The Lower Ground

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How do we know when common societal stereotypes are false?

Quick, what comes to mind when you hear the word “schizophrenic”?  If you’re like most people, you’ll probably conjure up shadowy visions of multiple personalities or violent criminals. You certainly wouldn’t think of an award-winning law professor with an endowed chair and her own institute (“Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics”).

But you’d be wrong on both counts.  

Excerpt from the TOK clip Stereotypes of Mental Illness featuring Prof. Elyn Saks

Before she published her bestselling memoir, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, USC law professor Elyn Saks was recommended by one of her friends to publish it under a pseudonym.  “Do you want to become forever known as ‘the schizophrenic with a job‘?”, her friend probed her.   

Elyn did, eventually, reject the advice, opting to publish the book under her real name.  Her reasoning, she told me, was simply, “I could never write anything that could possibly be more helpful to other people than telling my story, and it was worth the risk.”

When all was said and done, her decision was clearly the right one.  But it’s important to remember that the risk was real.  

And it shouldn’t have been. 

Related Ideas Roadshow IBDP resources include Ideas Roadshow’s TOK Connections Guide for Geography, TOK Connections Guide for SCA, TOK Connections Guide for Psychology, the video clips Stereotypes of Mental Illness (TOK) and Mental Illness and Autonomy (TOK). 


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