Psychiatric Power and the Limits of Biomedical Diagnosis

  • Philip Browning Helsel
Part of the New Approaches to Religion and Power book series (NARP)


In one of the pastoral care classes during my seminary training, we were discussing the possibility that mental illness may not exist, but may simply be the culture’s projection of normality on a person, when my professor responded, “Yet, if you see someone with a mental illness, you just know [that they’re sick].” This response did not set well with me, but I began to wonder about what kind of world this comment might imply. Did everyone have this power of definition equally? Those who were able to determine mental illness exercise the power of normative judgment.


Mental Health Mental Illness Mental Health Care Mental Distress Mental Hospital 
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© Philip Browning Helsel 2015

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  • Philip Browning Helsel

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