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Deviance and Social Control

Considerably, the ‘mental disorder’ conceptualization has comprised various illnesses or problems affecting mental health. To define the mental disorder, naturalist definitions were proposed to clarify the non-social and medical basis for diagnosis. The proposed definitions by Wakefield and Boorse are highly considered influential and essential. The definitions include concepts relative to physical and mental illness identifying it as harmful and disrupting natural function. The judgment of harm is primarily perceived as a matter of social values and norms. Based on scientific fact, a claim regards disruption of natural function as a challenging objective. In this way, the definitions compose medical and social norms seeking to resolve arguments when discussing mental disorders. From a scientific perspective, two options were presented to distinguish normal from abnormal working in an objective (Cao & Wang, 2021). According to Boorse, normal or natural functioning is considered average for species such that abnormal operation is a functioning matter below the typical species level. The approach is predisposed to several problems, among which is deviance from statistical normality. The other definition by Wakefield ties natural or normal function to design, not just statistical normal levels. In his analysis, Wakefield regards mental disorders as harmful failures in functioning behavioural mechanisms and natural mental as designed in evolution. Mental disorder has become an issue of concern in the general public health of Canada (Ng & Zhang, 2021).

Markedly, there exists a connection between mental disorders and deviance. Deviants are not always considered mentally ill, but most mentally ill individuals are considered deviant. Such is so because mental illness is not perceived as a normal condition. Mental disorder is differently perceived under the theoretical frameworks of sociology. They are commonly based on social systems that define, identify, and treat mental illness. As functionalists believe, recognition of mental disorders has led to the upholding of values by society regarding the conformation of behaviour (Cao & Wang, 2021). In another viewpoint by the symbolic interactionists, mentally ill persons are not considered sick but victims of societal reactions that affect their behaviour. The labelling theorists and conflict theorists consider individuals with a shortage of access to resources as the mentally ill. On this basis, the poor, racial minorities and women are exposed to high mental illness cases compared to groups with higher economic and social status. Much more, it is shown that upper and middle-class individuals can easily access psychotherapy forms to combat their mental illness (Moroz et al., 2021). The poor and minorities have limited access to physical rehabilitation and medication, not psychotherapy.

Nevertheless, the stated explanations that explored the existing links between mental illness and social status approve the resulting deviance (Aftab & Rashed, 2021). In one explanation, it is said that individuals in a low-income group, for instance, a racial minority or a woman in a sexist society, account for higher rates of mental disorders. Such harsh social settings exist as a threat to mental health conditions. In some arguments, some individuals perceived specific behaviour labelled as mentally ill as charming. For example, some situations of homeless women made them acknowledged as crazy and mentally ill. When professed among the rich women, the same behavioural conditions were designated as charming. In this way, mental illness is more common among women than men (Van Slingerland et al., 2019). The phrase is derived from the stems that women are exposed to sexual abuse, unhappy marriages, poverty, stresses of looking after children and many others. All these stems explain the higher rates of mental disorders among women; as per the presented statistical data, the rate of mental illness among Canadians rose to twenty per cent, marked by six point seven million mentally ill individuals by 2017. More so, a mental disorder is regarded as taboo despite any significant influence that may emerge from one’s quality of life. Hence, stigmas are flaws accompanying the study in Canada (Aftab & Rashed, 2021).

Canadian society significantly includes moral regulation and promoting moral enterprise processes when connecting to mental illness. Moral entrepreneurship is vital when exploring ethics in professions, businesses, organizations and people wanting to be leaders in creating ethical norms (Moroz et al., 2021). The conceptualization of moral entrepreneurship is norm-specific and does not refer to an organization or person as a leader in every related norm. Moral entrepreneurs are responsible for establishing labels of certain behaviours and spreading them throughout society. Such may include the removal of negative and positive labels and the removal of attributes of negative labels pertaining to people’s behaviour. Usually, the moral entrepreneur achieves the enforcement or creation of norms for several reasons (Ng & Zhang, 2021). Moral entrepreneurs also hold the power to generate moral panic, and here is the case with a mental disorder in Canada. Concerning mental illness, moral entrepreneurs include policymakers, activists and professionals in mental health centres. Moral entrepreneurs give attention to issues through situations, conditions and names by interpreting and dramatizing them.

In this regard, policymakers as moral entrepreneurs in the context of mental illness participate in campaigns for improved mental health services. Such is to say, and they participate in expanding programs that ensure access to mental treatments, mental health education and protection from discrimination in issues that may contribute to mental instability (Cao & Wang, 2021). In the case of Canadian society, numerous advocates, including those working through organizations such as the Mood Disorders Association of Canada (MDAC) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), engage in moral entrepreneurship and thus increase awareness towards mental health issues. As such, this lead to increased awareness of matters about mental health and advocates for better policies and mental health services. Usually, moral entrepreneurs use ‘typifying’ as a rhetorical tool to define social problems. By typification, a problem’s nature is characterized and made understandable in a certain way from the case of a medical perspective. Moral entrepreneurs employ typification claiming that behaviours of specific nature among a particular group are morally dangerous.

