Social Institutions Mental Illness The symptoms and origins of a mental illness can be as varied as those of a physical illness. In the West, hearing voices or hallucinating are generally viewed as symptoms of a mental illness, such as schizophrenia. In other societies, these symptoms might instead indicate a religious experience, and the afflicted individual may not be seen as mentally ill. Instead, he or she could be viewed as enlightened or special in a positive way. Scientific Medicine What Americans consider “medical treatment” is actually a fairly new approach to health care. Before the nineteenth century, any number of people might be called upon to treat a sick person: herbalists, druggists, midwives, even barbers (in the middle ages, barbers became skilled at bloodletting). Today, most Americans seek medical treatment from trained, certified medical doctors who focus on treating their particular illnesses and symptoms. This modern, scientific medical practice has been remarkably effective at saving people’s lives. Women and children in
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