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The Meaning of Normality: The controversy about the mental health campaign in Sweden 1969
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2010 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of History, ISSN 0346-8755, Vol. 35, no 2, 198-216 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

At the height of the Swedish welfare society, a campaign with the aim of promoting mental health issues within the Swedish labour market was launched. The title and purpose of the campaign, 'Mental health - an action of increased understanding and solidarity at work', was to illuminate mental health issues at work. Surprisingly to the organizers, the mental health campaign stirred up major opposition, especially from the political left. The idea of mental hygiene in an industrial and workplace setting, a cross-breed between the values of the Human Relations School and psychiatric science, was received with deep mistrust. The campaign caused an agitated debate in the media about power relations between employers and employees. The political disagreements were exposed in a number of articles in the daily newspapers and in the evening papers during the summer of that year. This article undertakes an investigation of the campaign literature and the media debate. The interpretation of the debate highlights different opinions about the meaning of normal mental health. Four different views of normality and mental health which demonstrate the complexity of the issue are presented. Mental health could mean adjustment and harmony, it could be a medical weapon to suppress the working class, it could even mean a neutral state of absence of mental problems, or lastly it could be a claim for the right to live a normal life.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Routledge , 2010. Vol. 35, no 2, 198-216 p.
Keyword [en]
normality, mental health campaign, public mental health, industrial mental health, working life conditions
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
Social Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-50545DOI: 10.1080/03468751003718217OAI: diva2:381703
Available from: 2011-01-03 Created: 2010-12-28 Last updated: 2013-01-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Normalitetens gränser: En studie om 1900-talets mentalhygieniska diskurser
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Normalitetens gränser: En studie om 1900-talets mentalhygieniska diskurser
2005 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The comprehensive aim of the dissertation is to examine how ideas about mental hygiene have been elaborated and debated within the context of Swedish welfare. The dissertation is a compilation of four articles where issues of mental hygiene are examined in detail through an analysis of texts. In addition, a theoretical and methodological framework and a discussion of the concepts of mental health and normality are asserted to the dissertation. The subjects of research are (1) the launching of the movement in USA in the early twentieth, and the autobiographical narrative "A Mind That Found Itself" (Beers 1908), (2) the conception and the evolution of the movement in Sweden, (3) the psychosocial training within the education of social workers between the years 1939 –1989, and (4) the debate about the Mental health Campaign in 1969. The issues of mental hygiene and mental health discussed in the articles are elaborated in relation to the academic disciplines of Sociology of Health and Illness and the History of Public Health. The theoretical approach of these disciplines proceeds from a post-structural and social constructivist perspective of knowledge and language, a perspective also used in the interpretation of the textual materials. The section where the research methods are presented, consists of a description of how the textual materials have been selected and treated in relation to the theoretical and methodological standpoints.

The outcome of the investigation of the autobiographical book

"A Mind That Found Itself" (Beers 1908) in relation to the launching of the movement in the USA, is that the monomyth-character of the story supported an image of victory and hope, important for the movements aims to improve the reputation of psychiatry. Concerning the launching of the mental hygiene movement in Sweden two important conditions stands out as the course behind the rather hesitant start: the dominant position of custodial care and the antagonistic attitude towards psychoanalytical theories. The study of the psychosocial training of social workers showed how the skills of the clinical gaze were taught to the students by the technique of case-writing. The study of the Mental Health campaign in 1969 showed important divergences concerning the opinions of normality. Since the individual anatomy in the welfare system in Sweden is organised through the individuals position within the labour market, the issues of mental health and allied opinions of normality also contained the risks of exclusion. In conclusion, a comprehensive reflection concerning the results of the studies, is that the concept of mental hygiene, due to the mix of psychiatric and social knowledge, mediated shifting ideas about normality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för socialt arbete - Socialhögskolan, 2005. 206 p.
Rapport i socialt arbete, ISSN 0281-6288 ; 111-205
mental hygiene, public mental health, spychosocial work, normality
National Category
Social Work
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-445 (URN)91-7155-005-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2005-04-23, Aula Svea, Socialhögskolan, Sveaplan, Stockholm, 10:00

At the time of the doctoral defence the following papers were unpublished and had s status as follows: Papar nr. 1: Manuscript; Paper nr. 3 Accepted Manuscript; Paper nr. 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2005-04-06 Created: 2005-04-06 Last updated: 2013-01-08Bibliographically approved

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