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Social Representations Psychologyst Luisa Cadena

Social Representations Psychologyst Luisa Cadena

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Published by: Luisa Fernanda Cadena on Jul 10, 2011
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05/21/2012

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University College London
Qualitative Methods
MSc Research Methods in Psychology
Student: RM 10086/27/2011
 
Introduction
Interrogations of psychology and its relevance in the process of mental health are commonin modern society. The social representations built by people around questions such as:
“who are psychologists?”; “what does a psychologist do?” and “w
hy people consult
psychologists” are crucial in order to reac
h a holistic understanding regarding conceptionsabout psychologists. The answers to these questions can lead to a greater understanding of psychology in society, and facilitate the development of frontline services to create realisticand coherent social policies that increase
individuals’
quality of life, wellbeing and mentalhealth within the community. The constructions of social representations of psychologistsdo not exist exclusively in the mind of the individual. These perceptions permeate people
sinteractions and behavioural psychology within the community. This happens through
people’s verbalizations that come from what they listen, read or hear from the mass media,
from their life experiences and their relationships. Also, it is important to consider thatdifferent economic and social contexts create specific demographics within the applicationof psychology within the greater community.
 
This study aims to investigate how individuals from a low socio-economic background in theGreater London are
a define ‘the psychologist’, and how this profession is conceived outside
a clinical context. It will assess the meanings that people with no prior experience of visitingpsychologists assign to this specialist. The Social Representations Theory (SRT) is used asepistemological framework with which the data is analysed. According to Tilford et al.(1997) mental health is one of the most important causes of illness in the UK, thereforebetter and more integrative comprehension of social representations of psychologists andtheir work could represent a valuable step in the mental health promotion and also a crucialinformation for clinicians regarding the ideas, preconceptions and fears that people havearound them.
Background 
Mental health is a main cause of disability, illness, social and family disfunctions in the UK;some of the more common problems presented are: suicide (especially amongst youngmen); depession and anxiety. In general, both anxiety and depression (clasify into thecommon mental disorders: CMDs) in low socio-economic communities is often left
 
undiagnosed and untreated, due to ignorance of the disease. (Tilford,1997; Office of national statistics, 2006; McManus et al., 2009). Despite that mental health represents areal public health problem, The Adult Psychiatry Morbidity Survey of 2007 provides statisticsto indicate that few sufferers seek treatment for their condition. For instance, participantswere asked whether they were acceding to any kind of therapy or counselling for anemotional problem. The results showed that just ten per cent of the population with CMDwas having a counselling or therapy process by the time of the survey. Additionally, aroundone person in six had experienced CMD within 7 days of the survey being conducted,without consulting or receiving any treatment (McManus et al., 2009). Some otherepidemiological information has shown that just 2 per cent of people affected by mentalhealth problems will be in contact with mental health services in the course of a year.Additionally, there is an association between diagnosis and access to psychotherapy ortalking treatments: 78 per cent of subjects taking antidepressants had been also treated inpsychotherapy compared with 54 per cent of people who are not. (Goldberg & Galer,1991).The causes of this phenomenon are diverse and interconnected, however some researchershave shown that factors such as gender, socio economic level, availability and accessibilityof the services, can influence it. (Bird, 2007; Willis & DePaulo, 1991). Official figures inEngland have shown that 14 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women have suffered orsuffer of some type of mental illness. (Prescott & Primatesta, 1998). Also some othernumbers showed that 18 per cent of women have a neurotic disorder, anxiety, phobias andpanic attacks. Just 11 per cent of men have presented them, however, men are three timesmore prone to develop alcohol dependence and twice as likely to be drugs dependent.(Office of National statistics, 1996). NHS psychotherapy services also established that peoplefrom ethnic minorities, the homosexual community, the elderly and people with chronic
illness’ are less likely to accede to mental health services (Department of Health, Office fo
rNational Statistics, 2004). However, despite figures of past years; the last NHS mental healthbulletin for 2009/10 has illustrated an exponential growth in the use of psychologicalservices. First, NHS mental health services in 2009-2010 were used by 1.25 million of people,the highest number in six years. Second, ethnic minorities now have an importantpercentage of access to mental health services (approx. 3,800 per 100,000 people). Alsopsychological in-patients have increased by 5.1 per cent - the first increase in five years.

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