Initiator Hannah Ebben included the following abstract:
One of the most intricate issues that I have encountered in my study of social justice research and activism is the question of mental health and self-care. In contemporary activist practices, particularly online, mental health stigma is included in intersectional oppression. Inspired by woman writers of colour such as Audre Lorde, many activists speak out about the importance of self-care; self-care advices are prevalent on liberal websites post-US presidential election and post-Brexit. On the other hand, the discourse of mental health also seems to be part of the problem of oppression and not only the solution, to put it (too) bluntly. The pathologisation of deviance, voice and resistance has been listed as a common part of oppression in many key critical race studies, queer theory, and gender studies texts, and the roots of psychiatry have been deconstructed as male-centred and Eurocentric. In fact, the earliest work of Foucault, one of the most cited thinkers on knowledge and power, covers the historical and cultural specificity of ‘madness’. If psychiatry and mental health have been challenged to the core by social justice thinking through time, how could this be reconciled by current affirmations of mental health and self-care in social justice movements in our current neoliberal society?
Disability Studies could be a field in which this question could be addressed in a way that does not make mental health and social justice mutually exclusive and that is sensible to intersectionality. For the Disability Reading Group, I have selected a text from Dr China Mills, who is currently based at the University of Sheffield and who gave a lecture during the Critical Race and Ethnicity Conference that I attended last month. In her work and in this particular article, she challenges the alleged universal nature of mental health and reads the psychiatrisation of childhood alongside the colonisation of the world. Such a reading states that universalised mental health discourse serves to colonise the Global South through the introduction of concepts from the Eurocentric field of psychiatry. During our session, we could further reflect upon the notion of mental health and self-care through time, in its contemporary use, and in our own research practice, while taking Mills’ critical analysis as a point of departure.
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