Sociology and Mental Health

Write an 8-10 page paper (not including the title and reference pages) that addresses these four areas:

Giving specific reference to our reading material for the week, define in your own words the sociological viewpoint toward mental health in society.
Based upon your own independent research, cite at least three separate articles that demonstrate the difference between a sociological viewpoint toward mental health and a strictly clinical viewpoint.
In offering a critique of the clinical viewpoint toward mental health, please explain the rise and impact of the pharmaceutical industry in the United States. For example, has this industry influenced the rates of mental health diagnoses and treatment? Has it helped shape whether or not we think our emotional distress might necessitate psychiatric treatment?
Provide at least three important examples in which the “feeling rules” for women and men are different. Next, explain how differences in these feeling rules may result in the diagnosis of a mental illness for one gender, but not the other.
Evaluate whether or not the increase in the use of psychiatric medications is beneficial, neutral, or detrimental to society. Please ground this evaluation in a sociological perspective.
The sociology mental health examines our approach to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses as extensions of culture and social structure. In order to supplement medically-based, neurological explanations for our emotional experiences sociologists account for these social conditions in determining the existence of mental illnesses. The below assignment asks you to adopt the sociological perspective in your analysis of mental health in society.

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This week focuses upon the sociological conversation about mental illness and mental health in society. As we will see, this is a meaningful extension of our previous conversations concerning medicalization, which emphasizes the way that human troubles become recast in medical terms, and therefore legitimize medicine in treating an increasingly wider range of the human experience. The sociological analysis of mental illness is particularly important in this regard because it emphasizes the way that cultural scripts, and the pressure to conform to “feeling rules,” places pressure upon people to interpret their own emotional discomfort in a pathological way.

We need to address the influence of “feeling rules,” which are typically unspoken proscriptions about the allowable range of emotions, given a particular situation in society. A variety of social science perspectives have taught us that these rules are by no means uniform across cultures. The process by which an individual expresses grief, for example, in northern Africa is demonstrably different than the way that an individual expresses grief in, say, the United Kingdom. Hence, the standards of what constitutes a normal range of emotions is contingent upon a particular historical and cultural context. This is where an important critique of modern mental health practice comes into play.




Sociology tends to look at our definitions of mental health as extensions of our relationship to the variety of conversations that define the boundaries of normal and abnormal mental states. For example, how do we go about defining whether or not someone’s experience of grief falls outside those normal, allowable boundaries? Further, if the mental health apparatus substantiates that an emotional condition is part of a neurological ailment or chemical imbalance, why would the standards of emotional experience vary so widely across cultures? These and other questions are crucial in understanding the sociological perspective toward mental health and mental illness.

Sociology has been particularly interested in the fairly recent phenomenon of the widespread use of psychotropic medications that are used to mitigate one’s emotional experiences. For example, prior to the early 1990s, prescribing medication for clinical depression was relatively uncommon. Such medications, which included lithium, were prescribed under strict guidelines: an individual who was physically incapacitated by the depression, perhaps inclined to self harm, or requiring hospitalization. Fast forward 30 years, and we have entered the era of “cosmetic psychopharmacology,” in which a whole host of cognitive and emotional discomforts are treated through medications such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and so forth. Today, approximately 12.7% of all US residents above the age of 12 are taking some type of antidepressant medication.

The sociology of mental health takes particular interest in the way that mental health conditions fall along gendered lines. Referring to the previous statistic about antidepressant use, it is very important to note that the rate of antidepressant use among women is approximately two times that of men. From a strictly neurological viewpoint we may contend that women have different brain chemistry, and therefore a physiological propensity to depression, but this is not borne out by the current understandings of male-female brain behavior. Indeed, from a sociological angle, we examine how the experiences of women are qualitatively different than that of man, and place women in unique positions of emotional and mental distress. Hence, the disproportionate use of antidepressants in women illustrates underpinning inequities in our social system.

This same reasoning also applies to the disproportionate use of stimulant medications among boys and men. Among school-aged children who are prescribed a stimulant medication, approximately 90% of them are boys. Again, we may entertain neurological arguments about brain behavior differences, but utilizing a sociological perspective, we can argue that the disproportionate use of stimulant medications among boys is an example of social control that has increasingly targeted “typical” boy behavior– impulsivity, inattentiveness, and general disruptiveness.

In sum, the sociology of mental health examines our approach to the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions as extensions of cultural scripts and social structure. Although there is certainly merit to medically-based, neurological explanations for our emotional experiences, it is crucial that we account for these social conditions in evaluating the existence and intensity of, mental illnesses.

These are the book names

The evolving understanding of recovery: What does the sociology of mental health have to offer?
A Handbook of Medical Hypnosis (Fourth Edition)
Handbook of Medical Sociology. Vol. 6th ed, Chapter 17
Psyche, soma, and science studies: new directions in the sociology of mental health and illness
A tale of mental illness

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