Emmanuel Delille & Samuel Lézé: Estimating, Locating, and Comparing Mental Disorders in the Second Part of the Twentieth Century: Psychiatric Epidemiology in Historical Perspective

On The November 27, 2019

09H00 - 18H00
Bâtiment D2 (ENS-Lyon) Salle : 123
ENS-Lyon, 15 parvis René Descartes, 69342 Lyon

This workshop will bring together researchers from the social sciences interested in the history of psychiatric epidemiology as well as the epidemiologists themselves, medical students, psychiatric doctors and psychologists, in order to exchange ideas on the subject of the historical importance of this professional field.

Psychiatric epidemiology – the study of the distribution of mental disorders within a population – emerged on the scientific scene during the second half of the 20th century. However, unlike the fields of psychiatry, psychology, and psychoanalysis, psychiatric epidemiology has yet to be studied by historians, largely due to the fact that it was only professionalized much later. Several factors can explain the field’s relative “invisibility”: the still recent standardization of its methods, the diversity of local scientific traditions, nations’ varying public health policies, the range of different sites for observation (rural or urban studies, comparisons between neighbouring communities, insular populations, cohorts) as well as the varieties of interdisciplinary studies implemented within the scientific community (medicine, psychology, sociology, anthropology, biostatistics).
These elements highlight the diversity of potential sources, and thus necessarily bring forward the question: how should one go about writing a history of this largely unrecognized field? By starting with a description of the institutional archives of large national agencies (INSERM, NIMH, etc.) and universities? By paying attention to the leading figures of the field in order to analyse international networks of psychiatric epidemiology? Or rather by piecing together the history of on-site data collection? Should the focus be on larger inquiries (Stirling County Study, Isle of Wight Studies, etc.) as case studies, or should the practice of adapting questionnaires derived from psychological studies (screening) and classic epidemiological indicators (prevalence, incidence, risk factors) to mental health issues first be examined? These questions will be central to our seminar.

Emmanuel Delille (Center Marc Bloch, Humboldt Universität-zu-Berlin, Fellow
2018-19 of the Collegium de Lyon)
Samuel Lézé (IHRIM, DSM Team, ENS-Lyon)