Over the past twenty-five years feminist scholarship in all its diversity has opened up the terrain of the relationship between gender, mental disorder and the mental health services in an unprecedented way. In previous centuries scholars and practitioners have, from time to time, highlighted gender imbalances in patients with particular mental disorders and have also sometimes offered distinctively gendered accounts of these disorders. Yet in the twentieth century it has only been with the impact of second-wave feminism that gender has come into prominence as a major object of enquiry within the field of mental disorder. The classic studies of psychiatric epidemiology — the study of the distribution of mental disorders — largely eschewed attention to gender differences until the 1970s, and seemed to consider it a matter of little significance whether patient populations were predominantly male or female. For example, A.B. Hollingshead and F.C. Redlich’s highly influential study, Social Class and Mental Illness (1958), relegated data on gender differences to an appendix and offered no interpretation of the figures they provided.1
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