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Secular Health and Sacred Belief?

A Study of Religion and Mental Illness in Modern Irish Society

Áine Lorié

Social exclusion is one of the most significant problems facing individuals with mental illness in contemporary Ireland. In the era of the growing secular medical-industrial complex and its alienating effects, it is important to strengthen confidence in mental health services that promote social inclusion, specifically for stigmatised groups. As mainstream facilities remain attached to a biomedical framework, religious outlets operating in the voluntary sector may serve as an alternative option.
This book examines religion’s therapeutic potential, concentrating on aspects of Catholicism as manifestations of Max Weber’s prosocial concept of ‘brotherliness’. This line of enquiry is approached both on a macro level, looking at institutional religion, and on a micro level, looking at personal beliefs. The author examines such issues as the power of the institutional church in disseminating collectively orientated ideas; the public response to mental illness in Ireland over the past two centuries; the tendency within the field of psychology to pathologise belief systems and instrumentalise religious coping; and processes of secularisation, socialisation and ritualisation, which can either assist in or hinder the subjective adaptation of religious ideas. The theoretical arguments are contextualised by in-depth interviews with members of the «peerled» mental health group GROW.


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List of key legislation, reports and correspondence governing asylums and names of committees and reports in nineteenth-century Ireland. The Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1821 The Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1826 The Richmond Lunatic Asylum Act 1830 The Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1838 The Private Lunatic Asylums (Ireland) Act 1842 The Central Criminal Lunatic Asylum (Ireland) Act 1845 The Lunatic Asylums (Ireland) Act 1846 The Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1867 The Lunacy Regulations (Ireland) Act 1871 The Lunatic Asylums (Ireland) 1875 The Richmond District Asylum 1897 The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 The Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1901 Correspondence between Irish Government and Managers of District Lunatic Asylums, on Report of Select Committee on State of Lunatic Poor (1844), Correspondence between H.M. Government in Ireland and Grand Juries at Summer Quarter Assizes and on additional Accommodation for Pauper Lunatics (1844), Letter by Doctor Nugent, Inspector of Lunatic Asylums in reply to Statements in Report of Commissioners on Lunatic Asylums in Ireland (1859). Annual Reports of the Inspectors of Lunacy in the District, Local and Private Lunatic Asylums of Ireland (1851; 1866; 1889; 1894; 1895; 1901). 252 Appendix Special Committee Reports: Report of the Select Committee (HC) on the Aged and Infirm Poor of Ireland 1803–1804, Relief of the Lunatic Poor in Ireland: report, minutes of evidence and appendix from the Select Committee (1817), State of the Lunatic Poor in Ireland: report from the Select Committee appointed to consider the State of the Lunatic Poor in Ireland (1843), Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the...

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