SOCI 4852: SOCIOLOGY OF MENTAL ILLNESS
January 14-May 1
Tuesdays & Thursdays,
Section 001, 9:40-11:05, Section 002, 11:20-12:45
Clement Hall 409
William C. Cockerham, Sociology of Mental Disorder, seventh edition, Prentice-Hall, 2005 (assigned chapters
Three-ring, loose-leaf binder and three-hole punch (for handouts etc.)
Dr. Joe Ventimiglia [the “g” is silent]
Trained in medical sociology, social psychology, and clinical social work
Office: Clement Hall 227, phone 678-3336, FAX 678-2525
Hours: Monday-Thursday after class (12:45) as long as students come
and by appointment at mutually agreed times
Home (Call between 10 AM and 10 PM): 324-7968
Field variously described as applied, clinical, and psychiatric sociology. Covers definition and models of mental disorder
and deviance, including micro and macro theories. Addresses DSM, epidemiology, and demographic factors of class, age,
sex, race, residence, and marital status. Appreciates patient experience in mental hospital and stigma of mental illness.
Generally organized around theme of social stress. Cuts a broad swath through varied problems of adult adjustment, for
example, assertiveness training, values clarification, anger management, divorce recovery, test anxiety, dysfunctional
alcoholic family roles—all of personal, practical relevance. Professor may share original research, e.g., forgiveness,
manic relationships, emotional constipation, divorce recovery, etc.
♦ To arouse sympathy and advocate for the mentally ill as a minority
♦ To gain insight into our own adjustment in order to advance our own personal growth
♦ To apply abstract concepts in medical sociology, social psychology, and social work
♦ To exercise and enhance oral or written communication skills
♦ To wallow in the joy of learning
Format and Style: Workshop/Clinic
A virtual workshop with lectures, discussions, handouts, and exercises. Please keep an open mind. Be prepared to
participate and contribute. Professor provides a nonpartisan forum for democratic debate. Not only welcomes but
virtually demands informed dissent. Takes an experiential approach, utilizing audio-visuals and exercises, like role-
playing and attitude scales. The handouts, quizzes, and exercises—for the most part emailed to you before class—are an
integral part of the course; indeed, your loose-leaf collection of them amounts to the workbook for the course.
The Big Five Questions:
For each of such items presented, you should understand at least:
Where it fits in, What point it demonstrates, What test question to expect
What it is about, How to apply it to life, and
Dates and Deadlines:
Monday, January 28, Last day to drop, with refund Thursday, May 1, Last date to submit petitions for
Friday, March 14, Last day to drop, without refund excused absence
Thursday, April 23, Extra credit due Monday, May 5, Grades due at Registrar
Thursday, April 24, Study Day
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Performance Evaluation: Exams
25%, Midterm, on or about February 28, 2008 25%, Attendance/participation
25%, Final Exam on 25%, Report,
either Tuesday, April 29 at 10:30-12:30 Oral, scheduled no later than January 31, 2008 or
or Thursday, May 1 at 8:00-10:30 Written, turned in by April 11, 2008
The format of the test questions will be mainly objective—match-columns, as well as true/false, answer bank,
identification, and sentence-completion—with some short-answer essay questions—from the textbook, lectures, handouts,
and class activities. It is my practice to adjust test scores (sometimes even semester grades) so that the highest score is set
equal to 100%. Your score is thus based on the highest score earned rather than the total points possible; so, to get an A,
a student must earn 90% or more of whatever the top score happened to be. Theoretically, everyone could get an A, and
no one need ever fail. On the other hand, unless a student earns at least half of the highest score obtained (i.e., gets more
right than wrong), there is no hope of passing. No one can pass the course who fails both tests.
No make-up exams shall be given without acceptable reason, prior notification, and authorization by the professor
(form available). No-shows will not be rescheduled. Make-ups should be taken as soon as possible after the missed
period and preferably before the results of the exam are reviewed in class.
The remaining quarter of your grade will be determined by class attendance and participation as judged by the professor.
These components are weighted roughly equally (50/50 points), except that the larger the class, the more weight must be
assigned to attendance. In smaller classes participation is more feasible, and more visible.
