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The University of Southampton

HMPR3007 A Social Science of Mental Health and Illness

Module Overview

The aim of this module is to use social science theory and concepts applied to mental health as a means to explore the bases of citizenship patient experience and the broader social, philosophical, psychological and organisational patterning of health care systems delivery and innovation. This module will be concerned with illuminating the contradictions and challenges in mental health service practices, in civil society's interest in mental health and in understanding in the rise and fall of different regimens of treatment organisation and management. There will be a focus on exploring the impact of inequalities (gender, social class, ethnicity, place) on the shape and configuration of mental health provision. We will consider the extent to which knowledge about patient experience and citizenship can feasibly become central tenants in the design delivery and analysis of modern health care systems nationally and internationally. Additionally, the module will examine the use of therapeutic lax, compulsory detention, admission and treatment. The extent to which the latter has pointed to an ever present threat to autonomy, individual freedom and the right to participate alongside equally to others in society will be considered with reference to the paradox of how at the same time the mental health field has spawned a thriving new social movement based on the experiences of patients which have been transformative of service delivery in Europe and elsewhere. Using mental health as a critical case will enable reflection and understanding of differences and similarities in health care policy and practice more generally. This module links to the modules in year one on social science, policy and health economies.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the different perspectives on mental health and illness and its management.
  • Demonstrate a historical and cross-cultural awareness of the histories and knowledge of mental health regimes of treatment.
  • Have an understanding of the impact of the social patterning an inequalities in mental health on the well being and life trajectories of men and women, people from different social and cultural groups and social circumstances.
  • Critically reflect on social sciences contribution to understanding the delivery and management of mental health services and interventions.
  • Apply knowledge to local, national and international mental health systems of care.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of structures and social forces that promote and inhibit citizenship and service user involvement in different mental health contexts.


Perspectives on mental health and illness: 1. Stigma and lay representations of mental health 2. Social class, capital, networks and mental health 3. Gender and mental health 4. Race, ethnicity and cross cultural 5. Lifecourse, aging and mental health 6. Mental health work and the professional labour force 7. The treatment of people with mental health problems 8. The organization of mental health work 9. Therapeutic lax and legal control 10. Prisons, Criminal Justice and Mental Health 11. Citizenship, patient experience and users of mental health services 12. Public mental health and pursuit of happiness

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The conduct of the module is informed by the following principles: • Learning through engagement with on and offline blended learning methods and interaction. • The utilisation of a variety of means of delivery and resources which can be tailored to individual problem identification and learning. • Co-learning through on-going and regular peer and mentor contact. In practice this means that lectures will be interactive and learning continued and translated through facilitated online discussion boards centred on a weekly topic, process of completing assignments, and curiosity driven learning. The course tutor will act as a facilitator of learning through the online discussions. Formative feedback from the tutor and student peers will be a key component of the learning environment to ensure that you can move forward in your learning. Seminars will be based on student generated topics relevant to the curriculum of the module and run around the principles of collective debate designed to reflect on the theoretical, philosophical, research and policy implications of the topic under discussion.

Follow-up work30
Preparation for scheduled sessions50
Wider reading or practice30
Completion of assessment task51
Total study time188

Resources & Reading list

Pilgrim, Rogers Pescosolido (2011). The SAGE Handbook of Mental Health and Illness. 

Albrecht, G., Walker, V. and Levy, J. (1982). Social distance from the stigmatized: a test of two theories. Social Science and Medicine. ,16 , pp. 1319–27.

Crossley N (2006). Contesting Psychiatry: Social Movements in Mental Health. Book Series: Critical Studies in Health and Society. , pp. 1-218.

Stein, J., Golding, J., Seigel, J. et al. (1988). Long term psychological sequelae of child sexual abuse: the Los Angeles epidemiologic catchment area study, in G.E. Wyatt and G.J. Powell (eds) Lasting Effects of Child Sexual Abuse. 

Stansfeld, S.A., Head, J., Fuhrer, R., Wardle, J. and Cattell, V. (2003). Social inequalities in depressive symptoms and physical functioning in the Whitehall II study: exploring a. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. ,57 , pp. 361–7.

Inpatients formally detained in hospitals under the Mental Health Act 1983 and patients subject to supervised community treatment, Annual figures.

Steadman, H.J., Mulvey, E.P., Monahan, J. et al. (1998). Violence by people discharged from acute psychiatric inpatient facilities and by others in the same neighbourhoods. Archives of General Psychiatry. ,55 , pp. 393–401.

Stein, L. (1957).  ‘Social class’ gradient in schizophrenia. British Journal of Preventative and Social Medicine. ,11 , pp. 181–95.


Stone, M. (1985). Shellshock and the psychologists, in W.F. Bynum, R. Porter and M.. The Anatomy of Madness. ,2 .

Stevenson, P. (1992). Evidence Cited in Report of the Committee of Inquiry Into Complaints About Ashworth Hospital. 

Sudbury, J. (2001). African-Caribbean interactions with mental health services in the UK: experiences and expectations of exclusion as (re)productive of health inequalities. Ethnic and Racial Studies. ,24(1) , pp. 29–49.

Aldridge, D. (1997). Suicide: The Tragedy of Hopelessness. 

wellbecoming blog.

Rogers A and Pilgrim D. A Sociology of mental health and illness.

Stansfeld, S; Head, J; Bartley, M; et al. (2008). Social position, early deprivation and the development of attachment. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. ,43 , pp. 516-526.

Routine Quarterly Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Dataset Reports Final Q1 summary statistics and related information.


Assessment Strategy

Referral Method Student must achieve a mean module pass rate. If this is not achieved the student will be required to repeat the failed assignment/s


MethodPercentage contribution
Research paper  (2000 words) 60%
Written critical appraisal  (1000 words) 40%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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