Oct 24th 2016

The Social Context of Mental Health and Illness (Coursera)

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Learn how social factors promote mental health, influence the onset and course of mental illness, and affect how mental illnesses are diagnosed and treated.

This course explores how our understanding of mental health and illness has been influenced by social attitudes and social developments in North America and around the world. The course begins by situating our contemporary mental health practices in historical context, then looks at different aspects of mental health, mental illness and mental health services and their connections to what’s going on in our social environment.

Mental health and mental illness used to be something that people didn’t talk about, but now it seems every time we open a newspaper we are hearing about the importance of mental health, or the consequences of mental illness. At this point in our history we understand mental illness and mental health to be largely influenced by biological factors, specifically, workings of the brain. At the same time, we have always known that social factors play a very strong role in promoting mental health and can make big differences in who gets mentally ill, who gets treated for mental illness, and how people can achieve good quality of life after a mental health diagnosis.

This course is an opportunity to explore how social practices and ideas contribute to the ways in which society, families and individuals are affected by mental health and mental illness. We will look at issues like why some people think mental illness is a myth, how people think about mental health and illness in different cultures, who gets mentally ill and why, how families are affected by mental illness and what interventions are available to treat mental illness and promote mental health.



Welcome and A Brief History of Madness

We begin with a quick orientation to the course and continue with our first lecture topic: A brief history of madness.

Graded: Commentary


What is mental health and what causes mental illness?


The social context of diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses

Graded: Personal Reflection


Culture, mental health and mental illness


Families, caregiving and mental illness


society, communities and mental health

Graded: Final Assignment

Suggested Readings:
Mental Health Social Work Practice in Canada
Mad Travelers: Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illnesses
A Sociology of Mental Health and Illness
Mental Health, Race and Culture