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The Social Context of Mental Health and Illness

Learn how social factors promote mental health, influence the onset and course of mental illness, and affect how mental illnesses are diagnosed and treated.

Sessions

Course at a Glance

About the Course

Mental health and mental illness used to be something that people didn’t talk about, but now it seems every time we open a newspaper we are hearing about the importance of mental health, or the consequences of mental illness. At this point in our history we understand mental illness and mental health to be largely influenced by biological factors, specifically, workings of the brain. At the same time, we have always known that social factors play a very strong role in promoting mental health and can make big differences in who gets mentally ill, who gets treated for mental illness, and how people can achieve good quality of life after a mental health diagnosis.

This course is an opportunity to explore how social practices and ideas contribute to the ways in which society, families and individuals are affected by mental health and mental illness. We will look at issues like why some people think mental illness is a myth, how people think about mental health and illness in different cultures, who gets mentally ill and why, how families are affected by mental illness and what interventions are available to treat mental illness and promote mental health.

Course Syllabus

Week One: A brief history of madness 
Week Two: What is mental health and what causes mental illness?
Week Three: The social context of diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses
Week Four: Culture, mental health and mental illness
Week Five: Families, caregiving and mental illness
Week Six: Society, communities and mental health

Recommended Background

A basic background in introductory psychology is recommended.

Suggested Readings

Although the class is designed to be self-contained, students wanting to expand their knowledge beyond what we can cover in six weeks can find a much more extensive coverage of this topic in the books listed below. Please note: These books are not required for completion of the course.

Course Format

The class will consist of lecture videos, which are between 8 and 12 minutes in length. These contain 1-2 integrated quiz questions per video. There will also be standalone homework assignments that are not part of video lectures, and a final exam.

FAQ

  • Will I get a certificate after completing this class?

    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a certificate signed by the instructor.

  • What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?

    Mental health plays a role in every facet of life and if you know more about it, you can do more to keep yourself and the people you care about mentally healthy.