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IMPORTANT INFORMATION
By reading this site, the reader acknowledges their personal respnsibility in choices for mental health for themselves and their children, and agrees that the AYCNP or anyone associated with this site, bears no responsibility for one's personal decisions in choices for mental health. Anyone coming off medication should do so gradually rather than abruptly, and under a doctor's supervision. Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide should seek support.


The Strengths Model: A Recovery-Oriented Approach to Mental Health Services Charles A. Rapp, Richard J. Goscha

The Strengths Model presents a compelling alternative to the traditional medical approach. An evidence-based approach to helping people with a psychiatric disability is more productive in helping to identify and achieve and maintain meaningful and important life goals. The strengths model has matured into a robust vision of mental health services.

The Strengths Model is both a philosophy of practice and the book provides a specific set of tools and methods, which are designed to facilitate a recovery-oriented partnership between the client and professional.


The Ethics of Labeling in Mental Health by Kristie Madsen, Peter Leech

The myths of mental illness are numerous and negatively affect the lives of patients on a regular basis. For this reason they demand exposure and rectification, and this book proposes the means to accomplish both. The focus of this book is the institution of professional mental health as it operates in America today, specifically addressing how the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the primary resource used in the mental health profession, has influenced much larger social issues.

As examples reveal in the book reveal, in many instances the patients lives have been plagued by the designation of mental disorders that perhaps never existed.

The book challenges the mental health system to evolve beyond the (DSM-V) focus on pathology and develop a more humane method of addressing the functional needs of patients. International perspectives are presented, and specific steps are outlined for providing mental health services that adequately serve individuals with serious and persistent mental illnesses.


Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health, by Elliot Valenstein

A detailed analysis (with proof) of how the pharmaceutical industry sold the medical field, over decades, on the idea of pharmaceutical treatment for psychiatric disorders. Valenstein provides ample logical reasoning on the idea that psychiatric disorders are not caused by a "chemical imbalance" and that the medical model, while convenient, is not accurate.


Beyond the Disease Model of Mental Disorders by Donald Kiesler

Kiesler's Beyond the Disease Model of Mental Disorder goes beyond recent volumes which argue that psychotropic medications are being overused and abused in contemporary mental health settings. Elliott Valenstein, for example, an emeritus professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan, recently argues that people should be highly suspicious of the claim that all mental illness is primarily a biochemical disorder. Valenstein's central point is that drugs do not attack the real cause of a disorder, since biochemical theories are an unproven hypothesis and probably a false one.

Kiesler highlights a message similar to that of Valenstein, who rejects the hypothesis that mental illness is primarily a biochemical disorder.

After a comprehensive review of the relevant scientific evidence, Kiesler concludes that henceforth the study of mental disorders must be guided by multicausal theories and research that systematically include an array of biological, psychological, and sociocultural causal factors. Kiesler adds that, in order for this to be accomplished, the mental health field and the public at large must first abandon the invalid monocausal biomedical (disease) model of mental disorder.


A Handbook for the Study of Mental Health: Social Contexts, Theories, and Systems - 2nd Edition. By Teresa L. Scheid, Tony N. Brown

The 2nd edition of A Handbook for the Study of Mental Health: Contexts, Theories, and Systems provides a comprehensive review of the sociology of mental health, with chapters written by leading scholars and researchers. The volume presents an overview of historical, social, and institutional frameworks for understanding mental health and illness.

Part I examines social factors that shape psychiatric diagnosis and the measurement of mental health and illness, the theories that explain the definition and treatment of mental disorders, and cultural variability in mental health.

Part II investigates effects of social context on mental health and illness. Individual chapters consider the role of social statuses including class, gender, race, and age. Several chapters focus on the critical role played by stress, marriage, work, and social support, with a concluding chapter focusing on terrorism. Part III focuses on the organization, delivery, and evaluation of mental health services, including a discussion of the criminalization of mental illness, the mental health challenges posed by HIV, and the importance of stigma in meeting the mental health needs of individuals.