Plus/Minus Grading Scale:
A+ (100%), A (95%), A- (90%); B+ (88%), B (84%), B- (80%);
C+ (78%), C (74%), C- (70%);
D+ (68%), D (64%), D- (60%), F (45%)
Either a written paper (ten-page minimum) or an oral presentation (20-30 minutes long) on a selected topic from the list
of suggestions at the end of the syllabus. Preferably, no more than one presenter per class period. You may clear an
alternative proposal with the professor, such as the case study option below. Late papers will be penalized at the rate of
one letter grade per calendar day. Standards for the reports, both oral and written, will be emailed to you in the form of
Up to 25 points of extra credit may be earned by completing a case study option below. You must pass at least one test
for extra credit points to be added, and the deadline for submission is the last day of classes, April 23. Your time,
however, may be better spent in test, paper, or speech preparation. If you miss four classes, this assignment becomes
“Psychiatric Disorder in a Family”
You may wish to do an original research report. The focus would be on cause-effect relationships between a
psychiatric disorder and social relations in a specific (anonymous) family, based on observations and interviews.
How does the patient’s condition hurt or help the family? How does the family aggravate or alleviate the patient’s
condition? You might consider family boundaries, cohesion, communication, coping with change, etc.—that is,
applying ideas from Circumplex and family systems theory.
“Media Images of Mental Illness”
You may do a comparative content analysis of the images of the mentally ill in three examples from each of three
artistic venues, including literature and film. What patterns do you find? Do the images strengthen or moderate
the stigma of mental illness?
Writing Quality: The professor has prepared a handout, to be emailed to you, of tips and guidelines on writing.
Whichever option you choose, English composition is a main criterion, including grammar and diction. Rules include no
plagiarism, sufficient evidence or documentation (including incorporation of course materials), acknowledgement of
sources (e.g., bibliography), and the use of standard, not colloquial or dialectical, English. Papers must be clearly labeled,
i.e., identified, with a cover sheet. Criteria of evaluation also include reasoning, organization, critical thinking, creativity,
interest, and effort expended. Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. These standards must be followed rigorously
For flexibility and convenience, in both sections of this class, students have the opportunity to “float”—that is, on the
same day to attend other than their “home” section (i.e., in which they are officially enrolled) provided they arrange to
adjust the attendance record before leaving. Virtually identical or equivalent material will be addressed in both sections
on a given class day. Therefore, you effectively have your choice of either of two time slots to attend class, or even take a
test. For example, if a conflict arises in your schedule, e.g., doctor’s appointment, sick child, meeting with your academic
advisor, you may—really must—attend the earlier or later class.
Zero-Tolerance Attendance Policy:
Students must attend all classes, unless excused at the discretion of the professor. Late arrival and early departure count
as partial absence. If you miss roll call or the sign-up sheet, it is your responsibility to make sure before leaving that day
that the attendance record is adjusted lest you be marked absent. Cuts, work conflicts, vacations, and appointments that
can be rescheduled are examples of unacceptable excuses. Documentation is recommended even for too numerous
excused absences or for persistent tardiness.
Attendance is prerequisite: you cannot participate if you are not there. In brief, attendance is necessary for the
discussion and experiential activities of the course; in a way it substitutes for hefty reading and writing requirements
found in other classes. This is not a correspondence course; the workshop style and the liberal arts objectives call for
your presence and engagement. A copy of the attendance policy—which reads like “The Top Ten Reasons for Attending
College Classes”— will be emailed to you for your information on request.
Perfect attendance is the easiest way to shore up a sagging grade, and absences can and will badly damage an otherwise
satisfactory grade. Each unexcused miss reduces the attendance component of your grade by a letter grade, i.e., one miss =
B, two misses = C, etc. With two absences, you might consider taking advantage of the extra credit option; with three, I
would strongly recommend it. And if you miss four classes for ANY reason, the case study/extra credit assignment
(described above) is NO LONGER OPTIONAL BUT REQUIRED instead.
URGENT: FIVE UNEXCUSED MISSES AUTOMATICALLY RESULTS IN COURSE FAILURE,
REGARDLESS of other grades.
