Director of the Irsay Institute
Bernice Pescosolido is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Indiana University and Founding Director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research (ICMHSR) and the new Irsay Institute that targets research in the sociomedical sciences. She is an elected member of both the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. Trained as a medical sociologist at Yale, her research focuses broadly on how social networks and culture provide insights into health, illness and healing phenomena, and more specifically on four areas – stigma, suicide, health care use, and healthcare systems. Her concerns have spanned local, national and international questions and problems, primarily targeting mental illness.
In particular, she is concerned with how social and organizational networks facilitate or frustrate people’s responses to problems. In the early 1990s, Pescosolido developed the Network Episode Model, which shifts healthcare utilization research to understanding patterns and pathways to care, adherence to treatment, and healthcare outcomes. This model has been deployed nationally and internationally in numerous studies and has been expanded to embrace disciplinarity in the Network Embedded Symbiome. Regarding stigma, in 1996 Pescosolido initiated the first major, national study of the stigma of mental illness in the U.S. in over 40 years which produced some of the groundwork for the Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health, the 2013 White House Conference on Mental Health, and the 2016 NASEM Report, Ending Discrimination Against People with Mental and Substance Use Disorders: The Evidence for Stigma Change. This was followed by the National Stigma Study–Children, the National Stigma Study–Replications in 2006 and 2018, and the Stigma in Global Context–Mental Health Study. In addition, as Chair of the Scientific Advisory Council of Glenn Close’s Bring Change to Mind advocacy organization, she developed and piloted a 4-year, IU-based, team effort to make college campuses “safe and stigma-free zones.” She is currently concerned with moving the contact hypothesis further by coupling both Goffman’s original conceptualization with complex system theory and social network analysis. In the area of suicide research, she has examined claims on the utility of official suicide statistics, the contemporary effects of religious affiliation, and the potential of a network translation of Durkheim’s theory. Using a big data solution, she is working on harmonizing novel data to move past US data barriers on completed suicide to allow a more direct understanding of the role of and potential to leverage social connectedness to reduce the personal, family, and community tragedy and societal loss that is suicide.
Her research has been published broadly across disciplinary and general journals and has been supported by a number of NIH Institutes as well as the National Science Foundation and private philanthropic organizations. She has served as the Vice President of the American Sociological Association; and has received several career, teaching, and mentoring awards, including the NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award, the Taube Award from the American Public Health Association, the Reeder Award from the American Sociological Association, and the Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal from Yale. Her paper on breaking through data and theory stalemates in suicide research, with colleagues BK Lee and Karen Kafadar, was named the 2020 PNAS Cozzarelli Prize Finalist in Social Science. Most recently, Pescosolido was selected as the recipient of the 2023 Simmel Award by the International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA).