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Consumerism and mental health care in a culturally diverse society

Petersen, A., Kokanovic, R. and Hansen, S. (2001) Consumerism and mental health care in a culturally diverse society. In: Henderson, S. and Petersen, A., (eds.) Consuming Health: The Commodification of Health Care. Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis Group, pp. 105-120.


This chapter1 examines the extent to which consumerism has come to inform mental health care policy, and the limitations and implications of the consumerism model a culturally diverse society. Mental illness and mental health care are issues that directly or indirectly affect all of us. At some point in our lives, we are likely to feel depressed or be described as ‘mentally disordered’. At the very least, we will know someone who has come into direct contact with the mental health care system. During such times, discussions about care and the adequacy of therapeutic options are likely to come to the fore. Such discussions are often framed in both the policy-and the personalrealm by the language of consumerism, by which the ‘costs’ associated with mental illness and its care are considered substantial, for affected individuals and for the community as a whole. These ‘costs’ include both economic expenses (e.g. medical treatment and lost income through time off work by those diagnosed as ‘ill’ and those who offer their unpaid assistance), social costs (disruption to relationships) and emotional costs (the resulting distress for all concerned). It is for these reasons that mental health problems have increasingly been the focus of public policy. However, although an ethos of consumerism is increasingly evident in mental health care – in the conduct and evaluation of mental health services – few policy-makers question the applicability, or acknowledge the limits of, the consumerism model.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis Group
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