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Learner Reviews & Feedback for History of Mental Illness by Wesleyan University

44 ratings

About the Course

Our lexicon of mental illness is immense: There currently are hundreds of classified disorders and an extensive assortment of medications and therapies. This course explores the history of this productive science -- its discoveries, classifications, and treatments of psychiatric distress. The excursion begins with a general introduction and proceeds to explore 4 kinds of mental illness: neurasthenia, depression, attention deficits (ADD/ADHD), and narcissism. Each kind is examined in terms of its scientific research and classification; treatments developed to cure or alleviate its symptoms; lived-experiences of those so diagnosed with the disorder; and critical reflection on the diagnosis. This course departs from histories that mainly chronicle scientific achievements and, instead, invites you to investigate how the scientific discoveries and therapies were deeply informed by cultural conditions of the time. The cultural influences on psychiatric science include ideals of individual happiness; conceptions about what is ‘normal’; notions of rational personhood; and existing social, gender, and racial hierarchies/biases. We investigate these cultural dynamics and then look at the lived experiences of those who were diagnosed or living with the condition. Paying attention to culture and lived experiences accords with the perspective of “mad studies,” a recent movement to foreground the people who suffer and the socio-political conditions surrounding their experiences. Exploring cultural dynamics and lived experiences along with the scientific milestones prepares us to critically reflect on world of psychopathology and on psychopathology in the world. In our reflection classes we will ask, for instance, about the forces behind incredible increases in depression and attention deficit disorder; racial and gender biases in research and treatment; the apparent happiness epidemic; and the prospects of neurodiversity....

Top reviews


Mar 18, 2022

The course and the teacher have been very effective in helping me to learn about the history of mental illness. Thank you!


May 5, 2022

Such a good course, so thought enticing. I would recommend it, especially to those working in mental health.

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