Mental Illness: Structural Function Approach – Essay Example

The paper "Mental Illness: Structural Function Approach" is an outstanding example of an essay on social science. The theory stipulates that society is complex made up of structures which are interdependent and work together to fulfill their functions. It focuses on the importance of social structures in working together to fulfill functions important for the functioning of the whole society. These functions may be manifest functions (are recognizable and intended consequences of the social structures), latent functions (are unintended and unrecognizable like meeting new people), and dysfunctions which are the consequences that are not desirable in the society like failing, having mental illness among others (Wood and Tully 2006).  Mental illness is viewed as an individual problem in society but it affects everyone. This is because according to this theory, society’s functions and structures are viewed holistically as one and hence whatever happens to an individual in the society is seen to affect the whole society. In this regard, mental illness is, therefore, a dysfunction of the society’s health structure and hence a problem of all in the society.
Mental illness is described as not having mental ability or not being in the best mental health to be able to function normally, hence dysfunctions compare to the general public (Thompson 2006). This is a broad definition and the same is pointed out in the article where most research on mental illnesses do not categorize those with serious mental illnesses (and who cannot function well) and those with mild forms of the mental illness and who can still work and function a bit in the society. Failure to categorize leads to generalizations hence further making the mental illness be an individual problem and not a societal one.
The article provides another angle to the explanation of the intertwining of mental illness and social problems like crime, unemployment, and homelessness. It points out that poverty may be attributed to all these social problems in a mentally ill person. This according to the article is because when a person becomes mentally ill, the society distances themselves from that individual since mental illness is viewed as an individual problem (Draine et al. 2002).
The mentally ill individual cannot work anymore and can also not be employed anymore; the first social problem of unemployment creeps in. Due to unemployment, the person ends up losing their property and this includes the house or the family leaves and hence the person becomes homeless. Since this individual has to eat, the best way to acquire food is to steal and crime problem manifests itself.
The society fails to realize that that categorizing mental illness as an individual problem is not logical. If the mentally ill person is taken by the society and cared for including being given mental health treatment, then the social problems would not take place and especially the crime which targets those same people in the society who are not mentally ill. If mental illness is viewed as a dysfunction of the society’s functions, then those individuals with mental illness would be cared for and the social problems would be a thing of the past.
Social structures like the media exaggerate the social problems caused by and affecting individuals with mental illness. This is done through the statistics that are way overboard. Statistics and research findings on social problems and mental illness do not compare people with mental illness to the general public. This, therefore, leads to results that are way above the truth. For example, the research findings that over 90% of mentally ill people are homeless. This is not necessarily true. If these statistics are compared to the general public, they are way less. This dysfunction can still be attributed to the statement about mental illness is an individual problem and not a societal one.
The society through the social structures ignores the contributing factors to these social problems associated with the mentally ill individuals. Some of these factors are substance abuse by the mentally ill individuals which is the cause of the mental illness or which predisposes them to the social problems. People which mental illness (even if not that severe) who abuse drugs and other substances are likely not to complete their education and hence not getting employed or being employed in low-paying jobs. They may also not be able to afford shelter or maybe too” high” on the substances that they do not even know where they are sleeping, hence ending up in the streets or in homeless shelters because they cannot even remember where they live.
In conclusion, the problem of making mental illness and not a societal problem will eventually lead to further stigmatization of the mentally ill and hence more social problems will occur. This would lead to more mentally ill individuals being imprisoned for crimes they would not have committed had the family and health structures of the society viewed the mentally ill as one of them and treated them. Researchers and the media need to change their aspects of the mentally ill and this will help change the other structures of the society too and also the functioning and view mental illness as a latent function, not as a dysfunction.