Friday, 11 January 2013

Flying Stress: The reclassification of mental disorders in the Royal Air Force, 1941-2

Dear readers

First of all, I would like to thank you for your patience with me.  The sudden passing of my father has hit me like a ton of bricks and it is going to take me a long time to recover.  I am currently hurtling down the West Coast Mainline at 120 mph, courtesy of Virgin Trains, and I thought I would share the details of a conference that I will be attending in a couple of months time.

I am presenting at the British Psychological Society, History and Philosophy of Psychology Section Annual Conference, which is on the topic of 'DSM:  The History, Theory, and Politics of Diagnosis'.  This will be held at the University of Surrey, Guildford, between Monday 25th and Wednesday 27th of March.  According to the section, 2013 marks the 40-year anniversary of the vote by the members of the American Psychiatric Association (commonly referred to as the APA) to remove 'homosexuality' from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) and the publication of a new volume.  The conference not only marks this landmark event but also reflects upon the internal politics that shaped diagnoses, the classification of mental disorders, and the theories that underpinned the mental sciences in history.  I am particularly excited about this conference, as it is my first external conference (outside of Oxford) and there is a chance for me to submit my paper for the Section's peer reviewed journal.

My paper encompasses all of the conference's emphases.  History, theory, and politics are examined extensively within my paper, which critically assesses the reclassification of mental disorders in the RAF during the Second World War.  Below is my abstract, which on reflection, could have been written a lot better.  I welcome your constructive feedback:

Flying Stress:
The reclassification of mental disorders in the Royal Air Force, 1941-2

The definition and classification of mental disorders was an issue of central importance to neuropsychiatrists working in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War.  These accomplished specialists believed that classifications should be specific, informed by rigorous research, and should reflect the image of an advancing scientific profession.  This paper will examine a disorder, ‘flying stress’, which did not meet their exacting standards.  It will critically assess the process by which this disorder was redefined and reclassified during the period 1941-2.  The objections of neuropsychiatrists to the use of the term flying stress will be examined, including problems created by multiple medical definitions, similarities to other mental disorders, matters of professional standing, and non-adherence to official policy recommendations.  The paper will show that the process of redefinition was defined by the concerns of RAF senior officers and intense inter-disciplinary research.  Finally, it will consider the impact that the reclassification of mental disorders had on the practice of neuropsychiatry by examining post-removal terminology and the education of medical officers.  This process also had a broader significance:  neuropsychiatrists had effectively transformed categories of mental disorders, demonstrating that they held administrative control within their branch of the RAF Medical Service.

I hope you find this abstract interesting and I also welcome a debate about the classification of mental disorders in the twentieth century, whether in military or civilian settings.

I wish you all a belated Happy New Year.


No comments:

Post a Comment