Neal Shusterman successfully manages to give an account of an illness known as schizophrenia through his novel Challenge Deep. The story not only gives an account of what it is to suffer from schizophrenia, but it also goes ahead to define the effects the illness has on the victim with regards to the victim's relationship with his family friends and the larger society. Challenger Deep follows the life of Caden Bosch while he slips into the deepest pit of cerebral ailment. Neal Shusterman does not stop at the mental infection; he also gives an account of how Caden recovers from the illness. Numerous portions of the novel are given in a metaphoric form. People, locations and creatures in Caden's hallucinations as a result of the mental illness resemble people in real life scenario. For instance, the Captain coaxes Caden to go for an expedition. Caden's acceptance to be part of the voyage signifies the commencement and progression of the mental illness. The expedition is heading to Challenger Deep; the point with the lowest altitude below sea level on earth. This location is an illustration of the separation caused by the mental illness to a victim. Caden's behavior as he descends the slope of schizophrenia separates him from his friends as he gets condemned for attributes he is not in a position to regulate. Eventually, Caden gets separated from his peers and family when his parents take him to the Memorial Hospital at Seaview. Dr. Poirot manages to successfully treat Caden. Though he is treated, Caden has one more challenge to overcome. He has to fight the battle of stigmatization; he has to find his way back from the Challenger Deep. There are various forms of stigmatization posed by Caden's friends as a result of his condition. This paper seeks to evaluate how Neal Shusterman's novel Challenger Deep serves to destigmatize mental illness.
Spagnolo, Murphy and Librera's article are Reducing Stigma by Meeting and Learning from people with Mental Illness documents the impact of communal education plans on high school students' attitude towards mental health. The study reveals that sharing recovery stories, providing accurate information about recovery from mental illness, and assuring people of total recovery from mental illness are among how stigmatization can be reduced (Spagnolo et al., 191). After giving a presentation on mental illness, a positive response was attained from the respondents. Lack of knowledge on mental illness makes Max refer to Caden's hallucinations as 'freaky crap' (Shusterman 89). This shows Max's lack of knowledge about Caden's state of mental health. The research also showed that gaining knowledge of mental illness made the respondents to have a different view on people with the cerebral ailment. Max and Shelby lacked this piece of knowledge. Max completely shunned Caden from his life while Shelby changed the manner in which she interacted with Caden (Shusterman 99). During a conversation, Shelby says "I know these things. My brother started getting drunk in tenth grade" (Shusterman 99). She alluded Caden's behavior to adverse effects of alcoholism yet that was not the case. Max and Shelby lack the correct discernment of Caden's situation. Their lack of knowledge adversely affects the way they interact with Caden. Stigmatization thus sets in because they do not have a clue on dealing with Caden's situation.
Firmin et al. provide a conceptual model on Stigma resistance at a Personal, Peer and Public Levels. The article gives three conceptual models that can be applied to resist stigma. According to Firmin and her counterparts, resisting stigma begins at an individual stage before spreading to the peer and public levels. The onset of resisting stigma begins with a personal conviction. A person living with mental illness has to resist personal stigma by growing a noble identification on his identity and drive other than his mental condition, maintaining the recovery spirit, learning about his mental condition to gain empowerment and enhance recovery, as well as, countering stigma thoughts (Firmin et al. 187). After his treatment, Caden is released back to the community, to his family and his friends. He has lost too much time during his treatment. This is the first area of personal stigmatization that he has to conquer after recovery. In addition to this, Caden has several other encounters with the Captain in the form of hallucinations. Symbolically this is an illustration of Caden's probability to fall back into schizophrenia if he is not strong enough to fight the inner enemy. He is however strong enough to resist the notion of mental ailment that keeps lingering in his mind. Caden's journey to recovery will also depend on how his family, friends and the society at large desist from stigmatization. During the initial stages of Caden's ailment, it is evident that the people around him have no idea of his mental condition. This resulted in stigmatization. As a person who experienced the adverse effects of a mental condition, Caden should come out boldly and help fellow teens to cope with this condition.
Destigmatization of the mental condition in Shusterman's perspective
Firmin et al. provide forms through which individuals, peers, and the community can resist the cerebral sickness stigma. Through these different forms of developing resistance towards mental condition stigma, three forms of stigma are defined. The first form of stigma is that exercised by an individual towards his self. Mental conditions may take different forms. While some may take time to develop, others may be abrupt. Caden's case presents a mental disorder that progressively advances. His voyage with the captain to the Challenger deep is symbolic of the development of the disorder. At one point, Caden has a good intrapersonal and interpersonal relationship. This does not continue for long after the onset of the ailment. The social gap between him and his senses begins to widen progressively.
