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The science of the mind: investigating mental health

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To what extent can we understand mental wellbeing and treat mental health conditions such as depression and dementia by focusing on the brain and its functioning? This course presents and challenges the medical model of mental health with its reliance on drug treatment, contrasting it with ideas in the field of health psychology. You will learn from case reports of those who have a mental health condition and those who care for them, as well as from relevant research studies. The course has an emphasis on understanding different approaches within psychology, as well as the nature of evidence for and against these approaches.

Modules at Level 2 assume that you are suitably prepared for study at this level. If you want to take a single module to satisfy your career development needs or pursue particular interests, you don’t need to start at Level 1 but you do need to have adequately prepared yourself for OU study in some other way. Check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service to make sure that you are sufficiently prepared.

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Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
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Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£985.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£985.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£865.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£440.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1316.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

See below for information about part time tuition fee loans available for study towards a qualification.

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.

*Fees may vary by country.

What you will study

The course is structured as one introductory block, plus three additional topic blocks covering material as described below. Each block comprises of a book and associated multimedia in the form of video and audio excerpts, animations and activities with the assessment linked throughout. All blocks contain case reports illustrating the mental health or ill-health phenomena being studied, and all present evidence enabling you to compare and contrast ways of thinking about mental health, mental ill-health and mental health interventions.

In the introductory block you’ll explore the relationship between mind and body and the idea that mental phenomena have a physiological basis in the brain. You will be introduced to two models of studying and explaining mental health conditions. The first is the biomedical model of mental health. Here, an understanding of brain function is considered to be sufficient for understanding mental health conditions. The second model, the biopsychosocial model, is where the functioning of the brain is considered necessary but only as a factor that interacts with other psychological and social factors.

The over-arching aim of the course is to illustrate how, and why, the biopsychosocial model has emerged as a reaction to the limitations of the biomedical approach with the development of the field of health psychology. Therefore all blocks demonstrate how the biopsychosocial model can be applied to enhance our understanding of mental health and ill-health, both in theory and in mental health care. Throughout all blocks the role of preventive measures to guard against mental ill-health is discussed, as well as the promotion of well-being. Consequently the course aims to achieve a balance between a positive and a negative focus. 

Block 1: Core concepts in mental health

This block introduces the concepts of mental health and ill-health, and develops your understanding of the link between mind and body (or brain). A study of the biological basis of psychological health and ill-health informs our understanding of the way that drug treatments can be successful at alleviating symptoms. This requires some knowledge of the brain and the way in which different parts of the brain and nervous system communicate with one another. However, the block also presents the idea that a full understanding can only be gained by a parallel consideration of subjective and objective evidence. So both personal narratives and objective evidence are used to gain insight into behavioural distress. At the beginning of the block a number of people are introduced and aspects of their life stories are followed through the block. Theoretical considerations are further augmented by consideration of how diagnoses are made and the range of treatments – both chemical (drugs) and psychological – that are available to those who seek the help of external agencies for treatment for their distress. 

Block 2: Mood and wellbeing

Stress, anxiety and depression are commonly experienced conditions that impact on general well-being. They are frequently treated by biological (drug) forms of therapy, which raises crucial issues on the nature of brain-mind interdependence. This block explores this issue as well as discussing research into the factors that make us happy and may protect against the development of mood disorders. Our moods vary daily but some people seem to have a naturally sunny disposition while others find it much harder to see the positives that life offers. ‘Life is unfair’, but social and psychological inequalities do not explain every case where an individual moves down the continuum from unhappiness to disabling depression. How might a biopsychosocial approach inform our decision-making for preventing and treating these forms of mental distress?

Block 3: Addictions

This block asks what we mean by the term ’addiction‘ and whether we can truly consider it as a mental health condition. It explores the many forms that addiction can take and asks if we could potentially become addicted to anything that is pleasurable and why we classify certain substances as illegal and not others. The biological basis of addiction illustrates that all forms of addiction activate similar brain pathways. What is the link between the activation of these pathways and altered states of mind? If the activated pathways are the same, why is the subjective experience of smoking tobacco different from taking cocaine? Not everyone who takes addictive substances or indulges in potentially addictive behaviour becomes an addict.

So this block considers the evidence for viewing addiction as a disease, examines the effectiveness of pharmacological treatment strategies for addiction and looks at the alternatives available. It then moves towards a more balanced view of factors impacting on addictive behaviour and how a biopsychosocial viewpoint on addiction (and its treatment strategies) may better inform public health practitioners and policymakers.

