Select a vulnerable population sub-group and consider how social science contributes to understanding the social problems encountered by this group. The view of mental illness has changed over the centuries, as a supernatural problem, to an actual medical condition. Mental disorder is defined under the Mental Health Act 2007, as “any disorder or disability of the mind” (Rethink Mental Illness 2011). As stated by the Mind for Better Mental Health (2012) “mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain” .
This essay will examine, through the contribution of social science, whether people with mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety or schizophrenia are vulnerable in society. Vulnerable groups are those “that experience higher risk of poverty and social exclusion than the general population” (EU Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training 2002). This essay will begin with a brief explanation of the models of health and then explain how sociology theories view the mentally ill and the problems they face on a daily basis.
It will then look at how social science has assisted, to inform public health and the welfare provision in order for society to have better understanding of the mentally ill. Finally, it will look at how non-governmental organisations and governmental organisations participate to support the mentally ill. The medical model is the dominate model of health, which is accepted by doctors and psychiatrists. (Haralambos, Holborn and Heald, 2004). For those who accept this model have declared that organic and biomedical causes will be found in the long run for all mental disorders (Golightley 2008).
Furthermore, they view the disabled individual as the problem, who has to fit into society or otherwise must be shut away in institutions to be cured. Moreover, it is the professionals that have control over everyday decisions of the disabled individual, such as what benefits they can have , what support is available and if they are fit to work, However, the social model believes that institutions and the need to find cures for the disability is a huge problem.
The impairment should not be a priority but in fact the focus should be on how society causes the individual to be disabled (British Film Institute 2012). However, Thomas Sceff did not believe that mental illness existed. He claimed that mental illness was recognised entirely by the influences of society and to define someone as mentally ill is a practical way to handle behavior that people would foundnd disturbing (Haralambos ,Smith, Gorman and Heald 1997).
In addition, Goffman uses the term ‘spurious interaction’, this is when the mentally ill individual cannot remove the label in any tasks that is carried out. Therefore, the thoughts and opinions of a mentally ill person is viewed the same way of a child and an elderly person and are not equivalent to the ideas of a regular individual (Haralambos, Holborn and Heald, 2004). Philo et al. stated through his work with mental illness and stigma, found that 65% of media coverage in Scotland showed mentally ill people violent towards other people.
Then in another study , a group of people were shown violent images and found most of the group’s opinions were shaped by what they saw, regardless of those who had friends that were mentally ill and were not violent (Haralambos, Holborn and Heald,2004) According to Goffman (1960) stigma can do a lot of harm to an individual’s life Haralambos, Holborn and Heald, 2004). Stigma is defined ‘as a mark or a blemish that distinguishes and an individual from others, a handicap or failing’ (Multiple minority identities 2012, p,13).
He believes that ‘Mental illness was one of the most deeply discredit-ing and socially damaging of all stigmas’ (Stuart, 2008). Furthermore, Goffman believes that the person with mental illness begin with basic rights and close connections with people but then end up with little of both (Stuart, 2008). Moreover, Goffman disagrees with the way mental hospitals stigmatize patients through psychiatric diagnosis and treatment (Pilgrim, 2007). Bruce Link and colleagues came up with a modified labelling theory which was based on the work of Scheff.
There were a number of studies that were carried out, in 80s and the 90s , which showed that anticipating labelling can have a huge negative effect on mental health patients. They found that the patients did not want to interact with society, for the reason that they felt they would face discrimination and be rejected by society. This included employment and education, which further lowered their self-esteem and destroyed their quality of life (Aneshensel and Phelan 2006). Walter Grove challenged Scheff’s theory and was one of his major critics on his theory.
His reason for disagreeing with Scheff was that society was not the cause of mental disorders but their behavior was an impact on how they are perceived. He also claimed that there are some disorders, such as schizophrenia, which are genetically determined. Labelling theory does not explain why some people get mental disorders and others do not, even when they come from similar backgrounds and families. Grove also disagrees that people view mental illness in a negative way. He thinks family and friends are usually very supportive to those that are mentally ill (Harlambos , Holborn and Heald, 1997).
However, studies have shown alienation in mental illness is a huge problem. Marxists believed that the development of modern industry will cause tension and conflict. Furthermore, he uses the term alienation, which he believed are feelings of ‘indifference’ (Harlambos , Holborn and Heald, 1997). Mentally ill people are the most alienated group in society, which makes them vulnerable. One example of this is, in employment, as the jobs that are available to them tend to be the most alienating, unrewarding with no hope of progressing, such as ‘washing dishes’(Guimone, Fisher and Sartorius 1999).
Furthermore, alienation can also be seen is mental hospitals, this is a lot more common in patients that hospitalized for long periods of time, as they are isolated from society. Therefore, they are unable to do normal daily activities (Haralambos, Holborn and Heald, 2004). Social science has informed the public sector and the welfare provision on issues, such as social exclusion, in mental illness (Social Exclusion Unit 2004). Sociology is the study of social behavior, groups and the society (Giddens, 2006).
