Is a different psychiatry possible?

Date & time: 6–7.30pm 21 September 2023
Location: Kambri - T2 (Level 2), 153 University Avenue Acton, ACT 2601 - View in map
Cost: $0 per person
A paper silhouette of a head and two hands untangling red wool on the paper, symbolising the brain

In this public lecture, distinguished Professors Diana and Nikolas Rose propose new models for psychiatric theory and practice. These models integrate social dimensions into the understanding of mental health, actively involving communities in the treatment process, fostering meaningful engagement with mental health service users, and addressing the complex power dynamics inherent in psychiatric interactions.

In their paper, Professors Diana and Nikolas Rose examine a number of approaches that propose new models for psychiatric theory and practices; in the way that they incorporate ‘social’ dimensions, in the way they involve ‘communities’ in treatment, in the ways that they engage mental health service users, and in the ways that they try to shift the power relations within the psychiatric encounter.

They have identified some shortcomings in each and propose an approach that seeks more firmly to ground mental distress within the lifeworld of those who experience it, with a particular focus on the biopsychosocial niches within which we make our lives, and the impact of systematic disadvantage, structural violence and other toxic exposures within the spaces and places that constitute and constrain many everyday lives. Further, they argue that a truly alternative psychiatry requires psychiatric professionals to go beyond simply listening to the voices of service users to overcome epistemic injustice and suggest that, if ‘another psychiatry’ is possible, this requires a radical reimagination of the role and responsibilities of the medically trained psychiatrist within and outside the clinical encounter.

Nikolas Rose is a Distinguished Honorary Professor in the Research School of Social Sciences of the Australian National University and an Honorary Professor in the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London. He was Professor of Sociology at Kings College London from 2012 until his retirement in April 2021. He was founding Head of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s and Co-Founder and Co-Director of King’s ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health. He was previously Martin White Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Director of the LSE’s BIOS Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society. He is founder and Editor-in-Chief of BioSocieties: an interdisciplinary journal for social studies of the life sciences. His books include The Politics of Life Itself (Princeton University Press, 2006), Neuro (with Joelle Abi-Rached, Princeton University Press, 2013), Our Psychiatric Future (Polity Press, 2018) and The Urban Brain: Mental Health in the Vital City (with Des Fitzgerald, Princeton University Press, 2022). His forthcoming book Questioning Humanity: Why does biology matter to the human sciences, with Thomas Osborne, will be published in 2024.

Diana Rose was born and raised in a semi-feudal economy in the North of Scotland. She made it to university and then had two academic careers. The first, centered social psychology, language and feminism but was terminated by the mental distress that had been with her all her adult life. She spent the next 10 years in and out of hospital, ‘living in the community’ and never expecting to work again. At the same time, in these 10 years, she became heavily involved in activism. But she was in the right place at the right time. The UK government wanted to involve ‘patients and the public’ in research. And so a source of stigma became a qualification for one job in particular. This first job comprised peer evaluation of services by the ‘most vulnerable’. She was then approached to go to the Institute of Psychiatry as ‘Co-Ordinator’ of the Service User Research Enterprise (SURE), a team of user/survivor researchers. That was 2001 and in 2013 she became the world’s first Professor in User-Led Research. Many a tale could be told about those 12 years She retired in 2020 and now lives in France. Her latest book is Mad Knowledges and User-Led Research, published by Palgrave in 2022.