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Two prevailing beliefs held by the public (and many professionals) connect mental illness to the criminal justice system: first, a belief that deinstitutionalization has led to criminalization of mental illness, and second, a belief that mentally ill persons are dangerous and likely to commit crimes, especially violent crimes. This chapter reviews the available empirical evidence for these beliefs. Most studies of arrest of persons with mental illness have not controlled for comorbidities, despite existing research that shows that mentally ill persons with character disorders and substance abuse are much more likely to offend and have higher arrest rates than other mentally ill persons. The public's concern about coddling criminals and the subsequent release of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) offenders into the community seems to be unwarranted. Mental health and social welfare systems with severely inadequate resources try to ameliorate the effects of such deleterious social conditions.
An important issue in assessing the societal burden of mental disorders is whether the evidence of increasing prevalence in recent cohorts is real or a methodological artifact. The chapter begins with a broad overview of results concerning the estimated lifetime prevalence, age-of-onset distributions, projected lifetime risk, cohort effects, and sociodemographic correlates of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual DSM-IV disorders assessed in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). It then turns to a discussion of the prevalence of these same disorders in the year before the NCS-R interview. This is followed by a brief review of data regarding trends in disorder prevalence and treatment in the NCS-R compared to a decade earlier in the baseline NCS. The chapter closes with a discussion of interpretations and implications of these results along with anticipated future directions in the investigation of the prevalence of mental disorders.
This chapter presents a discussion of societal factors that affect mental health and illness among African American women. The discussion is guided by the diagram which illustrates that structural location as defined by the triangulation of race, gender, and class can influence mental well-being directly or indirectly by impinging on other more proximate processes. The mental well-being of African American women varies by age, marital status, household headship, parenthood, and employment. Among the social factors that diminish well-being among African American women are stressors resulting from the triangulation of racism, sexism, and low Socioeconomic Status (SES). Access to health care is critical for mental well-being because it contributes to healthier, longer lives. Quality health care for African American women requires access and utilization of mental health services that are culturally appropriate and sensitive to the social context of their lives as well as access and use of primary care.
The second edition of A Handbook for the Study of Mental Health provides a comprehensive review of the sociology of mental health. Chapters by leading scholars and researchers present an overview of historical, social and institutional frameworks. Part I examines social factors that shape psychiatric diagnosis and the measurement of mental health and illness, theories that explain the definition and treatment of mental disorders and cultural variability. Part II investigates effects of social context, considering class, gender, race and age, and the critical role played by stress, marriage, work and social support. Part III focuses on the organization, delivery and evaluation of mental health services, including the criminalization of mental illness, the challenges posed by HIV, and the importance of stigma. This is a key research reference source that will be useful to both undergraduates and graduate students studying mental health and illness from any number of disciplines.