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Defining Mental Disorder

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Gender and Mental Health
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A critical analysis of the experience of mental disorder and mental health service developments presupposes an awareness of hidden assumptions in research statistics, legislation and policy statements, as these assumptions influence the definitions used to measure the nature and extent of mental disorder. One of the main problems in measuring mental disorder and, by implication, defining the population at risk is the controversial nature of the concepts of mental health and mental disorder. Because there are no objective ‘fitness’ standards, there is an overreliance on ‘illness’ standards in the measurements used. Erik Stromgren, researcher for the WHO, suggests that the task of calculating the extent of mental disorder in the population should include studies not only of people in contact with psychiatric institutions, general practitioners and other community-based health professionals, but also of people who have never sought or received help with mental health problems (Sartorius et al. 1989: 70). In other words, any measurement of the extent of mental disorder should include but not be confined to mental health service users.

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Jo Campling

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© 1999 Pauline M. Prior

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Prior, P.M. (1999). Defining Mental Disorder. In: Campling, J. (eds) Gender and Mental Health. Palgrave, London.

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