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Mental Health Labelling and Classification Systems

            "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." This quotation from the mouth of Juliet Capulet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is a prime example of the assumptions that society makes about labels. If something or someone is labelled a particular name, then those around them will expect the named object or person to have all of the characteristics - especially the bad - that accompany the stereotypical imagery of the label. Applying a label to something does not change the characteristics of the object being labelled, however it does change the expectations of others. " stereotypes, often embedded deep in our culture, have a tremendous influence over how we react to people around us." (Kliewer, p83) As such, labels and classifications are generally applied to objects and individuals believing that the label is an all-encompassing definition, giving no room for deviation from the stereotype that is associated with the label. This occurs with a rose, any other inanimate object that is expected to live up to the label associated with it. The same occurs with the labelling and classification of the behaviour of children and adolescents.
             There are a few advantages to classifying children and adolescents" behaviour, as will be outlined later in this piece. However, as will be shown, the advantages are outweighed by the detrimental effect labelling a child or adolescent based on behavioural characteristics can have on the individual in question.
             Classifying behaviour can be beneficial in that it can allow educators and the community to identify those children and adolescents who are eligible for specialised education and who would thrive and achieve more under specialised tuition suited to their needs. "In education particular attention is paid to labelling problems in human functioning with a view to doing something about such problems." (Adelman, p96) By being permitted and capable of identifying the special needs of children and adolescents, the policy makers and practitioners amongst communities are better equipped to make informed choices about the resources and regulations that dictate the education of the young individuals in question.

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