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Mental Illness Essay

2259 words - 10 pages

Sociologist Emile Durkheim developed the functionalist perspective of society based off of his interest in social order and stability. This perspective is defined as the sociological approach that views society as a stable, orderly system (Kendall 2014, 17). When the functionalist perspective is applied to the issue of mental illness in society it is believed that mental illness challenges society’s ability to provide a stable, effective treatment. In society, illness is socially defined and considered to be any sort of interference with health (Kendall 2014, 411). The functionalist perspective views mental illness as a form of deviant behavior that can be measured and organized to improve ...view middle of the document...

The functionalist views mental illness as a temporary condition that society can resolve by stabilizing the smaller parts of the issue to create a greater whole society.
When someone is considered mentally ill their sick status also interferes with the role they play in society. If one were to be mentally ill, this would cause role conflict in societal order. Role conflict is when the expectations of two completely different roles conflict and overlap with one another. A good example of role conflict in mental illness would be if a college professor were to be diagnosed ill. His role in society is to teach students in the classroom, however his sick role requires him to not attend class and get better. The functionalist looks to resolve and control mental illness as to prevent role conflict in society. The link given discusses how deinstitutionalizing someone can isolate mentally ill individuals from their communities. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental_health_disorders/overview_of_mental_health_care/mental_illness_in_society.html. This supports the functionalist view by showing if a mentally ill person is not treated by society they will cause role conflict in their own lives eventually leading to societal disorganization and loss of structure.
When it comes to mental illness, the functionalists believes it is up to society to solve the issue to maintain social control. The societal institution responsible for maintaining mental illness is considered to be physicians. Physicians take on their role in society by becoming specialized in illness and the medical world. It is their role in society to stabilize mentally ill individuals as illness in society is destructive to all parts that make society a larger whole. The physician can form a relationship with the individual and give orders to help them get better, however the patient must be willing to comply with the physician’s orders in order to get better as described in Parson’s sick role. Every part of society contributes to a larger scale, and by identifying the small characteristics of mental illness and the sick role, the functionalist perspectives believes that society can be organized into total structure and stability.
The treatment of mental illness in the past versus today is an issue that unfortunately is still a huge problem in our society. Although the care for these patients has bettered throughout the years tremendously the stigma surrounding societies views on mental illness is still very much present. The post modern sociologist Michel Foucault studied the evolution of mental illness and their impact into society and the “archaeolgy of madness”. He states that starting in the Renaissance and on into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries people began to think that those with mental illnesses were a “threat” to themselves and society (Kendall 2014). This brought the stigma to these illness that all suffering from them were madly insane,which in turn created the...

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