepared to discuss your thoughts with your partners and to share your conclusions with the class. Note your sources so that you can justify your conclusions during your class presentation.

Process

1.)  You will be assigned to groups of four. Two students should focus on the articles that concern themselves with what is ëabnormalí in different cultures. Be sure to note limitations of labeling someone with a disorder and the challenges that might ensue. You should be prepared to discuss the issues of labeling with your partners and to provide strengths and limitations for both sides of the argument.

 What is Abnormal?

 PDF-Psychology of Mental Health Illness

            PowerPoint-Abnormal Definitions and History

 

As you and your partner review these materials, it will be useful if you can respond to the following questions:

        What considerations are most significant when diagnosing someone with a mental disorder?

        What limitations are inherent in applying labels to dysfunctional behavior? Can someone overcome such stigmas?

        Describe the cultural/ethnic/gender limitations involved in labeling a dysfunctional behavior.

 

The two other students will focus on the articles that concern themselves with patient rights. You should be able to support both sides of the argument and be prepared to share with your group members an outline of the arguments.

 

More Care for Mentally Ill? by Michael Jonathan Grinfeld. June 2000, Vol. XVII, Issue 6

            Mental Illness and the Law

            Principles for the Provision of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Services

            The US Bill of Rights

 

As you and your partner review these materials, it will be useful if you can respond to the following questions:

        What client rights are violated during an institutionalized stay?

        Which of these client right violations are guaranteed by the US Bill of Rights?

 

2.) Once youíve read the articles for your group, be sure to discuss your findings with each other. One group member should take notes about the effects of labeling and another group member should take notes on the issue of patient rights. All four members should have a grasp of the essential issues in order to discuss later with the class at large.

 

3.) A third group member should write down the notes on how the group synthesizes the material into a larger picture. Formulate and justify a response to each of the following questions which draw from the online articles as well as class notes:

        How would you articulate the struggle to protect the patient rights of the mentally ill?

        What civil rights are compromised when a client is hospitalized? Whoís being protectedÖthe client or the public?

        Is the marginalization of the clientís rights worth the sacrifice for the well-being of the general public?

 

4.) A fourth member should be able to represent the group and share its findings and conclusions with the class. In addition, the group may also pose questions it finds are critical to understanding the issue of diagnostic labels and patient rights.

Evaluation

Rubric 

 

Fair

Good

Very Good

Excellent

Completed all work on time

1

2

3

4

Worked cooperatively

1

2

3

4

Stayed on task

1

2

3

4

Used computer and books as resources

1

2

3

4

Documented sources

1

2

3

4

Wrote clear, coherent, and detailed information

1

2

3

4

Presented to the class

1

2

3

4

Organized information logically

1

2

3

4

 

The Rubric above will be used to assess the quality of your work on the Webquest. In addition to the rubric, however, please answer the questions below in your reflection journal:

 

1.)  What have you learned about labeling someone with a mental disorder?

2.)  What amendments (if any) would you suggest to the Bill of Rights?

3.)  What new questions have been generated from your research?

4.)  What could be improved in the Webquest activity?
 

Conclusion

The struggle to protect the rights of the mentally ill is a difficult task. Clinicians need to protect the client and the public, but in doing so, they often marginalize the civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The challenge of maintaining the level of care needed to provide effective treatment is often compromised by the need to respect patient rights.

 

The issue is further complicated by the task of assigning diagnostic labels to patients with mental illness. Despite the stigma of certain labels, they do provide a valuable service in the treatment strategy of clients. Although the struggle is not easy to resolve, the questions we ask and the research we conduct, help to frame important questions that are necessary to progress the industry of psychology and to protect the best interest of clients.