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Why Might Sociologists Be Interested in how People Experience Mental Illness - Essay Example

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For a long time, mental health topic has been attracting a lot of interest from sociologists. Emile Durkheim, who is regarded as the father of modern sociology made one of the first attempts to interrogate the relationship between human behavior and mental health in the late 19th century. …
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Why Might Sociologists Be Interested in how People Experience Mental Illness
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Download file to see previous pages Since then, the field of mental health has expanded into many categories including the various types of mental disorders, their causative factors, treatment and rehabilitation of mental patients. This paper examines the fundamental reasons why sociologists are interested in people with mental disorders. In particular, it examines sick role and labeling sociological approaches to mental illness to evaluate how sociologists apply them to understand mental illness from a sociological perspective. Mental illness and biomedical model Psychiatrists and other mental professionals apply various diagnostic methods in treatment, and management of mental illnesses. These medical approaches have various similarities and differences from sociological perspective. Medical model that is widely applied by psychiatrists and psychologists considers illnesses as malfunctioning of internal health determinants in the body (Albretch, et al 2003). This implies that health is determined by discrete biological and psychological components that determine whether an individual is normal or healthy. To restore health, the medical model emphasizes on the need to indentify and treat the specific causative factors within the body (Mulatu, et al 2002). Psychiatry, a branch of medicine that deals with mental disorders is founded on scientific logic that emphasizes on biological reasoning. This reasoning maintains the existence of discrete boundary that differentiates normal from abnormal behavior as far as mental health is concerned (Albretch, et al 2003). In this case, the medical model holds that mental disorders can be categorized and diagnosed into distinct ailments, by application of scientific logic. Sociological approaches to illness Sociological perspective on mental health holds that the environment or social situation of an individual determines mental health (Bird, Conrad, and Allen 2000). Sociologists have critically interrogated what constitutes to normal and abnormal behavior in regard to mental health. Durkheim (1951), asserted the importance of establishing parameters to differentiate normal mental health from mental disorders in order to establish harmony in the society. The criterion that differentiates the normal from diseased mental cases varies across different cultures or social groups depending on the values that the group holds. Durkheim (1951) argued that social control play a significant role in determining how the rules defining normal and abnormal mental health are applied. This implies that social values play a critical role in defining acceptable unacceptable behavior in the society. In this case, evaluating mental disorders from a deviance perspective is one of the major approaches applied by sociologists. Parsons (1951), one of the earliest medical sociologists to conceptualize disease as a form of deviance in the society argued that society comprises of various components that function systematically to ensure its stability and smooth running. According to Parson (1951: p62), disease in every social structure threatens social harmony because it undermines the ability of people to play their roles effectively. In this view, sociologists consider health as a state that enables a person perform his or her role in the society as an equal member. On the other hand, disease is regarded as a form of deviance that limits the ability of an individual to contribute effectively in the society. According to Parson (1951), illnesses causes withdrawal of motivation, resulting to reduced participation and subsequent low productivity in society. Parsons model of mental disorders, from which sick role was developed from attributes the fall in motivation to high expectations that expects young people in transition from ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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