People that are at higher risk of mental illness are those that are socially excluded in society, this could be for a number of reasons, such as, unemployment or financial crises (Social Exclusion Unit, 2004). Furthermore, ‘economic inequalities are fundamental drivers of health and well-being’ (National Mental Health Development Unit,n. d p. 3) . Economic inequalities causes high stress and low social capital, which therefore, increases the chances of serious psychological problems.
Moreover, children experience 12% – 15% more mental illness in families with low income whereas only 5% in families with high income levels (National Mental Health Development Unit, n. d). The Black Report 1980 was ordered by the government to review the statistics on health inequalities, so policies then could be placed to help. There were four main explanations for the health inequalities in the UK (Giddens 2006). One of those was material explanation, which focused on material deprivation, such as low income, poor housing and hazards in the work places.
Additionally, these problems led to stress and depression, which further caused physical illnesses, such as heart disease (Haralambos, Holborn and Heald, 2004). However, the cultural explanation blamed the working class for responsible for their own bad health, as they had unhealthy diets, smoked, drank too much alcohol as well as not participate in healthy activities. There are also studies that show the mentally ill lead, unhealthy lifestyles, which cause further physical problems as well premature death. (Giddens 2006).
People with schizophrenia and bio polar disorder are more likely to live 25 years less than those without mental disorder, obesity is 1. 5-2 times high in schizophrenia as well as 2-3 times higher in diabetes National Mental Health Development Unit, n. d). Acheson Report supports the four explanations of the Black Report, but states that high priority should be given to health of families with children and the education system. Addition to this, bad mental health in children and teenagers is due to low education ‘attainment’ (BBC, 1998).
Similarly, children will have mental disorders if their parents suffer with the illnesses too. Therefore, resilience must be built in order for children to have a better chance of good mental health. Resilience is built with parental care, active involvement in the child’s education and positive role models (National Mental Health Development Unit, n. d). Furthermore,The Acheson Report (2010) states schools should receive funds to help improve the education system as well as, free fresh fruit, promote healthy schools, through the curriculum and parent classes for those from deprived areas ( BBC,1998).
There is a lot of help for people with mental illnesses from non-governmental organisations . These organisations do not take money from the government but get contributions from private or voluntary sectors (Shah, 2005). For example, organisations such as Rethink Mental Illness, support 60. 000 mentally ill individuals in England. The challenges of a person with mental illness can be very stressful, with good support groups, individuals can cope with these problems. This is achieved by high quality advice and materials on webpages as well as to professionals and employers.
Also, statistics and research figures are given to the media so that mental health policies can improve (Rethink Mental Illness, 2011). Mind for Better Mental Health, is another non-governmental organisations which helps with many mental health issues. Advice is available on many psychological problems, including symptoms and the treatments. Additionally, statistics and current research on mental health problems are available as well as the people that are at most risk of mental illnesses.
There are also different organisations that can help with specific needs, as information is available on their webpage on oganisations that deliver different services, an example of this is, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD). They are a charity in the UK which is part of the Mental Health Foundation, which encourages people with learning difficulties, this is achieved by working with the individuals and their families. The charity has knowledge on the daily challenges people face with learning disabilities (Mind for Better Mental Health, 2012). The law also protects the mentally ill, such as the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA).
The main purpose of this Act is to keep people safe , who are not able to make daily decisions, due to the lack of their mental capacity (Golightley, 2010),this could also include important decisions such financial issues, health care or accommodation (Directgov n. d). Furthermore, the (MCA) has five fundamental conditions. One of the five requirements is that every person has the right to make their own decisions. But, except if it is demonstrated otherwise by a subjective test, such as checking that the adult can understand information and be able to retain it (Golightley 2010).
Moreover, if decisions are made for them, their needs must be met as well as their basic human rights and independence (Directgov n. d). Help is also provided by the government to ensure that the mental health of people in the UK is priority. Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg states ‘ We need to end the stigma attached to mental illness, to set an example by talking about the issue openly and candidly and ensure everyone can access the support and information they need’ (Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, 2011). In order to tackle this Nick Clegg and fellow colleagues from the Department of Health have stated that?
400 million is going to be invested to improve the services of psychological therapies, these include therapies such as, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Counseling for Depression. This scheme will help one million people, of all ages, from psychological disorders by 2014 as well 75,000 people will get back to normality, such as reemployment (Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, 2011). Additionally, ? 700 million will be saved in the ‘public sector in healthcare, tax and welfare’ (Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, 2011) To conclude mental illness is a huge problem, as it affects so many people in society.
The medical model helps individuals by medical treatment, but in fact causes further problems to the individual well-being. In the process of treatment, the medical model, segregate the individual from society through control of nearly every aspect of their lives. However, it is the social model that focuses on the social aspects of the individual lives, which disables them and therefore makes them vulnerable in society. This can be seen in the modified labelling theory, as negative consequences of the mental illness has on a person, such as rejection and discrimination, which isolates them from society.
Another issue is alienation for the mentally ill in relation to employment and mental hospitals, which also segregate them from society. The main causes of illnesses are material deprivation, which can lead to stress and other illnesses. These problems also cause financial burden on the economy. The government has tried to tackle these issues through the education system and support groups for deprived families, Also charities help with advice and giddiness for the mentally ill. Word count 2180 Reference List Aneshensel, S. , C and Phelan.
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