Psychology Ball courts controversy with Split Personality theme.

The UCC Psychology Society has recently come under criticism for the theme of their end-of-the-year ball, the “Split Personality” Psychology Ball.

Aoife Spengeman, the auditor, issued the following statement: “It has recently been brought to the attention of the Psychology Society that our theme may have caused offence. We want to extend apologies to any student who may have taken offence to the ball’s theme. We emphasize that the theme is ENTIRELY unrelated to any form of mental illness or disorder. The theme is about embracing the good and bad in all of us.”

According to the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the standard text for classifying mental disorders, there is no such condition as Split Personality Disorder. This condition, portrayed in movies and television as someone who has more than one “person” existing in the same body, is a fictional disorder based on several items from existing conditions. A more accurate term found in the DSM-IV for a similar condition is Dissociative Identity Disorder, which includes the following symptoms: multiple mannerisms, attitudes and beliefs which are not similar to each other, auditory of the personalities inside their mind, paranoia, etc. Even DID has come under scientific criticism by several psychology journals, saying that this disorder is over-diagnosed, and even may not be valid.

Other disorders that are commonly mistaken for the fictional “split personality disorder” include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Schizophrenia is a broad condition that includes symptoms such as disorganized thinking and speaking, auditory hallucinations, paranoia, and inappropriate emotions or reactions. Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, describes someone who suffers from both periods of acute depression followed by a “manic” period of increased levels of activity and mood.

Seeing as there is no such thing as split personality disorder, is it still right for the society to make light of those suffering from mental disorders? The Psychology Society thinks so, as their overall point was misconstrued. They say that the theme of their ball was to have fun with the light and dark within us all, and not to stigmatize anyone with mental disorders at all.

John McCarthy, founder of “Mad Pride Ireland,” an association dedicated to the destigmatization of mental disorders (“ the right to celebrate the normality of madness”), had this comment to make regarding the theme of UCC’s ball: “Being gay in the 60′s was a listed ‘mental illness’ and a ‘mental disorder.’ No wonder we are fighting such an uphill battle around ‘stigma’ when we have people who… believe in this educated ignorance re: ‘the normality of madness.’ The best weapon we have in the face of educated ignorance is humor. Please invite me to your Split-Personality Ball, but we must chat re: a costume.”

As it stands, the Psychology Society is set to keep the theme for their ball, but will include pamphlets containing information about mental illness.

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