In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Severe and Persistent Mental Illness: Adults

  • Introduction
  • History of Mental Illness
  • Mental Health Policy
  • Epidemiology/Etiology
  • Assessment
  • Treatment of Various Mental Illnesses
  • Psychopharmacological Guides for Social Workers
  • Suicide and Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia Overviews
  • Schizophrenia: Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Regarding Symptoms
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Case Management and Assertive Community Treatment

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Social Work Severe and Persistent Mental Illness: Adults
Allen Rubin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2009
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0009


This entry provides sources on severe and persistent mental illness that are relevant for social work practitioners, focusing in particular on schizophrenia and to a lesser extent bipolar disorder. Although other disorders are touched upon, this entry does not provide a comprehensive list of sources on other disorders, such as the various mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), personality disorders, phobias, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and so on. Nevertheless some of the books in the section Treatment of Various Mental Illnesses include chapters on the treatment of other disorders. Each section of this entry is limited to those sources that are the most up-to-date and the most useful to social workers involved in the care of people with severe and persistent mental illnesses or to students who will work with that target population.

History of Mental Illness

It is important for students and practitioners to be familiar with the history of mental illness and how our society has responded to those who suffer from it. Otherwise, as with any area of history, those who do not know it are doomed to repeat it. As one can see in the sources in this section, although our society has an appalling history in the way it has responded to this tragic disorder, eras of reform were often paved with good intentions, followed by a lack of the level of public resources needed to keep those reforms from going awry. Grob 2009, Grob 1983, Grob 1991, and Grob 1994 are classics that trace the history of America's care for the mentally ill from colonial times through the latter decades of the 20th century. The main distinction between Grob 2009, Grob 1983, and Grob 1991 pertains to which years are covered. Grob 2009 looks at early forces that led to the development of state hospitals. Grob 1983 looks at what happened to the nature of those hospitals over subsequent decades. Grob 1991 emphasizes advances in biomedical treatment and the emergence of the emphasis on moving people out of state hospitals into communities and the negative consequences of that policy shift. Grob 1994 is the most recent and perhaps the best for readers who lack the time to read all of his books as it distillates his earlier three books (Grob 2009 considered “earlier” having been first published in 1972; see annotation).

  • Grob, Gerald N. 1983. Mental illness and American society, 1875–1940. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    In this second of his four books, Grob analyzes the history of America's care for the mentally ill over the last few decades of the nineteenth century up to World War II. His focus is on the patients and staff in state mental hospitals and their interactions.

  • Grob, Gerald N. 1991. From asylum to community: Mental health policy in modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Examines changes in professional thought and public attitudes about mental illness and its treatment between the 1940s and the 1960s, advances in biomedical techniques, the shift from the state to the federal levels in making mental health policy, and the emergence and negative consequences of deinstitutionalization.

  • Grob, Gerald N. 1994. The mad among us: A history of the care of America's mentally ill. New York: Free Press.

    Distillates Grob's previous three books on different historical eras of America's care for the mentally ill.

  • Grob, Gerald N. 2009. Mental institutions in America: Social policy to 1875. New York: Free Press.

    Grob's first of four books on the history of America's care for the mentally ill analyzes the early development of mental institutions in this country. It describes factors influencing that development and illustrates how it was the result of a social reform movement with noble intentions but unintended negative consequences. First published in 1972; New York, Free Press.

  • Torrey, E. Fuller, and Judy Miller. 2001. The invisible plague: The rise of mental illness from 1750 to the present. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.

    Although this book's thesis that schizophrenia is an epidemic has been criticized, it presents an excellent review of the appalling ways the mentally ill have been treated for 250 years.

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