1.2.2 Boundaries of difference

One of the things that language does is define and give a name to differences between people – to delineate the boundaries that separate them. In the mental health field, the ‘mad’ are at one end of the social divide that separates the ‘normal’ from the ‘abnormal’. They are ‘the other’, a point made in the article by Perkins (above): ‘To be mad is to be defined as “other”’.

This is a recurring theme in the mental health field.
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1.2.1 Boundaries and terminology

In another context Shakespeare asked, ‘What's in a name?’, and suggested by way of an answer that a rose may smell as sweet whatever it is called. In the context of social boundaries, however, the language used is actually very important in determining ‘who's in’ and ‘who's out’.

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1 Preface

Political theorists – classic writers such as Hobbes and Rousseau but contemporary ones too – have often assumed a neat fit between this government and that territory and its population, as if the fit between the two were somehow natural or timeless. Reality is always messier than that, of course. Countries, or nation-states, are in part constructed entities or communities – political units that are consciously demarcated and separated from others. As Guibernau comments, &
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should be able to understand:

  • the complexity and dilemmas of diverse perspectives in the field of mental health and distress;

  • the importance of service users'/survivors' experiences and perspectives;

  • how mental health issues affect everyone;

  • the range of risks faced by service users'/survivors' in their everyday lives.

Introduction

This unit takes you on a journey of discovery where you are invited to challenge ideas, both new and old, in relation to mental health. It is made up of a series of three extracts. The first extract, ‘Boundaries of explanation’, sets out the theme of boundaries: boundaries within and between groups; within and between explanatory frameworks; and within and between experiences of mental health and distress. The second extract, ‘Whose risk is it anyway?’, considers a critical
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