A Handbook for the Study of Mental Health is a key research reference source that will be useful to both undergraduates and graduate students studying mental health and illness from any number of disciplines.


Living with Depression: why Biology and Biography Matter Along the Path to Hope and Healing by Debora Serani

This book "manages to explain depression in terms of human biology and experience without downplaying either aspect. Many times authors concentrate on one or the other, leaving the reader with the impression that only nature (or nurture) causes depression. These books then often purpose one type of solution (i.e. only medication or only talk therapy), leaving the reader only have-informed. The book also provides a discussion concerning stigma of those with mental health disorders. Review - NAMI Advocate, Fall 2011


Two Worlds of Childhood: U.S. and U.S.S.R.
br Urie Bronfenbrenner


Page updated: November 30, 2015

Urie Bronfenbrenner
--------and the Bioecological Model of Mental Health


Urie Bronfenbrenner's more holistic approach to mental health stands in positive contrast to the Medical Model of mental health


Urie Bronfenbrenner was co-founder of the Head Start preschool program in the United States. A Cornell University professor and one of the world's leading scholars in developmental psychology, child-rearing, and human ecology, Bronfenbrenner emphasized the importance of the social environments in which children are raised and offers a holistic perspective on the development of human psychology.

Rather than focus on one aspect of childhood development and mental health, such as chemical composition of the brain, the bioecological model that Bronfenbrenner pioneered takes into account the many inter-related factors that affect the mental health of a child or adult.

Urie Bronfenbrenner
Urie Brofenbrenner. Photo: Cornell University News Service. (September 26, 2005).


Urie Bronfenbrenner had been, and continues to be, an influential developmental psychologist in the three decades prior to his death. He was the co-founder of the nationwide Head Start preschool program.


The medical model is inadequate approach in addressing mental health disorders and psychological difficulties. The Bioecological Model of Mental Health and similar approaches take into account the many interrelated factors that affect mental health.


The simplistic idea that mental illness is a chemical imbalance might be likened to the Hindu caste system. Although the caste system is discredited and illegal, the practice persists. The medical model is spoken about in college psychology and psychiatric textbooks as being simplistic and unrealistic, and yet many still subscribe to the idea, basing mental health treatment on the foundation of the medical model (Carson, Butcher, Mineka. 2000).

The obvious next step to the medical model is that if mental illness is nothing more than a chemical imbalance, then treating mental illness is nothing more than identifying or labeling a mental illness, and prescribing the appropriate medication to bring the mind's chemicals back into balance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are scores of interconnecting factors and variables that are involved in mental health as well as in any diagnosable form of mental illness. Why the emphasis on finding the right chemical mix by prescribing drugs? Because it is convenient, the treating physician never has to leave his desk, and it is less expensive and less time-consuming than getting to the roots of the problems and trying to solve them. And many clients/patients may not muster up the effort to change their lifestyles or put their energy into following suggestions from their mental health provider. Doctors, then, resort to an acceptable form of treatment that leaves them free of culpability in the event of self-harm or harm to others by their patient.


Works of Urie Bronfenbrenner


Bronfenbrenner was co-author or editor of more than 300 articles and 14 books, most notably "Two Worlds of Childhood: U.S. and U.S.S.R.", "The State of Americans", "The Ecology of Human Development", and "Making Human Beings Human." His writings were widely translated, and his students and colleagues number among today's most internationally influential developmental psychologists.

"Perhaps more than any other single individual, Urie Bronfenbrenner changed America's approach to child-rearing, and created a new interdisciplinary scholarly field which he defined as the ecology of human development," stated Cornell President Hunter R. Rawlings. (Cornell University News Service, September 26, 2005).


Children and Family and Mental Health


Educators especially need to be aware of the many factors involved in the personality development of children, as well as what is involved with children's and teen's social problems and how these affect their behavior in school.

