Course: The Social Context of Mental Health and Illness

I’m taking a 6-week online course through Coursera on The Social Context of Mental Health and Illness. Coursera is

a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.

Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.

My boss thought I should take the course, given my architectural passion for health care architecture, specifically mental health architecture. Coursera offers a huge selection of free courses in just about any topic you can think of.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think there would be as much reading and video lectures as there are for this course, complete with homework and a final assignment, but I suppose since they’re offering University calibre courses that give certificates of completion, I shouldn’t complain. Especially when it’s free.

Still from Mental Hospital, University of Oklahoma; Internet Archive.
Still from Mental Hospital, University of Oklahoma; Internet Archive.

I’m not going to share everything that I’m learning at this course, because I wouldn’t want to break any rules. But I wanted to share with you a fascinating video of mental health treatment from the 1950s. If you’re squeamish, it can get a bit graphic with the blood/spinal tests and the standard treatments.

This video is fascinating, because of the 1950s attitude where “government knows best” and people were segregated from triggers. Unpaid labour was encouraged in a campus-like setting on large farm grounds. It’s not that much different from the original intent of the Asylum.

Unfortunately, their embed doesn’t work for WordPress.com users, so if you’re curious, follow this link or click on the picture.

What are your thoughts about the movie? Do you see any similarities between how we treat patients then and now?

What do you think of the architecture? CAMH and Mimico were initially developed that way, but the city surround it. Even so, it’s still a campus, which I find intriguing.

I won’t use this as part of my course, but I’d appreciate your comments. Mental health and its social issues are a touchy subject but we won’t break the stigma unless we’re capable of quality discussion.

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