Sociology of Mental Illness, The (4th Edition)

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9780130408686: Sociology of Mental Illness, The (4th Edition)

Written by one of the foremost psychiatric sociologist in the U.S. and Europe, this state-of-the-art guide organizes all of the research conducted in psychiatric sociology to date as it examines the critical role played by social forces associated with mental illness—including diagnosis, causality, social epidemiology, stigma, and treatment, as well as the personal suffering of the mentally ill and their families. Dissects all of the issues about the sociology of mental illness, and includes numerous references to the latest 2001 studies, including recent author inquiries into social class, schizophrenia, and sexual predators. Moves chronologically and logically through each major conceptual/cultural issue in psychiatric sociology, establishing the important groundwork before moving on to more sophisticated topics (i.e., begins with influence of social stressors, then continues with causes and symptoms of mental illness, social epidemiology of mental illness, and patienthood). Now weaves theme of social stress theory throughout and examines it every possible angle—from the microsocial world of the family to the macrosocial environment of culture, economy and war—providing readers with a common foundation to help them better understand the many and diverse complexities of the world of mental illness. Presents many intriguing real-life case studies throughout. For psychiatric sociologists and mental health instructors in nursing schools and social work programs.

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Exceptionally detailed, comprehensive, and sophisticated, this text covers all aspects of the sociology of mental illness. Its clear, straight forward writing style features an abundance of examples from everyday life.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

There are countless forms of human suffering, but one of the most devastating is mental illness. It can rip the heart out of a person's opportunity for a happy life and it bewilders loved ones who try to help. This book has no single theme because mental illness has so many crippling dimensions—the symptoms, the social rejection, the routines of life in a mental hospital, the homelessness, the inability to cure, and, of course, the personal misery. The suffering knows no bounds, particularly in the case of the seriously mentally ill, who live hell here on earth in a fog of misery. They may be driven by delusions about pacts with satan or an overwhelming crush of depression and not know why. Although there is no single theme running through this book, there are two things that I hope to impart: an understanding of the sociology of mental illness and a sense of compassion for the millions of people in this world with psychiatric disorders.

Some feel that the causes of mental illness are a complete mystery. That used to be true centuries ago when mental illness was so misunderstood that it was relegated to poetry or sorcery because it was ignorantly confused with eccentricity or possession. Today there is a growing body of evidence that some mental illnesses are medical problems exacerbated by social stress. This book tracks that new knowledge, particularly the role of social stressors that can actually produce physical components of psychiatric ailments. I also try to untangle the chaotic turmoil politely referred to as social policy, a catchall phrase for treatment of the mentally ill. This is an especially pressing problem today as more and more patients are being released into the community.

This book is written with many engaging case examples from the world of everyday life. I wrote it to make the student want to go to the next chapter. I also wrote it as a reference book for professionals. To date, this text is one of the most comprehensive works about the sociology of mental illness. It includes thousands of studies from years of systematic research in psychiatric sociology spanning the microsocial problems within families to the macrosocial stresses of culture, war, and economy. This fourth edition has not merely been updated; it has been thoroughly reorganized as well. Two of its novel features are:

  • A new emphasis on social stress theory, which is woven throughout the book
  • Original sections centering on my recent research on social class, prenatal stress, schizophrenia, and sexual predators

I want to thank a lot of people for their help with this book and my career in general. My students at Villanova have been great, particularly those I met through the Honors Program who went on to do research and publish with me. They Include Lamia Barakat, Suzanne Brixey, Meoghan Byrne, Mike Engle, Carolyn Everson, Maria Halluska, and Corinne Rita. Special kudos to Mike and Carolyn (my best students) for returning to Villanova and lecturing in my classes. And continued thanks to Corinne Rita for all of her work on the third edition of this book.

My course at Villanova goes by the name of Social Psychiatry. It is a popular course, partly because I am fortunate to have friends who give their time to lecture on their special areas of expertise. My best friend, Art Donato, a criminal defense attorney, joins Dan McDevitt, a district attorney, and Tony Pisa, a forensic psychologist, for an interesting (and unpredictable) class on psychiatry and the law. Barbara Cole, another "Honors student contact," gives a presentation on bipolar disorder that is masterfully creative. Mike Engle, who recently became a criminal defense attorney himself, delivers a riveting talk on serial murder. Lizzy Schmidt and Mike Gallagher speak to the students about their experiences growing up gay and further a sense of tolerance and open-mindedness. The highlight of the course is a trip to Norristown State Hospital, where the students obtain invaluable clinical contact with mental patients. More importantly, they are led through the trip by Laura Brobyn, a clinical nursing specialist, who imparts professionalism, compassion, and hope for the mentally ill—a forgotten population. Perhaps the best way to express what Laura means to my students is the statement they so often make about her: "I want to be like Laura." To all of these people my deep thanks for making the course fly.

More than 1,000 new studies were added to this new edition. They were partly compiled by two research assistants in Villanova's Sociology Department, Mary Martin and Melissa Pittaoulis. Louise Green, Acting Director of Falvey Library at Villanova, was also a huge help by providing exemplary literature reviews. Charlotte Vent completed numerous forms and mailings. My thanks to all of these fine people for helping me with this book.

I am also deeply indebted to some wonderful people at Prentice Hall. Nancy Roberts, my past editor, was central to the book being reorganized and published on time. Nancy and I go back a long time, traveling a route that has been nothing but pleasant and supportive. My new editor, Chris DeJohn, is ideal for the job. He is organized, understanding, knowledgeable, creative, and an all-around nice guy. His assistant, Christina Scalia, was not only there when I needed help but provided it in a way that was quick, smart, and friendly. I would also like to thank the following Prentice Hall reviewers for their input and suggestions: Gary A. Cretser, California State Polytechnic University, and John W. Fox, University of Northern Colorado.

Sue Jones is the one person who is most responsible for this edition's being completed accurately and on time. Sue is more than a typist. She is also "Ms. Speedy," who seemed to have finished chapters before I wrote them. Without her quality work and her optimistic attitude toward making the deadline, this book would not have happened. If I had not dedicated the book to my mother, I would have dedicated it to Sue. She was that inspirational.

I did not write this book simply to be the first to do so, way back in 1980; and I did not write it just because of the pride I feel from its quality. The most important reason for this book is to present all that is known about how sociological stressors can disfigure mental health by putting people adrift in a limbo of despair.

Bernard J. Gallagher III
Villanova, Pennsylvania

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