Book looks at history of mental illness

Mary de Young teaches a course about madness and she said her student’s interest in the topic influenced her to write “Madness: An American History of Mental Illness and Its Treatment.”

Published in 2010 by McFarland, the book focuses on American society and how it evolved into the notion of mental illness in a psychiatric and diagnostic sense of the term.

“I wanted something that would be really accessible to them and reflect their interests, which I assume are shared by other people as well,” de Young said. “I also have felt that many of the histories of mental illness and its treatment have been very top-down histories.”

Previous works on the topic have been written by psychiatrists, and very few of them have bought in the experiences of people who have been labeled “mad,” de Young said. According to de Young, the book takes a very special focus on that instead of the top-down approach of psychiatrists.

“Madness” urges readers to care about people who are different and reexamine their own attitudes towards mental illness. “I’d like people to think about the possibility of engaging them,” said de Young. “As a sociologist in particular, I’d like to see some of those boundaries disappear.”


Page last modified September 10, 2012