Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module SOCI3577: Sociology of Mental Health and Illness

Department: Sociology

SOCI3577: Sociology of Mental Health and Illness

Type Tied Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap 90 Location Durham
Tied to L300
Tied to L302
Tied to L303
Tied to L370
Tied to L371
Tied to L373
Tied to LL36
Tied to LL63
Tied to L6L3
Tied to XL33
Tied to X3L3
Tied to X2L3
Tied to X4L3
Tied to LMVO
Tied to LMVA


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce Level 3 students to the sociological approach and studies that enrich their understanding of the social sources, factors, and reactions to mental health and mental disorders.
  • To help students learn to develop abilities to carry out academic research on mental health (including specific mental disorders), potentially as a focus of their dissertations.


  • Introduction to mental health and, more specifically mental health disorders and illness as a medical, psychological and a sociological problem.
  • History of the treatment and understanding of mental health including current approaches and controversies.
  • The sociological approach to studying mental health and mental disorders.
  • Bio-psycho-social causes and risk factors for mental health disorders.
  • Social epidemiology of mental health, mental health disorders and mental health ine.qualities.
  • From asylums to communities to brains.
  • Stigma and mental disorders.
  • Mental health and mental health disorders in different cultures and health systems.
  • Policies, laws, and other societal reactions to mental disorders.
  • Review and discussion on assessment.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Have a working knowledge of the basic categories of mental disorders, as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
  • Knowledge of the range of cultural, political and social meanings attached to concepts and types of mental health issues and challenges.
  • Understanding of how mental disorders (and mental health in general) intersect with health inequalities, stigma, social epidemiology, etc.
  • Be able to identify different approaches and therapeutic treatments of mental health issues and, more specifically mental health disorders, including the biological, psychological, and sociological (e.g., theories of personality, public health models, primary prevention, neuropsychology, psychopharmaceuticals, etc).
  • Be familiar with specific theoretical and empirical studies in sociology which have had a central concern with issues of mental health and mental disorders in different social and cultural contexts, in particular the stress and coping literature.
  • Be able to apply sociological theories and methods learnt in other modules to the study of mental health issues.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Evaluate sociological arguments and evidence.
  • Use abstract sociological concepts with confidence.
  • Undertake and present sociological work in a scholarly manner.
  • Apply theoretical and /or empirical knowledge to an appropriate sociological question.
  • Convey in writing the meaning of abstract theoretical concepts in ways that are understandable to others
Key Skills:
  • Demonstrate a range of communication skills including the ability to: evaluate and synthesize information obtained from a variety of written sources; communicate relevant information in different ways.
  • Demonstrate competence in the use of IT resources, including the ability to word-process, use and interpret basic statistical tables and graphs, and use web-based resources (DUO).
  • Demonstrate a capacity to improve own learning and performance, including the specific ability to manage time effectively, work to prescribed deadlines, engage in different ways of learning including both independent and directed forms of learning, gather necessary information from a range of bibliographic sources.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • During periods of online teaching, for asynchronous lectures in particular, planned lecture hours may include activities that would normally have taken place within the lecture itself had it been taught face-to-face in a lecture room, and/or those necessary to adapt the teaching and learning materials effectively to online learning.
  • Lectures provide students with substantive information, indicate the main issues to be considered and introduce the main themes, interpretations and arguments of the subject material. They encourage students to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and an appreciation of how information may be structured and presented to others.
  • Seminars will be organised around themes for discussion and will have designated reading. They provide the opportunity for students to present and develop their own understanding of relevant materials, encourage them to develop transferable skills (e.g. oral communication, group work skills, information retrieval skills), subject-specific skills (e.g. competence in using theoretical perspectives and concepts in Sociology, the ability to formulate sociologically-informed questions) and general skills (e.g. judging and evaluating evidence, assessing the merits of competing arguments and explanations, making reasoned arguments).
  • Students will also spend time in self-directed study as they prepare for specific seminar and essay assignments.
  • A formative essay requires students to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of module topics. The feedback provided on formative essays enables students to reflect on their knowledge and understanding, and to improve their performance where appropriate.
  • A summative essay requires students to demonstrate more detailed and extended knowledge of module topics. It also provides an opportunity for feedback.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Seminars 5 Fortnightly 1 hour 5
Preparation and Reading 85
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Students will have the option of submitting an outline of the summative essay (up to 500 words) to obtain guidance and feedbacks from the module conveners.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University