Sociology | Mental Illness
S324 | 3767 | Jackson


This course is a survey of theories and research in the sociology of
mental health and disorder.  The course will emphasize how
sociologists view mental disorder, the causes of mental disorder, and
the social and institutional responses to the mentally ill.

The course is divided into three major segments.  The first section
of the course will focus on two questions: 1) What is mental disorder
and 2) What does it mean to be mentally healthy?  In this section, we
will focus on types of mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, mood
disorders) and the classification process (the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-III).  We will then
examine the role of social factors in the onset, course, and outcome
of mental disorders and investigate how the conceptualization of what
constitutes mental disorder varies both historically and cross-

In the second section, we address the deinstitutionalization of the
mentally ill during the 1960's and 1970's, the consequences of
deinstitutionalization for both the mentally ill and society as a
whole, and possible solutions to the present problems vexing the
mental health system in the United States.  This section also focuses
on comparing and contrasting medical and social models of mental
disorder and demonstrating that these models have different
implications for the treatment and policies targeted at mental
disorder.  We will conclude this section with a focus on mental
health services, with special attention to patterns of help-seeking
behavior, treatment techniques, barriers to effective treatment, and
the role of public policy in shaping the treatment environment.

The final section examines mental disorders and the law.  We will
focus on the insanity defense and, in particular, the trial of John
W. Hinckley, Jr.  We also read and discuss the novel “Guilty, By
Reason of Insanity.”

The primary goal of this course is to see mental disorder as a social
phenomenon, not just as a medical or psychological problem.
Specifically, this means that mental disorder is seen as a
consequence of interpersonal, institutional, and cultural factors,
not just the troubles of specific individuals.  Toward this end, we
will locate mental disorder within a social context, examine the
theories and conceptions of mental health and disorder with a
critical eye, and assess how mental disorder is constructed by
various groups and larger social institutions.  The goals of this
course will be pursued through discussion in class of lectures and
assigned readings, organized classroom discussion, and film (which
include a cultural-comparative component).