Sociology | Mental Illness
S324 | 0581 | Jackson


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

This course is divided into four major segments.  The first section
of this course will focus on two questions: 1) What is mental
illness and 2) What does it mean to be mentally healthy? In this
section, we will focus on types of mental illness (e.g.,
schizophrenia, mood disorders) and the classification process (the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM).  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 illness varies both
historically and cross-culturally.

In the second section, we will investigate the dominant theoretical
perspectives in the field.  This section focuses on comparing and
contrasting medical and social models of mental illness and
demonstrating that these models have different implications for the
treatment and policies targeted at mental illness.

The third section addresses 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.  We will focus on mental
health services, with special attention to patterns of help-seeking
behavior, treatment techniques, and barriers to effective treatment.

The final section examines mental illness and the law.  We will
focus on the insanity defense, and in particular, two books: “Guilty
By Reason of Insanity” and “The Trial of John W.  Hinckley,Jr.”.

The primary goal of this course is to see mental illness as a social
phenomenon not just as a medical or psychological problem.
Specifically, this means that mental illness 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 illness within a social context,
examine the theories and conceptions of mental health and illness
with a critical eye, and assess how mental illness 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).