Dr Ali Haggett

Dr Ali Haggett

The Think-Tank seminar series

Men, Women and Mood Disorders: Historical and Cultural Perspectives


Dr Ali Haggett, Centre for Medical History

Date and time

12:00 - 13:00, 24 May 2013


My work as a medical historian of gender and mental illness has focused primarily on the cultural and social factors that have influenced our understandings of psychological experiences.  Historically, there has been a longstanding identification with women and ‘madness’, that has not only led to pejorative assumptions about the ‘irrational female’, but also to the neglect of male patterns of mental disorder.

This paper will provide an overview of two research projects I have undertaken where I seek to challenge myths about gendered patterns of psychological illness.  It will demonstrate the importance of a longer narrative and illustrate how symptoms might appear in new forms and be understood differently through time in response to prevailing cultural and medical forces.  It will suggest that history offers new and insightful opportunities that might help us further understand psychological disorders and gendered help-seeking behaviours.  In practice, history also offers novel public engagement opportunities in schools, sports venues and doctors’ surgeries, to challenge gender stereotypes and foster healthier attitudes towards the expression of mood and emotion.  I will argue that historians are well placed to work alongside psychologists, health scientists and policy-makers to facilitate change, supported by evidence from the longer view.