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University College for Interdisciplinary Learning

Understanding Mental Health

Course Unit Code


Course Unit Details

This unit has been designed specifically for online learning and offers a unique interactive experience.


  • Level 2
  • 10 Credits
  • School of Health Sciences


This unit explores why mental health and wellbeing are important to all of us. The challenges people experience to their mental health are estimated to cost the UK economy as much as £105 billion each year. As a frequent topic of conversation in politics and the media, mental health generates significant intellectual and professional disputes. The unit will introduce you to some of these discussions, including how people's experiences have come to be labelled as 'mental illness' in some cultures but not others.

You will gain new perspectives on longstanding questions in the field, such as the 'nature vs nurture' debate, causes of mental health issues, and the history and controversies relating to psychiatric labelling, diagnosis and interventions. You will consider contrasting theoretical perspectives - specifically biological, social and psychological models - on mental health issues and their management. Within a historical and social context, you will evaluate the evidence-base for these perspectives, and consider their implications. You will also be introduced to research, theory and practice that have helped shape mental health interventions.


The unit aims to help you expand your thinking about mental health and wellbeing in broader terms and also reflect on the ways in which we might protect and improve our own mental health and wellbeing and that of others.

This online unit will be delivered via Blackboard. It is made up of five modules, which will be released at intervals. The unit is highly interactive and adopts a blend of approaches, including video inputs, interactive exercises and case illustrations.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, you will be able to:

  • Recognise and synthesise differing theoretical approaches to understanding mental health and wellbeing and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Consider and reflect on how language and the way in which we talk about mental health can contribute to assumptions about how we understand mental health and people who experience problems that affect their mental health.
  • Discuss the impact of mental health problems on individuals and society.
  • Recognise a range of common contributing factors of mental health issues.
  • Demonstrate awareness of how different theoretical approaches might be applied to treating mental health problems and enhancing wellbeing.
  • Develop awareness of key ways in which the law relates to mental health and illness.
  • Identify different approaches to the treatment of mental health problems and discuss the pros and cons of those different approaches.
  • Understand key principles for self-care and protecting one's own mental health and wellbeing.


Module 1: Understanding Mental Health Part 1

A historical overview of how we have come to the current understanding of mental health issues in contemporary Western societies. The module then provides an overview of some of the main biological perspectives on mental health.

Module 2: Understanding Mental Health Part 2

The psychology and sociology of mental health. This module continues to explore contemporary understanding of mental health and wellbeing by examining a range of psychological and social factors that influence mental health.

Module 3: Definitions and interventions for mental health and wellbeing

This module considers the different ways in which mental health and wellbeing are defined within our society and examines some of the main interventions available for people experiencing distress related to mental health issues.

Module 4: Mental health and wellbeing: wider perspectives and the law

This module examines wider, global public health perspectives on mental health and the potential reasons for the uneven spread of mental health issues and interventions across populations and cultures.

Module 5: Evidence based interventions for yourself and others

This module will introduce you to interventions that can protect and improve your own mental health and wellbeing and help support others.


  1. Ongoing end of module assessments e.g. short answer tests and online discussions (20%)
  2. 500 word newspaper article or 500 word critique of self-help resources or 500 word patient leaflet or 500 word science slam text (30%)
  3. 1500 word essay (50%)


UCIL units are designed to be accessible to undergraduate students from all disciplines.

UCIL units are credit-bearing and it is not possible to audit UCIL units or take them for additional/extra credits. You must enrol following the standard procedure for your School when adding units outside of your home School.

If you are not sure if you are able to enrol on UCIL units you should contact your School Undergraduate office. You may wish to contact your programme director if your programme does not currently allow you to take a UCIL unit.

You can also contact the UCIL office if you have any questions.

Teaching Staff

Professor Sara Tai (Module lead), School of Health Sciences with inputs from leading experts at The University of Manchester, including Professor Dawn Edge. A number of experts external to The University of Manchester have also made contributions to the unit.

Teaching and Learning Methods

This online unit is delivered entirely via Blackboard. It is a highly interactive unit that adopts a blend of approaches including video inputs, peer reviewed articles, blogs, and case studies, from leading researchers and practitioners from the School of Health Sciences, School of Law and School of Social Sciences and others.


Most university students suffer from mental health problems, exam stress, and this unit helps you to engage with materials and activities that helps you to reduce those stresses.Dukula De Alwis Jayasinghe, Chemistry

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