Bronfenbrenner's view of child psychology provides a more plausible explanation and context from which to consider children's psychological difficulties and mental health disorders than does the medical model.

Bronfenbrenner taught that the family is the filter through which the larger society influences child development. The family should serve as a buffer against harmful elements in the culture at large. If early family life is damaging or emotionally hurtful, it can contribute to psychological difficulties in children and teens, or can manifest itself later in adult life. Family life is just one social factor among many that can contribute to mental health disorders. Social factors are an important element of mental health, though are not the only factors to consider. Yes, genetic predisposition is one other consideration in the development of mental health disorders, however genetics is not "causal."


Distinguishing Between Microsystems and Macrosystems


Bronfenbrenner distinguishes between microsystems, which include settings that a child has in direct personal experience, and which contribute to the shaping of his personality (such as the family, a day care center or school, a job setting for a teenager)—and exosystems, which also affect the child's environment and hence the development of his or her personality. This would include the parents' work and workplace environment, as one example.

The macrosystem in which the child lives influences both his behavior and personal growth; the neighborhood in which the family lives, the ethnic identity of the family, and the larger culture in which the entire system exists are all part of this macrosystem.

Both the microsystem and macrosystem in which the child is reared influence both his behavior and personal growth. We discern that there is a complex set of relationships that affect a child's behavior, personality, and adjustment. Most research involving children and psychological difficulties examine only small pieces of the total ecological system. Much of what is learned about the individual, then, is "piecemeal rather than systemic" (Bee, H., Boyd, D. 2007. pp.363,364). A biological/medical model of children's psychological difficulties, then, is shortsighted in contrast. It fails to take into consideration all of the many factors that influence a child's personality or brushes them off to the side as if they were only of secondary importance.

Biology and genetics are only a small part of the complete picture. In a hundred-piece puzzle, biology and genetics might be two pieces—10% to 30% at best, depending on the situation. Yet most of today's psychiatric community has been trained in addressing that small microcosm that makes up the biochemical balance of the mind.

Most funding for research and clinical studies are diverted to biochemical research, and testing new drugs for safety and effectiveness. A good part of the reason for this is that Big Pharma, the pharmaceutical industry, has one of the widest profit margins of any legal industry, with hundreds of billions of dollars in gross sales annually (Andreson, R. BBC. November 2014). Money from Big Pharma goes to research—and not into effective holistic approaches, but on drug research. Many of the grants to university research originate from Big Pharma.

Does the fact that Big Pharma is funding most of the psychiatric research today influence outcomes of clinical studies? It is believed to strongly affect outcomes and conclusions. Genetic research also receives large chunks of money for research. Searching for that elusive gene that "causes" schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is a popular topic of research.

Is this productive? Will it result in a "cure"? Likely not. However, there is little money to be made, except perhaps from the sneaker manufacturers industry—in promoting or testing regular exercise such as walking as to its effectiveness in relief from depression—or art as to its effectiveness in helping children with ADHD to focus. There is just not the same direct-line, profit-motivated push for such studies. Big Pharma rules. It is good to know, however, that there is a strong countermovement against Big Pharma's influence and its many unethical practices in maintaining their grip on the public view.

mentalhealtchart

This chart demonstrates that there are many interrelated factors related to mental health. Over-simplistic formulas such as the medical model work against long-term gains in mental health treatment for the individual and for entire populations. Also, prevention, including relapse prevention, is preferable to treatment after the fact.


The Bioecological Model is More Consistent with the Facts


The bioecological model of mental health proposed by Urie Bronfenbrenner, on the other hand, is more consistent with the facts, more broad in its viewpoint, and helps explain the many factors involved with mental health disorders with a higher degree of integrity than does the medical model.

We need to look seriously at our approach to mental health difficulties as more and more children and teens are being diagnosed with mental health disorders.

The Bioecological Model of mental health proposed by Urie Bronfenbrenner, is more consistent with the facts, more broad in its viewpoint, and helps to explain the many factors involved with mental health disorders with a higher degree of integrity than does the medical model.


