Approaches to Mental Health

This publication forms part of the Open University module K314 Approaches to mental health. Details of this and other Open University modules can be obtained from Student Recruitment, The Open University, PO Box 197, Milton Keynes MK7 6BJ, United Kingdom (tel. +44 (0)300 303 5303; email

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First published 2017.

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Welcome to K314

Freud’s psychoanalytic couch in the Freud Museum, London.

End of Figure

This is a picture of Freud’s sofa. Freud is probably one of the most well-known mental health practitioners. For many people the therapist’s sofa will be one of the first images they recall when they think of mental health treatment. It was on this sofa that Freud asked his patients to lie back and answer questions about issues that were causing them psychological distress. In doing so he changed the way people think about mental health problems, and introduced talking therapies as a way to treat emotional problems. Although therapy spaces don’t usually look like this today, it is a good starting point for your learning journey for K314, as this module is about how we respond to mental health problems. 

Freud’s revolution, in terms of mental health treatment, was one of a number of radical shifts that took place in the nineteenth and twentieth century, in relation to how we treat service users. This module offers you the opportunity to reflect on some of these shifts and to think in some depth about the challenges of mental health practice in the twenty-first century.

You will cover a range of topical issues as you complete this module, issues such as:

  • How do structural and political factors impact on mental health treatment here in the UK and in other countries?
  • What key changes have occurred in terms of mental health service provision, and how has this impacted on service users?
  • How should mental health practitioners respond to complex and severe mental health problems?
  • How can mental health practice be enhanced through various innovations?

Much of the content in this module will illustrate the benefits of mental health interventions, and the importance of applying a range of perspectives when reflecting on mental health problems. However, you will be encouraged to critically question various perspectives in the field, for example the medical perspective when this becomes entirely focused on pathologising and labelling service users. Our overall intention is to provide you with the skills and tools that will help you become a discerning, independent learner, that actively explores knowledge in this field. 

This is a Level 3 module and as such it requires you to develop skills that are appropriate to the final level of an undergraduate university course. To allow you to shape your learning, the module production teaching team has designed a module that has some flexibility, and at times you will be able to explore selected aspects of mental health practice that are of interest to you. You will be introduced to a range of ideas through a mix of readings, audio-visual materials and discussions with others. You will also be directed to key texts, which will help you expand your understanding.

The module is made up of four blocks, specifically:

  • Block 1 Exploring mental health practice
  • Block 2 Current approaches to mental health practice
  • Block 3 Mental health practice in context
  • Block 4 Alternative visions of mental health

Each block is made up of five week-long online learning guides.

The K314 module team

Each of the module’s learning guides have been written by one or two members of the production teaching team. At the start of each learning guide the lead author introduces their connection with the topic and why they are interested in that particular learning guide. This module is research-informed, and where relevant we highlight the papers and books written by the teaching team, as well as various research outputs from other academics at The Open University.

Now let us introduce the team members who have led on the production of various learning guides:

The K314 Module Team. Back row, from left to right: Rajvinder Samra, Rod Earle, Mathijs Lucassen. Front row, from left to right: Jitka Vseteckova, Maureen Richards (Curriculum Manager), Jonathan Leach, Sharon Mallon.

Forums and social media


There will be lots of opportunities to interact with others on K314, especially in your tutor group forum, which your tutor will facilitate. There is also a welcome forum at the start of the module. Forums are discussed in further detail in the K314 Module Guide. 

Online netiquette

While we very much welcome lively debate within forums, such as in the tutor group forum, it is important that you follow the Open University code of conduct for engagement with other students and with your tutor. In particular, please be respectful of your fellow students as you engage in discussions. At no point during the module will you be asked to share personal information about the mental health of yourself or of people you may know. However, we are aware that some students find it helpful to link their learning with personal experiences. Please be respectful of the information that students choose to share.

As a team we are also aware that individual students study at a different pace, and you may find that other students are engaging in a topic that you have not yet reached. This might be a little disconcerting for you, but we encourage you to learn at your own speed (as long as you keep an eye on the TMA submission dates). You will gain a lot if you are able to engage with material in a timely manner, and you will also benefit from reviewing (and actively participating in) discussions. 

Personal resilience

Please be aware that this module covers issues and content (for example, about suicide and abuse) that you might personally find difficult to study. We have provided trigger warnings and guidance where appropriate in the text, but this cannot be a substitute for any professional health or social care that people might require, and if you find you need to talk to someone about how you feel, then please do seek help (for example, from a qualified practitioner).

The Student Support Team can help you to get extra assistance, and your tutor can also help you if you feel any personal challenges are negatively impacting on your studies. In addition, below is a list of potential resources available to Open University students, which we thought may be beneficial to those students who require more support.

Start of Box

Next steps

Before the module starts, and during the first week, we suggest that you set aside some time to do the following preparatory activities:

  1. Work through the Module Guide in detail and use it to explore the module website thoroughly. It is especially important that you know where all the learning and assessment materials are located, how to access them quickly and how to find everything else you need. Make sure you can find the following:
    1. study plannerstudy materialsassessment componentslibrary resources
    1. forums.
  2. Have a look at Learning Guide 1 and check that you can access all the audio, video and interactive features. If you cannot, visit the Computing Guide or get in touch with the Computing Helpdesk for support.
  3. If you have not already done so, try out our interactive ‘A Support Net’ and review any of the courses or content that appeals to you.
  4. Visit the welcome forum and post a greeting message to your module colleagues saying something about yourself and what you are hoping to get out of studying K314.

Please note that while we make every effort to check external links within our module materials, this may change during module presentation.

You are now ready to begin your learning on K314. We hope you enjoy this module, and find that it extends your thinking, and enhances your knowledge base in relation to mental health.

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