P20
Anthropology of mental health: at the intersections of transience, 'chronicity' and recovery

Convenors:
Anna Lavis (University of Birmingham)
Karin Eli (University of Oxford)
Location:
Science Site/Maths CM105
Start time:
7 July, 2016 at 9:00
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

This panel turns its attention to the anthropology of mental illness and distress. It interrogates boundaries between concepts of transience, so-called 'chronicity' and recovery as they come into focus through ethnographic analyses of lived experience in the clinic and beyond.

Long abstract:

Responding to recent changes in psychiatric diagnoses and treatments and the growing instability of global political and economic systems, this panel calls for urgent anthropological engagement with mental illness and distress. Mental ill-health accounts for a significant proportion of the world's health burden and causes disruption to individuals and communities. Often those afflicted are already disadvantaged and marginalised, such that structural violence and mental ill-health are entangled. By retracing the footsteps of established anthropological research into psychiatry and illness experiences, alongside a commitment to critical complexity and uncertainty, the panel will forge new pathways into understanding suffering and caregiving. Concepts of care and recovery in both the clinic and community are contingent on notions of the temporal nature of mental illness. At its core, the panel will therefore be concerned with actual and imagined temporalities of suffering; by bridging anthropologies of medicine and time, it will problematise the taken for granted time-lines and emplotments pervasive in clinical discourses. It will interrogate boundaries between concepts of transience, so-called 'chronicity' and recovery as they come into focus through ethnographic analyses of lived experience in the clinic and beyond. In furthering anthropological knowledge, these explorations will contribute to broader debates, drawing anthropology into dialogue with clinical and policy frameworks and service user advocacy. In so doing, the panel seeks to envisage hopeful futures for the discipline and those it encounters.