Sociology; The sociological study of mental illness.

This is for the 'health and illness' syllabus

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  • Created by: Sam Hill
  • Created on: 17-05-09 10:51

The sociological study of mental illness; The biom

A normal definition of mental illness is someone who is acts abnormally, however attitudes to abnormal behaviour may change in societies and over time.

In the past, people with mental illness were dealt with with drastic measures, e.g. drill a hole to release a spirit. Then asylums were formed to keep this people away from society, however it has only just become humane through the medical/psychiatric approach.

This approach has become the dominant one, and sees it as a real illness which needs to be treated, often caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, however it is questioned whether these people are taken medication for something that isn't there.

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The sociological study of mental illness; The labe

The labelling perspective on mental illness differs from the medical method, because it believes mental illness is a social construct, and sees certain jobs (doctors etc.) as having a negative identity on society by giving them this label.

They believe labels are often given for something that isn't always there, for example clinical depression, when in fact we are just a bit lonely, and ADHD, which isn't real and is just a social construct. Once a label has given, it will become harder to shake off the more severe the illness according to society,, e.g. an asylum very hard to shake off.

Obvious criticism is that mental illness is a real illness that affects a number of people, and also that it is caused by social factors like poverty.

Spurious interaction - when you don't listen to another person because you don't believe what they are saying.

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The sociological study of mental illness; Mental i

Some sociologists argue that mental illness is solely a cause of social conditions, e.g. women suffer depression more through the triple shift.

Rates of mental illness vary according to;

  • Gender; Women are more likely to be diagnosed, especially depression and anxiety, however some argue men suffer in silence more. Feminists argue again, saying they will suffer more through the pressure of being a woman.
  • Ethnicity; Afro-Caribbeans are more likely to be mentally ill, linked to under-acheivment in school and unemployment. However, they are more likely to be detained and come in contact with the police, agreeing with the labelling theory.
  • Social class - Poorer people are more likely to be diagnosed, arguing the lack of job opportunities lead to stress, depression and then mental illness.
  • Age - Elders are more likely to be labelled when they are healthy, leading to spurious interaction from doctors and family. Elders then accept it, leading them to actually suffer from mental illness.
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