XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Sociology on the move, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 2010

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Research Committee on
Sociology of Mental Health and Illness RC49

Programme Coordinators
Reinhold Kilian, University of Ulm, Germany, reinhold.kilian@bkh-guenzburg.de
Kjeld Hogsbro, AKF, Denmark, keh@akf.dk

Congress Programme


Does society still matter? Mental health and illness and the social sciences in the 21th century

At the rise of the 21th century there is an increasing awareness in the crucial role of mental health and illness for the welfare of societies. Currently, the contribution of the social sciences to the actual discussion on the aetiology of mental illness and the further development of interventions for mental health promotion and mental health is rather small and it seems that the biological perspective has become the leading scientific paradigm. Nevertheless, in spite of the tremendous success of the biological sciences in analysing the functioning and malfunctioning of the brain and the aetiology of mental diseases, the evidence for the relevance of social factors in mental disorder prevention and mental health promotion is still growing. However, the rising insight into the complexity of the interaction between biological and social processes underlines the need for interdisciplinary approaches and the cooperation between social and natural sciences.

In the six sessions of the RC49 actual  theoretical and methodological perspectives as well as resent empirical results of sociological and interdisciplinary research in the field of mental health and illness will be presented and discussed with regard to future perspectives and research needs.

Sessions descriptions

Sessions 1: Mental health antecedents and outcomes of HIV/AIDS treatment in industrialized and developing areas
Organizer: J.Gary Linn, Tennessee State University, USA, JLinn87844@aol.com
Relevant topics: mental health status and anti-retroviral drug adherence, anti-retroviral drug treatment and psychological well-being, perceived stigma and willingness to participate in anti-retroviral drug therapy, gender and class differences in mental health outcomes of ani-retroviral treatment, changing expectations regarding access to anti-retroviral therapy. Other relevant topics will be considered.

Sessions 2: Emerging perspectives on social disparities, mental health, and HIV/AIDS in the 21st century
Organizer: Bronwen Lichtenstein, University of Alabama, USA, blichten@bama.ua.edu
Papers should address emerging issues on the sociology of mental health and HIV/AIDS. These papers could address the role of mental health in HIV care for the poor and underserved, novel approaches to conceptualizing HIV stigma among marginalized groups or cultures,and advances in understanding the connections between social disparities, mental health, and HIV/AIDS.

Session 3: Stigma and coping strategies of people with severe mental illness
Organizer: Kjeld Høgsbro, Danish Institute of Governmental Research, Denmark, KEH@akf.dk

Session 4: Methodological problems in mental health research
Organizer: Herbert Matschinger, University of Leipzig, Germany, Herbert.matschinger@medizin.uni-leipzig.de
In mental health research we have to deal with serious methodological problems both in survey and experimental studies. In the framework of evaluation research for both approaches a longitudinal design is preferable in order to evaluate the effect of a treatment and/or an intervention with respect to relevant outcomes. In this context the definition and assessment of a “control group” is of vital importance. The mere lack of a treatment (or other kinds of interventions) is not sufficient a characteristic for a control group. Problems of matching and/or propensity scores turn out to be crucial either, since selection bias may be considerable. This particularly holds for mental patients, where individually varying treatments between baseline and further measurement occasions is virtually unavoidable and sometimes even undocumented. Therefore, several control groups are employed quite frequently to control for these artefacts.

Both types of studies suffer from problems on how to draw random samples from a population of patients, particularly if the population is small due to a low prevalence rate. In general, mental health patients may be difficult to access and to inquire at strictly defined points in time, which quite often results in systematic panel attrition. Furthermore, the development of important outcome characteristics may be difficult to assess, since either mentally ill people respond differently to the stimuli of instruments developed for a more general population and/or for patient suffering from different diseases. Reliability as well as validity might depend on characteristics of the sample, which prevents to compare subgroups with different characteristics. This regards both the dimensional structure of instruments and Differential Item Functioning and Item Bias caused by characteristic of the items and the respondents.
Contributions to the following topics will be appreciated:

      1. Measurement and “Meaning”
      2. Modelling rare events
      3. Problems of repeated measurement
      4. Growth curve models (ALT and CALT)
      5. Problems of (cluster) randomised control trials
      6. Panel attrition and rare events
      7. DIF, Item Impact and the comparison of subgroups

Other topics, regarding specific problems of mental health research are requested and welcome.

Session 5: Mental health and the economy in the 21th century
Organizer: David McDaid, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK, d.mcdaid@lse.ac.uk

Session 6: Open topics in the sociology of mental health and illness
Organizer: Reinhold Kilian, Ulm University, Germany, reinhold.kilian@bkh-guenzburg.de
This session is for papers on relevant topics with regard to the above description of the RC49 programme but which do not fit to the other sessions.

Session 7: Biography and mental health
Joint session of RC38 Biography and Society and RC49 Mental Health and Illness [host committee]

Session 8: RC49 Reception

Session 9: Business meeting