In recent years, mental health has become a hot topic of conversation in the media, following reports of a "mental health crisis" among Millennials and Generation Z. In particular, there is recent concern about the well-being of high school and college students. But mental health, like other social phenomena, is not experienced in a vacuum. How does social context shape an individual's psychological experience? How might social scientists think about the idea of a mental health crisis?
This course will provide an introduction to the sociology of mental health and will give students the tools to think critically about narratives around well-being that they may hear in their own lives. Students will learn how the line between health and illness ("normal" and "crazy") is socially constructed, how social context influences subjective experience, and how people's responses to their own subjective experience or that of others can change (and have changed) over time. We will also discuss the social stigma that surrounds mental illness and delve into demographic patterns of mental health. Throughout the course, we will draw on contemporary issues and conversations around mental health in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, using our sociological lens to offer alternative explanations to those frequently presented in the media.
Students will learn through reading scientific articles and books, class discussions, group work, and an independent case study that will be presented to the class at the end of the term.