Block 4:  Dementias

Dementias are a growing problem in our society as people live to a greater age. What changes occur in our cognitive function and capacity as we get older? How can we effectively distinguish normal ageing from the development of dementia? How can we link degeneration of brain structures to cognitive and behavioural changes that occur in various forms of dementia? How much is known about the causes of dementias and, perhaps more importantly, about how to prevent or at least delay their onset? What are the treatment possibilities and what are their theoretical rationales? This block explores the efficacy of emerging psychological and social therapies for dementia and draws direct contrasts with biological treatments, asking whether a biopsychosocial viewpoint brings significant advantages compared to a biomedical viewpoint.

This block also completes the course by returning to our initial idea that the mind has a physiological basis. We ask you to reflect on where this thinking has lead in our perception (and treatment) of mental health. In particular, we ask you to decide what your answers would be to the following two questions:

  • What more can we achieve in terms of mental well-being and the treatment of mental distress if we think also of psychological and social factors in addition to those that are biological?
  • What evidence do we have that a biopsychosocial approach is critical?

This course will appeal to anyone who is curious about the link between mind and brain. In particular to anyone who supports and cares for people with mental distress, whether professionally or as family or a friend.

Vocational relevance

This course will be attractive to anyone interested in a career in health care, particularly those professions associated with mental health.

Entry

This is a Level 2 course and you need to have study skills appropriate for this level of study, obtained through Level 1 study with the OU or by doing equivalent work at another university.

If you are new to study at a higher education level, we recommend that you study one of the following 60-credit Level 1 courses – Exploring science (S104), Introducing the social sciences (DD101), An introduction to health and social care (K101) or the 30-credit Level 1 course Introducing health sciences: a case study approach (SDK125) – before SDK228. Level 1 study will provide you with the appropriate skills for studying this Level 2 course.

It is not essential to have a scientific background to study this course, although clearly some knowledge of basic biology would be very useful.

The interactive quiz Are You Ready For SDK228? can help you to decide whether you already have the recommended background knowledge or experience to start the course or whether you need a little extra preparation. This can be found on the Science Faculty website. Students who are appropriately prepared have the best chance of completing their studies successfully.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

Because of the multidisciplinary nature of this course and the wide range of students likely to be studying it, it is difficult to suggest preparatory work that will be appropriate for all students. However, the following publications would provide some sound background reading for the course. These are by no means compulsory and the course does not assume prior knowledge in these areas.

Pilgrim, D. (2009) Key Concepts in Mental Health, 2nd edn, Sage.

Johnstone, L. and Rowe, D. (2000) Users and Abusers of Psychiatry: A Critical Look at Psychiatric Practice, Routledge

Toates, F. (ed.) (2007) Pain, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

Please note that this course makes use of some complex visual material in the texts and includes interactive multimedia activities. You will need to spend some time in most study weeks using a personal computer to access course resources supplied on DVD-ROMs or via a website or other internet sites. Some assessment tasks are conducted collaboratively within your tutor group and require you to communicate with your tutor and other students via a computer-based forum. If you use special hardware or software to assist you in using a personal computer or the internet and have any concerns about accessing these types of materials you are advised to talk to the Student Registration & Enquiry Service about support which can be given to meet your needs. Students with severe visual impairments may find they are more able to achieve the learning outcomes if they make use of a sighted assistant.

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific or diagrammatic materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

Four printed course books; study guide, glossary, assignments, forums and other resources all provided via a dedicated website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this course as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2007 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.6 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the course.  

Some activities will involve collaborative work among the students in your tutor group, conducted online via the forum network with support from your tutor. Participation in these activities will be essential in enabling you to complete some of the assessed work for this course.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this course can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Professional recognition

This is a compulsory module in the Foundation Degree and Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) in Paramedic Sciences, which are expected to become a route to professional recognition in a number of subjects allied to medicine.

Although this course is available for study by all OU students, if you are interested in studying it as part of one of these qualifications, they are at present restricted to students who are employed within a healthcare setting and are being supported in their practice learning by their employer.

For further information, you or your employer should contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Future availability

The details given here are for the course that starts in October 2014. We expect it to be available once a year.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Student Reviews

“I really enjoyed this module and I learnt loads. I completed SDK228 alongside 2 other modules whilst working 30 hours ...”
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“SDK228 The Science of the mind. I completed this level 2 module right after completing my S104 course. To note ...”
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Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code SDK228
Credits 30
OU Level 2
SCQF level 8
FHEQ level 5
Course work includes:
3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

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