Mental Health, Social Mirror

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In 2004, the discipline of sociology celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Sociological Association. In 2005, the Section on Medical Sociology celebrated 50 years since the formation of the Committee on Medical Sociology within the ASA. And, in 2003, the Section on the Sociology of Mental Health celebrated ten years since its founding within the American branch of the discipline. This brief accounting marks the American-based or- nizational landmarks central to concerns about how social factors shape the mental health problems individuals face as well as the individual and system responses that follow. This history also lays a trail of how the focus on mental health and illness has narrowed from a general concern of the discipline to a more intense, substantively-focused community of scholars targeting a common set of specific theoretical and empirical questions. While mental health and illness figured prominently in the writings of classical sociologists, contem- rary sociologists often view research on mental health as peripheral to the "real work" of the discipline. The sentiment, real or perceived, is that the sociology of mental health, along with its sister, medical sociology, may be in danger of both losing its prominence in the discipline and losing its connection to the ma- stream core of sociological knowledge (Pescosolido & Kronenfeld, 1995).

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