Procedure for petition for excused absence: Submission on the standard form provided, to be submitted no later than
the day of the last scheduled final exam for the course. A telephone message, email, or passing conversation does not
take the place of such documentation in hard copy.
You snooze, you lose! Student participation reflects my judgment of your asking thoughtful questions, making relevant
remarks, taking notes, reciting assigned lessons, turning in homework, donating materials, volunteering for classroom
exercises, expressing interest, following instructions, listening to all concerned, dialoguing with classmates, raising
different viewpoints, and sharing without monopolizing the discussion. In short, you should contribute to the overall
success of the class by demonstrating a collaborative and cooperative attitude as a team player. This is not just “my”
class but “ours”!
Student Misconduct/Disruptive Behavior. This refers to whatever interferes with the professor’s opportunity to teach
or your classmates’ opportunity to learn. One may disagree politely, for example, but vulgar language and disrespectful
conduct are taboo. According to University rules, specific examples of disruptive behavior include the use of cell phones,
unexcused exits during class (except for emergencies), side conversations during lecture, insubordination towards the
professor’s institutional authority, reading unrelated materials, e.g., the Helmsman, during class, and surfing the internet,
to say nothing of plagiarism and other forms of cheating. (The instructor reserves the legal right to eject disruptive persons
Exchange phone numbers with at least two of your classmates to find out what you missed, share notes, study together,
discuss issues, etc.
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Note: The professor reserves the right to modify this syllabus in case of unforeseen circumstances and with reasonable
TOPICS IN MENTAL HEALTH/ILLNESS
ABC-X model divorce recovery, uncoupling personal growth, “book of
addictions, n.e.c.—religion, food, dysfunctional relationships wisdom”
work, etc. domestic violence personality tests—MBTI, Big
adjustment disorders DSM: Diagnostic and Statistical Five, etc.
adult children of alcoholics Manual premarital counseling
alexithymia, emotional dysfunctional families pop psychology, self-improvement
inexpressiveness eating disorders literature
altruism eccentricity (e.g., Prince Mongo) psychosis, hallucinations &
androgyny effectiveness of therapy delusions
anger, anger management emotional intelligence, social skills psychosurgery
antisocial PD, psychopaths ethical issues PTSD (rape, combat, etc.)
assertiveness training exotic forms of mental illness race and MH
[passive/assertive/aggressive] (family) systems theory recovered memory syndrome
attention-deficit, hyperactivity feminist therapy role conflict
disorder forgiveness, process of self-concept, -esteem, -efficacy,
bibliotherapy, inspirational group therapy etc.
literature gynophobia self-defeating syndrome
body image, beauty norm happiness, subjective well-being Self-directed Search, vocational
burnout, flameout hysteria interest inventories
caretaker stress homelessness self-help and support groups
children of divorce hope, faith, placebo effect SES: socio-economic status
clinical assessment scales humor in mental health sex/love addiction
codependency, manic lovestyle incest sex differences in MH
cognitive style, learning styles infertility sexual dysfunctions
commitment phobia insanity defense shyness, loneliness
community disasters: 9-11, intimacy, relationship quality sick role
Katrina, Jonesboro, etc. institutional syndrome social support, therapeutic love
conflict resolution involuntary commitment sociotherapy
consciousness-raising groups jealousy stigma [Goffman] of mental illness
constructivism, (mis)attribution job loss stress, stress management
control: fatalism-self- learned helplessness suicide
determination life planning, life script, lifeline, substance abuse and dependence
couple compatibility diagnostic life purpose superstition, religion, spirituality
battery loss, grief, bereavement, death test anxiety, math anxiety, and fear
crisis intervention [specific crises] marital depression of public speaking
critical thinking marital status and MH therapist-client relationship
dangerousness, to self and other media images of mental illness therapy, nature of (i.e., active
deinstitutionalization, community medicalization of deviant behavior ingredients)
MH centers myth of mental illness touch, power of
depression-alcoholism- pain management twelve-step (recovery) movement
schizophrenia survey paraphilias values clarification, self-discovery
depressive realism, self-serving parenting styles—tonic and toxic women’s issues
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