Mental Ill Health, Public Health and Medicalization

Public Health Ethics 4 (3):207-217 (2011)
WHO suggests mental ill health in terms of depression to be the highest ranking disease problem in the developed world in 2020–2030 and claims a public health approach to be the most appropriate response. But some argue that the alarming reports on mental ill health have their ground in the methods of inquiry themselves and refer to medicalization as an important issue. The aim of this article is to explore and illuminate the issue of what is meant by mental health and mental ill health and what it means that mental ill health is a major public health problem. Basically, two understandings and aspects of public health exist: a ‘reductionist’ and a ‘holistic’ with connections to different theories of health. These diverging understandings may lead to quite different public health responses, and they may have different consequences with regard to medicalization. It is concluded that we need more clearly elaborated ways to think about public health so that the increased attention to mental ill health as a public health problem does not in itself lead to medicalization in terms of just medical treatment. Otherwise, we risk losing the importance of public health as an overarching social and political instrument
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DOI 10.1093/phe/phr030
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Per-Anders Tengland (2007). A Two-Dimensional Theory of Health. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 28 (4):257-284.

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