A Sociology of Mental Health and Illness

A Sociology of Mental Health and Illness

A Sociology of Mental Health and Illness

A Sociology of Mental Health and Illness


A vital text for studying the effects of mental health and illness on a society

This bestselling textbook provides a clear overview of the major aspects of the sociology of mental health and illness. In this new edition, the authors update each chapter, taking into consideration recent social science and social psychiatric literature.


Our first preface in 1993 emphasized that this book was A, not, The Sociology of Mental Health and Illness. Today, more than ever, it is quite a risk to write 'The Sociology' of anything. Moreover, as the wide-ranging references listed at the end of the book indicate, we continue to draw our material from sociology but also many other sources, including psychology and psychiatry. Sociological analyses of our topic are not offered only by sociologists. Since the previous edition was published in 1999, good examples of this point from other disciplines have appeared, including Richard Bentall's Madness Explained (2003) and Christopher Dowrick's Beyond Depression (2004) (from psychology and medicine respectively). Both of these provide illuminating ways of exploring psychological abnormality in its social context by emphasizing historical analysis and a close attention to the meaning of the personal accounts of people with mental health problems.

Our development of sociological reasoning is helped by the examination and incorporation of work in these other disciplines. Sometimes this involves using the empirical findings of their studies to build up an argument. Sometimes it is about applying a sociological approach to their production. A further complication is that some sociologists now co-author their work with collaborators from other disciplines and this joint work may appear in nonsociology journals. Although disciplinary silos are still often jealously protected in the academy, research in an applied and broad area like mental health invariably leads to a range of inter-disciplinary outcomes.

As a consequence of these considerations, we cannot write a sociology book which only refers to sociology titles (or if we did the product would be much the poorer). However, this broad engagement with our topic means that boundary lines have to be drawn at times. For example, our partial and partisan summary of the field means that we focus on some native concerns in detail. This is exemplified in the chapter on race in which we overwhelmingly dwell on the post-colonial British picture, although in many other chapters the material would be relevant to any Anglophone audience.

We wrote the first edition of the book at the end of the 1980s when sociological debates about mental health and psychiatry were not as salient as they . . .

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