Psychiatry and Mental Illness

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
29 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA L3C8 Criminology with Social Psychology,
BA L3H8 Criminology with Social Psychology (Including Placement Year),
BA LHC8 Criminology with Social Psychology (Including Year Abroad)

Module description

This half module looks critically at the field of mental illness, focusing on concepts, boundaries and causes. We will start by looking at some of the different types of mental illness now included in formal psychiatric classifications such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). We will then explore their foundation in medicine's categorical model of disease, the criticisms of the DSM, the way the boundaries of mental illness have changed and expanded over time, some of the reasons for the expansion, and at analyses of the concept of mental illness. We will also examine epidemiological studies seeking to assess levels of mental illness, and its social distribution, and the measures they use. This leads on to key issues about causation, including the role of genetic and brain processes, the impact of childhood adversity, the role of life events, and of cultural processes. Throughout the debates are explored using a number of examples such as depression, anorexia nervosa and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Module aims

The module has two overriding aims. First to give students an understanding of the field of mental illness including the way psychiatrists, the dominant professionals in the field, think about mental illness including their ideas about its distribution and causation. Second, to give students a broader, more sociological and more critical understanding of the field – of the limitations of the DSM, of the changes in the way mental illness is defined, constructed and measured and of its wider social and cultural causes.

Module learning outcomes

At end of this module students will have a familiarity with psychiatric thinking about mental illness and its causes and be aware of its limitations. They will also have examined a range of evidence about its distribution and causes.

Module information

Please note that assessment information is currently showing for 2019-20 and will be updated in September.

Learning and teaching methods

There is one lecture and a separate smaller class each week


  • Pilgrim, David; Rogers, Anne. (2009) 'Survival and its discontents: the case of British psychiatry', in Sociology of Health & Illness. vol. 31 (7) , pp.947-961
  • Hollingshead, August de Belmont; Redlich, Fredrick C. (1958) Social class and mental illness: a community study, New York: Wiley.
  • George W. Brown; Tirril O. Harris. (1978) Social origins of depression: a study of psychiatric disorder in women, London: Routledge. vol. International Behavioural and Social Science Library : Mind and Medicine
  • Bentall, Richard P. (2010) Doctoring the mind: why psychiatric treatments fail, London: Penguin.
  • Falk Leichsenring et al. (2009) 'Short-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized, Controlled Trial', in American Journal of Psychiatry. vol. 166 (8) , pp.875-881
  • American Psychiatric Association; American Psychiatric Association. DSM-5 Task Force. (c2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5, Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
  • American Psychiatric Association; American Psychiatric Association. DSM-5 Task Force. (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5, Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
  • Susie Orbach. (2005) Hunger strike: the anorectic's struggle as a metaphor for our age, London: Karnac Books.
  • Busfield, J. (2012) 'Challenging claims that mental illness is increasing and mental well-being declining', in social science and medicine. vol. 75 (3) , pp.581-588
  • Plomin, Robert; Davis, Oliver S.P. (2009) 'The future of genetics in psychology and psychiatry: microarrays, genome-wide association, and non-coding RNA', in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. vol. 50 (1-2) , pp.63-71
  • Erving Goffman. (2007) Asylums: essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates, New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine Transaction.
  • Bebbington, P.; Jonas, S.; Kuipers, E.; King, M.; Cooper, C.; Brugha, T.; Meltzer, H.; McManus, S.; Jenkins, R. (2011) 'Childhood sexual abuse and psychosis: data from a cross-sectional national psychiatric survey in England', in The British Journal of Psychiatry. vol. 199 (1) , pp.29-37
  • Shaw, J.; Hunt, I. M.; Flynn, S.; Meehan, J.; Robinson, J.; Bickley, H.; Parsons, R.; McCann, K.; Burns, J.; Amos, T.; Kapur, N.; Appleby, L. (2006) 'Rates of mental disorder in people convicted of homicide: National clinical survey', in The British Journal of Psychiatry. vol. 188 (2) , pp.143-147
  • Kirsch, Irving; Deacon, Brett J; Huedo-Medina, Tania B; Scoboria, Alan; Moore, Thomas J; Johnson, Blair T. (2008) 'Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A Meta-Analysis of Data Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration', in PLoS Medicine. vol. 5 (2) , pp.e45-
  • Christopher Lane. (2007) Shyness: how normal behavior became a sickness, New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Scull, Andrew. (1979) Museums of madness: the social organization of insanity in nineteenth-century England, London: Allen Lane.
  • Busfield, Joan. (2011) Mental illness, Cambridge: Polity. vol. Key concepts
  • The New Definition of a Mental Disorder [contains DSM-5 definition of mental disorder],
  • Scull, Andrew. (2014) Cultural sociology of mental illness: an A-to-Z guide, ©2014: SAGE Publications.
  • Goffman, Erving. (1990, 1963) Stigma: notes on the management of spoiled identity, Harmondsworth: Penguin. vol. Penguin psychology
  • Scull, Andrew. (1977) Decarceration: community treatment and the deviant : a radical view, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. vol. A Spectrum book
  • Peter Conrad and Deborah Potter. (2000) 'From Hyperactive Children to ADHD Adults: Observations on the Expansion of Medical Categories', in Social Problems. vol. 47 (4) , pp.559-582

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Formative Assignment     0% 
Coursework   Essay     100% 
Exam  120 minutes during Summer (Main Period) (Main) 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Joan Busfield, email:
Professor Joan Busfield
Jane Harper, Student Administrator, Telephone: 01206 873052 E-mail:



External examiner

Dr Jennifer Fleetwood
Goldsmiths, University of London
Senior Lecturer in Criminology
Available via Moodle
Of 61 hours, 61 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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