CCHU9022 Arts and Humanities
Journey into Madness: Conceptions of Mental Health and Mental Illness

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE)

Course Description

Portrayed by mass media, there is an exaggerated link between mental illness and violence. Mental illness is often considered as an adversary that should be dealt with by medical professionals. Challenging this monopolized medical discourse on mental illness, this course aims to expand the students’ view to appreciate how mental illness has been psychologically influenced, socially constructed and policed, as well as culturally shaped. Coupling biochemistry’s knowledge of mental illness with self-reflections, students are expected to develop a critical and comprehensive understanding of mental illness and mental health. With the use of experiential exercises, case studies, and film viewing, students will be further encouraged to scrutinize mental health issues in their daily lives. As there is a growing number of individuals challenged by mental illnesses both locally and internationally, students will have high chance of encountering an individual with mental illnesses in their social circles, workplaces or even family in the future. The development of a comprehensive and critical view towards mental illnesses will definitely prepare them to face this future challenge.

[All students will be required to plan and organize a compulsory experiential learning activity for service users at a mental health agency/setting during Reading Week. The experiential activity is compulsory and if interested students foresee that they cannot commit to this, they should not be enrolling in this course. Depending on the pandemic the activity may be shifted online.]

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe conceptions of mental health and mental illness.
  2. Critically appraise the contributions and limitations of the various conceptions of mental health and mental illness.
  3. Understand how certain mental health issues have been conceived and defined through a dynamic interplay of various biomedical, psychological, sociological and cultural perspectives.
  4. Develop cultural sensitivity towards intercultural differences in understanding and responding to issues in mental health and mental illness.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Fieldwork / Visits 7
Reading / Self-study 50
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 8
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 40
Total: 137

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Tutorial presentation and participation 30
Reflection paper 10
Individual essay 30
Group project 30

Required Reading

  • Alloy, L. B., Riskind, J. H., & Manos, M. J. (2005). Abnormal psychology: Current perspectives. New York: McGraw-Hill. [Excerpt on behavioural, cognitive, and sociocultural perspectives (pp.75-104)]
  • Catalano, R. F., Fagan, A. A., Gavin, L. E., Greenberg, M. T., Irwin Jr, C. E., Ross, D. A., & Shek, D. T. (2012). Worldwide application of prevention science in adolescent health. The Lancet379(9826), 1653-1664.
  • Fillingham, L. A. (1993). Madness and civilization. In Foucault for beginners (pp. 26-58). New York: Writers and Readers Publishing.
  • Foucault, M. (1972, 2006). Experiences of madness. In The history of madness (pp. 108-115). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. [Excerpt]
  • Kieling, C., Baker-Henningham, H., Belfer, M., Conti, G., Ertem, I., Omigbodun, O., … & Rahman, A. (2011). Child and adolescent mental health worldwide: evidence for action. The Lancet378(9801), 1515-1525.
  • Lin, K. M. (1981). Traditional Chinese medical beliefs and their relevance for mental illness and psychiatry. In A. Kleinman & Y. Y. Lin (Eds.), Normal and abnormal behavior in Chinese culture (pp. 95-111). Hingham, MA: D. Reidel.
  • Luchins, D. J. (2004). At issue: Will the term brain disease reduce stigma and promote parity for mental illnesses? Schizophrenia Bulletin, 30(4), 1043-1048.
  • Patel, V., Saxena, S., Lund, C., Thornicroft, G., Baingana, F., Bolton, P., … & UnÜtzer, J. (2018). The Lancet Commission on global mental health and sustainable development. The Lancet392(10157), 1553-1598.
  • Patton, G. C., Sawyer, S. M., Santelli, J. S., Ross, D. A., Afifi, R., Allen, N. B., … & Viner, R. M. (2016). Our future: a Lancet commission on adolescent health and wellbeing. The Lancet387(10036), 2423-2478.
  • Rosenhan, D. L. (1973). On being sane in insane places, Science, 179 (4070), 250-258.
  • Yap, P. M. (2000). Mental diseases peculiar to certain cultures: A survey of comparative psychiatry. In R. Littlewood & S. Dein (Eds.), Cultural psychiatry and medical anthropology (pp. 179-196). New Brunswick, NJ: The Athlone Press.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor P.W.C. Wong
Department of Social Work and Social Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 5029
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor P.W.C. Wong
Department of Social Work and Social Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 5029