Mental Health: Looking at the whole forest rather than just one tree


It might be likened to the difference between examining one piece of the bark of a tree when the forest is sick, and being above the forest in a helicopter and getting the whole picture. True, the tree may be sick, the bark may be falling off, but we have to ask ‘why.’ Yes, we can treat the tree with fungicide, but perhaps what is causing the forest to be sick is preventable. Maybe the new dam upstream is draining the forest of water. Perhaps the new factory is polluting the air and leading to acid rain. Fungicide and pesticide are merely covering up the problem, supplying a chemical Band-Aid to the larger issues that are entirely non-related.

Bronfenbrenner, by contrast, considers the entire forest and endeavors to take all of the multi-faceted aspects of mental health into consideration in his bioecological model.


References and Resources - Urie Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological Model page


1. Andreson, R. (2014, November). Pharmaceutical industry gets high on fat profits. BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28212223

2. Bee, H., Boyd, D. (2007). The Developing Child. Boston: Pearson - Allyn & Bacon.

3. Carson, R., Butcher, J., Mineka, S. (2000). Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life 11th edition. Boston: Pearson - Addison-Wesley.

4. Lang, S.. (2005, September 26). Urie Bronfenbrenner, father of Head Start program and pre-eminent 'human ecologist,' dies at age 88. Cornell University News Service. http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/sept05/bronfenbrenner.ssl.html

5. Some Principles of the Ecology of Child Development - From the work of Urie Bronfenbrenner, PhD. Octonto County University. http://oconto.uwex.edu/flp/documents/AppendixB-BronfenbrennersEcologicalModelofChildDevelopment.pdf

6. Urie Bronfenbrenner: ECOLOGICAL THEORY. Emory University Division of Educational Studies. http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/302/302bron.PDF

photo: Cornell University News. http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Sept05/Bronfenbrenner.ssl.html


Pages Related to Urie Bronfenbrenner, Bioecological Model of Mental Health


Psychiatric Labeling - The Medical Model of Mental Health and Psychiatric Labeling

Mental Illness Genetics - Mental Illness It is not purely biological or genetic as some assert. It is a combination of Environmental, social, and socio-cultural factors, combined with Genetic Pre-Disposition.

Psychiatry History Moral Management - Successful non-pharmaceutical treatment of mental illness in the 19th century.

George Albee, Ph.D. - A social viewpoint of mental health disorders rather than medical model from former president of the American Psychological Association (APA)

Warnings about Mental Health Treatment - A Closer Look at Psychopharmacology - Let the Buyer Beware! by Louis Kirby, MA


Books by Urie Bronfenbrenner

Making Human Beings Human: Bioecological Perspectives on Human Development, by Urie Bronfenbrenner

Making Human Beings Human is a landmark collection that traces and summarizes Urie Bronfenbrenner's thoughts on the bioecological theory of human development, and recommends avenues for future research. The majority of the twenty-three retrospective articles were written by Bronfenbrenner, while some were written with colleagues over the course of six decades. The book's articles document the domain of inquiry that has emerged gradually over many years, and has now acquired a title of its own: the bioecological theory of human development. Making Human Beings Human is a culminating work by a prominent figure in the field of human development, and will help to shape the future of the field.

The State of Americans: This Generation and the Next , by Urie Bronfenbrenner, Peter D McClelland, Stephen Ceci, Phyllis Moen, Elaine Wethington

A group of social science researchers compiles statistics on crime, the economy, changing family structure, poverty, education, changing attitudes, and other issues facing America today.

The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design

The book's purpose is to offer a new theoretical perspective for research in human development. Bronfenbrenner achieves this goal superbly....The synthesis offered in this book is unique....The effect is a perspective on the field of human development that is exciting in its possibilities... This is a usable and practical book...a powerful teaching text....It conveys masterfully the mystery and excitement of scientific investigation. --Contemporary Psychology




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