By its very nature, mental distress may be a profoundly confusing and frightening experience, both for those going through it, and for those close to them within their social and professional networks. Part of the attraction of the biomedical model has been that it seemsto provide answers, meanings and certainties. However, for many people, it does not always provide the most helpful 'pegs' on which to hang their experience.
As a result, a range of more socially oriented viewpoints and knowledge bases have emerged, both from practitioners and academics from a variety of mental health disciplines, and from service users, family members and other allies. While medical technologies may make a valuable contribution in enabling people to manage specific vulnerabilities and reactions to stress, it is increasingly being recognised that mental health promotion, crisis resolution and longer-term action to support recovery may need to be underpinned more explicitly by social perspectives.
However, although there may be a groundswell of interest in social perspectives, what has not so far happened is for the various strands of alternative 'social' thinking to be brought together as a coherent model, or set of perspectives, in its own right – one that can, in its own way, be as influential on policy and practice as is the medical model.
This book brings together a range of social perspectives that may be useful in understanding mental distress and the social and personal issues that may connect with it. It is important to develop a repertoire of concepts and models that may help to move us beyond the territory of just treating symptoms, and may be useful in giving meaning to experience, and in enabling and supporting recovery.