Contemporary public perceptions of psychiatry: some problems for mental health professions

Dixon, Jeremy; Richter, Dirk (2018). Contemporary public perceptions of psychiatry: some problems for mental health professions. Social theory & health, 16(4), pp. 326-341. Macmillan 10.1057/s41285-017-0059-9

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Social constructionist critiques of psychiatry have primarily focussed on the function of diagnosis for society. Less attention has been paid to the diverse ways that service users and carers have come to construct mental disorder. Social movements led by service users/survivors have worked to contest biomedical models whilst carer groups have campaigned for a greater emphasis on biomedicine. However, population-based research reveals a more complex picture, indicating that whilst public acceptance of biomedicine has grown, the public continue to see mental disorder as being highly influenced by social factors and display a high degree of ambivalence towards psychiatric treatment. Through focussing on debates in psychiatry, social work and nursing in the UK, we argue that public perceptions have particular consequences for the mental health professions. Specifically, they impact on the way that professionals can present themselves as holding a specialist knowledge base. Professional mental health workers therefore need to be transparent about the assumptions and limitations of psychiatric knowledge and base therapeutic decisions around the way in which service users and carers construct mental disorder.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > Department of Nursing and Education

UniBE Contributor:

Richter, Dirk


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services








Dirk Richter

Date Deposited:

13 Apr 2021 10:08

Last Modified:

13 Apr 2021 10:17

Publisher DOI:





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