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Challenging ideas in mental health

Ideas about the concept of mental health are hotly contested, and often personally and intellectually challenging. This module invites you to think differently about life’s dilemmas by considering the views of all concerned, especially people experiencing mental distress. Using a holistic framework, it explores ideas and practice in mental health – encouraging you to review your own beliefs and experiences and to challenge yourself and others on a more informed footing. The module will appeal to a wide range of people – workers in health and social care, service users/survivors, friends and families, and anyone with a general interest in this complex and challenging topic.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

This module is complementary to the OU level 2 module Diverse perspectives on mental health (K225).

It looks at mental health from a holistic perspective which covers five dimensions of the person – social, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual. Using this holistic perspective, the module grounds itself in emerging and contemporary debates in mental health. You will consider the influence of the life-module and life events on mental health alongside the development and significance of personality. You will explore the growing awareness of mental health challenges facing both younger and older people, as well as the complex issues facing people who also have physical or learning disabilities. You will also look at the wider implications and possibilities for mental health services, including the use of alternative and complementary approaches, as well as ideas underpinning the contested concept of ‘recovery’.

By the end of the module you should have developed knowledge and understanding of:

  • the range, complexity and dilemmas of diverse perspectives in the field of mental health and distress
  • a holistic model for understanding mental health and distress
  • the importance of service users’/survivors’ experiences and perspectives
  • how mental health issues affect everyone
  • the structure of contemporary mental health services, including legislation, policy, planning and delivery
  • theories and debates about mental health and the relevance of a wide range of sources of evidence.

The module consists of four separate blocks, each integrating printed learning materials with media resources and activities.

Block 1 – Shifting boundaries – explores the theme of boundaries; boundaries within and between groups, within and between different explanatory frameworks, and within and between experiences of mental health and distress. It introduces and explores a holistic framework for understanding mental health and distress using a range of experiences – social, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual.

Block 2 – Searching for understandings – charts a journey through a range of experiences, drawing on understandings about children and the development of personality through to old age. It explores the differences and similarities between disability and mental distress, and considers how issues such as drug and alcohol misuse are addressed by health and social care services.

Block 3 – Helpful responses? – addresses a range of issues concerning the diverse ways in which responses to mental distress are produced and experienced: for example how different models of intervention and therapeutic approaches are used and evidenced. It examines the complexity and problematic nature of the concept of risk. It explores the meaning of care as it relates to the experiences of service users, carers and mental health professionals, as well as the role of ‘talking therapies’ and the contribution of complementary and alternative approaches to mental health.

Block 4 – Dilemmas and challenges – explores some of the many challenges and dilemmas faced by service users/survivors and workers in mental health services posed, for example, by the pharmaceutical industry and advocacy. It also examines the contested concept of ‘recovery’ in the context of mental health, reviewing the barriers to adopting a ‘recovery model’ and developing ideas about its practical application.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day-schools that you are encouraged to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. 

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014 when it will be available for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school


K272 is an OU level 2 module and you need to have a good knowledge of the subject area, obtained either through OU level 1 study or by doing equivalent work at another university. If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

You will receive guidance of how to get started online in your first module mailing. This will provide you with information on using your computer for OU study and working with the Computing Guide. For example, it explains how to access and use your website and online discussion forums. If you have time before the module starts, you can work through this and explore all the online services available to you.


Start End England fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015 -

Registration now closed

The deadline for financial support applications has now passed

October 2014 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser.

Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is based upon current details for  year 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015.
This information was provided on 22/09/2014.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials, CDs and CD-ROM. You will have access to a website through which teaching and library resources are available. Electronic versions of most of the printed study materials are provided on the website.

You will need

A CD player.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Reynolds, J, et al. (ed) Mental Health Still Matters Palgrave Macmillan £26.99 - ISBN 9780230577299

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.