Social psychiatry could stem the rising tide of mental illness

This article by Prof. Mathew Smith has been published by The Conversation. It begins:

“Nearly 400 million people are affected by mental illness, according to the World Health Organization. Depression, alone, afflicts nearly 300 million people. It is no surprise that concern about mental health is sky high. But what should we do about it?

Talking helps, but it isn’t enough. We need to focus on prevention. This means identifying the factors that contribute to mental illness and tackling them. A good place to start is social psychiatry.

Social psychiatry was a preventive approach to mental health that was highly influential in the US after the second world war. It focused on identifying the social factors believed to cause mental illness. These included poverty, inequality and social exclusion. It was also an interdisciplinary approach. Psychiatrists worked closely with social scientists, especially sociologists and anthropologists, to determine the relationship between society and mental illness.

The roots of social psychiatry can be traced back to the mental hygiene and child guidance movements of the early 20th century. Both mental hygiene and child guidance emphasised prevention and the role of the social environment. They also introduced new mental health professionals, including psychiatric social worker, in order to tackle mental illness.

Social psychiatry became even more influential because it was supported by a strong research base. It benefited enormously from the blossoming of social science during the 1920s and 1930s. But it also relied on the willingness of psychiatrists to listen to social scientists …”

You can read more from here.

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