The Concept of Schizophrenia in Ottawa: Perspectives of Psychiatry, the Public, and Patients 1883-2013

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Doerksen, Sarah




The way in which we have thought about mental disability has changed over time. This work examines conceptions of one particular disorder, schizophrenia, originally known as dementia praecox, from the perspectives of psychiatry, the public, and patients, from 1883 to 2013. It compares shifts in the way the public conceptualizes schizophrenia, using Ottawa as a case example, to developments within Canadian psychiatry, notably the standardization of diagnosis. It then looks at the personal accounts of individuals who experience schizophrenia in order to reconsider public and psychiatric representations of the disorder. The general purpose of this research is to call attention to the various ways in which schizophrenia has been conceptualized historically, based on different types of information and by different actors, in order to challenge contemporary representations of mental disability that consider a mental disorder to be equivalent to individual identity.


Canadian History




Carleton University

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