Caden's interaction with several people shows his state of denial. His unwillingness to accept and cope with the mental condition. Caden achieves this by keeping his state as a secret to the eyes of other people. When questioned by his friends, parents, and teachers he exhibits an unwillingness to open up. Caden's unwillingness to open up makes it hard for other people to assist him. It also makes other people term his condition as odd. Chapter forty-three presents Caden's interaction with Mrs. Sassel, the school counselor. Caden is summoned to see a counselor for tackling a science examination like an art examination. According to Mrs. Sassel, Caden's conduct is "Historically not like him" (Shusterman 99). Caden contradicts Mrs. Sassel's allegations by questioning her thoughts. "Let's go to the point. You think I'm on drugs" (Shusterman 99). Mrs. Sassel's attempt to rescue Caden from his condition does not yield any substantial fruits. While Mrs. Sassel is trying her best to define the problem and a probable solution, Caden is working harder to hide his condition. Caden goes to the extent of lying that he "experienced a bad day and resolved to tackle it through the examination" (Shusterman 78). It is a common trend for students to give harsh responses to the counselors during interactive sessions. By being harsh and violent, Caden manages to camouflage in his responses which resemble answers that are given by other students. At some point, he openly tells Mrs.Sassel that he is "not that stupid historically" (Shusterman 78).
The thirty-first chapter gives an account of Caden's interaction with his mother. Caden deeply sinks into his imaginations. He thinks of termites attacking his house then deflects to think of drawing bugs emanating from his head. Hidden to him, his mother has been observing him through all this entire period. His mother talks of giving Caden "a penny for his thoughts" (Shusterman 51). Caden sarcastic responds to her mother by questioning whether that was the worth of his thoughts. He also proposes that they should establish the time in which this expression was posited to "fine-tune it for inflation" (Shusterman 52). In essence, Caden gives these ironic responses to put her mother off. He has specialized in avoiding an interpersonal relationship as a result self-stigmatization.
Caden also isolates himself from strangers. In one scenario, he goes for a walk only to begin imagining that there is a worm in his stomach. According to Caden's perception, this worm is eating him up. He lies down prostrate and begins to cry. A woman passing by comes to his rescue and tries to ask if there was a person she could reach out to for help. To her amazement, Caden turns down the assistance. He gets up and holds that "he is okay" (Shusterman 121). By doing this Caden manages to keep the woman from getting closer to his troubles. In Caden's mind, the first source of help would be his parents. Allowing his parents to find him in this condition would prove that he is unwell. That is the last thing that Caden wants to happen. He would rather suffer solely. In the event his parents discovered the cause of his suffering, they would resolve to seek medical attention for their kid. Caden is not comfortable with that. In the event he gets diagnosed, the results will establish that he has a mental condition. The public will soon know his mental state. Due to the fear of further stigmatization, Caden successfully manages to build stigmatization from within herself.
The second form of stigma in Shusterman's Challenger Deep is peer stigma. Peer stigma takes two forms in this context. The first form is the stigma from his friend while the second form is stigma from his parents. In the family perspective, Caden's parents are ignorant of their kid's condition in various ways. When Caden experiences anxiety, his parents simply dismiss his feelings with baseless claims. In their perception, their son's anxiety is nothing more than a mere feeling. In one instance, while on their family vacation in Las Vegas, Caden's parents are annoyed at her condition. They tell Caden to "get over his social anxiety" (Shusterman 34). To Caden's parents, their son's attitude is caused by interacting with the unusual social context. The solution they offeror this condition is for Caden to to eat or sleep. His mother recommends that "he needs to eat" while his father recommends that "he needs to take a nap" (Shusterman 34). Despite spending most of their time with Caden, his parents are unable to unmask the puzzle in Caden's head. They sideline his experiences. The manner in which Caden's parents address him illustrates accusatory statements which leave him with no better option than to feel guilty. The accusations make him guilty of a mistake he has not committed or for the thing he lacks grip over. In another instance, Caden has the illusion of a kid who wants to end his life in school. He shares this delusion with his father. Unfortunately, his father's reaction shows anger. He tells Caden to "talk about the feelings he is having" (Shusterman 95). Again, Caden's father manages to refer to Caden's imaginations as feelings. His father is ignorant of the condition affecting his son. He only thinks that his son has feelings while that is not the actual case.
Caden's friends also begin to tear away from his life as Caden's status continues to worsen. During the preparation for their project, Caden began telling Max weird stuff. Max could no understand what his friend was up to. Caden's "freaky crap" makes him leave the house scarily. He leaves by moving backward as "though there is a dog that might bite" (Shusterman 78). Max perceives Caden's illusion as scary. In his acuity, he only sees violence. Though backing out may ensure his safety, his leaving also widens the gap of friendship between Caden and him. He does not seek to...
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