When Youth Get Mad Through a Critical Course on Mental Health

  • Jennifer M. Poole
  • Zachary Sera Grant
Part of the Advances in Mental Health and Addiction book series (AMHA)



The medical model of mental illness/health is based on a system that often locates the “problem” within an individual, takes that individual out of their context and community, and seeks to treat and change. In the name of “best practice,” those treatments may be iatrogenic, involve multiple rights violations, as well as perpetuation of a kind of discrimination known as sanism. The “insane,” once labeled, or suspected of being thus are often incarcerated, and if released, surveilled in multiple ways.

Main Body

This is especially true of youth (aged 15–24) and emerging adults (aged 18–29), who are forever watched by well-meaning teachers, family members, parents, peers, doctors, and social workers. However, what happens when those folkx find their way into a university and a course on critical approaches to mental health and madness? In recent years, and after decades of organizing around patient rights, such Mad Studies courses have been springing up in universities across Canada, including at Ryerson’s School of Social Work. This chapter focuses on such a course, detailing its inception and reception by youth/young adult social work students aged 20–29.

Discussion and Implications

Buoyed by the work of critical scholars laboring in multiple disciplines, such critical and Mad-positive classes may make possible a move away from conventional notions of “mental illness” that changes both the personal and the professional. In addition, such classes may offer a path toward Mad pride, power, or organizing. In short, this chapter demonstrates how youth/young adults may be embracing these Mad ways and changing the landscape of oppression, education, and standards for how to feel, care, and hope.


Mad Studies Mental health University Education Students 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social Work, Ryerson UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Mad, Queer, Gender Non-Binary, Artist, Social Work Student and Community Support WorkerTorontoCanada

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