Moral entrepreneurs are said to have successfully defined deviance by identifying a group with specific behaviour and probable fear imposed by such behaviour on society. Moral entrepreneurs use typification to establish significant roles regarding mental disorder subject (Van Slingerland et al., 2019). A problem of depression, anxiety or personality disorder may play a significant role in creating rhetoric for determining deviance and a problem about the mental disorder in society. With popularization, creation and definitions of terms that interconnect with the topic, for instance, “stress”, “unconscious”, and “personality disorders”, moral entrepreneurs may master the understanding of the matter and establish social control towards it. Besides, moral entrepreneurs centre on constructing social deviance, like developing drug scares to combat mental illnesses. In this particular angle, moral entrepreneurs assume a role in lawmaking (Moroz et al., 2021). Specifically, moral entrepreneurs assign responsibility to drugs for the extensive mental disorder problem. Based on this consideration, it is seen that drug laws have included instructions intended to encounter and reduce drug problems. In this way, they have expanded power to social control.

Moral entrepreneurship comes in handy with the regulation of morality. Here, morality regulation may be considered a defining and enforcing act to the community standards. Moral regulation encompasses policies and laws that are relative to mental health. Moral regulation consists of policies and laws guaranteeing the protection of persons with mental disorders and easy access to mental health services. Moral regulations involve initiating and creating awareness and offering public education about mental health (Aftab & Rashed, 2021). Such campaigns will significantly lessen the stigma that is plausible and interconnected with a mental disorder (Cao & Wang, 2021). Regarding Canada’s delivery of mental health services, three distinct periods have been established for the psychological treatment of mental disorders. Such three distinct periods incorporated in Canada’s moral regulation include the humanitarian approach to mental illness treatment, institutionalization and Deinstitutionalization.

With inadequate moral accommodations and hospitality, individuals with mental disorders were locked in their homes or forced into rooms with criminals. The humanitarian or moral approach to mental illness has led to success in moral treatment, where several significant safe havens are built across the country. As such, this induced the institutionalization of people suffering from mental disorders (Aftab & Rashed, 2021). Moral treatment offered a sufficient patient-to-staff ratio providing decent and suitable living conditions. Institutionalization is characterized by large institutions built in isolated areas and self-contained for mentally ill persons. Institutionalization improved patient treatment, and it attempted to include industrial therapy by providing patients with small remuneration and social and recreational activities (Ng & Zhang, 2021). Here, paternalism characterized the staff-to-patient relationship. Even though most patients remained locked away from their families in society. The inadequacy of effective treatment for mentally ill patients contributed to low self-esteem. The Deinstitutionalization arouse as a result of understanding that most psychiatric institutions were non-therapeutic, overcrowded and inhumane.

Also, the long-term negative impacts of institutionalization on the wellness of mentally ill individuals, for instance, self-neglect, apathy, indifference, increased dependence, aggressive behaviour and significant loss of social abilities, accounted for the need for Deinstitutionalization. With this period of Deinstitutionalization, many people with long terms stays were discharged from the psychiatric hospitals and directed into their respective psychiatric hospital units. In the hospitals, the patient could be identified faster for treatment preventing a wide array of more serious psychiatric disorders. Moral regulation is highly centred in Canada, with many provinces hosting appropriate models for mental health service delivery (Van Slingerland et al., 2019). Such has incorporated coordination of community services that operate with psychiatric sectors in hospitals and mental health care facilities.


Aftab, A., & Rashed, M. A. (2021). Mental disorder and social deviance. International Review of Psychiatry33(5), 478-485.

Cao, L., & Wang, S. Y. K. (2020). Correlates of stalking victimization in Canada: A model of social support and comorbidity. International journal of law, crime and justice63, 100437.

Moroz, N., Moroz, I., & D’Angelo, M. S. (2020, November). Mental health services in Canada: barriers and cost-effective solutions to increase access. In Healthcare management forum (Vol. 33, No. 6, pp. 282-287). Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.

Ng, E., & Zhang, H. (2021). Access to mental health consultations by immigrants and refugees in Canada. Health Reports32(6), 3-13.

Van Slingerland, K. J., Durand-Bush, N., Bradley, L., Goldfield, G., Archambault, R., Smith, D., … & Kenttä, G. (2019). Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sport (CCMHS) position statement: Principles of mental health in competitive and high-performance sport. Clinical journal of sports medicine29(3), 173-180.


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