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Nobody's Normal: The Stigma of Mental Illness with Roy Richard Grinker

  • Broadcast in Psychology
A Fine Time for Healing

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Approximately twenty percent of all American adults—around 60 million people—live with a mental illness. But due to the lingering legacy of shame and secrecy around mental health, sixty percent of them receive no treatment.

In today's special guest, Roy Richard Grinker's book, Nobody's Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness, anthropologist and professor Roy chronicles the progress and setbacks in the struggle against stigma, from the 18th century through America’s major wars and into today’s high-tech economy In this uplifting book, infused with poignant human-interest stories, he shows us that in the 21st century we are finally getting closer to ending the discrimination, fear, and marginalization that has long impeded the social and therapeutic supports that reduce suffering.

During the Industrial Revolution, those who couldn’t work were banished to asylums; the Kennedy family lobotomized a daughter that didn’t fit their patrician ideals; and in the 1960s, autism was thought to be the result of bad parenting. Drawing on cutting-edge science, historical archives, his own research on neurodiversity, and cross-cultural studies in Africa and Asia, Grinker explores how our past failures have shaped the present. The book’s eye-opening narrative is interwoven with Grinker’s personal history: his family’s four generations of involvement in psychiatry include his great grandfather, a scientist who believed mental illness was a sign of biological inferiority; his grandfather, a patient of Freud; and his daughter’s experience with autism, about which he wrote UNSTRANGE MINDS: Remapping the World of Autism.

Roy Richard Grinker is Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at the George Washington University. He is the author of several books, including Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism. He lives in Washington, D.C.