Neurosciences and mental health


Mood Control

The subject of the study is transformation of mental health in the late 20th and early 21st century, particularly in Finland. The context in which the transformation is connected in the study are the following: 1) metamorphosis of the management of mental health problems from hospital incarceration and treatment to a rhizome of mental health care throughout society; 2) development of ‘global psychiatry and mental health care’; 3) changes in the Finnish and Nordic public provision of health care and social services in the context of ‘post welfare’ state. All in all, Finland provides a good case a detailed analysis of three main features of today’s mental health care in the West: conceiving of mental health problems in a population scale, the triumph of medication in the treatment of mental problems, and a new mode of mental health reasoning, based on epidemiology, neokraepelinian classification of mental disorders and neuropsychiatry.

The study focuses on research, clinical management and mental health policy focused on mood disorders. Ilpo Helén studies policy the development by which depression has become a public health problem and the major target of out-patient oriented psychiatric health care from the 1970s to 2010s. Lotta Hautamäki’s dissertation focuses on the changes in professional and lay understanding of bipolar disorder  in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Two questions are central in the studies: 1) how have mood disorders become the focus of mental health care? 2) how have professional concensus and a management standard for mood disorders evolved? Primarily, these studies focus on the transformation and multiplication of psychiatric care from the treatment of mental illness to the management of mental health risks and further to an array of practices by which individual persons adjust their feelings, desires and behaviour to the demands of their personal life situation. This development is unfold by analysing emergence depression epidemic and a growing research interest in bipolar disorder within the Finnish mental health care system. Thus the primary subject of this study is the historical formation and future prospects of the assemblage of mood control.

The approach of the study is embedded in Ian Hacking’s studies of historical ontology and in Annemarie Mol’s ethnographic philosophy of science and her view on ontology of health, illness and the body as embedded in mundane medical practices and technologies and therefore as multiple. The my analysis is greatly influenced by Nikolas Rose’s studies on the formation of the psychological and on growing tendency to reason over psychological phenomena in a neuroscientific framework. The methodological approach is based on Michel Foucault’s critical genealogy of the present and on Paul Rabinow’s anthropology of the contemporary.

The project is directed by Ilpo Helén and it is a continuation of his Academy Researcher project (Academy of Finland). Lotta Hautamäki’s dissertation project has been financed by SOVAKO and Jenni and Antti Wihuri Foundation.

Selected publications