By Anne Rogers, David Pilgrim
A former BMA scientific booklet of the 12 months award winner, this booklet offers a sociological research of significant parts of psychological healthiness and illness.
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Additional info for A sociology of mental health and illness
The only aspects of the social this medical view leaves intact are the environmental factors, which might putatively contribute to the aetiology of illness. However, this stance is one reflection of a deeper problem for both medicine and sociology; the problem of mind/body dualism. Baker and Menken create a unity between mind and body by asserting the single centrality of the skin-encapsulated body out of which each and every form of human ill emerges. Radical social constructivism generates another unitary position by arguing instead that ‘everything is socially constructed’.
Social capital and mental health In many epidemiological studies there has been a tendency to treat the socio-economic status of individuals as a proxy for the social contexts in which they live (and vice versa). For example, we assume that poor people only live in poor areas and in poor areas there are only poor people. However, this can lead to the ‘ecological fallacy’ – the mistake of assuming that there are no individual class differences within specified localities. This fallacy may be particularly evident in large cities, such as London, containing many socially ‘mixed’ areas.
However, this argument may precariously be introducing another essentialist view of psychiatric disorder. Implying some self-evident and natural distinction between true mental illness and varieties of socially generated mental distress is akin to some older psychiatric classifications that distinguished mental illness from distressing environmental reactions (Fish 1968). From a critical realist perspective it is clearly the case that pressure groups and drug companies also do much to promote and maintain all diagnostic categories (Pilgrim 2007a); profit makes none of the distinctions considered or asserted by Horwitz.
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