Sociology of Mental Health

Dr. Robert Sanderson
Office hours by appointment only
Stabler Hall 401-G
Phone: 569-3173


"How do you know I'm mad?" Said Alice.
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"You must be mad," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here." Alice didn't think that proved it at all.

--- Lewis Carrol
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

I know of no psychiatric misconduct that cannot be matched precisely in everyday life by the conduct of persons who are not psychologically ill nor considered to be so; and in each case, one can find a host of different motives for engaging in the misconduct...

--- Erving Goffman
Interaction Ritual

... Men have gained control over the forces of nature to such an extent that with their help they would have no difficulty in exterminating one another to the last man. They know this, and hence comes a large part of their current unrest, their unhappiness and their mood of anxiety.

--- Sigmund Freud
Civilization and it Discontents



William C. Cockerham, Sociology of Mental Disorder (fourth edition)

I will also place reading material in the Ottenheimer Library Reserve Room that students can access for class assignments.


This course is designed to survey the cultural, social, and social-psychological aspects of mental health. We will begin with an examination of issues such as who is normal, how and why one is declared "abnormal," theories of mental health and illness, and various modes of treatment.

We'll start our work by studying the sociological "relevance structure," those intellectual disciplines relevant to thinking sociologically. When we've completed that, we'll turn our focus toward constructing a model for analyzing mental health phenomena. This model will focus on the aberrations in human behavior which occur in the course of everyday life as individuals interact within the passionate world of human society, while attempting to order the "flux of human experience"* into socially acceptable plans of action. In other words, using mental health as a topic, we're going to see what sociology has to say about it.


It is the policy of UALR to accommodate students with disabilities, pursuant to federal and state law. Any disabled student who needs accommodation, for example, in seating placement or in arrangements for examinations, should inform the instructor at the beginning of the course. The chair of the department offering this course is also available to assist with accommodations. Disabled students are also encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Support Services, located in the Donaghey Student Center, telephone 569-3143.